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Della's House of Style: An Anthology

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Specializing in Cuts, Weaves, Manicures, Pedicures. . . and Passion. Della's House of Style is back at an attractive $9.99 price!

Rochelle Alers' Sweet Surrender
Manicurist Maria Parker can't help but notice when a hunky financial planner brings his niece into Della's for a manicure. And when he starts to frequent the salon himself for manicures from Maria, she's pretty sure he has more than cuticles on his mind...

Donna Hill's It Could Happen to You
When Della turned Rosie's Curl and Weave into Della's House of Style, a few things managed to slip through the cracks—and now she's under fire by the IRS. When a by-the-book IRS agent comes to investigate, Della is infuriated by his presence in the salon—and reluctant to admit that she's growing more than a little used to it...

Felicia Mason's Truly, Honestly
High-maintenance investment banker Sheila needs some serious pampering. On a whim, she decides to get a shoulder-length weave at Della's House of Style, and afterwards visits the salon's lounge, where a sexy D.J. has a song in mind for her...

Francis Ray's A Matter of Trust
Single mother Hope Lassiter, once a critically acclaimed actress, is now a cosmetologist at Della's House of Style. When a handsome director tries to woo her back to the stage, Hope has to wonder if his intentions are more than professional...

ISBN-13: 9781250834195

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group

Publication Date: 03-19-2024

Pages: 352

Product Dimensions: 5.38(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Rochelle Alers is one of today's most prolific and popular African American authors of romance and women's fiction. Donna Hill has published more than seventy books spanning a long career. Best-selling author Felicia Mason is a journalist, and has won numerous awards for writing. Francis Ray (1944-2013) was the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Temptation, among many other books.

Read an Excerpt

Della's House of Style

By Rochelle Alers, Donna Hill, Felicia Mason, Francis Ray

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2000 Rochelle Alers Donna Hill Felicia Mason Francis Ray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08435-4


Della was in a hurry, and she disliked rushing with a passion. It set a bad tone for her entire day. However, if she didn't rush she would be late and she disliked being late even more. The thing was, she wouldn't be rushing and on the verge of being late in the first place if she'd had a decent night's sleep. But that was another story. No time to dwell on it now.

She took a quick glance at herself in the hallway mirror. Not bad for a woman pushing past fifty, she thought, puckering her full lips. Her skin was clear and relatively wrinkle-free. She kept her body in shape with a weekly massage and plenty of exercise. And her hair, well ... she was a walking advertisement for the famous 125th Street salon. She peered a bit closer and noticed a few new gray strands. She'd have to get Reggie to give her a quick rinse. If not, the next thing you know they'd sprout up like weeds in an untended garden. She'd been so busy lately, she hadn't noticed until now.

With her daughter Chauncie off on her honeymoon, she'd had to get back into the swing of running the shop. On top of that she'd had to make all the preparations for the grand opening of the club that she'd added onto the salon. Although all the work had been completed nearly three months earlier, by her son-in-law Drew and his construction company, Della wanted everything to be perfect. That took planning. And if there was one thing Della Frazier prided herself on, it was that she left no stone unturned. Especially since the former Rosie's Curl and Weave, which she'd previously managed, was now named Della's House of Style.

Della smiled. Louis Sweet had turned the shop over to her lock, stock, and barrel after he'd tripped head over heels in love with Elaine. Della would have never thought Louis would give up the business that he and Rosie—God rest her soul—had built together. But love makes you do crazy things, she thought wistfully. Love had turned her daughter's life completely around when she met Drew. Love had given Louis a second chance with Elaine. So many couples had met and fallen in love at the former Rosie's. It not only changed looks, it changed lives. She wondered if Della's would have the same magic touch.

She fluffed her hair one last time, grabbed her keys and purse, and hurried outside. Once behind the wheel of her Volvo, Della tried to settle herself down. Why was she so edgy? She pulled to a stop at a red light and tapped her manicured nails along the steering wheel.

Methodically she went over a mental checklist of all the possibilities. She knew Chauncie and Drew were fine. Chauncie called the night before last gushing about how happy she was in Hawaii, and promising to be back in time for the opening. The salon had been running smoothly. Business was booming. The new receptionist she'd hired was working out fine. The caterer and the decorators were taken care of. The staff seemed to be happy and excited about the opening.

She stepped down on the gas and zoomed across the intersection. She couldn't think of a thing that was amiss. Yet the feeling of impending disaster wouldn't leave her alone. That was the reason why she was behind schedule. She'd slept poorly, worrying—about what, she didn't know—and though she finally did get to sleep, she woke up late.

"Just take a breath and be cool, Della," she said aloud. "It's probably nothing." Maybe this was her introduction to menopause, or something. She supposed a hot flash would be next. Oh, Lord.

To keep her mind off the countless possibilities, especially thoughts about a major turning point in her life, she turned on the radio and Luther Vandross's cool crooning kept her company for the balance of the short drive. It was hard to imagine that sooner, rather than later, a major part of her womanhood would be a distant memory. But she didn't feel old, felt every bit as desirable as she'd always felt, maybe more so with maturity, and she could still turn a few heads when she set her mind to it. Yet, there was no denying that time waits for no one and not even a good hair dye can change that fact.

By the time she arrived at the shop, it was already in full swing. All five operators had customers beneath their skilled fingers and more were waiting along the row of cushioned seats.

The familiar scents of chemical relaxers, hair pomades, coffee, and perfumes greeted her. Flowing, light jazz from CD 101.9 FM filled the air and womanish laughter completed all the spaces.

As usual, Reggie held center court, decked out today in a lime green suit and matching shoes, the iridescent outfit protected by the required black smock. Only Reggie could get away with an outfit like that. His nimble fingers were as fast as his mouth as he applied a henna rinse and chatted nonstop about his latest weekend adventure.

"'Morning, Ms. Della," Cindy, the new part-time receptionist, greeted. "Full house today. Folks were waiting outside as soon as we opened."

"So I see," Della, said, placing her purse on the desk. "Any cancellations?"

"None. We even had a few walk-ins."

"Looks like it's going to be another long day," Della said on a breath, not at all displeased. When she'd officially taken over the business and changed its name, she'd worried about a loss of clientele. That was not the case. If anything, business seemed to have picked up.

"Any messages?"

Cindy reached beneath the desk to the tray where she kept the message slips.

"Just one, from a Mr. Hawkins."

Della frowned, trying to place the name. She took the pink slip of paper and studied the number as if it would somehow reveal something. Nothing clicked. "Did he say what he wanted?"

"No. Actually he was kind of rude. He just said it was personal and for you to return his call as soon as you came in."

That "trouble is coming" sensation rumbled around in her stomach again.

"Thanks, Cindy," she said absently. "I'll be in my office if you need me."

Della reclaimed her purse and headed to the back office, waving and greeting her staff and clients along the way. But her mind was on the slip of paper in her hand.

Once inside her small but ordered office, she closed the door and went directly to her desk.

Taking a seat, she stared at the number again, took a breath, and reached for the phone. It was answered on the second ring.

"Internal Revenue. Matt Hawkins speaking."

Matt Hawkins's voice could have been that of a sexy rhythm and blues singer. It was deep, dipping down to the core of her, stirring that part of her womanhood that had long gone unattended. But the pleasure ended there.

Internal Revenue! Damn. Her heart began to pound. She cleared her throat, her mind racing over any possible reason why Matt Hawkins, no matter how good he sounded, would be calling her.

"Uh, this is Della Frazier. I received a—"

"Yes, Ms. Frazier," he said, cutting her off. "I'd like to set up an appointment for you to come into the office within the next three days."

"What in the world for?" She heard the shuffling of papers and held her breath.

"According to my records it appears that improper tax papers were filed when the addition was added to your place of business. It appears that you owe us a great deal of money."

"Obviously there's been a mistake. I—"

"The IRS doesn't make mistakes, Ms. Frazier. Taxpayers do."

Della's neck snapped back. She held the phone away from her face and stared at it a moment as if it were a foreign object.

"Well you've made a mistake this time," she flung back, recovering quickly. Who the hell did he think he was, anyway?

"If you say so, Ms. Frazier. But the fact remains. You have a large tax debt, and if it's not straightened out to our satisfaction, we'll have to shut you down. And you may do some jail time in addition to a fine for tax evasion."


"When would you like to come in? I have an opening tomorrow at ten, and the following day at two. The sooner the better," he added solicitously.

Della's hands shook. She couldn't think straight. This man was obviously going out of his mind. She'd heard and read the horror stories about innocent people getting caught in the web of the IRS. People had been ruined, their homes and businesses destroyed by a "mistake." Lord have mercy.

"Two o'clock sounds fine," she finally answered, attempting to sound stronger than she felt.

"I'll make a note. You'll need to bring all of your tax records for this year and last year and all of the paperwork relating to the additional space."

"Of course."

"Then I'll see you day after tomorrow at two. Please be on time. I have another appointment at four."

"I'm sure this error will be straightened out long before then." Della swore she heard him laugh.

"Have a nice day, Ms. Frazier."

Della listened to the dial tone for so long, the next sound she heard was the mechanical voice that warned her there was a phone off the hook.

Mindlessly, she returned the phone to its cradle. She covered her face with both hands and tried to get her thoughts in order.

Could this fool be right? No, that wasn't possible. She'd been handling the books for years and never made a mistake. They'd had Sid as their accountant for as long as she could remember, and he was as reliable as they come.

When Louis finally broke down and agreed to have the extension built, she'd gone over everything he'd given her. Chauncie had overseen the construction and Drew swore everything was up to code.

She looked helplessly around her office. What in the world could have happened?

"If it ain't one thing it's another," she mumbled, as Rosie—God rest her soul—would have said in a time of crisis.

Della tapped her nails in a steady drumbeat against the desktop. First things first, she decided, getting up from her seat.

She crossed the room and opened the file cabinets, pulling out the tax returns for the past two years along with a the folder marked "Lennox Construction." There had to be something in there that she'd missed.

But two hours later, she hadn't found a thing and she was two hours closer to her appointment with the dreamy voice of doom.


Della had been holed up in her office for the better part of the day, something totally out of character for her, and it hadn't gone unnoticed.

"You seen Della today?" Misty asked, smoothing a Revlon perm into Ms. Lucille's flaming red hair.

"Not much," Reggie said with a huff, looking at Tanisha's head from several angles, trying to figure out what to do with the mangled job she did of coloring her own hair.

"Well, that's not like her," Misty continued, wanting to stir up something.

"It's like her today," Reggie said with attitude, refusing to get caught up in the gossip trap of Misty's big mouth. It was one thing to run your lips about your own business, but running it about others' was where he drew the line. Especially when it came to Della.

Della had been the one who went to bat for him when he first applied for the job fresh out of cosmetology school. She listened to him when he'd cried on her shoulders about his love affairs, and applauded his outlandish clothes. She'd been his friend, his surrogate mom, and his employer. And he damn sure wouldn't let the likes of this bigmouthed heifer put the badmouth on her. Even if she could hook up some hair.

"All I was sayin', Reggie, was that she's acting strange, that's all." She smoothed on the rest of the perm and combed it through in long, even strokes. "I just hope nothing's wrong, that's all I'm sayin'."

As much as he didn't want to agree with Ms. Thing, of all people, she was right, Reggie thought, squirting the last of the peroxide into Tanisha's hair, hoping to strip away the last of that hideous color. He gently massaged it through, as he pondered what to do about Della.

She had been acting strange today. It wasn't like her not to be right in the mix, talking with the customers, checking on the technicians, especially on a day that was as busy as the one they'd had. Usually, Della would have jumped in to do a head or two herself to cut down on the backlog. But he'd barely seen her all day.

"Come on, sugah," he said to Tanisha, snapping a plastic cap on her head. "Sit under the dryer for ten minutes." Reggie ushered her over to the dryer and set it on cool.

He returned to his station and took off his rubber gloves, tossing them into the trash with a flourish. He spun around, hands on hips, and surveyed the remaining group of waiting women. He had two more clients. One wanted an auburn rinse and the other blond. They both could wait.

* * *

Della's eyes were beginning to cross. She'd looked at so many numbers and read so many letters and contracts that it was all one big blur.

She squeezed her eyes shut and massaged her temples with her thumbs.

The light tap on the door sounded like gunshots.

"Come in," she mumbled, briefly looking up to see Reggie saunter in.

"You look beat down, Ms. Dee. What's wrong?" He closed the door and came around to the side of her desk and sat on the edge.

Della shook her head as if to say it was nothing.

"Look, Ms. Dee, don't even try it. We've been friends for too long for you to pull the 'it's nothing' routine with me." He folded his arms, his signal that he wasn't budging until she spilled her guts.

Della sighed in resignation. "The shop's in trouble."

Reggie's finely plucked brows arched perfectly. "What kind of trouble?"

"Big trouble."

"Well, how do we get out of it? What do we need to do? If it's money, you know I'll pitch in," he ran on, his fingers furling and unfurling as he spoke. "I have some cash stashed away for a rainy day. You're welcome to it."

Della glanced up at him and her heart stirred. For all of Reggie's eccentricities and often outlandish proclamations, she could always depend on him in a crunch.

"I wish it was that simple, Reg." She blew out a long breath, a mixture of frustration and exhaustion. "The fact is, the IRS is on my tail."

His brows shot up again and stayed there. Della wanted to laugh, but it wasn't funny.

Reggie gave a slight shudder. "Just the thought of the IRS gives me the willies. What do they want with you? The thievin' SOBs."

Della ran down as much of her improbable circumstance as she was aware of. She punctuated her monologue with tosses of her mane of hair or a slap of her palm on the desk for emphasis. And when she really got worked up, she resorted to the age-old sucking of her teeth that came from so far back and so strong, the suction puckered her red lips for a full minute.

"This sounds like that rainy day I was talking about," Reggie mumbled. "Do you think you'll have to close the shop?"

"I hope not, Reg, but it's a possibility. And the grand opening of Della's Place will definitely have to be postponed. At least until I get this mess straightened out."

"Maybe Louis knows something. Have you tried to call him?"

"Louis and Elaine are on a two-month Caribbean cruise. I don't have the faintest idea how to contact him. And even if I did, I'd never intrude on them. When Louis turned the shop over to me, he washed his hands of the business. Right or wrong, I took on the good and the bad. It's my responsibility."

"Yeah, I hear ya. But all that responsibility ain't providing us with any answers."

Della pursed her lips in annoyance at the obvious.

"I'll figure something out," she mumbled, none too sure of her declaration.

Reggie hopped down from his perch. "I have two more clients and then I'm done for the day. Let's go for a drink and think."

The right side of Della's mouth curved. "I thought people drank so they wouldn't think."

"Whatever," he tossed out flippantly. "We could both use one." He turned toward the door. "See you in about an hour."

"And don't say anything to Ruthie. You know how she worries."

Reggie ran his fingers across his lips and sauntered out.

* * *

Matt Hawkins turned off his computer, returned his files to their proper slots, and prepared to leave, cutting his ten-hour day short. He was way ahead on his client list and felt he deserved the perk.

His office was immaculate. Every pen, pencil, and paper clip was in its place. Order was a passion with Matt Hawkins. He was known throughout the department as Take-No-Prisoners Hawkins because of his relentless pursuit of tax evaders. His success record was impeccable. He'd yet to lose a case.


Excerpted from Della's House of Style by Rochelle Alers, Donna Hill, Felicia Mason, Francis Ray. Copyright © 2000 Rochelle Alers Donna Hill Felicia Mason Francis Ray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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