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Diamonds and Pearl

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From # 1 Essence best-selling Crime Novelist K'Wan comes a tale of forbidden love, high stakes murder and the robbery gone bad that set it all in motion, Diamonds and Pearl.

They say that good girls like bad boys, and this was especially true for Pearl Stone. A child born of privilege to a drug baron and reputed killer known in the streets as Big Stone. Although the flashy, fast-paced nature of the streets calls to Pearl, she’s been brought up to look but not touch. But when a young hustler named Diamonds crawls up from the swamps of Louisiana and sets up shop in New York City, everything Pearl was taught flies out the window.

Raised in the wild and schooled on the mean streets of New Orleans, Diamonds is no stranger to hard times and is willing to do whatever it takes to stay above the poverty line, including kill. When a robbery turned mass murder goes wrong, Diamonds is forced to flee New Orleans and lands in New York where he meets Pearl, and for the first time finds something he craves more than wealth and power…love.
As the stakes get higher, Diamonds has to push away his past if he’s to grab hold of his future—but by doing so, will he show Pearl that all that glitters isn’t gold?

ISBN-13: 9781250102614

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group

Publication Date: 10-11-2016

Pages: 416

Product Dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Series: A Diamonds Novel

K'WAN is the #1 Essence bestselling author of Hoodlum, the Hood Rat series, Diamonds and Pearl, and others. He wrote his first novel, Gangsta, as a therapeutic release, and it went on to become an Essence bestseller and a part of urban-lit history. In 2008 he received the Black Author of the Year Award from Black Press Radio. He has been featured in Time, KING, The New York Press, and on MTV and BET. Besides an author, K’wan is also a motivational speaker, a mentor to at-risk children and the C.E.O of Black Dawn, Inc.

Read an Excerpt

Diamonds and Pearl


By K'wan

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 K'Wan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-10262-1



CHAPTER 1

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA / SEPTEMBER 2005

"It looks bad out there, man," Larry said, staring out the rain-slicked window of the second-floor bedroom. It was the only level of the house that hadn't been completely flooded yet, or soaked to shit. Looking at the rapidly rising floodwaters, that was likely to change soon. Larry doubted if the house would last through the night before being washed away like everything else. In his thirty-five years of life he had never seen anything like it. It was a storm of biblical proportions that made him think back to his grandma reading passages of the bible about God washing sin from the earth in a merciless tide of judgment. The city he had grown to love so much was being cleansed.

It was fitting that this particular hurricane had been named after a woman, Katrina, because she had come through and unleashed the wrath of a woman scorned on the city of New Orleans. Just about everyone who was able to had already fled the area, and those who couldn't scrambled for higher ground and prayed for help that was in no rush to get there.

"This shit has got the white man's stink all over it." Big Aaron came into the bedroom. He had a ham sandwich in one hand and a can of beer in the other. He took a huge bite of the sandwich and continued his theory. "As strong as them levees was supposed to be, how the hell are damn near all of them gonna fail at one time? If you ask me, this shit was all a government plot to get all the niggers out of New Orleans so they can turn this into a tourist trap."

"I don't recall asking you about no damn conspiracy theories, but I do recall asking you to help them young boys finish loading my dope onto that truck before the water gets too high to drive out. Most of the roads have already flooded, so we only got a small window of time to get gone. Turn that sandwich loose and tend my business, hear?" Slim barked in a heavy Southern drawl. He was sitting on the bed, stuffing money into a duffel bag. It was one of several that now littered the bedroom floor. Having his money outside the safety of his vault rattled him, but there was no way they'd be able to move the massive thing.

He'd acquired the name Slim as a boy, when playing the harmonica and picking the pockets of tourists in the red-light district had been his means of living. As his reputation and wealth grew, so did he, currently tipping the scales at just nearly four hundred pounds. Slim used memories of starvation to motivate him in his climb up the underworld ladder, devouring food and territory alike. It was whispered in some circles that Slim enjoyed the touch of a greasy cheeseburger and his money over that of a woman.

"Slim, them young boys got it under control," Aaron said as if it were nothing. "What you need to be worried about is how the police is gonna be looking at your ass driving down the street in a big-ass rig!"

Slim looked at Aaron as if he were crazy. "Nigga, what you talking? Brah, people floating down the damn streets in bathtubs, and nobody give 'em a second look. Police was amongst the first to get their families outta here when the water came. Between the storm and these larcenous muthafuckas out there tripping the city, ain't got time to stunt no truck. The government is gonna wait this shit out and come clean up whatever's left. Hell, they'll probably be happy to see us going and out of their way."

"Don't trip, Slim; I'll make sure they're finished. The sooner they get that dope stashed in them hidden panels, the sooner we can get outta this damn soup bowl," Larry said disgustedly. He loved his city more than any of them, but even he knew that New Orleans wouldn't be the same after Hurricane Katrina.

"You buy into that shit that everybody saying, Slim?" Aaron asked after Larry had left the room.

"And what shit would that be?" Slim had resumed his counting.

"About it being the end of New Orleans?"

"You can't put an end to something that has always been here. New Orleans might be more notorious for shit like Mardi Gras and the murder rate than anything else, but our city has a far richer history that it's given credit for. It won't be the end of New Orleans, but it'll sure as hell be the end of an era when them army dogs finally come in to clean this shit up. The dope game down here is dead, and they'll build a newer, more tourist-friendly New Orleans over its corpse."

"So you think we'll have better luck in Texas?" Aaron asked.

"I sure hope so, because it's the best chance we got at surviving this freakish shit. An old buddy of mine is gonna set us up in a spot we can operate out of until we're strong enough to stand on our own again," Slim said, zipping the last duffel bag.

"That shouldn't be too hard, since most of the people who bought drugs from us here are gonna be scattered around Texas in those fake-ass concentration camps," Aaron joked, referring to the temporary shelters that were being erected for the evacuees. "Between the poor conditions and the mingling of all them rival gangs and crews, those camps ain't shit but a powder keg waiting for somebody with the match that's gonna blow it smooth to hell."

Their conversation was broken up by a loud thump coming from the hallway. Aaron was about to go and investigate when Larry came into the room. He wore a worried expression on his face, and beads of sweat rolled down his forehead.

"Larry, please don't tell me them young boys done fucked up and let my dope get wet?" Slim asked in an irritated tone. He had lost enough money and drugs due to the flood, and couldn't stand another hit.

"That dope plenty fine where it is, boss. It's you who got the issue," a voice called from behind Larry. Two men wearing ski masks materialized in the doorway. Both of them were armed with assault rifles: an AK-47 and an M16. Slim went to reach for his gun, but the one holding the M16 was in on him. His face was hidden behind his mask, but Slim could see his dead black eyes through the holes. When he spoke again, Slim caught a glimpse of his shiny diamond covered teeth. "You can keep reaching if you got a mind to, fat man, but I'd bet this here chopper against whatever you got that can fit in that drawer any day." When the gunman spoke, there was something about him that tugged at Slim's brain. Most of the children of New Orleans spoke with Southern accents, but his was closer to French.

"Man, you nigga know who the fuck you're trying to rob?" Aaron barked. The second gunman, the one with the AK-47, closed the distance between them. A short, fat dude, he moved swiftly for a man his size. He raised the AK and slammed the butt into Aaron's mouth, knocking his two front teeth out.

"See, this is what being funny amongst serious men will get you." The diamond-toothed robber pointed to Aaron, who was curled up in the corner, holding his bloody mouth. "Souple, no more games. Just go along with the program and nobody else gets hurt, Slim."

Slim let out a weak chuckle. "Ain't this about a bitch? Man, y'all petty muthafuckas in here pressing me over some dope when we might very well be living in our last days."

"And as it was written, the last shall be first. Y'all are the last of the old regime, and we're the first of the new," the diamond-toothed man said, matching Slim's tone. "Now, I don't plan to keep repeating myself, so hand that shit over before I start feeling like I got something to prove." He adjusted his grip on the M16.

"All right, man. Just be easy with them guns." Slim used his foot to push one of the duffel bags over.

Keeping his M16 trained on Slim, the man with the diamond covered teeth made a quick check of the bag. He looked back at his partner and nodded in approval before scooping up the bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

"A'ight, y'all got what you came for, so you can split," Slim continued.

"Not just yet." The fat gunmen with the AK moved over to Slim. His eyes were on the gaudy diamond pinky ring on Slim's left hand. "Run that, too."

"Man, this old ring ain't worth nothing to nobody but me. It was a gift from my wife. I lost her last year, and this is how I keep her close to me," Slim said sincerely.

The diamond-toothed man saw the situation about to take a turn in the wrong direction, so he intervened. "Fat man, my own grief already heavier than my shoulders can take. I don't need to add yours to it, so keep the ring." All he wanted was to get what they'd come for and get out, but his partner had other ideas.

"Fuck that! We came for everything," the fat robber insisted. Behind his mask, his eyes flashed a hatred toward Slim that few understood. For his partner, it was business; but for him, it was personal.

"Kid, why don't y'all just get the fuck outta here before somebody gets hurt?" Larry said in an easy tone. He knew he'd fucked up by letting the masked men get the drop on him, and he was trying to make up for it by getting to his gun, which was hidden under the newspaper he'd been reading.

"Fuck that!" the fat robber snapped. "Y'all niggaz ain't the kings of the hill no more, so don't tell me what to do!"

"Kings of the hill? Young boy, in case you ain't noticed, the hill is turning into a damn mudslide," Slim said with a chuckle.

"You laughing at me?" The fat robber turned to Slim, eyes blazing. Before his partner could stop him, he clubbed Slim in the head with his machine gun, knocking him off the bed and onto the floor.

"Boy, you lost your senses?" The diamond-toothed robber shoved the fat one away from Slim. He'd seen his partner in his rages before and wanted to prevent what he knew would happen if he let it go too far. "Check yo muthafucking feelings and stay focused on this paper."

"I wouldn't have cracked him if he hadn't been laughing at me," the fat robber argued.

"Wasn't nobody laughing at you; I was just trying to ease the tension a little." Slim hauled himself back onto the bed. His lip was bleeding and his jaw felt cracked, but the blow had also helped to jog his memory. "You know, I done met plenty of cats in my day weren't big on humor, but there's only one who comes to mind who gets to crying like a bitch when he thinks he's being laughed at. What's up, John-Boy?"

"Greasy little nigga!" Aaron hissed. When he spoke, it made a funny whistling sound, because he was now missing his front teeth. They had known John-Boy since he was a fat little kid stealing snacks out of the corner store.

"And if that's John-Boy, I'm guessing you're Diamonds," Slim addressed the diamond-toothed robber as the pieces began falling into place. "This fat piece of shit ain't got the brains or the balls to walk into this one without somebody putting the battery in him."

"Since all the cards on the table, I guess ain't no need for these." Diamonds pulled his mask off and shook his dreads lose from the stocking cap that'd been holding them down. His face was smooth and golden, with high cheekbones and slanted eyes. Diamonds had always been a hit with the ladies, but his heart belonged to the streets.

"After all I've done for your little asses, this is how you come at me?" Slim was genuinely offended.

"Manti," Diamonds accused. "Slim, feed your lies to someone who don't have eyes and ears, because ain't no sane man gonna believe a lunatic. You sat back and watched while we fought like dogs for the scraps that fell off your plate. How long you think you can deny hungry dogs proper meals before they learn to hunt on their own?" He hoisted the duffel bag full of Slim's cash for emphasis.

"You think y'all can come in here and take our shit like we soft?" Larry snapped, not able to hold his tongue with the disrespectful youths.

"Funny, because that's exactly what was happening," Diamonds said sarcastically.

Slim shook his head. "You know, from the first time I seen you and your brother crawl up outta the swamp and into my city, I knew you were going to be trouble. I tried to nurture you little niggas and teach you about loyalty and how to get paper, but I should've cut you down like the dogs you were."

"And therein lies the problem, fat man. You see a young nigga from the mud and don't see nothing but a servant ... somebody to do the shit you ain't got the balls to do on your own. All risks and no reward. If you had it your way, I'd have been eating out of your hand until the end of my days, but this is not to be. I ain't gonna die no soldier, brah. I gots to be the king or nothing! Bonswa, fat man." Diamonds scooped up an additional duffel bag and began backing out of the room, leaving John-Boy to collect the other ones.

John-Boy scooped up two bags and carried a third in his free hand. He swept the AK back and forth, in case anybody had any ideas, and followed his partner. Seeing the furious look on Slim's face, he decided to add insult to injury. "Don't feel bad, Slim. We're doing you a favor by robbing you. Your fat ass looks like you could stand to miss a meal or three," he taunted. He had just turned to leave when pain exploded in his back. He staggered forward, nearly crashing into Diamonds when he fell at his feet.

Seeing his childhood friend fallen, Diamonds didn't even think; he just reacted. Shrugging off the duffel bags, he brought the M16 into play. The assault rifle swung up, expelling shell casings the size of ink pens and ejaculating vengeful fire from the muzzle. With a sweep of his arm, he tore the furniture in the bedroom to pieces en route to cutting Larry in half. Aaron threw his hands up in surrender as if to signal that it hadn't been him, but it didn't make him exempt from Diamonds's rage. The grief-stricken man got close up on Aaron before burring the barrel of the M16 into Aaron's chest, pulling the trigger and turning him into meat. When he turned the gun on where Slim had been sitting, all he found was an empty bed.

The hulk of a man had rolled over the bed and was making a mad dash to the other side of the room. Diamonds tried to cut him down, but Slim was more evasive than Diamonds had given him credit for. He was well over three hundred pounds, but the fear of death gave him the speed of a man one-quarter his size. The M16 rattled to life one last time before clicking empty, and Diamonds heard Slim cry out just as his huge frame crashed through the window. Diamonds wasn't sure how many times he'd hit him, but if the bullets didn't kill him, the headfirst fall would.

Diamonds turned his attention back to John-Boy, who was down but still breathing. Diamonds knelt beside him to assess the damage. "How bad?" He pulled the ski mask from John-Boy's face to help him breathe a little easier. It was a redundant question. The blood pooling from beneath the fallen soldier and soaking the knees of Diamonds's jeans already answered it.

"I'm fucked up," John-Boy said, and coughed, sending a trickle of blood down his chin. He was grabbing for his sweat shirt, trying to lift it, but his fingers didn't seem to want to cooperate.

Cautiously, Diamonds lifted the front of the sweat shirt. It was soaked, and it clung to John-Boy's portly stomach. When Diamonds spotted the leaking wound in John-Boy's chest, he had to swallow the gasp that had almost escaped him. It was a mortal wound. "Damn, what happened to the vest I gave you?"

John-Boy managed to muster a weak smile and showcased his bloodstained teeth. "It was fucking with my aim." He winced as if he was in pain, but then his face was calm again. "Don't tell Buda that I got caught slipping. I know he's gonna be pissed at me, and I don't wanna hear his mouth. After the last time, he told me that if I fucked up again, then y'all was gonna cut me out."

"Buda was just talking shit. We'd never cut you out. The four of us is brothers — don't you go forgetting that." Diamonds had known John-Boy and Buda as long as he'd known anybody in New Orleans. They were the first kids he and Goldie had met when the department of child services had found them being raised by their aunt in a backwater shack and forced her to enroll the two boys in a regular school with other kids their ages. With Diamonds and his brother spending most of their lives in seclusion in the woods of rural Louisiana and speaking more Creole than the Queen's English, the transition hadn't been an easy one, but Buda and John-Boy had helped them through it. They were amongst the rare few who didn't tease them for their ragged clothes and bare feet, or Diamonds for his thick accent.

The sound of footsteps behind him caused Diamonds to spin, drawing the backup .45 he had shoved into his pants. He was angry and in a shoot-first mood, but his trigger finger was stayed when he saw his brother, Goldie, round the corner with Hank.

Goldie was three years Diamonds's junior, but hard living and a thick black goatee made him appear slightly older. He stood at a wiry six foot three, with deep olive-toned skin and eyes that had seen too much too soon. On his cheek, just below his left eye, were tattooed the numbers 187, so there was no mistaking exactly what he was about. His signature black bandanna hung loosely around his neck, and you could see the tips of his cornrows hanging from the black beanie on his head. Something was just about to roll off his tongue, but when he spotted his brother hunched over his best friend, the words died on his tongue. He and John-Boy were closer in age, so they often found themselves spending a great deal of time in each other's company, trailing their older brothers as they found creative ways to break the law.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Diamonds and Pearl by K'wan. Copyright © 2016 K'Wan. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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