Betrayed book title

Apr. 2013

- Mitchell family series
- Follows Anointed


Chapter Excerpts

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Chapter Excerpts

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three

Chapter 1

Summer was still a few weeks away, but the blistering heat didn't wait for the official notification. It was present today, right now, blanketing Detroit with no regard for those who were sure to get burned.

What can I do to make this right?" Dave asked.

"Nothing, it's too late."

"We're loaded and ready to go, Mrs. Mitchell," the driver said as Madeline stood in the driveway with her ex-husband, four children, and some of the house staff.

"I don't want to go. You can't make me go," the little girl screamed, clinging to her dad. Her three brothers were visibly unhappy but didn't make a scene.

"I can make you, and I will, young lady," Madeline told her daughter.

"I'd rather die than leave Daddy here by himself. He's going to be super sad."

Madeline snatched up her seven-year-old daughter and shook her frantically. "Don't you ever say that again," Madeline demanded before pulling her daughter in for a tight embrace. The thought of her children dying or being hurt was more than she could bear. "Dave, I need you to help me here." She wanted to scream out for him to do something. He could see how upset the child was. Why was he just standing there with his hands in his pockets? She wanted to yell at him to help, but she didn't want to appear angry in front of her babies. They were already too miserable. Instead she calmly asked, "Dave, how did it come to this?" She pressed hard to keep her emotions in check.

Dave slid his hands out of his pockets and let his gaze slump. "I guess we lost sight of what was important. If it helps, I want you to know that I'm sorry."

Sorry, she thought. That wasn't enough ointment to soothe her aching pain and humiliation. A billion rosy words weren't going to fix their broken relationship. Honesty and respect were what she needed, something she hadn't gotten.

Madeline was snapped back into the moment when Tamara began badgering her father to go with them. Madeline's heart wanted to crumble into tiny little pieces.

"Tamara, Daddy needs you to be a big girl. We might not live in the same house any more, but I'll see you all the time," her father uttered.

She wrapped her little arms around his neck. "You promise?"

"I promise."

Listening to Dave made Madeline cringe. Why was he lying to their child? Even when they lived together, he wasn't home much. Work was his first priority-always had been, always would be. "Can we talk?" she asked him.

"Sure," Dave said, continuing to hug their daughter.

"Wait out here, guys. Mommy and Daddy will be right back." Madeline turned toward the nanny and housekeeper. "Please watch the children while we go inside for a few minutes." They both agreed. She told the driver they'd be right back too.

Madeline and Dave went inside. Despite the twelve-foot-tall solid wood door, the heat had infiltrated the foyer, where Madeline stood with her husband. Tension had a choke hold on the room.

"I can't believe you stood there and lied to that child. How dare you treat us like this?"

"What else do you want from me?" Dave Mitchell asked.

"I want some respect. That's what I want," Madeline barked at him. "Don't ask silly questions, Dave. I don't have time for this." He smirked, which irritated her. "I guess you think this is funny, but then, the joke has apparently always been on me."

His gaze dipped. "Madeline, I'm not going to stand here and rehash our divorce. It won't help either of us."

"You can't dictate anything to me. If I want to discuss the divorce, I'll discuss the divorce. Fourteen years of marriage gives me the right to say whatever I want to."

Dave didn't object, which irritated her further. She wanted him to say something inappropriate and justify the lashing she wanted to give him. He didn't accommodate, but it didn't stop Madeline from commanding center stage.

"Really, tell me what I can do to make our relationship more cordial," he said.

"We're divorced now. It's too late to be concerned about what you can do. I gave you a year to step up and fix your mistake."

Dave sighed. "Come on, Madeline, you know that's not true. I begged you not to get divorced. I pleaded with you to save the marriage, and you wouldn't hear of it. Once your mind was set, there was no turning back."

"So you gave up without a fight?" she hurled at him.

"I accepted reality."

"Humph. Call it whatever you'd like," she said, letting her words pierce like darts. "The truth is, you were too weak to stand up for us." As smart as Dave was, he sounded stupid to her. Didn't he know that she'd wanted his heart? She'd wanted him to woo her back to the marriage.

He hadn't, and it was driving her crazy. "You let that tramp destroy our marriage."

Dave sighed again and tightened his lips but didn't respond.

"Well, what do you have to say? I'm not talking to myself."

"There is nothing to say. Between court and you telling me how you feel every opportunity you get, it's all been said. I made a mistake."

"Humph. You made more than a mistake. You cheated on our marriage. You betrayed my trust and defiled our bed. You ruined us," she said, getting overly emotional, almost like a radiator preparing to explode.

"Fine. I cheated. I'm sorry. I've told you that a million times."

"Maybe I need a million and one."

Dave gently grabbed Madeline's arms. "What are we doing here? Are we fighting to save the marriage, or are we fighting because it's over? Which one is it, because I'm honestly confused about what you want."

Truthfully, Madeline didn't know what she wanted, either. The only thing she knew for sure was that Dave would not have a moment of peace so long as her world was in turmoil. If she was confused and hurt, he was going to have a slice of the same trauma. His selfishness had earned him a sizable slice, and she was intent on making sure he got it, at least that was what her heart said as the hurt rose within her. But the touch of his hands ignited a spark that didn't seem as easily suppressed. A mixture of emotions flooded her, but she refused to let Dave see her as vulnerable. She clung to her anger like an anchor as he spoke.

"I've tried to do right by you. I was very generous with the divorce settlement. You wanted the estate. I gave it to you. Didn't I, even though you decided at the last minute not to keep the house. That was your doing - not mine," he said pointing his finger at her.

Madeline didn't want to acknowledge that he was correct. Agreeing might diminish her anger, and she didn't want to let him off so easily. She struggled to maintain her disenchanted attitude.

He went on. "I gave you a permanent position in DMI. I put it in writing so that no one could ever challenge your role in DMI, not even me. I did that for you, didn't I?" Madeline tried looking away, but Dave's gaze followed her, refusing to let go as he let his hands continue to gently grip her arms. "Didn't I?" he asked again.

"Yes, yes, okay," she said, pulling away from his grip as pride took over. "But you didn't do me any favors. You owed me that much after the humiliation you put me through. I earned every dime of the seven million dollars you gave me. We built our company together. I was there from day one." She crossed her arms. "So don't make it seem like you did something special. You just did what was right. The house, the money, the company, and the children are as much mine as yours."

"I agree, which is why you didn't get any resistance from me." Madeline fought to regain her composure. She handed a cluster of keys to Dave. "Here, take these," she said, closing his fingers around the keys.

"You don't have to do this. This is your house. It's the only house the children know." Dave clutched her hand and peered into her gaze. "They didn't create this situation. They don't deserve to be uprooted. Don't make them move out," he pleaded.

The deal was done. They had to move on. She had to move on. There were too many memories on Mayweather Lane for Madeline to stay and have any shot at happiness without Dave. If she changed her mind later, so be it. But for right now Madeline had to walk away to maintain her sanity. "It's yours," she said, opening the door.

Tamara and their youngest son darted toward the door. Tamara latched on to her father's leg and refused to let go. Madeline's heart was breaking, but she had to maintain order. She kept fighting desperately to keep her emotions contained. Madeline and Dave literally had to pry their daughter's fingers to loosen the grip she had on his leg. She was inconsolable, but they managed to get her in the car with the other children before Madeline pulled away, leaving Dave standing alone on the front doorstep.

Forty minutes later Madeline and her four children entered a town near Rochester Hills, a place where modest homes were over four thousand square feet. Madeline had searched intensely for a secluded neighborhood where her family could grow up protected from public scrutiny. The limousine eased up to the wrought-iron security gate surrounding the home, which was nearly a block long. The whimpering of her children, coupled with a heaviness saturating the car, drained Madeline. She didn't want to move. Why bother? It didn't feel like she had anything left except her pride. When the driver opened the door, Madeline got out.

The children climbed out behind her.

"No, no, stay in the car. I'm just getting out to program the new code."

"But we want to get out too," one of the children said.

"Fine. Get out," Madeline told them, too tired to fight with her six-, seven-, nine-, and twelve year-old children. The day had worn her down.

She watched as the children stood next to the daunting security gate, crying their eyes out. Their misery pierced her soul, hacking at the core of her motherhood. In that moment, Madeline didn't know if she'd made the right decision in leaving Dave or the Mitchell estate. Her greatest fear was the impact on her children. Was her decision to leave the right one? She just didn't know. After what seemed like hours, she finally acknowledged that the decision was made, and whatever happened now, she'd just have to live with.

"Get back in the car, children. We have to go," she said, keying in the security code. As the massive gate opened, she felt her heart closing. She wanted to cry but wouldn't, not yet, not until they were safely inside their new home and her bedroom door was locked. Then she'd release the depth of her pain and sob privately until either her tear ducts dried up or sleep swept in and had mercy on her.

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Chapter 2

"Good morning, Mr. Mitchell," the security guard called as Dave strolled through the lobby of DMI.

Dave replied with a pleasant greeting. Indeed it was a good morning. For the first time in over a year, he'd slept at home, in his own bed, instead of in the leased unit. Night after night of lying down and getting up in the leased penthouse suite had been agonizing, more than he'd realized until this morning. Waking up and setting his feet on the rug he and Madeline had purchased in Spain many years ago, had given him an extra charge. He was reminded of how happy they once were as a couple.

Rising at 5:00 a.m. to be in the office by 6:00 a.m. didn't feel as daunting, not today. He was alive. Now that he was at DMI, his place of refuge, he experienced a renewed sense of purpose, which strengthened with each step.

"You have a good day, sir," Dave told the guard as he approached the elevators. On second thought, he had enough energy to climb the stairs to the sixth floor. He could use the time to clear out any lingering thoughts of the fiasco that had happened with Madeline and the kids when they left the estate yesterday. His feelings wanted to be heavy, but his mind wouldn't take the guilt trip. He knew better. Fretting over areas that he couldn't control was dangerous. One thought would lead to regret, with the next stops sure to be guilt and resentment, ending at bitterness and unforgiveness. That wasn't a path he chose to travel. He'd repented for his infidelity, and as much as failure wanted to press him, there was no regressing. He'd keep stepping.

Dave took two stairs at a time, reaching the executive floor rather quickly. He didn't want to spend an extra second dwelling on the past if there was nothing to be gained. He went into his office, mentally preparing his agenda for the day. The photo with former President Jimmy Carter and current President Ronald Reagan was prominently displayed on his wall. It was taken a few years ago during the 1980 election campaign and served as the only greeting he got this morning.

Dave prayed for direction and strength as he shunned the negative thoughts. Separation from his kids and divorce from his wife could have killed his spirit, but he'd fought hard not to let despair take residency. He delved into the handful of contracts on his desk prepared to submerge his energy and loneliness into his work.

Time slipped by. By 8:30 a.m. his secretary, Sharon, was poking her head inside his office. The door was open. "Mr. Mitchell. I just wanted to let you know that I'm in."

"Good. Can you do me a favor and have Frank come up to my office? I need to see him."

Dave returned his attention to the Eastern Lutheran Group contract after she left. Something wasn't right. The numbers weren't adding up. He tapped at the calculator for a while, each time netting the same results.

The eldest Mitchell brother walked in. "You looking for me?" Frank asked.

"Have a seat," Dave said, pointing to one of the chairs at his conference table. He got up from the desk and went to the table too. "I can't figure out what's going on with the Eastern Lutheran Group (ELG) account," he said, sliding the stapled cluster of papers toward Frank. "This should be four hundred fifty thousand. Based on this quote, all I can come up with is two hundred seventy-five thousand. There's a mistake somewhere, but for the life of me, I don't see it."

Frank breathed a sigh and exhaled loudly. "There's no mistake," he said, leaning on the table. Dave looked perplexed. "The numbers don't lie."

"Well, somebody's lying if you're telling me this is correct. What changed?" Dave asked. "Did they decide to cut down on the number of people they had originally registered to take our leadership training program?"

"Nope. No changes with the assumptions."

"Then what's going on?" Dave said emphatically. Frank knew something. Dave could tell. He wasn't up for games. He needed his brother to start talking. "What is it?"

"We had to give ELG a sizable cut."

"Why? I'm okay with giving discounts to make a deal work for a client, but this is about forty percent off. That's steep, especially this early into the East Coast expansion project. At this rate, we'll burn through our surplus and have little to no funds left to subsidize other churches that need financial support."

"Had no choice."

"Of course we had a choice."

"Trust me, we didn't."

"What's so special about the Eastern Lutheran Group that they need this kind of a break? You know I've dealt with the group before. They're always looking for a ridiculous discount, which we don't give." Dave trusted his brother with managing the corporate finances and running the operation, but no deal was fully complete unless he had some level of involvement and gave his blessing. That was Dave's strength, being able to influence clients and get them to understand why they needed the same financial and leadership services that DMI provided to a long list of satisfied churches and religious organizations.

"It's different in this case. We have no option based on the situation you've put us in."

"Me?" Dave said raising his voice slightly.

"Yes, you."

Dave heard the tone in Frank's response but didn't comment.

"I told you last year that your indiscretion was going to affect all of us, including your beloved DMI. Now it has." Dave was silent. He let Frank continue. His tone became increasingly agitated. "I told you that the relationship with your former secretary was going to ruin your reputation along with the company," Frank said, slapping his hand on the tabletop.

"We can't blame Sherry for this."

"Maybe you can't, but I sure can. You better blame somebody, unless you're prepared to keep seeing the kind of numbers you have here," Frank said, poking his finger at the page.

"It's not that bad."

"Look at the numbers, man. We have to give the services away in order to keep the doors open. The pathetic part is that we had to twist their arms to keep the deal going, period."

"I don't know why. This is their second contract expansion. Obviously, they're pleased with our services," Dave said.

"They can read the newspaper like the rest of us. Face it. You left Madeline and your kids for a secretary young enough to be your daughter. Nobody, except a fool, is going to pay you to give them lessons on integrity and leadership. Who's giving you lessons?" Frank's fury appeared to ease slightly. "Take my advice. Go back to your wife if you want better numbers."

Dave's gaze slumped as he toyed with a pen. "I can't. It's over. Madeline and the children moved out of the estate yesterday. There's no chance of reconciling now. She's made it clear that we're history." The reality rolled off his tongue, refusing to be delayed by wishful thinking.

"Wow," Frank said, shaking his head. "You really blew it, little brother. How could you mess up in such a major way? And you're supposed to be the godly one in the bunch." Frank snickered.

"I'm not proud of what I did, but I honestly believe in my spirit that God's plan for my life hasn't vanished because of my big mistake."

"Oh, come on. Cut the crap, Dave. It's me, Frank, your brother, your chief financial officer," he said, poking his index finger in his chest. "I'm your chief operations manager, your right-hand man, the one who knows everything around here."

"What's done is done." Dave didn't bother telling his brother how hard he'd tried reconciling with Madeline, how much he yearned to be with his family. He didn't bother telling Frank, because it wouldn't make a difference. There were times when people didn't want to know the truth. Sitting in the seat of judgment was sometimes preferred. "I can choose to dwell on what I can't change, or I can opt to direct my energy toward the future." Dave had chosen to move on. Frank had to get over it too.

"You can lay that cavalier mumbo jumbo on someone who's willing to listen. That's not for me. Two years ago you were someone who seemed to practice what you preached, but this is a new day," Frank said, staring at Dave. "Now it sounds like a bunch of self-righteous hogwash. Brother, things have definitely changed."

"Not between us," Dave said.

Frank shrugged his shoulders. "Everything has changed. I've backed you all this time because you were different. You were for real. I honestly thought you were an honorable man who knew how to keep his eye on the prize. Now I see you're common like the rest of us who sit at home on Sundays instead of running up in the church."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, but I don't need to justify myself to you. I can apologize for how my actions have affected you, but what else can I do to make this right with you? I'm at a loss here."

"Then I guess there's nothing left to say," Frank said.

"I guess not."

The meeting ended abruptly with neither willing to continue with the conversation. Dave sat numb, fumbling with his pen, while guilt hovered. Frank wasn't budging on his position. Dave didn't plan to grovel for his brother's validation, but the undeniable fact was that they had to work together. They had to figure out how to get past their discord so that DMI didn't suffer a double dose of failure.

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Chapter 3

Frank stormed down the hallway, passing one office after the next. Frustration blinded him, causing his charge down the executive row to be a blur. Images of Dave and Sherry being intimately involved while he was married to Madeline further clouded the vision. They were messing with Frank's livelihood and a career he'd made sacrifices to build. He couldn't think straight. Frank wanted to shake some sense into his brother. What was Dave thinking? To be so smart, he was making such dumb choices, Frank thought.

"Hello, Mr. Mitchell," one of the secretaries greeted as he stood at the elevators.

"Oh, uh, hello," he said, oblivious to his surroundings. Frank didn't want to be any meaner than necessary. So he eased into the stairwell and sighed. Rubbing his head, he let his eyelids close to catch a moment of control.

Frank couldn't believe how caught up he'd gotten into Dave's drama. The word selfish played repeatedly in his mind, like a record on a turntable. With no regard to the damage he'd caused everybody else, Dave had selfishly let his careless act of passion bring down an entire company. Frank continued scratching his head as he descended the steps one at a time.

Disappointment and blame took turns holding his hand as he continued going downstairs. There was so much to go around that maybe Dave shouldn't get the total brunt of Frank's attitude. After all, Sherry had played a major role in destroying a family. She'd boldly inserted her single self into a well-established marriage. She definitely deserved a piece of the blame.

He paused on the landing between the third and fourth floors, pretending to be adjusting his watch, as a couple of employees ascended the stairs. Frank gave them a nod, hoping they'd get out of there quickly so he could return to his thoughts, unhindered. Once the employees were gone, Frank's assessment of who had ruined his professional life picked up right where he'd paused.

As much as he adored Madeline, he was angry at her too. She might have been a victim in the beginning, but playing the pity role wasn't the answer. The more he thought about it, the madder he became at Madeline for being so stubborn and refusing to consider the notion of reconciliation. She knew what was at stake with DMI. She knew better than anyone, but it wasn't enough to get her head on right.

Frank reached his floor and opened the door, but not before thinking about God. Perhaps He was the most significant culprit in this fiasco. He was the one who'd let Dave slip, especially when everybody knew how spiritually motivated Dave was and how much he walked in some kind of special grace and favor. Standing in the stairwell, Frank chalked the religious zeal up to a bunch of foolishness. Heck, he didn't claim to believe in or worship anyone. He could freely admit that there wasn't any special power or blessings lining his path. But Frank could also say that he wasn't an adulterer, a fraud, or a front. With that said, who needed religion? If it hadn't kept the special man of God from falling into one of the biggest traps in the world, then there was no hope for slobs like him.

Frank grabbed the doorknob. By the time Dave, Madeline, Sherry, and God split the pie of blame, Frank had only a sliver left. There was no way around choking down his cut for putting too much faith and trust into somebody. Wherever the anger ended up residing, there was plenty to share, enabling him to stay frustrated for quite a while. Frank stepped into the hallway, but wisdom chipped at him, small pecks at first. As he approached his office, the pecks of wisdom were more like slashes. His frustration hadn't dissipated, but the venom oozed out with each slash, providing a gentle reminder that the brothers had to work together as members of DMI's senior staff. Frank had to find a way to get the job done despite his personal disappointment. He pushed his pride aside and decided to go back and talk with Dave to figure it out. He had too much invested in both DMI and his own career not to work this out.


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