REFLECTIONS OF THE PASTDetroit journalist Navena Larimore thought her romance with NBA star Maxwell McKnight would last forever, but forever came to an abrupt end fourteen years ago, leaving her brokenhearted. Now Maxwell is back in her life as the owner and editor of her newspaper, and Navena’s turbulent feelings have come rushing back.
VISIONS OF THE PRESENTNavena cannot find peace at home, either. Her boyfriend wants more of a commitment than she can give, and she’s haunted by prophetic dreams of murder.
DREAMS OF THE FUTUREIt is up to Navena to figure out her psychic legacy and prevent the murder…but not alone. After struggling with doubt, Maxwell realizes that Navena’s visions are authentic, and it is she who might need saving. Navena may have extraordinary powers, but together they discover that real love is a force of its own.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Where Souls Collide
By Stefanie Worth
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2007 Stefanie Worth
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMonday, May 9, 2006 Detroit, Michigan
Navena forced open her Jeep's rusty door and slid out. Rocky pavement sucked in her heels and poked at her soles as she strolled past a gathering of pigeons, pecking for-what?-among cracks in the bloated tar. Most mornings even scavenging birds ignored this once historic neighborhood, now pocked by transient hotels and homeless men pushing carts of stolen bricks.
Empathy for the area's degeneration tangoed with a deteriorating love life she was glad to leave locked in the gated lot each morning. Her heart belonged to each day's deadlines waiting inside the Detroit Dispatch.
With a one-handed strum on her air guitar, she silenced the last strains of Lenny Kravitz rocking on her iPod. The screaming electric guitar matched her kickbutt mood.
Inside the weathered architectural gem revolved a world in stark contrast to the street it called home. Fresh paint heralded the arrival of a new executive editor. Her soon-to-be-boss had also prompted repairs to broken windows and installation of a security keyboard for entry.
Just gotta show 'em what you've got, girlfriend. Stooping to peek in the rearview mirror, Navena adjusted thechestnut-colored head wrap constraining her matching dreadlocks. They flopped in the breeze, bouncing against her cheeks. Brushed with bronze powder, her face and lips glistened in the reflection. We will feel as good as we look today.
Anger flashed at the thought of being passed over for the promotion. As managing editor and second-in-command, she deserved that job. But Cullen-an old-fashioned publisher with a mentality to match-hired from the outside.
"You're good at doing the work," he'd said. "But I need somebody else to do the thinking."
Navena input her private code and bolted up the lobby stairs to the building's second floor. The last to arrive in the newsroom she found, once there, a makeshift birthday banner strung across her cubicle, roses on her desk, and a man hunched over her computer.
Must be my new boss. Everybody else knows better than to use my desk for anything.
Now the mysterious editor would finally be revealed.
Navena dropped her bag and two years of frustration beside the desk, making enough noise to be noticed.
"Do I detect the birthday girl?" The trespasser's barritone deep voice boomed beyond the cubicle.
She gasped as the generic "And you must be ..." that left her lips tumbled silently into stunned surprise.
"Maxwell McKnight." He grinned like he'd caught her pulling up her panties. "Great to finally see you again, Navena."
Navena grabbed hold of her composure and thrust forward a handshake to her former teacher and long-ago lover.
Maxwell was even more handsome than the first day she'd seen him fourteen years before. Jeri Curls had given way to a clean shave. He seemed even taller than the six-foot-seven demigod she remembered-folded into her desk the way he was-but no less impressive in a Coogi sweater and khakis than he had been in rolled shirtsleeves and crisply starched jeans.
That unforgettable smile brought flashback recognition and stirred memories and sentiments she swore were long resolved. Feelings of coed adoration ambushed her career woman demeanor. Lingering resentment over the staffing imposition helped her resist the impulse to hug him.
"And what brings you to the Dispatch?" she asked with feigned nonchalance. If he's really the-
"New executive editor. Not sure why they kept it quiet, but here I am."
"I thought you were a rebel-not a writer." There was no way she could report to this man although she could not release his hand.
"Always told you I could change," Maxwell said.
"So, since you've overtaken my space, does this mean I get your office?" Blood raced through Navena's palm. She slipped her hand hastily from his.
"After my job already?" Maxwell asked with a smug grin.
"Should have had it to begin with," she said, feeling emboldened by their previous relationship.
Despite the cocky reply, a rising current of unrest began to boil in her belly.
He laughed. "You may be older, but you're just the way I pictured you."
"Thank you," she replied. "It's been a long time since Hillstone College. You're looking ..." Her voice trailed. She wanted to say something silly like absolutely scrumptious, but refused. "well, You're looking well these days, Professor," Navena finessed.
Nervous perspiration trickled down her back. This was the man, after all, she once dubbed "my only vice." She wanted to sit, assess this coolly as serendipity, but Maxwell hadn't budged.
"Maybe we can spend some time catching up over lunch," he offered.
The ends of a salt-and-pepper mustache stroked the corners of his full mouth, the barber-groomed facial hair contrasting his now smooth scalp. She studied his baldness for a moment.
Maxwell ran a hand across his bare head, slowly from front to back as if seeking her unspoken approval.
"Wednesday, please, if I have a choice," Navena answered. "Not to rush you, but will you need my computer much longer? I have work to do." She felt a sudden urgency to let Maxwell know she'd come a long way from being his starry-eyed protégée. Mentor and all, he was on her territory now.
"Of course," he said. "My computer isn't quite set, so I grabbed yours to e-mail the team about a quick editorial meeting. Hope you don't mind."
"I do if it's this morning. We meet on Wednesdays. Everybody's on deadline today." She folded her arms.
"Gonna make me pull rank? I will." Maxwell rose and turned away. "Nine-thirty. Conference room. See you then."
Watching him walk away, Navena realized it took him all of ten minutes to make her angry.
Swallowing a roiling mix of kismet and resentment, Navena maintained her poise and walked the other direction toward the cell-like company lunchroom. She navigated a square metal table and four mismatched folding chairs to slam a handful of change into the vending machine. Two strawberry Pop-Tarts and a twelve-ounce cola dutifully plopped from the dispenser. She popped the can and took a long mind-clearing swig. Both the burning bubbles and the caffeine were welcome.
Remember, she thought, you know how to rattle his buttons same as he knows how to push yours.
With her confidence slowly being restored, Navena took another long drink, shook off the room's unusual draftiness, and returned to her cubicle as the in-charge managing editor staff knew her as.
Forget Maxwell. She allowed her memory a flash of his body atop hers and smiled in spite of her annoyance. My turn to be on top.
It was 9:00 AM already and Navena hadn't accomplished a thing. She settled in and reviewed her computerized task list for the day. There was nothing she couldn't conquer, except that Maxwell had her totally distracted. Trying to focus, she logged in to the system and picked up the phone to return calls she'd put off from Friday.
Before she'd had time to make a dent in her voice mail, her on-screen alarm sounded. Navena's stomach knotted. She headed for the meeting, absentmindedly twisting a pair of stray dreads as she hurried down the hallway.
Scattered "happy birthdays!" greeted Navena's entrance into the conference room. She nodded her appreciation and slid into a padded chair alongside Fern Davis, the paper's Youth section editor.
Anderson Cole strolled in and sat across from them. Right behind Anderson trailed Spence Hale, his penny loafers clippety-clapping across the scarred tile floor. The two men were sworn editorial enemies. Spence, the Economy editor, considered himself a journalistic purist and despised everything relating to Anderson's Lifestyles pages-particularly Anderson. The rumor mill tattled that Spence's new fiancée was Anderson's ex-wife. Their predictable bickering was generally the highlight of the news team's regular meetings.
Remaining news team members quickly assembled around the table, stumbling over a rush of exclamations related, Navena deduced, to the NBA playoffs. The reporters divided and took seats flanking Maxwell, settled at the head of the oblong table, finishing a cup of coffee.
"All right, then," he said, glancing at the latecomers. "Let's call this meeting to order." Maxwell rose from the table. "You should all know by now that I am Maxwell McKnight, your new executive editor." He threw a smile Navena's way.
Her face remained impassive.
"I am really pleased to be here and I'm really looking forward to creating changes at the Dispatch that will get this paper the respect it deserves."
He paused, though not long enough for the attentive group to digest the implications of change. He plowed forward with his speech.
"If you want my curriculum vitae, look it up on the Web. Just know I got my undergrad at Dillard, master's at Northwestern. I went from prelaw to NBA, then MBA. Any questions about my credentials for this job?"
He is so arrogant. Navena surveyed her team's expressions. All eyes were on Maxwell. Nobody was even doodling in their notebooks. She met Anderson's eyes as recognition dawned across his face.
"Man, I knew you looked familiar!" he shouted. "Rookie of the Year. All-Star team. Knocked out of the championships by the Lakers three years in a row. Landed on your leg after a helluva slam dunk."
Anderson cupped his hands and released an imaginary basketball across the table. The room's mood lightened. Even Maxwell laughed.
"They call it a season-ending injury, but that bad knee cost me my career," he said, peering wistfully above the reporters' heads into a place he seemed to long for.
"I had made a point of picking up the local black paper in every city we played in. And after I ... lost my job, I decided to pursue publishing."
"Why not broadcasting?" Anderson asked.
"Not interested in being another fly-by-night color commentator. Might as well be sitting on the bench. I was looking for an opportunity to make a difference. I put the word out. Cullen called." Navena frowned at the mention of her publisher's name. All these years working her way up the food chain and he shut her down with him.
"As a result, I became a long-term, long-distance fan of each of yours. So you can all relax." He paused briefly to laugh. "I am fondly aware of your individual styles, unique story preferences, your successes ... and your weaknesses. Now I'm ready to play hardball and put my money where my mouth is. I will also be majority owner of the Dispatch."
No mention of Hillstone College made its way out of his detailed biography. Why not? Navena felt oddly slighted, as if her memories of that special place and time were perhaps not so memorable for him. Yet she shared his vision of the changes her colleagues longed for at the paper.
No longer pacing, Maxwell stood centered at the head of the table with its rounded vertex hitting squarely between his knees. Arms folded, brow creased, he rattled off a list of new administrative must-do's effective immediately: Monday morning meetings, weekly time sheets, monthly expense reports, source lists for each story, dress code every day.
Maxwell paused and offered an enthusiastic smile. "That ends our first editorial meeting. Let's hit the streets and change the world."
Navena counted living in the new millennium as one of her many blessings. Spending her woman-years in such a time, meant she could lead the life she wanted without fear of social constraints that outdated norms and mores dictated. She could sleep with her man outside of marriage. She could pursue the career she loved. She could ignore her mother. These times allowed her choice: the freedom to follow her mind or forgo it, accept her world or better it. And putting her mark on society-without the family crutch-was what mattered most.
Journalism seemed the most logical route. Far removed from her mystical southern roots, reporting was fact-based, objective, and rooted in rationale. After college, she sought a faraway job at a small northern paper and lucked up on the Dispatch in Detroit and edged her way onto the staff by working without pay writing weekly editorials in exchange for bylines. She took a job at UPS and spent weekends telemarketing home improvement in order to pay the rent on her downtown studio apartment.
When she officially hired on-and took home her first paycheck from the paper-it was as city desk editor, a post she commanded for five years. A penchant for school board stories and feel-good youth articles led Navena to the Lifestyles section where she juggled junior columnists, calmed concerned teachers and parents, highlighted positive kids, and waged war on sex and drugs until three years ago when she was promoted to managing editor. She was finally in a position to make a real difference at the paper.
Located in the heart of Detroit, the Dispatch commanded prestige as one of the oldest and largest African-American newspapers in the country. The publication provided a voice for grassroots activists, family reunion organizers, and Missionary Wives Societies that wanted to publicize happenings within the black community. Its weekly pages filled a void for good news, editorials, and human interest stories that seldom rated attention in the larger daily papers.
The Dispatch operated with a lean staff. A news team of nine occupied the second floor. On the third floor worked a sales force of five whose cumulative experience totaled more than ninety years. Three graphic designers, four secretaries, one receptionist soon to celebrate her thirtieth anniversary there-all resided on the first floor. And the publisher, Richard Cullen, who occupied one of only two offices in the building, sat in the westernmost corner of the first floor. Still, the few employees managed to put out a twenty-page paper (with color front page) every Wednesday.
A faithful following buoyed the Dispatch through depressions, recessions, and plentiful times. Many subscribers renewed faithfully every six months, often pulling children and grandchildren into the ranks of its readership.
Now, away from work, Navena wondered what kind of changes the new man in charge would bring to the paper and her life. She collapsed into an overstuffed sofa, safe amid the comfort of her den's book-lined walls and surround-sound TV.
She allowed herself to contemplate the "what if it had worked?" that she'd kept at bay all day. Or, more specifically, the death knell in her relationship with Maxwell. "What if Maxwell had been free?" Not legally separated with lingering obligations, but hers to have and hold whenever, wherever, however they chose. Would he be hers today?
Instead, as bad as it hurt, she released him to tend to Lila, his almost ex-wife, and the loose ends a difficult divorce brings.
Even hoochies have scruples, Navena thought with a laugh. She dropped onto the Berber-carpeted floor, using the sleek glass coffee table to unpack her chicken lo mein and cola.
What were the chances of Maxwell McKnight showing up out of nowhere and falling smack dab in the middle of her comfort zone? What's that saying about letting someone go? Guess they do come back.
Today, she didn't notice a wedding ring. So, of course, he's available since I'm trying to figure out my relationship with Luke. Fate's a trip.
As if cued, the phone rang, forcing her to check the clock on the VCR across the room.
"Boy, talked you up, didn't I?"
"Hey, there," she said evenly. Background noise flooded the telephone receiver. Not-so-muted music and voices pierced the serenity of the scene outside her window.
"Navena ... hon ... you there? Can you hear me?" Luke shouted over the din and into her digression. "Happy birthday to you!" He began to sing Stevie Wonder's ode to Martin Luther King.
Stunned, she stood as he serenaded her. She wanted to smile at Luke's foolishness. Instead, his singing seemed silly with everything else she had on her mind.
The doorbell rang.
"Hang on, Luke," she murmured. "I gotta get the door."
Holding the phone, she greeted a tuxedoed deliveryman at the door. Surely, some extravagant birthday gift from Luke.
"Sign here, please, ma'am," the gift bearer instructed, shoving a clipboard and pen into her waist.
She scribbled her shorthand signature. He thanked her, with a sweeping gesture, stepped aside, and directed her gaze toward the driveway.
Excerpted from Where Souls Collide by Stefanie Worth Copyright © 2007 by Stefanie Worth . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Detroit Dispatch reporter Navena Larimore is stunned when she sees former NBA star and community activist Maxwell McKnight in her offices space. The ¿six foot seven inch demigod¿ informs her that he is the new executive editor of the paper. She is stunned to find herself working for the man who broke her heart fourteen years ago at Hillside College especially since it takes him all of ten minutes to anger her. Navena struggles with visions of someone being murdered. She is unaware that her mom sixteen years ago to ease her from the pain of ¿seeing¿ her dad die had tampered with her psychic gift. Maxwell, who wants Navena back in his personal life, scoffs at her dreams until he realizes she is the real thing and she is his lifemate, but to persuade her to let him fully in her life will prove a test of time and souls. --- WHERE SOULS COLLIDE is a complex paranormal romantic suspense thriller starring two fascinating lead characters who battle each other and their karma. The story line is far from linear, but retains a delightful fluidity even as it goes back and forth in time. Fans who enjoy a multifaceted tale of love will appreciate this fine Motor City romance that is worth reading. --- Harriet Klausner