Read an Excerpt
A Heart of Devotion
By Tia McCollors
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2005 Tia McCollors
All rights reserved.
Anisha Blake had a love-hate relationship with Fridays. They symbolized the end of a hectic week at work but ushered in yet another dateless weekend. Seventy-eight weekends to be exact—not that she was counting.
Anisha tossed her briefcase on the bed and her keys on the night-stand. The blinking red light on the phone cradle caught her attention, and she picked up the cordless phone to enter the code and retrieve her voice messages.
"Hello. Sorry we missed you. We have an exciting offer ..."
Anisha hit the delete button, stopping the automated voice before it could finish its spiel. Stupid telemarketers. She peeled off her suit jacket, plopped down on the edge of the bed, and kicked off her two-inch heels so she could massage the balls of her feet. She slowly worked her way up her body, kneading the sides of her thighs and twisting her waist, before rolling the knotted tension from her shoulders. She closed her eyes and wished for the luxury of a massage to release the stress from her body and mind.
Out of habit, Anisha picked up the phone to call her best friend, Sherri Dawson. Her fingers found the numbers on the dial pad without having to look.
"Girl, if I'm cooped up in this apartment one more Friday night, I'll die," Anisha said when her friend answered the phone. "Another Friday night in the house, and your girl might keel over."
"Girl, don't say that," Sherri said. "The way things are going for you, you'll be at the pearly gates next Friday begging for Saint Peter to let you in."
"Very funny," Anisha said.
"What's your tally on dateless weekends now?" Sherri asked.
"Wouldn't know," Anisha said, stretching out on her bed.
"Whatever," Sherri said. "You know you can spit it out faster than your checking account balance."
They laughed easily together, and shared more than the same sense of humor. After five years of friendship, they were like salt and pepper. One was rarely seen without the other.
Anisha turned over on her stomach and propped herself up on her pointy elbows. "If your social life was any better than mine, I wouldn't have somebody to talk to every weekend, now would I?"
Anisha knew her quick-witted friend was gearing up for a comeback, so she armed herself with one of her own.
"Hey, if it wasn't for my stint with Orlando—" Sherri started.
"Well, at least I'm not tied with your record," Sherri teased. "You're the reigning queen, and you can keep the title."
"Oh, I can see you've got jokes tonight. Keep on. I'll remember that." Anisha pushed herself off the bed and dumped her work clothes into her dry cleaning hamper.
"Well, you can always come over here if you want," Sherri offered. "I'm in for the night, so we can order some pizza and watch a couple of movies. You know, the usual stuff."
"That's the problem," Anisha said, pulling a tank top and a pair of gym shorts from her dresser drawer. "It's the usual stuff. No offense, but it's becoming a little too routine. You're my girl and all, but not tonight," she said, pulling the tank over her head. "Anyway, if I was going somewhere, I'd probably be too sleepy to move by the time I got dressed. Dudley & Associates made sure I earned every dime in my check this week."
Anisha pushed her hair back with a headband and scrubbed the remains of the day's makeup from her face while Sherri rattled on about her latest workplace drama. Anisha had never met Sherri's coworkers, but if she ever had the chance, she was sure she'd be able to point each of them out. Given Sherri's weekly updates, her office was a daily soap opera.
Anisha strolled into the living room and looked out the front window to the parking lot. A group of neighborhood kids were huddled together at the curb, their bicycles and scooters entangled in a metal heap beside them. Even their Friday nights were exciting, Anisha thought. She felt even more pathetic.
"Uhhh ... hello? Are you even listening to me?" Sherri's voice popped back into Anisha's head. Anisha sensed her friend's annoyance.
"My bad, girl. I was in those little kids' business outside. What did you say?"
"Never mind," Sherri said. "Anyway—so your mind's made up? You're staying at home tonight?"
"Yep. It's just me and Jesus tonight," Anisha said, yawning.
"That sounds like a plan, girl. See ya later," Sherri said.
"Okay, see ya."
Anisha shook her head and smiled at the thought of her friend. "That girl, I tell you," she murmured softly. "What would I do without her?"
Anisha's and Sherri's paths first crossed at the church's Singles Ministry picnic when they both took refuge under the same shelter to escape the pelting from a summer storm. Before the storm clouds rolled on, they'd already established a connection like lifelong friends.
Anisha went into the kitchen and scanned the spotless apartment as if a source of excitement would jump out and reveal itself. Though it was barely six o'clock, exhaustion had taken over her body. The thought of going to bed so early on a Friday evening was too depressing, so she grabbed the growing stack of mail threatening to spill from the basket on the kitchen counter. She slid the glass patio door open. The thickness of the humid air met her as soon as she walked outside.
Anisha slid the single chaise lounge closer to the small patio table and sorted through a week's worth of bills, junk mail, and magazines. She sighed as she flipped through each piece. She had grown weary of her mundane routine of life. She slaved all week and was so tired at the end of each day that she could barely function for the rest of the night. Much like tonight. She wasn't living life—life was living her.
Anisha enjoyed relaxation in the shade over the next hour and a half, watching as the setting sun cast a picturesque backdrop for the children still crowded at the curbside. She thumbed through the last mail-order catalog, then gathered the stacks of mail and went back inside. Like always, she resorted to watching a movie.
"Okay, what's on for tonight?" Anisha asked, searching the rows of movies lined on the shelves of the entertainment center against the wall. She rested her hands on her hips and stared at the massive collection of neatly arranged VHS tapes and DVDs lining the shelves.
You couldn't have forgotten about Me already. I thought it was our night together. You can spend time with Me tonight and experience love no man can duplicate.
Anisha slid a DVD into the player, sank into the plush pillows on the couch, and propped her feet on the glass coffee table. Barely thirty minutes into the movie, her eyelids grew heavy and begged to close.
Quiet time. Intimate time. We need to spend some quality time together so I can show you what your life really holds. You promised Me tonight. I've been anticipating our time together.
* * *
The shrill ring of the telephone startled Anisha out of her sleep. She jolted forward, banging the back of her ankle on the edge of the coffee table. "Shoot." Anisha winced from the pain and grabbed her throbbing ankle.
Focusing her blurry vision on the clock situated on the fireplace mantle, she wondered how long she'd been asleep. To her surprise, the clock's hands were nearing eight thirty. She didn't even remember closing her eyes, and already an hour had crept by.
The phone's ring startled her again, and Anisha fumbled to answer it before it rang for the third time.
"Hel—" She paused to clear the frog caught in her throat. "Hello?" she said again, forcing herself to sound more alert.
"Did I catch you at a bad time? Were you asleep?" the deep, mellow voice asked.
"No," she lied. "Just watching a movie." Anisha sat up straight on the couch as if she could be seen by the person on the other end. Even in her half-comatose state she knew the voice belonged to Tyson Randall.
Tyson and Anisha had first become acquainted with each other while serving as chaperones for the church youth field trips. Since then, he'd visited her apartment at least twice when she'd had some of the youth ministry leaders over for a board game party night. To Anisha's pleasure, their paths were crossing more frequently lately. And though Tyson had given Anisha the impression that he might have been interested, he'd never pursued anything in the year since they'd met. It wasn't until recently that he finally asked for her number. She gave it to him without hesitation and wondered what had taken him so long to ask in the first place.
"I can't believe you're home on a Friday night," Tyson said. "Most beautiful women have men beating down their doors."
Knows how to pour on the charm, Anisha thought. "I had plans for tonight but decided to chill out." She looked at the television where her so-called plans would soon have credits rolling down the television screen.
"So is it too late for a lady to have company?" Tyson asked.
Anisha glanced at the clock again. Any other time she would have turned down the offer for a man to come to her house on the first date. But then again, this wasn't a date. Was it? She convinced herself further. It's still a decent hour. She needed Sherri's advice and searched for a subtle way of escape but found none. "I think that's my other line. Can you hold for a second?" Anisha asked. Bump it. She didn't have time for subtlety.
Tyson's voice sent chills up her spine, and she could have sworn she felt the feeling travel to the end of her fingertips as she clicked over and called Sherri.
"Hello?" Sherri answered on the first ring.
"It's not a man," Anisha said, laughing. "You could at least let the phone ring a couple of times so a brotha won't think you're desperate."
"Whatever, girl. What's up?"
"Tyson is on the other line and wants to know if he can come over. It's not even nine o'clock yet. What do you think?"
"Looks like somebody's dateless weekends are coming to an end."
"It's not a date, Sherri. Hurry up, girl—he's on the other line."
"Tyson? I think if he wants to see you, he can pick you up and take you out. Maybe you can let him slide this one time, but only if—" Sherri started to list her acceptable conditions before Anisha interrupted her.
"That's what I thought you'd say," Anisha said. "I'll tell him it's all right."
"Whaddya call me for in the first place if you were going to do what you wanted to anyway?"
"Who knows? Bye."
"And for the record," Sherri defended herself, "I didn't think you were a man calling. I happened to be picking up the phone to make a call when it rang."
"Yeah, and I won the lottery this morning. Look at your caller ID next time, girl. You'll break your neck trying to get to the phone. Bye!"
Anisha clicked over before Sherri had a chance to respond. "Hello, Tyson? Sorry to keep you holding. So when are you leaving?" Anisha was shocked by her own boldness, but it was too late to retrieve her words. Bump it. That was her motto for the night.
"I take it that means it's okay."
Anisha's face grew warm, and she was thankful he couldn't see her blushing. "Yes, it's fine."
"Cool. Give me a few minutes, and I'll be on my way."
"And could you do something for me?" Tyson asked.
"Sure. What is it?"
"Tell your girl I said thanks for the approval."
Anisha couldn't help but laugh. "You busted me on that one," she said, then made sure Tyson remembered directions to her house.
Anisha started to question her decision to let Tyson come over but pushed it out of her mind before she had a chance to think twice. Shouldn't two adults be able to enjoy a good time together?
Anisha lounged on the couch for a few minutes before a wave of frenzy suddenly rushed her into the bedroom to find a change of clothes. The last thing she'd expected was company, especially not Tyson.
Anisha tugged at the stretched elastic in her gym shorts while rummaging in her closet for something that didn't need ironing. Based on Tyson's explanation, she calculated that he lived less than twenty minutes away. Give and take a few minutes for him to get ready, she only had a short time to freshen up and get her act together.
Anisha slipped on a pair of jeans and a soft pink cotton shirt and walked into the bathroom to inspect her impromptu outfit.
"Voila." Anisha admired herself in the mirror, turning to examine herself from every angle. She tucked the shirt in her jeans and ran her hands down the sides of her thighs. The jeans were a little snug, but still modest, she decided. Anisha leaned forward to study her bare face in the mirror then opened one of the drawers to find her cosmetic case. "What am I doing?" She put the cap back on her lipstick tube. "It's Tyson, and we're just watching a movie." She settled for a little lip balm and stuffed her cosmetic case back in the drawer. "Good enough," she said, staring at herself in the mirror.
Anisha shook her head and laughed.
"Who am I fooling?" She reached for her compact again and dusted a light layer of powder across her nose and forehead. She dabbed on a neutral lip gloss, brushed her eyelashes with a coat of mascara, and slid the headband from her hair. She ran a comb through her freshly layered bob cut and framed her face with her tresses.
When Anisha was finally satisfied with the woman looking back at her, she made a quick run-through of her apartment for any misplaced items and, of course, found none. The handles and surfaces of the black appliances in the kitchen gleamed with impeccable cleanliness. As always, the rest of the house would pass any scrutinizer's white-glove test.
Anisha nestled on her couch. According to her watch, she still had five minutes to spare. The second hand on her watch seemed to lap slowly, making those five minutes seem more like five hours.
* * *
Outside, Tyson sat in his car, now watching the fourth minute pass on his dashboard clock while he built up the nerve to go to Anisha's door. He'd decided to take a chance and call her. It would be their first time getting together outside of a group setting, and he wondered if it was a good idea. He knew it wasn't the proper thing to do, but his lips had moved faster than his mind. He usually didn't operate like this—practically inviting himself over to a lady's house. Maybe it was fear. Something a little less formal than a date to break the ice.
Tyson sensed a sort of sweet mystery about her and was attracted to it. He'd promised God he wouldn't pursue a relationship with a woman for at least a year, but when he first met Anisha last year, he wished he could've taken the promise back. But now with his period of consecration over, he determined to know more about this woman.
Tyson ran his hand over his hair and looked at the clock to see the fifth minute pass. He'd delayed long enough.
* * *
The doorbell sent Anisha's heart racing, and she fought the urge to run to the door. An old college roommate of hers used to make her male company wait an obligatory ten seconds before she opened the door. As foolish as it had sounded then, Anisha started the count in her head. She didn't want Tyson to think the only thing she had to do was sit around and wait for him to arrive. Even if it was true.
Seven, eight ... That's long enough. Anisha opened the door.
"Hi." They greeted each other with a friendly embrace, and Anisha felt the weight of nervousness lift from her shoulders. "Come in," she said. "Did you have any trouble getting here?"
"No. Everything looked pretty familiar," Tyson said.
"Good," Anisha said, easing the door closed behind him. "Make yourself comfortable."
When Tyson walked in, Anisha couldn't help but notice how his biceps pushed against the sleeves of his shirt. Funny how she'd never noticed them before. Before she could continue her personal inventory, Tyson turned and handed her a Styrofoam container.
"On the way over, my stomach reminded me I hadn't eaten, so I stopped for some hot wings—mild ones for you, though. I remembered from the time we had the youth lock-in that you don't like spicy foods."
Anisha was impressed he'd noticed and flashed him an approving smile. "Thanks. These will definitely hit the spot. Let me grab some plates and napkins," she said, setting the container on the coffee table.
Tyson spotted Anisha's movie collection and headed toward the entertainment center.
"Thirsty?" Anisha asked, her head stuck in the refrigerator.
"Yeah. Whatcha got?"
Excerpted from A Heart of Devotion by Tia McCollors. Copyright © 2005 Tia McCollors. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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