Secrets and Second Chances Book 1
by Donna M. Zadunajsky
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Alexis has had big dreams all her life, and she’s worked hard to make them happen! After college, she married and had a beautiful baby boy, living her dream as “Mommy” until Colton was safely entrenched in grade school. She lands her dream job at NASA, and her supportive husband, Jay, takes the lead on raising their son. The perfect family, right?
Twelve years later with no warning and no reason, Jay commits suicide. Colton goes into denial and blames his mother; Alexis buries herself in her work.
Seven months later, Alexis’s biggest dream comes true. She’s going to be on the next space shuttle! Her victory is short-lived when she finds out she has breast cancer. As her health declines, Colton delves into the dangerous circumstances of his father’s death.
“Family Secrets” crept into Alexis’s life when she wasn’t paying attention. Will she and her son ever find out the truth? Or is it too late?
Was life fair? Not in the least. Not when you worked your ass off for everything you’ve ever dreamed of and poof, in an instant, with one sentence…it was gone!
Life doesn’t always work out the way we want. No matter what you’ve done or how you’ve done it, something without a doubt gets in the way. You could spend days, weeks, months, even years working for the things you want out of life, only for it to be taken from you as if your dreams and schemes never existed. As if you had never tried at all…
It’s funny how life seems to work out the opposite of what we want. Why bother to dream at all if they never come to fruition? But, if we don’t have our dreams and goals to motivate and guide us, where would we be in this world? Lost, stumbling aimlessly, and not driven by desire, blood, sweat, and tears!
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Life isn’t fair,” so why are we so defeated when things don’t turn out our way? When everything seems to fall apart? Shouldn’t we just keep trying? “If you fall down, get back up, dust yourself off, and try again.”
But what if…just to be fair in this unfair world…what if we weren’t meant to have those dreams at all? What if they were only to teach us something we didn’t see in ourselves? What if there was something better than our dreams waiting for us on the path of life?
Ever since Alexis Finley had been a young girl, she’d dreamed of becoming an astronaut. She’d wanted to explore the universe—do something meaningful with her life. She was mere inches from making her dreams come true. The grueling hours she’d spent at work; she’d practically lived there. All for this one unexpected moment in her life that destroyed everything. It was so unfair!
Time seemed to stand still in her heart. The seconds ticked away as she sat in the expensive brown leather chair, staring speechless at the woman in front of her. Suddenly, life as she’d known it came to a screeching halt!
It didn’t matter how many times she blinked, she was still sitting in the same chair in front of the same doctor she had known for years. They’d taken a class together in college, for heaven sakes.
Alexis tried to let the words spoken to her sink in, but it just wasn’t registering completely. She prayed a silent prayer deep inside herself that perhaps she had heard it all wrong. By chance, the test results were someone else’s, not hers. Doctors were known to make mistakes, sometimes picking up the wrong report or reading the wrong patient’s file. Had the lab made an error? That happened sometimes, too, a false positive. So why couldn’t this one time be just that?
Alexis would get a second opinion, that’s what she’d do! She’d say, “Thank you,” and get up and walk out the door. Yet, she couldn’t move, her body numb and her mind in denial from what the doctor had just said.
“Alexis, we have to start treatment immediately. It’s extremely important before your condition gets worse. Time and early discovery is your ally, but we won’t know about that until after the biopsy,” said Dr. Sarah Ramsey.
“Are you sure it’s breast cancer?” Alexis asked anxiously. Her mind was whirling. This made no sense at all! She’d been checking herself off-and-on for years, and she’d never found a single lump, not even suspected one. Had she examined herself wrong? Maybe she didn’t realize something might have been a lump; maybe she’d thought it was something else, but never cancer!
Alexis had turned forty just last month, and now she’d have to have a mammogram every year for the rest of her life. “My life,” her mind repeated. How much time did she really have left? Panic was starting to set in.
“Yes, Alexis, I’m sure. I’ve checked your mammogram films and the ultrasound several times. I’m sorry, but the density of the images shows you definitely have breast cancer. There’s no mistake,” Sarah Ramsey stated firmly, yet warmly.
“I guess…” Alexis’s throat tightened and she swallowed. “This being my first mammogram and the additional ultrasound was just…just an initial precaution, ya’ know? ‘Cause it was my first…” she stammered. “I thought you wanted to see me about the results in-person as a courtesy and a baseline test for the future? It didn’t occur to me that anything was wrong.” The room was suddenly too warm, much too warm for her liking. Sweat rolled down the back of her neck, wetting the collar of her blouse. She twisted her long, wavy, brunette hair and clipped it into place on the back of her head, hoping it would cool her down.
“I wish I was wrong, Alexis, I truly do, but I’m afraid the results show you have cancer. I’ll call Dr. Brownski, an Oncology Surgeon at the Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando, to schedule a lumpectomy and a biopsy. He’s one of the best, Alexis. We’ll go from there,” Sarah Ramsey offered with an encouraging smile.
“Is there any other alternative?”
“I’m not sure what you’re asking, Alexis,” Dr. Ramsey frowned. “Until we have the biopsy—”
“Is there an option for a full double mastectomy?” Alexis interrupted. She watched as the doctor’s right eyebrow shot up. She had caught her off-guard, maybe even surprising her.
“Well, I wouldn’t suggest a mastectomy until after we have the results of the biopsy from the lumpectomy. I’m not even sure why you’d consider such evasive, extensive surgery without knowing what we’re up against. Most women don’t want their breasts removed because it takes away from their need to feel like a woman. As you know, a double mastectomy is done to remove both breasts. What I have seen from the images, the cancer is confined in the right breast. Most doctors won't consider a double mastectomy unless there is substantial evidence to do so. It’s also a very dangerous surgery with a long recuperation, therapy, and reconstruction. ”
“You know I work for NASA, right?” Alexis blurted out.
Dr. Ramsey nodded, placing a lock of her reddish brown hair behind her right ear. Her intelligent green eyes searched Alexis’s face as she waited for her to state her point, which the doctor couldn’t quite grasp at that moment.
“Well, NASA has been considering me for the next space shuttle launch. If they knew about the cancer, there would be no way in hell they’d let me go!”
“I see,” Sarah said, as she shifted in her chair.
“Do you?” Alexis’s voice rose, which caught the doctor extremely off-guard. “Because I have worked my ass off for this opportunity!” The anger stage was taking over much sooner than expected, but Dr. Sarah Ramsey had seen it all before.
“I can’t just sit and watch it pass me by!” Alexis shouted. She didn’t know where the anger came from. It wasn’t like her to jump down someone’s throat for no apparent reason. Although there was a reason, wasn’t there? Her dream was coming to a dead end. Thrown in the trash to be recycled. Never to be lived.
Dr. Ramsey cleared her throat. “Alexis, I know it’s a great deal to take in, but this is your health we’re talking about. I can’t lie to NASA or keep your records confidential from them in this type of instance. Besides, NASA will have their own doctors check you out before any such mission. There could even be legal repercussions for both of us by hiding this diagnosis. I understand being an astronaut is an incredible opportunity for you, but your health is more important than flying to outer space.”
Alexis grabbed her purse from beside the chair and stood up. She didn’t want to sit here any longer and listen to this doctor tell her she couldn’t live her dreams.
“Alexis, wait! Where are you going? We need to discuss, albeit prematurely, your options and schedule the lumpectomy!”
“I need some air.” Alexis turned and opened the door, then slammed it shut behind her. She knew she was being selfish, and that her health was important, but so was everything else she’d worked so hard to accomplish. Or maybe she was just in denial about the whole thing. She was only forty years old and had her whole life in front of her. Why did this have to happen to her? Why and how did she end up with cancer? She worked out and ate the right foods. All her physical exams had come back excellent until this one. So, why her, why now?
Alexis rushed down the hall and stood in front of the elevator. She poked the arrow down button with her index finger. A bell dinged, and the doors opened. She dashed in—took a quick peek behind her to see if Dr. Ramsey had followed her—then hit the L for the lobby. She was so thankful there was no one else in the elevator. She needed to calm down and think about what Dr. Ramsey had told her.
She took deep, easy breathes, in through her nose and out through her mouth. As the elevator doors slid open; bright light blinded her. She raised her left hand and rubbed her eyes, feeling a headache starting to surface. She walked out of the elevator and through the lobby of the medical center.
The future woman astronaut of the United States of America left without giving her doctor the chance to change her destiny and her dream. “Just who am I trying to kid?” Alexis screamed silently to herself.
Sarah Ramsey—she was practically a friend because they’d known each other so long—Sarah wanted to help, but Alexis just wasn’t ready yet.
By the time she reached her car and sat inside, all the anger she’d taken out on her friend just minutes before came pouring out. Alexis Finley had always considered herself a strong person and didn’t let anything get in her way, but the cancer was beyond her control. She needed to sit and think about what the doctor had said and make some decisions, even if it meant postponing her dreams. How could she give up her dreams when she was almost there?
Alexis pounded the steering wheel with her right palm, accidently hitting the horn. It blared, abrupt and loud. She didn’t even glance around to see if anyone was looking at her. She didn’t care if they were. She finally realized she could either sit here and feel sorry for herself, dwelling over how life wasn’t fair, or she could do something about it. But what could she do?
Her dream had always been to explore outer space, and she was determined not to let anything stop her. She had to come up with a plan. There had to be something she could do and still live all her dreams, but she wasn’t sure what that plan was yet.
Searching for the keys in her lap, she found them and started the car, Alexis knew she didn’t want to go home, nor did she want to be around other people. She just wanted to be alone and think. It was time to come up with a new, temporary plan. After all, she wasn’t dying…yet…or was she?
Secrets and Second Chances Book 2
... Hidden Secrets will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew...
Carla Michaels’s life isn't what she thought it was. She met her loving husband in college. She had a career as a teacher. All she ever wanted to complete her life was a baby. After five miscarriages, Carla had almost given up hope of ever becoming a mother.
Then a devastating tragedy strikes and everything she had ever loved is gone—now she’s left torn and shattered, wondering if she can go on with life.
Unexpectedly, she receives an envelope full of books. Journals that were kept hidden from her. A mystery starts to play out as secrets are revealed.
Will she get a second chance at life? Will the hidden secrets destroy her? Or will she find the strength to survive once she knows the truth?
“Hidden Secrets” will pull at your heartstrings until the very last page. Some secrets are not meant to be hidden…
What would you do if you found a book, a journal hidden away, filled with secrets—things you weren’t meant to know; things you should’ve known from the beginning?
So the question remains, how well does anyone really know his or her own spouse, sister, brother, mother, or father?
You could be living under the same roof for five, ten, even twenty years, and not really know one another. Even before they became your significant other, did their parents or siblings know them better than anyone else did? Did your family keep things hidden?
Siblings don’t always share their secrets with each other. They are not close. They most likely won’t get along with one another until they become adults, and still maybe even then, not see eye to eye!
What if you’re an only child, no one with which to share anything? What if one day you’re all alone? Your parents or spouse dies, goes to heaven, and you one-day stumble across a secret that your so-called loved ones have been hiding from you. What would you do? Of course, you would read it. You wouldn’t be able to help yourself. You would be too curious the moment you opened the book and read the first line. Especially, if you saw your name written as one of the words.
What if everything you thought you knew about your family, your spouse, your lover were all lies? Something they thought was better kept hidden from the one person they supposedly loved the most.
Even then, no one really knows anyone, do they?
Secrets and Second Chances Book 3
Craven Falls, Ohio, is a small town with twenty-eight hundred residents—a town where everyone knows almost everyone else and where nothing ever happens, until one day two children disappear.
Ashley Teodora spends her days juggling work, school, and her five-year-old daughter, Lily. She receives a phone call from her best friend, Carla Michaels, needing her to go to Illinois to help Carla who is going through a tough time in her life. When Ashley returns home, she receives horrifying news that turns her world upside down; her precious Lily has been abducted!
Reece Garran is released from prison after a five-year sentence. His primary goal is to find the woman whose memory kept him alive all those years while behind bars. This woman had captured his heart and wouldn’t let go. When the transport bus pulls into the town of Craven Falls, Reece thinks it’s just another small ordinary town until he finds a reason to stay.
Catherine Teodora, Ashley’s mother, loves crocheting, baking, gardening, and spending time with her granddaughter, Lily. On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, Catherine’s world is torn to pieces. All she did was look away for a split-second, and Lily was gone!
A family pulls together in a time of need, but what happens when those that are close to you are hiding behind twisted secrets? Will they stand by one another and find Lily? Or will the secrets tear this family apart?
For months, Tate had done nothing but watch, plan, and learn everything about Ashley. She was beautiful, but that didn’t do a woman justice, not in the world we lived in today. Beauty was just the half of it.
He watched Ashley wake in the morning. She didn’t know that he could see everything she did. Like when she made her coffee, adding cream and two sugars; then stirred, and tapping the spoon twice before setting it down on the red ceramic spoon-holder next to the coffeepot.
The way she gathered her blonde hair and twisted it into a bun on the top of her head before she crawled under the covers at night to read for exactly one-half-hour before placing the book down on the nightstand and clicking off the light.
Ashley repeated this routine every day—from the moment she woke in the morning to the time she picked up her daughter Lily from her mother’s place three miles down the road every evening. Although, on occasion, there were nights she didn’t come home. That was when she’d sleep over at her boyfriend’s house and her sweet little daughter stayed with her grandma.
Tate had on several occasions camped out and watched the grandmother who lived by herself in a two-story house surrounded by woods. Those woods made it an easy place to hide and watch the grandmother.
The grandma’s house was much easier than Ashley’s place to watch because Ashley lived in an apartment. There was no place to really hide so that was when he rented the apartment across the parking lot from her. It gave him a direct view into her home.
The grandma had been a grieving widow for some time. At least that’s what he’d gathered since Tate had never seen a man at her place. He watched her from time to time, but not as often as he followed Ashley around because she was who intrigued him the most.
The child, Lily, was almost a spitting image of Ashley, except for one thing; her long-wavy black hair, which Tate assumed, came from her father’s side of the family. He’d never seen the little girl’s father to know if she looked anything like him. The little girl’s father wasn’t in the picture. He hadn’t been for as long as Tate had been watching them. Tate hadn’t any clue where the sperm donor went or what happened to him—to them. Did they have a fight? Or did he just ditch her the moment he found out Ashley was pregnant with his baby? That would be something only God knew.
It was sad to see Ashley raise this child alone, but that would change in time. She would come to see that Tate was good for her. It would only take a little push in the right direction, and Tate knew just what to do to get her to see what love was. Show Ashley how wonderful and true it could be.
Ashley’s so-called boyfriend wasn’t who she thought he was. He wasn’t true to her. He didn’t love her the way a man should love a woman, especially someone as beautiful and smart as her—like Ashley. Her name sounded so sweet rolling off his tongue every time he said it.
As for the little girl, Lily, she would learn to love him and worship him. She would never be without a father again. A man who would give her everything she would ever need—want, but that would all come soon enough. Soon they would know all about him. Soon Ashley would be with him.
Because after today the cat would come out to play…
Donna M. Zadunajsky started out writing children’s books before she accomplished and published her first novel, Broken Promises, in June 2012. She then has written several more novels and her first novella, HELP ME!, which is a subject about suicide and bullying.
Her third novel Family Secrets, “Secrets and Second Chances”, which is first in a series she is writing, was given a publishing contract through California Times Publishing.
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