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Private Sins (Three Rivers Book 1) Three Rivers

Private Sins (Three Rivers Book 1) Three Rivers

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Kelly was in deep trouble; her husband was a pastor and she his loyal first lady. Well she was…until she had an affair with Chris; the first elder of their church. And now she was pregnant with his child. Could she keep the secret from her husband and pretend that all was well? Or should she confess her private sin and let the chips fall where they may?
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“I can't do this anymore,” Kelly said, looking at Chris with guilt in her eyes.
He was driving along the scenic coastline of Runaway Bay, heading towards his villa. He flinched and tightened his hand on the steering wheel and in a voice belying his tension, asked gently, “You can't do what? You can’t be my interior decorator anymore?”
“Be your mistress, girlfriend, bit-on-the-side. Whatever this is, Chris,” Kelly replied, glancing at him pleadingly. “This is wrong; so wrong on many levels.” She clasped her hands in her lap and inhaled. “It should not have started.”
"You love me," he said, slowing down the vehicle and turning into the villa's entrance. The landscaping was still unfinished, and some men were busy constructing a stone wall. Chris tooted them as he navigated up the meandering driveway. The landscaper, who was transplanting a palm tree, waved to him.

He stopped under the overhang at the front entrance; already the landscaper had planted white roses beside the trellis. They were supposed to entwine around the posts and create a scenic point of interest.
He tried to avoid Kelly's startled look as he got out of the car, slamming the door harder than he should.
Kelly scrambled out of the car and walked around to his side quickly.
“No, I don't. I don’t think I do. This is just a fling, remember? We agreed, six months ago, when this whole thing started, that it would just be a one-off. Chris. Chris! Are you listening to me?"

Chris strolled into the villa and headed straight for his temporary office, which was a suite of rooms behind the receptionist area.
Kelly swiftly walked in after him, her high heels making an echo on the marble tiles. The lobby area was the last place that she had to decorate and furnish. Then she would be done with the job. She had done the ten two-bedroom villas that Chris had commissioned her to do, and in the process had lost all sense of morality.

This job had been her moral undoing.
She winced when she thought about how many days she spent in this very space with Chris Donahue in a sensual haze—hiding away from the real world, and lying to herself and her family.
She leaned against the reception desk. It was not yet varnished, but the furniture maker had finished the design to her dictates. It would perfectly complement the forest theme she had envisioned when she had first seen the space.
She glanced in the mirrors that lined the wall in front of the desk and tried to avoid looking at herself. Her reflection seemed slightly accusing, and her heartfelt sigh echoed into the hollow room. She cupped her hand under her chin and a rush of guilt—so raw and suffocating—grasped her by the chest that she found that she was breathing shallowly.

She heard the door behind the desk open. The whole wall was covered in wood, and the door was a seamless addition. She glanced around to see Chris standing there with a wounded look in his eyes.

“I don't want to end this,” he whispered pleadingly.
Kelly sighed. “I know, but it has to.”
Chris ran his fingers through his curly hair and leaned against the door. “You could get a divorce…marry me.”
Kelly inhaled then exhaled rapidly. “I have two children, Chris! That decision would have far-reaching consequences.”
“I can take care of all of you,” Chris said earnestly, now standing before her—his hazel eyes glistening with tears.
Kelly looked away from him and shook her head. “I still love my husband. I don't think I ever stopped loving him.”
Her words stood between them, and he backed away slightly. "He doesn't give you the love and attention that you crave. I have watched you both over the years. He is so involved with his job that you are a mere second in his affections. I am a property developer. We could build hotels and villas together, and you decorate them. We complement each other. You love me too, Kelly! I know you do. I can see you are trying to fight it because of some misplaced loyalty to a husband who doesn't care about you. If you went missing, he wouldn't care."

“That’s not true,” Kelly said, sobbing. “I can't just throw away ten years and two kids because of lust! I can't. I won't!”
“Lust!” Chris snorted. “I have loved you for longer than ten years. The sad part about this is that you knew, but you married him anyway. I wasn’t good enough for you then and apparently I am not good enough for you now.”
“Chris…don't.” Kelly wiped her eyes and gave him a beseeching look. “I am sorry, okay. I am sorry, sorrier than you would ever know. I'm sorry that this whole thing escalated into what it is now. You are handsome and young and rich. You will find somebody and…”
“Shut up!” Chris shouted. “Just shut up! You accepted this job willingly, Kelly. For years you refused whenever I asked you to work on a project with me because you knew how I felt about you. You have always felt the tension between us. You wanted to start this affair. You wanted a reason to leave your relationship. Here I am Kelly! Here's the reason!”
Chris jabbed himself in the chest, a stormy glint in his eyes. “Leave Theo and come to me. I am not marrying anyone else. I am not interested in anyone else.”
Kelly turned away from him, her eyes damp. “I am choosing my family, Chris. Please, just take me home. Drat it, I wish I had driven my car. I will try to finish up the lobby in the agreed time, but I am putting an end to this now. Can we please not discuss this affair again?”
“We'll see about that.” Chris stormed toward the car. “You can't just use me and then dump me! I love you.”
Kelly walked behind him. “You can't tell him, Chris. He’s your pastor! You are his first elder! The church would have a field day with this if it ever gets out. Please see reason.”
Chris slammed the car door, and Kelly had to hobble fast to get in before he drove off.


Five Months Later

Kelly stared balefully in the bathroom mirror at her protruding stomach and grimaced. This was the worst pregnancy of her three. She had morning sickness in the days and the nights, and her appetite had fled entirely. She looked like a stick insect with a ball stuck to its midsection. Her once lustrous brown hair was falling out in clumps in her comb, and her medium brown complexion looked ashy and dry.

Her issues kept stacking up one atop the other until she feared to look in the mirror. Besides that, she was a mass of nerves. A cloud of guilt followed her everywhere she went, and she even imagined that complete strangers were looking at her accusingly. She was a pregnant adulteress.

At the back of her mind she always thought she deserved to be punished for her awful lapse in judgment when she had the affair, but this pregnancy was the harshest punishment she could have conjured.
She was carrying Chris' baby, and Theo, her husband, didn't have a clue. In fact, he was busy preparing for a series of evangelistic meetings that would last six weeks and had assumed that her wan, washed-out demeanor was the result of her pregnancy. He was completely oblivious to her inner turmoil and the deep dark thoughts she has been harboring these past few months.
At first, she could not believe it when the pregnancy test stick said POSITIVE. She hadn't slept with her husband in weeks. He would definitely know that the baby was not his. So in a feverish and half-fearful panic, she hatched a plan to have him believe the baby was his. She enticed him to go on a weekend trip with her and then four weeks later cheerfully announced to him that she was going to have a baby. The deception had worked flawlessly. Now, her husband thought that she was four months pregnant, when in fact she was six months along.

From one lie to another, she was surviving on sheer nerves, and the fear of being found out permeated every move she made. The enormity of her situation had slowly caught up with her in the last few weeks, and she found herself wishing that she could turn back time.

Turn it all the way back to eleven years ago when she had just graduated from Lancaster School of Design in America, earning a Bachelors in Interior Design. She had returned to Jamaica, fresh and ready to set up shop in St. Ann. Her parents had been in the hotel business, and at the time it seemed like a good idea to exercise her design skills on a rundown guesthouse that they had just acquired beside the sea in picturesque Runaway Bay. The timing seemed perfect, and she was happy to add to her portfolio, a real place that she had designed.

Things were going well for her professionally. She immersed herself in the social scene in Ocho Rios, hung out with friends when she had the free time, and lounged by the seaside every chance she got. Then her parents found religion.
For most of their lives, her parents had been happy to leave spiritual matters to those who could understand them. They were polite to all who tried to convert them. They smiled and nodded vaguely to whatever arguments they had to dish out and then sent them on their merry way as soon as it was politely convenient. Kelly and her sister, Erica, had grown up almost clueless about biblical matters.
“All you need is love,” her mother, Lola, would tell them. “Who needs stuffy rules from an ancient book to guide you in these times?” Her husband, Fred, would nod in agreement.
Her parents had been known to have thrown a few wild parties in their day, but gradually they were converted to Christianity and started attending church occasionally. Then they started shedding their party lifestyle little by little until Kelly barely recognized them.
Her mother now preferred hospital ministry and choir practice to afternoon teas, gossiping, and themed, wild parties with the elite and the idle. Her father now preferred an evening of scripture searching than arguing politics with his friends. For Kelly, it was simply shocking.
At first, her older sister, Erica, who had been living with them at the time, had occasionally gone to church with their parents, and then she too became a Christian. Kelly had found herself in the unenviable position of being the one in the family to be converted.

They tried so hard to get her to change her 'evil ways' that looking back now she found it faintly ironic. Her current situation was now worse than it had ever been.
They eventually changed their preachy strategy because it had not worked on her. Instead, they invited a junior elder from their church to lunch on a day that she would be at home. Her parents had decided that a stranger might be better able to convince her of the folly of her ways.
That stranger had been Chris. He had entered her parents' breezy living room, and it had seemed as if all the air was sucked out of the large space. Kelly had stopped breathing.

He was tall and muscular, with skin the shade of warm honey, and piercing hazel eyes. His eyes had zeroed in on her and never left.
That entire meeting was still a blur to her. She had been nervous and babbled like an idiot whenever he spoke to her. She didn't hear a word he said but could recall thinking—irreverently—that his long eyelashes made him slightly pretty.

Somewhere in the conversation she had nodded her head eagerly. Later she found out that she had agreed to go to church with her parents the next Sabbath. It was a promise that they held her to, and she was eager to fulfill, mostly because she wanted to get to know Chris better.

Leading up to that Sabbath she barely concentrated on anything but Chris. She went over every bit of information that she knew about him. He worked with his father at their real estate firm where he was in charge of property development. He was planning to start a hotel or guesthouse chain, and his family was a stalwart in the Three Rivers Church.
The Sabbath could not have come soon enough for her as she eagerly drove to the church.
The church was in a lovely spot. It was situated on a hill overlooking the blue Caribbean Sea and was surrounded by beautiful poinsettia trees. She had jumped out of her car and, not looking where she was going, ended up banging her head against the chin of a tall man. He had stopped to tell her that she was parking in a reserved space.

“I am sorry, madam,” he said in his husky voice, “but this is…” and then bang her head connected with his chin.
She had drawn back, rubbing her hand over her forehead. She had been ready to tell him a piece of her mind, church or not. People needed to look where they were going, she thought. When she looked up at him, he was rubbing his chin and glaring at her too.

He was the opposite of Chris, she thought at first. He was several shades darker than Chris but was just as handsome. He had a deep mocha complexion; his head was clean-shaven, and he sported a neatly trimmed beard and mustache. He was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome—her heart picked up speed. Even though he was wearing a jacket, she could tell he had a lean, muscled body.

“I am sorry,” the man grinned, showing off a set of startlingly white teeth, which glowed against the darkness of his skin.
She nodded. “I am sorry, too.”
“My name is Theo Palmer.” He smiled at her again. “I am the new intern here.”
“Intern?” she had asked. She only knew of law firms having interns.
“Junior pastor,” he clarified for her. “This is my first church. I work alongside Pastor Frommer, the senior pastor.”
“Oh.” Kelly smiled. “Well, I am new here too. My parents and sister are members here. My name is Kelly Thomas.”
He held out his hand for her to shake and she reciprocated, her fingers trembling.
“Kelly Thomas-Palmer has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” he remarked, and like an innocent lamb Kelly had nodded, a grin lighting up her face. “I think so too.”


Now, eleven years later, Kelly Thomas-Palmer was sitting in her bathroom, miserable. She was tempted to go outside, knock on the door to Theo's study—where he was preparing a sermon—and blurt out, "I am sorry. I cheated on you with Chris, and this is not your baby."

Her mind would be at rest and the guilty thoughts riding her brain would stop, but she would destroy her family, and her parents would have a heart attack after finding out about her infidelity. Her church family wouldn't be able to live it down and her husband, her dear husband, would not take it well.

She was sure of one thing though: this would be too much of a big, life-altering moment for Theo. His trust in her would be shattered, and his trust in Chris—his right-hand man at church—would explode into smithereens.

Even though Theo was a mild-mannered man, calm in his outlook and unruffled in times of crisis, how on earth could she expect him to take an announcement like that calmly.
Why did you do this Kelly? The voice in her head, which sounded a little bit too smug to be her conscience, asked. Was it because you were horny why you had sex with Chris for days on end? And under the pretext of work go to his house and only return home just before your children got back from school? Were you that starved for sex and attention?

How could you have an affair with Chris? He was so emotionally invested in you that he refused to come to your wedding ten years ago, and up until the last three years did not even speak to you because he felt betrayed that you chose Theo over him. What on earth were you thinking?
What a mess.
What a god-awful mess!
Kelly placed the stopper in the bathtub and poured some of her favorite rosemary scented bubble bath into the hot water. Her back was aching and not for the first time, she found herself wishing that this child would die.

Her problems would end, and she could go back to her life. But, once more, the guilty feeling that such thoughts heralded persisted and she pretended that the thoughts weren't still lurking somewhere at the back of her mind.

She knew they were wrong. This baby would not have been conceived if it weren’t for her actions. It was all her fault, her stupid fault.
She sighed tremulously. This baby was evidence that she committed a crime against her marriage. How could she hope to escape this situation guilt-free, with the evidence of Chris' child staring at her every day for the rest of her life?
“God help me,” Kelly sobbed quietly as she clutched her belly.