More about The Way Home
The Way Home
Awards and Nominations for The Way Home!
WINNER, Romancing the Web Reader’s Choice Award, Best Multicultural Novel
WINNER, Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, Best Multicultural Romance
Finalist, Holt Medallion, Southern Theme Category
Reviewers on The Way Home!
A realistic, romantic tale of regaining lost love! Ms. Benson writes from the heart and it is reflected in her characters. Readers will be thrilled with Angela Benson's newest love story! – The Literary Times
". . . with THE WAY HOME, [Angela Benson] emerges as a writer of great depth, sensitivity, and unparalleled talent." –Romantic Times Top Pick! 4.5/5 stars
"THE WAY HOME is an intense, and satisfying read. . . At the end of the book, one is left with a feeling of contentment; that not only have you enjoyed a wonderful love story but that you've been privileged to catch a glimpse of black culture." -Romance in Color, 5/5 stars
Marlena dabbed at the corners of her burgundy-painted lips, then stepped back and checked her reflection in the gold-framed mirror one last time. She didn’t know why she was so nervous. She’d been to hundreds of parties in the last ten years—parties that would make this event seem like a backyard barbeque but she’d never been this anxious.
She cast a quick glance behind her and after making sure she still had the bathroom to herself, she tugged on the thin straps of her short, black beaded dress. Why hadn’t she noticed before that her breasts seemed as though they were about to fall out of the thing? She tugged one last time, then stopped.
What are you doing, Marlena Rhodes? she asked herself silently. This party is in your honor, given by people who watched you grow up. So what if some of them treated you like dirt then? Look where you have them now—groveling at your feet. You’ve done it, girl. You’ve made the residents of the elite Rosemont section of Gaines sit up and take notice.
Marlena dropped her hands from the thin straps of her dress. There was nothing wrong with what she wore. Accented with an ivory cameo choker and matching button cameo earrings, her ensemble suited the occasion perfectly. It displayed her feminine form with the understated elegance and subtle sexuality that had become her trademark. She dabbed at her lips once more, took a final deep breath, then turned on her three-inch heels and left the bathroom.
“We’ve been looking for you, dear,” Mrs. Hampton said as soon as Marlena returned to the intimate gathering on the Hampton’s expansive patio. The older woman wore a gray silk dress adorned with a single strand of pearls and matching earrings. “Come with me, the Browns are dying to meet you. You do remember them, don’t you? They owned the car dealership when you left. Well, now they own four of them.”
Marlena listened to the older woman and wished, not for the first time, that her mother could be here with her. Josie Rhodes would have loved this. She’d always wanted to be on the inside of Gaines’s black society, but she’d never been granted entrance. Though she’d had the style, she hadn’t had the money that would have made her acceptable to these people.
Marlena smiled appropriately as the Browns talked about themselves and questioned her about her practice. These were among the most shallow people she’d ever met. They weren’t really interested in her, she knew; they were dazzled by her success. How many of the lawyers in Gaines got the opportunity to try a case before the Supreme Court and win? How many of the lawyers in Gaines had their faces splashed across the front page of every newspaper in the country after successfully representing a major entertainment figure in a murder case? None.
The only reason all these people were attending to her tonight was because she moved in circles they could only read about. From Washington, D.C., to Hollywood, California, from the White House to Denzel Washington’s house, she’d been there, done that. She wished it meant as much to her as it did to these people.
“I hear you drive one of our cars, Marlena,” Mr. Brown was saying. “Would you be interested in shooting a commercial for us?”
“Thanks for asking, Mr. Brown,” she began, wondering how the man knew what kind of car she drove.
“Call me, Frank,” he said, cutting her off. “I don’t want an answer tonight. You think about it. Maybe you could give me the name of your business manager and have my people talk to him.”
Your people talk to my people. She wanted to laugh at the man’s pompous arrogance. Instead, she opened her beaded purse and handed him a card with her manager’s name on it.
She was about to say more when Mrs. Hampton took her arm again. “You can’t monopolize our Marlena here, Frank,” the older woman chided. “A lot of people want to meet one of Gaines’s most famous natives.”
Marlena smiled at the Brown couple, glad for Mrs. Hampton’s interruption. For the first time tonight, she appreciated the older woman’s snobbery.
Mrs. Hampton led her to the far edge of the patio where an older, brown-skinned, slightly graying man stood off to himself. “This is Reginald McCoy,” Mrs. Hampton said, pushing Marlena closer to the attractive gentleman whose name and face she didn’t recognize.
While Mrs. Hampton gave detailed biographies of each of them, Marlena noticed that Mr. McCoy’s eyes couldn’t stay away from her breasts. She appreciated a complimentary glance from an attractive man as well as the next woman, but there was something predatory about Mr. McCoy’s stare which made her uncomfortable.
“I’ll leave you two to get acquainted,” Mrs. Hampton said, ending her spiel. Then she rushed off toward the other guests.
“Welcome home, Marlena,” McCoy said, in a deep, husky tone that would have been sensual had his eyes not held the gleam of a cat about to pounce on its dinner.
After talking with McCoy for a few minutes, Marlena relaxed, thinking maybe she’d misjudged the man. He was a flirt, but certainly nothing more and she could flirt with the best of them.
When he leaned close to her and placed his hand on her bare shoulder in an intimate gesture, she knew it was time to end their conversation. She looked up at him to tell him so when she felt the presence she’d been alternately dreading and awaiting. Her lips parted slightly but no words came out.
McCoy took her parted lips as an invitation and the next thing she knew, the man had planted his lips firmly against hers.
~ ~ ~
Winston Taylor wasn’t surprised when he saw his ex-fiancée lift her face for Reggie McCoy’s kiss, but he was surprised at his body’s reaction to it. He’d guessed from the intimate way McCoy had been caressing Marlena’s bare shoulders that theirs was more than a friendly, welcome home conversation. Well, he told himself, Marlena was a grown woman and she was no longer his. She could do what she wanted, when she wanted, and with whom she wanted.
Maybe she was the money-hungry bitch his mother had always said she was, after all. She’d certainly zeroed in on Moneybags McCoy with haste. He wondered how many other men she’d seduced with her kisses.
Winston refused to stop his unkind thoughts about Marlena. It was much easier to hate her than it was to examine the other emotions she evoked in him. Unfortunately, his hatred did nothing to ease his desire.
He could still feel those full lips of hers against his. He remembered how soft and vulnerable she’d been in his arms. She’d worn a mask of indifference for the world, but she’d allowed him entrance into her soul and he’d felt blessed because of it. There was a time when he would have given his life for her. He’d loved her that much.
She hadn’t loved him that much though. When she’d had to choose between a simple, though in no way lacking, life with him in Gaines and the lure of an extravagant lifestyle as a partner in one of D.C.’s top law firms, she’d gone for the gold and left him with a broken heart.
Well, he told himself, that was the past. Water under the bridge, as they said. She could strip naked and have sex with McCoy in the middle of Main Street if she wanted, but she wouldn’t make a mockery of this party the town had planned for her and she wouldn’t ruin his plans for his new project.
He ignored the flicker of jealousy in his belly and clamped down on the urge to punch McCoy’s lights out. “Welcome home, Marlena,” he said, when he stood no more than three feet away from the still-embracing couple. When Marlena moved to push McCoy away from her, he added, “No need to break up on my account. I only wish you would’ve waited until you got back to the hotel. The people of Gaines aren’t used to such public displays of . . . ah . . . affection.”
The gleam in McCoy’s eyes over Marlena’s head made Winston’s hands curl into fists at his side. The older man’s message couldn’t have been clearer. He already saw himself in Marlena’s bed.
When Marlena finally stepped away from McCoy and turned to face Winston, he felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. She was more beautiful now than she’d been when she’d walked out of his life ten years ago. He wanted to slip his fingers under the thin straps of her dress and slowly push the garment off her shoulders and down her body, leaving a trail of hot kisses in its path.
“Hello, Winston,” she said through those full lips he wanted so much to caress with his own. “How have you been?”
“Fine,” he said, amazed his vocal cords worked. “I don’t have to ask how you are. You look wonderful.” He cast a glance above her head at McCoy. “But I guess he’s already told you that.”
She smiled one of her rare smiles and he was again a teenager in the throes of first love. Though in those days Marlena rarely smiled, she’d always had a special smile for him. She wore that smile now. “A woman never tires of hearing she’s beautiful. I’m sure you know that.”
McCoy placed a proprietary arm across Marlena’s shoulders again. “Maybe we should continue this conversation over dinner. Everyone else has gone in.”
Winston pinned Marlena with a stare. “That’s why I interrupted your fun. Mrs. Hampton sent me to get you,” he lied.
McCoy’s hand slid to Marlena’s waist and he led her through the patio doors and into the house. Winston walked behind them, his eyes glued to the foreign hand on the small of Marlena’s back. He needed a drink and he needed one fast.
The Way Home