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Dead on Arrival

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Kiki Swinson delivers startling twists, unforgettable characters—and a stark portrait of life in the South. Now she detonates an explosive tale about a couple who can’t get enough—and a risk that will exact a merciless price . . .

Nobody will get hurt
Dawn and Reese Spencer just can’t get ahead. Between her desperate desire to start a family and his gambling debts, they barely keep afloat, even with well-paying Norfolk International port jobs. But their calculating co-worker has the perfect plan: help him smuggle containers of human cargo past U.S. Customs.

Nobody will know
For Dawn, risking the innocent lives of undocumented immigrants is unthinkable. But Reese persuades her that no one will get hurt. And once things proceed without a hitch and money starts rolling in, the Spencers are sure their dreams are about to come true . . .

Nobody will live to tell
Until several immigrants turn up dead on arrival. Until Reese bets more than he can ever repay. Now the Feds and cold-blooded loan sharks are closing in . . . as the real brains behind the operation start killing off loose ends . . .

“Readers know immediately that they’re in for high suspense . . . The human-trafficking theme also makes for a thought-provoking, topical crime tale rich in memorable choices and consequences.”

ISBN-13: 9781496712776

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 02-26-2019

Pages: 288

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Kiki Swinson is the nationally bestselling author of over forty novels and short stories. Swinson’s works feature resilient women making tough—and sometimes not quite legal—decisions to survive. Her novels, inspired by her experiences and a five‑year stint in federal prison, have sold over 2.4 million copies. She completed her first novel while incarcerated and her second novel, Wifey, went on to become a #1 Essence bestseller and the first installment in one of today’s most popular urban series. A native of Portsmouth, Virginia—and a former hustler’s wife—Swinson resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt



I knew Dawn was going to jump down my throat when I walked through the front door of our home. Not only did I not come straight home from work, I didn't answer my cell phone when she called me over a dozen times, and I didn't have the $800 I promised her I would have. Shit hasn't been going right for us these last six months, so she'd been breathing down my neck because of it. To be more candid, we'd been having some financial problems for the last couple of years. Our car payments were past due, our credit cards were maxed out, our light bills had more than tripled, and our home was in fucking foreclosure. Taking a boatload of flat-screen smart televisions, laptop computers, and fur coats here and there helped me pay a few of our bills. It also helped me get into a few poker games at my homeboy Edward Cuffy's spot, which was exactly where I was when Dawn called me earlier. Edward was one of the senior operators at the Norfolk International Terminal. So far, he's got twenty-four years under his belt. In other words, he had seniority, so nothing got by him. If anything was stolen out of the shipping containers and sold for a handsome profit, Ed definitely got his cut. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Edward was like a big brother to me. He wasn't a big guy, but he made up for it in height and walked around like he owned the world. He was like Samuel L. Jackson. Sixty-five percent of the longshoremen on the pier liked Edward, but the other thirty-five percent hated him. My wife, Dawn, was one of them. "Did you just come from Ed's house?" she didn't hesitate to ask as she walked toward me. I knew she had just come from the kitchen because I smelled the aroma of tomato sauce, she wore a cooking apron, and she held a plastic mixing spoon in her left hand.

"Why are you asking me that?" I instantly became defensive after I locked the front door.

"Because I called you over a dozen times and you kept sending me to your voicemail," she spat as she stood before me. Dawn and I got married two years ago. We dated for a year before I popped the question. When I first met her, she was gorgeous. She resembled the actress Toni Braxton. She was sexy too. Plus, she wasn't this fucking nagging. I remember when she used to walk around our house almost naked, on a daily basis. Now I can't get her to take off her terry-cloth robe. She went from looking like a Playboy bunny to a Catholic nun. She assumed on several occasions that I was cheating on her because I complained about her appearance, but my guilty pleasure was gambling.

"I was at the pier. This new guy named Nate needed some help with a few containers, so I stuck around and helped him," I lied as I passed her and strolled into the kitchen. She knew I was lying, so she followed me.

"So, if I call down to the office and ask Porsha' to check your time sheet, it's gonna show that you were still at work?"

I gave her a head nod and then I turned my attention toward the pot of boiling water. When I looked closer and saw spaghetti noodles, I knew I was having spaghetti for dinner.

I changed the subject. "When will the food be done?" Dawn knew that I wasn't confrontational. I'd do anything to stay away from an argument, especially with her. She was famous for backing me into a corner, and I hated it.

"As soon as you hand over the eight hundred dollars you promised to bring home to me," she answered as she stood two feet away from me.

Hearing her ask me for the money hit me like a ton of bricks. Anxiety consumed me. I literally felt like a fucking little kid who just got caught stealing money from my mother's wallet. I tried to think of a good excuse as to why I didn't have the money, but my mind went totally blank.

"Reese, where is the money?"

"I don't have it yet." I dreaded my own words.

"What the fuck you mean you don't have it yet?" she roared. I could tell that she was at her wit's end.

"Listen, Dawn, I've been working on a few things, so as soon as it comes through, I'll get the money," I tried to explain.

"You're still stealing from those shipping containers, huh?"

"Why are you concerning yourself with that?"

"Because I don't want you going to jail," she said. "Do you know that the port police are doing a lot more patrolling than usual?"

"Stop being so paranoid. I know what I'm doing," I assured her.

"So, how much longer am I gonna have to wait for the money?"

"Give me until tomorrow. I'll definitely have it by then," I told her, even though I wasn't sure. I needed to say something to get her off my back, at least for now.

"Reese, I'm telling you right now that if you don't have the money tomorrow, I'm taking your fucking Rolex watch down to the pawn shop and pawning it," she threatened, and then she turned around and walked to the stove.

I didn't comment one way or another because if she knew that I had already pawned my Rolex, she'd really be breathing down my neck. It was important to her to get this money from me because for one, she lent the $800 to me a couple weeks ago and two, she needed it for a fertility treatment. Having a baby was the most important thing to her. I had children from a previous relationship, but I didn't have any children with Dawn.

I've told her time and time again that if she and I don't ever have kids that I won't love her any less. But she doesn't believe it. She thinks that having a child with me will bring us closer together. I don't believe that. I think things are good the way they are. We don't need another mouth to feed. Shit! I bring home around $85,000 a year and Dawn about $50,000. But we're still in fucking debt. She pays the little things like the light bills, gas bills, and her $750 BMW car note. I pay most of the bills, like our $2,500 mortgage payment, $700 a month in child support for my other kids, my $1,300 truck payment, and then I gamble up the rest. So, tell me how bringing home another mouth to feed is going to bring us closer together? It won't.

I headed to the bathroom and took a quick shower. After I was done, I slipped on a pair of shorts, a white T-shirt, and then I headed back to the kitchen. Dawn had my plate of spaghetti on the kitchen table waiting for my return. She was already sitting down and eating when I walked in. "Looks good," I mentioned as I took a seat in the chair across from her.

Instead of thanking me for the compliment, she rolled her eyes and continued to eat. We sat there in an awkward silence for at least five minutes. I started to get up a few times and take my plate in the living room so I could watch a little TV, but I knew that would send her up the wall, so I decided against it. Thankfully, the doorbell rang. I pushed my chair back to get up, but Dawn insisted that she answer the door while she got to her feet. So I scooted my chair back toward the table and continued to eat.

I heard Dawn as she walked across the hardwood floors to the front door. And when she yelled through the door and asked the person on the other side to announce themselves, I listened for their answer. "It's me, Alexia," I heard the lady say, and then I heard Dawn unlock the front door and open it. "What brings you by?" I heard Dawn ask Alexia.

"I was in the neighborhood," she replied.

Alexia was Dawn's older sister. She was five years older, to be exact. She closely resembled Gabrielle Union. She had this overly confident personality. When she walked in a room, she always commanded the attention of everyone there. I personally didn't like her because she always had something negative to say about Dawn's and my marriage. And to keep from cursing her ass out, I did my very best to avoid her.

"Wait, I smell food," she continued, and then I heard two sets of footsteps walking in my direction. I knew that at any moment I was going to come face-to-face with Alexia, so I needed to keep my composure. She knew how to ruffle my feathers, but I wasn't going to let her get to me today. I had too much other shit going on in my personal life, so I refused to let her add anything to it.

"Look at what we have here," she commented after turning the corner to enter the kitchen. She gave me this cunning look.

"What's up?" I said, and then I buried my face back into my plate.

"Nah, what's up with you? I see you got my sister slaving over the hot stove again," she replied sarcastically, as she sat down in an empty chair at the table.

"Isn't that what a wife is supposed to do when she has a family?" I told her.

"Speaking of family, Dad's been complaining about how he's been giving you guys money so you can make ends meet around here," Alexia said while she gave me the evil eye.

I got defensive immediately. "I don't know why you're looking at me. I don't owe your daddy shit!" I roared, firmly gripping my fork.

"Alexia, Reese didn't go to Dad to get the money, I did," Dawn chimed in.

"He might as well have gotten the money from Daddy, because if he was handling his business with the money he made from the terminal, then you wouldn't be in this situation."

"Bitch, why don't you just mind your fucking business!"

"You're the bitch! Got my sister around here running to my parents for money so y'all won't lose your house and cars. You aren't a real man. Real men take care of their family and make sure there's nothing lacking in the household. Not you. You rather throw your money away gambling while your wife does what she can with the money she makes and the money she gets from my parents."

"Alexia, you promised that you wouldn't say anything else!" Dawn yelled.

"He started it with me."

"Fuck her! She out of line, coming in my house talking all that fly shit out of her mouth."

"Nah, nigga, fuck you!"

"Reese, please stop. You too, Alexia. Y'all are about to give me an anxiety attack!" Dawn yelled once more.

"So, it's okay for her lonely ass to walk in here and start talking her shit to me?" I hissed.

"Stand up and be a man, and then I wouldn't talk shit to you," Alexia spat.

Dawn walked over toward Alexia and grabbed her by the arm. "Come with me, please." She led Alexia out of the kitchen. I realized that Dawn had taken Alexia outside after I heard the front door open and close. I heard bits and pieces of their conversation, with Alexia talking louder than Dawn, of course. Their spat only lasted a couple of minutes and then they came back in the house. This time when Alexia entered the kitchen, she focused on carrying on a conversation with Dawn, instead of me.

Alexia started talking about some bullshit-ass nigga she just started dating who wanted to have kids with her already. "We've only been dating for a month and a half and the nigga wants me to have a baby. I told him he was crazy."

"I thought you couldn't have any kids," I blurted out. I swear I couldn't let her slide by with that bullshit-ass statement, especially since she started running her mouth at me as soon as she walked into my kitchen. In my eyes, this was the perfect time to put her ass back in check.

"Don't worry about me. Worry about the fact that you haven't gotten my sister pregnant." Alexia hurled her words at me. I swear, I wanted to ignore her and not feed into her bullshit, but she started hitting nerves I didn't know I had.

Dawn jumped to my defense. "Come on now, Alexia, that's hitting below the belt. And besides, it's not his fault that I haven't gotten pregnant."

"Well, who's fault is it, my sister? He's a fucking loser." Alexia pressed the issue.

My blood was boiling. I wanted so badly to stand up and slap the shit out of her no-job, meddling ass. But I knew that putting my hands on her would be a huge mistake, so I got her where I knew it would hurt, and that was her personal life. All the niggas she fucked and continued to fuck.

"You got a fucking nerve coming in my house and disrespecting me. If you weren't Dawn's sister I would drag you by your hair and haul your ass out of here," I told her.

"Do it, nigga! Do it!" She stepped closer to me.

Dawn stepped between us. "You're a lucky-ass bitch!" I said.

"Nah, nigga. You're the lucky one because if I had it my way, I would file the divorce papers for my sister myself."

"Well, thank God you're not. Now mind your business before I call the cops and have your ass thrown out of here," I replied while clenching my teeth. I had so much other shit I wanted to tell her. For starters, she was a fucking unemployed high school dropout and a whore. Everyone down at Norfolk International Terminal had fucked her. Talking about Dawn not being able to get pregnant, she can't get pregnant either. So for her to come in my damn house and start stirring up drama between my wife and me is unacceptable. This bitch needs to know who's really in charge.

"I swear I can't believe that you married this nigga! You would've done so much better if you'd married that nigga Blake," Alexia continued.

"Well, she didn't, so deal with it," I snapped.

"I don't have to deal with that shit."

"Well, I'll tell you what, deal with the fact that you had to have over a dozen abortions because you were fucking two and three niggas at one time and you had no idea who the father was." I hissed like I had venom spewing from my mouth.

"Nigga, you don't know shit about me!" Alexia shouted.

"Reese, are you fucking kidding me right now?" Dawn said as she stood between us.

"I know you're a fucking ho! And I know every nigga you slept with. I mean, hell, every nigga at NIT know who you slept with," I continued. I was digging deep in my bag of information so I could humiliate the hell out of her. Judging from her facial expression, my tactic was working, but I could also tell that my words were hurting Dawn.

"Reese, stop it right now! I fucking mean it!" Dawn yelled at me.

I stood on my feet. "Tell her to stop it! She started this whole fucking thing!"

"Fuck him, Dawn! He's a fucking loser anyway!"

"Bitch, you're the fucking loser! That's why you can't keep a man! Nobody wants you," I roared.

"Oh, but you wanted me," Alexia said. She and I were standing at opposite sides of the kitchen table.

"Bitch, I never wanted you!" I protested, but she was right. About one month before I met Dawn, I met Alexia at the nightclub Upscale in Chesapeake. I was with one of my friends, who pointed out that he knew Alexia and that she was easy to get into bed. So, being the adventurous man that I was, I bought her a few drinks and then I tried to talk her into coming back to my apartment so I could fuck her. Now the only reason it didn't happen was because she was with two of her homegirls, and she drove. So she gave me her number that night. I can't tell you why I never called her, it just didn't happen.

"I want both of y'all to shut the fuck up right now!" Dawn roared as she stood between us.

"I'm not doing shit! This is my fucking house. Just send that bitch on her merry way."

"I ain't gotta go nowhere! This is my sister's house too," Alexia griped as she stood her ground.

"Dawn, get that ho out of my house right now! I'm not gonna say it anymore," I warned her.

Without saying another word, Dawn grabbed Alexia's hand and tried to pull her in the direction of the front door. "Come on, Alexia," she said.

But Alexia snatched her arm away from Dawn. "Are you scared of this nigga or something?" she blurted out.

"Nah, she ain't scared of me. She ain't got a reason to be," I told her as I took a step toward her.

"So, whatcha about to do?" Alexia asked me while Dawn grabbed her arm once again and started pulling her.

"I'm not about to do anything."

"So, why you walking toward me like you're about to do something?"

"Bitch, just get out of my fucking house! You're not wanted here," I concluded, and then I walked around her and Dawn. I started walking down the hallway toward my bedroom so I didn't have to hear Alexia's mouth anymore. I swear, if she were my woman, talking to me like that, I would've choked all the breath out of her body and gladly taken the thirty-year prison sentence to go with it.

I closed the door after I entered my bedroom. I heard Alexia utter a few more words to Dawn and then I didn't hear her voice anymore. I didn't hear Dawn's voice either. I figured she must've walked outside with Alexia, or even left for that matter. Either way, silence was something I needed to unwind. With the drama surrounding my relationship with Dawn, the bills we had and the gambling debt I couldn't get rid of, I needed this time to think. I needed to figure out how I was going to get things back on track. I needed a plan and I needed it right now. I just hoped that whatever I came up with eliminated my problems completely. If it didn't, then it would be a waste of my time.



That argument between my sister Alexia and Reese was way out of line. Now I understood why my sister jumped to my defense, but I'm a grown woman so I can handle my affairs concerning Reese. The last thing I wanted to happen was for Reese and Alexia to get into an argument. I loved them both, so I didn't want to pick sides. I wanted things between them to be civilized and nothing more.

"You do know you were wrong for picking that fight with Reese," I pointed out as we sat in her car, which was parked in our driveway.


Excerpted from "Dead on Arrival"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Kiki Swinson.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Also by,
Title Page,
Copyright Page,
1 - REESE,
2 - DAWN,
3 - REESE,
4 - DAWN,
5 - REESE,
6 - DAWN,
7 - REESE,
8 - DAWN,
9 - REESE,
10 - DAWN,
11 - REESE,
12 - DAWN,
13 - REESE,
14 - DAWN,
15 - REESE,
16 - DAWN,
17 - REESE,
18 - DAWN,
19 - REESE,
20 - DAWN,
21 - REESE,
22 - DAWN,
23 - REESE,
24 - DAWN,
25 - REESE,
26 - DAWN,
27 - REESE,
28 - DAWN,
29 - REESE,
30 - DAWN,
31 - REESE,
32 - DAWN,
33 - REESE,
34 - DAWN,
35 - REESE,
36 - DAWN,
37 - REESE,
38 - DAWN,
39 - REESE,
40 - DAWN,
41 - REESE,
42 - DAWN,
43 - REESE,
44 - DAWN,
45 - REESE,
46 - DAWN,
Teaser chapter,