“Briana Cole takes her characters through hell in this book. And this is just exactly what the readers will enjoy! Drama, drama, drama!”
—Cydney Rax, author of A Sister’s Survival
Marriage can be a dangerous game . . .
Kimera Davis finds comfort in dating married men. It’s easier that way. Her needs are taken care of and she doesn’t have to give more of herself than she wants to. No messy feelings involved. But when the man she’s seeing poses an unexpected question, Kimera quickly realizes that she’s not the only woman pulled in by his charm.
Their new arrangement doesn’t require much from Kimera, but she soon discovers that someone else is pulling the strings. She’s not looking for complications, yet she can’t help feeling that there’s something devious at play.
And the truth is more complicated than she could ever imagine . . .
Book 1 in the Unconditional series
“Tempestuous, gripping, and downright salacious! Briana Cole explores the complexities of love while twirling on the razor’s edge of twisted betrayals. A phenomenal, cinematically written debut!” —N’Tyse, bestselling author
“Loaded with suspense and drama, The Wives We Play will have you on an emotional high and excited to see how it ends. It’s outstandingly intriguing, entertaining, and a page turner in my book!” —Anna Black, bestselling author of The Perfect Love Storm
About the Author
Briana Cole began writing short stories and poetry at a young age, then went on to use her poems to start a greeting card business in high school. After graduating Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southern University, she independently published three novels. Briana is an Atlanta native and proud mother of two. Her motto and ultimate drive towards success is a famous quote from Mae West: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Connect with Briana online at BrianaCole.com, and on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter @bcoleauthor.
Read an Excerpt
Something told me tonight was going to be special.
I could hardly contain my excitement as I followed the host through the maze of linen-draped tables, each topped with a single candle and surrounded by overdressed patrons. The ambiance was certainly set for romance and luxury, and I blended right in with my Tom Ford copper-toned sequined dress, which hugged each and every petite curve of mine. A gift from my man, of course. Lord knows I couldn't afford a $6,000 dress like this if I had to make the money myself.
Another thing I couldn't help but notice was my brown face was one of only a few in the entire restaurant. A crowd of crystal blue eyes against porcelain white skin turned curious gazes in my direction, no doubt wondering who the hell I had to screw to even be allowed in the building. I had become used to the questioning looks when alongside Leo. He was a man of power and great wealth, and me, well, I was just the arm candy. The trophy. And that was just fine with me. Especially considering my boyfriend already had a wife. Just let me look good and spend his money, and I was content with keeping my face made up, my body in the gym, and my legs spread in exchange.
The host showed me through a sheer curtain to a round booth. It was dimly lit and entirely too large for a party of two, but I knew Leo didn't mind paying extra for privacy and comfort.
"My love." He rose to greet me and, as customary, I held out my hand. Leo turned it over and planted a gentle kiss on my palm. I loved when he did that. His eyes swiped over my body with an approving nod. "You look like a masterpiece."
I grinned at his words. The man could charm me clean out of my panties. "I know," I gushed, placing my hands on my hips. The gesture had the already mid-thigh hemline rising just a bit. "And, my oh my, don't you look completely edible." The cream linen suit seemed to radiate against the stark contrast of his black skin. His locs were fresh, and he had taken care to have them braided to the back. It had been a minute since I'd seen them down, so I didn't realize they reached past the middle of his back. Leo usually kept his locs piled high in a man bun on top of his head and out of his way. He smiled, his dimples creasing his cheeks and barely noticeable underneath the fine hairs of his well- trimmed goatee.
"So," I prompted as soon as I slid into the plump leather cushion of the booth. "You certainly went all out this evening."
"It's a special occasion."
My nose wrinkled in a curious frown. We usually didn't do the anniversary shit. That was for serious couples. Not us.
Before I could open my mouth and ask what he was referring to, our waiter appeared at the side of our table, a linen cloth slung over his arm, a bottle of wine in his hand. He greeted us and began to pour the rich red liquid into our glasses. No need to ask what kind of wine it was. Knowing Leo, it was delicious and expensive and that was all that mattered to me.
I hadn't even bothered to look at the menu. Leo ordered the same thing for both of us, some fancy dish I couldn't pronounce. We handed over our menus, and I waited until we were alone again before I spoke up.
"Special occasion?" I reiterated. "For us?"
"Just period." Leo reached across the table and grabbed my hand in his. He used his thumb to caress my knuckles. The excitement was all but twinkling in his chocolate irises and I felt my own anxiousness beginning to bubble up right along with this silky wine. My mind began to hum with possible scenarios of where this was going. But for some reason, my thoughts kept settling on him handing over the keys to either a house or a car. Hell, maybe both.
"How long have we been together, my love?"
"How many? Do you know?"
I didn't. I hoped that the question was rhetorical, but he waited patiently while I fumbled through the previous months and events we had shared. "Like around three or four, right?" I guessed.
"Eight," he corrected with a gentle smile. "Eight months, two weeks, and five days, to be exact."
I strained against the smile on my face, hopefully masking my apathy. What was he getting at? Was that too soon for him to buy me a house?
"It has been probably the best eight months of my life," Leo went on, almost to himself. "I hope you know just how special you are to me."
My smile widened. "Of course I know, sweetie."
"Well then, you should know me well enough to know I don't make rash decisions. I'm very strategic, calculated, and usually once I set my mind to something, I just go for it. No questions. No hesitations."
I nodded as my heart quickened. If it was a car, I hoped he had gotten it in red. Something sporty and flashy. I liked flashy. And I hoped he'd paid the insurance up. He knew damn well I couldn't afford insurance on any vehicle after a 1995.
Leo blew me a kiss before rising to his feet. He still held my hand in his and pulled me up out of the booth with him. His eyes slid past mine and nodded in greeting to someone behind me. Confused, I turned and eyed the woman who approached.
We had the same taste, apparently. She too wore Tom Ford, but her dress was black, ankle-length with a sheer side panel that revealed just the right amount of skin to be classy. A high weave ponytail cascaded down to touch the small of her back. She was taller than I am, a little more curvaceous, and chocolate skin as rich and as smooth as a piece of black clay pottery like you could find on a vendor table at some art festival.
She held out her hand in my direction. "Kimera," she greeted with a huge smile. "I'm Tina Owusu."
Owusu? I glanced to Leo and back to Tina, my head reeling with the strange yet familiar visitor. I ignored her outstretched hand, instead turning my back on the woman to narrow my eyes at Leo.
"This is your wife?" I snapped, jutting the manicured nail of my thumb in her direction. "Did you really invite your wife to dinner?"
"My love, let me explain."
"Explain what?" I pulled on my hand to release it from his grasp, but he tightened his grip.
"It's not what you think."
"It's not? Well, what the hell is going on, Leo? Care to explain this shit to me? Because I'm not understanding."
Leo, still clutching my hand, dropped to one knee. And my heart dropped just as fast. I didn't even see him reach for the velvet box. Before I knew it, it was in his hand, the marquise-cut diamond glistening from the white cushion. I couldn't do anything but stand there speechless. Not because he was proposing. Hell, I had been proposed to a number of times, and usually I knew it was coming. But, no, I was shocked as hell because Leo's wife was still standing right there, waiting for my answer just as patiently as the man kneeling in front of me.
I took a step backward, bumping my hip against the nearby restaurant table. Somewhere, the jazz music had died down, and I felt as if all eyes were focused on me and Leo, still on one knee in his crisp linen slacks. I wanted to slap him. Slap him for putting me in this awkward situation. For making a mockery out of this whole thing.
Sure, I knew he had a wife. Well, let me correct that. I knew now he had a wife. When Leo first strolled up to my line at the bank where I worked, I didn't know he was married. I just saw a sexy-ass man with a complexion that looked like something fresh off an African culture oil canvas. His smile was slow and deliberate underneath the mustache as he made no move to hide his eyes wandering up and down my body. I felt the blush warm my cheeks and, smirking, I averted my eyes and busied myself with the Post-it notes on my counter.
"You shouldn't do that," he said, his accent seeming to caress each syllable.
"Look away," he said. "Most pretty ladies like it when they see a man appreciating."
"Well, most men don't make it so obvious that they are appreciating," I said with a flirtatious grin.
"Well, I'm not most men." He held out his hand across the counter. "I'm Leo."
I paused before placing my hand in his. He took his time lifting it to his face. To my surprise, he turned it over and placed his lips gingerly against the tender flesh of my palm.
That had been all it took. The sexy Leo Owusu had plenty of charm and family money, and he hadn't been shy about lavishing both on me. I wouldn't say I was the kind of girl that would go weak at the knees over material shit. Well, let me stop lying. Yes, I was. The pot was damn lovely.
So when Leo finally revealed the truth, that he indeed had a wife, I had to say I really wasn't shocked. To tell you the truth, I knew my attitude was more of nonchalance. It didn't concern me. What he did in the confines of his own vows wasn't my business. He claimed they had an open marriage and that she knew about me. I'm not going to lie; that did seem awkward, but I quickly swallowed that pill too. The way I saw it, at least we didn't have to sneak around and shit. And after he assured me and reassured me I wouldn't have to worry about no bitch trying to catch me outside with fists and Vaseline, I was actually relieved.
"Kimmy." Leo pulled me back to the present and I again looked from him to the ring box he held in his outstretched hand. His wife, Tina, watched me closely, and it made me nervous as hell when she remained quiet and expressionless. She had drawn back the privacy curtain and now the entire ordeal was on public display like a Lifetime movie. I could feel a multitude of eyes from the restaurant patrons zeroed in on our little "romantic" scene. Anxious smiles and even a few phones were pointed in our direction to capture this moment. And here I was, frozen in embarrassment with a collection of curse words already gathered on my tongue. What the hell did he think he was doing?
"I want you to be in my life forever," Leo poured on the charm at my continued silence. "Marry me, Kimmy."
I knew my next move was about to be on some classic Cinderella shit, but I no longer cared about the audience. Or the appearance. Unable to do anything else, I turned on my heel and half ran toward the exit. I was slowed down by having to dart and weave through the maze of occupied tables and nearly stumbling in my six-inch stilettos. Anger propelled me forward, and I pushed through the glass door and inhaled the crisp night air.
The vibrant roar of downtown Atlanta traffic greeted me, and I welcomed the noisy relief. After the stunned silence, I needed the chaos to drown the confusion. What the hell was Leo thinking? First, he invites me and his wife to dinner tonight, only to propose with her standing right there? Looking on like this was completely normal. Who the hell proposes to the side chick?
Shocked, I turned back toward the building. I surely hadn't expected Tina to come after me. But there she was, seemingly gliding in my direction like she was in New York Fashion Week. I had noticed before that she was just average looking. The kind of Plain Jane face that didn't really give definition toward the pretty side or the ugly side but teeter-tottered somewhere in the middle, despite the makeup. Yet the diamonds that glittered from her fingers, ears, and neck had her moving with cocky arrogance like she was above any and everybody. I didn't like the bitch.
"Kimmy," she called again as if I weren't looking right at her.
I rolled my eyes. "Kimera," I corrected with a frown. "You don't know me like that."
She smirked, and her warm chocolate complexion appeared to glow with the attitude. "You have been sleeping with my husband for about eight months now. Trust me. I do know you like that." She took a step in my direction, apparently trying to see if I was going to storm off, but curiosity had me planted on the pavement. She closed the distance between us, and I could smell her Flower Bomb perfume permeating in the air. Well, to be honest, I couldn't tell if it was hers or mine, because Leo had bought me the exact same fragrance. What were these people into?
"What do you want?" I asked when she made no move to speak.
"I just want you to come back inside," she said. "Accept the proposal. Leo is serious."
"Did he send you out here to come get me? Seriously? His wife to come beg another woman to marry her husband? What kind of shit is that?"
Tina blew out a frustrated breath. "He was afraid that I may have been the reason you declined his offer."
"That's why I wanted you to hear it from me. You both have my blessing. I don't want to stand in your way."
I was so confused. I felt the beginnings of a headache throbbing at my temples. Shit was baffling me.
"So wait. Are you two divorcing or something? And why the hell are you so cool with this?"
"Divorcing? Who? Me and Leo?" Tina let out a snarky chuckle. "Girl, no. 'Til death do us part. I will always be Mrs. Owusu. But I am willing to share with you."
"Share? Your husband? Haven't you been doing that for the past few months?"
Now Tina's smile was genuinely humorous. "Touché. But now I'm offering you a chance to make it official. Because at the end of the day, what do you have to show for it? Some jewelry and some furniture in that raggedy-ass room in your parents' house?"
A fresh swell of anger had me tightening my fist; the urge to punch this smartass bitch in the jaw was overwhelming. Tina clearly sensed my intentions and held up her hands in mock surrender. "No offense," she said, though her tone was clearly one of an offensive nature. "I just mean that being the woman on the side only gets you so many benefits. You want to be the temp all your life, or you trying to actually get hired permanently?"
I was fed up. The bullshit she was spewing was absurd, not to mention unbelievable. How did they really expect to pull this off? And why? Where was Leo, and why had he sent his wife to handle this ridiculous sales pitch?
"Y'all idiots are crazy and deserve each other," I mumbled. "Leave me the fuck alone." I was already turning and marching up the sidewalk.
"No, you're the idiot if you don't take him up on this offer," she called to my back. "I suggest you think about it and we'll be in touch with the details."
I kept walking. Since when did logic make me an idiot? And what the hell was there to think about? The certainty in her voice had me quickening my steps, even as her words continued to reverberate.CHAPTER 2
"So wait, this chick ran after you?" Adria was laughing so hard she could barely get the words out.
"She was hardly running," I mused, shaking my head at the memory. "It was more like a Beyoncé walk. On some 'world-stop-and-look-at-me' mess."
Adria apparently found more humor in the situation than I did as she gripped the side of the doorframe to keep from falling over.
"Wait. Like literally following you and damn near begging you to marry her husband? How does that even sound? How can you even part your lips to let words like that come out?"
I shrugged. I had just relayed the events from last night's dinner, much to my best friend's amusement. It sounded even more ridiculous hearing it out loud.
I lay sprawled across my queen-size bed as she busied herself sifting through my closet, her laughter echoing throughout my tiny bedroom.
"I'm glad you find this shit so funny," I said, struggling to hide a smirk of my own. "I'm still in shock."
"Girl, I can't believe he even asked that. You must have that golden 'stairway to heaven' poom-poom for him to be wanting to marry you after eight months with a wife at home. You got that joker sprung in love, huh?" Adria stepped out of the closet, holding a flimsy red sundress to her body.
"You out your mind if you think you about to stuff your fat ass in my dress," I teased, and I chuckled as Adria flipped up her middle finger in my direction.
A decade-long friendship had established this kind of rapport between us. But even though Adria was a curvaceous size twelve to my petite size six frame, her sexy ass was far from fat and we both knew it. Funny how Adria and I were polar opposites but blood couldn't have made us any closer. My girl couldn't stay out of twenty-two-inch Peruvian bundles to save her life, while I was faithful with my pixie cut. I had gotten so many compliments since I'd chopped off my long tresses in college that I had forgotten what hair looked like on me. Plus the jet black against my bronzed complexion made me look so much older, in my opinion. Older in an attracting-older-rich-men kind of way. So the look had stuck with me.
Adria disappeared into my closet once more, and I leaned back against my headboard.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Wives We Play"
Copyright © 2019 Briana Cole.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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