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       BEAST, p.1

           Pace, Pepper
 
BEAST


  BEAST

  PEPPER PACE

  Copyright © 2012 by Pepper Pace. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any reference to music is in no way an attempt to claim ownership. All rights belong to the musical artists. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Pepper Pace. For information regarding permission contact; [email protected]

  CHAPTER 1

  Ashleigh prayed that her face stayed as impassive as Miss Celie’s face in The Color Purple after Mister smacked her for daydreaming about her sister in Africa. She felt like Celie…like if she had a straight razor in her hand right now DeAngelo would be one second from lying on the floor dead. Not that DeAngelo had ever put his hands on her in that way. But what he’d just done was oh so much worse. Her heart couldn’t even beat right; it felt like a huge invisible fist had a grip of her. Maybe she would just die and that would solve everything.

  “I’m so sorry, baby. I know that you hate me right now.” He watched her, probably waiting for her to default to the Ashleigh that he knew so well; the one that would melt when he flashed that perfect smile, or who clung to his arm in pride because he was so fine that sometimes just looking at him caused her entire body to ache--because he was her man, Ashleigh Marie Dalton; the girl that people described as pretty-- if only she would lose those extra few pounds.

  But right now she couldn’t even look at him, because when she did all she could think is how stupid she was. My boyfriend of three years has just gotten married…to someone other than me. Oh my god, this cannot be happening.

  But in truth, she knew that she had never been his girlfriend. They called people like her fluffy girls. And the only thing a fluffy girl did was pay some good-looking guy for his time. Her face burned even more as the depths of her ignorance finally sunk in. She had pretended very well, well enough to convince herself that he was with her because he truly loved her and that the other women meant nothing because no matter how pretty, or sexy, or thin, it was she that he always returned to.

  “I don’t even…feel anything,” she lied. “I’m just tired. Just…go home to your wife,” so that I can have my mental breakdown in private.

  “Ashleigh, I love you, I still do-”

  Her stomach caved at those words and anger finally sprang to the surface as she felt an almost uncontrollable urge to scratch his eyes out. “You love me? Yeah I know what you loved; and it was my money. But guess what, I’m not your fluffy girl anymore! Just slink your ass back into that hole you crawled out of!”

  He shook his head in denial. “That’s not what you are to me-”

  “Yeah? We’ve been together three years! You met Shaunda six months ago!” Despite her resolve her eyes welled with tears. “Why…why did you marry her?”

  DeAngelo paused and his expression was so pained that she wondered if maybe for the first time ever, she was going to get a true answer out of this cheating man.

  “I love you Ashleigh, but Shaunda…she loves me enough to keep me.” Ashleigh frowned in confusion. How could he say that? How much money had she poured into their relationship? How many times had she paid for outings, trips, dinner, gifts and trinkets for him? Hell, she had even put the down payment on his leased car, and he was actually driving one that was better than hers!

  He looked away. “It’s like what you just said; we’ve been together three years…and I’ve been with her six months. You knew about it and you…turned a blind eye. Shaunda, didn’t. She fought for me, for us.”

  “Yeah…just get out.” She whispered in defeat.

  He looked embarrassed but he at least turned to leave. “It wasn’t ever about the money,” he added without looking at her.

  “And yet I don’t see you offering to give any of it back.” DeAngelo shut the door after himself, without another word.

  ~***~

  How stupid was it for your body to burn for a man that had hurt you so badly that you spent the first three days of his treachery in tears and then the next three missing the feel of his toned dark body against yours? Ashleigh had always liked tall, dark men. Maybe because she was short, fat and light. DeAngelo was the type of handsome that made you look twice. He was slightly over six feet tall with a lean athletic build and hair cut so short that it was barely there. By contrast, his silky black goatee drew your eye to his lush full lips. But it was the smile that did it. When his dimples appeared her body melted.

  Ashleigh actually felt pretty when she was with him. Big girls could be sexy and wear lingerie to please their men, and dress fashionably and get their hair and nails done so that even though they were closer to the word fat than to plump or athletically built, they could still be sexy. She might be fat, but with DeAngelo she knew she was no slouch in the look departments.

  Ashleigh had a honey complexion that matched her short and coiffed honey blond hair (compliments of Nadia’s Hair and Nail salon and Dark and Lovely dye number 378). She even had light brown eyes with gold flecks in them compliments of Bausch & Lomb. Unfortunately she also had over one hundred extra pounds on her 5’6” frame. Her clothing sizes were no longer in the teens but now read size 20 or 22…

  ‘You would be so pretty if you dropped some weight,’ everyone always said—everyone except DeAngelo. That was one of the things that haunted her at 2 am in the morning. It wasn’t the number of times the newlyweds had sex. She was more affected by the number of times he might have flashed her that smile that said, everything is going to be alright, baby. Or how many times he caressed his new wife’s side when he thought she was sleeping. Those are the things that made tears spring to her eyes when she was at work writing a report or in the middle of laughing with her two best friends.

  And then one day Kendra said, “I don’t know why you wasted so much time with that loser in the first place.” Lance had flashed Kendra a warning look which she chose to completely ignore. Her friend’s well intentioned words left her feeling as if someone had socked her dead in her stomach.

  “I know you loved him. But you could do so much better, Ash. I have been waiting for you to get rid of him. Girl, I can hook you up with someone worthy of you.” Kendra gave Lance a crooked grin. “And that goes for you, too. You both need to drop these men that step out on you and treat you like shit!”

  Ashleigh’s back bristled. “DeAngelo stepped out on me, but he never treated me like anything but a queen.” She didn’t say those words with any sense of pride, just a need to clarify. She didn’t feel lucky that she had considered him a good man just because he put her on a pedestal when he wasn’t slutting around.

  Lance could say nothing. His boyfriends cheated on him and though it may have been his desire to be treated like a queen, the reality is that the men he chose were usually the Divas.

  “We’re going to go out Friday and I’m going to hook you two up with a couple of brothers that are rated USDA Prime!” Lance looked interested because even though he was a scrawny white guy, he had a preference for big black guys. Ashleigh just tried not to slouch in on herself. Dating was the last thing she had on her mind. It had only been a month…wow, maybe it was time.

  They made plans to meet after work at a favorite martini bar. Ashleigh didn’t much care for hard liquor but she didn’t mind the cosmopolitans or apple martinis. Kendra and Lance were a bit more daring and had specific ways that they had to have their martinis; vodka not gin, stirred, shaken onion vs. olive and on and on and on…

  She loved her two friends even if she was sometimes a bit jealous of Kendra for being so perfect. Kendra was the type of person that you wished you could hate but she was an honestly good person that cared about her friends sometimes more tha
n she cared about herself. Each of them were in their thirties, made good money, drove nice cars and worked for the same company as analysts. They had been the best of friends since applying for the same job over seven years ago. For whatever reason they kept in contact and when one heard about a great position they would tell the others until they were each working ‘gravy’ jobs with each other.

  They went out for lunch at least once a week; one person always picked the location and the bill for the group. When it was Kendra’s turn to treat you knew to expect lunch at some trendy place where executives were often seen on business lunches. Lance always found someplace exotic like a Mediterranean, Korean or Thai restaurant, and for the last few years Ashleigh took them to pubs and sports bars where the food was plentiful…and cheap. Of course they made fun of her because they knew her money was tied up in her relationship with DeAngelo. But they always kept their comments good-natured because as much as they disliked DeAngelo they knew that Ashleigh was truly happy with him.

  Kendra had gotten married two years ago but it was to be expected. She was simply too gorgeous and had her pick of men. Because of this and her great personality, Kendra had a network of friends and acquaintances though none meant more to her than Lance and Ashleigh. Therefore, when Kendra offered to ‘hook you up’ you knew you weren’t getting chopped liver.

  Ashleigh hadn’t been on a date in years…and maybe 50 pounds ago! At least she would have three days to get her look together. After work she went home with her take-out order from PF Chang’s and an individual sized cheesecake from Montfort Heights Bakery. Everyone loved their donuts but she went for the cheesecake.

  She kicked off her pumps at the door and put everything on her dining room table. She was proud of her two bedroom condo. She had always hoped that it would be her and DeAngelo’s…she grimaced and was preparing to strip out of her suit and put on a t-shirt and sweatpants when the phone rang. For a brief second her heart leaped in anticipation--and then dread. He had called her once, but it was to return some clothes of hers that she’d left at his apartment.

  She knew that he lingered, hoping that she would invite him in; into her home, into her bed, back into her life, but he’d honestly hurt her too bad for her to forgive him. And she’d taken her belongings and closed the door after a brief thank you. She had been strong that day. She didn’t know if she would be as strong the next time.

  “Hello?” She said breathlessly as she’d had to hurry into her pants and then to the phone.

  “Ash? Are you exercising?”

  It was Lance. “Hell no!”

  “Well why are you breathing so hard?”

  “Um…so I can live.” He laughed. “Pretty In Pink is coming on at eight-”

  She squealed. “Pretty In Pink!”

  “Yep, I’m coming over with a pizza-”

  “I already got PF Chang’s! But not enough for you,” she added. “So you better eat before you come over…and maybe pick up some ice cream to go with this cheesecake.”

  “Mmm. Cheesecake. I’ll be there in an hour.”

  “Is Kendra coming?”

  “You know she’s not going to watch a John Hughes movie. I don’t think she watched a John Hughes movie when she was sixteen!”

  True. And it was cool with just her and Lance because he was like her little sister… well if she had a white sister with a penis.

  Everyone always made fun of her for being a grown woman that would drop everything to watch Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club and her personal favorite Some Kind of Wonderful. She always wished that she was the star of a John Hughes movie because then she would always have a happy ending. There would be some achingly handsome guy holding a boom box above his head right outside her window, or the school jock would dump the cheerleader girlfriend for her. But in reality the cheerleader always got the man.

  Several hours later, the two friends were listening to the music playing at the ending credits and contemplating the nature of life through the eyes of a sixteen year old. Lance always took the most comfortable seat; the chaise while she flopped down on the couch. He had brought pizza anyways and her stomach was making strange sounds since she couldn’t help herself when she grabbed a few slices even though she was bursting from the PF Chang’s.

  “God,” he groaned. “I can’t believe she didn’t choose Ducky.”

  “I know. Why couldn’t she see that they were so perfect together?! Blaine was such an asshole.”

  “Yeah, he threw her to the wolves and then had the nerves to show up at the prom with that bad wig trying to look pitiful.”

  Ashleigh chuckled. “Yeah…that wasn’t a convincing wig. And Andie just caves in and takes him back.” She got up and carried their trash into the kitchen. Lance helped her.

  “Well you know why that is.” He said.

  “Why? He had a big penis?”

  Lance hesitated. “No. Blaine doesn’t have the big penis, Ducky does. But Andie will never know that because she was too wrapped up in the fact that he has money and popularity, something she secretly wants but can never have.”

  “Shallow bitch.”

  “Aren’t we all? I read a list stating the top five reasons why a person that has never married is single. Number five said it’s because you’re just not good enough.”

  “Ouch. That’s harsh.”

  “But true.” He leaned against the counter still holding an empty diet coke can. “Think about this, we’re single because we aren’t looking for partners that are our equals. We’re looking for somebody better than us; more money, better looking, yada yada yada.”

  She nodded conceding to that one. “And number four?”

  He scratched his neatly trimmed chin hair. “I think number four is you’re selfish, number three is you’re a slut, number two—”

  Ashleigh held up her hand to halt him. “A slut? How does that factor in to not being married?”

  “Because you are giving the goodies away instead of holding it for ransom.” They both had to burst out laughing at that one.

  “Okay and what is number two?”

  “Two is you’re shallow; which we both determined was accurate and the number one reason for not being married…is because you’re a bitch.”

  “Really?” Ashleigh crinkled her nose. “I don’t know if that’s true.”

  “Oh…Ashleigh,” he nodded his head with a grin. “You’ve been a bitch before. We all have. Remember when the heating and cooling guy couldn’t get the thermostat to work in the office and-”

  She blushed. “Yeah yeah, I remember!” She sighed. “You know what? I think that list is actually pretty true.” She looked at him and her eyes shined a little too brightly with something that looked like unshed tears. She tried to offer a smile, albeit a shaky one. “But I still would have chosen Ducky over Blaine!”

  Lance smiled softly and hugged her.

  ~***~

  Ashleigh wore a cream pantsuit that cost almost as much as her car payment, but she looked great in it. Big women that wanted to also be stylish knew the secrets for hiding the added pounds. It was all in the cut of the jacket that cinched her waist, hid her belly and showcased her cleavage where her low-cut blouse showcased her ‘crowning glory.’ She wore heels that matched the earth tones of the blouse and big loopy earrings.

  As she hurried into the restaurant, already a few minutes late, she knew she looked good but felt far from confident. Pretty face/fat body. It was just a matter of preference whether someone would like her or not. It made her feel ill that she found herself praying for some complete stranger that she’d never before met to like her.

  Lance spotted her first as she entered the dimly lit club and he waved her over to where they were waiting just inside the main entrance. Her eyes didn’t know what to take in first. Certainly she’d seen her friends dressed for a night out on the town, but Lance and Kendra both looked really hot and sophisticated, not to mention Kendra’s husband Jeffery. He was an athlete turned business owner. He had seve
ral properties that he rented out for commercial use. He and Kendra both had deep mocha complexions with exotic looks like they’d come over from the Caribbean. Lance was extremely good-looking and never had trouble getting men…just keeping them.

  But her eyes were riveted to the two men that watched her approach. Her eyes met those of a man so gorgeous that he almost made DeAngelo look like dog food. Kendra knew just what she liked. He had to have been over six feet with muscles that were evident even beneath his expensive yet casual jacket. He was dark; so dark that she could only think of midnight and when he smiled he had a dimple just like…

  She smiled back. Her friends greeted her enthusiastically and she apologized for being late all while never removing her eyes from the sight of Mr. Wonderful.

  Kendra smiled broadly. “Let me do the introductions again.” She gripped Ashleigh’s arm in a strangely possessive manner.

  “Ashleigh, meet Ivan.” But Kendra was not looking at Mr. Wonderful. Ashleigh’s eyes landed on the person that Kendra was gesturing to. Well…he wasn’t tall. This new man; Mr. Not-so-wonderful was…different.

 
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