Excerpt From Love (Again)

Lacey’s eyes blazed when Zack approached her on the sidewalk in front of Oliver’s corner cafe. Her skin looked translucent through the sheer and beaded blouse she wore tucked into high-waisted palazzo pants with a navy bralette and navy pumps. It was Zack’s first time seeing Lacey in color. It complemented the navy sport coat Zack settled on. She met him with a solid, longer-than-formal kiss. They were growing more intimate with each encounter and finding it harder to separate.

“Hey,” Lacey said, her voice heavy and lusty.

“Hey.” Zack and Lacey stood swaying to a song only they two could hear. “We’re matching.”

Lacey stepped back, holding Zack’s arms out. “We are! You look very handsome. Want to skip this and head back to my place? Or to a dark alley?” She said, with a flirty wink.

“Stop it, woman. Don’t arouse me when I have to present well.”

“Present?” Lacey asked, scrunching her pretty face.

“Yes. This is important. I want to make a good impression. Essentially, I’m asking Oliver for his blessing to be a part of his son’s life.”

Lacey put a hand to her heart, softening. “That means a lot to me, Zack.”

“And you mean a lot to me. So...” He twirled her around to the door. “Stop calling up my manhood—until we get out of here. Deal?”

“Deal,” Lacey said with a playful salute. She stopped and faced Zack again. “But, babe, this is a courtesy, not a trial. We’re not here to defend our relationship. I’ve already convicted you and sentenced you to serving time with me. And I’m a lot—a whole lot.”

Zack dipped his head and kissed Lacey’s forehead. “Noted, and I still accept the sentence.”

A myriad of emotions colored Oliver’s face when Zack entered the cafe. It opened with fondness, then gathered in confusion. Lacey sauntered through the door, glowing and holding Zack’s hand. Oliver’s unremarkable brow came to a single point and his top lip curled—ever so slightly. A less trained eye may have missed the scowl, but his wife’s eye was well-versed in every configuration of his countenance. Sunrise met the cheery couple in the waiting area with an uneasy smile. Luca barreled towards his football coach, stopping inches shy of bowling the man over. They exchanged a choreographed handshake that ended with a loud snap and forearm bumps.

“What’s up, corner boy?”

Zack shook Sunrise’s hand, greeting her warmly, while Lacey removed her jacket.

Luca lifted his chest and chin. Zack had uncovered Luca’s strong point on the football field as a defensive back at corner. Oliver watched the group with a sour face simmering just beneath his tight smile. The restaurant was slow. There was usually a lull between the late lunch crowd and the dinner crowd. Oliver used the time to prepare supper for his family—Sunrise, Luca and Lacey.

“What’s good, Coach?” Oliver drew Zack into a halfhearted bro hug. “Lace. You didn’t mention bringing Luca’s football coach.”

Lacey’s mouth fell open, and she raised an eyebrow. Luca stood beaming between, she and Zack.

“Dad, you know Coach Zack? Did Uncle Izz, introduce you?”

“No. I did some work for Zack. Y’all come on in. Lacey knows where we sit.”

The meal of Beef Burgundy and a simple salad went on with little consequence. Luca dominated the conversation with questions about football and Zack’s motorcycle. Over the hour, the eager boy invited Zack to Sunday dinner in Alabama and to Thanksgiving. Oliver interjected when Luca started in about their plans for Christmas.

“Lukey, Coach Zack has his own family. You can’t book the man’s entire Holiday season,” he said, with an uncomfortable cackle.

Sunrise and Lacey both frowned at Oliver.