I'm still over the moon about the early success of Don't Stop Till You Get Enough, and I am so grateful to my readers for their support. But as it goes in the world of a writer, the next story is always whispering to me. Often I hear people say, "Take a break between books, and give yourself time to relax." So far I haven't been able to do that.
As I mentioned before, the next story in the Stafford Brothers series is the oldest brother, Vic's story. He and his wife, Ramona have been married for twelve years, and they have two sons. This is how I picture them.
I don't have a cover yet, but here's an unedited excerpt from the beginning of It's Cheaper to Keep Her...
As chief of surgery, Vic had to pull in every staff member on call in order to handle the volume and even performed two of the surgeries himself, something he rarely did anymore. When he’d left for the night, six of the accident victims had expired, which in his opinion was a miracle. Five remained in critical condition, and twenty were being evaluated. Most had broken bones. The twenty were lucid and communicating.
Drained from the emotion and pace of the night, Vic needed to talk, but when he gazed up, every window in the sprawling eight-thousand-square-foot house was dark. Not even the flickering light from a TV screen or the glow of a computer screen. That was rare. Usually he had to go into the boy’s rooms and make them power down their iPads or game console when he came in at night. Where were the boys?
Before he left this morning, Mona had mentioned a meeting with one of her fundraising groups, but he hadn’t really paid much attention, and he thought she’d surely be home by now. He drove around to the side of the house. Even the guest house where Maite, their live-in housekeeper, stayed was completely dark. He hit the button for the garage door opener and entered the house through the kitchen. After he loosened his tie, he walked into the room Mona called his man cave and poured himself a scotch at the wet bar.
Ever since he’d been appointed chief, his hours had increased, even though he wasn’t performing as many surgeries as he once had. Now he dealt with a myriad of daily administrative issues. A day never went by that he didn’t consider stepping down and going back to just being a surgeon. But the position carried with it clout, some great perks he hadn’t gotten as a staff doctor and a more than a half-million-dollar-a-year salary. When he’d simply been Dr. Stafford, he and Mona owned a nice, spacious home, but once he became The Chief, he let her talk him into upgrading to this house. This one contained three thousand more square feet, had an Olympic-size pool, wine cellar, home gym and the guest house.
It wasn’t as though he didn’t like the house, because he did, but after all the pleading and cajoling Mona had done, it seemed she never bothered to stay home to enjoy it. He’d ignored her behavior long enough. Tonight he’d confront her. She rarely parked her car in the garage, but preferred to leave it in the circular driveway in front of the house. When he’d explained why it was better for the car to keep it inside, she said she parked there because the Bentley convertible looked so good next to the fountain, and she wanted everyone to see it. Things like that made her happy, and as the saying went, A happy wife means a happy life. He loved giving her nice things, but recently it seemed as if she no longer got the same pleasure from her expensive wardrobe, beautiful house, or shiny black convertible Bentley.
His anger built as he sipped his drink. For the third time this month, she claimed to be at one of her charity meetings. He knew good and damn well the group of women who planned events to raise money for their favorite causes didn’t hang out this late on a regular basis. If she wasn’t asleep when he came in, she wasn’t home at all. Vic didn’t appreciate his boys spending too much time with Maite or at his parents’ house.
Vic gazed up at the sloping double staircase that appeared to be a tall as Stone Mountain. Too tired to climb to the second floor, he trudged back to the foyer, removed his shoes and eased his weary body onto one of the bottom steps to wait for his wife to come home. After he drained his glass and set it on the shiny wood, he rested his head back against the wall and drifted off to sleep until the sound of her heels clacking loudly on the marble woke him.
“Where have you been?”
She jumped. “Oh, my God, Vic! You scared me half to death. What are you doing sitting here in the dark?”
“Where have you been?” he repeated, spacing his words.
She flicked the light switch on the wall which illuminated the chandelier hanging over the center of the twenty-foot ceiling. “I told you I had a meeting.”
“Where are the boys?”
“With Mama and Daddy,” she said, meaning his parents. "Mama said they could spend the night, since I told her I’d probably be late. I gave Maite the night off. Why are you asking me all of these questions?”
He checked out her appearance. Mona had a lot of clothes, but he’d never seen the outfit she wore tonight-a low-cut number that hit her mid-thigh. Not exactly attire for a meeting with a bunch of doctors’ wives. “Was there anybody else I know at the meeting?”
She looked toward the ceiling for a second then her voice grew louder. “Are you serious? You’re really going to question me like I’m a teenager breaking curfew?” Jerky movements punctuated her words.
“Tell me who else was there,” he insisted, his voice still calm.
“Why does it matter to you?” she shouted.
“Because you don’t look like you’ve been to a meeting. And you don’t smell like it either. What have you been drinking?”
“I’m not a child, Vic,” she screamed. “Since when have you been interested in where I’ve been or what I’m doing?”
“You’re my wife. I have a right to know where you’ve been hanging out.”
“Hanging out? Please! You’re not my father! I’m not going to stand here and be interrogated!” She flipped her long, auburn hair over one shoulder, turned on her five-inch heels and stormed up the staircase.
He watched her long, shapely legs-very much exposed beneath the short dress-cross the foyer and climb the opposite side of the double staircase as though she didn’t even want to pass too close to him. Even after twelve years of marriage, she still had the power to excite him. Ramona Cox Stafford was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. People often told him that her creamy complexion and thick, real hair reminded them of singer Chante’ Moore. Unfortunately, exhaustion outpaced his passion lately. He didn’t often think about it, except at times like this, when he wanted to grab her, take her into the bedroom and spend the rest of the night making her scream his name the way she used to. That hadn’t happened in a while. Quite a while. Just how long he couldn’t recall.
* * * * * * *
In case you're not familiar with the theme song for this book, it's an old school R&B song by the late Johnny Taylor...