Troublemaker by Trice Hickman


Every joy has its challenges. . .

After twenty years, childhood best friends Alexandria Thornton and PJ Brightwood have reunited--and fallen in love. Alex's artistic nature as a spoken word artist, and PJ's success as a talented surgeon promise a bright future. But their happiness brings unexpected complications for those they care about most. . .

A devoted wife, loving mother, and successful businesswoman, Victoria Thornton is a pillar of her suburban Atlanta community. But when her daughter, Alexandria, becomes engaged to the son of Victoria's former lover, her past mistake threatens her orderly life. As the impending marriage reunites both families, it reignites old feelings that test all of their relationships--and all of their boundaries. . .


Praise for the Unexpected Love Series


"Trice Hickman is an amazing writer and storyteller!" –Kimberla Lawson Roby

"Looking for Trouble is a fantastic saga about family, friendship, love, status and destiny." –RT Book Reviews

"A humorous and entertaining novel." –Urban Reviews on Keeping Secrets & Telling Lies

"Hickman hits all the high notes in this charming modern romance where love and loyalty trump race." –Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Unexpected Interruptions


Read an Excerpt from Troublemaker by Trice Hickman

CHAPTER 1

Allene


"You can never go wrong doin' right" Allene Small whispered to herself as she thought about the events that were about to unfold. She couldn't count the number of times she'd repeated those words during the nine decades she'd lived on earth, or in the six that she'd spent as a spirit waiting to reemerge into the world she'd once known.

Allene had enjoyed a rich, full life in her day. She'd experienced ups and downs, joys and heartbreak, and eventually, the calm peace that living ninety-eight years had brought her. She'd been widowed at a young age, outliving her beloved husband and eventually all her siblings and her children, as well as some nieces and nephews. She'd witnessed fiery crosses burning in the night, emblazoned with hatred and fear. She'd endured oppression before joining activists who fought for justice, civil rights, and social change. She'd watched one decade roll into the next as presidents and heads of state came and went, by consequence of elections or death. And she'd seen men ride in horses and buggies, fly planes in the sky, drive motorized vehicles along busy streets, and then miraculously walk on the moon.

Allene felt grateful and blessed to have lived long enough to experience things that many had not. She was also thankful that for as long as she could remember, she'd known an invaluable truth most couldn't fathom—that there was life after life. The peace she'd found in that knowledge had comforted her during times of trouble.

Now as she sat in her trusty old rocking chair, surveying the colorful flowers that graced the large wrap-around porch where she'd been sitting all morning, her heart held excitement and caution about what she knew lay ahead. She took a deep breath and inhaled the sweet fragrance of the rose, azalea, and magnolia bushes flanking the front of the house. "This old place sure 'nuff has stood the test of time," she said with a smile. "Isaiah and Henrietta would be right proud, God rest their souls."

Allene loved being back in Nedine, South Carolina, the small town where she'd lived out the best parts of her days. She looked out as far as her eyes could see, noting that while some things had changed, so many had remained steadfastly the same. The large, white placard displaying THE SMALL PROPERTY in black calligraphy still towered at the edge of the road a few hundred feet away, announcing to visitors that they had reached the grounds of the grand residence that her son, Isaiah Small, had built from the ground up.

At the time, Isaiah's had been one of the largest homes in Nedine as well as the two surrounding counties, and today it proudly continued to hold that distinction. This was a huge feat for a black man, then and now. After Isaiah died, Allene had moved from her tiny house a few miles up the road, and settled into the quiet comfort of living with Isaiah's devoted widow, Henrietta, whom Allene had loved as her own daughter.

After Henrietta passed away, John, Isaiah's and Henrietta's son, cared for the house with great love and attention. Even though John had moved away to Raleigh, North Carolina, to start a banking empire and carry on in his father's successful footsteps, he'd made sure to preserve the family homestead where he'd been born and had many fond memories of growing up. Several times a year, John, along with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Victoria, would return to Nedine to make sure the house was well maintained and that any necessary repairs were made.

once John's age and declining health prevented him from making trips to his beloved hometown, he'd hired a property management company to oversee the upkeep. After his death, his daughter, Victoria, had picked up the torch and seen to it that her father's birthplace was kept in good order. Allene was proud that her son's legacy was still intact, along with much of the land, rental properties, and other real estate holdings that had been passed down from one generation to the next.

"They're all gonna be here soon. Even the ones who ain't supposed to come," Allene said with reserve. "But then again, I reckon that ain't such a bad thing, 'cause nothin' happens by mistake. There's a plan for everything, we just gotta play it out to the end."

Allene nodded to herself as she looked up into the gray, stormy sky. It had been raining nonstop since early this morning. Heavy at times and light at others. Allene felt happy every time she heard the pitter-patter sound and the fresh smell that God's liquid glory created in its wake. She remembered back to the days she'd spent in her tiny home, and how she'd loved to listen to the rain dance atop her roof and beat against her windows. The natural rhythm had been soothing, and always made her feel a sense of peace—as if whatever had been wrong could be made right by the water that came and washed things away.

Allene wished so badly that the rain could clear out the troubles awaiting her family. Having the gift of prophecy, she was able to see some of the challenges that were on the horizon, and the struggles her loved ones were surely going to face. She wanted to intervene by warning them of what was coming, and tell them what they needed to do in order to avoid the problems heading their way. But age, wisdom, and experience had taught her that some things couldn't be interfered with, or manipulated. Only time, patience, and living through the situation could rectify whatever was wrong.

This was why Allene knew that choosing to do the right thing would never lead her down the wrong path. She'd been a witness to situations that had borne out that evidence time and time again, and she knew without a doubt that bad intentions could easily lead to devastating consequences. Conversely, she also knew that if one had good intentions and did what was fair and just, regardless of the circumstances, things would eventually unfold into a favorable outcome.

Allene knew that some of her family members were carrying heavy burdens, and to her disappointment, one in particular was plotting a hidden agenda, heading in the wrong direction by ignoring what was right. "Lord, help me guide Alexandria so she can help our family," she whispered aloud, looking up into the sky. "I waited a mighty long time to come back, and now, I'm ready. I just hope they're ready, too."

It had been nearly a year since Allene had first made her spirit form known to anyone in the land of the living. She'd reached out to Alexandria, her great-great-granddaughter, because she'd known it was time to make contact. Alexandria was a special young woman, who, like Allene, and Allene's great-grandmother before her, possessed the gift of prophecy.

The gift of prophecy was a precious ability that had been passed down through the generations, only by way of the female members of their family, dating back to the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa. The gift was a sacred and valued treasure that people both revered and feared within Allene's family, as well as the outside community.

During Allene's lifetime, her gift had allowed her to foretell events in advance of them happening. She could discern good from bad in the blink of an eye. She could sense when danger was approaching or when peace would prevail. She knew people's thoughts without ever having to engage them in conversation. And she could accurately declare good fortune or disappointing loss for those seeking her advice on any given situation.

Now as a spirit in the land of flesh and blood, she possessed those same abilities along with the added benefit of being able to exist between two worlds. Allene walked within the supernatural realm, able to communicate with others who shared the gift, like her great-grandmother, Susan. Even though she was able to see family and friends who'd passed on, she couldn't communicate with them unless they possessed the gift of prophecy. The living world was much the same way, only there, things were more complicated because life was still happening, unfolding in real time, which always presented challenges.

After years of patiently watching and waiting, Allene was glad when the time finally came that she could return to the world she'd once known. She was there to help Alexandria, who had struggled with her abilities for most of her life, but had now come to terms with the extraordinary gift she'd inherited. Just as Susan Jessup had been Allene's guide on her life's journey, it was now Allene's turn to do the same for Alexandria.

Allene continued to watch the sky and listen to the rain fall as she thought about what was going to happen two weeks from now. She could see the blessings, as well as the trouble that was going to ensue once everyone gathered under one roof. Tempers would flare and hearts would be hurt by deception. Long-held secrets were going to be revealed, weaknesses would be exposed, and a devious plot to steal and control was going to be uncovered. Allene could also see that there would be heated moments and tension between family members and friends.

"Sometimes people just got to go through things in order to make a change," Allene said to herself.

She knew that hearts, minds, and loyalties would be tested when her family came together for a grand celebration two weeks from now, and unfortunately, someone was going to meet their demise before the weekend came to an end.

"I'll see you soon, baby girl," Allene whispered into the air, sending words of love and comfort to Alexandria. "You just hang in there and know that everything's gonna be all right."


CHAPTER 2

Alexandria


Alexandria smiled as she stretched her long, shapely legs across PJ's buttery-soft leather sofa. "Now that I've finished cooking, it's time to relax" she said aloud. She ran her fingers through the mass of thick curls atop her head and let out a deep breath of relief, glad she was finally able to relax after her long day. She'd been busy from the moment she'd stepped out the door this morning with a coffee mug in one hand and a toasted bagel in the other. Her life had been more hectic in the last year than she could ever remember. So much was changing so fast, but with that change she felt the hope and excitement of new possibilities that lay ahead.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she thought about the fact that this Friday would be her last day of work at a job she'd dreaded since the day she'd started. She was an attorney, on the fast track, employed with the prestigious downtown Atlanta law firm of Johnson, Taylor, and Associates. Alexandria had worked there since she'd interned with them while still in law school. Now, six years later, she was ready to step out of what she'd been academically trained to do, and take hold of the direction in which her heart had always led her, which was to pursue her passion as a writer and spoken-word artist.

Alexandria thought about her promising future as she lay on her back and flipped through one of her many bridal magazines. Even though her wedding day was just one month away, and all the major details had been planned to a tee, she still couldn't resist looking at pictures of happy couples, replete with bountiful flowers and their wedding parties in tow, all overflowing with nuptial bliss.

Alexandria smiled every time she thought about how happy she was and how much her life had significantly changed since this time last year. It seemed as though it were just yesterday that she'd broken up with her old boyfriend, Peter, and in less than twenty-four hours, fate, along with her grandma Allene's sage advice, had led her down a completely different path to peace, understanding, and true love. Now she was engaged to PJ, her childhood best friend who'd walked into her life and changed her world.

She could still remember her grandma Allene's words. Speak what's in your heart. Say what it is that you desire, and watch it walk into your life.

Alexandria had heeded those words and still lived by them today. She knew that speaking what she wanted, and then trusting and believing with indomitable faith that her desires would be met in abundance, was the reason PJ was in her life. As she looked at the beautiful gowns of silk and tulle, she raised her hand in the air, as if in praise, and gave thanks for her blessings. "Amen," she said quietly.

She was thankful for this joyous time in her life, and she planned to savor every moment because she was all too aware of the trouble that was lying in wait on the other side. Gritty realities and unpleasant truths were about to surface, not just in her life, but in the lives of family and friends whom she loved. She knew the road ahead was paved with detours, rough patches, and a few hazard signs. But she also knew she'd get through them thanks to her faith, her grandma Allene, and the amazing gift of prophecy she now embraced.

"Thank you, Grandma Allene," Alexandria whispered. "I love you for showing me the way."

As soon as her words floated into the air, Alexandria knew that her grandma Allene's spirit had entered the room. Whenever she felt a warm breeze, a gentle, unexplainable tug at her arm, or smelled the unmistakably sweet scent of magnolias—which had just wafted by her nose—she knew it was her great-great-grandmother communicating with her.

Alexandria inhaled the fragrant, uniquely Southern scent that always made her feel safe and at ease. That sense of comfort and security was very different from the turmoil and strife she'd experienced in the past whenever she thought about her gift.

Communicating with spirits and having premonitions were abilities that had burdened Alexandria since she was five years old. She'd always felt different and out of place, constantly trying to navigate where she stood in a world filled with uncertainty. Her lack of grounding and understanding of her gift had made her afraid of the supernatural powers she possessed. But all that had changed last summer when Allene had contacted her for the first time.

Initially, Alexandria had been leery, and she hadn't want any part of the mysteriously frightening world that had been haunting her since she was five years old. Many times she could remember waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and covered with fear, terrified of the voices that belonged to spirits from another world that she couldn't see or touch.

She also recognized that the ability to know what was going to happen in a given situation before it took place wasn't always a good thing, and it had quickly become a heavy weight on her shoulders. She'd worried about things that kids her age didn't have to deal with. She'd witnessed accidents, death, and destruction, and it had made her fearful of doing something as normal as dreaming at night because of what she might see. She'd often stood helpless with her knowledge, not knowing what to do or in whom to confide, so she'd learned how to ignore her gift and block out visions whenever they threatened her peace of mind.

But once her grandma Allene had come into her life and shown her the beauty of her gift, along with the strength and infinite possibilities it held, a new world had opened up to her for the first time.

She'd been hoping that her grandma Allene would soon make contact with her again. She missed hearing the old woman's comforting voice and the soothing, down-home Southern accent it carried. Allene hadn't communicated with her in nearly three months, which had initially alarmed Alexandria. But then she remembered Allene's promise—that she'd always be there to guide and protect her. Alexandria knew she'd have to wait patiently and trust in Allene's words, which were solid and rooted in love.

The one thing that Alexandria longed for more than anything was to talk with Allene face-to-face, instead of speaking in whispered tones through visions that always seemed to end much too quickly. During one of their talks, Alexandria had asked Allene to appear to her in the flesh.

"Grandma Allene, I want to see you. Can you come visit me?" she'd asked.


( Continued... )

 Excerpted from Troublemaker by Trice Hickman.  © 2014 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Trice Hickman.  This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the publisher's written permission. Copyright infringement is a serious offense. Share a link to this page or the author's website if you really like this promotional excerpt.


About the Author
Trice Hickman
is a self-proclaimed Southern girl, and award-winning, bestselling author. Trice’s love of reading and the power she recognized in the written word inspired her to become a writer. After receiving rejection letters from every agent and publisher she submitted her work to, Trice was determined to bring her stories to life. She self-published her first three novels to great success, and shortly thereafter, landed a multi-book deal with Kensington (Dafina Books) where she is currently published. When she’s not busy writing and reading, Trice enjoys cooking, traveling, decorating, and meeting good people. Learn more about Trice at www.tricehickman.com.

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Meet the Author
Trice Hickman
is a self-proclaimed Southern girl, and award-winning, bestselling author. Trice’s love of reading and the power she recognized in the written word inspired her to become a writer. After receiving rejection letters from every agent and publisher she submitted her work to, Trice was determined to bring her stories to life. She self-published her first three novels to great success, and shortly thereafter, landed a multi-book deal with Kensington (Dafina Books) where she is currently published. When she’s not busy writing and reading, Trice enjoys cooking, traveling, decorating, and meeting good people. Learn more about Trice at www.tricehickman.com.

Author website: www.tricehickman.com
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Unexpected Love Novel Series - More Books by Trice Hickman

* Looking for Trouble
* Unexpected Interruptions
* Keeping Secrets & Telling Lies
* Playing the Hand You're Dealt


Books by Trice Hickman
http://www.amazon.com/Trice-Hickman/e/B002N44944
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/trice-hickman/2106303




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