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A Reading Sample from Rivalry

Jenna Winters and Ken Frank wished each other well when they ended their relationship and went their separate ways. Ken soon meets another woman while a twist of fate reunites Jenna with Bill, a man from her past. As Jenna and Bill reconnect, word about Bill reaches Ken. With the help of an unsuspecting mutual friend, Ken hatches a plan to destroy Jenna’s happiness, once and for all.

I got the idea for Rivalry from reader feedback on a previous contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Everyone loved the quasi romance between Gillian and Ian’s son, Jeremy, and I had a lot of fun writing it. So, I decided to set the story in Denver, and write a story about a younger woman who falls in love with a middle aged man. Jenna is an interior designer with Salisbury & Norton Architects, Inc., the same firm where Ian had once worked. Little does she know that her client presentation will begin a chain of events which will change her life forever. Ken, her significant other, is also planning some changes of his own. And look for Stephanie and Josh, from The Letter, to make cameo appearances. 


A reading sample from Rivalry by Marina Martindale

Jenna Winters watched her clients’ faces as she finished her presentation. All three appeared to be deep in thought. Oscar Shelton and his family were commercial real estate developers in the Denver area. Their latest project was a luxury resort and spa called The Shelton Inn at The Denver Tech Center. While they had been clients of Salisbury and Norton Architects for many years, it was Jenna’s first time working with them. Focusing her gaze on Oscar, his eyes seemed to soften and a hint of a smile came over his face.

“Interesting,” he finally said, “and you brought up a very good point. While the waterfall fountain would have created a nice ambience between the lobby and the atrium, I agree with your concerns about the expense of the additional plumbing, along with the maintenance costs, and I too like the idea of using more interior landscaping in the atrium.”

“I agree,” said Oscar’s son, Chris. “I also think we’re about ready to start the next phase.”

“I’m not.” There was a hint of anger in the young woman’s voice. “I wanted the waterfall fountain.”

“Apparently my daughter-in-law disagrees,” said Oscar, “so the three of us will have to discuss the matter further.” He turned his attention to the black man seated next to Jenna. Chad Runyon was the project architect.

“We’ll start working on the other changes you suggested,” said Chad.

“Good, because I want to break ground this spring. Thank you, Chad, and the rest of your team as well. I like the changes you’ve made so far, and I look forward to our next meeting.”

As the meeting broke up, Chad escorted the Sheltons to the elevator. Jenna, along with the two other architects, Mitch Harper and Jim Langly, were waiting in his office when he returned.

“Nice presentations, everyone.” He cleared a small stack of blueprints off his desk. “It’s always nice to see the clients happy, and you were right about the fountain, Jenna. It was way too much.”

“I’m glad you had my back,” said Jenna, “because I didn’t know what to expect.”

“Oscar and his son are good clients. I worked with them on a couple of office buildings, back when Ian was their project architect. They know what works and what doesn’t; although, I’m not so sure about this latest daughter-in-law. She’s wife number three for Chris, and I’ve not worked with her before.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens, and I’m afraid Ian was before my time.”

“I remember him,” said Mitch. “I worked with him on a few projects as well.”

“You would have liked him,” said Chad. “He mentored me when I first came onboard, and I inherited his office after he left. He’s now an architecture professor in Arizona.”

They turned their attention to the drawings and Jenna and the others took notes on their tablets. CeCe Wood, another interior designer, greeted Jenna with a smile when she returned to her desk.

“So, how did it go?” she asked.

“It went well.”

“I take it they liked your suggestions for the lobby.”

“They did. At least the old man did.”

“Good, because he’s the one whose opinion counts. He also has a thing for blondes. Or so I hear.”

“Say what?”

“Hey, I’m just messing with you.” CeCe had a mischievous look on her face. “I hear his wife used to come to the meetings too, back in the day. She apparently had blonde hair, but I don’t think she wore it long like you do.”

“Then I guess I’ll take it as a compliment, although being a redhead must take you off the hook entirely.” Jenna turned her attention to her computer and noticed the time on the screen. “I don’t know where the day went. I didn’t realize it had gotten so late.”

“It sure has, and thank goodness it’s Friday. So, do you and Ken have any plans for the weekend?”

“We’re supposed to go to a big family wedding tomorrow night.”

“Yeah, I heard about the wedding, but you don’t seem to be too excited about it.”

Jenna shrugged. “I guess I’m just not big on going to weddings.”

“Everything okay with you two?”

“We’re fine, CeCe. I know you’ve known Ken since high school. I also know you have high hopes, but we’ve only been seeing one another a few months.”

“I know, and I was about to say you may find this wedding a little more interesting. Apparently, there’s a rift of some kind in Ken’s family. It goes way back and had something to do with his grandfather having a falling out with one of his sisters, back when they were younger. From what Ken tells me, all the uncles, aunts, and cousins from both sides of the feud will be there. Hopefully, there won’t be any big brawls.”

“Will his grandfather, and the sister in question, be there?” asked Jenna.

“Ken’s grandfather passed away a few years ago. I don’t know if the sister is still around or not. If she is, she would be quite elderly by now.”

“Well, it’s unfortunate when these things happen, but with one, maybe both, being gone, I doubt it’d be much of an issue anymore.” Jenna shut down her computer and gathered up her coat and purse. “See you Monday.”

Jenna took the elevator down to the parking garage and slipped behind the wheel of her gray Camry. She checked her text messages while she waited for the car to warm up. Ken was with one of his friends at a sports bar called O’Malley’s Grill. She was welcome to join them if she wished. She quickly typed a reply.

“Thanks for the invite, but I have things to take care of if we’re doing the wedding tomorrow night.”

His reply came a moment later. “I understand. See you tomorrow. I’ll pick you up at five.”

Jenna felt relieved as she drove out of the parking garage. After a quick stop at nearby deli, she went straight home. It had been a long, stressful day. She looked forward to a quiet evening and long, hot soak in the tub.




Ken read his message and put his phone away. “Jenna can’t make it, so it looks like it’s just us guys tonight. Let’s order some burgers, and we can watch the game.”

“Or the scenery.” His friend nodded toward two women standing next to the bar. “Check out the blonde in the red sweater, and brunette in the navy-blue dress standing next to her. Wanna try your luck?”

“Well, of course I do, Greg. Anytime. The one in the blue dress looks hot. So, what do you have in mind?”

“Just wait and see, Kenny boy,” he said with a smirk. The two women were scanning the room, looking for a place to sit, but all of the tables were occupied. Greg caught the blonde’s eye and motioned for her and her friend to come to their table.

“Are you sure you don’t mind if we join you?” she asked.

“Not at all. We have plenty of room.” He extended his hand as he and Ken introduced themselves. Ken pulled back one of the empty chairs and helped the other woman out of her coat.

“The name’s Jeri.” She gave him a sultry smile as she sat down and smoothed out her dress. “And this is my friend, Erin. Her boss just gave her a much-deserved raise, so she suggested we go out and celebrate.”

“Congratulations on the raise,” said Ken, “and what about you, Jeri?”

“I’m afraid I didn’t get a raise.”

He couldn’t resist flirting back. “You didn’t? Then I’m sorry to hear it. So, what do you do that you’re not getting paid enough for?”

“I’m an office manager for a restaurant supply company. I’m also a part-time student. I’m working on my MBA.”

“Good for you. I’m a number cruncher myself. I work with a CPA firm. It’s me and two other accountants. So, tell you what. Why don’t my buddy and I buy the two of you dinner to celebrate your friend’s raise and to help make up for you not getting one.”

“Are you sure?”

Ken looked at Greg, who nodded in approval. “Of course, I’m sure. It’s our treat.” Ken flagged down their server and ordered cheeseburgers for Jeri and himself while Greg and Erin opted for fish and chips and a Caesar salad. As they enjoyed their meal, Ken realized he and Jeri had the same sense of humor. They also loved sports, although Jeri was more of a Packers fan than a Broncos fan.

“You’re kidding,” said Ken.

“My dad was a die-hard Green Bay fan. It was the only team we watched when I was a kid.”

“Well then, I guess we’ll have to take you to some Broncos games.”

“I’d love to. Anytime.” The conversation shifted to other topics. The more they talked, the more Ken felt drawn to her.

“Thanks for the burger, guys,” said Jeri. “It was delicious.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” said Ken.

“I enjoyed the company too. You know, Ken, I could sit here and talk with you all night.”

He gave her a wink. “Me too, but what would people say?”

Both laughed as their server gathered up their empty plates. Once he stepped away, Ken reached for his wallet and discreetly gave her one of his cards.

“All kidding aside,” he quietly said, “I’d really would like for us to get together again. Soon.”

“Me too.”

“In the meantime, can we buy you ladies a cup of coffee?”

Jeri turned her attention to Erin, who seemed ill at ease as she gave Jeri a pleading look. “While we would love to stay and have coffee with you, I’m afraid we’ll have to take a raincheck.”

“Gotcha,” Ken said under his breath. “So, I’ll call you. Soon. I really mean it.”

“Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.” Jeri turned her attention back to Erin, who looked relieved as she grabbed her purse. Ken helped Jeri with her coat and gave her a warm hug before she and Erin stepped away.

“Well, I’m glad one of us had a good time,” said Greg. “I was hoping she’d be quick and easy, but she turned out to be about as exciting as a plate of warmed-over mashed potatoes. So, what about you? Will you be hooking up with her later? Or are you worried about Jenna finding out?”

“Nah. Jenna’s a real sweetheart, but things are starting to wind down, although she’s still a lot of fun in the sack. So, before we part company for good, I want us to do a few more horizontal mambos for the road.”  He looked at Jeri’s card and smiled. “But if it means anything to you, I’ll definitely be following up with this one.”

Rivalry will be available in August, 2024.

Marina Martindale writes and edits all of her blog posts herself. She does not use AI software or images of any kind. No part of this blog may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form, or used in any matter by AI, without the express written consent Good Oak Press, LLC. Requests for permission must be addressed to Good Oak Press, LLC, P.O. Box 51244, Denton, TX 76206-1244


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