Authors: Victoria Christopher Murray
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.”
“Ha[s] a great blend of faith, reality, conflict, and just enough heartbreaking scenes to keep you enthralled.”
“Final word: Christian fiction with a powerful kick.”
Praise for LADY JASMINE
“She’s back! Jasmine has wreaked havoc in three VCM novels, including last year’s
Too Little, Too Late.
the schemer everyone loves to loathe breaks several commandments by the third chapter.”
“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
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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!”
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,
bestselling author of
I Know I’ve Been Changed
Sins of the Mother
Too Little, Too Late
The Ex Files
A Sin and a Shame
Grown Folks Business
Truth Be Told
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Victoria Christopher Murray
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Touchstone Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
First Touchstone trade paperback edition June 2011
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ISBN 978-1-4391-9426-3 (ebook)
This book is dedicated to two very special people whom I lost the very same week in 2010.
My uncle, Elmer Yearwood. Second to my father, there is no man on earth who had a greater impact on my life. From my earliest days he cared about me, nurtured me, and loved me so that I would grow into the woman I am today. I pray that I made him proud. I will always love you, Uncle Elmer. Rest in God’s hands.
My agent, Elaine Koster. Until her death in August, Elaine was the only agent I’d had. From the very beginning, she believed in me, told me that I had amazing talent, and said that she hoped to build my career to “the greatest heights.” (She said that at least once a year.) Her belief in me helped me to believe and I will always be grateful that God chose her to help build my career. Thank you, Elaine. RIP.
The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil
IVE MILLION DOLLARS.
All I could do was stare at the check. To be sure, I counted again: Seven figures, two commas. Yup, this was definitely five million.
I could have stared at those numbers all day, but I had to look up and at my boss, Shay-Shaunté.
My eyes asked the questions; she explained, “That’s for you,” and then she leaned back in what I called her throne—a snake-skinned upholstered executive chair with a back that was six feet high. She smiled as if she gave out seven-figure checks on the regular.
That’s when I started laughing—hard. There had to be a joke in here somewhere, and I figured I’d get a head start before Shay-Shaunté filled me in. But she didn’t laugh; she didn’t chuckle, she didn’t even blink. Just smiled, as if she was waiting for me to get it together.
That’s when my heart started thumping. Could this five-million-dollar check made out to me, Evia Langston, be real?
The thought made me weak. Made me fall into the leather chair in front of her desk.
Okay, keep breathing, I told myself. First, I inhaled, then I did just the opposite. Deep inside I knew this was one of those too-good-to-be-true moments, but for a second I pushed aside the question of why anybody would give me five million dollars and thought instead about how desperately Adam and I needed this money.
“Oh, my God!” I said under my breath. “This will save our lives.”
I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but I guess I did, because Shay-Shaunté said, “That’s what I was thinking.”
My eyes burned; tears were on the way. But just when I was about to get down on my knees and thank God and Shay-Shaunté, that ringing in my heart started.
Oh, no! I wasn’t trying to hear that. I tried to shake it away, but it trilled all the way down to my soul.
When I was a kid, Big Mama told me that all God’s children had His voice inside them. Well, I didn’t have a voice; what I had was more like an alarm clock, but however it sounded, my grandmother told me it should never be ignored.
“It’s the love of the Lord, warnin’ you when somethin’ ain’t right. Never turn your back on the Lord, chile, or you’ll find yourself knee-deep in the devil’s trouble.”
From the time I was ten till now, Big Mama’s words had been nothing but the truth. Every time I heard that alarm, I sat down and thought things through. But I didn’t want to do too much thinking about this. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to listen to God; it was just that I didn’t want Him to do too much talking right about now. ’Cause I was sure that if He spoke, it
could mess up this whole five-million-dollar thing that I had going on.
“What is this?” I spoke with a calm I didn’t feel. The check was still clenched in my palm; my plan was to never let it go.
My boss tossed her auburn-streaked hair away from her face. “I’m assuming you’re not really asking me what that is, since you know it’s a check.” She stood, did one of those model-sway strolls toward me, perched her butt on the corner of her glass desk, and stretched out her long legs. “Let’s call this a fee … for services rendered.”
What kind of services would have to be rendered to get a five-million-dollar fee?
I knew it; this had to be a joke.
I’d worked for Shay-Shaunté for six years as one of two executive assistants. Basically, I was her right hand, in charge of numbers and anything else she didn’t want to handle in her hair care empire. In that role, I’d done lots of things—including putting together all the investor reports (since I’d been an accounting major in college) and working on other stuff till the clock ticked way past midnight sometimes. Occasionally, I even traveled with Shay-Shaunté when Rachel Stone, the other executive assistant, couldn’t.
But even with that plateload of responsibility, in the more than two thousand days that I’d been employed by Shay-Shaunté and her company, Ferossity, I’d never done anything that came close to earning five million dollars—not even if you added all two thousand days together and multiplied by three.
Then, Shay-Shaunté explained, “My birthday’s coming up.”
Dang! Now I knew for sure that this check and I were soon going to be parted.
I knew that Shay-Shaunté’s birthday was approaching—though I doubted if too many others knew. My boss was
superprivate, almost anal in her secrecy; she never shared anything with anyone about the who, what, where of her life. Articles found on the Internet estimated her age because no one ever knew her exact birth date.
But I knew because of loan papers she’d had me deliver to the bank for her about a year ago. It wasn’t like I was trying to be nosy, but there on the first page right next to date of birth: 12/31/1960. I remembered thinking, dang! There was no way in the world I would’ve guessed ol’ girl was anywhere close to fifty. Maybe because of her achievements I should’ve known that she had to be beyond the thirty years that she looked. But physically, no one could tell it—not from her six-foot, supermodel, size 2 physique. Not from her unblemished skin and distinct features that gave no real clue to her ethnicity. Her face was a representation of the world. With eyes slightly slanted, she could have been Asian. Below was a nose as thin and upturned as any Caucasian’s. Then, there were her lips—full, heart-shaped, the pride of Africans.