Solace in Seven Sneek Peek: Chapter Two Snippet
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I whipped my car into the first available parking spot I could find inside the terminal garage. Normally, I would’ve parked in economy parking for long trips, but I was already rushing to get to airport in the first place. I hopped out of the car and popped the trunk while snatching off my scarf and rubbing the indented line off my forehead. You know, the one that screams “I just took my bonnet off, but my edges are now laid!”
My suitcase wheels rolled against the pavement as I shuffled through the airport trying to get through checking my bags, security and to my gate within thirty-two minutes. I nervously looked down at my watch every fifteen seconds as the minutes seemed to fly by. I couldn’t wait to land in LAX to get on my connecting flight to St. Martin. The second I stepped onto the plane and took my seat in first-class; I took a sigh of relief. I could finally fuckin’ relax and officially start my vacation. While my girls were doing excursions with their men, I would be reading by the pool. While they were getting dicked down from sunup to sundown, I would be getting a Swedish massage from a male professional masseuse, and if I was lucky, he’d be something worth looking at. I meant what I said to Lauryn, I was going to make the best of my trip, come hell or high water.
During the plane change from LAX to St. Martin, I walked onto the smaller aircraft feeling better than better. The edible I’d eaten on my way to the airport had finally kicked in mid-flight and I was feeling too good. I plopped down in my window seat and turned up the volume on my phone as Beyonce’s “Party” blasted through my AirPods. Just as I started to bob my head and sway in my seat, I heard a familiar voice that instantly made my stomach churn.
“Yo, you in my seat.”
I looked up just as the owner of that voice stationed himself in the aisle in front of me. There he was, both hell and high water in human form, Hendrix “The Tomb Raider” Croft. He was trying his best to be inconspicuous with a black hoodie draped over his freshly cut fade, and sunglasses shielding his almond-shaped, cognac-brown eyes, as to ward off the paparazzi or any screaming basketball fans hounding him for his autograph. He was a three-time NBA all-star and the bane of my existence since we were in high school.
My forehead puckered as I pulled my sunglasses away from my eyes. “What?”
“Seat 6A is mine. I got the window.”
“Oh shit, Cassidy? Cassidy Stokes? Is that you? You’re the last person I expected to see here.”
Time stopped, but he didn’t. As much as it pained me to admit it, he looked better than words could describe. Just staring at the full licorice-colored beard covering his chin was enough to suck all the air out of my lungs down to the very last puff.
“It’s a free country.” I shrugged as I took a big gulp of the water bottle clutched in my hand.
“That’s debatable. And you still in my seat though.”
I rolled my irritated eyes. “Can you just let me sit here? I’m already buckled in.”
“Nah, I need my window.”
“Fine,” I said, unhooking my seatbelt and switching over to the aisle seat. I pulled my knees in tight as he slid past me to sit by the window. As soon as he sat down, he closed the window shade. I quickly rolled my eyes. “Can you at least open it so I can see?”
My brows drew together. “Why not?”
“The fuck you need to see clouds for? This your first flight or somethin’?”
My eyes rolled toward the ceiling. “No, I just like to look. You got a problem with that?” I bit back.
“Nah, I don’t. Maybe you’ll catch ‘em on your flight back,” he said, sarcasm ringing deep in his voice.
I sat and stared at him in awe as he bared his straight, white teeth in my direction before
sliding his black and gold Beats by Dre headphones over the sparkling gold diamonds in his ear as a not to subtle attempt to tell me he was done talking. His smile was fuckin’ lethal. I hated that I loved it. Nope, don’t look. Fuck these niggas, Cass. Fuck these niggas! I chanted over and over inside my head. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why everyone kissed his ass, no matter how good it probably looked. Hmph, it’s probably just as bronzed and toned as the rest of his chiseled ass body, I thought. As easy on the eyes as he was, I could tell he was going to be a menace to sit beside on a three-and-a-half-hour flight.
From the moment he was born, he was donned the Prince of Inglewood. Everyone who was anyone knew exactly who he was because his father, Jude Croft, was the king of the city and one of the biggest kingpins in Cali. So naturally, he was used to everything and everyone always orbiting around his ass. After his parents got divorced, him and his mom moved five houses down from me. Plus, he was Lauryn’s brother’s best friend. So even if I didn’t run into him in my own neighborhood or in the hallways at school, I would most certainly have to see him whenever I went over Lauryn’s house.
Like every other girl my age or older, I’d fallen under his spell and developed a stupid girlish crush on him. He used to give me goosebumps whenever I saw him until I heard him open his mouth for the first time. He’d made it painfully clear that he was nothing but a pompous asshole, and from the looks of it, shit hadn’t changed. He was still used to the sun rising and sitting on his ass. His ass made the two years of high school went spent together my own personal hell. But it was a new day and we were far from kids. He was going to be reminded that I wasn’t the one.
Instead of entertaining his ass any longer, I turned my attention to the aisle and caught the eyes of the first flight attendant I could find. “Excuse me, are there any other seats available? They don’t even have to be first-class at this point, I just need to switch seats. I’m willing to pay whatever.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but this is a full flight. Can I get you a complimentary beverage or some ear plugs or something?”
“Um, yeah sure—just make it strong.”
She bobbed her head up and down. “Got it.”
Moments after we took off, he leaned his seat back. I sucked my teeth for the umpteenth time since he’d barged back into my life. The second I went to put my elbow on the armrest, I was blocked. “Do you have to take up both arm rests? There are other people on this plane besides you, you know?” I scoffed.
He sat up to pull off his hoodie. “You must’ve forgot you sittin’ next to a full-size nigga,” he said, with a hint of hood charisma laced in his voice.
His stretch allowed me to catch a glimpse of the tats on his biceps, triceps goddamnceps. At six-foot-four and a solid 185 pounds, he was built Ford tough. His sandy brown skin was dripping with ink etched into his skin from his wrists all the way up to his neck. I knew there were probably millions of women out there that would pay to be the camouflaged shirt resting against his skin, or the khaki cargo pants that didn’t help to conceal the imprint of his dick laying lazily against his inner thigh.
As much as I despised him, I would never admit to him or anyone else that I’d followed bits and pieces of his career over the years. He was drafted his freshman year of college and had been in the league for about seven years. After bouncing around from team to team his first few years, he found his home with the Sin City Mambas as their starting point guard. He’d been with them for the past four years, hand delivering them two championship rings. He’d most recently gotten them to the finals and injured his knee in the sixth game, which put him out for the rest of the finals. Unlike his father, who was a household name in Inglewood, Hendrix was a household name in homes across the globe. As popular as he was, I always wondered why I never heard his name tied to any crazy scandals, baby mama drama, or serious relationships for that matter.
“Here you go, ma’am—your earplugs, and your drink,” the flight attendant said, snapping me out of my entranced thoughts about Hendrix. I never realized just how much I knew about someone I swore I couldn’t stand.
“Can you actually bring me another one of these and a blanket as well?” I asked her.
She smiled, before tearing her eyes away from me to sneak a glance at the sleeping ‘Tomb Raider.’ “Yeah…sure thing.”
I shot her a quick smile before shaking my head. Typical, I figured. Before she could even make it back with my second drink and blanket, Hendrix had fallen into a slumber so deep, he’d started to snore.
“You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding me,” I grumbled before jabbing my elbow into his arm. Three jabs later, he was still sleep and I was pissed. After downing two Irish Car Bombs back-to-back, all I could do was close my eyes, replace my AirPods with the earplugs the flight attendant had given me, and pray the liquor would aid in drowning out his inconsiderate, snoring ass for the rest of the trip.
Midway through the flight, the turbulence from a passing thunderstorm had started to make me both nauseous and nervous. Nausea rolled through my stomach like a raging wave as the plane bounced and shook.
“Oh fuck,” I whispered, slamming my eyes shut and clawing both armrests like a frightened feline.
With my eyes still closed, I began to say the Lord’s Prayer inside my head. After that, I prayed that we wouldn’t crash and that I didn’t throw up all over myself or the arrogant nigga sucking up air beside me. My eyes jolted open the second I felt his warm hand on my thigh.
“Yo, chill. We gon’ be straight,” he assured me.
Fever ran through my body as heat rose between my legs. I couldn’t form a thought, no less a sentence, and I knew my honey brown complexion had turned scarlet. I was torn between telling him to get his large hand off me or to keep it right where it was. One thing was for sure, if he kept his hand on my thigh for the rest of the way to the island, it was going to be the longest fuckin’ flight ever.
“Fuck these niggas. Fuck these niggas. Fuck these niggas.”
The second we landed, and I was able to get off the plane, I darted off like a lightning strike, trying to put as much distance between Hendrix and I as possible. He had no idea what he’d done to me, or maybe he did. Either way, I couldn’t let that shit happen again. I was convinced that he was still an entitled jerk with even more money than he had when he was growing up. All I could do was pray that he was going to be tucked far away from me on the island.
After the driver from the resort put my luggage in the trunk, I sat in the cushioned leather backseat and instantly felt the cool air conditioning on full blast. After texting Lauryn to let her know I was on my way to the resort, I pulled my shades back over my eyes and let the hum of the engine and the smooth ride lull me to sleep.
The sound of the engine shutting off and the end of the blistering cold air blowing across my face made me crack my eyes open. “Miss, we are here,” the driver told me.
I shot him a quick smile before stretching. “Mmm, great. Thank you!”
“I will grab your bags and show you to the check-in area.”
“That would be perfect, thanks!” I beamed, ready to really start my self-love vacay.
I followed him over to the desk with a pep in my step. “Hi, my name is Cassidy Stokes and I’m checking in for a three-bedroom villa,” I said, as I approached the attendant behind the tall counter.
She flashed me a warm smile. “We are so happy to have you staying with us, Ms. Stokes. Please, tell me how long you’ll be staying with us.”
“Um, a week. I’m here with a bigger party, so my villa should be within the vicinity of theirs.”
“Yes, our luxury villas come equipped with complimentary concierge service, a gardener, daily maid service, pool attendant, and property manager, should you have any questions or concerns during your stay. Check out is at noon, and I will go ahead and get you your villa information, just one second,” she said, clicking away at her keyboard.
After watching her expression go from joy to confusion, I decided to speak up. “Um, is there something wrong?”
“Um, I’m not quite sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“There seems to be some sort of mix up.”
“A mix up?” I repeated.
“Yes, please just give me a second to figure this out.”
“What seems to be the problem?” I quizzed.
“One second, ma’am,” she reiterated before walking over to talk to another colleague.
I kissed my teeth as my posture immediately stiffened and heartrate quickened. This cannot be fucking happening, I thought to myself. My eyes were so busy staring daggers into the back of her head that I didn’t even notice Hendrix take his place beside me at the counter.
“Well, well, well—we meet again.”
I looked up just as he paraded that stupid fuckin’ breathtaking smile in my direction. His overwhelming body stature didn’t help either. My five-foot-four physique was completely swallowed up in his shadow. He was like a tree I suddenly wanted to climb. This nigga was just too fine for his own good. His presence had taken the wind out of my sails for sure. Instead of returning the friendly gesture or offering up a reply, I turned my attention back to the attendant who’d seemingly left me hanging.
“Sir, I can take you over here,” another attendant called out to him.
He sucked his teeth and shot me a final glance. “Guess I’ll see your rude ass around.”
Cassidy Stokes was a raging bitch.
There, I said it.
She was the last person I expected to run into, and by the way she’d been rolling her neck at me since the plane ride, I could tell she felt the same. First, she zoomed off the plane in a huff, then the second I pull up to the resort, I see her ass fussing. I don’t know who the hell put that big ass chip on her shoulder, but that shit was off-putting as hell. I wasn’t going to feed into her bullshit when I had my own shit to deal with. Not only was I recovering from a knee injury that took me out for the rest of the finals, but I’d also been dealing with the embarrassment and shame of being traded to one of the worst teams in the whole fuckin’ league.
I’d always had dreams of shooting hoops. People started callin’ me “The Tomb Raider” my freshman year in high school. I was the only freshman on the varsity team, and it didn’t take long for niggas to realize I was the reason the stands were packed every Friday night. I got busy on that fuckin’ court, and everybody knew it. How I’d gone from an NBA all-star making over 40,000,000 dollars a year to being thrown away like I was a piece of trash had my head all the way fucked up. To me, it was the equivalent to getting picked last for kickball teams on the playground. I came to St. Martin to lick my wounds in peace and put the focus back on my career, not go blow for blow with a chick from high school.
Her cousin Mark was my best friend, so I would see her whenever I went over to his house. I’d always thought she was bad, and out of all the girls that were on my dick, I could honestly say Cassidy wasn’t one of them. From the moment I met Cassidy, she’d always had a wall up. Even after me and my mom moved into her neighborhood, she never gave me anything but attitude, so I masked my feelings for her and was an asshole in return. As a kid in the spotlight, I didn’t have the time nor the know how to break it down. And from the looks of it, the shit had only gotten tougher over the years.
As soon as I handed the attendant my I.D., the attendant that had been helping Cassidy walked over. “I’m sorry, sir. But um, there’s been a mix up in the system.”
“What kind of mix up?” I asked for clarity as I looked down at my phone.
I’d been trying to get in contact with my agent for the last two days, yet it seemed like every time my phone vibrated, there was a different sports headline with my name in it. Whether it was TMZ, ESPN, or some other annoyin’ ass paparazzi with a camera in my face or gossip blog with my name in their mouth, I could feel the heat on me. Throughout life, I’d been used to being able to write my own ticket, whether it was because of who my father was or how good I was at ball. Without ball, I would be nothing.
“Well, it seems your villa has been double booked with another guest. Her, actually,” she said, pointing to Cassidy.
“Cassidy?” I asked, my neck shooting up as my forehead wrinkled in disbelief.
Her brows snapped together as soon as she heard me call her name. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Can’t you just put her somewhere else?” I asked.
She put her hands on her hips. “No, they can move you! I was here first!”
“Yes, move you! You can go anywhere, Hendrix. Why do you have to stay here? All I was trying to do was have a nice fucking relaxing ass vacation alone, that’s it!”
“I’m trying to do the same shit, so why don’t we just split it? Your little ass don’t need all that space anyway.”
She smacked her juicy, watermelon pink lips. “And you do? Just because I’m not a fuckin’ celebrity like you don’t mean I don’t make my own money. I’m allowed to ball out and enjoy the fruits of my labor just like you are. You’re not the only one with bread, here.”
“Um, ma’am, if you agree to that, we will refund you both fifty-percent of what you paid for your stay,” one of the attendants chimed in.
Cassidy huffed before pulling her eyes up to mine. “Fine, but just because we’re practically being forced to share the same space for the next few days doesn’t mean I have to like it, when I could just easily pretend like you don’t exist.”
“Okay, we’ll um go ahead and process the refunds for both of you and call your car around to have your driver take you to your villa. We are so sorry for the mix up and we hope you enjoy your stay.”
“Um, no. I want my own car. I’m not sharing with him,” she demanded.
I scoffed. If she couldn’t stand sitting next to me for a ten-minute ride, I didn’t know how we were going to make it through the week.
“Separate cars is not a problem, ma’am. I will make the arrangements now,” she replied with a smile.
I bobbed my head. “Thanks,” I told them.
“Yeah, thanks,” Cassidy said before stalking off.