Always My Baby

By: Martha Kennerson


Alexander Kingsley Jr. stood barefoot in his dimly lit, downtown Houston high-rise office, staring out of his wall of windows. The usually immaculately dressed COO of Kingsley Oil and Gas, his family’s multibillion-dollar conglomerate, wore black jeans and a black T-shirt, clothes that reflected his mood. Alexander held a glass of single malt whiskey low at his side as he watched the rain blanket the dark city.

The eldest son of the wealthy Creole and African American Kingsley family and heir apparent to take over as the company’s CEO upon his mother’s retirement, he was used to carrying the weight of his company’s decisions, and the consequences associated with those decisions, on his shoulders, yet this new threat had him questioning his next move. Alexander heard his door open and grimaced. This won’t be pretty.

“Really, Alexander? You summoned me back to the office on a Friday night…again. And in the rain at that. This had better be important.”

“Come in, China,” Alexander ordered, his tone flat as he kept his back to her. “Fix yourself a drink. You’re going to need it.”

China Edwards, Alexander’s beautiful best friend, was an environmental attorney whom Alexander thought of as basically a female version of himself. Her sharp mind, quick wit and photographic memory made China’s position as in-house counsel for Kingsley Oil and Gas vital to the ongoing success of their company.

Alexander could hear the annoyance in her voice. He picked up a small framed photo of the two of them, taken on the day of their law school graduation. The corner of his mouth rose. “Remember that promise we made each other the day we graduated?”

China sighed, tossed her Chloé handbag on the sectional sofa placed in Alexander’s lounge, an area attached to his office but separated by a collapsible wall. “Which one?” she asked, making her way through the lounge, passing a wood and granite-topped coffee table to get to the matching bar. She picked up the bottle, read the label and said, “Nikka Forty…very nice. This must be big when you’re reaching for the good whiskey.”

Alexander turned to face China, and his eyes widened at the sight before him. He’d always thought she was gorgeous but something was different about tonight. China’s long, curly brown hair was pulled back off her face into a high ponytail, showcasing her stunning warm ivory skin tone. She wore a black sequined shorts set with gold stiletto heels that seemed to extend her legs. “Damn!” Even in his current state of annoyance Alexander’s body responded to the beauty of his best friend. Alexander had been finding it more and more difficult to keep his attraction for China under control, and tonight wasn’t helping his case.

“What?” China questioned, looking down at herself. “Why are you looking at me like that?” She leaned against the bar.

“Like what?” His eyes looked their fill at her body and his voice took on a husky tone.

“Like that…like I’m one of those women you ‘date,’” she stated, using air quotes to emphasize the point that she didn’t think he actually did anything beyond sleeping with any of them.

China bent back her left leg and released her heel from her shoe’s strap. She removed one shoe, then the other, tossing them both to the side, which dropped her to her normal height of five feet five inches. China sipped her drink as she took a seat in an oversized round chair that sat between Alexander’s desk and the bar.

“I’m not.” Alexander broke eye contact and returned the photo to its resting place on the long credenza that had been positioned behind his desk. Get a grip, man; this is China. He turned back and met her intense gaze.

“Sure you are,” she alleged before taking another drink from her glass.

“Where are you coming from, dressed like that, anyway?” His nose wrinkled.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but my date took me dancing.” China smiled as though she’d just remembered something pleasant.

Alexander felt like he’d been hit with a sharp object. “Date…you went on a date?”

China rolled her eyes skyward. “Yes, Alexander, it happens.”

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