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  past,  Alex,”  said  Josephine. “We’re  moving on. Right,  Ras?”

Ras looked  at his wife. Her  eyebrows were  raised.  He nodded and grabbed her hand.

“We’re working on it.” Dessert and  coffee  were  served,  and  the conversation turned to cheesecake and espresso and  the beautiful sunset they could see from  the porch of the open-air restaurant. But Ras’s mind was still on Alex. He could  not shake the feeling  that Alex had ulterior mo­ tives for  traveling with  Birdie  to Jamaica. And  he  just didn’t like the idea of her spending too much  time alone with  his wife.

Ras took a deep breath and  dismissed the feeling. The important  thing was  that  he was  doing  the  right  thing now.  It  didn’t matter what   Alex  said.  It didn’t matter if Cleo wrote  ten  more books.  What mattered was that Ras had  no secrets.  He  had  been faithful to  his  wife  for  nearly a year  and they  were moving into a new chapter in their lives.

Ras felt  his cell phone buzz in  his pocket and tried desperately to  ignore it.  He’d promised his  wife   he  would stop answering his  phone and checking text  messages during meals. The phone stopped ringing and then he heard a text  message chirp. Alex and Josephine had  their heads together, whispering about something. Ras  took the  opportunity to ease  his cell  phone out  of his  pocket and unlock it.

I like  your hair like that. Did you cut it?

Ras’s  hand flew  up  to his head and then he whipped his neck around to see who  else was in the  restaurant.

“What’s wrong?” Josephine asked.

Ras shook his head and kept looking around. Who would be texting him about his  haircut? He  looked down at  the  phone. The text  message came from a number in  Jamaica. Ras  racked his  brain to  think of  anyone in  Jamaica who would text   him and came up  empty. It  could have been  a  wrong number. Ras exhaled.

“I’ll be right back,” Ras said, excusing himself from the  table.

He  walked quickly to  the   back  of  the  restaurant, typing out  a message on  the  way.

“I’m pretty sure you  have  the  wrong number.”

He   hit  SEND and then pushed in  the  door to the  bathroom. He   ran   water over   his  face,  wiped his  face  and  hands with a paper towel, and then checked his  face  in  the  mirror. His heart was still  racing and he couldn’t seem to calm himself. It was just a wrong number, he said  out  loud. And what if it wasn’t? What if it was  … her?

The last  time Ras  saw  Cleo, he didn’t tell  her  it  was  over.  He had no  idea  what she  was  capable of. So  he went out  of his  way to  make her  think there was  nothing unusual about the  visit.  For ninety minutes, he’d engaged in  every twisted sexual fantasy he could possibly  imagine and, as usual, Cleo  didn’t deny him  anything. He  kissed  her on her forehead when he left, as always. She told him she loved him, as always.

And   when  he  pulled   up  to  his  house,   he   jumped  in   the shower and   was  clean  and  dressed   just  as  the  movers   arrived to pack  up  all of their   belongings. He  changed his cell number and   instructed his  bodyguards and   drivers-anyone Cleo  had access to-to do  the same.  Within forty-eight hours of their  last sexual  encounter, he was sitting on  the front porch  of the  house on a former sugar plantation in Saint  Catherine Parrish. Just  as quickly, he’d  put Cleo out of his mind. Or at least tried  to.

Completely forgetting Cleo  had  been  impossible. For  the  past year, as he repaired his relationship with  his wife,  he dreamt of his  mistress  nightly. He  had  orgasms in  his  dreams, waking up and  quickly stripping the  bed  before  Josephine could  find  out. One  night  several  months ago,  he  broke  down. He  flew  out  to New  Jersey  and  found out  where Cleo  lived.  He  was halfway to her  house  when he turned back  around and  headed to  the  air­ port.  He  Googled her  often, tracking her  whereabouts through the blogs that  always  posted  items about her.

Lately,  Ras  had  been  wondering if he’d  ever  be  completely free  of her.  Would she  always cast a shadow over  his life?  And now,  one year  after  he’d  walked away  from her  and  rededicated himself  to his marriage, he felt like  he might know the answer.

Ras  left  the  bathroom and  began  walking back  to the  table. His  breathing was  controlled and  he’d   stopped sweating. Cleo had not won.  He wasn’t over her yet. But she had not-Ras’s cell phone  chirped again.

“I can’t  believe you would have  dinner with  Alex but not with me …”

Ras clenched his teeth  and  marched through the dining room, his eyes trained on the  table  where his wife  sat. If that  bitch  was anywhere near  his wife …

He  could  see someone sitting  in  his seat,  facing  Alex,  Birdie, and  Josephine. He  recognized the  jet-black sheet  of hair  immediately.  Ras saw  his wife, frozen in her  seat, her  head  held  high.

She  briefly  caught Ras’s eye and  then  looked  back  at the  woman sitting in his seat. The woman saw the  three  of them  looking behind her so she turned around just as Ras reached the table.

“Ras!” Cleo  said,  smiling wide.  “We  were  just talking about you. So good  to see you. Have  a seat.”

Cleo gestured to a chair  near  Birdie.

“Get up,” Ras said, through clenched teeth.

“Don’t be rude, Ras,” Cleo said. “We’re all  just having  a little chat.  Join in.”

Ras  grabbed Cleo’s  shoulder and  pulled  her  out  of her  seat.

A few  patrons in  the  restaurant gasped, and  one  couple  quickly exited  the  restaurant.

“Get out.  Or I will hurt you.”

Cleo  wriggled out  of his grasp and  then looked  down at  her dress, a black  strapless shift  that  hit the top of her  thigh. She  used both  hands to smooth out  the  wrinkles and  then  picked up  her bag off the table and  put it on her  shoulder.

“I was  just in the neighborhood and  I wanted to say hi,” said Cleo.

Ras looked  toward the manager and  gestured for him  to come over.

“There’s no need  for all of that, Ras,” said Cleo. “I’m leaving.” The manager came over and stood  next to Ras.

“Is everything okay here?”

“We  have  an  unwanted guest,” said  Ras. “We  need  her  to be removed.”

Cleo laughed loud  enough to get  the  attention of anyone in the restaurant who  might have missed  Ras grabbing her arm.

”I’m  unwanted. Can  you  imagine  that?  This  guy”-she pointed to  Birdie-“He was more  than  happy  to get  a blow  job from me in the studio last year. Right, Alex?”

The sounds of silverware hitting several  plates  filled the  restaurant. Alex and  Birdie  looked  at each  other,  but  neither said  a word  or revealed any sort of emotion on their  faces.

“And my beloved Ras . . .” Cleo continued. “For years, you came to me whenever I called you. And vice versa. And now I’m unwanted? I never thought I’d see the day.”

Ras sat back down at his seat and took his wife’s hand. Jose- phine’s face was stone.

“I’m going to sit here with my wife and my friends and finish my dessert,” Ras announced.

Cleo remained standing.

“It was good to see all of you,” Cleo said. She looked over at Josephine. “Especially you, Josephine. You look amazing. Moth- erhood truly agrees with you.” Josephine didn’t move.

“I’m sure your little girl is absolutely gorgeous.”

Ras felt his wife squeeze his hand so hard that his knuckles began to crack. He knew she was trying to refrain from standing up and punching Cleo out.

“Do not give her the satisfaction,” Ras whispered to his wife. Josephine nodded but kept her eyes on Cleo.

“Please, Ras,” Cleo said. “I’m very satisfied. Your wife knows exactly what we have. And she knows that it won’t change no matter how far away you go. You can pack up and move to China. It doesn’t change a thing.”

Cleo tossed her hair back and turned to walk away.

“If you ever need me—and I think you might—Alex will know where to find me.”

Cleo walked away, leaving the foursome in stunned silence. As soon as she was out of sight, Josephine stood up quickly and grabbed her shawl from the back of her chair.

“Wait, Josephine!” Ras yelled out as she half-ran toward the back entrance, where their driver was waiting.

“Go to hell, Ras!” Josephine yelled out. “Stay away from me!”

Ras turned around to Alex and Birdie. He pointed a finger inAlex’s direction.

“Why did she say you would know where to find her?”

“I have no idea, Ras,” Alex said. “I swear I don’t.”

Ras’s eyes went from Birdie’s to Alex’s. Then he dashed off to catch  up to his wife.

“Josephine! Would you just stop for a second so we can talk about this?!”

Ras’s wife continued tossing  clothes  from  her  bureau into  one of several suitcases opened on her bed.

“You  keep  talking,” Josephine said. “I’m leaving.”

Ras grabbed his wife’s wrist  and  pulled  her close to him. “Please. Sit down.”

Josephine flopped  down on  the  bed  and  dropped her  head into  her hands. Ras rubbed her back.

“We  are  not  going to let  this  woman run  us off  this  island,” Ras said.

“We? There is no  ‘we,’  Ras.”  Josephine spat.  “There is me. There is you. And  there  is her.”

“You are my wife,” said Ras. “Tell  that  to Cleo.”

“She  knows.”

“Yes, she does. And  guess what? She  doesn’t care. She will fly to  Jamaica, find  out  where we’re  having dinner, and  torture  us just for sport. I’m  supposed to stay with you and  deal  with  that? We  moved  here  to get  away  from her. And  she’s  just  taken me back  to day one.”

“That’s exactly  what  she  wants  to do,”  Ras said.  “I  have  not seen her  in a year, Josephine. She’s  pissed that  I walked away for­ ever and she doesn’t want  to see us happy.”

“I’ve tried  …” Josephine said, her  eyes on the floor. “I’ve  tried to put all of this behind us. But seeing  her tonight …”

Josephine stopped talking. She  looked  as if she were  suddenlygasping for  breath. Ras eased  her  back  on  the  bed  and  lay with her, holding her  as she struggled to speak. “I am so sorry  I hurt you,” Ras said. “I am  so so sorry.”

“She  came  to  my  office, Ras!” Josephine sobbed. “Don’t  you remember?”

Ras nodded, a lump in his throat.

“And you-you   did   such   awful  things   with    her.   Dirty, nasty …”

“You said you were not going  to read  that  book.” Josephine stood  and  lifted  her suitcase  to the floor. “Can we get a restraining order?” she asked  Ras. “First thing in the morning.”

“What if she  comes  here?   What if she  wants to  hurt  me  or Reina?”

Ras shook his head.

“We  have  two  full-time security guards here.  No  one is coming on this property unless  we’ve invited them.”

“I’m not always here. I go to the market. I take  Reina  out …” Josephine shook  her  head.  “This bitch  is going to have  me  be a prisoner in my own  home.”

“I will not let that  happen.”

“You’re the  one  who  brought this  on  us in the  first  place.  If you could  keep  your dick  in your  pants,  we wouldn’t have  to deal with this shit.”

Ras kept  his mouth shut. He wanted to protest. But there was nothing he could  say.

“We’re not  just dealing with  a random groupie here,” Josephine  said.

“I know.”

“You  were  in  a relationship with  her.  You were  in love  with her.” Josephine looked  away and  shrugged her shoulders. “Sometimes I think you still are.” “I told you I haven’t spoken to her in over a year.”

“What does that  mean? That your feelings for her  magically evaporated? That’s not how  that   works. God knows, if it did work that  way, I would have  left  you a long  time  ago.  Nothing’s changed. Moving five hundred miles away doesn’t end a relationship with someone.”

Ras sighed heavily. “Then what does?”

Josephine leaned against their bedroom door. “I wouldn’t know.”

Ras watched his wife turn the knob and go out into the  hall to check  on  the  baby.  He realized his jaw was throbbing from clenching his teeth so hard. He’d worked on his wife for a year. He’d catered to her every whim. He traveled rarely  without her and   the   baby.  He showered her with attention and affection, checked in with her hourly when he was in the studio. And now a five-minute visit from Cleo was threatening to ruin it all. Ras relived the scene in the restaurant and two things were going to bother him until he dealt with them.

First, he needed to know why Cleo really came to Jamaica. And then he needed to figure out why on God’s green earth he still desperately wanted to f*ck her.