Happy in marriage and motherhood, Sherise is back at work and ready for a big promotion to White House press secretary—until an incompetent rival gets the job instead. Something’s dirty and Sherise is going to get to the bottom of it…. Billie’s law career is thriving, and she’s newly engaged. But between her fiancé’s disapproving mother and his angry ex-girlfriend, Billie’s plans for the future may be put on hold—permanently…. With a new job at a lobbying firm, Erica is ready to put the past behind her. But when her estranged father’s tragic death leaves her newly wealthy, she finds herself at the center of a power struggle that could cost her more than money…
Whatever obstacles try to block their dreams, these ladies will find a way to conquer them—no matter what it takes…
“Readers looking for backstabbing, secrets, and sex will find plenty.” —Publishers Weekly on Almost Doesn’t Count
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Power, Seduction & Scandal
By ANGELA WINTERS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Angela Winters
All rights reserved.
Sherise Robinson took a look around and had to smile. At thirty, she was sitting on luxurious leather seats in the back of a driven car on her way to a meeting where she was going to be named one of the most powerful, influential people in the country. Not bad for a girl from the mean streets of Southeast D.C. who no one believed would ever amount to anything.
She checked her makeup mirror even though she didn't have to. She looked flawless. Her golden caramel skin was glowing against her silky dark brown hair that she'd recently cut to a few inches below her shoulders, adding more sophistication. She had perfect high cheekbones and full, sultry lips, but the highlight of her face was her piercing green eyes.
Her face and those dangerous curves framing her fit body created an image of beauty that Sherise used to her advantage. She wasn't afraid to admit that. She could make a man give her anything she wanted and make a woman concede defeat just at the sight of her.
But looks alone could never have gotten her where she was today; about to be named the press secretary to the next president of the United States of America. She'd worked her ass off for that.
Yes, she played dirty at times to get what she wanted, and to keep it. That was just the game of power and politics in D.C. She'd learned to play it as a teenager when she'd gotten her first internship at the Department of Agriculture. She was just making copies, but she made sure to leave an impression by being faster, more organized, and more presentable than anyone else. Sherise knew what most sixteen-year-olds didn't: in D.C., presentation mattered more than substance. She parlayed that into a college scholarship and several jobs on Capitol Hill.
Meeting and marrying an up-and-coming lobbyist didn't hurt at all, but Sherise put in the work and made a name for herself as one of the best message people in D.C. Her position in the communications department of the White House led to a job for popular Maryland Governor Jerry Northman's campaign as the Democratic candidate for president. He won the primaries and finally, two weeks ago, with Sherise running his communications, he won the highest office in the land.
And to think, just a year ago, it almost all fell apart. Everything was on the brink of being lost ... everything.
She closed the mirror and placed it in her Furla purse. She had to always look perfect now that she was constantly in front of the camera, her face on newspapers and websites. She made sure her staff, now totalling five full-time and two interns, always looked perfect as well.
Her staff wouldn't be at this meeting she was on her way to at the campaign headquarters for Jerry. She'd gotten the message this morning when LaKeisha Wilson, Jerry's campaign manager, texted her and only other core team members to come in for an announcement. It was just a formality. Everyone knew that Sherise would be named PS for the new administration, but she couldn't help but be excited.
The phone rang with that familiar ring tone reserved for the one person who made Sherise's heart light up. It was her husband, Justin, the father of her two children and the love of her life. She didn't even want to think that, a year ago, their marriage was barely holding on by a string after it was revealed that they had both been unfaithful and their oldest child might not be his. That Cady turned out to be his helped make their attempt to reconcile go a lot smoother than it would have otherwise. They'd weathered some horrible storms, but got through them.
Now their marriage was stronger than it had ever been. Sherise never hid from the fact that, although she loved Justin, she married him for the advantages he gave her. Over time, she'd lost sight of how good a husband he was and made some terrible mistakes. One of those mistakes came back to haunt her in the worst way, and Justin strayed. She'd gotten him back. She knew she would. Sherise refused to give up anything that mattered.
Now marrying for advantages was out the window. She loved the hell out of that man and appreciated him for everything he was. Her career had always been her priority, but she would give it up, even a position as powerful as PS to the president, for her husband and her two babies.
"What you doing, hot stuff?" he asked in a playful tone.
Sherise smiled. "On my way to the meeting. You know that. You saw me leave."
"I know where you're going, smartass," he responded. "I want to know what you're doing."
"Just checking out how hot I look in my mirror," she answered. "Why? Did you want me to say I was thinking about you and touching myself ?"
"Considering how well I took care of things this morning," his voice shifted from playful to serious in a split second, "I expected you to still be trying to cool yourself down."
"Oh my God, the ego on you, boy." She laughed. "You start your own business and now you think you're cock of the walk."
It was true that he'd been great in bed this morning, and the night before. Their sex life was better than ever. Justin had a new confidence now that he'd left the lobbying firm he worked at and started his own. A false claim of sexual harassment against him turned the firm that he'd made millions for against him. After the truth came out, they were all apologies, but Justin had made up his mind.
Only three of his clients followed him, but in the last eight months, he'd gotten five more. He had an assistant and an intern and was about to hire a new lobbyist to join him. He was doing well and future prospects were all positive. With a new baby on the way, it was a risk, but it paid off. His confidence was through the roof and Sherise was reaping the benefits in their bank account and their bedroom.
Justin laughed in the self-assured tone of a thirty-three-year-old man who knew he made well with his life. "So we're celebrating tonight?"
"I know what you mean by celebrate," she said. "You trying to get me pregnant again?"
"God forbid." He laughed. "I think you've made it clear that the baby factory is closed after Aiden."
Aiden, their six-month-old son, was perfect in every way. He was starting to develop his unique personality traits and Sherise couldn't love him more. Their older child, Cady, was almost three now and as stubborn and difficult as ever, just like her mama. They had a perfect family now, made only more precious considering it had all almost fallen apart.
"We both barely have enough time for the kids we have now," Sherise said. "You know how guilty I feel with two babies and working nonstop?"
"You've been on a presidential campaign," Justin said. "You couldn't pass up this chance of a lifetime. We made it work."
"It's not changing any time soon," she regretfully admitted. "Ugh, how did we get on this topic? You wanted to celebrate?"
"Sorry," he said. "Jeniah is at home with the kids and she said she can stay until about nine tonight. I'll try and knock off early and we can just have a quick dinner somewhere nearby."
Jeniah was the nanny they'd hired just before Sherise gave birth. With her working on the campaign and Justin working overtime at the new business, there was no other choice but to bring someone in the house. Taking the kids to a daycare or a sitter was no longer feasible.
"You knocking off early? The tide is turning?" she asked.
"The calm before the storm," he said. "All the new elections. Everyone has decompressed and it's about to get crazy, so we better take it while we can."
"I don't know how long I'll be, but you've got a date." She felt the car stop. "Oh, I think we're here. I've gotta go, baby. I love you."
"I love you more," he answered back before hanging up.
Sherise smiled and took a heavy sigh. She waited for the driver to come around and open the door for her. As she stepped out in front of headquarters, everyone on the sidewalk stopped to take a look. Maybe one or two of them might have recognized her, but most were just staring at the beautiful young woman in the sharply tailored heather gray suit who looked like she'd been stepping out of driven cars her entire life.
If they only knew.
Billie Carter leaned her petite frame over the balcony overlooking the Atlanta skyline as the day was coming to life. It was only her third day in the city, but she was starting to fall in love with it. This was mostly attributed to the personal guide she'd had since arriving. That same guide came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her, and placed his head on her shoulder.
She turned her head slightly to the right and his lips met hers with a tender morning kiss that warmed her chocolate body underneath the silk bathrobe she was wearing. She turned around to face him, their lips still touching as she wrapped her arms around his neck and gently caressed the back of his head.
"I'm mad at you," Michael said slowly as their lips parted. "I don't like waking up with you not next to me."
Michael Johnson was the man of Billie's dreams and she'd almost lost him. They'd had a chance encounter on a train in D.C. and all she could see was a six-foot Adonis with cocoa skin, deep black eyes, thick dark eyebrows, and a smile that made her lose her balance. But when her stop came, she got off and thought she'd never see him again.
When she'd formally met the thirty-six-year-old executive headhunter just a few days later, it wasn't under the best circumstances. She was just trying to get her career as an attorney, which had derailed, back on track with a new job at Agencis. Agencis was one of Michael's clients, and he'd wanted someone else to have the job she'd gotten.
They got off to a bad start, but Michael was determined to break the ice that Billie had formed around her heart after having it broken by a cheating ex-husband and a lover who turned out to be a secret drug dealer. Her inability to get past the awful ex-husband almost cost her Michael's love, but she fought for him in the end, the way he'd fought for her in the beginning, and they made it through.
A year later, they were going strong and head over heels in love. Billie had never thought she'd experience this again. She was convinced her chance had passed. Yet here she was in the arms of this handsome devil.
She pouted and kissed his nose. "Poor baby. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize," he said. "Just come back."
He took her hand and tried to lead her back into the bedroom of their luxury hotel suite, but she hesitated. He looked back at her, taking in the small features of her face, framed by her curly natural hair, cut close to her head. She wore her emotions on her sleeve and Michael seemed to notice.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I'm worried about lunch," she said. "I want things to go ... better than before."
By before, she meant the night they'd arrived in Atlanta. It was the second time she'd met Michael's family. As his father had passed years ago, his mother, Dee Dee, and sister, Aisha, were all the family Michael had. They'd all had dinner at Michael's childhood home on the eastern side of the city.
The night had gone about as well as the first time she'd met Dee Dee and Aisha, when they came to visit Michael in D.C. four months ago. And by well, she meant not well at all. While Billie had bent over backward to be gracious to her new boyfriend's family, it was not returned. From the beginning, Dee Dee grilled her with question after question about her previous marriage. Apparently, Dee Dee still lived in the 1950s and believed that a divorced woman had to be to blame for not holding on to a man. It had gotten bad enough that a small argument had started, which Michael interrupted.
Aisha, on the other hand, had followed in Michael's activist roots. One of the things that Billie loved about Michael was that no matter how successful he'd gotten, he never forgot where he came from. He was active in the community in D.C., especially working with young black men in dire need of a role model. Billie related to him, as she spent most of her volunteering doing pro bono work, which stemmed from her past. Her father had been railroaded by the legal system and sent to jail for a crime he didn't commit. He'd died there and it had changed her forever.
But while Michael remained active helping the less fortunate, Aisha had taken it a step further. She was pretty militant and immediately pegged Billie, and her lifestyle, too bougie to be authentically black.
"Don't worry." Michael gently cupped her chin and lifted her face to meet his.
She was tiny and he was tall, always looking down at her in a way that made her feel protected ... loved.
"Trust me," he assured her, "they will warm up. It's just how they are. How they've always been."
"I can't seem to say anything—"
The phone that suddenly rang was Michael's, which sat at the edge of the bed only ten feet away. They both looked at it and looked at each other.
"Go ahead and answer it," Billie said, knowing that Michael was seeking her okay.
"I don't have to," he said. "It can ..."
"It could be your mother," Billie said. "If you didn't answer, she'd find a way to blame it on me."
"That's just silly." He quickly touched his finger to her nose before kissing her forehead and turning toward the phone. It might be, she thought, but wasn't particularly far-fetched. The second meeting wasn't much different than the first. When Billie arrived in Atlanta three days ago, Dee Dee's first words were to ask Billie if she was planning to yell at her again. Billie hadn't been the first to yell in their initial argument, but apparently Dee Dee forgot that. She laughed it off, but Billie knew it was intended to insult. Aisha called her a princess twice, pretending to be friendly teasing, but the bite to her tone made it clear to Billie that she still thought she was a snob.
At thirty-one years old, Billie knew the best approach was to put on a brave face and remain as gracious as possible. She was in the woman's home, after all. But today, they were supposed to be eating lunch with them and Billie had been racking her brain trying to figure out how to make things better.
"Can you believe that?" Michael said to her as soon as she entered the bedroom. He tossed the cell phone back on the bed. "This is the third work call in as many days. Nobody respects vacation."
"Clients don't care about vacation." She fell back on the bed, loving the feel of the thick down bedding.
"That wasn't a client," Michael said. "That was my office. I need to fire someone."
Billie eyed him to see if he was serious, and it looked like he was. "That's a bit harsh. We all get called on vacation. It's not right, but it happens."
"It doesn't happen here," he said, pointing to the floor. "In Atlanta, people respect your vacation. Just another difference that makes Atlanta better than D.C."
"Don't knock D.C.," she admonished. "D.C. helped you build your agency. Most importantly, D.C. gave you this."
He watched with a wicked smile as she undid the top of her bathrobe, revealing her perfectly round, perky small breasts and flat stomach.
"I can't argue with that." He walked over and leaned on top of her on the bed.
He straddled her, leaning down so she could grab him by the collar of his robe and pull him closer.
"For all its faults," he said, "it gave me the woman I love."
Her heart leapt at his words. She would never ever get tired of hearing them and was warmed to her core at the ease with which he said them. There was no fear or hesitation.
"I love you so much," she professed, her hands coming gently to his face as she looked up at him.
"Show me," he whispered, before lowering his mouth to hers.
She closed her eyes as she tasted his lips and felt her body respond with a tingling sensation throughout. His mouth moved down to the place where her neck met her chest and she felt his tongue gently taste her soft skin. She let out as a moan as his lips kissed her again, this time lower. Then lower.
"Michael," she said, her voice already getting breathless. "The aquarium, remember? We're supposed to be going there this morning. If we start on this ... Well, you know how long we can go."
He looked up at her, his mind already made up. "Do you want to play with fish or play with me?"
There was no need to answer. There wasn't anything she wanted more than his hands on her. And as he leaned back to remove the rest of her bathrobe, Billie had already forgotten the question.
Excerpted from Power, Seduction & Scandal by ANGELA WINTERS. Copyright © 2014 Angela Winters. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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