Taste of Lacey(9)

By: Linden Hughes



“Monica!” Lacey bellowed. “Why are you so worried about Rye and me? You need to be concerned about your own drought. And for the record, I do not want to discuss this right now.”

“My drought is of my own making, and this isn’t about me. It’s about you. Have you guys even talked about where your relationship is going?”

Lacey sighed and plopped down on a stool beside the stainless-steel worktable. Apparently they were going to discuss it now. “Why does it have to ‘go’ anywhere? As much as you and my mother try to hook me up, you should be happy I’m with someone.”

“If you’re happy, I’m happy. And Rye is cool, but I want him to do right by you.”

“Have you morphed into my father?”

“No, and I’m not just being nosy either. I really am concerned.”

“I know, but what we have is enough for now.”

Monica’s hazel eyes grew large and round. “I never thought I’d see Lacey Bishop settle for anything. The same person who put the ‘Lacey’ in ‘stubborn’? When Uncle John and Auntie Lena wanted you to go to Clark Atlanta so you could be close to home, you said nothing but Ivy League for you. So you got a full scholarship to Columbia. You didn’t have to ask them for a dime when you headed to New York. They had no choice but let you go.”

“I know that.”

“Then you got your MBA so you’d know how to run your own business.”

“Monica…”

She kept going as if Lacey hadn’t said a word. “How many black women do you know who’ve been educated at Le Cordon Bleu and in Paris, no less? And all because you didn’t just slink down the path someone else chose for you. Not only do you own your own business, you own this building and the two on each side of it. You have all this going on because you didn’t settle then, and I don’t think you should start now. Have you and Rye ever been out on a real date?”

Wow. Monica really knew how to go for the jugular, but Lacey didn’t care. She was a grown woman; it was her prerogative to sleep with a man who’d never taken her to dinner. “No, we have not.”

“Do your parents or Kyle even know you’re together?”

“Again, no.”

“And you’re satisfied with that?”

Lacey hated to admit it, but Monica had a point. Rye was getting the proverbial milk for free with no pressure or questions. Ever. They hadn’t verbalized that their relationship was exclusive, but it was for her, and she didn’t want to think about what he did when he was away. It would hurt too much.

A talented industrial engineer, Rye roamed the country troubleshooting outages at plants located in remote areas. Sometimes he went alone, and other times with a crew of engineers as the operation commander. Plant managers specifically requested him because he had the expertise to quickly assess a situation, fix it, and then get out. There was no set schedule, and time was of the essence. Because he was in high demand, he was sometimes gone for days or weeks at a time.

So if he knocked at six, ten, or midnight, she just opened the door and her legs all at the same time. There was no further discussion of what they both wanted, and she accommodated him—no questions asked.

Until Monica’s cavernous mouth planted the flourishing seed of doubt. The possibility of him being with someone else had already crossed Lacey’s mind anyway.

Yes, he was away a lot. And she knew firsthand how much he loved pussy. Usually on his first day home, he exhausted himself trying to get enough of her, which she considered a good sign. If he already had what he needed while on the road, he wouldn’t be so hungry to get it when he was with her, right?

Any bit of solace she had from her reasoning flew out the window. Her angst was the price of agreeing to—no, insisting on—a “no strings, no rings” agreement.

Plus, if it wasn’t the thought of him being with someone else, the constant distance and uncertainty would weigh her down. She thrived in the familiar. Even if Rye wanted to take their relationship to another level, was she ready? The demands of a regular relationship would disrupt her life, which for the most part was one predictable series of events. Without fail, every Monday through Friday, she awoke at six, jogged three miles, went to work, and stayed until everything was done. On Wednesdays she volunteered at the women’s shelter in the morning before going to the salon and then running any personal errands. Most of their catering events took place between Thursday and Saturday, and every Sunday was spent with her family.

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