After a close friend commits suicide, Faith, Monique, and Shannon head to the beach cottage on Hilton Head Island. Determined to heed her advice and make the most of their lives, they make a pact to spend the summer embracing new adventures. They also embrace new men and a new best friend along the way.
Filled with profound passion and sensuality, witty dialogue and richly drawn characters, this is a story of women having fun, embracing life, taking charge, and doing the things they want –and discovering in the process that everyone deserves to kick the routine every once in a while, let their hair down and explore new things. And if the right man comes along, especially one who is willing to make an already hot summer even hotter, then pushing the envelope just might give her life the jolt it needs.
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About the Author
Brenda Jackson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels, including the Westmorelands series and, from St. Martin's Press, Some Like It Hot, Taste of Passion and The Playa's Handbook, among others. She was the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make USA Today's Bestseller's List and the New York Times Bestseller's List for the series romance genre. Jackson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University, and worked for thirty-seven years in management at a major insurance company. She now divides her time between family, writing and traveling. She has been married for thirty-seven years to her childhood sweetheart, Gerald, and they have two sons. She lives in the city where she was born, Jacksonville, Florida.
Brenda Jackson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 125 novels, including the Westmorelands series, the Madaris Family series, and The Playas series. She was the first African-American author to have a book published under the Harlequin/Silhouette Desire line of books and the first African-American romance author to make the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists for the series romance genre. Many of her books have been adapted into movies.
Jackson has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Jacksonville University, and is a member of the Romance Writers of America and of Delta Sigma Theta, Incorporated, Sorority. She worked for 37 years in management at a major insurance company and now divides her time between family, writing and traveling. Brenda married her childhood sweetheart, Gerald, more than 45 years ago, and they have two sons. She lives in the city where she was born, Jacksonville, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
What a Woman Wants
By Brenda Jackson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2007 Brenda Streater Jackson
All rights reserved.
"Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."
Faith Gilmore watched as the coffin was lowered into the dark earth. A part of her still could not believe what she was seeing. She glanced over at the two other women standing beside her. Monique Hardings and Shannon Carmichael were in the same daze of disbelief as she was. It was like they were all stuck in some sort of weird dream.
Tomorrow they would wake up from it, and Cely would take them all to task when they told her about their strange nightmare. Me commit suicide? No way. There isn't that much depression in the world. I am the most levelheaded, laid-back, not-a-care-in-the-world person you know. There's no way I would ever get in a funk so blue that it would trigger me to take my own life.
Yet she had done exactly that, and this was no dream.
"This ends the memorial service for Cecilia Graham," the minister was saying. "You may all return to your cars."
Faith blinked. Return to their cars and do what? Mourn some more? Leave? Ask themselves for the thousandth time how could this have happened? Why this happened? Especially to Cely, who had always been the strongest of the four of them.
She felt someone touch her hand, glanced up to see Monique and Shannon standing right in front of her. Faith looked at them mutely, noting that their eyes were as red as hers, their cheeks just as tear-streaked.
"It's time to go," Monique said softly, and Faith could hear her fighting to hold back more tears.
"Yes," Shannon chimed in, her voice just as tight. "I need to get away from this place. Quick. I need a thick slice of pizza, a strong drink, and to get laid. Hell, I need something, anything, to make me forget everything I've gone through today. This week."
Faith almost rolled her eyes. Shannon had always been the one they all thought had the weakest disposition. Cely had always worried about how Shannon went about dealing with stress. "How about if we go back to my hotel room, drink some wine, and chill, I'm really not in the mood to go to the repast," Faith suggested.
Monique understood. "Neither am I. I'm sure Cely's family will understand if we wait and visit tomorrow before we leave."
"Yes, I'm sure they will," Shannon agreed. "They know Cely was more than a friend to us. She was like our sister."
Faith nodded. That was true—ever since the four of them had met so many summers ago as teens on Hilton Head Island, they were sisters. Cely's grandparents had operated a hot dog stand on the beach, and she had been their little helper. Like Faith's parents, Monique's and Shannon's families had owned time-share condos and made the trip each summer to the island, where the four girls had become the best of friends for life.
But now one of their lives had ended. The circle they had formed more than twenty years ago was broken, and somehow they had to repair it and move on. "All right, let's go. But first let's say good-bye to Mrs. Graham. I don't want her to think we're deserting her."
A couple of hours later, Faith, Monique, and Shannon had replaced their dark mourning dress suits with slacks and blouses, and they were sprawled on the bed in Faith's hotel room. They were remembering the good times they'd shared all those summers long ago, from the time they were thirteen.
"Do you remember the summer when we began noticing boys for the first time?" Shannon asked, laughing between sips of her wine. "Cely was acting so shy that day when that hunk from FAMU tried to come on to her. That was the first time any of us had been noticed by a college guy."
Faith chuckled. "Yes, I remember! We were sixteen, and the guy thought we were naive enough to fall for his game."
Monique nodded, grinning. "Yeah, he wasn't very smart."
"But he sure was a looker," Shannon couldn't help but add, her eyes twinkling in mischief. "I think he really did like Cely, though."
"Yes," Faith said, "and I think she really liked him, too, which is why she did sneak off to see him that night."
The room got quiet for a moment. Then Faith finally asked the question she'd been dreading: "Have either of you read the letter Cely left for you?"
Monique shook her head. "I couldn't make myself do it. I can't imagine how depressed she must have been to do what she did. And to know even then she had been thinking about us, our friendship."
Shannon placed her wineglass aside, inhaling sharply. "I haven't read mine either, although a part of me is very curious. Maybe it will explain why she did it."
Faith nodded. "I think we should read them now. Here. Together. There must be something she wanted to tell us—otherwise she wouldn't have written them."
Monique took a sip of her drink. "I'm not sure I want to know what she was thinking that day. Cely was the most fun-loving of all of us. I remember how things were for me after Paul's death. When things seemed to fall apart, she was there to help me keep things together. I can't imagine anything getting her so down, she thought she couldn't share it with us or wouldn't know we were there for her, no matter what. Nothing could have been that hopeless when she had everything going on. The last time I talked with her—a few weeks ago—she was doing great. She had met this neat guy, she had finally made the decision to have her mother move in with her instead of go to a nursing home, and she was up for a promotion on her job. I can't imagine what would make her do what she did."
"Then let's read our letters and find out," Faith repeated, not really wanting to do so but feeling that they must.
The other two women nodded. As always, they would share everything. They each left the bed and walked to where they'd set their purses. They had been given Cely's letters that morning from a kind police officer who had arrived before the start of the funeral. Fifty-something and bald, he had introduced himself as Lt. Upshaw.
Shannon pulled the letter out of her purse and glanced at it thoughtfully before turning to the others. Tears clouded her eyes. "It doesn't seem fair. Cely was the one we called when we needed to be told to get our shit together."
Faith walked over to a chair and flopped down with the copy of her letter in her hand. "Yeah, she was the first person I contacted when I found out Virgil was one of those down-low brothers. She talked me out of getting a gun and blowing his balls off. Now she's gone and we have to move on, keep going, the way she would have wanted. Come on, let's read our letters."
They each took a turn and read their letters aloud. Moments later they glanced up at each other with more tears in their eyes. Monique took a deep breath. "Even in what she thought was her darkest hour, she was thinking of us."
"Yeah," Shannon said, wiping her eyes. "But the letter doesn't explain why she did what she did."
"In a way it does," Faith said in a quiet tone. "There was something going on her in life that made her think she didn't have an out. And she doesn't want that from us. She's pleading for us to live each day to the fullest and do whatever we want to do to enjoy life and not live up to others' expectations and standards."
Monique nodded. "Cely was always trying to please everyone. Maybe she got tired of trying."
"But to the point where she would commit suicide?" Shannon snapped, clearly frustrated and hurt. "I can't imagine her ever getting that low. I bet it has something to do with a man."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Why are you so quick to blame the opposite sex?"
"Because they're usually the ones who deserved to be blamed. And you said she had met this great guy, Monique. She never mentioned him to me. Who is he? I wonder if the police checked her cell phone to see if he called her right before it happened. I wouldn't put it past him, whoever he is, to be the one who pushed her over the edge. Maybe we need to do a little investigating of our own."
Faith and Monique exchanged glances. Nothing had changed over the years. Shannon still harbored ill feelings for most men because of what her father was doing to her mom, but then Shannon's mom's behavior wasn't too much better.
"Well, I personally think it wasn't just a man but probably a mixture of things," Faith decided to say. "But we'll never really know, because she didn't tell us in her letters. And forget about doing our own investigating. There was a suicide note—four of them—so as far as the police is concerned, the case is closed. Even if Mr. X isn't blameless, the police won't arrest a man for 'pushing someone over the edge,' if that's what he did."
"Faith is right," Monique said softly. "In her letters Cely is asking us not to dwell on the reason she did what she did. She wants us to make changes in our own lives. So what are we going to do?"
The room got quiet, and then moments later Faith spoke up. "I have an idea. Remember we all said that one of these summers we would get together and spend it on the island like we used to do? I say let's do it. Let's have one more summer in Cely's memory. Let's get together on Hilton Head Island and do just what she's suggested, like we used to do all those summers when we didn't have a care in the world. Let's plan to take time off our jobs—a month to six weeks—and take on new adventures and broaden our horizons. In Cely's honor let's do as she's asked. Live each day to the fullest and do whatever we want and not worry about anyone's expectations."
"I don't worry about anyone's expectations now," Shannon said curtly, taking another sip of her wine.
Shannon cut a quick glance at Monique. "I know when and how to put my parents in their place."
Monique rolled her eyes. "If you say so."
Shannon opened her mouth to say something but then closed it. She turned to Faith. "I'm all for what you're suggesting. I just won't sign up to teach any classes at the university over the summer months. What about you two? Can you take that much time away from your jobs?"
Faith shrugged. As an advertising consultant, she was constantly in demand, but ... "I think I will. I have money saved that I haven't touched since my divorce. It will be worth it. Besides, I can use a break."
"So can I," Monique replied rather quickly, smiling now. "I hadn't planned to say anything until later, but Cannon Insurance is downsizing, and guess whose department will be the first to go?"
Faith leaned forward, giving Monique her full attention. "Yours?"
Monique said, "That's right."
Shannon looked disgusted. "But you've been working there for almost fifteen years, right out of college. Don't corporations believe in loyalty anymore?"
"I guess they feel they have to do what they need to do to survive. It's all about profits, not losses," Monique said, shrugging.
After sipping her drink, she added, "So count me in for the summer. At least I'm getting a nice severance package that will tide me over. I don't plan on looking for another job for a while. I need to chill before entering the job market again. Hell, it's been so long, I don't know what's even out there. Companies aren't hiring their own insurance adjusters anymore. They're using independents. I might decide to go into business for myself or change careers altogether."
"So it's decided," Faith said. "We'll spend this summer somewhere on Hilton Head Island." She smiled. "And I know the perfect place. My parents finally got rid of their time-share and bought a house on the beach. They won't be using it this summer since they plan to vacation in Europe instead. It's big and roomy and will fit our needs perfectly."
Monique smiled back. "Wonderful. Then it's final. This summer will be ours to do as we please."
"Yes, and we'll have a wonderful time in Cely's memory, just like she asked." Shannon grinned like a woman who was looking forward to doing whatever rocked her boat.
The three women raised their glasses in a grateful toast. They would make this a summer they wouldn't forget.CHAPTER 2
Four months later, summertime
"Will this complete your order, sir?"
Shane Masters looked over at the young woman behind the register. It was hard to ignore her I'm interested if you are smile. The kid had to be no more than nineteen, and although it was good for his ego to catch the eye of someone so young, at forty he was old enough to be her father.
"Yes, that will be all," he said, handing her enough cash to pay for his groceries.
Moments later he walked out of the supermarket feeling like a man on top of the world. Retirement was everything people said it would be, and he was glad that because of smart investment moves, he was able to do it now rather than later. The first thing he'd done was purchase a home on the beach in Hilton Head. His ultimate dream home.
He unloaded his groceries in the truck of the rented SUV and was about to get into the vehicle when his cell phone rang. He smiled—it was his sister. He came from a rather large family and had six siblings, all of them born and raised not far away in Savannah, although now they were spread far and wide all over the country. Quinece was his youngest sister and twin to his brother Quinn. And she was the one determined to keep up with everyone.
"What's up, Que-Two?" That was the nickname they had given her when she was born. Quinn they called Que-One.
"I'm calling to remind you about the party Grey is giving Brandy in a few weeks. I don't want you to get so absorbed in your tennis games that you forget."
Shane chuckled as he opened the door and climbed up. "Don't worry. I can still manage to keep a calendar pretty good. How's the kids?"
"They're fine, and by the way I'm pregnant again."
He shook his head, grinning. "Congratulations. You were always the one who wanted a houseful, and it looks like you're getting what you want."
"Yeah, and I'm thrilled that Kendall is more than happy to oblige. I talked to Quinn earlier today, and he and Alexia are trying."
Shane wasn't surprised. "More power to them." Inwardly he was happy for his brother Quinn, a highly successful entertainment attorney, and his gorgeous wife, Alexia Bennett Masters, a nationally known recording artist whose current record was number one on the R & B charts.
"I'm sure Mom will be happy with all these additions to the Masters clan," he added. His attention was drawn to his rearview mirror when he saw a woman getting out of her car. She had the most gorgeous pair of legs he'd ever seen.
His gaze moved upward, and he thought she was definitely a looker, with medium brown skin, a nice set of eyes, and luscious lips. Her hair was fixed in twists, and she had a headful that came to her shoulders.
Hell, forget about the rearview mirror. He turned his body to look out the back window. It was all he could do not to hang up on his sister and give the delectable female his total attention. She made one hell of a moving object as she crossed the parking lot wearing a denim skirt that was short and tight—but it fit her body perfectly. And he couldn't overlook the small waist that—
"Shane, are you listening?"
Quinece reclaimed his attention, but not all of it. "Sorry, I was noticing something else at the moment."
"Probably some woman," she guessed.
"You're too young to play the role of mama with me. Look, I won't miss Brandy's party. I'm driving up that Friday morning."
"Good. We're depending on you."
He raised a brow, not liking the sound of that. "Why?"
"Why are you depending on me?"
"Umm, I'd rather not say. You aren't going to like it."
His attention was split between what his sister was saying and the woman he was still watching. She had some walk, and with every step she took, he could feel blood thicken in his veins as well as a number of other places. She was more his speed, since she looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties and wasn't daughter material, like cute little Suzy at the checkout counter.
He frowned, trying to remember the last time he'd shared a bed with a woman, and it suddenly hit him that it had been months ago, way before his retirement. Damn, he'd been so busy lately, he'd forgone any kind of a social life. He'd always been careful to keep his relationships restricted to women who only wanted a good time. Those with high hopes and expectations he left alone.
He then realized what his sister had said. "What is it that I'm not going to like, Quinece?"
She hesitated a minute, then said, "Grey mentioned Brandy's mom is bringing someone, a cousin who's visiting from Seattle."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"She's looking for a husband."
Shane snapped his seat belt in place, wishing it were around his brother Grey's neck. "Fine, she can keep looking, since a wife is no longer on my interest list. I almost had one, remember? It was unfortunate for her that a week before the wedding I found out she had gotten pregnant—but not from me."
"I remember that, and I do understand. But you know how pushy Brandy's mom can be. We're not asking you to marry the cousin, just be nice to her. Is that too much to ask?"
Excerpted from What a Woman Wants by Brenda Jackson. Copyright © 2007 Brenda Streater Jackson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Reading Group Guide
A titillating tale of three women who decide to let their hair down and live it up
After a close friend commits suicide, Faith, Monique, and Shannon head to a beach house in Hilton Head. Determined to make the most of their lives, they agree to spend the summer embracing new adventures. They also embrace new men and a new best friend along the way. Filled with passion and sensuality, witty dialogue and richly drawn characters, this is a story of women taking charge and doing what they want. And if the right man comes along, especially one who is willing to make an already hot summer even hotter, then pushing the envelope just might give life the jolt it needs.