Author K.L. Hall
A Lover's Heist III: Baby and Skai's Love Story Sneak Peek: Chapter Two (Snippet)
© K.L. Hall and www.authorklhall.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K.L. Hall and www.authorklhall.comwith appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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I stepped out of the hospital on my lunch break, waving at Norman, the security guard, with a smile across my face as I flashed him my badge. I was a second-year surgical resident at the University of Miami Health System. We’d become well acquainted with each other because I would always lose or misplace my badge at the worst possible times when I was an intern. As I’d gotten halfway down the sidewalk, my phone began vibrating in my scrub pocket. I pulled it out to see a photo of my best friend Jade and me with her name across the screen.
“Waddup, bitch,” I answered her FaceTime call with a dimpled smile.
“Ain’t shit, hoe. You know what time it is. Where your mothafuckin’ lunch at?” she snapped, her perfectly arched eyebrows in disarray.
“About that…does this count?” I asked as I pulled a Chewy bar and a Capri Sun out of my lab coat pocket and held it up to the screen.
“How fuckin old are you, Skai?”
I smacked my lips and rolled my cocoa-brown eyes simultaneously. “Whatever! If it’s one thing about me, I’ma drink a mothafuckin’ Capri Sun, aight?”
“Okay, DOCTOR Daniels. You do you, boo.”
“How’s your day been?” I asked her before puncturing the silver pouch with a straw.
“It’s been chill. You know me; I do nails at Ba’s shop during the day and dance at the club at night.”
I smacked my lips again. “I still don’t understand why you dropped out of med school, Jade. You were easily the smartest in our class.”
“I know I went against the grain, but as much as Ba and my mother wanted me to become some hotshot doctor, it just wasn’t in me. I can't say I ever saw myself making a living on the pole, but I’m booked, and I’m busy, bitch. I make in one night what most of these Miami bitches make in six months. Your girl is fulfilled, aight? So don’t worry about me. You worry about yourself and them student loans. Med school ain’t cheap.”
“Sho ain’t,” I sighed while rolling my eyes to the sky. “Shit, sometimes I wish I was up there on that pole with you. Especially whenever I have to do a fuckin’ rectal exam.”
“Yeah, no. I do not miss that shit at all, and when I say shit, I do mean literal shit,” she snickered.
The two of us shared a wide mouth laugh. She and I had been thick as thieves since our first day of med school. We instantly bonded over being biracial and losing our mothers at young ages, mine from a brain tumor when I was thirteen and hers from a car accident when she was only six. She’d been working at her father’s nail shop to help him make ends meet since she was twelve. After her mother passed, her father, or Ba, as she called him, fully immersed her in the Vietnamese culture, aiming to starve off the other half of her that made her who she was, a Vietnamese and Black woman. I’d only met him a sprinkle of times, but from what I gathered, he was a proud Vietnamese man who always pushed Jade to be the best. In his eyes, that meant becoming a doctor. To her, that meant doing what she loved, dancing. When our third year rolled around, it was almost as if a switch flipped inside her. She no longer cared to hold in how much she hated the direction her life was going in and told me she’d decided to drop out to pursue dance full-time.
Of course, I tried to reason with her and change her mind, but the decision had been made. Within a matter of months, she fully immersed herself in everything her father tried to steer her away from. Soon, her tawny skin had become inked with so many tattoos you could barely find an un-inked piece of flesh. I was admittedly nervous when she admitted to me that she’d started secretly dancing at a few clubs across the city, but over the years, the pole kept her pretty and paid, so I couldn’t complain. She was my girl, and I was going to hold her down regardless; it didn’t matter if she had the abbreviation of doctor in front of her name or not. I didn’t trust many, but I trusted Jade with my life. With my crazy work schedule at the hospital and her working two jobs, we’d resorted to weekly FaceTime lunch dates to fill the void.
“Anyway, bitch. I got news!” Jade chirped.
“Listening,” I answered in mid-chew.
“I met some nigga at the club over the weekend. He was dropping bands or whatever, then said he wanted to host a private party because his brother was getting married. I tell him it’s ten bands up front for six bitches, plus tips, and the nigga didn’t even bat one of his long, pretty ass eyelashes. I’m like, okay, let me let you go holla at the bitch who takes care of all that. And why I just got a text with all the logistics. Like, he finna make it rain, sleet and snow this weekend.”
“Congrats! Sounds like an easy payday.”
“Exactly! You should tag along.”
“Me? Bitch, I ain’t no stripper!”
“Trust me; I’ve seen your moves. We know your stiff-back ass is too uptight to flow around the pole.”
“Shut up! I do not have a stiff back!”
“You know that meme with the girl from Bob’s Burgers twerking? That’s exactly what you look like,” she cackled.
I smacked my lips. “You know what, fuck you!”
“You can’t help that you’re half white, Skai. No rhythm comes with the territory.”
“I’m about to hang up on your ass!”
“Okay, chill. I was just joking. But for real, you should come.”
“I am off this weekend, but I think I’ll pass on this one.”
“What do you mean you’ll pass? You know damn well you have nothin’ better to do.”
I swung my head in a no. “Drug dealers ain’t my thing, that’s all.”
“There you go! Who said anything about drug dealers? I just said the man was paid! And so what if he is slanging? You gotta know your way around these niggas pockets, girl.”
I gave a dismissive shrug of my shoulders. “I guess.”
“Besides, I like me a roughneck. The kitty only gets wet for niggas with street status these days anyway.”
I snickered at her comment. “You’re a mess; you know that?”
“And so are you, Skai! You wanna know what your problem is?”
“What’s my problem, Jade?” I quizzed sarcastically while rolling my eyes skyward.
“You think too damn hard and too damn much,” she spat.
“I’m a doctor, Jade. Am I not supposed to use my brain?”
“You know what the fuck I mean! Just let loose for once! What’s the harm? It’s one night!”
“You’re going to be working. I’ll stick out like a sore thumb,” I whined.
“You’ll be fine. There will be so many bitches in there; they ain’t gon’ notice one more.”
“They will if I’m not dancing,” I countered.
She smacked her lips. “All I hear is excuses.”
“I should probably just stay in and rest up. I’m so tired that ‘let's take a nap together’ is my official love language right now.”
“Ugh,” I groaned while turning in the direction of the hospital before quickly jerking back around. “Shit!”
“What is it?” Jade quizzed, voice heightened with concern.
A quick no jerked my head, attempting to put her suspicions to rest. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”
“All that loud ass shuffling and moving you doing over there sure says otherwise.”
I groaned. “Ugh, it’s Malik.”
Dr. Malik Harrison was an anesthesiologist fellow that I’d dated for six months if I could even call it dating. It was more like a situationship with benefits. Things were good up until two weeks ago when I stumbled across an engagement ring with the words “N and M Forever” inscribed inside the platinum band after having mind-blowing sex in his condo. Clearly, he’d had other commitments that had nothing to do with me. I didn’t even bother to confront him about it or ask why.
Instead, I vowed never to date or fuck someone I worked with ever again. I’d been ducking and dodging him ever since. Pretty, light-skinned niggas were my kryptonite; always had been. Malik was tall, had amazingly baby-smooth caramel skin, and a smile that could change a bitch life. On top of all that danger, he had the thickest dick and most opulent stroke game I’d ever encountered. Just thinking about that missile swinging between his legs made my knees turn to water.
“Oh, pew. We hate Malik,” Jade jeered, jarring me back to the present.
“Shit, do you think he saw me?”
“Hey, Skai!” He called out from twenty feet away.
“Damn, he clocked yo ass fast as shit. I’ma let you handle that.”
“No! Your ass better stay on the phone with me!” I demanded before quickly placing my AirPods into my ears so he wouldn’t catch wind of our conversation.
“See! This shit right here is exactly why you should come outside and play this weekend, Skai! It’s smelling real single outside!”
“Think about it, aight? You’re so uptight all the time, Skai. It’s time you let loose for just a second.”
Before I had the opportunity to respond how I wanted to, Malik closed in on me, and I blurted out the first shit that came to mind. “Mmhm. Oh no! That’s so bad. Is there anything I can do?” I asked Jade, loud and suspect as hell.
Malik stepped up to me with a serious look across his caramel face and my eyes darted directly to his lips. He had the kind of mouth that was made for kissing. “Skai, can I talk to you for a second?”
“Can it wait? I’m, uh, in the middle of something right now. Family drama!”
“Oh, um—I was hoping that we could t–”
“Okay, thanks, bye,” I mumbled over my shoulder to him before zooming off.
Back inside, I headed up to the fourth floor, excited to be scrubbing in on a laparotomy. All the excitement instantly drained from my body the minute I checked the board to see that Malik, the one person I’d been trying my hardest to dodge, had been listed as the anesthesiologist assisting during the surgery. As hard as I’d been working to keep us apart, the universe had made it clear that it had other plans.
“Fuck,” I grumbled through my mask.
Sometimes I couldn’t believe that I was already a resident. Like, I’d survived med school and my intern year. Somehow med school felt like an eternity ago and like yesterday at the same time. My parents weren’t famous surgeons. Medicine and healthcare didn’t run in my family. It wasn’t until my mother’s diagnosis that I became interested in medicine. For months, I witnessed her struggle with crippling headaches and migraines, and even a couple of seizures. One day while we were standing in the middle of the cereal aisle, she dropped the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch to the floor and told me she couldn’t see, that her vision had suddenly gone blurry, and that I needed to call my dad.
We rushed her to the hospital, and after the doctors ran multiple tests, they discovered that she had glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor that had been snowballing over time. I watched her fight her way through standard therapy treatments to extend the eighteen months the doctors gave her to live. We all knew no matter how many surgeries or rounds of chemo and radiation she put herself through, there wasn’t a cure. She passed twelve and a half months later with both of us by her side. Since then, I knew medicine was what I wanted to pursue. I wanted to find a cure so no family would have to go through what mine did.
“Some surgery, huh?” Malik inquired as we scrubbed our hands at the sink four hours later.
I nodded without so much as a glance up at him. “Yup.”
“You did great in there.”
His compliment disarmed me, causing me to look up just in time for his dimpled smile and bone-white teeth to annihilate me. “Um, thanks.”
I turned to walk away, heading for my locker to go home for the evening. All I wanted to do was grab my shit so I could get home, take a shower, and crash.
Coming off a twenty-two-and-a-half-hour shift, my zombie-like fingers slowly reached up to tap the elevator button. Before the doors could fully close, I saw a melanated hand slice between them before Malik showed up inside.
“Hey,” he called out.
“Hi,” I mumbled.
It was almost as if God wanted me to fuck that man. Why else would he keep dangling him in front of me like that?
My tired eyes darted down at my purse hanging over my left shoulder and then back at him as if to say, duh, what does it look like, although none of those words escaped my lips. “Mmhm,” I uttered with a quick dip of my chin.
The two of us stood awkwardly on opposite sides of the elevator before he blurted out an aggravated “Fuck this.”
My forehead creased at the sound of his voice. “What?”
He reached out and pressed the emergency stop button before turning to me. “Skai, we need to talk.”
I disagreed. “No, we don’t.”
“Bullshit. I’ve missed us, and I know you have, too,” he admitted while gently swiping a loose curl dangling in the center of my forehead.
“There is no us,” I confirmed before swatting his hand away and flinging the hair back from my brow. I didn’t need him fixing me.
“Don’t be like that. Besides, if anyone should be mad, it’s me.”
“How do you figure that?” I quizzed, arms folded tightly across my chest.
“Because you’re the one that ghosted me!”
My blood began to boil. “That’s because I’m above fucking married men or men that are about to become engaged! That’s right, Malik. I found the ring in your apartment! That’s why I left!”
His dark brows rose with surprise and then furrowed. “Why in the hell didn’t you just tell me that?”
“So now I’m the only one that’s required to be honest in this relationship, or whatever the fuck this is? All you had to do was tell me Nichelle was back in the picture. But I guess you’re just the type who’s gotta have his cake and another cake too.”
Nichelle was Malik’s on-again-off-again “girlfriend.” They’d been in each other’s lives for six and a half years. He was her first. Thus, he felt some deeper connection to her that I refused to understand. Over the years, she’d dished out hall pass after hall pass so that he could run off and fulfill his sexual desires without the added shame or guilt. As long as he didn’t bring her back any diseases or illegitimate babies, he got to do whatever and whoever he wanted, and she got to keep her man. I didn’t understand why she continuously handed herself the short end of the deal, but to some women, having half of a man was better than not having one at all. Six months ago, when we started messing around, he told me they’d officially ended things. She’d gotten accepted as a fellow at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and he was here in Miami. In love or not, he wasn’t down for the distance when he could be dicking down bitches who weren’t over a thousand miles away.
“Listen, Skai—I was gonna talk to you about it, okay? I swear I was.”
“When? At your engagement party? Bachelor party? I mean, be for real, Malik. You at least owe me that!”
He let out a frustrated sigh. “You’re right. Our shit is complicated, okay? You’ve always known that.”
I scoffed. “All relationships are complicated, Malik. If they weren’t, everyone would be in one.”
I could hear the lies so clearly now. I must’ve been too distracted by the D or something. He lowered his head in defeat and shot his sympathetic, pretty brown eyes at me.
“I meant what I said. I do miss us, Skai.”
“What’s the point of missing something you never wanted in the first place?”
He narrowed the six-foot gap between us and let his fingertips cling to my scrub-clad waist. “Stop. Malik, stop.”
“We both know you don’t want me to do that,” he mumbled against my lips.
I sighed, weakening by the second as he seduced me with his eyes. His shiny white teeth glistened whenever he opened his mouth to speak. “I have pre-rounds at six in the morning.”
He brushed my hair away from my neck and gently nibbled on it. My heart began to beat more rapidly.
“I need a shower, Malik.”
He remained silent, allowing his hands to roam freely over my breasts, hips, and ass.
“Malik, I’m exhausted.”
I knew rolling around on top of him meant a full twenty-four-hour, caffeine-fueled shift, but that didn’t stop his advances, and I was fresh out of excuses. Somewhere between him hitting the elevator button to get us moving again and the doors sliding open as his hand crept up my thigh, we ended up in the sixty-nine position on the bottom bunk in the nearest on-call room. Forty-five minutes later, I slid outside the on-call room after backsliding with Malik while fully knowing he was engaged or planning to be engaged. Was I proud of my actions? Not in the least. That shame intensified when I realized I’d put my scrub top back on inside out. I never wanted to unfuck someone so bad in my life. Feeling defeated and in need of a release, I pulled out my phone to text Jade as I trekked down the long corridor and outside to my car.
Me: About that party… I’m in.
Saturday night rolled around, and I was excited to let my hair down for once, literally and figuratively. At work, I always wore my hair in a top knot bun or pulled it back into a low ponytail. I usually preferred to wear my hair curly, but for the sake of stepping out, I blew out my natural curls and tossed in some beach waves. From the hallway bathroom, I heard a key jingling in the lock and knew it was Jade letting herself into my apartment.
“Hoodie hoo!” she called out.
“In the bathroom,” I replied.
“Hey! You look cute,” I praised, admiring her sparkling mini dress and heels.
“Thanks. I’ll change once we get to the party. I at least wanna walk in that bitch lookin’ classy before I start pussy poppin’ for dollars,” she sneered.
“Yeah, okay. Don’t forget to put my spare key back!” I demanded.
“Yeah, yeah. Maybe you wouldn’t be so pressed about me putting it back if you didn’t lose your keys so much,” she quipped.
“Why are you ridin’ me already, huh? I’m just trying to have a good time tonight.”
“And a good time you shall have, girl. I can almost promise you that. What are you wearing?”
“Options are laid out on the bed. You know what to do.”
Of course, Jade picked out the shortest, strappiest, tightest one. When she’d finished dressing me, I was clad in a strappy black mini-dress with a pair of clear heels that laced up to my calves. After putting on some gold accessories and swooping my head full of jet-black curls over to the right side of my face, I deemed myself ready.
I sat in the passenger seat of Jade’s Mercedes coupe, letting the warm wind tussle my curls. I shifted uncomfortably against her leather interior, trying to unstick my bare thighs from the seat.
“When we go in here tonight, just act cool, aight?” Jade reminded me.
“How else am I supposed to act?”
“I mean, don’t be your awkward ass, straight and narrow self. Just relax. Here, hit this shit one time,” she offered, passing her blunt my way.
I wagged my head. “No thanks. You know I can’t do that shit.”
She smacked her lips. “One hit ain’t gon’ kill you. Plus, don’t act all brand new like you ain’t been high before. I was there with you in med school. I know the stories.”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. It was a stressful time in my life, okay? I’m above all that now.”
“Suit yourself, friend. You gon’ need somethin’ to loosen you up, though, or these niggas gon’ eat your pretty ass alive.”
“What do you mean? I thought you said I was just gonna be able to blend in.”
“And you will, as long as you get that face of yours together.”
I winced. “What’s wrong with my face.”
“You tell me. You the one sittin’ over there lookin’ stuck on stupid.”
“I slept with Malik,” I confessed with ease.
“And, you know I’m trying to quit him. But his dick just keeps pullin’ me back,” I whined.
“Girl, how many times and how many ways do we need to say fuck his triflin’ ass? That nigga needs to know it’s a privilege to be fucking with you, okay? That’s all I’m saying.”
I sighed. “You’re right, I know.”
“Shit, that’s exactly why I be lying to niggas. I mean, why not? They lie and use us all the time!”
“You’re right about that,” I mumbled while silently reflecting on all my past failed relationships with fuck boys.
“I’m on my Lori Harvey shit, okay? And fuck any mothafucka who got somethin’ to say about it. They can suck my ass through a straw!”
“Maybe I need to be on that same vibe.”
“Come on over, Skai. The weather is nice.”
I giggled. “Hush.”
“All I’m sayin’ is, you gotta know your way around these niggas pockets, girl. Leave all that love and feelings shit out of it. And trust, what one won’t give you, another will.”
Instead of responding, I leaned my head against the headrest and let her words sink in. I hadn’t fully decided if I agreed with them or not, but I couldn’t deny the game she was spitting. Jade had always been a hustler, a smart-ass one at that. She had it all; beauty and was both book and street-smart.
The elevator door opened to the penthouse, and my nose was immediately greeted by the pungent aroma of marijuana, sex, and crisp dollar bills hanging in the air. I stepped out behind Jade, and a woman dressed in black lingerie handed us two different masquerade masks. Relieved that I could blend in a bit easier, I quickly slid it over my eyes. With my identity hidden, I relaxed and scanned the large penthouse with floor-to-ceiling windows that provided a panoramic view of the city. The music was blasting so loud that I swore I could feel the marble floor vibrating beneath us. The space was filled with minimal, modern decor. A bar was set up in the open kitchen area, a DJ booth overlooking the second level, and three chrome poles in the middle of the living floor as the main attraction for the occasion.
“I’m about to find the other girls and go change. You good?”
“Cool. Get a drink at the bar and loosen up. There are plenty of people in here. No one is going to notice you unless you want them to. Who knows, you might even leave with a stack,” she quipped with a wink.
“Go handle your business. I’ll be fine,” I assured her.
I made my way through the sea of people and over to the bar to get a glass of champagne with a sliced strawberry floating at the bottom of my flute. While taking a sip, I continued to scan the party. In every direction I turned, there seemed to be a new pair of titties and ass bouncing around. A half-naked woman was riding a mechanical bull in the middle of a ball pit to my left, and a group of masked men, each with their personal champagne bottles glued to their hands like baseball gloves, were cheering her on. One was making his way around the party, shooting dollar bills from a money gun. When Jade came out and took to the center pole, everything seemed to pause. Over the years, I’d seen her dance probably a hundred times, but I never got over watching people’s reactions to seeing her for the first time. They were always in awe. A smile tugged at my lips when the money started to cover the floor around her. She was in her element and doing precisely what she’d come there to do; get paid.
I spotted the exit to the balcony and decided to head out for some fresh air. After downing the remaining gulp of champagne in my glass, I rested my elbows against the balcony railing and pulled out my phone to see a text from Malik. My heart somersaulted in my chest before I opened it to see a dick pic followed by the purple demon emoji. I sucked my teeth.
“This mothafucka can’t be serious,” I mumbled before swiping to delete our entire text thread. He was a sinking ship, and it was past time that I learned how to swim.
“What nigga put that sour look on your face?” A male voice spoke up.
“Excuse me?” I snapped, twisting my neck in the direction of a masked man. The same one I’d witnessed shooting dollars out of a money gun inside. I had been standing there so deep in thought that I didn’t notice I was no longer outside alone.
“You heard me. Gotta be a nigga on your mind if you ain’t worried about all the money flowin’ around inside.”
I huffed. “Yeah, well, you got me there.”
“Wasn’t hard. There are too many females here, and you are the only one who doesn’t seem concerned about making any money tonight. What, you ain’t got no bills to pay?”
I twisted my lips. “Trust me, I’ve got plenty, but I’m not a stripper.”
“Then what are you?”
“A doctor,” I asserted.
“Yeah, word,” I mocked him.
“So, if a nigga out here fuckin’ around in these streets and get a bullet put in me, you can handle that, right?”
“Uh, yes. But please don’t do that. I’ve seen my share of gunshot wounds, and they are never pretty.”
He ran his hand down the wavy, black goatee. “I got you. That’s wassup, though. For what it’s worth, I think scrubs are sexy.”
His confession caused me to belt out a laugh. It wasn’t because it was uncanny but because it was something I’d heard so often.
“I like your laugh.”
“Bet you got a beautiful face to match.”
“Maybe I do.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” he reasoned, toying with his mask. I gave a soft chuckle before pulling the mask away from my eyes. “Damn.”
A wrinkle cut across my forehead. “What?”
He let his gaze wander slowly down my body. “You’re fuckin’ gorgeous.”
I could feel my cheeks turning crimson red. “Oh, um, thank you. Guess it’s your turn.”
He removed his mask, and I instantly clenched my thighs. His smooth skin was the shade of desert sand that had been kissed by the sun. He had big, cocoa-brown eyes with long eyelashes that naturally curled skyward. His head, full of soft, jet-black coils, was pulled back into a ponytail that landed at the nape of his neck, and he had a few loose curls dangling over his fresh edge up. From the thin mustache sitting over his lips to the big, square diamonds dancing in his ears. He honestly was fucking gorgeous.
“Damn, a nigga must be ugly.”
I chuckled, trying my darndest not to start salivating at the sight of his juicy brown lips. “I’m so sorry. No, of course, you’re uh, you’re gorgeous too!” I laughed harder.
“What’s your name, gorgeous?”
“Judah, but everyone calls me Baby.”
“Why, Baby?” I wondered if it had anything to do with his skin's smoothness.
“I’m the youngest of three boys.”
Suddenly, it clicked. He was the baller that Jade told me about. “Ah, the brother of the bachelor?”
“Yeah. I’m hosting tonight. You enjoying yourself?”
“The champagne was good, so sure. You?”
“I am. I only came out here to breathe a bit. It’s a mah’fuckin’ jungle in there.”
I dipped my chin in a nod. “You’re right about that,” I answered, thankful we didn’t have to yell over the music to hear each other.
“How long you been saving lives and shit?” he inquired.
Before I could answer, another man came outside. “There you are. I’ve been lookin’ all over for your ass. I gotta holla at you real quick.”
Baby looked at me. “Don’t move,” he insisted, “I wanna finish this.”
I nodded. “Sure.”
He stepped off with the man while I glanced down at the time on my phone. Somehow almost an hour had flown by. Although I’d enjoyed my conversation with Baby, it was getting late, and I was ready to go home. After waiting ten minutes for Baby to come back, I decided to call myself an Uber and find Jade to let her know I was calling it a night.
I made my way back inside, dead set on locating Jade. When I finally found her, she was down the hallway with her ear cupped to the door, ear hustling on the conversation behind a door that wasn’t fully closed before pulling out her phone to snap a few quick pictures and text someone.
“Jade, what are you doing?” I asked, walking up to her.
She quickly put her phone down. “Nothing, come on,” she insisted, grabbing me by the arm.
We hurried back down the hall. “What was that all about? What were you doing back there?” I asked her.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it. What’s up? You good.”
“I’m fine. I was just coming to find you to let you know I’m about to go.”
“Go? Why are you leaving so early?”
“It’s almost two o’clock in the morning, Jade. Plus, my Uber is outside.”
“Fine, okay. You sure you good?”
“I’m good. Are you good?”
“Yeah, I am,” she persisted before tearing her eyes down at her phone, “text me when you get home, aight?”
“Yeah, okay. You be safe.”
She pulled me into a quick hug. “I’m always safe, Skai.”