All of Chenille Abrams’ dreams came true the day she married NFL star Brayden Carpenter. He’s the down-to-earth, loving, and protective man she never thought she'd find. And with her own successful career, Chenille plans to be more than just a famous athlete’s wife. She's determined to balance work, marriage, and motherhood, as the couple awaits their first child . . .
Until their son is born with a crippling heart ailment. Until a devastated Brayden starts putting his career above everything else. And when tragedy strikes, Chenille struggles to find a reason to go on—as Brayden takes comfort from anywhere but home . . .
Little by little, Chenille picks up the pieces as she and Brayden try to make their marriage work once more. But when he fathers a baby that the mother can’t keep, will this be the final blow? Or can they find a way past betrayal into unexpected hope—to at last have a future worth everything?
Praise for Tiffany L. Warren’s novels
“Filled with love, betrayal, heartbreak and forgiveness.”
—Kimberla Lawson Roby on The Favorite Son
“Highly entertaining. Captivating and compelling. Great book club option.”
—USAToday.com on The Replacement Wife
“In a fine blend of suspense and inspirational fiction, Warren spins an entertaining tale about folks misbehaving behind the pulpit in a modern African American church.”
—Library Journal on The Pastor’s Husband
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Two years ago
My nerves are shot.
I should be ecstatic, thrilled, overwhelmed, and every other adjective to describe a makeup artist on their first big celebrity gig. It's in Jamaica, for crying out loud. That alone should make my spirits soar.
But all I can think about is my brand-new ex-boyfriend, Cody. He was supposed to be here with me. We were going to make love in our suite during my downtime. We were going to lie on the beach and plan our future. We were going to have the time of our lives.
But he couldn't keep his penis out of other women's vaginas.
Every time I close my eyes I think of what I found on his phone. I wish I hadn't looked, because everything had changed after that. Two weeks ago, everyone had looked to us as their relationship goal. Now, we are irretrievably broken.
I remember the events of that night. We had gone out to dinner to celebrate his birthday, had great sex, and were resting in his huge bed.
I'd picked up his phone, intending to text myself the cute selfie we'd taken at dinner. His phone had been unlocked, because he always kept it unlocked. We'd trusted each other.
I'd clicked on his photo, and found the selfie, but I mistakenly clicked on the video that was next to the selfie. It played, and my jaw dropped.
It was Cody and some random girl. He was taking her from behind as she cried, "Happy dirty thirty, Daddy."
I hadn't even roused him from his sleep to argue. I'd gotten dressed and snuck out of the bed and his condo. I'd sent him a text later, congratulating him on his birthday conquest. He'd called me insecure and petty.
So instead of holding hands with my man and looking out at the clouds, I'm on this first-class flight with my best friend and assistant, Kara.
"I can't believe we're about to land in Montego Bay," Kara says as she peers out the airplane window.
"I know. I've never been out of the country."
"If I had a boo, it would be perfect. Maybe I'll pull one of these ballers with this thong bikini."
Kara will pull someone this weekend, even if it's a temporary fling. Late last year, she'd hopped another flight to the Dominican Republic and had all the fat sucked out of her size-fourteen stomach and pumped right into her booty. She'd already had big breasts, so now she looked just like the letter S, with a teeny, tiny waist.
The flight attendant announces that we're about to land, so I make sure my seat belt is fastened, my tray table stowed, and my seat is in the upright position. Kara does none of the above.
The landing goes smoothly, and we emerge from the plane into the Montego Bay airport. I have to say, I was expecting more from an international airport. It's small like a regional airport in the States, and it's sweltering hot, like the air conditioning is broken.
Kara fans herself and cusses as we stand in the long line for customs. I can't even get worked up about the wait. I think after crying for two weeks, I've emptied myself of emotions.
We walk toward the hotel shuttle van that has been reserved for the concert attendees. I see people pulling tickets out of their wallets and bags — everyone except me and Kara.
"Were we supposed to have a ticket?" I ask.
Kara made all of the arrangements for this trip, with my credit card, of course. I haven't seen any of the confirmations, because Kara has booked travel for me before.
"I wasn't provided any tickets."
I walk over to the pile of bags next to the shuttle van, to make sure mine and Kara's luggage is there. It is.
"Are we supposed to have tickets for this shuttle?" I ask the bag porter.
"Tickets. Do we need tickets?"
The porter's eyes widen. "Oh, you think I work here?"
His American accent immediately makes me know that I've made a mistake.
"I'm so sorry. It's just that ... you have the same kind of outfit as ..."
Kara walks up with a huge smile on her face. "You're already meeting celebrities, I see, and we haven't even gotten to the resort yet."
My stomach drops with embarrassment. Who in the world is this guy? I feel like an idiot that I don't know and Kara obviously does.
"Brayden Carpenter," the porter lookalike says as he extends his hand to me. I return his firm handshake, but I still have no idea who he is.
"She's not into sports," Kara says. "He plays for the Dallas Knights. NFL. I'm Kara."
"Oh!" I say. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to mistake you for a bag porter. It's just that I see everyone with a ticket, and ..."
"She's just nervous," Kara says.
"Not a problem," Brayden says. "Are you guys going to the Tropical Get Down?"
"Yes, of course," Kara says.
"Well, maybe I'll see you there," Brayden replies.
"I'll be working," I say.
Why did I say that? I'm one hundred percent sure he's just being nice and doesn't care whether he sees us or not, but I had to tell him that I'm working.
He smiles. "Are you an artist? You sing?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. Chenille Abrams. I am a makeup artist."
"I heard that. Get your money, then."
Brayden gives us a nod and then walks toward the limo bus that's probably taking him to the resort. As soon as he's out of earshot, Kara bursts into laughter.
"Girl, I can't believe you just called one of the hottest players in the NFL a bag porter."
"It's not my fault! He looks Jamaican. He's tall, muscular, and dark. He had on the same outfit."
"Um ... no, he didn't. His polo was Tom Ford and his shorts were Ralph Lauren."
"Whatever. Did you find out about our tickets?"
"Something went wrong with our shuttle reservation, but they agreed to take us over to the resort anyway."
"How kind of the driver."
"It might've had something to do with the fact that I said I'd go dancing with him before we leave."
I shake my head. "Girl, why did you lie like that?"
"It wasn't a lie. He's hot, and I bet he is packing heat, chile. That's what they say about these Jamaican men."
"What kind of heat? The burning, you-gotta-take-antibiotics kind?"
Kara rolls her eyes and drags me over to the van where the other passengers (who have tickets) are boarding.
"I still can't believe you didn't recognize Brayden Carpenter."
I shrug. "It doesn't matter. You're the one here to meet a baller. I'm here to network for Beat by Chenille."
"Of course you are, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun, too."
Lord knows I need some fun after what happened with Cody. But the last thing I need is an NFL player. They're even bigger cheaters than the average man. If Cody is videotaping himself with women, who knows what shenanigans a man like Brayden would get into.
No, as fine and as chocolate and as muscular as he is, Brayden Carpenter isn't for me. Maybe Kara and her brand-new, bodacious hips can score him instead.CHAPTER 2
Brayden scanned the crowd in the lobby of Paradise Blue, the five star, all-inclusive resort that was hosting the Tropical Get Down. He was not as impressed as the hordes of attendees seemed to be, probably because having played for five years in the NFL, he'd been to some of the world's most exclusive resorts.
He was, however, impressed by the quality of the women in attendance.
Women of every shade of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla filled the lobby in varying stages of undress. Some wore tiny shorts and crop tops. Others had been to their rooms already and had changed into swimsuits that looked like dental floss. All of them seemed on the prowl — ready to land and possibly trap a baller.
"I am definitely having a threesome this weekend," Jarrod, Brayden's best friend and teammate, announced. "Too many fine women here for me to pick just one."
"Definitely? Don't you have to convince them first?"
Jarrod laughed. "They won't need much convincing. That's why they came. Every woman here wants to hook up with a man like me. They've been looking at the blogs, checking to see who was coming. You probably on at least fifty hit lists, bruh."
Well, he definitely wasn't on Chenille Abrams's hit list. She'd thought he was a bag porter. Hadn't even recognized him.
Brayden finally spotted Chenille and her friend, Kara. They were standing at the front desk, probably checking in.
Brayden had noticed Chenille's beauty at the airport. Smooth, ebony skin like Lupita Nyong'o, with curves like Beyoncé. Not the artificially enhanced curves that a lot of the women present had, but curves created with jerk chicken, neck bones, and jollof rice, and refined with a healthy amount of physical activity. She was solid, and smooth and sexy. She wore her hair in thick braids that cascaded down her back and stopped right above the curve of her behind.
He had to get to know her better. They were in paradise, so it was the perfect time.
Brayden jumped up from his seat, and Jarrod jumped up, too.
"What we 'bout to do? Going to the pool bar?" Jarrod asked.
"No. I want to try and hang out with her, over at the desk."
"The girl who thought you were the help?"
Jarrod laughed. "There are easier pickings. It might take all week to convince her to holla, and then she might not be down."
Brayden knew exactly what Jarrod meant by being "down." He agreed that Chenille didn't strike him as the type that Jarrod was looking for, but Brayden wasn't interested in just having a fun week. Not with a woman like her. She was a goddess.
Brayden imagined Chenille wearing his jersey and nothing else, in the bedroom, at his home. She was the type he'd bring home and never let her go.
He made his way over to the front desk, hoping to chat with her and maybe walk her up to her room. But as he got close to her, Brayden could see that all was not well. She didn't even seem to notice him walking up to her.
"I need you to check your computer again," Chenille said.
"Ma'am, we don't have a reservation under your name, or under your friend's name."
"Check it again," Chenille said.
Kara looked like she was about to pull out a round-the-way-sista beat-down on the woman if she didn't make some magic happen with that computer.
"Look here," Kara said. "I made the reservation my damn self, so I know it's there. I gave you the confirmation number."
"That confirmation number doesn't match anything we have in our system."
"You think I just made it up?" Kara asked. "I know what you better do. You better press some more buttons and find us a room."
"Can we just have whatever you have available?" Chenille said.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, we are booked solid for the entire week. I can check one of our sister properties for you."
Sister property? Brayden didn't want her staying at a sister property. He wanted her right here, all week long. He wouldn't be able to make his moves if she was at a sister property.
Brayden cleared his throat, and both Chenille and Kara looked in his direction. Kara's face lit up with a smile, but Chenille looked right back at the front desk clerk.
"Ma'am, we have a room at our property in Lucea."
"How far is that from here?" Chenille asked.
"It's about forty-five minutes, and we can have one of our drivers take you over there."
Chenille groaned. "I am doing makeup for three of the artists performing. I can't be forty-five minutes away."
"Unfortunately, every resort and hotel in Montego Bay is booked because of this concert. I don't know what to tell you."
The front desk clerk placed her hands on her keyboard, not typing, but with an air of finality.
Brayden knew that this was his chance to step up and be the black knight in shining armor.
"I have a room. You can stay in my room," Brayden said.
"You're inviting us to stay in your room with you? Really?" Kara asked. She laughed out loud.
Chenille wasn't laughing. She was frowning.
"No, not with me. I mean you can have my room. I can bunk with my boy Jarrod. We both have suites. We don't need that much room."
Chenille's jaw dropped, and then finally she smiled.
"You would do that for us? Even though I thought you were a bag porter?"
Brayden shrugged. "There's nothing wrong with that job. I didn't mind at all."
"Would you like me to put Ms. Abrams's credit card information down for incidentals?" the desk clerk asked.
"No, leave everything in my name. It's on me."
"The room and tax as well?"
All three ladies — the clerk, Kara, and Chenille — stared at him in disbelief. Maybe they'd never met a rich gentleman before. He'd like to make their acquaintance.
"Yes, the room charges, taxes, and resort fees. And please make them new keys. I don't want you ladies to worry about me walking in on you."
Chenille gripped Brayden's arm and squeezed. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Yes, she does," Kara said.
Even with tears of thanks in her eyes, Chenille glared at her friend. Brayden cracked up laughing.
"I don't know what she's talking about," Brayden said. "No thanks are required. I'm just doing a good deed."
"To cover up for your dirty deeds?" Kara asked.
"No. Because, I hate to see my beautiful sisters in distress. Chenille said she's here to make her money. I like that."
"You want her to make her coin. That's all right," Kara said.
"You're on the fifth floor, in one of our luxury penthouse suites," the desk clerk said. "The elevators are on the right. A bellman will deliver your bags in a few minutes."
Chenille turned to face Brayden again. "A penthouse suite?"
"I feel like somebody ought to give you some booty, just on general principle," Kara said. "Go on, Nille, throw that ass in a circle."
Brayden wouldn't mind Chenille rewarding his chivalry, but he didn't want it that way. He hated for a woman to feel obligated to have sex with him.
"No, not that, but I'd love for us to have dinner one night while we're here," Brayden said.
Chenille smiled again. Brayden would do and say anything to keep seeing that smile. The full lips, the deep dimple in her left cheek. It was perfection.
"Mr. Carpenter, where should the bellman deliver your bags?" the clerk asked. "Do you need someone to pack them?"
"I haven't unpacked yet. It's the set of black luggage, and it can be delivered to Jarrod Green's suite."
"Thank you so much," Chenille said. "I would love to have dinner with you."
"It's a date, then."
Now, Brayden had to figure out how to keep Jarrod's head from exploding when he found out he had to share his sex den. It wasn't going to be pretty, but Brayden thought Jarrod just might congratulate him when he shared what he did to land the finest girl he'd ever laid eyes on.CHAPTER 3
"You did what?"
Brayden knew that Jarrod was going to react badly to him giving Chenille and Kara his room. Since Jarrod was planning for his room to be a mini–Playboy mansion, he probably didn't want to have a roommate.
"Keep your voice down! Someone might hear you."
"You gave those two chicks your room. So now you want to crash in my room?"
"I just had my bags sent up."
"You knew I was going to say yes."
"I knew you wouldn't say no."
"Why didn't you just get them another room?"
Jarrod flagged down the girl serving drinks and took a tall glass of rum punch. He guzzled it down and took another. Brayden shook his head. His boy was completely overreacting.
"I promise I'll stay out of your way," Brayden said. "I'll barely even be in there. Only to sleep."
Jarrod shook his head and frowned. "That's not good enough, bruh. When most people are sleeping is when I have the majority of my activities planned."
"How many girls can you possibly hook up with?"
"How many nights are there?"
"Your little friend is gonna shrivel up and fall off."
Jarrod scoffed. "Like my grandmama would say, I don't receive that."
"You've got a huge suite, man. Take your activities and hoes into the bedroom, and I'll crash out on the couch."
Jarrod sighed. "You better be glad you're my boy, because other than that, you'd be sleeping on the beach."
"Thanks, man. I'm sure Chenille and Kara would thank you, too."
"One of them is going to thank me. Which one you drooling over, so I can get the other one?"
"I'm not drooling."
"You are. You gave up a penthouse suite, and offered to pay for all of it, for two chicks you met at the damn airport. You're the type of dude they're talking about on wheretheballers.com."
"What the heck is that?"
"A website that gives groupies tips, tools, and techniques on how to separate ballers from their cash. There is a whole post about this concert."
"Oh, yes. They tell them what clubs to go to, how to score VIP, and how to trick a baller into giving up his sperm."
"Get the hell outta here."
"I wish I was lying, man. It's rough out here. That's why I got a vasectomy."
"What if you want a kid one day?"
"I've got millions of my little swimmers frozen for the occasion. I'm not getting any random groupies pregnant."
"That's how it is, unfortunately."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Outside Child"
Copyright © 2018 Tiffany L. Warren.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful, serious story of married life between two strong-willed people. There is much love, but also struggle and strain. Driven apart by a disastrous accident, one partner at some point assumes the task of trying for reconciliation. The tension that can build between two people is well described as is the importance of trying to be sensitive to each other. This couple who truly care for each other, will find harmony in a way they never could have imagined. A great an interesting novel that offers so much to learn! Well written!