Release Date:September, 1, 2010
Book Preview: "BLOODLINES"
With money, status, and a multi-billion dollar fashion powerhouse, the Langs are Atlanta royalty. Lena Lang, the family matriarch, is the quintessential southern socialite, flawless, from her carefully coiffed hair to her designer five-inch stilettos. But in Lena’s ugly past lurks secrets that she’ll protect at all costs. When her daughter conjures up old ghosts, Lena fiercely defends her family’s name and status. There’s no limit to what she’ll do to keep the life she worked so hard to attain - even if it means the ultimate sacrifice.
The handsome and highly sought after Reynolds Lang and his wife, Blair, appear to be the picture perfect couple. But when, after months of trying, Blair fails to conceive, her obsession becomes more than Reynolds can take. The added pressure from his family to make good on a twenty million dollar offer he can’t refuse may be just enough to send Reynolds over the edge. But someone is there to catch him before he falls. She’s sexy, single, and more than willing to fill the holes in Reynolds’s tumultuous life. But the comfort of a much needed relief comes at a steep price- one that may be higher than even this fashion mogul can afford.
Though Lena and Reynolds try to hide their lies, the truth is undeniable. The past, present, hidden, and revealed come to an explosive collision, threatening the collapse of an empire and leaving the Langs forever changed.
Reynolds heard Braxton clear his throat, felt the elbow to his side. Instinctively, Reynolds bent slightly and clutched his ribs. He had been daydreaming again. He looked over at Braxton, who met him with a wide-eyed glare, tilting his head as if to say, “Are you going to start repeating your vows?”
A quick glance to the left met with the eyes of his bride, Blair, her head cocked to the side with impatience. “Sorry,” Reynolds muttered under his breath.
“I think Reynolds is mesmerized by his bride’s beauty,” the Reverend Doctor Carlton A. Stewart, III said with a hearty chuckle.
It seemed like all of the nearly four hundred guests broke out in hushed, restrained giggles as if they were sharing a private joke at Reynolds’s expense. His face flushed with embarrassment. Reynolds looked again at Braxton, who was shaking his head and wearing a wry smile.
Shut up, man; you’re not the one getting married, Reynolds silently scolded his best friend.
“Now, son, would you repeat after me?” The reverend started again.
“I, Reynolds Bryden Colby Lang …”
“I, Reynolds Bryden Colby Lang …”
“In the presence of God and our family and friends …”
“In …” Reynolds’s voice trailed. After a few moments, he regained his concentration and started again. “In the presence of God and our family and friends …”
“Do take you, Blair Lindsay Cannon, to be my lawfully wedded wife and faithful partner.”
“Do take you, Blair Lindsay Cannon, to be my lawfully wedded wife and faithful partner.”
“For better or for worse …”
“For better or for worse …” Reynolds stared at Blair. She did look absolutely stunning. Blair was nothing short of gorgeous, and it had been her perfect looks that drew Reynolds to her with an unyielding magnetism. He’d run into her at a Fourth of July party the summer after his sophomore year at Morehouse. She’d drawn him in with her cute laugh and genteel southern ways. He remembered how her curled locks seemed to flow with a breeze that was only apparent to her, as if she’d brought it with her to Braxton’s parents’ poolside when the rest of them were sweltering in the blazing Atlanta heat.
“In sickness and in health …”
“In sickness and in health …” Reynolds repeated. I might just get sick, he thought. He brushed his moist palms on the legs of his tuxedo, but it only helped a little. Nervously, he took Blair’s hands back into his own. He looked down at them, suddenly embarrassed to be holding her perfectly manicured fingers in his clammy palms. She batted her eyes and gave him a reassuring smile—a smile that told him it was okay for him to be nervous. He wished that was all he was. He wanted to run—bolt—out of the church without looking back.
He had no idea why he was so anxious. Reynolds looked out at the swollen crowd that crammed Abiding Love International Christian Center. The entire floor and balcony were filled. Someone’s child squealed with evident displeasure, but was quickly hushed.
I understand how you feel, kid.
“’Til death do us part.”
“’Til death do us part.” Reynolds’s voice was monotone as he repeated the reverend’s words.
The reverend turned to the lovely bride. “Now Blair …”
Reynolds watched Blair’s slight, yet fleshy lips move as she sang her vows with a broad smile. “’Til death do us part,” Blair said with a ring of happiness. Finally, he unclasped hands with Blair and the couple exchanged rings to officiate their marriage.
Reynolds was going to be sick. His knees were wobbly and he suddenly felt as if it were a hundred degrees in the sanctuary. Thankfully, the eighty-six-degree August day would soon turn to a more temperate evening.
He turned to face the crowd and as Blair took his arm, he caught a glimpse of the stunning ring he’d bought for her: four carats, side stones, platinum. He’d picked it out himself. It was the last thing he’d been able to do on his own before proposing. Then, his rigid, domineering mother-in-law took over everything. Reynolds had envisioned a lovely, intimate ceremony on the beach—something small and private in Mexico or even Italy. But that was not a Cannon wedding. His own mother hadn’t been completely thrilled with the idea of him marrying a Cannon, but it was good for the Lang bottom line. Besides, Lena Lang’s biggest worry was that her son would remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. It was important that they appear to be the perfect family, since her impression on the public mattered greatly to her; the attention a huge wedding would bring was an added bonus. Lena certainly loved attention. She knew how to throw a party too, but even she hadn’t expected such a spectacle.
Television cameras were scattered throughout the church, digitally memorializing Reynolds’s and Blair’s vows on Atlanta cable TV for all to DVR, review, and rewind. Reynolds wondered if the viewers could see the warm beads of sweat that rolled down the sides of his face. He felt as if he could drown in them.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I present to you and to Christ our Lord, Mister and Misses Reynolds Bryden Colby Lang,” Reverend Stewart announced.
The crowd stood and erupted in taut, decorous applause as Reynolds and Blair started the recessional that would lead to the huge reception area just outside the large white doors of the sanctuary. Reynolds glanced at his father who bore an endearing look of satisfaction. His older sister, Halle, displayed her usual terse, tight smile that revealed a bit of mistrust in every situation she encountered. To his right sat Blair’s mother and father. Joelle Cannon beamed as if her daughter had just won a Nobel Prize, while Dale Cannon clapped stiffly. A stoic look was plastered on his creamed coffee-colored face. He looked bored as hell.
Where is my mother? Reynolds wondered. He wasn’t panicked, but surprised. It was unlike Lena to miss a photo-op. His mother was somewhere between fifty and sixty (as she often said) and looked like she was in her mid forties. She was proud of her looks, but even more so of her overachieving children. Being a mother and wife were her definitions of existence, and she especially took pride in Reynolds. Everyone told him he could always be found clinging to his mother’s leg until he had reached the second grade. Sometimes, when Lena would leave the house for the day, she’d leave the girls with the help and take Reynolds along.
They’d always been close, but Reynolds detested the idea of being a “mama’s boy.” He’d made it a point to pursue relationships equally with both his parents since he perceived, even at the young age of eight, that his parents sometimes wrestled one another for his affection. His father had been a wonderful character for him to emulate; his mother had shown him how a strong, loving, intelligent, and refined black woman should behave. Lena had sheltered all of her children, but she had watched over Reynolds more closely. The girls endured the requisite etiquette training, and there had been no exception for Reynolds. Lena made sure he turned out to be nothing short of a perfect gentleman. From the time he was old enough to understand, she’d taught him how to treat women, tie a perfect knot in his tie, give speeches, write papers, and even win the student body presidency. So, when Reynolds announced that he and Blair would finally marry, Lena was ecstatic, yet a little cautious. She knew how women could change the complexion of the relationships between sons and mothers. Yet, she’d vowed to support him through everything, even Joelle Cannon’s controlling role in the wedding planning.
For Reynolds, the rest of the crowd was a blur, their well-wishes and clapping hands drowned in his ears. Thanks be to God there’s a breeze, Reynolds thought at the moment the outer doors flew open, allowing him to step outside of the stuffy church.
“We did it, darling! We’re married!” Blair’s chirpy voice beckoned him back to reality.
“Congratulations, man.” Braxton patted his shoulders and offered him a cigar from his inside jacket pocket. “Now, the real party starts.”
“Not yet. Pictures.” Blair waved her bouquet of two hundred white roses at Braxton as if to scold him.
Her sister, Candace, immediately dropped Braxton’s arm. They weren’t exactly fans of one another. She thought Braxton completely unreliable and childish, and Braxton thought her to be spoiled, rude, and just plain rotten.
“The girl isn’t human,” Braxton had complained to Reynolds when he found out that he’d be walking down the aisle with Candace. “She’s like … a witch or something. She’s so mean.”
“Just be cool. It’s my wedding,” Reynolds had pleaded. “It’ll be over in twenty minutes. Just do it for me.”
“I guess,” Braxton had caved. He figured he could do anything for twenty minutes.
“Where is the car?” Candace rolled her eyes and patted at her heavily made-up forehead with a small embroidered handkerchief.
“It should be here in a minute,” Reynolds said.
“The driver should have been waiting.” Blair frowned.
“I know,” barked Candace. “Good God, won’t he come before we all get mobbed?” Her eyes darted around the church grounds, looking for paparazzi.
Braxton rolled his eyes and sighed, mumbling under his breath. “Like you’re some damned celebrity people want to see.”
“What?” Candace tightened her bouquet in her hand. If it were possible, she would have speared Braxton with an orchid right then and there.
“You two,” Blair warned.
Braxton lit a cherry-scented cigar and took a long drag as he leaned on the stair railing outside the church.
“Put that out, it stinks.” Candace waved her hand in the air at a nonexistent puff of smoke.
“Can’t—need something to take the edge off of your face.”
“Would you two chill out? Thank you.” Reynolds’s tone was sharp. He was starting to sweat again, but God forbid he take off his jacket before the picture-taking was done.
“Well, now reality sets in, huh?”
Reynolds turned around to see his mother leaning against the side of the brick church, arms crossed, puffing on a slim cigarette. Braxton, Candace, and Blair gazed at her too with looks of admiration reminiscent of five year-olds. The wispy ends of Lena’s silky, bone-straight, relaxed hair danced on her shoulders and forehead each time the wind spoke up in the atmosphere. A huge cushion-cut emerald decorated her right smoking hand, its size unrepentant to the many diamonds she wore. Snuffing her cigarette into the side of the church, she walked to meet them at the spot where they were waiting for the limo. Most women would struggle in the five-inch stilettos she wore, but not Lena. She ambled over to the group with catlike ease.
“You looked absolutely beautiful.” Lena gave Blair a quick hug that was obviously just a bit less than genuine. Obvious, perhaps, to everyone but Blair, who was just too blissful to notice.
“Yes, stunning. I’m so glad we went with the organza.” Joelle beamed, leading the rest of the family as they emerged from the church. Two seconds out of the church door and she was already fussing over Blair’s dress. “Straighten your veil. You won’t want it wrinkled for the photos.”
“I’m very happy for you, Son.” Lena stared into Reynolds’s eyes.
Uncomfortable under her fixation, Reynolds looked away and leaned in to give Lena a tight, long hug. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Here he is.” Braxton pointed to the long, white stretch limousine that pulled up to the curb, ready to cart them all to the historic park where they would hastily take over two hundred photos in thirty minutes.
Reynolds was the first to hop into the car, into the shelter of the dark cabin and away from the TV cameras that hounded them. Of course, Blair stopped to pose for a photo or two with Candace. The rest of the family followed suit, and just as his father was pulling the door shut, an ambitious reporter from Channel 5 managed to slide the lens of his camera just inside the car to catch the surprised look on Reynolds’s face.
Almost immediately, Joelle and Blair started to chatter, with Lena providing occasional commentary to be polite. Dale Cannon said nothing; he played with his wedding ring nervously as if something was on his mind. Maybe he wanted the whole ordeal to be over with too. Reynolds looked over at the bar, hoping to find a drop of something to take the edge off, but there wasn’t a bottle in sight. Definitely Joelle’s idea, he thought. What a shame. He couldn’t wait to get to the reception.
“So, are you happy, Reynolds?” Joelle pressed her lips together in a smile. Her dimples gouged her heart-shaped sable brown face as she nodded at him.
“Oh … yeah.” Reynolds tried to sound jovial. “Very happy.” He slid an arm around Blair and squeezed her for good measure.
Was he? He had no idea. He knew that he was once happy—before all this wedding stuff. Before the pressure to marry Blair, he had been completely content to call her his one and only, just his girl. Would he have married her in time? Maybe—probably. His heart was beating so hard that he could swear everyone in the limo heard it. He actually looked down to make sure that it wasn’t jumping in and out of his chest.
“Just think, next year, we’ll be throwing another of these big soirees for Candace and Edward.” Joelle looked at her eldest daughter with a loving glance.
Braxton rolled his eyes and shot Reynolds a look. They played in a basketball league with Candace’s so-called-beau, Edward Rankin. Edward told all the guys he had no intention of marrying Candace. He hated the Cannons, but dating Candace was good for networking with the right people in Atlanta. Edward’s plans were very short- term: eye candy, good press, and a consistent booty call. Candace didn’t know that, of course—or maybe she did, because at the mention of Edward’s name, she looked mortified.
“Mommmm.” Candace moaned and looked away. Undeterred, Joelle patted Candace on the shoulder before placing her snow-white church gloves into her patent clutch.
“We’re here.” Reynolds’s father, Bryden Lang, spoke for the first time, perhaps in an effort to stop Joelle’s overzealous twitter.
Reynolds breathed a sigh of relief. The limo was starting to get stuffy and uncomfortable. Besides, Blair’s dress took up half of it.
He sighed, On with the show.