Putting out chaos with gasoline is one play that even the women of the Dirty South can't control. One merciless kill vaults good-girl-gone-bad Ta’Shara into gangland's power elite—but an enemy she doesn't see is targeting everything she can't afford to lose. For former Vice Lord chief Lucifer, taking back her power means all-out war on her lethal lover, no matter what the cost. Gorgeous Cleo at last has her sister's killer in her sights—if she can survive one deadly game too many. And as Queen G LeShelle’s lies finally choke-hold her life, trusting someone more vicious than her husband Python may be the last mistake she'll ever make. Now these king divas will leave nothing standing—because if they can't reign, no one will…
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By De'nesha Diamond
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 De'nesha Diamond
All rights reserved.
The Power of Prayer Baptist Church is filled with the sounds of gunfire. Bullets splinter the wooden pews and shatter a few stained-glass windows. Between the steady firing, my nephews Terrell and Mason sling the word muthafucka back and forth. Dribbles's loud ass screams like the crazy white woman she is and Terrell's dangerous cousin, Diesel, is blasting by his side. What Dribbles and I had hoped to be a joyous reunion between the two estranged brothers who have for decades been rival gang chiefs with the Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples has now descended into total chaos.
And I'm lying here with a damn bullet in my side.
Stop. Please. My desperation only rings inside my head because it takes too much damn energy to get my mouth to work. Am I dying? While I wait for God to answer, I realize that the possibility doesn't scare me. Not like the last time, when I was cold and sick in my nana's old house, where I waited for Alice, my baby sister, to finish me off after she kidnapped me. If anything, I'm disappointed. I had hoped that this family could finally heal its deep wounds.
Mason a.k.a. Fat Ace, who up until a few months ago we'd believed to be long dead—sold when he was a baby to some trifling drug dealer by Alice, for a couple of crack rocks—had been, all this time, growing up across town under the Vice Lords' protection. The Vice Lords—our street family's mortal enemy. And Mason isn't just any Vice Lord soldier, he is the damn chief. Mason's older brother, Terrell, known on the street as Python, is the Gangster Disciples' head chief and has been mourning his brother's absence all these years.
When I learned the truth that Mason had actually been kidnapped by Alice's white crackhead best friend, Dribbles, it was too late. All of Memphis had seen him and Terrell killed in a fiery crash off Memphis's Old Bridge on every local news channel. But like two phoenixes, the brothers had somehow survived the crash—only to now be trying to kill each other over a horrible misunderstanding. After I'd entered this church and prayed for guidance to get through this meeting, I'd been shot—not by Mason who'd showed up minutes later, but by my old frenemy and neighbor, Josephine Holmes. That old fat bitch believed I was moving in on her imaginary man, Pastor Rowlin Hayes.
After Josie wobbled her big ass out of here, Mason and Dribbles showed up and tried to help, but when Python came in and saw Mason covered in my blood, all hell broke loose.
It's like watching a war of giants. The three men, all six-four to six-five, are stacked with muscles and littered with tattoos. Diesel stands out because of his light honey-brown complexion, pale eyes, and GQ looks. But he's as deadly as the brothers Mason and Terrell when it comes to power.
The two brothers are harder on the eyes. Both are dark black with scars and purpling second and third degree burns all over their bodies from that fiery car crash. The one thing that stands out about Mason is his one brown eye and his one milky-white-colored eye.
A bullet zings across my cheek, splitting it open. Get behind a pew. But that takes energy. Energy that I don't have. I'm stuck lying here in a pool of my own blood in the Power of Prayer Baptist Church.
Pow! Pow! Pow!
"Please. Stop," I croak.
"You're a dead nigga," Terrell roars, his face a demonic mask as he fires off more shots.
Diesel sprays bullets in Mason's general direction.
Dribbles screams—but the men show no mercy.
Mason slings Dribbles behind a stone partition on the church's stage before turning and firing back.
I work my mouth to say something, but I can't get the words out.
Two bullets slam into Terrell's muscular thighs. He tumbles and bends a knee, but his finger never eases off the damn trigger.
Diesel is nailed in his left shoulder, but it may as well have been Nerf ball bullets. He continues firing and advancing forward as though he didn't feel a thing.
I have to do something—anything to stop this potential carnage. I'm too weak to do anything other than pray. Please. Lord, please.
Terrell and Diesel's clips are empty. The cousins go for their backup clips, and Mason chooses that moment to fire shots while he drags Dribbles toward the back of the church.
"Get that muthafucka," Terrell barks.
"I'm on it, cuz." Diesel slaps in another clip and races after Mason.
"Nooo," I croak, choking on my own blood. The devil keeps messing with me, threatening to take my nearly seventy-year-old ass out. But I didn't survive one hell with Alice only to be taken out, right here in the Lord's own house. No. I refuse to go out like this. I search within my soul for strength.
Terrell kneels besides me. "Aunt Peaches, can you hear me?" He rolls me over onto my back. Pain rips through my entire body. It's all I can do to hang on to consciousness. "We're going to get him. Don't you worry," he promises. His large black eyes glisten. "There's no fucking way that I'm going to let him get away with shooting you. You hear me?"
I smack my dry lips, but my tongue feels as if it's too large for my mouth and my words get buried in my throat. It breaks my heart. I reach up and touch his scarred and burned face. It's important that he calms down and listens to what I have to say, but all I manage to do is paint his cheek with my blood.
"Don't die on me, Peaches. You're all I have left."
"That's not true," I choke out, thinking of his new wife, LeShelle. She wasn't who I wanted for him, but at least from time to time she acts as though she truly cares for him. "I'm not going anywhere," I whisper, trying to convince him as well as myself.
"Please. I don't know what I'd do without you." He leans over until our foreheads touch and his hot tears splash onto my face.
Terrell, a mountain of a man, pulls me into his lap and rocks me.
In the distance, tires squeal and shots are fired. This whole meeting couldn't have gone any worse. Tell him. Tell him before it's too late. I suck in a breath, but my body rejects it as I choke.
"Easy. Easy. Take it easy," Terrell says. "I'm not going anywhere," he promises.
He thinks I'm going to die. It's written on his face.
"Lis—listen," I croak. "He didn't do it."
"Shh. Shhh. Don't try and talk right now. I got you. Rest."
Rest. I close my eyes. My soul longs to rest, but I can't. I have to get the truth out. "Mason."
"Shh. Shh. It'll keep," he tells me.
"Help is on the way," he promises. "I'm sure someone has reported the gunfire."
Frustrated, I slide my bloody hand from his face over to his lips to get him to hush. "Please. Let me get this out" I say, panting and choking over what air I manage to inhale.
The floor trembles as Diesel rushes back into the church.
"Did you get him?" Terrell asks.
I roll my head toward Diesel.
He shakes his head. "Sorry, cuz. They got away."
Relieved, I slump in Terrell's arms. What strength I have evaporates to the point that I can barely keep my eyes open.
At long last, the familiar wail of the police sirens catches my ear.
Diesel taps Terrell's shoulder. "Look, cuz. We have to get you out of here."
"I'm not going any damn where," Terrell barks. "I'm not leaving her here like this."
"There's nothing we can do for her," Diesel says, like my ass has already transitioned.
Terrell stiffens his jaw and shakes his cousin's hand off of his shoulder. "I said that I'm not leaving her."
I'm touched by his loyalty—and as much as I want him to stay, he can't. "Terrell, baby," I whisper. "G'on now. I'm going to be fine."
He shakes his head. "No. I can't do that."
"It's okay." I pause, swallow, but end up choking again.
Terrell beats himself up. "Damn. Damn. We should've gotten here sooner."
"Don't do that. I'm going to be all right. You'll see."
Terrell searches my face.
I'm an excellent poker player and put on my best, most earnest face, and even flutter on a smile that I don't feel. "I promise. I'm going to be all right. I'm going to pull through this. But if you stick around all you're going to accomplish is going to jail." He knows it's true. He's the most wanted man in Memphis for not only killing the daughter of the late captain of police, but for kidnapping the son that he had with the girl. If he's caught, they'll give him the needle.
The sirens grow louder.
Diesel touches his arm again. "You go, cuz. I'll stay with her."
Terrell glances over his shoulder and up at him. "Yeah? You'd do that for me?"
"Of course, cuz. We're family."
Terrell nods, but he doesn't move to get up.
"Go," I tell him.
He's torn. It's written in every inch of his body language.
"Go," Diesel urges. "I got this." He kneels down beside Terrell. "Get out of here, man."
Terrell hesitates. My hand falls from his face. "Go."
Misty-eyed, Terrell's gaze shifts between me and his cousin. At long last, he climbs to his feet. "I'm counting on you, cuz."
"I won't let you down."
"I won't let you down, either," I say. "I promise."
Terrell nods and slowly backs out of the church.
Relieved, I exhale and close my eyes. I need to rest for a minute. As darkness descends, I remember that I didn't tell Terrell about the shooting. "Diesel," I say, licking my lips and forcing my eyes open again.
"Yeah, Aunt Peaches?"
"You have to tell Terrell something for me." I grip his arm. "Promise me."
"Mason didn't do this," I pant. "He didn't shoot me. That damn Josie that lives across the street from me did this shit. Mason showed up afterwards. You gotta tell Terrell."
Diesel's eyes turn green. His eyes have always been like a mood ring: at times they appear blue and other times green. "What?"
"You have to tell him. I don't want him going after his brother over this. You tell him, all right? Stop the war between those two. They're brothers. We have to heal this family."
My surge of strength ebbs away while the sirens grow louder.
Diesel shakes his head. "No. I don't think I'll tell him that."
Confused, I peel my eyes open again.
"You see, I need for old cuz to take out Fat Ace. Kind of clear the field, if you know what I mean. If I tell him that Fat Ace had nothing to do with your shooting, he'll go back to wanting to meet and bond with that nigga for old times' sake. Nah. I need this new cuz out of the picture before I lose even more of my investments."
"And I can't have you ruining my plans either." His beautiful eyes go ice-cold. "I'm really sorry about this, Auntie. It's not personal."
Before I can ask him what the hell he's talking about, there's a loud POW!
I jump as hot lead slices through the center of my body— and before the next wave of pain hits, everything goes dark.CHAPTER 2
Profit and Lucifer ... kissing.
I stand outside Lucifer's house, gawking at them through the open window and feeling like a fool. This is not happening. It can't be. No matter how many times I blink or how hard my heart hammers against my chest, Profit and Lucifer remain lip-locked in the middle of that living room, kissing.
Finally, I stumble backwards with my eyes burning. Not until the tears blur my vision do I spin away and race back to Profit's crib. Hyperventilating, I rush into the house and slam the door.
"T, are you all right?" Mack asks, her brows high on her forehead.
Fuck. Why are these bitches still here? Last night, Mack and Romil, who I met in jail, threw me an impromptu party to officially welcome me into the Vice Lords' Flowers. Now it's late into the next morning and these chicks still don't know how to go home.
"Get out," I tell them. "The fucking party is over."
Romil twists up her face. "What? But we were about to—"
They jump, but then only stare at me.
"OUT! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY GODDAMN HOUSE!"
Eyes big as fuck, everyone scrambles.
"All right. All right. You don't have to shout. We're going," Romil says.
Mack, moving slowly, eyeballs me like she's trying to read my mind. It takes everything I have not to throw shit at her hard-of-hearing ass. "What's wrong? What happened?"
"Goddamn it." I take off to the master bedroom, where I slam the door and fall back against it. When I look at the bed that I've been sharing with Profit for months now, my blood boils. Pushing away from the door, I head straight for the closet, snatch out my clothes, and toss them onto the bed. Next, I rush over to the chest of drawers to grab my things.
Hurry up. I move faster, but my hands and arms tremble. Then my legs and knees go weak. I'm barely able to get them to support my weight. I get one armload of clothes over to the bed before I collapse into a heap on the floor. Fuck my tears. I'm struggling to breathe. No matter what I do, I can't get enough oxygen in my lungs.
"How could he do this to me? He said that he loved me. He said that he would always take care of me. I risked and lost everything to be with him. I was a good girl. I made straight As and was listed on the honor roll. I had wonderful foster parents and lived in a nice midtown home, with a bright future ahead of me. Once upon a time, I had a best friend, Essence, and I even had a fucked-up sister in LeShelle. I threw all of it away to be with Profit—and that muthafucka does this to me? How could he?" I rake my hands through my hair a few times before I tug and pull chunks of it out.
"No, God. Noooo! Please don't let this be happening. Please." More hair slides through my fingertips. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know I need to stop, but I can't. "It's not fair. None of this shit is fair."
"Girl, you're playing with fire." Essence's voice floats to me from an old memory. She told me from the giddy-up not to go down this path, but my hardheaded ass did it anyway. I listened to my heart, not my head. I knew the street politics of hooking up with Profit from the moment he told me his name at the Germantown mall. Despite my sister, LeShelle, being in the street game with the Gangster Disciples, I had stayed out of the bullshit, but then Profit—with those big, brown eyes, deep-pitted dimples, and soft-looking lips—had me believing the impossible. I was book smart but street dumb, and now look where it's landed me.
I've been raped, branded—committed to a mental institution. I attempted to kill my sister. I was doped up and slammed into a padded room. Even then, I was given a second chance to go back to my nice, safe, suburban home, only to have LeShelle burn it down with Tracee and Reggie, my foster parents, inside. Also inside was LeShelle's girl, Kookie. The police think that I had something to do with it and I'm currently out on bail. I'm innocent on that charge, but last night I really did kill someone: a clerk at Hemp's Liquor Store. It was self-defense, but who in the fuck is going to believe that?
Homeless, I moved here with Profit—believing in his fucking lies that we belonged together. Now he's kissing Lucifer?
She's not any woman. She's Mason's girlfriend and the meanest and most dangerous bitch in the street game. What am I going to do—fight her for him? Shit. I might as well slice my own neck. Hell, she even looks like a mean Laila Ali. Every enforcer in the game is scared of that bitch. Who the hell am I to step to her? I'm just some stupid seventeen-year-old girl who thought that she was in love. Profit has made a fool out of me.
I glance over into the bedroom mirror and stare horrified at my thinner than normal frame. My brown face, pale. My long hair, stringy. Hell, I'm a teenager and I'm already developing huge bags under my eyes. No wonder he's attracted to Lucifer. I'm a mess.
Crying so hard that my face aches, I don't know what else to do. I have nowhere else to go.
Think. Think. Think.
Not a damn thing comes to mind. I'm fucking useless. I don't have a goddamn thing to live for. When I open my eyes, my gaze lands on the gun on the nightstand.
You could end it all. Right here. Right now.
I pause for a moment, waiting for another voice to step in and talk some sense into me.
Excerpted from King Divas by De'nesha Diamond. Copyright © 2015 De'nesha Diamond. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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