I Take This Woman, page 1
I Take This Woman
Genesis Press, Inc.
INDIGO LOVE SPECTRUM
An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.
Genesis Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 101
Columbus, MS 39703
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
Copyright © 2011 Chamein Canton
Manufactured in the United States of America
Visit us at www.genesis-press.com
or call at 1-888-Indigo-1-4-0
This book is for all the women who have given up on looking for love. Sometimes love doesn’t look like you expect it to and many times it’s often hiding right underneath your nose. So slow down, take a breath, and take in the sweet scent of love.
In times of hardship romance writers have a special mission to take our readers on a blissful journey. It’s not all hot love scenes and sexy leading men. It’s about the endless possibilities life offers when you open your heart. I wouldn’t feel this way if I didn’t have friends and family in my corner, cheering all the way. I am a born romantic and for that I thank my father, Leonard F. Canton, Jr., who always lets me know that I can spread my wings and fly as far as my heart desires. My mother, Mary Wallace, with her Southern sense of humor and frank sayings about relationships keeps me firmly grounded. Then there’s my sister Natalie and my brother-in-law Donell, who continue to show each other love every day. Through challenges large and small, they always have each other’s back. Then there is my brother in spirit, Joel Woodward, who always reminds me that big girls are beautiful and Mrs. Frances Watkins who taught me the importance of loving myself for the woman I am. I am most grateful to the loves of my life, my twin sons Sean and Scott who have grown to be wonderful, respectful young men. My twin uncles, Calvin and Cecil Canton, who make me feel like a cherished niece even now. I want to thank the man I love, Michael Bressler, for being a wonderful, devoted father to his daughters and for treating me like a cherished treasure. I only hope that other women can feel that way about the man in their lives.
Then I also want to thank those I’ve lost but carry in my heart every day: Grandma Salley and Grandma Canton; my great-grandmother Dorothy Donadelle; my great-uncle, Ernest, “Unc”, Donadelle; my Auntie Ruth, Uncle Willis, and Aunt Edna. Thanks to my friends, near and far: James Weil, Eric Smith, Pearl Alston, and my favorite high school English teacher, Edward Kemnitzer. Thank you all for being in my life.
Finally, thanks to the wonderful folks at Genesis Press: Deborah, Valerie, Diane and Sidney. You are a terrific team and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Born the oldest of four children, forty-one-year-old Abigail Carey was responsible, organized and a perfectionist. An overachiever, she was her high school’s first African-American valedictorian and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania. Her parents, both college professors, ingrained into their children a belief in hard work and discipline.
In spite of her busy career, Abby preferred to clean her apartment herself. Her mother had managed to keep a neat home with a career, four children and a husband. Abby felt it was the least she could do with one child and no husband.
A curvy girl all of her life, at one time Abby’s style was conservative with understated skirts and pant suits. That had changed ten years earlier after her divorce from NBA Hall of Fame-bound player J.J. Stokes, a second-round draft pick for the New York Knicks. J.J. was part of the team during the glory days of the nineties, topping their leader boards with the most rebounds, assists and triple doubles. Unbeknownst to Abby, for a long time he also led the leader boards in road girlfriends. When one of his girlfriends, Beebe Hudson, decided she wanted to upgrade her status, she tipped off photographers so as to bring their relationship out in the open proudly in black and white. J.J. and Abby had been married for ten years when she divorced him and dropped his name.
Abby checked her side view in the mirror. “Heck, I wonder if I can nominate the Spanx inventor for sainthood.”
Abby walked into the kitchen, where she poured her first cup of the day and went to stare at the city she loved. She was energized and ready to take on the world.
Abby sat down to a stack of papers.
Abby made notes in red on the letter: Let this be the marginal note. It’s got to be short and sweet. She continued making notes in the margins, Thinking it was Candy. The opening paragraph has to be dynamite to make an editor want to read further. It’s a good thing for Candy she wasn’t an editor anymore.
A former senior editor for Stillwater Publishing, Abby had been known as a dragon lady because she had wielded her red pen with samurai precision. Her authors had to be prepared to work hard and accept very blunt critiques. Those who didn’t buckle under the pressure often made the bestseller lists. She knew how to make a good writer great and how to make a great writer phenomenal. While she was there Stillwater became an award-winning independent publisher and home to a number of talented, bestselling authors.
As things changed in the publishing industry, Stillwater’s management began to sign celebrities, reality show refugees and wannabe starlets that parlayed their sex tapes into branded cottage industries. After years of being the publishing company that cared about the story, Stillwater became focused on fluffing up its bottom line any way it could. Abby decided she’d had enough and left.
At the same time her friend and fashion publicist Shana Collingsworth decided that after spending her twenties and the better part of her thirties working for a major fashion PR firm, she was ready to strike out on her own. She and Abby pooled their talents, resources and contacts to form Carey and Collingsworth Public Relations.
Seven years later they had one of the most successful agencies in the country, with offices in London and New York. Abby and Shana ate, slept and breathed PR on a twenty-four-hour basis since they each lived in an apartment above their New York office.
Abby jotted one last note, and opened the newspaper. She casually thumbed through the sections until she spied a caption that caught her eye. “Beebe Stokes in talks to join NBA Confidential.” Abby rolled her eyes. “I knew it was only a matter of time before this would happen,” she said. Abby set the paper aside.
The sound of the phone broke the morning silence. Abby glanced at the caller ID. “Way too early for this phone call without a second cup of coffee,” she groaned, but unfortunately she knew that if she didn’t talk to him he’d just call back in ten minutes.
“Good morning, J.J.”
“Good morning, Abby. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks. What’s going on with you?”
“Why do you think there’s something going on with me? Did it ever occur to you that this might just be a social call?”
“It’s occurred to me, but that’s unlikely, given the time of the morning,” she said.
“I can’t get anything past you, can I?”
“No. Let me save you a little time. Is this about Beebe’s interview in the March issue of Today’s Black Woman?”
“How did you know? It’s not on the stands yet.”
“I’m in public relations, remember? I know that four different magazines were in the hunt for the first interview exclusive. You do realize that the March issue will be on the stands in a couple of days, right?”
“Great,” he groaned. “Like the divorce isn’t going to cost me enough.”
“If you’re looking for sympathy you called the wrong person. I’m your first ex-wife.”
“I know. I’m not looking for sympathy.”
“Speaking of ex-wives, I read in the paper that Beebe is in talks to join the cast of NBA Confidential.”
“Don’t tell me that you didn’t know?”
“I didn’t know.” He grunted. “This is just another ploy to get out of the prenup. She wants more money.”
“You don’t say?”
“Well, she’s not going to get a dime more than what we agreed to.”
Beebe had apparently thought retirement would change J.J.’s ways, but now she was the woman scorned following the revelation of a younger girlfriend.
“You’d rather take the chance of her joining the cast of a show with no other objective than to spill all the dirty little secrets of basketball ex-wives?”
“I don’t have anything to hide.”
“Sure you don’t,” Abby said sarcastically.
“That’s enough of that. I devote enough time to Beebe’s nonsense. I really called about Justin. What if he reads the magazine article?”
“I don’t think you have to worry about him reading it. Today’s Black Woman isn’t on his preferred reading list. Besides, I talked to him about your divorce. How’s that for irony?”
“Some might call it poetic justice.”
“That’s certainly another way to look at it.”
“I guess I should give Justin a call. Maybe Beebe should call him, too. She was his stepmother.”
Abby immediately knew that wasn’t going to fly. Although she and J.J. were on somewhat friendlier terms now, it had taken some time for her to view J.J. as Justin’s father and not the miserable son of a bitch who had humiliated her in public. She knew that Beebe wouldn’t have any qualms about denigrating J.J. to his son.
“No. I don’t think it’s a good idea for Beebe to call him. She doesn’t have any vested interest in making sure you don’t come out looking like a jackass. I wanted to call you much worse during our divorce, but I kept in mind that you’re Justin’s father and I didn’t want to do that to Justin.”
“I’m grateful you held back. Not that I didn’t deserve it.”
“Well, that’s a bird of another color, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.” He paused. “So is there anyone new in your life?”
Ever since their divorce, J.J. appeared to be more interested in Abby’s love life than she was, and he never missed an opportunity to ask her about it. In an odd way, J.J. seemed comforted by the thought that Abby didn’t have a man in her life. No man in Abby’s life meant there wasn’t a new man around his son. It was also J.J.’s peculiar way of continuing his tradition of having his cake and eating it, too.
“Excuse me?” Abby was annoyed. “What kind of question is that?”
“It’s a fair question. We do have a son together, and I’d like to know if there’s another man on the scene.”
“You’ve got some nerve,” Abby said. “It’s none of your business.”
“I guess the answer is no, right?”
“You forfeited the right to get an answer to that question when we got divorced and I don’t have time for this nonsense. I have to head downstairs to the office. Don’t forget we have parents’ weekend coming up soon.”
“Oh, that’s right. Thanks for reminding me.”
“Don’t you mean ‘thanks for reminding me for the umpteenth time’?” she asked. “Please be sure to mark it on your calendar and make sure you show up on time and without your usual entourage.”
Despite no longer being an active player, J.J. still lived the life of an NBA player. He liked traveling with a driver, valet and security.
“I’ll be on time, and I’ll even leave security at home, but you know I don’t go anywhere without my boy Dazz.”
Despite having no previous experience, Dazz Williams had been J.J.’s personal manager for more than fifteen years. He and J.J. had grown up together in Detroit and made the move to New York together. Dazz was a great front man, but the lawyers and the accountants handled the contracts and the money. However, Dazz had one other function that J.J. valued most of all: He was the groupie wrangler and interference runner for J.J.’s affairs. To say that Abby disliked him was an understatement.
“He’s not an American Express Card, J.J. You can leave home without him. So leave him home and come to parents’ weekend like a normal parent. Let’s not embarrass our son in front of his friends at Choate. Okay? Later, J.J.” She hung up.
Though Abby and J.J. could easily have sent Justin to one of New York’s prep schools, they sent him to an out-of-state private school in Connecticut. Life there was another world, one that didn’t let too many outside influences in. Though Justin wasn’t squirreled away in an ivory tower, Abby’s mind was at peace knowing that he wouldn’t be bombarded by his father’s exploits, and this made it a little easier to deal with her early onset empty nest syndrome.
Still sleeping, Sam Best was dreaming about a stack of blueberry pancakes with warm maple syrup, crispy bacon and a fresh cup of coffee. His golden arm had led the New York Giants to five straight post seasons and two Super Bowl championships. Now thirty-six years old, he was enjoying retirement, which meant sleeping in.
Is that coffee? he wondered sleepily. Do I have an actual shot of getting a real breakfast this morning? He opened his eyes to see his fiancée, Maria Carrangelo, leafing through a wedding magazine while she sipped coffee from her mug.
Sam and Maria met at the University of Texas. He was instantly attracted to the tall, shapely, blue-eyed brunette. An art history major, Maria had grown up in Highland Park, an affluent neighborhood in the Park Cities area of Dallas. William ‘Big Bill’ and Kitty Carrangelo raised Maria and her two older sisters, Sissy and Kim, as a part of Park Cities’ high society with its cotillions, equestrian shows and charity events. The Carrangelo girls were a bit of a throwback to a bygone era. When they went to college, a degree wasn’t their main focus; finding a husband was. Both of Maria’s older sisters graduated from college with a diploma and an engagement ring, and Maria’s parents expected her to follow in their footsteps.
On the other hand, Sam’s parents, Don and Sara Best, raised him and his two older brothers, J.R. and Zeke, on a small ranch a mere 150 miles outside of Dallas but a world away from Maria’s life of privilege. When Sam and Maria got together the only ball Maria was interested in was the kind that involved evening gowns and white glove service. Even though she was born in a state where football was religion, her idea of eating outdoors involved properly set picnic tables in the backyard, not portable hibachis, hot dogs, brats and beer in a parking lot. However, Maria wanted Sam so, she made the pig skin a part of her life.
Yet in spite of their differences, Sam and Maria fell in love. Everyone thought of them as the perfect couple, especially her parents. Sam took time to establish his name in the NFL and build a long-term plan for their future after football, which meant that marriage had to wait. At first, Maria agreed. However it wasn’t long before they fell into a make-up-and-break-up pattern until Sam reached the point where his career was on the decline and it was time to make a commitment. Although they were more than a couple of years behind schedule, Maria’s parents were thrilled when Sam had finally proposed to Maria with a 5-carat diamond ring set in platinum a year earlier.
“Good morning,” said Maria.
“I was thinking that this arrangement would look nice as a centerpiece. What do you think?” She held the magazine up.
Sam struggled to focus. “It’s nice.”
“It’s nice? Is that all you have to say?”
“Honey, I just woke up. I’m lucky I can see you.”
“Fair enough.” She relented. “Maybe a cup of coffee will help.”
“I think the water’s still hot, but you might want to let it boil again.”
“Okay. Is there any chance I could get a hot breakfast?”
“Sure. The diner serves breakfast all day.” She got up. “I have a ton of things to do with the planner today.” She looked at the magazine again. “I think I’ll call Momma about this arrangement and get her opinion.”
“Speaking of phone calls, the Museum of Modern Art left a message for you on the machine about an opening as a volunteer docent.”
Although they were volunteer positions, a docent at the famed Museum of Modern Art was a coveted position that many applied for in vain.”
“I know. I called them back.”
“What did you tell them?”
“I politely told them thank you but no thanks,” Maria said somewhat flippantly.
“Why? I know people who’d kill to get their foot in that door.”
“I have too much to do for the wedding, silly.”
“It’s only for a few hours a couple of days a week. You can’t manage that?”
“I have a ton of things to do before the wedding.”
“The wedding is still four months off.”
“Four months is a blink of the eye in wedding time. I want everything to be perfect, so I have to stay on a tight schedule.” Maria folded the magazine under her arm. “I’d better give Momma a call from the car to see what she thinks about this style of arrangement.”
“How are you going to get her opinion if she hasn’t seen the magazine?”
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