Dust sifted in a fine cloud covering her forehead. Cera closed her eyes fast, tasting fine red soil on her lips. She blinked away dust and continued her climb up the steep cliff. Fingers grabbed at roots and jutting rocks that felt sturdy enough to hold her. She wedged her foot into crevices, always reaching. She climbed up, her muscles straining with effort, ignoring the pain, gritting her teeth, she pushed harder.
Her right hand went up, fingers closed over a thick branch, and she gasped when the branch broke off. Her heart slammed against her chest when she slipped, her left hand gripping the rock she held tight. She flattened her body against the cliff to keep her balance. Her right hand searching for another hold, she sighed in relief when she held thick roots.
Cera took in a deep breath to calm her beating heart. Holding on tight, she risked a glance down the cliff. Her best friend, Jeri, stood in the clearing below. Beside her, Cera’s little brother lay on a kanga unconscious. There was no one to fight for him but Cera. Their parents were long gone. Cera was Ken’s mother now.
Cera could barely see them below. The fall down would kill her. Cera closed her eyes bringing her attention back to the roots she held. She couldn’t fall to her death here. She still had so much to do.
Shaking off fear, Cera continued her climb. Legend was a tree of life grew on top of this cliff. The tree bore a single fruit each year. One that stayed ripe for months. The juices of that fruit brought life to the sick and the dying. Many had attempted the climb, very few ever made it to the top. Cera was determined to be one of the few.
Her brother was ill. The doctors in their village could not help him. Cera had spent the better part of two years trying to find a cure for Dan with no results. Now, her brother could barely wake up: he slept too long and she worried that he was slipping away. She could not bear such a loss. Being left alone in this world…Cera shook her head refusing such a reality.
So, she climbed.
Not stopping even when her fingers got damaged, and her muscles got weak. When she felt her strength waning, tears tracking down her dusty face because her arms and legs hurt, she worried she might fall off, she reached up and her fingers found nothing. She looked up to find clumps of grass and she used them to pull herself up. Her heart skipped with relief when she came up on a flat plain, green with lush grass. Unable to stand, she rolled to her back, then crawled to her knees, her gaze on the majestic tree in the middle of the clearing. A purple fruit grew low on the bottom branches. Hers to take, hers to give to give to her dear small brother.
This was a short story submitted for a flash fiction thing. Enjoy it!
Jasmine wanted to fight Danny. She wanted to stay angry at Danny. Angry at him for making her live through a sleepless night worrying the worst had happened. Yet, seeing his face, his eyes filled with sincere worry, all she could think was, ‘thank goodness he wasn’t hurt.‘
Jasmine shifted her gaze to the silly apron he still wore. It was pink, with frills on the side. She liked sticking her hands in the pockets while she cooked. Now, she would always remember how funny it looked on Danny.
“Are you going to say anything?” Danny asked, not moving away.
“I lived through a nightmare last night,” Jasmine said, still staring at the apron. “Every time I close my eyes, all I see is you spinning out and you not making it. I needed you to stay with me, Danny. I needed to make sure you were fine, but you pushed me to Jimmy and drove off.”
“I needed to do that,” Danny insisted. “It was the only way to catch that bastard. Which we did, and the trouble is gone now. I finished it.”
Jasmine shook her head.
“So, now what? Should I be happy you almost got yourself hurt? Oh, thank God he caught the culprit. What if something happened during the process? I can’t live like that. Don’t make me lose you. I don’t want to—”
Danny pulled her into a tight hug.
“I’m not reckless. I was safe, and as long as you were with Jimmy, I knew you were safe too.”
“You’re missing the point.”
“Don’t ask me to stop racing.”
Jasmine closed her eyes pressing her forehead into his shoulder.
“I’m not asking you to stop. I’m asking you to think about the fact that you and I, we—
“We what?” Danny asked when she stopped.
Jasmine bit her lip, then let out a soft sigh.
“We’re like two peas in a pod, Danny. Can you think about my heart too? I don’t want to see you hurting. I don’t want you to catch trouble. I—I wouldn’t survive it if something happened to you. So, promise me you’ll be extra careful.”
Danny tightened his arms around her, kneeling on the floor as he pulled her even closer.
“I promise, Jasmine. Your heart is the most important thing to me. You have to know that by now.”
Jasmine smiled, thinking she must have saved a village in the distant past. Danny seemed to be hers when she had thought he would never be. She wrapped her arms around him, as the fear that had bothered her all night dissipated. It always did, when he felt so alive in her arms. She hoped it would always be so.
They stayed holding each other until the door opened to admit Wanja. Danny took his time letting go, even with Jasmine pushing him off her gaze on her mother.
“I figured I would have to come in here,” Wanja said, her chuckle startling Jasmine. “Jazz, food is ready. Come on.”
Wanja left them and Jasmine sat staring at the open door in surprise. She had expected yells, and a few curses at Danny. Danny took her right hand and pulled her up. She followed him out of her bedroom to the little dining room off the kitchen.
Lunch was eaten in a cloud of excitement. Jasmine listened as her brother and sister asked Danny too many questions. He answered each one with patience, and interest. He engaged her mother with stories of his childhood, his father’s restaurant, Terry’s business, his garage. In a sense, it was the perfect family lunch.
Her strange apprehension about her mother disproving of Danny died away with each minute, each laugh, each giggle, and she wondered why she had worried so much.
Jasmine took her glass of orange juice from the table, sipping juice, her gaze resting on Daryl. She thought about Daryl and their father. The man who saw fault when his kids refused to follow the line and wondered how she was ever going to introduce Danny to him. She frowned.
More importantly, what were they going to do about Daryl?
Jenny touched her left shoulder and she looked up to find everyone staring at her.
“Danny wants to take us to visit his garage,” Daryl said, his excitement tangible. “Do you mind if we go?”
Jasmine looked at Danny and smiled when he winked at her.
“You can go,” she said, smiling at her brother. “Don’t cause trouble though.”
Danny chuckled as both Daryl and Jenny got up heading outside to his car.
“I should help clean up,” Danny said, waving at the messy table.
“Don’t worry about it.” Jasmine pushed her chair back and stood. “You helped cook. I’ll clean up.”
Jasmine took plates to the kitchen, and wasn’t surprised when Danny followed her.
“I’ll see you later?” Danny asked, stealing a quick kiss, making sure Wanja didn’t see him.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll be home.”
Jasmine swatted his hand away when he pinched her waist. She watched him hurry back to the dining table.
“Mamma Jazz, I’ll bring Daryl and Jenny home. Thank you so much for lunch.”
“It was nice to meet you, Danny,” Wanja said. “I hope this is not the last time we’ll see each other.”
“Definitely not,” Danny said, moving to hug her. “I’ll come visit you with Jasmine next time.”
Wanja chuckled and Jasmine came back to the table to see Wanja watch Danny leave.
“He’s bold, that one.” Wanja noted when Danny was gone. “So, you two are serious?”
Jasmine wiped the table mats, arranging them neatly.
“Do you approve?”
“He’s a good man. I know his father, and Terry is like your sister. She slept over our house so much, she’s like a daughter to me.”
Wanja patted the empty seat next to her.
Jasmine placed the cloth she held on the table and moved to sit next to her mother.
Wanja took her hand, and rubbed her fingers gently.
“I’m no expert on love.” Wanja gave her a rueful smile. “So, I won’t tell you Danny is right, or he is wrong for you. All I can say is make the right choice for you. Your heart knows what it wants. That’s what matters most in this very long life.”
Wanja brought her hand up to stroke Jasmine’s right cheek.
“You were always the strongest of my kids. I don’t think you get it from me, Jazz. I think you get it from your father.”
“He won’t approve of Danny.”
Jasmine shook her head, sure she was right.
“He is set in his ways,” Wanja said with a sigh. “But you prove him wrong on a constant basis. So, he’ll accept Danny, in time.”
Jasmine squeezed her mother’s hand and stood up.
“Speaking of which, before he approves or disproves of my boyfriend, why don’t we talk about Daryl.”
“Military? Mum, seriously? Daryl doesn’t want that.” Jasmine shook her head. “You’ve always known he loves engineering. Why won’t you fight for him?”
“It’s not that easy.”
Jasmine picked up the mats she had arranged.
“Fine, I’ll help you make it easy. Daddy is home, right? Let’s go see him.”
“We have to try, Mum. Otherwise, Daryl won’t forgive us when he ends up marching for the country. And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with joining the military. I just think a guy should do what he wants. If Daryl wants to work in engineering, he should. Who knows what he’ll end up building?”
Wanja wiped a hand down her face, and shook her head.
“You’re probably the only person who can stand up to Daddy with that statement.”
Jasmine grinned and hurried into the kitchen to dump the mats in their drawer.
“Then let’s do it today. I’ll go get my sweater. We should go before Danny finishes with Jenny and Daryl. I don’t want them anywhere near the explosion when it happens.”
Track 19 : No matter how crazy I get, I’ll come home to you
Danny and Nic drove Tyler to Danny’s garage, where they cleaned the cut on his forehead. Once they drilled the truth out of him, Nic decided to call a criminal investigator who worked with his father. Jimmy caught up with them as they waited for the investigator to show up.
Danny sat with Tyler, unable to understand why such a young man would want to get into so much trouble. Adrian ordered Tyler to cause trouble at the racecourse, hoping an accident would occur that would bring in a police investigation. Apparently, Adrian wanted to buy the racing grounds from Danny and Jimmy. He figured if enough troubles arose, and police got involved, Danny would cut his losses and put up the business for sale. As if, Danny scoffed. He had worked too hard to give up what he had now.
“You could walk away,” Danny pointed out to Tyler.
“Have you met Adrian?” Tyler scoffed. “He controls my life, Danny. It’s not like I can say no.”
“Hiyo ni ufala,” Danny said, staring at him. “You’re weak, that’s why you can’t say no. He is not forcing you; you’re allowing him to control you. What do you lose if you walk away?” (That’s stupidity)
“I heard you’re finally dating Jasmine,” Tyler said, meeting his gaze.
Danny was surprised to read jealousy in Tyler’s eyes.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Adrian threatened to hurt her when we were together. I’d found the strength to walk away from him then, I really thought I could make it work with her. Then Adrian showed up, and I had no choice but to walk away. To protect her,” Tyler said. “I broke her heart.”
Danny sighed, not sure what to say.
“You should thank me,” Tyler said, with a small smile. “She always did like you, never had the courage to tell you though. Guess she got it somehow.”
Danny thought about Jasmine’s pleading gaze when he refused to listen to her. She was going to be so angry with him.
“Now you get out of town,” Nic said, coming into the office with his CID friend. “You’re going to help this man bring your brother in to the police. I hate thieves, and bastards who think they’re entitled to anything they want. If I was a more cruel man, you wouldn’t have lived tonight.”
Tyler sighed, and turned to Danny.
“I suppose this is what I deserve for what I did earlier. I wish you were handling this instead of him. Nic frightens me, more than you do,” Tyler said. “Can you tell Jasmine something for me?”
Danny frowned. “Why would I do that?”
“Because.” Tyler shrugged. “My head hurts, and she was the last person who cared about me. Tell her I was wrong. She was worth fighting for.”
“Okay, Casanova,” Nic said, coming to grip Tyler’s left arm and pulling him up to his feet. “Let’s go. Danny, the Andersons will be history in a few. I’ve cleaned up the races this time. That means you now owe me a favor.”
“Good. I love your car. Got you around really fast,” Nic said, with a grin as he left the office. “Care to race for logs?”
“I’ll consider it,” Danny said, glad when Nic disappeared with Tyler and the detective with no further comments.
Danny stared at the keys he still held, the skyline was full of luck.
He sat back in his seat and looked at Jimmy who was leaning on the doorjamb.
“She’s with Terry, at your house. She was not happy,” Jimmy said. “She looked pissed off with you, you have your work cut out for you.”
Danny stood, and stretched his arms above his head.
“We’ll get through this,” Danny decided.
Jimmy grinned. “All I can say is good luck.”
Danny drove home at six in the morning. He parked his car and hurried into the house, anticipation coursing through him. This was the first time Jasmine would be staying over his house, as his girlfriend. She had stayed over before, but with Terry. Now, it was for him, he smiled as he closed the front door.
He was surprised to see Terry relaxing on the couch, watching a home-makeover show. She hugged her pillow, and was still in pajamas. This soft, disarrayed side of Terry was rare. He only saw it when she was worried. Danny walked over to her and touched the headscarf covering her hair. She looked at him with bleary eyes. Clearly, she had not slept.
“Jasmine went home.” Terry stated. “She couldn’t stay here, kept freaking out that you might kill yourself racing the streets of Nairobi after a psycho who tried to kill you.”
“Why didn’t you talk her into staying?”
“Because, I’m sure if I tried, she’d talk herself into the reasons why she can’t be with you,” Terry snapped.
“I love her,” Terry said. “She’s like a sister to me, Danny. I love you too. You’re my brother. So fix it so I don’t have to choose which one of you I have to give up. I stayed up to tell you that, now I’m going to bed.”
Two hours later, showered and changed, Danny walked up to Jasmine’s front door. He contemplated unlocking her door with the spare key she gave him, but then he thought it was better to knock, and ended up pressing the doorbell.
The door opened, and Danny stared at a younger version of Jasmine.
“Wow, you are Jazz’s secret, aren’t you?” She grinned and leaned on the doorjamb. “Oh Jasmine, kuna stori ha uja twambia. Guys, come out here.”
Footsteps, and in seconds, Danny stared at a younger boy who also looked like Jasmine. Her brother and sister, he assumed. The older woman behind them all studied him with a suspicious gaze.
Jasmine’s mother, Danny thought, when she narrowed her gaze at him.
“Morning,” Wanja said, pushing her son and daughter aside. “Call me Mama Jazz. What’s your name?”
“Danny, why don’t you come inside,” Wanja said, her smile a tad too inviting.
Danny wondered where Jasmine was, but decided to take the plunge and give Jasmine a reason to forgive him. Taking Wanja’s hand, he allowed her to lead him into the house.
Jasmine flung the driver’s door open. Her hands shaking when she saw Danny slumped over the steering wheel.
“Danny.” Jasmine touched his shoulder and he sat back with a harsh curse. “Oh thank God! Are you hurt? Anything broken? We should get you to the hospital.”
“Jazz, I’m fine. Jimmy, who was that bastard?”
“Nic went after him.”
“Damn it!” Danny gripped Jasmine’s hand. “Take her home.”
“No.” Jasmine leaned into the car, looking into Danny’s dark eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking, no.”
“No.” Jasmine shook her head, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. “Danny, take me home, and I’ll check to make sure you weren’t hurt. Don’t do this. Not right now when you’re pissed off.”
Danny tightened his arms around her, squeezed her tight, and then he pushed her into Jimmy arms. Not giving her a chance to fight back, Jimmy lifted her up, moving her away from Danny’s car. She screamed and kicked the driver’s door when Danny closed it and revved the car.
With a final glance at her, Danny sped out of the field in a cloud of dust and she pinched Jimmy’s arm so that he could let her go. Terry reached them, her gaze meeting Jimmy’s for a second, before she pulled Jasmine into her arms.
“I’ll drive you guys home,” Jimmy said.
“I brought my car,” Terry said, leading Jasmine toward the exit.
“I’ll make sure it gets home to you,” Jimmy said.
Jasmine tuned them out, her thoughts on Danny. Jasmine couldn’t stop thinking about
Danny’s gaze right before he drove off. Dark eyes filled with anger, and this dark…she couldn’t describe it. His temper was short, she knew that, and someone cutting him off like that in a race deserved it. But then, what would happen if he caught up with that bastard and ended up facing Anderson?
Jasmine allowed Terry to help her into the backseat of Jimmy’s car. She wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly freezing. Terry must have seen her shiver as she draped Jimmy’s jacket over Jasmine’s shoulders. Jasmine stared out the window, her thoughts on Danny, until she realized Jimmy wasn’t driving her home.
“Where are we going?” Jasmine asked.
“Danny’s house,” Jimmy said. “I need you to stay with Terry. I’m going out to find Danny, when I drop you off.”
“Why did you let him go then?” Jasmine asked, meeting Jimmy’s gaze in the rear view mirror. She couldn’t help the accusation in her tone. Jimmy was Danny’s best friend. Best friends did not let each other rush headlong into trouble.
“Danny knows what is right and wrong, Jazz.” Jimmy narrowed his gaze at her. “Learn to trust him.”
Jasmine looked away unable to hold his gaze. She did trust Danny. She did. She couldn’t love him without trusting him, but—
Jasmine bit her lip, tears stinging the back of her eyes.
If something, happened to him…how would she live then?
Danny locked his phone on its dock on the dashboard, and pressed the speaker feature. Nic’s voice filled the car.
“I’m almost caught up, but he’s headed for the southern bypass fast. We’re on Gitaru road. Bastard doesn’t care if he hits people. His speed is on another level.”
“What do you see?”
“Almost to Kinge’ero stage,” Nic said.
Danny swerved his car into the next small road he found and concentrated on driving fast. Roads in residential areas were great in the middle of the night. No one walking in the night, cars locked away safe in compounds, unless one counted patrol units. The skyline would hold up in a chase, and it was a while since he’d given it the chance to open up and test its limits, no patrol unit would reach him. Changing gears, he took a turn too fast, burning rubber. He increased speed and raced toward the cutoff point.
“Where are you?” Nic asked, sounding annoyed.
“In just a few,” Danny said, cursing when he tried to avoid a porthole but failed.
He hoped Jimmy wouldn’t yell at him too much for the damage, and increased speed. Relief flooding him when he finally saw gitaru road ahead. In six seconds, he raced into the major road, glad there weren’t cars to halt his progress. On his left, he saw the rogue car almost upon him. Danny gave it a deliberate tap on the right front bumper, and the driver lost control and spun out of the road and into the open space filled with kiosks and electric poles. For Danny, it took skill to control his car out of the way, so that their cars didn’t tangle. When he was free, Danny slowed down, and came to a stop a distance away from the car spinning out of control.
Their rogue driver panicked, his grip on the steering wheel unsteady, he drove right into an electric pole, and that’s what stopped him. Danny got out when he saw Nic’s car come to a stop behind his. Gripping his car keys, Danny hurried to the rogue car, peering into the driver’s side from the passenger window.
“Get out,” Danny ordered when he saw the man in the driver’s side moving. “Don’t make me get you out.”
Nic had no patience, so he went around, pulling the driver’s door open, and dragging the driver out, holding him up with a fist on his clothing.
“Who the hell are you?” Nic asked, directing light from his phone on the driver.
Danny walked around the car and stopped, staring at the bloodied face looking back at them.
“It’s Tyler Anderson,” Danny said, when Nic started to shake the poor man into submission. “He is Adrian’s brother.”
Heartbeat electrified, Jasmine followed Terry into the racing grounds Danny owned with Jimmy. They had to park their car outside the gates because there was no space left inside. Jasmine glanced at the time on her phone. Eleven
o’clock in the night, and it felt like she was walking through a busy street during the day. Danny’s races drew a crowd of spectators. It was a revelation to discover such a following in Nairobi for the races.
Loud music filled the night, it was lucky the property was removed from any residential areas. Excitement skated down Jasmine spine, increasing with every step, bringing her deeper into Danny’s world. Thrilling and frightening at the same time.
Terry took her right hand and squeezed, twining their fingers.
“Don’t be nervous,” Terry soothed, as they weaved their way through a sea of souped-up cars.
Gazes followed their progress. Jasmine suspected it was because she was a new face in the very tight circle. Despite the number of people in the place, they all knew each other. As if on cue, a short man in shiny white leather, who looked like he had married a gym and lived in it day and night, stepped in their way. His hair dyed blonde, Jasmine thought he would fit right in to a boy band.
“Who you with?” he demanded, his expression forbidding.
“Back off,” Terry said, her tone bored. “Rick, run back to your master.”
“No strangers allowed, Terry,” Rick insisted, his gaze on Jasmine.
Jasmine started to explain, but then Danny’s arm slid around her waist and she looked up in surprise when he pulled her against him possessively.
“Ricky, are you giving my gal a hard time? Coz, you know what that means.” Danny kept his tone low, his stance deceptively calm. His eyes though spelled doom. Jasmine hoped Rick saw it too.
Rick’s eyes widened and he took a step back.
“Danny,” Rick said, his tone apologetic.
Danny’s eyes narrowed and Terry sighed when Nic Mugera came to stand beside Rick, placing his arm on Rick’s shoulders.
“Do we have a problem here?” Nic asked, meeting Danny’s gaze.
“”I don’t know, Nic, do we?” Danny asked, his arm still around Jasmine.
She moved closer to Danny and Nic’s gaze shifted to her. Jasmine found she wasn’t afraid of much standing beside Danny. She met Nic’s gaze and smiled.
“I don’t think we do,” Nick said, returning her smile. “Rick, get back to the pit. Make sure everything is running fine. Danny, I apologize for my people. Jasmine Lima, welcome to the fold.”
Danny watched Nic stride away before he pulled Jasmine into his arms. Wanting to make a point, Danny kissed Jasmine. She clung to his jacket and gasped when he stopped the kiss as abruptly as he had started.
“Well,” Terry said, smiling. “You’re in good hands, Jazz. I’m gonna go mingle.”
Danny kept his gaze focused on Jasmine.
“I’m sorry for that,” he said.
“No need to apologize,” Jasmine murmured. “I suppose that makes me one of the babes. I’m not sure how to feel about that.”
“You’re not one of the babes,” Danny said, smiling. “You’re my woman, Jazz. My woman.”
“As long as you don’t call me the little woman at home,” Jasmine said, pulling back. “Now, let’s get this show on the road. How much money are we winning?”
Danny chuckled. “Babe, I like how you think.”
Jasmine frowned at him. “I thought you said I wasn’t one of the babes?”
Danny grinned and lifted his hands up in surrender when she threatened to punch his arm.
“No money tonight,” Danny said, taking her hand and leading her toward his spot. “We’re racing for a log book. Nic has a very smooth running Nissan Skyline. I want it.”
“Nice,” Jasmine said, excited.
“I’ll introduce you to my crew. By the way, my girlfriend, you get to start the race.”
Jasmine gasped at that. “What?”
“You look sexy,” Danny said, running his hand over her hip.
She had worn a short leather skirt and a light blouse for the occasion. Her feet in ankle-length heeled boots.
Danny grinned when she looked like she might stop breathing.
“You’ll love it.”
Yep, he had stolen her heart, she decided when all it did was flip-over in excitement instead of freak out. He was right about the start.
There was something absolutely exhilarating about standing at the starting point while five supercharged engines growled like beasts, itching for take off. Jasmine stood between Danny and Nic Mugera’s cars, her hands raised while Jimmy counted down on the sideline. When he got to one, she dropped her arms and the rush of cars whipping into motion past her let her breathless.
Terry rushed to her side jumping in excitement. They moved out of the road, to the closest screen to watch the race, documented by strategic cameras placed along the circuit. The competition was high-powered energy; Jasmine could feel the current on her skin. Everyone around them vibrated with it, watching with bated breath, she could hardly stay unaffected.
Watching Danny’s car muscle its way along the course was both hard and exciting. She clung to Terry’s arm when Nic’s car got too close to Danny’s or when the curves they took looked too dangerous. Danny was a great driver, but the maniacs racing him worried her. They drove aggressively, and seemed uncaring of safety. A green car tried to overtake Danny on a narrow part of the road, and for a full two minutes, Jasmine couldn’t breathe.
Danny freed himself from the crazy driver in the green car, edging ahead with Nic behind him in a white car.
Then, when Danny started on the last stretch, a brilliant blue car broke into the race. Forcing Danny to swerve out of the road to avoid a crash. The rogue blue car followed him, forcing him into the dirt field in the middle of the racing course. One moment, Danny seemed in control of his car, and then the blue car tapped his back and sent him into a wild spin.
Jasmine stood frozen, screams filled the night but none of that penetrated. The race continued on, but Jasmine’s gaze remained on Danny’s car bringing up a pile of dust in the middle of the field. She started to move, and Terry locked arms around her.
“Let me go,” Jasmine ordered, slapping at Terry’s arms to get free. She needed to get to Danny, save him, make sure he was okay.
“Let them pass,” Terry said, nodding to the oncoming cars.
A bitter taste filling her mouth, Jasmine stopped long enough to let the four remaining cars pass by the tarmac road, and then ran across, heading straight for the cloud of dust.
“Jazz!” Terry screamed.
She ignored the call, and kept going, wishing she hadn’t chosen to wear heels tonight.
Strong arms wrapped around her waist lifting her up.
“You idiot,” Jimmy cursed when she started to struggle. “Don’t go running into a mess you can’t see.”
Jimmy’s hold around her waist was tight, and for a minute, she didn’t understand what he meant until that rogue blue car emerged out of the dust. She felt Jimmy brace to push them out of its way. A scream escaping when the blue car missed them by an inch.
She clung to Jimmy then, her gaze on the blue car driving out of the property in unholy speeds, sending people scurrying out of its way. The driver clearly in a hurry to get away. When she could stand without shaking, she pushed off Jimmy and raced toward the settling dust.
Danny’s car stood still in the middle, parked haphazardly. Heart in her throat, Jasmine raced to the driver’s side in crazed madness.
Track 16 – Did you know there are a million sides to you…?
Later in the day, Danny stood in the pet supplies aisle at the supermarket, staring at the
range of cat litter products. How was he supposed to know which one was the right one? How strange was it to put a litter box in the house? The cat his mother kept had known to go pee outside. Why didn’t Jasmine’s cat know?
“Well, well,” Nic Mugera said, making Danny glance up from his perusal. Nic stood a few feet away, his right brow raised in amusement.
“What are you doing here?” Danny asked with a scowl.
“Seeing it for myself,” Nic replied. “Try the scented. Women like things that smell nice.”
“How would you know?” Danny asked.
“I have three sisters,” Nic answered. “I never imagined a woman would tame you into shopping.”
“Speak your mind, then leave Nic,” Danny said, irritated.
Nic sighed. “You are no fun. Fine. Anderson tried to hit up my warehouse in Industrial Area last night. Security stopped it. You should watch out.”
“What was he after?”
“A new consignment of parts,” Nic said. “You know I don’t get cheap stuff. Losing my stock would have set me back on my profits. Now that we have decided to exclude Anderson, he will try to hurt us.”
“I know,” Danny nodded. “Our best bet is to gather as much evidence as we can. Use it against him.”
“The CCTV feed at the warehouse is a good start,” Nic said. “We need more than that though. I suggest you tighten your security. He’ll hit you where it hurts most.”
“Are you having me followed?” Danny asked, wondering how Nic had known he would be here.
“Danny,” Nic said, his tone teasing. “The same way you’re aware of my movements, I’m aware of yours too. She’s hot by the way. Hang on to her, or I’ll make a move.”
“Don’t even think it,” Danny growled as Nick chucked and raised his hands up in surrender. Nic turned to leave, and Danny said, “Thanks.”
“Yeah, see you around, Danny boy,” Nic said with a wave.
Danny grabbed a bag of scented kitten litter and went in search of Jasmine. He found her reading a gossip magazine in the book section. She almost jumped when he placed the kitten litter in the cart.
Placing the magazine back, she turned on him.
“Where have you been?”
“Getting the litter,” Danny said. “Do you want the magazine?”
“No,” Jasmine said. “Let’s go.”
“You were reading it though.”
“Are you hungry?” Jasmine asked, walking away.
Puzzled, Danny followed her to check out. She was busy putting items on the counter when he reached her.
“Why did you take a day off today?”
“I wanted to spend the day with you. Why did you leave a magazine you were reading? Don’t you want to finish it?” Danny asked, lifting laundry detergent and placing it on the counter.
“I don’t want to buy it,” Jasmine said.
“Does that mean if I buy it, you’ll want it?”
“No,” Jasmine said. “Why are we having this conversation?”
“Because it’s fascinating how you start something and walk away from it, without a second glance,” Danny said.
“You’re reading too much into it,” Jasmine said, reaching for her purse.
Jasmine shook her head and turned to the cashier. When she finished with her, and her shopping was all packed up, Jasmine followed Danny out of the supermarket.
“You’re so defensive,” Danny complained, once they were inside the car. When she raised a brow at him, he grinned. “I’m getting used to it.”
“You’re not easy to deal with either,” Jasmine said with a snort.
“You must like me though,” Danny said, navigating traffic.
“I must,” Jasmine said on a smile. “Tell me about racing instead.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Is it illegal?” Jasmine asked, shifting in her seat so that she faced him.
“It depends on the perspective,” Danny answered. “The modifications on the cars are illegal for regular use, things like using NOS—
“Nitrous Oxide Systems,” Danny frowned. “They’re used to increase speed. Say for example you want to increase speed to 65mph in four seconds. You install NOS in to the system, but it has to be able to handle it. Their use is regulated because you can’t strap them into a regular passenger car, or public vehicles.”
“Do you have NOS in your race cars?”
“Yes,” Danny said, he wouldn’t lie to her. It was easiest if she knew every detail.
Jasmine nodded. “Go on.”
“There are many types of modifications. We’d need a separate lesson just for that. We race in the evening most times, in the racing course we developed. Though, there are times when we do close down streets and run a street racing round.”
“So, if police caught you—
“Yes, that part of it is illegal. We all work around it,” Danny gave a small smile.
“Can you use my car?” Jasmine asked. “Can I take my Chevy out there?’
“Your Chevy is too old,” Danny said. “Each car in any particular race has an engine that is built from scratch, tuned and maintained to perfection. So, we would have to change everything in your Chevy’s engine, change the type of tires, suspension, modify the chassis, that way, the car would have a fighting chance in a race.”
“What do you drive?”
“A Nissan Skyline,” Danny said, his voice filled with pride. “Jimmy and I modify and tune it with each race. It’s earned us a lot of money.”
“It must be really expensive doing all that,” Jasmine noted.
“The garage pulls in money, Jazz. We never make any serious financial risks,” Danny assured her. “Besides fixing cars, we also modify and tune other racer cars. We rent out some of the street racing cars we have. Income comes from selling parts in the shop. We keep a low profile, and make sure our tax payments are paid on time. Don’t want the KRA calling.”
“Does it scare you at all?” Jasmine asked. “Ever?”
“Only when my head is not in the game,” Danny confessed. “Driving takes skill, Jasmine. A car is a machine that requires a clear calculating mind behind the wheel. I’m not an idiot.”
Jasmine studied him for a moment. No, he wasn’t an idiot. Far from it. Still, she was scared to think of him at the wheel of a car flying at sixty mph in four seconds. How could he catch his breath under such speed?
Clearing her throat, she asked. “Will you take me on a ride one of these days? I mean not at your races. I couldn’t handle that, but—
She paused when he looked at her, surprise clear on his face.
“When you’re free,” she finished.
Danny smiled wide. “How about now?”
“Really?” Jasmine shook her head, not sure she was ready for this.
“Sure,” Danny said, before she chickened out.
Changing gears, he changed lanes and headed toward the exit that would take him to the racing course.
Thirty minutes later, Danny pressed on the gas pedal, steadily increasing speed and grinned when the hand on his thigh squeezed tighter, then relaxed. They had gone three rounds around the course. Each time, he’d taken them on a faster speed. Jasmine sat silent beside him, her expression one of excitement.
He didn’t talk, just allowed the atmosphere to fill with the sound of the engine, and his woman beside him.
It felt safe, Jasmine thought, her gaze on Danny’s hands as he turned the wheel. The movement so effortless, she wasn’t apprehensive and anxious. It was him. He made her feel safe, happy.
She started to say she loved him, then stopped, surprised that the words had almost escaped. She shut her mouth and turned to look out the window. The world was moving fast around them. Like her emotions, she warned herself.
“You what?” Danny prompted, placing his hand over hers on his thigh.
Jasmine smiled. “I’m glad we did this. It’s exciting.”
“Are you still scared?” Danny asked, easily navigating the car into a fast turn. Jasmine watched the motion, feeling weightless.
“No. Not when I’m with you,” Jasmine said, turning to study his face. He looked so happy, the expression on his face was memorable. She’d definitely never seen this side of Danny before. He was excited, relaxed, and content.
“You make it effortless,” she said.
“Isn’t it?” Danny teased. “You must come to all my races now.”
Jasmine breathed in and squeezed his thigh. She might trust him behind the wheel, but others—
That was another case.
Could she live through that kind of anxiety? Guess she would find out tonight, she thought.
Track 15 – Because getting to know you, is my favorite adventure…
The door was open, and Jasmine sat on her bed writing in her diary. She didn’t look up, so Danny leaned on the doorjamb and watched her for a few minutes.
The reading glasses resting on the bridge of her nose made her look studious, and sexy…Danny grinned. He leaned the hockey stick on the wall inside her bedroom and cleared his throat.
She looked up at him.
“Still mad at me?” he asked.
Jasmine closed her diary and placed it on the bedside table.
“I need to know you’re safe when you’re alone,” Danny explained.
“I know,” Jasmine said, removing her glasses, she held out her right hand to him.
Danny entered the bedroom and closed the door. He moved closer and took her hand. Getting on the bed, he pulled her into a tight hug. Not wanting to let go just yet, Danny shifted until he was comfortably resting on the comfortable pillows. Jasmine settled against him, and he rubbed her arm, breathing in the scent of mint. The scent like home.
Jasmine traced shapes on his t-shirt.
“Will you tell me what tonight’s been about?”
Danny held her tighter.
“First, let me ask, do you trust me?”
Jasmine’s finger stilled on his chest. She lifted her head from his chest to meet his gaze. Danny searched her eyes for a hint of doubt, and when he found none, he couldn’t help the little burst of joy in his heart.
“I’m not a criminal,” Danny said then, needing her to know that. “The garage’s revenue is clean, no dirty money.”
“And the race grounds?” Jasmine asked.
“Jimmy and I bought the land and own it free and clear. We built the course, developed the tracks. We’ve ran a tight circle until a few months ago when Adrian approached us wanting to join in.” Danny shook his head. “At first glance, his business looked legitimate. He imports car parts and has a shop in the middle of Nairobi town.”
“He has other sources of income,” Jasmine said, resting her chin on Danny’s chest.
“We allowed him into the circle because he could pay the cut,” Danny sighed. “It worked out well a few races. Then Anderson’s people started working the guests. Trying to sell merchandise, Jimmy thinks there were drugs involved. It got weird, and we started not calling him for any races.”
“Now he’s upset,” Jasmine said in understanding. “Upsetting Adrian is like stepping on a cat’s tail, Danny. He’s a mean bastard, his claws scratch deep.”
“I made Terry finish her business with anyone associated with Anderson. Jimmy has people watching her. I stayed away from you thinking I was protecting you. Then Terry came home and told me you used to date his little brother—,”
“Hence the ex-boyfriend conversation,” Jasmine sighed. “Danny, I doubt Anderson will come after me.”
“He will because you matter to me,” Danny said, tightening his hold on her. She frowned, and he brought his free hand to pinch her left cheek, and then gave it a small caress.
“It would hurt me if something happened to you, Jazz. That’s no secret,” Danny said.
Well…when he put it that way, Jasmine thought, sucking in air. Danny certainly knew how to say the right thing to make all her mad disappear. Wiping out a full evening of being upset with a few words, what talent. Her heart squeezed and she gave up on fighting her feelings for this man.
She smiled and Danny stared at her, then ran his hands down her back, tickling her. She started laughing and tried to wiggle out of his hold.
“Were you really going to hit me with the hockey stick?”
Jasmine grabbed his wrists to stop him, but he was strong. He tickled her sides and she convulsed into uncontrollable laughs.
“Tell me, or I won’t stop,” Danny threatened.
“I thought you were a thief.” Jasmine tried to move away, but then Danny rolled on top of her. “You’ve been freaking out about psychos at my door. Then I hear banging—,”
“Next time, call for help,” Danny said.
“My phone was in the living room,” Jasmine said.
“You’re exasperating,” Danny chuckled. “I think I need to stay here with you.”
“What?” Jasmine stared at him in surprise. Then he kissed her hard and she forgot all thought.
She wasn’t working the next morning. Danny finally got his wish. He woke her with heated kisses, bringing her up as the sun rose to a beautiful Friday morning. Jasmine curled to his side and pressed a kiss on his shoulder.
“Morning,” Danny said.
“Morning,” she smiled. “If they were all like this, I’d never get to work.”
“Hmm…” Danny said, his tone low. “Is that an idea?”
“Maybe,” Jasmine said.
They spent the morning lazing around in bed. At around nine, they dressed leisurely and ended up in the kitchen around nine-thirty. Danny stood behind Jasmine as she made eggs, his hands on her hips. He pressed a kiss on her neck.
“Danny,” She chuckled. “Do you have to stand so close? I’m trying to cook here.”
“I know,” Danny said, kissing her shoulder. “I’m hoping I’m the only one you cook for woman.”
“Such a jealous man,” Jasmine said, turning the eggs. “Pass the plates.”
Danny reached behind him and picked up the plates. Helping her serve the eggs, he took the plates to the dining table while she turned the fire off. Taking their cups of coffee, she followed him to the dining table. Taking a seat beside him, she grabbed her fork and started eating.
“Baby, you’ve got an appetite,” Danny teased.
“So what?” She sipped her coffee. “Am I fat?”
“I love your body,” Danny answered rubbing her back.
Danny chuckled and sipped his coffee.
“What were you busy typing last night?”
Jasmine swallowed her eggs hard, meeting Danny’s gaze. She’d never told her friends about her hobby other than her immediate family.
“Work related?” Danny asked.
“Not really,” Jasmine evaded. “Anyway, what are you doing today?”
“Spending the day with you,” Danny answered, smiling at her shocked reaction.
“The whole day?” she asked.
“Yes, Jasmine. I’m going to spend the whole day with you. Get used to the idea, girlfriend,” Danny said, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
Jasmine shook her head, taking a bite of her eggs.
“I wonder what your racing buddies would say if they saw you now. Your playboy reputation would suffer.”
“It would be worth it,” Danny winked at her. “I’m trying out new things. Speaking of which, later tonight, there is a race. I want you to come.”
“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Danny said. “Please? Come be my luck, Jazz. Let me try to end your fear.”
She stared at her fork. Terry had warned her. Told her she would need to accept this side of Danny too. When she met his gaze, he looked anxious, expecting her to say no.
Jasmine hid a smile and turned away.
“Well, since you asked so nicely,” she said, “I guess I can try it out.”
Track 14 – My past, your present…we just need to understand each other
After Danny left, Jasmine gave up on working. She took a shower, and crawled into her large bed ready for sleep. Yet, her eyes remained wide open. Her thoughts on her relationship with Tyler Anderson.
Tyler had made her smile. Had made her think she could give up on Danny, and maybe live a happy life. Tyler cared, he was easy to be around, and had accepted all her flaws. Since her dream with Danny seemed impossible, she had thought being with Tyler would work.
Jasmine sat up and gave up on sleep. Arranging her pillows behind her back, she reached for her diary on the bedside table. Opening it, she touched the silver chain with a ring hanging on the end. Tyler’s last gift.
The proposal that turned to dust when Anderson rolled into her house and told Tyler he didn’t want trash like Jasmine in their family. Tyler had not defended her. Instead, he’d said sorry and simply walked out of her house.
She kept the ring to remind herself not to be fooled again. Love was easy, but it faded in the face of misconceptions, expectations and perceptions.
Closing her diary, she sighed.
Now there was Danny, insisting he wanted to protect her, cared about her. Yet, he was neck deep in trouble. The races might be clean as far as Danny was concerned, but Adrian was a thug. If he was part of Danny’s life, she didn’t want the reminders of a hurtful love, or the idea that Danny might be involved in crime.
Putting her diary on the bedside table, Jasmine stretched out on her bed, burrowing her face under her pillows. Min jumped up and settled near her head, purring loudly, trying to offer comfort.
Jasmine closed her eyes and might have fallen asleep. When she opened her eyes again, it was to the steady sound of pounding. For a moment, she wondered if her landlord was fixing the fence again. He liked doing shit like that at odd times. She’d learned to ignore it, but this sounded way too close.
Sitting up on her bed, she felt panic fill her when she realized the pounding was actually in her house.
Who was thinking of robbing her?
Oh damn it, why was Danny always right?
Jasmine got off the bed, looking around her bedroom for a weapon. She came up short. Her cell phone was by her computer in the living room. She cursed under her breath and hurried to her closet, searching the corners for anything heavy.
Lucky there was a hockey stick from her high school days in the back. Taking it up, she braced herself and quietly got out of her room. Better to be sure, and then try to find an escape route. The banging was deliberate. Jasmine ran through her list of possessions and wondered what anyone would want her ordinary furniture, and clothes. She owned no expensive jewelry and was paranoid about cash, so never kept it in her house, it was all in the bank.
Walking the short hallway to the living room, she paused at the end of the wall, breathed in and out for courage and peeped into the hallway leading to the front door.
A hot wave of relief flooded her at the sight of Danny and Jimmy kneeling at her front door with tools around them. Stepping out in the open in surprise, she gripped the hockey stick at a loss for words.
“Hey Jazz, what’s with the hockey stick?” Jimmy waved at her.
Danny didn’t stop working, holding a power drill to her door.
“What are you doing to my door?” Jasmine asked. “Who gave you permission to change locks?”
“Jazz, don’t come closer if you don’t want to fight,” Danny warned. “Will you pass me that screw, Jimmy?”
“Jimmy do not give it to him,” Jasmine moved closer, still holding the hockey stick.
“Danny, she’s armed,” Jimmy said, his gaze on Jasmine.
“I know,” Danny said. “Jazz, if you hit me with that, I’ll come back to haunt you.”
“You’re a pain the ass,” Jasmine said.
“So are you,” Danny said, taking the screw from Jimmy and getting on with his work.
Jasmine scowled at his back, and propped the hockey stick on the wall.
“Jimmy, you want a drink? You shouldn’t have to deal with this mess,” Jasmine asked, going into the kitchen.
“Sure,” Jimmy grinned.
“Oh treat him like the saint,” Danny scoffed. “I’m the one doing all the work.”
“No one asked you to,” Jasmine said, coming over to give Jimmy a bottle of juice. She ignored Danny, went to take her phone from her desk and returned to her bedroom.
“She’s pissed,” Jimmy said, an hour later when they finished changing the lock.
“I know,” Danny said, watching the door lock automatically. Shaking the keys at Jimmy, he grinned. “But she’s safe enough. I can deal with the anger.”
“I don’t envy you,” Jimmy said, turning the lock and opening the door. “I’m heading home, see you tomorrow dude.”
“Thanks, man,” Danny said, with a short nod, letting the door close. A satisfied look coming on his face at the sound of the automatic lock engaging. Placing the keys on the a small table right at the door, Danny picked up the hockey stick leaning on the wall and made his way to Jasmine’s room.
Track 13 – There is nothing smooth about relationships…
For the first time since she’d moved into her house, Jasmine discovered she had a doorbell. The ringing started when she was busy typing at her desktop. She kept at her work thinking that someone who would ring her doorbell was not welcome at this time. Ignoring the ring, might encourage them to leave. So, she kept working.
The ringing didn’t stop.
Glancing at Min, her white cat, who was perched on her desk watching her as though in irritation at the noise, she sighed.
“Door’s open,” she called.
She kept typing not wanting to lose her thread. The door opened and in a minute, strong arms pulled her out of her chair and wrapped her in a tight hug.
Staring at Danny’s white t-shirt, she started to talk but he stopped her when he covered her mouth with his, kissing her breathless. She clung to his shoulders as he pulled her flash against him. The kiss was hungry, almost brutal. It ended as abruptly as it started.
“What’s gotten into you?” Jasmine asked, once she could breathe. “Danny—
“I’ve asked you to stop leaving your door unlocked,” Danny cut her off. “Lock it, Jasmine. It’s almost ten o’clock at night. There are psychos in this world.”
“Clearly, if a psycho was after me, a locked door would do nothing to stop him. Will you calm down?” Jasmine stepped away from him, pushing her chair under her desk. She picked up Min and stared at Danny.
He looked frantic. In black jeans and a white t-shirt, he looked deliciously wild, so handsome and annoying.
“Did you come here to yell? Coz, the same way you just walked in, is the way out,” Jasmine said, lifting a brow at him.
“And leave you unprotected, hell no,” Danny snapped. “How can you live alone like this?”
“I’m not in the mood,” Jasmine said, taking Min to lie on the couch. The cat yawned and climbed up on to the arm of the couch promptly falling asleep. Jasmine turned to look at Danny.
“What’s really bothering you?” she asked, folding her arms against her chest. “You couldn’t have driven all the way from your house to come yelling about my door.”
Danny studied her, really taking in the picture she made. She was in warm white sweat pants, fluffy pink bunny socks and a pink bunny t-shirt covered with a heavy white sweater. Reading glasses perched on her nose; she looked too soft and defenseless.
“Cold much?” he asked with a chuckle.
She made a face at him and he smiled.
“I worry about you, living here alone.”
“I’m safe enough. The neighborhood is quiet. The compound secure,” Jasmine said.
“Your neighbors are not my worry,” Danny glared at her. “Your ex-boyfriends are my main concern.”
“Ex-boyfriends…” Jasmine nodded, “and you want to have that talk now?”
“Yes,” Danny said, without a flinch. He pulled out the computer chair, sat on it and swiveled to see what she’d been doing. Jasmine moved faster and put her computer to sleep. Gracing him with a glare, she went to the kitchen.
“Jazz, we’re going to have this talk, sooner or later. Fast forward it all and tell me about Tyler. He’s the one you were most serious with right?”
“Did Terry tell you that?” Jasmine asked.
“No.” Danny swung the chair around to look at her in the kitchen. “I have eyes of my own. You nearly married that bastard.”
Jasmine stared into her fridge, taking his words in. Had it been that obvious? How desperate had she looked clinging to Tyler Anderson?
“Why do you want to know about him?” Jasmine asked, clearing her throat.
“Because of his brother,” Danny said, watching her.
Jasmine closed the fridge without taking anything and turned to look at him, her eyes narrowed.
“What about Adrian?”
“He’s dangerous,” Danny said. “Adrian is a crook, trouble-making, breaking the law, kind of dangerous.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
“Danny, don’t patronize me,” Jasmine said, holding his gaze. “How do you know?”
Danny wanted to escape her gaze, but couldn’t. He owed her the truth, needed her to understand his life, his choices. So, he swallowed the urge to lie and gave in.
“Adrian is in the racing scene. I only found out he was trouble a few weeks ago. I’m trying to get him out of my business and the races.”
Jasmine stood so still for a moment; he thought she hadn’t understood what he was trying to say. He frowned when she suddenly cursed and came to where he sat. Taking his hand, she pulled him up and he followed her.
Puzzled, his frown deepened when she led him to her front door.
“See you, Danny. It’s been great.”
“You’re kidding me,” Danny blinked.
“No. Say hi to Terry for me,” Jasmine said, opening the door and holding it open. The security light in the small porch outside her house spilled into the hallway.
“Jazz, you’re nuts if you think I’m walking away from you without an explanation.”
“I don’t think I have to give you one.”
“Oh yes, you do,” Danny insisted.
“I don’t want to discuss this.”
“We have no choice,” Danny said, raising his voice.
“Okay, tell me, Danny. How straight is your business?” Jasmine asked. “For you to have Adrian, that thug in your life, you can’t be doing good things.”
“Do you think doing business in Nairobi is easy? You have no idea the amount of murk I have had to wade through to get the garage where it is. To build the races to where they’ve reached. Having you stand there, judging me—
Danny broke off, shaking his head, his gaze filled with anger. He paced the length of her doorway, and then wiped a hand down his face.
“What makes you so darned defensive about my racing? Isn’t that the problem?”
Jasmine’s grip on her door tightened and she started to turn away.
“I told you, I don’t want to talk about this.”
“Too bad,” Danny pulled the door out of her hand and slammed it closed. “Stop being scared and tell me—
“Scared?” Jasmine scoffed. “You think I’m scared. Wouldn’t that make me stupid? To be scared for someone who obviously doesn’t need my worry. I’m indifferent, Danny. Even more so, when I know nothing about your racing. Stop this and leave now.”
“What do you mean no? This is my house. I get to say when you leave.”
“We both know you don’t want me to leave,” Danny said. “You care. You pretend not to, but you do. You want to stay indifferent, but you can’t, coz I worry you.”
Jasmine shook her head, hating the fact that he read her too well. She turned to escape to the living room, bu7ft Danny reached for her left wrist and pulled her to the hallway wall. He moved closer until she was leaning against the wall.
“Admit it, Jazz.”
“Danny, I don’t—
“Come on, Jasmine,” Danny cut her off, unable to hide his frustration. He needed to break through the protective wall she had around her. “Tell me, please.”
Jasmine refused to meet his gaze, and instead pressed her forehead on his shoulder. Her heart squeezed tight, the tight knot in her stomach loosening when she took in Danny’s scent. She closed her eyes as her heart gave in. How could she explain that what she feared most was losing him?
“I can’t—,” she started, making Danny sigh in exasperation, so the next sentence burst out of her. “I can’t stand to see you hurt, Danny.”
Danny wrapped his arms around her, in response.
“I don’t breathe easy when I hear you’re racing. I make Terry take me out or drive out some place far away.”
“Why?” Danny asked, when she didn’t answer, he whispered into her ear. “Why Jazz?”
She wrapped her arms around his waist.
I don’t think I could live if you crashed, Danny.”
Danny exhaled and held her tight.
“You must think I’m a nut. Worrying about such useless—
“Your concerns are not useless,” Danny said, leaning back so that she was forced to raise her head. When she looked up at him, he kissed her soundly.
When their kiss ended, Jasmine sighed and stared at his chest.
“Despite your marvelous kisses, I won’t change my mind, Danny. Adrian scares me, Danny. I don’t want to deal with him again. I mean it.”
“What did he do to you?” Danny demanded, gripping her arms. “Tell me, Jazz.”
Jasmine hated to remember the site of Adrian in her house, telling Tyler he could do better. As though she were a worm crawling in the dirt, and Tyler was a thousand heights above her.
She never wanted to meet that bastard again in her life.
Meeting Danny’s gaze, she said, “He did nothing.”
Danny scowled. “I swear if he touched you—
“He didn’t. Let it go, Danny.”
“I can’t. Can’t you see that it’s not possible for me to let this go?” Danny asked, but she moved away and headed back to the living room.
“I don’t want to talk about Adrian. As long as you’re hanging out with him, I’ll stay away,” Jasmine said. She pulled out her chair at her desk and shook her index finger at him. “I was quite happy before you walked in. I was content in my little world. I’d like to get back to that now. So please, leave.”
Danny stood watching her, then because she got him so mad, he turned and stalked out of her house, slamming the door hard behind him. Going to his car, he got in the driver’s seat and sat staring at Jasmine’s house at a loss.
What was he supposed to do with such a stubborn woman?
Turning over the engine, he backed out of her short drive and headed out. Jaw clenched, he made a decision at the first turn on to the main road. He knew exactly what he was going to do.
Jasmine’s phone buzzed and she smiled when she checked her messenger. Danny was
checking in on her. They had not seen each other for a week since he dropped her food at work. But, he called and replied messages when she wrote them. A little thrill went through her every time her phone buzzed now. She liked it.
“So, this morning on my way to drop off an order, there was this discussion on the radio,” Terry said, as they strolled through the mall. “Apparently, most women fantasize about celebrity women. Who you’d do, the ideal one.”
“I’ve never wanted to be with a woman but if asked, I think I’d go with Angelina Jolie,” Terry declared.
“Coz, she has experience?” Jasmine asked with a chuckle.
“Her badass attitude would totally rub off on me, and come in handy when I pick fights,” Terry said. “She would be cool in a fight.”
“Gal, what are you saying?” Jasmine asked stopping at the Body Splitz shop. “You don’t think I’d have your back in a fight?”
“Of course you do, but you’re all girly looking,” Terry said, giving her a once over, then she laughed when Jasmine smacked her arm.
“I can scratch out eyes with the best of them,” Jasmine declared, strolling down the closest aisle. “What’s with the fantasies? Whose eyes do I need to scratch out?”
“Your man,” Terry said, a grim look on her face. “Danny is interfering with my business. Granted that he has every right, he footed the capital, still…it’s annoying.”
“Who is he trying to save you from?” Jasmine asked, stopping in the body wash section. “Does it have anything to do with the races?”
“Yeah,” Terry said, taking a bottle of lavender body wash and smelling it. She returned it to the shelf. “Jazz, you’re going to have to deal with that part of his life, eventually.”
“I know,” Jasmine said, handing Terry her shopping basket. She picked out a bottle of mint lotion, and smelled it. “His racing scares me, gambling with this life every time he gets behind the wheel. I can’t think about it.”
“Danny is not an idiot,” Terry defended her brother. “He is not careless and knows what he’s doing, Jazz. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks and insists on a clean race. Which is part of the reason my business is an issue now. Danny’s trying to weed out some thug from their circle.”
“Is that why he’s kept away for a week?” Jasmine asked, trying to keep her tone nonchalant. The messaging and phone calls were great, but Danny had not come to see her once.
“Do I sense some frustration?” Terry teased.
Jasmine chose the mint lotion, mint shampoo and body wash, placing them in her shopping basket. She picked out a coconut lotion for Terry and looked at her best friend.
“Maybe,” Jasmine said. “In truth, Danny and me, we’re worlds apart. I’m caught in between wanting to get close and keeping this strange distance we have.”
“Jasmine Lima, don’t try to tell me that you are not missing my brother,” Terry said, heading to checkout. They paid for their respective products and Terry pointed a finger at her as they took their shopping bags. “I know you.”
“Well,” Jasmine sighed. “I’m confused about him, Terry, and that’s the truth.”
“First, not to sound biased, but Danny is a good guy,” Terry said, when they left the store. “Second, I don’t remember the last serious relationship you had. Who was it with?”
“Tyler,” Jasmine answered, hating to remember it. She had loved Tyler. Yes, if she was to really be truthful, she had cared about Tyler enough to want to keep him. “That turned into a mess.”
“Oh that’s right,” Terry said, her eyes darkening. “Shit, Tyler wasn’t straight, Jazz. He messed you up.”
“I cared too much. He—,” Jasmine broke off. “I’m not sure what he wanted. All I know is that he did what his brother said and it didn’t involve keeping me.”
“His brother?” Terry frowned. “I never heard about Tyler’s brother.”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to admit that my boyfriend left me ‘coz his brother didn’t think I was good enough,” Jasmine said with a soft scoff. “It’s humiliating.”
“What is this brother’s name? I’ll see about him,” Terry scowled. “Tell me, Jazz.”
“It’s over and done.”
“I don’t care. What if I date him? Come on, I need to know his name.”
“Fine,” Jasmine said, amused. “But dating my ex would be breaking the bff’s code.”
“Not your ex, his brother,” Terry clarified, making a face. “Will you just tell me the bastard’s name?”
“Adrian Anderson,” Jasmine said. “A pain in the ass is what he is, thinks he is some sort of ruler of the kingdom.”
“Anderson!” Terry gaped. “Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Jasmine said, walking out of the mall into the cool evening. “He came over to my house once to get Tyler. It wasn’t pretty.”
“Oh no,” Terry shook her head and got quiet.
Jasmine stopped to look at her.
“What? Is everything alright?” Jasmine asked.
Terry looked at her and smiled, though she seemed preoccupied to Jasmine.
“Yes, everything is fine,” Terry said. “Come on, let’s go have something to eat. I’ll treat you.”
“I feel like eating barbequed chicken,” Jasmine said, wrapping an arm around Terry. “Real juicy and spicy.”
“So specific,” Terry laughed. “I’ll take you to the Passion Fruit.”
“Stop!” Jimmy laughed. “No more kungfu jokes, Danny.”
“Why? You used to love those old movies. What happened to that whole collection?”
“I don’t remember. Lost in the junk in the storage room,” Jimmy said, sipping on his beer. “Where’s Terry?”
“She went out earlier,” Danny said, changing the channel on the big screen to a football game. “Probably getting back about—
Terry slammed into the house and dropped the shopping bags she held on the floor. She stared at Danny, who was reclined on the couch, her expression made him wonder what had her in a tiff now.
“What?” Danny asked, sipping his beer, giving her a wary glance.
“Go to Jasmine,” Terry ordered.
“What’s happened?” Danny asked, sitting up. “Is she hurt? Why—
“No,” Terry said. “But, I think you should be with her.”
“I messaged her a few minutes ago. She said she’s fine, staying in this evening,” Danny said, relaxing.
Terry gave an impatient sigh and moved to sit next to Jimmy.
“Do you care for her, Danny?”
“You know how I feel about her.” Danny frowned. “Terry, I’m trying to find a way to pull Anderson out of our lives. It’s better to go back to Jazz when it’s over. Who knows what he’ll do?”
“Forget it. She used to date Anderson’s little brother, Tyler,” Terry said. “She told me they broke up because Anderson ordered it. He knows her. He knows where she lives. It would be better—
Danny got up, threw the remote on the couch, meeting Jimmy’s gaze. He was out of the house before Terry finished.