A Family Reunion

A Family Reunion

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by Brenda Jackson
     
 

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EVERY FAMILY HAS ITS SECRETS. SOME ARE JUST TOO HARD TO TELL
---BUT TOO HOT TO KEEP. . .

It's been fifteen years since the Bennetts were all in one place, at one time, and now at a total blowout of a reunion four special cousins' hidden desires and long-kept secrets will challenge their bond, test their courage, and change their hearts forever. .

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Overview

EVERY FAMILY HAS ITS SECRETS. SOME ARE JUST TOO HARD TO TELL
---BUT TOO HOT TO KEEP. . .

It's been fifteen years since the Bennetts were all in one place, at one time, and now at a total blowout of a reunion four special cousins' hidden desires and long-kept secrets will challenge their bond, test their courage, and change their hearts forever. . .

Taye is a hair stylist with big ambitions. She's trusted the wrong men in the past and now she determined to land the right one, no matter who stands in her way.

Michael is a widowed airline pilot struggling to manage his teenage daughter, but turbulence comes when a new passion enters his life.

Alexia was the chubby little girl who has turned into a sexy superstar who seems to have it all. . .except the one thing she's always wanted to make her life complete: a child. Now she has the perfect man in mind to be the father of her child. . .without his knowledge.

Rae'jean is the pretty young doctor engaged to be married, but happiness still eludes her because her past is shrouded in mystery. And before she can say "I do" she must come home to finally learn the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Chockful of romance, Mrs. Jacksons knack for building relationships is excellently displayed.” —RT Reviews (Top Pick)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429905763
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2010
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
110,996
File size:
577 KB

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A Family Reunion


By Brenda Jackson

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2001 Brenda Streater Jackson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0576-3


CHAPTER 1

Taye

"Taye, are you going to the Firemen's Ball or not?"

Sharon Langley's question unsettled Octavia Bennett to no end. She fought to suppress her aggravation so she could give a calm answer. But first she needed to finish getting all of the relaxer out of Mrs. Walker's hair.

"Taye, I asked you a question."

Nerves on edge, Taye glanced up from the washbowl and gave her best friend a leveled glare. It didn't matter that Sharon owned the most exclusive beauty salon in Atlanta, where Taye worked as a stylist in the day while juggling the chore of raising two daughters and going to school at night. Nor did it matter that they had known each other since second grade. Taye would say her piece to Sharon ... in private. "We'll talk later, OK?"

Sharon couldn't do anything but nod, caught off guard by the curtness of Taye's tone. Taye was known for her subtle wit and soft-spoken manner. You would have to push really hard to get a rise out of her. Sharon couldn't help wondering what wrong button she had pushed.

Once Taye had gotten Mrs. Walker's hair rinsed and conditioned and had placed her under the dryer, she motioned for Sharon to meet her in the supply room.

"OK, Taye, what's wrong with you? All I asked was whether or not you're attending the Firemen's Ball. The look you gave me sent chills up my spine."

The look Taye now slanted Sharon was partly amused and partly apologetic. Taye had reacted rather badly but felt she had done so with good reason, although Sharon didn't know that. She owed her an explanation. "Monica's father is a fireman."

Sharon's hand flew up to her mouth and her large bulging eyes told Taye she had literally shocked her speechless, which wasn't easy to do, since Sharon could be counted on to always have something to say. The identity of Monica's father was something Taye had never discussed with anyone, not even with Sharon. It had been bad enough that she had gotten pregnant in her first semester of college and had to return home and listen to her mother's constant spiel of how she'd disappointed the family. Then as if that hadn't been bad enough, she had screwed up again three years later by getting pregnant for a second time, this time from a man who conveniently forgot to tell her he was married. A second child out of wedlock had been a final blow to the already-strained relationship she'd had with her parents.

"Monica's father was a fireman?"

Taye nodded. "He still is." Since Sharon had been away at college at the time, she had never met the man Taye had dated for nearly three months. There was no reason to tell her that not only was he a fireman, but now he was a captain in the Atlanta Fire Department. Back then, ten years ago when they'd dated, he'd been a rookie who'd just made the squad. She had been a lonely young woman of twenty, a single mother with a two-year-old who had fallen under his spell and had believed his story that he was a single man sharing an apartment with a buddy. Even now she cringed every time she thought about all the lies he'd told and how she had foolishly fallen for them.

Sharon's footsteps furiously clicking on the tiled floor reeled Taye's thoughts out of the past and back to the present. Sharon was no longer speechless. She was angry and was pacing the room getting madder by the minute. Taye regretted that she had told Sharon anything. The main reason she'd never done so before was because Sharon was like a dog with a bone. Once she got ahold of something, she wouldn't let go. Besides, when it came to Taye, Sharon was fiercely loyal and protective.

"Octavia Louise Bennett! Here you've been working your butt off for ten years trying to make ends meet raising Sebrina and Monica, and Monica's father has a good job, but you refuse to make the scumbag pay child support!"

Taye sighed. She'd had this conversation about Monica's father not paying child support with Sharon many times. "You know why I haven't done that. In order to file for child support I'd have to reveal his identity, and I refuse to do that."

Sharon's heated face told Taye just what she thought of that. "Girl, why are you still protecting him? Even after ten years you won't tell anyone who he is, not even me, and I'm your best friend."

"You know why I won't tell you, Sharon. You'd take actions into your own hands and do something stupid."

Sharon drew in a deep, ragged breath, fighting for control. "It's not stupid to make a man take care of his child! Why are you protecting him?"

"I'm not protecting him. Don't you think I've thought about confronting him and demanding that he do what's right by his child? But what would that do other than hurt his wife, who doesn't know he's a low-life? They even have a daughter who was born a day or so before Monica."

"Jeez! You mean he was sleeping with both you and his wife at the same time?"

"Yes, but if anyone should have been sleeping with him it was her. She had all the rights to do so; I had none."

Sharon rolled her eyes. "But you didn't know."

"Still, I was a fool to be taken in by him. You'll never know how awful I felt when I found out I'd been sleeping with a married man. But it was my mistake and not his wife's and I refuse to ruin his marriage."

"What kind of marriage is it if he screws around on her?"

"That was ten years ago."

"And you think his penis has dropped off since then? Get real, Taye. Men like that don't know how to keep their pants zipped. I bet Monica isn't the only outside child he has. He's probably no better than your uncle Victor or your cousin Victor Junior. I bet he has —"

"I don't care, Sharon. Monica is all I care about. She's doing OK. She's never even asked me about him."

"But she's asked me!"

Taye suddenly felt dizzy. She placed a steadying hand on one of the shelves for support. Had she heard Sharon right? "Monica has asked you about her father?"

"Yes, more than once. She didn't feel comfortable coming to you and asking you about him, and since I'm her godmother she asked me."

A lump formed in Taye's throat. "What did you tell her?"

"Not what I wanted to, believe me. I told her that I honestly didn't know a thing about him. The only thing I did know was that he must have been good-looking for her to be such a beautiful child."

Sharon paused for a moment as she considered Taye. "But don't you see, Taye, she's getting older. She wants the same thing Sebrina has. She sees Gary coming here every summer to get Sebrina and wonders why she doesn't have a father coming for her."

Taye thought about the guy she'd gotten pregnant from while in her first semester at college, the one who had taken away her virginity, Gary Stevens. He was a senior who knew what he was doing when he targeted her. At seventeen, still wet behind the ears, she had played right into his hands and, in no time at all, his bed. "I can't force a man to want his child."

"But you can force him to take care of her financially. It's been ten years. Do you want to know what I think?"

Taye raised her eyes to the ceiling. "No, not really."

Sharon ignored her and told her anyway. "I think you still feel something for this guy and that's why you're protecting him. Don't hand me that cock-and-bull story about your protecting his wife. If he cared anything for his wife he wouldn't have been unfaithful."

"But that's no reason to destroy their marriage."

"What marriage? If I were a married woman I'd want to know, even ten years later, that my husband had screwed around on me. And you can't convince me he still isn't out there screwing around."

"Maybe."

"Maybe my behind. You can't convince me he's not."

Taye would never admit to Sharon that she knew for a fact that he was. Over the years she had run into him a number of times with different women, none of whom was his wife. She ran her fingers through her short hair. "Look, Sharon, I need to check on Mrs. Walker. This conversation is over and you're wrong. I feel nothing for Monica's father. At one time I wanted to hate him, but now I actually thank him for her. I just wish the circumstances surrounding her conception were different."

"If you still don't want to tell me who he is, then that's fine. But I think it's time that you sit down and talk to Monica about her father, Taye."

Taye nodded. "I will."

Without saying anything else, she turned and walked out of the room.


Two hours later Taye was hanging up her cape for the day when Sharon entered the back room with a deep frown on her face.

"You may as well put that cape back on, girlfriend. The Wicked Witch of the South just blew in on her broomstick."

Silently Taye cursed. "Please tell me you're lying."

"I wish I could, but I can't. She's here with her nice-nasty self."

"But she doesn't have an appointment."

"Does she ever? All she needs is some news to rub in your face about her precious Brandy, and she feels she can prance her butt in here at any time to deliver it."

Taye sighed, knowing Sharon was right. The woman they were discussing was none other than Valerie Constantine. Thirty years ago at the age of sixteen, Valerie had gotten pregnant from Taye's uncle Victor. Victor had refused to do the honorable thing and marry Valerie, and she had placed the blame for his decision on the Bennett family. She accused them of poisoning Victor's mind against her by making him doubt the child was actually his. Even if that had been true, any such notion had gotten dispelled once Brandy had been born looking just like Uncle Victor. But Valerie had never forgiven Victor's family and she enjoyed rubbing any available Bennett's nose in the fact that Brandy, who was the same age as Taye and was a professor with a Ph.D. at Howard University, was doing extremely well. Valerie figured that if she made it a point to tell Taye, then she would pass the word on to all the other Bennetts and make them pea-green with envy. Little did Valerie know that due to her busy schedule, Taye rarely saw her family, who mostly lived in Macon, which was an hour's drive from Atlanta.

Ignoring Sharon's "tell the witch off for once" expression, Taye walked out of the room into the front of the salon.

Sharon's beauty salon, Total Elegance, was just that. Cashing in all of her savings she'd earned while working five years in the corporate world, Sharon had gone from employee to entrepreneur, coming up with an idea for what would be every woman's dream — a one-stop beauty salon. The decor was one of total sophistication and style. There was a special room for manicures and pedicures, one for facials and body massages, and another for stylists specializing in all types of hair care services and makeup applications. The shop also contained a library with books on spiritual and personal growth. Future expansion plans included a spa as well as a lingerie shop. Total Elegance was specifically designed for the sistah on the go who believed in making every minute count and wanted to face the world feeling her best as well as looking it. Absolutely no one was seen without an appointment, so it rattled Taye to know each time Valerie Constantine visited she was breaking the rules by being a walk-in. It was time she was reminded of that fact.

Words failed Taye when she walked into the room and saw Valerie standing in front of a makeup display. Evidently she had a lot to boast about today, Taye thought, studying the woman's anxious air without letting her presence be known. Valerie was wearing a long black fur coat that was superbly tailored to fit her tall form. The coat screamed money, and no doubt Valerie was here to flaunt that fact. Taye shook her head. Of all the women she'd known her uncle Victor to either mess around with or marry, Valerie was one she could give credit to for keeping herself looking good. At the age of forty-six she was still a nice-looking woman.

Taye took a deep breath before she spoke. "Valerie, I'm surprised to see you here today. I checked the books and you don't have an appointment."

Valerie's beautifully carved mouth twisted in an expression of haughtiness that was heightened by the flare of ire in the inky darkness of her eyes. Taye knew Valerie hadn't liked being reminded of the fact that at Total Elegance she was no better than anyone else. That was a point she seemed to overlook at times.

"Really, Octavia, I'm sure you can squeeze me in today," Valerie returned silkily. "All I want is a wash and set ... and if you can, I'd like you to give special attention to the gray hair at my temples. I want you to do something with it."

Taye lifted a brow, wondering just what Valerie thought she could do with her gray hair other than color it? She wasn't a miracle worker.

"Besides," Valerie was saying, "I have some absolutely wonderful news to share with you about Brandy."

Like there's any other reason for your visit, Taye thought. "Unfortunately, I won't be able to accommodate you today, Valerie. I promised the girls I'd take them for pizza and a movie this evening. I was just about to leave."

"Really? I thought you'd jump at the chance to earn an additional dollar or two. I heard you've finally moved out of those apartments and purchased a home. I'd imagine it's not easy being a single mother."

"You of all people would know." Taye smiled. It was time she took the bull by the horns and put Valerie in her place as Sharon had suggested many times.

Valerie's dark eyes turned on her. "Actually, Octavia, that was years ago and I really don't remember. As you know, Brandy has been doing extremely well for herself. In fact ... how do you like my coat?" Valerie asked, giving an arrogant sweep of her hand down the full length of the fur coat.

Before Taye could respond, Valerie said, "It was a gift from Brandy's fiancé."

Taye nodded. So that was Valerie's news. She decided to play along for good measure, hoping it would get Valerie out of the salon a lot quicker. "Brandy's getting married? Why, that's wonderful. When you speak to her again, tell her I said congratulations."

"I'll be sure to pass that on to her," Valerie responded in an amused tone. "Of course her wedding will be a very elaborate affair. She may decide to include you, Rae'jean, and Alexia as bridesmaids. After all, the four of you were born the same year and are first cousins."

Taye rolled her eyes. She doubted very seriously that Brandy would include her, Rae'jean, or Alexia in on anything. Brandy, the spoiled, bad-mannered brat, had grown up to become the witch's daughter, a title she wore well.

"And you can tell your Uncle Victor not to worry," Valerie was saying. "I won't be hitting him up for any money to pay for his daughter's wedding. Brandy's fiancé is loaded, and I mean loaded, and he has offered to pay for everything. He even wants to have the wedding in Jamaica. Isn't that just wonderful?"

"Yes, off the chain," Taye said in a dry tone.

Valerie's face brightened. "Cheer up, Octavia; maybe your day will come eventually. I'm sure there's some man out there willing to take on a wife with a ready-made family."

"Really?" Taye said with a wry twist to her mouth. "In that case, I guess I'd remain a single woman. It seems to have worked for you all these years." She couldn't help but smile. She'd made another hit. The darkening of Valerie's eyes indicated that she had.

Valerie tightened her coat around her. "Well, I must be going. You will tell your family the good news whenever you see them again, won't you?"

"If I happen to remember," Taye said on a note of satisfaction. She had put up with Valerie's rudeness enough over the years and refused to tolerate it anymore. "I tend to forget trivial things, since my mind is cluttered with far more serious matters."

It was of great comfort when she watched an angry Valerie, with all her snooty airs, turn to walk out of the shop. Her comfort was short-lived when Valerie turned back around and said, "It must be a huge burden of guilt for you to carry around the fact that you're such a big disappointment to your family. I'm sure you know they used to put you on a pedestal, always bragging about how smart you were with your gift for numbers and how far you would go. Idella and Ethan would even brag about your growing up and becoming the first black woman Secretary of the Treasury. Imagine that. Now just look at you and what you're doing. What a shame."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Family Reunion by Brenda Jackson. Copyright © 2001 Brenda Streater Jackson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

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Meet the Author

Brenda Jackson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels, including the Westmorelands series and, from St. Martin's Press, Some Like It Hot, Taste of Passion and The Playa's Handbook, among others. She was the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make USA Today's Bestseller's List and the New York Times Bestseller's List for the series romance genre. Jackson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University, and worked for thirty-seven years in management at a major insurance company. She now divides her time between family, writing and traveling. She has been married for thirty-seven years to her childhood sweetheart, Gerald, and they have two sons. She lives in the city where she was born, Jacksonville, Florida.


Brenda Jackson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels, including the Westmorelands series and, from St. Martin’s Press, Some Like It Hot, Taste of Passion and The Playa’s Handbook. She was the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make USA Today's bestsellers list and the New York Times bestsellers list for the series romance genre. Jackson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University, and worked for thirty-seven years in management at a major insurance company. She now divides her time between family, writing and traveling. She has been married for thirty-seven years to her childhood sweetheart, Gerald, and they have two sons. She lives in the city where she was born, Jacksonville, Florida.

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Family Reunion 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 35 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm rereading it right now and it's so good. I like the fact that it deals with stuff like cousins (even 4th or 5th by adoption) falling in love. And other stuff like interacial marriages. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brenda Jackson did it again. A must read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Ditched? Check!"
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Navaura More than 1 year ago
I felt as if everything flowed too fast with this book. It was too fast of a page turner for me, not enough character development between some of the characters. It focused more on two couples and left out ReJean and her man's character development. My favorite though were Alexia and Quinn. It was a good book though. The book was not at all what I expected.
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That's what family is all about. Made me thing about the one I married into. I recommend this book to anyone who family has lost that connection.
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Carrie Etheridge More than 1 year ago
This book was ok, not quite what i expected given the title. I expected deep family drama, not so many scenes of passion, a little overdone i thought. There was a good storyline but alot was spelled out and not much left to the imagination.
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Vannetta Keeler More than 1 year ago
this is the second book i've read of hers and i loved it
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