A Sinful Calling


By Kimberla Lawson Roby

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Reverend Curtis Black is back again in the New York Times bestselling series by Kimberla Lawson Roby.

Dillon hadn't been called by anyone. He'd called himself and he wasn't ashamed of it. But no good can come from . . .

Two years ago, to everyone's surprise, Dillon Whitfield Black, the secret son of Reverend Curtis Black, boldly moved back home, married a woman named Raven, decided he was going to become a minister, and then founded a church right in the center of his living room. Today he's pastor of a 1,000-plus-member congregation, and new members are joining weekly. Sadly, behind closed doors, Dillon is far from being a saint. Dillon has become more like the man his father was thirty years ago-consumed with money, power, and lots of women. His family may have let bygones be bygones, but they continue to keep their distance.

Not Alicia, though. This daughter of Curtis Black joins Dillon's congregation, leaving her father's church behind. The family has forgiven Alicia for marrying Levi Cunningham, the former drug dealer she had an affair with, but once Alicia realizes they will never fully accept Levi, she decides to see her family less and less. She and Levi are truly happy, however, guilt from her betrayal of Phillip and its aftermath casts a shadow over their wedded bliss.

But when Raven decides she wants a higher position in the church and Alicia hides a devastating secret, the entire family is affected in ways they don't see coming. In the end, no one will be able to trust anyone . . . and for very good reason.


Chapter 1

As the choir sang, Dillon gazed across his 1,000-plus-member congregation and could barely contain himself. His heart raced with excitement, and it was all he could do not to break into laughter. The reason: He felt more like a rock star than he did a pastor, and his plan was working brilliantly. Even from the pulpit, he could tell that the members of New Faith Christian Center loved and worshiped everything about him, and he couldn’t have been more pleased.

And who would have guessed that a man of his character, someone tainted with such a sinful past, could achieve this kind of glorious success? Especially with the way Dillon had tried blackmailing his own father, the infamous Reverend Curtis Black, and had slept with his own brother’s wife. Those two indiscretions alone had occurred just over three years ago, however, thankfully—for whatever reason—Curtis and Matthew had forgiven him. Dillon and Matthew certainly weren’t the best of friends, and Dillon could tell that his dad still didn’t trust him either, but again, they no longer held his past crimes against him. Although, it wasn’t like they ever called or spent time with Dillon the way he would have liked.

But the best news of all was that his sister Alicia had turned out to be his favorite person, and she was now closer to Dillon than she was to any other family member. The two of them could easily serve as poster children for popular clichés, as they were definitely thick as thieves, two peas in a pod, bosom buddies, and the list went on. They were as close as any brother and sister could be, and they stood up for each other—probably because they were now both the black sheep of the family. Still, they’d made a pact, and because Dillon didn’t have much of a relationship with anyone on his mom’s side, God rest her soul, he cherished the one he had with his sister. This was part of the reason that he’d decided very quickly that she would be New Faith’s chief operating officer. He was also grateful to his brother-in-law, Levi, who’d invested all the initial funding to get the church up and running.

Because of drug-related charges, Levi had done time in prison, but he was a changed man and anyone could see that he loved Alicia with his entire being. Levi had also proven beyond question that he would do anything to protect Dillon and the ministry, and he was the perfect chairman of the church’s elder board.

Although, it wasn’t only Alicia and Levi who genuinely cared about Dillon, because he now had a gorgeous wife who loved him, too. Raven, who sat smiling at him in the front row, was his everything, and he couldn’t be more grateful to have married her. He was thankful to finally have found a woman he trusted and appreciated, because before Raven, it had been no secret that he’d never had much respect for any woman, not even his own mother. Of course, there was no denying that, like his own, Raven’s past wasn’t pretty, but she loved, honored, and respected Dillon, and that was all that mattered to him. Yes, Raven had once served as chief financial officer at his dad’s church, and she’d served a few years in prison for embezzling a hundred thousand dollars from the ministry—out of desperation to repay her gambling debts—but today, she was a different woman. She’d been completely delivered from her casino addiction, and she was the ideal first lady. The women of New Faith Christian Center certainly thought so, and they viewed her as a stellar example. To them, she represented the fact that anyone could change for the better if he or she wanted to, and they admired that. Dillon was also happy to say that part of his success as a pastor, as well as the growing of the congregation, was a result of Raven’s notable business acumen. She was exceptionally good with numbers, and while she wasn’t New Faith’s CFO, she’d given Dillon daily advice in terms of how to handle church finances in an entrepreneurial fashion. Dillon had listened to every word and had carefully followed her suggestions, and as a result, the church leadership as a whole had very few complaints when it came to his operational decisions. It was the reason the membership was solid and increasing weekly.

But on a more personal note, Raven was the kind of woman most men would be proud to have. Not only was she head-to-toe beautiful, she was also highly intelligent, confident, and sophisticated. She didn’t seem at all like the woman he’d heard about before meeting her—nothing like the felon who’d finished a stint in prison. It was as if she’d taken lots of time to learn everything she could about culture, class, and elegance, because along with her dressing the part, she decorated their home in the same manner. She carried herself with total refinement, and Dillon was glad she’d contacted him right after he’d become estranged from his dad and siblings and had been forced to move back to Atlanta. Raven had told him that she didn’t want anything from him, but that a friend of hers had filled her in on his situation. She’d certainly understood what he was going through, particularly since she’d made her own mistakes and had been ousted from her CFO position by his dad. She’d then shared that because she’d had the opportunity to work so closely with his father and his church, she knew the ins and outs of Deliverance Outreach’s daily operations. This conversation alone had gotten the wheels spinning in Dillon’s head, and it was then that he’d decided he was going to become a minister. It was true that he’d learned a long time ago that it was much more customary for a minister to be called by God to preach, but truth was, Dillon hadn’t been called by anyone. He’d called himself, and he wasn’t ashamed of it. He’d founded his own church in the living room of his tiny apartment, and he was prospering nicely because of it.

This, of course, made Dillon think about his former fiancée, Melissa. What a dimwit she’d been, and while he hadn’t seen or heard from her since that night she’d confronted him three years ago, he hadn’t forgotten what she’d done to him—and he wasn’t planning to leave this earth before paying her back. Just thinking about the way she’d taken all his money and run off with their idiot lawn boy, Country Roger, made him cringe. Yes, Roger was a grown man, but to Dillon, he’d been nothing more than a raggedy-mouth child who’d needed tons of dental work. Dillon had known from the time he’d hired him that he was a knucklehead, but Country Roger had come cheap and he was good at what he did. Still, not once had Dillon imagined that Melissa would be foolish enough to start sleeping with Roger behind his back and then run off with him, taking just about every dime Dillon had.

Not long after Dillon had met his dad for the first time, Curtis had given him five hundred thousand dollars, trying to help make up for all the years he hadn’t been a father to Dillon, and his aunt had left him a hundred fifty thousand when she’d passed. But after spending two hundred thousand buying a condo and furnishing it, that had left him around four-fifty, and Melissa had gotten into all his bank accounts and taken the money for herself. She’d then betrayed him even further by giving proof to his dad that Dillon had been trying to blackmail him. Worse, the night she and Country Roger had left, Country Roger had held Dillon at gunpoint so that Melissa could say everything she wanted to him. Melissa had somehow, out of nowhere, discovered that she had a backbone, and she’d spoken to Dillon as if he were some moron. She’d acted as though she’d never loved him and was no longer afraid of him. The latter had shocked Dillon the most, because for years he’d controlled her every thought and move and had kept her in line. He’d made sure she’d known who ran things in their relationship, and sometimes when she’d acted stupidly, he’d had no choice but to physically remind her. But on that final evening, she’d turned into a woman he hadn’t recognized and had seemingly lost her mind.

That was okay, though, because again, Dillon would eventually seek retribution. It was true that three years had passed, but he hadn’t forgotten, and there were times when he lay awake at night thinking about it. He wished he could simply move on the way he knew some good Christians would, but no one stole from him or humiliated him and got away with it. He just couldn’t live with something like that, and when the time was right he would handle things the way he saw fit. He’d made a promise to himself that he would never put his hands on a woman again the way he had with Melissa, but he would still find a way to get his revenge.

After the choir finished singing its last song, a few church announcements aired on the TV monitors, and Dillon got up. He buttoned his Italian-made black pinstripe suit and stepped in front of the glass podium.

“This is the day the Lord hath made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.” He began with the same scripture he quoted every single Sunday. He didn’t speak these words because the scripture meant any more to him than any other scripture he’d read; he did it because this was the scripture he’d always heard his father open with. He’d even once heard his dad say that he also quoted it each morning when he woke up, so Dillon decided that if this particular scripture was working for his dad, it would certainly work for him, too. But Dillon had taken his approach a step further, as he had taught his members to quote it back to him.

“This is the day the Lord hath made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it,” his parishioners spoke in unison.

“It is truly a blessing to be alive,” Dillon said. “It’s a blessing just to be able to say we woke up this morning in our right minds and in good health. Amen?”

“Amen,” everyone said.

“You know, for some reason I feel like sharing my testimony this morning. Many of you have heard it before, but today I feel led to share it for our new members and any visitors who are present.”

Dillon looked toward the ceiling of the sanctuary and closed his eyes. He did this to gain sympathy, and he didn’t open them until he’d mustered up real tears. He wasn’t in the mood for doing any crying today, but he’d learned early on that his church members pitied him a lot more when he did. It was one thing for a woman to shed tears, but it was something totally different when a grown man did it, and he gave them a great performance.

Dillon opened his eyes and sniffled.

“Take your time, Pastor,” more than one person said.

Dillon took a deep breath, and tears streamed down his face. “I’m so sorry, but I just feel full today. God has been so very good to me, and He’s brought me a mighty long way. My aunt used to say those very words all the time, and now I know what she meant. Life hasn’t always been this great, though, because no matter how much I’ve forgiven my father and moved past what he did, it’s still very hard sometimes. It’s hard to imagine that any man would sleep with a woman, get her pregnant, and then cut her off like a piece of trash. But that’s exactly what happened. Then when my mom gave birth to me and asked my dad to take care of me, he refused. And not only did he refuse, but when he was forced to take a paternity test, he somehow worked it out so that his play brother took the test instead. But even that wasn’t enough, because then my dad paid off a couple of strippers my mom worked with. He got them to say my mom had been stealing money from the strip club she worked at, and she was fired.”

When Dillon saw a couple of women already wiping tears, he swallowed hard and sniffled again for deeper effect.

“Please excuse me, but telling this story never gets easier.”

Many people nodded with approval and gave their full attention to Dillon.

“After my mom got fired, though, and then learned that the paternity test showed my dad wasn’t my father, she begged him to tell the truth. She begged him to help take care of me. She also threatened to tell his fiancée everything. And that’s when I suddenly ended up missing one day. Then, about an hour after I was taken, my dad called my mom and told her that if she ever wanted to see me again, she would sign a document stating that he wasn’t the baby’s father. She then had to agree to never contact him again. Of course, my mom signed it, but she couldn’t live with losing her job and having my dad deny me the way he did. So she borrowed a friend’s car and crashed it into a tree. She killed herself when I was only a newborn. My mom was a stripper, and knowing what she did for a living caused me a lot of pain—it was the reason I grew up having no respect for any woman except my aunt—but she didn’t deserve to die.”

Dillon shed more tears, and although his initial tears had been forced and phony, the ones he shed now were very real. His heart ached terribly, and it was all because he’d never gotten to know his mother. His mom’s sister had been the best mother figure she could be, but Dillon still longed for his birth mother. He also wasn’t sure he’d ever stop blaming his father. He’d tried to love his father and forget about what Curtis had done, but he couldn’t. Maybe if Curtis had welcomed him with open arms and immediately loved him the way he loved his other three children, Dillon could have felt better about things. But that hadn’t happened. Instead, his dad had made it very clear that his precious Matthew was the son he truly loved and that his two daughters, Alicia and that brat Curtina, were the loves of his life also.

“I’m sharing this story because I want people to understand that when parents make selfish decisions, they affect a child for the rest of his or her life. Being forced to basically grow up as an orphan is the reason I made so many bad choices. I committed a lot of sins and hurt a lot of people, but today I’m a completely different man. God has delivered me from sin. He called me to minister, and I thank Him for giving me another chance. He’ll give everyone in here another chance as well. He’s a good God, and none of us would be anything without Him,” he proclaimed, speaking louder than he had been. “We don’t deserve his grace, mercy, and favor, but I’m here to tell you that He gives it to us anyway. He forgives us because He loves us, and if you agree, you ought to give Him a huge amount of praise today! Praise His sweet, holy name!”

The entire congregation applauded and most stood up. Many shouted their words out loud, all while in tears.

Dillon smiled and was glad to know his testimony still worked. It made people take notice and feel sorry for him. He watched the reaction of his parishioners and daydreamed about the ten-thousand-member congregation he wanted. His goal and dream was to have the largest church in Mitchell, Illinois. More than anything, he wanted to have a church larger than his dad’s, and he wanted this sooner rather than later. His dad’s existing sanctuary seated two thousand people, so to accommodate five thousand members—four thousand of whom attended regularly—he had to hold two services. Every week, Deliverance Outreach operated at 100 percent capacity, and for this reason, Curtis was finally building a five-thousand-seat building adjacent to the current one. That way, all his members could worship together at one service, and there would also be room for new parishioners. New Faith could hold two thousand people as well, but since Dillon only had one thousand members, the church never filled more than half its space. This wasn’t good enough for Dillon, and his plan was to have twenty-five hundred members by the end of this year, a total of five thousand twelve months from now, and another five thousand within two years.

He wasn’t sure what he’d have to do to make this happen, but he’d decided a while ago that he was willing to do whatever it took. Nothing was off-limits…not even sleeping with the woman he now glanced at in the audience. Her name was Porsha Harrington. He’d tried his best to ignore her, and until three months ago, he’d been successful. But now he couldn’t get her out of his mind or his system, and he saw her as much as possible…regardless of how much he loved his wife. He didn’t fully understand why his genuine love for Raven wasn’t enough or why he had this burning desire to sleep with someone else, but he couldn’t help it. For now, though, he had to refocus on the matter at hand. He had his congregation right where he wanted them, and as soon as everyone settled down and took their seats, he smiled and said, “I know you’ve already given your tithes and offering this morning, but when God speaks to me I’ve learned not to disobey him. So let us turn our Bibles to Second Corinthians nine, verses six through seven.”

Dillon waited for everyone to open their printed editions or pull up their electronic versions.

“Are we all there?”

“Yes,” everyone replied.

“And it says, ‘The point is this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’”

Dillon gazed at his members and never said another word. He didn’t have to. Not when they were already pulling out additional cash and writing new checks.

He’d heard lots of stories from Alicia about how when she was a small girl, their dad had been loved by all. She’d told him that members of his church seemed to have no problem doing anything he asked, including giving whatever amount of money he requested. She’d insisted that it was simply a gift that their father had been blessed with. He was handsome, charismatic, and very smart, and people gravitated to him. Dillon hadn’t been sure he’d believed her, but when many of his congregants had begun saying how much he looked and sounded like his dad, he’d known he could use his father’s good genes to his advantage.

He’d decided that not only could he be his dad, he could be better. When it was all said and done, the good Reverend Curtis Black would be history and Pastor Dillon Whitfield Black would be all the city of Mitchell cared about.

Chapter 2

Alicia sat at the elegant twelve-seat mahogany dining room table, something that was much too large for four people, wishing time would pass by quickly. Dillon and Raven had invited Alicia and Levi over for dinner after church, but Alicia didn’t want to be there. Not because she didn’t want to spend time with her brother, but because she didn’t care to exchange small talk with his uppity wife. As a matter of fact, Alicia was getting to the point where she could hardly stand the sight of Raven, and secretly, she wished her brother would divorce her. In a perfect world, he would fall out of love with her for good, and that would be the end of it. Alicia knew it wasn’t right to want someone’s marriage to break up, but she couldn’t help the way she felt about Raven. Of course, Dillon had made it very clear how much he loved his wife, but this woman was proving to be a real piece of work. Actually, as far as Alicia was concerned, she’d always been that way, and Alicia just couldn’t see why her brother was so taken with her. It was true that Raven was a gorgeous woman who was very smart, but she also couldn’t be trusted; not when she’d stolen a hundred thousand dollars from the church where Alicia’s dad was pastor. The woman had stolen from God’s house, of all places, and she’d done it as though it were nothing.

Raven did claim to be a different person, but Alicia didn’t believe her, partly because Raven spent a lot of time focusing on status and material possessions and partly because she seemed more concerned about gaining total control in the church than she was about building it as a whole. Actually, it was her history of stealing money and her deceitful character that had caused both Alicia and Levi to speak against her becoming New Faith’s CFO. Raven had insisted she was the best person for the job, but when neither Alicia nor Levi would agree to it—which had made all the difference, since Levi was steadily covering all the church’s operational expenses—she’d finally backed down. Raven hadn’t been happy about it, but Dillon had seemed relieved. He’d never gone as far as saying it out loud, but Alicia could tell that, to some degree, Dillon was glad she and Levi had spoken up, because he didn’t fully trust his dear wife to handle all the church’s finances, either.

As far as Dillon and Raven’s personal relationship, however, Raven did seem to support Dillon on every level, and she also seemed to genuinely love him. But Alicia still didn’t like her. To be fair, Raven didn’t care much for Alicia, either, even though she pretended to because she knew how much Dillon loved Alicia. Alicia faked with her, too, for a similar reason: She didn’t want her brother to have to choose sides.

Dillon and Raven’s sixtysomething weekend cook, Martha, set the final dish of food on the table and smiled. “Can I get you all anything else?” she asked.

Dillon glanced at everyone. “No, I think we’re good, and thank you for everything, Miss Martha.”

“You’re quite welcome, Pastor. I’m glad to do it.”

“Yes, thank you,” Raven said in a demeaning tone while straightening the pearl necklace that lay against her St. John suit. “And I hope the rolls are warm this time. Remember, last Sunday you forgot to warm them up.”

“I’m really sorry about that,” Martha said. “And yes, I warmed them up today for sure.”

Raven picked up the metal tongs and lifted one of the rolls from the bowl. She purposely checked to see if Martha was lying, and Alicia wanted to shake her head. So pathetic.

“Yes, you definitely remembered today, and I appreciate that. Especially since we have guests. Wouldn’t want to be embarrassed when there’s no reason to be.”

“Yes, Lady Black, I understand.”

Dillon seemed uncomfortable with the way Raven spoke to Martha and finally said, “Why don’t you call it a day and head on home. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and we’ll put the dishes in the dishwasher.”

“Excuse me?” Raven said.

Dillon looked at Raven and then at Martha. “Like I said, Miss Martha, we can handle the dishes.”

“Are you sure?”


“Okay, if you really don’t mind.”

“Not at all. We’ll see you next weekend.”

Alicia watched Raven’s every move, but Raven didn’t say anything else. She always acted as though certain people were beneath her, specifically the “help,” so to speak, and Alicia didn’t like it.

When Martha left, Alicia scanned the dishes of turkey and cornbread dressing, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and turnip greens, and Dillon reached for his wife’s hand. Levi grabbed Alicia’s. Normally, when Dillon and Raven had more guests, Dillon sat at the head of the table and Raven sat at the other end, facing him. But with there only being four of them, it didn’t make much sense, and Alicia wondered why they couldn’t just eat in the kitchen at their smaller table. Of course, Raven would never allow that, not with her always feeling the need to do everything in a big, formal way.

Dillon bowed his head, and so did everyone else. “Dear Heavenly Father, we come now thanking You for the food we are about to receive. Thank You, Lord, for giving us this great day of rest and for allowing us to honor and praise You during service this morning. Thank You for my dear wife, sister, and brother-in-law and for bringing us together for this wonderful fellowship. Also, dear Lord, thank You for Martha as well as for the food she has prepared for us. Let it serve as nourishment for our bodies in Jesus’s name. Amen.”

“Amen,” the others said.

“Down-home cooking just the way I like it,” Dillon affirmed. “Miss Martha is the only person I know who can cook as well as my aunt, Susan, used to. I just love her.”

Raven didn’t seem too impressed. “Yeah, I’ll give her that. She can definitely cook, but I’m glad she doesn’t cook like this all the time. If she did, we’d be as big as elephants. And eating this kind of food is way too unhealthy.”

“Whatever, woman,” Dillon said, laughing and lifting a large spoonful of dressing onto his plate and doing the same for Raven. “But on a different note,” he continued, “I really think it’s time we figure out a way to roll out our next marketing campaign. We need to bring in a lot more visitors than we have been. The kind who won’t just visit but will ultimately become members.”

“I agree,” Raven added. “We need to market Dillon and the church like never before, and  if we put the right kind of dollars behind it, we can do that.”

Levi scooped some greens from the large bowl. “I think it’s time we do a lot more marketing and advertising as well, and I also think we need to bring in a new marketing firm. We have a couple of good ones we’ve worked with in the past, but I think we need the best of the best this time around.”

“Exactly,” Raven said. “Bringing in the best is the only way to get things done in a top-notch manner.”

“I’m going to put together a few more ideas so we can begin discussing them on Tuesday at our elder board meeting,” Dillon said. “Especially since all the ministries will need to be included in the ads.”

Alicia pulled her thick, shoulder-length hair behind her ear and ate a forkful of macaroni and cheese. She was COO, but she didn’t say anything.

Until Dillon looked at her. “So, what do you think, Sis?”

“I think doing a new campaign will be great, and I look forward to hearing some of your ideas.”

“I look forward to hearing them as well,” Raven said, sounding as though she was worried that Dillon might share his ideas with Alicia first. This was the reason Alicia hadn’t commented initially.


  • "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
  • "Kimberla Lawson Roby weaves truth into fiction."
    --- Indianapolis Star
  • "Kimberla Lawson Roby has reached a pinnacle most writers only dream of."
    --- Rockford Register Star
  • "Roby's highly engaging prose offers edgy characters and intense drama."—Booklist
  • "Roby hits the jackpot again in The Ultimate Betrayal...another extraordinary episode in the Reverend Curtis Black series."—RT Book Reviews
  • "Thrilling for fans of the series."
    Kirkus Reviews on A Sinful Calling

On Sale
Jan 10, 2017
Page Count
336 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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