1st Chapter

“So, tomorrow’s your big day, huh?”

Dino’s six-foot-two frame lay sprawled across the king-sized bed.

Keisha smiled and continued flipping through the magazine she’d been reading. “Yes, baby, it is. And I can’t wait.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t thanked me yet.”

Confused, she turned to look at her boyfriend. “Thank you for what, baby?”

“Thank me for who you are.”

“What do you mean?” She frowned.

“Before me, you weren’t shit. Now, look at you. You wear designer clothes, live in a fly-ass crib, and you ridin’ in a slick whip. Hell, if I put you on the market, I’d make a killin’ off yo ass. I made you a hot commodity,” he gloated, sitting up and double-slapping his chest. Picking up a blunt from the nightstand, he lit it and took a pull. He looked at her, blowing thick white smoke from his mouth.

“You’re the envy of every bitch,” he continued

This bastard acts like I’m not even human, she thought.

“Not to mention you have me.” He puffed out his chest. “So thank your king.”

Not wanting a confrontation, instead of telling him how she really felt, Keisha put the magazine down and got up from the chaise she’d been sitting on. Walking over to the bed, she straddled Dino and looked straight into his eyes.

“Thank you, King. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for my mother and me. I love you.” She kissed him on the lips.

            “That’s sweet, baby, but it ain’t enough.”

Sighing inwardly, she started kissing his chest, slowly making her way down.

“No, that ain’t what I won’t either,” he said, pushing her away.

Keisha didn’t know what to do. Ahead session usually placated him. “What do you want, my king? Your wish is my command,” she whispered, nibbling on his earlobe.

“I want you to crawl for me.”

“Crawl?” she said, sitting up and laughing in disbelief.

“Do it look like I’m jokin’? Get on your knees and crawl!”

            “Dino, I’m not crawling. I’ll do whatever else you want, but I’m not getting down on the floor like an animal.”

That’s exactly what you’re going to do, bitch, he thought, taking another pull of his blunt.

“When I met you, you and your mother were about to get evicted,” he said. “You ain’t have shit. You barely had a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. Hell, you were stuffing tissue in your panties.” He frowned in disgust. “I introduced you to pads and shit. I buy your clothes, your hygiene products, and keep your hair and nails on point. Before me, you just existed. I gave you life. I’m your God and I said crawl, bitch, so get on your fuckin’ knees!”

            Keisha stood up, disbelief in her eyes. “Dino, I was fifteen. What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t old enough to work.”  She turned to walk away.

Dino quickly put out his blunt, jumped up, grabbed her by the arm, and threw her to the floor. She fell, hitting the side of her face on the edge of the nightstand. He grabbed the TV remote and turned the volume up high.

Knowing what was coming next, Keisha curled into a fetal position, blocking her face and tightening her body as best she could.

Bending over her, Dino punched and kicked her while screaming, “Crawl, bitch, crawl.” He grabbed her hair, wrapped it around his hand, and pulled her up off the floor. 

Keisha tried her best to fight back, but she was no competition for Dino who was built like an NFL quarterback and weighed a solid 250 pounds. He gripped the back of her neck with his free hand, squeezing until she fell to her knees. Then he pushed her face into the cherry wood floor and roughly placed his knee in her back. Pain rocked her body like an avalanche.

He flipped her over onto her back and pinned her down, looking into her chestnut brown eyes. He felt an adrenaline rush as he watched the tears stream down the side of her pretty face. He felt no compassion.

Keisha’s chest rose and fell rapidly. Twisting and turning, she tried to break loose. Her attempts failed. The more she tried to break free, the tighter he gripped and twisted her wrists. Her 140-pound frame was no match for Dino. She was terrified, wondering what he was going to do to her. She’d never seen this look in his eyes before—they were empty and soulless. She prayed for mercy.

Dino was determined to get her to submit to what he wanted. He grew more furious with her resistance. Bending down to her ear, he growled, “Bitch, I will kill you. Do you hear me? Now, are you ready to crawl?”

Taking a deep breath, Keisha shook her head.

Dino’s eyes widened. This bitch is going to make me kill her. I’m going to show her ass. Using his left arm to hold her down, he unbuckled his belt and pulled it free of its loops. Wrapping the piece of leather around her neck, he pulled her up off the floor. Frantic, she tried to break free, pulling at the belt and gasping for air, but he tightened it against her struggles.

Finally, he let her loose and she fell back to the floor. Pinning her down on her stomach this time, he began striking her with the belt. Keisha screamed in agony.

“Please stop,” she pleaded.

He ignored her. Relentless, he continued to hit her

“Please, please don’t hit me no more, I’ll crawl for you,” she mumbled.

Dino paused in mid-swing, the belt raised. “What did you say? I didn’t hear you. Speak the fuck up.”

Keisha trembled with fear, her voice wavering. “I’ll crawl for you. I’ll do whatever you want me to. Just please don’t hit me no more.”

Dino turned her over and kissed her on the forehead. “All of this could’ve been avoided if you would’ve just done what I told you from the beginning,” he said, wiping the tears from her face. 

Keisha stared up at him, her eyes still filled with tears. She didn’t know the monster standing before her. They had fought before, but he’d never gone to this extreme.

“Now, crawl for your king,” Dino said, stepping back.

She struggled to her knees, slipping on the fabric of her ripped silk nightgown. Her body ached with every movement. She held her head down, not looking at him. She felt ashamed, violated, helpless, and degraded. Silent tears fell as she started to crawl toward him. 

“That’s right, crawl for me.”

He walked over to the video camera he kept set up in their bedroom and pressed the record button. Moving into its view, he ordered Keisha to crawl to him and kiss his feet.

Still crying, she crawled slowly across the floor. Defeated, she lowered her head and put her lips to one of his feet, then the other.

Dino watched her with a sly smile. Pulling out his dick, he told her to sit up. “I want you to lick it clean. Like a puppy licking his paw.”

 Bringing her head to his groin, she smelled the scent of another woman’s pussy and gagged. She moved her head away. He grabbed her hair and forcefully placed her back in the position. Shaken and afraid for her life, she did what he commanded.

Now fully aroused, he pulled Keisha to her feet, ripped the remainder of her torn nightgown from her body, and threw her face down on the mattress. Yanking her legs open, he thrust savagely into her. She begged him to stop and struggled to get away, but it was no use. The more she cried and screamed, the more it excited him.

 Sated after busting several nuts, he picked her up like a dirty rag and carried her into the master bathroom. Blood dripped down her legs and onto the floor, leaving a trail of crimson droplets. He dumped her into the tub and turned on the hot water, burning her feet. Reacting quickly, she reached up and moved the handle to the warm setting.

“Soak your ass for a minute, it’ll feel better in the morning’. Then come wipe this blood off my fucking floor.

Holding his crotch, he turned and went back into the bedroom

An hour later, long after the water had turned cold, Keisha finally gathered enough strength to clean herself. Brushing her hair from her face with one hand, she felt pain near her right cheekbone. She stepped out of the tub and went to the mirror. A small cut under her eye was beginning to swell.

Grabbing a towel from the counter, she ran cold water on it and held it to the wound. Looking into the mirror, she didn’t recognize the person with the battered face and swollen lip staring back at her.

If only she could go back to the life she’d had before the death of her father ten years ago.

Growing up, she never wanted for anything. Her father, Chico, had been one of the biggest drug lords in Chicago, running a heroin operation on the Southside. With connections in the Dirty South and on the East and West Coasts, he was the man in charge.

He was a savvy businessman who not only moved major weight, but had also run legitimate businesses. He’d owned a lounge, cab service, car wash, a laundromat, and investment properties—both residential and commercial. His motto was “To succeed in life, you have to supply what the people need as well as what they desire.”

Chico had converted one of his four-unit buildings into a beautiful six-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom house for his wife and daughter. It had two guest rooms, a game room, an office, a playroom for Keisha, a parlor for Keisha’s mom, and a swimming pool. Friends and family were frequent guests. Chico’s brother, Ray, and his two sons had even lived with them for a while.

Her father was a family man who was not only respected by men, but was adored by women. None of the ladies who threw themselves at him had a chance in the world of winning over his heart. Isabella, his gorgeous wife, and Keisha’s mom was the head bitch in charge and the only woman he ever loved.

She had met Chico on a plane to New York City where she was going to sign a modeling contract with Ford Modeling Agency. They fell in love at first sight and Chico promised her the world if she’d be his wife. They married the next week and, true to his word, he provided her a life of glitz and glam. They’d been happy and living a luxurious lifestyle until he’d been killed.

Isabella was convinced that Ray, Chico’s own brother, had killed her husband or had someone do it. She told Keisha how she’d had a weird feeling and had cried all day for no apparent reason, so she prayed about it and asked Chico to stay home with her. He obliged until he received a phone call from Ray, who was no longer allowed in their house after making a pass at her. Apparently, he had asked Chico to meet with him about something important. Isabella had always told Chico that Ray was jealous of him and couldn’t be trusted. Chico refused to believe her, however, saying his little brother would never harm him. He left that night and never returned.

A week later, Isabella received a call saying her husband’s remains had been found on a burned school bus in Harvey, Illinois. The autopsy report indicated he had been gagged and his hands and feet tied behind his back. His throat had been slit and he’d been shot point-blank in the back of his head. Isabella hadn’t been the same since.

Chico had tried numerous times to teach her how to run the honest part of the business in case something ever happened to him, but she’d refused to learn. She’d been unable to fathom life without him or the thought of his death. In her mind, he would always be there to provide for and protect her and Keisha.

Isabella and Keisha had lived okay for about a year, but because of poor money management and unscrupulous lawyers, they eventually lost everything. Without an education, work experience, or anything to fall back on, Keisha’s mom was completely lost.

Isabella had learned one thing throughout her life, however—beauty and pussy were power within themselves. She knew that men love taking care of attractive women, but, even more so, they couldn’t resist taking care of beautiful damsels in distress. With this in mind, she used her status as a beautiful, struggling single mother to find rich and powerful men to take care of her and Keisha. The relationships never lasted more than a few months at a time; the drug habit she’d developed after her husband’s death was too much for any of the men to handle. This caused her and Keisha to be homeless often, living from friend to friend’s house.

“I miss you so much, Daddy,” Keisha said aloud. A single tear rolled down her face. “Things would be so much better if you were here.”

“What the hell are you doing in there?” yelled Dino. “Bring yo’ ass out here and get in the bed. You know I can’t sleep without you next to me.”

Keisha snapped back to reality when she heard his voice. “Here I come,” she said, her voice wavering.

Back in the bedroom, she scrubbed her blood off the floor before reluctantly climbing into bed.

Dino turned toward her and pulled her to him, kissing the back of her neck. “I love you, baby. Get some rest, tomorrow is your big day.”

His touch made her flesh crawl. She knew it was time for her to leave. She needed to make an exit plan. She remembered an episode of Oprah about abused women. They said you have to have an escape plan or they’ll find you. She’d thought about killing him and using the tape as evidence of her abuse, but she knew that would lead to severe consequences from both the law and the streets. Dino had made his mark in the streets of Chicago and had soldiers who would do anything for him.

While he snored loudly, Keisha brainstormed. Ideas fell into place and she knew exactly what she would do.

                                                 ***********************************************

    It seemed as if Keisha had just dozed off when she awoke to the sound of Isabella knocking on the bedroom door. “Wake up, Keisha. Today is your special day. Get up, sleepyhead. Do you hear me?”

“Yes, I hear you, Mom. Here I come.”

Keisha nudged Dino. “Dino, get up and unlock the door. I need to get dressed and my clothes are downstairs. Come on, Dino, get up.”

Dino groaned and rolled over. “Okay, okay, baby,” he mumbled.

Stretching, he sat up, grabbed his boxers, and went into the bathroom. Keisha stood by the bedroom door waiting for him to enter the security code so she could open the door. After being robbed, he had become paranoid and installed various cameras around the inside and outside of the house, high-tech security alarms on every door, and a special lock on the bedroom door that only he knew the code to.

“Dino, come on. I don’t want to be late.”

“Here I come,” Dino said, yawning and rubbing his eyes. “Oh, damn, baby,” he said when he looked at her face. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. I smoked some new weed last night. That shit had me trippin’. I’m sorry.”

Not as sorry as your bipolar ass is going to be, Keisha thought. “It’s fine,” she said. “Nothing a little MAC won’t cover.”

“Please forgive me.”

“I forgive you. Now, get ready so we can go.” She refused to get into a conversation about the night before, not wanting anything to mess up the day she’d been waiting a long time for.

“A’ight, but first I got a surprise for you.” Dino walked over to the nightstand, pulled out a rectangular silver box, and handed it to her.

Keisha took the box and kissed him on the cheek “Thank you. Now, can you please open the door?”

“Aren’t you gonna open it?”

“Yes, but not now. I’ll open it after I get dressed.” She needed to get ready and didn’t have time to fawn over another expensive trinket he’d given her in an attempt to assuage his guilt and smooth things over with her.

“I think you may want to open it now,” he said with a smile.

Keisha sighed and opened the box. Inside was a folded piece of paper.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“Go to the window,” Dino instructed.

Suspicious, she moved just close enough to see the trees outside.

“Yeah, baby, it looks beautiful out there,” she said, then turned to walk away.

He pulled her back, turned her around, and told her to walk closer and look down.

Her heart raced. She didn’t know what he was up to. She looked around the room, searching for something to defend herself with, but saw nothing useful. Stepping closer to the window, she closed her eyes and silently prayed. Lord, please do not let this insane bastard throw me out this window.

Taking a breath, she opened her eyes and looked down. Her mouth dropped open. Grinning, she turned quickly around. “Is that mine?”

“Yeah, baby, it’s yours.”

She picked the paper up out of the box and unfolded it. It was the title to an E350 coupe, with her name, Keisha Malina Lee, listed as the owner.

She jumped on Dino and hugged him tightly, kissing him all over his face. Thoughts of the torture he’d put her through the last night were pushed to the back of her mind, replaced by the pearl white Benz parked in the driveway with a pink ribbon on top.

“I have to go show my Mom, Dino. Unlock the door, please.”

“A’ight.” He smiled as he punched in the five-digit code.

Keisha ran down the stairs and burst into her mother’s room, waving the car title. Isabella turned, her smile disappearing when she saw her daughter’s face.

“Mom, Dino bought me a Benz! Let’s go check it out.”

“Yeah, I know, baby, not now. What happened to your face?”

Keisha sighed. “Mom, you already know.”

“Keisha, what did you do?”

Keisha stared at her mother, incredulous. “What do you mean, what did I do?”

“Keisha, baby, come sit down.”

Keisha sat on the stool at the vanity as instructed and her mother began applying makeup to disguise the bruising.

“Why do you make him so upset?” Isabella asked. “Don’t you like the house we live in? Your clothes and jewelry? The furs? Your new car? Do you like all the nice things he provides?”

“Yes, Mom, I do. But—”

“Then act like it.”

“Is it my fault that he doesn’t feel like a man unless he’s hitting, kicking, or choking the shit outta me?”

“Watch your mouth, young lady!”

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

Isabella finished applying foundation and picked up a powder compact. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. No man should ever put his hand on a lady, but, unfortunately, some do. Some women push a man to it by putting their hands on him and some by their choice of words. Listen, honey, until you can provide this lifestyle for yourself, you have to deal with his bullshit. Life is about sacrificing, Keisha. You’re grown now and I can’t sugarcoat shit for you anymore. Do you think your father and I never fought? Well, we did. But I knew when to be submissive and when to be aggressive.”

“I’m so submissive that it should be my name—Submissive Keisha.”

Isabella paused. “Very funny, young lady, keep joking. I’m trying to get you ready to deal with the real world. Your looks will get you in the door, but your knowledge and attitude will keep you there. Knowing how to handle yourself in every situation will protect you. This world will fuck you, then spit you out if you let it. Never be the person that gets fucked, you do the fucking. Remember that!” She closed the compact and lifted her daughter’s chin to admire her camouflage work. “Keisha, I know my habit sometimes gets the best of me, but I love you and always want the best for you.  And, right now, Dino is what’s best for you.”

“I’ll do better, Mom. I’ll try not to make him upset. I’d better go get dressed. I love you.” She kissed her mom on the cheek and dashed from the room.

“Tell Dino his breakfast is ready,” Isabella called after her.

Keisha rolled her eyes. “Okay.”

A few minutes later, Dino walked into the kitchen. Isabella stared at him. With one hand on her hip, she watched as he sat down at the table.

“I don’t like what you did to my daughter’s face. She is not your punching bag.”

“I know. She just makes me so mad at times. I promise I’ll never hit her again.”

“Good,” she said. She poured him a cup of coffee and kissed him on his forehead before going to fix his plate.

Moments later, Keisha walked into the kitchen. “How do I look?”

She took three long strides and turned, modeling her off-white, one shoulder, Roberto Cavalli dress. Swarovski crystals embellishments on the form-fitting dress glistened and the slit on one side of the floor-length garment revealed a long, shapely leg when she walked.

“You look beautiful,” Dino said. He’d seen her dressed up before, but today she was exquisite. His dick rose to salute her and he repositioned himself so they wouldn’t notice.

Isabella’s eyes filled with tears. “Baby, today is the third happiest day of my life. The first was when I met your father and the second was giving birth to you.”

“Mom, please don’t make me cry, I don’t want to mess up my makeup. I have to go. Please be on time. It starts promptly at eleven and seating is limited.”

“Are you driving your new car?” Dino asked.

She smiled. “You know I am.”

“It’s been a while since you’ve been behind the wheel, do you remember how?”

“Funny,” she said dryly.

Isabella hugged her. “I know your father is smiling down on you from heaven.”

Keisha kissed Dino and darted out the door. She walked around her new ride, checking it out. Of course, Dino had it decked out and sitting on 20-inch rims. Opening the door and sliding inside, she saw that it was fully loaded—keyless start, leather steering wheel, and interior, dual power heated seats, Bluetooth capability, panoramic sunroof, DVD/MP3 player, power rear window sunshade, automatic adjustable seats, four-zone climate controls, and a navigation system. When she started the ignition, the engine purred. She smiled, adjusted the mirrors, and drove off.

She couldn’t believe that she was driving by herself. It was something Dino never let her do. He must really feel guilty, she thought. She pulled out her cell phone to call Tameka and Sherrie.

The three girls had been best friends since their pigtail days. Their mothers used to be best friends too. But, like with most friends, men, money, drugs, or jealously had invaded and destroyed the friendship. Keisha, Tameka, and Sherrie were determined not to let any of those things come between them.

Using the car’s Bluetooth, Keisha called Tameka.

“Hey, Tameka. What’s up, girl?” she said when her friend answered.

“Nothing much, just getting ready. What time do we have to be there?”

“It doesn’t start ‘til eleven, but I’m coming to pick you guys up now.”

“What? You’re driving by yourself?” Tameka asked, shocked.

“Yeah. And guess what I’m driving?” Keisha sang.

“What?”

Keisha took a quick glance around her new ride. “A brand new—” She stopped when her eyes fell on the empty passenger seat, realizing she’d left her bag at home. “Damn.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ll call you back. I left my bag at the house. I have to turn around.”

“A’ight. I’ll call Sherrie and tell her to come over. We’ll be here waiting. Oh, and sis, in case I forget to tell you later, I am so proud of you.”

“Thank you. That means a lot to me. I’ll see y’all in a few minutes.”

After hanging up, she made a quick u-turn and headed back to the house.

Keisha was ecstatic. Feeling on top of the world, she couldn’t remember the last time she was so happy. Turning on the radio, she heard one of her favorite songs, a throwback. She turned up the volume and rapped along with Lil’ Kim about berettas and amarettas, butta leathers, and mad cheddar.

Pulling onto her block, she turned the radio off. Once inside the house, she yelled, “I forgot my cap and gown!”

There was no response, but she heard what sounded like moaning. She peeked inside her mother’s room and saw no one was there. Nearing the stairway, the moaning became louder.

“Oh, Dino, you know what to do to make Momma happy.”

Keisha ran up the stairs and pushed open the bedroom door.

Her man was down on his knees, kissing the place from where she had been birthed. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She stood frozen, unable to believe what she was seeing.