Any real hustler knows the unspoken code of the streets is to eat or be eaten, but when it comes to Ashura Trenton, she’s internally battling with herself to either respect the creature that the streets made her or rebel against it. Crowned Queens, an organization that Ashura and Nacobi created when they were freshmen in college, had turned into a lucrative empire right before their very eyes. Young, successful and content with life, Ashura implements the necessary changes to put that lifestyle behind her, but with the power that she’s gained comes a slew of enemies prepared to snatch everything that she has worked for.
Nacobi has always been there for Ashura. Her rider to the point of no return and that will never change. When Ashura gets fed up with Crowned Queens, Nacobi reluctantly follows suit in getting things shut down. However, what they don’t know is that the enemy who is out to get them is closer than either of them would expect.
With love found, love betrayed, and love tainted, the savage that Ashura has fought tooth and nail to keep suppressed is threatening to rear its ugly head. Unbeknownst to the enemy, if the beast is released, they will soon learn why she’s the diva who was Crowned Queen
The delight Ashura felt when she looked around the room could not be placed into words. She glanced up, admiring her husband’s handsome face as he gazed at her lovingly. “Happy Birthday, beautiful!”
Blushing, she got on her tiptoes to kiss him in return. “Did you do this for me?”
“I can’t take all the credit. The decorations and food were handled by Nacobi. I was more of an… organizer.”
She looked around again, her eyes landing on her best friend who had on a party hat and was looking at her along with everyone else. “Thank you, Nacobiiii!”
“No problem, boo,” Nacobi said as she walked up and tugged Ashura into her arms. “You old now, bish! Thirty? Lord!”
“Thirty is not old,” Ashura defended as she walked over to her mother and father and hugged them before hugging her aunt, cousins, and the rest of her family and friends that were in attendance. “Literally, everyone is here!”
“Yeah, see, that was all on Vince. I didn’t have time to be calling all these damn people,” Nacobi muttered as she led Ashura over to the drinks.
They were as thick as thieves; they went through and did everything jointly. Since elementary, Ashura and Nacobi had been inseparable, it was a friendship that they both valued to no end. Though Nacobi had never really liked Ashura’s husband, Vince, she tolerated him. If he loved Ashura, then to Nacobi, that was all that mattered.
“Happy Birthdayyyyyy,” Ashura heard her mother sing from behind her.
She quickly turned around and threw herself into her mother’s arms. This woman was the backbone and the molder of everything that was Ashura Trenton-Combs. Outside of Nacobi, she was the only woman that Ashura allowed into her circle.
“Mommmaaaa,” Ashura cooed as she hugged her mother tight. “I’m surprised they got you out of the house.”
“Oh hush,” her mother stated with a wave of her hand. “I wouldn’t miss your thirtieth birthday for anything. You know thirty is a big milestone for a woman. After Vince called and drilled the importance of this day and what it would mean to you if we were all here, I knew I had to come. But, I was already coming anyway.”
“Well, thank you, Momma! Have you eaten and taken your medicine? You know you have to stay on top of that with your diabetes.”
“Honey, hush,” her mother cooed as she wrapped her in her arms around her. “Try to relax, Ashura. You work so hard! Your husband put this together for you. Get loose a little, and let your hair down!”
“Yo momma said get loose, though,” Nacobi added with a smirk. “What you know about getting loose, Mrs. Trenton?”
“Oh, I know a lot, honey,” she stated as she released Ashura. “Have fun!”
Ashura smiled and nodded her head. “Okay! Let’s party!”
“That a girl,” her mother stated over her shoulder as she walked away.
Nacobi turned to Ashura. “This party proves that you’re my only friend! I don’t know half these people!”
“And it’s some suspicious looking motherfuckas in here too, Ashura. Who all these white folk, Shu-Shu?” Nacobi asked, using the nickname she gave Ashura when they were kids. She could never say Uh-Sure-rah, so she just called her Shu-Shu, and it kind of stuck with her.
“Oh, my God,” Ashura rushed as she covered her mouth. “Can you not talk all loud?”
Nacobi continued to look around with her nose turned up. “It’s a lot of white folk in here. I know you married to a white man, but you for damn sure don’t know this many white people!”
“Could you stop?” Ashura cracked.
“I’m just saying, though…”
“You should have called people if you wanted a black party.”
“You know Nacobi’s mean ass wasn’t going to call nobody,” Ashura’s cousin Romeo said from behind them. He hugged Ashura and mumbled a ‘Happy Birthday’ to her as he kissed her forehead and slipped five hundred dollars into her pocket. “She still running from this dick to this day. Gave it to her once, now she scared and shit.”
“Boy, fuck you,” Nacobi spat as she flipped him off. She waited until he was out of earshot before she turned to Ashura. “Your cousin’s dick big as fuck, though.” Ashura scrunched up her face and covered her ears. “Facts only, bruh! I may have to let him sample me one more time then cut him off. I can’t fuck with family, and that’s like family to me.”
“Nacobi, I really don’t care! Romeo is a dog, and you know that, but I love him to death.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to marry him, Ashura. A bitch can settle for good dick and a smile from time to time, can’t I?”
“You absolutely can!”
Nacobi and Ashura shared a laugh as they turned around. The DJ came through the microphone, grabbing the attention of everyone in the event center.
“Happy thirtieth birthday to the very beautiful, Ashura Trenton-Combs. This one is for you, baby girl!”
The sounds of “Before I Let Go” filled the air and Nacobi rolled her eyes. “Oh, my God, girl! You old as fuck! This song and Bill Cosby the same age!”
Ashura laughed as she pulled Nacobi to the dance floor. “Shut up and dance with me!”
“But I can’t twerk to this,” Nacobi whined as Ashura pulled her. She was laughing so hard at Nacobi’s crazy self.
“You only use me because your husband can’t dance, heffa. You ain’t slick.”
“Vince can dance!” Ashura defended as she started to snap her fingers.
Nacobi mugged Ashura as she continued to move. “Oh lord, his no rhythm having ass is rubbing off on you! You losing it too, bitch!”
Nacobi shook her head as she continued moving. She wanted her friend to enjoy her party because she deserved to let loose. The last few years of her life had been difficult. Just recently, they both obtained jobs in the fields in which they earned their degrees. For Ashura, that field was law. She had spent the last four years working hard as hell to get her degree, and now that she had it, she was now working hard on opening her firm.
Vince wasn’t good for much in Nacobi’s eyes, but he had supported her best friend through both school and he promised Ashura to give her the startup money to open her firm. Ashura didn’t need the money, didn’t need a red cent of it but she refused to touch the money that they had made together. Nacobi would never understand why she wouldn’t touch the money, being that it was the entire reason that they did what they did, but she had learned a long time ago to not question Ashura about her movements and thought process.
Nacobi decided to be in the moment and enjoy her best friend, but her eyes kept traveling to a man who was standing in the corner looking suspicious.
His demeanor was not that of a person who was there to enjoy a party. Ashura continued to dance, but Nacobi, forever on defense, continued to eye the man. She watched his line of vision and noticed that another man was standing across the room with the exact same demeanor. Something… wasn’t right.
Ashura’s head snapped up as she continued to move and dance. Her eyes connected with Nacobi’s and she saw the concern etched across her face. She stopped moving and looked her best friend over as she scanned the party with her dark eyes.
Ashura flinched as she turned around, her heart increasing its pace. “Daddy! You scared me!”
“I’m sorry, baby girl! I was coming over to ask where you wanted your gifts?”
“Oh, I… it doesn’t matter, Daddy! Are you enjoying yourself?”
“It’s your party, sweetheart! What do you young folks call it? Dirty thirty?”
“That’s right! Dirty thirty! You know me, forever ready to party! I’m trying to get Nacobi’s butt to dance.”
Ashura turned around to Nacobi, taking in the sight of her eyes rounding. “Get down!”
Ashura shifted back around in time to see a red beam painting the center of my father’s head. Before she could react, a single bullet travelled through his skull, splattering blood all over Ashura’s face. She felt Nacobi pull her to the ground and get on top of her as complete chaos erupted inside the small venue. The sound of bullets whipping through the air and ricocheting off the walls echoed in Ashura’s ears as flashes of her father’s death played in her head.
“Nacobi, get off!” she screamed through her tears.
“Stay down, Ashura!”
“I have to get to my daddy!”
Ashura’s cries shattered Nacobi’s heart, but she couldn’t let her get up. She knew Mr. Trenton was gone, and Ashura would be too if she let her up.
“Stay down, Ashura. Just stay down!”
Flinching on the ground, complete fear consumed both friends as they tried to stay as low as possible. As more shots began to ring out, Ashura closed her eyes and prayed that no one else was taken, but this day took a lot more from her than just her father, it took her entire being.
“You will never in this life or the next find a bitch like me! That’s for damn sure!”
“Bruh, learn how to multitask! Talk all that shit on your way out the door!”
Anthony propped his foot up on the small center table occupying the diminished area between where he sat and where Danielle stood.
“Fuck you, Anthony! You just want free range to fuck whatever you want. You will die lonely and depressed. Mark my words.”
He was too high to deal with Danielle’s diatribe. In fact, he didn’t understand the basis of her yelling and shouting shit that he couldn’t make out. There was no point.
Why was she so pissed?
He wasn’t sure how a simple smoke and fuck session had turned into Danielle getting pissed off and trashing his dorm after trying to attack him to no avail. This was why he didn’t want to place a title on what he and Danielle were doing. He was good when they were just fucking, but now she was his girlfriend. Well, she was before she flipped out after finding lace panties under his bed.
“You don’t even try to keep your dick in your pants, do you?”
Anthony shrugged. “I be trying and shit.”
Danielle hated his nonchalant demeanor and the fact that she had been crying, and he hadn’t shed a single tear or shown any sign or destress or emotion. She knew then that she was far more invested in this relationship than he was.
Anthony Drake acted as if being committed to one woman would be the death of him. The thought of monogamy was as foreign to him as Chinese arithmetic. He just didn’t do it. Made a solid attempt because he liked Danielle. Liked her a lot, but just like everything else in his life, he managed to screw it up by basically doing what he always did. Cheating.
“I don’t get you though, Danielle. You knew what it was when I met you. I mean, shit, I was cheating on my main bitch with you when we got together. Then you trying to force me into some shit that I just ain’t ready for, so… I cheat.”
“So, you’re immature and you weren’t ready to be in a committed relationship. Does that make what you do right?”
“I didn’t say all that because I know it doesn’t, but for you to sit here and act like I wasn’t cheating with you is some bullshit.”
“So what, you cheated with me? So, what? You said that you would do better, but you clearly lied. You sat in my face and lied to me. I’ve been nothing but loyal to you, holding you down at every turn, and this is what I get? This is what you feel I deserve?”
Anthony felt like shit. He didn’t mean to hurt Danielle; that was never his intention. The only reason he was caught up this time is that the broad had left pieces of clothing behind. Other times, he would pick up on shit like that, but ol’ girl got one over on him. Now he was dealing with the wrath of Danielle.
“I’m about to call campus security on your ass if you break something else!”
“You should be glad I’m not doing more! I cannot even tell you how sick of this I am, Anthony. One whole year down the drain because you can’t remain faithful!”
“I didn’t cheat on you the whole time, though!”
Danielle frowned as she looked at him. He actually felt like the fact that he wasn’t constantly cheating gave him some sort of leverage. “Really?”
“Dead ass. It was just this bitch, and one other bitch, but like the first six months after I dumped my main bitch, I was all about you.”
“This can’t be my life,” Danielle mumbled.
“You buggin’, ma!”
“You need to address your issues, Anthony. You don’t have regard for anyone’s feelings but your own. I think you have some deeper issues that you need to deal with before you can take any relationship serious.”
Anthony chuckled and rested his head back on the couch that he was lounging on and watched an upset Danielle as she snatched her bag up off the floor. He grabbed his blunt and lit it before he inhaled deeply, letting the smoke flow from his lips.
“You digging way too deep into this shit, ma. We gon’ have some for the road sex or nah?”
“Fuck you, Anthony!”
Anthony shook his head, counting the number of times he’d had that exact statement yelled at him by a woman he once penetrated. “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
“I’ll be sure to send a bullet through your ass if I do! Again, fuck you! Remain miserable!”
Danielle grabbed all her things and left. She knew Anthony never loved her, and yes, their relationship was based on a lie, but she was hoping that he would change for her. Get better, and be a better man to her. She had thought wrong.
“That’s what I get for falling for a toss, man. Should have left that bitch in the slums where I found her hoe ass. Done fucked everything walking, and wanna lock a real nigga down. Fuck is she talmbout?”
Anthony continued to smoke to clear his head. There was no time to dwell on what he considered bullshit. He had other things to do, bigger matters to tend to. He was still young, and he didn’t want to be tied down. He just didn’t. Anthony couldn’t discount the future because he didn’t know what it held and how it would go for him, but right now, all he wanted to do was enjoy life.
“You only live once,” he mumbled as he grabbed his phone and called a girl over so she could take his mind off Danielle and the sudden development of emptiness that her exit had left him feeling.
His phone, which was sitting in the middle of the table surrounded by shattered glass, rang a few times before he reached out to grab it. It was his best friend, Cole.
“Yoooo, boy? What it do?”
“What’s good for tonight? You booed up and shit?”
Anthony sucked his teeth as he surveyed his dorm room. “Nah, bruh. That shit is over with. What’s the play?”
“Over with? You and Danielle?”
“Yeah! Tasha messy ass left her panties under my bed and Danielle found them shits. Left my ass high and dry. Now, I’m getting as high as I can so I don’t chase her ass.”
Cole shook his head at his best friend on the other end of the phone. This was typical Anthony; this was how he did things. Commitment was something that he didn’t crave. Cole was like him in that sense, but where Anthony shied away from relationships, Cole welcomed them. But, if he was going to be tied down, he wanted to be tied to something worth the anchored feeling.
“So, you ’bout to eat ice cream and sing love songs and shit like that?”
Anthony laughed so hard that he choked on the smoke from the blunt. He wasn’t that pressed. He didn’t think in the duration of his life would he ever be that pressed over a female. Nah, that’s too extra. “Nigga, what I look like crying over a female? You know better than that shit. The fuck?”
“I was about to say, man. Let me find out, let me find the fuck out, bruh!”
“Nah, bruh, I’m just chilling. Smoking and ’bout to get on this Madden. You coming through?”
“That’s what I was calling you about. I got somebody that I want you to meet.”
Anthony’s ears perked up. “Is it new pussy?”
Cole shook his head. “No, bruh!”
Anthony frowned. “New money?”
“Now you talking my language!”
“Oh, you know I’m always with the shit. Come scoop me!”
“Bet, I’m on the way! Nigga, be dressed when I get there because I ain’t waiting on you.”
“This better be worth my time. I just got dumped like shit!”
“Oh, trust me. It’s worth every second.”
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