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Afterburn: A Novel

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Finding love isn't easy and keeping love is even harder—especially when everyone seems bent on trying to destroy it.

When Washington, D.C., chiropractor Yardley Brown goes to his local bank, it isn't only to make deposits into his account. He has long since accrued some interest in Rayne Waters, a bank employee who's too beautiful to be true—and too beautiful to be single. At least that's what Yardley believes, which is why he has never approached her.

Little does he know that Rayne is anything but taken. Not for want of trying, of course. But after barely surviving a dating disaster with her hairdresser's brother and then falling for a member of her church band, she's on the verge of giving up. That is, until Yardley—discouraged by his own slew of dead-end romances—finally works up the courage to give her a try.

But the true craziness is just beginning, thanks to a cast of characters who seem bent on botching the young couple's relationship. There's Rayne's erratic mother, Yardley's playboy buddies, always trolling for sex, and past lovers who make a habit of popping up to ruin things as only old flames (or previous mistakes) can. Weaving the carnal and the comical in true Zane fashion, Rayne and Yardley's struggle to find love in a world gone mad is a timeless talk about everything that can go wrong in the dating game—and a few things that can go right.

ISBN-13: 9780743470988

Media Type: Paperback(Reprint)

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: 10-04-2005

Pages: 320

Product Dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)

Zane is the New York Times bestselling author of Afterburn, The Heat Seekers, Dear G-Spot, Gettin’ Buck Wild, The Hot Box, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Nervous, Skyscraper, Love is Never Painless, Shame on It All, and The Sisters of APF; the ebook short stories “I’ll be Home for Christmas” and “Everything Fades Away”; and editor for the Flava anthology series, including Z-Rated and Busy Bodies. Her TV series, Zane’s Sex Chronicles, and The Jump Off are featured on Cinemax, and her bestselling novel Addicted is a major motion picture with Lionsgate Films. She is the publisher of Strebor Books, an imprint of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rayne Waters, Age 15

Birmingham, AL

June 1990

I was lying in my bed dreaming about Prince laying me down on his basement bed; like he did to Apollonia in Purple Rain. I'd fallen asleep staring at the poster of him I had taped to my bedroom ceiling; a nightly routine for me. It was the one where he was lying on his stomach with his ass cheeks exposed; enough to tease the millions of teenage girls who idolized him like me.

"Rayne, wake up! Wake up, dammit!"

Momma's high-pitched, irritating voice pierced into my blissful sleep. I willed both it and her to go away. Lost cause. Momma shook my shoulders and yanked me halfway off my twin-sized canopy bed.

"Rayne, you know you hear me! Sit up, missy! Time for a talk!"

Trying to sleep was out of the question so I propped my back up on a pillow. "Momma, it's the middle of the night. Can't this wait?"

"No, it can't wait."

Her breath almost knocked me out when she plopped down beside me, landing her hip on one of my kidneys. I moved over slightly. She was drunk again; no huge surprise. Momma spent at least five nights a week at the Eagle, a cruddy bar less than a mile from our apartment.

"Baby, I should've done this a long time ago, so listen up!"

"Done what, Momma?" Various scenarios raced through my head. Then I remembered my less than stellar grades. "Is this about my progress report? I'm gonna pull that D up in math. I promise."

Momma let out this hideous laugh. "This ain't 'bout no damn school! Fuck school!"

Humph, I wonder how many members of the PTA would want to jump on Momma's back for telling her child to "fuck school." She wasn't exactly June Cleaver but she could've at least been supportive of my education. I was really trying hard in school and was having issues with a couple of classes; mainly because of my staying up half the weeknights waiting for her to come home. I'd hear all these creepy noises in and around our apartment and we didn't exactly live in the safest area of Birmingham. I realized Momma was doing the best she could, considering my father -- who she refused to name, if she even knew his name -- had never been a part of our lives. Momma worked as a waitress at this dump where they couldn't even give me free food to eat. She used to try to get me to come by there after school to eat at her employee discount rate, but after a couple times of struggling to chew their meatloaf and ending up on the toilet for three hours, I decided my digestive system was more important than saving money.

On the flip side, I'd gained a lot of weight from eating fast food. I tried to tell myself that I could lose it at any given time. After all, I was young, and that had to count for something. I wasn't obese, so I simply let it flow and ignored the few assholes at school who made comments. I'd tell them, "God didn't intend for everyone to be a bag of bones!"

Momma slapped me on the leg and the pain shot up my spine. The room was flooded with an unwelcome burst of light after she reached for the ceramic lamp on my nightstand. "I wanna talk to you about fast ass boys!"

"Momma, why are you yelling? I'm right here."

Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I noticed her mascara and lipstick were smudged. She was so beautiful, even in disarray. She had the smoothest caramel skin, and men lost their minds over her gray eyes; the ones I shared with her.

"What about boys?" I asked. "I'm not even dating."

She pulled the bottom of my nightgown down further over my legs, like there were a bunch of perverted old men standing around my room or something.

"That Henry boy," she said in disgust. "I've noticed he keeps coming 'round here, sniffing your drawers."

"This is crazy, Momma," I stated in protest.

Henry Wilkes was ugmo, which made him twice as jacked up in the face than ugly. Chance Martinez, my best friend, and I had made up the word to describe him. He was still my friend because you have to take friends where you can get them and most of the boys in the school were so stuck on themselves that they made me sick. The majority of the girls were too busy sizing each other up in competition to be friendly.

"Momma, Henry and I are friends. I don't like him. He's not attractive, at all."

"Forget being attractive. Does he have any money?"

She was tripping. Did she not realize that no one at my school had money? If they did, they sure as hell wouldn't be playing house in our neighborhood. We didn't have two nickels to rub together and it was my guess that Henry and his family didn't have two pennies to rub together.

She stared at me like she was awaiting a response, one

that should've been obvious, so I replied, "Don't think so.


Her voice went up three decibels as she catapulted off the bed and threw her hands on her hips. "'Cause if he ain't got no money, he needs to keep his little ass from 'round here!"

"Henry's my partner for a science project. That's why he's been coming over lately."

I figured that was the end of the conversation so I laid back down. Momma pinched me on the shoulder and I shrieked out in pain. "Ow, Momma! Why'd you do that?"

"Sit up and listen to me, dammit! I've been whoring all my life and I'm a good whore. You better learn how to be a good whore, too!"

Momma was about to give up too much information so I

tried to ward her off. "Momma, please go to bed. You're drunk."

"I ain't drunk."

We both realized she was lying.

"I know what the hell I'm saying. Don't ever fall in love, Rayne. Not ever. Bastards will chew you up like a wad of tobacco. Believe that." I didn't feel like hearing her mouth, but at least she'd finally lowered her voice some. "Men care about two things. Money and pussy; in that order. You need to concentrate on the money and intake dick for financial purposes only."

I suppressed a laugh. If she'd been following that philosophy, we would've been living large. She was tripping, hard. I couldn't imagine how many drinks she must've had. The bartender at the Eagle must've made some seriously strong drinks that night.

It wasn't a secret that Momma loved spending time with men. Quite often, I'd wake up and find strange men scrambling eggs in the kitchen -- the main staple we kept in the house -- in the buff or close to it. Even so, the whoring comment had thrown me for a loop. She'd never come straight out and used the word "pussy" in front of me before, either.

"That's not true, Momma, about men caring about two things. Some men care about more than that."

She grabbed both sides of my face and stared into my eyes. "The hell they do. Loving a man will destroy you. He'll destroy you. He'll take your self-esteem. He'll take your dignity. Then he'll walk away and leave you with a stack of bills, bad credit, and possibly one or two babies." I wondered if she was talking about my nameless father. "Men are selfish and aren't capable of loving anyone but themselves."

"I've seen plenty of men in love. Men that treat women with respect," I told her.

I glanced at my alarm clock. Five A.M. Why couldn't she simply go to bed?

Momma rolled her eyes at me. "Where? Where have you ever seen men in love? On cable? At the movies? Fantasyland, perhaps? That shit ain't real. Name one fool -- just one -- you actually know who's in love."

Normally, I'd hate being put on the spot, but I had an answer for that one right away. Chance had been my best friend since first grade. If there was one thing I was absolutely certain of, her parents were madly in love. Chance was the third of six children and every experience in their home was like the Latino version of The Cosby Show. Even though they were a far cry from rich -- more like barely making ends meet -- everyone was always happy, smiling, and content; especially the parents. Yes, they were definitely in love. I was sure of it.

"Manuel Martinez. Chance's daddy. He adores his wife," I stated avidly. "They're incredibly cute together."

Momma laughed so hard, I thought she was going to choke on her own tongue.

"What's so funny, Momma?"

"Rayne, I hate to burst your bubble, but puleeze! Manuel's ass ain't in love. He's hanging in there because of all the damn babies that heifer keeps dropping. I've fucked Manuel a dozen times."

I almost choked on my own tongue at that point. "You had sex with Chance's daddy?"

"Shit, everyone's had sex with Chance's daddy."

I sat up higher on the bed. "Like who?"

"Never mind all that. Let's just say that Manuel has stuck more money in panties and seen more sluts working the pole than any man in Birmingham."

"Working the pole?"

"Yes, the pole!"

I looked at her in confusion.

"Shit, I'm glad you don't know what I mean 'cause your ass better not end up working the pole at some sleazy strip club."

"Ah," I whispered, getting her point.

"Listen to me, Rayne. Men ain't no damn good."

I laid back down. "You said that already."

It couldn't be true. Mr. Martinez was always so lovey-dovey. If a man like him would not only cheat but frequent strip clubs, what kind of man wouldn't? No, I wasn't buying it. I had to defend such an honorable man. Momma had to be mistaken, delusional, or something.

"I don't believe you had sex with him, Momma."

"Are you calling me a liar?" Momma's gray eyes turned almost jet black, like they always did when she was angry. "Are you calling me a liar, Rayne?"

I wasn't about to back down from her; even though her body language was giving off the indication that she'd haul off and slap me if I responded "yes." Instead, I said, "You're mistaken or confused. Maybe you have him mixed up with someone else."

Her knees started wobbling and she sat back down on the bed. If she hadn't, she surely would've fallen at any second.

"Okay, missy, I'll put it this way. If I ain't never let him have the coochie, how do I know he has a tattoo of an anchor on his ass?"

"An anchor?" This was simply too much for me.

"Yeah, Manuel used to be a sailor. That's probably why he's so damn freaky now. Military men are the nastiest of all." She emphasized the last portion of her statement and the liquor on her breath was so strong, I almost passed out.

"I've heard enough, Momma. I can't take any more of this," I stated sternly and covered my head with my comforter before she could start breathing on me again. "Can I please go to sleep? I'm going to Six Flags tomorrow, in Atlanta. Remember?"

"With who?" Momma asked. Once again, she'd forgotten something I'd told her less than twenty-four hours earlier.


"Manuel going, or is he staying here so he can fuck some stripper tomorrow night?"

I sucked in air and ignored that. "No, Ruiz is driving us."

Chance's older brother, Ruiz, was one of the finest men on the planet. I'd fallen in puppy love/lust with him when Chance and I were in the sixth grade and he was in the tenth. I was nothing more than a baby sister to him but that didn't change the fact that I wanted to be his girlfriend.

"Tell Ruiz he can't have none, either."

Ruiz can have anything from me, I thought as a sly grin came across my face.

"Not unless he's giving up some cash and I know his ass is broke," she continued with her bashing. "Broke daddy, broke son."

Seeing an opportunity to catch Momma in a lie, I inquired, "If Mr. Martinez is so broke, why'd you have sex with him? What about your intaking dick for financial purposes policy?"

I should've kept my mouth shut because I wasn't prepared for her answer.

"'Cause Manuel eats a mean pussy, that's why! I've had a lot of sweet pussy lickings in my day but damn! Manuel can make a woman want to -- "

I let out a slight scream -- making her pause in midsentence -- and clamped my eyes shut, willing Momma to get up and go into her own bedroom.

"Baby, I'm gonna let you go back to sleep." She pulled my comforter down to my waist and started rubbing my back gently. Even she realized that she'd gone too far. "If I don't see you, have fun at Six Flags. I might still be in bed when you leave."

I kept my eyes shut, trying to mask my anger. "Goodnight, Momma."

"You need some money? I've got a little something hidden under my mattress; some tip money."

She must've really been feeling guilty about her admittance of an affair with my best friend's father. I always had to beg for money; she never offered it.

"No thanks, Momma," I responded.

I'd recently started a job at a bookstore -- working part-time until school let out in a couple of weeks for the summer and I could work full-time. I'd saved up for Six Flags and was looking forward to having a good time and looking forward to peeping Ruiz's muscles all day. I was hoping he'd wear a tank top and shorts so I could see some skin. I'd picked out the perfect outfit to wear; one that was teasingly revealing but not too obvious.

"Sorry I woke you, Rayne," she said, continuing to rub my back. "This talk about the birds and bees is long overdue though."

"Thanks, Momma. I appreciate it."

Nothing could've been further from the truth but I didn't want her to feel too bad. She was still my mother -- the only relative I'd ever known since my grandparents died long before I was born. However, Momma couldn't teach me anything about sex that I didn't already know. Sure, she may have been able to embark on perversion but I wasn't interested in those kinds of acts. I hadn't gone all the way -- mainly because Ruiz had never tried me -- but I knew what to expect when I did. I had zero intention of becoming a whore and definitely not a proud whore like Momma.

She seemed to read my mind. "Are you having sex, Rayne?"

"No, Momma. Not yet." I threw the "not yet" in there intentionally. I wanted to put her on notice that I wouldn't hesitate to do it when I was ready.

"I didn't think you were, but I needed to know. When you do start, I gotta get you on the pill. I ain't even tryin' to be a grandma. I'm too sexy and way too fine for all that."

I giggled. "You don't have to worry about that."

"Baby, I'm too tired to crawl in my room. Can I crash in here?"

"Sure, Momma," I quickly answered. If it took allowing her to sleep with me -- liquor breath and all -- to get her to shut her trap, it was well worth it.

I scooted over farther on the bed, pressing myself up against the wall, as she slipped off her three-inch pumps and climbed underneath the comforter with me.

We both stared up at Prince. Sexy motherfucker.

"You know Momma loves you, baby?"


"Good. That's real good."

She started humming "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye -- her favorite song -- until we both drifted off to sleep as the sun was coming up. By ten, I was on the highway with Chance and Ruiz, headed for Six Flags.

Copyright © 2005 by Zane