Eight

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"Why did you take off your makeup and all? You looked nice." He finally addresses me after I've been in the room with him for ten minutes.

The wind is softly blowing outside and my mind casually wanders what Soul is doing, and if he's still in Los Angeles. I wonder how fast he'll get here if I told him Jared followed me inside. "I'm home now, J. I like to relax."

"You could've kept the makeup on," he shrugged, "Susan did a good job."

"Sherry," I correct him and wonder why I did that much. He's met Sherry and has been to the set numerous times. He's not that interested in my life.

"Oh yeah, her." Jared nods. He finally tucks the phone into his jeans. "So, what's up?"

He talks to me like if I'm one of his homies and not his forever on/off girlfriend. Truthfully, he's always been like this and I don't know why I thought it was charming and sweet. Young, dumb, and full of come I was. "Nothing. Why are you here?"

"I just wanted to see you, man." He says in a rather defensive mode. "I haven't seen you in a while."

"Okay, so I'm here," I reply in the nicest way I possibly can. "What is it, honey?"

Jared flashes that great smile of his. I know he wants something. He has yet to ask about the flowers because he doesn't care who gave them to me. "Why are you sitting all the way over there for?"

"Because I'm comfortable, now what is it?" I ask. I need to get home out before Desiree comes home. All hell will break loose.

Jared sighs and looks up at the ceiling. He's coming up with a lie. "I need to ask a huge favor from you..." He pauses for dramatic effect. I quietly sigh in response. "...I need to borrow some money from you. I'm in between jobs right now and I just need something to hold me over for the next few days."

The first checkmark happened: money. The next two won't be far behind. "How much?" My eyes narrow at him.

"About eight hundred dollars," he pushes out and my eyes widened, "I'm good for it, Ari."

He's actually not but I prefer not to drudge up the past. "Why so much?"

"Things happened," Jared is intentionally avoiding answering the question, so everything will be a lie. "And I got caught up in things."

"Eight hundred dollars worth of things?" I reply. "I don't have the money."

"What do you mean you don't have it?" It's his turn to be in disbelief. "Even with your TV job?"

"How much money do you honestly think I get paid?" I shoot back. "If I don't have eight hundred dollars to give to you, I just don't."

"Ari, I wouldn't lie about this," Jared pleads and yes, he would lie about it. "I really need the money."

"And I'm telling you I don't have eight hundred dollars on me I can give you. Between bills and rent, I don't have any money." I shrug. "That's all."

Jared shakes his head. "What about Desiree?"

"You still haven't told me why you needed any money at all?" I question.

He shakes his head. "I just told you things happened."

"What things?" I emphasize. "What things occurred so it's costing you eight hundred dollars?"

"It's a business opportunity," he states as if he was annoyed he had to share that much, "Roderick is opening a dispensary and he wants me to be one of the owners with him."

"For eight hundred dollars?" I ask. Boy, if you don't get...

"It's the starting price," he finally meets my eyes and I'm totally unimpressed, "there'll be a lot more but it's just a buy-in."

"I don't have it but I wish you and Roderick luck with that." I reply. "Was there anything else?"

"Yeah, there is." Jared pulls out his phone and pulls up the now notorious photo of me and Soul. "What's this about?"

If Jared can lie, so can I. "It's nothing. It was a photo shoot he wanted me to do and that's that."

"It doesn't look like anything," Jared glances at the photo again, "he's all hugged up on you."

"Jared, it's nothing." I reply. Not sure why I'm lying because it's not like Jared is being truthful. I feel the need to protect Soul and keep him my little secret, despite millions of people knowing about us.

"Oh yeah?" He glances back at the flowers. "Who gave you those?"

Jared has been in my house for at least twenty minutes and this is the first time he's mentioned the flowers. I would think he would've said something when he saw me exit the car with them.

"A secret admirer." I reply before I hear Desiree enter through the front door. "That's all."

Desiree comes in with a small group of her friends and they all stop in their tracks upon seeing the living room. Behind the fade Desiree often hid in various wigs, was a stud of a woman. She made it very clear to all women if they didn't eat, she didn't speak.

She's an independent rapper with a healthy online following. Her singles have done very well, and she's been featured on a few other rappers' albums and songs. Desiree goes by the name Young FemCee and it fits her.

Ever since Jared made a pass at Desiree, he's been number one on her shit list. My cousin has gang ties so I'm sure if she wanted him dead, she could arrange that with no problem. The whole incident with Teresa made him a further target.

I don't want that heat on Desiree and Jared isn't worth any life sentence. Yet, it doesn't matter to Desi and her crew. They all carry heat or only remove it when it comes time to perform and they have to fly. Otherwise, they stay strapped.

By the way Desiree is looking at Jared right now, I'm sure she wants to unload every bullet in her hidden gun right now. "What's up, ma?" She's talking to me but her eyes are on Jared.

"I'm cool." I fold my arms across my chest. "Jared was just leaving."

Jared shoots me a look and I don't budge. I know he'll be back and this is hardly the last time I'll see him again. He gets up and grabs his phone. "All right. See you later, shawty." He walks over and gives me a kiss but I don't kiss back.

He stops and stares at me with question marks in his eyes. He knows something is different with me but he's not sure if he cares enough to fix it. "I'll call you later?"

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