New Release: The Blood Line: Redemption by Sam J.

Y’all know that being in the company of other women can sometimes get catty or downright hateful (Housewives…, anyone?). Now, imagine being one of seven sisters and having to deal with that BS on the regular. I have never in my literary life met a bunched of more fucked-up sisters than the Noble sisters of Chicago. Yeah, I said seven of them: Cass, Sheri, Zonje, Anhuea, Shaun, Bobbi, and Dotti.

Whew, chile, the GHET-TO! But you know what? I could not put it down because I loves me a good soap opera featuring a family of misfits. I mean, all of ‘em got issues, and they involve one thing: MEN. Either each other’s or somebody else’s.

You must read book one, The Blood Line, before starting this one because book two picks right up where book one leaves off. This series is heavy with a lot of moving parts, not gon lie. There are multiple arcs that all intersect at one point or another, so if you can binge-watch five seasons of your favorite show then you can curl up and read these two books because every scene will be in your head as if you are Netflixing and Chilling.

Let’s meet the ghetto fabulous Noble sisters, shall we?

Cass is the oldest and hasn’t set nare example for her sisters. She’s ghetto as hell but also funny and has a good heart. She’s assumed somewhat of a mother role but in that big sister way: always judging and criticizing like her shit don’t stink. And believe me: Smells like the elephant house at the National Zoo…

Sherri ain’t shit either. She is the “successful” one of the sisters, having worked (and fucked) her way up the corporate ladder. Too bad for her that it’s all about the come-up. Damn everybody else. She has the morals of the hoodrat from whence she came…

Zonje:  Po’ thang…She drowns her sorrows in booze with her no-good husband who takes his shit out on her and their teenage son. If she can stand up straight, it’s a good day for her.

Anhuea. Sweet, little Anhuea…all she wants is her baby daddy to do the right thing and make an honest woman of her. If she don’t wake TF up and smell the coffee, the roses, her own ass…

Shaun. I wouldn’t want nothing to do with that family either. That’s why she dipped. Always the “ugly” sister, she leaves the first opportunity she gets—and with her sister’s man.

Bobbi. She just wants a good life for herself and her twin boys and is making moves to achieve that, but family drama always sucks her into the vortex of some fuckery that puts her life and the family’s in danger.

Dotti. The baby. The beautiful one. The royal fuck-up. Can’t do right to save her life. She uses her looks and feminine charms to secure her bags, but it’s always at a premium. Will she ever learn?

So, there you have it. Have I piqued your interest? Check it out while the Rona got us all social distancing and what-not. This series is wild as hell…


The Southern Seduction Series by S. Taylor


Stand-Alone: yes
Series: Southern Seduction
Publication Date:  February 7, 2019
Publisher: Garden Avenue Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Heat Level: Erotic
Tropes: Insta-love (Honeydew and I’m Yours), Blackmailed into marriage (Honeydew)

ISBN: 978-1-940636-78-8 (Ebook edition)
ISBN: 978-1-940636-80-1 (Paperback edition)

I’m Yours
ISBN: 978-1-940636-75-7 (Ebook edition)
ISBN: 978-1-940636-79-5 (Paperback edition)

Release Blitz: February 21, 2019

Southern Seduction series by S. Taylor


Clarisse Jordan is a young single mother, who after the death of her fiancé, poured blood, sweat, and tears into her business, Honeydew Café, to provide for her children. A catering gig for successful and super sexy Dylan Price is the opportunity of a lifetime. But she quickly learns that Mr. Price is interested in more than her Southern cuisine. He has his sights set on her.

Dylan has been in love with Clarisse for years and would do anything to have her—even if it means forcing her into marriage. Lucky for him, the instant chemistry between them is hotter than a mid-summer day beneath the Georgia sun.

Yet Dylan is not completely honest with Clarisse, and when she learns the painful truth, will their love affair end? Or will they be able to find their way back to each other?


AMAZON | Barnes & Noble | APPLE | KOBO

Read an Excerpt

It’s only been a few years since I buried the love of my life. I hear the word marriage and it pulls me from my thoughts of Frost, and I pay close attention.

“I think that’ll be enough time to plan, wouldn’t you agree?”

“To what?”

“Clarisse, were you not listening to me this whole time?”

I shake my head, not caring that I give myself away. Shit, this whole situation is new for me. It’s not every day a girl gets a blackmail or a proposal—I need time to process.

“I said, we’ll marry at the end of the month. That gives enough time to plan.”


“If I knew I could get away with it, I’d marry you with the hour. I think four weeks is reasonable, and I’m not pushing the date out longer,” he says with finality.

I don’t even protest, really. What would be the point? He continues, noting his mother will arrive next week—maybe sooner—to help with the planning.

“You’ve already told her?” My eyes, I know, are wide as saucers.

“Of course not, but I know Delta Price, and when I tell her we’re getting married, she’ll be on the first thing smoking.”

“Are you going to tell her I was with Frost?”

His handsome features soften, and my heartbeats start to quicken with worry of what she’ll think of me, jumping from one friend to the other. Even if they lost touch, Dylan and Frost shared a bond of friendship. He must know what I’m thinking. “She already knows of you and the twins. She was at the funeral.”

“Oh,” I whisper.

“We won’t have time right after the wedding for a honeymoon. I have some business to wrap up in New York, so we’ll go there instead, me, you, and the kids. I’ll take you on a proper honeymoon after I finish my business.”

“What if my business won’t allow me the time off to travel to New York or wherever else?” I press my lips and raise an eyebrow, challenging him.

He only smiles and continues laying out the details.

“Honeydew will be our primary residence. I’ve always loved the place and having a family to share in my joy is what I want.”

“I sure hope it stays that way, because I am building a business, let’s not forget.” I can’t hold my tongue on this matter, and have no problem reminding him at every turn. The only reason I’m allowing him to force my hand is to keep my business and my kids’ home. I’m giving up my freedom, but not my independence.

“I want to kiss the fire right off those soft lips.” He licks his and smiles at me.

I’m equal parts pissed and equal parts aroused. Pissed, because he’s smiling as if I’m an adorable child throwing a fit, and aroused because…well that’s what Dylan Price does to me. I stand, needing to get away from him, because if I don’t, I will turn into a child throwing a fit.

I don’t make it far before being spun around, and my mouth devoured by Dylan. He holds my face captive between strong hands. Dylan tastes amazing. His lips are fast becoming addictive. I soften into him against my will. I want to rage and fight, but how can I when he smells and tastes so delicious?

Soft pulls on my lips end an extremely heated exchange. “Your business will always be important. Don’t forget that.” He takes a few more pulls from my mouth. “Let me give you something else to never forget.”

I’m Yours

Peggy Jordan had long ago closed the door on her heart’s desires, accepting she would never have a loving husband and family of her own. Then a friend asks her to care for an orphaned little girl, and she meets the child’s last living relative. With him, her patience is tested, her desires are unleashed, and she gets the first taste of a life she’d always felt was out of reach.

Years ago, Trevor Duncan left Savannah and vowed never to return. He traveled to remote corners of the globe, helping people, and helping himself to countless women in emotionally-empty relationships. A phone call in the middle of the night changes his entire life. He has a niece who needs him, and when he meets the woman caring for her, he’s consumed with having her all to himself.

Their desire is strong. Their love is instant. But can they learn to trust each other and survive the road to happily-ever-after?


AMAZON | Barnes & Noble | APPLE | KOBO

Read an Excerpt

I’m passing the broom in my kitchen, attempting to clean up as much of the flour from my homemade pie crusts and pizza dough as I can. It’s another pizza and movie Saturday, and Trevor hasn’t come over with Adeline yet. I check the time again and it’s almost noon.

Clarisse’s nanny will be here around two with the twins for the play date. Adeline has been so excited for this day all week. Before they took off last night, she promised to go to sleep fast so morning could come quicker.

When Trevor wasn’t at my door bright and early with Adeline and a cup of Starbucks coffee, my first thought was to text him. Instead of, Are you still coming? I texted, Missing my morning cup of Joe. I have yet to receive a reply.

After putting away the broom and dust pan, I walk over to the work desk in the corner of my kitchen and grab my cell from the charger. I pull up Trevor’s number, ready to call, when a hard knock to the front door startles me. I power walk to the front entry and open the heavy wood door. Adeline rushes in and hugs my legs so tight, as if she didn’t just leave me last night. Her hair is all over her head, and she’s wearing rubber boots with her night clothes.

She looks a hot mess. I hold her face in my hands and lift it so I can see her expression. “Is everything okay?’

“No,” Trevor answers.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Water pipe broke sometime in the middle of the night.” He’s holding a cup of Starbucks coffee. I’m guessing he saw my text. I smile and take the cup. “We woke to water everywhere this morning. I’m thankful it only reached the top of the baseboards. Hate to think what could have happened if it touched the wall plugs in that old house.”

My blood runs cold and I feel lightheaded at the thought. I recall when I first laid eyes on that old house, I questioned Trevor’s logic. Here he is with enough money to purchase three of my houses with no discomfort, and he settles on renting a small, old house.

“‘It’s my first home. We don’t need much, and it’s temporary,’” he had told me, and I realized Trevor was no typical rich asshole.

I hold Adeline tight and move from in front the door. I’m squeezing her, repeatedly kissing her cheek, grateful to see her face. When I think I’ve composed myself, I pull back and ask her to head upstairs so she can cleanup and dress before her play date. She runs up the stairs to her room, and I rush into Trevor’s waiting arms.

I’m holding him a little awkward because of my coffee cup, but Trevor has me completely engulfed in a strong embrace. “What are you going to do?”

He takes a breath before answering. “I reserved a room at a hotel in town.”

“Why?” I give him a confused look. “You know you can stay here. Adeline has gone through so many changes. Her room is familiar, and we have a routine.” I smile before adding, “The two of you are here over ninety percent of the day anyway.”

Trevor gives me a smile and I pray he agrees. I make one more attempt at getting my way, but this next statement is equally as true as the last. “I’m so happy you and Adeline are safe. To even give the smallest of my energy to the thoughts of what could have happened… I want to lock you both away so you’re safe forever. Right now I need you to say yes, Trevor.”

Win a $10 gift card (winner’s choice Amazon, iTunes, B&N)



S. TAYLOR discovered a love of storytelling at the age of twelve. She would entertain her cousins with exciting adventures and tales of young love, which changed over the years from telling tales at sleepovers to writing several short stories. For S. Taylor writing remained a hobby until 2009 when she decide to share this love with others. She writes love at first sight romance novels full of passion, erotic moments, and emotional conflicts with a satisfying happily ever after ending. She is a Texas native, wife, and busy mother of five daughters. She spends her free time mediating sibling arguments, relaxing with yoga, and discovering new and tasty vegan dishes she enjoys cooking for her family.



New Release: The Breakup Plan by Tia Kelly

meet drew.

Drew Wilkerson is a dangerous man. Not in the physical sense. Well, yeah, technically it could be related to something physical, but he’s the type of man that could get away with the most ratchet of offenses and walk away from the incident both unscathed and with two more women fighting to give him some.

Six three. Runner’s build. Colgate megawatt smile with the charm to match. Can wear the heck out of a suit, jeans, basketball shorts… damn near anything and everything. After-hours radio voice. Hell, any time is the right time for that voice. And did I mention the brother has blue eyes? Drew says they’re hazel, but if that’s the case, it’s not the usual green-meets-brown version. When he wakes in the morning, all you see in them is a sea of crystal-blue depth. Piss him off and they remind me of steel. Whether you want to say they’re hazel, blue, gray-blue, or whatever, those bad boys are intense. Staring into them for more than five seconds will pin your ass to a wall so fast you’ll want to cosign turning over all your good credit for anything he could ask for. Although that wouldn’t be necessary.

Did I mention he’s loaded? Just dropped seven figures on his crib in Philly (and before you assume, I’m not talking about low, barely-reaching-million-dollar-status numbers, either), and that’s before the contractors were instructed to turn it into the home of his dreams.

– Avery Coleman

meet avery.

My Avery. I turn around to see her standing in the entry to my room, but she brings a smile to my face simply from the sound of her voice and the warm vanilla bean and coconut scent filling the air. She never can decide which is her favorite smell, and to be honest, I like the combination on her.

The smile on my face is there because I haven’t hugged my girl in weeks, and I’ve missed her, but it doesn’t take long for it to slip off.

“Hey.” She pauses mid-stride toward my open arms and frowns. “You okay?”

I should probably explain. I didn’t expect to see Avery looking the way she does. I’ve seen her hair in countless ways, from her usual Freddie on A Different World go-to style, to weaves, to bohemian braids hanging past her ass, to the small cornrows on the side with a mass of curls piled high on top vibe she’s going for now, so her curly ’hawk look doesn’t surprise me.

It’s seeing the roundness of her adorable caramel apple cheeks slimmed out and revealing a hint of cheekbones, making the diamond and pearl studs I gave her stand out a little more. Hell, it makes even her mouth look…

Sh*t, I don’t have time for a sexual harassment lawsuit, so I better not say. But what I can mention is the mustard tank she has on shows off shoulder blades that are more defined than the last time I saw them, when she wore a single-shoulder gown to a fundraiser a few months back.

And her waist. Jeans hug curves, but these curves aren’t hers. She still has one of those asses folks sing about, saying a beat was made for, but that’s not why I sometimes catch myself staring at her.

I do just because she’s Avery.

– Drew Wilkerson






“Drew. What are you doing in here?”

“It looked pretty chill and inviting, so I thought I’d hang out in here away from the activity.” There is some truth in that. The lounge in the ladies’ room has seating that should be in someone’s living room. Running a hand down my face, I nod toward one of the chairs. “Have a seat.”

She stands, rooted in place, drying her hands on a paper towel.

“Please,” I add.

Her heels click softly against the floor tiles as she makes her way to the deep purple velvet loveseat, where I sit on the edge, taking me back to our night in New York in the back seat of the SUV. When she takes her seat, I can see the relief on her face and have to restrain myself from massaging her feet again.


She keeps her arms folded firmly across her breasts and stares at me.

So I stare back.

I know Avery, but she’s also an open book. This whole defiant stance isn’t for me, it’s about her. Avery doesn’t trust herself right now. The longer I look at her, absorbing everything about her like I usually do, the sooner she’ll cave. She always does.

A couple of minutes later, she lowers her arms to relax her stance. Finally. Progress.

Except something happens that I didn’t expect. I cave right along with her. The confusion in her eyes, the sweetness in her face—all that sucks me in and takes me back to what we shared when I last saw her.

Our faces creep closer and closer, and without thinking, we share another kiss.

Her splayed hands across my chest push back, and abruptly our kiss ends. She fingers the edge of her mouth to clean up her lipstick and shakes her head. “You have to leave.”


“Drew, I’m getting married tomorrow. This. Us. This can’t keep happening.”


A man without a plan is a shell without purpose.
Which is why when I sat down nine years ago and put pen to paper, mapping out a ten-year plan, I meant business. Everything that could set me up for a lifetime of joy had to go down on the list, and every day, I worked my ass off to fulfill it.
Open my own sports agency. Check.
Earn first million by my thirtieth birthday. I did that a week before I turned twenty-six.
Negotiate the most lucrative contract in Major League history. Did that, too. Then went and broke my own record. (Thanks, big bro!)
I could go on, but this isn’t about bragging. It’s me admitting that in the midst of drafting something that helps shape and mold much of my success, I still made a costly mistake.
One day I realized all those entries with corresponding checkmarks are pointless if I don’t factor into the equation the most important goal of all. Avery.
Perhaps way back then I wasn’t ready to see how much my best friend of fifteen years deserved that number one spot in my life. Maybe I was blind, since the whole “settle down and get married” scenario wasn’t my thing. But now that I’m aware of the role I need her to fill in my life, there’s no such thing as letting go until I can convince her to be mine.
Her being about to marry someone else does make winning her heart a little bit dicey. But if there’s anything you should know about me, it’s that I always play to win. And losing Avery is nonnegotiable.

The Breakup Plan
A Best Friends to Enemies Romance

He ruined her wedding day and he’ll do it again until she’s his.


Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life, love and relationships… one story at a time.


New Release from Delaney Diamond: Do Over (Brooks Family Book 2)

I swear Delaney Diamond must write in her sleep because before I can get to the latest book, she’s already dropped a new one. Write them stories, sis!


She’s devoted to her daughters.
Years ago, when her cheating husband left, Ella Brooks realized how much she’d changed and wasn’t sure how to get back to the woman she used to be. When she meets Tyrone Evers, the last thing she’s looking for is another relationship, but it turns out the police detective is just too tempting to resist. 
He’s devoted to his job.
Tyrone meets Ella when he’s investigating a break-in at her home, but ends up paying more attention to the wealthy socialite’s case than normal, and to her. After his wife cheated on him, he’s not looking for romance, he’s not looking for commitment, and he’s definitely not looking for love. But you don’t have to be looking for any of those things for them to find you. 
And when life gives you a second chance, do you take it or run for cover?
This sound sounds like some grown folks ish to me…Yaaaaassss! Now I understand how Do Over got its title. Click it up today!!

Book “Review”: Tea And Tomahawks by Dahlia DeWinters

I always preface my “reviews” by stating they’re technically not reviews because I’m basically expressing my reaction to the story. With that being said, let’s talk about Tea and Tomahawks by Dahlia DeWinters.

Sometimes, you can look at the title of a book and have some inkling of what it’s about or what to expect. Well, this ain’t one of em… It’s not until I got into the story that the title makes sense, and up until that point, I had no idea what to expect. I only knew it would either be a WTF or an OMG. Guess what? It was both! And I enjoyed every page of it — in spite of ole fuckboy Richard.

Tea andTomahawks is part romance, part southern gothic, part mystic, and a whole lotta reading this was worth my time. Let me say, as I was reading, I was instantly transported into the story itself. The storytelling, the imagery is so vivid, I felt like a bystander, watching it all play out in front of me.

Annalise (I love that name…) is married to an abusive jerkhole (that would be fuckboy Richard) whose sole agenda is to control her and get his pale paws on her grandmother’s scrilla. Grandmother is in her twilight years, but she ain’t no fool. She smells Richard’s filth and knows his ulterior motives. And so do the other “inhabitants” of the house.

Although the story is engrossing from beginning to end, it angered me to the point I felt I was going to pop. Annalise was weak in mind and spirit most of the story, which is one of the many pitfalls of a battered woman, but whew, the story itself… it was deep, infusing the evils of the past with the evils of the present. Vengeance is oh, so sweet, however,  as Annalise rises from the depths of bad choices and despair to realize her destiny, which is one of a woman who is deserving of love and not one who is destined to be bound to an insecure, dusty coward.

Tea & Tomahawks is a short story, but it reads like a full-length novel, and I give it a big ole click it up!


New Release: The Thick of Things by JL Campbell


GENRE: women’s fiction with romantic elements, contemporary romance


Life has a way of going awry when you least expect it, and Khalila Skyers learns this lesson the hard way. In one devastating blow after another, she loses her cosy existence. Then Douglas Blythe overtakes her life like a flood, and she’s not equipped to deal with an attraction that seems forbidden and overwhelming. But her body and heart want what they want, and leave her wondering if she ever knew herself at all.

Douglas is determined to help Khalila move beyond her obsession with the past and reach for love a second time. No matter how long it takes. No matter the distance. He’s going to prove he’s worth the risk.

The Thick of Things is available now at all of these e-tailers. Click it up!

B & N:
Amazon Canada:
Amazon UK:

Love Is Color: A Collection of Sensual Poetry, Short Stories, and Visual Art

Love is Color is a collection of sensual poetry, short stories and visual art that depicts love in its rawest form. The stories are a gathering of diverse authors from different genres coming together to create a work of art. Whether you like second chance romance, fire-breathing dragons, interracial love, or a little bit of mystery. This book has something for you. Come see why Love is lived in Color and not in Black and White!

                                Photo cred: Clarke Sanders


Did I mention that this book is free? As in $0.00?

Monday Musings: It’s the 21st Century, C’mon Son!

I’ve struggled with writing this post for some time now. Not struggle in the sense of whether or not to actually write it, but struggle in the sense of presenting my point of view without it coming off as combative or confrontational.

You see, I personally only read romance that features black women as the heroine or lead (ok, 99% of the romance I read…), and the one thing that burns my buns is when a non-black author writes about a black woman, and she’s either full of subtle or overt stereotypes (“sassy”, struggling but pulling herself up by the bootstraps, or perpetually angry at the world) or there are conflicting physical descriptions. You cannot describe your black heroine as tanned, mocha, and caramel, all within the same chapter (I shit you not.). My immediate thoughts are who is your editor (if you have one) and you need some black beta readers.

I choose to believe that much of this is unintentional and the author’s honest intent to be diverse and inclusive in their writing, but at the same time, I also question whether or not they interact with any black people socially (outside of work or church or other obligatory setting) and where they draw their inspiration for these characters.

Now, I’m not saying all non-black authors are guilty of this because I’ve read some bomb-ass stories written by non-black writers that had me screaming YAAAAAAAAAAASSSS, HUNTY! You did that! (Yes, I do really speak like this. Have you read this blog prior to this post?) But those were few and far between. And don’t come at me with “What about black authors who stereotype black women?” Yeah, they can get this work too, but that’s another day, another post. Right now, I’m speaking specifically on how black women are portrayed in romance and perhaps, ultimately viewed in real life by non-black authors.

I welcome your thoughts.

Books & Chocolate: A Musings Spotlight

Is this cover not on some next level, steampunk, what-is-this steeze? Nikki Woolfolk, I am not worthy…

One of the things I told myself is that I am going to start reading and spotlighting more books that aren’t necessarily romantic in theme and not what I would traditionally read. Mise en Death definitely fits the bill. Expand your horizons, girl!

I proudly consider myself on the cusp of blerdom (black nerd), and this book is right on time. Ms. Woolfolk has allowed me to share a generous snippet, and I hope after reading, you’ll click it up and support this often underrepresented genre of black fiction. Cause we outchea, y’all. In all forms…


Chapter 1

Honfleur, Louisiana

Summer Solstice eve, 1881

If it had not been for the ice cream, Alex LeBeau would not have found herself in jail.

On the last leg of their journey from up north, Alex’s young son, Pierre, drove them along the outer road of her childhood parish of Honfleur in their steam-powered automobile. The brass and steel bonnet of the contraption gleamed in the June morning sunlight and caught stares from the many town patrons enjoying their mid-afternoon constitutional.

In the passenger’s seat, with a hand firmly grasped on her almond wafer cone, Alex used her free hand to adjust her goggle strap against the back of her humidity dampened Eembuvi-style auburn plaits.

Despite the speed of the automobile, the breeze was stifling and caught at the back of her throat. Or was it a bug? Grimacing at the thought, she licked at the frozen concoction. The sticky caramel and sea salt blended together in her mouth, and she let out a euphoric sigh, then took another lick.

Pierre pulled the handkerchief from his breast pocket. “Here, you’ve dropped some ice cream on your skirt,” he offered, slowing the car as he waited for a pedestrian to cross. “Maman,” Pierre playfully chided, as he adjusted his own goggles.

She gave a soft Merci before taking his handkerchief and used it to swat at the two bees hovering at the hem of her skirts.

Bon Dieu!” Alex hopped out of the mobile.

Holding her ice cream in one hand, Alex fanned her skirts with the other. She did not notice the sound of the car stopping or the quick footsteps behind her. Her focus was on the angry bee up her skirts.

Alex gathered up a fist full of material and flung her hand upward with such force her fist connected with Pierre’s jaw. He fell to the grass like a stone. Alex stopped and gasped at her unconscious son as the two bees flew from underneath her skirts. She glanced up to notice the two police officers staring at the scene with humorless eyes.

She dropped her skirts.


Alex glanced at one of the police officer’s belt, spying the hydraulic D cuffs, her hands still faced the cloudless sky. The other officer knelt down at Pierre and checked his pulse, before giving her partner a side eyed glance. “Alive, but out cold.

We should get him to the station. Once he wakes, we can find out what happened.”

The officer standing only a few meters away glanced at Alex. “Mademoiselle, we need you to come with us.”

Alex hitched up her skirts slightly to cross her legs as she sat at the foot of the cot without any worry. Hunter and Lan the Wire Witch, made sure to keep any of her past hiccups with the law off the police records. Alex may have cut ties, but Bellicose Solanum always took care of their own and kept their promises.

She knew with certainty nothing of her past would be found. The odd thing about clandestine groups like BelSol is that they brought attention to themselves in ways Alex had never expected. BelSol posed as a night carnival that traveled by train. It housed some of the cleverest minds in the country.

Alex convinced the police officers to let her son rest, but while Officer Potkiss took notes Officer Meckelson still questioned her in the station.

Meckelson stood a few inches shorter than Alex, but the height difference was lost as the officer sat on the corner of the desk.

“What brings you to Honfleur with an automobile full of weapons, Mademoiselle…?”

“LeBeau. My knife case of my best cutlery is only a weapon to the finest selection of beef or pork,” Alex said with a laugh.

The officer’s gaze bore into her. “If I were to get on the horn with Monsieur Guillaume, do you think this story would match up?”

Alex raised an auburn-kissed eyebrow and looked up into Meckelson’s unreadable face.

“There’s only one way to find out that I am assisting Chef Guillaume at the Honfleur Cooking School. The Head Event Chef Heston up and quit, but do not take my word for it.”

She stood. “I need to check on my son while you make your call.”

The other officer, Potkiss, did not stop entering data into the Babbage machine at her desk. In fact, neither Potkiss nor Meckelson pressed further in the query as Alex joined Pierre in the jail cell. Alex had enough run-ins with the police to know when they were trying to intimidate and shake up someone. Alex was no fool. She peered out the small window, watching a lady in britches riding a velocipede in a circle around her friends, laughing and teasing them as she feigned loss of control of the dual-wheeled contraption.

Alex peeked at the chronometer on her wrist. Even if Pierre woke soon, she would be late getting settled at her mother’s before preparing for tomorrow’s event.

It could be worse, Alex thought.

Though Alex was fully aware her privilege could not protect her son per se, she could use it for something good. As a Creole woman in this post-Insurrection, she was aware of her privilege over Anglo men and their ancestors who created the causes for the uprising in the first place. Oppression, slavery, or any forms of inequality against Black, Brown and Indigenous folks ceased after the Insurrection of 1856.

Any Anglo men with a desire to create or fix anything more than a calculating machine required heavy licensing fees. Even if any Anglo male had the rare fortune to have a few coins in his pocket, the mounds of paperwork and psychological evaluations would break his spirit. Attempted genocide of the Native peoples and the dehumanization and enslavement of people from the Motherland drove the policies and regulations of the new America.

“Ma’am,” Officer Meckelson said.

Alex faced the hard-jawed brunette.

“Is there a reason you are carrying this many knives?”

“What kind of cook would I be if I did not have my own knives? I cannot chew my way through animal proteins with my teeth.”

The officer’s eyes had lost their coldness.

Meckelson aimed a thumb behind. “But Officer Potkiss can.”

Alex blinked in surprise at the change in her mood and stifled a giggle.

Officer Meckelson unlatched one of the trunks and began to search through it.

“Please take care,” Alex warned. “Those are gifts for my family.”

Officer Potkiss peered over Meckelson’s shoulder as they sifted through the decorative tin.

“Do I need to be warned about the contents of this tin?” asked Meckelson.

“Only if you are watching your sugars.”

Both officers stared back at Alex.

“There’s a six-piece pie collection. Apple, key lime, peach, blueberry, strawberry and pecan ganaches covered in chocolate.”

Meckelson pulled the clear cylindered case out for closer inspection. Potkiss opened the top, looking at the two levels with six wedges, all colored with distinct pictures.

Each tri-shaped wedge was painted with either apples, strawberry, lime and other cocoa butter silk-screened decorations.

Officer Potkiss searched through the tin and plucked out a couple of chocolate bars. One was labeled Apple Toffee and the other Tropical. The drawing showed a coconut, the newly imported pineapples from Hawaii and a tiny pinkish-red bumpy fruit.

“What’s that?” Officer Potkiss asked pointing to the fruit.

“Lychee. Looks odd, but its white flesh inside is so perfectly sweet.”

Meckelson pulled out the five-piece box of chocolate and read the flavor map aloud.

“Saffron pear pâte de fruit.”

“It’s pronounced fwee, not fruit.”

“What is it?”

“Pureed fruit boiled down into a concentrated flavor.”

“I see,” Meckelson replied and continued reading. “Kumquat with Scottish shortbread cookie.”

Potkiss leaned in. “What’s this one with the yellow flowers and bumblebee pattern on this square one?”

“Oh, that’s just my version of Honeycomb candy. A British treat with an American twist. The white flower with the green background, that’s one I call Sakura Plum. That is cherry blossom and plum tea marshmallow. And that last one, with the fleur de lis, is a traditional Bittersweet chocolate with a buttercream ganache that melts just so in your mouth.”

Potkiss looked at the chocolates then at Alex.

“You make these?”

Alex flashed a smile. “Yes. Those are a test batch. I would like to have my own shop one day.”

Meckelson and Potkiss’ eyes lit up.

The stationary voice telegraph rang.

Both officers did not move.

“Can someone answer that?” an officer called out from a corner desk.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Pierre stir, most likely from the bell chime.

Pierre rushed to sit up. Dazed he took in his surroundings and finally rested his gaze on his mother.

Alex looked at him and shrugged. “Desolé.

He grimaced.

“It’s Miss Miel, the madam of the Wild Mare brothel. She says Miss Clackett keeps telling her she has permission from her mother to be at the brothel farm down the ways.”

The second officer turned from Alex. “What in the world? Isn’t her mother in her late nineties?”

“Why don’t you ask her when we get there?”

“Miss Clackett brought her own mother to a brothel?”

“Yes, and several more of her friends from the retirement home. Miss Miel says they’re making a scene because they only have enough money for one gent to rent, and there are eight ladies.”

Mise en Death