When Jenny Fletcher decided she wasn’t happy with her life, she didn’t try to run away or hide. She searched within herself and found the strength she needed to transform herself. The road was a hard one, but she found it getting easier with each passing day. Then, an unexpected tragedy changed everything. The life she knew and the love she thought she had was brushed away in an instant.
In the aftermath, she is left to face a new world. It is a world in which she is the strong one her brawny husband, Mark, used to be. It is a world in which a handsome, green-eyed doctor can make her question every decision she has ever made. She first fumbles, then walks confidently through her new life, not only discovering an unforeseen love, but finding herself as well.
Book one finds Jenny braving the storm of heartache that rains down on her, washing the remains of her structured life away. While she fights to maintain the strength that has allowed her to reclaim her body, she must also fight to take back her spirit. The devastating betrayal of her unhappy husband, leaves her searching for solace in the kind green eyes of the compassionate Dr. Connor Blake.
Read Chapter 1
Sweat ran down Jenny Fletcher’s face in rivulets, converging at the neckline of her t-shirt and staining the pale pink to a deep blush. Little wisps of her deep brown hair slipped from her swinging ponytail and clung to her neck and face. She ran on, focused and determined, her breathing in cadence with her footfalls on the treadmill.
The giant window in front of the bank of exercise equipment, overlooked a busy street between the building and a strip mall across the way. There was a time when she would have died before jogging where hundreds of spectators could get an eyeful of her at their discretion, but they were no more than blurs on the periphery of her tunnel vision, today. Her heart was set on breaking her personal best and running eight miles without stopping.
She fixed her chocolate-colored eyes on the brightly lit sign in the window of the clothing store, situated at the end of the strip mall. Neon orange text scrolled by, urging readers to come in today to get top designs for their summer wardrobes. One phrase in particular kept jumping out at Jenny, and she found herself waiting for it to come back around.
“Designer swimsuits just in! Show off that beach body in the hottest new styles!”
She had never worn a swimsuit in her life, but the adolescent girl inside her, who had always longed to strut as confidently as her classmates did in their skimpy two-pieces, began to stir. She had lost too many summers hiding in the water, in her shirt and shorts, while the other girls flirted and squealed as boys chased them on the beach. It had left a dark blemish on her spirit. The thought gave her a blast of fresh dedication and pushed her on, despite burning calves and lungs.
With her second wind, Jenny knew she would reach her goal. She panted along, brushing off the old hurt and redoubling her concentration on her focal point. She was going to go the distance, and, for once, she didn't have to use Mark's snide remarks for motivation. She was seventy pounds down, with twenty more to go, and now that her goal was in sight, she refused to quit. She never thought there would be a time when the highlight of her day would be to hit the gym and run.
Her gym was exactly what she wanted in a workout facility. She checked out the franchise places, but they all drew a bigger crowd than she wanted to face. She decided on a small place called Beni’s, named after its owner, a local woman named Benita Warren. The atmosphere was pleasant and clean, with enough equipment to ensure a good workout, but not so much as to attract the muscle heads.
As she ran, Jenny’s mind began to wander back to the argument she had with Mark before she left for the gym. Their fighting was becoming a part of daily life. She assumed her pursuit of a healthy life and a more appealing body would have brought her closer to her husband. Unfortunately, it seemed he couldn’t see her transformation, or he just ignored it. He continued to make cutting remarks at her expense and resented the time she devoted to her new self. Each comment and complaint pushed her even harder. She had learned to use her frustration as motivation, but the tension was creating a disconnect that became more noticeable every day. She just wanted Mark to look at her the way he did five years ago, like she was the light of his life.
This morning’s fight had been about the scrambled egg whites, turkey bacon, and fruit salad she served for breakfast. Mark was resistant to the food changes Jenny had to make in order to be healthy, which resulted in her cooking two separate offerings at each meal.
This morning, she had been running late and didn’t have time to make the food he wanted, so she just made enough of her breakfast for the both of them. He made his feelings known immediately.
“What is this?” His response was a snarl.
“Breakfast, Mark. I didn’t have time to fix anything else. Just try it.”
“You would have had time if you hadn’t made this fake diet crap. Where the hell is the bacon on a turkey, anyway?”
"Really? We have to go through this every time I can't fix you a big plate of fat and carbs?" Jenny asked, unable to keep the exasperation from her voice.
“Fat and carbs,” Mark mimicked snidely.
“Why are you doing this? You could at least try it before you decide that it isn’t good. You might like it.”
“If I don’t have a decent breakfast, I am so hungry by lunch time that I’m sick. We can’t all make our living sitting behind a desk, you know. Some of us do hard, physical labor that requires fuel for the body. I need something that will stick with me and not your diet junk. I don’t say anything when you run out of here two hours early every morning so you can run down to your little gym or about all the money you are spending on this little adventure of yours. The least you could do is make me a decent meal!” His voice boomed as he finished his rant. Jenny felt the white-hot anger burn up her body.
“You don’t say anything? Are you serious? You never stop saying anything! All I ever get from you anymore is how awful this is for you! I cannot believe you are going to sit there and tell me you never complain. Why can’t you just be happy for me and try to enjoy your breakfast?”
“Maybe I would be happy if my wife remembered her commitments to our home and her husband. Maybe then I wouldn’t be looking forward to a fast food lunch, or as I like to call it, the best meal of my day!” By now Mark was shouting and red in the face. Jenny decided that it would be best to just drop the matter for now. She didn’t have time, and it wasn’t going to get them anywhere, anyway. She began eating her breakfast, which had grown cold.
“Oh, now she doesn’t have anything to say!” Mark ranted on. “I guess the truth hurts. Miss Skinny clammed up quick on that one, didn’t she?’ She ignored his taunts, although her tongue ached to respond.
He had taken to calling her “Miss Skinny”, initially, as a playful nickname to demonstrate he had noticed her weight loss. However, it had become a jab that he used to mock her efforts, and she hated the endearment now. She concentrated on chewing the cold, rubbery turkey bacon, determined to ignore his nonsense. She wanted to hurry and finish so she could get away from him
“So now you’re just going to ignore me, huh?” He had lowered his voice, but the snide tone remained.
“That’s right I am. I am going to get this day in motion if it kills us both,” she finally growled back.
“Oh, I guess I am cutting into your gym time aren’t I?” Jenny swallowed the response that burned inside her throat. She just wanted to get away from him.
“Okay, Mark. I am sorry I didn’t have time to cook two meals, and I selfishly decided to be healthy instead. Is that what you want to hear? I was not trying to ruin your day or force my choices on you. I only wanted to get moving. So, let me be the bigger person and extend the olive branch here so we can move on. How about I make you a fried chicken dinner tonight to make up for your lousy breakfast?”
She affected a sugary smile, knowing that he understood she was just appeasing him. To him, that meant he won, and he would let it drop. She despised cowing to his childishness. For a moment, he didn’t respond. Then, with the slow, sulking pace of a child after a tantrum, he pulled his plate toward him and scowled at the contents as he picked up his fork.
“I won’t be home for dinner tonight. I am supposed to help Jared move, remember? We were just going to grab some pizza after.”
Jenny couldn’t remember whether, or not, Mark had told her about his best friend moving. Lately, their communication had become so difficult, it was possible that he told her and she forgot. It was just as likely, that he didn’t bother telling her at all. Either way, she felt it better to let it go, than to prolong the discussion.
“Okay, so how about I make it tomorrow night?”
He grunted his acceptance and pushed a forkful of fruit salad into his mouth before making a sour face. She fought the urge to pour the container of orange juice over his smug head.
“Alright, I guess. Just don’t make it diet fried chicken.” He chuckled at his own genius.
“Oh, aren’t you the clever one?” Jenny quipped, with a strained smile, rolling her eyes at his corny attempt at humor. She quickly stood and deposited her dishes in the sink before he could respond. She fled to the sanctuary of her car, grateful to be free of him.
The alarm on the treadmill brought Jenny crashing back into the present, and fatigue enveloped her. It seemed her body had been waiting for the beeping notes indicating the end of her run. She clutched the hand rails and hopped to straddle the moving tread, a little trick she had eventually gotten the hang of after watching her fellow gym members. She stood in that position and closed her eyes while she focused on her breathing.
She felt elated despite her weariness. She had accomplished her goal. Her heart pounded, her body was drenched in sweat, and her breath was still coming in ragged gasps, but she felt amazing. She opened her eyes and noticed the tread was still running. She was reaching to press the stop button, when a deep, masculine voice materialized next to her.
“Nice hustle.” Jenny turned her head and met the gaze of the voice’s owner. Brilliant green eyes danced mischievously back at her, and a low flush crept up her neck, as she took in the tall, muscular frame of the strawberry-blonde man mounting the treadmill next to her. Her heart sank, as she realized the good-looking newcomer must be mocking her. All her happy thoughts shattered in an instant. She had worked so hard, but still was the gym loser. All at once, she had to get away from the situation.
“Thanks,” she mumbled, turning away from his searching face.
In her haste, she forgot to stop the treadmill, and when her foot landed on the running tread, she lost her balance right away. To her horror, she landed on her right hip and flew to the foot of the machine. The fall concluded with her sprawled at the end of the treadmill, her motion stopped by the gray carpeting that covered the floor of the gym.
It took a moment for her to realize the burning sensation to her back, just below her right ribs, was coming from the friction of the machine’s belt chafing her exposed skin. In the helter-skelter of her spill, her loose t shirt was yanked up, leaving her back bare against the moving tread. Before she had a chance to react, Green Eyes was at her side lifting her from the floor effortlessly.
Holly Kemper has been a Licensed Practical Nurse for more than ten years. Her time in the health industry has provided a wealth of inspiration for her tales of the human condition. She has treasured the opportunity to see life through the eyes of so many.
Holly has a passion for writing and reading. When not engrossed in another author’s work, she can be found creating a new story of her own. Writing has been her heart’s calling for as long as she can remember.
In addition to her love of the written word, Holly enjoys time spent with her family and friends. She has been fortunate enough to find her the other half of her soul in her husband, James. They reside in the picturesque surroundings of southeast Missouri, with their dog, Cheech.