Available Jan. 31, 2012
About the Book
Her Husband. Their faith. . . . Will it save them before it’s too late, or will an enemy from their past destroy their marriage forever?
Angelina Preston tunes out the voice of God when she decides to divorce her husband, Greg. She’s forgiven him for his affair, but she won’t forget, even though her heart is telling her to. Shortly after she files divorce papers, she finds out her non-profit organization is being investigated by the IRS for money laundering. In the midst of the very public scandal, Angelina becomes ill. Through financial and physical trials, she learns that faith and forgiveness may really be the cure for all that ails her, but can she forgive the people who hurt her most?
Sexy, successful Dr. Gregory Preston didn’t appreciate his wife when he had her. His affair with a devious man-stealer has him put out of his home and put off with women who continue to throw themselves at him. Greg wants his wife back, but he’ll have to do some fancy operating to get her. When the secrets and lies from his past continue to mess up his future, Greg finds himself looking to the God he abandoned long ago for a miracle only faith can provide.
Samaria Jacobs finally has the one thing she’s always wanted: a man with money. The fact that she’s in love with him is a bonus, but even so, life is anything but blissful. She’s paying for her past sins in ways she never imagined and living in fear that the secret she’s keeping will separate them forever.
Read an Excerpt
My heart nearly pounded out of my chest as I said the words. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
Mekhi Johnson slid an enormous princess cut diamond ring onto my finger and the room that was filled with more than one hundred people we didn’t know erupted into a deafening applause. I released the air in my lungs, smiled and leaned forward to kiss Mekhi on the lips.
Familiar music began to play in the background; Mekhi stood from his down-on-one-knee position and pulled me from my chair to my feet. The recording artist, Ne-Yo, stepped onto the small stage near us and began to sing one of his older songs, “Stop This World.”
“Time for a dance.” Mekhi swept me onto the floor. Ne-yo’s voice massaged the words to his hit song, and I fell into step with Mekhi. He lowered his lips to mine and kissed me hungrily, almost too hungrily for the public. Our lips parted. “Surprised?”
He knew I was. We hadn’t talked about getting married. Not really. We’d just reconciled a few months ago after being separated from each other for eight years. And there was the matter of my pending trial and prison term.
“You know I’m surprised.” I raised my hand and placed it on his shoulder.
“But you don’t look happy.” Mekhi leaned away from me a little. “You look stressed, baby.”
I was stressed, more stressed than a ring from Tiffany’s could help. The light hit my diamond, and it caused a rainbow hued sliver of light to slice the air in the room. I had to admit, the ring was a good effort. He had paid a fortune for this monstrosity. It had all the four c’s and then some.
“Sammie.” Mekhi pulled me closer and whispered in my ear. “What’s wrong?”
Truth. Mekhi and I had made a solemn vow that we would always tell each other the truth. Aside from fidelity, it was the only promise we’d made, and yet less than five minutes after he asked me to become his wife I was going to lie to him.“I ate some Chinese food today and my stomach has been bothering me.” His brow furrowed, and I changed the subject. “You must be some big shot getting Ne-Yo to sing for us.”
We both looked at the singer. Happiness like this can never last, can never last. Ne-Yo nodded at us and smiled.
“I’ll be an even bigger shot if I can get him away from his label,” Mekhi said and I almost laughed at the thought that he could steal Ne-Yo from Def Jam, but even the joke couldn’t pull joy from my soul.
I looked out at the smiling faces in the crowd. My family, which consisted of my mother and two cousins, had come out, as had Mekhi’s mother and brother and a few of our friends from high school. The rest of the audience consisted of Benxi, Mekhi’s multi-platinum recording star, the only star on his fairly new, but quickly rising record label, the Real Housewives of Atlanta and every other celebrity and wanna-be celebrity that called Atlanta home. I should have been thrilled. This was the life I had always wanted. Money, jewelry, parties, celebrity…but I wasn’t. It was happening at the wrong time. This party was happening on the wrong day.
“I need to go to the restroom.”
“Now?” Mekhi frowned. We were the entertainment for our guests, and I knew the least I could do was finish the dance, but I couldn’t. I was going to throw-up.
“Now.” I pulled away, just enough for him to know it couldn’t wait.
“Okay, baby.” He let go of my waist. I smiled at the room full of people and quickly made my way to the ladies’ room.
“Restroom break,” Mekhi said and I could hear laughter above Ne-yo’s crooning. I've never felt a love strong enough to stop this world from spinning…
I closed the door and turned the lock. My world was spinning, but not in a good way. I went to the sink and turned the faucet for cold water. I splashed some on my face and in my mouth; pulled paper towel, wet them and wiped my chest and neck. When I was done I dropped my upper body against the counter. My elbows rested on the porcelain lip of the sink, and through wet hands I choked back tears. Mekhi had done everything in his power to make tonight wonderful for me. He knew the stress I’d been under. Waiting for a trial that would likely send me to prison for stealing and distributing prescription drugs was hard, especially when I was guilty, but he couldn’t make what I learned today right.
My doctor opened a file on her desk. “You’re eleven weeks pregnant.”
I sat back in my chair. The breath I’d been holding escaped my lungs.
She looked down her nose through aqua blue reading glasses before she removed them. “You’re not surprised? You took a home pregnancy test.”
I stood to my feet, walked on shaky legs to the huge window adjacent from the chair I’d occupied and peered out at downtown Atlanta. The hustle and bustle of traffic was at its mid-day high, but my world had just stopped. “I thought I had a period a few months ago.”
“You likely had some bleeding from implantation, not a menstrual cycle.”
“Eleven weeks.” I turned away from the window to look at her. “I can’t be that far along.”
“But you are. The sonogram confirms it.”
I shook my head, felt nausea engulf me.
“Samaria. Is there something wrong?”
A knock sounded at the restroom door, pulling me from my memory. “Samaria,” I heard my cousin Ebony call. “Mekhi asked me to check on you. You okay in there?”
I returned my gaze to the mirror. I was not okay, as a matter of fact, everything was wrong. I placed my hand on the tiny mound that had raised my abdomen just enough for me to notice a change. The diamond on my finger caught the light and reflected off the mirror in front of me. Mekhi loved me, but he was marrying me, because I was pregnant. I knew that. He’d said we’d do it eventually, but there was no point delaying it since the trial was pending and the baby was coming. What he didn’t know, was eleven weeks ago, I’d slept with not only him, but my ex-lover, Gregory Preston, and I had no idea which one of them was the father of this baby.
“I can’t ever trust you again.” I slid the divorce papers across the table. “It’s over, Greg, just sign them.”
I watched my husband sit back and slump in his chair. “But –” he began.
“Don’t say it.” I waved a hand to cut him off. “It won’t matter.”
“But, I do,” he continued, “I love you. I want to work this out.”
Our waitress crept past us. Our menus were still open, so she continued to the next table. I supposed she’d assumed we still weren’t ready to order. Little did she know if any eating was going to happen, Greg would be doing it by himself. I wasn’t planning to stay around long enough to dine. I just wanted to meet in a public place so I could end the conversation on my terms and so I wouldn’t be weak.
“Angelina, are you listening to me?” The velvety tenor of his voice pulled me from my thoughts. “I feel like this is more about Samaria than it is about me.” He pushed the papers back in my direction. “If it hadn’t been her –”
“It’d still be over.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“Why, because I put up with it before?” My mind went back to the other affair, an anesthesiologist at a conference. It was one weekend, but it cut me to the core. I remembered the pain in my heart, the months it took to stop crying, and what it took to rebuild trust. But nothing had compared to the way I felt when I’d found out about Samaria.
I’d suspected there might be another woman, but not somebody I knew, someone I considered to be a …friend. I closed my eyes to the pain that was still fresh. Then reopened them and met the sad gaze of my husband; soon to be ex-husband. I cut my eyes away from him before his good-looking-ness melted my resolve.
Greg Preston was the most handsome man I’d ever known in my life, better looking than the actors on television. His looks were the gift of a Creole mother and a dark-skinned Cuban father. He had skin the color of a cocoa bean and hazel eyes so sharp in contrast to his complexion that it gave him an exotic look, almost animalistic; like a wolf dipped in chocolate.
“Talk to me, Lena,” he pleaded. It was so unlike Greg to beg for anything. He’d been begging for months. “Punish me, but don’t do this. Please, can’t we try?”
I released a plume of air from my lungs and forced Samaria’s face from my mind. “I wanted to work it out before,” I said. “I wanted another child, so I thought if I just put up with you no matter what, I’d eventually get pregnant again.” I pushed the thought of our deceased daughter, Danielle, from my mind and forced myself to take in a breath of air. “But now, I realize I’ve been a fool.” I shifted my eyes away from him. “For years, I’d been a fool.”
“So are you saying you haven’t loved me for a long time?”
“No. That’s not what I’m saying.” My eyes met his. “I’m saying I compromised because I wanted a baby, but now I realize it was silly to try to have a baby with a man I don’t trust.”
Greg loosened his tie like he needed air to speak. “I didn’t ask you if you trusted me. I want to know if you still love me.”
“Greg,” I said sharply, “what part of ‘that doesn’t matter’ don’t you understand?”
“Lena, It’s not like I knew who she was.” He leaned forward, raised his voice a little, and we both looked to the left and right to see if we’d drawn an audience.
True, Greg had not known that Samaria Jacobs, the woman he was sleeping with, was the same woman I’d befriended and had known as Rae Burns. Greg had not known his mistress was so devious that she’d joined my church and wormed her way into my life, all with the intention of gleaning enough inside information to wreak havoc on our marriage. But it didn’t matter, I’d told myself the first affair was the last affair, and I was standing on that, no matter how much he begged, no matter what my heart said. It was time to use my head.
“What about my will?” I ignored the voice in my head and slid the papers that had now become a “hot potato” back across the table.
Greg lowered his head, when he raised his eyes, unshed tears shown in them. “I know – I know I was wrong, but I thought – I thought Christians were supposed to forgive.”
It was me who sat back now. I was shocked he’d pulled the Christian card on me. Steam rose in my belly, and I was annoyed that he’d hit a nerve. I’d wrestled with the same thought all week; the thought or the voice that entered my head when I accepted the papers from my attorney.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to just have these served?” Mavis Benchley, one of the top divorce lawyers in Atlanta had asked as she peered suspiciously over her glasses.
“No. He’s asked to meet with me this week, so I’ll just give them to him myself.”
“Don’t do it.” There was the Holy Spirit again. I felt an uneasy burst of perspiration, and my breath caught in my throat for a moment. But I shook my head, just as I was doing now. I didn’t want to hear what that voice was asking me to do.
“Forgive?” My hand felt unsteady. I returned the glass to the table. “What makes you think I haven’t forgiven you?”
Greg’s face clouded over with confusion. He didn’t really understand the doctrine of forgiveness, and he’d just played himself. “If you’ve forgiven me why this?” He let his eyes fall on the papers for a second and then returned his heated stare to mine.
“Because forgiveness doesn’t always mean things will work out the way you want them to. Forgiving doesn’t mean a happy ending.” I raised my glass and took another sip. My stomach felt like it was in knots, and the same bead of perspiration was forming over my lip.
“I can read you. You still love me.”
I hated that those words were true. I hated that I wanted nothing more than to reach for his hand, let him touch me and take me home and make love to me again. I was such a fool for this man. And even though it had only been three months since we’d separated, celibacy wasn’t wearing well, not after thirteen years of marriage and good lovemaking. I wanted…I needed. No, be strong. You have to end this. “I want a divorce.” I looked him squarely in the eyes, prayed my waning confidence didn’t allow him to read me.
Greg threw his head back and touched the papers as if my final declaration had made them real. He picked them up for a few seconds and lowered them to the table. He did not meet my gaze when he said, “I need my attorney to look at them.”
“I’m not really asking you for anything.”
That statement got his head up. “What does that mean?”
“I just want the house. I’m going to sell it and buy something smaller.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Greg frowned. “I will not agree to give you nothing.”
“I thought it would be easier –” I stopped, pressed my lips together and then began again. “I thought it would be faster and I’m willing to do anything—”
“To be free of me.” He raised his hand and washed his face. “I won’t let you walk away without a decent settlement. It wouldn’t be fair.”
I thought of Katrice, my new daughter or soon to be daughter, once the final hearing for her mother’s parental rights had been held. They’d be severed and then I would be free to adopt her. Having the extra money in the bank would look good on my adoption application, and I could use all the pluses I could find with the divorce pending. Single parents adopted children all the time, but having a strong financial situation could help the application.
“Can you see Phil right away?” I asked, knowing he’d give them to his fraternity brother, who for many years had been our personal attorney.
Greg put the papers inside the manila envelope I’d delivered them in. “In a rush?” He closed the metal clasp and let out a long sigh.
“Not really, but it’s a good time to sell the house,” I replied. “The truth is…I have a buyer.”
He nodded absently, like he had emotionally checked out of our battle of wills. “Go ahead and sell it. You don’t have to wait for the divorce if you have a buyer.” His eyes were so sad that I could barely stand to look in them. He dropped his head. He was looking down, at what I had no idea, but I could tell he was concentrating really hard. He raised his head, swallowed and in the most desperate tone I’d ever heard, he moaned my name. “Angelina, it hasn’t even been that long. Can’t we –”
“Save your breath.” I stood. “I’m not going to change my mind.” I picked up my handbag. “Just have Phil send them to my attorney, and please, come get the rest of your things from the house. They’re in the garage.” I turned on my heels. I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye, so I didn’t. The emotional rollercoaster in my spirit moved me through the restaurant like a car on rails. Once on the street, I did a slow jog to the entrance of the parking garage, and impatiently tapped my foot as I waited for the parking valet. Not wanting to wait even a second for change, I over-tipped him, slid behind the wheel, and gunned the gas. I was running and I didn’t know if it was from my husband, myself or my God.
Available on January 31, 2012 wherever books are sold, including Wal-mart. Also online at Amazon, BarnesandNobles, BooksAMillion, IndieBookStores
Please visit the author at her website and her blog and at http://www.rhondamcknight.net/