#FlashFriday: Feeling Some Type of Way III #newadult #romance #contemporary

“And…ohhhh…” Ian’s mouth formed a small O. He slowly turned to Nick, who had raised eyebrows and shook his head.

Zerrin, however, was a bit more vocal. “Mari’s gonna kick Scott’s ass!”

“I’m sorry,” I’m confused as ever, “can someone enlighten me what’s going on?”

Before anyone could answer, Scott walked up to the woman, gave her a deep embrace, and kissed her. I was taken aback by the kiss because Mariana is his girlfriend and I get the feeling they don’t really share. That kiss with Mystery Lady With the Nice Titties wasn’t platonic or just two old friends saying hi.

If I didn’t know any better, I would assume they were probably fucking.

Scott motions Nice Titties to a chair that’s directly in front of Mariana’s sex. He simply snaps his fingers and immediately the woman starts licking Mariana’s slit. Mariana gasps and softly moans while Scott massages her breasts.

I’m leant over as far as possible I can be without falling down and breaking my nose. I have no interest in being with another woman, nor do I have any interest in participating in a threesome.

But what I’m seeing in front of me right now is just so damn hot, I’m on fire. I feel my sex softly contract and thump against my moist panties. My breathing has become restricted and a bit shallow. I’m squeezing the life out of Ian’s knee as he softly caresses my back.

I’m feeling everything at once – happiness, horniness, amazement, disbelief, greediness – in abundance. I want to see more. I want to experience more.

“Oh God, yes!” Mariana cries out and I think I just came with her.

“You like what you’re seeing, angel?” Ian’s deep voice breaks me out of my concentration and for the first time, I’m rather pissed at him. Weird.

“Um, yeah,” I manage to lay back in my seat and he wraps his arms around me, “I’m fine.” I softly point to the demonstration and watch Nice Titties caress Mariana’s legs, “I don’t understand what’s going on here, though? You and Saint Nick seem shocked at it, Master.”

“The woman currently pleasuring Mari is Scott’s ex-girlfriend, Dove,” Ian softly nodded, “Mari hates Dove, and Dove is rather nonchalant.”

“Why does Mari hate Dove?” I ask. “Because she dated Scott?”

“Part of it. Dove represents everything Mari wishes she could be. The funny thing is she is actually everything Scott wants, she just doesn’t realize it yet.” Ian studies my face and I feel the intention of his words in the pit of my stomach.

I’ll admit being jealous over Sydney was stupid and silly but I couldn’t help it. Sydney was spirited and carefree, thought about the consequences later, and I could see why Ian was attracted to her.

I’m determined a new Domi will mean very little jealousy in the future. I’ll still get jealous but at least I’ll be smarter about it. Ian loves me and has proven that day in and day out.

I have no reason not to trust my man.

“This, however,” Ian motions back to the demonstration where I watch Mariana’s legs shake as Dove holds them up in the air, while she’s furiously licking her, “this is just Scott being messy.”

“I’m here for it,” Nick chimes in.


 

The third installment in the Feeling Some Type of Way series will be out later this summer.

 

Regarding Scott & Mariana (again)

So here’s the deal:

The last S&M book that featured them as main characters – Stronger than Pride – did not do well. Based on sales, I decided it was best to end the series. It is the only book with them that didn’t do well at all. I took it as a sign. But hey, there is a high note.

Jay’s and Sanora’s story will be fully explored in S&M IV, Part II. That book is going to be the final chapter in the S&M series. No more. That’s it. As I stated with the previous S&M IV book, it will be entirely Sanora-based. Scott and Mariana will be side characters in their story. There’s also a good chance they won’t be in it at all. I don’t know yet.

Personally, I’m okay with this decision. Even though Scott & Mariana may be popular to some, they’re not to all. My other couples – Faith and Eli (D’Amato Brothers), Sydney and Dean (Breakaway), Ian and Dominique (Feeling Some Type of Way) – actually surpassed them in popularity.

It ultimately comes down to sales and interest and it wasn’t there anymore. Even though I am a bit saddened that certain storylines won’t ever happen. (I mean, c’mon, Dove training Mariana to be a submissive? That would’ve been explosive to read. Scott confronting the Nation of Islam in his office? Wow!) However, I am content that with Stronger than Pride, they have a happily ever after.

Scott & Mariana will still appear in other books; they just made a guest appearance in Bad and Bougie.

Who knows? Maybe Dove might show up in Feeling Some Type of Way as Angel’s submissive teacher. Why would Dove be there? Would she also have a history with Ian? Hmm…now that would be very interesting. We have to wait and see.

Thank you for your love and support!

God Bless!

-V.

Soul Infinity Crew is now LIVE!

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This is an Amazon exclusive release so it should be available on Kindle Unlimited for FREE in a few days.

To purchase, click here.

Thank you for your love and support! xoxoxo

-V.

#TBT – Superpower

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“What you have is a generation of men, Black men, who still want to police everything the Black woman does. Notice I didn’t say certain Black women. Notice I didn’t say a particular type of Black woman. No, I meant general. I mean all of us. And they want to police everything – our hair, our clothing, our weight, our size, our attitudes, our education and so forth. If they deem us uneducated, we’re ghetto and hoodrats. If we have education, we’re uppity bitches. If we’re free and liberated with our sexuality, we’re hoes and thots. If we like something that isn’t typical amongst Black folks, we’re trying to be White and self-haters.

“If we choose not to support a Black man for strong reasons, we’re called bitter bitches. We’re automatically the Angry Black woman who hold onto grudges. Forget that comedian that raped all those women. He created a monumental TV show so we should support him, anyway! Forget that one actor who refused to apologize for his indiscretions; we need to support his movie! And you want to know why they say that to us? Because they see how the White people look past their favorites’ indiscretions, dirty laundry, and immoral and unethical behavior. And they feel, if they do it, we should too. No, booboo.

“Now, they won’t support us. They will nitpick everything about us for the reasons I mentioned above. A Black man can create, write, produce, and direct his own TV show and is lauded. A Black woman does the same, and it’s crickets. On the screen, they’re automatically our love interests. We’ll dedicate songs to them, calling them Kings. We’re in the streets fighting for them. We give birth to these Black boys and worry every time they leave the home if they’re coming back that night.

“And what do we get in return? If a White girl does a twerk, we have Black men screaming in our ears, yelling in our faces, talking how she’s about to ‘shut us down.’ We have Black men openly saying on national TV, they don’t want to date women who have to wrap their hair up at night. They don’t want to date someone who wears a bonnet. Well, why does it matter? Are we going somewhere at 3 AM? A White woman faked her entire life story of being Black, and you had loads of Black men coming to her defense. Now, if a White man did that, would he still get a pass?

“From the time we’re born, okay? Are you still with me? From the time we’re born, we’ve been told we aren’t shit from either our fathers, our relatives, the boys on the playground, ex-boyfriends, and furthermore, society. Your hair’s nappy, get a perm. You too damn dark, try not to stay out in the sun so much. Your lips are too big. Your eyes are too wide. You have an attitude. Why are you always angry? Why are you always sad? Why, why, why?

“So finally, after years of trying to get love and acceptance and having the doors slam in our faces, you have these White men, these Latino men, these Asian men, who are beating down our doors and saying to us, ‘Let us love you. Let us treat you like the Queens you are.’ And so we let them. We marry them. We start families with them. We grow our villages with them.

“And the same Black men who verbally, emotionally, physically just beat us down are now angry at us. ‘Well, why are you sleeping with the oppressor?’ ‘How can you be pro-Black and sleep with the enemy?’ So, you have this group of Black men who do not want us, who want to beat us down, who want humiliate us at every chance, but they do not want us to date out. They do not want us to be happy with The Others. And I’m sitting here, watching all of this and thinking, ‘Well, Negro, you can’t have it your way. I’m not Burger King.’

“So, while these men are hating on us, you have their Beckys with the Good Hair keeping mum on all things social and political with them. Let me repeat that one more time for the people in the back. The Black men who hate on Black women, are messing around with their Others, who aren’t fighting for them. They’re not saying a word. They’re not out in the streets. They’re not penning essays. They’re not making any hashtags other than #yum and #sohungry.

“And these Black men are so focused on who is in my bed. What race is the person in my bed? Meanwhile, we’re letting all of these Beckys come right on in, stealing our sound, our style, our look, and our Black gold. And when I say Beckys, I’m not referring to just White women. ‘Oh, he’s okay because he’s a funny-ass White boy!’ ‘Oh, he’s all right because he’s a down-ass White dude!’ ‘Oh, she’s not a bad author because she can write better than some of these Black authors!’ I’m just wondering, you’re so concerned about who I’m sleeping with, but you have no qualms with Justin Timberlake coming into our culture, using it to his benefit, and sharing the wealth he derives with his White wife and child who will ultimately benefit? When’s the last time he’s spoken out about racial inequality? The same goes for that Australian rapper, and that Canadian kid. There have been numerous shootings and they all have been silent like the G in lasagna.”

“You’re concerned about who’s in my bed yet you have Becky and her friends stealing our African-American Vernacular English. I hear them all the time going, ‘Yassss!’ and talking about the swag they have. They’re talking about how something is so lit and their baes. They’re bad bitches on fleek. Like, OMG, that is so ghetto!” She spoke in a Valley girl voice as the hosts chuckled. Yet, are they in the streets marching with us? Are they hashtagging Black lives matter? Are they frequenting any Black businesses? Furthermore, do they have any Black friends? But they love some Black dick, don’t they?

“And then I get the whole, ‘Well, you’re not pro-Black because X. You’re not pro-Black because of Y.’ If I think I’m pro-Black, I am. How I feel about my Blackness isn’t determined on your opinion about me. The last time I checked, opinions don’t pay bills. I don’t live for you. I never have and I never will. It’s a competition nowadays to see who is the most pro-Black and there’s a checklist that one needs to follow. It’s stupid and also, it’s counterproductive.

“Now, not all Black men are like this. I’m referring to a small number of them. They are small, but boy, they are vocal. And they’re usually the ones on my social media pages. They’re the ones listening to this interview and probably tweeting at me right now because they think I made a generalization of all. They’re the ones who will purposely take what I said out of context and use it against me, saying, ‘Well, those are your words.’ And they are the ones who will do whatever they can to break me down because they feel I’m somehow inflicting pain on them, when really, I’m trying to help.

“So Marjorie, to answer your question, why am I in the streets protesting for Black men? Because despite those assholes I just mentioned, some good ones out there need my help. And those are the ones I fight for.”


 

The explosive Part 3 will be out this summer.

An explanation of sorts…

Hello family!

How are you? Thank you to all for the Mother’s Day wishes. I had an awesome, quiet weekend with Hubby and Bear.

Now let’s get to clearing up some things…

Recently, I had a countdown on the blog indicating a book release. The book release was/is for the YA story I’ve been working on for some time now. Those on my personal Facebook page can attest I’ve been trying to get cover ideas from them since it’s a multiracial, multiethnic gender-fluid troupe (whew, that’s a mouthful!). Although the book wasn’t released yesterday, the extended preview will be out next week with the full book due in June.

I don’t promote the YA on this blog very much just because it’s a new audience I’m trying to reach and my approach is different. It was weird promoting a nice, clean YA on a sexually-explicit blog.

That being said, I need to clarify how I typically do book releases:

It’s very rare I do a surprise book release of an established series. Not saying it doesn’t happen (which it has), or it won’t happen (because it will). I’ve also started releasing the first several chapters of a new book on wattpad, so the reader can preview the book and know exactly what they’re getting before they decide to buy.

So, yadda, yadda, yadda, Vera…when is the next D’Amato Brothers book? I’m getting to that, hold on…

The next installment to the D’Amato Brothers will be out soon. Yes, I know soon is a vague term. While the book mainly deals with Eli and Faith (and Erica and Simone), other factors will set up future books involving the brothers and other family members. So, it’s going to take some planning and a lot of time to figure out where I want to go with this. But so far, the progress is great.

War is a heavy book. It’s not a nice, summer beach read. It’s title War not because it’s the sequel to Love, but also, there’s a lot of conflict – The D’amatos v. Simone and Darren; Faith v. Eli; Eli v. Erica (yes, that’s going to happen as well); Faith v. her Christian faith.

One of the biggest questions will be – Is the best choice always the right choice?

Just like Where I Wanna Be and Love, this book will pull you in many different directions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be angry, you’ll do some soul-searching. You’ll hate a character only to love them a few chapters later. And vice-versa.

I hope you all enjoy it. It’s been challenging to write the book just because of the numerous heavy issues the book deals with but it’s been a labor of love. I haven’t picked out the cover for War yet, so there’s that. I have a feeling it won’t have any cover models on it.

So yes…to recap…two new releases coming out: an extended preview next week, a full book next month, and War, soon.

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I like to give a huge shout-out to you, the audience, for making every. single. D’Amato Brothers book reach the Top 100 in numerous categories in Amazon! That is so amazeballs. That’s never happened with any series I’ve had (not even with Scott and Mariana) so I’m so, so thankful and just really blessed that y’all love the brothers so much.

I also like to give a huge shout-out to the wattpad audience for making Nothing Even Matters hit 1K views! Totally freaking awesome!!!

That is all. I’ll keep you posted on everything here.

Stay beautiful and blessed,

xoxoxo

-V.

#TeaserTuesday: War #contemporary #romance

“Eli’s girlfriend called me,” Faith began as she stirred her chai tea, “she wants to come in to get her braids done.” She glanced up at her mother.

Amy softly raised an eyebrow. “Okay. How do you feel about that? Does Eli know about it?”

“I’m assuming he does. I don’t know, he refuses to talk to me still.” Faith tried to shrug off the hurt. Faith was pretty sure he blocked all of her numbers because whenever she called him, it went straight to voicemail. Any return calls from Eli were handled through his attorney. “So, it’s interesting his girlfriend wants to see me. There are so many hairstylists in Harlem and she can get her hair braided by any of them.”

“But you know why she chose you, right?” Amy pressed. “Erica’s a smart woman and she knows what she’s doing. Did you speak to her?”

“She personally called me. She was as sweet and likeable as before. Like, ugh…” Faith chuckled. “I wish I could hate her but I can’t. She’s not some ghetto bird like Simone was.” She briefly looked up at the ceiling. “Erica’s a good girl. She’s a great woman. I just…” She let out another sigh. “…I hate she’s with my ex-husband.”

“But why do you care, Faith?” Amy asked. “You’re with that basketballer…Jeremy’s his name, right? He seems like a nice guy.”

Jeremy was going to be in town for a couple of days. Faith was going to leave with him to spend a few days in Los Angeles. “He is. Jeremy’s a great guy.”

Amy reached over and grabbed her daughter’s hand. “Talk to me, Faith Marie. What’s going on? This is beyond Erica calling you up to get her hair done.”

Faith’s eyes threatened tears. “I pushed Eli to hate me. After he apologized for everything and was seemingly husband of the year, I still wouldn’t forgive him. He asked for DNA tests for all of the kids and I just lost it. I can understand E.J., but for Nate and Aubri?” She softly shook her head. “It’s like he doesn’t trust me at all. He was the one that stepped out and yet I’m the one still being punished.”

“Are you?” Amy softly countered. “Faith, you admitted you still talked to Darren while you were pregnant. Eli found out things about your relationship through the press, hun. You weren’t forthcoming about any of it and you still held a grudge against him for his affair. How much longer do you want to hold a grudge before you realize you’re the only one suffering while the other person moved on?”

“I’m not holding a grudge,” Faith met eyes with her mother, “I’m moving to L.A.”

Amy read her daughter’s eyes. Something about them changed for the worst. They used to be filled with love, hope, and maybe a bit of defiantness. Now she seemed glossy-eyed and stone cold.

Faith had always liked material things but she seemed increasingly boastful about what she owned and acquired. She spent more time away from her salon, and away from Harlem, while she traversed with Jeremy’s friends and family.

When Eli finally left Faith for good, it spurned something inside the young woman that Amy couldn’t pinpoint. Faith used to quote the Bible and lean on Him during all times. Now she barely showed up in church. When she did go, her skirts and dresses barely covered her.

That wasn’t the worse of it. Amy heard a whisper Faith might have been messing with the nose candy but she didn’t want to believe it. Seeing how thin her daughter had become – Faith didn’t look like she weighed a hundred pounds – Amy wondered what else was her daughter hiding.

“How long has this been in the works?”

“Just recently,” Faith blurted, “Jeremy wants me to move to L.A. with him.”

Faith never liked Los Angeles and preferred Harlem no matter where she went. Amy knew she wasn’t going to survive very long there – literally. “And the children?” Amy asked. “How does Eli feel about this?”

“I don’t care,” Faith shrugged, “I guess his attorney will let me know how it goes.”

Faith wasn’t just holding a grudge against Eli; she was effectively punishing him for leaving her. What better way to do that than by moving across the country and taking the children with her.

Amy remembered what the D’Amatos did to Simone and Darren and feared they would act the same – if not worse – towards her daughter. It was Amy’s cue to intervene before things became worse between them. “Okay, Faith.”


 

Makes you wonder what the D’Amatos did to Simone and Darren, doesn’t it?

War will be out later this spring. Release date and possible pre-order information will be available soon.

#BrothersBae is on wattpad

I really tried to come up with a clever title but #BrothersBae seemed to stand out the most.

This is short story in the form of an interview by the D’Amato Brothers, their mother, Nicola; stepfather, Arturo; and finally, a word from Absent Daddy, Giorgio.  Also making special guest appearances are Eli’s exes – Faith Sheppard and Dr. Erica Toure.

This story will be on sale for 99 cents for a few days before the price goes up so be sure to grab your copy at 99 cents!  It’ll be available across all platforms as well.

But for now, go check out the interview sample chapters. You might be surprised at who is interviewing the family.

Next post will be the cover reveal and link to purchase.

Last note – I did mention on Facebook how I was starting a special reviewers program for those who consistently review my works. There’s about 10 of you who do that (and you know who you are). So, with that being said, please email me ASAP. 

To view the story, click here.

Happy Easter!

 

 

Lord of the Flowers, Pt. 2

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Eli’s and Joseph’s shared office is a lot neater and nicer than I expected it was going to be. I thought I was going to see papers in disarray, orders everywhere, spilled coffee stains on desks.

Instead, I see sleek leather sofas (“Nap time,” Eli laments, “people know when that door is closed, do not bother me.”), Apple computers perched on oak furniture, and a large window that overlooks the New York skyline. A small bar sits in a nearby corner and a bathroom is hidden in another.

A foosball table and two arcade machines are in the other corner. “You’ll be surprised the number of ideas I get when I’m playing Street Fighter,” Eli laughs.

“Right there,” Joseph’s baritone points me toward Eli’s desk, “that’s where the magic really happens.”

Numerous family pictures adorn Eli’s desk. One in particular – a picture of Eli and his ex-wife, Faith Sheppard – stands out.

Faith, the daughter of famed minister, Reverend David Sheppard, met Eli when the couple was teenagers in high school. “I knew he was trouble the moment I met him,” she says as we met later for coffee, “but he was the kind of trouble I wanted.”

Faith is small in stature, just a little under five and a half feet. But her presence is big. She often greets everyone with a warm smile and doesn’t shy away from the latest gossip offerings. She had an interest in hair when she was a teenager and when she graduated from high school, Eli paid her to attend college and cosmetology school.

The pair dated for several years before they had an extravagant wedding at the St. Regis Hotel. “This was before social media so it was a huge deal. I was more or less a socialite and Eli was already famous on his own due to the shop.” Faith commented. “It was a production but it was totally us.”

Several children followed later but Eli’s affair with an ex-girlfriend nearly broke the couple. Faith’s retaliation affair did not help matters, neither. “We were both stupid,” she sighs, “really stupid. I guess I was so hurt by what he did, I figured if I did it back to him, he would feel the pain he gave to me. I was the one that got burned twice.”

The couple, once shown on TV as playful and understanding of each other, went through an acrimonious divorce that almost played out in the media.

False accusations that Eli was abusive in their marriage put a dent into the D’Amato armor and caused a few advertisers to pull their ads. Madre’s saw protests from domestic violence groups and Eli’s personal Instagram page was a landmine of hateful comments.

“I have never hit any woman ever,” he declared, “I wasn’t raised like that neither were my brothers. I don’t play that mess. I’ve never emotionally or mentally abused her nor our children.”

“If my Eli had ever hit a woman, he would have to deal with his brothers before me,” Nicola replied during our lunch gathering, “his punishment from us would’ve been worst than anything a judge would’ve given him.”

As soon as the accusations came, they left. Faith soon put out a statement denying Eli was ever abusive to her or their children. Numerous friends and family members rallied around Eli and the controversy surrounded him seemingly boosted his popularity and wealth.

It’s clear the former couple have a lot of issues to sort out. They stopped speaking to each other completely for two years, only having all communication go through attorneys. Recently, the pair spent Christmas and the New Year together. “We’re in counseling now,” Faith’s voice is soft, “I don’t know if it’s a sign of reconciliation but it helps when our kids have parents who don’t hate each other.”

“Let’s talk about the affair,” I begin and Faith’s eyes draw a blank stare, “Eli’s been pretty open about it on the show but you haven’t.”

Faith circles her cup of coffee with a finger as she contemplates an answer. “I understand why he cheated on me. I’m not saying it’s entirely my fault but I can admit I played a role in it. Not a lot of women want to admit that. I didn’t at first.” Faith takes a sip of coffee. “I was so happy on blaming him and only him that I didn’t think, ‘Well, how did I contribute to this?’”

“So what happened when you did realize it?” I ask.

Faith scoffs and shakes her long, black hair. “Honey, let me tell you that was a very sobering moment. It wasn’t even just one big thing. It’s like the snowball effect – something small here, something small there, until there’s an avalanche. A lot of things led up to it and the signs our marriage was in trouble was there. In fact, our marriage had been in trouble for a while before the affair happened.”

“Do you think the affair possibly saved your relationship with Eli?” I ask.

She gives a casual shrug. “Maybe at first, but the problems were still there. He was apologetic and I didn’t want to forgive him. I liked being angry at him.”

Faith’s subsequent relationship with high-profile basketball player, Jeremy Griggs, was the subject of much adoration and scrutiny. The former couple received offers for a reality show but those were shut down when Eli wouldn’t agree to have their children on the show.

That action, Faith reveals, led to a relationship that was even more contentious between her and Eli. “It felt like he hated me and wanted to get even with me for everything. I didn’t help matters. I wanted to move to L.A. and take the kids with me.”

“So what happened? I get the feeling the two of you are on good terms now.”

Faith looks away and tries to hide her wide smile. It’s not a smile of a woman who is just on good terms with her ex-husband and father of her children. If I didn’t know better, it was the smile of a woman who got that old thing back. “Things aren’t perfect but I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in years and so are my children. Things are really good between us now.”

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“I can honestly say the affair was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” Eli later admits, “I know why I did it. I wanted attention from my wife and I wasn’t getting it. I’m not blaming at her at all. I was the one that stepped out and that started a very unfortunate chain of events.” He’s trying to grasp at the words but what he’s feeling isn’t coming out in what he wants to say. “It’s like I hate the affair happened but I wondered what would’ve happened if I remained faithful. Our marriage before the affair wasn’t great. We were fighting a lot and I wanted her to stay at home more so she could raise the kids and not rely on nannies and babysitters…I don’t know…”

“Do you think you still would’ve divorced if you didn’t have the affair?” I ask.

Eli carefully thinks for several moments before he finally gives his answer. “Yes.”


 

The rest of the character interview will be in a short book that’ll be out this weekend for 99 cents. A preview of said book will be posted on wattpad later.

Lord of the Flowers

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The famed two-story brick building is quite unassuming from the outside yet this is where the magic happens.

This is the place where brides and their families spend big bucks for extravagant designs, only custom made to the bride. This is the place where young Latina girls want their quincereras done just right with only the best flowers. This is the place where a young man who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, will get a custom bouquet for the special person in his life.

Of course, this is the culture phenomenon of Madre’s and the D’Amato family. Every Sunday night for an hour, we get to follow members of the family as they navigate through New York’s finest (and sometimes, not-so finest) for their celebrity clients, rich clients, and just regular-degular folks like you and me.

We also get to take a sneak peek of their private lives away from the floral shop as cameras travel with the family to vacations and get-togethers.

Walking inside the building, a hostess a la restaurant-style, shows me to my seat. We walk past walls of pictures full of celebrity and high-profile clients, all hugging a curvy woman with sandy-blondish hair and a big smile.

That woman is the impeccable Nicola D’Amato-Rodriguez, co-owner of the Madre’s floral shop and who in person, greets me with the same big smile and hug. “I’m a hugger,” her voice is smoky and full of wisdom, “everyone gets hugs here.”

The rise of the D’Amato family is  what legends are made of. Winning the only lottery ticket to a staggering $300 million jackpot, Nicola quit all of her jobs and opened her dream shop, a floral store. It started as a little corner shop in a hidden nook on Staten Island before the popularity of the flowers grew the store into the middle of Manhattan.

A reality show, numerous magazine covers, and a ton of celebrity and noteworthy clientele spread the word about the flowers. Anyone can get a dozen roses; no big deal. It was the personal touches, the customer service of the family and all of the employees that made Madre’s stand out from the competition.

A small menu of appetizers and beverages awaits me and Nicola tells me to order whatever I like. “No charge,” she smiles again, “we order from here all of the time.”

I decide on the caprese sandwich and small pizza while Nicola gets the chicken Caesar salad. “Just one moment,” she pulls out a walkie-talkie and speaks fluent Italian into it. A deep voice replies in English and Nicola rolls her eyes. “I can speak nothing but Italian to them,” she refers to her sons, “and they all answer back in English.”

I want to ask her who was the voice on the other end but the anticipation holds me back. It could be any of her sons or other family members of the D’Amato tribe that work in the business. Of course, the floral designs are just one small fraction of the show’s viewership. The D’Amato brothers – Nicholas, Kieran, Joseph, Eliodoro, and Antonio – are very easy on the eyes.

While the world knows them as the #BrothersBae, their upbringing was no laughing matter. Nicola was nearly eight months pregnant with Nicholas when she became a teenage bride. Four more sons in several years rounded out the family.

Antonio was just an infant when the family patriarch, Giorgio, left. “No rhyme or reason,” Nicola says with a sigh, indicating a pain that’s still present many years later. “Never a phone call or a letter except the divorce papers.” She looks pensive for a moment as if she’s trying to decide the next thought. “I read the Book of Job a lot during that time.”

While Nicholas and Kieran helped support the family with after-school jobs, Nicola worked a variety of jobs to keep a roof over their heads, lights on, and food in the pantry. “A lot of things weren’t repaired back then. We couldn’t afford someone to come out and fix things when my kids were small so as they became older, they learned how to fix things themselves. Regular handymen, I tell you.”

A chance lottery ticket changed the entire landscape of the family. Other than the typical new money purchases – upgraded clothing, cars, and each brother has a nice home – most of the lottery winnings remained in the bank. Joseph, the family’s business manager, invested the money wisely. The D’Amato family owns several properties and are silent partners in a few other businesses.

“When you grow up poor, you remember what it feels like,” Joseph commented as he joins us for lunch. “No one looks back on being poor and thinks, ‘Ah, yes, the good ol’ days!’ No one does that. We never want to go back to that, neither.” Looking every bit of a wealthy executive, Joseph appears he just stepped out of Wall Street and into Madre’s.

He’s the COO of the D’Amato Enterprises and makes all of the business decisions for the family. He’s also the reason why the family didn’t become like many lottery winners and broke within a few years. Married with twins to celebrity fashion designer, Zoe D’Amato, Joseph is often seen on private planes, having expensive lunches with business clientele, and around Silicon Valley, where the family are private investors in a number of start-ups and businesses.

Out of the five brothers, he’s definitely wears his wealth on his sleeve. “Appearances only,” he grumbles, “if I could go to a board meeting wearing my Timbs, I would.”

I ask Nicola and Joseph if they would ever consider meeting with Giorgio to finally clear the air and get closure. “I got all of the closure I needed the moment he left us,” Joseph says rather defiantly. “Look, he only showed up when we won all of that money. Once he heard about our popularity, he writes a bestselling book telling his side of the story. What side of the story? You left your wife and five sons. There is no story to tell about that.”

“But you are in some contact with him, right?”

“A few emails here and there isn’t going to make up for thirty years of being gone. It wasn’t like he was kidnapped or was a POW in a foreign land; that stronzo was living just a few miles away from us at one point.” Joey tightly clenches his fist and lets go. “I really don’t know what we would have in common to talk about.”

“What about you?” I ask Nicola. “How would you feel if Giorgio wanted to have a sit-down talk with you?”

Nicola lightly shrugs. “I’m open to it but I don’t see the point. I spent two years of my life, angry, very angry at him. And those are two years I can honestly say I wasted. He was still gone and I was still alone raising five boys. I had to teach them how to become men when I was still trying to figure out where in the woman handbook was the chapter, ‘You’re Going to be a Single Mother.’” Nicola softly shakes her head. “Whatever is done is done. He made his decision thirty years ago; I’m good.”

Love large

I’m about to take a bite of pizza when the chair besides me suddenly moves. I look over and my heart is lodged in my throat. Ladies (and some gents), Eliodoro “Eli” D’Amato is even more handsome in person.

He has these light brown eyes that aren’t quite brown but aren’t quite amber. He smells heavenly and that smile…my goodness, that smile, is why millions of women turn in every Sunday.

“I apologize for being late. Traffic was just…” he shakes his head and doesn’t finish his sentence. As a native New Yorker, we all know what he means without even saying a word. “I’m just glad I’m here.”

The most popular – and probably the most misunderstood brother – is finally here. Dressed in jeans and fitted shirt that does nothing to hide his muscular frame, Eli digs into lunch after a brief quiet prayer. “We were all raised Catholic,” he reveals after he’s done, “some of us are more than the others.”

“God knows my sins,” Joseph smiles, “I don’t need to be in church to explain it.”

“Hence why I just said,” Eli chuckles, “some of us are more Catholic than the others.”

Becoming one of the world’s most sought-after floral designers didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, if Eli originally had it his way, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

He went to New York University and graduated with a BFA in studio art. His dream was to work for a Fortune 500 company and travel the world after he graduated. One night, he received a fateful phone call from Joseph and Nicola, asking for his help in creating flyers and the website for Madre’s. “I told them, I’m only doing this for a few months and that’s it,” Eli chuckles, “I had no interest in flowers, in brides, in any of that. My sole interest was computers.”

Once he was done with the layout of the website, he overheard his mother speak to a bride about what she wanted. While Nicola was being thorough in her questioning, Eli wasn’t impressed. “She was asking the typical things – do you want peonies? What’s your favorite color? What are your wedding colors? How do you feel about hydrangeas?” He shook his head. “Anyone can ask that to anybody and guess what? You’re going to get a copycat wedding of somebody else’s that’s not yours.” He takes a bite of his gnocchi and wipes his mouth. “Think about your bedroom. You might’ve been in a ton of bedrooms in your life – your parents, your friends, others. I bet you anything they didn’t look like yours. Why should your wedding look like somebody else’s?”

Creating bouquets wasn’t as simple as he makes it seem. In fact, Eli actually had to study nearly every flower and plant on earth. “I’m still learning because there are new ones every year. People will combine things and see what works. Sometimes it comes out spectacular and sometimes not so much.”

“How many species of roses do you know?” I ask.

“Not all 150 but close to it,” he replies as if it’s not a big deal, “but I definitely don’t know the thousands of hybrids and such.”

With a talent in drawing, Eli often sketches a makeup floral design and presents it to the customer within minutes of getting to know them. His personal bouquets range anywhere between $30 to an extravagant $500. “That five hundred dollar price tag was by accident,” he smiles, “a bride came in one time and said, ‘I want a five hundred dollar bouquet.’ Most of our bouquets range from ten to a hundred dollars. I tried to talk her down but she was insistent. Was I really going to say no?”

Of course, it helps that Eli is one of the few – if not the only – heterosexual male floral designers. His full sleeves and light goatee have made him a fan of both genders and those in between. GLAAD honored the family show at its recent gala where all five brothers and their significant others attended.

He’s currently helping with a gay summer wedding in the Hamptons. “We don’t discriminate,” he takes a sip of water, “if you want flowers, we’ll be happy to provide. Just don’t be a dick.”

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Eli is quite the enigma. He often puts on Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, and Bessie Coleman to concentrate when doing the initial design. Kendrick Lamar, Rae Sremmurd, and Missy Elliott fills the warehouse when he puts the creation in action.

But don’t be fooled. He proudly owns a ‘NSYNC CD and is hoping for a reunion. (“C’mon now,” Eli has no shame, “every dude in Harlem was bumpin’ “Girlfriend” when it came out!”)

“I only work at my desk when I do the initial stages and sometimes adjust what the client wants. Seventy-five percent of the time, I’m in the warehouse with everyone else.”

“Twenty-five is upstairs?” I clarify.

“Fifteen percent is working. The other ten percent is sleeping.” He winks. “I need a break now and again.”

Does he ever. Eli estimates Madre’s does an average of ten weddings a month, with prime season being between April and August, where the number jumps up to a blistering twenty a month during that time. “Usually things are set in stone prior to the weddings, but brides often change their minds and well, it’s espresso and go time.”

He often works 24-hour shifts during those months and is lucky if he sleeps in his own bed at night. “My kids are very understanding that when Daddy has to work, it means he can’t be home for ice cream at night.” He lets out a deep breath. It’s clear he loves his career but he also resents it at the sacrifice of not seeing his children as much he wants to during the peak months. “I can totally understand what my mother went through with us.”

When he’s not doing the physical designs, he has a team of assistants who knows what he wants when they see the sketches. “They’re the hardest working people I know,” he nods, “sometimes they’ll have contests between each other on who can do the design the quickest.”

Eli as a boss is just as personable as the guy people see on TV. “He always inquires about us, and our families,” Eli’s longtime assistant, Maria, confirmed. She’s worked for Eli since the inception and they’re best friends. They often attend family gatherings with each other, and go on double-dates with Maria and her wife. “If we need time off, he grants it as long as there’s coverage. He does work us hard, no doubt, but he’s not mean about it.”

“Employees work better if they respect the person in charge,” Eli replies, “If they don’t respect me, why should they care? Ask any person who has a boss they hate. They’re only there to clock in and out until something better comes along.”

Eli’s charm has definitely worked. The Madre’s chain boasts of long-time employees and while some do eventually leave, it’s never because of creative clashes with the bosses. “Employees are allowed to give their input. Hell, if they have a better idea than mine, I definitely want to hear it!” Eli laughs. “And sometimes they do, I’m not going to front.”

Fluent in Italian and Spanish, Eli also speaks plenty of street when the mood arises. A recent episode showed the viewers the light banter when he and Antonio were trying to teach Nicola slang words like, ‘on fleek’ and ‘bae.’ “I like Italian,” Nicola lamented during the episode, “there’s no mistaken on what anyone means when you say, ‘go to hell.’”

“I grew up in the streets,” he answered a question that was on my mind. It’s clear looking at Eli and Antonio they have a bit more edge to them than the other brothers. “I wasn’t messing around with drugs or anything like that. But I knew what was hot. I knew what was going on. Everything originates in the Bronx and Harlem before the rest of the world sees it. Everything.” His voice is smooth as whiskey. “What was ghetto back then is now considered to be hipster now if you can believe that shit.”

“I’ve known Eli forever,” one of his best friends, Quentin Jones, says. They’ve known each other since they were in diapers. “He’s never been the type to try to be down or anything like that. He’s just him. This isn’t him acting or putting out false pretenses. Take him or leave him. He truly doesn’t give a shit either way.”

It’s Eli’s lackadaisical yet smug attitude that often brings him some unwanted attention. His IG page is full of thirsty women, eager to be Mrs. Eli D’Amato. His kindness towards others has made some people call him a simp. When he showed compassion for a recent transgender wedding, a few began to question his sexuality.

When he was photographed at a recent protest in support of Black Lives Matter, it was the first time Eli was called racist. “That still confuses me,” his eyes crinkle with curiosity and annoyance. “My children and some of their cousins are half-black. My exes are black. Most of my friends are black. I have a few black sisters-in-law. I have black employees. Am I not supposed to care about what happens to them?”


 

Part Two of Eli’s “interview” will be posted next week.

#FlashFriday: War

“You can’t keep doing to this to me, Faye!” Eli got up and paced the kitchen. “When I had the affair with Simone, I came clean about everything in therapy, okay? Every fucking thing! I told you when I had issues in our relationship. I told you how it made me feel when she gave me some attention. I told you when we had a fight, I went to her. I told you all of this! And I came clean. I didn’t want any more secrets, any more lies, I wanted a fresh start.

“So then I find out you’ve been texting the quarterback. And then I find out you’ve had lunch with him. Not from you, though. The phone bill told me. My friend at the paper told me. But we got past that, man. We worked on everything.

“I thought we had a good life, Faye! I thought we worked past everything! And now I got find out in front of the whole goddamn world that there’s a fucking sex tape starring you and him? And now I have to find out there are pictures floating around and he might have shown other people? And now, you’re telling me there’s more. And now you’re telling me it wasn’t just that weekend with Darren but there were a few times after the reconciliation.

“And there’s more, there’s more, there’s more!” He angrily pounded his fist into his palm. “And this is what you did every time I went to the shop? Every time I went out of town, you ran up the damn phone bill talking to him?

“I told you to tell me everything all at once. I told you I didn’t want to find out from anyone but you. You don’t think I’ve heard whispers? You don’t think there are people saying, ‘Yo, I heard from so and so about Faith?’ And what did I do? I ignored them because if it didn’t come from my wife, it was just bullshit. And it’s only when we have a fight, ‘Oh, by the way, I fucked Darren after we reconciled.’” He mocked her voice. “But I shouldn’t question E.J.?”

“Faye, every time I’ve worked on our marriage, you worked just as hard to destroy it. Why do you put me through all of this? Break my heart once! You gotta break my heart each time I do something that pisses you off? You gotta bring up shit from the past? This is every single time, Faye! I’m tired, okay? I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of we’ll have a good week, a good month, and then it’s like World War Three in our home because you’re still hurt over Simone.”

The silence was thick between the pair for a long while. Faith remained silent at the dining room table while Eli breathed hard as he found the strength to press on. “If you don’t want me, let me go. If you don’t want our marriage, let’s end this shit right now.” His voice was calm like a river. “But let it be no mistake, there are many women who would love to be Mrs. Eli D’Amato, would love to be in your shoes, and you’re abusing the fucking privilege.” He left.


 

Do reasons behind the divorce look a little clearer now?

War will be out this spring. Release details and pre-order will be out within the next few weeks.