A House Divided


By Kimberla Lawson Roby

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Times of trouble are descending upon the Black family in more ways than one in the Reverend Curtis Black book from New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby.

Life is close to perfect for the Reverend Curtis Black and his wife, Charlotte–except their son Matthew and his girlfriend, Racquel, are about to become parents at the tender age of eighteen. Even though Curtis and Charlotte wish Matthew could focus on Harvard instead of fatherhood, they are determined to welcome their new grandson with open arms. But for Charlotte, welcoming her future in-laws is another story. Try as she might, Charlotte can't stand Racquel's mother, Vanessa–and the feeling appears to be mutual.

When the tension between Charlotte and Vanessa finally erupts, the stress sends an already-fragile Racquel into early labor. Everyone is quick to blame Charlotte, including Matthew and Curtis. That her own husband would side with someone else infuriates Charlotte and strains the relationship they've only recently been able to repair. Her one ally is Racquel's father, but that brings problems of its own.

While Charlotte schemes against Vanessa, Curtis is consumed with his own concerns about Deliverance Outreach. A mysterious figure from his past has been sending Curtis cryptic messages threatening to take away Curtis's coveted position as senior pastor and destroy everything he has worked so hard for. But who could hate Curtis that much? And how can he fight an enemy he can't even name?


Chapter 1

What a witch. For months, Vanessa Anderson, the other grandmother, had been working Charlotte’s last nerve, and Charlotte wished this heifer would vanish into thin air. Ever since hearing the news just over seven months ago about Matthew’s girlfriend, Racquel, being pregnant, things had turned pretty ugly. At first, Vanessa had seemed like a decent enough woman, and her husband, Neil, a noticeably good man, but once Matthew had left for Harvard last fall, Vanessa’s attitude had changed drastically. Now, though, it was the middle of January, and things had only gotten worse. Vanessa no longer answered Charlotte’s phone calls or attempted to return them, and Racquel had suddenly begun answering a lot less, too. Racquel did talk to Charlotte every now and then, but mostly when Charlotte and Curtis received updates about Racquel’s doctor visits, her ultrasound testing, and any other information relating to their grandchild, it came directly from Matthew. Of course, when Charlotte had asked Matthew why Vanessa was treating her like the enemy, Matthew had told her it was because Vanessa had begun feeling as though Charlotte was trying to take over and control every decision relating to Racquel and the baby. Charlotte had been stunned, to say the least, because whether Vanessa liked it or not, Charlotte was going to be just as much a grandmother to Matthew and Racquel’s baby as she was, and Charlotte had every right to ask as many questions and make as many suggestions as she wanted. This was going to be Charlotte and Curtis’s very first grandchild, and she wouldn’t back down for Vanessa, Racquel, or anyone else. It was the reason Charlotte was sitting front and center at this pathetic little baby shower, even though she knew Vanessa didn’t want her there.

“Oh what a precious little christening outfit,” one of Racquel’s cousins said.

“It really is,” a couple of other women commented. Other ladies cooed over the gorgeous little satin two-piece pant and jacket set, too.

Charlotte cast her eye at Vanessa, who was boiling, and then smiled at Racquel. “As soon as I saw it, I just had to buy it. It’ll be perfect when Curtis christens the baby.”

Vanessa set her coffee cup down on the small table next to her. “Hmmm. Well, I guess Racquel hasn’t told you.”

“Told me what?”

“That our pastor will be the one doing the christening. Pastor Collins has been our minister for more than twenty years, and he and his wife are Racquel’s godparents.”

Charlotte took a deep breath. She didn’t want to show her behind in front of all these women, but if Vanessa didn’t watch herself…

“No, actually,” Charlotte said, “the subject has never come up. I just assumed that since Curtis is a pastor and since he’s the baby’s grandfather, this was a done deal.”

Vanessa smirked at Charlotte. “Wow. Then, I guess it’s a good thing we got this all cleared up. Now there won’t be any misunderstandings.”

It was all Charlotte could do not to fire back at Vanessa, but instead, she scanned the drab-looking family room they sat in. It was a shame they were bunched so close together. At least that’s what it felt like to Charlotte, because had the shower taken place at her house, they’d have had a lot more room—not to mention the atmosphere would have been far more beautiful. Vanessa’s decorating skills were average at best, and Charlotte was tempted to recommend a professional to her.

“Thank you so much for buying this, Mrs. Black,” Racquel said nervously. Her tone was awkward, and Charlotte knew it was because Racquel was hoping this christening topic wouldn’t spiral into a heated debate.

“You’re quite welcome,” Charlotte said. “I know we still don’t know if you’re having a boy or a girl, but I’m praying for a grandson, of course.”

“Me, too,” Racquel said, smiling and stroking her shoulder-length, thick brown mane to the side.

Charlotte wanted to ask her again why she didn’t want to know the sex of the baby, because to her that was just ridiculous. Racquel had gotten Matthew to agree to that nonsense, too, and this had ruined Charlotte’s plan of having a huge family get-together where everyone, including Matthew and Racquel, would find out the sex all at once. A couple of years ago, Charlotte had gone to a baby announcement party, where the ultrasound technician had written down the sex of the baby on a piece of paper, given it to the parents in a sealed envelope, and the parents had taken it to a bakery. The cake decorator had then told them that if they were going to have a girl, she’d make the inside of the cake pink, and if it was going to be a boy, she’d color it light blue. That way when they cut into it, it would be a surprise to everyone. Charlotte had loved that idea—but again, Racquel had spoiled everything. Charlotte’s feelings toward Racquel had always been lukewarm at best, and this latest harebrained decision of hers hadn’t helped. In fact, the only reason Charlotte tolerated her and stayed in contact with her was because she was carrying her precious little grandchild.

But Charlotte smiled as genuinely as she could. “Oh and hey…those other four boxes are from Curtis and me, too.”

Racquel opened each of them, one by one. The contents included: an Elsa Peretti silver baby spoon from Tiffany, a silver frame for the baby’s birth record, a five-hundred-dollar gift card from Target for disposable diapers or whatever else the baby needed, and another five hundred dollar gift card from Toys“R”Us.

“Thank you for everything,” Racquel said. “This really was very kind of you and Pastor Black.”

“Anything for our grandchild,” Charlotte said, glaring at Vanessa. “Anything at all.”

Racquel opened at least another twenty gifts that others had brought, and while not all of them would have been items Charlotte would have chosen for any baby, some of them were very thoughtful and in some instances very cute; especially some of the little onesies. Still, as Charlotte sat watching and trying her best to pretend as though she were happy to be there, she wished her mom or her best friend, Janine, had come with her. At least then, she wouldn’t feel like some outcast and would have had someone familiar to talk to. But her mom and best friend not being there was all Vanessa’s fault because, as it was, Charlotte hadn’t found out about the shower herself until three days ago. Her mom had certainly wanted to attend, but since she was chairing a luncheon over in Chicago, she wouldn’t be finished in time to make it. She and Charlotte’s dad lived ninety minutes away, and as for Janine, she and her husband and daughter were away for the weekend in Wisconsin. Even now, Charlotte wanted to go off on Vanessa, because while Vanessa had claimed she’d mailed Charlotte’s invitation two weeks ago along with all the others, Charlotte knew she was lying. Had it not been for Matthew asking her why she hadn’t RSVPed, Charlotte never would have known about it, period. But that was okay, because even though Vanessa didn’t want Charlotte in her home or anywhere near her, Charlotte was there, anyway, and she was planning to be around all the time as long as her grandchild was living here.

“So have you thought about names?” Laura asked. Laura, Racquel’s great-aunt, was a classy, elegant woman with gorgeous white hair, but Charlotte could tell she was just as devious as Vanessa. It was clear, too, that she didn’t care for Charlotte.

Racquel smiled. “Actually, Auntee Laura, we have. If it’s a girl, her name will be Madison, and if it’s a boy, Matthew Jr.”

“You mean, Matthew the Second,” Charlotte chimed in.

“No,” Vanessa said, frowning. “She means Matthew Jr.”

Charlotte stared at Vanessa. “I realize he’ll be a Jr., but Matthew the Second sounds a lot more prestigious…and I’m sure we all want what’s best for the baby. Especially when it comes to his getting into the right schools, colleges, and graduate programs, let alone when it’s time for him to write a résumé.”

Vanessa stood up. “You know what, Charlotte? We don’t care about any of that nonsense. If my daughter says her son’s name will be Matthew Jr., then that’s exactly what it’s going to be.”

“Is that how you feel, too, Racquel?” Charlotte asked.

“Matt and I are both fine with Jr. We know how you feel, Mrs. Black, but Jr. is traditional, and that’s what we’ve decided on.”

“That’s what you and my son have decided, or you and your mother?”

“Now, you wait just a minute,” Vanessa said, stepping closer and pointing her finger in Charlotte’s face. “Don’t you ever speak to my daughter that way. And as a matter of fact, I want you outta here! We never wanted you to come in the first place.”

Charlotte got to her feet and slapped Vanessa’s finger away from her. “I knew all along you didn’t want me to come, but I’m here, anyway. And for the record, you’ve got one more time to wave that decrepit-lookin’ hand of yours in my face.” Charlotte guessed Vanessa looked okay to be in her forties, which was about ten years older than she was, but Vanessa sure had a lot of wrinkles and she needed to do something about them.

“Mom…Mrs. Black,” Racquel begged. “Please don’t do this.”

Vanessa stepped toe-to-toe with Charlotte. “And if you ever touch me again, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

Laura rushed toward them. “Ladies, please. This isn’t the time or place for this, and you’re upsetting Racquel.”

“Why can’t you guys just get along?” Racquel asked in tears. “At least for the baby.”

“Because this witch,” Vanessa spat, “is out of line and is always trying to control everything. She thinks because she and her husband have a lot more money than we do that she should have a say-so in everything. But sweetheart,” she said, turning back to Charlotte, “I’ve got news for ya. It ain’t happenin’. My husband is a successful neurosurgeon, I have my own business, and we don’t need you.”

“Honey, whether you feel like you need me and my husband or not, you’re stuck with us. That baby Racquel is carrying is just as much ours as it is yours—and if you push me, I’ll be your worst nightmare.”

Vanessa took her finger and jabbed it into Charlotte’s shoulder. “Get out of my house! Get out or I’m calling the police.”

Charlotte squinted and wrinkled her forehead. Then she pushed Vanessa. “You must be crazy, putting your hands on me.”

Vanessa slapped Charlotte so hard the sound of it rang throughout the family room. Charlotte smacked her back, and Vanessa grabbed the side of her face.

“You’re going to jail!” Vanessa yelled.

No one moved or made a peep until Racquel stood up, grabbed her stomach, and screamed loudly. “Oh God, please don’t do this!”

Racquel didn’t look so well, and Charlotte hoped she was okay.

Vanessa wrapped her arm around her daughter. “Honey, why don’t you sit back down.”

But as soon as Racquel went to grab the arm of the chair, attempting to do just that, she grabbed her stomach and yelled at the top of her lungs. “Oh God, something’s wrong,” she said, doubling over. “Oh God, Mom…it hurts, it hurts, it hurts.”

Vanessa helped her daughter over to the sofa, and Charlotte noticed how wet the inner parts of Racquel’s pant legs were. Charlotte feared that her water had broken, and her heart skipped multiple beats.

“Oh no, Mom…dear God, please don’t let me be losing my baby. Please, please, please,” Racquel said, screaming.

“Someone call 911!” Vanessa said. “Now!”

Charlotte looked on, unable to move or say a word. She hoped this episode wasn’t her and Vanessa’s fault. If only Vanessa hadn’t approached her the way she had, threatening her and trying to throw her out of their house. Charlotte prayed that Racquel and the baby were going to be fine, because she just couldn’t lose her new grandchild. Not now. Not when he or she was so close to entering the world. Not when Charlotte had already lost a child of her own a few years ago. She simply couldn’t bear the thought of going through that kind of pain again.

Worse, if something happened to Matthew’s baby, and he found out that Charlotte and Vanessa may have been the cause, he would never forgive her. When Charlotte had had those two affairs on his dad two years ago, it had taken Matthew a long time to get over it, but with something like this, there would be no coming back from it. All the apologies and explanations in the world wouldn’t be able to fix things, and Matthew would be done with her for good. He would likely disown her completely and never speak to her again.

Charlotte watched Racquel twist and turn on the sofa, moaning and crying, and her heart beat faster than before. Oh God, please, please let Racquel and the baby be all right…especially the baby. I’m begging you.

Chapter 2

As soon as the automatic ER doors opened, Curtis, who was dressed casually in a black turtleneck, black pants, and a black leather jacket—perfect for the mild January temperatures they were having—quickly strutted through them. Charlotte left everyone in the waiting area and rushed toward him. She hugged him as though her life depended on it, and she wished she never had to let him ago—she prayed this nightmare wasn’t actually happening.

“So is there any news?” Curtis asked. “I got here as fast as I could, and I called Matt while I was driving. He’s worried to death.”

“I can only imagine, and no, so far we haven’t heard a thing. Vanessa and Neil are in with Racquel, though.”

“Well, we may as well have a seat,” he said.

Charlotte really didn’t want to, not with some of Racquel’s relatives and her mother’s friends still waiting. They’d been gawking at her and whispering the whole half an hour they’d been there, and not one person had tried to console her. She could tell they blamed her and not Vanessa, and that they didn’t care one bit how she was feeling. They acted as though they hated her.

But since there was nowhere else to go, at least not where they’d be able to receive in-person updates about Racquel and the baby, she went along with Curtis and sat back down in the room with them. Curtis said hello to a few of the women, and Charlotte wanted to slap two of these jezebels because of the way they were staring at him. Women. They knew full well who Curtis was and that he was very married, but that certainly hadn’t stopped them from smiling at him like teenage schoolgirls. Charlotte almost laughed out loud, though, because neither of them could hold a candle to her in the looks or class department, and what she wanted to tell them was that Curtis would never have either one of them; not even if he was single and desperate.

Another half hour passed, and Curtis’s phone rang. It was Matthew.

“Hey son,” he said. “No, not yet…I know, but everything is going to be fine. I’ve been praying like never before, and my staff members are praying, too. It’s Saturday, so no one is working at the church this afternoon, but Lana is going to ask one of our administrative assistants to post it on Facebook and Twitter. A lot of the members follow the ministry, and I know everyone will be praying for Racquel and the baby.”

Charlotte looked on as Curtis tried to calm their son and reassure him that everything was going to be okay. But while she loved Matthew, she was hoping he didn’t want to speak to her. She didn’t want to have to answer the kind of questions she knew he would ask.

“Your mom?” Curtis said, looking at her. “She’s right here. Hold on.”

Charlotte swallowed the huge lump in her throat but then took the phone. “Hi, son, how are you?”

“Not good, Mom. What happened? Why did Racquel go into labor? I’ve been trying to call you.”

Charlotte knew he’d been trying to call, but she’d pressed Ignore each time his number had displayed. She’d wanted so badly to hear his voice, but she just hadn’t been able to do it.

“Honey, I don’t know,” she lied. “One minute Racquel was opening her gifts, and the next she was screaming out in pain and her water had broken. It’s all a mystery, and I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry, too, and if I don’t hear something soon, I’m taking the last flight out of here.”

Charlotte had known this was coming, and she had to talk him out of it. “Sweetie, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I mean, I know how worried you are, but you just started your second semester. You really don’t need to miss any classes this week.”

“But what about Racquel and the baby? They really need me, Mom. They need me to be there.”

“Your dad and I are here, and your grandparents will be, too. Plus, we may be worrying for nothing because there’s a chance that Racquel and the baby will be fine. Babies come early all the time with no problems.”

“Still, I really need to be there. I’ll bet Racquel is terrified.”

“Why don’t you just wait until we hear more?” she said, trying to appease him. “Then, if you still think you need to come, we’ll make a reservation for you.”

“Whatever, Mom,” he said. “I just don’t understand this, though. Because with the exception of Racquel’s blood pressure being a little high, she’d been doing fine, and so was the baby. I just don’t get what went wrong.”

Charlotte didn’t say anything.

“Can I speak back to Dad?”

“Of course. And honey, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Charlotte handed the phone over to Curtis.

“Son, don’t worry,” he said. “We just have to trust and believe that God is going to protect Racquel and the baby. We have to stay prayerful.”

Curtis chatted with Matthew for a few more minutes and then told him he’d call him back as soon as they knew something. Charlotte phoned her mom and dad, her friend Janine, and then her aunt Emma to let them know what was going on. Curtis had dropped their daughter, Curtina, off at Aunt Emma’s before heading to the hospital, so Charlotte had wanted to check on her, too.

Finally, after another twenty minutes or so, a thirty-something nurse walked into the waiting area. “Hi, I’m looking for the Anderson family.”

Racquel’s aunt Laura spoke up. “We’re the Anderson family.”

“And the Black family, too. We’re the baby’s other grandparents,” Charlotte said matter-of-factly, but when Curtis glanced at her disapprovingly, she regretted it.

“It’s good to meet all of you,” the nurse said. “I’m here because Racquel wanted me to let you know that she’s fine, and that she just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.”

Everyone blew a sigh of relief, and tears streamed down Charlotte’s face. Everyone hugged the person sitting next to them, and Charlotte squeezed Curtis as tightly as she could. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord,” she said.

The nurse smiled at everyone. “Okay, well, I just wanted to give you the great news, and Dr. and Mrs. Anderson will be out shortly.”

“Thank you for the update,” Curtis said.

“No problem. We all love Dr. Anderson here, so we sort of feel like little Baby Anderson is our baby, too.”

You mean little Matthew Curtis Black the Second. Charlotte wished she could yell those words out loud for the whole world to hear, but she knew Curtis wouldn’t like it, and that it would likely infuriate Vanessa’s friends and family members, so she didn’t.

“We really do appreciate everything you’ve done for my great niece and great-great nephew,” Aunt Laura added.

“You’re quite welcome. You all take care now,” the nurse said, turning and leaving.

Curtis pulled out his iPhone, preparing to dial Matthew. “Wow, God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”

One of Vanessa’s friends—one of the ugly “teenage schoolgirls” who’d spoken to Curtis when he’d first walked in—said, “You are so right, Pastor, and I just know it helped having a true man of God like yourself praying the way you were. A man like you must have the absolute best relationship with Jesus, and I’m sure that’s why He answered your prayers so quickly.”

Curtis smiled, and Charlotte was glad Matthew had answered his phone on the first ring because had this woman continued her flirtatious looks and comments, Charlotte would have had to set her straight, and the scenario would have been worse than it had been between her and Vanessa. Charlotte hated feeling this way, but she just couldn’t stand it when women blatantly came on to her husband, letting him know they wanted him and that they didn’t care whether he had a wife or not. This woman acted as though Charlotte wasn’t even sitting there.

“Hey, son,” Curtis said. “Great news. You have a beautiful little boy, and Racquel is fine, too….Yes, they’re both doing well. We’re just waiting for Racquel’s parents to come out to give us more details.…No, I really don’t think you need to come, unless you maybe just want to fly in tonight and then right back out tomorrow. That way you won’t miss your classes on Monday.…Yeah, that would work, too, so just let me know what you decide once you speak to Racquel. I’m sure you’ll be able to talk to her soon.…Okay, I love you, too, son.”

“What did he say?” Charlotte said. “And why did you say, ‘that would work, too’?”

“Matt was saying that since Racquel and the baby are fine, maybe he’ll just wait and miss class on Friday only. That way, he can fly home Thursday night and stay until Sunday.”

“He really shouldn’t miss any classes at all.”

“I know, baby, but he has a new son, and I totally understand why he wants to see him. He’s a father now, and if I were him I’d want to get here right away, too.”

“I realize that, but Matt worked hard to get straight As all the way through high school. I just don’t wanna see him ruin his scholarship. It’s not every day that any child receives a four-year academic scholarship to Harvard University, and the last thing he needs is to be missing classes. Not to mention jeopardizing his grades.”

Charlotte looked over at Aunt Laura, along with the hussy who was still gawking at Curtis, and wished they’d mind their own business. They’d been listening to her and Curtis’s entire conversation, and there was no doubt they would take every bit of it back to Vanessa. They’d twist and exaggerate Charlotte’s words and have Vanessa thinking Charlotte didn’t want her own son to fly home to see his new baby, when in reality, all Charlotte wanted was what was best for Matthew and her grandchild.

After an hour had passed everyone started to get worried, and finally Vanessa and Neil came out to the waiting area and led them all to a large executive conference room. Charlotte assumed that since Neil was on staff there, he could use whichever room he wanted.

“Everyone, please have a seat,” he told them. “Overall, Racquel and little MJ are fine. But I figured it would be better to speak to everyone in private instead of disturbing the other families.”

Little MJ? Charlotte kept her mouth shut, but if she’d said it once, she’d said it a thousand times. Her grandson’s name wasn’t Matthew Jr., it was Matthew II. Matthew…the…Second. Matthew…Curtis…Black…the…Second.

“The reason it took us a while to come out here,” Neil continued, “is because little MJ stopped breathing two different times, and they had to intubate him, start an IV, and place him in an incubator.”

Charlotte covered her mouth with both hands. “Oh no.”

Curtis shook his head with sadness, and everyone else’s spirits dropped dramatically.

“I know this sounds bad, but when babies are born prematurely, even with only a month to go like little MJ, sometimes they’re not able to breathe on their own and need more time to develop. But the good news is that I believe with everything in me that little MJ is going to be fine.”

“Can we see him?” Charlotte asked.

“I’m going to arrange for the incubator to be moved close to the window so that all of you can see him there,” Neil said. “But for now, I think it’s best that not a lot of people go into the actual room where he is. Maybe in a few days when he’s better.”

Curtis nodded in agreement. “Totally understandable.”

“We just have to keep praying for little MJ is all,” Vanessa said.


  • "For those thousands of fans, who can't get enough of the 'good' reverend and his wives, this is a book that should not be missed."—Philly.com
  • "Lively, action packed and full of sassy sensuality, Roby once again has created a story that grabs the reader's attention and holds it until the very end."—Las Vegas Review on Love, Honor, and Betray
  • "Roby delivers a well-developed and entertaining plot and fascinating characters readers just love to hate."—Library Journal
  • "Engrossing...the writing is cinematic and the juicy plot moves quickly...Roby has a talent for underscoring the universal challenges of people of faith, and more often than not, that strength carries the story."—Publishers Weekly on THE REVEREND'S WIFE
  • "Love, Honor and Betray is an entertaining read and remains true to Roby's style of creatively telling a story."—The New York Amsterdam News
  • "An intense gem in an authentic voice."—Publishers Weekly on A DEEP DARK SECRET
  • "Kimberla Lawson Roby weaves truth into fiction."—Indianapolis Star
  • "Roby [deals] with real issues in her novels."—Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
  • "Roby's fiction...[addresses] issues that are important to women today."—Memphis Commercial Appeal
  • "Kimberla Lawson Roby has reached a pinnacle most writers only dream of."—Rockford Register Star
  • "Roby, a bestselling author with a devoted audience, knows well the recipe for success: equal parts heartbreak and romance, with liberal dashes of sexual satisfaction."—San Jose Mercury News
  • "Kimberla's writing is magical."—Lolita Files, author of Scenes from a Sistah
  • "Kimberla Lawson Roby is a true writer, a storyteller at the top of her game."—Eric Jerome Dickey
  • "Roby writes with high-octane levels of emotion. She pushes her characters hard, spotlighting their flaws, showcasing their weaknesses, drawing in the readers to be more than bystanders."—USA Today

On Sale
Feb 11, 2014
Page Count
352 pages

Kimberla Lawson Roby

About the Author

Kimberla Lawson Roby is a New York Times Bestselling Author, Speaker, and Podcast Host. She has published 28 books, including The Woman God Created You to Be: Finding Success Through Faith—Spiritually, Personally, and Professionally, as well as her novels, such as Casting the First Stone, The Best-Kept Secret, Better Late Than Never, and A Christmas Prayer. Kimberla is the recipient of the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction, and in August 2020, she was named by USA Today as one of the 100 black novelists you should read. Kimberla resides in Illinois with her husband, Will.

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