When an insecure, bi-racial woman begins a cloak-and-dagger love affair with a Japanese American man, she is intent on keeping her bigoted family in the dark—albeit with devastating consequences. On the night of her brother’s murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32. After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through the hood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief. Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her white mother killed her black father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge her fast-growing love for Takumi. And had he never made love to her that way, in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could’ve done the same. But love’s a devil that way. So, their game begins. One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone. And Tak understands this—for now. After all, Deena’s career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss, his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had. And away from him.
EXCERPT: Crimson Footprints
A slender, striking man of Asian descent was on the wrong end of Anthony’s .32. With arms raised, his hands were splayed in a show of defenselessness. His expression was calm, despite the growing crowd of onlookers and the pistol in his face. Behind him, an old woman made the sign of the cross.
“Anthony!” Deena cried, rushing towards them. Her brother cast a single sideways glance but kept his gun level.
“Get back in the house,” he said.
Deena turned her attention to the Asian man. She was struck by his eyes, wide and heavy-lidded. His mouth was generous, his square face softened by layers of thick black hair. He had boyish good looks and a long, lean athletic frame.
She was certain he was Japanese.
Deena turned to her brother. “Will you put that thing away?”
The two stared at each other, older sister, young brother, eyes narrowed. When he didn’t move, Deena stepped between the gun and the stranger, her eyes level with the barrel. Anthony lowered the gun with a sigh and Deena seized the opportunity to snatch it.
She turned to the stranger. “I assume that’s your car,” she said, nodding towards a sleek gray convertible parked haphazardly, a shiny nickel in a murky puddle. He nodded, his glossy black tresses falling into wide almond eyes.
“Yeah, um, about that.” He cleared his throat. “He uh, took my keys.”
Deena turned to her brother, hand extended. He dropped the keys in her palm with a sigh, a new Ferrari slipping from his grasp with reluctance.
She passed the keys to the stranger and their fingertips brushed. Something warm and foreign turned over in her and her lips parted in surprise. She thought she saw the makings of a smile in his eyes, but she dismissed it. He took the keys and thanked her. And as she watched him peel off with the top down on his sleek convertible, Deena’s pulse skittered then and long after.
Shewanda Pugh is a native of Boston’s inner city, though she now lives in sunny Miami, Florida. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Alabama A&M University and a Master’s in Writing from Nova Southeastern University. Fueled from a young age, her passion for crossing societal boundaries like race, class and culture, is the inspiration for both her cluttered bookshelf and her writing. When she’s not busy obsessing over fiction, she can be found traveling, nursing her social networking addiction or enjoying the company of loved ones.
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