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My Second Chance

My Second Chance

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They broke the rules. He broke her heart. Does their love deserve a second chance?

Main Tropes

  • Best Friend's Brother
  • Second Chance
  • Secret Pregnancy
  • Forbidden Romance
  • Snowed In
  • Enemies to Lovers

Synopsis

Juliette has been keeping a secret for months. Before she went to her semester abroad in Paris, she dated her best friend's older brother, Easton. What started as a whirlwind romance filled with forbidden meetings, came to a crashing halt when they crossed a line together that neither of them could return from.

Now she's back in Ridgewater and has to face everyone she left behind. But there's one more secret she's afraid for anyone to discover. She's pregnant. And Easton is the father.

But she has a plan: go to her grandma's house in Buffalo for the next few months. Keep the baby a secret. No one will ever have to know. But when Juliette sees signs that Easton might want a second chance, she wonders if keeping everything to herself is the best choice.

Can a relationship built on such a rocky foundation have a chance at a happy ending? And what will Easton do if Juliette's secret comes out?

MY SECOND CHANCE is a standalone novel in The Ridgewater High series. Perfect for readers who enjoy sweet YA romance with ballad-worthy chemistry, passionate kisses and endearing characters.

Chapter One Look Inside

I gripped my carry-on as I walked into the waiting area of the Syracuse airport, hoping it would somehow give me the strength I needed to face everyone again after my semester abroad in Paris. 

I scanned around for my best friend, knowing my mom wouldn't be there since she had to meet with a congressman this afternoon. It only took me a moment to find Lexi, with her short frame, long dark hair, and glasses, standing in the middle of the waiting crowd. And it only took a heart-pounding second for me to realize that she hadn't come alone. She was flanked by her new boyfriend, Noah, and her older brother, Easton.

Why had Easton come?

My heart was stupid enough to skip a beat when he met my gaze. He was still as gorgeous as he'd been months before. His light-brown hair was combed to the side in the trendy way he'd started wearing it last year. And even from twenty feet away, his blue eyes could still pierce me.

I forced my gaze back to his sister and corrected my body's stupid reaction to seeing Easton after all these months. He probably wasn't even here for me. Lexi had complained the last time we'd spoken about how she and Noah were not allowed to be alone until they were deemed trustworthy by her father. Apparently, sneaking your brother's best friend into your closet to keep him from freezing in his car was not the selfless act Lexi thought it should be in her overprotective father's eyes. So, Easton was probably just their chaperone for the twenty-minute drive from Ridgewater.

"Juliette! I can't believe you're finally back." Lexi squealed as I reached her, attacking me with her hug.

"It's good to be home again," I said, returning her embrace. I had missed my best friend so much—had needed our video chats over the past few months more than she could ever know.

We pulled away, and I eyed her boyfriend. "Good to see you again, Noah. I hear congratulations are in order."

"Congratulations for what?" He narrowed his brown eyes at me.

I smiled. "Congratulations on finally seeing your best friend's little sister for the rockstar that she is."

He gave me a half smile and pulled Lexi close to his side. She was practically a midget next to his tall frame. "I hear you played a role in getting Lexi to make me see what I should have noticed all along."

I grinned. "Oh yeah. She had to—how do you put it? Make you want what you couldn't have."

He laughed. "Well, it most definitely worked."

I knew Easton was next in line for me to greet. He was also last, which meant I couldn't just quickly say hi and move on to the next person. So I put off what was sure to be an uncomfortable greeting a moment longer by asking Lexi, "Did Noah drive you here, or did your dad make Easton chaperone you guys?"

Lexi smiled. "Well, since I finished my babysitting punishment for the Vincenzo twins yesterday, Dad figured I was trustworthy—at least for another month or two." 

Her dad was funny like that. But I’d probably be the same way if I'd become a grandpa at thirty-seven, thanks to Lexi's older sister. Everyone at school knew all about his rules for his children, and they knew better than to do anything to cross his path.

Which was exactly why I didn't know whether I'd be welcomed at his house anymore. I had no idea if Easton had told anyone yet.

"And of course we made Easton come along,” Lexi said, breaking me away from my thoughts. “Since it wouldn't be the same without the four of us together."

I couldn't put off facing Easton any longer, so I turned toward him and smiled awkwardly. His hands were stuffed in his front pockets and he looked as uncomfortable as I felt.

Had he told anyone? Or was our secret summer fling still in fact a secret?

Easton cleared his throat. "Hi, Juliette." 

“Hi,” I barely managed to say, my mouth having gone dry.

"Come on, Easton," Lexi prodded. "You can give her a hug. I doubt Mercedes will freak out about that."

My heart plummeted into my stomach at the reminder that he had found a new girlfriend while I'd been away. What I'd seen on social media was true; he and Mercedes really were a thing.

Easton and I met each other's gaze for a second before he stepped forward and opened his arms. I leaned in for a quick hug, forcing myself not think about how perfectly I fit into his arms. My body felt warm, like it was finally home now that I'd hugged him.

But my body had been having a lot of strange things going on with it since the last time I saw him, so I decided to ignore the pull I had for him and stepped back before he could notice what was different about me. Tucking some of my grayish-blonde dyed hair behind my ear, I said, "It's good to see you again, Easton."

He nodded, his gaze briefly seeming to take me in. "Good to see you, too." The way he said those five little words made my heart thump harder than it had in months. Because he actually sounded sincere.

Could he have changed his mind about what he'd said to me the last time we were together?

I wanted to search his eyes, to try to figure out what he meant, but Lexi's voice cut through the air.

"How about we grab your luggage and get back on the road? I'm sure you're jet-lagged."

was exhausted after the long flight. "Yeah, let's get going."

The boys led the way to the luggage carousel while Lexi walked beside me. "If you're not too tired, maybe we can stop by Emrie's for hot chocolate and take advantage of Easton's employee discount before taking you home."

I had to work hard to keep my eyes from glancing to Easton's back at the mention of Emrie's. Lexi had been busy babysitting her nephew over the summer, so she had no idea just how much time I had spent with Easton at his work. What had started off as innocent—me going there to beat the summer heat, requesting samples of every single flavor of ice cream on the menu just to annoy Easton before inevitably choosing my favorite, Rocky Road—had turned into a chance to get some of his undivided attention and flirt with him as he worked.

I swallowed the lump in my throat as the memories and everything that had happened because of them rushed to my mind. I needed to get a grip on myself, or there was no way I’d make it through the next few months with my secret still intact. I forced a smile on my lips. "Yeah, I'd love to go there."

* * *

We ordered our hot chocolate, which was the perfect thing to have on such a cold December day. Noah, Lexi, and I went to sit in a booth while Easton made us our drinks. He wasn't on duty, which made me think he was using it as an excuse to keep some distance between us for a little longer.

Easton stepped up to our booth a minute later with our drinks on a tray. He handed us our cups, and I noticed he was extra careful not to brush fingers with me in the exchange. He returned the tray behind the counter, and when he came back, he hesitated at the end of the table, like he wasn't sure if he should take the seat beside me. 

So different from last summer when we'd talked and laughed and sat close in this very booth. He'd reach for my hand under the table, and we'd just sit and smile bashfully at each other, so giddy with our secret forbidden romance. Then when he finally got off work, I'd meet him at the back of the building and we'd make out against the wall for thirty minutes before going back to his house and pretending like nothing was going on.

It had been a great summer. I thought I'd found my person.

Until I made the stupidest decision I'd ever made and snuck into his tent at his family's end-of-summer camp-out.

I knew what happened after was wrong, and I regretted it almost as soon as it was over—when my brain wasn't so foggy—but I'd been delusional enough to hope that at least some part of him had cared about me like I'd cared about him. I'd given him something I'd never given anyone else before, and it had been agonizing to have him tell me that there was no “fixing things” and going back. That being with me was the biggest mistake of his life.

I should have seen it coming, especially with his family and their purity rings. But I'd been delusional enough to think he might say I was worth it.

I was so stupid.

"Take a seat," Lexi said to Easton after taking a sip from her hot chocolate. "Juliette was telling us about how pretty the lights are on the Eiffel Tower at night."

Easton met my gaze with an unsure expression. I scooted closer to the wall and pasted on a smile. We'd kept our relationship a secret from everyone last summer; there was no sense in letting anyone in on the truth now.

"Go ahead and sit, Easton." I forced as much cheeriness into my voice as I could muster. "I promise I won't bite."

He only hesitated for a second longer before lowering himself into the booth. I was immediately met with the scent that I'd come to know as his. He had always smelled so good, and I had to force away the memories his scent evoked.

"So how was Paris?" Easton asked, his Adam's apple bobbing with the question.

I wiped my sweaty palms along my black leggings. "It was fabulous. Just what I needed and I'm going to miss it." I had needed to escape from this town, this country, after the way things had ended between us. An ocean separating me from my humiliation was just what the doctor ordered.

"What was your favorite part about Paris?" Lexi asked, her eyes bright with excitement.

As I thought over my answer, I took a quick sip of my hot chocolate. It was delicious. Creamy-chocolatey with just the right amount of raspberry flavor. Easton was actually really good at his job...but that was a given since he was good at everything: Looking way too cute in his dorky work hat. Kissing me until I couldn't catch my breath. Breaking my heart.

I pushed those thoughts away. "My favorite part was probably the food. I could eat crêpes every day and never tire of them."

Lexi's expression brightened. "Well, that's good, because my dad talked about making them for Sunday brunch tomorrow. Do you think your mom would be okay letting you come?"

"What time?" I hedged.

Lexi looked at Easton. "Do you remember what time Dad said Maddie and Grant would be over?"

Maddie was their older sister. Grant was Maddie's cute little boy who had just turned two.

Easton glanced at me. "I think brunch is at eleven."

"Will that work?" Lexi asked.

I watched Easton cautiously, wondering how he felt about me coming over to his house.

Then an even scarier thought occurred to me. How would his dad feel?

Had Easton told him?

I eyed his hands on the table. He wasn't wearing his purity ring.

My heart pounded. Was this some sort of trap? Was his dad’s invitation to come over for crêpes just a ploy to get me into his house, so he could lecture me about how I'd seduced his son into losing his purity ring?

"I don't know..." I said. 

Think of a good excuse, Juliette. Come on, you used to be so good at lying.

"My dad has been practicing making crêpes all week," Easton said, noticing my hesitation. He'd always been so good at picking up on my mood—which was exactly why I had to be super careful around him now.

I looked at him. I wanted to ask him if his dad knew, just to make sure I wasn't about to walk into Drill Sergeant Stevens's disciplinary action meeting.

He gave me a slight nod. I sighed and turned back to Lexi with a smile. "I'm sure my mom will be busy, so yeah, I'd love to come."

"Yay!" Lexi bounced in her seat.

And Easton seemed to visibly relax at my response. Was it possible he wanted me to come, too?

* * *

When I got home, I took off my coat for the first time since landing and hung it in the closet by the front door. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. How was I still standing? I looked like a zombie right now.

I inspected my reflection a little longer, smoothing down the fabric of my shirt. My belly hadn't popped out yet, but I was definitely looking pudgy around the middle. And if what I'd read online was true, I wouldn't be able to blame my thickening midsection on France's endless pastries much longer. The truth would become too obvious to ignore.

"Welcome home, sweetie." My mom stepped into the room and gave me a hug. "I'm so sorry I couldn't be at the airport to pick you up myself. I would have much rather been with you instead of talking to that stuffy congressman."

But of course, as Ridgewater's first female mayor, my mom had to bend over backwards to do her job. Which meant, sacrifices always needed to be made.

I knew she was doing her best, so instead of being annoyed at her job like I used to do, I wrapped my arms around her waist. I'd missed her so much over the past few months.

She held me for a few seconds before stepping back, her gaze taking me in and resting on my midsection briefly.

"You look really good," she said with a soft smile on her lips.

I nodded. "Thanks."

Then I just stood there uncomfortably, hoping she'd be the one to broach the awkward topic first.

She glanced at my stomach again. "I ordered takeout from the Chinese place on Elm. How about we catch up while we eat?"

I nodded and followed her into the kitchen. The house hadn't changed a bit in three and a half months. The kitchen was as bright and immaculately kept as ever—probably not such a hard thing to do since Mom had been alone at home and she barely cooked as it was. Cooking took time, and my mom never had enough of that.

I sat at the rectangular kitchen table in front of the bay window while my mom grabbed our takeout containers from the counter. She filled two glasses with water from the fridge then sat down across from me.

"I made you an appointment with Dr. Gunthrie for Monday morning at ten." She opened her box of stir-fry.

I nodded. "Okay."

"I figured you'd want to go in the morning when it was less likely for kids from school to see you at the hospital. She's a great OB-GYN and has promised that her staff will be extra discreet in your case."

Of course my mom would be worried about people being discreet about my pregnancy. It was an election year, and the last thing she wanted was a big scandal.

Mom continued, "And then I arranged with Grandma Irene for you to go live with her after Christmas. She's more than happy to have your company for the next few months."

I nodded as I twirled my fork in my food container, not feeling hungry after all.

"And I also have everything set up for you to start online school as soon as you’d like. You aren't showing yet, so you could still go to school for the next week before Christmas break and I doubt anyone will know you're pregnant. But if you want to just start it now, I think that’s okay, too." She twisted some chow mein noodles onto her fork and looked me in the eye for the first time since sitting down. "Which would you prefer?"

I cleared my throat. "I guess I might as well just start with the online school thing. Doesn't make much sense to start here when I'll be gone again after Christmas break."

She blew on her hot noodles. "Sounds like a great idea. You can relax, spend time with your friends for the next couple of weeks, and then be gone before things become too obvious."

My cheeks heated up as she scrutinized me again.

"How far along did you say you were?"

"I think I'm eighteen weeks."

I had debated on whether I should lie to my mom, telling her that I’d gotten pregnant after I'd been in Paris for a few weeks. But since she'd be present at my doctor's appointments and would therefore hear the correct date while there, I decided to just make myself look even worse by telling her that I'd gotten pregnant right off the bat in a foreign country.

I hadn't dared tell her who the real father was, because then she'd make me tell him about the baby.

And I most definitely couldn't do that.

"Eighteen weeks," she said thoughtfully. "I think that's about the time I started wearing maternity clothes when I was pregnant with you."

"Yeah?"

She nodded and dug her fork into her takeout box again. "We'll have to buy maternity clothes before you go to Grandma's. If you can keep wearing your regular clothes a few weeks longer, I'm sure no one will suspect anything."

And there it was. Proof that I was a huge embarrassment to my mother.

"Sure."

I didn't know whether to be happy or sad that my mom was so determined to keep this baby a secret.

Mom eyed my untouched food. "You’re not hungry?"

I pushed the container away and shook my head. "Not really. I'm pretty tired, actually."

"I bet you're jet-lagged. How about you go up and get some rest? We can talk about Paris tomorrow."

I nodded and gave her what was sure to be a tired smile. "Thanks." Then I stood and walked out of the kitchen and into the entryway.

My mom must have realized I was heading for my luggage because she called out, her voice drifting down the hall. "I can get those for you later. You shouldn't be doing a lot of heavy lifting right now."

I looked back toward the kitchen. "Thanks." Then I stepped closer to the staircase just off the entryway. I'd always imagined walking down these steps toward my prom date, wearing one of the super cute prom dresses they sold at the dress shop on main street. Or possibly one that I designed and sewed for myself.

I'd never pictured the dress being a maternity gown.

Why had I snuck into Easton's tent that night?

I gripped the railing and plodded up the gray-carpeted stairs to my room.

My room was just as I'd left it. My bed was neatly made with its white ruffled comforter. My sewing machine sat on my desk with the half-sewn red dress I'd started making last summer as my first attempt at designing my own clothes. And the photo of me and Easton at the lake was still safely hidden at the back of my sock drawer.

It was a sad reminder of how my life used to be. A life that was completely different from my new reality.

I got ready for bed quickly, and then lay down, pulling the covers tight around my shoulders. As I lay there, I felt the little fluttery kicks from inside me—different from the butterflies I had when I saw Easton today.

I ran a hand over my belly, but I still wasn’t able to feel the kicks from the outside. Should I tell Easton about the baby?

I had no idea how to even begin that conversation. He'd already freaked out on me about what we'd done. Losing his college money was a big deal. How could I tell him that I was carrying his baby?

Or should I tell him? I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to calm my breathing that went frantic every time I let myself think about my situation. The decision on whether to tell him or not had plagued me ever since I'd taken the pregnancy tests—well, after I'd decided not to throw myself in front of a train.

Telling him would only make him feel like I'd ruined his life even more. I knew his family. His sister had gotten pregnant in high school and had kept the baby. Would he feel obligated to do the same as his sister Maddie? He was a loyal guy. But that would totally derail his future. He had his whole life planned out. He was going to be a dentist, and that would take years of schooling. He couldn't have a baby to worry about while he did it all. That wasn't fair to him.

And I didn't need to give him another reason to hate me any more than he already did.

I just needed to stick with the plan my mom and I had come up with. Go away. Have the baby. Place the baby up for adoption with someone who could give him or her a stable environment—like two grownup parents who were ready for a kid.

Then I could come back home. Easton wouldn't ever have to know.

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