For best friends Lola Poole and Joan Proctor-Riley, there’s never too much when it comes to online dating rich, no-commitment lovers. It’s a fantasy come true and makes their unhappy lives bearable. But there’s no escape when Lola’s vicious relatives cheat her out of everything that’s hers and Joan’s husband pulls a devastating betrayal. With nothing to lose, the two will do everything and anything to lock down Mr. Right and lifetime satisfaction . . .
With his scorching sexual healing and compassionate nature, handsome trucker Calvin Ramsey keeps coming out on top with Lola. And she’s this close to winning his love and finally getting the loving family of her dreams. But she doesn’t suspect that Calvin’s idea of making a woman his own is a fatal affair. Now, his gentle reassurances and sensual promises are spinning a web where Lola’s deepest longings could be the deadliest trap of all . . .
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March 28, 2015
The man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with had not even proposed yet. But I was so determined to marry Calvin Ramsey I tried on a wedding gown yesterday and I already picked out a name for our first child. After three dates, I was convinced that he was the only man for me.
I didn't care that I had met him on the Internet. Friends with Benefits: Discreet Encounters was an online dating site that had been created for horny adults interested in having casual sex. I'd gotten that and much more when I hooked up with Calvin. In addition to being a fantastic lover and owning his own home in a middle-class neighborhood, he was handsome, had a wonderful personality, and had a good job as a long-haul truck driver. The list of his good qualities was a lot longer, but these were the things I cared about the most.
When I was a girl, I used to fantasize about having a fancy church wedding. I was no longer a girl and I was tired of just fantasizing about being a bride. Too many years and men had slipped away, and so had most of my patience. I had to move fast because my time was running out. I was going to be thirty- three in October, and my biological clock was ticking like a time bomb.
My best friend, Joan Proctor-Riley, had called me at eleven-thirty a.m., ten minutes ago. After we had chatted about a few mundane things, I eased Calvin's name into the conversation. "I know Calvin is going to be a good husband and a wonderful addition to my family, but I hope they never find out where I met him. They'd cook my goose to a crisp."
"I don't think you need to worry about that until he asks you to marry him." Joan snickered. "Besides, I'm the only one who knows where you met him and I'm sure not going to blab, because my goose and yours are in the same oven. In the meantime, don't be in a rush to get married. Once a dude puts a ring on your finger, the party's over. Keep dating other men because you might find a better prospect for a husband. Like that hot army doctor from Uganda you had so much fun with last month."
"And live in the same house with him and his four wives? No thanks." I chuckled.
Joan and I had several dirty little secrets, but being members of an online sex club was the "dirtiest" one of all. Discussing our dates was one of our favorite subjects.
She suddenly began to whisper. "Um, if Reed gives you a call between four and five p.m. today, tell him I'm on my way home. If he asks anything else, make up something. Call me, or send me a text to let me know everything you told him." Joan had already told me that she was going on a date in a few hours and needed me to cover for her. She had told her husband that we were going shopping.
"I've had your back for years. Don't you think I know how to handle your husband by now?"
"You should. But I still like to remind you. A woman can never be too careful. Reed is convinced that I'm cheating on him."
I gasped. "Hello? You are cheating on him!"
"Well, I don't have a choice. Sleeping with him is like sleeping with a log. The last time we had sex, he actually fell asleep while he was still on top of me! Dating other men is the only thing that's keeping me from losing what's left of my mind."
I sighed. "Sleeping with a log is one thing I won't have to worry about with Calvin." I got misty-eyed just thinking about the man I was in love with. I didn't have any pictures of him yet, so when I wanted to look at his handsome, bronze-toned face and well-developed body, I visited his online profile and gazed at him until my eyes watered. I couldn't wait to introduce him to my family and everybody else. "Once I get Calvin locked in — as in marriage — I will never sleep with another man again. I plan to be with him until one of us dies. ..."
Lola rarely took advice from me, but I still offered it. We were the same age, but I was much more mature and sensible. As much as I loved my girl, there were times when she annoyed me with some of her unrealistic goals. She was fantasizing about marrying a man who had never even given her a single reason to think that he was in love with her. This foolishness completely blew my mind.
"You need to be more realistic. For all you know, you may never even hear from Calvin Ramsey again. If you think he's so hot, a lot of other women must think so too. With all those wealthy older women in the club, one just might hook him up to be her boy toy and get him to stop dating other club members."
"What are you trying to tell me, Joan?"
"I'm trying to tell you to slow down and get to know Calvin better. What if he turns out to be like Reed, or worse?" I was in our guest bathroom, where I usually went when I wanted to use my cell phone to have a private conversation. I could hear Reed in the living room talking to somebody on the landline. I cursed under my breath when I heard him say, "Six this evening. I'll make sure Joan makes plenty of gumbo." I had no idea who he was talking to. And I had no desire, or even the ingredients, to make some damn gumbo this evening!
Reed and I had been married for fifteen years and I'd told him hundreds of times not to make plans for us without checking with me first. But he still did it anyway. There was just no telling what kind of bullshit get-together he had agreed to this time. The cookout that he'd dragged me to at his parents' house in Monterey earlier this month had been pure torture for me. Dealing with my obnoxious mother-in-law and some of her uppity friends always put me in a bad mood. It seemed like no matter what I wore around them or how I behaved, it was always inappropriate. It gave Mother Riley another reason to remind me that I was from "the hood." Most of Reed's friends annoyed me just as much. It was no wonder I was leading a double life. It had become complicated, but I was having a good time and that was all that mattered.
"Lola, I have to hang up. It sounds like Reed is cooking up some shit that could derail my plans to get out of the house today," I hissed as I turned off my cell phone. I slid it into my bathrobe pocket and cursed under my breath again before I joined Reed in our elegantly furnished living room. He had ended his call. "Who were you talking to?" I sank down next to him on the couch.
He frowned as he looked me up and down. "Didn't I tell you to dispose of that shabby flannel bathrobe? How come you stopped wearing that silk one I gave you for your birthday?"
"It's too small."
"I'm not surprised. It would still fit if you'd stop going to those greasy low- end restaurants with Lola. You may not care that you're losing your shape, but I do. At the rate you're gaining weight, you'll be as big as the rest of the women in your family by the time you're thirty-five. The sight of flab and cellulite makes my flesh crawl," he said gruffly.
"Oh really? In case you don't remember, your mother weighs almost three hundred pounds," I shot back.
"That's different. At least Mother can blame her weight gain on menopause and other things common among women her age. You can't."
I rolled my eyes and playfully punched the side of Reed's arm. "Who were you talking to on the telephone?" I asked again.
"We're going to play bridge with Dr. Weinstein and his wife this evening. Meg is making spoon bread to go with the gumbo you're going to cook —"
"No," I said, interrupting Reed with my hand up to his face. "I told you last night that Lola invited me to go shopping with her today!"
"So? You should be back in plenty of time. Mitch and Meg aren't coming until six."
"I don't know if I will be back in time. You know how Lola likes to lollygag and drag me into every store in the mall. Besides, we don't have any gumbo mix or crab legs."
Reed looked at his watch and then at me with a shrug. "No problem. I'll go with you and Lola so I can make sure she doesn't drag you into every store. We can stop by the market on the way home and pick up everything you need."
"Look, Reed, you know damn well Lola will not want to go shopping with me if you come," I said, already rising. "The sooner I get up out of here, the sooner I'll be back. I'll let her know that we have plans for later today so she won't expect me to stay with her too long."
"I guess I can agree to that," he muttered.
I sprinted back to the bathroom and took a quick shower. Then I darted down the hall to the master bedroom and applied a minimal amount of makeup and pulled my hair into a ponytail. Since I was supposed to be going shopping, I couldn't make myself look too glamorous. I put on a pair of jeans, a plaid blouse, and a pair of low-heeled, black pumps.
"I'll see you in a few hours," I told Reed as I strutted toward the door with my purse in my hand. I didn't even have to look at him to know that he had a puppy dog expression on his face.
"I sure hope so," he whined. "I don't want to disappoint Mitch and Meg like we did the last time we invited them over."
"Then 'we' need to learn how to plan better." I still didn't look at Reed. I rushed out the door and trotted down the hall to the elevator.
Thirty minutes later, I arrived at the Hyatt hotel in nearby San Jose where I planned to spend a few hours with John Walden, a club member I hooked up with quite frequently.
John was a handsome and very successful attorney originally from Jamaica. He had resided in England most of his adult life, but now he lived in Phoenix with his Italian wife and their three children. Like me and thousands of other members in the club, he had joined Discreet Encounters for the same reason: to have discreet, no-strings-attached sexual encounters.
John must have been standing in front of the door, because he immediately snatched it open when I knocked. "You're early," he greeted. Before I could speak, he jerked me into the room, wrapped his arms around me, and gave me a quick but very passionate kiss.
"Um, I can't stay but three or four hours," I managed, licking my bottom lip.
"I've heard that before," he complained. "Look, I don't get to see you as often as I'd like to and —"
"John, my husband invited some people over for dinner this evening. If I don't get home in time to prepare it, he'll go ballistic and the night will be a disaster for me. Now, be reasonable. If he starts keeping closer tabs on me, it'll be even harder for me to see you."
"Then I guess we shouldn't waste any time," John said, giving me a hungry look. He scooped me up into his arms and carried me to the bed.
I'dd been with John for less than an hour. He sat on the side of the bed clutching his cell phone as he talked to his wife. In the ten minutes since he'd placed the call, he had told her one lie after another about how bored he was and how much he wished she'd come to California with him. When he stood up and started pacing back and forth, frowning and shaking his head as he talked, I knew it was going to be a long conversation.
We had already made love once, finished a bottle of champagne, and were both still naked. The more encounters I had with John, the more I enjoyed his company. As well as everything else about him. He'd grown a goatee and lost a few pounds since our first date so he was more handsome than ever.
I had clawed his smooth, copper-colored back and left so many scratches, it looked like a road map. But it didn't matter because according to John, his wife was such a prude; she never looked at him when he was completely naked. He winked and threw me a kiss. Rolling his eyes, he told his wife that she was the only woman he loved and that he had never even looked at another woman since he married her. On that note, I rolled off the bed, retrieved my phone from my purse on the nightstand, and slipped into the bathroom. I needed to check in with Lola.
"Thank God you picked up. Where are you?" I said when she answered on the second ring.
"I'm having lunch with Elbert at Denny's."
"Oh. Did I know that?"
"I told you when we talked last night, and I told you when we talked this morning."
"I guess it slipped my mind. Elbert is so easy to forget." Elbert Porter was a nerdy guy who'd attended high school with us. He was the divorced son of one of Lola's stepmother's friends. He was as cute and harmless as a puppy, and he adored Lola. She would never admit it, but I knew she only spent time with him because she felt sorry for him. It was certainly not because he was good in bed. He was so religious, he didn't believe in sex outside of marriage. But with her crazy life, which was probably crazier than mine, she needed a straitlaced man like Elbert to keep her grounded. "Can you talk for a few minutes?"
"Yeah. He's in the men's room. Are you still with John?"
"Yup! He's on the phone with his wife."
"Did Reed call you?"
"Not yet. And I hope he doesn't."
"I hope he doesn't either. I'm having a great time. Ooh-wee, girl! John is such an amazing man. If you know what I mean." Joan giggled.
"So you keep telling me."
"Are you going to be with Elbert much longer?"
"Nope!" she said quickly and with more emphasis than was necessary. I knew how much Elbert bored her. "After we finish lunch, I'm going straight home."
"Good. I'll call you a few minutes before I leave to let you know where to meet me. You remember our plan?"
"Of course. I went to the mall last night. I have the dummy shopping bags for you in the trunk of my car."
Reed was so suspicious these days; I never came home empty-handed after a bogus shopping trip with Lola. Despite his many flaws, he was not gullible enough to believe that a woman could spend several hours at a mall and not buy anything.
"I know you probably told me already. And if you did, I forgot. So tell me what I bought this time." I giggled.
"A couple of blouses and some sexy lingerie. Will one bag of merchandise be enough? I have three this time. One is full of men's items you can give to Reed so he'll think you were shopping for him too. I bought shaving lotion, half a dozen undershirts, and four pairs of those sissified socks he likes."
"I'll take all three bags. Thanks for looking out for me. I appreciate your help."
"And I'd appreciate you paying me. You know my paycheck from the grocery store doesn't go far when I have to pay for all the high-end stuff you like."
"I'll give you a blank check today. Remind me to treat you to lunch next week. You can choose the place. But puh-leeze, not Denny's, Wendy's, or one of those gut-busting chitlin joints! We gain weight just being near those places. And the next time we really do go shopping, I'll treat you to a Neiman Marcus spree." I laughed.
"You'd better bring one of your high-limit credit cards, because I'm going to make up for the last two times I picked up merchandise for you and never got paid," Lola teased.
"I will. I'll even throw in a few hundred bucks cash as a bonus. Oh! Before I forget, you need to give me all the information about your date tomorrow with that dude from Chicago. I'd like to be prepared in case your nosy stepmother calls me if you don't make it back home in time to pick her up from church."
"I'll e-mail or text it when I get a chance."
"You don't sound too excited about this date."
"I am excited. But I still get skittish before I meet a club member in person for the first time." Lola let out a long deep breath. This was usually a sign that she was about to complain about something, so I braced myself. "I'm having fun and enjoying all the great sex, but sometimes I wish there was just one man in my life."
I groaned and shook my head, something I often did during our conversations. "Well, if you are right about Calvin, you will have just one man in your life soon." I paused because I could no longer hear John talking. "I have to hang up now!" I abruptly turned off my phone and skittered out of the bathroom.
John had stretched back out in the bed. He grinned as his eyes roamed over my body. "Is everything okay, luv?"
"Like that old song says: 'Everything is beautiful,'" I sang in a husky tone as I crawled into his arms. "Let's order another bottle of champagne."
I usually kept my cell phone turned off when I visited my fiancée's house. Too many other women had my number and called or texted me when I least expected it. Sylvia Bruce was the love of my life, but she was as nosy as every other woman I knew. I'd caught her going through my mail one night when she'd cooked dinner for us at my house a couple of days before Christmas last year. "I was just checking to see if you received that cute card I sent with Santa drinking a glass of wine," she claimed. I had received the card and had told her, so I knew she had been snooping.
Whenever Sylvia visited my house now, I made sure my mail and cell phone were not within her reach. And I always "swept" my house before she came over. I had to make sure that there was no evidence of another woman's visit. Some were notorious for leaving a tube of lipstick or a hairpin behind. Whether they did it on purpose or by accident, it was not cool.
Excerpted from "The Devil You Know"
Copyright © 2017 Mary Monroe.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
Also by Mary Monroe,
Chapter 1 - Lola,
Chapter 2 - Joan,
Chapter 3 - Joan,
Chapter 4 - Calvin,
Chapter 5 - Lola,
Chapter 6 - Calvin,
Chapter 7 - Lola,
Chapter 8 - Lola,
Chapter 9 - Calvin,
Chapter 10 - Joan,
Chapter 11 - Calvin,
Chapter 12 - Calvin,
Chapter 13 - Joan,
Chapter 14 - Lola,
Chapter 15 - Calvin,
Chapter 16 - Lola,
Chapter 17 - Lola,
Chapter 18 - Lola,
Chapter 19 - Calvin,
Chapter 20 - Joan,
Chapter 21 - Calvin,
Chapter 22 - Lola,
Chapter 23 - Calvin,
Chapter 24 - Joan,
Chapter 25 - Lola,
Chapter 26 - Lola,
Chapter 27 - Calvin,
Chapter 28 - Lola,
Chapter 29 - Calvin,
Chapter 30 - Lola,
Chapter 31 - Lola,
Chapter 32 - Joan,
Chapter 33 - Joan,
Chapter 34 - Calvin,
Chapter 35 - Joan,
Chapter 36 - Lola,
Chapter 37 - Calvin,
Chapter 38 - Joan,
Chapter 39 - Joan,
Chapter 40 - Lola,
Chapter 41 - Calvin,
Chapter 42 - Lola,
Chapter 43 - Joan,
Chapter 44 - Lola,
Chapter 45 - Joan,
Chapter 46 - Lola,
Chapter 47 - Calvin,
Chapter 48 - Joan,
Chapter 49 - Joan,
Chapter 50 - Joan,
Chapter 51 - Joan,
Chapter 52 - Calvin,
Chapter 53 - Joan,
Chapter 54 - Calvin,
Chapter 55 - Lola,
Chapter 56 - Lola,
Chapter 57 - Joan,
Chapter 58 - Lola,
Chapter 59 - Lola,
Chapter 60 - Joan,
Chapter 61 - Joan,
Epilogue - Lola,
READING GROUP GUIDE,