Knee-deep in the land of alternative facts and fake news, Senator Ocean Ellison is caught between protecting the woman he loves – a reality star with a notorious past – and being an ambitious politician.
As their relationship becomes public, Ocean must decide if being with Aaliyah Smith is worth the risk – even if it means he’ll become a target by his own father.
Bestselling and USA Today featured authorVera Roberts’s Ellison Brothers series continues with Watercolors, a sexy venture into a high-stakes political romance that deals with revenge, true love, and if time really heals.
Irreplaceable was a fitting song. A woman who finally had enough of her man’s bullshit and told him to leave. Beyonce’s angry words paired with her sassy vocals were the perfect combination to the hit song.
It was directed at him, for sure. In fact, every song his ex had on her playlist was one big fuck you to him. As Senator Ocean Ellison sat in his ex-girlfriend’s living room, he noticed a theme with the songs she’d played.
First, there was “I Don’t Love You Anymore” by Teddy Pendergrass.
Then there was “Apologize” by One Republic.
Followed by “I Will Survive.” Not the upbeat version by Gloria Gaynor, but the quiet storm cover by Chantay Savage.
As Ocean listened to “Cry Me a River,” it became increasingly clear he had the work cut out for him.
She was angry. She was beyond pissed. She, worst of all, was heartbroken.
Ocean felt his stomach coil up in tight knots and guilt choked him. If he had to be on his knees all night and wear out his best pair of Armani slacks, so be it. He was not leaving with Aaliyah. Point. Blank. Period.
They had more in common than what appeared to be. Their backgrounds were wildly different but when they connected, Aaliyah and Ocean were unstoppable. He was clean-cut and dare anyone thought, innocent. She was a bad girl with a past.
The odds were stacked against them from the start and they both treated their connection as a fling. When they made love, all sense flew out of the window. Her mouth was skillful and her tongue was hungry. Her hands explored every crevice of his body and demanded more from him.
They made love throughout the night. They fucked in every room of her apartment and his home. Aaliyah became Ocean’s fire. He became needy for her love and touch. He anticipated her needs before she spoke them.
With his security detail waiting outside, Ocean took stock of Aaliyah’s condo. Decorated in muted colors like mahogany, cream, and peach, it was a far cry from Aaliyah’s old apartment in Los Angeles. Her condo had several windows that gave natural light. Dark, hardwood tiles covered the floors, leading to plush carpeting in the bedrooms.
It was an expensive condo, Ocean concluded. It was decorated in quiet luxury that didn’t come out of an IKEA showroom, but pricey items that a certain economic threshold could afford. There were quirky items like an old, colorful credenza that sat her flatscreen TV. An equally colorful Indian rug laid under Ocean’s feet. He knew it came from a trendy store in West Hollywood because he had the same rug in his home.
His stomach churned when he realized he was sitting in a room Thomas Ellison furnished.
His father didn’t personally pick out the items, but there was no doubt his money played a significant role in Aaliyah’s new life. Thomas Ellison was a master at brokering deals and it never took long before an enemy ultimately gave him exactly what he wanted. His money paid for her condo. His money paid for her shop.
His money ensured Aaliyah would never bother the Ellisons ever again.
Ocean never asked how much did his father give his ex for he was disgusted the action took place. As he glanced around more, Ocean already knew the answer: somewhere between six and seven figures.
Thomas was the ultimate executive and if he wanted something, family relations and personal feeling be damned. It was one of the reasons of the strained relationship between all of his sons, Ocean included.
It was a weird dynamic – they loved their father with the same passion they loathed him. They would never disrespect him in public, but it was always no holds barred behind closed doors. Ocean chuckled as he thought about it. They were truly like any other rich, political family. They just happened to be famous.
Ocean walked around Aaliyah’s condo, taking in the sights and sounds. Old pictures of family and friends graced the living room. A picture of Aaliyah with her parents at her college graduation from Cal State L.A. Wild times with Brittany in clubs. A selfie of Aaliyah on a sunny day. Pictures of her celebrating pride. Family gatherings.
And most certainly no pictures of her and Ocean.
Her smile was infectious. Her spirit naturally drew people in. Her eyes could balance simmering sensuality and innocent wickedness depending on who she spoke with. Her voice was soft, smoldering, with a touch of smoke. She was #goals and #carefreeblackgirl before they became trendy.
She’d often complained about how skinny she was. She was barely a B cup and she was envious of the women how had voluptuous bodies. She never had a problem buying clothes her size and often dressed her body shape instead of what size she could fit.
“You’re perfect,” Ocean purred one night after a lovemaking session. His fingers traced a constellation tattoo on her body backed by soft splashes of lavender, fuchsia, and gold. “You’re perfect for me and that’s all that matters.”
“You don’t want me to get a butt lift?” She teased.
Ocean pulled Aaliyah on top of him and reached up as she straddled him. “If you want surgery, baby, I’ll pay for it. But I’m just saying you don’t need it. You’re beautiful and perfect just as you are.”
Aaliyah adjusted her position and sank down on Ocean, coating him with her tight and slick heat as they both sighed. “I’m going to fuck you for your appreciation.”
Ocean held onto his girlfriend’s hips. “Please do.”
Ocean shook the memory from his head before it impacted his slacks. The last thing he wanted was to make Aaliyah feel he was only there to sex her and leave. He wanted their relationship to work and if he needed to wait, so be it. He was not going to ruin this because his dick had a mind of its own.
His eyes wandered around the room until he caught a certain set of photos. He got up from the sofa and walked over to the small corner, where various photos of Aaliyah doing tattoo work graced the area. She always wore tank tops and her hair in a bun so there wouldn’t be any distraction.
The pictures were taken during various times of day and they all showcased a concentrated Aaliyah working on numerous clients with her trademark watercoloring tattoo.
Ocean took all of the photos.
He knew she kept the photographs because they were beautiful and probably served as a reminder to Aaliyah how far she’d come from where she’d been. Nothing more, nothing less. A part of him did wonder if Aaliyah kept the photos because deep down, she still wanted to be connected to Ocean, even if she couldn’t stand the sight of him.
Ocean shook his head. As “You Oughta Know” played in the background, he had a lot of making up to do. Aaliyah barely let him in the front door, literally and figuratively. She went upstairs to shower and change before they went out to dinner. He booked an entire restaurant just for them to ensure privacy and no interruptions.
All he needed to do now was just wait. Patience was never Ocean’s strong point.
“So, he found you?” Brittany began over the phone. “And yet you’re calling me so obviously there’s no makeup sex.”
Aaliyah bristled and rolled her eyes. Ocean’s security detail drove her home from the tattoo shop. She stayed nestled upstairs in her master bedroom getting ready for what…a date? No, it wasn’t a date.
It was an outing between two people who used to have sex, be in love (at least she was), and now they’re pretending they don’t hate each other. At least Ocean was pretending he didn’t hate Aaliyah.
She still had the anger of a scorned woman. “I hate him. I hate him. I hate his fucked-up family. I especially hate his manipulative-ass daddy. I hate everything about him.”
“But…” Brittany blew on the gel nail polish settling on her fingernails. “…he’s downstairs in your condo waiting to take you out?”
Brittany didn’t know much about sports but she just scored a slam dunk with her assessment. “He insisted and didn’t listen when I told him no.” Aaliyah defended.
“You told him no? I’m pretty sure Ocean would’ve listened if you said no.” Brittany countered.
She just scored a homerun. “I didn’t say yes,” Aaliyah revised.
“Girl, bye.” Brittany rolled her eyes. “There’s a chance he’s truly sorry for what happened, Liyah.”
“Two, almost three years later?” Aaliyah retorted. “I’ve seen the women he’s been linked to since our breakup. None of them look like me and that was intentional.”
“I thought you no longer paid attention to what Mr. Senator did?” Brittany asked as she chewed gum. “I thought, in your words, you no longer cared about what he did.”
I always did Aaliyah wanted to admit. Selfish pride wouldn’t let her. “When he’s in the papers, I’m going to see it. When people are talking about that hot, young, available senator from California, I know who they’re referring to. I can’t avoid all of the political gossip.”
“So, what do you want out of this?” Brittany asked. “He wants you back and it’s clear you’re seriously considering it.”
“Excuse you,” Aaliyah defended, “I’m about to go out to dinner with him, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Didn’t I just say he’s waiting downstairs inside your condo?” Brittany replied. “This is more than just a friendly get-together and adding each other on Facebook now.”
Aaliyah hated how well Brittany could read her like a librarian. “It’s complicated,” she sighed, “even if we do get back together, do you know the scrutiny I’ll be under? I’ll have cameras following me everywhere. No one will leave me alone. And the fact he’s an Ellison? I can forget any thought of privacy for as long as I live.”
“But that’s what you wanted some years ago, Aaliyah. You were prepared for that, remember? You were going to cover up your sleeves, cut your hair so you can be all Stepford Wife-ish, and call it a career. That was what you wanted to do for him.” Brittany countered. “Now why is it a problem now?”
“No one knew who I was back then,” Aaliyah’s popularity grew within the past several years. She was in talks about getting her own reality show as it show her artwork and some of her personal life.
With Ocean’s sudden and swift reappearance in her life, even the reality show was proven problematic. “Ocean wouldn’t dare to be seen with me in public. Not now.”
“I think that’s a risk he’s willing to take,” Brittany replied, “I have a strong suspicion Ocean would not care about anything else as long as you’re back in his life for good.”
“Easy for you to say because you’re not the one dealing with any of this,” Aaliyah chuckled. “You’re home and pregnant, and engaged to a doctor.”
“Hey, it’s a hard life but somebody’s gotta do it.”
“Speaking of a hard knock life,” Aaliyah let out a small sigh, “you have a cousin that’s a P.I., right? How much does he charge?”
“For me, it’ll be free.” Brittany paused for a beat. “You want dirt on Ocean?”
“I want info on the entire Ellison clan.” Aaliyah responded. “From mom and pops to the brothers.”
Aaliyah was about to play a dangerous game and Brittany wasn’t sure if it was one she would win. “Everything you could want to know is on the internet, Liyah.” Brittany countered. “I’m sure if you look hard enough you’ll find it.”
“I don’t trust what the internet says. No one does straight reporting anymore. If they’re not leaning right, they damn sure are leaning left. I need someone who has no connection or affiliation to either party to give me info. I need everything possible on the Ellisons.”
Brittany didn’t want to ask but she felt compelled. “Blackmail?”
“No,” Aaliyah shook her head, knowing Brittany couldn’t see it. “I want to know who I’m dealing with.”
“Okay,” Brittany complied, “I’ll see what he can find. Just to warn you, though, some of the stuff he might find won’t be pretty. If you’re able to stomach some hard, ugly truths about Ocean’s family, be prepared.”
Truth was, Aaliyah wasn’t prepared. She knew how powerful Thomas was. She wanted to know how far his reach went. She had a feeling Ocean being a part of the Senate was only a small move in the game of chess Thomas played. “I’ll try.” She heard a knock on her door and swallowed hard. She knew it was Ocean behind it, still, the rush within her rocked her core. She was only in her towel and felt compelled to answer the door wearing just that. “I gotta go, Britt. Give Paul my love.”
“Keep me posted or I’ll pry more info from Paul.” Brittany laughed before she hung up.
Aaliyah got up and straightened her shoulders. She tucked her towel in more and walked squarely to her bathroom door, where she opened it to face a smiling, sultry Ocean.
My heart…Aaliyah’s eyes took a quick stock of Ocean’s body. He stood over six feet tall, with dark brown hair, and dazzling blue eyes. He was dressed in dark slacks and a white open collar shirt that conformed to his magnificent body.
His hair was a messy bed head style, appearing as he just put some water in it and ran a hand through it a few times. He was never about the glitz and glamour and hated even to wear makeup when had to do appearances. Lowkey was always his style.
Ocean wasn’t just attractive; he was flat-out delicious.
His blue eyes were focused on her brown ones as he let himself into her bathroom and carefully stalked her as Aaliyah walked backwards and sat down on a vanity chair. No man had ever shook her to the core the way Ocean did.
She honestly doubted no man ever will. “I’m still getting dressed.” She held his gaze.
Ocean stood by the bathroom door and folded his arms, though Aaliyah wasn’t sure if it was because he was comfortable or annoyed. His stance gave no indication what way he leaned. “Am I wasting your time being here?” His voice was calm, but his mouth was a straight hard line.
“What gave you that impression?” She crossed her legs and folded her arms to match. “I’m getting dressed.”
“No woman takes over an hour to shower,” Ocean’s face revealed nothing.
“This woman does.” Aaliyah softly replied. She thought she was being facetious in her reply but an sexy curve of Ocean’s lips revealed he loved the challenge. “Why are you here?”
“I’m here to see if you were okay, that’s why.” He replied, keeping his distance at the door. “And if you needed anything.”
“No,” she held up a hand, “why are you here? Like here in Atlanta, here. What’s your purpose of being here?”
“I thought I explained that back at the shop?” Ocean’s eyes revealed a smidgen of annoyance. “Was I not clear enough?”
Ocean’s lips were perfectly clear. As they took control of Aaliyah’s, his tongue played with hers with expert precision. Only a whiteboard with black lettering would be clearer. “What are you going to tell your father about us?”
“His opinion has never mattered,” Ocean replied.
“But it does, Ocean. It does.” She replied. Aaliyah’s heart burned with anger as she remembered how smug Thomas looked as he informed her she was no longer needed in Ocean’s life. If he got up and sucker punched her, the impact might have been less than the verbal blow he’d delivered. “Your father won’t hesitate to destroy me so he can get what he wants and if he wants you in the White House, I’m a distant memory.”
“I don’t want to run for the White House.” His blue eyes turned dark. “I have no desire to ever run for the presidency. I’m not even sure I want to go beyond a first term here.”
“Bullshit,” Aaliyah snapped, “you’re likable and quiet. You’ll get re-elected based on that alone.”
“I thought you didn’t care what I was up to?” His blue eyes crinkled.
Aaliyah bit her lip and looked away. “My point is, no one is going to elect you with me on your arm.”
“Contrary to your popular belief, no one cares about senator’s wives.” He walked closer to her. “And you’re giving yourself way too much credit for something that may not even happen.”
Aaliyah felt the smoldering heat between them as Ocean closed the distance. He smelled wonderful and his newfound swagger made him even more delicious. Her heart rate shot up and was deafening in her ears. A part of her wanted to cave in and begin a new relationship with him. A part of her wanted him to suffer for all of the hurt and anguish he and his family did to her.
The Petty Pendergrass in Aaliyah was about to come all the way through. “You don’t even want me any more. I’m not your type.”
“My type?” His cocked his head to the side. “My type is what?”
“Blonde, leggy, and curvy.” She noted. “I’m none of those.”
“I thought you didn’t care what I did?” His eyebrows rose.
“When the gossip pages talk about your dates,” Aaliyah stood against Ocean’s raw masculinity that encapsulated his over six foot frame, “I can’t help it.”
The longer Ocean was in Aaliyah’s presence, the more she revealed about what she knew of him. She claimed to not have cared about anything he did for the past several years since their breakup, but she knew a whole lot about the women he was seen with. It briefly made him wonder what else did she know she currently hid. “How about you’re everything to me? Is that better?”
Aaliyah swallowed and looked away before Ocean tilted her head towards his. He took her mouth again, drinking from her as his hands cradled her hips. She felt so warm and soft within his touch and he felt his cock harden at the thought of being inside her again.
His tongue tangled with hers and Ocean almost lost control when he heard her sweet moans. His hands crawled up to her towel and undid it, revealing a nude, decorated body. She had a few more tattoos added, but the rest of Aaliyah was astounding.
Her legs were muscular. Her torso was tiny with a small piercing. Her small breasts were perky and mouth-watering.
She was perfect for him in every way. “Let me show you something.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her in front of the wall mirror. He stood behind her as Aaliyah tried to cover herself up with her arms. “No,” he set her arms down, “I want you to see what I see.”
Aaliyah held Ocean’s gaze. His eyes were intense and full of heat. “What do you see?”
“I see love. I see beauty.” He kissed her neck. “I see power. I see us.” He locked eyes with her. “What do you see?”
Aaliyah shivered at the passion of Ocean’s words combined with his smoldering look. He was dark and dangerous; a deadly combination for her heart. The earth stood still for them and the only thing that mattered was whatever was happening in that very room.
“Well?” He asked again. He held her waist and nuzzled his lips against her neck. She smelled delightful and addicting. His blue eyes darkened to an almost black color as he reached up and caressed her breasts. “What do you see?”
Aaliyah swallowed and blew out a breath. Her sex became slick with desire and tightly clenched in response of him. Her heart raced uncontrollably fast and her palms became sweaty. The only man that could knock the wind out of her without saying much.
Ocean had a quiet sensuality to him that was irresistible. He never flashed his wealth or dropped names to impress anyone. Either someone liked him or they didn’t. Take him or leave him.
She hadn’t physically seen the man in years and there was an intimacy and closeness between them like if they had never separated at all. Ocean promised everything but guaranteed absolutely nothing.
Aaliyah felt her lungs suffocate her and the words became lodged in her throat. She swallowed once, then twice before she finally spoke. “I see uncertainty. I see scrutiny. I see a horrible crash that would leave me gutted yet again.”
“You really see all of that?” He kissed her neck and felt her shiver underneath. “I see protection. I see a guaranteed bet.” He turned her towards him and looked into her deep, brown eyes. “I see me loving you with everything I have until I can’t possibly love you any harder than this.”
Ocean had always made Aaliyah feel like she was the only woman in the world. It was no different. “Ocean, I…”
“We’re going to be late for our dinner.” He backed away and turned Aaliyah to face him. “You have ten minutes. If you’re not dressed by then, you’re going to the restaurant in an outfit I picked out or you’re going naked. I’ll be waiting.” He left.
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