Steele could be as hard as her name, but for loved ones she was also a soft touch.

One thing I love about writing “urban fiction” – I’ve always assumed that means fiction featuring street life a la Donald Goines – is it offers a stellar opportunity to both create strong female characters and disprove a lot of ideas about the people in the life.

In this unedited snippet from my latest paranormal romance our heroine Steele is revealed as a drug dealer yes, but also a sister, a mentor, and I think, a closet sweetheart. But I still wouldn’t fuck with her. *winks*

Enjoy!

SS

Benjie met her at the car to carry in the grocery bags. He handed her two one hundred dollar bills, watched her tuck them away in her bra.

“Who in there?”

“Just Lolly. But she say Eddie and them been calling.”

Steele grunted softly. “Business must be good today.”

Benjie laughed. “It’s hot out. You know smoking in air conditioned rooms while playing video games is like a city pastime when the temp get this high. Ain’t nobody tryna be out and sweat to death in the streets.”

“Preach.”

She walked in pointed at Lolly and went straight to the back.

Lolly followed her into her office and closed the door. She laid her money on the desk and sat down while Steele did a count.

Her long fingered hands quickly slapped and straightened piles of twenty’s fifties, tens and fives against the white wood. Lolly relaxed back in her chair.

“What?”

“It’s soothing,” she said, eyes on her boss’ as she counted out another pile for the second time. “Watching you count money.”

Steele laughed softly. “You must want two.”

“Yeah.”

Steele gave her two pounds of weed and pulled out three more for their next transaction. Lately, she’d been having Lolly distribute to some of the others. It saved her time, and she got to see how Lolly handled herself. So far, she was perfect.

The girl handed over the money for the other three pounds. These bundles were messier, but the count was right so who cared? Once they were square, Lolly stuffed the weed down the front and the back of her pants and pulled her hoodie on to cover it. Then she packed up her backpack – a tip from Steele to throw niggas off the scent since she looked so young – and got up to go.

“That’s it. And I ain’t fucking around here no more. You meet me at the spot from now on. No more exceptions.”

She had a small studio in an old, but quiet complex near Alsip that she worked out of. That was one of the premier rules of the game, don’t shit where you eat or lay your head.

“Thanks.”

Steele grunted. “You doin’ good.”

“Cool,” Lolly said, her shoulders straightening.

“Anything I need to know?”

Lolly shook her head. “Everything quiet. Smooth. I ain’t heard nothing, and ain’t nobody approached me with shit.”

Steele grunted again. “Be careful.”

Lolly winked. “Always.”

After the door closed on the other woman’s slender back, Steele went into the kitchen to cook. Tramp was chopping tomatoes and Benjie was tearing up lettuce.

“Where Brandon and Esai?”

Her oldest and youngest brothers had their own apartment around the corner. She insisted that they be separate from her and the business. She’d have separated Tramp and Benjie too, but they refused to be apart from her.

“Brandon still at the shop, and Esai should be at school until evening. Then he got a gig,” Tramp said, putting a piece of tomato in his mouth.

Esai made a nice little living for himself as a DJ. He was smart and went corporate. His clients were no longer predominantly clubs. Now he did restaurant openings, parties, special events.

“Leave some for dinner, fool.”

Tramp winked at her. He and Benjie both bounced when she took out a big onion and began to peel it. They hated the smell. Hated even worse when she teared up while chopping it.

They ate quietly and watched True Blood. Benjie had just bought all of them on DVD, and they’d been binging the past few days.

Steele phone rang. “Yeah.” She listened, taco in one hand, eyes on the flat screen. “Come through in 30. Yeah.”

“Who dat?”

“Butch.”

“What that killer want?”

“Same thing everybody want,” she answered, taking a large bite of her taco.

“Pussy?” Tramp asked.

Steel gave him side eye and he held up his hands in apology.

“We gon’ have a visitor starting tomorrow. He gon’ ride with me, observe.”

“Huh?” the twins said together.

“I told you about this earlier. Tommy found me a consultant gig for an Australian actor writing a screenplay. He needs insight into urban culture.”

They stared at her.

“Are you for real?” Tramp asked.

“I half thought you was kidding,” Benjie added.

Steele grunted.

“Um. How that work? We sell drugs.” Tramp asked, speaking slowly like she might not see the connection.

Steele ignored the sarcasm. “I signed all the papers today to keep us safe. A lot of papers.”

She could tell by the way they were looking at each other they didn’t like this new development at all. But money was too hard to come by; they were gon’ have to get over it.

“You’ll meet him tomorrow. Don’t worry about it.”

They looked at her then back to each other then focused on the screen. They knew their sister. Wasn’t nothing left to say.

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