XOXOAD is very excited about today’s feature! Fans of erotic, sensual storytelling probably already know our guest poster today: the novelist Zane has written ten New York Times bestsellers, including The G Spot, Afterburn, and Addicted. But it’s been over five years since her devoted fans had a new Zane novel…until now! Zane’s The Other Side of the Pillow is coming from Atria Books next month, but if you want a sneak peek, you can enter to win an advance reading copy of this steamy title!

Zane tells us about her new book in her own words: “The Other Side of the Pillow is a story of understanding what true love is comprised of (mutual sacrifice, true transparency, vulnerability, understanding and communication). Too many people want relationships to be like fairy tales, without complications and without having to put in time and dedication. Jemistry and Tevin realize that in order to find true love, each of them must be willing to make adjustments to exist in a healthy situation.”

For a taste of this long-awaited book, read on! And then answer the question at the bottom of this post in order to be entered into the sweepstakes to win a galley…and if you’re not one of the lucky winners, you can always pre-order the book from the buttons right below our post!




“Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn




It had been three weeks since the abortion. What a way to kick off the new millennium. At a time when I should have been happy—recently getting my master’s in Education, working as a high school Social Studies teacher, and making decent money—all I felt was ashamed.

Wesley had been making an attempt to improve his behavior. He had no idea that I had been pregnant. As far as I was concerned he never would find out that I had killed our child. I didn’t want to do it, never thought that I would find myself in that place, not to mention that I had never imagined that I could go through with it. But I had, and not another living soul knew about it with the exception of the people at the clinic. I had not shared it with any of my family or friends. I could not bear to have them think any­thing negative about me.

“What’s for dinner?” Wesley asked as he walked into the kitchen of the town house we were renting in Georgetown. “I’m starved.”

“I made some chicken and noodles, and a spinach salad,” I re­plied, washing the pots in the sink. I always preferred to clean up before eating. Afterward I would be too stuffed to do it and I did not believe in leaving dirty dishes overnight. “I’ll get you a plate.

Why don’t you go wash up and I’ll have everything together by the time you get finished.”

After I had served both of us, I sat down across from him at the dining room table.

Wesley started digging into his food like there was no tomorrow. I stared at him and even though he was incredibly good-looking, that was not enough to overshadow all of his actions.

You’re too good of a woman to keep putting up with his shit!

He was guzzling his beer, having not noticed that I had yet to touch my plate, when I blurted out, “I’m leaving you.”

He almost spit the liquid out but managed to swallow it as he placed the bottle back down. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jemistry. You and I both know that you’re not going anywhere.”

“I am . . . going. I’ll leave tonight and come back tomorrow, or this weekend for my things. If that’s cool with you?”

“No, the shit is not cool with me!” he yelled out in anger. “You’re not going anyplace. I won’t allow it.”

I sighed. “I’m grown and I can do what I want. We’re not mar­ried and—”

“Yet!” he interjected. “We’re not married yet, but we will be.”

“Never!” I exclaimed, getting loud myself. “It’s over, Wesley!”

He smirked and took another bite of his food. “All you’ve ever wanted was me. Now you think that you’re going to walk off into the night like everything is everything? You sound foolish.”

“No, I’ve been foolish, and that’s the point. I’ve allowed you to walk all over me for two years and I will not do it another day. Not even another second.”

I had truly reached “that second.” The second that I realized that I would not tolerate his bullshit for another second of another hour of another day.

“You act like you can keep doing whatever to me and I’m going to take it,” I added.

He smirked again, his gray eyes staring me down as if I were an enemy, which is how he treated me half the time, like a gladiator he was facing in an arena. “You’ve been taking it. What’s the differ­ence now?”

“Wesley, I’ll admit that I have been weak. I’ve held out hope that one day you would wake up, a light bulb would turn on in your head, and you would understand that cheating on me, beat­ing on me, and treating me like your property isn’t appropriate.”

He sighed. “I haven’t done anything lately, Jemistry. Give me a break.”

“It’s true, and ironic, that I’ve finally arrived at this point when you’re actually acting decent. But it’s only a matter of time before you fuck around on me again, or have me getting bandaged up on an emergency room table.”

“I thought you were over that,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Over it? You put a pillowcase over my head and beat me half to death. How does one get over that exactly?”

The bastard actually laughed. “You tell me. You dropped the charges, came back home, and went right back to sucking my dick every night. Seems to me like you got over it pretty damn quick!”

“You disgust me!”

In truth, I disgusted myself because he was right. I had relin­quished all my common sense and self-respect in the name of love. I used to scoff at women who stayed with men who cheated on them, or hit them. Yet, there I was with one who took pride in doing both.

I got up from the table and headed to the kitchen to get my purse and keys. I didn’t plan to stay there another minute. I would get a hotel room for a few days and figure things out from there. Look for an apartment that was available immediately or at least within the next few weeks.

Before I could even get the strap of my purse situated on my shoulder, Wesley was punching me in the back of my head. I dropped to the floor and covered myself to prevent his rage from causing too much damage.

“You filthy bitch!” he screamed. “No one leaves me! I leave them!”

He hit me until he lost his breath and, eventually, his footing. That was all the opportunity I needed. I got up onto my knees and grabbed the cast-iron skillet out of the drainer in the sink, then stood up, and with a swinging motion, hit him across the temple.

He was caught completely off-guard and stunned and then dropped to the floor, wincing in pain while I grabbed my keys and headed to the door.

I paused and looked down at him. An expression of shock was still on his face. “You’ll live,” I said. “I did, and I hope this makes you think twice before you put your hands on another female. I’ll be back here tomorrow with a sheriff to get my things. Now you can go to the emergency room and say that you fell.”

When I got outside into the fresh air and started walking to­ward my old 1987 Buick Century, a sense of pride overcame me. It had been a long time coming, but I was reclaiming my life, my dig­nity, and my heart.

I refused to believe that all men were like Wesley. I had simply made the wrong choice and had attempted to change him. I now realized that it was never about me. It was about a sickness within him and a need to humiliate and control women.

Little did I know back then that Wesley was only the first of a string of men who would run ramshod over me. It would be a cycle that would continue for the next twelve years. Shame on it all!


Chapter 1

“People put up walls. Not to keep others out, but to see who cares enough to break them down.” —Socrates



Poetry night at The Carolina Kitchen near the Rhode Island Metro station was packed. There were a handful of people there that I recognized from Howard, but most were strangers. That gave me a feeling of relief. I had never recited my poetry live before. Actually, I was not a poet at all; I was a venter.

I had placed my name on the list to read a piece that I had ap­propriately titled “Bitter.” It was the way that I felt, so it made all the sense in the world to select it for my first—and probably last— time reading in public. I was nervous, but sipping on a chocolate martini was helping.

There was a young Rastafarian up at bat reciting something about women with big booties who believed that their sex was their best asset. He was going on and on about how women need to stop acting like a THOT—That Ho Over There—and needed to demand respect for themselves. I was feeling him and wished that my roommate were there to hear it. I was far from celibate, but Winsome was straight wilding out the majority of the time.

He finished up his piece to mass applause and finger snapping. I was hoping that they would call at least two or three other names before mine so I could finish my drink. Even though I spoke in front of my students and faculty all the time, this was different. My words would be personal and from the heart.

Queen Aishah, the comedic host for the evening, came back on stage working her fabulous hips, rocking her attention-getting hairstyle, and grabbed the microphone. “That was hot, Brother Hakeem. I hope some of the young ladies in this joint tonight take heed of your words.” She shielded her eyes and glanced out at the audience like she was trying to find someone in particular. “Yeah, I see some chicks dressed like THOTs tonight. Ya’ll advertising, and that’s all I have to say about that.”

Most of the audience laughed but I noticed some of the scant­ily clad chicks were offended. I could barely keep up with all the terminology meant solely to degrade women. THOT was a new one. Ho, chickenhead, bird, and the good old-fashioned whore were tossed around on the regular. The sad part was that a lot of women had started to embrace the monikers and often called one another those names.

Thank goodness that I had chosen a simple outfit: black jeans, black boots, a black sweater, and a black beanie studded with little silver stars. I was in a militant mood so my clothes reflected my at­titude.

“All right, we’re going to move on.” Queen Aishah looked down at the tablet in her free hand. “Next up is Jemistry. Damn, love that name.”

So much for finishing my martini. I sighed and navigated my way to the front as people looked at me strangely, as if to say, “You’d better bring it after Brother Hakeem put it down!” No doubt he was a tough act to follow.

I took the stage and Queen Aishah handed me the microphone, grinned, and sashayed off. She was so confident in herself; I wish I could have said the same.

I cleared my throat and tried to imagine that the room was empty, that I was simply practicing like I had done several times at home earlier that day.

“This piece is called ‘Bitter.’ It’s for all the sisters out there who have been hurt, despite giving their all and being all that they can be for men who do not appreciate them.”

Several women yelled out things like, “That’s right!” “Amen, Sister!” and “Preach!”

Several men hissed and booed and acted like I had called them out by their government names.

I cleared my throat again and then start spitting out the words—slowly, concisely, and from the pit of my soul where all of my own personal pain and bitterness collided.






That is how I feel as a woman

A woman who has been










It makes no sense . . .

No sense at all

I am a good woman

A brilliant woman

A compassionate woman

A loving woman

An educated woman

A beautiful woman

A romantic woman

A unique and special woman

So why do men overlook me?

Or come into my life and play games?

Use Jedi mind tricks?

Spit out bullshit lies?

Expect me to share dick?

Expect me to tolerate their shit?

Say one thing and do another?

Call me names and expect me to be their lover?

Hit on me and then try to kiss me?

Talk shit behind my back?





Those are the words that describe me

Those are the terms that define me

Now it is time for me to find me

Before it is too late

And my heart can no longer participate

In what people call love

In a true relationship

Bitter . . . that’s me



I opened my eyes, which I had clamped shut at some point half­way through, and there was an eerie silence over the entire place

for a few seconds. Then there was mass applause and cheers . . . from the women. A few men clapped and many were shaking their heads and crossing their arms in defiance. Their egos were bruised, but they knew that I had spoken nothing but the truth. They were going to learn that day.

As I walked off the stage, Queen Aishah came up to announce the next poet. She grinned at me and whispered, “You said that! That was some real shit right there!”

When I returned to my seat at the bar, there was a man sit­ting on the stool next to mine. I hadn’t noticed him before. I won­dered if he had come in while I was performing. He was almost like a giant—at least six five compared to my five-two height. Even though he was sitting, I could tell that he was like a tree. He had a smooth, dark-chocolate complexion, eyes the shade of almonds, a polished fade, and he wore rimless eyeglasses.

The bartender came over to me. “Need anything else?”

“Can I have another chocolate martini, please?”

The guy kept staring at me and I wondered if he was about to go off on me about what I had said onstage.

After another minute or two, once my fresh drink was in front of me, I could not take the stares anymore. There was an older woman onstage reciting a poem about the joys of menopause and moving on to the next stage of life. He was not paying attention to her at all. He was too busy watching my every move.

“The entertainment is that way.” I pointed toward the stage. “I’m finished with my performance.”

He grinned and exposed a beautiful smile and straight teeth. “I enjoyed your piece. ‘Bitter,’ wasn’t it?”

I rolled me eyes. Here it comes! “Yes, it was called ‘Bitter.’ That’s what I am.”

“I kind of figured that, and it’s such a shame.”

He looked me up and down like I was on display. I was hoping that my face wasn’t shiny from having been underneath the hot lights, even momentarily.

“You’re too beautiful, sassy, and intriguing to be bitter over a man from your past.”

“Actually, you stand corrected. I am bitter regarding several men from my past. All of the men from my past. Not a single one of them appreciated any of the goodness in me until after I was gone.”

“So now the rest of us men can forget it, huh?”

I took a sip of my drink and analyzed what he was imply­ing with his question. The Virgo in me kicked in. One thing is a definite trait among Virgos—we overthink and overanalyze like crazy. On the one hand, I was sick of men to a degree. At least the whimsical fantasy that one man could make a commitment to one woman and do the right thing by her. On the other hand, I loved sex and the specimen sitting beside me was most certainly a candi­date for some freaky sex.

He kept looking at me as the menopausal broad left the stage. “Well?”

“I never said that no man has a chance with me. All I’m saying is that I’m not going to be so quick to throw my heart on the line again, unless a man presents himself correctly and is done with playing games. You feel me?”

“Somewhat.” He took a long guzzle from his draft beer. “But you have to realize that not all men have to be done with playing games. Some of us have never played them.”

I smirked. “That’s what you all say. All of you proclaim to be honest, trustworthy, and interested in settling down, up and until you get into a woman’s panties and move on to the next one.”

“Wow, someone has really hurt you!” “Several someones have trampled all over me. They’ve treated me like a piece of disposable pussy or a deer that has already been

hit in the road. Instead of picking me up and trying to resuscitate me, or better yet, leaving me the hell alone to suffer in silence, they run over me again and try to finish the job that the previous dude started.”

He shook his head and frowned. “It would probably be in my best interest to move to the other side of the bar and wish you a good evening.”

I shrugged. “Probably would be.”

He sat there for a few more seconds, still staring.

“Probably would be,” I repeated.

“Yes, probably.” He chuckled. “But instead, I’d like to pay for your drinks and ask if you’d like to head someplace quieter so we can continue this fascinating discussion.” He reached out his hand. “I’m Tevin Harris.”

I shook his hand. “Jemistry Daniels. I’m not so convinced this is a fascinating discussion, though.”

“I’m fascinated!”

I smirked and continued drinking. Another brother had taken the stage but I was really drowning him out. He was talking about some kind of impending “race war.” That always amused me when people said things like that, as if we were still in the 1800s. I had always wanted to ask at least one person spouting that foolishness whom they planned to start a race war with, considering that most families were mixed with several different ones.

“So, Jemistry, would you like to take me up on my offer?”

He is not giving up!

I hesitated to respond. He seemed harmless enough, but so do most serial killers. Most are also charming as all get-out.

“Um, tell you what. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings or any­thing, but I’m not the most trusting person, as you might suspect.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, that’s kind of evident.”

“I prefer to close out my own tab. I ordered the drinks, so I’ll pay for them. It is kind of noisy in here to talk so I can meet you somewhere else.” I held my index finger up in his face. “But I’m not getting in a car with you. Nor are you getting into mine.”

I already had it in my head that the only thing that talking could possibly lead to was fucking. I would make “arrangements” with him as I had with two other men at the time to come over and have some “drive-by sex” when the urge hit me. I was at­tracted to him. He was tall and had big feet, so I was guessing that he had a big dick.

What the hell!

“Fair enough.” He threw a twenty on the bar for his beers. “Do you have a place in mind?”

“How about Oya over on Ninth and H?”

“Never heard of it, but I’ll meet you there in a few.”

He stood up. Yeah, he was a giant, but a fine one. I could not help but drop my eyes to see his dick imprint in his slacks. I sup­pressed a smile.

“Would you allow me to walk you to your car, Jemistry?”

“No, no thank you. I’ll be fine. I’m going to pay for my drinks and then head that way.”

He walked off as he said, “I hope you show.”

I watched him leave out and wondered to myself if I would show up. The key to the entire thing would be to make sure I didn’t catch any feelings. That was always the hard part: having a big heart, desiring to be loved, and trying to avoid falling too hard for a man, especially a man like him. People always said that you have to judge each person by their own character, but it was not easy to keep tossing my heart on the line all the time. Most men I could brush off without a second thought, but there was some­thing different about this one.

Heaven help me! 



Whew! If you can’t wait to read the whole thing (and who could blame you?), answer this question for us in the comments of this post: if you wrote a poem to describe your love life, what would it be called? We’ll choose 10 entrants to receive a bound galley of The Other Side of the Pillow so you can read it before all the other fans! (Sorry, sweepstakes is open to U.S. residents only!) Click here for complete contest rules.

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