Our Chance…Chapter Two

It’s that time again. Time for a little excerpt of Our Chance. You can catch up by reading the Prologue and Chapter One first. Enjoy!

Universe

“You’re such a traitor,” Caleb said to Sparky when they drove by McGuire’s B&B on the way home and the dog hopped into the backseat, then ran over behind Caleb to get a better look at Celeste’s house.

The dog didn’t respond, not that he expected him to. Once they were out of view of the B&B, Sparky’s considerable form jumped to the front seat again and sat on the passenger side.

Celeste had said no one should be lonely, but he guessed she had no clue what that was like. It looked like she was the Pied Piper and all she did was open her mouth, with the sound of her voice drawing everyone in.

Hell, even he seemed almost mystified by it and that was saying a lot.

Hardened, that’s what he was told he was now. He didn’t deny it. No, he mastered it. Do what you can to survive, he reminded himself.

He parked his truck in front of the falling-down beat-up old garage. His next project was to tear it down in a few weeks so a new, much bigger one could be built.

He could do it himself, but he’d need help and didn’t have anyone he could call. Even if he did, he probably wouldn’t ask anyway. He never wanted to be indebted to anyone—friend, family, or foe. Life was simpler that way.

Sparky jumped out of the driver’s door after Caleb climbed out. The dog ran toward the side door to wait while Caleb got the cans of paint.

Once inside the house, Sparky went over to his bed by the glass doors and lay down to take his normal mid-morning nap while Caleb climbed the stairs to the enormous loft and got to work in silence.

***

Celeste had wondered if she’d ever get a close-up look at the stranger in the truck that drove by her house once every few weeks. He probably drove by more, but she wasn’t always outside.

Still, she was curious who he was, but didn’t even know who to ask. She liked to know who was in the area of her business.

It was a precautionary move. Yeah, sure it was, she told herself.

She wasn’t being nosy. Not like so many other people in this area. Having grown up here, she knew how small towns could be.

Sure, they had tons of tourists in and out all summer long. Not just her B&B, but others, as well as hotels, resorts, and the houses that people rented. It was hard to keep track of everyone, but the tourists tended to stand out more.

Though Caleb stood out, it definitely wasn’t in the form of a tourist.

Actually he fit in a bit around here as a local that either lived in the woods or on the lake. There were two types of locals in Lake Placid. The locals that had second homes and vacationed here—those with money that you saw a mile away.

The second type were the locals that were more down to earth. That was Caleb. Down to earth, even on the grouchy and simple side.

And the lonely comment she’d made, well, that was more in regards to him. Sparky didn’t look all that lonely to her. She recognized the dog the minute she came out of the store and could have sworn Sparky recognized her, too.

She knew enough to not pet strange dogs, and though Sparky was definitely intimidating in his girth, he was all but drooling as he stared at her when she walked to her car. Which happened to be parked right next to Caleb’s truck. Talk about luck. Sometimes the universe had some tricky moves up its sleeve and she took it as one of those times and decided to introduce herself.

“What has you smiling so prettily over there?” Nancy asked.

Celeste had waved to the sisters that were sitting in the sun on her dock as she opened the back door. They must have been waiting for her, because they got up and returned to the kitchen.

“Oh, just thinking of someone I ran into in town.”

“Only a man can put a smile like that on a woman’s face.”

Celeste giggled. These two ladies had been a hoot for the three days they’d been here. She was glad they booked a week and was going to miss them something fierce when they left.

“Well then, I guess you know the answer.”

“Do tell,” Sue said, walking over and opening the refrigerator and grabbing the pitcher of lemonade.

She loved that her guests felt enough at home to help themselves. That was part of the experience she wanted to give them.

“Not much to say. I’ve seen his truck on the road several times for months now. I just ran into him at the hardware store.”

“Please tell me you introduced yourself,” Nancy said eagerly.

“Of course I did. I was raised to be polite.”

“Polite,” Sue said laughing. “There’s nothing polite about it if he’s hot. Is he hot?”

Celeste thought it was funny the conversation was bouncing back and forth between the sisters and her. It was almost like a routine with them, alternating questions.

“I think he could be.”

“Hmm,” Nancy said. “Possibilities. That’s even better.”

They were just a riot. And yes, she did see possibilities there with Caleb. It was kind of hard to tell, but she had a feeling they were there, just hidden deep. His beard was pretty scruffy, his hair messy and his clothes wrinkled, but there was a wounded look to his eye.

A look that said, “Just leave me the heck alone and we’ll all be happier.”

Only Celeste had never been one to walk away from a wounded soul before. She had her own wounds, so she knew what it was like. At times, part of her felt like she was spared to help others. And because she was one of the lucky ones, that’s what she decided to do with her life. Bring some comfort and maybe joy to others.

“For now, I know his name. So that’s something, don’t you agree?” Celeste asked.

“It’s a start,” Sue said. “What’s your next move?”

“I don’t have one,” Celeste said. “I’ve got a business to run, and another one to work on.”

“Really?” Nancy asked. “What business is that?”

“A local plastic surgeon often has patients fly in from out of town for his services. A few have stayed here in the past and some of his staff thought it’d be a nice business move to open up a small B&B next door for patients only. They can recover and relax on the lake before they return home. I’m going to run part of it while his staff come in and care for them, too.”

The sisters looked back and forth at each other, their faces lighting up. “What types of things does he do?” Sue asked.

Oh boy, looks like she might have sparked some interest here. She’d have to think about this some more and talk to Max. See if there was a way she could get some brochures on site.

“He can do pretty much anything and his staff is awesome.”

“I’ve always wanted Botox,” Nancy said. “Maybe now is our chance. What do you think? Think our husbands will even notice if we have anything done this week? How is the availability for appointments?”

Celeste rolled her eyes. “I’m going to stay out of this conversation. I don’t want your husbands to come back and blame me for anything they may not approve of.” She walked over and pulled open a drawer. “But if you happen to see this card right here on the counter, I’ll pretend I didn’t leave it lying around.”

She walked out of the kitchen, listening to the sisters as they talked back and forth over whether they should make the call or not reminding her of another set of sisters that stayed with her months ago. Ones that had received services from Max’s office.

This little business venture might turn out to be much more than she ever envisioned. She was an entrepreneur after all, so a profit was always a good thing.

See, the universe working in crazy ways again. Nothing like a diagnosis of melanoma to bring her in contact with someone that could create possibilities in her life.

There’s that word again. Possibilities. And those thoughts went right back to Caleb.

If she knew which house was his, she could bring him some cookies or a cake. Welcome him to the area, even if it was a little late. Better late than never, as her grandmother would say.

Since it was her grandmother’s house she’d turned into a B&B, maybe she should listen to the wise woman that everyone said she took after.

The woman that loved and nurtured so many. A midwife in her earlier years. One who helped birth her and Cole much earlier than they should have been delivered. The woman that probably saved their lives back then when she recognized something was wrong when the doctors brushed it off.

It seemed only natural that Celeste would take this home and turn it into something her grandmother always thought it should be, but never had the time or ability to make happen.

But Celeste made it happen, turning her dreams into reality. Those dreams of this place were what kept her going during her treatments.

Goals and dreams. Possibilities of things to come. Things she wanted to see through and make happen. Promises she made to herself that if she survived she’d do.

Here she was, doing what she always wanted, and was thrilled to say she was able to wake up each morning enjoying what she loved.

Maybe she needed another goal though. One besides the project with Max next door. A more personal goal. It’d been so long since she’d had a personal goal.

A man maybe. Her life had always been so busy that she never had much time for a relationship. She wanted one, always, but not too many people liked what she did for a living…among other things.

They didn’t understand why she spent so much time and energy on her home and caring for others. Of course growing up in this area limited her contact with most people, too.

And tourists just wanted a quick fling that she had no interest in. Sure, she’d tried it, and enjoyed it, but she was beyond that now. Now she wanted something more stable.

Now she wanted a challenge. A challenge in the form of a man that probably wanted nothing more than to be left alone.

You can purchase the book here on Amazon.

Our Chance…Chapter One

It’s that time again where I post a few chapters of my up and coming book. Last week the prologue was posted for Our Chance. And now it’s time for chapter one, called Positive.

Positive

Fifteen Years Later

Celeste opened her eyes as the first rays of dawn shone through her window. Nothing like waking to the sunshine. It always perked her up and reminded her she had everything in the world to be thankful for.

“I’m not eating dirt today,” she said out loud and let out a little giggle.

Every morning she expressed some positive little tidbit. She’d done that since she was a teen.

Sure, sometimes she repeated the same one, but it didn’t matter. It was the sentiment that there was always something to be happy about. Something to look forward to. It was a great way to start the day in her mind.

She stretched her arms over her head, twisted to the right and then the left, heard her body pop and crack more than it should for a thirty-year-old, and walked into her bathroom to get ready for the day.

Twenty minutes later, she was strolling along the brick pathway into the kitchen of her bed and breakfast with her long brown hair in a braid that fell down her back. First things first, she filled the large industrial coffee machine and set it to brew. She always wanted coffee ready for her guests.

Her guests paid a hefty rate to stay at her B&B and she made it worth every penny for them, not only with the atmosphere and view, but also in making them feel like they were being pampered in their own home.

Breakfast wouldn’t be until eight, so she had plenty of time to bake some muffins for those that wanted something light.

While the coffee brewed, she pulled out the ingredients and started mixing up the batter for her blueberry muffins. Once the first batch was in the oven, she walked over to the chalkboard in the kitchen, and in her beautiful script updated the menu for tomorrow.

She always had the menu listed for the current and next day. That way her guests knew what she was cooking for breakfast and dinner, both which were served family style in her large dining room. Lunch was always brown bag.

When six of her eight guests were out the door with their packed lunches in hand for their hiking adventure, Celeste turned to her two remaining guests. Sisters, each renting the last of her five rooms. “What do you two ladies have planned for the day?”

“If you don’t mind, we thought we’d spend it out by the water. Maybe take out the paddle boat and get some exercise,” Sue, the older of the two sisters, said.

“I think that’s a wonderful idea. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining and warm, and the water is peaceful right now. Don’t forget your sunscreen,” Celeste said as she wiped down the counters.

“We’ll be fine. The sun isn’t that hot this time of year,” Nancy, the other sister, said back. “We never wear it. In our day, we went outside and bathed ourselves in baby oil.”

Celeste just held her smile, even though she wanted to cringe. “Well, as someone who was diagnosed with melanoma a year ago, I feel the need to lecture, but I’ll hold my tongue.” She walked over to a cabinet, opened it up, and pulled out a can of spray sunscreen. “Humor me, please, and take the sunscreen with you. Just don’t tell me if you decide not to use it,” she said, adding a little wink.

Celeste chose to believe the grins they were both sporting meant they’d use it, but chances were they wouldn’t. You can’t save the world, she told herself, but at least she felt better doing her part.

“Thanks, dear, you’re so thoughtful.”

Yep, thoughtful. That was her. Always thinking of others and putting them first.

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure the shed is unlocked so that you can get the life vests and any other gear you might want. There are fishing poles in there, too. Maybe if you catch enough I’ll cook fish for dinner.”

Both women scrunched their faces up. She expected no less. They were pretty pampered and high maintenance, and the thought of them fishing almost set her over the edge of laughter.

“How about we stop in town and buy some fish? Our treat,” Nancy said. “You’ve been taking such good care of us this week, I don’t want to go back home to my husband. Just the thought of what my house looks like makes me want to reserve another week here.”

“I have to run to town in a few minutes on errands. If you ladies are in the mood for fish, I’ll gladly pick some up. If all the other guests are in agreement, I’ll change dinner over. Otherwise, I’ll just cook the menu and your fish. No worries.”

“Really, don’t go out of your way,” Sue said.

“I’m here to please. How does salmon sound?”

“Delicious,” Nancy said.

“Then consider it done. Enjoy your day. There is plenty of food in the kitchen, so help yourself.”

Twenty minutes later, she was walking into the hardware store and making her way to the paint samples. “Hello, Billy,” she said to an old classmate.

He was a little on the short side, kind of geeky with his bow tie, and his left eye wandered off in space, but he was harmless. He’d never really fit in with his sweater vests and khakis in school, but she found him sweet and endearing and made sure she went out of her way to say hi.

“Celeste, it’s good to see you,” he said, blushing slightly like he always did. “Did I hear you were buying the house next to your bed and breakfast and turning it into another business?”

“Your hearing is excellent as always, Billy,” she said, tilting her head with a smile, which only caused his blush to intensify.

“You’re going into business with that fancy plastic surgeon, right?”

Small towns—nothing got by them. “Dr. Hamilton and I are forming a partnership of sorts, yes. It’s going to be a small B&B for his patients only, but I’ll oversee it while his staff is on call.”

“Imagine that, a special B&B for a plastic surgeon. Who would have thought of that?”

“The world is full of possibilities, Billy, don’t you forget it. I think you’ve got a customer waiting for you.” She nodded her head toward the tall man standing at the paint counter. He looked a little unkempt and a whole lot of impatient. “Sorry about that,” Celeste said to the newcomer, adding a little smile to her apology.

She didn’t recognize him, but he didn’t look like a tourist. Probably new to the area. More and more people were buying vacation homes here, though he didn’t look the part of a some-time vacationer either.

It looked like he hadn’t shaved in days. His hair was disheveled and in desperate need of a cut. An old T-shirt and cargo shorts with beat-up sneakers completed his look.

He nodded his head quickly, but didn’t say another word. She continued to smile politely and went on her merry way.

***

Caleb had been listening to the woman and worker talk for a few minutes while he grabbed the paint color he was looking for.

Celeste, huh? And it was her bed and breakfast. He drove by it every time he came to town and saw her outside often. He thought she might have been an employee since she was normally mowing the lawn, raking, weeding, and sometimes even painting or touching up the outside.

This was the first he’d seen her up close and was shocked to realize how young she seemed.

She obviously didn’t recognize him, not that he expected her to, but she’d waved to him a time or two as he’d driven by. Now he was starting to think she waved to everyone that passed her house. Good thing she didn’t live on that busy of a street or she’d never get anything done.

“Can I help you?” Billy asked him.

“I need to get two cans of this paint,” Caleb said, then turned his head and watched Celeste as she browsed tile samples a little ways down the aisle.

“Isn’t she just beautiful?” Billy asked him, a wistful tone in his voice.

Caleb grunted, but didn’t say anything else. Obviously Billy had a major crush on Celeste. It wasn’t hard to miss how he blushed and looked at her longingly.

To Celeste’s credit though, she didn’t humor Billy at all. No, she talked to him like he was a person, maybe like they were good friends, though they probably were no more than acquaintances. Just like she turned kind eyes on him and apologized for keeping him waiting.

He didn’t mind waiting, not really. It’s not like he had any pressing matters to get home to. Just painting and fixing up the cabin he’d bought. Then working out the kinks of another app he was writing.

“I went to school with her, and everyone just adored her,” Billy commented, then started to set the colors to blend in the mixer. Guess Billy didn’t get the hint that Caleb wasn’t much for conversation.

“That’s nice,” Caleb said and looked in the other direction, trying to find something else to focus his attention on.

“She’s nothing but a walking miracle. After all that’s happened to her, she’s never let it bring her down. Always had that bright sunshine smile on her face.”

Caleb refrained from snorting over Billy’s description. It was most likely an exaggeration from someone that was infatuated with her.

Besides, it wasn’t of any concern to him. He just wanted his paint so he could get home.

But Billy didn’t get the hint. “Was named prom queen two years running, too. No competition. But it never went to her head, either.”

Wow, Caleb thought. This was why he couldn’t get out of the small town he grew up in fast enough and was wondering what the heck he was thinking, relocating here. He’d thought it would give him the solace he needed to survive and move on, but instead it was just giving him a headache.

“I’m sure she was thrilled,” Caleb said, not knowing what else he should say. Proms were something he didn’t pay much attention to, even for the short period of time he was in high school.

“Nope, she didn’t want the honor. Her senior year, she handed the crown over to a classmate with Down syndrome. Told everyone that it wasn’t fair to be queen twice and she gave it to the runner-up instead.”

So Celeste was a saint on top of having a sunny disposition. Oh yeah, let’s not forget she was a walking miracle, whatever that was supposed to mean.

Not that Caleb believed in miracles. Just the opposite, actually. Miracles didn’t happen to him; they failed him. Cut a hole in his heart and left him to bleed out alone. Left him to pick up the pieces that were remaining and find a way to move on.

“How much longer is the paint going to be?” he asked, trying to figure out what else he needed so he could walk away from this ridiculous conversation.

“Almost done, just another minute. Do you need some brushes or pans today?” Billy asked, and Caleb was thrilled the topic had changed.

“I’m all set, thanks.”

Billy took a tiny bit of paint and put it on the outside of each lid, then slapped the top down hard and printed out the order slip. “Here you go then. Just take this to the register and they’ll ring you up. Have a great day.”

“Thanks,” Caleb said, nodding his head and walking to the front, paying quickly and making a beeline for his truck, only to be brought up short.

“I’m sorry,” the woman from the store he was trying to avoid said. She had her hand up and was rubbing the head of his German shepherd.

Some guard dog he ended up being. Gigantic head sticking out the window, tongue flopping to the side, and his eyes all but rolling around in his massive head as Celeste briskly rubbed his fur. Then she reached her hand under his chin and gave him a tickle, the dog’s head wobbling around in glee.

If dogs could talk, he’d swear the dog would be begging for more attention like Billy in there was.

“Don’t you know not to pet strange dogs?” Caleb asked.

“He looked lonely,” Celeste said. “No one should be lonely.”

Caleb grunted. She was like a little Pollyanna. Where the heck did she come from? “He just loves attention.”

“What’s his name?” she asked, her voice like a soft caress. Okay, maybe she had some magical powers in her voice, because he could see how someone could be drawn in.

“Sparky.”

“That’s a cheerful name,” she said, rubbing the dog one more time on the head, which got her a lick in return.

Man or dog, always a sucker for a beautiful woman, he thought. Good thing she didn’t know how Sparky got that name—she might not think it was so cheerful then. “Let’s go, boy, head back in the window.”

Sparky turned his head, eyed him once, then let out a sigh but did as he was told. Caleb walked around to the bed of his truck and put the cans in there. Celeste followed suit. Guess it wasn’t just Billy that couldn’t take a hint.

She held her hand out to his. “I’m Celeste McGuire. Thanks for letting me pet your dog. I’ve seen his head hanging out the window of your truck multiple times. Sorry I didn’t recognize you up close in the store.”

She was more observant than he thought. As much as he wanted to walk away, he wasn’t that much of an ogre, regardless of what people said. He returned her handshake. “Caleb Ryder.”

“You must be new to the area. I’ve only seen your truck for about six months now.”

Yeah, she obviously knew what was going on around town. He’d been in the area close to a year, but purchased the truck about six months ago. “Yep,” he said, not adding anything else.

He didn’t want to get close to any locals. He just wanted to go back to his cabin in the woods and be alone. He was better that way. It was better for everyone.

“It was nice to meet you, Caleb,” she said, her smile never leaving her face. He got the feeling she was humoring him now, but let it go.

“You too,” he said, and walked around the bed of his truck, climbed in the driver’s seat, and started the engine.

He didn’t look in the rear-view mirror at her while he was pulling out of the parking lot. Not really.

You can purchase Our Chance here.

Our Chance…Prologue

Here’s the Prologue of Our Chance. I have to say, of all the books I’ve written, this story has touched me the most. You can buy the book here.

Prologue

Celeste looked up as her father strode into the room, oblivious to the noises around him. Noises that were second nature at this point. The tiredness on his face didn’t diminish the strength he always exhibited.

“How’s my girl doing?” he asked her, coming to sit on the corner of her bed. He reached his hand out and placed it lightly over hers, mindful of her IV and the heart-rate monitor on her finger.

“Hanging in there,” she said as upbeat as she could.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said, leaning down and kissing her forehead, but she wasn’t so sure she believed him. He’d never been wrong before and she didn’t want him to be now, except deep down she was afraid he was lying.

After all, she didn’t think she’d be here again. Not in this room, not in this hospital, and not wondering if she’d live.

No fifteen-year-old wanted to think that—ever. She was supposed to be infallible…weren’t all teens? She should be sitting on a different bed at a friend’s house talking about her latest crush, not in this dull sterile room wondering when she’d die.

Did death hurt? Would it be quick? Best not to go there.

“I’m scared,” she finally said.

It was the first time she’d ever voiced it out loud. Sure, it’d bounced around in her brain more times than she’d ever confess to, but not once during the six months of chemo did she ever tell her mother or father she was scared.

Nope, she saw how much her cancer upset them, so she did her best to project the face of a carefree teen. It wasn’t hard at times since she was always happy and cheerful. Though there were times she didn’t want to do anything other than curl in a ball and sleep through her illness, she always managed to stay positive. If not for those around her, then for her own mental sanity.

But it wasn’t fair. She’d fought her way through those treatments. She’d suffered in silence. She laughed when she saw her bald head the first time and even cracked jokes when her parents kept buying her different wigs to change up her style. And when she’d finished her last treatment, she celebrated with her friends by gorging on cake and ice cream…once her stomach was strong enough for the food to stay down.

Then, when her latest scan came back after her treatments ended and the results said she was in remission, well, that was cause for another party and another celebration. She’d made it. She’d beat the odds.

Life had finally seemed to be going so well. Her dark hair had grown back enough that she could style it and feel pretty again. She was strong enough to enjoy school and go out with her friends. She was back to being a teen.

Until a few weeks ago, when the latest scan said the cancer was back. Why? Why was it happening to her?

“I have all the faith in the world this bone marrow transplant will work,” her father said.

“It better,” she said, forcing another smile and fighting through the tears. “Cole will be livid if he has a scar and nothing good comes out of it.”

“Don’t talk like that. Do you hear me? Your mom will be here in a few minutes, and I’ll go sit with Cole.” Her father stopped talking, ran his hand over her short hair, and said, “Life’s not always fair, Celeste. We know that, you know that, but sometimes miracles happen. You and Cole were our miracle once before, so I know it’s possible to have another. I refuse to believe otherwise.”

She hoped her father was right, but she was so tired. So tired of being the strong one, the happy one, the one that had to fight this nasty battle.

When her mother walked in the room a minute later, Celeste did what she’d been doing all along. She painted a smile on her face and said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Her mother laughed through her teary eyes, leaned down, and kissed her quickly. “Cole just said the same thing. They’re going to put you two in the same recovery room so you can wake up together and start to torment each other like always.”

Celeste looked at her mother, then her father, giggled a little, fought the meds that were rushing through her veins making her slur her words, and said, “You wouldn’t want it any other way.”

It was the last thing she remembered. Seeing both of her parents looking down at her, both trying to smile like her, trying to look positive—only she saw the worry in their eyes. The same worry she’d been feeling for weeks in the pit of her stomach.

 

 

Fight Song

It’s time for music again. For Our Chance, I listened to Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. Why? Well it’s a pretty awesome song for one. But also, because when you read the book, you’ll understand that what originally started out as Celeste’s fight song, really happened to be Caleb’s too.

Crazy Life

I know I’ve been a little bit quite lately, but I’m still here. In the last month we’ve closed on a new house in a city an hour away, and have been doing some Reno to it before we officially move the end of June. We also put our current house up for sale a week ago, so that is a none stop cleaning frenzy to have it set for bookings. Then throw in my full time job, my son is graduating from high school in a few weeks and writing, well something has to give. Unfortunately, it’s been the writing.

However, I’m still on track to release Our Chance on June 7th. Take a Chance is still scheduled to go to the editor’s on June 1st and my plan is to have Deserve a Chance done by the end of this month (at least the first rough draft).

Stay tuned for a few chapters of Our Chance in the next week or so!

Update Time!

Since I’m sitting in my house while carpet is being installed, I thought I’d take a moment to give an update.

I’m moving! Well, not right at this moment, but soon. We’re closing on our new house this week, then putting our current one up for sale in another week. Once my son graduates from high school we will officially be out of here.

During this crazy period of time I’ve managed to continue writing, which is probably the only thing that has kept me sane! Seriously, I think that is true.

Give Me A Chance was released in March, and Our Chance is now available for pre-order. I have to say Our Chance is probably my favorite book. Not just the characters, but their story. It’s funny and heartwarming, and shows so much growth between two people. I could read this story over again and again and never be tired of it.

Take A Chance is done for the moment and will be going to the editor’s in June and Deserve A Chance is at the halfway point. I’m just loving this series so much that I might not be able to stop at six books. What do you think? Should I continue on?

So there is a little recap of my life at the moment. I remember why I said I’d never move again after we built our house seventeen years ago and I’m wondering what possessed me to think it could go smoother this time.

Our Chance

our-chance2

Celeste McGuire is the darling of Lake Placid. Sweet, upbeat, and lovable. She’s survived more than anyone else should have to go through in a lifetime. People come far and wide to stay at her bed and breakfast, where she feels at home caring for and nurturing her guests. It gives her a purpose, makes each day a little better than the one before. All she wants to do is give back knowing that it may be the best she’ll ever get.

Caleb Ryder is a mystery. Not much is known about him…exactly as he prefers. He lives in a remote part of the lake, keeping to himself and liking it that way…needing it that way. He has a past that he’s trying to outrun and isn’t afraid to pick up and leave when someone gets too close. Only this time, Celeste’s nurturing ways make him crave something he has long since decided he could never have again.

You can purchase Our Chance here.

Give Me A Chance…Chapter 2

Are you ready for the next chapter in Give Me A Chance? You can catch up with the Prologue and Chapter 1 if you’d like to first.

I won’t keep you waiting, so here you go!

Pride Be Damned

Quinn was sitting in the booth behind the couple. She hadn’t been eavesdropping, not really. Only it was hard not to hear what they were saying with the restaurant quiet in the back corner.

There was the normal lull in the breakfast crowd, so she took the time to sit and roll silverware into napkins.

Should she say something to him? She wanted to. She wanted to know about this job opening she’d just heard him talking about. By the sound of it, it seemed full time. Not to mention a place to live…even better.

From experience, she knew nothing ever fell into her lap. Hard work and speaking up had always gotten her where she needed to be. Not that she’d gotten far in life, but far enough.

Enough to survive and that’s all she’d ever been concerned with.

What the hell, the worst he could say was no. She cleared her throat hoping to get his attention, but he didn’t lift his head, just continued to eat his breakfast.

So she cleared her throat again, this time a bit louder. He glanced up at her briefly, then back down. At least she got a closer look at him. He didn’t seem old enough to have kids that age. Then again, she wasn’t a good judge of a man’s age.

All she could tell was he was clean-shaven, even on a Saturday morning. His shirt looked nice and expensive. More than she’d ever pay, she was sure. More than she could afford, by the look of the logo on the front pocket.

Obviously he had money since he was looking for a nanny. She wondered what he did. Well, only one way to find out.

She stood up and moved a few feet in front of him, then waited until he looked up at her again. His eyes looked troubled, but she pushed on. “I’m sorry to interrupt you. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation.”

He titled his head slightly, his full lips forming a grimace that didn’t detract from his handsomeness at all, now that she was seeing him up close. He had thicker brows, strong cheekbones, and a square chin.

“No problem. It’s not a good morning, as I’m sure you heard.”

“You’re looking for a nanny?” she asked, wanting to get clarification.

“I guess. Though Jennifer is probably right. I really need more of a housekeeper and cook who is willing to keep an eye on the kids and cart them around. I’m not always available. Do you know someone?”

“Me,” she said before she lost her nerve. He looked skeptical, but she pushed on, “Do you mind if I sit for a minute and ask a few questions?”

He gestured to the booth across from him. “Don’t you have work to do, Quinn?” he asked, eying her nametag.

“It’s a little slow. Max, right?” Quinn said, and hoped he wasn’t offended that she called him by the name she’d heard. She took it as a good sign he wasn’t telling her to get lost.

“Yes, Max Hamilton. Quinn…?”

“Baker,” she said, holding her hand out for his. “I’m sorry to be so forward, but like I said, I heard your conversation.”

“So tell me why you think you can do this job?”

“I’m a line cook at another restaurant. I’m confident that I can fulfill that part of the job description, and I’ll gladly give you references.”

“I expect them. These are my children, after all. What else?” he asked.

“I raised my younger brothers and sister for years. I started doing it when I was around twelve.”

“Twelve?” he asked, not looking convinced.

She opted for honesty. “My mother wasn’t around much and there was no other adult in the picture. It was me or no one.”

“What were their ages?” He seemed more curious than skeptical.

“Seven, six, and two at the time.”

She didn’t often tell people that information. Not many were privy to her background and she’d prefer to keep it that way, but she wouldn’t lie either.

He winced, and something like sympathy crossed his face, but he didn’t ask anything else along those lines.

“What about cleaning?”

“I’m a neat person. I have to be to be a cook. Well, I’ll amend that, not all cooks are neat, but I am. There are codes to follow and health regulations. All my references will also gladly attest to my cleanliness at work. I do whatever needs to be done. If they need me to clean the kitchen top to bottom, I will. If they need someone to scrub toilets, I’ll do that too.”

She wasn’t afraid of hard work. If it got her some extra hours and a little bit more money to put away, her pride could handle it.

Besides, her pride had suffered plenty in her life. At this point, there was nothing wrong with an honest day’s work.

“I need someone to live at the house. Not just come in the mornings and leave at night. I could be called out in the middle of the night and I won’t have time to wait for someone to show up.”

“What do you do?” It seemed the right time to ask.

“I’m a plastic surgeon.”

She wanted to ask how many emergency facelifts were done in the middle of the night, but didn’t. Plastic surgery was as foreign to her as living on Mars. It didn’t even warrant a minute of time in her life.

“It’s not a problem to live there.”

Actually it was perfect, but she didn’t want to sound desperate. Her lease was up at the end of this month and she didn’t want to renew it, but didn’t have enough money put aside to find a better place either.

“Do you have a clean driver’s license?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Good. I have an extra car at the house. The kids need to be transported around, so I provide the transportation.”

“Okay.” She didn’t know what else to say at that point. This didn’t seem to be happening. She had to be dreaming. It was almost too good to be true. A place to live and a car. She wouldn’t have to worry about her next auto bill either. Or the new tires that she needed before the first snowfall.

“You would have to meet my kids first. They have to decide if they like you and want you. I won’t make any decision without their input. Or Jennifer’s, either. I value her opinion too much.”

“I’d expect no less than that from a parent.” Not that she’d ever seen much of that side of parenting.

Oh my God, this actually sounded like it might work out. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“You’d need to clear a background check. The same check that all my employees have to clear for my practice.”

And there the heavy metal-studded shoe clanged loudly onto the floor. She’d have to admit her record might have marks on it. She wasn’t sure, she’d been a juvenile and wasn’t positive how it all worked. She would have needed money to consult with a lawyer to find out. Extra money and Quinn were like the symphony and skateboarding. They just didn’t coexist.

“I should be honest with you. I don’t know what my record will say.”

He lifted his eyebrow at her, then he crossed his arms. “That’s not negotiable. Even more so since you just admitted that.”

“I know. I get that. I completely do. I’ll be honest with you. I told you I was taking care of my siblings at age twelve. I ended up in foster care. We all did and I did some things I’m not proud of. Things I had to do to survive, but I don’t know if they will show up on my record.”

“What kind of things?” he asked, and this wasn’t looking good for her right now. But she’d come this far. Again, pride be damned.

“There wasn’t always enough funds for food or other items. At times I had to steal what was needed, and I was caught.”

She felt her face heat up. She was still embarrassed to this day.

That stupid day she was stressed because the baby wasn’t feeling good and the boys were starving. She wasn’t on her game and still blamed herself for being so sloppy.

“Explain the other items. Like drugs?” he asked.

He was sitting across from her calmly asking the question, but that didn’t change the way he was making her feel. She hadn’t noticed until this moment how much bigger he was than her. After all, he’d been sitting down, and she hadn’t paid attention to him when he first walked in.

But now she noticed how wide his shoulders were, and how large his hands were. It didn’t matter he seemed on the slim side, there was still an aura of strength and authority behind him.

“No,” she rushed to say. She cleared her throat and wanted to put her head down, but maintained eye contact and said as directly as she could. “Personal hygiene products. Soap, toothpaste…other things that public assistance won’t cover.”

She wasn’t sure she could get any more mortified than she was. It was bad enough telling a complete stranger about her horrific childhood and her criminal record. Telling him the things she stole, well, that kind of made it worse. Thankfully, he seemed to understand.

“Okay. Well, I appreciate you being honest with me. I’ll think about it and let you know. Obviously I just found out about my situation, so I’m sure I’ll have other applicants.”

She saw the hammer coming down to nail the coffin shut. She couldn’t let that happen.

“Just give me a chance. A trial run. Three months,” she said quickly. “The first month can be with Jennifer while she watches over and trains me. Then one month on my own. The third month is because if it doesn’t work out, I might have a hard time finding another place to live. I’ll need time.”

He hesitated and she could almost see him flipping the hammer over and pulling a nail out. Almost…

“I won’t let you down,” she continued. “I’ll take whatever background check you need. Fingerprinting, peeing in a cup, blood work. You name it. I’m being honest with you. I really don’t know what will show up. All I ever did was steal what we needed to survive and that was over a decade ago. I ended up in juvy for a short period of time, but I kept my nose clean. I really did.”

“I’ll tell you what. Give me your number and I’ll talk to Jennifer tonight.”

She pulled her pad out and wrote down her name and number, then continued on writing.

“I’m going to put down three references and their phone numbers for you, too. All restaurants in Lake Placid. Please feel free to call them. Two of them I’m working at right now. The third was just a short period of time for some extra cash, but I had trouble balancing all three jobs. I guarantee you will get nothing but glowing references, and I can get you more if you want.”

He reached across for the piece of paper she slid in front of him. Then she decided not to overstay her welcome. “Thank you. All I ask for is a chance. I’ll let you finish your breakfast in peace.”

She walked away and held her breath, praying to a God that had never listened to her before.

You can buy the book on Amazon right now!

Give Me A Chance…Chapter 1

It’s that time…time for the next chapter of Give Me A Chance. You can read the prologue that was posted last week here.

The first chapter is called:

Desperate

Fourteen years later

 

Max Hamilton walked into the restaurant and looked around for a quiet, out of the way booth. Finding one in the back corner, he stepped over and waited for his nanny to show up. He’d left the house before her and ran to the hospital for a quick check on a patient.

He looked up when the young waitress came over. “Hi, can I get you some coffee?”

“That will be good. I’m meeting someone, if you can bring two over.”

“Sure, no problem.”

She walked away and he sat there dreading the conversation he knew was coming. One that he’d been avoiding for months. If he could find a way to avoid it altogether, he would.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long, Max,” Jennifer said as she slid into the side opposite him.

“I just got here a minute ago. Coffee is on the way.”

“Thanks. I don’t have much time actually. I promised the kids I’d get them by ten.” She stopped and looked at her watch. “I’ve got about thirty minutes.”

“We can order as soon as our coffee arrives,” he said, not liking that she was going to rush out on him, too. Never a good sign. “What do you need to talk to me about?”

“Max,” she said patiently. “You know what. You’ve been avoiding me and this conversation for too long.”

He knew it, and hated that she called him out on it, but she’d been the kids’ nanny for years. And she was always to the point, one of the traits he admired so much.

They’d always gotten along so well and he knew this day would come—no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise.

“What can I do to change your mind? You name it.”

“Max,” she said, sighing loudly, then pausing while their coffee was delivered.

“Are you ready to order?” the waitress asked.

“French toast for me,” Max said. He’d been dying for it and he didn’t often get home-cooked food. At least not for breakfast.

“Scrambled eggs and toast,” Jennifer added.

Max watched the waitress write it down efficiently and then head off behind a swinging door.

“I’ll pay you more. Do you want more room in the house? I can redo your suite, add more space. You name it, it’s yours. Don’t leave, Jennifer.”

She reached over and placed her hand on his. “Max, this is hard for me too. I promised you one year and it’s been longer. I love those kids like they’re my own, but I need to leave.”

“Think of the kids then. They’re going to be heartbroken. Do you want to disrupt their lives even more?”

He knew it was a low blow and he was begging, but he wasn’t beyond doing what he needed to assure she stayed. He needed her too much right now.

She laughed lightly and he felt his teeth grind. It was the same little laugh she always gave when he knew he was going to lose. “The kids will be just fine. They’ve adjusted well to the move, and you know that.”

“They haven’t,” he argued. “They hate living here.”

That wasn’t technically true. They just hated riding the bus every day and having all their friends far away from their house on the lake.

“Well, so do I,” Jennifer said. “I hate this cold and I want to be gone before the next winter. I had planned on leaving this past summer and training someone new before the school year started, but you talked me into staying for that. I want to be home by Thanksgiving. I miss my parents.”

He knew she was close to her family and felt bad she didn’t get to see them as much, especially since they were getting on in age. “I’ll fly them here.”

“You know what I mean, Max. I understand why you left New York City. I get it. I get everything you’ve had to do and you gave me more than I asked for to make the move with you. I did it for the kids. They didn’t deserve what happened in their life any more than you did, and I thought coming along would help.”

“It did. It does,” he amended, running out of things to say to convince her not to leave.

“They’re old enough now. They don’t need me as much as you think.”

“Eleven and nine aren’t old. They still need someone.”

How was he going to find someone on such short notice? Thanksgiving was only a month away. How could he do this alone?

“You know what I mean. There isn’t much for me to do during the day. You don’t need a nanny anymore. You need more of a housekeeper, cook, and nanny combined. That’s not me.”

“I’ll hire someone to come in and clean the house.” He was getting desperate. “I’ll get you cooking lessons.”

She laughed out loud and he didn’t care if he’d insulted her. She wasn’t the best cook and he knew it, the kids knew it, and even Jennifer knew it herself.

“I’m sorry, Max. I’m not going to let you talk me out of it this time. I’m officially giving you one month’s notice. I will ask around to see if I can find someone and I’ll help any way I can, but I bought my ticket and I’m going home a few days before Thanksgiving.”

He watched as she stood up. “Where are you going?” She couldn’t just drop that bombshell and leave, could she?

“If I stay here, you’ll only try to talk me out of it.”

“It’s worked before,” he said, smiling briefly. Damn her for seeing right through him.

“It has, but it won’t again. I’m going to pick the kids up from their friends’ house and then we’ve got errands to run and projects to work on. I’ll see you home after you make your rounds.”

She walked away from him before he could say another word. Homework projects, too. This was getting worse and worse. Now he needed someone that could help with that.

A few minutes later their breakfast was delivered, and the waitress started to look confused. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” Max said. “She just had to leave. Please give her meal to someone else if you’d like. It’s a cold day out. If you know of anyone in need of food, I’d hate to see it go to waste.”

“That’s very kind of you,” the waitress said. “Actually, we do have a shelter a few blocks away. I’ll just put this aside for them to send over with the leftover baked goods that don’t sell by the end of the day.”

Max frowned. He’d always had a good appreciation for food. “It’ll be cold by then. No, that won’t do. How many beds in the shelter?” he asked, curious.

“I believe ten,” she replied.

“Is it possible to cook up nine more meals and put it on my tab? I can drop it off when I leave if you give me the address and let them know I’m coming.”

“I can do that. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.”

Max watched the waitress walk away. It was nothing for him to do this, something he’d done often in New York.

Food was a simple thing and something that was easy enough for him to do. He’d seen his fair share of homeless and hungry kids during his residency. It wasn’t a sight he’d ever forget.

He dug into his French toast like a starving man, then fought to chew and swallow it past the lump in his throat, wondering what the hell he was going to do now.

He was trying to figure out how so much of his life had changed in the last two years. He never expected to be in this situation, let alone in a different city.

A single parent now, a demanding job, and even though he’d thought the move would slow his workload down, the opposite seemed to have happened. A small tourist town, combined with his reputation, and people were willingly traveling to see him now, using the excuse to vacation at the same time as they recovered. Why he never thought of that before was beyond him.

Still, he couldn’t do it alone. He couldn’t be there for his kids and support them at the same time financially like they were accustomed if he didn’t work. His practice would never survive. He had employees counting on him, too.

His children had already had their world upturned before the move. He’d needed Jennifer on board to create some stability in their life.

He would forever be grateful for her being there over the last eight years, but now he needed to figure out what to do when she left.

He picked up his coffee and took a sip. It was even better here than it was at home. Maybe she was right, maybe he did need to focus on a housekeeper who could watch after the kids, rather than a nanny that hated to cook and clean.

Maybe it was time for a change, even if it was one that was being forced on him.

 

 

Give Me A Chance…Prologue

It’s that time again. Time to start teasing you with a little bit of Give Me A Chance. You can buy the book here.

Here’s the Prologue to Max and Quinn’s story.

Quinn pulled the front of her zippered sweatshirt tighter together and tried to ignore the tiny hole her thumb just slipped through.

Stopping on the street corner, she looked around and saw the normal everyday traffic, people moving fast with their heads down. In her neighborhood, pedestrians didn’t make eye contact and it was better that way.

She reached down, pretending not to notice the frayed edges of the sweatshirt that was two sizes too big and decades old. As she placed the ends of the plastic zipper together and tugged, she hoped it didn’t break, just like she did every time she tried to close it. When it got caught up on some loose material, she yanked fast, the zipper closing all the way up to her neck.

Pulling the zipper down a bit, she readied herself and lifted her hood over her head. It’d keep the wind off her neck, not that it offered much warmth in the late fall of her Chicago neighborhood.

Neighborhood. That was a joke. It was the slums and anyone who said differently was only fooling themselves.

She took a steadying breath, dreading what she was about to do, but what she’d had to more times than she cared to admit. It wasn’t like she enjoyed it, but she had no choice. The kids were depending on her.

Lowering her eyes and straightening her shoulders, she marched into the convenience store like she did every few days. She knew how much she could spend, but she’d have to take a bit more.

Unfortunately, the balance on the EBT card her mother left on the table just wasn’t going to stretch enough for the four hungry mouths in the house.

Not knowing when her mother might return, Quinn figured she’d have to get enough to last a few days. Since it was Friday, she was pretty sure her mother wouldn’t show up again until late Sunday night, maybe even Monday morning…after Quinn had gotten her brothers and sister up and walked her brothers to school before heading there herself. The baby would be left with a neighbor, if she could find one who’d open their door.

Doing as little as possible, that was her mother.

Time to get this over with. Quinn opened the door, heard the bell chime, and walked over toward the pasta shelf. It was cheap, filling, and she could make it last, while spicing it up so the kids didn’t think they were always eating the same thing all the time. She learned to be creative in the kitchen thanks to a neighbor giving her herbs to grow on the windowsill in their tiny two-bedroom apartment.

With her head down, she moved quickly, grabbing what she needed, what she knew she had enough money for, then moving toward the other aisle. There was no soap or toothpaste left in the house. She’d used the last bit herself. They might be poor, but they could still be clean.

Shuffling the food items in her hands, she quickly and efficiently slid the toothpaste inside her sweatshirt on one side, then looked around, made sure no one saw her, and did the same with a bar of soap.

Her head was racing, her hands were sweating, and she was silently praying to a God that never seemed to answer her prayers. No matter how many times she’d done this, it didn’t make her feel any better. She was just glad she needed smaller items this time, not bigger boxes of feminine products. Those was harder to hide in her clothing.

She walked a few more aisles over, browsing for anything that might be marked down that she could rearrange and manage to squeeze in with the limited amount of funds she had.

After a few minutes, she decided to just buy what she had and save any remaining balance for another day. There was still one more week in the month anyway.

“What do you think you’re doing, you little punk?” she heard right before a strong hand gripped her shoulder tight.

She felt the tears well up in her eyes, but pushed them back, squared her shoulders, and tried to shrug off the hand…only it wasn’t moving. Time to be strong, time to talk herself out of this.

But when she turned to see who the hand belonged to, it wasn’t an employee or the store owner, it was a police officer.