Tomorrow I’m releasing this baby… hope you’re ready for the ride! Keep scrolling for the synopsis and the full first chapter!!
After giving birth at the age of sixteen, Harlem promised to give her son the world – no matter how hard fulfilling that promise made her life. Two years after Hayden’s birth, Harlem finds herself trying to juggle being a mother, starting college, keeping her business running, and moving out of her brother’s home. Although he and his wife want nothing more than to help Harlem and Hayden, there’s only one person Harlem will ever share the responsibility of raising her son with. His father. Tage Young.
Tage Young’s life had been mapped out for him from the womb. He was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the NFL. Unlike his father, however, Tage was supposed to play long enough to make sure his parents and the rest of his family would be financially taken care of for the rest of their lives. That plan almost came to a halt when Tage and Harlem became parents. Tage foolishly allowed his parents to talk him into not only leaving Memphis for school, but leaving Harlem and Hayden as well.
Two years later, Tage has seemingly realized the error of his ways. He wants to fix things with his son… and Harlem. He wants to live for himself. Be his own man. A father to his son. A husband to Harlem. There’s just one thing standing in the way of that – Harlem. Over the past two years she’s saved her love and allowed no man to have access to it because of the heartache she experienced dealing with Tage. And if he thinks she’s going to allow him to waltz back into her life and heart… well… he’s got another thing coming! Or does she?
Sneak peek –
Being with Tage left me in ruins. Hayden, our two-year-old son made those ruins beautiful, but Tage ruined me. Not in that typical romantic sexy way. Where the man makes it impossible for any other man to be with the woman. No. I mean Tage ruined me. Destroyed my soul. Left my heart broken and open… love for him seeping out… only to decay.
That’s way too deep and depressing.
Especially as I sit here and watch our son gobble up the ice cream that his auntie Charlie knows good and damn well I told her he couldn’t have! But Hayden was like Tage in that way. He had this… unspoken charm that would cause you to fold and give him just about anything he could ever ask you for.
So let me start from the beginning.
I met Tage my freshman year of high school. He was a sophomore and far more familiar with the school and classes than I was. With no idea of which direction to go, there I was – standing in the middle of the hall frozen while everyone around me made their way to where they needed to be. When Tage first approached me my head was down as I looked at my schedule, so I didn’t see anything but his feet at the sound of his voice.
He asked me what class I was trying to find, and at the sound of his voice my eyes closed. My heart fluttered. My body shivered. No, it wasn’t because his voice was like that of a god. It wasn’t all deep or melodious or smooth. It wasn’t so much how his voice sounded but how his voice made me feel. Then I looked up and into his eyes and fell hopelessly in puppy love and lust with his fine ass!
After staring so long my mouth moistened, Tage took my schedule from my hand with a smile and looked it over. He nodded and grabbed my hand, then led me to my class. I still hadn’t said anything to him by the time we made it to the door. Tage handed me my schedule back and that was that. He turned and left and the spell he had me under was broken.
It was then that I realized how stupid and immature I must’ve looked, but I couldn’t help it. Tage was the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen. The sight of him literally made me speechless. I spent my entire time in class daydreaming about him. It wasn’t until the bell rang and we were dismissed that I was pulled back into reality.
I made my way outside, and to my surprise… Tage was standing at the door. Waiting. For me. He walked me to my next class. And the next. And the next. That became our thing. He’d meet me at the same place every day and walk me to all of my classes. An entire week went by before I was able to finally talk to him… and when I did… that sealed our fate.
My sophomore year I got pregnant and here we are. Well, me and Hayden. This is where we are. Tage is in Alabama.
“All I’m saying is, Charlie and I have more than enough room for you and Hayden. Even with the new baby on the way. You don’t have to leave, Harlem. I wanted you to stay at least until you were 21 anyway.”
That was my boo. My big brother. Knight Carver. He was my hero. My heart. I moved in with him when I was four months pregnant. Our father, Princeton, told me that I had to get an abortion to stay with him because he wasn’t raising anymore kids. Of course I wasn’t going to do that, so Knight took me in.
He met his wife Charlie when we went to Bundled. She used to work there. I needed some maternity clothes and things for the baby and Charlie helped us. In more ways than one. They ended up getting married and having Knight Jr. Now Charlie’s pregnant with baby number two.
They both do so much for Hayden and I appreciate all they’ve done for me, but I just feel as if the time has come for me to be on my own. Their family is growing and I don’t want to stand in the way of what they have going on. They couldn’t even really enjoy their newlywed phase because I was in the house with a newborn baby. Of course they would never say that, but I just don’t want us to be in the way anymore. It’s time for me and Hayden to go.
“I hear you, boo, and I really appreciate you and Charlie, but it’s time to go. I’m 18. I’ll be starting college in a few months. My store is doing great thanks to you. It’s time, Knight.”
After Hayden was born I opened a dropship clothing business. With the help of Charlie, I pulled in twenty thousand my first year open. I did drop shipping for two years, and on my eighteenth birthday Knight bought me a storefront. Now I have my own clothing store – Hayden’s Corner.
So at this point it really didn’t matter what Knight and Charlie said. They’ve done so much for me that I just straight up refuse to take any more help from them. Thanks to them I’m doing a lot better than most people twice my age financially. I’ve got my beautiful yet crazy little boy. My business is doing great and I’ll be starting school soon. What more could I ask of them?
“But college isn’t like high school, Harlem. I won’t be there to wake your ass up and make sure you get to school on time. Charlie won’t be there to ask you about homework and projects. It will all be on you. Do you really think you can handle college, the business, bills and cooking and cleaning on top of taking care of Hayden?”
Well, when he said it like that it sounded like a lot. I wouldn’t tell him that, though.
“I can do all things through Christ who is my strength, Knight.”
“You and Charlie always quoting that scripture when I ask y’all the simplest questions.”
I chuckled and stood before answering.
“Where do you think I get it from? I’m going to be fine, Knight. Seriously. If I can’t handle it, I know that I can always come back here.”
As he talked I walked over to Hayden and squatted to kiss his wet, cold, ice cream covered lips.
“Fine. Let’s make a deal. You stay here until the winter. Until Christmas break. Just to give yourself time to get adjusted to school. And if you still want to leave I’ll move your stuff out myself.”
“Fair enough. Deal,” I directed my attention to Hayden who was too busy making a mess with his ice cream to notice I was getting ready to leave. “I love you, baby. I’ll see you tonight. Be good, okay?”
Hayden nodded while finally putting his spoon down and looking at me.
“Where you going?”
With a roll of my eyes I stood and went to grab my purse. Knight was always asking me where I was going. Now he had Hayden doing it.
“Work. Is that okay with you?”
Hayden shrugged and nodded again. He returned his attention to his ice cream and started eating again.
“You’re not going to tell me you love me back, DenDen?”
“I love you too,” he grumbled. Like I was getting on his nerves. I swear between Tage and Knight, Hayden had the spirit of a grumpy, impatient 80-year-old sometimes.
Knight chuckled as he walked me to the door.
“Thanks again for watching him.”
“You don’t have to thank me for watching my nephew, sweetheart.”
Now I was the one nodding while I hugged him.
“I know, but thanks anyway.”
I rushed out of the door before Knight could say anything else. Really I didn’t have to go to the store every day, but I chose to. It was my way of getting out of the house and having a break. By the time I finished dealing with employees, customers, payroll, shipments and inventory on top of promotion and marketing it never really was a break, but whatever. It was a break from being in the house and I needed that.
Before Hayden I was hardly ever at home. After Hayden I became a homebody. The store was my way of getting out without feeling guilty about being away from my son. It wasn’t like I was hanging with friends or clubbing or no shit like that. I hardly hung out with my best friend anymore. Princess was my ace, but after I had Hayden… I didn’t want to do anything but stay home and lay up with him.
For the first year Princess was very understanding of that. She would always come over and kick it with us. I would go out with her maybe once every two months or so. Eventually she got to the point where she stopped trying to hang with me and I completely understand that. This was her time to be wild and free, not cooped up in the house kicking it with me and my DenDen.
Every blue moon she stopped by or we’d go out. Sometimes she’d stop by the store. But for the most part we only talked at school. Now with it being summer break I wasn’t expecting to see her for a while.
Every day, though, she FaceTimed Hayden after I got home and got him settled. I was sure we’d always be best friends. Just… best friends traveling down two completely different paths. All I could do was pray that she wised up and saw what that path got me and slowed her hot ass down.
I was almost at the store when I got a call from Tage. Just the sight of his name on my phone had me rolling my eyes. It’s crazy how you could hate someone just as much as you used to love them. I started to not answer. He couldn’t talk to Hayden since I wasn’t around him, and I most definitely didn’t want to talk to him. I found myself putting his call on the Bluetooth in my car and answering anyway.
“Hey, what’s up?”
I rolled my eyes again as my grip on the steering wheel tightened. Hating Tage wasn’t something I wanted to do… to feel. If anything, hating him came from not being able to really love him.
“I’m coming home. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
“Cool. I’ll take Hayden to your house in the morning.”
Before I had Hayden, Tage had the hardest time telling his parents that I was pregnant. When he finally told them his father made it perfectly clear that he didn’t want Hayden to ruin Tage’s future and chance of being in the NFL. Between my brother and Tage’s brother it seemed like they were able to talk some sense into Tage. He promised he’d be there for me and the baby.
Tage didn’t start seeing Hayden until he was six months old.
It wasn’t until Hayden was one that Tage starting seeing him consistently. He’d come back to Memphis every weekend to spend time with Hayden. Because I didn’t want to see him I dropped Hayden off with Tage’s mother, Patricia. That was hard in itself to do because I couldn’t stand Tage’s father, but I put up with him for Hayden.
I haven’t seen Tage in a little over a year, and to be honest, I don’t know how I’d handle seeing him at this point. Tage wasn’t just my first love. My high school sweetheart. He was the first person besides Princess that I truly allowed myself to be myself with. He was the first person that I expressed my grief over losing my mother to. He was my best friend. My greatest disappointment and heartache. And every time I think about the fact that he just tossed Hayden and me to the side…
I was about to disconnect the call but his voice stopped me.
He didn’t speak right away. Seconds passed before I heard him breathe heavily into the phone.
Without waiting for him to say more I disconnected the call. Yea, I definitely wouldn’t be able to handle seeing him. Not when I could hardly stand hearing his voice.