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Marlena Porter cannot understand her attraction to Pastor Noah Phillips. After all, Caucasian men have never appealed to her, and to make matters worse, he pastors a prominent, ...
Marlena Porter cannot understand her attraction to Pastor Noah Phillips. After all, Caucasian men have never appealed to her, and to make matters worse, he pastors a prominent, all-white suburban church.
She would have to be a glutton for rejection or foolishly in love to allow him to court her. Either way, there is a threatening storm brewing on the horizon.
* * *
Noah watched her the entire morning. He was glad that Valerie had come with him to take notes because he hadn't paid attention at all to the boring guest speaker. Watching this woman interact with those around her was more interesting. She'd "denied access" to at least three other men who'd tried unsuccessfully to get her attention. She was definitely more intriguing than "monotone man". When the speaker announced break time, the majority of the attendees charged out of room, no doubt trying to revive themselves. He put his hands behind his head and continued to observe the latecomer. There could only be three reasons why this woman remained impassive toward these would be suitors. She was involved, didn't date white men, or she was a bonafide Christian. He was bound and determined to find out which one.
* * *
Finally, the day was over. Noah stood to his feet intent on introducing himself to the late comer, but noticed several others already engaged in conversation with her. He could tell, by the look on her face that she was less than enthused with whatever they were saying. She kept glancing at her watch as though she had to be somewhere. At last, she was alone, but before he could make a move, the redhead stopped him and made it abundantly clear that she was available. Noah, if he hadn't been before, was absolutely not interested now. She was much too bold and aggressive for his taste. In his opinion, it was a weak male that liked this type of woman. They didn't have to do much or take any chances. She did all the work for them. It was like going hunting or fishing and having someone already have the prey set out for you. You didn't have to fire your rifle or throw your line into the water. All you had to do was select which deer or fish you wanted, and go on home. It was already dressed, cleaned, and cooked. It might seem okay; however, in the long run, it made you weaker. You'd eventually lose all the necessary skills needed to hunt or fish for yourself. You'd lose your status as a legitimate hunter or fisherman. Noah, in the same way she'd made herself available to him, made himself unavailable to her. He excused himself, intent on talking to the latecomer, but she was nowhere to be found.
Marlena Porter stepped out into the fresh April spring air. This time of year always seemed to bring out the best in her. She couldn't explain it, but the longer spring days gave her body a vitality that the other seasons didn't. Maybe, it was the additional hours of daylight. Whatever the reason, she thanked God for it. A quick glance at her watch indicated that she had only twenty minutes to meet her best friend, Tina, at their favorite restaurant. "Where in the world were her car keys?" she thought, as she slowly did a thorough search of her small, brown, leather handbag. No keys were there. Feeling mildly frustrated, she headed back inside the hotel and straight to the small, but elegantly furnished conference room. She located her table. When she didn't find them on the table, she looked underneath. Maybe a good citizen had turned them in at the front desk she reasoned. Marlena turned and nearly collided with someone. She put her hands out to steady herself and they came in contact with a solid muscular chest. She looked up and found herself gazing into light smoke-colored, grey eyes.
She quickly apologized, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I like you running into me. Besides, I have a hunch that you're looking for these," a very attractive Caucasian man replied in a husky voice, as he held up a set of keys. "I had a strange feeling that some poor helpless female would be lost without them. So I, being the heroic man that I am, picked them up and waited for the damsel in distress to return."
Marlena bit back the urge to say something less than polite to her self-made hero of the moment; instead, she smiled and expressed her thanks as he dropped the keys into her outstretched hand. Men, she noticed, always felt the need to see themselves as rescuers and women as having to be rescued.
"What made you think that this was a woman's key ring? It could have just as easily been a guy's," she wondered aloud.
"I have the gift of discernment," he teased.
He let out a chuckle of amusement as he watched her beautiful brown eyes roll in disbelief.
"You don't believe me, huh? Well, what if I told you that you have a son who thinks pretty highly of you. Would that make a believer of you?"
Marlena's expressive eyes met his. For one brief moment, he saw what could be described as uncertainty in them, but it quickly disappeared when she realized that he had read the inscription on the back of the small golden cross attached to her key ring. Her son Kaod had given her the key chain as a Mother's Day present the year before. It simply read "Virtuous Woman of God, y Son". There hadn't been enough room on the small cross to inscribe anything else. She'd thought it to be one of the most precious gifts that anyone had ever given her besides the gift of Christ and the birth of her son.
"You've read the back of my cross," Marlena stated in a slightly amused voice. A voice she generally saved for her mischievous students; but, for some reason she found herself caught up in this little game he was playing. "Good heavens," she thought to herself, "this white guy is flirting with me and I can't believe I'm flirting back."
This was so unlike her. She had never been attracted to Caucasian men. She performed a cursory check of his fingers and spied the plain gold band indicating his marital status. Suddenly, she was annoyed; however, before she could put the little flirt in his place, a soft and very feminine voice interrupted their exchange.
"There you are Pastor Phillips. I see that you've located the owner of the keys," the trendy younger blond noticed as she glided into the room. "Now, if we don't hurry," she continued, "you'll have to reschedule your lunch appointment with the Jaspers."
"Pastor," Marlena gasped in shock.
She wanted to desperately put this pastor in check. He certainly deserved it, but he was God's responsibility not hers. She said a silent prayer thanking God for sending in Barbie, or whatever her name was, before she could say something she might later regret. Grateful for her keys, she darted out of the conference room followed closely by the couple, who she had mockingly dubbed "Ken and Barbie".
Marlena reached her car and was sliding into the driver's seat when "Ken" tapped lightly on the window. What does he want now she thought as she rolled down the window. She didn't bother to hide her impatience.
"Yes?" she asked in a curt voice, pointedly staring at his ringed finger with disdain.
"Ken" didn't seem to notice. With a sheer audacity she had never before encountered, he smiled his most charming smile and said, "This is the first time I've ever done anything like this, but would you do me the honor of having dinner with me? By the way, what is your name?"
For the first time in her adult life, Marlena was rendered speechless. Here was a married man, a pastor no less, asking her out on a date. Was she supposed to feel somehow honored that "His highness" had selected her as his first would be affair? Had she come across as desperate? For sure the "end times" are upon us she reasoned.
The only word she seemed capable of speaking was, "Cinderella." She quickly rolled up her window, slammed the car into drive, and sped out of the parking lot
Pastor Noah Phillips watched in confusion as the gold Jaguar carrying his "Cinderella" swiftly fled the hotel's parking area. He wasn't quite sure what caused the driver's angry reaction. One minute, they were, at least he thought they were, enjoying a very mild flirtation inside the conference room; then, abruptly, he'd sensed a change in her from slight flirtation, to annoyance, and then to obvious anger. He was sure that it had nothing to do with Valerie, his secretary of the last three years. Sure, she was an attractive lady, but it was very apparent that they enjoyed a strict working relationship. He wasn't attracted to her, and to his knowledge, neither was she attracted to him. Well, if it was meant to be, the Lord would direct their paths to cross again. Funny, he thought, he'd never really been attracted to black women or African-American women, or whatever the heck the current politically correct terms were these days. During his college days, he'd dated women from various backgrounds and cultures. He had even kissed a few of them, but nothing had ever become of it. This woman, however, had intrigued him the moment he'd seen her enter the seminar. She'd come late (which he hated) and dressed in casual clothing. She'd worn peach-colored pants with a matching top. The color accented her brown, coffee skin tone. She wasn't overly tall. He guessed about five feet six inches, perfect for his six feet two inch frame. She was slightly plump, but in all the right places. Her face had fascinated him the most. Her mouth was sensual with the whitest, most perfectly aligned teeth he'd ever seen. Her smile lit up the entire room. She had big, beautiful, brown eyes that were framed by the longest, thickest, black eyelashes imaginable. A man could lose himself in those eyes. She seemed to speak with some sort of accent that he couldn't quite figure out. For the first time since the death of Colleen, his wife of twenty-three years, he found himself deeply drawn to another woman. He chuckled when he remembered how she'd systematically dismissed at least three other guys at the conference. There was something about her, and it didn't matter to him that she was black. Noah could imagine his all-white congregation gasping for air at the thought of him even being drawn to a woman of color, let alone him courting her. He chuckled to himself at the picture, but quickly sobered when he realized that courting this woman was exactly what he had been interested in doing.
Valerie's soft voice cut into his train of thought. "Ready to get going?" she asked. He looked up and felt a sudden flash of embarrassing heat at the thought of his secretary witnessing his crash and burn.
Valerie giggled with old-fashioned womanly delight.
"If you're going to ask a woman out, try taking off your old wedding ring. Any woman with a set of decent morals would find your devotion to that ring deeply offensive and a great big turnoff."
Pastor Phillips gave a hoot of laughter. At least, he now understood Cinderella's mood change. Digging in his pocket, he pulled out his car keys and tossed them up in the air whistling. "I'll follow you. Getting back into this courting thing is very invigorating."
As Valerie eased her car onto Interstate 77, she looked in the rearview mirror and saw her boss's sleek red Maxima following her. She had been thoroughly surprised at his obvious interest in "Cinderella". He'd watched her the entire morning. It was fairly obvious that the unknown woman had intrigued her boss; especially, since she'd shown no interest in him or any other guy. It looked as though Pastor Phillips was going to have to "court" someone else.
* * *
Valerie glanced at her boss as they headed into the restaurant. "By the way Pastor, no one calls it courting anymore. It's called dating."
A long moment had passed before he gazed at his ringed finger and for the first time ever, took off his wedding ring and slid it in his pocket.
Noah looked at his secretary, smiled, and stated in a deeply serious tone, "I don't date. I court with the intent of marrying."
Valerie wisely kept her opinions to herself, but she quietly prayed for God to send her pastor a "Virtuous Woman of God".
Noah absently rubbed the finger where his wedding ring had been. God was telling him it was time to move on. Colleen had been gone for four years. He finally felt ready to live again. He took a deep breath and smiled to himself. Cinderella had awakened Prince Charming. He no longer needed his wedding ring to symbolize his grief. He was ready to live life again.
Their server, a young attractive man in his early twenties, smiled as he took their order. Tina triumphantly reminded Marlena that she had to pay for the meal again. The women had long ago agreed that whoever arrived late for their monthly luncheons at Chingo's had to pick up the tab. Marlena pled innocent due to extenuating circumstances, but her friend was not buying it. Finally, and with much pretended arguing, Marlena agreed to pick up the tab and then made a beeline directly to the ladies room.
As she washed her hands, "Ken's" face invaded her thoughts. She couldn't seem to put that arrogant man out of her mind and there were still two more days left in the seminar. Maybe, he'd be too embarrassed to show up. Somehow, she doubted the man had any shame. She could skip the last two days, but her job had already paid in full for her to attend and they couldn't afford the loss. The school was run on a tight, shoestring budget as it was. She'd just have to gut it up, Marlena reluctantly decided. She washed her hands, applied more lip gloss, and headed back to their booth.
She heard Tina's animated voice in conversation with someone. Marlena smiled as she turned to enter the booth. The smile froze on her face as she recognized none other than "Ken and Barbie" in friendly conversation with her best friend. Stunned, she could do nothing but stare dumbly at the unwelcome surprise.
Tina, oblivious to her friend's silent plight, and not realizing she was fraternizing with the enemy, began to make polite introductions, "Marlena, meet Noah Phillips and his secretary Valerie. Noah and Valerie, meet my best friend, Marlena Porter."
"Hello, Marlena. Or would you prefer that I call you Cinderella?" Noah laughed with delight.
"Who the heck is Cinderella?" Tina asked. Finally, realization dawned and Tina laughed incredulously. "This is the married pastor you were talking about?"
Marlena was never more thankful to be black then at that moment. She was sure that none of them could see the hot color in her cheeks. She peeked from under her long dark lashes at "what's his name" and felt her face grow warmer when he chuckled knowingly. She made a mental note to choke her best friend at the next available moment.
Excerpted from Not My Type by JAEL Copyright © 2011 by JAEL. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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