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Ambiance – After discovering her husband had an illegitimate child resulting from a lengthy affair, her world was torn in two. His untimely passing left her feeling she had been robbed of the chance to deal with the betrayal. Seeking to give herself a fresh start, she packs up and moves cross country to the West Coast. Pursuing her dreams as a business owner, she’s on top of the world, until the man who caused her to question her marriage comes knocking. Will he mend her broken heart, or uproot her new life and leave it in further disrepair?
Naomi – Dealing with empty nest syndrome, she discovers everything everyone ever said about her is true. She has no life. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery and entering the dating world after years of being alone, she’s unprepared for the games that lie in wait. Juggling her feelings between two very attractive men, she will soon learn that one is playing a deceptive and dangerous game.
Paige- Barely escaping a deadly snare created by her own devices, she is searching for healing and redemption. After two years of therapy, Paige is finally ready to face her demons. It won’t be as easy as it seems when accusations are constantly launched at her, and people from her past continue to pop up. A former lover is not ready to let go, and she soon finds herself making similar choices from her past. Will she open her heart up to love and be loved, and will she be convinced to open her life to Christ?
Three best friends search for healing and deliverance from their emotional wounds, as they come to grips that the affliction they’ve borne was at the burden of their own hands. They yearn for the redemption of their sins in the arms of men, the arms of a Savior, and in the eyes of one another.
When the heart mourns, redemption is born.
I had never been to Nikolai’s before. I was enthralled with the elegance of the atmosphere from the moment I stepped in. As I was led to the dining area near a bank of windows, my eyes were instantly drawn to the tasteful light fixtures hanging overhead. But that paled in comparison to the large windows flaunting a view of the city; which was magnificent. I thought back to the windows at Legal and knew they were incomparable.
My preoccupation with the views, chic white seating, and the ambiance caused me to miss the flashing red light; the flashing red light that something was wrong.
When I arrived at my table, Jacob stood and held out my chair for me as the hostess left. I looked around in confusion, noting that we were the only ones in attendance from the office and wondering if a “fool” sign had been painted on my forehead, if anyone else could see my shame. But the other diners in attendance were engaged in intimate conversations of their own, oblivious to the trickery I had fallen into. My cheeks flushed red and my eyes narrowed. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, hoping I had not been duped.
“What the hell is going on?” I whispered harshly.
“Please have a seat.” One of Jacob’s hands rested lightly on my waist while the other extended towards my chair.
“No! Not until you tell me where everyone’s at.”
“Please, keep your voice down and take a seat. You’re embarrassing yourself.”
“Really? Mr. Hawthorne, you’ve not seen embarrassment. You have no idea of the type of embarrassment I have endured over the last couple of years. And you have no idea of the type I can cause!”
My voice had risen once more, but to his credit, he refused to back down.
“Please, Paige. Take a seat.” His hand had moved from my waist to my elbow.
“Not until you tell me where everyone else is.”
“There’s no party. I knew that if I invited you alone, you would not come. That’s why I asked you not to share it with anyone.”
“You lying ass! Why?”
“I need to talk to you…away from the office.” His eyes never left my face, although like me, I’m sure he could feel the stares of the other diners.
The waiter approached at that moment. “Mr. Hawthorne, does there seem to be a problem? Something we can help with, perhaps?”
Shaking my head side to side and sucking my teeth, it took every ounce of control not to go off on the thin, balding man. I knew he was referring to me as the “something.” His watery blue eyes pleaded with Jacob’s to allow him to remove me from the restaurant.
“Ah, no, Thomas. There’s been a slight mix-up, but I have everything under control. Thank you.”
“As you wish, sir.” He bowed slightly before eyeing me once more and disappearing.
I looked around at the glares we were getting from the other diners and finally gave in. Refusing to relax in my chair, I kept my posture straight. I wanted him to know at any moment, I might bolt.
He exhaled a deep breath before placing his hands on the table and staring into my eyes. Gone was the light mirth that always danced in the chocolate depths, replaced by a solemn stare. “First, let me apologize for lying to you. I had no right, but this was the only way I could think of to get you here.”
“You’re damned right you had no right!”
The twinkle returned to his eyes once more, and I could not understand what could be so amusing to him. It only served to anger me more.
“Paige…I think we’ve both found ourselves in an odd predicament. The reality is, we have jobs to do and we have to do them to the best of our ability. The fact that each time you walk into my office, or past my office, I remember those legs clasped around my back does not change that. Neither does the fact that I recall how you moaned my name all night long—”
“Look, asshole! If you called me here to humiliate me further, I can leave now. I don’t need your shit, Mr. Hawthorne!”
He reached across the table and boldly pressed a finger against my lips. What the hell was wrong with me? My legs clenched tightly of their own accord, struggling to no avail to repress the throbbing sensation.
“I did not call you here to humiliate you. I actually called you here because I owe you an apology.”
“I don’t know what the hell type of apology you think that was—”
“I had no right to treat you like a paid woman that morning. To be honest, I was completely caught off guard by your lack of discretion. We didn’t know each other that well. When I called you over that night, I simply thought we’d get to know one another a little better, but I didn’t expect what happened to happen.”
“Is that right?”
“That’s absolutely right. Don’t get me wrong. I had planned on trying; I just didn’t expect it to go so easily. Paige, you have to admit you played yourself like that. What was I to do? You weren’t who I thought you were. I lost respect for you.”
His comment had not quite registered in my head as I sat staring at him. I contemplated whether I would accept his so-called apology or get up and walk away with no explanation. That evil tongue of mine won out. “You lost respect for yourself, too, Mr. Hawthorne. You invited a strange woman into your home, had sex with her, and treated her coldly. You have no idea what I could have come back to do.”
“Is that a threat, Paige?” He lifted his eyebrow and smirked at me.
“No. Just be duly warned. You shouldn’t make a habit of it, Mr. Hawthorne. You never know…you just might be sleeping with the enemy.”
He rested his elbows on the table and pressed his fingers together, staring at me. I began to squirm underneath his glare. I was quickly rescued by the return of our waiter.
A part of me wanted to stay and see what he had to say. What was his motive? And another part wanted to leave. The shallow part stepped up and took over, as I decided to enjoy a wonderful dinner in the refined restaurant with a despicable, mysterious man.
Once our orders had been placed, we turned our attention back to our issue.
“So, what are you proposing, Mr. Hawthorne?”
He chuckled and shook his head at me. “I respect your choice in the office. But please…here and now there’s just you and me. Can we drop the Mr. Hawthorne for the night? Let’s quit pretending, Paige.”
“Quit pretending what?”
“That the physical attraction between us does not exist.”
He bit his bottom lip in between his teeth and the light in his eyes brightened. My heartbeat amplified, blocking out all other sounds around us. There was a strong desire within me to give in to the cravings I was having. Yet, I knew better. I knew it would lead to no good, just as I knew I should have turned and walked out the restaurant when I saw him.
Giving in to the desires of my flesh would crush me. I began to ponder the discussion my therapist had with me earlier. She suggested a meditation technique known as mindfulness to help me stave off my cravings for sex. Supposedly, I would need to focus on the present, taking note of all the thoughts, feelings, images, and sensations, I was experiencing. My primary goal was to not react to or judge them in any way. This would cause those thoughts and feelings to die away on their own. But there was an internal war between my body and my mind. I feared which one might win.
“I cannot speak for you, Mr. Hawthorne, but I can speak for myself. I’m not in the least bit physically attracted to you.”
“You lie so well, Paige, among your many other talents.” He winked at me and smiled before reaching to take my hand into his.
I refused to let him see me sweat. So, no matter how much I wanted to take a sip of wine or turn away from him, I stared him down and refused to remove my hand right away. “What makes you say that?” I counted to twenty in my mind before removing my hand from his.
“I see how your heartbeat has increased. I noted the change of your breathing, the way your hair is plastering to your temples slightly, and the way your eyes keep jumping while you try to control them.”
This man had me pegged. But what good would I be if I didn’t refute him?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My heartbeat has increased, because I’m angry at you for lying to me. For tricking me into this charade of a dinner.”
“You could’ve left at any moment, but you chose not to. Your breathing changed, because you were taking deep breaths, trying to control the emotions and not allow your angst to overwhelm you. Your hair is lying against your temples, because you’re heated. Yet, it’s cool in here. I know when a woman desires me, Paige. And you…desire me.”
“You’re an arrogant ass. You know that?”
“No, Paige, I’m simply confident.
Women’s fiction author and blogger, Chelle Ramsey lives in the metro Atlanta area with her husband and three children. Chelle wants readers to become empowered to rise above life’s adversities, with faith in the Almighty God, and belief in themselves. She hosts the annual 20 Days of Love authors’ blogging campaign, March Madness authors’ giveaways campaign, and showcases other authors on her blog at www.chelleramsey.com/beautifully-inspired-blog. Her novels can be found online at Chelle Ramsey Amazon.
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Thank you for hosting A Woman’s Design: Redemption. I hope your readers enjoyed reading this excerpt as much as I enjoyed writing it. Best wishes to you and your readers. ❤