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Authors: J. Lovelace

Bad as in Good

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Dear Reader:

It's always a pleasure to introduce new authors in the Strebor Books family. J. Lovelace has penned a debut novel that is sure to tantalize readers. It is complete with drama, relationships and challenging decisions as we follow lovers Tariq and Erin.

While the two experience the ups and downs in their adventures, they explore past romances that are eye-opening. Sit back and relax as you travel along this journey in search of truth and trust, with roadblocks of temptation.

As always, thanks for supporting the authors of Strebor Books. We strive to bring you the future in prolific literature today by publishing cutting-edge, inspiring, thought-provoking titles.

Blessings,

Publisher

Strebor Books

www.simonandschuster.com

To a family that loves me and a husband that supports me.

CHAPTER 1

Tariq

Four years ago…

T
here she was. My boo. My wifey. My ace boon-coon. Whatever people or I was willing to call her, minus the official title of
wife
, she was. And there
she
was tonguing some other poor soul down in the middle of the Japanese steakhouse she'd been fighting to get me to take her to. I wasn't down for all that teppanyaki and sushi. I always passed, but that ain't stop her from going out and finding her another dude to take her there while she used the guise of “shopping with the girls” to keep me from being on to her games. I eventually realized that when she kept coming home glowing with no shopping bags, she wasn't really shopping.

She ain't know I followed her this time. Well, technically, I wasn't
really
following her. Ain't like I waited ten minutes after she left to hop into my car, turn off my headlights, and tail her from streetlight to streetlight while I stayed two cars behind. I was smart and less crazy about all this. Outside of her credit cards
not
being maxed out on Prada bags and Gucci shoes, I had no real proof that she was stepping out on me. I couldn't justify, to my mama or myself, that I had a reason to stalk my own woman. However, I had to consider the asinine possibility that my congeniality may have forced her into the arms of
Mr. Convenience.
I thought
up the least likely place she'd expect me to spot her, grabbed the darkest table I could find, and posted up.

The first hour there, I was amped. I sat there with the menu covering my face, dodging waiters and customers who ain't feel comfortable with a black man hiding out in a dimly lit booth of a Japanese steakhouse. Every time a woman walked in, I hid my face and gorged on saké. The second and third hour, I couldn't dodge the waiters anymore. I had to order something or risk being thrown out for looking plain weird. After filling up on Kobe beef, rice and broccoli, I lost the initial zeal I had. I started to settle into the notion that I was paranoid and my woman really was out there watching her money and enjoying the comforts of window-shopping.

The fourth hour, I asked for the check. To my server's delight, he dropped my dinner bill on my table and skipped away. As I pulled a few bills from my wallet, I noticed a tall, statuesque woman stroll in. Large bumblebee shades covered her eyes and rested on top of her high, taupe cheekbones. She wore a tight black dress that pushed her breasts together and cupped her ass in all the right places. Her brown, curly hair bounced on top of her shoulders as she glided to an empty table. I stared her down and watched her remove her glasses. Bright, almond-shaped chestnut eyes, shaded by long overlapping eyelashes, almost took my breath away.

My waiter returned asking for his money, but I shooed him away to watch as my woman sat alone and waited. I was hoping she was waiting for her girls to roll through.
Maybe they needed to eat before heading home,
I thought. After a quick glance at my cell, I ignored the fact that she didn't call me to let me know she'd be home late while I focused on how that wasn't the dress she was
wearing when she left the house. When the waiter handed her a drink without even taking an order, it was clear that she'd been here long enough to have a usual.

Suddenly, some dude walked in with a bouquet of flowers and a big-ass smile. He was a tall linebacker-lookin' dude with a thick neck and a wide frame. His skin was dark as night with eyes that were beady and mischievous. His long, oblong face reminded me of a walking horse, yet, as he held a bouquet of flowers, my woman stared up at him as if he was a modern-day marvel. Although according to her, she hated flowers, but her face lit up as she jumped up and down in her seat when he placed the bouquet in her arms. I wanted to believe that this was their first time meeting. I could forgive an innocent slip-up. But the way he kissed her hello, the way he wrapped his arm around her waist as if to proclaim that she was
his
boo, wifey, or ace boon-coon only solidified the telling fact that they were more than first-time acquaintances. I noticed the way she giggled and blushed as he brushed her hair behind her ears. The way he rested the palm of his hand on her lap irked me. But what really did me in was how he squeezed the back of her neck, my woman's neck, to exude his dominance, then pulled her in close to devour her lips to prove his ownership of who I
thought
was my woman. From the outside looking in, she was
his
woman and I was another poor sap that couldn't help but stare.

I glared at them. Even as my waiter rudely tapped his foot, my eyes stayed glued on the show they put on before me. She ain't care who saw. I contemplated walking out and dealing with her when she got home, but that wouldn't be the type of guy I was. I slapped the money for my meal on the table and bumped my server as I walked in their direction.

“Deja,” I said when I reached their table. “How you been?” I spread
my lips to show off all my teeth and continue the charade she put on.

I wanted her to jump when she saw me and stutter her words as she scrambled to determine how to recover. When she looked up at me, she dropped her shoulders and took a sip of her drink. Her date asked her, “Do you know this guy?”

I tensed my jaw and squeezed my fists. “This guy?” I asked. “Yeah, Deja,
do
you know
this guy?”

My woman avoided eye contact but refused to move away from his hold. He kept his arm around her waist and she kept her hand between his thighs. Luckily, for them, a table separated my anger and my fists. “What are you doing here, Tariq?”

“I finally decided to try this place out like you been begging me to. It ain't half-bad. What the fuck are you doing here?”

She took a deep breath and exchanged glances with her date. Staring at the dude, I realized that he had pulled his lips in while he squeezed his fists as if
he
were uncomfortable with me standing there. “I'm Traevon. How you two know each other, bruh?”

“Well, she used to be the woman I was fuckin'. The same girl I pay all the bills for. The bitch who come home to me every night. How the fuck do you know her,
bruh?”

“Don't cause a scene, Tariq.”

I was more pissed at how they still stayed so close together. The longer she touched him only introduced the blatant disrespect she had for me to my face. When her waiter came by, he only added fuel to the fire. “Is everything all right? Do I need to escort this gentleman to his table?”

I hated the role I was forced in. Deja and
fucking
Traevon were together while I stood back and watched—as if I was wrong for questioning the whereabouts of who I thought was my woman. I took a deep breath and refrained from doing anything that would
get me arrested. “I'm gone.” Without saying another word, I walked away. I didn't punch the dude's eye socket in—even though my fists were itching for the feel of blood. I simply gathered the strength I needed to go home and contemplate how I handled being the man to play the fool in a relationship I had considered taking to the next level.

Deja snuck into my life and set up shop, but there she was dating another man in my face as if I didn't matter. I'll take blame in the matter and say that I ignored the signs, but who was I to think that my woman had it in her to lie and cheat? I drove back to the apartment we shared and gripped the steering wheel as if I was gripping Traevon's neck. I wish he would've met me outside. I wished I had the opportunity to avenge my broken heart by tearing the fool apart. Then again, I wished I hadn't caught my woman claiming another man right in front of me with no remorse. Even though my eyes watered, I wouldn't allow myself to bitch and moan over a woman who obviously had no respect for me. I wiped my face and drove in silence. I patiently awaited the unraveling of the life I thought I knew.

CHAPTER 2

Tariq

N
ow that she had been found out, she ain't have to put up the charade. She could stay out late and come in the next morning without coming up with some bullshit lie about how she and the girls lost track of time. Now, she strolled her ass in with the same clothes from last night, hair pulled back, and no regard for the man she left waiting at home.

I couldn't even go into work that morning. I needed to process the events that occurred last night. I had questions that needed answers, and I wouldn't be able to think straight 'til she gave 'em to me. I sat on the couch watching a blank TV screen as she walked past me and headed for our bathroom.

Every thought ran through my mind. She used
our
key to walk into our home, but she waited until the sun came up to leave the embrace of a dude who I
knew
couldn't do her body like I could. She was my woman; yet, she was Traevon's date, lover, and his friend that he met up for drinks while she seduced him with tight dresses and sweet perfume. Perfume that I bought her for Valentine's Day. As the sound of the shower drowned out my thoughts, I realized that it did nothing for my pain.

The woman who I shopped for engagement rings with had another man on the side that she let tap the inner folds that rested between her thighs. And now, she was in our shower, cleaning off
the stink his nut left on her skin. I squeezed my fists and followed her into the bathroom.

When I swung the door open, I noticed her back on the shower wall as she stood with her arms folded over her chest. Through the shower door, she watched me enter. On any other day, my entrance met my boyish desire to disrobe and meet her for a replay of the shower scene in
How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
Now, the very thought of us reliving any movie scene or me slipping my penis into the same slot the other chump had his dick in less than six hours ago made me sick to my stomach.

I couldn't stare at her any longer. Her naked presence couldn't make my knees weak like it used to. I asked, “You really getting home
now
?”
She stood quiet. The deafening noise of the shower drove me insane. I took a deep breath. Luckily, for her, my mama taught me that hitting a woman was the move of a coward. Problem with that theory was my mama never told me a woman could hurt me like this. “When you plan on moving out?”