She’s waiting for her prince to come … but was he right beside her all the time?
Kristina Rose Maher wants to know why fairytales never happen for fat girls. Certain that diner cook Jeff, handsome and fit, will never want her as more than a friend, she stuffs down her attraction to him. But when she finds herself facing a life-altering weight loss surgery, she discovers she’s willing to do whatever it takes to embrace life—and love—to the fullest.
Jeffrey Berkley can’t bear the thought of losing the friend he’s only just beginning to realize matters so much to him… no matter what size she is. But he is also terrified that helping her reach for her dreams will also mean finally reaching for his own—and letting down his family’s legacy in the process.
Both Kristina Rose and Jeffrey must learn to love themselves before they can find a way to make a promise to each other. Will they finally be able to lay their heavy burdens at the Lord’s feet, and trust him to bring the happily-ever-after they both crave?
Don’t miss this sweet tale of faith, love, and gastric bypass–get your copy of Love’s Promise today!
Love’s Promise: Excerpt from Chapter 2
Everything felt heavy when Kristina first awoke from the anesthesia. Her eyelashes almost seemed as if they’d been weighted down or glued to her cheeks. Her limbs were thick and prickled with numbness. Even breathing felt more laborious than it once had. Wasn’t this surgery supposed to have the opposite effect?
She struggled against the fatigue and opened her eyes, one after the other, in a slow, careful squint. She wanted to sit up but didn’t quite feel strong enough to do so. Maybe if she pushed down with her arms…
The movement tugged at the IV protruding silently from her arm. It didn’t hurt, but it felt icky nonetheless.
“Good morning, sleepy head,” a nearby nurse said. “I was just coming in to check on you. How do you feel?”
Heavy didn’t seem like the right response here, so Kristina murmured “groggy” instead.
The nurse chuckled and put a heartrate monitor on Kristina Rose’s fingertip. “Heart rate is good. How do you feel besides groggy? Any pain?”
Pain? Oh, yes. Surgery was supposed to hurt. But… Kristina felt absolutely fine. “I think maybe I’m too tired to hurt,” she guessed aloud.
“On a scale of one to ten?”
“Maybe two. A little like I’m hungry from not having eating all day, but nothing unbearable. I thought it would be a lot worse.”
“Well, now, why did you think that? Dr. Daniels is very good at what he does. In fact, you’ll hardly have any scars to show for it. That’s the power of laparoscopic these days. Anyway, your vitals all look great. Would you like me to invite your friends in? They’ve been waiting very patiently to see you.”
Friends? Kristina Rose had only been aware of Elise staking out the waiting room for her. Who else had come to see her? Maisie? Jennifer? Summer, maybe? She nodded, and the nurse left with her chart.
A moment later, Elise burst into the room holding tight to the string of a big, happy “It’s a Girl” balloon. “I’m so glad you’re finally up!” she said, bending down to hug her friend and taking the pain from a two straight to a four. “Oh, I hurt you, didn’t I? I’m so sorry. It’s just I’m very glad to see you. I—”
“You were worried I wouldn’t wake up.”
“I knew you were safe in the Lord’s hands, but I still worried. What would I do without you, Kris?” She shook her head and chuckled morosely.
“Is that for me?” Kristina pointed toward the pink Mylar balloon floating near the ceiling. “You know I didn’t have a baby, right?”
“I know, I know, but I had to get you something, and there weren’t an awful lot of choices in the hospital gift shop. I figured the balloon is light and pretty. It floats, which is kind of like flying, right? And, well, you’re about to take off in this new life and get a lot lighter, too, if I understand it right. So… yeah. Here.” She tied the string of the balloon to the side of Kristina’s bed.
“You were waiting for me to wake up for how long, and that was the best you could do?” Kristina laughed. “But thank you. It’s perfect.”
“Hi, Kristina Rose,” a third person said almost shyly. It was a voice she knew well, but not one she had expected to hear so soon after waking.
“Jeffrey, hi. Thank you so much for coming!” She tried to adjust herself in bed to at least find a more flattering position, but doing so tugged at the IV line again and sent her pain back up to a three after it had only just settled down from the hug with Elise.
Jeffrey came to her bedside and gave her a very light and gentle embrace, then handed her a popsicle still in its shiny, white wrapper. “The nurse wanted me to bring you this,” he explained. “It’s sugar free and will keep your throat from getting too dry.”
“I’m not really hungry,” she confessed.
But then Elise was all over her. “Missy, you better do what the nurse says if you want to get better soon. Need me to unwrap it for you?”
Kristina Rose rolled her eyes. “I think I can manage.” As instructed, she unwrapped the popsicle, which was grape, her favorite flavor since childhood. She took a tentative suck and smiled. “Thank you for bringing this, Jeffrey. It’s so refreshing right now and the sugar’s helping to wake me up a little more.”
“It’s sugar free, but you’re welcome.” He smiled, too.
Elise looked from Kristina to Jeffrey then back again, but said nothing.
“I’m happy you’re okay,” Jeffrey said, ignoring Elise’s quizzical glance. “I prayed for you all day. In fact, I was so distracted at work that I even burned the toast. Mabel sent me here, said a cook who couldn’t even make toast was no good to her anyway.”
Kristina laughed. Had he really been so worried about her? She hated to cause him concern, but she also loved that he’d been thinking of her, that he was here.
“Do you mind if I just say a little prayer with you?” he asked. “It only feels right since I spent the whole day begging God to keep you safe. And he did, so now I need to say thank you.”
“I’ll just… go for a lap around the hall,” Elise announced, slipping out of the room.
“Can I?” Jeffrey asked again, his honey eyes appeared even brighter, his brown complexion even darker underneath the fluorescent lighting. Kristina nodded, and he lowered his lean, muscular frame down onto the edge of her bed then reached for her hands. Their hands and skin often brushed whenever she grabbed a plate of fresh cooked food to serve to their mutual customers or when they were working together to refill ketchup bottles or stock napkins. But all those brushes were casual, unintended, part of a day’s work. As his hands cupped around hers, she felt a small jolt as if her whole body was just now coming to life and shaking off the heaviness of the anesthesia. Like Elise’s balloon, she’d become light, was flying.
“Dear Lord…” Jeffrey began, but honestly, Kristina didn’t even hear the rest.
Excerpt from Chapter 13
An hour and a half later, they pulled up to a tiny wooden cabin seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Along the way, they’d chatted about the same types of things they’d also discussed with one another. The only thing that made it feel like a date was that they’d chosen to call it one and that Jeffrey occasionally reached over to hold her hand when the road in front of them was smooth and traffic sparse.
“Where are we?” she asked, stepping out into the cleanest air she’d ever tasted. Large hills rose up from the green earth, and a small lake shimmered nearby. “It’s so beautiful.”
“It’s my grandpa’s cabin,” Jeffrey explained as he opened the rear car door and allowed Toto to run free through the open landscape. “I look in on it every once in a while, ever since he and my grandma moved out to Colorado.” His eyes grew glossy with memories as he spoke.
“We used to spend a couple weeks out here every summer. I loved it, all that time with nature. No school work, no worrying. Just fresh air and family. You know…” He laughed and shook his head. “This is where I first learned to cook so many years ago. It’s like this place is where I could most be myself, where I would find myself whenever I started to feel lost. And lately I’ve felt that way a lot.”
She nodded along, understanding completely. She only wished she had a place like this to call her own. And the fact that Jeffrey had chosen to share his with her touched her deeply. She chewed the inside of her cheek, wondering how she could ever make an equally important gesture to Jeffrey when she had so little to offer.
Misreading her internal thoughts, Jeffrey blushed and hurried to explain himself. “Don’t worry, I promise to have you back by midnight. It’s why we left so early.”
“I love it,” she said on a sharp inhale. I love you, she almost felt herself adding, but it was far too soon for that. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”
“I want to share a lot of things with you, Kristina Rose. Mabel got me thinking when she talked about the small life she’d made for herself and how she loves it even though so many people strive for more out of theirs.”
Kristina Rose nodded. “Me too.”
“I realized something the other day while I was out walking Toto. Life doesn’t slow down, not ever, not unless you let it.” His handsome features twisted and grew dark. “My dad wants me to take over the pharmacy.”
“Is that what you want?” she asked, drawing nearer to comfort him.
Jeffrey shook his head and looked out at the lake. He grabbed Kristina’s hand and pulled her toward the gentle waters. “Everything I want…” he answered when they reached the shore. “Well, I already have it.”
Does that include me, too? Am I yours? She waited for him to say more.
“I’ve always wanted to be a cook. I’ve just never admitted it out loud. Who thinks that the after school job you get in tenth grade could one day end up their profession? And there’s something else I’ve known for a long time too but never had the courage to admit…”
Is this the moment I’ve been waiting for? Is this it? Kristina Rose pushed the anxious stream of thoughts aside and allowed herself to focus on the man pouring his heart out before her, the man who was a friend and also so much more than a friend.
“What is it?” she whispered as Jeffrey turned toward her and grabbed her other hand. They stood face to face, hands entwined.
He took a deep breath, and as he let it out, his smile grew and grew. “You.”
Kristina felt so happy in that moment that all her thoughts quieted. Finally, she allowed herself just to feel, to enjoy the present moment, to enjoy her dreams finally coming true.
His eyes glistened as he spoke, but they never turned away from her face. “Kristina Rose Maher, I’m crazy about you. And you know what I would like most in the whole entire world?”
She chewed the inside of her cheek and tried to hold back tears of bliss. “Yeah?”
“To kiss you again. To do it right this time.”
He brought his face in close to hers and when their lips were hardly an inch apart, he whispered, “May I?” His breath tickled, and it was all she could do to stop herself from leaping into his arms and stealing that kiss herself.
Instead, she said, “Yes, please.”
This time, neither pulled away until a very wet, very tired, and apparently very jealous Toto clobbered Jeffrey with a slobbery kiss of his own.
And this time Kristina Rose didn’t worry, didn’t wonder whether there would be more between her and Jeffrey. Because this time she trusted in God, trusted in him, and trusted in herself, too.
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Keywords: Christian Romance, Inspirational, Gastric Bypass, Weight Loss Surgery, Miracles, Christian Fiction, Friends to Lovers, Texas, Westerns, New Adult
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Melissa Storm is a mother first, and everything else second. Her fiction is highly personal and often based on true stories. Writing is Melissa’s way of showing her daughter just how beautiful life can be, when you pay attention to the everyday wonders that surround us.
Melissa loves books so much, she married fellow author Falcon Storm. Between the two of them, there are always plenty of imaginative, awe-inspiring stories to share. When she’s not reading, writing, or child-rearing, Melissa spends time relaxing at home in the company of her four dogs, four parrots, and rescue cat. She never misses an episode of The Bachelor or her nightly lavender-infused soak in the tub. Because priorities.
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