Taking Back Beautiful

By: Devon Hartford


To Julie Clarke because flutes are cool too, and for making Stink Foot the guardian that he is.

Taking Back Beautiful

For the first time in her life, Daphne Bowman wants to get in shape. She wants her beauty back and she’s determined to get it.

The last thing she’s looking for when she signs up for a membership at Body Fitness is a love connection.

Apollo Armstrong is a personal trainer with an emotional hole in his heart that he is trying to fill with the love of a good woman. He’s tired of meaningless dates with meaningless women who have nothing to offer but their bodies. He wants a real connection.

From the moment they meet, their connection is electric. But is it enough to keep them together forever?

TAKING BACK BEAUTIFUL is a fast read with loads of sweet and sexy feels, the scorching hot sex you expect, and the happy ending you demand. Both kinds.

Recommended for ages 18+

Chapter 1


“Hey, Dad,” I sigh. “How’s it hanging? Seen any good lawnmowers lately?”

His tombstone says, James Armstrong 1963-2015.

“You sure picked a nice view.” I tip back the bottle in my hand and take a swallow, staring out at the Pacific Ocean from the San Diego hillside where I sit on the green grass.

Next to Dad’s name, the brass plaque reads, Michelle Armstrong 1963-

Hopefully she has plenty of years left in her. Hopefully. But once one of your parents kicks the bucket, you realize the clock is ticking for the other. And for you.

“Hey, you remember Coach Ferguson? From high school football? I ran into him the other day at the grocery store. You know what he told me? His dad was going in for knee surgery. The Ferg was worried that his old man might need to use a walker the rest of his life because he’s 82.” I smirk and laugh. “82. Can you believe that?”

James Armstrong 1963-2015

52 years old.

2 months gone.

Died Christmas Eve.

I laugh morbidly, “You know you ruined Christmas?” I take another swallow from my bottle. “Mom was crushed. We didn’t even open presents. Too bad for you. Did you know Mom finally broke down and bought you season tickets to see the Chargers? The ones you said were too expensive? Would you believe she scored two seats on the railing at club level for next season? 45 yard line. Three grand each. One for you and one for her. Can you believe it? Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. Because I know something you don’t. Mom hates football. She bought those tickets for you, Dad.” I take another drink. I smile sourly. “Guess I’ll have to take her. Your loss.” I laugh.

It’s not a happy laugh.

I take another swallow.

“Want some of this, Dad?” I pour a splash on the grass below his tombstone.

“I don’t know how you lucked out finding Mom. In high school no less.” I shake my head. “The women I date are so shallow. They care more about expensive purses than they do people. I don’t know how I pick ‘em. I must be a bad judge of character. The last girl I was seeing was sleeping with three other guys. I wasn’t getting sloppy seconds. I was getting sloppy fourths. Can you believe that? If you were still around, I’d start bringing my dates over to you and Mom’s house so you guys could give me a thumbs up or down.”

My eyes water.

“But you’re gone.” The words come out in a hoarse hiss. “I miss you, Dad.”

“Is your daddy in heaven too?”

I look up into the eyes of some kid I’ve never seen before. He wears an Angry Birds shirt and looks like he’s five. “Yeah,” I mutter.

“So’s mine.”

“Sorry to hear that. Do you miss him?”

“Uh huh.”

“Me too,” I sigh.

“Don’t be sad. Mommy says he’s with you right now. He’s with you every day. In your heart.” He touches his chest with one little pink finger.

“Yeah.” I choke out the word and hang my head. My eyes are all wet.

“I’m firsty. Can I have some of your water?”

“Sorry, kid. It’s… medicine.” I wrap my fingers over the SMIRNOFF logo.

“I don’t like medicine.”

“Me neither.”

“But Mommy says I have to take it even if I don’t like it. She says it’ll make me feel better.”

I smirk, “Your mommy is right.”

The kid nods, “Then you better drink your medicine.”

“Yeah.” I swig a swallow of vodka.

“There you are, Owen,” the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen says to the kid. She looks at me with concern, then back at her son. “What are you doing over here, Owen?”

I set my bottle in the grass to my right, so she can’t see it.

Owen says, “He lost his daddy too.”

She smiles at me, eyes full of compassion. The most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. “I’m so sorry. Was it recently?”

I nod. “Two months ago.”

Her eyes soften, “I’m so sorry. It must be very hard for you.”

I want to pour my heart out to this beautiful angel. “Yeah.”

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