The Mayor's Race
Carolina Callings Book 2
by Travis Casey Genre: Thriller
Cory Logan retired from boxing after winning millions of dollars, but he never won a world title. When he dies, all he'll have is a headstone that no one will visit. To live in infamy, he wants a sports facility named after him. The only thing that stands in his way is the mayor of Hilton Head, who insists it be named after an African American.
Yvette Tyson is frustrated since she divorced her cheating husband. She struggles with her new life, embarrassed by her past and unable to gain the respect she once had. Does she really have to spend the rest of her life working the graveyard shift at the supermarket?
When Cory runs into Yvette, their past lives converge. It soon becomes clear that Yvette winning the mayor's office would benefit both of them.
Yvette sat in the booth, spinning a napkin on the table with her fingers. She should have never agreed to meet him. Yes, Cory had helped her out financially after Isaiah got sent away. But that's exactly what it was—the past. If there was one thing Yvette hated it was the past.
She did have it all, once upon a time: A loving husband, or so she thought, respect as an activist for the African American community, and no money worries. Now she worked at the Piggly fucking Wiggly after being turned down for every job she had applied for. Was it her color? More than likely it was her past. Until she could get a job worthy of her talents she wanted to keep a low profile and had hoped the graveyard shift at the supermarket would preserve her minimum wage anonymity. What respectable person would do their shopping in the middle of the night?
Then she got unwanted recognition when she was named Piggly Wiggly Pioneer for the month of May for crying out loud. Now her picture was posted on the wall for all to see her in that stupid uniform with a pig carrying out a sack of groceries plastered on her uniform. Talk about a fall from grace. Once an iron maiden, and now she was selling bacon at a twenty-four hour supermarket. Good Godfrey.
She hoped by July her stupid "Pig Woman" title would be forgotten. Maybe she should have put the pioneer thing on her résumé, and then Bill 'Butthead' Montgomery would have hired her. But she wouldn't have wanted to work with that type of person anyway. She needed respect and dignity. So why the hell was she waiting for Cory Logan? He was her past. She needed to move on.
She slid toward the edge of the booth to make a hasty exit when Cory walked in. His broad shoulders reminded her that he'd made his money in a barbaric manner. In fact, he'd made millions of dollars beating the crap out of other people. Mostly black people. He'd said it himself. Boxers tend to be black, and as a white man, he was a minority in the sport. Another confirmation of her stupidity for agreeing to meet him. But she owed him civility if nothing else. She glided back into her seat.
He slid into the booth opposite her. "May I say how radiant you look, Mrs. Hightower?"
"Cut the crap, Logan." She tugged at her work blouse. "I've just worked an eight-hour shift and I'm sitting here in a pigging polyester jumpsuit. And unsurprisingly, I've reverted to my maiden name. It's Miss Tyson now."
"Riiight … I should have guessed. Sorry. I'll stick to Yvette. Cool?"
His understanding planted dimples in her cheeks as she smiled. "Cool. So what's up Mr. Millionaire?"
"Not much new."
The waitress came around and filled up their coffee mugs.
She brightened her tone. "I recently applied for a job with the city council. The position was in marketing and I could've used my skills to raise funds for a sanitation project they have going, but … well, I didn't get it."
"That's too bad. I could use an ally in City Hall."
"Why? What do you have going on?"
"At the moment, nothing. The mayor is blocking a facility I want to build. Contrary to popular belief, the mayor's a dick."
Yvette laughed. "Oh, I believe you. His city manager is an idiot as well. He suggested I take up playing golf with Mayor Dick if I want any kind of job with the city."
Cory smiled. "Do you play golf?"
"Ha. Not hardly. Isaiah took me to play mini-golf once. There was a six-shot limit per hole. We played eighteen holes, and I scored a one-hundred-and-eight. That's eighteen times six, in case you're slow with math."
They shared a laugh.
"So you have to get a job the old-fashioned way, eh?" Cory submitted. "Use your brain and charm."
"I did that."
"So why didn't you get the job?"
"Do you think calling a group of people 'you people' is racist?"
Cory pressed himself back in the seat. "Are you serious? They called you 'you people?' Of course it's racist. That's outrageous. You should sue them."
"No, actually … I called them 'you people.'"
"Oh." His clumsy attempt to conceal his grin failed.
"I simply called a bunch of incompetent male politicians 'you people.' Not because they were white, they just happen to be white. I was merely calling attention to the fact that they're inept."
"As I recall, you classed me as 'you people' once."
She cocked her head to one side. "Did I? You might be white and incompetent, but you're not a politician." She smirked. "Not yet, anyway." She rested her arms on the table. "Aren't retired athletes supposed to go into public service to validate themselves as human beings?"
"What? Like Butch Kimber? No—thank—you."
Yvette's face lit up. "Yes! Do it, Cory. Why don't you run for mayor? Then you can get me a job with the council. You're rich, you're white, and you're a Hilton Head native — a famous one at that — even if for losing."
He smacked his palm on the table. "Goddammit! Am I the only person on the planet who ever lost at something? Is that really how I'm going to be remembered?"
Yvette shuddered back in her chair. "Sorry, I didn't know it was a sore spot."
"Of course it's a sore spot. Do you think that's what I want on my headstone? 'Cory Logan. Professional boxer. Win/Loss record 27-6—but two of those losses were for the world title.' I need a legacy!"
Yvette gave him a sympathetic glint of hopefulness. "You're young. If you don't want to be mayor, there are other avenues you could pursue to secure your legacy. Pump out a couple of kids. You still have time."
There was fire in Cory's eyes reminiscent of his fighting days as he stared her down. He reached across the table and took Yvette's hands in his. "That's not gonna happen. Besides, I like my life how it is. I'm thirty-six years old and not looking for change. I'm wealthy but I don't have anyone to leave my money to, so I want to build a sports arena for youngsters: The Cory Logan Sports Training Facility. That should be my legacy—except Butch Kimber insists my arena should be named after a modern-day Martin Luther Fucking King!" He slammed his fist on the table.
Yvette jumped back. Did he just blaspheme Dr. King? Maybe, but he was a friend, of sorts. Rather than a lecture, he needed compassion. She donned her comfort hat.
She patted his hand. "Don't worry, I don't think a garbage truck logo designer would have made any inroads on the streets of influence where the mayor is concerned anyway. But if I was on the council, I'd let you have your arena—even if you do name it after a white guy." She snickered to remove any potential sarcasm—or racism.
Cory engaged Yvette's big round brown eyes. "You know, Yvette, if you really want to get revenge on the council for shortchanging you on that interview, you should run for mayor."
"What?" she screeched. "I don't want to be mayor. I mean, I don't know anything about being a mayor. I couldn't possibly be mayor."
"Of course you could."
"No, I couldn't. Don't you have to know about budgets? And quotas? And—"
"You'd have administrators for that stuff. Think of the issues you could address. The wrongs you could right from the inside. You could investigate police brutality, or address equal employment issues, or women's rights. If you don't like something, you could change it."
"Now you're being ridiculous."
"No, I'm being serious. You could do a lot to help the black community of Hilton Head—"
"Ha! All ten of us."
"Okay, think about your female constituents. You could help them."
Yvette's eyes darted around the coffee shop. She didn't want to look at him, but she couldn't deny that the idea was appealing.
She wondered what she would do after Isaiah got locked up. She needed a purpose to live, but selling groceries and cheap vodka at the Piggly fucking Wiggly wasn't satisfying her thirst for importance. She could get her self-respect back. She could add dignity to her résumé. She could … never win …. What a stupid idea.
He slid forward. He looked anxious to say something, then retreated, sliding back in the booth. "You know, I think Mayor Kimber doubts his ability to get my sports center passed by the council. He doesn't have the power of persuasion like you do."
Yvette cocked her head. "How's that?"
"It's easy to name something after a hero: George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Martin Luther King … Me? I'm just an ordinary guy who made a good living out of a sport I enjoyed. Just like golfers or tennis players who never won a major. Did you know the golfer Rickie Fowler has won over forty million dollars but has never won a major?"
"Is he black?"
"Then don't name the sports facility after him."
"What I'm saying," Cory continued, "is there are a lot of great athletes out there worthy of recognition who don't have the highest accolade attainable, but people like Butch Kimber are too arrogant to recognize the also-rans unless they're a minority. Then he feels he owes them something because they're not good enough to earn it on their own merit."
"He said that?"
"As good as. He wants to give African Americans a free ride because his uncle was a slave owner. He's treating blacks as second-class citizens."
"Eww," she growled. "If I was mayor—"
"If you were mayor …" Cory interrupted, "no one could question your judgment or integrity."
"Yeah, but you have to have a lot of money to run for mayor."
"Not as much as you may think, and we both know you're a terrific fundraiser. Besides, I'll help fund your campaign."
"Boy." She shook her head. "Those years in the ring really rattled your brain. Why me?"
"You're more than a Piggly Wiggly employee. You're better than that. Mayor Tyson. How does that sound?"
"I don't know …"
"You'd also get to fire people." Cory grinned.
"I am not a petty person, Logan. I wouldn't take a job solely to fire some bigoted old man."
Cory shrugged. "Fair enough. Fire him and name my building the Cory Logan Sports Training Facility. There's two reasons. Now it's not so petty, is it?"
"Are you using me just so you can get your sports center?"
"I wouldn't say 'using' or 'just.' I trust your judgment. I think you'd be a great mayor, and if you decided that a sports center would benefit the youngsters of the island, and that the person who funded the project deserves to have his name on it, so be it. But that would be your call. I'm thinking more about your legacy."
"Cute. The childless black divorcee needs to cement her existence on this planet by becoming a political pawn for your gymnasium." Yvette was very good with her eyes and gave him a stare that made him noticeably uncomfortable.
Cory shifted in his seat. "Forget about me. You could be the first black mayor of Hilton Head … I think."
"Are you sure about that?"
"I haven't fact-checked it, but off the top of my head I don't remember any black mayors of the island."
Yvette leaned in, whispering. "I hate to tell you this, but half the council thinks I'm a racist, and it's already going around town. It's hard enough being a black woman, but a black racist? I've got no chance of winning."
Cory shook his head. "No, I can see it. Yvette Tyson, the first African American to reign over South Carolina's jewel city. You would have influence on any issue you cared to address. You'd be respected, in your own right—not as a wife."
"But why would people vote for me? I mean …" Yvette had trouble digesting that she could be a woman of power. She had always supported her husband but was never the focal point herself. She had been a great first lady and a behind-the-scenes force to be reckoned with, but she had never taken center stage. Could she do it? "I don't know, Cory …"
He reached over and clutched her hand. "I'll be there for you every step of the way. I'll back you one-hundred percent, and hold your hand when you need it."
She jerked her hand away. "Do you really think I could get elected?"
"I know you could. I'll be your campaign manager."
"But I'm not—"
He cut her off, pushing himself closer. "Okay, try this. The actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, was a method actor. When he played the part of Abraham Lincoln, he pretended to be Honest Abe on and off the screen the entire time while he filmed the movie. You can be a method mayor. Start acting as if, from this day forward, and by the time you're elected you'll already be in that mindset." He backed off, giving her space. "And if you don't like how it feels, you don't have to see it through. Simple as that."
They sat quietly as Yvette did some soul-searching. She'd never even dreamt anything like that could ever happen. She thought about running for the school board once, but her husband wouldn't let her, insisting she wasn't smart enough. But now she had someone who believed in her. She could be the boss of an entire community. A woman of respect and power. A Michele Obama running a town. She could shape the future of the island, making it an even better place to live and work. And she could fire that butthead Bill Montgomery.
"Yes, I'm in!" she shouted.
Cory reached over and took her hand. "You're gonna do it!"
She looked at his hand clutching hers. "We wouldn't really have to hold hands in public or anything, would we?"
Cory's heart warmed. "Only if your numbers slip in the polls."
No Halo Required Carolina Callings Book 1
Isaiah Hightower has everything a forty-nine-year-old man could want: respect as a high school principal; admiration as a leader in the black community; and a wife who would do anything for him. Despite his shining public image, Isaiah's life is plagued with indiscretions. When these threaten to unravel his world, he silences the threat by any means necessary. When his wife, Yvette, witnesses her husband's greatest sin, her life is about to change forever. But it doesn't have to. One lie will protect her lifestyle and save her husband's reputation.
Yvette enjoyed the ride to church. What she relished even more than the passing green scenery were the sly glances Isaiah threw her way "checking her out." He had complimented her over breakfast on how nice she looked in her brown and white dress. The brown was the same color as her skin making it look as if she simply wore white strips covering her modesty. The look excited her—and obviously Isaiah too. A million bucks, he compared her to. She was pleased she could still wear horizontal stripes without looking fat. Not all women could do that at forty-one. She was anxious to get to the church and tell Gloria Huntington she still had what it took to get her husband to acknowledge her as desirable. And while in church she'd pray that the good Reverend would keep his sermon short—assure the righteous of their passage to heaven, damn the sinners to hell, and get the heck out of there so she could get back home and screw the principal's brains out.
They pulled into the parking lot where Isaiah parked in one of the six spaces reserved for deacons. Yvette waited for Isaiah as he walked around and opened the door for her. He didn't do it all the time, but church was one place where he always opened the door for her—Sundays and special occasions—that was their arrangement.
Yvette got out of the car, gave Isaiah a smile and a pat on the cheek, and then headed for the church. She bounded up the stairs to the white wooden chapel in three-inch heels in search of her friend, leaving Isaiah behind to shake hands with other parishioners.
Gloria Huntington stood at the entrance of the Hilton Head Evangelical Free Church waving a Japanese paper fan in true Southern Belle style—with short, rapid strokes—each stroke barely covering a two-inch span from start to finish. Despite her fanning vigor, the South Carolina humidity threatened to penetrate her makeup base. That would be unacceptable. God and Maybelline would have a lot to answer for if her superior good looks melted on the steps of the house of the Lord.
They first met when Gloria was fighting to clear her husband's name of murder charges, crimes she insisted he didn't commit. Isaiah donned his shining armor and raised the profile of the case. He loved bringing national attention to injustices against people of color. Yvette and Gloria became friends and both were delighted when the Hightower's moved to Hilton Head, making it an even closer friendship.
Following Gloria's lead, the two women air-kissed, leaving Gloria's makeup intact. Yvette admired her spirit to use such a rich red lipstick to compliment her light-brown skin. Large red and gold earrings dangled prominently over her shoulders ensuring she would be seen as a woman of daring—and style.
"Darling," Gloria purred. "How delightful to see you. I must say, you look adorable."
Yvette stood back, opening her arms and smiling—showing white teeth worthy of a TV commercial. "He noticed," she boasted.
"Darling," Gloria eyed her up and down, "Stevie Wonder would notice you in that."
Yvette slid her hands over her hips. "I do work hard to make him proud."
"And you succeed. The man appreciates his wife. How wonderful is that?"
Even through her dark skin, Yvette blushed. "You're too kind."
"Not kind, observant. After all, you married a significant cog in the education of our children, a champion of the African American community, and a deacon of this very church. You have every reason to be proud of him. And isn't he up for the Citizen of the South?"
"Yes, I nominated him for the COTS award and had the Chief of Police in Savannah second it. Isaiah is the most wonderful man I've ever known—and so driven."
"Yes, and, girl, I bet he's driven you to some places most of us can't even imagine."
Yvette play-smacked Gloria on the arm. "Stop it. You're so naughty." She stepped closer and whispered. "And yes he has. He's driven me to some places even God doesn't know about."
The women giggled.
Yvette straightened her posture. "But when the lights are on, I'm honored to hold the title as Mrs. Isaiah Hightower."
"Of course you are."
Isaiah stepped between the women. "Good morning, Gloria." He attempted to deliver an affectionate peck to her cheek but she pulled back, protecting her makeup. She puckered her lips and simply kissed the air in front of her.
"Isaiah," she greeted him. "Slain any dragons lately?"
"I can't say that I've disposed of any mythical creatures recently, no."
Yvette draped her arm over her husband's shoulder. "But what he has done …"
He held a victorious beam. "Well, only if you consider the Hilton Head Town Council a dragon."
"I've persuaded them to close the Bare Trap on Madison Street."
Gloria smiled. "I can understand with a wife as beautiful as yours you have no need for strip clubs, but why would you invest your valuable time in such an insignificant crusade?"
"Insignificant? It's hardly that. We need to protect the children."
It was barely noticeable through her packed foundation, but Gloria's face creased. "Isaiah, why are you worried about strip clubs? As immoral as those places may be, they have checks in place to ensure they are kept as a visual orgy for adults; whereas all the children of today's world have to do is jump on the pornographic gateway known as the internet and they can see all the nudity they want—and heaven knows what other kinds of debauchery."
Isaiah shook his head. "It's too near the high school. Young girls see the strippers arriving at work in Corvettes and Mercedes and will give up their education to make money the easy and uneducated way. No, God has spoken to me. He asked me to shut down this particular playground of sin, and I answered. The council has accepted my arguments and the Bare Trap was closed down two days ago." He thrust both arms in the air. "Halleluiah!"
"And that's your dragon?"
Isaiah dipped his head. "No halo required."
"And they did it on that argument? Your students may become strippers one day?"
"I may have mentioned that a sophomore student was already a dancer there."
"What? At sixteen? Was she?"
Isaiah shrugged. "It's possible—one day … maybe."
Yvette stepped forward. "And statistically, the ratio of minority dancers to white ones was grossly out of proportion. The place is not only immoral; it discriminates against people of color."
Gloria looked at her friend. "And you researched this, did you?"
Yvette nodded. "As you mentioned, Isaiah is a busy man. I help where I can when discrimination is involved. Out of twenty-three performers at the Bare Trap, twenty-one were white, one African-American, and one Native American—I believe she dresses up as a squaw."
"I see." Gloria continued flapping her fan. "And you want to see more people of color taking their clothes off?"
Yvette frowned. "No, you're missing the point—"
Isaiah patted her hand. "Not to worry, darling. Those Jezebels won't be taking their clothes off for the underclasses of Hilton Head anymore."
"Thanks to you," Yvette congratulated him, then turned to Gloria. "He's one of God's angels."
"No halo required," Gloria echoed.
Yvette looped her arm through Isaiah's. "Let's go give God the thanks He deserves and get the heck out of here. My pom-poms want shaking."
They entered the church—Isaiah's favorite place on earth.
Travis was brought up in Midwest America before embarking on a nine year Navy career that allowed him to travel the world and learn about life. He has ping-ponged across oceans moving from mainland United States to Hawaii, to Scotland, to Seattle, to England, to Minnesota, back to England, and back to Minnesota where he currently resides ... for now
He writes easy-reading, light-hearted fiction and true stories about his own experiences that even the best fiction writer couldn't make up. Relax by the beach or curl up on the couch on a rainy day while Travis takes you on fun-filled adventures that let you forget about life for a while and have a laugh.
What inspired you to write this book?
When I moved back to America from England in 2014, it struck me that the news was dominated by stories of "Police shot a black man, but the black man didn't do it." I wondered, "What if he did do it?" BUT the community doesn't want to believe it. Not so much O.J. but what if an activist wasn't all he was made out to be. The masses saw the good he did, but very few saw his dark side. And then let's give him an adoring wife. She loves this man. How far will she go to protect him? I gave the story to Isaiah Hightower, but his wife, Yvette, steals it. It's about how far will love go.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I didn't know if I would write a sequel or not when I finished NO HALO REQUIRED but the book received good reviews and I decided to write the next installment THE MAYOR'S RACE. I've recently committed to writing a third book in the Carolina Callings series.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Whenever I write a novel, once I formulate the characters in my mind, I go online and find pictures of them. Not celebrities, but real people. I'll search Shutterstock for "Forty-nine-year-old black preacher” kind of thing. Once I get the male and female MC, I print off their pictures and hang them over my desk the entire time I write the novel. I sometimes stare at their picture when I'm stuck and ask them, “What are you thinking?” I have pictures of all the main characters from all my books.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I'm very quick to come up with characters' names. I rarely spend more than thirty seconds naming a character. First, they have to be pronounceable to the reader. I don't try to get clever and do stereotype to some degree. It's easier for me to identify with the character when the bad guy is named Louie Gomez and an arrogant mayor is named Butch Kimber. And I doubt you'd find many white people named Isaiah and Yvette Hightower. And I do like the gay guy in the book named Romeo.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The editing. Two-thirds of the way through writing it I couldn't wait to finish it so I could start editing. As a white author writing about people of color, the first thing I did was hire three different black sensitivity readers. I don't write to offend, but I sail near the knuckle. I make sure that something I may see as innocent isn't unintentional offensive and easily avoidable by changing a word here or there. But I am always true to the character. If a character is offensive or racist, so be it. I use my editing team to ensure those views come from the character and not the author.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
The original title was Angels Without Halos. Isaiah and Yvette are both God-fearing people, but you wouldn't know it much outside of church. Their public perception is one of purity but their halos do not shine. Isaiah has the mindset that one can do good works without wearing a halo, hence, NO HALO REQUIRED.
Who designed your book covers?
Mich Fisher at Artful Cover
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
In the sequel, THE MAYOR'S RACE I engaged black sensitivity readers again. I've learned a ton about writing about people of color, do's and don't's if you will, and have saved a few blogs if I need to look things about again.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Although these two books take a look at today's society, there is no deep-seated message I'm trying to convey. I write to entertain and inspire a laugh. I'm a beach-read writer, not a literary fiction intellectual trying to stir up passions.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
When Isaiah takes Yvette to the Marriott in Savannah. Isaiah had a previous encounter with the hotel manager and is afraid that may have got himself excluded from returning. But when he brings Yvette, the manager upgraded them to the Presidential Suite. Isaiah was shocked but played it off as though he had planned it. Isaiah has more good luck in this book than any bad person deserves.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I usually let the character take control. NO HALO REQUIRED was my first plot-driven book. I knew where I want the story to end up and I couldn't let them completely take over. That was difficult at times.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Although I didn't realize it as I wrote it, NO HALO REQUIRED turned out to be my first work of Noir fiction. Noir fiction (or roman noir) is a subgenre of crime fiction. In this subgenre, right and wrong are not clearly defined, while the protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Not knowing how to write, or what to write about, I wrote my first manuscript in 2010. A 76,000-word memoir about my nine years in the Navy titled TINCANS and BUBBLEHEADS. I sent it out to twenty-three agents and in due course received twenty-three rejections. Thinking a just needed to tidy up a few commas and un-dangle a few participles, I joined an online writing group. Wow! That was when I realized how bad it was, but I got great help and advice. I submitted it to the group chapter by chapter and rewrote the entire thing. I was so excited when I posted my final chapter and boasted to the group that I would be sending it out to agents again. One of my partners asked me a question that changed my whole outlook on writing. He said "Congratulations on finishing the book. However, I'm not trying to be nasty, but if you intend on selling this book, who is going to want to read the memoir of a nobody?" He was right. I wasn't a warship captain nor have I ever captured a terrorist kingpin. I was just a simple sailor who had a damn good time on Uncle Sam's dime. But I had too much good material to simply throw away.
So, I scraped Travis Casey and invented Tyler Chambers, who did a lot of the things I did plus a whole lot more. And I got four books out of Tyler and his antics instead of just one book I'd never want my mom to read.
What did you edit out of this book?
I don't self-edit my early drafts. If a thought pops into my head I put it down on paper and work it into the story. What happens is when I begin the editing process, other people read it and those people weren't in my head when it sounded like a good idea. So after editors, betas, and sensitivity readers, I usually cut between 5-10,000 words out of a manuscript.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
NO HALO REQUIRED has been my most edited book. I've used seven beta readers, three sensitivity readers, two different professional editors, and three proofreaders. Because I had never written a book of this ilk I wanted to get it right. I began writing it in 2017, and besides the extensive editing, in 2018 my wife and I moved from Minnesota back to England—but not before I had the bonehead idea of driving an RV from Minnesota to Florida before returning to England. That was the worst two months of my life. I finally succumbed to intense pressure from friends and wrote a book about the journey called RV THERE YET? Which suspended any progress on NHR. After publishing RVTY? And returning to work on NHR, we moved from England back to Minnesota in 2019 (don't ask and it's not worthy of a book.) The editing continued and I finally released NHR in October 2020.
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