More Than Friends

Would they risk a great friendship for love?

Imani James, a beautiful, black grad student, wasn’t looking for love but she discovers that Mr. Right is right at her finger tips. But when faced with having a friend become a lover, Imani hesitates, a decision she now regrets.

Over the short time he’s known Imani, Ian Hunte, an attractive, white law student, has fallen for his close friend and now he wants to be more than friends. Faced with rejection, he goes in search of love in all the wrong places only to discover that Imani is the only woman for him.

In trying to preserve their friendship, Imani brings it close to destruction, but when given a second chance will she accept Ian as a lover.

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Chapter One

“Am I black enough?”

Ian Hunte looked across at the petite, dark skin woman sitting beside him at the bar. He took in her slim waist, full hips and bust, all tastefully covered in business casual. She brought a cocktail glass up to her full lips as her eyes closed to savor her potion of choice.

He sighed, it wasn’t the first time his friend asked the question and it most likely won’t be the last. Before giving a response, he placed his pale forearm next to her arm.

“Yeah, you are most definitely black,” he said before reaching for his glass of beer. “Or should I say African American.”

Imani James gave him her infamous side eye and shoved his shoulder, jostling the contents of his glass. “You know perfectly well, what I mean. I don’t fall into that definition of black.”

Ian sat back in his stool as Imani listed all the things that excluded her from black culture. As usual, they had found refuge in Simon’s, the bar a couple of blocks away from Edison College, the college where they were both graduate students. The bar attracted an older crowd, excluding the rowdy and exuberant college students the pair was trying to avoid.

The pair had met their first day at the Edison College and made a connection. It was during their introduction that they found out that they were in different programs. Imani was getting her MBA in Marketing and Ian was enrolled in the Law School.

Despite their schedules, Imani and Ian still made time to hang out with each other. Unbeknownst to Imani, Ian’s feelings for her went beyond being good friends. He just couldn’t find the right words to let her know without destroying their friendship.

“….I’m just not into hip hop and I can’t stand those God-awful reality shows,” Imani continued.

“From all that you said, it sounds like a friend of mine from High School is black. He knows all the lyrics to Jay Z’s Blueprint album but he has blue eyes and blond hair,” Ian said with a smile.

Imani looked at Ian, taking in the 6ft white man with a shock of auburn hair and the most intense green eyes, then laughed. She could always count on him to find the light side to her turmoil, be it stressing over exams or dealing with her inner demons. Ian could always bring a smile to her face.

“So what happened?” Ian asked soberly.

“Hmm?” Imani took a sip of her drink.

“What happened that caused you to question your identity?” he prompted.

With a groan, she said,”Diversity Marketing. Can I help it if I cannot list elements that help in marketing to African Americans? You should have seen the look I got from Rahsheeda. It was as though I was an imbecile. Excuse me, I grew up in Claremont, Minnesota, not the Southside of Chicago.”

“Are you and Rahsheeda friends?” Ian placed his glass down and turned fully to Imani.

“No,” Imani said with a pout.

“Then what does it matter what she thinks? Plus, you are in that class to learn, not to teach the class on how to market to people of your race.” There were times when Imani needed a pep talk and Ian was always ready to offer one.

“Yeah, you’re right,” she said with a sigh. “So how was your day?”

“The usual, lectures and research,” Ian began. “Plus, I’m compiling a list of firms I will be approaching for an internship.”

“Who is at the top of your list?” Imani’s interest was genuine.

Before Ian could answer, he sensed someone behind them.

“Imani?”

The friends turned around to see an attractive light skin man behind them. He was shorter than Ian, about 5’9”, had a muscular build and wore a sweatshirt with the Edison College emblem across the front over dark blue jeans. He wore his dreads locs loose, but every now and then he would tuck a loc behind his ear when it would fall in front of one of his hazel eyes.

“Um, Andrew, right?” Imani asked politely.

“Yeah, yeah, we had Professor Nunez’s class together last semester,” he explained, his attention solely on Imani.

“Oh, Andrew, this is my friend, Ian. Ian, this is Andrew,” she said by way of introductions.

The men greeted each other and shook each other’s hands. Then Andrew turned to Imani, “There is this art opening at the Dailu Art Gallery. An artist from Harlem is exhibiting his paintings of city life. I’m going and want to know if you’d like to come.”

Imani smiled, “That sounds cool, I love art openings. Do you mind if Ian comes along?”

Ian could tell that Andrew was more interested in spending time with Imani than entertaining the both of them. Instead of saying no, he asked Ian if he would like to come.

“When is the opening?” Ian asked, toying with the other man.

“Friday at 7:30pm,” Andrew replied.

“Sorry, I can’t make it,” Ian said. “You two, go on and have a good time. Maybe another time.”

Andrew looked visibly relieved. As he and Imani arranged when and where they would meet to attend the opening, Ian turned back to face the bar. He ordered a shot of Whiskey, aiming to burn away the feelings of anguish. This could be the start of a relationship between Imani and Andrew. He ordered a double shot.

Once they established that Imani and Andrew would meet at the Dailu Art Gallery, Andrew said goodbye, telling Ian it was nice meeting him. Ian in return raised his hand and said the same.

“Why can’t you make it?” Imani asked, turning to the bar.

“Lucas and I made plans to see a movie,” Ian lied.

“Lucas?” her brows wrinkled as she tried to remember. “Who’s Lucas?”

“The guy with glasses, lives down the hall from me,” Ian explained.

“Oh, oh yeah,” Imani nodded her head slowly. “So tell me, who is at the top of your list of firms?”

Welcoming the return to their original conversation, Ian told Imani of his choices. As the evening progressed, he tried his best not to think of Imani going out with Andrew. He focused on enjoying his time with her, even if the night out was not classified as a date. But would Imani ever consider dating him?

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