Bad Choices Can Be Deadly

Chanelle Series Book 1

Praise for Bad Choices Can Be Deadly

Monica Lynne Foster is an excellent writer. Just excellent. She had my heart racing trying to figure out who was stalking.” – Victoria Christopher Murray, author of Stand Your Ground

Synopsis

Even beautiful, professional, successful women can have relationship drama. And that’s Chanelle Slate. First she catches her boyfriend of 12 years in a compromising position. In their bed. And she makes it clear to him and his new lover how she feels about his betrayal. Then, against heavenly advice, she seeks comfort in the arms of her married colleague… until he decides to work on his marriage and moves out of state with his wife.

By the time the love she’s wanted all of her adult life is finally in front of her, the mistakes, and sins, of her past come back to haunt her. And she quickly learns that it will be impossible for everyone to make it out alive.

Excerpt

Prologue

Flinging my suitcase across the room, I lunged for the baseball bat by the side of my bed.

“Chanelle, I can explain,” Michael yelled, scrambling to cover himself.

I seethed with rage. “You can’t possibly explain this.” There was no way I’d just come home from a business trip to find the love of my life in our bed with his personal trainer. His male. Personal. Trainer.

“Honest to God, this isn’t what it looks like.” Michael’s hands trembled as he held his arms out in front of him. Pfft, as if that would block my major league swing.

I brandished the bat above my boyfriend’s head and wondered if I could handle a twenty-year bid. “Don’t you dare bring God into your sordid mess.” My voice was on an upward escalator and my blood pressure was in the red zone. “How could I have been stupid enough to trust you?”

I slammed the bat on the side of the bed, causing Michael to scrunch his shoulders and squeeze his eyes shut. “Twelve years. I gave your sorry behind twelve years of my life.”

I hammered down on the other side of him. He whimpered.

Then I turned my fury on Rocco. “And you. I welcomed you into my home.”

Rocco raised his lanky body to his knees, running his finger around his pouty lips. He lifted a perfectly arched eyebrow.  “It’s not my fault you can’t give him what I can.”

Michael’s petrified eyes were trained on me, but he spoke to his man. “Not now, Rocco.”

My chest heaved and my nostrils flared. I adjusted my fingers and tightened my grip around the bat.

With restrained fury, and through gritted teeth, I said, “Get out. Both of you. Get. Out. Now.”

They hopped out of the bed and stooped to pick up the clothes that were strewn across my bedroom floor.

“Unh-uh,” I shouted, using the bat as a pointer toward the door.

Michael, still bent over, paused, as though contemplating what he valued most. His life or his pants. “Chanelle, it’s freezing outside.”

His pleas were mute to me. “You say that like it matters. You have exactly one second to be out of my house or I swear to God, I’m gonna catch a case. Now, go!”

I snatched his car keys from the top of my dresser and chased them down the steps and out the front door. Watching them run butt naked and barefoot down the snowy street of my posh subdivision was suddenly comical. I fell onto the glider on the porch and laughed until I cried as the pain from the betrayal set in. Pain from what I thought was a solid relationship, was really no more than a sham. I’d wasted years of my life with a man who could never be committed to me. I was now… alone.

 

Chapter 1

One Month Later

My eyes glanced to the heavens when I opened the front door and saw Michael standing with his lover. “What are you doing here?”

With nails painted in hot pink, his feminine side was on full display. “Here,” he said, his voice much higher than it had been when we were together.

I glared and snatched the piece of paper from his hands and frowned. “What’s this?”

“You’ve been served, Honey.”

He’d called me ‘Honey’ throughout our relationship, but this time it wasn’t dipped in love. “You’re suing me?”

Rocco stroked Michael’s hand and pursed his lips. “Not him. Me.”

I looked from one to the other. “Y’all have got to be kidding.”

“It’s no joke, Missy. I’ll see you in court.” Rocco whipped his neck as though he were flicking long hair over his shoulder.

I turned to Michael. “And you’re just going to let him do this to me? Like I never meant anything to you?” I waved the paper that cemented his betrayal.

“Chanelle, you burned up everything I owned. So, yeah, I’m behind Rocco on this.”

I thought about the bonfire I’d had right after he breached my trust. I smiled. He was right. I even received a fine from the city because of the blaze. But it was so worth it when Michael showed up with the moving truck the following day and I handed him pictures of ashes. It would’ve made more sense if he was the one suing me. But Rocco? What did I do to him?

I watched Rocco and the man I once loved with everything in me walk down my steps and get into their old Hyundai. Then I groaned and shut the door on a chapter of my life that was closed forever.

 

 

“Hurry up. We’re going to be late.” I called out through the open doorway and up the stairs to my best friend, Michele. I loved her like a sister, but she was slow when we were kids, and nothing had changed.

“Where are you going, Auntie Chanelle?” I looked into the bright eyes of my four-year-old godson, Benjamin Jr. and melted as I always did.

 “Well, I’ve been invited to a Christmas party for my job and your mom is going with me.”

He squinted like he was puzzled. “But Santa already came.”

I smiled at his innocence. “Yes he did. But now, he’s coming to my job so he can hang out with us.”

He frowned and shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense.”

I chuckled. “Wanna hear a secret?”

BJ’s nod was big. “Uh-huh.”

I bent down and whispered. “I don’t get it either. But sometimes grownups have to do silly things.”

“Oh.” He paused, as if he didn’t understand what I was saying. Then he shrugged and asked, “Is my mommy going to?

When I nodded, he continued. Well, who’s gonna read me my bedtime story?”

 “Now, BJ, who always reads to you when Mommy is gone?” I glanced over at Michele’s husband, Ben, who was relaxing in his recliner in their family room, and seemed to be enjoying my conversation with his son.

“Da-ddy.”

I playfully tapped his nose. “Right.”

“But I want Mommy to do it.”

“You want Mommy to do what?” Michele asked, sashaying into the family room and announcing her presence.

“I want you to read me my story,” BJ whined.

Now, I loved my godson, but I didn’t have time for this. We needed to get on the road.

“Sweetie, how about letting Daddy read to you tonight, and I’ll do it tomorrow night?” Michele said.

BJ glanced up and tapped his finger against his chin. “Mmm, okay, if you read me two stories.”

I couldn’t believe they were negotiating, but whatever it took to get us out of this house was fine with me.

“It’s a deal. Can Mommy have a kiss?”

BJ ran into her arms and she scooped him up, depositing him into his father’s lap. “Honey, we should be back around eleven.” She gave Ben a peck on the lips.

He broke their gaze and turned to me. “Don’t get my wife into any trouble. I know how you two can be when you’re together.”

“Whatever, Ben. Michele is the one who’s the bad influence.”

We laughed as she grabbed her purse, coat, and keys.

Once inside my BMW sedan, Michele turned to the jazz station on satellite radio. We drove in silence, each of us lost in our separate thoughts.

It was her voice that disturbed the quiet. “So, are you okay with this?”

“Okay with what?” I pretended like I didn’t know what she meant because she was pushing me to a conversation I didn’t want to have.

“Don’t play with me, Chanelle. This is the first time you’ve gone out since you and Michael broke up. I know you haven’t told anyone about it and people are bound to be curious when you show up with me as your date.”

I shrugged a shoulder, cruising down the on-ramp to the highway. “I’m fine. I mean, I have to be. Right?” I stole a glance at her before returning my eyes to the road. “I thought Michael was my soul mate. That we’d be together forever. But he decided to spend his life with someone who can give him something that I obviously can’t.”

I pressed my signal light and sailed across the three lanes to the far left. “Oh, and by the way, his new man is suing me.”

She leaned away and cocked her head. “You’re kidding. For what?”

“Get this. Frostbite and legal fees. When I kicked them out of my house.” I stopped and began again. “Correction. Out of my bed, without clothes or keys, they were picked up for indecent exposure. But not before his little goodies got too cold and he was hospitalized. He’s coming after me for his medical bills.”

Astonishment was written in the lines across her forehead. “Unbelievable.”

“Tell me about it,” I snarled. “I hope his stuff never works right again.”

Michele chuckled at that, then twisted in her seat to look at me. “Let me know the court date and I’ll go with you. I’m not worried about Rocco. I know you’ll handle him. But you still haven’t told me if you’re really okay.”

My pause was long and my sigh heavy. “No.” I let the word hang in the air. “I’m not okay. Is that what you want to hear?”

Michele knew me well. She knew that I’d laid in bed for a week straight. I’d cried until I thought all my tears were spent, then put on a cheerful face and pushed the sting of rejection to the rear of my mind.

But still, when I wasn’t paying attention, the pain would creep forward and stab my heart.

I stared through the windshield, my car whizzing past the others on the highway. “I thought I’d have a family, a white picket fence, and even a dog at this stage in my life. But I don’t.” I shook my head. “For the first time ever, I’m by myself. I let my twenties and half of my thirties pass me by. Now I have to start over.”

My bottom lip began to quiver, and now was not the time. “I’m on my way to a holiday party for work and you’re my frickin’ date.”

I paused again and pressed my finger into the corner of my eye, willing the tears to stay at bay. “I am not okay, and I feel like I have to pretend that I am. On top of everything else, Michele, I got dumped by a guy who was on the down low. Maybe I was delusional. Maybe I should have known after the first year with Michael that I was wasting my time. In hindsight, the signs were there. I just missed them all.” I released a long sigh. “There. Are you satisfied?”

Michele’s nods were slow and deliberate. “I am. Because this is the first time you’ve been open with me. But, more importantly, it sounds like this is the first time you’ve been honest with yourself.”

She reached over and rubbed my arm. “Sweetie, God has someone incredible for you. Just be patient. Take this time to get to know you all over again.”

“I hear ya. It’s just…” I wiped the lone tear that snuck past my finger. “It’s just I’m really scared to be by myself. And I’m terrified to date again.”

“It’s natural to feel that way. Dating shouldn’t even be your focus. The man for you will appear when you’re whole.”

“Humph. Leave it to a happily married woman to say something lame like that.”

Her guffaw at my sarcasm was laced with the sting of her own hurtful memories. “Hey, you know as well as I do, Ben and I weren’t always in a good space. We had to work like hell to stay together.”

I thought about what she’d said. They’d been a couple forever, but there was a time, in the early years of their marriage, when he’d battled a severe gambling problem. Thankfully, the combination of Gambler’s Anonymous, counseling, and prayer saved their relationship.

But I didn’t see the same fairy tale ending in my future. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. I don’t wanna talk about this anymore, and besides, we’re here.” I rolled to a stop in front of the hotel and waited for the valet to open my door. He handed me a ticket and Michele and I strolled inside.

The grand ballroom lived up to its name. Everything about it was impressive. White cathedral ceilings. Four-tiered crystal chandeliers sprinkled throughout. Round tables covered in cream linen with expensive china place settings and tabletop poinsettias. The chairs were wrapped in red cloth with bows tied behind the backs. White and gold floral arrangements adorned the bar and the dessert tables.

The DJ on stage played soft holiday dinner music while a handful of couples enjoyed themselves on the dance floor.

The host tipped his head a bit and greeted us with a warm smile. “Good evening, may I take your coats?”

“Thank you.” I slipped my midnight-black full-length mink from my shoulders and into his waiting hands. Michele, the animal activist of the group, did the same with her faux fox. Another host escorted us to our table.

We drew attention from horny husbands and jealous wives as we strutted through the dining area. And why wouldn’t they gawk? Michele, in a black glittery wrap dress who’s high-low hem flitted as she sashayed in her Louboutin’s. Me, in a sparkly off-the-shoulder red jumpsuit that put a spotlight on my black girl magic behind and ample cleavage.

As we neared our table, my stomach did two back flips and a somersault. I’d always heard the best way to get over one man was to get under another. If there was any man who could help me forget Michael, it was Sean.

Sean was a marketing consultant for our company, a successful technology firm. We were thriving and several of the accounts we’d acquired were due to the work of Sean’s team. He was around so much, sometimes we forgot he wasn’t an actual employee.

Though we worked together, I’d never entertained the thought of him. But since my breakup, I’d been paying closer attention. And I liked everything I saw.

Milk chocolate brown. Six feet of solid muscle. And he had to wear at least a size thirteen shoe. Hmmm…

I shook my head, hoping to rid my mind of the thoughts that were sure to return frequently before the night ended.

“Good evening.” I smiled and introduced Michele to Sean and the other reason why I shouldn’t have lustful thoughts. His wife.

Michele extended her hand as we took our seats. “Nice to meet you both.”

Cynthia returned the handshake by offering her fingertips. “Likewise.”

She then turned her attention to me. “So, Chanelle,” her voice affected with the drawl of a woman of wealth. Yet, I knew from conversations with Sean that she was on government assistance and was a hot mess when they’d met. “Where’s Michael this evening?”

My back stiffened. Sean had shared that he’d encouraged her to get her GED and ultimately a two-year degree as a veterinarian technician. But no amount of education could replace the class this heifer lacked.

I considered ignoring her, then changed my mind and decided to just answer the question and be done with it. I drew in a full breath. “Actually, Cynthia, we’re not together anymore.” Because he’s banging his trainer, I thought.

“Aww…that’s too bad.” She feigned sympathy that I neither needed nor wanted. “He was so sweet. What did you do to run him away?”

The crimson color that settled in his cheeks told me Sean was embarrassed by his wife. He should have been. Had we been anywhere else, I would have lit into her. But I knew better than to show out at a work function. Still, my eyes narrowed, and my teeth clenched, her one warning that my measured response wouldn’t happen again. “Michael is a very sweet man, which is why we’re able to remain friends.” That lie was all she was getting out of me.

Thankfully, the arrival of Benson Jeffries, my firm’s CEO, and his wife Phoebe ended any further discussion.

Mr. Jeffries, forever the charmer, took my hand and brought it to his lips. “Chanelle, it’s great to see you.”

I grinned at the man who was about forty years my senior and reminded me of my grandfather.

After the second round of greetings, we engaged in mundane corporate holiday party banter. Cynthia seemed to pick up that I wasn’t to be trifled with and with the exception of eating, she kept her mouth shut.

After dinner, she stepped away when her cellphone vibrated, Michele left to check on BJ, and the Jeffries excused themselves to make their rounds at the other tables.

 “Dinner was great,” Sean said, sparking up awkward chit chat.

 I held a finger in front of my lips before swallowing my carrot cake. “It was delicious.”

“So, um, how’s the new proposal coming?”

I was pitching a potential client in the coming weeks and  Sean had been giving me suggestions. If I landed this multi-million-dollar account, I was sure to make partner. “I’m gathering the final numbers, which are a little harder to work through than I anticipated.”

He drank his wine and leaned back into the chair. “Well, let me know if I can be of any more assistance. From what I’ve seen, I think you’re on the right track.”

“If you mean that, then I’d love for you to take a look at the final draft before I present to Mr. Jeffries.”

Sean nodded. “I’ll review it for you.”

Just then, Cynthia returned to our table. “Honey, I have to leave. An emergency came up at the hospital and I need to be there.”

I wondered what kind of emergency came up at a pet hospital that required the technician and not the actual veterinarian.

Sean bunched his brows. “Where’s Dave? I thought he was covering tonight.”

“Oh…well… he is. But, um, he has to perform an emergency surgery and needs my assistance.”

Was that light mist on her forehead perspiration? I wondered.

“O…K…” He still didn’t seem to be buying her story, but he raised from the seat anyway. “I’ll get our coats.”

“Oh, no,” she hurried to say. “Don’t bother. I’ll take an Uber.” She placed her hand, and a little bit of pressure, on his shoulder and directed him back into the seat.

“Why? Don’t you want me to take you? Especially, if you’re in a hurry,” Sean said, a slight frown on his handsome face.

I wondered how she was going to answer. And I wished I’d had some popcorn, because this show was getting good.

“I-I-I know this is work for you. I’ll be fine,” Cynthia said.

“Well, then at least take the car.”

After a brief hesitation, she relented. “Fine. I don’t have time to argue with you.” She brushed her lips against his cheek and scurried out the door.

Wow, was all I could think. And if he believed her story, then I had a bridge I’d build and sell him. 

With her gone, the air around us was tense. I diverted my eyes, not wanting to look at him, since his wife had humiliated him for the second time this evening.

Across the room, Michele was in the corner still on her cell. She was smiling and twirling her hair. Ben must have been reminding her how good it was to be married. I knew she would be ready to get home soon, and though I was happy for her, I had to admit I was a little envious.

“Would you like to dance?” Sean’s smooth baritone cut through my thoughts.

I was stunned by his question, so it took me a second to answer. But, they were playing The Isley Brothers’ “Spend the Night,” which happened to be one of my favorites.

“Sure.” I tried to be nonchalant, hoping he didn’t notice the slight tremble in my voice.

My heart went from zero to sixty when his warm hand touched mine and he led me to the dance floor. I kept telling myself to get it together. This was a dance with a friend. A married friend. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But my common sense fled the building when he pulled me close and pressed my body into his. I inhaled, allowing my senses to be seduced by his cologne, an intoxicating blend of masculinity and power. My eyes closed, my lips upturned, my mind a million miles away, I floated across the floor in his arms and pretended this moment was okay.

We didn’t talk, we simply danced.  Our fingers intertwined as he spun me around to old school Motown and I listened to the rhythm of his heart as we were serenaded by Luther. “You’re a good dancer,” he shouted over the bass of the Cha-Cha Slide.

I smiled as I hopped forward. “So are you.”

“Don’t laugh, but my mother made me take lessons when I was a kid and I got into it.”

“I hear ya. I took lessons from the time I could walk until twelfth grade.”

I’d forgotten that Michele was my date until she approached us. “Hey, Twinkle Toes, I hate to bust your groove, but I told my husband I would be home by eleven and it’s almost eleven-thirty. I have my own party that I’d like to get started, if you know what I mean.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and I hated single life all the more. “Let me finish out this song and then we’ll go.”

“Cool. I’ll grab our coats,” Michele said.

After she walked off, I turned to Sean. “I had a great time.”

His stare held mine. “Me too.”

He looked like he didn’t want the night to end, and I had to admit that I didn’t either, so I asked, “Do you want a ride home?”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to be a bother.”

“It’s no bother.”

“Well, if you’re sure, then yeah.” We said our goodbyes to those around us, then he received his coat from the coat check and the three of us headed to the valet to wait for my car. After giving me his address, which I plugged into the car navigation system, we chatted on our way to his home.

When we stopped in front of his house, he said, “Have a good night, ladies.”

“You too,” we said in unison.

He exited the car and walked up the steps. I waited until he was in the house before driving off. Then braced myself for Michele’s mouth and she didn’t disappoint.

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow. Right now, I have my husband on the brain.”

“What if I don’t wanna talk?”

“Doesn’t matter because we’re going to anyway.”  

I stuck out my tongue and kept quiet for the short ride to her home. I whipped into her driveway and came to a hard stop.

She opened the door and swung her legs out before looking back at me. “Chanelle, be careful. You’re playing a dangerous game.”

“I know,” was all I could say.

“I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

As I drove off, I prayed that thoughts of Sean wouldn’t invade my sleep. But, somehow, I knew they would.

 

Chapter 2

 

“Hello?” I grumbled, my voice thick with sleep.

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Michele’s perky voice flowed through the speaker of my cell and called me by my childhood nickname. “Are you still in bed?”

“What do you think? And why are you so dang chipper?” I kept my head under the covers and hoped this would be a brief conversation.

“My, my. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

I moaned. “I’m not trying to be awake yet. I’ve got one more hour of sleep before I have to get ready for church. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to Idris.”

“I can’t believe you. How can you have these dreams and then go praise the Lord?”

“It gives me something to repent about. See you in a couple of hours. Bye.”

I squeezed my eyes tight and prayed for sleep to return, but it was useless. I groaned. Then rolled out of bed, lumbered over to the balcony door, and pulled back the blackout curtains to welcome the daylight. Cracking the door about an inch, the crisp winter air danced into the room.

With a sudden burst of energy, I brushed my teeth, then scooted down the steps to the den, where I streamed a yoga class on the theater size television while my coffee brewed. After a refreshing workout, I sat in the breakfast nook and enjoyed my hot java and a bagel, while scrolling through silly social media posts on my iPad. Then I headed upstairs to get dressed.

I was ready in under forty minutes and called Michele as I raised the door on my attached three-car garage. “Hey girl, you guys doin’ the family thing or you want a ride?”

“Yeah, swing by. Ben went to the early service since he has to be at work by noon today. Two employees called in, so he’s got to cover their routes.”

“No problem. See you in a few.” I hopped into the driver’s seat of my burnt orange Range Rover and blasted the latest Tasha Cobbs single, starting my church vibe early.

As I pulled into Michele’s circular drive and turned the volume down, BJ came running out. “Auntie! Auntie!”

“Hey, Baby. Where’s Mommy?” I shifted into park and jumped out, walking around to open the door and help him inside.

“She forgot her purse.” He climbed into the car seat that I kept in his spot and I fastened his seatbelt.

Michele came out as I was getting back into the driver’s seat.

“Hey, girl.” Out of habit, before buckling her seatbelt, she checked BJ’s harness and handed him her phone. “Andrea said she called you, but you didn’t answer. Rachel needs a ride to church.”

“Why can’t she take her?” My sister did this kind of stuff all the time. I checked my phone and there were no missed calls.

“She’s not feeling well, so she isn’t going.”

“Mm-hmm. I wonder if Dante has anything to do with it.” Dante was my sister’s on-again, off-again, baby’s daddy. They’d been together for eighteen years and the only good thing that had come from their relationship was my niece.

“She didn’t say. All she said was come get Rachel.”

Michele hated to get involved when it came to Andrea, who was five years older than us, but acted like she was ten years younger. I swear my sister was allergic to responsibility.

“Call her and let her know we’re on our way.”

“I already told her you’d do it.”

I smacked my lips. “What if I’d said no?”

“In the eleven years that Rachel has been on this earth, have you ever uttered that word when it comes to her?”

I sighed in surrender. “Yeah. That child is my weakness. So anyway, how was your evening?”

Michele’s grin broke into a wide smile as memories of her night must have come rushing back. “Girrrl…that brotha is gifted. He was like the energizer bunny. Just kept it going all night. I don’t know what got into him.”

“I do. It was that dress. You were a hottie!”

“Whatever.” She chuckled and pushed me.

“I’m serious. You were workin’ it. He was drooling before you even left the house.”

She leaned in a bit, her voice low. “Ben went all out. He turned our bedroom into a romantic retreat.” She stopped talking long enough to glance back at her son, who had become one with the kid’s video he was watching. “Girl, jasmine-scented candles were everywhere and he even filled our Jacuzzi with water and baby oil. And get this, he had dozens of rose petals floating across the top.”

My mouth opened as wide as my eyes. “No.”

“Yassss, girl,”  Michele continued. I looked over at her and though her body was in the passenger seat, her mind had clearly drifted to last night. “Guess what was playing to help set the mood?”

“Not The Isley Brothers?

“You know it. Spend the Night. When I walked in, he was lying on the bed with that silk robe I bought him from Japan.”

 “Keep talkin’,” I prompted her.

Michele recapped the rest of her evening and shared details that only best friends could talk about. “When he slipped off my dress and told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, I cried. He kissed away my tears and made love to me like it was his first time enjoying my body.” Michele shuddered slightly.

“Aww… But I ain’t gon’ lie. I’m stuck on him putting rose petals in the bathtub,” I said.

“Channie, it was the most unbelievable experience we’ve ever had. Although, today he’s picking up a bottle of drain cleaner because they clogged the tub. Oops.”

We laughed. It was sad that my love life had to be lived through Michele, but it was all I had for the moment.

She sighed, as though she were forcing herself to stop reminiscing. “But enough about my evening. What was up with you and Sean last night?”

Now, it was my turn to sigh. “I don’t know what’s going on. But, when Sean and I started working together on this project, we had a few late nights and a Saturday when we worked out of my home office. We started talking about things besides work and connected in a way that we hadn’t done before.”

“Have either of you said anything about this connection?”

“Nah. I mean, there’s this undercurrent that I’m sure he can sense. But I think it would be a mistake to talk about it.”

“Why?” Michele had turned in her seat so she could stare at me.

I kept my eyes on the road because she was making me uncomfortable. Or maybe it was the truth in the conversation. Either way, I didn’t want to look at her. “As long as neither of us says anything, we can act like it’s not real and nothing has to change. I won’t feel like the sinner who’s damned to hell and he’ll still be a faithful husband.”

I pressed the lock button on the door because we were headed into Andrea’s neighborhood. “Once the words are out, one of us may feel obligated to move this to another level. And I’m not even sure what “this” is. I mean, we work together. I don’t want people calling me a home wrecker. Especially when I think about what just happened to me. I can’t be known as an adulterer.” Just the thought made me cringe.

Michele’s brow creased in confusion. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be more concerned with what people at work would think than what God would think.”

 “I wish I could correct you, but God is more forgiving than people. He’d be disappointed in me, but at least He knows what I’m going through, and He’d forgive me. The people at work would not. I’m a Senior VP, soon to be a partner. I can’t risk that for a fling. When you get right down to it, I’m only feeling all hot and bothered because Michael is gone.”

“Is that the only reason?” Michele’s words challenged me.

“It’s the only one I’m willing to acknowledge. If Michael was still around and remotely interested in what a woman has to offer, Sean wouldn’t be a thought.”

Michele pursed her lips. “Really?”

“You don’t believe me?”

“Nope.”

“Why?”

“Because you two have always had chemistry. But after what went down with Michael, I think you opened yourself up to him.”

My silence prompted her to continue. “There are a lot of qualities in Sean that you find attractive, but Sweetie, he’s married. And even if he were available, you still haven’t given yourself time to heal. You were in a twelve-year relationship with Michael. Damn near married, but never got a ring. You did everything a wife is expected to do. Took care of him when he lost his job three years ago and never got another one. He moved in and sponged off you. You saw potential in him that didn’t exist. And he repaid you by cheating. With a dude. In your bed. Set me straight if I’m wrong, but that’s a pretty clear sign that there wasn’t ever a future for the two of you. Actually, I’m glad you didn’t marry him and he’s out of your life.”

Everything she said was true. And I didn’t want to talk about it. But she kept on beating that darn dead horse. “I know you, Chanelle. I know that you are still hurting. You’re vulnerable. And let’s go spiritual. The devil knows it too. Did he tempt Eve with a lemon? No. He got her with an apple. Something sweet.”

I was so ready for this conversation to end. “Humph. Technically, the Bible didn’t say it was an apple, but I hear ya. And you’re right. About everything. Sean is a big red delicious apple, hand-picked for me and I want to take a bite. A big bite. And even though I know better, just thinking about it makes my mouth water.” I wished to God that what I was saying wasn’t true. But it was.

Michele’s jaw dropped. “Hurry up and let’s get your lusty butt to church, ‘cause you need Jesus.”

“Don’t we all?” We laughed. I picked up Rachel and we headed to church to get the spiritual cleansing I so desperately needed.

 

Chapter 3

 

“Let the church say ‘amen’,” Pastor Sharpe commanded from the pulpit.

The congregation responded with a loud, “Amen.”

“I said let the church say ‘amen’!”

“Amen!”

“Thank you, Lord. You may be seated.”

We sat on the cushioned wooden benches, some of us fanning ourselves from the dancing we’d done during praise and worship.

Pastor Sharpe opened her Bible and began reading. “First Corinthians 10:13 says, ‘No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it’.”

She peered over the rim of her glasses perched on the tip of her nose and scanned the congregation. “Today, I want to talk to you about temptation. Somethin’ we all know about, church. Lust of the flesh.”

“Ooh, Pastor, preach it,” someone in the back pew piped up.

“There is a devil out there, Saints. And he wants to separate you from God. He wants your soul. You have to be strong. You have to resist the temptation.”

“Yes,” someone else shouted.

I struggled to sit still as the message began to hit very close to home. I kept my head glued to my Bible, afraid that if Pastor Sharpe caught my eye, she’d know the thoughts I’d been having.

“When Satan sets out to destroy you, he’s gonna use something he knows you like. He will wait until you are at your weakest point and then he STRIKES! But you have a weapon, Saints. His name is Jesus!”

More agreement from the Amen corner. I just wanted this message to be over as soon as she started. But Pastor Sharpe took her time and spent a solid hour, quoting one scripture after another, about the value of resisting temptation and that the payment for sin is death. This was the first Sunday in years that I wished I’d slept in.

After service, I stood in the meet and greet line, expecting her to give me the cursory, “Thank you for coming” handshake. But she didn’t. Instead, she covered my hand with both of hers and looked me in my eyes. “Good morning, Sister Chanelle.”

“Morning, Reverend.”

“How are you doing today?”

Her question felt like a setup. We both knew God had told her I was struggling with my emotions. “I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?”

My voice was unsteady as I said, “Um, yes, Ma’am.”

“You know God loves you, right?” She didn’t blink once. Instead, her stare pierced me.

“Of course.”

“Well, He’s telling me to tell you that whatever it is you’re contemplating, don’t do it. It won’t end well.”

My eyes darted to my right, to Sister Eunice, who was straining to hear our conversation. That woman would have my business spread before I got to the car. I grimaced and she snapped her head away from me.

I cleared my throat and looked back at my pastor, whose gaze never left me. “I, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think you do. I’m not asking you to tell me what’s going on. But I’m here for you if you need me. And more importantly, God is here for you.”

I slid my now damp hand from between hers. “Uh, thank you, Pastor, but I’m fine.”

The creases in her weathered forehead said she didn’t believe me. “Be blessed, Sister Chanelle.”

“You too.” I sped away as she moved on to the person behind me.

“Auntie, what was that all about?” Rachel asked me as we headed back to our vehicle.

“Uh, I’m not sure, Rach.”

“She seemed to be warning you about something,” Rachel persisted.

I was still shaken by the awkward conversation with my Pastor. “Let it go. I don’t know what she was talking about. Now, do you want to grab something to eat before I take you home?”

My normally precocious niece would have stayed on me until I gave her a satisfactory answer. But today, she allowed me to distract her.

“Chipotle?” she suggested.

“You got it.” I unlocked the doors and we waited for Michele and BJ. The four of us rode to Rachel’s favorite restaurant and I tried to pretend I hadn’t just received a warning straight from the Throne.

 

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Meet Monica Lynne

Monica Lynne Foster is the author of the Chanelle Series Novels and inspirational nonfiction which may seem like they don't go together. But, hey, when life gets a little tough, who doesn't need a little inspiration and a mental vacation? (Read More) 

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