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The setting for the Sheila & K'avir stories is the Star Trek Mirrorverse. Anything Star Trek-related are the intellectual property of Gene Roddenberry. All other characters, planets, star systems and content not within said scope are my own.


Switchblade Romance (17/?)

XVII:  The Cookout, Redux

The next two weeks were extremely busy.  Julie Styles, having been retained by Malcolm, was a virtuoso when it came to event planning.  Shantreyl had to do nothing more than make decisions and the cheerful, effervescent Julie handled everything else.  Shantreyl’s wedding date was set for December 21st.  The ceremony was going to take place at the Laughing Sun in Catamaran Beach, which was an upscale community adjacent to the South Salena Sea and about an hour’s ride from downtown.  School let out for the winter holidays on December 20th, and she would have three weeks off.  That was plenty of time for a lavish seven-day honeymoon in Thailand.  Kaphiri booked the nicest villa at the Anantara Lawana Resort, which was a beachfront resort and spa in Koh Samui.

When Shantreyl’s parents learned that Malcolm was going to fly them first class to Suva Oriana and put them up in the Vermilion’s Presidential Suite the week before, Shannon and Trey Troy were flabbergasted.  Trey insisted that he was quite capable of handling the finances himself, but Malcolm’s insistence overrode his.  “I promised Shantreyl I would do this and I do not break my promises to her,” he told Trey.  When Trey heard that, he quieted down and thanked Malcolm for his generosity.  Zuri, however, did not put up a fuss when she learned that Shantreyl’s fiancé wanted to finance her family’s trip to Suva Oriana.  She was totally fine with it, and after telling Kit that Malcolm was doing this because he promised Shantreyl, Kit agreed to it as well.

Renee and Jaya were thrilled at Shantreyl’s engagement and wedding plans, but Renee was concerned that Jaya might not be able to be Shantreyl’s maid of honor due to the baby’s due date of December 15.

Shantreyl took a drink of sangria.  “Jaya, you have to.  There’s no one else unless Renee wants to get all gussied up in a dress and heels.”

“Which I sure as fuck don’t want—no offense, Shantreyl, but you know that’s not me.”  Renee knocked back her Long Island.

Jaya nodded and took a sip of sparkling grape juice.  “It’ll just be a week, pending Razberry comes on time.  I’ll be up and around by then.  My mother won’t mind coming up that weekend to watch the baby while we do wedding stuff with Shantreyl.  It’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Renee said.  “But if you aren’t able to handle it, Jay, say something so that Shantreyl has time to find someone else.  Would Zuri be able to do it?”

“I suppose,” Shantreyl said, frowning.  “Kaphiri and Malcolm are flying them in the week before, but…”

“But what?” Jaya asked.

“When it’s time to take wedding photos, Kaphiri will be in all the pictures and I don’t need Zuri asking why.”

Renee said, “I’m confused.  He’s the best man…shouldn’t he be?”

“Yes, but there will come a time when the photographer will take pictures of just the bride and groom, and there are two grooms.  I’ve asked that those be last so that our families can go ahead and eat.  I don’t need Zuri asking me fifty-leven questions about why Kaphiri’s in those pictures.”

Jaya nodded.  “I understand.  Shan, I’ll do my best to stand up there with you.”

“Thanks, sis.”

“Are you going to take off work the day before?  I mean, I know Julie’s handling everything, but you got to want a day to yourself before the big day.  Do you have to be there on the day before a break?  That’s how it is at Bruce Lee Elementary.”

“It’s the same at Heather Hills.  I did think about taking the day off anyway.  When I looked at the schedule, it turns out that I will have just my morning classes.  So I’m leaving after my last class and Dr. Bowlen already approved it.  Cindy better not try anything with me.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to the nail salon, then home to do my hair.  Then I’m going to take a long hot bath and relax before the rehearsal dinner.”

“What are you doing with your hair?”

“It’ll be an up-do with curls.  Something easy I can do myself.  Not about to be in a salon all day.”

“You got the something old, new, borrowed and blue?”

“The dress is new and blue.  Momma’s letting me wear the solitaires Daddy got her a long time ago; that’s the old, and Momma ‘Nee’s lending me a beautiful choker.”

“Good,” Jaya said, rubbing her tummy.  “I’m so excited for you, Shan.  Where will the wedding rehearsal be?  At the Laughing Sun?  That’s a drive, especially on a Friday night.”

“No.  We’re going to use one of the conference rooms at the Vermilion.  The dinner will be held in one of its restaurants.  Easier that way.”

“At that Brazilian joint?” Renee asked.  “I’ve gotta eat there one day.”

“No.  I want a Mexican buffet, so Malcolm’s reserving Carnival.  That way everything is in one spot and we only need to make one trip out to the Laughing Sun.  I don’t envy that drive either.”

Renee said, “So, what are you doing for your birthday?  You got plans with your men?”

Shantreyl shrugged and drank her sangria.  “If I do, I don’t know about them.  I personally don’t plan to do anything other than relax and have a good meal.  Maybe I’ll buy a new outfit or something or go to the spa.  You know, there comes a point where you’re just happy to be alive and in your right mind.  Everything else is a bonus, and I’ve been blessed with a bounty of bonuses this year.  I’m not going to tempt fate by being greedy.”

Jaya said, “If I know those men of yours, they’ve got something planned.”

“Agree,” Renee said.  “But…let me just toss something out there, okay?”

“What?” Shantreyl said.

“If they plan to have dinner in one of those fancy-ass restaurants in their hotels, can we come too?  I’ve never been to either hotel and I can only imagine how swanky they are.”

“For real, Renee?” Jaya said, looking at her wife.

“For real, Jay.  I’m dead-ass serious.”

“What if they want to have a private dinner with her?”

“Then they’ll say so and that will be that.”

Shantreyl smiled.  “Fair enough, Renee.  I’ll ask.”


When the day of the Fall Equinox cookout came, Renee and Jaya were not able to attend.  Jaya was carrying six months’ worth of baby girl and she couldn’t stand the smell or taste of seafood, which was not her norm.  She wanted to cry when Shantreyl described what was going to be on the menu.  Renee wanted to ask Shantreyl to bring her a plate of food to eat at Shantreyl’s house, but then Renee felt guilty for trying to indulge without her wife and changed her mind. 

Kaphiri drove Shantreyl and Malcolm to his parents’ house in Ravencliff; Candy had a bench seat and Shantreyl sat in the middle, wearing a pretty blue halter dress and wedge sandals, one of her legs draped over Malcolm’s.  The blue of the dress accentuated her engagement ring.  Malcolm asked her to Mohawk her Afro, which she did, and she sported her favorite lip gloss and gold hoops.  He loved her “around the way girl” looks. 

Malcolm and Kaphiri both wore blue as well, as there was a message to be sent.  When Kaphiri announced that they would be riding in Candy, Shantreyl offered to ride in the back, as there wasn’t a seatbelt for her in the front, but Kaphiri wouldn’t hear of it.  He wanted to rub her legs as he drove, and Malcolm did not like riding in the back of anyone’s car—unless it was a limousine—as it made him carsick.

“Kaphiri, it’s not safe!” she said as she got in, unable to believe she was perfectly willing to break the law for him and risk her safety just so he could rub on her.  “You’d better drive carefully.  What if the cops pull us over?”

Malcolm snorted.  “There’s not a cop in this city that will pull Kaphiri over.  They know who’s driving this car.”

Shantreyl stared at Malcolm, wondering how to respond to that statement when Kaphiri abruptly changed the subject.  “Ready to show off that ring?”

“Are we gonna tell your parents about our true relationship?” Shantreyl asked.

“Yes,” he said.  “They’ll be fine with it, bambina.  I promise.”

Malcolm said, “They’ll be so happy that their stubborn-ass knuckleheaded son actually wants to get married and settle down that they won’t care about the logistics.”

“Knucklehead my nuts, asshole,” Kaphiri said. 

Malcolm gave him the finger.  “Fucknugget.”

“Boys!” Shantreyl said, giggling. “Be nice!”  She recognized that seeing Kaphiri and Malcolm tease each other was something nobody else saw, not even their families, and it was hilarious.  

“Will you tell your mother, Malcolm?”

“I will.  But like Kaphiri’s parents, she’ll be so happy that she won’t care how it’s done.”

Kaphiri smiled, one hand on Shantreyl’s thigh.  He smiled a lot more now.

“What about your brothers, Malcolm?”

“I’m not telling them shit.  They don’t need to know.”

“Your brother Melvin asked if I was Kaphiri’s girl.”

“Well…you are,” Malcolm said. 

“Will he be there?”

“Mel never misses an opportunity to eat well, get high and get shitfaced,” Kaphiri said.  “He will not come near you.  He’s not trying to get his ass whipped again.  Not so soon after the last one.”

“I just don’t want any trouble,” she said.

“There won’t be any,” Malcolm said.  “Just you watch.”

They arrived at the Parker’s residence about an hour and a half before the cookout was scheduled to begin.  Persephone answered the door and her face lit up when she saw them.

“Come in, come in!” she said.  “Why are you so early?  Kaphiri, why didn’t you use your key?”

“Because I wasn’t entirely sure of what you and Baba were doing and I didn’t want us to walk in on anything, especially since I didn’t call first.  It’s meant to be a surprise.”

“Boy please,” she said, holding her arms out to Shantreyl.  Shantreyl hugged her back and inhaled.  Kaphiri’s mother smelled good.  “How are you, Shantreyl?”

Shantreyl loved her accent.  “I’m fine, Mrs. Parker.”

Persephone hugged Malcolm and Shantreyl smiled when she saw her plant a fat kiss on Kaphiri’s cheek.

Mercury Parker entered the room, a smile on his face.  “Heyyy…why are you guys so early?”

“We come bearing news,” Malcolm said before looking at Shantreyl.  She smiled and held up her hand.

“Oh my goodness,” Persephone said, taking Shantreyl’s hand.  “You’re engaged?  When?”

“Yes ma’am,” Shantreyl said.  “Two weeks ago, Malcolm and Kaphiri showed up at my job and laid this on me.”

Mercury shook Malcolm’s hand.  “Congratulations, son!  Glad you didn’t waste no more time.  You don’t want a woman like that getting away, no sir.”

“Truer words were never spoken, Papa Merc.”

Persephone hugged Shantreyl again.  “Finally!” she exclaimed.  She took her hand to lead her into the living room, sat her on the couch and sat next to her.  “So when’s the wedding?”

Malcolm, Kaphiri and Mercury sat down as Shantreyl said, “December 21st, at the Laughing Sun.”

“Ah, the winter solstice!” Persephone said.  “I love it!”

“You’re getting married on the beach in December?” Mercury asked. 

“I don’t care,” Persephone said.  “Malcolm is finally getting married!  We can dress for the weather, Merc.  And besides, we’ve had some very mild winters the past three or four years.  It’ll be fine.”

“I’ve always wanted a beach wedding.  Always.  Kaphiri said that there was no reason why I couldn’t have what I wanted.”

“He’s right.  So…have you found a dress yet?  What are your colors?”

“I’ve been looking, but I haven’t found one that I like.  I don’t want to wear white; I want a blue wedding dress.  A blue ombre is my color palette.”

Persephone nodded.  “That’s going to be lovely.  Is cost a consideration?”

“No,” Malcolm said.  “Whatever my bride wants, I’m sure I can afford it.”

“Well then,” Persephone said, smiling.  “My sister Pandora is an excellent seamstress.  She can make anything and I know she would be thrilled to make your gown.  I will put you in touch with her today.  Is that all right?”

“That’s fine,” Shantreyl said.  “I’ll keep looking for a style I like.”

“Okay, so that’s settled.  Do you need help with the other arrangements?” Persephone asked, almost giddy.  She never thought she would get to help plan a wedding.  “I can offer second opinions if you want them.”

“No, Mrs. Parker.  I mean, sure…I could always use a second opinion, but Malcolm and Kaphiri hired Julie Styles to handle everything.  They don’t want—Malcolm doesn’t want me stressed any more than I already am.”

“Julie Styles?  Of Events in Style?”

“Yes ma’am,” Shantreyl said.

“She’s amazing,” Persephone said.  “She did my friend’s wedding a few years back.”

Mercury looked at his son, but addressed Shantreyl.  “What’s happening, baby girl?  Are you stressed about work?”

“Yes,” she said.  “Some things have changed with my workload and it’s affecting my entire life.  But Malcolm and Kaphi—Malcolm has been wonderful with helping me adjust.”

Persephone looked at Malcolm and then at her son.  Then she looked at her husband, and then back at her son.  “Anything you want to tell us, Kaphiri?” she asked.  “I get the feeling that there’s something a wee bit more going on here.”

Kaphiri smiled and sat back, stretching out his long legs.  “Shantreyl is marrying Malcolm…and me on December 21st at the Laughing Sun.”

Mercury’s eyebrows rose.  Persephone side-eyed her son and then looked at Malcolm.  “Is this true, Mal?”

“Yes, Mama ‘Nee.  The three of us are committing on December 21st.  But for everyone else in attendance, it will look like it’s just Shantreyl and me getting married.”

“So, you’re adopting a polyamorous lifestyle?” Mercury calmly asked, looking Malcolm and Shantreyl in the eye. “With my son?”

Shantreyl nodded her head and Malcolm said, “Yes.  Are you okay with this?”

Mercury and Persephone looked at each other.  They knew each other so well that they could have wordless conversations.  A moment later, both of them smiled at one another.  Then Persephone took Shantreyl’s hands and said, “Does this mean Merc and I will finally get a grandchild?”

Shantreyl tossed it right on out there.  “Yes, Mrs. Parker.”

“No no, baby,” she said, her smile radiant.  “You are about to become my daughter, so you must call me Mama ‘Nee now.  So…I’m gonna get my very own grandbaby???”

Shantreyl smiled.  “Yes ma’am.  I plan to have children with Malcolm and with Kaphiri, and we will raise them together.  Our children will bear the surname Sullivan Parker, regardless of parentage.  Kaphiri and Malcolm will both be called Daddy.  Are you okay with this?  Are you okay with being a grandparent to Malcolm’s child?”

Persephone’s smile was so bright it could light up the night.  “My son is sitting over there with the biggest smile I’ve seen on his face in years.  In years.  I’ve never seen Kaphiri this happy.  Yes, I am okay with it.  I’m all right with anything that makes my baby smile like that.”

Mercury clapped Kaphiri on the back.  A smaller man would have gone flying off the couch from the force of the blow.  “Neither have I, and I must say that it is a pleasant sight.  You’re in love, son.”

Kaphiri smiled at his father.  “I am.  Of course, Malcolm did all of the work in vetting her, and Shantreyl was fine with accepting me in her life alongside him.  She’s a very special woman.”

Persephone got up and walked over to her child, took his hand and pulled him to his feet.  She put her arms around him and hugged him tight, her eyes glazing with tears.  “Kaphiri…I’ve been waiting for years to hear you talk like this.  Had you decided to be a lifelong bachelor, your father and I would have accepted it.  We love you, period.  But now…now we can rejoice over the fact that you will not grow old by yourself and that our lineage will continue.  Your father and I don’t care about how you got to this point, only that you did.”

Kaphiri hugged his mother and allowed her to cry into his shirt.  “I love you, Mama.”

Shantreyl watched them, absently wiping stray tears off her cheeks as Persephone pulled Malcolm to his feet and hugged him as well.  “I love you too, Malcolm.  Always have, from the day Kaphiri brought your bloody, bony self into our house.  If this is what it takes for both you and my son to be happy, Merc and I are all for it.  Your baby will be as much our grandchild as will any Kaphiri has.”

Mercury chuckled.  “Shantreyl, you have to be special to put up with these two.  I assume you guys will live in the same house after the wedding?”

Kaphiri sat back down.  “Yes.  We’ve been house hunting since July, and we all want certain things.  But we haven’t found the right place yet.”

“Where are you looking?”

Malcolm sat back down.  “Shantreyl works in Paradise Park, and she doesn’t want to be too far away from her job or her friends.  So we’re looking in areas within thirty minutes of her job.  That would be Siren Heights, Ashwood, Paradise Park, East Magnolia and Mallard Pointe.”

“Why are you wasting time house hunting when you can just have one built?  There’s plenty of land all over Suva Oriana…purchase a plot and build the house that you desire,” Mercury said.  “You’ll never find exactly what each of you want in one location.  That’s what ‘Nee and I did.”

“He has a point,” Kaphiri said.

“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that,” Malcolm said.

“We don’t have to be restricted to Paradise Park,” Shantreyl said.  “This will be my last year there, so we can look all over.  I’ll find a job in the area.”

Persephone took her seat next to Shantreyl.  “If I may…I would love it if you guys were closer to Merc and me.  When you start having children, you’ll need our help.  And of course, Marion will move at the drop of a hat if it meant she could be close to her grandchildren.  Does she know?  About the three of you?”

“Not yet,” Malcolm said.  “I’m planning to tell her today.”

Persephone waved a hand.  “Marion will be fine with it.  She’s always been fine with whatever you want, Malcolm.  Like me, she’s desperate for a grandchild, and if this is how she gets one, then so be it.  She absolutely adores Kaphiri, so I don’t see this being an issue for her at all.”

“I don’t want to promise that we’ll be close by, Mama,” Kaphiri said.  “We want Shantreyl to be happy with everything, so if she decides on a location that’s not to your liking…”

Mercury shook his head.  “It doesn’t matter, son.  You three could move out by the sea and your mother and Marion would drive across this entire city every single day if it means they can be with our grandbabies.”

Persephone nodded.  “We would, no questions asked.”

Shantreyl smiled, pleased at how easy this conversation was going.  She wondered if it would be a tenth as easy when she talked to her parents.  She had no plans to tell Zuri anything.

She stood up.  “Where’s your restroom, Mrs. Parker?”

“No no,” she said.  “Mama.  You call me Mama now, Shantreyl.  You’re marrying my son.”

“Momma ‘Nee, may I use your restroom?”

“Of course.  Down the hall, second door on your right.”

Shantreyl walked down the hall and Persephone waited until she heard the door close.  Then she looked at her boys.  “How much does she know?”

Malcolm wiped the palm of his hand on his jeans.  “Nothing.  I’ve been very careful in what I tell her, as has Kaphiri.”

“Should we tell her?” Kaphiri asked.

Mercury looked at Malcolm.  “How you think she’ll react?”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Malcolm said.  “Part of me thinks that she’ll be able to accept it, but I’m not 100% on that.  She’s a schoolteacher.  She doesn’t know anything about the life, Papa Merc.  I mean, that’s one of the things I love about her.  She’s untouched, untainted.  She makes me look good and makes me feel like a respectable man; not some gangster or two-bit hustler.”

Persephone said, “You haven’t been a two-bit hustler since you were a kid, Malcolm.  Those days are long behind you.  You are a respectable gentleman.  But I do understand what you mean.”

Mercury said, “I hope you gave this a lot of thought before you slid that stunner of a ring on her finger.  Did you?  Did either of you?”

Malcolm said, “I’ve been thinking about it since our third date—that night at Embers.”  He looked at Kaphiri.  “I’ve been very careful about the words I use when I talk about work.  Kaphiri trusted me to handle this correctly and I believe I have so far.  He’s careful when he talks about work, but we make it a point not to talk about work as much as possible.”

“If you plan to marry her, you may not be able to keep it from her,” Persephone said.  “You and Kaphiri need to consider this, if you want her in your lives.  Not every woman is as understanding as I was when I found out what Mercury did for a living.  But then again, you’ve turned our meager holdings into an empire.  Shantreyl sees you two as hotel casino owners, nothing else.  Right?”

“Right.  She’s been to both hotels, and she’s interacted with us at work…to an extent.”

Mercury said, “Either you tell her absolutely everything or keep her 100% in the dark—untouched.  You can’t pick and choose what to say to her.  If you choose to keep her in the dark, the both of you need to be in full agreement of the story you have to construct around her.”

Malcolm said, “Honestly, Mama ‘Nee, Papa Merc…I’ve been…cheating…by giving Shantreyl everything she wants, whether she asks for it or not.  I want her to be so happy and so comfortable and so in love that not being with us hurts her even more than knowing the truth about what we do,” Malcolm said.  “She does not want to be a single parent.  If she gets pregnant, I don’t think she’ll leave us even if she does find out the truth.”

“But we can’t be 100% sure of that, Malcolm.  We haven’t lied to her, but we haven’t been completely truthful either.  I think that would hurt her even more.  Which makes us hypocrites.”

Mercury said, “Let me be clear, boys.  You are respectable businessmen.  The hotel casinos are legitimate businesses.  You employ thousands of people all around this city.  You support small businesses and you donate to all the right causes.  You know all the right people.  Shantreyl knows this, right?”


Mercury continued.  “You ensured that your hands don’t get dirty anymore.  You both were very smart to put several degrees of separation between you and the rackets when you built the hotels.  If some idiot earnest detective goes looking for dirt, they won’t get within shouting distance of you two.  They won’t even touch Romeo, or Charles, for that matter.”

“But we can never be too careful, Baba,” Kaphiri said. 

“True,” Persephone said.

“I don’t want to lose her,” Malcolm replied, side-eyeing his friend.  “I’ve never been happier with a woman than I am with her.  Being with Shantreyl brings out the best in me.  And she’s turned Kaphiri into a goofball.  He’s smiled more since meeting her than he has in years.”

Kaphiri slyly gave Malcolm the finger, which went unnoticed by his parents.

Persephone said, “Here’s a thought: Who says you have to tell her anything?  I mean, really?  Where’s the rule saying that she has to know?  There was a time when wives didn’t question what their husbands did for a living as long as home was taken care of.  A lot of women are like that today; I know plenty.  I don’t have to ask if home is being taken care of in this case because I know it is.”

They heard the toilet flush and then running water.  Persephone glanced down the hall.  “If you keep her completely satisfied and home taken care of, she won’t ever question you.  You can probably get away with not telling her any more than what she already knows.”

The bathroom door opened and Persephone smoothly changed the subject.  “How large will the wedding party be?”

“Small,” Malcolm said.  “Her friend Jaya is her maid of honor and Kaphiri is my best man.  We’re doing the rehearsal in one of the Vermilion’s conference rooms and the dinner afterwards at Carnival.”

“How many people were you planning to invite?”

Shantreyl took her seat.  “My side will be small.  My parents, my sister, her husband and their three children, plus Renee and Jaya, and Diane and Chris from work.  That’s it for me.  Malcolm’s got his brothers and his mother, and Pretty Ricky.  Kaphiri said that his family was gonna represent.”

“And we will,” Mercury said.  “Malcolm is family, always has been, and the Parker Clan will be there to celebrate the occasion with you.  I hope you don’t mind having all of us there.”

“I don’t mind,” Shantreyl said.  “Julie already knows how large the potential guest pool is; it’s just a matter of RSVP’ing at this point.”

“Where will you honeymoon?” Persephone asked.

“Thailand,” Kaphiri said.  “Koh Samui.  It was a toss-up between there and Phuket…quite literally because Shantreyl flipped a coin.  We have an oceanfront suite.”

“How long?”

“A week.  Shantreyl’s winter break begins December 21st and she won’t have to be back until like January 8th or something like that.  We’re gonna leave on the morning of the 22nd and return on the 30th, in time for New Years.”

“This will be a wonderful celebration.  I’m so happy right now,” Persephone said.  “I’m so happy.”

Mercury asked, “Are your friends coming to the cookout, Shantreyl?”

“Not this time, Mr. Parker.  Jaya’s pregnancy has rendered her unable to stomach seafood.  Believe me, she was upset about it.  Both she and Renee love seafood.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Mercury said.  “So, the festivities won’t begin for at least another hour or so, but the family will start arriving within thirty or forty minutes.  You guys gonna hang out in here or what?”

“Do you have a TV room?” Shantreyl asked.

“Of course.  Kaphiri, show her where it is.”

A few minutes later, Shantreyl was curled up on an enormous couch, comfortably watching a horror movie on Netflix.  Kaphiri and Malcolm were playing pool and Kaphiri’s parents were getting ready for the cookout.  Persephone told her that she was going to introduce Shantreyl to Kaphiri’s aunts and uncles, as she was family now.  Shantreyl looked forward to joining the Parker Clan.  Her heart was light; Kaphiri told her that his parents would be fine with their relationship and she was pleased that it was so.  She wondered if it was worth it to tell her parents.  How would they respond knowing she had two husbands?  Was her physical and emotional-well being worth it to them to be okay with having two men in her life?  She would be taken care of for the rest of her life…they had to be okay with that, right?

Even though she was watching TV, her mind was a million miles away and she didn’t notice when Mercury Parker came and sat next to her.  He tapped her ankle.

“Shantreyl, can I talk to you for a moment?”

Snapped out of her thoughts, she looked at Kaphiri’s father.  “Yes, Mr. Parker?”

“No more of that,” he said, waving his hand.  “Papa Merc or Baba.”

“Yes sir—yes, Baba,” she said.

“Kaphiri is our only child.  His birth was very hard on Persephone; so much so that we didn’t dare attempt to have another baby.  We put everything we had into him and when his gifts began to manifest, we did everything we could to support him.  Our son has always been a loner; his intelligence and talent isolated him from his peers when he was in school.  So it was a blessing when he met Malcolm; they became friends instantly and Kaphiri was no longer by himself so much, even though he’s two years older.  He graduated from high school at 14 and got a full ride to Dawnstar State University; graduating at 17.  Then he enlisted in the Army, and that was good because he managed to fit in enough to excel at his duty.”

Shantreyl listened, fascinated.  Kaphiri never talked about his past.

“However, he didn’t develop lasting friendships as military folk do.  He didn’t date—at least not to our knowledge, and he showed no interest in settling down and having a family.  It broke ‘Nee’s heart to think that our beloved son would never find a mate and have children, adopted or otherwise.  That he would navigate life alone and never know what it means to fall in love and build a life with someone.  That he would never know the beauty of having a child or how powerful that love is.  ‘Nee and I accepted that our son was who he was, and if he never experienced life the way we wanted him to, we had to be okay with it.”

“Kaphiri is pretty unusual,” Shantreyl said, captivated by Mercury’s story.  “But he’s a good man, Baba.”

“I know,” he said.  “I tried to raise him as such.  Anyway, things were as they were.  Persephone pretty much accepted the fact that we were never gone be grandparents or in-laws, but it took a long time for her to acknowledge it, especially when her sisters and my brothers started having grandchildren.  It hurt her but she never mentioned it to him. Then…today.  All our hopes and dreams for Kaphiri have been restored with your presence.  You have no idea how happy you’ve made me and Persephone.”

“I’m learning,” Shantreyl said.

“You’re aware that he’s bi, right?”

“I am.  I’m not bothered by it.  I love him just the way he is.  He’s so good to me.”

“How long did it take for you to get used to having him around?”

“Well sir—Baba, after the last cookout, Malcolm asked me how I felt about Kaphiri and then pretty much said that to be involved with him meant being involved with Kaphiri.  And if I couldn’t accept him, we could no longer be a couple.  It was like a slap in the face, but Kaphiri has always been nice to me and treated me well.  And he’s absolutely gorgeous, so it really wasn’t that difficult to accept him as a mate.  I thought it would take a while, but it really didn’t.  He just kind of eased on in; confident that I was the woman Malcolm said I was.  I’m glad I didn’t disappoint him.”

“I watched him while ‘Nee was talking to you.  The way he looks at you speaks volumes, Shantreyl.  Like my wife said, if polyamory is what it takes for my son to be as happy as he is, then we don’t care about social implications.  And the way Malcolm looks at you…clearly, your heart is big enough for the both of them.  They’re two peas in a pod; a matched set.  I thank the Creator for bringing Malcolm into my son’s life; even more so now because they have you to start a family with.  So I’m having this conversation with you so that you understand exactly what you mean to me and Persephone.”

 “I understand, Baba.  My life has been enriched with Malcolm and Kaphiri in it.  I’m a better woman for knowing them and loving them.  Last year, I was picking up the pieces from a failed relationship.  I never thought I’d be in this situation.  I wasn’t ready to date again when I met Malcolm, but I did allow him to pursue me and, well, here we are.”

“Yes.  Here we are.”  Mercury smiled at her and stood up.  Shantreyl smiled back, wondering if Kaphiri would age as gracefully as his father.  Mercury was very handsome.  “Well, I need to get back to getting ready for this party,” he said.  “I just wanted to chat with you and basically welcome you to Clan Parker.  You’ll meet the rest of the family soon enough.”

“Thank you, Baba,” Shantreyl said.

About forty-five minutes later, Malcolm brought his mother into the room where Shantreyl was watching television.  Marion, clad in a pretty red maxi dress, smiled at her as she got to her feet.  She enveloped Shantreyl in a warm hug.  “How are you, honey?”

Shantreyl held up her hand and flashed her engagement ring.  Marion’s mouth opened and about three seconds later, she managed an, “OHHHHHHHH!”  She grabbed Shantreyl and hugged her again.

“Oh my Jesus, oh my word…oh, oh, oh!  Lord, I’m so happy…You’ve answered my most sincere prayer!  Let me see that ring again, honey!”

Shantreyl held out her hand and Marion gazed at it.  “What is it, Malcolm?  Two carats?”

“Three,” he said.  “Nothing but the best for my bride.”

“And it’s so pretty!  What made you choose blue?”

“Blue’s my favorite color,” Shantreyl said.

“How long have you been engaged?”

“Two weeks, give or take a couple of days.  Malcolm proposed to me at work.”

Marion sat down and Shantreyl sat back in her original spot.  “The wedding’s gonna be at the Laughing Sun, on December 21st.  Malcolm is giving me my dream wedding.”

Marion went silent, closing her eyes and pressing her hands together.

“Mrs. Sullivan?”  Shantreyl put a hand on her arm.  “Mrs. Sullivan?  Malcolm?”

“Give her a moment,” he said.  “I’ll be right back.”

Shantreyl nodded, but kept her eyes on his mother.  “Mrs. Sullivan?”

Marion opened her eyes—Malcolm’s eyes—and they were full of tears.  She put a hand over her heart and gave Shantreyl the biggest smile her face was capable of.

“Sweet Jesus,” she said, wiping her tears.  “Glory be!  Oh baby, oh honey…you have no idea how delighted I am!  I know you and Malcolm told me that you spoke of marriage, but to see this ring and know it’s not just talk…to know there is an actual date and location set…oh sweetie, you’ve made this old woman so happy!”

Malcolm was back with tissue.  “Here, Mama.”

Marion wiped her face.  “Glory be to God, praise His heavenly name!”

Shantreyl smiled at the older woman’s enthusiasm.  “We’re getting married on the beach.  I have a wedding planner handling it all for me.  Malcolm doesn’t want me stressed out.”

“Honey, you could get married on a bed of hot coals and I wouldn’t care not one bit.   Malcolm, this means that you have to learn how to dance.”

Malcolm smiled at his mother.  “Shantreyl’s been teaching me.”

Marion looked at Shantreyl.  “Is it working?”

“He’s improving.  He’s stopped stepping on my toes so much.”

Malcolm sat next to his mother.  “There’s something you need to be aware of, though.”

“What?  What is it?  Shantreyl, are you pregnant?  Honey, am I about to be a grandma?” Marion’s face lit up even more.

Shantreyl smiled.  “No, Mrs. Sullivan.  I’m not pregnant.”

“Malcolm, what is it?”

“I’m telling you this; not Mike, not Mel, not anyone else.  The wedding is a commitment ceremony for me, Shantreyl…and Kaphiri.  I’m telling you because you need to know that we’re gonna be together, live together and have children together.  We’re a family.”

“I don’t understand,” Marion said, looking at Shantreyl. “You’re marrying Kaphiri too?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Malcolm, is that even legal?  Isn’t that bigamy?”

“No, it’s polyamory.  No, Shantreyl can’t legally marry the two of us, but she can marry one of us.  The other is just gonna be a part of our married lives.  This is something Kaphiri and I agreed to do almost twenty years ago, Mama.”

“Well…well, I thought you liked just women, son.  I mean, I know Kaphiri likes both, but…”

“I do, Mama.  Kaphiri and I won’t be sexually intimate.  We’re just Shantreyl’s brother husbands.”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Marion said.  “Oh!  Like that show Sister Wives, but with one wife?”

“Yes,” Malcolm said as Shantreyl nodded her head.

Marion smiled at her son and then at Shantreyl.  “Well aren’t you the lucky one?  You get to have my wonderful son and my beloved Sonshine as life partners.  God Himself has truly blessed you, Shantreyl.”


“Kaphiri’s one of my boys, my bonus son, my sweet S-O-N-shine.”

“Oh,” Shantreyl said.  “And yes, I am blessed.  Are you all right with this, Mrs. Sullivan?  You may as well know that I’m going to have a child with both men and we’re raising them together.  Are you fine with being a grandmother to Kaphiri’s child?”

“No no no,” Marion said.  “No more of that Mrs. Sullivan nonsense.  You’re marrying my baby and my bonus baby…you call me Mama now, Shantreyl.  And of course I’m fine with this!  I’m getting everything I’ve ever wanted.  You make my precious Malcolm so happy and I’m thrilled to know that he does the same for you.  And you must also make Kaphiri happy if he’s marrying you too.”

“She does, Mama Marion,” Kaphiri said as he entered the room.  He bent down and kissed her cheek.  “How are you?”

“Honey, I am fine.  I come here ready to enjoy some seafood and festivities and I learn that my sweet boys are getting married…this has been the best day ever!  And I’m gonna get at least two grandbabies?  God himself has come down from Heaven and bestowed upon me the greatest gift a mother could ever ask for.”

“I just wanted to make sure that you knew and understood the truth, Mama,” Malcolm said.  “But keep it to yourself.  Don’t even mention it to Rick.  This isn’t anyone else’s business.”

“Well, do ‘Nee and Merc know?”

“Yes,” Kaphiri said.

“Well, do your parents know, Shantreyl?”

“Not yet, but they will soon enough.”

“Well, who am I to break the news?  Your secret is safe with me, honey.”


After the cookout officially began, Persephone took Shantreyl by the hand and introduced her to Kaphiri’s family.  Persephone had three sisters: Pandora, Proserpina, and Pippa.  They were all 15 months apart.  Pandora was married to Rasul and they had two children: Nick and Tina.  Proserpina was married to Evan and they had four children: Pamela, Evan Jr., Patience and Ethan.  Pippa was married to Ormonda, and they had one child: Lisa. Mercury had two brothers: Tick and Noah.  Tick was married to Jeri and they had five kids:  Thomas, Eric, Sheila, Sasha, and Jason.  Noah was married to Joyce, and they had three children: Natalie, Nina and Jody.  All of them fawned over Shantreyl when they heard the news about her impending nuptials.  They offered tips, advice, assistance, recipes…anything they thought Shantreyl might need.  Apparently, Persephone told Pandora ahead of time to bring her measuring tape because Pandora got Shantreyl’s measurements after she met the family. 

When Pandora brought Shantreyl back to the table, Melvin was standing behind his mother and Pretty Ricky, sipping from a red SOLO cup.  He gave her the once-over and raised his cup in greeting.  Shantreyl gave a brief nod of her head and sat down, for she was good and tired and uninterested in talking to Melvin. 

Malcolm leaned over and kissed her cheek.  “So…how did it go?”

“Kaphiri has a large family.  I didn’t even get to meet the children of the children of his aunts and uncles.”

“It’s way too many of them,” he said.  “You all right, Shantreyl?”

“I’m hungry,” she said.  “They kept talking to me about the wedding.  I didn’t want to be rude, but my stomach was growling and there came a time when I just wanted to sit down and eat and not talk about the wedding any more.  Thank heavens Momma ‘Nee is good at reading faces.”

Malcolm held her hand.  “I got you covered, baby.”  He raised his hand and beckoned; to whom, Shantreyl could not see.  A few moments later, a server brought her a tray that held a steam pot and a big bottle of water. 

Shantreyl removed the lid and the smell of garlic buttery lobster, crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn slapped her in the face.  She leaned over and kissed Malcolm’s lips.  “You’re amazing.”

“I know,” he said.  “Go on and eat, baby.  We won’t be staying much longer.  You’ve got to work tomorrow.”

“I know,” she said, frowning.  “But make sure we get leftovers, okay?”

About an hour later, Malcolm was carrying two bags of leftovers to Kaphiri’s car.  Shantreyl was tired and ready to go home.  When they reached Candy, Kaphiri unlocked the doors and Malcolm put the leftovers on the floor on the passenger side.  Shantreyl pushed the seat back and got in, settling on the backseat.  Kaphiri looked at her.  She smiled at him and adjusted her dress.  “I’m not tempting fate a second time, Kaphiri Parker.  You can just be mad about it.”

Kaphiri smiled at her and looked at his friend.  “Hey Mal, heads up,” he said and tossed him the keys.  “You’re driving.”

“Why?” Malcolm asked as he made his way around to the driver’s side.

Kaphiri got in beside Shantreyl and pulled the driver’s seat back in place.  “I’m riding back here.  You got this,” he said.

“Are you kidding?” Malcolm said.  “Seriously?”

“Yes.  She won’t sit in the front, and you can’t stand riding in the back…and I want to rub on her legs…this solves all the problems.”

Malcolm sighed as he adjusted the seat, wary.  “You’d better not be pulling a stunt, Kap.”

“I wouldn’t do that to you,” he replied.

Malcolm got into the car, closed the door and started the engine.  “Maybe not before, but you’ve changed since she became a part of your life.”

Kaphiri already had a hand on Shantreyl’s leg.  “Don’t worry so much.  Come on, let’s go.  Shantreyl’s tired.”

“You got that right,” she said, looking at her phone.  “We should be home by 9:30.  I’m gonna have a shower and go straight to bed.  I have morning classes tomorrow.”

Kaphiri rubbed her thigh.  “Did you like meeting mi familia, bambina?”

She smiled at him.  “I did.  They’re really cool people.  Especially your aunts.”

“They can be overbearing at times, but it’s all from love,” Kaphiri said.  “They adore Malcolm and I know they want the wedding to be as perfect for him as possible.”

“I probably didn’t need to hire Julie,” she said.  “Your aunts sound like they would have had me covered from bow to stern.”  Proserpina was a cake baker and decorator, and Pippa specialized in catering weddings.  Jeri and Tick owned a flower shop and Joyce was a photographer.

“Nope,” Malcolm interjected.  “While you are technically correct, Mama ‘Nee’s sisters will run you ragged trying to make your day perfect.  How much do you want to bet that by the time we’re home, they’ve found a bunch of dresses and cakes to show you?”

“I mean…I don’t mind supporting the family.”

“You don’t need to worry about that.  Julie has contracts with Aunt ‘Pina, Aunt Jeri and Uncle Tick, and Aunt Pippa.  She’s used their services before.  It’s best that you leave all the arrangement details to her.  Trying to deal with my aunties will stress you out and we can’t have that.”

“No,” she said, smiling at him.  “We can’t.”

Kaphiri squeezed her thigh.  Then he put his finger on Shantreyl’s chin and turned her face to his so that he could kiss her lips.  He was happy that she liked his gregarious family.  She kissed him back.  “I find it interesting that your family is so sociable, but you’re known as the black sheep, the quiet one.  You’ve never been quiet around me, so it’s weird to hear it said about you.”

“Told you,” Malcolm said.  “But now, he’s a veritable Chatty Cathy.  Just won’t shut the hell up.”

Kaphiri rolled his eyes while stroking Shantreyl’s chin.  “Suck my dick, Mal.”

“Kiss my ass first, Kap.”

Boys!  Be nice!  And Malcolm, I love that he talks…at least to me.”

“That’s because I like you,” Kaphiri said, kissing her again.  “And you’ve always been true to yourself.”  He rubbed her thigh.

“I don’t know how to be anyone else but me,” Shantreyl said.

Kaphiri said in a low voice, “I love that about you.”  He touched her chin again and kissed her once more.  This kiss didn’t break for several moments.  Then he said, “Get in my lap, bambina,” and a second later, she was straddling him and they were kissing passionately.

Malcolm glanced back.  “Are you two fucking kidding me right now?  I’m driving!”

“Are we blocking the rearview mirror, baby?”  Shantreyl asked.


“Sorry,” she said and moved to get off Kaphiri’s lap.  He shook his head, grabbed her waist and scooted over to the other side.

“What about now?”  Kaphiri asked.

“Better.  Thank you,” Malcolm said, his voice laced with sarcasm.  “But you better not do what I think you’re about to do, dickhead.”

Kaphiri smiled, massaged Shantreyl’s waist and kissed her again.  She cupped his cheeks and kissed his nose.  “Are you up to no good, Kaphiri?”

“I solemnly swear it,” he said, grabbing her ass.  He kissed her once more and his hands moved up and around her body to her breasts.  He grasped the hem of her halter dress and folded it down under her bosom.  Then he reached around and unsnapped her bra.  “I promise I am up to no good.”

“Kaphiri,” she said, smiling but making no move to stop him.  “Come on, baby…don’t do that to Malcolm.  You told him you weren’t gonna pull any stunts.”

Shantreyl’s breasts shook loose when Kaphiri removed her bra and buried his face in her cleavage.  “I’m sorry.”

“You’re a dick,” Malcolm said.  “You’re a fucking asshole.”

Kaphiri stared at the pasties that secured Shantreyl’s spectacular nipples and touched them reverently.  “Asshole or dick?  I can’t be both.  Pick one, fuckwad.”

Malcolm rolled his eyes and shook his head; the tone of his voice belying his feelings.  “You son-of-a-bitch.  I can’t stand you.  You would make out with her while I’m driving and can’t watch.”

“I promise to attend to you when we get home, baby,” Shantreyl said, turning to look at Malcolm.  He looked in the rearview mirror and smiled at her.

Kaphiri fingered the pasties.  “I hate that you have to wear these,” he said.  “Take them off.  Free those fat ass nipples so I can suck on them.”

“I’ve spoiled you,” she said as she detached the pasties.  “You always manage to get your way.”  Her nipples popped up and she absently massaged them as she always did when she removed the pasties.

“Let me handle that,” Kaphiri said as he fondled one of her nipples while leaning forward to suck on the other.  Shantreyl sucked in a breath; her nipples were always extra sensitive after she took off the pasties.  A moment later, her head was thrown back and her eyes were closed.  Kaphiri had his mouth on a nipple, one hand on her other breast and the other hand squeezing her ass. 

“Is this why you picked out this dress for me to wear?” she asked.  “For easy access?”

“I can’t blame him for that,” Malcolm said.  “You look hot in it.  Uncle Tick could not stop staring at your ass and legs.  I had to straight call his name twice to get his attention.”

Kaphiri’s breathing was ragged and he was completely aroused.  “I want you so much right now, bambina.  I’ve wanted to get underneath your dress since this afternoon on my mama’s couch.  You’re so sexy.”

Shantreyl had never had sex in a car before and part of her wondered if that particular cherry was going to get popped tonight.  Kaphiri certainly seemed enthusiastic enough to dick her down in the backseat of Candy while Malcolm was doing eighty on the highway back to Siren Heights.  But then she felt bad for Malcolm, who couldn’t participate and couldn’t watch. 

“We can’t, honeybunny,” she said.

Kaphiri paused mid-suck, mid-fondle and mid-squeeze and groaned.  Shantreyl realized what happened. 

“Oh no!  I’m sorry,” she said.

Malcolm said, “Honeybunny?  You call him honeybunny?”

“Don’t tease him, Malcolm!  Don’t you dare!”

Malcolm laughed and Kaphiri raised his hand high enough so Malcolm could see him give him the finger.  “Fuck you, Malcolm.”

“Don’t tease him!”

“The hell I won’t!  Not after the stunt Honeybunny just pulled!”

“Malcolm…please,” Shantreyl said.  “I promised I wouldn’t call him that in front of you and it just slipped out…please don’t rag him about it.”

“Sorry baby,” he said.  “But Honeybunny has it coming.”

Shantreyl kissed Kaphiri’s forehead and caressed the back of his head.  His hair was so soft.  “I’m sorry, Kaphiri.  I didn’t mean to say it.”

“You can make it up to me by giving me some,” he said, cupping her breasts again.  “Right now.”

Shantreyl wiggled her hips.  Yep, he was still aroused.

“I’ve never had car sex before,” she said.

“What?” Malcolm exclaimed.  “Never?”

“Really?” Kaphiri asked.

“Never.  I’ve made out, but never went all the way.  I don’t know why.”

Malcolm said, “You’re gonna make me pull this damn car over, baby.”

Kaphiri unfastened his jeans and freed himself.  “We’re gonna rectify that shit right now.  Lift up your dress.”

“I don’t think I’m wet enough for sex yet, sweetie,” she said.

“Nope,” Malcolm said.  “Honeybunny—don’t try to change it up now, baby.”

“I can fix that,” Kaphiri said.  “Don’t move; I’m about to change position.”  He adjusted his legs and stretched out over the back seat while holding Shantreyl by the waist.  When he was situated, he said, “Now come sit on my face.  And don’t hold it in…we like it when you’re loud.”

Shantreyl obeyed.  Her nipples tingled in the cool air of the car and she inhaled sharply when Kaphiri pulled her panties to one side.  Soon, she was riding his face while massaging her breasts, tainting the air with her sounds and her scent.  Malcolm kept flicking his eyes to the rearview, deliberating on whether to stop the car.  A few moments later, Shantreyl climaxed all over Kaphiri’s face and his muffled fervor was enough to make her hot all over again. 

When he let her go, she scooted back and reached for his penis.  He was still perfectly turgid. 

“We don’t have any condoms,” she said.  “Malcolm?”

“I didn’t bring any,” he said.  “I didn’t think this would happen.  Kap?”

Kaphiri was licking his lips.  “I don’t have any either, but does it matter?  You’re not ovulating, are you?”

“No,” she said.

“Then hop on this dick, woman.”

A few minutes later, Malcolm pulled Candy over on the side of the road.


Malcolm’s phone rang when they were about five minutes from Fallon Station.  He answered it.  “Sullivan.”

A moment later:  “Five minutes from Fallon Station.”

Another moment later: “See you soon.”  Then he hung up the phone.

“Who was that?” Kaphiri asked as he rubbed Shantreyl’s back, who was half asleep with her head on his chest.

“Romeo.  I’ll call him back when we get home.”

“Who’s Romeo?” Shantreyl asked, her eyes closed. 

“My assistant,” Malcolm said. 

“Oh,” she said, yawning.  “Tell him I said hello.”

When they pulled up in Fallon Station, Malcolm parked Candy next to his Range Rover.  Shantreyl yawned as they got out of the car.  She hunted for her keys and then unlocked the door.  Malcolm was standing by the car and Kaphiri was standing next to him.  Both were looking at Malcolm’s phone.

“Are you coming in?” she asked.

“In a moment, baby.  I need to return this call.  Go on, get your shower.  We’ll be in shortly.”

“Okay,” she said, closing the door.

A couple of moments later, Romeo walked up to Kaphiri and Malcolm, an envelope in his hands.  He handed the envelope to Malcolm.

“Pictures this time?”

“Yes sir.”

“Anything we may find of interest?”

“The husband works at Marconi Avionics in Mallard Pointe.  The wife is an assistant principal at Heather Hills Academy in Paradise Park.  It’s expected that she will become the principal in another year.  The husband has a history of changing jobs.  He’s got some problems with authority and with alcohol.  They have three children.”

“Thanks, Romeo.”

“Anything else, Mr. Sullivan? Mr. Parker?”

“Not yet,” Kaphiri said.  “Give us a little time to go through the paperwork.”

“Yes sir.  Good night.”

“Good night, Romeo,” Malcolm said.  Then he looked at Kaphiri.  “Let’s go in and look at it now.”

Kaphiri nodded.  “All right.”

Once they were inside and heard the shower running, Kaphiri and Malcolm read through Romeo’s notes and examined the pictures.  After a few minutes, Kaphiri said, “What do you think?”

“First thing that popped in my head was that he needs to change jobs.”

“Except he appears to be doing well in his current position and has been for the past three years.”

“I’m not willing to drag his children through any more drama than they’ve already experienced,” Malcolm said as he skimmed a document.  “And to be fair, she seems to have been holding things down for a long time until he got his current job.”

“She makes more than he does,” Kaphiri said.  “Wonder what would happen if he made more money?”

Malcolm looked at his friend.  “Good idea.  What if a way was made for him to make a lateral move across town with a raise?”

“Marconi is a subsidiary of Lockheed.”  Kaphiri pulled out his phone and did a search.  “There’s another location in Whitehaven’s industrial complex.  Whitehaven’s an hour and a half away from Paradise Park.  Justin Franklin runs that office.  And guess what?”


“Justin owes us—rather, he owes Sullivan Parker.  We put him in the position to be in charge, so…”

“Well, I’m sure Justin can be persuaded to take on this guy and give him a raise.”

“I agree.  And maybe…just maybe…that plus the commute will be enough to get her to resign.”

“We can only hope.  How old are the children?”

Kaphiri looked at Romeo’s notes.  “Five, seven and ten.  They attend the school where she works.”

“Is there a private school anywhere in Whitehaven?”

Kaphiri did a search.  “There’s a really good one in Roseland Hills.  The Sussex School.  It’s maybe about 30 minutes from Whitehaven.  Superintendent’s Rachel George.  Fortunately for us, her twin brother Robert manages Amuse.  He’s been with us for years.”

Malcolm smiled.  It was at these times he was grateful for Sullivan Parker’s influence in and around Suva Oriana.  “Okay, so let’s see:  We get Justin to take this guy on, give him a raise and maybe some responsibility.  We find out if Sussex is in need of a principal or vice principal—maybe sweeten the pot by offering her more than what she makes now.  We put her in a position where it benefits her to leave Heather Hills.  You think she’ll do it?”

“She’d be stupid not to, but sometimes it’s not about the money.”

“You’re right.  Well, let’s give this information to Romeo tomorrow and tell him that the end result of all of this must be Cindy Weathers leaving Heather Hills as soon as possible.”

“Fine with me.  I just hope that whoever replaces her isn’t an asshole or has it out for Shantreyl.  We don’t want to make a bad situation worse.”

They heard the shower turn off.

“You got that right.”  Malcolm gathered the papers and pictures and put them back in the envelope.  “Put this in your room and we’ll take it with us tomorrow.  Can’t leave it around for Shantreyl to find.”

Kaphiri took the envelope and walked downstairs to the spare bedroom where he kept his things.  He decided to go ahead and take a shower since he was there and by the time he made it to the master bedroom, Shantreyl was already in bed.  She had the TV on her favorite horror story channel.  The room smelled of eucalyptus.

“Malcolm taking a shower?”


“Did you take care of him like you promised?”

“I’ll do it tomorrow before I go to work.  What are you two gonna do?”

“I’m going to the studio first and then Malcolm and I are going to hire an architect to design our new house.”

“With our input, right?”

“Of course.  We just need to go ahead and secure the services.  We also need to find some land that you’ll like.”  He smiled at her.  “What are we listening to tonight, bambina?”

“Another Blackwood story, The Wendigo.  Come get in bed, honeybunny.”

Kaphiri smiled at her and obeyed.  As he tucked his feet under the duvet, he said, “Today was a good day.”

“It was.”

“My family likes you.”

“I like them too.  You got a lot of cousins.”

“Fifteen first cousins.  I’ve never bothered to count my second cousins.  It’s too many of them.”

“Still, I imagine it’s nice to have a large family like that at times.  My father’s an only child and my mother has one brother with one son.”  She adjusted her pink bonnet.

“It can be nice at times, but most times it’s nerve-wracking…for me, being the black sheep and all.  Usually I stick my earbuds in and go elsewhere.”

Just then, Malcolm entered the room.  “What are we listening to tonight?”  He quickly got used to Shantreyl’s horror movie channel as it was soothing and it never took long for him to fall asleep.

The Wendigo,” Kaphiri said, adjusting his pillow.  “Though I might not make it five minutes.  I’m tired.”

“Same,” Malcolm said, as he sat on the bed and turned off the light.

Shantreyl kissed the corner of Malcolm’s mouth and then repeated the act with Kaphiri.  “Good night, my loves,” she said as she started the story. 

All of them were asleep around ten minutes in.


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