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We All Scream

By Nona Wesley



Description

Dealing with business problems and a romantic betrayal leaves Diahann Marshall frustrated. Her sister suggests she order takeout and feast on a handsome delivery boy, but Diahann doesn’t expect the restaurant’s owner to show up at her door.

Sun Li believes in a strong work ethic, it’s why he delivers Chinese food when his employees are sick. Meeting lovely customers is a plus, but when Sun realizes Diahann thinks he is a lowly delivery boy he is determined to help save her ice cream parlor, and win her heart.


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Excerpt

Diahann Marshall alighted from her SUV to the delicious aroma of sweet and sour chicken and the melodious clatter of a foreign tongue. She smiled and cast a glance at the slightly ajar front door of her duplex neighbor, Mrs. Hong. The elderly woman had something delivered, yet again, and it tempted Diahann enough to reconsider the slab of fish marinating in her refrigerator.

Her sister Dee Dee jumped from the compact car parked behind her and rounded the grill of Diahann's monster vehicle, inhaling with vigor. "Mmm-hmm!" she said. "What's cooking?"

Diahann dug into her purse for her house keys, and looked back at the curb. A blue Honda with a magnetic sign affixed to the passenger side door informed her that Mrs. Hong had called the Rising Sun Wok delivery service to her home. She smiled at the clever use of the phone number--easy to remember, 555-CHOP.

They should have done something like that for their shop, she realized, but what four-letter word could be best applied to an ice cream parlor? Cream, fudge, and sundae wouldn't work, and to think of it any of those in a phone number might lead people to think the Marshalls maintained a different kind of business altogether. Diahann shook her head, chuckling to herself at the image of a hundred disappointed perverts coming to MMMarshall's to discover they only used the chocolate topping on desserts.

"Think she'll have extra?" Dee Dee leaned hard to the left, trying to look through the open slit at the threshold to Mrs. Hong's place. "You need to socialize more with the people who live around you, starting right now."

Dee Dee made a comical leap across the grass barrier separating their two walkways. Diahann reached for her but could only graze the back of her sister's collar.

"Get back here!" she admonished. "We are having fish tonight. Remember our pledge to eat better, to lose some weight? You know many calories are in one serving of Kung Pao with all that sauce?"

Dee Dee scoffed. Her ample breasts bounced in her loose-fitting tee-shirt as she hopped back to Diahann's side of the duplex. "Please." She rolled her eyes. "We sell sweet stuff. And with the ever-increasing slow days, ain't anybody at work losing weight. Least of all me."

"Well, that's why we're here, to brainstorm on how to sell ice cream rather than let it go to our waists." Diahann waved her sister toward her foyer, but Dee Dee wouldn't budge.

She gave Diahann a bemused smile. "That pun come off the top of your head?" she asked, as though in disbelief.

"The top of your head is coming off if you don't come inside and stop making a scene," Diahann scolded. Too late, however, as both ladies spied the delivery boy exiting Mrs. Hong's with a backward wave to his customer.

Boy, heh. Hardly. Lean and tall he was, wearing a red shirt with his restaurant's logo stitched on the breast. Each step down the path rippled muscles everywhere--from the tight cords on the underside of his arms to his firm buttocks, molded by blue jeans with worn parts at the knees. Jet black hair, barely dusting his collar, contrasted nicely with his medium yellow-brown skin and obvious Chinese features.

Diahann held a hand to her stomach to steady a sudden flutter. She wanted to attribute the sensation to a craving for Cantonese--to hell with the now unappetizing fish waiting in her fridge--but seeing this handsome young man awakened in her a different kind of hunger, one that hadn't been sated since Wayne last spent the night. He wouldn't be back from his conference for at least a week, either.

Damn, but she was horny now. She decided to make this strategy dinner with Dee Dee short so she could call Wayne later for an extended phone sex session if he wasn't busy.

Dee Dee, ever the diplomat, broke through Diahann's thoughts with her usual brash, joie de vivre. "Hey, Jackie Chan!" she called after the retreating young man. "Got any Dim Sum Cum to spare for a hungry lady?"

"Dee!" How fast could her dark skin turn crimson? Diahann felt grateful no mirrors could reflect her embarrassment, but he would certainly see it. She lurched forward and grabbed her sister, pushing her into the house. "What is wrong with you?"

"Oh, like he understood a word of it," Dee scoffed. "You heard him clicking and clacking back there."

"Damn it, girl!" Surely the young man had heard it. He did turn back when Dee addressed him. Diahann chanced a look behind her shoulder to see the delivery man approaching. Great. Diahann felt her skin heat with her humiliation, and she shoved her sister into her side of the duplex and scrambled to think of an apology.

Before she could speak, he was on her front step with a folded brochure in hand. His smile nearly touched his ears, showing the whitest, straightest teeth Diahann had ever seen outside a dental ad.

"Please." His voice--perfectly English, though accented--held a quiet, polite tone, not unlike Diahann had experienced when dining out at more upscale restaurants. "There are coupons inside," he added, nodding to the paper now in her hands, "and we deliver late."

"Th-thanks." The tingling sensation left by the slight brush of his hand against hers during the exchange remained with her, shooting up her arm into her heart, where it softened and spread. Surely she couldn't be so lonely for Wayne that even a simple friendly overture from a delivery man aroused her? Quickly she put the thought out of her head and thanked him again.

With a slight bow, he muttered something in presumed Chinese and retreated. If he were bothered by Dee Dee's uncouthness, he didn't show it. Diahann took a deep breath before entering her home, if anything to keep from unleashing her wrath upon her sister.

She slapped the Rising Sun menu on the kitchen counter, where the red light on Diahann's phone blinked twice rapidly, then paused, then twice again. Two messages on her voice mail had been left, and she knew to disregard one since her other sister, Lena, told her earlier that she'd tried her at the house first before finally reaching her. Thinking the other missive might be from Wayne, she asked DeeDee to get the table ready.

DeeDee, her head in one cabinet, leaned back with two wineglasses in hand. "Way ahead of you."

Diahann pressed the recall button on her machine and let Wayne's silky deep voice envelop her. "Hey, baby, just wanted to touch base with you. Arrived safely, and I'm all checked in. Looks like it's going to be another schedule full of meetings, too bad you're not here to add a little excitement to his trip."

"I'd rather be there instead of here, eating fish," DeeDee muttered, and Diahann silenced her with a wave.

"Anyway, hit me up on my cell or text me later. I'll be at an orientation mixer tonight, so I don't know when I'll be able to get back to you," the message continued. "Take care, baby." A click, then the robotic voice of the machine informed her when the call was placed.

DeeDee made an exaggerated kissing noise. "Text me, baby," she mimicked Wayne's sultry drawl. "You know how those sexy smileys turn me on."

"Least I got a man to text." Never one to fidget, Diahann went straight for the kill. Fat lot of good it did, however. Nothing stuck to DeeDee. Surely the good folks at Teflon lusted for the secret to her ability to shrug off insults and splattered dessert toppings.

"Six months of dating and he can't say ‘I love you' on a voice mail?" DeeDee shook her head, as she uncorked a bottle of Chardonnay.

Diahann let the comment pass. Given the noise in the background, Wayne sounded pressed for time when he called. As he'd said he loved her in the past--and in person--she was confident enough that his feelings toward her were genuine.

"Let me call him quick, then I'll pop in the fish. It won't take long to cook, and the salad's already made." She held the receiver in one hand, dialing with her thumb, and pointed with the other to direct DeeDee to their first course. As a pleasant greeting diverted her attention, she asked to be connected to Wayne's hotel in Charlotte.

Dee made a face. "You're not calling his cell?"

Diahann waited for the concierge first, then asked to be patched to Wayne's room. "He stays at the same place every time he's in Charlotte," she explained as the phone rang in her ear. "I could call his cell, but he leaves it off at conferences and business parties and I want to hear his voice."

"Then why would he tell you to--"

Diahann waved her sister silent when she heard a click. She prepared to greet her lover, but the voice she heard on the other line belonged to a woman. Diahann's greeting caught in her throat, and she struggled to think of something to say when a second, more insistent "Hello?" hit her.

Perhaps the hotel had connected her to the wrong room. Yes, that better be it, she decided as the bile churned in her stomach. "Forgive me, ma'am," she said calmly, "I'm trying to reach Mr. Wayne Dinkins."

"Oh, this is Mr. Dinkins' room," the woman said. "My husband's not available, but I can take a message for him."

Husband! Diahann nearly dropped the phone. She turned quickly toward the foyer, walking, sensing a curious Dee close on her heels. That lying son of a bitch was married...and quite suddenly a lot of things made sense, not just the cell phone. He rarely discussed his family, and she had yet to see the inside of his apartment. Her place was closer to his work and perfect for evening get-togethers, he'd said, whereas he had a condo, somewhere downtown, near the river. She'd managed to get that much from him after a night of particularly rough lovemaking. Now she wondered if he'd lied about that as well.

To think now she could easily inform Mrs. Dinkins that she was talking to his mistress, but no way in hell would she refer to herself as the other woman. She hadn't known, and refused to bear the shame of Wayne's omission of his marital status.

"This is Myra from Chez Madeleine," she lied coolly, "calling to confirm a reservation for two at nine o'clock on Saturday."

"Chez Madeleine?" That caught the missus off-guard, but Diahann practically felt the heat of his wife's beaming smile when she responded, "Wayne never mentioned dinner…Oh, dear, I bet this was supposed to be a surprise." Diahann flashed Dee a pained smile as Mrs. Dinkins giggled in her ear. "Okay, well, I won't tell if you won't. Saturday at nine sounds wonderful."

"Great, see you then!" The faked enthusiasm in Diahann's voice faded and she clicked off, longing for the days of old when people had traditional rotary phones instead of handheld receivers. The old school models were better for slamming away calls and throwing across the room in a fit of anger.

She palmed the receiver, tightening her grip. How long before the plastic casing cracked under the pressure? Shaking her head, Diahann instead returned it to its cradle on the counter. She liked this phone, and didn't see the point in destroying something nice that belonged to her because her now ex-boyfriend turned out to be a lying, two-timing rat.

If she ever saw him again, she'd break his phone and tell him to consider himself lucky she didn't try for anything else.

"Dee," she said finally, "I don't think I want fish for dinner..."

Behind her, Dee opened the freezer door and pulled out two pints of ice cream and a frosted bottle of vanilla vodka. "Way ahead of you, hon."