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Authors: Victoria Christopher Murray

Never Say Never

BOOK: Never Say Never
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Praise for
Destiny's Divas

“With
Destiny's Divas
, author Victoria Christopher Murray triumphs again. The depth and storytelling mastery in her latest novel demonstrate why she is the grande dame of urban Christian fiction.”

—
FreshFiction.com

Praise for
Sinners & Saints

“Murray and Billingsley keep things lively and fun.”

—
Juicy
magazine

“Double the fun, with a message of faith,
Sinners & Saints
will delight readers with two of their favorite characters from two of their favorite authors. It's a match made in heaven!”

—
Grace
magazine

Praise for
The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil

“Murray's story has the kind of momentum that prompts you to elbow disbelief aside and flip the pages in horrified enjoyment.”

—
The Washington Post

Praise for
Sins of the Mother


Sins of the Mother
shows that when the going gets tough, it's best to make an effort and rely on God's strength. It gives the message that there is hope no matter what, and that people must have faith.”

—
FictionAddict.com

“Ha[s] a great blend of faith, reality, conflict, and just enough heartbreaking scenes to keep you enthralled.”

—
HelloBeautiful.com

“Final word: Christian fiction with a powerful kick.”

—
Afro.com

Praise for
Lady Jasmine

“She's back! Jasmine has wrecked havoc in three VCM novels, including
Too Little, Too Late
. In
Lady Jasmine
the schemer everyone loves to loathe breaks several commandments by the third chapter.”

—
Essence

“Jasmine is the kind of character who doesn't sit comfortably on a page. She's the kind who jumps inside a reader's head, runs around, and stirs up trouble—the kind who stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.”

—
The Huntsville Times
(Alabama)

Praise for
Too Little, Too Late

“[In this book] there are so many hidden messages about love, life, faith, and forgiveness. Murray's vividness of faith is inspirational.”

—
The Clarion-Ledger
(Jackson, Mississippi)

“An excellent entry in the Jasmine Larson Bush Christian Lit saga; perhaps the best so far . . . Fans will appreciate this fine tale. . . . A well-written, intense drama.”

—
Midwest Book Review

Praise for
The Ex Files

“The engrossing transitions the women go through make compelling reading. . . . Murray's vivid portrait of how faith can move mountains and heal relationships should inspire.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“Reminds you of things that women will do if their hearts are broken. . . . Once you pick this book up, you will not put it down.”

—
UrbanReviews.com

Praise for
A Sin and a Shame

“Riveting, emotionally charged, and spiritually deep . . . What is admirable is the author's ability to hold the reader in suspense until the very last paragraph of the novel!
A Sin and a Shame
is a must read. . . . Truly a story to be enjoyed and pondered upon!”

—
RomanceInColor.com


A Sin and a Shame
is Victoria Christopher Murray at her best. . . . A page-turner that I couldn't put down as I was too eager to see what scandalous thing Jasmine would do next. And to watch Jasmine's spiritual growth was a testament to Victoria's talents. An engrossing tale of how God's grace covers us all. I absolutely loved this book!”

—ReShonda Tate Billingsley,
Essence
bestselling author of
I Know I've Been Changed

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The beginning . . .

I
never meant to fall in love with my best friend's husband.

I mean, who does that? Truly, that is the plotline of some dying soap opera or supermarket romance novel. This kind of thing never happens in real life. Women aren't that scandalous.

At least that's what I thought—until it happened to me.

It wasn't like I planned it, though I know that's no excuse. All I can say is that what happened to me was about situations and circumstances; it was the wrong man at the right time.

That's how it is sometimes, you know? Sometimes, Mars aligns with Venus, the stars set in the sky in a certain formation, the cow jumps over the moon, and
bam
! You're in the middle of your best friend's marriage.

I don't mean to sound like I'm making light of this whole situation. Because trust me, this was a sad state of affairs where people were hurt and hearts were broken. Even now, just remembering it all makes me sick, but not in the way you think. I'm sick with love. I have never loved a man the way I loved him.

I know that there are women—and men—who are ready to condemn me to death row, but the thing is, many of those who sit in
judgment of me would've done the exact same thing, in the exact same way, if they'd been in the exact same place.

But you know what? There really isn't any way to convince you; I need to show you, tell you every detail. Then, after you know how it went down, you can decide: would you or wouldn't you?

So, this is my story . . . well, not mine alone. This is the story of Emily Harrington-Taylor and Miriam Williams. And this is how it all began . . .

1

Miriam Williams

W
e were just three best friends doing what we always did. Three best friends having our monthly get-together on the second Tuesday of the month—lunch at Roscoe's Chicken 'N Waffles.

We'd been doing this for twelve years, since we graduated from USC. But today, we'd changed it up a bit. Today, instead of driving over to Hollywood and meeting at the Roscoe's on Gower, we decided to check out the new one closer to my home, the one on Manchester.

Maybe that was a sign. Maybe if we'd kept everything the same, the world wouldn't have changed. Maybe if we'd been in Hollywood, Michellelee wouldn't have gotten that call just as I was stuffing that first sugary bite of a waffle into my mouth.

We'd been talking and laughing—or rather Michellelee and Emily had been doing all the talking, and as usual, I was just laughing.

Then Michellelee's BlackBerry vibrated on the table.

I glanced at Emily and we rolled our eyes together. There was hardly a time when our celebrity friend wasn't called away from one of our lunches. That's just how it was for one of the most recognizable
faces in Los Angeles. As the evening anchor for KABC, Michellelee, who had combined her first name, Michelle, with her last name, Lee, and was now known by just one name, had one of the top ten news jobs in the country, even though we were just a little more than a decade out of school.

“You know she's going to have to rush out of here,” Emily said to me.

I nodded, but then frowned when I looked back at Michellelee. Our friend wasn't talking, she was just listening, which was the first sign that something was wrong. My heart was pounding already. Today was Tuesday, September 11, and for the last ten years, on this date, I was always on edge.

“Okay, I'm on my way,” she said. “I'll call from the car.”

She clicked off the phone, and when she looked at me and Emily, I swear, there were tears in her eyes.

“There's been a fire . . .”

Emily and I both sat up straight.

Michellelee said, “At that new charter school on Western.”

“That would be Chauncey's firehouse,” I breathed.

“Jamal's there today, too,” Emily said, as if she needed to remind me that her husband worked with mine.

I hardly recognized Emily's voice, so different from the glee that was inside her a few minutes ago.

Emily asked Michellelee, “What else did they tell you?”

Michellelee shook her head. “No names. But more than twenty children were taken to the hospital.” Then her eyes moved between me and Emily. “And three firefighters were rushed to the hospital as well.”

“Oh, no,” I moaned, and Emily took my hand.

“Don't go there,” Michellelee said, moving straight into her elder
role. She was the oldest of the three of us, even if only by nineteen days. “This doesn't mean that any are your husbands. Let's not start worrying.”

“I've got to get over there.” Emily said what I was thinking.

Michellelee nodded. “We'll take one car; I'll drive.” She scooted her chair away from the table and marched toward the hostess stand to pay the bill.

It took me and Emily a couple of seconds to follow, as if our brains were just a little behind. Finally, we jumped up and grabbed our purses and sweaters, leaving our half-eaten dishes right there on the table.

Now, sitting in the backseat of Michellelee's Mercedes, I could feel every bump on Manchester as we sped down the boulevard. My eyes were closed, but I didn't need to see Michellelee. I could imagine her—her camera-ready, perfectly plucked and arched eyebrows were probably knitted together, causing deep lines in her forehead.

Then there was Emily. I couldn't picture her expression, though I'm sure it was a lot like mine, a face frozen with fear. Every few seconds, I heard Emily sigh right before she said, “I can't reach Jamal.” I stopped counting after she said that for the fifth time.

I wasn't even going to try to call my husband. It would be futile, especially if they were in the midst of a fire. Cell phones never left the firehouse.

But even when Chauncey was at work I didn't call. I never called because if I ever started, I'd never stop. I'd call every fifteen minutes for my own peace. So he called me. Like he'd just done a little over an hour ago, as I was pulling into Roscoe's parking lot to have lunch with my girls. He'd called just to tell me that he loved me.

It sounded like command central in the front of the car, with Emily and Michellelee doing what they did best: taking control. So
I did what I knew: I took my cares to God. I prayed like my life depended on it. Because it did. There was no way I'd survive if anything happened to Chauncey.

I didn't pray for my husband alone; I prayed for Jamal, too, because if anything happened to him, my heart would still be broken. Jamal was Chauncey's best friend, but he was dear to me also. I'd known him almost as long as I'd known Chauncey; I couldn't imagine our lives—and definitely not Emily's life—without him.

So I kept my eyes closed and my lips moving like I'd done so often over the years. My husband was living the firefighter's life that he'd dreamed of as a child, but his dreams were my nightmares. The way he earned his living had me on my knees every time he walked out the door. The daily stress was so much that I'd once asked myself if I should've married him. I had started thinking that maybe it would've been better if I'd never fully loved him than to love him with everything I had . . . and lose him one day.

But my bone-deep love for Chauncey trumped my fears, and really, I'm glad about it. Because truly, it would've been impossible to walk away from that man and it would've been a travesty to miss out on all these years of love.

BOOK: Never Say Never
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