DIAMOND LIFE IS ON SHELVES FEBRUARY 7. BUT YOU CAN READ CHAPTER FOUR IN ITS ENTIRETY NOW!
Ras Bennett had a foolproof formula for figuring out his life’s worth at any given moment. Every so often, he did a mental tally of the major categories in his life, from health to finances to relationships. Once, when he was twelve years old, he sat on a curb at the corner of South Orange Avenue and Twentieth Street in Newark and ticked off on his fingers what was right in his life. His asthma wasn’t too bad and he hadn’t been hospitalized for it in months. His mom had started letting him walk to the store by himself. He was going to the fireworks at Marten’s stadium the next day. And he had three dollars folded up neatly in his back pocket. Of course, everything wasn’t perfect. His father was still on a ventilator, his girlfriend of sixteen hours had just dumped him, and his brand-new bicycle had a nasty flat. Ras clearly re- membered standing up, brushing the dust off the back of his pants, and walking his bike to a gas station, having decided that his life was firmly on the not-so-bad side of the scale.
Ras had noticed even way back then, long before he’d had any success, that when things were high off the charts in one category, they were usually lacking in another. Because of this, Ras never prayed for a financial windfall or six-pack abs. He craved balance over all.
On a warm and breezy night in his beloved Jamaica, over dinner with friends at Café Au Lait, Ras was having one of those rare moments when he realized that things in his life were as perfect as they could possibly be. That morning, his lawyer called to let him know that a $50,000 payment had been wired for his work with a Brazilian pop band. His daughter, Reina, was on the verge of taking her first steps, and his relationship with his wife was better than it had ever been.
"Ras? Did you hear me?'
Ras looked around the dinner table. His wife Josephine was staring at him with a smile on her face. Next to her sat Birdie and his wife Alex.
"Babe? Are you with us?" asked Josephine, leaning over and rubbing her husband's forearm.
"Zoning out," said Ras. He picked up his champagne glass and gestured to his guests to do the same.
"To love," Ras said, tipping his glass toward his wife's. Josephine smiled.
Birdie and Alex looked at each other and kissed. "To love," they all said in unison.
Ras hadn't been expecting Birdie to bring his wife to the is land. They'd booked a few weeks of studio time, and although Alex hadn't been in the way, he still wasn't thrilled that she was there. A year ago, Alex had interviewed his wife for a story in Vibe about women married to rappers and producers. And J o sephine had given her an earful. Worse yet, Alex had also ghost written a book called Platinum for Cleo, a woman who detailed her affairs with dozens of musicians, including Ras.
The publicity explosion from the book forced Ras to make a hard choice. He packed up, put the house in New Jersey on the market, and moved his wife and newborn daughter to Jamaica. It was the only way Josephine could stop being reminded about all the stories in Cleo's book. And it was the only way Ras felt like he could actually stop messing with her.
"How's the music coming along?" Alex asked Birdie and Ras. Birdie shook his head.
"This is not a business dinner. No talking about work."
"What are you working on right now, Alex?" Ras asked. "Any new books on the horizon?"
Josephine paused with a forkful of salmon halfway to her mouth. She cut her eyes toward Ras without moving her head. Birdie coughed, and Alex looked down at her plate.
"Not right now," Alex said softly. "Maybe working on a memoir about trying to have a baby. But that's it."
Ras nodded. He was happy that she felt uncomfortable. He knew Josephine liked Alex. And he accepted that she was his wife's friend and Birdie's wife. But he still didn't have to like the fact that she had helped his mistress attempt to destroy his life.
Josephine touched Alex's arm and then sent a warning look to Ras.
"How do you like the hotel? The views are beautiful, right?" Josephine said.
Birdie began to speak, and Alex interrupted him.
"We might as well talk about it," Alex said. "All of us." Josephine, Birdie, and Ras were all silent, each looking out at different parts of the restaurant.
"Look, I worked with Cleo on her book, and Ras has every right to hate me because of that," said Alex, her voice high pitched and wavering.
"It's in the