Questioning if any man will ever look at her like she's beautiful, Sam joins a local gym. She's led around by Brady, the gym's owner, and is more than a little intimidated by him. His intensity scares her, but something about him intrigues her more than she cares to admit.
When Brady defends Sam and tells her she's beautiful, she struggles to accept his words.
As Sam works to figure out who she is, and what she really wants to do with her career and life, Brady's strong and silent presence builds her confidence. Until Brady dismisses her, making her think he's just as bad as her ex. And that she'll never find someone who truly cares for her.
I nodded, unable to speak around the massive lump in my throat and the tears stinging my eyes. I knew it I said anything I would lose it.
“Do you want to go?”
I nodded again, anxious to get away from so many prying eyes. They might be acting nice, but sharing my most humiliating moment with hundreds of strangers was not my idea of a fun evening.
Brady picked up our stuff, carrying the drinks he’d bought us, the blanket, and our picnic basket. I focused on getting the hell out of there.
When we got to his Jeep Brady threw everything in the back while I climbed in, ashamed and shocked. For a fleeting second I wondered if I should be afraid of Brady, but I knew that was crazy. Brady wasn’t dangerous, not to me. If he hadn’t stood up for me I would have questioned why I was with him. Instead he took out Cade with one swing and I’d never have to deal with him again.
Brady got in the car and turned the key, cranking up the air conditioning, then turned in his seat. “Come here,” he said, pulling me to him.
The center console dug into my side, but I didn’t care. Brady’s arms closed around me and I lost it. Everything I’d hid, all the fears I’d buried, all the shame I’d felt, all the anger I’d carried… all of it poured out.
I sobbed against his strong chest, my tears soaking through his shirt. His hands rubbed up and down my back and his heart beat a steady rhythm under my ear. I let out everything I’d been holding in for weeks. I hiccuped my breath and kept crying, unable to stop once I’d started.
Brady was my rock. He held me as close as he could. He was turned at an odd angle and I knew his back had to be killing him. I tried to pull back but he wouldn’t let me, keeping my face against his chest. He had my head tucked under his chin and he kissed my hair, whispering kind words as I cried.
When I could breathe again I eased back. Brady let me but didn’t let go of me. I couldn’t face him. I looked down, keeping my eyes from his, unsure and afraid of what I’d find there.
Character Interview with Sam
Sam (laughs): Thanks, I appreciate that. Being a photographer I hide in the background most of the time. Most people aren’t interested in my life.
Interviewer: It’s the same way in my job, but today isn’t about me. Tell me how you got into photography.
Sam: I took a photography class in high school and completely fell in love. It drew me in completely and I knew I wanted to capture moments in time for the rest of my life.
Interviewer: What is your favorite moment in time?
Sam (blushes): Well, that might be a little private, but how about I just say when Brady told me he loved me. It was completely out of the blue, but then again, so was Brady.
Interviewer: Aw, how sweet. Can you tell us a little more about Brady?
Sam (smiles and gets a dreamy look in her eyes): He’s perfect. His last name is Wright and it’s so fitting because he really is Mr. Wright. He makes it possible for me to achieve my number one lifetime goal.
Interviewer: Which is?
Sam: To be happy. It’s all anyone really wants, but after Cade I wasn’t sure I’d find true happiness.
Interviewer: Well, Cade was a jerk.
Sam: Yes, he was.
Interviewer (smiling): What else makes you happy? Do you have a secret desire or fantasy?
Sam (blushing): Well, anyone who knows me knows my mind pretty much stays in the gutter. That question brings up all sorts of ideas, but none you can print. How about I just say ‘No comment’ and we move on.
Interviewer (laughing): Fair enough. On the other side of things, what’s your worst fear?
Sam (groans): You really know how to dig deep, don’t you? Really, my worst fear has always been that my parents wouldn’t be proud of me. They’ve spent years telling me I should get a real job instead of something ‘silly’ like photography. Even when they say they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished I worry it’s not the whole truth.
Interviewer: I’m sure they want you to be successful. Would you consider yourself wealthy, poor, or somewhere in between? That might have something to do with your parents.
Sam: I’d say I’m in between. I charge a fair price for my work, so I’m not poor, but I’m definitely not rich either. I won’t get rich as a photographer because I don’t love the work that brings in a higher commission, but that’s okay with me. I love what I do.
Interviewer: As long as you have enough to eat it’s okay, right?
Sam: Oh, yeah, mama likes to eat. That’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks at me though. I like all kinds of foods, pretty much haven’t found one that I won’t try! Brady gets mad at me when I say I’m fat. My friends use much kinder words to describe us. Addi says we’re bulky. Claire called us lush. Mandy says chubby. Charlie likes to say fluffy, but she’s a baker so it makes sense. Lexi says shapely, Riley is plump, and Carrie goes for husky. To me they all mean the same thing, but Brady won’t let me say that anymore.
Interviewer: Your friends seem important to you. How did you all meet?
Sam: Mandy, Claire, Addi, and I went to college together. Lexi and Charlie we met from going to Bite Me! so often. Riley and Carrie are new additions to our group and we met them through READ. We all work well together, don’t you think?
Interviewer: Yeah, you guys are great. I’ve noticed a few spats though. Is it true you argue over whether dogs or cats are better? Which side do you fall on?
Sam (laughing): Oh, yeah, that’s always been a fight between us. I’m firmly a dog lover. Brady picked out Lucky on our first date. He’s the ugliest dog I’ve ever seen, but he’s so beautiful. Brady and I think he’s perfect for us, not so perfect on the outside, but beautiful inside.
Interviewer (wipes eyes): That’s really beautiful. Doesn’t having a dog make it hard to travel? Are there places you want to go?
Sam: I think our jobs are more of a hindrance than Lucky is. We’re pretty happy at home, but if I did travel, I’d love to go to California. The mountains and the ocean, the ancient trees and the beaches, the hilly roads and the winding highways… it calls to the photographer in me. I’d love to go out to a vineyard and just wander with my camera or hang out on the beach at sunset. It looks so beautiful out there.
Interviewer: Is that what you would do if you won the lottery? Travel?
Sam (shakes head adamantly): Nope, I don’t think so. Our jobs are challenging, but I don’t think we’d give up our jobs. We’d take care of our family and friends. They mean everything to us. I’m sure Brady could upgrade some of his equipment and I could move to a bigger studio, but I don’t think we’d change much about the way we live. We don’t need much, just each other.
Interviewer: You’re so lucky Sam. It’s been wonderful to talk to you. I wish you and Brady the best.
Sam: Thanks. This was fun. We’ll have to get together some time. Maybe you can join us for girls’ night some Tuesday at Bite Me! Charlie really does make the best cupcakes you’ve ever tasted.
Interviewer: Ooh, that sounds like a great idea!
About Mary Thompson
When Mary’s not reading she’s playing with her two kids or living out her real life romance with her hubby. She has a weakness for chocolate, Buffalo sports teams, and wine, lots of wine.