Charlene Wilson, First Lady of First Jamaica Ministries, has lived a good life with her beloved Bishop T.K. Wilson and their two beautiful children. But now that the Lord has seen fit to call her home, someone needs to take care of her man. . .
That's why Charlene has planned to hang around in spirit--to make sure T.K. ends up with the right woman. First in line is Marlene, the mother of T.K.'s illegitimate daughter. Then there's Monique Johnson, the unapologetic First Lady of Plastic Surgery and Implants. Next is Savannah Dickens, the church's attractive new choir soloist. And last but not least is Charlene's good friend Sister Lisa Mae Johnson, widow of Pastor Lee Jones.
With the help of her friend Alison, Charlene prepares a series of letters addressed to the lucky ladies. No one else knows about the letters, but rest assured, they will shake up a whole lot of people. Charlene may soon be gone, but her presence will be felt. . .
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THE FIRST LADY
By CARL WEBER
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 Carl Weber
All right reserved.
Six months later
I leaned forward in my chair and opened my desk drawer, taking out two glasses and a bottle of cognac that I saved for special occasions. I poured myself a drink and one for my best friend, James Black. There was nothing like drinking some good old-fashioned cognac with James, especially after a day when the fish weren't biting worth a darn. James and I spent a great deal of time together when it came to both business and pleasure. He was a loyal friend, a former deacon, and now the chairman of the board of trustees of our church. He was also my eyes and ears among the members of the church since my wife, Charlene, passed away, God bless her soul, six months ago.
Lately, James seemed to be seeing and hearing more things that I was oblivious to in the church. I hated that because I tried to remain close to all the members of the congregation, but there are some things that church folks just won't tell their pastor. That's where my wife, and now James, had come in handy. They both had a knack for discovering things before they blew up in my face-my wife, because she was very nosy and intimidating, and James because ... well, let's just say he was a ladies' man, and I had to turn my head every once in a while from his lustful behavior. Nonetheless, they both got the job done in their own way, and I was appreciative.
"T.K.," James said, swirling his cognac before taking a sip. He stared at me long and hard, as if he were trying to find the proper words to express himself. Normally, this was something James didn't seem to have a problem with. I also noted that he'd called me T.K. instead of Bishop. He did that only when he wanted us to step aside from our roles as church heads and deal with each other as men of flesh.
"What's on your mind, James? You got something to tell me? You haven't been yourself all day."
James took another sip of his drink. It was obvious he was stalling. "Well, yes, I do," he finally said.
"All right, then, man. Spit it out," I encouraged.
"All right. T.K., I've been talking to some of the sisters of the church, and well ... they think it's time." He leaned back patiently in his chair, obviously relieved to get this off his chest. I just wished I knew what he was so relieved about. I didn't have a clue what he thought it was time for.
"Time? Time for what?" I stared at him as I lifted my glass and took a swallow.
"Time for you to make a choice. So, I hope you're ready because life around here isn't going to be easy until you've made your choice."
"And what choice do I have to make?" I asked calmly, still not sure where he was going.
"Whether we're going to have Armageddon or peace around here," he replied between sips, staring back at me with so little emotion, he could have been a professional poker player.
I sat up straight in my chair, trying my best to read my friend's face because Armageddon was not a word to be used lightly. "What are you talking about, James?"
"T.K., there is about to be Armageddon in this church, and you're about to be right in the middle of it."
There was that word again. James's face still showed no emotion, but now his voice had a chill that had me concerned. Had James been given some divine message from God that I had been left out of? Was there dissention in the congregation? Were they about to try to vote me out as pastor? I wasn't sure what was going on, but before he left my office, my good friend James Black was going to explain himself.
"James, you of all people know I do not like to play games. So, will you please stop beating around the bush and get to the point?" My voice was firm, and I'm sure he knew I was serious.
"Look, I'm sorry about that, T.K. I just figured you'd want to hear this subtly." He took a breath before he spoke. "The women of the church are about to tear this place apart, and it's all because of you."
I searched my mind for reasons I might have upset the women of my congregation. "What have I supposedly done this time?"
"It's what you haven't done, Bishop. These women are losing their minds. Haven't you noticed what's going on around here? The women are arriving at church a half hour early just to assure themselves a spot in the front. I'm not just talking about two or three women. There had to be fifty or sixty of them this past Sunday. And I bet you a hundred dollars there'll be even more this week. It's crazy."
I smiled at my friend with pride. "That's not necessarily a bad thing, James. The word must be getting around that I give one heck of a sermon."
He laughed. "Are you really that naive? These women don't give a damn about your sermons. They only-"
I shot him a look, and he tried to clean up his words. "What I mean is, all they care about is you." He pointed a finger at me. "They are all bound and determined by any means necessary to be the one to become your wife, the next first lady of the church."
For the first time, I understood what he was talking about, and I dismissed it immediately. Yes, I knew that every congregation wanted their pastor to be married. It just made sense, if you really thought about it. But my Charlene had been gone only six months. That was way too soon for me to even be entertaining the thought of dating, let alone remarrying.
I looked at the picture of Charlene I kept on my desk. Oh, how I missed her. My wife was a spitfire who had loved me, my family, and this church more than life itself, and to be honest, I wasn't ready to let her go yet. And I didn't think the church was, either.
"That's ridiculous, James. Let me assure you, that's got to be the last thing on these women's minds. Trust me. Like I told you, I know these things. I know the hearts of the women of this church. It's just in their nature to be caring. You can't go taking it the wrong way, James. I sure don't."
"Are you kidding?" He chuckled, but there was a twinge of disdain in his voice. "No offense to your sermons, Bishop, but there's not a hat shop in Queens with a single fancy brim left on its shelves. There are women in this borough who have wiped out their entire savings, and others who have taken out loans just to buy enough hats for as many Sundays as it's going to take to catch the bishop's eye. And how better to catch the bishop's eye than to reserve a place right across from the pulpit every Sunday?"
"James, stop exaggerating," I chortled. "These are good churchwomen who just want to hear the word."
"You can play dumb all you want, T.K.," James said as he poured the last of the liquor into our glasses. "But you can't say that I didn't warn you."
"Well, thanks for the warning, but I'm sure you're wrong."
He held up his glass, a sign for me to toast. I hesitantly followed suit and lifted my glass in the air.
"Here's to me being wrong," James said. Before either one of us could put our glasses to our lips, we were startled by a knock on the door. The concern in James's eyes mirrored my own. The last thing we needed as prominent men of the church was to get caught sipping liquor. Jesus might have turned water to wine, and even taken a sip or two himself with every meal, but God forbid I was caught having an innocent drink with a friend. They'd swear I was a drunk. So, without having to say a word, we simultaneously downed the contents of our glasses. I held out my hand for James to give me his empty glass.
"Come in," I said as I quickly placed the empty bottle and two glasses in my bottom desk drawer. I did so just in the nick of time, because as soon as I closed the drawer, the office door opened.
"Gentlemen," Deacon Joe Dickens said as he entered the office.
"How you doin', Deacon?" I asked as James replied with a courteous nod.
"Fine, Bishop. I'm doin' just fine. Heard you two went fishin'. Hope they were biting"-the deacon smiled-"'cause I'd love to have a few porgies."
"Put it this way, Deacon," I told him. "If you or anyone else ever had to depend upon Trustee Black's and my ability to catch fish, we'd all starve. The only thing we got in that cooler over there is ice."
Laughter filled the room momentarily before Deacon Dickens cleared his throat so that he could speak on what he'd really come for. "Speaking of food and eating, Bishop, my daughter, Savannah, is going to be doing a little cooking this weekend. You know that cobbler you were so fond of at the deacons' banquet last month?"
I smiled at the memory of that cobbler. It was quite possibly the best I'd ever had. "How could I forget? The darn thing was so good I must have gone back for seconds three times." I patted my belly as I grinned.
"Well, that was Savannah's doing. She made that cobbler."
"Sister Savannah is responsible for that cobbler? Well, I may have to stop by your house a little more often, Deacon, 'cause your daughter sure can burn."
"You're always welcome, Bishop. Matter of fact, along with that cobbler, she's cooking smothered pork chops and collard greens for dinner tomorrow. If I remember correctly, you're rather fond of pork chops, aren't you?"
"Could eat them every day," I said with a nod.
"Well, then you're going to have to come over for dinner tomorrow night. I insist."
I let out a disappointed sigh. "I wish I could, Deacon, but I already have dinner plans to meet with the bookstore committee tomorrow night. How about a rain check?"
The deacon looked truly disappointed. "All right. How's next Sunday sound? I can't promise pork chops, but I'm sure Savannah will make another cobbler."
I glanced down at my weekly planner, then looked up at the deacon with a smile. "Deacon, it's a date. And whether it's pork chops or not, I'll be looking forward to it."
"Good, good," he replied. "How's seven o'clock sound to you?"
"Seven o'clock next Sunday is fine." I wrote it in my planner, then made a mental note to tell my secretary, Alison, to put it in hers.
"Well, gentlemen, I guess it's time I got home. I'll see you at service on Sunday." The deacon shook our hands and left, closing the door behind him.
It was obvious that James could barely wait until Deacon's footsteps faded down the hall before he exploded with laughter. "Oh, my Lord, that guy is hilarious."
"Why? What's so funny?" I asked.
"What's so funny? You're what's so funny. Can't you see a setup when it's right in front of your face?" James stood up, shaking his head. "Like I told you before the deacon came in, it's starting, my friend. The battle for who's going to be the next first lady has started, and it looks like the first woman in the ring is Savannah Dickens. And her father's the one who's throwing her in."
"James, my man, you're reading far too much into this."
"Am I, T.K.? Since when does a prominent member of the church invite the pastor to dinner and not at least extend an invitation to any other prominent member of the church who's in the room? I might as well have been invisible."
I sat back in my chair and thought about what he was saying. I didn't reply at first because the more I thought about it, the more his words started to make sense. He did have an intriguing point. Why didn't the deacon invite him to dinner? He could have at least invited him when I declined. Was the deacon trying to orchestrate a relationship between me and his daughter? It was possible. The real question was whether I was willing to be a participant in his plan.
Savannah was single, and she was also a very attractive woman. She had some of the prettiest black hair I'd ever seen. For the first time, I began to imagine her as a woman and not just a member of the church. The image brought a slight grin to my face, which quickly morphed into a guilty frown as Savannah's image was replaced by Charlene's.
"You might be right about the deacon, James, but then again, maybe your dinner invitation just slipped the deacon's mind."
James chuckled. "If you believe that, I got a bridge to sell you out back."
I rose from my chair, reached in my pocket, and pulled out some money. "How much?"
James's chuckle became a full-fledged laugh. "You crazy, you know that, Bishop?"
"That's what they tell me." I laughed with him.
"So, T.K., what do you think?"
"Think about what, James?" I said flatly, knowing from the look on his face what he was referring to.
"Savannah. What do you think about Savannah? Old girl does have some hips on her, doesn't she?" James traced his fingers in the air like he was outlining a shapely woman's figure.
"I hadn't noticed," I lied.
"Yeah, right. Sure you haven't." James waved his hand at me. "Look, T.K., you may have the title of bishop, but you're still a man. Don't think I forgot about what happened in the Bahamas."
Blood rushed to my face. "You're never gonna let me forget that, are you?"
"Okay, hold it over my head. Just don't forget I've seen you in a few compromising positions too. You seem to have forgotten about Las Vegas."
He laughed. "Hey, whatever happened to what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas?"
"Same thing that happened to what goes on in the Bahamas stays in the Bahamas. At least I was with my wife."
"Aw'ight, I get your point. Look, I gotta get outta here. I got a big date tonight with Sister Renee Wilcox."
I shook my head. "I don't know why these sisters let you get away with your foolishness, James."
"Same reason they're filling the front rows of the church these past few Sundays, Bishop."
"And why's that?" I asked.
"'Cause a good man is hard to find." James smiled as he opened my office door. "Remember, Bishop," he called as he gave me one last warning. "Deacon Dickens and Savannah are just the first."
I smiled, nodded, and waved as James exited the room, half-way closing the door behind him. I proceeded to remove the empty liquor bottle from my desk drawer and stuffed it down in my leather briefcase with the intent of disposing of it in the Dumpster in the back parking lot. I carried the two glasses we'd been drinking from down the hall to the church kitchen to rinse them out.
As I turned the corner to return to my office, I spotted an envelope taped to my door. It actually gave me deja vu because for years, Charlene would leave me messages in the same exact fashion. By the time I got to the door, my hands were shaking and my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, I was so nervous and confused. She'd been dead for six months, but the envelope taped to the door was from my wife's personal stationery.
Somehow, I managed to remove the envelope from the door, make my way into my office and into my chair. I stared at the envelope for the better part of five minutes before I opened it and began to read. The note was indeed from Charlene. Although it wasn't in her handwriting, the words were definitely hers. James was right about one thing: Armageddon was about to start in our church, but what he probably never suspected was that its creator was going to be my deceased wife, Charlene Wilson.
For almost three years I'd asked God to bless me with a job so I could get off public assistance and not have to look for handouts from my son-in-law, Dante, and my daughter, Tanisha, to take care of my teenage son, Aubrey. But perhaps I should have been a little bit more specific when I put in my request. Shopping at Key Food is one thing, but working there is a completely different story, with all the rude customers and sexual harassment I had to put up with from my pain-in-the-ass manager. Every day when I left that place, I felt like I needed a drink. Don't get me wrong, I was grateful for the job in these troubled times, but how was I supposed to support a teenage boy on $320 a week in New York City?
Aubrey's birthday was in two weeks, and the only thing he asked for was one of those new PlayStation 3 video game consoles, but those things cost $400, and that doesn't include the games he wanted. How can a kid's video game console cost more than what a parent makes in a week?
Excerpted from THE FIRST LADY by CARL WEBER Copyright © 2007 by Carl Weber. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I found the characters to be believable just like in his other books. It was a quick read and it kept my attention which is hard to do.
This book is a page turner from the beginning to the end...You wont be disappointed:-)
This was my first book with the author and I'm a new fan. great twist and turns in the book. Great story teller.
Okay so this book my auntie had and years ago I meant to read it. Well I could not figure out this simple title. Well I can say it was worth the wait and a wonderful read. The flow of the perspectives was wonderful. Seeing things from each person involved was wonderful way to really get in deep with the characters. The First Lady is a book that will guide you in a understanding of what it means to love someone, however also how judging one is not really the proper way to know them. It shows how low women can get to be with the perfect (only in their eyes) man.
This was the first book I read from this author after going to a book signing at Barnes and Noble and I was very pleased. Short chapters and straight to the point.
I am not impressedvwith books that just tell a story on the backs of church folks. Yes maybe there are people like these characters in our congregation. But the story line became too predictable and I simply beganfanning the pages just to finish tue book.
I loved the story line, the writing was good and it made a very good book discussion book. There was a lot going on that was real, things we know about or have witnessed, so it made our book discussion come alive!
I LOVE ALL HIS BOOKS NOT ONE THAT I HAVE READ YET THAT I WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH. I HAVE FINISHED OVER 6 BOOKS IN THE MATTER OF 3 WEEKS. WAY TO HARD TO PUT THEM DOWN! THIS WAS MY FIRST BOOK I READ AND I'M HOOKED!! WORTH BUYING JUST BE READY TO READ NON-STOP!
This book was really good. I love all of Carl Weber's books! He definitely writes page turners! Love him!
This book was a great read! Being a 1st Lady myself, some of the details were like deja vu! The writer kept the book interested. Great book to read for enjoyment, laughter, definitely suspenseful!
I wish i could find a book that doesnt use the sh and the f word in every paragraph. The title had me thinking it was a Christian book. Instead there are liquor-drinking pastors and wanna be first ladies with potty mouths. I made it to page 40 and couldnt take anymore.
Romantic fiction with four ladies competing to be the First Lady on the arm of Bishop TK WILSON. Spurred on by letters from the recently deceased Charlene, wife and former First Lady of the mega church. You will be strongly engaged cover to cover.
I enjoyed reading every minute of this book. There are a lot of good, sad and loveable events that happen. At the end I was very happy to learn who the Pastor selected as his wife and First Lady. I can understand and see how church women are so desperate to marry a man of status. This is my first book that I read by Carl Webber, I look forward to reading more of his books.
This was my first Carl Weber book and I am now First Jamaica Ministries newset member
I enjoyed this book. Very exciting and worth the time. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.