Editor’s Note: We’re featuring an excerpt from this new series by Lorisa Bates. It features a black, female protagonist and we’ve also included the book trailer. You can buy the book from Amazon or any of your favorite retailers.

Excerpt from Chapter 5

Benita looked back to see if Martin was still watching her. When she saw him walking away, she headed toward the bus stop. He was tall, dark, and cute, with a head full of curly black hair. He had an amazing smile, but Benita would never give him a chance—maybe because she had always been attracted to confident and laid-back guys who were not intimidated by her aggressive personality. There was not a person alive she wouldn’t stand up to or fight if she had to. She had a bad temper, and it didn’t take much to set her off. She was passionate and vocal about things she believed in, and if someone did her wrong, she’d let that person know. No holding back. She was a diva and didn’t apologize for it. Little Martin couldn’t handle her personality, especially since he was nothing more than a pushover. He acted like a lovesick puppy, and she didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d never have a chance with her. 

Benita was too busy for any kind of romance, but her family thought she was just avoiding relationships to protect her heart. In high school, she had dated Andre Grant for three years and had fallen in love with him. When he got another girl pregnant, Benita had never felt so much pain. She was heartbroken and never forgave him. She promised she would always put her feelings first, and if it meant not dating while she pursued her dreams, then so be it.

Benita was twenty-five and had plenty of time to fall in love. For now, she focused on her goals. She smiled when she thought about Martin’s persistence. But when she saw the bus speed past her, her smile turned into a frown. She crossed the street and waited in front of the bus stop. If the bus didn’t come in twenty minutes, she would walk over to Fulton Street and hail a gypsy cab.

She pulled out her iPod and placed the earbuds in her ears. She looked around and noticed a black van parked across the street. It was the only vehicle on either side of her. The area was desolate, and Benita felt a little uneasy when she saw two young guys walking toward her. She stepped back against the building, making sure she kept a clear vision of them once they passed. She had learned a long time ago to always be familiar with her surroundings. As she watched from the corner of her eye, they smiled at each other and then looked back at her. She prayed they would keep walking.

Instead, they stopped near her. They whispered to each other and smiled at Benita. The skinny one pulled out a wad of money and started counting it in front of her before putting it back in his front jean pocket. The other one stepped off the sidewalk and looked in the direction of the bus route. When he didn’t see the bus, he turned back around and grinned at Benita. Both men followed her lead and propped up against the building.

“You been waiting long?” one of them asked.

Benita tried to focus on her music. Without missing a beat and without removing her earbuds, she said, “Nope.” She hoped the conversation had ended.

“So, what’s a pretty girl like you standing out here by yo’self. You ain’t got a man to pick you up?”

Benita was appalled by his question and wanted to respond, wanted to verbally slap some sense into his empty head, but she really just wanted to be left alone. Here he apparently thought he would impress her with his wad of cash, but instead, it just annoyed her. And now this guy’s corny approach was annoying her even more.

He apparently wasn’t getting the hint. “Hello? Foxy lady? You listening to me?  What’s your name, baby?”

Benita finally removed her earbuds and put her iPod in her bag. She crossed her arms and faced Mr. Skinny. “I don’t know you, and my grandmother always told me not to speak to strangers.”

“Come on, girl. Why you trippin’? Look, my name’s Terrell. This here’s Hakeem. Now you know us. Satisfied?”

Terrell took two steps forward, but Benita blocked him with her hand. “Step back, man.”

“Listen, ma. I think we got off on the wrong foot. Me and my man ain’t bad dudes. We just trying to be friendly.”

“Well, Terrell, you need to back the hell up.”

Hakeem snickered at his boy getting dissed by the lady. “She trying to tell you something, T.”

Benita shoved her hand inside her jacket pocket and pulled out a box of breath mints. “How about you take one of these Tic Tacs and keep it movin’? I just want to wait for my bus in peace.”

Hakeem laughed. “Come on, man. We gotta go. Leave the lady alone, will ya?”

“Shit, she ain’t no lady. She ain’t nothin’ but an uppity Brooklyn bitch.”

Benita ground her teeth and crossed her arms. She attempted to walk past the guys, but Terrell blocked her path. When she moved in the other direction, Terrell moved and blocked her again.

“Please move.”

“Terrell, let her pass, man.”

“Hakeem, you stay out of this shit, okay? This is between me and the little bitch.”

Benita attempted to push past Terrell, but he grabbed her arm. She jerked her arm away and stared at him.

“You ain’t got nothing to say, bitch?”

Benita took two steps closer to Terrell and stood eye to eye with him. “Who you calling a bitch, bitch?”

Terrell opened his arms and started doing a dance. “I don’t see nobody else standing here but you, bitch.”

He grabbed her by both arms, but Benita quickly pulled away. “I got your bitch right here.” She smacked him across the face.

Terrell clenched his jaw. He wasn’t letting this broad get away with assaulting him, or more importantly, embarrassing him in front of his boy.

The three DTCU agents sitting outside Ray’s Place were mesmerized by the interaction between a young woman and two guys across the street. Agent Santos

was wearing oversized headphones, trying to hear the conversation from about a hundred feet away, but it was difficult. However, he was able to get a clear view. Miguel was reading a report when Stratsburg tapped him on the arm and suggested he watch the video screen. Stratsburg was interested in what was happening outside the van.

“Perkins, you gotta see this. Gibbs and Frantz are causing trouble for this young lady.”

Miguel looked up from the file and watched the monitor. He was surprised when the young woman slapped Frantz across the face.

“Damn, she got some serious balls on her,” Stratsburg commented.

“Or is she just crazy? Yowza! Carlos, can you zoom in closer?” Miguel asked.

Santos zoomed in on the exchange, and the agents watched with great anticipation. Although there was some bit of concern, the agents couldn’t break surveillance.

“Santos, call 911. I would feel guilty if something bad happened to that girl,” Miguel remarked.

“Terrell, man, you gonna take shit from some chicken head? You may wanna let her know who’s in charge.”

“This bitch ain’t gettin’ away with nothing. She gonna pay.” Terrell reached for Benita’s arm again, but she stepped back and spin-kicked him in the groin. He dropped to the ground in pain. She kicked him again to make sure he didn’t get up.

Shocked by this girl’s skills, Hakeem tried to bum-rush Benita, but she elbowed him in the neck and punched him in the stomach. As he keeled over, she kicked him in the butt, and he went flying across the pavement.

Benita readjusted her workout bag and stepped over them. She thought for a few seconds and turned back around, looking at the men. “The next time a lady—not a bitch, not a chicken head, but a lady—asks you to leave her alone, you need to listen. You never know who you’re gonna meet, and the next one could land you in the hospital.” Benita tapped Terrell on the cheek while he cupped his groin. He couldn’t speak through the pain.

Benita walked away from the men on the ground. When she got to the corner, two cop cars with sirens blasting and lights flashing flew by her and stopped in front of the men. She flagged down an off-duty cab looking for extra fares and jumped in, heading home.

Benita looked back at the scene and shook her head in disappointment, saying to the cops, “Always late. Where were you when those creeps were harassing me?” She turned around and focused on getting home. It had been a long day, and she looked forward to diving into her bed and getting a good night’s sleep.