“That Sistah-Love”, by Kianna Alexander
Hi! Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to talk about Couldn’t Ask For More!
I may be a romance author, but I recognize love in all its forms. Human relationships drive so much of our life experience, and we can’t discount that fact. I seek to illustrate this in my books, by showing familial relationships and friendships in addition to the romantic love at the core of the story. I believe love is always something to be celebrated, no matter what form it may take. As a songwriter once said, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.”
Now, some people say that women can’t work together, that they’re always embroiled in some sort of catty competition and one-upmanship. I simply don’t believe that’s true, as I myself am a member of large groups of African American romance authors. In some way, we’re in competition with each other, as there is a lot of audience overlap among our readers. But I’ve never been part of a more loving, supportive group in my entire life. We always have each other’s backs. We laugh together, cry together, and form up Voltron to support one another whenever it’s necessary.
In that same spirit, here’s a scene showing Alexis, the heroine of COULDN’T ASK FOR MORE, interacting with Sydney, her good friend and business partner. Enjoy!
Alexis jogged across the carpet-covered floor of her office in an attempt to answer her ringing smartphone. The device was on the edge of her desk, vibrating like crazy as it played the Rufus and Chaka Khan hit “Tell Me Something Good” to alert her to an incoming call.
Just as she reached for the phone, the vibration pushed it off the desk. It hit the carpet with a thud, and she squatted down to scoop it up. With the phone finally in hand, she swiped the screen to answer it. “Hello?”
“May I speak with Ms. Alexis Devers?”
“Speaking.” She tried to sound calm, despite being breathless from the mad dash through the building to answer the call.
“Good morning, Ms. Devers. I’m Stephanie Monroe, account rep for Clarkson Apparel Producers. Have you received the kit of information we sent to you a couple of weeks ago?”
“Yes, I have. Thank you.”
Ms. Monroe continued. “We’ve heard good things about your Krystal Kouture One line, and we would love the opportunity to manufacture your clothing.”
This was the sixth such call she’d received in the hour since she’d come in to work. Fighting down the giddy excitement spreading through her, she kept her tone professional. “Why, Ms. Monroe, I’m so flattered to hear that. We’re in the process of choosing our textile partner right now.”
“Lovely. Please do reach out and let me know what Clarkson can do to turn the tide in our favor. Have a good day.”
“You do the same, Ms. Monroe.” Disconnecting the call, Alexis set the phone down, a little farther away from the edge of the desk this time. Once her hands were free, she pumped her fists in the air, doing a little celebratory shimmy.
Sydney Greer, her friend and business partner, entered the office then. She was of average height, about four inches shorter than Alexis. She had olive skin, brown eyes, and long, dark hair with blond streaks. As usual, she’d parted her hair in the center and left it hanging down past her bare shoulders. Dressed in a cream-colored shell blouse and brown, wide-legged slacks, Sydney’s arms were loaded with papers and folders. “Lex, what the hell are you doing?”
“Celebrating. The One line is going to be the hit of the fall fashion season.” She gave her friend a bright smile, continuing to wiggle her hips.
“Celebration is in order. But I know you can dance better than that.” Sydney moved farther into the room, placing the stack on the desk.
“True. But in a pencil skirt and heels, this is the best I can do.” Rather than subject Sydney to more of her bad dancing, Alexis eased into the leather executive chair behind her desk. “What’s all this?”
“Sample contracts and information so that we can get a manufacturer for the line.” Sydney flopped down into the seat across from her. “We need to get someone on board right away.”
“I know. The phone’s been ringing off the hook all morning.” Pride surged through her as she thought of the interest textile mills had shown in her debut line. “It’s rare to get this kind of attention before the debut fashion show.”
Sydney gave her a sly smile. “I told you that if we shot Vivian in the clothes, pulled together an info kit, and sent it out, we would get at least a few bites.”
“You were right, as usual.”
She waved a hand in the air, feigning modesty. “Oh, how you do go on. But enough about my genius. We really do need to decide on a manufacturer, because without that, we’ve got nothing.”
Alexis ran a hand through her hair. “Are our sample pieces still in-house?”
Sydney shook her head. “Girl, no. I sent out all five of them.”
Her brow knitting with confusion, Alexis asked, “To whom?”
“Celebrities, duh.” Sydney chuckled. “I took a look at some of the fashion magazines and blogs, as well as a few of the gossip shows. I’ve followed this stuff for years, so I have an idea of who would be most likely to wear what, and I acted accordingly.”
Alexis couldn’t hold back her smile. That was precisely why she loved Sydney. While Alexis fell down the rabbit hole of artistic inspiration, she could always count on her partner to be thinking about the business side of things. “So who did you send the Rochelle dress to?”
“Angela Bassett, of course. That dress practically screams her name.”
When Alexis had sketched the design of that dress, she’d had Ms. Bassett in mind. But she wouldn’t even have thought to send her the dress. She was a huge star, and who knew how many packages she got on a daily basis from random designers hoping to win her favor. “You’re serious? You sent my dress to the Angela Bassett?”
With a shrug, Sydney nodded. “Yes, I did.”
Shaking her head in amazement, Alexis leaned back in her chair. “And how did you pull that off?”
“Easy. I just contacted her favorite designer, got her measurements, had Pam alter it, and sent it off by courier. Then I lathered, rinsed, and repeated.”
At this point, Alexis struggled to keep her mouth from hanging open, especially in the face of Sydney’s matter-of-fact tone. “So who got the other four samples?”
“Kerry Washington, Glenn Close, Jazmine Sullivan, and Tamron Hall.”
Alexis felt her eyes widen. “Wow. You’ve really covered all the bases, then.”
“Yep. Television, film, and music.” Sydney tossed one leg over the other, looking rather satisfied with herself. “You just keep doodling, and I’ll keep moving the merchandise, girl.”
Normally, she would have lectured Sydney about the complexities of fashion design and how it was much more than just doodling, but she refrained. She’d known Sydney since they were roommates during sophomore year at Central. Even back then, business and finance major Sydney had added a bit of balance and practicality to Alexis’s free-spirited, creatively fueled life. How could she be annoyed with Sydney when she’d been working so hard to make the One line a success? So she said the only logical thing. “Thank you, Sydney. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“I don’t either. So be glad I love ya.” She blew her a kiss.
Alexis’s intended response was interrupted as the office phone started ringing. “Is there anything in particular I should be telling the retailers?”
“Have you talked to any of them? I thought I’d taken all the calls.”
“Somehow, an account rep from Clarkson’s got my cell phone number. I talked to her right before you came in here.”
Sydney’s brow lifted. “Well, damn. What did you tell her?”
“Nothing, really. Just that we’re in the process of choosing manufacturing partners. I kept it pretty light and noncommittal since we haven’t made a decision yet.”
“Good.” Sydney got up, headed for the hallway. “I’ll take the call in my office. And if anyone else calls you, just send them my way. We both know I’m the business manager for a reason.” With a wink, she disappeared around the corner.
A few seconds later, the ringing of the phone ceased. The wall between their offices was thick enough that Alexis couldn’t hear a conversation, but she knew Sydney had answered it.
Krystal Kouture’s office occupied a small building in downtown Raleigh, located only a few blocks from her condo. Since the design house didn’t share the space, there was plenty of room for the five employees. Alexis and Sydney each had a private office, while Dawn, their receptionist and office manager, worked in the reception area. A third, larger space served as a workshop for Pam, the seamstress, and Vicki, the fit model. Pam brought in a part-time seamstresses to assist her as necessary, but the five of them made up the entire permanent staff of the company.
Alexis’s eyes drifted to her bookcase, eyeing the small angel statuette symbolizing Krystal Kouture’s beginnings. She had been a senior designer for Torrid for eleven years. The brand, known for its edgy, modern take on plus-sized women’s wear, had proven integral in helping her develop her design skills. From day one, she’d squirreled away money from each paycheck in her “DHF,” Design House Fund. She’d managed to amass a tidy five figures on her own, through frugality and a simple lifestyle.
When she’d approached Sydney, who owned her own successful financial advising firm, three years ago about opening Krystal Kouture, Sydney had agreed to come on as business manager with the understanding that Greer Financial would remain open. With her savings and a boost from an angel investor Alexis met at an arts council event, she’d opened the design house two years ago. Alexis had continued to design for Torrid until she left her position in early spring, and Sydney still ran her firm. Neither of them drew a full salary from the design house, having agreed to wait until their first line took off. Only the other three staffers drew paychecks, with the receptionist working part-time and the others coming in on an “as needed” basis.
Alexis leaned back in her chair, imagining Angela Bassett emerging from a limousine in the Rochelle dress. If the actress decided to wear the dress, it would be a life-changing event, not just for Alexis, but for everyone who worked at Krystal Kouture. Actually, if any one of the people Sydney had sent a sample to wore it in public, things were bound to get very busy, very fast.
Sydney poked her head around the doorframe. “Listen, that was another mill. We need to get a manufacturer, stat. That makes eight mills that have called us…today. Is there anyone else you want to consider before we choose?”
Alexis tapped the tip of her index finger against her cheek. “I think Maxwell’s friend said he was in textiles…”
“Well, girl, get him on the damn phone!” Sydney gave several rapid snaps of her fingers to indicate the urgency of her words. “We gotta get this done.”
After Sydney left, Alexis recalled her brief conversation with Bryan at the step show. Could his company really handle a contract this size? The only way she knew to find out was to reach out to him. Sure, there was the issue of the attraction she’d felt crackling between them like dry brush dropped into a campfire. But she needed a manufacturer, and fast. There wasn’t time to go through a drawn-out process.
I’ll call him.She didn’t even know what to say to the man. Thinking she could get some information from her brother, she decided to talk to him first. Maxwell would know if Bryan’s company was a possible fit.
After all, she had no time to waste.
Fake engagements are a dangerous business.
Bryan James’s job is on thin ice unless he can secure a contract with a popular design house. He knows his best friend’s sister can help—but her terms are more than he bargained for.
Alexis Devers’s debut fashion line is a hit. But when Alexis’s publicist tells buyers that it landed her a wealthy, gorgeous fiancé, Alexis needs to come up with one—fast. Bryan’s offer to strike a deal is perfectly timed. She’s more than willing—on one condition…
It’s the perfect plan…until feelings start getting in the way. Suddenly, the dangers of mixing business and pleasure become much more real than either of them expected.
Like any good Southern belle, Kianna Alexander wears many hats: loving wife, doting mama, advice-dispensing sister, and gabbing girlfriend. She’s a voracious reader, an amateur seamstress and occasional painter in oils. Chocolate, American history, sweet tea and Idris Elba are a few of her favorite things. A native of the TarHeel state, Kianna lives with her husband, two kids, and a collection of well-loved vintage 80’s Barbie dolls in Raleigh, NC.