A good man can be hard to find, and curvaceous Jalila Goodwyn has had enough bad dates to know. But while Jalila is describing the hilarious details over her latest encounter over brunch with her girlfriend, another diner overhears her story and makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Television producer Keenan Armstrong believe’s Jalila search for love would make a hit reality show. Suddenly, Jalila is the start of QUEEN OF HEARTS, with a string of bachelors vying to win her attention—though it’s really Keenan that’s turning up the heat. But before the big finale, Jalila will have to figure out what’s real, what’s fantasy and what’s truly worth fighting for…
“All a single girl needs to be happy is a strong vibrator and a lifetime supply of Energizer batteries.”
Keenan lurched forward and nearly spewed out his drink as the female voices floated over a wall of fake foliage at Las Brisas restaurants in down town Los Angeles.
“Girl, you ain’t never lied.” Another woman chirped. “The last time I had a man do right by me, I was wearing a training bra.”
A chorus of female giggles followed while a grinning Keenan dabbed water from the front of his shirt. Normally he didn’t make a habit of eavesdropping but as it were he’d been anxiously waiting for his afternoon appointment for more than forty-five minutes and the women’s conversation had him cracking up.
“I don’t know, girls,” the one with the sexiest voice spoke up. “I’m not ready to give up on men just yet. Despite all the drama they’ve put me through I still want that pie in the sky. The ring, the house, the children--”
“The heartbreak, the drama, the divorce, the custody battle,” the other woman cut in. “Jalila, your problem is not recognizing the world has changed. There’s no more Mr. Rights out there. There are only Mr. Right Now.”
“And your problem, Martina, is that you keep choosing to listen to your body and not your heart.”
“You damn right. I’m all about the pleasure and satisfaction. Wham-bam, thank, sir. And if he’s real good, I’ll leave him a tip on the night stand.”
“You’re incorrigible,” the woman he know recognized as Jalila chided.
“Whatever. Deep down you girls know I’m right,” Martina continued. “Especially you, Jalila. All that pining away you do on the internet. You just need to face facts. Men ain’t no good. Particularly in this town. You either use or get used.”
“Jalila, don’t pay this chick any attention. She ain’t right. I’m happily married and I want the same for you, girl.”
“Thank you, Fantasia,” Jalila said. “I need all the positive vibes I can get.”
“Oh that’s right,” Fantasia continued. “You have a date tonight.”
“With who?” Martina demanded.
“With Richard,” Jalila claimed. “Remember, I told you about him Monday.”
“Rich—you mean that guy that picked you up at the gas station? Ha!”
Keenan smiled as Martina’s laugh shot off like a starter pistol.
“Girl, that’s your problem. You just can’t say no. You let all these geeks and freaks pick you up whenever wherever. It don’t make no sense.”
“There’s nothing wrong with meeting a man at a gas station. Besides he was really sweet,” Jalia reasoned. “At least I know he has a car—unlike Keith; where I had to drive over fifty miles one way to pick him up for our dates where he always either lost or forgot his wallet. Then to top it all off he insisted on calling me Kulula.”
“Humph. That tells me he’s used to dating stripers with liquor names like Alize, Dom, Moet and Cristal,” Martina sassed. “You should have just installed a stripper pole and made you a few dollars on the side.
Keenan noticed that when Jalila’s laughed it was different from the others ladies. It was light, lyrical and contagious. So much so that Keenan turned and tried to take a peek at her through the foliage.
“It wasn’t that funny.” Martina said when Jalila’s laughter prolonged.
“Well, Keith, uhm, did have a stripper pole in the middle of his living room.”
The table erupted with loud shrieks and laughs. Other diners looked around but the women were too deep into their conversation to notice.
“Did you give the pole the old college try?” Fantasia inquired.
There was a long pause and then, “Just once.”
More shrieks and laughter.
“And I almost broke my damn neck,” Jalila added.
Keenan spotted a sizable hold to glance through to the other side and his gaze immediately landed on a face that was so poetically beautiful that for a few second he found it hard to believe that he wasn’t dreaming. Big doe-brown eyes, flawless skin and a smile so breathtakingly beautiful that he instantly reached for his business card. Surely being in this town the beauty was either a model or an actress.
“I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting,” a low steely baritone said.
Keenan jerked around as if he’d just been caught with his hand inside the cookie jar. When he recognized his afternoon appointment, he relaxed and forced on a smile. “Steven.” He stood from his table and easily hovered above the other man’s 6’1 frame. “I’m glad that you could meet me this afternoon.”
“Not a problem. It was great being able to get away from the studio for a little while. I hope that I didn’t keep you waiting long.”
“Not at all.” They shook hands just as the table behind them erupted with laughter again. Keenan glanced over his shoulder and longed for another look at the beauty.
“Sounds like they’re having a great time,” Steven joked, taking his seat.
“Looks that way.” Keenan sat back down and signaled for his waiter. “So what’s the verdict from the focus group? Is The Royals going to make the fall line up?”
Before Steven could answer the giggling women rounded the corner, pulling up their purse straps and huddling together as they headed out the restaurant.
Keenan sought out Jalila just as she glanced in his direction. Her gaze raked over him in an instant and a soft smile touched her lips. While her and her friends marched past his table, he was vaguely aware that Steven was rattling on about the television pilot his company, A.M. Production, produced but damn if he could force himself to listen. Despite that it had taken him weeks to nail down this luncheon and the wait over an hour for Steven to show up, all he could think about right now was stopping this gorgeous woman from walking out the door and risk never seeing her again.
His gaze followed the curvy beauty. He guestimated her to be 5’10. Her thick hips and a plump backside were usually seen on only red-beans-and-rice sistahs from the Deep South and it was, quite frankly, hypnotizing.
“Keenan.” Steven snapped his fingers cut into his thoughts.
“What?” He jerked his head back toward Steven. Blinked.
“I was telling you about how I don’t think The Royal are a right fit for the station at this moment.”
“Great!” He slapped Steven on the back. “Can you excuse me for a minute?”
“I’ll be right back.” Keenan launched out of his chair and performed a sort walk-run out the restaurant. Hurry. Hurry. His heart pounded wildly in his chest and his stomach looped into knots. But when he rushed past the hostess stand and then out the front door, it was just in time to see Jalila pull out of a parking spot in a champagne-color Mercedes.
“Hey! Hold up!” He raced over and risked being ran over.
Jalila frowned and rolled down her window. “Can I help you?”
“Yes—uhm, hey. How are you?”
Her brows stretched up. “Fine.”
“Uhm. I know this may sound strange but, uhm, are you a model or actress?”
She rolled her at what was clearly one of the most clichéd lines in this town. “Are you for real?”
“Look. I’m a producer.” He pulled out his business card and passed it to her. “I have plenty of connections in this town and I’d love to work with you.”
Jalila reluctantly took the card so she could be on her way. “Thanks’ I’ll keep it in mind,” she lied and the pressed the power window button.
“Wait. I’m serious--”
She hit the accelerator and sped off.
Keenan jumped back in time to avoid injury. “Damn.”
Jalila shook her head. If she had a dime for every time she heard that line, she’d be rich. She glanced in her rearview mirror and stole another look at Mr. Producer. Too bad, she thought. This guy was really good looking. Extremely tall, physically fit and was wearing the hell out of that suit.
A horn blared and Jalila slammed on her brakes before plowing into Martina’s convertible at the parking lot’s entrance. She placed a hand over her heart and drew in a deep relieved breath. “Damn. Pay attention, girl.”