Title: Friends First
Author: Angela Lam @authorangelalam
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Sweetheart Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press @wildrosepress
Promotional Partner: Hope For The Warriors
Maddy Strong doesn’t like to be alone but a weight loss boot camp is not her idea of a good time. Working out and counting calories is a test she’s bound to fail—especially when paired with fitness-focused Greg as a workout partner.
Health-conscious Greg Power is desperate to end his night terrors. While he doubts his therapist’s prescription of exhausting his body and reprogramming his mind he is willing to try anything.
During their workouts they uncover a deep connection. But when their friendship blossoms into love, they discover possibilities neither have ever considered. Faced with the biggest decision of their lives, who will they choose?
10% of each sale will be donated to Hope For The Warriors to support military families throughout our communities during this most stressful time.
One glance at the overweight woman in her mid-thirties, and Greg shuddered. Why do I get paired up with the walking body pillow and not the leggy blonde or the buxom brunette?
Stepping closer, Maddy squinted. “Don’t I know you?”
Frowning, Greg thought a moment. “Your voice sounds familiar.” He rolled his shoulders at the possibility they’d met and had sex but he forgot. Was she one of those women he met online and chatted with before turning down an offer to meet in person?
She widened her gaze and pointed. “You’re TheGeneral404Runner.”
Oh, shit. She recognized him. Scanning the length of her shapeless body, he sighed. Was she the woman with several odd jobs who only dated on Wednesdays or the woman who couldn’t leave the apartment until she potty trained her new puppy? He didn’t recognize her face. Did she post an altered photograph online along with a misleading tagline of curvy woman seeking slender man? He strained his memory for a few seconds, thinking over the many women he spoke to over the last couple of weeks before he finally placed her. “You’re Maddy from PerfectFit.com.” No wonder she ridiculed him for calling overweight women fatties. She tilted back her head and laughed. “What a coincidence.”
He cringed. Not only was he waking up early to drive across town to work out with a bunch of strangers, but he was paired up with Fatty Maddy, the gym owner’s sister. Everywhere he turned, the walls collapsed around him. Why did he listen to that damn psychologist?
Setting aside the clipboard, Peter clapped his hands. “Okay, class. We’re warming up with three laps around the building. Remember to stick with your partner.” He lifted a whistle toward his mouth. “Get ready. One, two, three. Go.” He blew the whistle.
The sound recoiled like enemy gunfire. Greg bolted into a sprint. He bounced off one foot when he ran, his left leg stiff and light.
“Wait up.” Maddy’s voice trailed after him.
Glancing over his shoulder, he slowed his gait. Breathe in. This class isn’t a war. Breathe out. This warehouse is a gym. Breathe in. These people are not enemies. Breathe out. These participants are classmates.
“Finally.” Maddy exhaled. Huffing and puffing, she moved with slow steps.
Seeing her foot land hard and flat against the concrete, he winced. She doesn’t know how to run. Watching her swing her arms against the rhythm of her stride, he shook his head, pity squeezed his chest. Teach her. “You look winded.” He slowed to a walk so she could stop and catch her breath. “Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.”
Air sputtered from her lungs. She clutched her sides. “Why does everything hurt?”
Placing a hand on her back, he recalled how he trained new recruits. “Place your hands on your hips. Practice breathing. Most importantly, keep moving.”
Together, they finished the first lap around the warehouse.
“Go ahead.” She waved toward the other participants. “I’m giving up.” Turning, she limped toward the warehouse.
“No, you’re not.” He gripped her arm. “No one surrenders in my troop. We’re finishing these laps together.”
She narrowed her gaze and stiffened her body. “Keep running without me. I’m not part of your troop.” She yanked away her arm and clutched her waist. Bending over, she gasped and choked.
Frowning, he remembered a new recruit throwing up in basic training from running too hard. “You’re making things worse.” He tapped her shoulder. “Stand at attention. The air can’t move through you if you’re all balled up.” Even if he didn’t like her, he would never abandon her. “Listen, Strong. For six weeks, I am your general. You listen and obey. Understand?” He waited until she rose in acknowledgment. “I’ve been where you are, and I know from experience the pain won’t stop unless you keep moving.” He placed a hand on her upper back. “Just two more laps to go.”
“Leave me alone.” She shook off his hand. “You’re not my general.” She pointed toward the other runners. “Go ahead without me. I can’t finish.”
“Yes, you can.” He offered his hand. Never let a soldier give up. He steeled his voice into a command. “Let’s do this run together.”
She stared at his long, slender fingers then toward his feet. With wide eyes, she turned and stuttered. “You’re an—an—amputee.”
A feeling of weakness overcame him. For a moment, he wanted to confess, tell her everything from start to finish about the war he fought, and the war he continued to fight deep within, always losing. “Let’s finish together, Strong.”
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Angela Lam is an author of several books focusing on the lives of modern women struggling to find their place in this ever-changing world.
She has spent the past three decades writing professionally for newspapers, small press, and literary magazines. She’s also worked in real estate, finance, art, education, and nature therapy.
An award-winning author, she is the recipient of residencies at Hedgebrook and Vermont Studio Center.
She divides her time between New York and California.
Social Media Links:
Facebook: Author and Artist Angela Lam
Goodreads: Angela Lam
LinkedIn: Angela Lam Turpin
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