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Authors: Millenia Black

THE GREAT PRETENDER

BOOK: THE GREAT PRETENDER
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THE GREAT PRETENDER

By Millenia Black

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

Copyright © 2005 by Millenia Black, Inc.

ISBN:

 

All rights reserved. The characters and events portrayed in this novel are the sole property of Millenia Black, Inc. and no other person alive or dead. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

 

Acknowledgements

 

 

 

I thank God, first and foremost. Without God, nothing noteworthy is possible. I offer heartfelt thanks to the friends and family members who continue to help and support me in significant ways.

 

No man is an island. Behind every great accomplishment stand great people. I have to take this opportunity to thank the great people behind this great accomplishment. To all of you—thank you. Your support will always be remembered…

 

A special, heartfelt appreciation:

 

To Roberta Austin, Ruth Caron, Arlene Connolly, Angie Dixon, Gladys Fackler, Richard Love, Nicole Outen, Nancy Rivero, Persia Walker, Judith Henry Wall, Oprah Winfrey, and Pamela Whitmire, I offer enormous gratitude. Despite the fact that I’ve never met some of you in the flesh, you’ve all made efforts to offer much needed help and support, sound advice, and valuable guidance. Thanks, and love to you all.

 

To Mina Anderson, Marcia Crawford, Patricia Heath, and Tanya Stevens, I want to say the help and opinions you offered after reading the drafts will be treasured, now and always—lots of love and thanks.

 

And finally, because of his unyielding and unwavering belief in me, because of his investments, perseverance and caring, this was possible—to my father, Timothy Aldred. You’re the best father a person could ever have. This accomplishment, and all it represents, is for and because of you…Love to you, Daddy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

Orlando, Florida

May 2004

 

O
rlando was no longer what it had once been to Reginald Brooks. For years he had made the central Florida city a home that camouflaged him, symbolizing refuge and protection…But lately, something unusual was happening.

Overtaking a white sedan, Reginald glanced at his Rolex and knew he was going to be late for dinner. The procurement meeting for Disney’s new advertising campaign had run over the allotted time, and he hadn’t had a moment to call Renee. She would be pissed.

The fact that tonight’s delay was legitimate wouldn’t matter, since Renee was never able to decipher the truths from the lies. He thought about calling her now, but changed his mind. His hand stopped in midreach for the cell phone.

Driving past their town home community, Reginald headed for the local
Blossom Bloom
and bought flowers instead.

That would do the trick. It always had.

 

At home, Renee
was
indeed
pissed off. Looking at the clock on the stove, she noted that it was six thirty-five. She practically threw strips of pork chops onto a Barbie plate.

She worried when Reggie was late getting home and didn’t call. Hell, she worried even when he did call. One would think that she’d be accustomed to the late meetings by now, but Renee Jameson was
far
from accustomed. Given the insane schedule he kept, it seemed that Reginald’s work was just as important to him as his family. He spent the last two weeks of every month at the Miami offices, which was a huge thorn in her side. His time at home was so limited, why make it worse by coming in late the entire two weeks he was home?

As the years passed, she became increasingly preoccupied, nursing deep resentment about their time apart.

“Denise, for the last time, bring yourself down to this table, now!” shouted Renee as she poured juice into her daughter’s favorite Barbie cup.

“Okay, Mommy, I’m coming!” Six-year-old Denise Brooks came running down the stairs, almost tripping in her haste. Renee placed the child’s dinner on the table and yanked out the chair.

“Mommy, how come Daddy’s not home yet?” asked Denise. Her inquisitive eyes were big and bright. “He’s bringing ice cream tonight, he promised!”

Renee looked at her daughter. “Daddy is always making you promises he doesn’t keep. Why do you even listen to him? I wish you’d learn, because I’m really tired of hearing you whine whenever he breaks his promises.” Renee slid into her chair and irritably began devouring the tender pork chops.

Sulking, Denise picked at her food and remained silent; waiting to hear her Daddy come through the front door with the ice cream. This time Mommy would be wrong. Daddy
does
keep his promises….sometimes.

 

 

Reginald quickly maneuvered
his Land Cruiser into the driveway. He tried to relax, but the truth was that he dreaded walking through the front door to face Renee. He could no longer ignore the obvious. After six and a half years, this lifestyle was stressing him to the point of distraction.

A very tall and handsome man with good features and a striking face, Reginald looked younger than his forty-one years. Men and women alike felt his presence in any room—it was a strength in which he arbitrarily indulged. Lately, though, he couldn’t care less about his charisma.

Reginald was tired—desperately tired.

He walked up the winding sidewalk, unlocked the door and let himself in, happy to see his daughter. Denise was always a sight for sore eyes. He loved her animated, effervescent spirit.

Hearing the key in the lock, Denise was up and running as the door opened.

“There’s my angel. Come give Daddy a kiss!”

She ran toward her father but stopped abruptly, looking at his hands. “Daddy, where’s the ice cream?” she demanded, bottom lip protruding as her eyes filled with tears. “You didn’t buy it. You promised to bring ice cream today! Now Mommy wins again! Mommy was right
again
!” Denise ran back to the table in tears. She picked up her little fork and shoved buttery mashed potatoes into her mouth. She wanted to finish eating and go play in her room, away from her Daddy. She didn’t like it when her mother ended up being right.

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry.” Reginald placed his snakeskin briefcase near the table and knelt beside his daughter. “Daddy worked late and forgot all about your ice cream tonight, but I promise I’ll bring it for you tomorrow night. Okay?” Without waiting for a reply, he dropped a kiss on her forehead, then stood and faced Renee. Denise would be fine.

“Hey…I’m sorry I didn’t get to call. The Disney meeting ran over, but I shot out of the building the minute it ended. I brought you these as a peace offering.” He extended a dozen soft-pink roses. “Call it male intuition, but
somehow
I just
knew
you’d be furious by the time I made it home.”

Saying nothing, Renee took the flowers, laid them on the counter and gently kissed his lips. “Knowing you feel bad is enough…especially bad enough to bring my favorite flowers. Thanks.” She grinned, seeming placated.

Then they fell into their routine. They sat down to dinner while Reginald watched CNN, and Renee playfully coaxed Denise into eating vegetables.

All was well in Orlando
.

 

 

Later that night
, after fifteen minutes of what had long since become mundane sex, Reggie waited patiently for Renee to fall asleep—then he fell into his six-year-old routine.

He expertly manipulated his way out of their waterbed and descended the stairs to use his cell phone. If she awoke and came downstairs, he’d be caught in the refrigerator and the phone would disappear into the cupboard…However, in the last six and a half years he had never needed to carry out this plan.
Knock on wood
.

Reginald called his wife in Miami.

The phone rang four times before Tracy Brooks picked up, her voice laced with sleep. “Hello?”

“Hi, Trace—just got in. What’s going on tonight?”

He heard a yawn, and the sound of her voice varied as he imagined her shifting the phone from one ear to the other. “Not much. I’ve been waiting up for your call…Just dozed watching
Howard Stern.
How’d it go today?”

Reginald kept a vigilant eye on the staircase. “Today was good. Roger is one happy CEO since the numbers were more than we’d projected for this quarter. And that reminds me…I keep telling you that I can probably persuade him to put someone else on this Orlando division, Trace. Then I won’t have to come up here for more than a day or two at a time like I used to. This traveling back and forth is getting to me…I’m beginning to
hate
being away from you and the girls for so long every month…Especially you-know-who. I just can’t stop thinking about the effect my being away has had on Olivia. I can hardly get her to look at me for more than two seconds at a time…Almost ten years of living like this is taking its toll, Tracy. Don’t you think?”

They’d had this conversation several times, and Tracy never gave an inch. Nevertheless, it had served as an essential front to support Reginald’s “life insurance”—up until now. Of late, he found himself wanting her to agree. He wanted her to want him home.

“Reggie, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—no way. You rake in way too much money with the perks you get for doing it. We may not need the money, but we’d definitely notice if it suddenly stopped showing up in the bank account.” He sighed as Tracy settled into a seductive voice. “Besides…if you’re missing me more than usual, I can always start flying up more often while you’re there. You’re not the only one who’s”—she sighed—“inconvenienced by this arrangement, you know.”

Reginald closed his eyes. He should be at home, in that bed beside his wife. He’d even begun craving Tracy more than usual lately. “I’ll tell you one thing: You’d better be prepared for my arrival tomorrow, because you’re making me as hard as Chinese algebra right now and I’m wishing that I was on the next flight home.”

She chuckled and said, “Ready for tomorrow? I’m ready right now…”

He opened his eyes and looked back at the stairs. “I’ll see you tomorrow when I get home. Love you.”

“Love you, too, Regg. I’m sure you can make it through one more night in that lonely apartment without me.”

Reginald chuckled. “Well, home is just another day away, so I’ll manage.’Night, honey.” He pressed the END button on the phone and slipped back upstairs. After a quick check on Denise, he returned to his bedroom.

As usual, Renee was still sleeping soundly. He slipped back into bed and got comfortable. He closed his eyes.

All was well in Miami, too
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART ONE

 

Chapter 1
Miami, Florida

 

A
fter hanging up the telephone, Tracy Brooks bolted off their king-sized bed and slipped into the blue, knee-length dress that she’d selected earlier that evening. She had nodded off while waiting for Reginald’s nightly telephone call, but if she hurried she could get there in fifteen minutes, tops.

Frank got on her case whenever she showed up after ten. He worked for the UPS corporate offices and liked to be in early, so he liked to be in bed and asleep by eleven. Besides, Tracy didn’t enjoy it when they had to rush things. It was bad enough that Reggie spent so much time out of town, so she liked to take her time when she was with Frank. Just thinking about the forthcoming pleasure made her move even quicker.

BOOK: THE GREAT PRETENDER
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