Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Read an #Excerpt from Pride and Protest by Nikki Payne

Pride and Prejudice meets “Dear White People” in this diverse rom-com by debut author Nikki Payne. In PRIDE AND PROTEST, an outspoken DJ goes head-to-head with the CEO of a property developer taking over her D.C. neighborhood during a protest, but they soon find that the fire between them isn’t rage but chemistry.

About the Book

Pride and Protest
by Nikki Payne

Paperback, 416 pages
Published November 15th 2022 by Berkley Books
Liza B.--the only DJ who gives a jam--wants to take her neighborhood back from the soulless property developer dropping unaffordable condos on every street corner in DC. But her planned protest at a corporate event takes a turn after she mistakes the smoldering-hot CEO for the waitstaff. When they go toe-to-toe, the sparks fly--but her impossible-to-ignore family thwarts her every move. Liza wants Dorsey Fitzgerald out of her hood, but she'll settle for getting him out of her head.

At first, Dorsey writes off Liza Bennett as more interested in performing outrage than acting on it. As the adopted Filipino son of a wealthy white family, he's always felt a bit out of place and knows a fraud when he sees one. But when Liza's protest results in a viral meme, their lives are turned upside down, and Dorsey comes to realize this irresistible revolutionary is the most real woman he's ever met. 


He saw her before she saw him. It took him a minute to be sure of what he was seeing—the image was so disjointed. A petite woman . . . naked? No, in a backless dress and some sort of large, furry hat on her head, hauling things out of a car. Yes...dragging what looked like picket signs out from a dark car. 
Oh no. Not this shit.
“Where do you think you’re going with those?” 
At the sound of his voice, she stilled and the dark car sped away with a cartoonish rubber to pavement sound. The woman squared her shoulders and turned around. Upon seeing him, she visibly relaxed her shoulders and put one finger to her full lips, winking conspiratorially. 
“Hey brother, don’t mind me.” She hopped to the hotel side door—not used to the heels, a tomboy playing at seductress. He then realized that the furry creature on her head was her hair. Dark coils defied gravity around her, like one of those eleventh-century frescos of monks with halos. The woman showed him the signs, which read, “We didn’t ask 4 no Netherfield!” and “We will not be displaced.” She was actually proud of this kindergarten display of disagreement. 
“Can you tell me which poster will look best with the Mayfair Instagram filter? Don’t you think this has too much red?” 
She couldn’t know who he was. Dear god, she kept talking. She wanted in. And she was not above using her charms to get past him. The security he’d set up was an absolute joke.
“Do you want a picture with me? You can tag me. Trust me, it’s gonna be great for your feed,” she said. This woman sidled up next to him, her hair tickling his jaw. She made a peace sign and pushed out her hips in a pose he had seen too many times. Roasted coffee beans and some other nutty sweet smell curled around him. When his arm didn’t lift to snap the photo, she nodded. “You’re right, this is your place of employment. If they think you had something to do with this, you don’t know where your next paycheck would come from.” She put her hand to her heart. “Solidaridad, hermano.” He would have laughed if he weren’t so offended.
He got this a lot, actually. No one could ever guess his heritage, and he did not look like his parents remotely, so no one would assume he was the scion to the country’s most profitable development firm. He was the brown-skinned Asian in the crowd of pale, patrician faces. At six foot two, he was freakishly tall for a Filipino, unfashionably dark for a Taiwanese, too vaguely Asian for his white American friends, and too socially awkward for the wealthy socialite set. His loving adoptive mother and father never seemed to notice how often their multicultural children were mistaken for the servants’ children. His Kenyan sister, his Slovenian brother. No one was ever really sure how they all fit together, but they had, and before the accident, they had all been happy. Only two Fitzgeralds had escaped that car accident. And while he was grateful he and his little sister survived, Dorsey sometimes wished that someone other than him—someone more worthy of the title—could protect the family’s interest.
People like this insipid woman with ridiculous hair did not see past his race to determine his position in society. Was he a busboy out for a smoke break to her?  The gall. She put her hands on his forearms and frowned, appearing slightly surprised by the soft buttery feel of the coat. 
“So nice . . . What is this material?” she asked. 
“Merino wool,” he said coolly. “Hand-tailored.” A wholly unnecessary comment, but he wanted her to take the bait. His responsibility was over, really. He had subtly told her he wasn’t who she thought. To her credit, her smile did not waver. Her eyebrows knit together with the slightest tell of confusion. 
She was probably the prettiest girl in her little neighborhood. Who, in this sad-ass place, could say no to that high-beam smile? She was pretty, he allowed, but he had grown up with sun-kissed California girls, met Nigerian princesses, lounged on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro with Brazilian beauties, and bought items right off a model at Paris Fashion Week just to see her naked—so he could certainly handle DC pretty. So why were his nails digging into his palms? He was too wired. Perhaps he had smoked one too many.
When she saw that neither her Instagram barter nor flirting was working, she reached into her tiny purse and pulled out two crumpled ten-dollar bills. 
The absolute nerve of this woman. 
“I was saving this for the bar, but why don’t you hold on to it? You didn’t see me here,” she said—and winked! This woman winked! What kind of used car salesperson was she?
“Sure, lady.” He took the twenty dollars and grinned. “Why don’t you let me put your signs in the kitchen? I know a real good place,”
“Oh, I couldn’t . . . ” the woman said, though he could already see that she was considering it. 
“There is no way to hide them in the ballroom. You’ll show your hand too soon. There’s security everywhere,” Dorsey offered sweetly.
“Really? I didn’t see much . . . .” the woman said, looking around. “The fools who set this up put security on the entrances, but not the exits. All you have to do is catch someone coming out.” Of course, this little hoodlum knew how to get around security.
“The person... er people who set this up are smarter than that. I’m kind of on the inside of this, so...” 
The woman seemed to soften. “I guess you would know.” She nodded slowly. “Okay, you’re right... Actually, that’s a better idea. I should have thought about how it would look on the inside.” She patted his shoulder the way you would pat the haunches of an obedient pet. 
Dorsey was nearly seething now. I am a damn thirty-year-old man!
“They can’t be paying you much here.” She looked into his eyes, all fake-earnest, with the condescension that seemed to be the natural birthright of do-gooders. “But there are people out here who see your struggle.” She touched his sleeve again. 
When had he given her permission to touch him so? His cheeks burned. A blush is a perfectly reasonable reaction to anger.
“Oh, they give you such nice uniforms,” she continued and rubbed his forearm again. “I just want you to know we’re fighting for the rights of everyone in this community: Black, Latino, Asian, whatever,” She held her hand out like a job interview candidate—all enthusiasm and fake bravado. “I’m Liza. You may already know my voice.” She cleared her throat. “The only DJ that gives a jam?” When he didn’t respond, she faltered slightly “And are you full-time event staff? What do you do?” 
This was his chance once again to set her straight. He let it pass.
“You mean besides co-conspiring with back-alley activists?” Dorsey quipped and was pleased to see her eyes sparkle. He rarely made jokes that landed. “What do you think I do?” he asked. Why am I trying to prolong the conversation? 
“Um... audition as the villain in telenovelas?” Liza retorted. 
Dorsey let out a genuine laugh at that, surprised by someone for the first time in... he didn’t know how long.
“Sell vape pens out of your coat?” she continued. 
Dorsey clutched his chest. “Ouch, you think I would vape?” 
“I smell the remnants of a nasty habit. And you have a man bun.”
“I smoke when I’m nervous. But I try not to make being nervous a habit.” Why did this woman need a run-through of his insecurities five minutes into meeting? He touched the small bun at the back of his head. His stylist convinced him this would be “dead sexy,” but he probably wouldn’t wear it again. She flashed him another smile. He was surprised at the tiny jolt.
“You have nothing to be afraid of. I’m the one who has to stand up to some old white dude—Dorsey Fitzwhateverthehell. It’s truly terrifying to make people with money angry. One snap of his powerful fingers, and I’m poof! Gone!” Her arms flailed like a magician.
“Oh, sounds dangerous. How will you know when you’ve found him? Did you look him up?” 
“Look at me.” Liza leaned in close. At this angle, if he wanted to, he could see the soft rise of her breasts. But he didn’t want to. He would not look down her bodice. He would not be one of those guys that ogled-.
He looked down her bodice. 
“I’ll know who he is, because I can sniff out a self-entitled old-money asshole in three seconds flat. I’ll just follow the trail of ass-kissers and hangers-on.” She was actually swaggering. She was John Wayne with an excellent pair of breasts. 
“Good strategy,” was all Dorsey could say.
“I’ll come find you in an hour. We’re going to blow the lid off this place. Then you can take me out dancing.” Her hips swayed inelegantly as she attempted a sexy saunter. She was not pulling off sky-high heels. But he watched her smooth back all the way down to the V above her tailbone. What would it feel like to grip that tiny waist, both hands on the small of her back, his thumbs resting on her tailbone? The back of her dress disappeared into the ballroom, leaving him with nothing but her signs.
Thinking only of that cinnamon swath of skin, he almost pulled out his phone to search “Latin Dance Clubs in DC” when his smile faded. He didn’t dance. He wasn’t Latino. She had charmed him after all. It was so simple. He was astonished and angry at the same time. 
The double doors hadn’t even closed completely behind her before he set a match to the pile of wooden stakes and papers.

From PRIDE AND PROTEST published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Nikki Payne.

About the Author

Jane Austen's Sassy Black Friend

Nikki Payne is an anthropologist who can. not. turn. it. off. 

I love to force my characters into new environments  new cultures and in finding love, they change the way they see the world. Church, cemeteries and romance novels are still the most segregated places in America. My romances, inspired by the classics turn expectations on their head. It's cultural commentary, for the hopeless romantic. Find out more at

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