“You’re a low-down unscrupulous sorry excuse for a human being. You know that? The world may think Pastor Monty Clarendon walks on water, but you don’t have me fooled one bit.” Monica Riley hurled insults, as she entered the study of the renowned televangelist. Her reddened face and heaving chest told of a much greater anger than her spoken words.
Seated behind the oversized mahogany desk, Clarendon leaned into his chair and laughed. She stomped her foot. He laughed again.
“I take it you saw my son while you were away?”
“Yes—yes, I did. I saw Lance. My first sight of him, after almost three years, was him on his knees begging Belinda Santiago to marry him. Belinda Santiago, Sydney’s best friend. What kind of messed up, mixed-up nonsense is that?” Monica yelled. She looked Clarendon in the eyes. “It would’ve been nice if you’d given me some warning, but you sent me in there cold, without a clue as to what I was walking into. That was downright cruel. I left in a hurry and forgot my favorite sweater. January in Florida is pretty chilly.”
“Come now, Monica,” Clarendon cajoled. He scrunched his lips like he was holding his laughter in. “Lance and I are estranged. You can’t expect me to know his whereabouts.”
She lifted a brow. She knew better. Monica slumped into a huge armchair across from him. “I can, and do—why else would you have hired me?”
Clarendon didn’t answer right away. Instead the steel eyes, which pierced many-a-soul through the lens of a television camera, remained pinned on Monica for several seconds.
She squirmed under his penetrating stare. “Quit that.” Goose bumps rose on her flesh. “I hate when you do that, Clarendon.”
“I hired you because you’re not only a master chef…I needed someone with your—ah—what shall I say?” Clarendon paused as if he were searching for the right words. “Special talents.”
Monica rolled her eyes. “You’re the devil incarnate disguised as an angel of God.”
With a loud guffaw, Clarendon teased, “Temper—temper. You know you have to learn to control that.”
His mocking tone grated on her nerves. She uttered in a low, menacing tone, “What do you want from me?”
Clarendon’s face transformed. He became stone-faced. “When I hired you a year ago, you were destitute and your daughter was about to become a ward of the court. I gave you a job and a home.” He folded his arms. “Now, it’s time for retribution.”
Monica bit her lip. “I can’t do it, Clarendon. I know you’ve asked me before, but I can’t be the one to bridge your relationship with Lance. He doesn’t want to see me. I’m like poison to him. Don’t you get that?” She jumped up and walked over to the mantle on the far side of the room. She picked up a picture of Clarendon standing next to a much younger looking Lance. Monica touched Lance’s face. Then she turned to face Clarendon. In a moment of clarity, she said, “When I saw him today, I wanted to bash Belinda’s face in. It took everything within me not to cause a scene.” She bunched her fists. “So, that means I’ve got to stay away from him.”
Clarendon stood and walked over to her. “I was a rotten father and I need to make amends with my son.” He swept his hands over frames lining the wall that highlighted his illustrious career. “I have a legacy that’s his to claim, but he won’t let me near him. Lance shut me out and though I understand why, I can’t accept that. He’s started a new ministry with Noah Charleston. He should be standing with me.”
Monica sympathized with the father whose pain for his son was palpable. “What did you do?”
It was of no surprise when Clarendon shut down. “That is not for you to know.”
Monica fiddled with the heart-shaped locket on her gold necklace. “I don’t mean to pry.” She changed the subject. “What do you want me to do?”
“That’s easy. Just infiltrate Lance’s life. Get in—and then,” he laughed, “just be you.”
She frowned. What did that mean? “You’re going to give me one hundred thousand dollars to just be myself?” She squinted. “I don’t get it.”
“Yes, my dear. That’s all I want. If you agree, you’ll say goodbye to Atlanta and move back to Florida. I’ll buy you a house in Northport and you can furnish it to your liking. You and Quinn should be able to settle in without much fuss. Then, you can get started on getting me an audience with my son. I’ll hire you a nanny to help care for Quinn.”
Monica shook her head and walked out to check on her daughter. Her feet sunk into the plush carpet as she made her way to Quinn’s bedroom. She cracked the door open and stuck her head inside.
“Quinn?” Monica whispered. She tiptoed over to her two-year-old daughter’s crib. Quinn was fast asleep with her little bottom poked in the air. “Awww,” Monica crooned and reached over to stroke her daughter’s right cheek. Quinn released a gurgle and sighed. Monica’s heart melted. The only thing she enjoyed more than cooking was caring for her daughter. Quinn soothed her and made her less … crazy.
She sighed. This was why she didn’t want to mess with Lance Forbes again. Seeing him made her want to do things she shouldn’t. “What should Mommy do, Quinn?” she whispered.
She bit her lip. One hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money. It was like tantalizing fruit dangling before her eyes. Monica licked her lips. She was definitely hungry. When it came to money, she could never have enough. One hundred thousand dollars was too much money to pass up.
She tiptoed through the connecting doors and entered her suite. She scanned the room, admiring the golden hues and soft yellow tones. Everything from the carpeting to the comforter was custom made. Her room was exquisite and tasteful like the rest of the mansion where Clarendon resided.
As his personal chef, Monica’s room did not look like any of the servant’s quarters. Instead, she lived like a queen with a nanny and a staff who catered to her every whim. She’d gotten spoiled. This luxurious life was addicting and hard to give up.
Monica knew Clarendon’s staff thought she provided ‘extracurricular’ services. And though she had no qualms about delivering the goods, Clarendon had not wanted anything like that from her. Monica admitted she would not have minded because he was still a handsome man. Plus, she could see Lance in him, which made him even more desirable in her eyes. But no, Monty Clarendon hadn’t wanted her. He was a man of God, he told her. Yeah, the same man of God who was now blackmailing her into seducing his son.
“I should just take the money and run,” Monica thought aloud. She wandered over to her nightstand, opened the top drawer and took out a picture. Monica held it with reverence. “Lance,” she crooned, kissing the picture several times before putting it on top of the nightstand like a sacred treasure. She placed her hands on her lap. “Maybe God has a hand in this. Maybe God’s using Clarendon as a means for me to win Lance back.”
“Yes, that’s it.” She looked at Lance’s picture for confirmation. She jumped to her feet and laughed with glee. “Why didn’t I see this before? God, you are so good to me. Thank you, Lord. Hallelujah! I hear Your voice. I am listening and I can see Your will clearly. Lance Forbes was meant to be mine and with Your help, Lord, I will get finally get him. I will be his wife.” Monica swooped her hands across the huge expanse of the room, similar to how Clarendon had done earlier. “All this will be mine, mine and Quinn’s. Quinn will have her father back and we will be a family again.”
Monica dismissed the fact that Quinn was not Lance’s biological child. She forgot how she had used Quinn as a pawn to steal Lance from his first fiancée—Sydney Charleston, formerly Richardson—and one of her ex-best friends. She forgot she had been one of Sydney’s bridesmaids, who had convinced Lance to run off with her, even after knowing he had been with Belinda Santiago.
Instead, caught up in her euphoria, Monica packed her and Quinn’s belongings like Clarendon had told her to. “Monica Riley Forbes… Quinn Riley Forbes…” she said over and over, speaking it into reality.
Excerpted from Lie to Me (Nothing but the Truth) (Volume 2) by Michelle Lindo-Rice. Copyright © 2016 by Michelle Lindo-Rice. Excerpted by permission of Michelle Lindo-Rice. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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