From New York Times
bestselling author Mary B. Morrison comes a moving, unforgettable story of lives at a crossroads, love lost and found, and the price of secrets…
After her high school sweetheart proposed and joined the military, Mona Lisa Ellington thought she’d never love again. So she settled, making a new life for herself with a man who cherished her…and made his living hurting others. Despite her reality, she prayed her fiancé would one day return.
Before becoming a T.V. reporter, Katherine Clinton knew she’d marry her high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. But when he left for the military, she had to make new plans for her and their son. Despite his long absence, Katherine dreamed of the day her fiancé would return.
William Lincoln joined the military to make his grandfather proud. He never imagined he would be gone so long, or that the fiancées he left behind would reignite emotions he thought he’d never feel again. But his selfish proposal to two women is the least of his problems, because all three will face the consequences of too much deception.…
“Mix dirty red drama, relationship scandals, suspense, love and you get my girl Mary B. Morrison.” —Vickie Stringer
“Full of betrayal, greed, and sex that will have…fans clamoring for more.”
“Promise me you won’t get upset.”
Why did he have to say that, knowing she’d ask, “Upset about
“I’ll tell you in a minute, but first you have to promise me,” he insisted.
Graduation day they sat in the empty stadium at their high school.
The two of them. Alone. Surrounded by the morning’s humidity and
sunshine, they were draped in their royal blue gowns and caps with
dangling golden tassels. The plastic-plated 2000 charm symbolized
the end of their preadult years.
Batting her long lashes, she stood and gazed out over the field.
Football season was over for him. Dating him was over for her. There
were no new beginnings for them. Just old memories.
Licking the same soft, drizzling vanilla, their tongues would circle
the sugar cone until their lips met. His kisses were sweeter than the
melted yogurt she’d suck from his mouth. As they talked all night on
the phone, his voice comforted her. Making love for the first time to
Usher’s “Nice and Slow” made the little girl inside her feel all grown
up. The way Lincoln had moved his body—teasing, grinding, pleasing,
winding, thrusting, easing his way inside of her—made her cry.
When you’re a teenager, you think all there is to love is a feeling. A feeling
that’ll never end. You believe your world is perfect and you’re invincible. No
worries about having your heart broken. No cares about partying all night,
where your next meal would come from, gas money to cruise around town in
your bucket with your friends, or how your college tuition is going to get paid.
Those worries were for parents, not children.
Their relationship had ended when he’d started showing interest
in another girl. She knew there was someone else when he began
looking through her, not at her. His walk was a little taller. Smile was a
lot wider. He laughed louder than usual at things that weren’t meant
to be funny. Wow, there was another girl that excited him more than
she had. She’d never imagined that happening. But it had. That’s
when they’d become friendly. The first day of eleventh grade, her
friendship with him was never the same.
“Lincoln, how do I know if I’ll be upset if you won’t tell me?”
“Mona Lisa, please,” he begged. “Just promise me.”
If only he knew how many times she fantasized about walking down
the aisle with him. She’d have the whitest white wedding dress with a
train so long, two people would have to carry it. Going to his college
football games would make her beam brighter than the panels of
lights illuminating the field. She pictured what their babies would
look like with his eyes and her nose. His hair and her smile. He was
the only boy, soon to be a man, who had made her feel pretty inside
and out. He was her first love, first lover, first real boyfriend. Steven
Cunningham from the second grade didn’t count.
Funny how the first could never be anything except. No one came
inside of her before him. No one made her daydream in class, cut
class, or have sex in an empty classroom, locker room, or backseat of
her bucket, before him. She still loved him. Probably would always be
in love with him.
He kissed her, then said, “If I don’t tell you now, I won’t be able to
tell you after we walk across the stage.”
His large, light brown eyes pleaded more than his words. His dark,
short curly hair was twisted into perfect coils. One stood out atop his
head. Gently she fingered it into place.
Standing before his six-foot-four-inch, one hundred ninety
pounds, she held the back of his head, pressed his cheek against her
stomach. She held his face there, this moment she’d cherish forever.
She tried to sense if his news was good or bad. Not really sure, she
opened her eyes, and whispered, “Then don’t tell me.”
His grandparents were well known throughout their community.
They had raised him well. He was a true gentleman. She hated that
he’d broken up with her two years ago, but she had to respect the way
he’d done it. He hadn’t embarrassed her after a game, in front of his
teammates, or at a gathering with their friends. Hadn’t called her out
of her name or acted as though their breakup was her fault. One Sunday
afternoon he’d come to her house, sat on the front porch with
her, held her hands, looked into her eyes, then told her, “I’m going to
ask Katherine Clinton to be my girlfriend. And if she says, ‘Yes,’ then
our relationship has to end.”
Lincoln grabbed her hand, the same way he’d done two years ago.
He scooted back on the shiny metal bleachers, pulled her toward
him. “Mona Lisa, please.” He sat her down beside him. “I wanted to
say I’m sorry for breaking up with you, man. You were nothing but
good to me. I was stupid for that. Kather—”
Removing her cap, she placed it in her lap, then lamented, “Do not
mention her name to me. You’ve been with her for two years. I’ve
moved on. You got who you wanted.”
Her pride said she’d move on. Her heart begged to differ. Lincoln
was different from the other football players. He was the starting running
back. He held the school’s record for the most yards and the
most touchdowns. He could’ve scored with any girl in Selma, and a
few moms too, if he wanted. But he didn’t. He stayed faithful to her
until Katherine accepted his offer. Then he came back to her house,
sat on her porch, and let her know his new relationship was official.
Squeezing her hands, he said, “But that’s just it. I don’t have who I
need. I need you. I need you to pray for me. Pray for me every day.
Pray I don’t get killed. Pray I return home safe. I love you, Mona Lisa.
I really do.”
His kiss on her cheek was warm. He gently stroked his thumb over
the spot he’d kissed. Like when they were a couple, everything Lincoln
had done was passionate and deliberate.
“Why do you love me so much?” she asked him for the first time.
She knew her unique beauty wasn’t what the girls consider commercially appealing. The bridge of her nose aligned with her forehead.
No dip between the eyes like most people. Her nostrils, so close
to the bridge they almost blended. Her upper lip was full and wide
with a tiny V that pointed to a small bubble centered in her top lip.
Her mother had told her, “That was no accident. God made you that
way.” He also divided her lower lip with an indentation, making it
seem like two halves instead of one whole. Her cheeks were flat. Nothing
a little blush couldn’t redefine. Ears flat as though fading into the
sides of her head instead of standing out. Nothing her hair couldn’t
conceal when she wanted.
Individually, her features could have made her appear freakish.
But Lincoln loved kissing her succulent mouth. She didn’t have a curvaceous
ass, big breasts, or thick legs. She deemed herself a goddess
worthy of royal treatment by all guys, but Lincoln was the one who
mattered the most.
Tears dampened the cap covering her thighs. She fingered his gold
tassel. Somewhat understanding what he meant by not getting killed
and returning home safe, silently she said a little prayer for him.
Prayed he hadn’t done what some of the other graduates had done.
“I turned down all my D-1 football scholarships. I signed up for the
Marines. My recruiter is coming to get me right after I accept my
Suddenly, her tears were accompanied by a downpour and an outburst.
“Why, Lincoln? Why did you join the military without checking
with me?” she cried. “Oh, my gosh, they brainwashed you into not taking
a full ride? I would’ve begged you, told you to wait. Wait until we
graduated from college, got married, had a few babies. That way you
wouldn’t be leaving me alone.” She smothered his face with kisses.
“What am I going to do without you? It’s not too late to change
your mind. Take one of those scholarship offers and go to college
with me like we’d planned. That way we can be . . .” Her Southern
drawl faded with sadness as her words trailed off.
For a moment she’d forgotten he wasn’t hers.
The dream she’d dreamt for them ended two years ago. But it still
felt like their breakup was yesterday. She tightened her lips, blinked
to force back new tears.
Lincoln shoved his hand in his pocket, pulled out a silver band. “I
won’t be gone for long. I’ll be back in four years. I’m sorry I didn’t
tell you I want to serve my country. My grandfather said enlisting
means more than football. And you mean more to me than her. This
here is an engagement ring. Promise me no matter what happens,
we’ll be friends forever. Promise me, Mona Lisa Ellington, that when
I come back from the military—” He paused, held her hand in his as
he slid the silver band on her left ring finger and asked, “Mona Lisa,
will you marry me?”
This was a good time to exercise the fifth amendment. Not answering
him wasn’t the same as lying. Mona kissed him. Unzipped his
robe, turned it inside out, laid it between the bleachers.
“Make love to me, Lincoln. Right here. Right now.”
“I didn’t ask you to marry me so I can have sex with you. I—”
“Hush,” she whispered. She unbuckled his pants, lowered them to
his thighs. “Lay down for me.”
Raising her dress, she pulled her panties to the side, straddled him.
She held his beautiful, rock-hard dick in her hand, then guided him
inside her. The second his head entered her vagina, she felt all grown
up again. This was her first time having unprotected sex, and it made
her feel like a woman.
“You need to get up,” Lincoln said. “I’m about to cum.”
She knew she should’ve done as he’d asked, but her body tingled
with pleasure she’d never experienced. Rotating her hips deeper into
his pelvis, she trembled uncontrollably.
“So that’s what all the excitement is about,” she said, standing over
him. Her panties were wet. “I came too. That’s another first for me,
She’d never cheated on her new boyfriend, Steven Cunningham,
until now. Steven had never given her an orgasm. Mona had to know
if she could experience that again, but she couldn’t tell Steven the
truth. That would give him one more reason to hate Lincoln.
Lincoln stood, buckled his pants, put on his robe. “You didn’t answer
Mona kissed him. Her body burst with energy. They were both in
relationships with other people. What he’d asked wasn’t realistic.
“If this is good-bye, if going to the military is what you truly want,
and I don’t believe it is, especially after what just happened between
us, I’ll just say, I hope that works out for you. I’ll keep your ring. And
when you get back, we’ll see.”
As much as she loved Lincoln, there was no way she’d place her life
on hold for four years waiting for him.