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Caroline McGill's debut novel is a page-turning tale of lust, revenge, drugs, and murder that exposes the raw side of street life.

If she hustled hard enough, she could stay ahead of the game. That was her life story. Always trying to make a dollar outta fifteen cent. . . .

Street-smart Portia Lane traded in her church roots and college degree for sex-fueled stardom as Brooklyn’s hottest stripper. The hood respects her, men in suits open their wallets, her girlfriends— Laila, Simone, and Fatima—have got her back, and the money rolls in. . . . Then Portia breaks her own rules and falls dangerously in love with one of her regulars, and everything about the Life comes into question. Jay is an ambitious music executive who’s a little bit thug, and all sexy—and Portia must genuinely change to win his trust and prove her love for him is not inspired by his wealth. But one way or another, Portia will pay the price for her tumultuous past.

A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent 1 | A NIGHT IN THE LIFE OF PORTIA
RINNG! PORTIA HAD just laid down an hour ago, and was knocked out as if Mike Tyson had sucker-punched her, when the phone rang. She groaned and rolled over to peek at the clock radio on her nightstand. Its red numbers read 4:57 a.m. Rinng! Damn, who the hell was calling her at five in the morning?

It dawned on Portia that it had to be about money. She quickly cleared the sleep frog from her throat so she wouldn’t sound crusty and picked up the receiver. “Hello?” It came out sounding sweet and velvety.

“Why yo’ ass ain’t sleep yet? What, some nigga over there? I’m comin’ through in like fifteen, so get rid of that cocksucka.”

Portia recognized the voice immediately but played him. “Who’s this?”

“Yo, you on some bullshit. You got too many niggas. Bye, man.” He sounded real pissed.

“Jay, wait! I’m just playing with you, dag. I was sleeping, boo. And ain’t no nigga up in here. I told you I don’t get down like that. Now, what’s crackin’, daddy?”

“I’m on my way to your crib now. Get up.” Jay’s tone was serious and demanding, as usual. “Take a shower and put on something sexy.”

“Nigga, you know you ain’t gotta tell me to wash my ass. I’m the cleanest chick you fuck with. But make it thirty minutes, Jay.”

“Nah, man, that’s too long,” Jay exclaimed, as if he’d temporarily morphed from a thug to a child on Christmas Eve.

“Oh, boo-boo,” Portia cooed, like he was a little baby. “Just go to the store and get the rubbers. I’ma make it up to you.”

“Yeah, you better.”

“Jay, buy the Magnums. You know how big Rocky is.” Portia meant to boost his ego, but she spoke the gospel truth. Jay was packing. She casually threw in her pitch. “So, am I gettin’ blessed?”

Jay sucked his teeth impatiently. “Come on, don’t play me like some broke-assed chump. You know how I get down. I ain’t that lame you was fuckin’ wit’ earlier. Thirty minutes, man. One.” Jay hung up before she could say another word.

Portia stretched and gave herself a pep talk. “Get up and get that money, girl.” Jay was a big tipper, so she smiled and slid out of her queen-size bed.

It wasn’t just about the funds. Portia couldn’t front; she really dug him. Unlike the others, Jay wasn’t just some trick. There was something extraordinary about him. But Portia didn’t want to cross that line. Their arrangement was fine the way it was. Still, Jay was the one guy she’d consider loving outside of the life. That is, if he would have her.

Portia glanced out the window of her third-floor apartment at the lamplit streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Bed-Stuy, aka “Do or Die,” was the Brooklyn community where she’d been born and bred. As dawn peeked through the clouds, a sanitation truck made its rounds on the next block, and the B44 bus stopped at the corner of Nostrand Avenue for commuters. Their body language said it was cold as hell out there.

Portia was glad she worked at night. She admired morning people’s drive, but that could never be her out there, freezing and waiting on no bus five o’clock in the morning in January. Sometimes she was just coming home at this hour, but never on no damn bus. Or train. She was far too high-maintenance for that. She’d either take a taxi or get whoever was spending some money that night to drop her off.

Portia was discreet with where she lived because she was no drama queen. She didn’t like her business on Broadway, so outside of work, she kept a low profile. She fought to keep the two spheres of her life separate; the things she did for a living were taboo to her friends. They were all morning people with careers.

Portia didn’t have to do what she did. She’d had a strict upbringing from decent, church-going parents with Southern roots. She’d seen her father dib and dab in a couple of things over the years, though he always schooled her about morals and respect and made sure she knew right from wrong. But Portia was a natural-born hustler. She had it in her blood.

She’d obtained her street savvy and prudence coming up in the learning institution of the ’hood, so she could take care of herself and wasn’t afraid to go anywhere. She’d traveled along the coast paper-chasing, leaving a trail of satisfied men with lighter pockets in her wake. To Portia, pussy was gold and should be treated as such; men were just big wallets. She chose the life, although she could get down intellectually also, because she had an education. Portia was flexible and never ruled out any options.

Her friends knew she was an exotic dancer but were ignorant about the “privates” she did to keep her bank account fat and stay laced. Portia was a glamour girl, and it cost to dress in designer European threads. Make no mistake, girlfriend was fly as hell. When she wore Gucci, she did Gucci from shades to shoes. All official. She’d never be caught dead in any of that bootlegged knockoff shit. That’s how Portia’s whole crew rolled. They rocked top-of-the-line shit, like Marc Jacobs, Armani, Vera Wang, and Prada. The only difference was that they had day jobs, while Portia was queen of the night. Her girls didn’t knock her, but they urged her to reach her full potential.

Ironically, Portia got turned out while trying to hustle up some extra cash in college. She completed school, but after she got accustomed to the fast money and excitement, she couldn’t escape the nightlife. Her logic was simple: Why work a day job for hundreds of dollars a week when I can make thousands?

Five-five, hourglass-figured, and beautifully brown, Portia had a way with men. The kill to her was getting in their pockets. Her silver-tongued charm could disarm the cheapest “I don’t have to pay for pussy” men and make them peel off. She was so classy that, by the time they gave up the money, they were convinced it was for an excellent cause. Portia had the gift of gab, a brain, and a nice package. Even more dangerous was the fact that she knew it and used it as her weapon.

Portia brushed her teeth and jumped in the shower. The hot water’s force dug into her tired muscles like magic fingers. It felt almost like an orgasm. Minutes later, she patted herself dry and got out, and an arctic gust of wind hit her. Shit! She’d forgotten to close the window after a stinky number two almost made her evacuate the premises earlier. She ran and shut it and simplified her beauty ritual because she knew Jay was prompt. Oil of Olay, Dove deodorant, and Johnson & Johnson baby oil gel. Then peach-scented Calgon body spray. Portia skipped the FDS because Jay complained that her “cootchie spray” made his tongue feel numb. She smelled good enough for him to eat, pun intended.

Portia hung up her towel and walked down the hall to her exclusive Italian black-and-white-lacquer-furniture-filled bedroom. She backed it up naked in her dresser mirror. Personally, she thought her ass could use a little more weight on it, but men seemed extremely satisfied. Her 36D’s, tiny waist, and full hips compensated for any shortcomings of the highly acclaimed ghetto bootie. Portia jiggled one of her butt cheeks at a time. That move drove men crazy at the clubs. She glimpsed at the clock. The time said eleven minutes till Jay.

She was really going to freak him this morning. Portia turned on the stereo and sauntered across her superior eggshell-white carpet to the closet for something sheer and sexy. She selected a pink Victoria’s Secret teddy and a pair of pink strap-up, clear-bottomed stilettos from the collection that her homegirl Simone had christened “sexy stripper booty push-uppers.”

Portia tied her shoes and decided to rock a wig, since her hair was damp. She picked out a cute doobie style that was similar to the way she wore her real hair. Portia put on the wig and adjusted it, sprayed on some oil sheen, and ran a comb through it. She painted her lips with brown-sugar MAC lip gloss that complemented her milk-chocolate complexion, and she was ready for Jay with two minutes to spare. Her full, shiny lips were perfectly shaped and enticing. Portia knew how to fuck with a man’s head. She would intentionally OD on lip gloss because she knew the kind of thoughts that went through their brains when they saw a pair of lips like that. Damn, I know she can suck a good dick. Just then, the intercom’s buzz startled her.

Portia ran over and pressed the talk button and inquired sweetly, “Who is it?”

“Buzz me in, man.” Jay sounded impatient.

Portia obeyed and popped two mint Tic Tacs. She left the pack on display in case Jay felt doubtful about his dragons too. But he always smelled good from head to toe. At the thought of it, she yearned for his thug passion. Portia quickly lit two scented candles and switched the CD, and as she sashayed to greet her black stallion, Jaheim’s album came on. She flung open the door and seductively smiled at her prey with her hand on her hip. “Hey, daddy!”

As usual, Jay’s expression was hard, and he was cucumber-cool, but his eyes lit up when he saw her. “Why you in the hallway like that? Close the door before somebody see you.”

Portia locked the door, and when she turned around, she caught him sizing her up. They embraced, and Jay squeezed her behind. His warm breath on her neck made Portia tingle. She reached up and removed the black hat he was wearing, then rubbed his head and stroked his jaw affectionately. “I missed you, baby. Where you been?”

“You smell so good, Ma.” After being around a bunch of hardheads and dope fiends all night while he took care of his business, he found Portia a treat. Jay squeezed her tighter. “Let’s go in the room. Come on.”

Hypnotized by his Burberry cologne, Portia followed him and adored his lean, broad-shouldered frame. Standing six feet two with slightly bowed legs, Jay was the deepest and prettiest possible shade of pecan brown. He had dark eyebrows, sexy lips, and black spinning waves in his hair deep enough to make you seasick. He kept his hairline and goatee shaped up all the time. The brother was truly a work of art, designed by God in a younger Brian McKnight kinda fashion, but with extra thug.

Jay had on a black Iceberg hoodie and matching jeans, which didn’t sag too low and sloppy on his narrow waist and hung nice and loose over his black Timbs. Portia loved the way he dressed. She hated when guys wore their pant legs too tight. And she hated when dudes wore their pants hanging all the way off their asses like they had a load of shit in them.

They went inside Portia’s bedroom, and her hormones jumped double Dutch when Jay sat on the bed and stared at her. His expression was serious, and then he smiled and revealed a great set of white teeth. Jay hardly ever smiled, but when he did, it was like the sunrise. Portia didn’t know which Jay tickled her fancy more: the nonchalant boss or this little boy with the melting smile. He was so handsome.

Suddenly, he was serious again, but this gaze was intense. The heat was building between them.

Portia stood in front of him and palmed his face in her hands. “You are such a fuckin’ dime, baby.”

“Man, go ’head with all that sucker shit. Save it for them lames you fuck with.” Jay knew Portia was full of shit, but he was attracted to her hustling acumen. Most of the chicks he knew depended on a day job and didn’t know how to get money any other way. He knew Portia was the type of chick who kept some scratch and didn’t wait on no man to bring it home. He knew she made a living playing niggas for dough, but he was attracted to the unrelenting “bout it, bout it” shit. She went about hers a different way, but she was grindin’ just like him, and he had come to respect that. For that reason alone, Jay spread love. The more he helped her out, the fewer dangerous things she had to do for money. He dug her and was going to look out anyway, so she could save the G for them lames in the clubs.

Portia laughed. “It ain’t no sucker shit, Pa. You are gorgeous.” His humble demeanor and scent were intoxicating. Portia looked into his eyes and wound her hips to the beat of the music. Jay ran his hands along her thighs.

Portia turned around and did her infamous jiggle, and then she bent over and gave Jay a 3-D view of the goods. Peeping between her legs, she saw that his eyes were hooded with lust.

Jay watched thoughtfully as Portia slowly peeled off her pink lingerie. Sexily, she pushed him back on the bed and stood over his face in one motion. She gyrated her hips down to barely six inches from his face. Unable to stand it anymore, Jay pulled her thighs toward him, and she sighed in bliss when his tongue probed her feminine flower. He appeared to be enjoying himself too. Portia couldn’t help but ask him, “What my pussy taste like, baby?”

“Like candy.” Jay’s voice was barely audible, and he took his time until Portia floated on ecstasy’s magic carpet. He ate that pussy so good, it was hard to tell that he was still a novice to the art of oral love.

Moaning, Portia bent down to kiss him. His breath was sweet. Now it was his turn. She dismounted Jay’s face, trembling, and knelt at his feet as if he were a statue of Buddha. Portia unlaced and removed his Timbs; she was satisfied with his clean white socks and lack of foot odor. She couldn’t stand a funky nigga. Portia mentally noted another gold star for Jay and unfastened his belt.

Rocky was already standing at attention. She slid down Jay’s pants and gray Ralph Lauren boxers, and nine inches of ebony manhood sprang in her face. Portia gasped and fetched the box of Magnums from his back pocket. She tore open one of the gold packages and timed Jay’s usual protest. Five, four, three, two . . .

“Wait, don’t put that on yet,” Jay said as if on cue.

Portia had been messing with Jay for eight months, and he was so predictable. He hated getting head with a condom. It wasn’t that Portia didn’t trust him; it was Jay who’d insisted that they be tested for HIV after their first rendezvous. He said he was feeling her and wanted to fuck with her but needed assurance. She was kind of offended at first, but his caution turned her on. She had always been responsible and practiced safe sex, but she was still afraid, because she hadn’t been tested previously. Portia had agreed, then spent the week beforehand mentally reneging and recommitting.

But Portia kept up with the news, so she knew that all across the world, young black women were dying from AIDS faster than any other demographic. Afraid of becoming a statistic, she went ahead and did it. In the last eight months she and Jay got tested twice, and each yielded a negative result, thank God! It was to her benefit, because knowing she was disease-free erased Jay’s qualms about going down. He used to say he didn’t eat pussy. It took him six months to do it the first time.

Ironically, they continued to use condoms, since AIDS wasn’t the only issue. Portia was twenty-five, with no children, and Jay was twenty-eight, with a four-year-old son and baby-mama drama, so they were both content in the kiddie department. As far as giving him blow jobs, she didn’t mind the actual act, but the thought of cum in her mouth made Portia sick. Though she expressed this to him every time, she made sure Jay left her house feeling pleased.

Jay knew the routine. “I promise I won’t bust in your mouth, Ma. Just do it for a little while.”

She took an escape route. “Jay, I care about you, and I really wanna please you how you deserve. It’s not you, it’s me. Let me get past this mental-block thing first. Okay, baby?” She massaged his balls and kissed the tip. When he moaned, she rolled the condom on and slid Rocky down her throat. Portia tongue-teased the head in small, circular motions.

Soft moans escaped Jay’s throat and proved he loved it. He placed his hand on the back of her head, and Portia faked a heavy ghetto accent. “Dang, nigga! Don’t make my wig come off!”

“Why you got this shit on, anyway? I like your real hair better.”

“So get it done, then, ’cause my head is tore up.”

“You ain’t said nothin’ but a word. Hold me to it.”

She silenced him by deep-throating and sucking the way he loved. Portia sensed he was ready, so she lay down and spread her legs. “I want Rocky now, Poppy.”

Jay slid in and fulfilled her wishes with his big, stiff dick. He was pleased by how wet she was. “Ssss. Damn, Ma. Sss, ooh, this pussy so good.” He pounded her with slow, deep strokes, up and down and side to side.

Portia squeezed the muscles she’d learned to master and transformed her magical hole into a vacuum. She tightened up as he pulled out, and let loose as he slid in. Jay got up inside her to the point where the pressure was a little pain and a whole lot of pleasure. Portia relaxed and let him do the work, and their bodies melted together like warm butter. He was an amazing lover.

That uncontrollable preorgasmic twitch forced her to blurt out her true thoughts. “It feels so good, baby. It’s all the way in my stomach! It’s so big, Jay. Unhh! Ooohh, I’m cumming!” She pulled him closer and deeper inside. Jay’s thrusts continued for about six more seconds before he joined her.

He groaned, probably in an effort to withhold a scream. Portia figured his macho ego wouldn’t let him go out sounding like a bitch. He lay inside of her, and she playfully squeezed his softening manhood. Jay protested but made no effort to withdraw. She held him close and massaged his back. Her pussy was an asylum; he was snoring in under a minute. Portia was lazy with sexual satisfaction also. She rolled Jay off of her and floated to the bathroom to freshen up. The CD changed again, and the sounds of Maxwell filled the room.

When Portia came out of the john, Jay looked like an innocent child sleeping. She grabbed a tissue and removed his condom and tossed it in the trash. Afterward, she used a hot, soapy washcloth to clean his penis and balls.

Jay awakened and peered at her through dreamy eyes. “Come lie down, Ma,” he insisted, and patted the bed.

Portia slid in bed, and he held her tightly from behind. The clock read 7:23 a.m. Together, they drifted into the peaceful calm of a slumber that only two satisfied lovers could share.
Photo by Eden for Eden Photography

Caroline McGill is the author of the A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent series. The prolific Virgo also penned the rave, controversial novel, Sex As a Weapon, a steamy, eye-opening tale about AIDS awareness.