My Best Chance
Second Chance Harbor Series, Book 4
I’ve turned the page on my past and I’m starting over – but will I ever be good enough for the one woman I can’t resist?
I’ve put my rebellious years behind me and I’m finally doing something I can be proud of. Opening a garage with my best friend has given me a fresh start. One that came with an unexpected attraction to my best-friend’s sister.
She’s turned into a beautiful and independent business owner. Her success and determination attracts me just as much as her smile and her sweet personality captivates me.
But her brother warned her against guys like me. I'm not sure I can resist the attraction even though I know I'm not good enough for her.
My ex sent my son to live with me. I need to be a role model, but how do I do that when I was just like him? I thought I was looking to the future, but now I’m haunted by my bad boy past. How can I stop my son from repeating my mistakes or be the man Hailey deserves?
Can I step up and be the man I need to be, or will I fail them both?
+ Excerpt +
The bell over the door tinkled a few minutes before closing time. The store was empty of customers, but Ryan stood there, looking large and out of place. It struck me then, he’d never been inside the store.
“It smells amazing in here.”
I flushed with pleasure at his compliment, even though I wasn’t responsible for the scents.
He moved closer to the spice side, turning the labels so he could read them, picking up one of the larger jars to open and sniff them. “You have so many options.”
I stood next to him. “My grandfather came up with the spices.”
Ryan glanced at me. “Impressive. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
Pleasure shot through me at his admiration, even though it wasn’t for me. “Me either. He died before I was born, so he couldn’t teach me, and Nana said she was hopeless when he showed her.”
He set the jar down, taking in the store: the wooden shelves and jars of spices on one side and the teas and tea kettles on the other. “It’s a sweet shop.”
“Thank you, although I can’t really take credit for it. It’s all my grandparents.”
His gaze traveled the room before resting lightly on me. “You’ve been running it for a while?”
“I started working here when I was in high school, and I stayed.” I loved working side-by-side with Nana. Her passion for the business was infectious, but it was different by myself.
“It’s cute. Homey. I can so why people like it.”
I hummed in agreement.
He continued to the other side, picking up a tea kettle, examining it, and then placing it back down.
“We don’t get as much foot traffic anymore. The loyal customers from back when my grandparents ran the store are dwindling, either dying or unable to travel to get here. I’m not able to bring people in. I can’t talk about how I came up with a particular flavor of tea or combination of spices because I wasn’t the one to create them.”
Customer’s excitement dissipated when they realized the person who came up with the cool new flavor wasn’t here and never would be.
He looked out the store window. “You’re pretty far away from Main Street, too.”
“Yeah, we put a sign on the alley near Max’s, and that helps.” But it didn’t seem to attract serious buyers. Maybe tourists just weren’t into tea leaves and local spices anymore.
Ryan wandered back over to the spices, picking up one of the labeled bottles, and tipped it toward me. “What’s this one?”
I moved closer to read it, noticing Ryan’s sandalwood scent despite the strong smell of spices surrounding us. I wanted to sink into that smell and lean against his hard body. I mentally shook my head. “It’s Pirate’s Booty. My grandfather said it was the most popular spice. A new take on salt and pepper.”
Ryan turned the bottle, carefully reading the bottle. “I’ll take both.”
I shook my head and took a step back. “You don’t have to do that—”
He picked up the second bottle. “I want to try them.”
“If you’re sure.” I scanned his face but didn’t sense any insincerity. Instead, his gaze was warm.
I wrapped them and placed it in a paper bag that proudly displayed the store’s name, Spice & Tea Shoppe.
When I rang him up, he said, “If you want to talk about the business side of things, I’m happy to help. Not that I have a degree in business or anything, but Jake said I’m good with ideas.”
“You’re the ideas guy, huh?” I smiled, loving this new glimpse into him.
“Yeah, I’m pretty good at coming up with ideas, and Jake helps implement them.”
“I’m so proud of you guys for pursuing your dreams.” Opening a new business was a risk, especially a small garage in the historic tourist area, but they’d done it and seemed to be thriving.
He flushed, his expression vulnerable.
Was he not used to compliments? I’d never had a reason to pay him one before. He’d left when I was so young, and we’d never had any opportunity to discuss the future or dreams.
Ryan gestured around us at the store. “Is this your dream?”
I shook my head decisively. “Definitely not.”
“Then why do you stay?”
“I was so grateful to Nana for taking us in, I wanted to help. I begged her to let me work here, and I was eager to learn everything.” My heart ached for the little girl I’d been. Displaced and hurting but desperate to belong.
I shrugged, the familiar melancholy wrapping around me like a well-worn coat. “I don’t know.”
“Life’s too short not to pursue your dreams.”
I handed him the bag of spices and walked around the counter, suddenly uncomfortable with the topic. “We’d better get Corey. It’s a school night.”
Ryan followed me while I closed and locked the store and headed to the apartment. “Trust me. He doesn’t mind being out late.”
“Still, I don’t want to be the reason he’s tired in school tomorrow or doesn’t finish his homework.”
“He stays after school in a program where they help him get it finished.”
“That’s good, right?” I glanced over at him as I pushed the door to the apartment open, following the smell of paint up the steps.
He chuckled. “He doesn’t think so.”
I laughed, remembering how I would have felt if I’d had to stay after school. “I suppose that’s normal.”
We stood just inside the door, neither one of us moving up the stairs. I heard music playing. Corey must have used his phone because there wasn’t a radio in the apartment.
Ryan lowered his head. The light was dim in the small space, and he seemed so tall standing in front of me. “Don’t tell him,”—I leaned in closer to hear what he had to say—“but I would have hated it.”
We both laughed then, and joy filled my chest. It felt good to share this moment with him. “Me, too.” I smiled up at him, happy to be with him and sharing a secret.
I heard footsteps moving closer, so I turned away to hurry up the stairs. The last thing I needed was for Corey to see me flirting with his father. I wanted him to trust me, and if he thought I was using him to come on to his father, it would ruin everything.
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