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Amina Wright stood in front of the window in her hotel room. She stared at the lake and watched the waves lap against the shoreline. She needed every bit of calm the lake view brought to her to steady her nerves for the charity gala she’d organized. This event was held every year, and the Chicago Bulls were counting on her to turn out another success. Amina had reached out for speakers this year and needed a higher number of donations. The needs in the community had been much higher the last few years.
She’d decided on a black off-the-shoulder dress fitted to hug her curves in all the right places. She put on one of her indie playlists to soothe her mood, and she tried to figure out whether or not she wanted her locs all up or down and decided a cute updo would work. Sure, she would have to endure hours of Spanx and high heels, but it would be worth it. She swayed in front of the mirror while she applied her makeup when a knock at the door pulled her from her thoughts.
Angela Miles stood in the doorway. She looked stunning in a red, fitted strapless dress. Her caramel skin glowed, and her long hair framed her striking face. She was ready to set the room on fire.
Angela hugged Amina tight and stood back to check her out. “Hey, lady, are you ready to go?”
“Yes, girl!” Amina smoothed out her dress across her belly. “Just trying to make sure no one asks me if I’m pregnant!”
Angela made a face. “What is this music you’re playing right now?”
“Hey, don’t hate on the Real Estate.” Amina turned the music up as guitar licks filled the room.
“I feel like I need to take a nap right now. You should be in here getting hyped up!”
“This is my hype music!” With a grin, Amina danced to the smooth beat.
“How our friendship has survived this long, I’ll never know.”
Amina had known Angela since tenth grade. Amina helped her pass their biology class with her endless obsessive notes, and provided her the best advice she could ever get. Even though she didn’t always follow it. Angela was her oldest, dearest friend, and if anyone understood Amina, it was Angela.
“Oh, you love me.” Amina laughed.
“Anyway, Mina, you look beautiful. So glad you went with the black dress over the red one. Less skanky.”
“Yes, because there can only be one skank in the room.”
“Hey, I am what I am.” Angela playfully hit Amina in the arm. “I’m so happy this event is here. It’s been months since I’ve been able to get out of the house to do anything without David.”
David, Angela’s eleven-year-old son, worked so hard helping around the house to make things easy for his mom, but even so, Angela had to have a break, and Amina loved to give it to her. For the last four years, Angela had lived for this night so she could cut loose, perhaps meet a handsome guy, and be downright reckless. She had lived up to the reckless part for sure. Amina wasn’t sure how the guy last year made it out of her hotel room.
Angela elbowed her friend. “Any plans on bringing anyone back to this room tonight?”
“Um, yeah, no.” Amina adjusted herself in her dress. “I just want to go to this gala, have a few drinks, shake some hands, thank some doctors, and come back here in time for Sportscenter.”
“Girl, you need to get out there. There’s no reason for you not to be dating. All this hotness is going to waste. I know, it’s been tough for you to trust anyone after Omar, but you have to be willing.”
Amina slid into her shoes. Her friend meant well.
“I have moved on, Angie. I’m open to the possibility, but I just haven’t met anyone worth the time. What’s the point if you know it’s not going anywhere?”
“Well, if something happens tonight, just go with it. Maybe it doesn’t need to lead to anything, you know? Just don’t overthink. That room is crawling with fine men, and doctors too.”
“Yes, I know, Angie. I’ve met a lot of them before.”
She shrugged. “I’m just saying. It’s been more than two years, and you are a beautiful woman. If it happens, go with it, okay?”
Amina slowly nodded as they walked out the door of her hotel room.
“I hate going to this shit.” Dr. Nathan Moore exhaled and fixed his bow tie in the mirror of his bedroom. He knew it was essential to attend these events for the hospital, but he never enjoyed it. He was on his second shot of whiskey and prayed that it took the edge off his frayed and aggravated nerves.
His best friend, Shawn, had convinced him earlier in the week to attend the gala. “Women love doctors, and you need to get some action. This event is the perfect place.” Shawn’s tall build and coffee skin was catnip for women in any room, and he soaked it all up. He was clearly hoping Nathan would get just as lucky.
“Shawn, how desperate do you think I am?”
“I just want to see you happy. That’s all, bro.”
“And you think having sex with random women, on the strength of I’m a doctor, is key to that happiness?”
“Why, of course!”
Nathan shook his head as he remembered his conversation with Shawn, who was downstairs grooving in his loft. Nathan shrugged and tried to get his head ready for the night. Women, drinks, music shouldn’t be too bad. A few final checks, another shot of whiskey, and both men were out the door.
Nathan and Shawn arrived at the Field Museum for the charity gala. They walked the red carpet that extended from the sidewalk, up the stairs, to the main hall, and through the museum to Maximo, the dinosaur, as it waited for guests to arrive. When Nathan came into the main hall, his gaze darted around the room in search of the bar. He heard the acoustic guitar of a small band playing off the entranceway, and the scent of pink and red roses filled his nose. Tables and small couches were spread throughout the main hall, with a stage just in front of this massive dinosaur. Too bad the dinosaur had to spend the night surrounded by all the pink and red flowers. Hopefully, one year he would walk into something like this a bit less over-the-top, and much less like his high school prom.
“Ladies, the best-looking doctors of the night have arrived,” Shawn said as he and Nathan laughed.
Shawn winked and waved at women on the way to the bar, where he and Nathan opened up a tab. They worked the room as they shook hands and he spoke with a variety of different women who leaned into him, reached for his hand. Forcing a smile on in his face, he bought them a drink or two, but he wasn’t interested.
If this was what the night would bring his way, he was ready to leave. As they talked about hospital politics with a group of young doctors, Nathan plotted his exit.
And then the sight of a beautiful woman on the stage freed him from those thoughts.
“Good evening. Thank you, everyone, for coming tonight as we celebrate all of the contributions to the Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital.”
Her brown skin glowed, and he wanted to reach out and touch every inch of it. Her shoulder was perfect as it peeked out from her dress and taunted him. Nathan stood and stroked his beard as he imagined how flawless the rest of her would be.
“Please, everyone, take some time to meet each other, have a drink or two, and enjoy the night.”
“Thank you, Amina, for that wonderful welcome and everything you do on behalf of the Chicago Bulls,” the emcee said.
Nathan’s eyes followed her as she walked off the stage. “Damn, Shawn, who was that? She’s beautiful!”
“She works with the Bulls on community outreach or something like that. She’s here every year. I think she’s the one who organizes everything for the gala. She’s kind of stuck up. Why? You think you have a shot?”
Nathan smiled. “I don’t know if I have a shot, but I would love to at least buy her a drink and see what happens.” He had to see for himself if her skin glowed up close.
He scanned the room and found Amina as some guy came up to her. He had a horrific comb-over and a tan suit two sizes too small. Surely this guy wasn’t her date. He grabbed Amina’s arm, leaned into her face, and she backed up. He tried to grab her again, but she pulled away; her eyes narrowed at the man who stood in front of her. If I were this guy, I would run for the hills. But the creepy guy wouldn’t give up. He still tried to force a conversation on her.
Nathan wanted to help her in any way he could. He ordered two glasses of red wine and walked across the room.
What would happen if she punched this guy in the face? Angela was a few drinks in and flirting her ass off. Amina was on her own. She cocked back her hand as a handsome man approached them.
“There you are. I was looking for you everywhere. You did such an amazing job up there.” Nathan smiled.
Amina was stunned but she’d play along to get this creepy guy away from her. “I’m right here.” Her voice wasn’t her own. She tried to look this handsome stranger in the face but didn’t want to stare. He was tall, with fluffy dark hair that connected to his beard. “Thanks for grabbing me a glass of wine.”
Nathan leaned down and whispered in Amina’s ear, “I saw what was happening, and I planned a rescue mission.” He grinned and winked at her.
She felt the scruff of his beard against her skin, and her body prickled with heat.
Amina grabbed the glass of wine and Nathan’s hand. “If you would excuse us,” she said to the creepy guy.
They walked away, found a table, and sat down.
“Thank you so much! I was wondering how I could use a karate-kid kick without getting fired or messing up my clothes.”
Very tall, with a beard groomed to perfection and demanding to be touched, he had gorgeous blue eyes with flecks of green, framed by long eyelashes. His arms wanted to break free from being confined by his tux jacket. His face had sharp angles and a smile that warmed her heart. She was pretty sure underneath his tux was a—Nope, she couldn’t let her brain go that far. Amina had never been to attracted to white men before, but the one who sat in front of her was stunning.
“I cannot thank you enough for coming over.”
“I saw the second arm grab and felt like I needed to do something.”
“Well, I appreciate the help. I’m Amina Wright.” A surge of electricity coursed through her body as he reached out and took her hand. His hand felt strong and gentle at the same time.
“Dr. Nathan Moore.”
“Well, Dr. Nathan Moore, I owe you. What are you drinking?”
“I’m fine for now with this glass of wine, but I will take you up on that offer in a few.”
“Is this your first gala? After a while, you start to remember faces, and I don’t think I’ve seen yours before.” She would’ve remembered those eyes.
“Yes. I’ve been to a few, similar to this, but attending this one here in the museum is a first. My friend, Dr. Shawn Atkins has been coming to this event for the last few years. This year I decided to tag along.”
“I know Shawn. He has quite the rep around here.”
Nathan shifted in his seat nervously.
“So, what kind of doctor are you?”
“I’m an anesthesiologist at the children’s hospital.”
“You use that line a lot, huh?” She chuckled. “So, how many other women have you saved tonight?”
Amina adjusted herself in her seat as he grinned at her. It was quiet at their table as they sat and listened to music, took in the room, and avoided direct eye contact with each other.
“So, did you come here alone or with a date?” he finally asked.
Angela danced over to their table before she could respond.
“Mina! I’ve been looking for you everywhere. You looked so great up there! I want to at least have one drink with you before you leave.”
“Sorry, but I was whisked away by my savior here.” She pointed to Nathan.
Angela glanced over at him, and a massive grin broke out on her face. Amina introduced her best friend to Nathan, but his eyes never left Amina’s gaze.
“So, what’s the story? What happened?” Angela continued to smile at them both.
Both Amina and Nathan explained what happened with the guy who didn’t know how a lady should be treated.
“I saw that guy on the other side of the band. He seems to be doing that to every woman in the room.” Angela leaned her hip against the table. “Glad you were able to be there to help her out.”
“It was my pleasure.”
Pleasure rolled off his tongue, and Amina tried to stay composed.
“Now we’re just sitting here hanging out. I’m waiting for him to tell me what he wants.” She knew what she wanted. “I owe him a drink.” A waiter strolled by, and she ordered an old-fashioned for him.
“How much longer are you going to stay, Mina?” Angela asked.
“I’m not sure.”
“Why do you leave so early?” he asked.
“I enjoy seeing all of the people who contributed and everything, but getting dressed up in the heels just isn’t my sort of thing.”
“I hear you. I didn’t plan on being here that long either, but I’m glad I stayed.” Nathan smiled at her. Surely, she was blushing.
“I didn’t even realize that people dance at this thing.” She laughed. “I thought I got the DJ just for the atmosphere.”
“Would you mind dancing with me later?”
“You know, I’m not a big fan of the music playing. I’m sorry.”
Angela pulled on Amina’s dress. “Nathan, could you excuse Amina and me? I have to go to the ladies’ room. Us girls have to stick together.”
Once they left out of the ballroom, Angela was filled with questions.
“Okay, Mina, please tell me you are thinking with other parts of your body and not your head.”
“Angela!” Amina yelled.
“The thought must’ve crossed your mind.”
“There is no way I’m taking him to my room. I just met him. He is hot, though. And white dudes aren’t really my thing.” She laughed. “Seriously, though, he’s been incredibly kind and nice, but we’re just sitting, talking, and enjoying the night, not trying to force anything. We met exactly the way we described it.”
Angela interrupted, “Ah, so that means he was watching you. Mina, he looks great, and it seems he likes what he sees in you. Take a chance! Come on!”
“This setting is not the best to try to get to know someone. I’m not even sure if he’s dating or what type of person he is.”
“Well, he must be pretty decent, to do what he did. If he asks you out, or to see you again, promise me you will say yes. Promise me, Mina.” Hope filled her eyes.
“Yes, I promise if he asks but only if he asks. I’m not some desperate woman.”
End of Excerpt