About the Author
Sherelle Green is a Chicago native with a dynamic imagination and a passion for reading and writing. Her love for romance developed in high school after stumbling across a hot and steamy Harlequin novel. She instantly became an avid romance reader and decided to pursue an education in English and Journalism. A true romantic, she believes in predestined romances, love at first sight and fairytale endings.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"It's official, I think I'm in love," Mya Winters said softly as she placed a hand over her heart and gazed down at the face of her newest addiction.
"He's such a ladies' man," said Mya's friend and Elite Events cofounder, Imani Rayne-Barker. "I think he has a crush on you."
"I think he does too," Mya replied as her heart swelled with pride. "Hey, little guy," she cooed while touching the hands of the smallest human she'd ever held. "It's Auntie Mya and I've been thinking about another promise I want to make to you. I promise to always give you cookies and teach you all the things your mom doesn't want me to teach you."
"Really, Mya," Imani said, her voice filled with laughter. Imani and her husband, Daman Barker, were the proud parents of Daman Stanley Barker Jr., who everyone affectionately called DJ.
"You are the cutest thing I've ever seen," she exclaimed as she rocked DJ in her arms. He laughed in a way that proved he agreed with her statement. He caught ahold of her pinkie finger and gently tugged, rewarded by a large smile from Mya.
"He's only five weeks old and you already spoil him way too much," Imani said as she walked around her living room picking up an array of shopping bags filled with clothes and toys for DJ that Mya had lugged through the door earlier.
"I can't help it," Mya said as she made funny faces at DJ. "He deserves the best."
Imani opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by her husband, Daman.
"The rest of the clan is here," Daman announced as he walked into the room followed by Cyd and Lex.
Imani stood to hug them, but the two women went straight to Mya who was still making funny faces at DJ.
"I'm next," Cyd said taking DJ out of Mya's arms after promising Mya that she would give him back soon. "How's my handsome nephew doing?" She brushed noses with DJ who raised his little hands to cup her face.
"I love it when he does that," Lex said observing the exchange between Cyd and DJ before she placed more shopping bags in the corner of the living room where Imani had neatly stacked the bags from Mya.
"No love for me?" Imani said reaching out her arms. Lex walked over and gave her a quick hug.
"Sorry, sis," Cyd said, making no attempt to move. "I've been waiting all day to hold DJ."
"I can't wait until you guys have kids so that y'all can see how it feels to be ignored." Mya laughed at her friend's comment. Imani was the most motherly of the group so Mya knew she loved the attention DJ was getting. Happiness was reflected in her eyes every time she looked at DJ.
Mya wasn't the mushy or sentimental type, but being around DJ brought out feelings in her that she hadn't ever felt before. Not having a family of her own meant she missed normal family milestones like graduations, birthday parties, first births of the family and the overall feeling of belonging.
"How about I take my son with me to the next room while you ladies get started on business," Daman announced to the room. He reached his arms out to a reluctant Lex who had just tugged DJ from Cyd. After giving the infant a small peck, Lex handed DJ over to his father.
"Okay, since I called this meeting, I'll start," Mya said as she slipped a few sheets of paper out of her bag. Ever since Imani had given birth to DJ, there had been more meetings hosted at Imani and Daman's estate with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan, than the Elite Events office in downtown Chicago. Choosing Imani's home to host their weekly Monday meetings gave Mya, Cyd and Lex a chance to see DJ who had quickly become the main reason any of them went shopping anymore.
"As I discussed a few months ago, there is a huge problem with the two after-school programs that we sponsor in conjunction with Chicago Public Schools." Mya handed each of the women a sheet of paper. "A few days ago, the advisory board informed me that the programs would be shutting down in a couple months. Our efforts to save the programs didn't help."
"How is that possible?" Imani asked as she scanned over the notes on the paper. "We received more investments over the past couple months for this school year than ever before."
"I know," Mya said in irritation as she thought about her meeting with the board. "Apparently, since so many CPS schools closed last year and even more the year before, enrollment in the after-school programs was extremely low. The money we received from investors wasn't enough to cover all the costs."
"Sounds like BS to me," Cyd stated as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Enrollment is never that expensive, so the money they would have gotten would have been minimal anyway. Seems suspicious."
"Don't even get me started," Mya said as she waved her hands in the air. "I've already raised hell, but it's not doing any good. There are plenty of CPS teachers and employees still upset about the direction of our schools and after-school programs. Most of our voices are going unheard. It's getting better, but there's still a long journey ahead."
Overseeing programs Elite Events sponsored was always something that Mya enjoyed. Especially managing the after-school programs. If Mya hadn't started Elite Events Inc. with her partners, she would have definitely been a public school teacher. Through the after-school programs, she still put her love for education to good use despite the obstacles she was currently faced with.
"I remember a time when the Monday news didn't consist of a summary of shootings that happened over the weekend. But this is still a great city and you all know how much I value education. It seems that there are fewer opportunities to keep students in school and out of the streets. The youth needs these programs now more than ever."
Mya had devoted a lot of time and energy into the programs, and Elite Events had invested large amounts of money to keep them from shutting down. "It's time for us to take matters into our own hands."
"Are you thinking about a plan to try and save the after-school programs?" Lex asked.
"Even better," Mya replied as she reached in her bag once more and pulled out three portfolios. "Instead of investing more money and allowing the board to control these programs, I think we should open our own after-school program."
She handed each woman a portfolio containing all the details about the Chicagoland location where they would headquarter the program, and a list of teachers and employees who currently worked at the other two after-school programs who had expressed interest in working for the Elite Events After-School Program if they chose to take that route.
"This all seems great," Imani said scrolling through the pages. "And I agree that there are plenty of students who could benefit from us funding our own program. But even though business is booming, how can we afford this initiative?"
"I was hoping you would ask," Mya said with a smile. "I didn't include these details in the portfolio, but I've been losing sleep over how we can get the initial money needed to fund this program despite the fact that we'd be utilizing the building and staff of one of the closing locations."
Mya scooted to the edge of her seat, excited to share her plan with the ladies. "We meet so many influential people in our line of work and so many of them are single. What do you guys think about Elite Events hosting the first annual Elite Events Charity Date Auction? If all goes well, we could host one every year."
"Oh, I like that," Lex replied while Cyd and Imani expressed similar sentiments.
"This charity date auction will be unlike any other auction that Chicagoans have seen before. Tickets for the auction will cost a small fee and the highest bidder gets to go on a date with his or her bid. All proceeds will go to the 'save our after-school programs' fund, only in true Elite Events fashion, we will host a dream date for the six winning couples from the audience chosen by a random draw. Therefore, singles get a chance to bid on their favorite participant and possibly win one of six dates after all the participants have been auctioned off. I know next month is soon, but we need to raise the money before school starts after Labor Day. What does everyone think?"
Mya sat back in her seat and waited anxiously for their opinions.
"I think it's a great idea," Lex replied with a smile.
"Maybe we should hold an informational meeting for the participants too."
"I love it too," Cyd added. "When we have a solid plan, I'll reach out to a few of our friends in the media."
Imani looked up from the portfolio she was still scanning. "I really think you're on to something, Mya," she said excitedly. "This charity date auction will get Chicagoans who aren't usually concerned with education excited about contributing to a greater cause. There's only one thing really missing from this plan."
Mya studied Imani's expression. "Which would be what exactly?"
Imani glanced from Cyd to Lex before setting her eyes back on Mya. "A sexy male cohost, of course."
"Cohost a date auction? For what?" Malik asked as he propped up his iPhone on his grand dark cherry desk and shuffled through a cluster of file folders.
"You really need to quit being so old school sometimes," Micah said as his eyes scanned over Malik's desk. Malik ignored the jab, but he had to agree with Micah. The colorful array of folders was another reminder that he really needed to digitally document his old files before the end of the year.
"I am digital with most of my client files. I need to be since I'm always traveling. These are old files from over six years ago that I haven't had time to document online." He was trying his best to concentrate on what Micah was explaining to him, but as usual, Micah seemed to be up to something.
"You FaceTimed me right before an important meeting to ask me to do something you know I won't do and to criticize the way I organize my office?" Malik wasn't agreeing to cohost anything until he knew exactly why Micah thought he'd be interested. When his brother began spurting random analogies that compared Malik to his fiancée, Lex, who was also a cautious thinker, he didn't have the patience to wait any longer for the catch.
"Spit it out, Micah," he said as he leaned back in his oversized desk chair and slightly turned to view beads of rain cascade down the side of his Detroit office window.
"Elite Events is hosting their first charity date auction next month and they are looking for a cohost for the event."
"Next month? That's really soon."
"They know," Micah replied. "They need to move quickly because the funds from the date auction will help them fund a new after-school program that will accept all of the students from two programs that are closing. They need everything finalized before Labor Day."
"I'd be happy to donate," Malik said as he twirled his chair to a small black filing cabinet and placed some folders back in their appropriate place. "But I'm not really into cohosting events like this. I'm sure the ladies would rather someone else cohost whose presence will bring in extra money and someone who permanently resides in Chicago."
"Naw, bro. For whatever reason, they think you would be great as a cohost. I told Lex that you wouldn't be interested, but she thinks there is at least one reason you won't be able to turn them down."
Malik already had a feeling that he knew what that reason was, but he wanted to hear Micah confirm his suspicions. "And what might that be?"
"Mya is the lead on planning this project and is also hosting the charity date auction."
"I figured," Malik said with a laugh as he turned back to his phone and clasped his large hands together. "Does Mya know about the ladies asking me to cohost?"
"I doubt it," Micah answered. "Which is why I knew this call was pointless and you wouldn't do it. I noticed that you and Mya didn't really talk much at Shawn and Cyd's wedding after you went after her. I warned you she was tough to handle."
Malik could admit that things with Mya hadn't exactly gone as planned, but he wasn't giving up on his pursuit of her. She may have said one thing, but her body language that night had contradicted her words.
The charity date auction would give him a chance to be around her more. Since they didn't live in the same state, he didn't see her much and that definitely needed to change if he was going to pursue her.
"Tell you what," Malik said leaning back in his desk chair. "I'll cohost the event under one condition." Micah asked Malik to explain. "Tell the ladies that I want to be the one to tell Mya that I'm cohosting the charity date auction."
"Um, I don't think that's a good idea."
Malik raised an eyebrow at Micah. "Like you didn't pull the same thing when you convinced the ladies to make Lex plan our parents' anniversary party."
"That was different," Micah interjected. "Only Lex and Mya were free to plan the party anyway. But hold on while I tell her what you said."
Malik waited patiently as he stared at his phone and observed the photos on Micah's wall. The framed pictures were from a couple different family events. There was one photo of his parents and another candid photo of Micah and Lex when Micah had proposed. But the photo that caught his attention was the one that had been taken of the entire group at their engagement party. It was another candid shot and most people were laughing or cheering in the photo. He spotted himself in the back of the group on one side of the picture with Mya a few people down from where he stood.
Malik remembered the exact moment the shot was taken. He had been staring at Mya for most of the day, intrigued by the mystery behind her gaze. He had wondered what she had been thinking and had decided to approach her just as he heard the round of applause and tore his gaze away from her to cheer for his brother and Lex when they walked into the room.
Malik leaned in closer to his screen, wishing Face-Time had a zoom-in option so he could see the photo better. When he concluded that he couldn't, he paused his FaceTime and searched through his emails to see if Lex had included that particular photo in the hundreds she'd sent him from the party. Luckily, she had grouped the photos and he was able to find the one he had been searching for. When he did, he zoomed in on his face in the photo before sliding his finger across the screen to view Mya.