A failed engagement and a partnership in a new e-learning firm have led thirty-six-year-old Chaney Braxton from New York to Washington, D.C. When Chaney meets half black, half Korean veterinarian Devin Rhym, she can’t help being impressed with his knowledge and his soothing demeanor—not to mention his exotic good looks. At the same time, Chaney doesn’t see herself taking on a twenty-eight-year-old “tadpole.” She reminds herself that there are other, more age-appropriate fish in the sea. Or so she thinks…
“…combines reality and fiction in an intriguing and powerful story.” — Booklist, September 2004
“Coakley-Thompson enters the literary world with a bang.” — Romantic Times, September 2004
“Wendy Coakley-Thompson inventively adds another dimension that uncovers the stupidity and strength of racism.” — Black Issues Book Review, November-December 2004
Excerpt: What You Won’t Do for Love, by Wendy Coakley-Thompson
After he’d left, she did the usual things she did at night. She shut down her computer system upstairs. She cleaned Tony’s ears, which, with him squirming and rebelling against a gloved finger in his ear canal, was a workout in itself. All the while, though, she ran the conversation she’d had in her kitchen over in her head on a constant loop. The more she thought about it, the angrier she got. This brothah’s trying to flip this thing onto me!
She stashed the videos and the ice cream that she’d taken out, then picked up the cordless. She speed-dialed his cell phone number. After two rings, he answered. “Where are you?” she asked.
“At my dad’s,” Devin answered.
“Stay there; I’m coming over to talk to you.”
Chaney put Tony and his water dish onto the deck, then, with just her wallet and keys, she got into the Altima and hit the road. She took the GW Parkway, instead of Rt. 1. and stepped on the gas. On the radio, Faith Evans was cussing some brothah out in her funky cut, “You Gets No Love,” and that functioned as Chaney’s angry soundtrack as she, oblivious to the monuments lit up like Roman candles, headed towards Arlington.
When Chaney parked in front of the house on North Garfield, she saw him standing under the porch light. Gone was the bloodstained polo. He wore a white wife beater, his cargo pants, and Adidas sandals. She locked the car with her remote, bounded up the concrete path, and took the steps two at a time. Anger-induced physical exercise. He looked a tad peeved as well. “You gave me my orders,” he said. “I’m here. What do you want?”
“You come over to my house, mooning over some bitch, and I’m supposed to be open like 7-Eleven?” she demanded. “Are you insane?!”
He opened the glass door, and she could see the darkened anteroom. “Let’s take this inside,” he said quietly. “Unless you want to whole neighborhood to hear us.”
Chaney thought about it for a second, then stepped into the house. He closed the glass door and the front door, leaving them both in the dark. Her heart thumped, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. “Can we shed the light on the subject, please?” she whispered.
“Come this way,” he said.
Obediently, she followed him, all the while, looking around for landmarks. She was doubtful that he’d physically hurt her, but she was leery nonetheless. He led her into the kitchen, and she remembered helping him clean up that night he’d had her over for dinner. For a second, she regretted allowing romantic feelings to cloud her judgment where he was concerned. All of this, he’d been a great friend to her.
He opened a door at the far end of the kitchen. A sliver of light from the basement cut the darkness in the kitchen. “Go on,” he said.
She hesitated briefly, feeling any control she’d had over the situation ebb away. She descended the wooden stairs one at a time. Behind her, she heard him close the door, heard him on the stairs behind her. A few more steps, and she entered a whole new world. It reminded her of her basement at the house in Brooklyn… space filled with memories of lives lived well in a home. A sofa bed lay turned down, in front of a 36-inch color TV. He had the TV tuned to BET; the logo was visible in the corner of the screen, and the video for remix of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear” played at low volume.
He came around her and shut off the TV. They stood there in silence in the subdued lighting. “First of all, she’s not a bitch,” he announced. “Her name’s Kimmy. She fucked up her life by having two kids for two different men, and then hooking up with some insecure redneck who beat her like a rented mule. She needed my help getting out, and that seemed more important than our date. I thought you’d understand that.”
Oh, shit! She felt like such a drama queen all of a sudden, railing about her hurt feelings while he was helping out a battered woman. After all, his father had done something similar for her and her family. But still, her pain spoke. “And how would I have known that, Devin?” she asked. “From your oh-so-personal text message?”
“I couldn’t talk, Chaney,” he explained. “I was holding a baby in one hand while trying to stash about twenty shopping bags into the ride. You know, I could’ve just been a dick and stood you up.”
“So why did you even both with texting, Devin?”
He shook his head. “More degrees than a thermometer, and you don’t know anything. Why did I bother? Because I fucking like you, okay?!”
Chaney stared at him in shock, her mouth hanging open. It was out there, in the open. She clutched at the front of her velour sweats. What do I do? What do I say? Finally, she found her voice. “And that’s how you think I want to hear it?” she croaked. “‘I fucking like you?’”
He sighed. “Chaney, I’m tired, and my head hurts,” he said. “I don’t have time for the sugar coating. I like you. We have a lot in common. Even my dad likes you. But this age thing with you is like pushing a rock up a hill.”
“So, I’m the one with the problem… again.”
He shrugged. “Well, yeah.”
This was too much. She had to get away, think this through like the level-headed older woman that she was. “I’ve said my piece,” she announced. “I’m going home.”
He threw up his hands. “Wha…?”
She headed towards the stairs like a caged bird. “I’m going home.”
He was behind her like a shot. “Wait!” he commanded.
She turned around to face him, her face practically in his chest. “What?!”
He took her hand in his. She looked down and saw the cuts and bruises on his knuckles. “Wait,” he pleaded.
She looked up into that face was mere inches from hers. Her heart squeezed in her chest. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. A contented sigh rumbled from his chest to hers. He felt so good, so hard, so close. Slowly, she relaxed into him, opening the fists she’d made and pressing her hands against his broad back. Let it go, girl…