𝐀𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐜𝐞𝐫𝐩𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 BLESSED BY MALAKAI 𝐛𝐲 Sherelle Green
𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐅𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐛𝐨𝐱 𝐬𝐞𝐭 (𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐲 𝟗𝟗 𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬!)
𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞: 𝐅𝐞𝐛𝐫𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝟗, 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏
“Well, today was a shit show,” I said aloud after Tyler escorted the last candidate out the room. Had anyone told me a year ago that it was easier to become famous overnight than find a decent image consultant, I would have called them on their bullshit.
My brothers walked up to my desk as Serenity and Paul got engrossed in a separate conversation about the upcoming party I was having to release some new art pieces.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Malik said optimistically. “The interviews may not have been what you expected, but at least I was here when Antoine arrived.”
In the middle of the interviews, the last image consultant I’d had to fire, Antoine Walters, had arrived demanding that I give him his job back or he would sue. Since Malik was a private investigator, I’d had him start investigating Antoine months ago when I learned that instead of doing his job, he’d been using me to make connections and further his own agenda. Even if that meant selling pictures of me to local news outlets. Malik had just arrived on a red-eye flight, and when Antoine showed up making demands, I slapped him with some legal demands of my own.
“I disagree with Malik,” Crayson said. “It was all pretty damn painful to watch.” Crayson was the jokester of my brothers and never one to hold his tongue. Growing up, we always thought that he would never get his act together long enough to have a real job or business. However, he’d shocked us all when he said he was opening his own cigar lounge. Honestly, I thought that he would go out of business within the first year due to lack of discipline, but not only had he been thriving for the past eight years, he’d also opened another location in the area.
“Especially that last one,” Crayson continued. “Makes no sense that a woman that attractive would be horrible at speaking. Especially in the PR field.”
With both Crayson and I living in New York, we often discussed important business together, so I’d asked him to come and give me his input. Sugar coating wasn’t even in Crayson’s vocabulary.
“She was nervous,” Malik countered. “It probably didn’t help that you kept laughing at her.”
Crayson held out his arms in defense. “I wasn’t laughing at her. I was laughing at the Fly Wings hat she was wearing. I got the feeling that she hadn’t remembered she had it on. Then I was curious why she was wearing it in the first place. Maybe she works there?”
I shook my head. “Not sure. But I could tell she’s not from New York. It was evident by the way she carried herself. Even though she was nervous, instead of being stiff, she seemed relaxed. Instead of acting like the world owed her something, she appeared to be thankful for the opportunities placed before her. Instead of being stone-faced, she smiled a lot.” And damn if that smile didn’t get to me.
When Ethel had handed me a piece of paper in between interviews, the only words written on the paper were Avery Nightingale of The Nightingale Agency. Last interview for the day. Today marked the third set of interviews I’d had in the past couple weeks to find the right image consultant, and once again, I’d ended the day feeling defeated.
Even if Ms. Nightingale would have given a great interview, I’m not sure I would have hired her for the position. There was something about her that made me pause whatever I was thinking or doing and just watch her. Listen to her rambling. Take in her cheerfulness and beauty. How could any man get shit done with that type of distraction around?
“You’re thinking about her, aren’t you?”
I blinked out of my fog and looked to Crayson. “Sorry, what?”
“Bruh, you know what I mean,” he said with a knowing smile. “Even though her interview was terrible, you’re still thinking about that brown-skinned honey who just left your office. She’s your type.”
“Man, please. She’s not my type.” I almost added the fact that I hadn’t been thinking about her, but there was no point in lying that much.
“I hate to agree with Crayson on any damn thing,” Malik interjected, “but he’s right. She’s your type.”
I was about to deny the claim, when the topic of conversation walked through my office door without knocking.
“Mr. Madden, I want a second chance.”
“Uh.” My mouth parted slightly.
“Here you go.” She walked up to my desk and handed me a folder. “This is my portfolio and resume that you requested earlier. I apologize for my lack of professionalism, but I promise you, I truly am good at what I do.”
I glanced around the room and noticed the hopeful look in everyone’s eyes, especially Tyler’s who’d entered the office behind her. They didn’t even know her, yet it was clear they wanted me to give her another chance.
“Okay, Ms. Nightingale. Please continue.”
Her smile slowly brightened her face and hit me right in the gut. This is not a good idea. She’d changed her hair, and since she’d discarded the hat, I got a healthy view of her elegant neck and luscious brown curls.
“Mr. Madden, first let me jump right in and start by saying that what happened to you a year ago was unfortunate and I wouldn’t wish that type of invasion of privacy on anyone.”
I almost smiled at the sincerity in her voice, but kept my face neutral.
“But if I’m being honest, part of the reason you haven’t been able to change your image is because you fail to acknowledge what really needs to change.”
Say what? “I can assure you, Ms. Nightingale, that I’ve acknowledged what needs to change. Not that it’s any of your business yet since this is just an interview.”
“That’s precisely why it’s my business,” she interrupted. “But continue.”
I adjusted the collar of my shirt, refusing to admit that she was getting to me. “I’ve taken large strides to assure that I’m not in the public eye with a woman, otherwise, the media will have a field day. I also ended any casual female relationship I had a year ago. Some even before Twitter had a field day.”
“And that’s part of the problem,” she said, lightly pacing the room in a way that demanded everyone’s attention. “Whether they be single, married, or bi-sexual, women around the world want to have sex with you, Mr. Madden, and in a statement that I assume was written by the first publicist or consultant you hired, you told the world that you indeed wanted to find a woman to marry and were done playing the field.”
“Which I am,” I told her.
“But you’re not.” She raised a finger in the air. “What’s the one thing that all of those women who tweeted about you and continue to talk about you on social media today really want?”
“Uh …” I was sure I knew the answer, but I didn’t know what she was getting at.
“They want you,” she said.