About the Book
Cameron Scott’s reality T.V. show career is spiraling into an abyss. She’s desperate enough to do almost anything to keep a roof over her head and provide the financial support that’s needed for her daughter and ailing grandmother. When her estranged husband, Jacob Gray, reenters her life offering a lifeline she realizes she still loves him. Cameron has kept a painful secret that continues to be at the root of the unspoken words between them. She’s a woman of great faith, but regaining trust requires telling all and healing old wounds that she believes would destroy any chance for happiness they could have.
Jacob Gray believed he’d spend the rest of his life loving his wife, that is until he discovered she was pregnant and there was no way it could be his child. He tried to put Cameron out of his mind and heart, but five years have passed and he still loves her. Jacob risks everything, including his fortune, in hopes of getting a second chance at love. Though he quickly discovers Cameron’s not interested in rekindling what they had years ago.
Will Jacob convince her to forgive the mistakes in their past and allow each other to heal their broken hearts?
Fame comes at a price. Cameron Scott knew that better than anyone in her circle. One day you were “fab” and up. The next day you were down, walking the streets like a nobody with hashtag FAIL on your forehead. Fans, the media, friends and family talked about you on either end of the extreme, but you were invisible when you fell in the middle which was where Cameron was thought to be at this point in her career. Technically, she was actually at the bottom. Her fans just didn’t know it yet.
Her contract with RAT Productions, Real American Television, was not going to be renewed. The show, similar to The Chew and The View, was replacing her. Her former boss was clear that she wasn’t gritty enough for the sexy relationship chatter the show wanted to be known for nor had she brought authenticity to her feelings about what was going on in the featured guests’ lives.
Authenticity to her feelings? He didn’t want that. She’d never have a single good thing to say about a man. That was REAL. Every experience she’d ever had was negative, from the first man in her life to the most recent, her ex-fiancé, Doctor Rick Housely. If Cameron’s thoughts could kill, he’d be resting in peace right now for announcing their break-up on television before he even told her. And she thought the folks sending break-up text messages were bad. Rick was such a jerk.
Housely was being interviewed on Entertainment This Week. When the interviewer asked him about their wedding date, he’d turned toward the camera with a sincerity that only those dreamy eyes of his could convey, and said, “I love you, Cameron, but I’ve searched my heart and prayed to God. I’m not ready for marriage. I hope you’ll forgive me. I hope America will forgive me.”
“Have you forgiven yourself?” the interviewer asked pushing the microphone further into his face. If she wasn’t careful she’d hit that new cap he had on his front tooth and he’d jump on her.
Rick continued, “I have, because I know we’re human and we make mistakes.”
Human. Rick was barely that. Ambitious. That was more like it. And gay. Most definitely gay. If Cameron hadn’t searched her heart, she’d shout that out to the entire world. But she had searched her heart and realized there was no reason to out Housely. Telling the world she’d accepted an engagement ring from a gay man was way down on the list of things she wanted to talk about. In fact, taking a ring from any man bottomed out a long time ago. And the truth was, she didn’t love him. He’d lied about his sexuality and she’d lied about a few things of her own, so they were even.
“You look familiar,” the taxi driver stated peering back at her.
Cameron noticed he’d been stealing glances every so often and she knew that peek. It was the, ‘I’ve seen you on T.V.’ look that she’d grown accustomed to getting. “Weren’t you on that show with that guy?”
Cameron bit her tongue to keep from rolling her eyes and looked down into her purse. “Yep. Is There A Saved Man In The House?”
He snapped his fingers. “That’s right. That’s right. The dating reality show.” He nodded his head a few times. She could tell he was smiling to himself like he’d figured it out on his own. “Sorry about the breakup.”
Cameron looked up and forced a smile. “Thank you, but I’ve decided to assume it’s for the best.”
“Yes, but to put it on T.V. like that,” he began. “I don’t know how you Hollywood people do it. I don’t think you could pay me a million dollars to be on T.V. with all those cameras following me and knowing all my private life.”
Cameron took in his reflection in the rear-view mirror then sized up the condition of the grungy taxicab. Couldn’t pay him a million dollars? She wondered what one had to pay him to get a haircut. People loved talking about what they wouldn’t do for money until money was offered to them. “The show was mostly scripted.”
“Script what?” he asked, his thick African accent getting stronger.
“There are writers. It’s not all real. We’re like actors.” She waited a beat and then added. “It is entertainment you know.”
“But people think it’s real.”
He had a valid point. And what people thought did matter. At least it did to her, but again, she wasn’t outing Housely. Theirs was a relationship built on mutual need. Housely needed to launch his film career and she needed money, lots of it. That’s why she’d auditioned for Is There A Saved Man.
Cameron never expected the on screen chemistry between her and Rick Housely to be so strong, especially since they didn’t really click much off screen. Rick had set his eyes on her early and their cat and mouse game had captured the hearts of America; the last show being the one where Rick proposed and placed a huge diamond ring on her finger. Cameron reluctantly said yes. She knew she didn’t love him. He didn’t love her. And there was the matter of his questionable sexuality. She figured they would eventually break up. But even with all the anticipation of that moment, the show had been Cameron’s lucky break in more ways than one. She had the diamond, but more importantly, she was a reality television star. Every talk show from Good Morning America to Jimmy Kimmel wanted to interview her and then out of those interviews came a weekly spot on Real TV to do a piece about Christian dating. Then she got her big break with RAT Productions for the I Heart Show. But she’d blown it. She’d blown it because she couldn’t go the distance with the pretense.
Initially, she’d been fine with the dismissal. The show was stupid. She was sure she’d get another job. After all, she was Cameron Scott, America’s reality show sweetheart. But meeting after meeting, after meeting there hadn’t been a single offer. Not one call back. No interest in her at all. She was out of meetings and more importantly; she was out of time and money.
“401 Fifth Ave.” The taxi driver’s voice awakened her from her musing or was the blues a better way to describe her thoughts? Cameron was feeling sorry for herself. Sorry with a capital S.
She turned toward the passenger side window. Through the light misting of rain she glimpsed the aging building that housed the studio. She wrinkled her nose disapprovingly. Times Square, the heart of the theater district, was also the home to many of the country’s T.V. studios. This building was less than a mile away from Times Square, but it felt like it was on the other side of the world. Hashtag FAIL. She couldn’t help thinking it.
“Thanks.” Cameron handed the cab driver the fare she couldn’t afford and accepted the receipt he’d dutifully printed without asking. The cab ride was a splurge. It had been pouring down rain when she left home. She didn’t want to wrinkle or stain her Armani suit traveling on the train in the rain. With dark glasses donned, she’d definitely be on the subway for the trip home.
Cameron opened the door and a blast of bone chilling wet air hit her like a brick. Manhattan in the winter…she hated it. She forced herself out of the warm taxi. Unbeknownst to her, she stepped right into an invisible hole in the asphalt. She gasped and twisted her body awkwardly to keep from falling. Fortunately, the door provided support otherwise she would have been sprawled out on the pavement.
“You okay, miss?” the driver called. His concern was genuine, but it was not appreciated. Cameron shook her head, turned to him and shot him the stink eye. He should have been more careful about where he’d stopped the passenger side door.
“I’m fine. No thanks to you!” She slammed the door like only a true New Yorker could. Glad that the heel of her Manolo shoe hadn’t come off in the tussle, Cameron stepped up onto the sidewalk, smoothed her skirt and stopped breathing. She turned, the taxi whizzed down the street.
Her attaché case.
She’d left it on the backseat. Not only was it her favorite Coach bag, it also held her resume. How was she supposed to show up for the meeting without it?
Cameron swallowed, let out a long breath and counted to ten. “Pull it together. You know what this is about. You can’t let it rock your confidence.” She spoke the words out loud to herself, but thought inwardly, if you don’t get this job, you’ll be homeless.
Sufficiently motivated, she shook off thoughts of what she didn’t have. She’d have to improvise. It wasn’t the first time and as long as she was in the entertainment industry it surely would not be the last. But, she did want her bag back. Glad she noted the driver’s name and taxi number, as she always did, Cameron tapped on her phone until she found the main number for Yellow Taxi, filed a missing item report and put in a request for the driver to call her to get it redelivered. She entered the building, showed security her appointment letter and rode the elevator to the third floor.
“I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.” She closed her eyes tight and whispered the verse from Psalm 37 over and over during the ride. The elevator doors opened. Cameron walked into a lobby full of women. Most of them were familiar: a couple of former stars from the Housewives franchise, one of the twins from that show about the sisters, she could never remember which was which, Tia and Tamera and one of the youngins’ from the Kardashian clan. Her breath caught in her throat. So much competition. She wanted to repeat the scripture again, affirm what she knew by giving the Word power, but the only thing she could think as she approached the receptionist desk was maybe she wasn’t one of the righteous.
Five minutes into her meeting with the producer, she was sure she wasn’t.
“I can email it as soon as I get home,” Cameron replied to the question about her resume.
Myron Panther, the assistant producer, smiled tightly and said, “No need. I’m used to poor preparation, so I have the agents send the resume. The pictures are no big deal. I’ve seen you on camera.”
Cameron fidgeted with her gloves under the table. “The show sounds very interesting. It sounds like a project I could really put my heart into.” She pulled her bottom lips between her teeth. She couldn’t believe she’d said something so incredibly dumb. She’d been fired from I Heart for not putting her heart into it.
Panther cocked an eyebrow. “I find it interesting that you were on a show about relationship talk and it didn’t seem to be the best fit for you.”
Cameron shifted in her chair. She had no doubt he knew the details of her dismissal. The audience had been polled a few times. Too many said, “They didn’t feel her.” She’d been hired to talk about things people loved, hence, the title for the show, I Heart. Those topics were food, fashion and celebrity gossip, but the show just seemed to focus on relationships: love, marriage, divorce and betrayal amongst celebrities and other famous people. She didn’t want to talk about that every day and everyone knew it.
Cameron didn’t want to appear too thirsty, but the reality of her situation was she was panting for a drink and soon she’d be starving for something to eat. She had no job, no money and a mountain of debt. She was going to be evicted from her apartment and the bank had already picked up her car. She owed her agent and best friend ten thousand dollars. The meager two thousand dollars she’d gotten when she pawned the last of her jewelry a few weeks ago was almost gone. As soon as she paid her cell phone bill tonight her bank account would be down to four hundred dollars. She had to get this job or she was going to have to start thinking crazy things about what she’d have to do if she didn’t. And she did mean, cray-cray as in rob a bank. She shook her head to try and erase the image of her clothes on the street, raised her chin and decided to tell the truth, well part of it. “I could have done better on Heart. I’m properly motivated to do whatever it takes to make my next show a success.”
Myron rolled his eyes. “So, are you saying the fifteen thousand a week they were paying you wasn’t enough to motivate you?”
She swallowed, hard, and scrambled for a better answer. She couldn’t think of anything, so instead of a lie, she decided to add more of the truth. “I was dealing with some personal problems. My grandmother had a stroke. The situation was grave and that distracted me, but I’m back on my game. I’m back to being the woman
America fell in love with on ” Saved Man.
She hoped the plug about the show would remind him of the stellar ratings. Three and a half million viewers a week on a cable network was a hit in today’s rating game.
He nodded like he’d given that a quick thought and put his pen down. “We’ll be in touch with your agent if we want you for the pilot.” His face was completely unreadable, but Cameron had heard that twenty times in the last four months. Her heart sank.
She stood and exited Panther’s office. The women that remained either rolled their eyes at her or gave the courtesy smile competing actors shared in waiting rooms. She held her head high and did what she did best; pretend it was all right. She went to the secretary’s desk and stated, “I’ll have my agent send that fax right over to Mr. Panther.”
The young girl looked at her like she was crazy, but nodded.
“You have a good afternoon,” Cameron continued. Then she turned toward the elevator. Relief engulfed her. The doors were standing open. She stepped inside and pushed the button several times, willing the doors to close before anyone else could join her, before anyone could see her lose it. She would not make it to the lobby before she broke down and cried.
The metal grate clanked beneath Jacob Gray’s feet. Metal clanking, snow crunching, and the light whisper of the wind were the only sounds that could be heard for miles around. He loved the solace. He craved the peace.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”
Jacob smiled, pushed his snow goggles up and waited for his best friend, Ethan Wright to do the same. He looked out over the mountain they’d lifted to. Snowflakes the size of quarters melted against his hands and face. The floodlights on the slopes illuminated the dancing snow that floated to the ground.
“Any reason why we have to do this now?” Ethan asked.
This time Jacob laughed. “It’s more fun at night, plus the snow will be coming down so thick in the morning we won’t be able to see three feet in front of us.”
Ethan groaned. “And none of that is a good reason to be up here at this time of night trying to whup your butt.”
“This is practically a bunny slope,” Jacob teased.
“Oh yeah, a thirteen hundred foot vertical drop is a bunny slope all right.” Ethan’s voice was filled with sarcasm.
Jacob was thoroughly amused. “Since when did you get so scary?”
“Since I got married and have something to look forward to. If Deniece saw this slope I wouldn’t have to worry about killing myself going down it, she’d kill me before I could push off.”
“That explains why you left her in New York.”
Ethan shrugged. “I didn’t leave her New York. I got run out of town. She’s having a girlfriend’s weekend with her sister and a few friends. They’re going to the theatre, the ballet, eating out and shopping until the magnetic strip fades off the back of their credit cards.”
Jacob laughed but it didn’t reach his belly. He was happy for his friend’s newfound love with his childhood sweetheart, but he couldn’t help the twinge of jealously he always felt when he talked to Ethan or anyone, for that matter, who was truly in love. Lost love was the reason he was up on this mountain risking his life on a ski slope. “You needed an escape from shoe shopping, so you thought you’d hunt me down, huh?”
Ethan raised a gloved hand and scratched the side of his face. “I’ve missed you, but there’s something you need to know. Since you’ve locked yourself up in that cabin with no phone, no internet and no television I didn’t have a choice but to deliver the news in person.”
Jacob waited a beat and asked. “Is it good or bad news?”
Ethan shrugged. “I think it’s good, but it has the potential to go either way.”
Jacob pulled his goggles down over his eyes. “If you’re not sure, I’m inclined to not want to hear it until we’re done.”
Ethan pulled his goggles down too. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
“You can pass that hundred dollar bill in your pocket to me,” Jacob added as he prepared to push off.
Ethan laughed. “You wish.” The men counted to three before pushing off.
As with all skiing, it didn’t take nearly as long to get down the hill as it did to get up it. The electric ride over long runs and bumps was a temporary fix for Jacob’s depression. When he was on drifts like this, he had no choice but to focus on the trail. Before he knew it, the ride was over and his thoughts returned to his miserable life. He and Ethan were done, back at his cabin releasing their skis and catching their breath. It was time to learn what his friend had traveled so far to tell him.
“So, what is it?” Jacob asked pressing a crisp new hundred dollar bill into Ethan’s waiting hand.
Ethan popped the bill a few times teasingly and put it in his top pocket. “Cameron is no longer engaged.”
Jacob didn’t know if there were any other words Ethan could have said that would have caused his heart to race the way it was racing now. It was a struggle, but he managed to say, “Go on.”
“Her fiancé broke up with her a few weeks ago. He did it on television during an interview.”
Jacob’s jaw went slack.
“Nice guy, right? There’s more.” Ethan dropped his coat and hat into a nearby chair and paused for a beat. “I think she’s in trouble.”
Jacob frowned. “What kind of trouble?”
“You know she hasn’t worked in a good while. She’s being evicted from her apartment.”
“How do you know…?” Jacob hesitated, answering his own question. “Deniece.”
“A story broke on the news. She keeps up with all this stuff. Apparently someone at the city marshal’s office leaked her name to the media.”
“I knew she wasn’t working, but eviction? How could she be broke?”
“She owes nineteen thousand dollars.”
“Nineteen? Where does she live?”
“It’s New York City, man.” Ethan chuckled. “Anyway, she has a place on the upper Eastside. The rent is seven thousand a month.” Ethan paused sticking his hands in his pockets and rocking back and forth on the heels of his boots. “So, now that you know this you need to come down from this mountain, my friend and fix it.”
“You talk like it’s that simple.”
“I’m holding you to your word. After that T.V. guy proposed, I was the one who had to be your designated driver for a week. You said that if you ever had a chance with her you wouldn’t blow it.”
“She was just engaged. It’s pretty obvious I’m the only one who hasn’t moved on.”
“Neither one of you have moved on. Getting a divorce is still on both of your to-do lists.”
“Yeah, but she signed the divorce papers. She’s ready to move on.”
Ethan shook his head and eyed Jacob suspiciously. “Look. No excuses. You love the woman. Go tell her. If she doesn’t feel the same then you can move on, but this perpetual state of what if...”
“It’s not that simple. Things were really messed up.”
“So, it was messed up. It’s been almost five years. You’ve tried every dangerous sport known to man, slept with every woman that would have you and drank all the liquor you could handle and still... you’re not over her, so you might as well go and try to make things right.”
“Look, I have to be honest. Some of what I’ve told you I learned through my wife, but most of it I learned another way. I did you a little bit of a favor.”
Jacob squinted, waiting for it.
“I hired a private detective to see what she’s been up to.”
It took a moment for Jacob to process that. He wanted to be annoyed, but that would only make him a hypocrite especially since he’d done it just last year himself. “I guess you did do me a favor. I’m shocked you thought of it.”
“What can I say? You’re my best friend. Your shady ways have rubbed off on me.”
“As if,” Jacob chuckled. “What did you learn?”
“She’s been looking for a job of course. She’s had no luck. She just had a meeting with TCT for a show.”
Ethan shook his head. “I’m not and I know you’re close to some people over there.”
Thompson Christian Television Network. Jacob had friends over there that were more like family. “Seems like the stars are lining up in my favor.”
“You call it the stars. I call it God’s favor.”
“Yeah, I know, I get Christians shouldn’t believe in luck, but some habits die hard. My mother believed the stars aligned.”
“As long as you know what you believe,” Ethan stated firmly. “Now, can we go pack your bags and get out of this place already? I’m not trying to get snowed in up here. I can’t get a phone signal and I need to be amongst the living.”
Jacob didn’t move. He thought about Cameron. The last time he’d talked to her he’d been so angry. It had been so long ago. Would she even be willing to speak to him now? Did he want to talk to her? Could they possibly make a relationship work after what she did? The pain in his heart wasn’t quite as fresh as it had been years ago, but the way he felt about her when he wasn’t thinking about the betrayal was.
You’re the love of my life. I’ll never love another woman more, he’d said. He shook his head. The words were like a curse he’d put on himself.
“You swore you’d try.” Ethan’s voice cut through his thoughts.
Jacob nodded. He hadn’t just made that promise to Ethan. He’d made it to himself. He moved to the closet and reached in for the two suitcases he’d carried in the door when he’d arrived a month ago. He tossed one to Ethan. “You get the drawers and I’ll get the stuff in the bathroom.”
Ethan smiled, removed the hundred dollar bill from his pocket and tossed it onto the bed. “I told myself if you manned up I’d give you your money back.”
Jacob guffawed and picked up the bill. “I may need it my friend. The idea that just popped into my head is going to require a lot of these.” With that said, he went into the bathroom and began to pack.
Rhonda McKnight is the author of the Black Expressions Top 20 bestseller, A Woman’s Revenge (Mar 2013), What Kind of Fool (Feb 2012), An Inconvenient Friend (Aug 2010) and Secrets and Lies (Dec 2009). Breaking All The Rules (Oct 2013) and Give a Little Love (Dec 2013). She was a 2010 nominee for the African-American Literary Award in the categories of Best Christian Fiction Novel and Best Anthology. She was the winner of the 2010 Emma Award for Favorite Debut Author and the 2009 Shades of Romance Award for Best Christian Fiction Novel. Originally from a small, coastal town in
New Jersey, she’s called
home for fifteen years. Visit her at www.rhondamcknight.net
and join her Facebook reading group for discussions about her books at https://www.facebook.com/groups/rhondamcknight/ Atlanta, Georgia