Every month I wait with great anticipation to learn more about the next book in the Decades series. And every month I get to post an exclusive excerpt or an exclusive behind the pages peek at one of these amazing stories. This month, I’m so excited to be able to introduce you to author Zuri Day and share and exclusive excerpt from her upcoming book, Thug Love, which you will soon be able to preorder on September 15th for an October 1st release. In the meantime, you can head over to the Decades Facebook page for #30daysofThugLovin.
Thug Love by Zuri Day is the 10th 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.
Thug Love by Zuri Day
As the new editor-in-chief for LA Chronicle, Traci Johnson is determined to change the California paper’s narrative. She’s tired of stories about police brutality, gang violence and drugs, and wants to focus on positive African-American stories. But when rapper Tupac Shakur
gets shot it’s breaking news that must be covered, even though the incident epitomizes the type of topic she’s trying to avoid, and the type of man she despises.
Marcus Moore is a product of South Central Los Angeles. He could have easily been one of its statistics but he stays out of trouble and becomes an undercover agent for the LAPD. When Tupac gets shot he knows it’s not random. In fact he believes the trail of blood will lead back to a group of men he’s investigating, the reason he’s in Vegas. Meeting sexy journalist Traci
Johnson is a tempting distraction, but her assumptions based on his appearance and the culture he embraces are a huge turn-off.
Tupac dies, and Marcus surprisingly finds comfort in Traci’s arms. Will what happens in
Vegas stay in Vegas, or can the two get past stark societal differences and turn one night’s
passion into a lifetime of love?
September 7, 1996
Traci Johnson snuck a look at her watch, willing time to speed up so the night could end. She was on yet another dead-end date. Her friend Jo, also a co-worker, had assured her that Allen was “all that,” maybe even “the one.” Traci understood why Jo would think so. Allen was good-looking, white-collar, educated, intelligent, financially secure and not in the judicial system—a hard combination to find in one Black ’90s man. But he’d spent he better part of their dinner waxing eloquently about his Ivy League education and corporate resume, clearly more into himself than he was into her. Now they sat at the Laugh Factory with him laughing his head off and her bored to tears. The comedian had been billed as “outrageously funny.” But Traci felt like this date was more of a joke than any that the guy on stage could deliver.
Please let this be over.
Seconds later, Traci felt the vibration of her pager going off. Discreetly tucked into the belt of her denim maxi skirt, it was far enough away from her date to not be a distraction yet close enough to get the word on any breaking news. It was Jo’s number followed by the code 911, which meant Call ASAP. With Jo knowing she was on the date, Traci assumed the call was business related. Traci was editor-in-chief of the family-owned LA Chronicle, a weekly newspaper serving Los Angeles’s African-American and Latino communities for the past thirty-five years. Jo was a senior writer handling entertainment and social events. Whether what happened involved a celebrity or community leader, Traci didn’t know. But something had definitely gone down.
Traci needed to call Jo but didn’t want to be rude so she reached for her purse and, leaning over to Allen said, “I just received a 911 page and need to call the paper.”
“Okay.” Said with an expression that suggested it wasn’t okay at all.
“I’m sorry. I’ll be right back.”
Traci walked out of the club’s main room, reaching for the top-of-the-line Nokia flip phone she’d bought just last week. Since she’d driven to meet Allen and her car was parked directly across the street, she went there to return Jo’s call. If this was indeed breaking news she’d want people to find out about it via a newspaper headline rather than by eavesdropping on her call. She reached the car, climbed inside and tapped the speaker button. Barely two rings in and Jo picked up.
“Yes, it’s me. What’s going on?”
“Tupac got shot.”
“Girl, I know. Can you believe it?”
Two years earlier in New York City, hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur had been shot in what was described as a botched burglary. Five bullets penetrated his body but the rapper had lived to tell the tale.
“Where’d you hear this?”
“Cordell called me. Him and some of his boys went to Vegas for the Tyson fight. They were at a club when somebody burst in and ran up to the DJ. Partygoers were ready to run for cover until the DJ lowered the music and delivered the news that Tupac had gotten shot. He said folks began crying, screaming and praying, right on the spot.”
“Do we know whether or not it’s life threatening?”
“What I told you is all I’ve got.”
Traci frowned. She knew time was of the essence. Someone needed to cover this story STAT. “I know you’re on bed rest and don’t mean to sound insensitive but is there any way you think you can get down there and find out exactly what happened and how he’s doing? The paper could arrange a ticket on the next flight out.”
“Sorry, Traci, but no, I can’t go. Just yesterday, I noticed spotting and went to the doctor. He said the baby might come early. So I’ve got to stay close to home.”
“But everything’s okay?”
“He said everything’s fine, baby’s just ready to come out. He can’t be more ready than his mama.”
“I understand. Thanks for the heads up. Follow the doctor’s orders. I’ll keep you posted on whatever I find out.”
Traci ended the call, and reached for the door handle to return to the club, then, on second thought, picked up her phone and tapped Allen’s number. The call went to voicemail. She left a message, pulled out her car keys and headed down Sunset Boulevard toward Los Angeles’s International Airport hoping to catch the next flight out. She felt guilty for leaving her date that way and hoped he’d understand. Tupac getting shot was sure to be a big news story. And when it came to the family business versus not hurting the feelings of a man with whom she didn’t see anywhere in her future, especially one already full of himself…work came first.
Marcus hadn’t felt right all night. From the moment they’d rolled out of Los Angeles headed for Vegas and the Bruce Seldon/Mike Tyson fight, his nerves had been on edge. He’d travelled with Death Row record executive Suge Knight’s entourage as an unofficial body guard for his friend, Tupac. Once inside the MGM Grand’s arena, his unease had intensified. Among the throng of fight fans and celebrities sitting ringside were large contingencies representing two of the West Coast’s most notorious gangs—the Bloods and the Crips. He’d been relieved when Mike Tyson delivered a knockout punch and the fight was over after less than two minutes. He knew the next stop, Suge’s club 662, would be a controlled environment where guarding Tupac would be less stressful. Marcus had wanted to drive Tupac to the club. Suge signaled for the rapper to ride with him. Marcus and the other bodyguards were relegated to a car that would follow them. A foreboding filled the air, had made it hard for him to breathe.
Marcus had gotten in the front seat of a dark red SUV, pulled a Glock 19 from his waistband and set it on the floor between his feet, keeping his eyes glued to Suge’s car and the vehicles around them. When a car managed to get between them and the shiny black BMW that Suge drove, his heart skipped a beat. They’d switched lanes. Marcus had relaxed, and watched a car in front of the white one filled with flirting females ready to party with the crew.
As they turned right and the white car eased beside Suge’s black BMW, the nauseous feeling came back full-force. Before he could react, gunshots rang out. Bullets ripped through steel, took off the side mirror. The white car took off. The bodyguards gave chase. Marcus stretched his arm out the window, aimed at the Cadillac’s tires, then ducked as a bullet whizzed past his face. The car swerved and fish-tailed, barely missing a parked car. The Cadillac jumped a median and outran them. By the time the crippled SUV carrying Marcus and company made it back to the intersection of East Flamingo and Harlan, where Vegas Bike Patrol had pulled over the beamer, Tupac was being loaded into an ambulance and ferried away at a high rate of speed.
They’d brought him to the emergency ward of the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. That’s where Marcus was when around three in the morning he looked up and saw an angel—sexy hot, a chocolate drop, her eyes sweeping the hallway as she walked toward the waiting area. Her presence caused a stir. Something pulled him away from the wall and compelled him to walk in her direction. She glanced at him, barely, with an expression of annoyed disapproval, before her eyes settled on the officer now beside him and managing a smile.
“Excuse me, officer,” she said, with a voice as silky as melting butter and as sweet as his favorite candy bar. “Traci Johnson, LA Chronicle. What happened here?”
Media. Marcus stopped in midstride. Her haughty attitude hadn’t been enough to dissuade him from approaching but her occupation definitely did. The press could be annoying, an enemy to the truth. When it came to the hip-hop community they often did more harm than good. She looked up. Their eyes locked before she shifted her body, shutting him out of whatever was being discussed. Funny because being both undercover and friends with this crowd, Marcus probably had more information than anyone in there. But the beauty standing in front of him was the last one who could know.
Zuri Day is the national bestselling author of more than two dozen novels and a winner of EMMA and AALAS (African-American Literary Award Show) Best Fiction awards, among others. She is also a multiple Romantic Times Contemporary Romance nominee. Her work has been featured in several national publications including RT Booklovers, Publishers Weekly, Sheen and USA Today. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ HaveAZuriDay and keep up with her latest releases, tour schedules and more at ZuriDay.com.