It’s Teaser Tuesday and we are so excited to welcome Elle Wright ALBTALBS with an exclusive excerpt from her contribution to the Decades series! I’ve been looking forward to Elle’s book since I learned she was going to be a part of the Decades project. I’m even more excited that her book takes place in my favorite decade, the 1980s. I can’t wait until I get this book in my hot little hands on September 1st!
Made to Hold You by Elle Wright is the ninth book in the Decades: A Journey of African American Romance series. This series consists of 12 books, each set in one of 12 decades between 1900 and 2010. Each story focuses on the romance between African American protagonists, but also embraces the African American experience within that decade. Join the journey on our Facebook page.
Made to Hold You By Elle Wright
Layla Johnson had a picture perfect life: a career as an educator, a beautiful daughter, a son on the way, and a loving husband. Only Layla didn’t count on the effect the burgeoning war on drugs would have on her family and her world. And on one rainy night, everything that she worked to attain is destroyed. Now, she’s on her own, with two young children, a mounting pile of debt…and the past knocking at her door.
Lincoln Wilson broke the one thing he treasured most. Instead of spending the rest of his life doting on his beautiful wife and children, he’s alone, haunted by his many mistakes. Determined to make amends, Lincoln works to put the pieces of his life back together again. And although it’s an uphill battle, he is up for the challenge. The last step in Lincoln’s program is to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs. When he shows up on her doorstep ready to reclaim his life, will Layla let him in?
Just say no.
Layla Wilson gripped the wood bat in her hand and swallowed past the lump in her throat. In a few minutes, her life would change forever. It should hurt her, but over the past year all of her dreams, all of their plans had gone up in smoke. Literally. Gone were the wide eyes, the hopes of a good life with her small family of four. The warmth of a love that seemed to shine so bright she thought it would heat her forever had turned to a bitter cold.
Even still, she couldn’t leave. She couldn’t walk away before she made sure he was safe. Once she did that, she’d make her move. Layla sucked in a deep breath, smoothing a hand over her stomach. Any day now. In a few weeks, her son would arrive. They’d decided to learn the sex of the second baby, much to the chagrin of her sisters. Everyone who mattered had urged her to let it be a surprise. But Layla was tired of surprises. She wanted to plan, she needed the control that knowing she’d bring a son into the world would give her. Especially since he’d taken everything else away from her.
Layla felt tears well in her eyes, and willed them not to fall. Now wasn’t the time to get emotional. She had to get the job done. Letting out a slow breath, she gripped the wood tighter.
“It’s okay, baby.” Martha squeezed Layla’s hand, offering strong support.
Martha had been so supportive, had loved her like she was her own child. That’s what the Wilson clan did. Once you were one of them, you remained one of them.
“I’m scared, Gran.”
Martha offered her a small smile, but Layla knew it wasn’t genuine. After all, there was nothing to smile about. Layla wasn’t the only one hurting. Martha had suffered unimaginable loss. They all had. “I am, too. But when you came to me, I told you I could handle this on my own.”
Layla shook her head. There was no way she could let Martha do this without her. The woman standing before her, had done more for Layla in the few years she’d known her than some of her own family members.
When she’d met Martha, the older woman took one look at her and told her to “sit her butt down and stay a while.” From that moment on, the two women had bonded. Martha had taught Layla how to make gravy, showed her how to plant tomatoes, and held her when her own mother died from breast cancer. And Martha definitely had a stake in this.
“Come on,” Martha said. “We have to do this, baby.”
“I know. Let’s go.” The night breeze whipped across Layla’s cheek. It was way past her bedtime, especially on a school night. Her students would definitely call her on it if she didn’t give them her all tomorrow. Peering down at her stomach, she couldn’t help the small smile that always accompanied a kick. Being pregnant was a blessing, being a mother was everything to her. “It’s going to be okay, son. Mama’s going to always take care of you.”
They hurried to the door, Layla following close behind Martha. As they approached the green door of the townhouse, she wondered what she would actually find on the other side. Would her heart be able to take it?
Music blared inside the small home, and Layla could hear the muffled sound of voices, laughter. According to the neighbor who’d called her, the party had been in full swing for hours, with people coming in and out. The smell of smoke seeped through the open window to the side.
Martha nudged Layla with her elbow. “Ready?”
Layla lifted the bat. “When you are.”
The glint of silver in Martha’s hand caught Layla’s eye. Her mother-in-law never went anywhere without her “piece.” The small .38 special stayed in her purse or under her mattress. Layla watched as Martha checked the barrel once more. Then, without another word, Martha kicked in the door.
It was chaos as women screamed and people pushed past her and out the door. Layla’s hands held on to the bat for dear life, all while trying to stay upright.
“Where is my son?” Martha demanded, to no one in particular.
Layla scanned the immediate area, locking eyes with the remaining people. The room was trashed, cups on the floor, cigarette butts everywhere. And the smell… it was toxic. Before last year, Layla had been blissfully ignorant of all the telltale signs of drug abuse. She’d never had to deal with anything remotely like it in her childhood. She’d grown up in the church, spent most days in the four walls of her family’s place of worship. It wasn’t until college, that she’d been introduced to alcohol, cigarettes, and men. One man, in particular. The one man she thought she’d love forever.
“Don’t make me repeat myself,” Martha growled, snapping Layla out of her thoughts.
A skinny man shuffled toward them, and Layla immediately recognized him. The same man had come to her house earlier. That same man had left with her husband.
He eyed her, before turning to Martha. “He’s in the back.” He pointed toward a door. “But you shouldn’t go back there.”
The man was talking to her now, not Martha. Layla’s chin trembled. “Why?”
“You don’t want to go back there,” he said.
Martha grumbled a curse, and waived her gun toward the guy. “Rod, get out of here before I tell your wife where you been.”
When Rod scurried out of the door, Layla told Martha, “I’ll go.”
Layla walked to the door and pushed it open. Sitting in a chair, eyes closed, was her husband.
She hurried over to him, and kneeled down before him. “Lincoln?” She shook him. “Get up.”
His eyes cracked open. “LaLa,” he breathed. “You’re here.”
His nickname for her, LaLa, used to make her feel so special, so loved. Today, though, it gutted her. “I’m here. Come on, get up.”
It took an hour to get him out of the house and settled at Martha’s house. She’d bathed him, and tucked him in before leaving the spare bedroom.
Martha held out a mug of hot tea when Layla walked into the kitchen, but she declined the offering. “No, thanks, Gran. I better go.”
“Baby, don’t do this. He can get better. We can make sure he does.”
The tears that had threatened to fall all night, finally fell. Shaking her head, she said, “I can’t. I have to do what’s best for my kids. You know that.”
Martha dabbed her own eyes with a paper towel. “I do.” She hugged Layla. “I love you, baby.”
Layla rested her chin on Martha’s shoulder. “I love you, too, Gran. I love him. But I can’t do this anymore.”
Martha pulled back and brushed her hand over Layla’s cheek. “I understand. You go home, now. Rest. I’ll check in on you in the morning.”
Layla nodded. “Thanks.”
Slowly, Layla made her way to the door. It took everything in her not to go back, to climb in the bed with Lincoln. But she’d made up her mind. It was over.
Turning back to Martha, Layla said, “And please…”
“Layla, I’ll keep him away. For now. Until he’s better.”
“It’s for the best,” Layla said. “I don’t want my kids to be around him when he’s like this.”
Then, Layla walked out of the house, away from him, away from their life.
There was never a time when Elle Wright wasn’t about to start a book, wasn’t already deep in a book—or had just finished one. She grew up believing in the importance of reading, and became a lover of all things romance when her mother gave her, her first romance novel. She lives in Michigan.