STILL (Grip Book 2)

By: Kennedy Ryan
Part I





“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned,

is to reflect the times.”



– Nina Simone, Musician & Activist





1





Bristol





“Your client appears to be late.”

I glance from the pasty face across the table to my phone, noting the time. This guy could use some of our LA sun before he goes back to New York, though it is summer there, too. Maybe he just doesn’t get out much.

“A little late,” I tell Kevin, the rep from Barrow Publishing. “But he’ll be here.”

“Our team’s excited about the possibility of working with Grip.” Kevin gestures with his fork wrapped in angel hair pasta. “He’ll be great for our urban imprint.”

“Your urban imprint?” My own fork is halfway to my mouth, but I place it back down in the bowl of my half-eaten salad. “Why would you think that?”

“Well, he is a hip-hop artist.” Kevin shrugs and chews his pasta. “Seems like the reasonable placement.”

“He’s also the guy whose debut album went double platinum and who sold out the largest venues across three continents while headlining his first world tour.” I challenge him with one lifted brow. “You don’t get numbers like that reaching a niche demographic. Grip has proven global appeal and would be best placed with your flagship imprint.”

“We’ll see.” Skepticism colors Kevin’s otherwise pale face.

“Oh, I know, because I won’t settle for anything less.” I spear a cucumber with my fork and him with a glance sharpened to a fine point. “Charisma knew that when she approached me with this offer.”

My friend Charisma and I went to high school together and were roommates at Columbia. She’s now a powerful editor at a huge publishing company. I would much prefer lunch with her instead of this junior editor, but her schedule didn’t allow for that.

My phone dings with a text on the table.

“Excuse me.” I grab the phone to check the incoming text.

Grip: Hey babe. Sorry. About to get on the road.

Me: ETA?

Grip: Huh? Is that dyslexic for eat? LOL

Despite my irritation that I have to spend more time alone with this sun-deprived dickhead, my lips twitch.

Me: Estimated time of arrival, smartass.

Grip: Like 10, but if you send me a tit pic, I might be able to shave a couple min off.

I shake my head and lose the battle with my lips, surrendering a wide grin. I try to ignore dickhead’s eyes on the tits in question. This guy is a bit of a lecher; I’ll have to ask Charisma what she was thinking sending him.

Me: Not funny. Get here so we can be done with this.

Grip: I’m coming, but you know I come faster when you show me your tits.

I walked right into that one. I don’t bother responding, instead setting the phone down and turning my attention back to Kevin the lecher.

“That was Grip.” I wait for his eyes to lift from nipple level. “He got held up at his previous appointment, but he’s en route.”

“It’s fine.” His slick smile lubricates the space between us, leaving a greasy film in the air. “Gives us a little more time alone.”

“Do we need more time alone?” I take a sip of my mineral water. “For what?”

“So I can persuade you to have dinner with me.”

Is this guy for real? I glance into the eyes behind his square glasses. Everything about him screams metrosexual, pretty much the polar opposite of Grip. I guess I’m self-absorbed enough to assume everyone knows Grip and I are together. We were outed in the worst possible way just after he and Qwest broke up—via a surveillance video leak and Black Twitter feud—but we’ve managed to keep a pretty low profile ever since. Apparently, Kevin missed that bit of juicy gossip.

“I think we should stick to business,” I offer with a wry smile.

“But what about pleasure?” He reaches across the table to rub the back of my hand.

“Pleasure?” I snatch my hand back. “Kevin, you wouldn’t know where to start pleasing me.”

He looks nonplussed, but it’s the truth. Some women have trouble admitting they love sex; I’m not one of them. I love it, but I’m a woman of discriminating tastes and hard-to-please nethers. Fortunately, my voracious appetite extends to exactly one man who’s figured it all out, and he’s probably . . . oh, less than ten minutes out.

Maybe I should have sent that tit pic after all.

“I just meant I’m only in LA for another day, and haven’t seen much of the city,” Kevin says. “I know you and Charisma are friends, so I thought maybe you could show me around before I go back to New York.”

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