From the NAACP Image award winner and national bestselling author Victoria Christopher Murray, a novel inspired by the seven deadly sins about a woman caught between an entertainment mogul with a shady past and his childhood friend who is out for revenge.
Is lust a sin?
Tiffanie has lived a sheltered life in a very strict household with her pastor grandfather and her grandmother in Washington, D.C. But when she meets Damon, she falls for the successful entertainment businessman despite his history as a drug dealer. Everyone sees a bright future for the couple—yet when Tiffanie meets Trey, her lustful feelings leave her confused just days before her wedding.
Trey is Damon’s childhood best friend with whom he built a successful drug business. But when the game got hot and Damon decided to leave, Trey stayed and continued to sell drugs until he was arrested and spent seven years in prison. Now he’s out and able to attend the wedding. While Damon is thrilled to have Trey back and hopes to bring his best friend into his business, Trey has other plans.
And in the end, there will only be one man standing...
Includes a reading group guide with an author Q&A and discussion questions for book clubs.
It felt like we were in the middle of an earthquake, the way the bed trembled beneath me and Damon.
This was the christening of our brand-new mahogany sleigh bed—the designer piece that I saw in a magazine and just had to have for our new house. Even though it cost almost ten grand, Damon, my boo, hadn’t even blinked when he saw the price.
Last night, the bed had been delivered and assembled, and although I had wanted to wait and share this bed for the first time on our wedding night, not even an hour had passed after the delivery men were gone before Damon and I were hitting the satin sheets.
Now, as the first rays of the new day seeped through the windows, bringing along the fragrance of the azaleas on the balcony, I was being treated to Damon’s early-morning “good good.”
“You like that, don’t you?” Damon leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“Yes,” I breathed with as much enthusiasm as I could push into my voice. A second later, he cried out, and a moment after that, I mimicked him.
Damon was breathless as he fell on top of me and all I did was glance at the clock. Thank goodness that hadn’t taken too long. Damon rolled away, still trying to steady his breathing. “Thank you, bae.”
“What are you thanking me for?” I did my best to sound as out of breath as he was.
I twisted until I was on my back and glanced up at the ceiling, wanting to reach my hands to the heavens. Damon was thanking me? I was the one who needed to be thanking him . . . and God . . . for all that I’d been given.
There wasn’t room, not in time or space, for me to count all my blessings. First, I’d just made love to my fiancé, a man who’d given me love when I’d never wanted this kind of love in my life, a man whose business filled his bank accounts with money but a man who made it his business to please me always. From the fifty-year-old Victorian-style home in the center of DC’s gold coast, to the Harry Winston ring that I rocked on the second finger of my left hand, I was living a life that I’d never believed would be possible.
When I heard Damon’s soft snores, I rolled onto my side. I just wanted to watch him for a moment before I had to shake him awake.
My Damon was such a beautiful, scrumptious dark brown man with full lips and a square and strong jawline. I often teased him about having a little Indian in his family because his closely cropped beard was a soft, smooth, jet-black layer of satin. His eyes were close to being catlike, and then there were the two, yes, two dimples that deepened in his right cheek whenever he smiled. All of that, all of him made me shake my head with pleasure every time I set my eyes on him.
I never thought it could be like this. Never thought I’d know a love like this. I sighed as I thought about all the years that I’d let pass by with Damon, but then I shook that thought away. I was here now, we were engaged now, five days away from being husband and wife. No more time wasted.
Slowly, his eyelids fluttered and when they opened and he looked at me, I saw nothing but lust in his eyes.
“Oh, no.” I shook my head and giggled. “We have to get ready for church.”
“Come on, Tiff.” He pulled me close. “One last time before you cut me off,” he said, referring to the fact that I told him I was going back to my place right after church.
“Don’t be so dramatic.” I scooted out of the bed, then strutted across the Berber carpet. Not that I wanted to trouble the waters—no, I’d had enough sex with my fiancé to last me more than awhile. But I was still a girl and I wanted my guy to want me. “I’m not cutting you off,” I said, when I got halfway across the room. “I’m just trying to make our wedding night more special.”
He propped himself up on his elbow and drank me in with his eyes. “Every night, every morning, every noon is special when I’m with you.”
Dang! That was just another reason to love him. Because not only did he show me how much he loved me, he told me all the time.
“Why can’t we just keep this going?” Damon said with a tinge of begging in his tone. “Why can’t I make love to you every day and every night until we say ‘I do’?”
I stared into his bedroom eyes and almost wanted to run back. Because he’d done so much for me, I always wanted to satisfy him. But I wasn’t going to give in.
I’d already broken the promise I’d made when I was fourteen to remain chaste until marriage, even though, at the time, it was really my pledge to remain a virgin for life. But I’d told Damon that I was going to stay at my place because I was hoping that maybe with a few days of celibacy between now and “I do,” not only would I feel like I’d done something right, but I was praying that these few days of abstention would make our wedding night special . . . for both of us.
Eyes glazed with lust, Damon reached his hands toward me. “Please!”
Inside this moment, all of his gangster was gone. There were no important people to meet, no celebrities to impress, no paychecks to sign, no Glock on his hip.
He was just a man who loved a woman.
“Tiffanie, please,” he begged again.
My eyebrows rose just a bit hearing him call me Tiffanie. Though everyone else in the world addressed me by my full name (my grandfather demanded it, since Tiffanie meant Manifestation from God and he was the one who’d given that name to me), Damon was the only person who called me Tiff. And he only did that when my grandfather wasn’t around.
So, using my full name right now meant that Damon was in full pleading mode, and I shouldn’t have, but I laughed.
He tossed a pillow across the room, hitting me in the calf.
“Ouch!” I hopped, pretending to be wounded. Turning, I rushed back to the bed and jumped on top of him. He wrestled until he was on top, pinning my hands above my head. Then, with the gentleness of a gentle man, he kissed my forehead. Then my eyelids. Then my neck. “I love you,” he said, his tone thick with a desire that I knew was only for me.
It was an instant fever, the way his words heated my skin.
“I need you to do me a favor,” he whispered.
With the way he had me pressed beneath him, I could only imagine what Damon wanted me to do.
“Can you pick up Trey at the airport tomorrow?”
I blinked. “Trey?” I couldn’t believe that in this moment, he was talking about the man he still called his best friend. “I thought he was coming in on Thursday.”
“Change of plans. He’s coming in early to see his grandmother. This will be the first time he’s seen her in seven years, you know what I’m sayin’, and he wants to spend some time with her.”
I’d met Ms. Irene and visited with her a few times over the years whenever I went with Damon, so I didn’t want to begrudge that sweet woman a visit from her grandson. But still, I just couldn’t make myself happy about Trey coming to town. And now, he was coming days early?
It was weird ’cause I’d never met Trey; but on the real, even sight unseen, I did not like this man. Yes, he was my man’s best friend, but he was part of my man’s past, an underground past that had landed Trey in federal prison with a sentence of twenty years for possession of drugs. And I just had a feeling, because of Damon’s and his history, that he could interfere with Damon’s and my future.
But how could I fight their connection? Damon King and Trey Taylor had lots of times gone by. They were childhood friends who’d met in kindergarten in one of DC’s Southeast schools. Then two years after Damon graduated (but Trey didn’t) from high school, they’d moved to Atlanta to celebrate the new millennium and to wreak major havoc in the streets and make major money in the game.
Damon’s kiss pulled me back to his request. “So, can you do that?” It must’ve been because I didn’t give him a quick response that he added, “I’d do it, but I have that call with Jaleesa Stone and her people; she wants to make sure I have everything in place for her red-carpet event. Remember, that’ll be just a little more than a week after we get back, so I need to set it up as much as I can before we leave on Saturday.” A pause. “So, please?”
My first response: No! Why can’t you send one of your drivers or have him take Uber? My second response: I have so much to do for the wedding; I don’t have that kind of time. My actual response: “Sure,” because what else was I going to say to the man who would do anything for me?
Then he asked, “Can you do something else for me?”
Lust, once again, glazed his eyes and thickened the sound of his words. I almost wanted to do it again to see if this would be the time when Damon would finally satisfy me, but I had to shut this down.
He still had my hands pinned above my head when I said, “No, we have to get ready for church. You know how my grandfather is.”
Damon chuckled. “And, I don’t want to tangle with Reverend CJ Cooper.”
“Then, you need to get your fine . . . naked . . . behind up off of me.”
Damon leaned his face closer to mine. “What would your grandfather say if he heard you talking like that?”
“Probably the same thing he’d say to you if he found out that I won’t be a virgin on my wedding night.”
My words made Damon release me. “Hey, hey, hey! You can’t blame that on me alone; you were there, too.”
I laughed. “I’m just sayin’, my grandfather would kill you if he knew about the things that you did to his innocent granddaughter!” I paused, tilted my head, and gave Damon one of what I called my not-so-innocent glances. “So, do you still wanna . . .”
Damon didn’t even let me finish. “Nah, you ruined it; I’m good.” He pouted as he twisted completely off me, though he pulled me into his arms. “Let’s just get ready for church.”
“Great idea,” I said.
“But after church . . .”
“Mr. King, you are a mess!” I shook my head as I pushed him away. “Remember . . . our wedding night. Special.”
Damon poked his lips out even more.
“Please don’t be mad.” I leaned over and kissed him the way he’d kissed me: On his forehead, his neck, and I finally settled my lips on his. And right beneath me, I felt this man melting.
That’s when I started melting, too. How could I not? This man showed me that I, Tiffanie Cooper, had his heart and would have it forever. And for the rest of our lives, Damon King would have my heart, too.
This reading group guide for Lust includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Victoria Christopher Murray. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
In the final week of her engagement to her beloved fiancé Damon King, Tiffanie finds herself bowled over by lust for her man’s best friend, Trey. Can Tiffanie resist these feelings that seem to have come straight from the devil, or will she resist and reach for the perfect future she could have with Damon?
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. What are the various ways that lust drives a wedge between people in Lust? Do you think it’s the most dangerous of the Seven Deadly Sins?
2. Respect is very important to Damon. Why do you think that is? Do you agree that Trey should show him and Tiffanie more respect when they’re first reunited? What does Damon’s emphasis on respect tell you about his character?
3. History and loyalty are also very important to Damon. Why do you think that is? Do you agree with him that you should always try to help those you’ve known for a long time?
4. Trey’s intent to use Tiffanie as a pawn makes him seem like the actual devil. Do you agree with that characterization? Why do you think Trey seduces Tiffanie? Is this temptation really from Satan?
5. What does Tiffanie’s orgasm represent to her? Why does she risk so much for “that feeling”? Do you think she eventually finds sexual satisfaction with Damon? Are there connections in life more important than the sexual?
6. How does Sonia’s marriage align with what Tiffanie wants for herself? These two women have been through so much together. Why do you think Tiffanie doesn’t always listen to Sonia’s wisdom, though it’s offered with love?
7. There are three people in the older generation that are important in the book: the Reverend, Tiffanie’s grandmother, and Ms. Irene. How do they guide Tiffanie, Damon, and Trey and influence the younger generation in their decision making?
8. Trey ends his toast, “I wish you two all the happiness that you deserve.” Why is this wish a double-edged sword? Have you ever said to someone a statement that seemed kind but implied your true feelings?
9. Tiffanie prays for the strength to resist the devil. Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve called on God to help you resist temptation, whether in the form of lustful thoughts or other Seven Deadly Sins?
10. The shifting urban landscape of Washington DC plays a major part in Damon’s business and in Lust. No matter what city or town you’re in, how have you seen it change over time as new developments come in and old businesses leave?
11. How did you react to Damon’s attempt to get the truth? Would you have done the same or confronted Tiffanie directly? Do you think what he did was right?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Play the songs from Tiffanie and Damon’s wedding, “You’re the Reason God Made a Girl” and “Adore.” Why do you think Murray chose these songs for this couple?
2. Read another Victoria Christopher Murray book and compare it to Lust. Her most recent titles include Stand Your Ground and Forever an Ex. Or, create a joint book club with young people who have read one of Victoria Christopher Murray’s YA books.
3. Schedule a book club for the same weekend as you are going to attend church and/or a club, two of the major locations in Lust. Discuss the different aspects of each experience and how they relate to the book.
A Conversation with Victoria Christopher Murray
You’ve written over twenty books. Do you learn new things every time you write a new book? How is each book a distinct experience for you?
This is a really good question because I do learn something every single time I write. You would think that with all of these books if I don't know everything, I know a lot. But each time, my agent, Liza Dawson and my editor, Lauren Spiegel challenge me with questions I never thought about. I continuously learn to layer my story, to have multiple issues going on with the characters at the same time. The learning process is what I love best about writing.
What made the DC area the perfect place to set Lust? Why did you choose Dubai for Tiffanie and Damon’s honeymoon? Have you been to Dubai?
I chose DC because I'm living there now and this is only my second book to take place there. So, I knew that I could "flavor" the book with the music of the District of Columbia. I enjoyed that part. As far as choosing Dubai, I had to find a place where someone like Damon would have taken Tiffanie on their honeymoon. He was a rich young man, so he wouldn't have taken a domestic trip, and there's no place more exotic than Dubai. I did think about Hawaii, but with Dubai, I felt that I could take the readers on a trip to someplace they'd never been. I haven't been to Dubai, but I'm planning a trip in the next two years.
Where did the idea for Lust come from originally? What draw you to the challenges of fidelity as a theme for the characters?
Actually, the idea for this series came from another author, Vickie Stringer who told me that I needed to write the seven deadly sins. She told me thought this was really a topic that I could grapple with and turn into an interesting story. That was back in 2011 and though I did try to write it, the book never moved from being half-finished. Then, this year, my agent said this was the time. And I'm glad she pushed me.
You write in both Damon’s and Tiffanie’s voices. Which was the harder one to get right? What were the rewards of switching between the POVs of your two main characters? The challenges?
It was definitely more difficult to write in Damon's voice. Not because it was a male voice, I've written in male voices before. The challenge was Damon's character. He was from the streets and I can't even lie -- the only thing I've ever done is cross a street. So, I had to find a way to find his voice. ReShonda Tate Billingsley suggested that I watch a couple of TV shows. That helped a bit. And then speaking with male friends helped as well.
The book ends very happily and several years after the conclusion of the action. Why did you choose to end the book on such a happy note after having put Tiffanie and Damon through such struggles to get to the ending?
Well, that's interesting. I'm not sure that the book ends all that happily, especially since I'm not known for happy endings. And, I'm not sure how much time has passed in the epilogue, but if I had to guess, it's only about a year and a half or two. But, I ended the book the way I did to wrap up the story. I'm hoping that there are no holes for readers so that I won't hear screams for a sequel....
What are some ladies that serve the purpose in your life that Ms. Irene and Gram do in the book? Do you have older women in your life that have guided you?
Well....at my age, I'm the older woman. LOL. But of course, I have my mom and my mother-in-law is amazing, too. My pastor, Beverly "BAM" Crawford has been a wonderful example for me as well.
What’s your favorite passage from the bible? What was the most influential to you for writing this book, if they’re not the same passage?
My favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 and interestingly enough, I don't think I used it in this story, though I've used it often before. As far as scriptures for this book, I can't say that there was one that influenced me because though people believe this -- the seven deadly sins are not in the Bible. I think many will be surprised to hear that. So, there wasn't a scripture as much as there was some of the tenets of the Christian faith for me. Like, how when God really brings a couple together, nothing can tear them apart. Those two people are the ones who decide to break apart. Also, how God does give us a way to escape temptation. It's difficult, but we can do it. So I relied more on what I know as a Christian rather than specific scriptures in this book.
Do you identify more closely with Tiffanie or her best friend Sonia?
Hmmm...probably her best friend, Sonia. For many of my friends, I serve as the one who gives advice. And I have my friend's backs -- don't come for them...I'll always protect them if I can.
Who do you cast as your dream-cast for the book? Alternatively, who did you have in mind as inspiration for Damon and Trey?
This is always such a difficult question because I use pictures of every day people from magazines when I'm writing. So, I have no idea who would be good for these roles.
You’re a prolific author across both adult and YA genres. What are you working on next?
I'm working on three things right now -- another YA book; I haven't written one in a while, but it will be based on my second novel Joy. Then, I'm working on the Second Deadly Sin -- Envy which will feature Sonia and her husband, Allen. And finally, I'm working on a book with ReShonda Tate Billingsley -- If Only For One Night. So, I'm spending a lot of time writing right now. And that always makes me happy!
Victoria Christopher Murray is the author of more than twenty novels including: Greed; Envy;Lust;The Ex Files; Lady Jasmine; The Deal, the Dance, and the Devil; and Stand Your Ground, which was named a Library Journal Best Book of the Year. Winner of nine African American Literary Awards for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female), Murray is also a four-time NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction. She splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Visit her website at VictoriaChristopherMurray.com.
"Murray has penned hot, steamy scenes in which her protagonist’s imagination runs wild, followed by the consequences of her realizing her dangerous dreams. A jarring twist at the end has the reader wondering who the good guys really are." —Booklist (starred review)
"Murray mixes quite a bit of passion, a touch of treachery, and some good old-fashioned revenge."
– Library Journal
"A topsy-turvy tale of passion on steroids."
– Essence Magazine
STAND YOUR GROUND
"Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray is a fact-to-fiction examination of the human condition. Using a vivid, realistic premise, she takes a 360-degree view to bring all sides to the forefront for us to enjoy, learn from, judge and celebrate. . . . The characters draw us in for debate and conversation long after the final sentence. Stand Your Ground has great literary relevance for our time."
– USA Today
“Murray, winner of several African American Literary Awards for fiction, powerfully captures the nuances and tragedies engendered by stand-your-ground laws. A must-read.”
– Booklist (starred review)
"Murray has written a tension-packed novel around the hot-buzz national topic of an unarmed black youth shot by a white male, an act then subjected to the Stand Your Ground rule as a legal defense tactic. . . . Murray’s writing admirably shows the often overlooked human emotions following racial violence. . . . The pulled-from-the headlines storyline will captivate readers."
– Library Journal (starred review)
“With artful descriptions, Victoria put me inside their hearts and minds. I did not just enjoy this read, I lived it."
– Michelle Lindo Rice, author of the Able To Love series
FOREVER AN EX
"Murray spices up her story line with plenty of juicy scandals. . . . Readers seeking an emotional tale with broad themes of trust, betrayal, and forgiveness will do well by choosing Murray's latest effort."
– Library Journal
FORTUNE AND FAME
“Murray and Billingsley’s third and best collaboration.”
– Essence magazine
“Murray and Billingsley keep things lively and fun.”
– Juicy magazine
“This faith-based novel should keep devout fans on their toes.”
– Upscale magazine
“A great choice for folks who spend Sunday mornings in the front pew.”
– Library Journal
“Frenetic and deliciously slapstick sequel to Sinners & Saints . . . These frenemies [Rachel Jackson Adams and Jasmine Larson Bush] are drama queens at their best and smartest, a combination that will leave fans praying for their further misadventures.”
– Publishers Weekly
NEVER SAY NEVER
“Murray creates a believable scenario of two people who never wanted to hurt their friends…. With extremely well-drawn characters, the story offers neither blame nor excuses, keenly depicting the heartbreaks caused by both death and betrayal.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Readers, be on the lookout for Victoria Christopher Murray’s Never Say Never. You’ll definitely need to have a buddy-reader in place for the lengthy discussion that is bound to occur."
– USA Today
“Never Say Never is a testament to the magnificence of Murray’s storytelling gift! The author creates a surprisingly satisfying ending for each of the characters, even when their ‘sin’ seems unforgivable.”
– RT Book Reviews
“The Ex Files is a moving-on song in four-part harmony.”
– Donna Grant and Virginia DeBerry, authors of Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made
“Once again, Victoria Christopher Murray has crafted a compelling, intriguing, and page-turning story that stays with you long after you’ve finished the book. This wonderful tale of four different women from vastly different backgrounds shows how we can all be bound by the common thread of faith.”
– ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of Everybody Say Amen and I Know I’ve Been Changed
“My girl, Victoria Christopher Murray has done it again! I love her work and this book will bless you, so read it.”
– Michele Andrea Bowen, author of Church Folk, Second Sunday, and Holy Ghost Corner
SINNERS & SAINTS
“Double the fun, with a message of faith, Sinners & Saints will delight readers with two of their favorite characters from two of their favorite authors. It’s a match made in heaven!”
– Grace Magazine
THE DEAL, THE DANCE, AND THE DEVIL
“I think I've found a new author to add to my list of favorites. . . . Murray knows how to tell a story.I can't wait to read other books by this author.”
– Debbie Norrell, New Pittsburgh Courier
“Murray’s characters are extremely likable. . . .This page-turning take on the Faustian theme should satisfy fans and newcomers alike.”
– WalMart BookPage
SINS OF THE MOTHER
"Victoria is an exceptional writer who knows how to deliver a story."
– Kimberla Lawson Roby, author of Changing Faces
"Murray has always impressed me with her ability to live the life of her characters and make them come alive with each turning page."
– Indianapolis Recorder
“Realistic characters and a likable heroine make this title a winner for Murray’s strong following.”
– Library Journal
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
“Juicy Jasmine Larson Bush returns. . . . Murray efficiently illustrates the importance of honesty and trust in marriage, and manages to contain Jasmine’s outrageousness within the context of Christian faith."
– Publishers Weekly
A SIN AND A SHAME
“One of our best and most prolific writers, an excellent storyteller.”
– Eric Jerome Dickey
“Intriguing and well-written…. If you loved and hated Jasmine in Temptation, you’ll love and hate her again.”
– Indianapolis Record
GROWN FOLKS BUSINESS
“I enjoyed reading this book. It took me back to when I was living on the DL and made me realize just how hard sisters love their men, even when they know the truth.”
– J. L. King, author of On The Down Low
“Grown Folks Business rattles the relationship cage and gets to the heart of what’s serious and painfully real."
– Lolita Files, author of Tastes Like Chicken
“Victoria is an exceptional writer who knows how to deliver a story. Readers will find themselves still thinking about the characters long after they’ve turned the last page.”
– Kimberla Lawson Roby, author of The Best-Kept Secret
"An emotional, realistic look at the devastation temptation can wreak."
– Library Journal
TRUTH BE TOLD
“Victoria Christopher Murray is back! Once again she’s given us a fast paced novel about people of faith who must face real-life challenges.”
– E. Lynn Harris
“With memorable characters, Truth Be Told is an entertaining, suspenseful, and page-turning read. I loved it!”
– Kimberla Lawson Roby, author of Too Much of a Good Thing
"Truth Be Told is a truly enjoyable story. The unforgettable characters lend an air of reality to this emotional and engaging read. [Murray’s] latest is sure to please fans and resonate long after the last page is turned.”