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Early morning of April 19, 2017

Sugar witnesses something that will change her life forever.

Music Mood: Lacrimosa by Mozart

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

It was nearly two when the last of her staff finished closing up the restaurant. The tables were spotless. The mason-jarred candles were blown out. The floors were swept and mopped. The kitchen was pristine. The cash registers were closed and balanced. The ocean of dangling lightbulbs overhead slept. All cash earnings were securely locked away in the safe in her office. In a steady trickle, her staff trailed through the lobby and out the entrance door. Sugar stood in front of the lobby desk, exchanging smiles, brief pockets of conversation, and goodbyes with them. It was a ritual that she loved to do because she continuously established small connections with her staff that were steadily transforming into strong partnerships. In these moments, she learned so much about their lives outside of this business that was her life. It gave her a glimpse of an outside world she saw very little of.

After the last employee filed out of the building, Sugar locked the entrance door with her set of master keys and watched through the glass door as her staff climbed into their cars. Others were already in their cars driving off. While a few walked across the parking lot and onto the sidewalk, disappearing out of sight in different directions as they made their journey home on foot.

Sighing tiredly, Sugar turned on her heels and sauntered into the dining area. The soft moonlight bleed through the floor-to-ceiling storefront windows, casting a beautifully strange bluish glow that mingled well with the shadows. The sound of her high heels clicking against the floor filled the still cool air as she walked over to the grand piano.

She stepped onto the short platform and eased herself onto the leather-quilted piano bench. Her fingers lightly grazed the black and white keys. Since the opening of the restaurant, she had overhead a few conversations between her employees about the piano. Some considered it a waste of space. Others thought it to be a fancy decoration and nothing more. She considered their theories logical as the musical instrument sat empty and unused during hours of operation, but the piano was put to good use when Sugar was left to her own devices.

At the ripe age of four, Sugar’s grandmother Sally-Ann, a piano teacher and church pianist, instructed her in the musical art because of her obsessive interest in the instrument. The four-year-old girl loved tapping on the keys and listening to each unique sound that streamed from the piano as a result. Soon her youth imagination took over and she became a seasoned pianist like her grandmother, confidently playing her own musical pieces that were nothing more than sharp sour piano notes stringed together that made everyone cringe.

Finally, Papa George had enough of it and demanded his wife to “teach the child the proper way before she made enough noise to raise the dead”. Sugar was a quick learner and became quite the prodigy as the years carried on. By ten years old, she fluently mastered the musical compositions of Beethoven, Liszt, Paganini, Mozart, and Bach with an emotional precision. Her love for the piano never waned, but as she grew older, she realized that playing the piano wouldn’t secure a future for her. So, she quietly tucked that passion away in her heart and sometimes let it out to breath when she was faced alone with a piano.

She straightened her back and positioned her fingers where they needed to be. Closing her eyes, her fingers impressed upon the black and white keys in a slow mournful progression as she performed Lacrimosa by Mozart. She lost herself into the melody, surrendering to the potent concoction of emotions that brewed deep inside her. Feelings she had bottled up inside of her.

Anger, bitterness, guilt, sadness, loneliness, and regret.

Even though she had overcome mountainous obstacles and now lived successfully as a restaurant entrepreneur, she was only human when it came to dwelling in the past. It was a terrible habit she couldn’t rid herself of. She knew she had did a good job of moving on after her divorce, but she couldn’t not think about those eighteen years of marriage. She couldn’t not ponder and wonder of alternate realities where everything was different, but in the end, she always came to the same conclusion: this current reality was the best thing that could have ever happened to her.

And yet…she felt like there was something missing in her brimful life.

A familiar ringtone sliced through the air, abruptly interrupting her lonely recital and ripping her away from her thoughts. She stood up from the piano bench and stepped off the platform, journeying through the dining area and into the lobby where her cell rested on the lobby desk’s surface.

She picked up the device and accepted the call, leaning her back against the high desk while she used her spare hand to pinch the bridge of her nose.

“You still at that restaurant, ain’t you,” her twin brother Sullivan interrogated in an irritated tone.

“Well, hello to you too, Sully,” she greeted.  

“And I bet you there all by yourself too,” Sullivan continued without missing a beat.

Sugar sighed, “So what if I am? I don’t see the problem in it.”

Sullivan sucked his teeth. “You being there alone in that restaurant at some two in the morning is dangerous, Shug. How many times I’ve got to tell you that?”

It was no surprise that Sullivan was overtly protective of her. Sugar was used to it. He was the oldest of the two by four minutes and thirty-seven seconds therefore he took his big brother role very seriously. Their special bond as twins only intensified his need to keep her safe from harm. There were plenty of childhood stories and memories about Sullivan’s defensive nature when it came to her. No one messed around with Sugar because they knew they would have to deal with her twin brother’s wrath. Even Rochelle, Odette, and Mallory knew better than to play pranks or argue when they were growing up.

“Sully, I stay this late every single day and I have yet to have a problem,” Sugar said.

“I’ve got a problem with everything you just said. Some fool could be out in the shadows watching you, identifying your patterns and habits. Waiting for the perfect moment to strike,” Sullivan replied. “You’re a very attractive woman, Shug. That’s a good enough reason for some sick bastard out there.”

Sugar assured, “I’ve got pepper spray on my keychain and that defensive cat keychain you gave me to protect myself. I always check my surroundings when I lock up the building and go to my car. I can handle myself, Sully.”

There was a moment of silence.

Sullivan finally stated, “From now on, I’ll be at that restaurant right at closing to hurry you along so you can go home and sleep safely.”

She gaped at her twin brother’s promise.

“Are you being serious right now,” Sugar asked in shock.

“The hell you say,” Katrina, Sugar’s sister-in-law, stated tiredly from nearby.

“Go back to sleep, Kat,” Sullivan ordered.

Katrina huffed, “How can I go back to sleep when you’re bickering on the phone?”

“You want me to leave the room then?”

“What I want you to do is leave your sister alone,” Katrina retorted. “She don’t need or want you as a chaperone. She’s a grown woman. If she needs you then she’ll tell you. Now, hang up the phone.”

Katrina’s rant brought a smile to Sugar’s lips. She knew that she could always count on her sister-in-law to knock some sense her twin brother’s hard head.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Sullivan said stubbornly to Sugar.

“Didn't I just tell you to leave your si—“

Katrina’s sentence was cut short as the call ended by Sullivan’s doing.

Sugar shook her head slowly as she pulled the cell away from her ear. She knew her brother would try to make good on his word regardless of her or his wife’s protests.

Deciding it was time to go home, she returned to her office to retrieve her purse before she journeyed back into the lobby. She unlocked the entrance door to leave the restaurant and stepped out into the warm April night air. As she locked the door, a spike of fear leapt inside of her as a speeding car suddenly came to a screeching halt at the curb in front of the parking lot. She swirled on her heels quickly, fumbling with her collection of keys. Her heart throbbed deep and hard inside of her chest as she watched a series of events unfold before her very eyes.

A passenger door swung open and a big dark lump was pushed out of the vehicle unforgivingly.  The lump landed on the sidewalk with a thud and the car door slammed shut. The vehicle accelerated away, made a wobbly U-turn as the driver was losing control of the car, and turned a sharp right at a corner.

Sugar squinted her eyes as she tried to make out what was lying on the sidewalk across the parking lot. Then the mass attempted to lift itself up and failed, plopping back to the sidewalk. Her eyes widened as she finally realized that the lump was, in fact, a person.

“Oh my god,” she gasped loudly.

Without hesitation, she scuttled as best she could across the parking lot. A difficult feat in four-inch pumps.

“Sir, ma’am, are you badly hurt,” she asked frantically as she came quickly towards the body.

The body flipped itself over onto its back with a low pained grunt.

It was a man—a beaten man.

The moonlight from above allowed her to properly assess his bodily damage. His bloodied nose was busted with a fresh slit glistening and dribbling with blood. His left eye was badly bruised and swollen. There was a terrible bruise on his right cheek.

“It looks worse than it actually is,” he said in a grumbly tone but an edge of humor to his words that caught her off-guard.

“Let me call an ambulance,” Sugar replied anxiously as she reached into her purse for her phone, but froze when she heard his voice again.

“No,” he said in a strained tone, shaking his head slowly as he managed to get himself off the ground. It was a torturously slow struggle as he picked himself up. She wanted to help him, but he seemed like the kind of man who fought his own battles and she didn’t want to interfere with that.

His heavily tattooed arm curled around his torso as he leaned over in pain. The man assured, “No need for that.”

“But you’re injured,” Sugar said, concern oozing from her words. “You should really get some help.”

“I’ll be fine,” he stated as he lifted his head up to gaze at her, his eyes nailing her to the spot while a smile spread across his busted lips. “Truly, sugar.”

Sugar lost her ability to speak as the man smiled at her; as the man called her a term of endearment without knowing it was actually her name. His accent was baritone and deep southern fried, but she could tell he wasn’t from these parts. Regardless, her name sounded damn good coming from his mouth. A tingly warmth vibrated through her body from it.

“Um, I can’t just let you walk off without at least, offering you some ice or something. My conscious won’t allow it,” Sugar finally spoke, pointing to her restaurant. “My restaurant is right there, so you don’t have to go too far.”

“I appreciate the offer, bu—“

Sugar swiftly interrupted him. “I wasn’t giving an option.”

A expression mixed between surprise and intrigue splashed onto his features. He arched an eyebrow at her for a moment before his close-mouthed smile widening just a little more. “Ma’am, yes, ma’am.”

“Good,” she replied firmly with a nod as she went to him and grabbed ahold of his other tattooed arm, draping it across her shoulder. She aided him carefully across the parking lot and towards the entrance door.

Along the way, he said, “You’re goin’ to get my blood on your dress.”

She was wearing a knee-length deep red wine-hued dress with broad straps and a V-neckline. Four-inch silvery pumps adored her feet, which matched the silver belt around her waist. Her long hair was braided into a bun at the back of her head.

“A perfect excuse to buy another dress,” she returned playfully.

He chuckled.

When they reached the entrance door, she used her keys to unlock it and led him inside. She guided him through the lobby and into the dining area, helping him move towards the closest table. She turned on a light switch along the way, bringing the overhead lightbulbs to life.

“I’ll be right back,” she said—once he was seated—before she made her way into the kitchen and turned on the light switch. A painfully bright light flooded the sterile room. She winced at the light, her eyes adjusting to the harshness while she traveled around the kitchen gathering various things to help the man. She found a clean kitchen towel and dampened it at a sink. She found a resealable plastic bag and scooped ice into it. She also retrieved a first aid kit from the kitchen.

Returning to him, she handed him the bag of ice before she placed the first aid kit onto the table.

“Thanks,” he replied with a nod and immediately placed it to his ribs.

She draped her fingers in the wettened towel and arched an eyebrow. “Do you mind if I clean your face?”

He arched an eyebrow right back, grinning. “I thought you were calling the shots, sugar.”

“I guess you’re right,” she agreed with a subtle smile as she closed in on him.

She used her index finger from her spare hand and rested it underneath his salt-and-pepper bearded chin, navigating his head to angle upward so she could get a better look at his face. The grayest eyes bored into her brown ones boldly. The tiny laugh lines at the corners of his eyes crinkling a little as a telltale sign that he found this unfolding situation rather amusing.

Sugar cleared her throat nervously and focused her attention on cleaning the gash on his nose. With her fingers trapped inside the towel, she gently dabbed and wiped at the bleeding cut.

“Do you have any bloodborne diseases that I should know about,” she asked a little too late.

“No,” he said truthfully, “just hot-blooded.”

“Indeed,” she muttered under her breath, but luckily, he didn’t hear or maybe he pretended not to. Even banged up, she could tell the man was hot-blooded and just plain hot. The latter being a fact that made it rather difficult for her to concentrate.

“You know,” she cleared her throat, “you’re faring quite well for someone who looks like they got into a fight with a semi-truck and lost.”

“Well, it’s not every day an old bastard such as myself gets patched up by a beautiful woman,” the man replied, which caused Sugar to snort with laugh.

Sugar shook her head as her laugh faded into light giggles.

“You, sir, are quite the charmer,” she told him with a smile as she continued to clean his face. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a beaten man call me beautiful before.”

“There’s a first time for everythang,” he returned, matching her smile with one of his own. “I can’t deny that I’m a man that enjoys being the first.”

She teased, “That sounds rather selfish.”

“Oh, I’m very selfish,” he guaranteed.

Her heart quickened in pace at the promise while her brain raced with theories as to what his selfishness exactly entailed.

“Are you,” he then pondered curiously.

Sugar blinked as his question jerked her from her thoughts. “Hm? Am I what?”

“Are you selfish?”

She laughed a little and shook her head.

“Not even a little,” he probed.

She shook her head once more, adding, “Hate to break it to you, but I’m little miss goody two-shoes.”

There was a moment of silence that drifted between them.

“Soon or later, you’ve got to take off those shoes, you know,” he replied.

Now finished with cleaning up his face, she opened the first aid kit and got a bandaid for his nose.

“Maybe, I don’t want to take off my shoes,” she said as she peeled off the thin protective paper from the bandaid and crumpled it into a ball before she placed it on the table. She carefully put the bandaid across the open cut on the bridge of his nose.

“You don’t want to or you’re too scared to?”

Sugar froze for a moment as the weight of his question hit her hard. It was too intimate and her answer would be too telling for a stranger.

She cleared her throat.

“I’m done,” she said as she took a step back, feeling uncomfortable in her own skin.

He eyed her carefully, but didn’t probe or push the matter any further, which she was thankful for.

“I’ll call for a cab,” she offered as she reached for her cell.

There was a local taxi service she had a bit of a partnership with. She recommended their business to her patrons tipsy and drunk from the wine and cocktails, which was rather often. In return, the taxi service allowed her to put an ad atop of a few of their cabs. It was a win-win situation for both and worked flawlessly in practice.

“It’s alright,” he replied as he rose from his spot, wincing as he did it.

He still had the bag of ice against his ribs. She was curious and worried about what damage lied underneath his shirt. She wanted to lift his shirt up to see what was he hiding (was it bruises, wounds, or tattoos?), but she decided that it wasn’t her place to.

“Thanks for showin’ an old bastard like me some kindness,” he said.

She smiled weakly. “It was no problem at all.”

“But be careful who you show kindness to though,” he said, “because they just might keep comin’ back for more.”

Her breath hitched in her throat at his words.

“I’ll keep that…in mind,” she replied.

His gray eyes scanned her studiously from head to toe as he was purposefully committing every inch of her to his memory.

“I won’t be a bother to you any longer,” he stated as he turned to leave.

It took every ounce of her strength to keep herself from saying something else to him. She stood still like a statue as he walked towards the lobby with a modest limp and out the entrance door.

Sugar exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding in and sat down at the table with a racing heart and jittery nerves, a familiar feeling she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

“What in the hell was that,” she asked herself.

Her cell then chirped and vibrated on the table as she received an incoming text message. She bit down onto her bottom lip as she grabbed the device and looked at the received message.

She groaned inwardly and rolled her eyes.

Sully: ur ass better b home. >:{


Chapter End Notes:

Sugar meets Chef and lets him walk away, but he knows exactly where she is. The question when he will come back?

Feedback is greatly appreciated! Have a wonderful Friday!

Also, a photo of Sullivan's wife to the pinterest board has been added. ;)

Pinterest Board: Sugar Mama by Missus James


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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.