Chapter 1 – Chanelle Slate
Did my boyfriend’s ex-wife really call and say she was taking him back from me? I looked over at him, sitting on the couch watching television, and my spirit filled with more love than I ever thought was possible. He was everything I’d asked God to bring me. Strong arms that held me when I needed it. Hazel eyes that looked at me with passion, love, and the right amount of lust. Broad shoulders designed just for me to lean on. And deep pockets that allowed him to spoil me. But the best part of my man, was his big heart. A heart that had enough room to love me unconditionally. I could feel my marriage proposal coming and I was excited about starting our life together as one. And then I got that call from that heifer.
Well, actually, it wasn’t me she called. It was him. A week ago today, Rick received a call from Twyla, but I was the one who answered his phone. I thought back to that day…
“Hey, sweetie,” Rick said, meeting me out on the deck where I was grilling salmon and asparagus.
“Hey, babe.” I greeted him with a peck on the lips. “Dinner is almost ready so go wash your hands.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he joked, and set his sunglasses and phone on the table before heading inside.
As he walked out of the sunroom, his phone rang. “Babe, would you grab that?”
Still smiling, I said, “I got it.” I glanced at the caller ID and it said, “Unknown.”
“Who is this?” a female voice asked.
“Who is this?” I responded with my own question.
“This is Rick’s wife. Twyla.”
I was taken aback. “Excuse me, but don’t you mean his ex-wife?” I corrected her.
“Once a wife, always a wife. Now is Rick there?” she demanded. “Because I want to speak with my husband.”
Was she serious? “My man is unavailable at the moment, but I’ll tell him you called. Would you like to leave a message?”
In a tone drenched with sex, she replied, “Humph. Yeah, as a matter of fact I do. You tell him that we’re not over. I’m comin’ back to take what’s mine. He knows the number. Have him call me.” Then she hung up before I had a chance to respond.
“Babe, who was on the phone?” Rick asked, coming up behind me and nuzzling my neck.
I turned to face him. “That was your ex-wife. She said to call her. She wants you back.” I pushed the cell phone into his chest and stormed out of the room.
He was speechless and in an instant, I saw the peace of my life shatter. I had a feeling I would be calling Michele later that evening because I had a problem and she was the only one I trusted to help me fix it.
And I did call Michele, who was my best friend since childhood, and my ride or die when necessary. She’d been married for years and told me that it wasn’t unusual for a woman to occasionally reach out to her ex to test the water. She said I handled it appropriately and not to worry. I was reminded that Rick was in love with me and wasn’t going back to Twyla. But I’d wasted the better part of my twenties and the beginning of my thirties with a man who I discovered was on the down low. Now that I had Rick and the love I wanted, I wasn’t going to let anything steal my future. A future that I’d waited far too long to become my present.
Rick reassured me that he hadn’t loved her in years and I had nothing to fear. But still, I didn’t like the fact that she’d resurfaced after so much time had passed. There was no way any good would come of her return and I was going to nip this, whatever ‘this’ was, in the bud.
Chapter 2 – Rick Faust
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Chanelle staring at me. I was pretty sure that I knew what was going on in that busy brain of hers. I’d caught her watching me a lot since she received that phone call from Twyla last week.
Twyla and I met the year after I graduated from college and our love was instant. Even though I had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, hustling was still in my blood. I’d paid my way through college using the money I made in the streets. And I used my education to catapult me to the top of the drug game. Twyla didn’t have any problems with how I made my money. She liked that I wanted to give her every material thing she desired. All she had to do was casually mention something she wanted and she’d have it the next day.
But about seven years into our marriage, my brother, Max, was in a terrible car accident and I almost lost him. I paid for specialists who dominated their field. But no matter how much money I threw at them, none of the treatments were working and my brother’s prognosis wasn’t good. He’d been moved to hospice and it was just a matter of days before we’d be planning his funeral.
I remember visiting him one day and seeing him in a coma, every available space on his arms and chest hooked up to machines, finally got to me. I stepped away and went into the chapel and did something I’d never done in my life. I prayed. I talked to God about my brother. My best friend. The one who knew me better than my parents. And something unexpected happened. God spoke back. I heard Him as clear as if He was sitting next to me. I prayed for my brother that night. And in the days that followed, God began bringing him around. It was almost unbelievable that my brother made a full recovery. I told my family about my conversation with God and over the next couple months, all of us gradually gave our lives to Him.
That is, everyone except my wife. Twyla believed that Max got better because of luck and some mystical magical invisible thing that I knew had nothing to do with it. She wasn’t interested in hearing about a God she couldn’t see or touch. For her, God was green. He was money. When I told her I was giving up the fast life and going legit, she lost it.
After I opened my home remodeling business, she started dating my main competition. Her affair was what pushed me to give up on our relationship and leave her. The only things I kept from our nine years of marriage were my business, our timeshare in Aruba, and my truck.
Before the previous week, the last time either of us had contacted the other was when we met to sign the divorce papers. And she’d arrived with her boyfriend.
When Chanelle told me about their conversation, I was stunned. I spent the better part of the evening trying to convince her that I had no idea why Twyla had called me and that I had no intention of calling her to find out. Eventually, she relaxed enough to trust me and we were able to enjoy the rest of our night.
But now, Twyla had been calling me daily and there was no way I could tell Chanelle. Twyla had long suffered from a bipolar disorder that she kept under control with medication and psychiatric therapy. I hoped and prayed to God that she was still on her meds. I knew enough to know that Twyla off medication spelled trouble for my relationship.
Chapter 3 – Twyla Logan-Faust
“Can you wait right here? I won’t be long and I’ll pay you for keeping the meter running, plus I’ll throw in an extra hundred. And here’s fifty in good faith,” I said, flashing the Uber driver the money.
He glanced at the gate outside of the prison entrance and then looked at the green I was holding in my hand. He slipped the money into his pocket and said, “Yes, I’ll wait.”
“Thanks.” I slid out of the backseat and walked up to the guard at the gate. After going through the tedious check-in procedures, I was seated at a cold metal table in the visitation room and waited for my boyfriend.
It was hard to believe that this was the first time I’d see him since his sentencing. But I needed him to look me in my face, so he’d know I was serious. I held my breath when he walked in. Half of my heart leapt to the ceiling at seeing what many called “my Latin drink of water” and the other half of my heart plummeted to the floor when I saw a broken man who was spending the remaining years of his life behind bars.
“Hey, honey, it’s so good to see you,” Emilio said, reaching out to me to hug me.
“No physical touching,” the guard barked. Which was fine with me, since Emilio looked like he wasn’t on speaking terms with a shower.
We both looked at the stout woman who’d issued the warning and knew that with her school marm bun perched on top of her head and laser gun holstered to her waist, she was serious. Emilio glowered but pulled back and took a seat in the hard chair across the table from me.
I forced a smile. “It’s good to see you, too.”
“Did you get my letters? I’ve been writing you every week since I got here.”
“Um, yes. Look, Emilio, I’m not going to beat around the bush with you. I’m here because I have something to tell you and I wanted to do it in person.”
He creased his forehead. “What are you talking about?”
I took a deep breath and said the line I’d rehearsed on the three hour flight. “I’m breaking up with you.”
He leaned forward and his stale hot breath insulted my nostrils. “What! I thought you said you were down for me no matter what happened at my sentencing. How are you gonna bail on me after just seven months?”
“That was before the judge said life without the possibility of parole. You’re lucky you didn’t get the death penalty. I’m a young woman with a lot of life to live. Did you really expect me to be on lockdown just because you are?”
“Are you serious, Twyla? The only reason why I’m sitting in this hellhole is because of you. I did this deal for you.” He banged his fists on the table, causing the guard to make a move toward him. But he held up his hands, letting her know he had his temper under control. And though, she kept a hawk-eye on him, she didn’t end our visit.
I sat back in my seat, increasing the distance between us. “You may have gone to Texas for me. But I didn’t tell you to kill that guy,” I said, referencing the drug mule that Emilio had shot, and who was the reason he was doing life.
“Twyla, we’ve already been through this. I told you, it was an accident.”
“Call it what you want,” I said, shrugging. “But we’re over.”
“You flew all the way down here to tell me this? You coulda just mailed me a letter.”
“You’re right, I could have. But out of respect for our three years together, I felt I owed it to you to tell you face to face. Besides, I want you to know that I’m serious. And if you try and contact me, I’ll report you to the prison officials.”
His eyes widened. “Wow. You are a cold blooded bi -”
“Don’t say it,” I cut him off. “Cold would be me not saying anything at all. I actually think I’m being quite respectful of your feelings by letting you know that I’ve moved on.”
“Moved on? With who?” he questioned, re-balling his fists.
“Rick.” I looked at the guard, hoping that she’d tell him our visit was over, but she was looking at another inmate.
“Your ex? You’re back with your ex-husband?”
“Yes. And we’re very happy together.”
He snarled. “You expect me to believe that after you left him for me, that he’d just take you back?”
I waved my hand and dismissed him. “I don’t care what you believe.”
“When did this happen?”
“None of your business,” I said, pushing away from the table and standing. “As I said, it’s best that you don’t contact me anymore.”
The corners of his mouth turned downward. The dark anger replaced with watery eyes of sorrow. “Twyla, please…”
Determined to maintain my resolve, I said, “Goodbye, Emilio.” I strolled out of the room without glancing back, thankful that I’d closed a chapter in my life that never should have opened.
I walked back to the same spot where the Uber driver had dropped me off and just as he agreed, he was still waiting. “Please take me to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport,” I said as I hopped into the backseat.
He pulled away from the curb and pointed the car toward the highway. “Yes, ma’am.”
I relaxed my head against the backseat and closed my eyes, collecting myself. Putting a period at the end of my relationship was easier than I thought. I’d never forget the sad look in Emilio’s eyes as I walked out of his life, but I knew I had to do what was best for me. And what was best for me was getting my ex-husband back. And getting my life back. My life, which used to be filled with lunch dates with girlfriends, shopping sprees at the high-end department stores, credit cards with no limits, and cars that were considered old if they were the prior year’s model. That was the life I deserved. And it was the life that slipped out of my hands after Emilio’s arrest a year ago.
Thanks to the generosity of my ex-husband, I was awarded a sizeable settlement in our divorce three years earlier and hired a financial advisor to manage my money. For the first couple of years, things went well. I had my money from Rick tied up in investments and Emilio filling the role as my sugar daddy.
And then things went left. Way left. Emilio got caught up in that murder case in Texas of all places. Just stupid. And my financial advisor made some very bad investments and I lost a chunk of money, which I could have bounced back from. Except he’d managed my remaining funds right out of my account. And into his untouchable and untraceable account in the Cayman Islands. Before I realized what had happened, I was almost broke. My house went into foreclosure, my car was repossessed and the pawnshop was the beneficiary of most of my jewelry.
Before the police searched Emilio’s homes, I was able to raid the few stashes of cash that I knew about. But most of those funds were spent and I was running on fumes. I needed to think of something because there was no way I was getting a nine-to-five job. The last time I worked was before I met Rick. I was a cashier at Burger King and there was nothing about that lifestyle that was calling me back to it. Growing up virtually on my own, I had always been resourceful. And I was determined to find a way to get back on top. And then fate struck.
I opened my eyes and reached into my purse, pulling out the clipping I’d seen in the newspaper the week before while eating breakfast. The paper had an ad for a local home renovation company. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw that the owner was my ex-husband. Looking at his picture, he could have easily been the winner of People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. And I noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding band. I knew my ex well enough to know that if he were married, then the whole world would know. I called to congratulate him on his success and see if we could hook up. I knew once he saw me, he’d catch feelings again. And I’d be back where I belonged.
What I didn’t expect was some chick answering. Rick was protective of his cell phone, so if he let her answer, then she must be special to him. And that wasn’t good for me. I’d called him every day for the past week, but he’d pushed me to voicemail. I didn’t leave any messages because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to play this. But two days ago, a brilliant idea came to me. I was thankful that I’d sent in the paperwork to be on Emilio’s visitor’s list with the prison and I booked a flight to Houston to end our relationship. In spite of what I told Emilio, Rick and I weren’t technically back together. Yet. But we would be soon.
I pulled out my cell phone, googled Rick’s company, and called his office. Here goes nothing, I thought.
“Good afternoon, and thank you for calling Faust Home Renovations. How may I direct your call?” the very young and impressionable sounding receptionist said. Maybe this was going to be a cakewalk.
In my best impersonation of a Southern belle, I said, “Ah yes, good afternoon. My name is Twy – Twinkie Summers and I’m in the process of purchasing a home on Bourbon Ct. I saw your ad in the paper and wanted to know if someone from your office would be willing to meet me this Sunday at two o’clock at my prospective residence? There are some changes that I’d like to discuss before making my final decision about this property and I would like an expert opinion.”
“Oh sure. That’s no problem! We have several highly qualified contractors who would be able to work with you.”
“That’s fantastic!” I gushed, then paused. “Now tell me, would the owner be available?”
“Well… Mr. Faust doesn’t usually work on Sundays.” Then she quickly added, “But I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the services of anyone on our staff.”
“Oh no. It must be Mr. Faust,” I cooed. “This is a multi-million dollar home and I just wouldn’t be comfortable with anyone other than the owner. I’m sure you can understand.” This young girl needed to get on board with my plan or she was going to screw up everything.
“Did you say multi-million dollar?”
“Yes, that’s right.” I could hear her ears perking up, so I bluffed, “And if Mr. Faust isn’t available then I’ll continue looking for a businessman who has the time.”
“Oh no. I’m sure he’ll make an exception in your case.” She was apparently smart enough not to lose a potential sale. “Why don’t you give me your information and the property address? I’ll only call you back if he can’t make it. How does that sound?”
“That’s sounds splendid. Thank you very much for being so flexible.” I gave her the appropriate information, including the number of my burner phone. I was certain that Rick, forever a hustler, would not pass up an opportunity to work on a multi-million dollar home. After all, we’d been married for nine years and I knew my husband.
I folded the article and returned it, along with my phone, to my purse. Then I closed my eyes again and smiled. I was confident I’d soon be Mrs. Rick Faust again.
Chapter 4 – Rick
“Rick, quit fidgeting,” my mother said, taking a seat next to me at the jewelry counter.
“Thanks for coming.” I leaned over and kissed her cheek. “And I can’t help it. It’s not every day that I buy an engagement ring for the woman I love.
“Are you sure you’re not moving too quickly? You and Chanelle have only been back together about a year.”
I sighed. “Mom, I never should have chosen my street life over her to begin with when we dated back in college. I feel like God has given me a second chance with her and I’m not wasting it.”
Bella Faust nodded. “I understand, sweetheart. I just want you to be certain.”
“I am. And besides, I thought you liked Chanelle.”
My mother smiled. “I do. She’s a beautiful woman and I’d be happy to have her as my daughter-in-law. Do you have any idea what kind of style she likes?”
“Well, I know that she wants a round stone. She would joke when we were in college and say that she wanted a diamond that looked like a headlight.”
“You’re talking about spending an awful lot of money…”
“Mom,” I began. “It’s not like I can’t afford it. You know my business is doing very well. And Chanelle is worth it. This will be her first marriage if she says yes. And I want her to have the best of everything.”
“Not just her first marriage, but her only marriage,” the schoolteacher in her correcting me.
I laughed. “Right. Her only marriage.”
“Mr. Faust, so sorry to keep you waiting,” Giuseppe, my jeweler, said as he approached us from the other side of the counter. “Thank you for your patience.”
“No problem. My mother and I were just talking through some options. I want to see what you have in a two-carat round VS and at least an E in color.”
“Oh, Mr. Faust, I have the perfect diamond for you. Have you heard of our Hearts A Flame collection?” When I shook my head, he said, “You don’t know what you’re missing. I’ll be right back.” He returned moments later with a two-carat loose diamond in a case and an eyepiece. “Take a look at this.”
He placed the diamond on a black velvet cloth. When I looked at it through the loop, I saw eight perfectly symmetrical hearts. “Oh my God! This is gorgeous.”
Giuseppe nodded. “I like to call it an incredible natural phenomenon of light, unseen with any other diamond. Your special lady will love it.”
My mother moved me to the side so she could see for herself. “Oh, Ricky, you have to buy it!” she said, after seeing the unbelievable sparkle.
I turned to my Italian friend and braced myself. “How much?”
“For you, Mr. Faust, because you have been shopping here for years, I will give you the best discount. But before I tell you how much, I have the perfect setting for it.” He reached into the case and pulled out a thick white gold band and placed the rock in the center.
“It’s breathtaking,” my mom said, seeing the diamond surrounded by five perfect Hearts A Flame stones on each side of the band. “She’s going to be so happy.”
I stared at the ring and knew that my lady was worth the small fortune I was about to spend. “My mother is right, Chanelle is going to love it. How much and how long will it take you to set the stone?”
“The total weight, including the side stones, is three-carats. With your tremendous discount, you’re looking at eighteen thousand dollars out the door. I can have it done by tomorrow morning. Do you know her ring size?”
I handed him my credit card and a small bag with a ring of hers that I’d taken from her jewelry box while she was in the shower. “Here.”
After measuring the ring and determining she wore a size six, he returned it to the bag and placed it on the counter. “I’ll be right back.”
When Giuseppe left, my mother turned to me. “It looks like she’s going to get the headlight she’s always wanted.”
“I love that woman with everything in me. Now is everything set for tomorrow?” My mother was helping me plan a surprise engagement dinner for Chanelle with our families.
“Yes, I reserved the private room at the restaurant you requested in downtown Plymouth. And I called Chanelle’s parents and Michele.”
“Is anyone calling Andrea?” I asked, referencing Chanelle’s older sister.
“Yes. Michele will get hold of her. And, of course, your brother and father will be there. Everyone is scheduled to arrive by six-thirty.”
“Thanks. Remember to have everyone park at the back of the parking lot. Chanelle is observant and she’ll spot their vehicles if they don’t.” I kissed her again. I was blessed to have a great relationship with both my parents and I contemplated telling her about Twyla popping back up. But before I had a chance, my cell rang. “Excuse me, but this is the office. I’ll be back in a moment.” I stepped outside of the jewelry store to take the call. “Hey, Keisha. What’s up?”
“Hi, Mr. Faust. I’m so sorry to disturb you on a Friday afternoon, but I received a call today from a potential client. She wants you to meet her at a home she may be buying and see what renovation recommendations you have.”
“Sure. Did you set her up?”
“Well…,” she hedged. “That’s why I’m calling you. She wants to meet on Sunday at two o’clock and says that if the owner isn’t available, then she’s going to take her business elsewhere. She’s buying a multi-million dollar house and only wants to work with the boss.”
“Multi-million? For that, I can definitely bend my ‘no work on Sunday’ rule. Text me her information and confirm with her that I’ll be there.”
Keisha exhaled. “Thank you, Mr. Faust! I was pretty sure you would say that, so I already told her.”
Chuckling, I said, “You know I’ll always accept the opportunity for a big job.”
After saying our goodbyes, I rejoined my mom at the counter. “Is everything alright, dear?”
I rubbed my hands together. “Everything is great. I have a meeting with what may be my biggest client to date. This is turning out to be a fantastic day!”
Giuseppe reappeared with my card and receipt and promised to have my ring ready when I returned in the morning.
After seeing my mother to her car and giving her a warm hug, I got in my F350 pickup truck and called Chanelle at work. “Hey, babe, wanna catch a movie tonight?”
“Oooh, a date with my favorite guy. Of course I do.”
“K. I’ll swing by around seven and we can do dinner and a movie.”
“Perfect. That’ll give me time to get home and freshen up. Plus, I have some incredible news that I can’t wait to share with you. See you then.”
After disconnecting the call, I said a prayer. I hoped that I would have a Twyla-free night. I knew that if she called, Chanelle would notice and I wasn’t sure how she would react.