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By LUTISHIA LOVELY
Dafina BooksCopyright © 2012 Lutishia Lovely
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHere Comes the Bride
Princess Brook stood with her father at the back of his church, and today Mount Zion Progressive Baptist was SRO—standing room only. She was a vision in white. Her princess cut wedding dress (with a name like that, what other style could she wear?) was a stunning combination of silk and chiffon, with Swarovski crystals creating an intricate design on the bodice before continuing—as though sprinkled by Glenda the Good Witch herself—along the skirt and twelve-foot train. The cut accented her perfectly sized breasts and small waist, while giving just a hint of the bootylicious that completed the brick house that one of her mother's old-school favorites sang about in their hit song. The dress was strapless, revealing smooth, blemish-free caramel skin, but a tiara-held veil provided appropriate modesty, and her "something borrowed," a teardrop diamond necklace that her father had given her mother years ago, was the perfect accessory around her gracefully slender neck. The purposely messy upswept do fashioned from her straight, shoulder-length hair further highlighted the borrowed gift ... and Princess's heart-shaped face.
"Are you ready, baby girl?" King Brook asked.
She nodded. "Are you?"
Princess's mega-minister father looked liked glory hallelujah and Jesus, have mercy combined, decked out in a black tuxedo complete with tails and waistcoat. The silver cummerbund and bow tie were perfect accents for his deep chocolate skin, his closely cropped hair, and expertly trimmed goatee—all working in his favor. Many women were already breaking their necks to look back and take multiple peeks. The feigned fainting would come later ... when he smiled.
"I'm ready to walk you down the aisle," he said, after gazing at the daughter who seemed to have grown up overnight. "And I guess I have to give you away. But you'll always be my baby girl."
"Stop it, Daddy," Princess admonished, fanning her eyes to dry unshed tears. "You'll ruin my makeup by making me cry!"
The Musical Messengers, a group who'd performed many times at Mount Zion Progressive, broke out into a jazzy, gospel-tinged version of the traditional wedding march and within minutes, Princess stood at the altar. King kissed her cheek, shook hands with her soon-to-be husband, and walked behind the Plexiglas podium.
"Dearly beloved," he began, his voice a sexy baritone that over the years had caused many a lustful thought, "we've gathered here today to join my daughter, Princess Nicole Brook ..." He faltered, his voice growing raspy with emotion. More lusting occurred. After clearing his throat, he continued. "My daughter, Princess Nicole Brook, and Rafael Scott Stevens together in holy matrimony."
The words continued, but it was as if Princess was in a fog. She couldn't hear a thing. She stood there smiling at a man whose love for her could fill an ocean ... and she was thinking about someone else. Kel ... No! I dare not even think his name! He's a part of my yesterday. This man, Rafael, is the man I want in my life. I love you, Rafael! I do! Rafael ... Rafael ... Rafael ...
As Rafael began speaking, Princess forced her mind back to the very important matter at hand. "I give you this ring," he said, sliding a beautifully cut diamond onto her French-manicured finger, "as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. I commit myself to you: mind, body, and soul. Let this ring forever be a reminder of the words I've spoken this day." There were tears in his large, chocolate brown eyes, which peered from a handsome, cleans-haven face. Rafael was the color of toffee, and just as sweet ... all five feet ten inches of him were filled with integrity and devotion.
Princess continued to stare at him, knowing that it was her turn to recite vows, and willing the words to come out.
"Princess, is there anything you'd like to say?" King asked, gently encouraging his disconcerted daughter and bringing a bit of levity to the solemn affair.
Princess managed a slight chuckle as she took a deep breath and repeated what Rafael had said, sliding a simple, platinum band onto his thick, manicured finger.
"If there is anyone present who knows of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace."
Was it Princess's imagination or was her heart precariously close to thumping out of her chest? She looked at her mother, Tai Brook, who stared back at her with an unreadable expression. Princess's mind went back to a conversation they'd had just days ago.
"Mama, were you in love with Daddy when y'all got married?"
"I thought I was, but honestly, I didn't even know what true love meant when your father and I said 'I do.'"
"So when did you know that you were in love with him—not only that you loved him, but that you were in love?"
Tai had looked up from the reality TV show she'd been watching, and muted the sound. "Why are you asking me this, Princess? Are you questioning whether or not you're in love with Rafael?"
"No," Princess had answered, a bit too quickly. "Rafael and I grew up together. I love him very much."
Tai pressed the issue. "But are you in love with him?"
"Let me ask you this. Do you feel the same way about Rafael that you did about Kelvin?"
"Of course not, Mama. They're two different people."
"Exactly. You're always going to have a certain feeling about the first one, your first love, Princess. There is an excitement there, the thrill of experiencing something you've never felt before, which never happens twice. But don't confuse that feeling with true love. Anybody can see why you'd be attracted to Kelvin. He's tall, dark, handsome, and now successful and rich. But when it comes to relationships and being there for the long haul, traits such as faithfulness, loyalty, devotion, honesty ... those are the ones that matter. As you think about the man you're about to marry, and whether or not you should, think about those things. Rafael is a good man, baby," Tai finished, reaching out to place her hand on Princess's arm. "He comes from a good, Christian family. And he absolutely adores you. I believe that he will do everything in his power to give you a great life."
After a very brief pause, King continued. "Then by the power invested in me, and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I now pronounce you man and—"
A collective gasp went up from the crowd.
"No!" Six feet and five inches of delectable determination made his way down the aisle that King and Princess had walked just moments before. The murmuring that had begun as soon as the handsome young man had uttered those two letters followed him down the aisle, pew by disbelieving pew, turning into a slight cacophony as he reached the front.
Tai stood, a look of horror plastered on her face. Rafael's parents were looking between her and the stranger who now stood between their son and his soon-to-be wife. Princess's grandparents were as wide eyed as hooting owls. Camera phones were being snapped and flying fingers were sending texts.
His next words silenced the crowd as much as his first one had sent tongues wagging. "You can't marry him, Princess."
The eyes of a deer caught in headlights could not have been wider. She opened her mouth, but words were frozen along with her body.
"Don't do this to us, baby. You're my girl. I love you!"
Rafael was the first one to come out of the surprise-induced shock and react. "She's not your baby," he growled, taking a step toward Kelvin, a balled fist at his side.
"Oh, and she's yours?" Tense seconds passed as the two men glared at each other. "She'll never love you, dog," Kelvin continued. "She can't give you her heart. I've got that." He turned to look at Princess ... which is why he didn't see the fist that connected with his jaw.
Kelvin stumbled back, but quickly recovered. He pushed Rafael with enough force to send the slighter man stumbling into King, who'd moved from behind the podium with the thought to step between them. King had been a second too late, and was now on the bottom of a wrestling pile as Kelvin, who'd jumped on top of Rafael, who was still halfway on top of King, was now pummeling Rafael with his fists. Rafael was pummeling back. Words that shouldn't be used in church were flying between them.
"Stop! Both of you!" Princess cried, kneeling down into the fray. But it was as though she hadn't spoken, almost like she wasn't there. They kept swinging and swinging, each punch landing harder than the one before. King finally wrestled himself from beneath the two fighting men, but this move caused Princess to fall over.
"She's mine!" she heard Rafael cry before hearing the sound of knuckles hitting flesh.
A similar sound preceded Kelvin's response: "In your dreams, you punk-ass mutha—!"
Pow! Another moment of fist and flesh connecting.
Where are the ushers? Where's security? Why doesn't someone stop this fight? Princess tried to right herself, but her dress was twisted around her legs, effectively imprisoning them better than a mummy wrap ever could. She kicked and she kicked, but to no avail. She couldn't get up and she felt that unless she did the man she was in love with and the one she was about to marry would kill each other. God, please help me. And as had always been the case, God came through. He helped her. How, you may be wondering? The answer is simple.
Princess woke up.
Chapter TwoMr. Wrong
"It was awful, Sarah, just awful." Mere hours had passed since Princess Brook's dream wedding had turned into a nightmare, one that had caused her to fight the sheets wrapped around her legs and break out in a sweat. She was now wide awake, sitting in the middle of the scene of the crime—otherwise known as her bed— and talking to Sarah Kirtz. She'd thought about calling her best friend, Joni, but considering how her heart still pounded, she figured she needed prayer more than camaraderie, hence the phone call to her prayer partner. "They just kept fighting and fighting, and I couldn't stop them!"
"Thank God what you experienced was a dream and not real life," Sarah said, with a sigh for punctuation.
"It might as well have been, as crazy as I feel right now."
"What do you think this means?"
Princess heaved an audible sigh herself. "I don't know."
"Are you having second thoughts?"
Her answer was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Princess, you awake?"
"Yes," Princess answered loudly, before talking back into the phone. "Sarah, it's my mom. Let's pray later."
Tai Brook entered her daughter's room, filled with a mama's wit and a mother's love. She'd been worried about Princess for months, a year actually ... ever since Princess had said yes to Rafael's proposal. Having lived more than half her life with the man of her dreams, yet experiencing some marital nightmares in the process, Tai felt she had viable cause for concern. "Getting your beauty sleep, I see," she said upon entering.
"No, I've been awake for a while."
Tai walked to where her daughter lounged in her canopied bed, the one they'd purchased together when Princess was thirteen years old. It never failed to warm Tai's heart every time Princess returned to the bedroom that remained largely unchanged from how it had looked five years ago, when Princess left home for UCLA. Tai and King had discussed various uses for the unoccupied space: an exercise, theater or storage room, or an office for Tai. But these ideas somehow never went beyond the thinking phase. In everyone's mind, this was still Princess's room. But not for long, Tai thought as she sat down on the bed. Her baby was getting ready to take a pivotal step. She was getting ready to become someone's wife, and this was the last night Princess would spend in this room as a single woman. A Stylistics classic song popped into her mind. Yes, she was a big girl now, and after looking into her daughter's strained expression and tired eyes it appeared as if grown folks pleasure was equaling grown folks pain. "How are you doing, baby?"
Tai gave Princess a look. "Girl, have you forgotten who you're talking to? You're two days away from taking the biggest step of your life. There's no way you're fine."
Princess laughed, hoping that the sound covered the pit of fear that had gripped her stomach ever since she'd had the dream. "You're right, but I'm trying to stay calm and not freak out. I was just on the phone with Sarah, giving her the details about the rehearsal dinner and ... everything."
And those details included something being awful, followed by an exasperated sounding "I don't know." Of course Tai didn't voice these thoughts. It wouldn't help for her daughter to know that she'd been standing at the door a few seconds before knocking, and had heard snippets of a conversation that confirmed the discomforting feelings concerning the upcoming marriage that she too had felt. "Did you feel better after talking to Sarah?"
"I always feel good after talking to her." An unlikely pair, the years older Princess had befriended Sarah Kirtz during Sarah's first year of college at UCLA. Like King, Sarah's father, Jack Kirtz, was also a well-known minister, and her stepmother, Millicent Sims Kirtz, who'd once been an integral part of her Uncle Derrick's church, was now very active in her husband's ministry. The two women had instantly related on what it meant to be a preacher's daughter.
Tai nodded her understanding, but decided it was time to get to the point of her visit. "Princess, I know we've talked about this but our last conversation about your upcoming nuptials left me feeling uncomfortable. I know you love Rafael. But I want to make sure you're totally at peace with this decision to marry him."
"Dang, Mama. I wish I'd never even asked about you and Daddy."
"I know, but I'm glad you did. And I don't mean to be a nagging mother or a broken record, but if you have any reservations, Princess, any doubts at all about your being able to stay in this marriage for the long term ... then you'd be doing Rafael a disservice by saying 'I do.'"
"Don't worry, Mama. I don't want to back out." She tried to lighten the mood. "And even if I did, it's too late now. I'm not even trying to return five hundred gifts and refund people for money spent on plane tickets and hotel rooms!" Tai didn't get the joke. "Really, Mama, you need to chill."
"And you need to listen. At the end of the day, the gifts, flowers, dress, guests ... none of that matters as much as this vow you're getting ready to take for the rest of your life. I know that nowadays divorce is as common as the cold, but I've tried to live my life as an example that marriage is an institution to be honored, and that those vows are not to be said or taken lightly." Tai paused, remembering the words that her own mother had told a then nineteen-year-old, six-months pregnant Tai, who was getting ready to walk down the makeshift aisle in her grandmother's flower-filled backyard. "It ain't too late, baby," her mother had whispered, filled with doubt as to whether her soon-to-be son-in-law, King Wesley Brook, could curb his whorish ways and be satisfied with and faithful to her daughter. But Tai—blinded by love and encouraged by the foot of her oldest son, Michael, kicking her in the side—had taken her father's arm and walked into the holy matrimony that at times had been a holy mess.
"I trust Rafael, Mama."
Rafael isn't the one I'm worried about, is what Tai thought. "I know," is what she said.
Tai remembered not too long ago when Princess, then a freshman in college, had defied her parents to remain at her boyfriend's side—and in his bed. Tai had seen herself in her daughter's defiance, and in the unbridled love she'd seen in Princess's eyes. And she'd recognized some of the same traits in Kelvin Petersen that had attracted Tai to King: charm, good looks, swagger, and endless testosterone. Princess was a lot like her mother, but she was also her father's daughter. Tai worried that in time it might be Princess, not Rafael, who'd sleep outside the marriage bed. But Princess and Rafael had been counseled to within an inch of their lives, so even though she couldn't shake the ominous feeling that had plagued her for days, she figured there was no more to be said.
Standing, Tai turned and faced Princess. "Derrick and Viv are arriving in a little bit and I'm going to spend some sistah-girl time with her at their hotel. Do you need anything before I go?"
"No," Princess said, reaching for her ever-present iPad and scrolling the task bar. "My dress will be delivered in about an hour, and then Erin and I are meeting for lunch before I go to the airport to pick up Joni."
"Erin has been an absolute godsend."
Princess nodded. One of Kansas City's premiere wedding coordinators, Erin Flynn had been written up in the Kansas City Star at the precise time Princess was searching for help in planning her big day. She'd been thankful to snag one of two remaining openings in Erin's very full schedule. "She should be. We're paying enough."
Excerpted from Divine Intervention by LUTISHIA LOVELY Copyright © 2012 by Lutishia Lovely. Excerpted by permission of Dafina Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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