—Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling authors
With his drama-filled marriage behind him, Evan Murdoch has finally found happiness with his longtime friend turned fiancée, Leila Hawkins. But when his party boy brother, Terrence, is seriously injured in a car accident, a gossiping press puts the family back in the spotlight. Soon Terrence could face a lawsuit—and much worse, if his vengeful half-brother, Dante, has his way. Terrence’s only bright spot is journalist C.J. Aston—but is she really on his side, or does she have another motive?. . .
While Terrence struggles to recover from his injuries, Paulette, the little sister of the family, is struggling with a secret: she’s pregnant, and unsure whether the father is her blackmailing ex or her husband. Amid the turmoil, Evan does his best to stay above the fray, but a shocking revelation makes that impossible—he’s a Murdoch after all, and trouble seems to be their business . . .
“Secrets abound in this full-bodied tale.” —USAToday.com
“This fantastic novel is replete with scandal, entitlement, treachery and passion up to the surprising end.” —RT Book Reviews
“Drama, hot sex, and betrayals are all wrapped up in this addictive yet well-written story.”
—AAMBC Book Club on Best Kept Secrets
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Bed of Lies
A Chesterton Scandal Novel
By SHELLY ELLIS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Shelly Ellis
All rights reserved.
"Yeah! That's what I'm talking about, baby!" Terrence Murdoch yelled over the heavy bass before tossing one-hundred-dollar bills into the air and letting them fall like confetti. The cute brunette in front of him showed her appreciation by doing a split on the stage, clad in only a smile and a bright yellow G-string that glowed under the blue-hued stage lights. Two other strippers danced beside her in clear platform stilettos, gyrating and swinging around each pole as Terrence and his friends hooted and yelled with delight in the VIP section of the club.
Terrence didn't know where to look first. It was a delectable sampling of full breasts, round thighs, and pert behinds. He just wanted to dive in and bask in all the womanly beauty.
He raised his beer bottle and toasted the sexy performance. "I've died and gone to heaven!" he cried. He then turned to his older brother, Evan, who had hung back from the stage and chose to stay at the table behind them. "Ain't they beautiful, man?"
When he saw what Evan was doing, his grin disappeared. He slammed his bottle back to the table in outrage. "Ev, what the ... what the fuck? Are you kidding me?"
Instead of admiring the strippers, Evan had been peering down at his BlackBerry under the flashing strobe lights. At Terrence's cry of outrage, the company CEO glanced up from his phone screen.
"Huh?" Evan asked absently. "Oh yeah, it's great, Terry." He began to type on the phone keys again.
"Ev, put that damn phone down and look at this, man!"
"I'll be right with you. Just let me finish this e-mail," Evan said, still furiously typing. "Got to get this out tonight. They're in a different time zone."
Terrence reached over and yanked the BlackBerry out of Evan's hand, catching his brother by surprise.
"No, look at it now! How can you be doing business when you have this in front of your face?" he asked, jabbing toward the stage.
One of the women dropped to her knees before turning her ass toward the men huddled around her. She did a twerk that made the men holler for more. Another stripper hopped up on a pole and twirled around and around, letting her blond curls dangle inches above the ground.
"I mean ... come on!" Terrence turned back to look at his brother with a grin that was so wide it could barely be contained on his face. "Look at this!"
Evan gazed at the two strippers, inclined his head, and nodded. "Nice," he said thoughtfully, like he was considering a new pair of shoes.
"Nice?" Terrence comically looked at the women onstage, whipped his head to glare at his brother, then stared at the women on the stage again. "What the hell do you mean, 'Nice'?" He jabbed his index finger at the strippers. "Those women are fuckin' perfect, Ev!"
Evan emphatically shook his head and smiled as he reached into his jacket pocket and whipped out another cell phone. He dragged his index finger across the screen, scrolling through a series of photos. "No, this is perfect."
He held the glass screen toward Terrence. Terrence squinted under the club lighting to see what his brother was showing him. It was a photo of Evan's fiancée, Leila. She was wearing a tank top and yoga pants and rolling her eyes as Evan took the picture, like she had wanted anything but to be photographed at that moment.
Terrence had to admit that his future sister-in-law was one gorgeous woman. And Evan had been pining after her for years — hell, decades! He had been secretly in love with her since he was nine years old. In Evan's mind, Leila Hawkins had probably reached almost mythical proportions in beauty, brains, and loveliness.
But still, how could a man ignore what was right in front of his face? It destroyed the whole purpose of Evan being here at the strip club if he sat toward the back of the room, fiddling on his BlackBerry.
Terrence had invited Evan out with his friends for a night of drinking and debauchery to give Evan a long-needed break. His older brother was a consummate workaholic, and now when he wasn't working, he was almost plastered to the side of his new fiancée. Terrence had wanted his big bro to have some fun. But Evan looked like he would be more entertained if he was sitting at his desk going over contracts and sales figures at Murdoch Conglomerated, where he was CEO. Or maybe he'd rather be sitting beside Leila, staring at tablecloth swatches for their wedding reception.
"Are you telling me you aren't just a little bit interested in looking at those titties?" Terrence pleaded. He once again pointed to the stage. "Not just a little?"
Evan burst into laughter. "I'm sorry, Terry, but from here they look like average breasts to me. But you know what? Go ahead and enjoy yourself. Don't let me ruin your fun." He yanked his BlackBerry out of Terrence's hand. "But if you don't mind, I'll take this back."
Terrence slowly shook his head in bemusement as he watched his brother sit down in one of the leather club chairs and start scanning through his e-mails again.
Operation: Get Evan Turnt Up was going downhill — fast.
Terrence glanced at the drink Evan was now sipping: a Shirley Temple. He could try to ply Evan with alcohol to make him loosen up, but he knew that wouldn't work. Evan didn't drink thanks to his alcoholic wife, Charisse. Her drunkenness had been part of the reason they were now getting a divorce — that and the fact that she had been cheating on Evan.
Nope, getting him drunk is out of the question, Terrence thought.
An idea suddenly popped into Terrence's head. A wicked smile crossed his full lips.
"Well, if they just look like average titties from here, I guess you're going to have to see them up close."
Evan frowned quizzically as he lowered his glass back to the marble tabletop and looked up from his e-mail. "I'm sorry ... what?"
Terrence suddenly turned on his heel, marched toward the stage, and shoved a group of his friends aside so that he was front and center.
"Ladies!" he shouted as he whipped out a series of hundred-dollar bills, spread them into a fan and brandished them in the air. "My brother would like a lap dance. Now! A grand to the first woman who does it."
The three strippers paused mid-routine. One almost fell off her pole. Another scrambled off her knees. The three women ran off the stage and came barreling toward Evan, whose mouth was agape. One looked like she nearly twisted her ankle trying to make her way down the short staircase.
"No!" Evan said, holding up his hands in protest and furiously shaking his head. "Really, ladies, I'm fine. I don't ... I don't want a lap dance!"
Terrence cackled as he watched the strippers shove and elbow-check each other to get to Evan first. The blonde turned out to be the victor and promptly fell onto Evan's lap and started gyrating for all her worth.
"Terry!" Evan yelled, trying his best to rise out of his chair without touching the half-naked women who were huddled around and over him. "Terry!"
"Enjoy it, Ev!" Terrence grabbed his beer and held it up before tossing the hundreds in his hand into the air and taking a swig. "You deserve it!"
"Hey, you forgot this," Terrence said as he handed Evan his suit jacket.
The two men walked out of the strip club almost two hours later into the chilly February night. A few of Terrence's friends trailed behind them, laughing and joking with one another.
"I didn't forget it," Evan mumbled as he tossed the suit jacket over his forearm. "It was stolen from me."
One of the strippers had ripped off Evan's suit jacket as soon as they had descended on him like a herd of locusts. His necktie had been removed, too, when one of the other strippers used it to bind his hands behind his back when he kept struggling. Another had smothered his verbal protests by shaking her double-Ds in his face.
"Come on! Admit it!" Terrence prodded, looping an arm around Evan's neck in brotherly affection. "You had fun, didn't you?"
"It was ... interesting," Evan said just as one of the guys behind them leaned over and vomited on the walkway not too far from the club's red carpet.
"Oh, hell no!" the burly bouncer boomed, hopping off of his stool in front of the door. "Y'all better get his ass outta here!" he ordered, making one of the guy's companions nod and grab his sick friend around the shoulders. Another helped guide him toward a car that was parked at the end of the block.
Evan and Terrence shook their heads in disgust as they watched the trio walk off.
"Is your friend gonna make it?" Evan asked.
Terrence waved his hand dismissively. "He'll be fine. One of them will get his sorry ass back home tonight. I don't know what his wife will think when she sees him like that, though, but" — Terrence shrugged — "that's his problem."
Evan narrowed his eyes at Terrence. "You had plenty to drink yourself. Are you going to be okay driving back to your place?"
"Me?" Terrence pointed at his chest and laughed. He had a slight buzz, but that was about it. He could remember being in far worse states than he was now. "Man, please! I am far from drunk. Trust me. I'll be fine."
"You sure about that?" Evan asked again, just as a black Lincoln Town Car pulled up to the curb. Evan's driver climbed out, quickly walked to the rear door, and held it open for him. Evan paused before climbing onto the leather seat. "I could give you a ride, you know."
Terrence waved him away again as he started to walk in the opposite direction in search of his Porsche. "I'll be fine, Miss Daisy. Just give Lee a kiss for me. All right?"
"Oh, I most certainly will," Evan said with a wink before climbing into the sedan. The driver shut the door behind him.
Terrence turned and walked down the block back to his car. He raised the collar of his wool coat to block out the chill and rubbed his hands together to warm them. He bet Evan would give Leila a kiss as soon as he got home. Thanks to the erotic performance the men had witnessed tonight, he bet Evan would give her a lot more than that.
After a few minutes, Terrence spotted his silver Porsche two-seater and he breathed a sigh of relief.
"There's my baby," he whispered, almost with reverence.
The strip club hadn't had valet parking and he had been loath to leave her parallel-parked along the curb in this neighborhood, but he had had no other choice.
Terrence inspected his car with a careful eye and whispered a prayer of thanks when he saw no dents or scratches. The paint on his Porsche still glistened and the rims still sparkled from the wash, waxing, and buffing the car had gotten earlier that day.
If the love of Evan's life was Leila Hawkins, then the love of Terrence's life was certainly his 2015 Porsche 911 S Coupe. A close second was maybe the De'Longhi ESAM6700 Gran Dama Avant Touch-Screen Super-Automatic Espresso Machine on the granite kitchen countertop back at his condo in Chesterton, Virginia. If he could be buried with that thing, he would.
Terrence didn't have a love of the female variety and he had no desire to fall in love with anyone. Oh, he was no monk; he dated often. He had his fair share of girlfriends and one-night stands. But so far, no woman had made him want to "put a ring on it," so to speak. Terrence had seen the ravages married life could have on a person by witnessing his parents' horrendous marriage for decades and the trials Evan had gone through for the five and half years he was married to his soon-to-be ex, Charisse.
Though Evan often encouraged him to finally settle down, Terrence couldn't work up enough optimism about love and relationships to try his hand at anything permanent with a woman. He'd rather live in the moment and collect honeys like they were Pokémon trading cards.
He opened the door of his Porsche and climbed inside. As he drove, he listened to the voice messages on his iPhone. Unlike Evan, he had turned off his cell while inside the club, not wanting to be disturbed.
"Hey, Terry," a female voice cooed over the phone's speaker as Terrence merged onto a roadway, "it's Asia. I've texted you three times today, baby! Where are you? I was hoping we could meet up this weekend. Give me a call back when you get this. I miss your fine ass. Byeeeeee!"
Asia was a waitress at a Cuban restaurant downtown. She had full lips, big thighs, and a beautiful smile, but lately, she had become kind of clingy. Terrence wondered if he should call her back or cut her loose.
"Bonsoir, mon ami!" Terrence heard next, instantly making him smile. "Ça va?"
He knew that throaty purr from anywhere. It was Georgette, a blond Victoria's Secret model based out of Montreal whom he had met back during his modeling days. He loved Georgette because of her good taste in food and wine, her French accent, and because she understood the true definition of "no strings attached" sex. They had been hooking up off and on for the past six years.
"I will be in the city for a few weeks," Georgette continued. "Let me know if you wish to meet, huh? I packed the lace teddy you like and the ... you know ... the stuff that you lick ... qu'est-ce que c'est? Ah, who cares! I show you, Terry! Je te veux! Can't wait to see you, mon ami. Au revoir!" He heard kissing sounds and then the line clicked.
Oh hell, yeah, he thought.
He would call her back as soon as he got home. He would check her schedule and make reservations at their favorite spot. After dinner, he'd take her back to his place and they would try out "the stuff that you lick."
"Terry!" a voice suddenly screeched from his iPhone, snatching him out of his sexual reverie and making him wince. "Terry, you know who this is. Don't play like you don't! I saw you with that chick yesterday. Yeah, she was all up on you. Is she your new girl now? How dare you dump me like I was yesterday's trash, you son of a —"
Terrence reached over the armrest and immediately pressed a button on the phone's glass screen to delete the message.
Oh, Monique, he thought with exasperation.
Now, that was a girl who definitely did not understand the definition of "no strings attached" sex. Monique Washington had given off alarm bells the moment he had met her — she had been high-maintenance, constantly had checked her reflection in mirrors, and had wanted to talk endlessly about trips to Europe and trust funds. But he had pushed his misgivings about her aside. So what if she was a little shallow? He wasn't a deep man himself. And besides, she was good in bed and when he had told her that he wasn't ready for a real relationship, she had seemed okay with his revelation. But he should have trusted his first instincts. She had turned out to be a real nutcase. She went past clingy and straight to Fatal Attraction, showing up at his condo at all times of the day, threatening other women that he was dating. When he had tried to shake off Monique, she started blowing up his phone, leaving pissed-off and threatening messages.
He wouldn't make that mistake again. If he sensed that a woman wasn't up to staying at a distance, then he wouldn't bother to start anything with her. For now, he would just have to block Monique's number.
"On to the next one," Terrence murmured as he pulled to a stop at a stop sign.
Terrence frowned and turned to find two women smiling and waving at him on the sidewalk. Despite the temps being in the low thirties, both women were wearing short skirts and flimsy shawls. One had flowing dark hair. The other looked like she was wearing an auburn wig. They both seemed to be heading home from a hard night of partying.
"Hey, cutie!" the dark-haired one yelled, motioning wildly for him to lower his car window.
"Evening, ladies," he said in his smoothest Billy Dee Williams voice.
They ran toward his Porsche — or more like stumbled — holding onto each other for balance. "Is that your car, baby?" the auburn-haired one slurred, leaning on her friend.
Terrence inclined his head. "I'm driving it, aren't I?"
"Where you headed?" the other asked eagerly, sticking out her chest.
"Home," he answered.
The dark-haired one licked her red lips and smiled. "Well, it looks like we're headed there, too."
"Home with me?" He raised his brows.
The two women nodded in unison. "Yeah! Let us in!" the auburn-wigged one shouted before groping for the passenger door handle and missing it by several inches. She fell back onto the sidewalk instead and landed on her rear, making her wig shift askew. Her friend burst into laughter.
Excerpted from Bed of Lies by SHELLY ELLIS. Copyright © 2016 Shelly Ellis. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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