Illegal Substitution by MsStoryMaker

Disclaimer: I do not own, nor do I claim to own, any of the content from the TV series. I do not know, nor do I claim to know, any of the producers, cast, or crew from the TV series. THE GAME is property of BET. This story is for fan enjoyment, and I'm making no profit from it.

Chapter One

"Come here, lover . . . "

Melanie's heart pounded rapidly. Her breaths came in quick, desirous intakes. The air conditioner cooled the faint glistening of sweat on her arms, at her wrists, across her chest.

But she was still hot.

She licked her lips, willing the hard longing to go away. But it was relentless and too overpowering. She pressed her palms against the glass display case where the object of her full-blown desire sat on display for any passerby to see.

"Mama's got it bad," she crooned to the $20,000 handbag she'd had her eye on for three weeks. Melanie was head over designer heels in love with a Hermes Crocodile Birkin. The one she wanted was dark chocolate with tangerine accents. She'd been coming to Non Compris Boutique every day for the past week to visit it. Sneaking away from charity events and Sunbeams meetings. All in the name of catching a glimpse and getting her drool on over the thing she'd promised Derwin she wouldn't obsess over . . . again.

But she couldn't stop fantasizing about it.

Each visit, Melanie's stilettoes clicked down the aisles that were aglow with champagne lighting. Circular dropped baubles glittered from the ceiling like diamonds the size of table globes. The various ensemble sections, strategically staged throughout the boutique like interior window displays, attracted clients with money market funds, T-bills, Roth IRAs and sports contracts. The ambiance kept her plastic smoking.

Urging herself to be good, she realized she had to get out of there before someone saw her making a purse punk of herself.


Too late! Melanie thought and swallowed hard. She recognized the voice of the last person on earth she wanted to see her like this. With a silent sigh, she turned around.

"Hey, Janay! What's up?" Melanie smiled while asking the question she already knew the answer to.

Janay was up—all up and Melanie and Derwin's life. Dropping off DJ. Picking up DJ. Calling to see how DJ was doing. Texting Derwin because of something she forgot to leave in DJ's bag. Posting DJ updates to Derwin's Facebook wall. The woman needed a life outside of her baby and her baby daddy.

"Is everything okay?" Janay asked. "You seem a little distracted."

Melanie took in Janay's casual chic style. Pure white tank, tan chinos, and tan slip on pumps. She definitely had a hip-mommy vibe going for her. And to top it off, today Janay's serious, determined eyes twinkled with blushing contentment.

"What? Who me?" Melanie turned up the wattage on her smile and tried to stand nonchalantly. "I'm fine. Derwin's fine. We're both fine."

"Glad to hear it. And speaking of fine . . . I saw you checking out that bag from all the way down the hall."

Melanie turned briefly back to the bag. Her admiration surged. "Oh, it's aw-ite," she joked.

"Didn't I see you with the Birkin classic at the Tux and Tennies event?

"Yeah." Melanie batted her eyes affectionately. "That was my first. I bought two more since then. But they're not like this."

Janay stepped closer to the glass. "It is nice. With Derwin's salary and endorsements, I'm sure you guys can afford it."

"Yeah, well, since I already have three, I sorta promised Derwin that I'd back off the Birkins for a while."

Janay swung her short bob. It brushed against the tops of her shoulders. She gave Melanie a side-eyed glance. "Sorta promised him?"

"Yeah. I mean, I didn't swear a blood oath or anything."

Janay shot her a look that said she could see right through to the American Express Platinum burning a hole in Melanie's Marc Jacobs wallet. Melanie was eager to change the subject before she whipped it out and totally broke her sorta promise.

"Hey, where's DJ?"

Janay turned, looking over her shoulder. "He's back there getting some water, and trying to convince Zander to buy him a toy before we go home. For those two, stopping at a drinking fountain means water fight. They were doing more splashing than drinking, so I came over here before they had the chance to embarrass me."

Melanie blinked not recognizing the name Janay had used. "I'm sorry, who?"

"Zander. He's a friend. Well, he's turning out to be more than a friend really. He travels a lot, so I haven't had a chance to introduce him to my friends, my family, or you and Derwin.

Janay looked apologetically. "Not that you and Derwin aren't family."

Melanie smiled. Beamed, actually. She never wanted to admit to herself how much Janay and Derwin's parenting relationship bothered her. Even after everything, there was still an ugly chunk of jealousy playing hell in her soul. She wasn't proud of that, but now that Janay had a new man, maybe she could let that bit of immaturity go.

Suddenly, a Crocodile Birkin didn't seem so important.

"There they are," Janay said.

Melanie followed the direction of Janay's stare and there trotting down the aisle between the $1,000 scarves and the $500 belts was one of the most handsome men Melanie had ever seen. Fine didn't come close to describing how good he looked.

He had skin the color of roasted pecans. With his impeccably groomed quo vadis, dark sensual eyes, and blessedly generous mouth, he filled the air with a carnal energy. The commanding power and easy grace of his body told Melanie two important things: He could love a woman strong in one minute and take a man down in the next. He was the total package of simmering sensuality. The man just looked like a woman's pleasure . . . especially in those indigo Levi's and his wet, white muscle shirt.

Melanie was so happy for Janay, she couldn't stop grinning. DJ was riding high on top of the man's thickset shoulders. DJ swung his little hands out to touch the chandeliers and light fixtures that were just out of his tiny reach. The man, who Melanie would forever think of as The Hotness, trotted closer.

"Girlfriend," Melanie said under her breath.

Janay exhaled. "I know, right."

DJ reached out for his mother, but Janay backed up. "Uh-uh. You are soaked. Both of you are soaked."

DJ looked disappointed.

Janay stood her ground. "That's what you get for playing in the water for so long."

"Actually, we were only playing half the time. The other half, we were cleaning up the mess we made," The Hotness said.

Melanie gave Janay an approving wink. "Well, at least they're responsible mess makers."

DJ spied Melanie and reached for her. Melanie reached back, glad to see him. "Hey there big man. I've missed you."

The Hotness eased DJ off his broad shoulders and into Melanie's arms. "He's damp," he warned.

"Zander this is Melanie, Derwin's wife. Melanie this is Zander."

"Pleasure," he said, eyes sparkling. He watched DJ for a second and then turned to Janay. "Next time, we're going to start the water party with you!"

He moved closer to her and brushed his damp arm against her dry one.

"No!" she protested, but Melanie noticed that Janay didn't move too far away."

DJ was a bundle of bright eyes, wiggly legs, and eager hands. He played with her Hula Hoop earrings like they were Hot Wheels cars. Melanie mussed DJ's hair, while her curiosity got the best of her. "So, how long have you two been seeing each other?"

"Not long," Janay smiled.

Zander slid Janay a sly glance, placed a kiss on the top of her forehead. "Not long enough."

Melanie was so happy; she thought her toes would curl. She couldn't wait to tell Tasha, Kelly, her mother, heck Tee Tee, and anyone else who would listen about Janay's new man.

Most of all, she couldn't wait to tell Derwin.