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“About what?”

“The next time I ask you to go someplace.”

I sighed deeply, not wanting to imagine what would come out of her mouth next. “Yes, I remember.”

“Good, because Logan’s in a wedding next weekend and I refuse to sit in the pews alone while he stands up for one of his immature, silly little friends. I need someone to keep me company. So how about it?”

She knew she had me. I’d already made a promise. “What time and where?”

Darnetta snickered with delight. “The wedding is Saturday at four, downtown, and I’ll pick you up at three. Cool?”

“Sounds like a winner,” I lied.

“Great!” Darnetta jumped up and headed for the door. “Well, I’m about to go enjoy what’s left of my lunch hour. I can’t believe in this day and time we still have to punch time clocks. That is so primal.”

I couldn’t help but agree. “I know. It doesn’t make sense, but Mr. Wilson is old-fashioned in many ways.”

“No, he’s just plain old. What is he? About a hundred ninety?”

I chuckled. “You better watch yourself. I wouldn’t put hidden cameras in the walls past him.”

Darnetta eyed the walls, taking me seriously.

“You can relax. He’s too cheap to invest in them.”

“Whew, you had me going for a second. Catch you later.”


After she was safely down the hall, I closed my office door, went back to my desk, and retrieved the card from under the desk pad. “Dr. Marcella Spencer, can you really help me?”

I picked up the phone and called to make an appointment.

When I got home, I noticed a U-Haul truck in the parking lot of the complex and wondered if the vacant apartment below me had finally been rented out. There were some college kids living there but they’d broken the lease and moved to the Georgia Tech campus. Thank goodness, because their loud rock music was raking on my nerves.

I was on the second floor landing, not paying attention to where I was going because I was searching through my purse for some Tylenol to take the second I could grab a cup of water to wash it down, when I bumped right into the backend of a floor model television. I stubbed my toe, the same one I’m always prone to banging against something, and yelled out in pain.

A man appeared in the doorway of 2-D. “Oh, no, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to have this thing out in the hallway so long.”

I just stared at him. I tried to say something but I’m not even sure I was actually breathing. He was…He was…

“Excuse me, Miss. Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m fine,” I finally managed to say. “I just hit my toe.”

“Well, toes can be the source of much pain,” he said jokingly.

I forced a smile. “True.”

I walked around the television and headed for the stairs leading to the third floor, my floor.

“I’m Mason. Mason Copeland.”

“Moving in?”

“Yes. I just decided to check out Atlanta for a while. I’m originally from D.C.—the Chocolate City.”

“That’s cool. I used to live in Philadelphia when I first graduated from college.” I don’t know why I asked the next question but I did. “Is your wife home? I’d like to meet her.”

“Wife? No, I’m single.” He grinned at me and added, “Single and extremely available and accessible.”

I cleared my throat. “Well, with all the female singles around here, you won’t be for long.”

“Are you one of the female singles around here?”

I couldn’t prevent the blush. “Um, yeah. I guess so.”


“Jonquinette Pierce.”

“Jonquinette Pierce. Beautiful name for a beautiful lady.”

Another blush. “Thanks, but I really have to go.”

I started up the steps.


I turned and saw his head over the railing.


“Maybe you can help me get settled in. Aren’t neighbors supposed to greet newbies with a pound cake, or a pecan pie, or something?”

I giggled. “I’m not a baker. I can’t even make toast without burning it.”

He frowned and then laughed. “There’s always store-bought.”

“Now that’s a thought.”

I hurried the rest of the way to my apartment. My headache really was tormenting me and I just wanted to take something for it and lie down.


Mason Copeland, huh? I didn’t even think so. I just knew that Jon would haul ass the way she always did whenever a man said something to her. How dare she actually flirt with him? I wouldn’t have that nonsense. No way.

Granted, the man looked good. Damn good. If I saw a brotha with honey-almond skin, hazel eyes, and dreads, someplace inconspicuous, it would definitely be on. But this Mason, hunk or not, lived right below us and that shit was out of the question. No serious relationships. Just sex and I was the only one entitled to that. Jon was really tripping lately. First calling up that shrink bitch’s office. Now she was holding actual conversations with men. Something had to be done. Something would be done. I’d worked too hard for control and I’d do whatever it took to keep things just the way they were.



I circled the office building five times in my car, debating about keeping my appointment. I yearned to let go of all the emotions that were balled up inside of me, but talking to a complete stranger about my problems didn’t sit quite right with me. No matter what accolades Dr. Marcella Spencer had received, I didn’t know her from a hole in the wall and I had a serious enough problem talking to people I actually knew.

I finally parked and got up enough nerve to get out of the car and walk into the building. I caught the elevator up to her floor and located the correct office. There were two other people waiting in front of me. Great. I’d have to sit there and let the anticipation build.

I gave my name to the secretary and she gave me some forms to fill out. That took all of five minutes, leaving me with what turned out to be only a short wait because the two people were waiting on a third to come out of the inner office. He was the “authentic patient” and I stared at him while he exited, wondering how a person that appeared so normal could need a psychiatrist.

Five minutes later, I found myself sitting across an expensive desk from a strikingly beautiful woman. My first thought was why would she go into her chosen profession when she could have been a high-end fashion model or something.

“Jonquinette. Lovely name.”

“Thank you.”

“What brings you to see me today?”

That was one hell of a good question.

“Dr. Spencer, what’s the definition of insanity?” I asked her, unable to meet her eyes with my own. “I know what I’ve heard.”

“What have you heard?”

“That insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.”

“Do you believe that?”

“No, not really. I believe that’s just something a self-proclaimed prophet made up to sugarcoat the term.”

She giggled. “Interesting thought.”

I waited for her to get her laugh out and then dropped the bomb.

“I think I’m insane. I think I’ve been insane for a very long time.”

As suspected, Dr. Spencer stopped smiling. “What makes you say that?”

“Strange things. Things I can’t remember.”

“I’m not following you.”

I knew discussing matters would be tremendously complicated but I was shaking like a leaf. I was scared, but the thought of walking out of her office and facing my life the way it had been for the past fifteen years was even worse.

“Nasty, vile things written in my handwriting that I don’t remember writing. People accusing me of things I don’t recall doing. I mean, all of them can’t be mistaken. Right?”