Love And Lies
Release Date, January 30, 2007
Sample Excerpt Discussion Questions
New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby returns with another fabulous tale featuring the beloved scoundrel Curtis Black. Truth and Lies… At long last, the Reverend Curtis Black appears to be living the straight life. The all-too-human preacher is a bestselling author now, and he and wife, Charlotte, are raising two adorable children. But the ever-suspicious Charlotte doesn’t trust that Curtis has put his womanizing past behind him. While’s he on the road promoting his latest book, she knows that there just needs to be one extra-devoted fan in his flock for him to stray. Secrets and Lies… Still, Charlotte is no angel herself, and she’s been keeping plenty of secrets from Curtis while he’s been away. For one thing, their daughter, Marissa, is behaving bizarrely, reminding Charlotte a bit too much of the man with whom she had an affair five years ago–an affair Curtis won’t let her forget. Then there are the disturbing visits from her so-called brother-in-law, a man once involved with drugs and the law. Curtis has forbidden the family to see him, but the man simply keeps turning up on Charlotte’s doorstep, no matter how hard she tries to keep him away. Charlotte believes with all her heart that things will be better once Curtis comes home. Love and Lies… But Charlotte should be careful what she wishes for. She thinks love is enough to untangle the web of lies she and Curtis have woven for themselves. What she doesn’t know is that when her husband finally returns, she’ll have some tough decisions to make if she wants to save her soul and salvage her marriage.
It was all I could do not to curse my husband out—my husband, a man who was never home more than a few days at a time, a man who didn’t seem to care about his wife in the least, a man who was probably sleeping with only God knew whom. Which is why after five years of pleading with him to change and begging him to spend more time with me, I had finally had enough. I was finally in a place where I would no longer tolerate the world-renowned Reverend Curtis Black or the adultery I was sure he was committing. “So, when exactly are you going to be here, Curtis?” I asked now, gripping the phone tightly. “I just told you. In a couple of days.” “I realize that, but I need to know a specific day. What I need to know is the time your flight will be arriving at O’Hare?” “Well, Charlotte, as much as I hate to disappoint you, I don’t know what time.” “You don’t know? How could you not know?” “Because I just don’t.” “Curtis, please. Do you think I’m that stupid? Do you really think you can get me to believe that you’re coming home this week but your travel reservations still haven’t been arranged? Do you really think I’m that crazy?” “Like I said…I’ll be there in a couple of days.” See, it was comments such as this that made me want to do unspeakable things to Curtis. Made me want to snatch him down from that nice, little pedestal that thousands of people nationwide had placed him on. What I wanted to do was show him first-hand that being a New York Times bestselling author didn’t mean that he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to. But I decided instead that I would calmly try to reason with him one last time. “Curtis, have you even thought about the amount of time you spend on the road? I mean, are you even aware of the fact that you’ve now been gone for two weeks straight and that once you return, you’ll only be here for five short days?” “Charlotte, why are we doing this? Huh? Because you know just as well as I do that my speaking engagements are very necessary. You’ve known for the last five years that this is what I have to do if you want to keep living the wealthy lifestyle you so desperately wanted when we were first married.” “But, baby, there has to be some sort of balance,” I said, remembering just how miserable I’d been before his publisher had offered him a contract with an initial advance worth seven-hundred-fifty thousand dollars for one book. “Look, either you want luxury or you want average,” he said, sounding impatient. “What I want is for you to be here with your family. Matthew and Marissa need you, Curtis, and I’m tired of feeling as though I’m a single parent. Twelve-year-old boys need their fathers.” “All three of my children, including Alicia, know that I love them and that I have a job to do. I’ve explained to them that it won’t always be this way, but for now, this is what I have to do.” “Curtis, all I’m asking is that you please cancel some of your commitments. I need you to spend more time at home.” “It’s not going to happen. Not right now, and to be honest, I’m tired of repeating the same words to you over and over again.” “Oh, so now, you’ve got the nerve to be irritated?” I said, my last bit of tolerance evaporating second by second. “No, I just don’t see a reason to continue discussing a situation that isn’t going to change.” “Well, maybe the problem isn’t your speaking engagements, Curtis. Maybe it has more to do with the fact that you’re out there sleeping around. Because knowing you, you’ve probably got a different woman lined up in every city.” “You mean like the way you slept with Aaron behind my back? How you slept with that deceitful lunatic, even though he claimed to be my best friend? Or do you mean like how you lied about Matthew being my son when you knew full well that he might not be? Or maybe you mean like how because you slept with Aaron, we had to get a paternity test just to make sure Marissa was actually mine? So, tell me, Charlotte, which sin of yours are you talking about exactly?” At that moment, I wondered when Curtis would ever stop wallowing in the past and would eventually forgive me for the way I had betrayed him. Because whether he wanted to admit it or not, it wasn’t like any of this had happened one month ago. As a matter of fact, it had been five whole years since Marissa had been born and to me it was high time for us to move on. Not to mention, it wasn’t like he’d been this perfect, little Boy Scout himself. “You know what, Curtis, as far as I’m concerned, you need to get over it. What you need to do is stop making all these lame excuses and get your priorities in order.” “No, what I need to do is the same thing I’ve been doing all along. Making a ton of money, so that you can continue living like the queen you think you are and so that I can maintain the type of freedom I’ve definitely become accustomed to. End of story.” His tone was razor-sharp and more than anything I wanted to hurt him back. What I wanted was for him to feel more pain than he was now causing me, but for some reason, I couldn’t find the words. I was speechless and the only thing I could think to do was slam the phone down on its base. Which is exactly what I did and then I covered my face with both hands. It was so hard to believe that after all the lying and scheming I’d done over the years, making sure I’d obtained everything I wanted I was still living in complete turmoil. To put it plainly, I was living a life of pure hell and I didn’t know how much more I’d be able to stand before exploding. I walked out of the sitting room inside our master bedroom suite and over toward the balcony. Once there, I folded my arms and gazed out, trying to settle my nerves. This just didn’t make any sense, being so unhappy. Not when we had this massive three-level, mini-mansion, a Lexus 470 SUV, Mercedes S500 and a BMW two-seater. Not when I’d hired a five-day-per-week housekeeper who also cooked our meals. Not when we had an enormous bank account and a whole slew of investments. Although, maybe this overly aggressive attempt at gaining the whole world really was grounds for losing one’s own soul, because that’s exactly how I had been feeling for more than a year now. I’d tried my best to make things right with Curtis but no matter what I said or did, he no longer paid much attention to me. And even on the rare occasion when he was home, he spent all of his time with the children and even visited Alicia on her college campus, which was only a couple of hours away. He did everything with everyone except me, his wife of seven years, and now I knew, just at this very moment, that this wasn’t going to change. After all, he’d slept with me when he was married to his first wife, Tanya, and his second wife, Mariah, so how in the world could I have ever thought I would be an exception? How could I have ever thought Curtis was going to be the loving, faithful husband until death do us part? Of course, in the beginning, when we’d first gotten married, I had to admit that Curtis was in fact the loving husband and father. I also had to admit that I was the one who’d blundered into this ridiculous world of insanity the day I’d made the decision to sleep with Aaron Malone—or Donovan Wainright, which we’d learned was his real name. Oh how this had proven to be an absolute nightmare and to think I’d almost lost my life because of it. The man had taken the fatal attraction theory to a whole new level, and he’d gone to major extremes to ruin everything. He’d blabbed to Curtis practically every comment that I’d been naïve enough to confide to him and in the end he’d tried to burn our house down with me still inside it. Just the mere thought that I’d risked each of our lives for the likes of Aaron, a schizophrenic who’d masked himself as a stable and intelligent born-again Christian, was enough to make me cringe. It was enough to make me wonder if that mental institution he’d been dragged back to was now keeping closer watch on him. Because for the life of me, I still couldn’t understand how in the beginning he’d been able to convince his psychiatrist that he’d somehow made this miraculous recovery, how he’d been able to leave the state of Michigan, set up shop in Illinois with a whole new identity, and then find a good-paying job. Although, Curtis had learned from one of the detectives that this had all been possible because Aaron had been good about taking his medication. I stared through the window a while longer almost in a daze and then finally walked back toward our California king-sized bed. And then it hit me. No matter what I’d done with Aaron five years ago, Curtis still didn’t have the right to treat me as if I didn’t matter. He had no right because his own history was full of dirt and as far as I was concerned we were even. He’d gotten me pregnant before I’d turned eighteen, which by law was statutory rape, and I’d committed adultery with Aaron. We’d both committed sins that we would surely have to answer for but from this day forward, I was going to handle things a lot differently. I wouldn’t give up my affluent way of living, not under any circumstances, but I was going to live my life the same as Curtis, any way I chose. At the same time, I would find out who my husband was sleeping with, because no matter what he refused to admit, I knew him better than he knew himself. I knew my husband, the Reverend Curtis Black couldn’t go more than a day without having sex, even if it wasn’t with me. So, starting today, my primary focus would be my own happiness and raising my two adorable children. I would live even better than I had been and Curtis would come to realize that soon enough. He’d learn the hard way, once again, that I truly was his match. He would learn that just because he was the sole provider of our household didn’t mean that I wasn’t in a position to collect half of everything. Which is exactly what I would do if he forced me. Over the next hour, I phoned my friend Janine at work, called to speak to my parents and now I was heading down the wrought-iron and wood, winding staircase that led to the foyer. I strolled across the black and white marble flooring, down the long hallway and into the kitchen. I gasped when I saw Marissa playing with fire. She was standing her little five-year old behind in front of the stove, switching one of the front burners from low to high, high to low and then waving her hand through the flame, back and forth and back and forth again. “Marissa!” I yelled out to her. “Have you lost your mind?!” But she never even flinched. She seemed almost mesmerized by what she was doing and strangely enough, fascinated by the whole scenario. “Marissa!” I screamed louder than before and this time she snapped out of her trance. “What are you doing?” Instead of responding, however, my little girl stared at me, turned back toward the stove, politely turned off the burner and walked right past me. She walked right out of the kitchen and headed up to her bedroom like I hadn’t said a word to her. She acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened and this worried me more than anything else. Especially, since as of late, Marissa had begun acting so bizarrely, and I also wondered why at times she was so cruel toward Matthew and me but was always the perfect little angel when Curtis was around. I’d tried to ignore these signs, but I feared that something was very wrong with her. I feared that maybe Marissa wasn’t Curtis’s daughter after all and that instead, she was Aaron’s and had inherited his schizophrenia. Because it wasn’t like I’d ever actually seen the results of the paternity test. It wasn’t like I’d even wanted to see them because I’d immediately decided it was better if no one, not even I, knew the truth. It had been better that way because as long as Curtis had believed wholeheartedly that he was Marissa’s father, there hadn’t been a thing for me to worry about. And the more I thought about it, there still wasn’t. I decided that Marissa was Curtis’s daughter and that Marissa was merely going through some weird childhood phase—one that she would grow out of any day now. Truthfully, I refused to accept anything different.
1. After the way Charlotte betrayed Curtis (her affair with Aaron) in THE BEST-KEPT SECRET, do you feel she was well within her rights to complain to Curtis about what he might be doing out on the road?
2. At the beginning of the book, do you feel Curtis should have had more compassion toward Charlotte, especially since he has a history of having affairs, particularly on his first two wives?
3. As her mother, at what point should Charlotte have gotten help for Marissa?
4. Charlotte now has everything she could possibly want in terms of money and material possessions, but her marriage is in serious trouble. So, do you feel she’s getting exactly what she deserves?
5. When Curtis’s brother, Larry, first appeared in the story, did you believe he had in fact changed and was drug free or was only trying to get close enough to Curtis and Charlotte for money reasons?
6. Why do you believe Janine allowed someone like Antonio to move in with her, knowing he was unemployed and had been living with his parents? Do you know other women who are intelligent, personable, and caring, but who are also willing to financially take care of their men if they have to?
7. Do you think Janine really believed that if she could just hang in there long enough, Antonio would eventually change for the better? Do you know other women who fall into this category?
8. Do you know men, either family members or acquaintances, who remind you of Antonio?
9. Do you believe that Janine allowed Antonio, Killer, and the rest of their crew to smoke and sell marijuana in her home because she feared what Antonio might do to her? Especially, since her sister had been killed by her boyfriend when she’d finally decided to end her relationship with him.
10. Were you surprised when Antonio attacked Janine so violently?
11. Did you like Carl from the very beginning and hoped he and Janine would end up together?
12. Do you feel that Curtis and Charlotte can finally have a good marriage and remain faithful to each other?