Beneath It All

By: Tori Madison

Dedication




To my husband and daughters . . .

This book wouldn’t have happened without you and your constant love and support. Let’s not forget doing the dishes, cooking, laundry, driving the girls to dance, and disappearing for hours to give me some quiet time to write. You have stood by my side through it all and never complained. I love you all very much and couldn’t have asked for better co-survivors!

To my special angels in heaven P, J, and L . . .

You told me to “keep living the dream,” and I’m trying on your behalf. I love and miss you every day!

To my breast cancer friends (BCFs) . . .

This group of amazing survivors has played an important part in my life in figuring out who I am “after” cancer. I love and adore each one of you and the impact you have made on my life and the lives of woman all over the world with your positive energy and love!





Chapter One




I AM BEAUTIFUL


“I’ll get us checked in,” Noah said as he held my hand in the town car that had been hired to take us to the Plaza Hotel in New York City. “Then I need to head down to the conference suites and meet with a few of the partners to discuss the breakout session I’m leading on Saturday.”

“No worries, I could use a little down time actually. No need to rush on my account,” I said as I snuggled into my husband’s side; his dark sandy blonde locks tickled my forehead as I laid my head on his broad shoulder. It was a perfect fit.

We had just arrived in New York for a law conference Noah was to be a panelist for. He was known as the golden boy of his law firm, a bad-ass in the courtroom who was quickly becoming a highly respected attorney in Minneapolis.

“I shouldn’t be too long. We need to be down for dinner by seven o’clock with the partners and their wives. I’ll need a shower before we go,” he said while looking through messages on his phone with his other hand. He could multitask like no other.

Looking out the window, I took in the sights of the city as we drove along Central Park. New York was constantly moving; people were always in motion and minds were constantly going. I saw a gentleman walking briskly while adjusting his tie, which sparked my memory. “What tie are you wearing tonight? I’m not sure what dress I should wear to dinner, and I’d like to coordinate.”

“I was planning to wear my red one. But why don’t you just lay out your dresses on the bed, and I’ll help you decide when I get back.” I could hear the devilish smile in his voice, and it was confirmed when I looked up into the most intense, mischievously lit-up blue eyes.

“Well, you better hurry then. We don’t want to keep the partners waiting, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be a quick selection process,” I replied as my heart rate sped up. Noah was all business on the outside, but I knew what lay underneath that façade. It was the mystery of who he was in college that grabbed my attention, and he was a temptation I couldn’t resist.

Noah was the only child of a very prominent couple in Chicago. While he lived an exceptional childhood and never wanted for anything, expectations were always high. He had been at the top of his class, and failure was not an option. With a judge for a father and a law editor for a mother, he had been raised mostly by nannies and attended a strict Catholic school.

They were less than enthusiastic when Noah announced we were getting married shortly after graduation. “You’re being irresponsible” and “you’ll regret this decision,” were the only acknowledgments they gave us, passed on by way of their assistants.

We pulled up in front of the Plaza and the sheer size and grandeur took my breath away. Noah stepped out of the car first, and I followed close behind. Apparently I followed a little too close, as my left breast bumped up against his elbow as I stepped out.

Ouch!

A sharp pain, followed by a slow burning sensation, startled me. Apparently my breasts were a little more sensitive today since my period was due. It was quickly forgotten as the doormen began greeting us the moment my foot hit the pavement. Noah guided me up the signature red-carpeted steps, through the revolving door, and into the lobby. I felt like royalty.

“Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll go check us in?” Noah nodded toward the vast sitting area.

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