Title: The Storm
Jana Cook was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but her fierce determination leads to a successful career in medical device sales. Toss in five-star meals, fabulous sex with her nearly perfect husband, Andrew, and a gorgeous new house … and Jana’s life is picture perfect before she hits the big 3-0. What more can a girl want?
Overnight, her life begins to unravel. When Jana discovers she is pregnant, she dives from hero to zero in the eyes of Covington Company. Despite a resume most would kill for, Jana finds herself unemployed and devastated. Challenging her employer could change her life … if she wins. Does she have the strength to handle the gossip and face the likely reality of being blackballed from her industry?
As Jana struggles to make the right choice, her vivacious best friend, Grace, is convinced her own heartthrob husband, Gavin, is hiding something. Despite Jana’s best efforts to convince her that she is wrong, Grace’s mental illness overpowers reality. Jana was a superstar in scrubs, but navigating first time motherhood is real work … especially in the midst of secrets, lies, and unthinkable tragedy.
She makes her decision. And while Andrew promises to never let her fall, will love be enough to spark the bravery she needs to survive the storm that threatens to overcome her?
*Due to adult themes and sexual content, this novel is not recommended for those under the age of 18.
Two thousand seven dollars and twenty-one cents.
I stared blankly at the mortgage statement, my calloused thumb fingering its sharp edges nervously. The ink blurred as chilling raindrops fell hastily from the darkening sky.
Maybe we should have bought a cheaper house.
I closed my fatigued eyes, lifting my face to the taunting raindrops as I clumsily sat down beside my ornately designed, wrought iron mailbox. I remembered, with more than a twinge of sadness, the day Grace picked it out. Giddy with excitement about my new position at work, we splurged.
I wanted to cry, but couldn’t; only a lone, sharp breath escaped. The numbness that had replaced my pain was paralyzing. The rain rolled softly down my swollen cheeks, replacing the tears that would not fall. I cringed as the water melted my mascara into my already irritated eyes.
Dr. Wilson said I could take antidepressants, but I stubbornly refused to risk damaging Calla as she continued to develop during these miserable weeks. Nothing but my blood pressure pills and vitamins would enter my bloodstream.
I told myself I could tough it out.
My heart started thumping ferociously again, and I knew I should go inside and rest. I struggled to lift myself to my feet, fighting the dizziness that inhabited my present world.
If only someone would rescue me...
The wind whipped threateningly around our beautiful home, savaging the sky, sharply swaying the flimsy trees and delicate flowers. Our beautiful home, the one I could lose.
How will we take care of Calla? My tears blended with the raindrops.
Go inside, Jana. The whisper sifted through the storm, the only sound not trapped in the unrelenting wind.
I tried to block out the income we would lose, the fear of being a new mother, the seizing pain of rejection, and the daunting reality of job searching while trying to figure out how to be a mother. I tried to remember when I was healthy, happy, and peaceful. When my existence was more than an unceasing panic attack.
I needed to get up off the ground. The dizziness threatened to overtake me, creeping through my puffy legs into my fingers, arms, and throbbing head. The familiar pounding of my heart permeated through my veins.
Thump, thump, thump thump thump thump...
It was too late. I think I remember smiling as a memory of Grace and me playing softball as children flashed through my mind; she slammed a home run, and I happily picked dandelions in the outfield as the crowd cheered her on. And then I passed out again.
~Eighteen Months Earlier~
The moment Andrew shocked me with his abrupt announcement will be forever etched in my memory. The prelude to the earthquake that shattered my picture perfect life.
Naturally, he waited until after we had some especially erotic sex to break the news. He’d bought me a new book for Valentine’s Day, taking full advantage of having a wife who was rocked with the libido of a sixteen-year-old boy, but much to his relief had the decency not to fool around on him. Since Fifty Shades of Grey was too wild for his taste, he’d downgraded to some Kama-Sutra-like knock-off. Despite my unfeminine-like ability to separate sex and the rest of our marriage (I had no problem doing it angry, ever), I was livid at his timing. I had bent my body totally out of proportion, even for an ex-gymnast, and had not even really enjoyed it (if he had waited five more minutes for me to really wake up, perhaps I would have rocked his world), and now this? I had barely thrown on my robe and piled my rat’s nest of hair into a messy ponytail before he dropped the bombshell on me.
So seemingly insignificant, a ray of hope that could bring me home to Mama and Grace. Words that should be celebrated later: “Remember when...?” Words that should not be attached to bitterness and loss.
“Jana, Anthony wants to move into the management training program next year. That would open up a spot in my division in Fairhope.”
I froze, my steaming cup of hot cocoa at my lips. At least he had been gentleman enough to get me a drink post-tryst before royally ruining my day. “What?!” My marshmallows fizzled, victim to the steam.
Somehow, we found ourselves “at home” in Birmingham, Alabama. In our starving-college-student eyes, money started pouring in, accompanied by that vainly sought after emotion that most call happiness. Daddy lost his job when I started college, and I worked my tail off to keep my family from struggling. I barely landed a “B” average, but my work ethic sold me when my grades couldn’t. After years of pushing cell phones, an internship led to my dream job with Covington Company, one of the largest medical device manufacturers in the country. My persistence paid off with a respectable salary topped with generous commissions, an almost-free, brand new pearl-white Nissan Maxima, top-notch health benefits, and a growing pension, not to mention a handsome husband on my right arm, and the keys to the apartment right next to the pool. As my annoyingly optimistic mother, Mama, would say, “Sounds like waking up to a chocolate cupcake every morning and never gaining a pound.”
The product I sold was extremely popular, largely due to our monster sales force and the undeniable power of the teary-eyed, life-changed actress on our overdone television commercials. I upgraded from eating fast food on the fly, often dollar menu, to eating five-star free meals with customers on the regular. Childless and adventurous, I loved the frequent trips that accompanied my position: “training” in New York City, “launches” in Los Angeles and Orlando, a “leadership conference” in Las Vegas. Second honeymoons in cool places kept our marriage spicy; Andrew would fly out for a few days and shack up in my room when feasible.
The son of a former United States senator and a holier-than-thou former swimsuit model (try living up to that), Andrew inherited his daddy’s charm and brains, topped off with his mama’s good looks. Naturally, he was setting a clear path to climb the ladder at his accounting firm. Andrew was seriously hot in a suit and tie, and I grew used to fighting off the stares of the hungry women at company functions. At a meet-and-greet with a promising new client, one plastic woman in her mid-forties, after too many glasses of chardonnay, actually suggested that I let her borrow Andrew for the night. She guaranteed that he would return to me a better lover. I could even watch if I wanted. Better yet, I could join if we were game for that sort of thing.
I wondered how long she had been fantasizing about sleeping with my husband.
He nearly choked on the sip of Corona he was in the process of swallowing. I imagine the first thought that ran through his mind was, Great, Jana’s never going to let me out of her sight with my coworkers now. I smiled coolly and said, “No, thanks. We don’t play that way. You can look, but if I find out you touched him, I will make your life a living hell.” I strived to practice moderation, but I had downed a glass or two ... or three ... of wine, enough to chill me out but give me courage.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed his job, and I enjoyed watching him in the limelight.
We were living a dream, but I wanted to live the dream in Fairhope. My real home. Home was where Mama invited us over for homemade lasagna once a week, where Grace made me laugh until my sides hurt, and not through the cracked speakers of my worn out iPhone, but as we sipped steaming mochas downtown at Page and Palette—where the glistening water and fabulous Orange Beach were only a short drive away.
Brave - Sara Bareilles
Laura Lexington is a Contemporary Women’s Fiction and Contemporary Romance author. Her debut novel contains elements of suspense and explores elements of every part of life – love, sex, friendship, careers, faith, social issues, and family. She lives in the Southern United States with her family, where she hates the humidity but loves being close to the beach. She is the proud mother of one daughter, a rambunctious five year old who chopped her glorious hair the first week of kindergarten, and is the most awesome wife ever (or so she likes to think). When she’s not daydreaming up future stories, she’s wearing out her Kindle, thinking about shaking the dust off her treadmill, or planning her next trip to Orange Beach.
Laura works full time, and unlike the main character in her debut novel, is thankful to work for a company that recognizes employee talent regardless of age, race, or gender, and provides many opportunities for development. She firmly believes in the power of a good housekeeper, a strong cup of coffee (or two or three), and a novel that makes one’s senses spin with all the good stuff – drama, love, suspense, sex. If dancing with her rambunctious five-year-old in the kitchen counts as working out, she exercises daily, usually after several desserts she couldn’t resist.