The Chances Trilogy by Martha O’Sullivan
In Second Chance, star-crossed lovers Lindsay Foster and Brian Rembrandt get a second chance at love amid the brilliant blue waters of Lake Tahoe. In Chance Encounter, Delaney Richards and Mike Savoy’s quest for love takes them from Tahoe’s tranquil shores to the capricious streets of San Francisco. And in Last Chance, the heat doesn't come from the blazing summer sun and sand, but from the insatiable desire between friends-turned-lovers Moira Brody and Paul Webster. All of them will risk their hearts, and their lives, to find true love.
Last Chance, The Chances Trilogy Book Three
Moira Brody knows Paul Webster better than he knows himself. But neither one of them know that he is as desperately in love with her as she is with him. Still, she isn't going to wait around forever, especially on Valentine's Day. When Paul learns that the hard way, he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. He can't lose her. Or let the past dictate the future.
Paul and Moira will have to do something they've never done before—go on a real date. A first date that turns into a passionate night, something for which Moira has waited a long time.
These friends-turned-lovers will have to look at each other with fresh eyes and brave hearts. Moira will have to take an epic leap of faith and Paul will have to take the ultimate risk—again. But not everybody is on their side. And Paul will have to choose between following his head and listening to his heart. Or risk losing Moira forever.
Second Chance https://books2read.com/u/bprgKW
Chance Encounter https://books2read.com/u/bOX7G9
Last Chance https://books2read.com/u/brPlAw
Last Chance, The Chances Trilogy Book Three
The shade ’t been in her sixty-four count, sharpener-inclusive box of crayons, but Moira Brody had known it for as long as she could remember. Saturating the cloudless sky, it hung behind the Sierra like a boundless blue curtain, encompassing the milky peaks and snow-clad pines before yielding to the preternatural liquid hue that was Lake Tahoe. Moira’s boots crunched on the snowpack as she welcomed the blast of crisp air that replaced the arid she’d been breathing for the last hour. Inhaling antidotally, she aimed her gait at the freshly shoveled path. She knocked and opened the door at the same time. “Linds?”
Moira stomped the snow off her boots, then shed them and her coat before following the sound of footfalls upstairs. The smell of fresh wood and lemon beeswax drew her to the bedroom at the end of the hall. There she found Lindsay Rembrandt contemplating three paint swatches taped to the wall.
“What do you think?” Lindsay asked by way of greeting, blonde ponytail swinging like a pendulum at the back of her head. “Muted Mint, Seafoam Spray or Green Tea?”
“You’re the interior designer, not me.” Moira walked over to the wall in question, drenched in bright winter sunshine. After a moment’s consideration she replied, “Muted Mint, not that it matters.”
Lindsay immediately straightened her shoulders and knitted her brow. “Why ’t it ”
“Because,” Moira answered, feeling the inner smile spread across her mouth. “When that baby girl is born, you’re going to repaint. You should be looking at pink paint strips.”
Lindsay’s cobalt blue eyes narrowed with intrigue. “What makes you so sure it’ a girl anyway?”
“Gut,” Moira told her. “And you deserve a girl. You always wanted a sister.”
“I thought I had one,” Lindsay reminded her gently.
“You know what I mean,” Moira returned in kind.
“Brian and I just want a healthy baby,” she maintained, but the delight on her face intensified. “Besides, we already have Kelsey.”
“Kelsey’s nearly out of college. You could be a step-grandmother in a few years.”
“Bite your tongue.” Lindsay broke their shared gaze and reverted to the task at hand, giving Moira a profile view of her second trimester baby bump. “Good call with the Muted Mint, though. That’s what we’re painting the nursery at home. It seems silly to have one at each house, but I feel so close to Gram here. I want her to be a part of it.”
“She’d be so happy for you, Linds. And so proud.”
“I know.” She brushed her fingertips under her lower lashes. “Damn hormones. I don’t a thing to cry about.”
“Emily was the same way. And the cravings,” Moira went on theatrically, waving her hand in the air. “Jack was forever running to Raley’s in the middle of the night.”
“How are the twins?”
“Great. I’m babysitting them on Friday night. They’re starting to—”
“You’re babysitting your nephews on Valentine’s Day?” Spinning back around, Lindsay cut her off.
“Because Jack and Emily hardly ever get an evening out, let alone an overnight.”
“Why ’t you something with Paul on Valentine’s Day?” Lindsay's tone was a mixture of disappointment and confusion.
Moira had wondered the kept that to herself. “He ’t mentioned anything. And you know how hard it is to find a babysitter on Valentine’s Day,” she hesitated, then added, “I offered.”
“You offered?” Lindsay repeated in openmouthed wonder.
“Yeah, I stayed with the boys last year.”
“But everything was different then!”
“It certainly was. They were barely walking. And you ’t married, let alone pregnant.”
“I mean with you and and you know it!”
Moira started with a tired breath, “Linds…”
“Did you break up?”
“No. We ’t really all the way together. ”
“You looked at my wedding,” Lindsay pointed out.
“That was six months ago.”
“I knew something was up. You skirted the issue every time I mentioned it. Shame on me for not putting two and two together sooner.”
“Yeah, because between remodeling a house, going back to school and having a baby you should have been more on top of my love life. All while living four hours away.”
Lindsay ignored Moira’s attempt at sarcasm and taking her hands, said in earnest, “I’m sorry, . I ’t realize it was so…,” she searched for the word, “casual between the two of you.”
“Me neither.” Moira’s heart caught up with her mouth and she finished quietly, “It is what it is.”
“And what is that exactly?”
“What it’s always been. Friendship. Familiarity. History. Maybe that’s all it’s supposed to be,” Moira told her with borrowed conviction.
“Yeah,” Lindsay allowed with a skeptical shake of the head. “Maybe.”
“Now, show me the pink swatches you picked up.”
Lindsay shot her a measured look, but relented, “You know me too well.”
“Likewise,” Moira replied, also knowing the matter was far from laid to rest.
“It’s she owes me an explanation or anything,” Paul Webster told Jack Brody later that afternoon. “I’m just surprised.”
“I was too when she offered,” Jack said from across his cluttered desk. “But I’ learned not to ask too many questions of the women in my life. Beginning with my sister and ending with my wife.”
Suddenly uncomfortable, Paul shifted in his seat and released a jagged breath. He’d gotten into the habit of taking Moira for granted, he supposed. But not to the tugging feeling in the pit of his stomach when he let himself think too much about her. “Where is she anyway?”
“Up at the lake. Lindsay’s in town. They’re picking out paint or curtains or something,” Jack informed him with a dismissive wave.
“ what’ the deal with you two anyway?” Jack asked. “Is it an on-again, off-again thing?”
“No.” Paul found himself oddly offended. “There is no deal. It’s Moira for ’ sake. Sometimes it’s just a little weird. Almost like dating your sister.”
“ is dating my sister.” Jack’s hazel eyes clouded. “Don’t her heart or anything. Hate to say it, but blood is thicker than water. Even though you literally saved my life in the latter.”
Jack ended on a light note, but Paul noted the nuance of his words. “It’s not like that. We stumbled into I don’t what, and then right back out again. Hell, I’m in Portland nearly every week now and playing catch-up in the office on the weekends.”
Jack silenced his half-assed explanation with a decided hand. “Emily thought I should talk to you before we made any definite Valentine’s Day plans. In case you were planning a surprise.”
Paul leaned forward settle the restlessness swirling inside him. “What kind of surprise?”
Jack shrugged. “Dinner, flowers, little gifts. All that stuff I used to do before I got married.”
Paul had done all that stuff too…for Lindsay, he reminded himself with a mental kick. But everything with Moira was different. Easy, casual, familiar. Wooing her ’t even to him. Should it? He sure as hell ’t like the idea of wooing her occurring to someone else.
“ can I tell my hopelessly romantic wife that we have a night to ourselves?” Jack’s eyes danced hopefully.
“Only if she finds another babysitter,” Paul heard himself say. “Moira has plans.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Moira lifted her eyes from the computer monitor in the direction of the familiar voice. “Happy Valentine’s Day to you.” She marked her place on the spreadsheet and pushed up from behind her desk. “I ’t to see you today.”
“I was in the area unexpectedly. Thought I’d by my best account.”
“Brody and Sons Construction is your best account, huh?” she challenged around a laugh.
“Okay,” Jason Parker conceded affably. “My favorite account. I had a meeting down the block.” He took in the open-air office asking, “Is Jack around?”
“Jack is never around on paydays or Friday afternoons. Today is both.”
Jason’s chiseled jaw relaxed, allowing his loose male grin to advertise his movie star white teeth. “That’s right. I’ heard how your Irish temper comes out when you do the books.”
“Small business ownership is a perpetual roller coaster. Business is strong but supply chain remains a challenge. It’ a domino effect.”
Moira returned the cordial, lingering smile, but intuition told her Jason Parker had more than windows on his mind. And she ’t sure how she felt about that. After a few silent beats she put in, “I’ tell Jack you stopped by.”
Jason ’t , only gave her a meditative nod. Then his expression and Moira could almost see his heart begin to race inside his chest. “So, what are you up to tonight? Big Valentine’s Day plans?” His blue eyes swept the office, then rested on Moira’s desk as if searching for something. Like flowers. Or a chocolate heart. Or anything to denote Valentine’s Day.
Moira willed the heat rushing through her body not to settle in her cheeks. She cleared her throat and commended herself for having the inadvertent foresight to keep the reception counter between them. Then she answered in a voice higher than she would have liked, “Me? Oh, no. Someone keep the lights on around here, you know,” she told him, gesturing to her desk. “And people expect to be paid, Valentine’s Day or not.”
That seemed to surprise, then please him. The confident countenance returned and rested squarely on the broad shoulders supporting his suit coat. “How about dinner, then? Everything decent is probably booked, but we could go a little later, after the rush,” he offered with building enthusiasm. “That would give you time to finish up. Or we could get take-out and eat it here.”
Grateful Jason ’t suggest take-out at his place, Moira began a weak internal debate. Her conversation with Paul the day before yesterday had been brief and in response to a butt call on his part. He ’t said anything about Valentine’s Day or the weekend. Emily had come down with the flu, so she and Jack were staying home. And Lindsay had gone back to San
“You eat, one way or the other,” Jason was still talking.
She met his expectant stare head-on. There was no reason not to accept his heartfelt . “Take-out would be great,” she decided out loud.
“Then it’s a date,” he triumphed. “Think about what you’d like to eat. I’ touch base in a few hours.”
Moira pushed back the bittersweet twinges nipping at her stomach and managed an oblique smile. “Anything is fine. Surprise me.”
Paul mumbled under his breath and patted his pockets. He must have left his phone in the car. He cast his gaze upward, letting the sun’s position on the horizon his suspicions that he was running late. The florist closed at six o’clock, Valentine’s Day or not, he’d been told when placing his order. The clerk had also remarked that at this late juncture, his only saving grace was that he ’t roses. And that was not by accident.
He’d given Lindsay and every other woman he’d dated roses, but Moira was more of a hydrangea or a lily than a rose. Not that he’d ever given her flowers before, he self-admonished as that ineffable feeling began engulfing his gut again. He picked up his pace and arrived at the florist in less than five minutes. The dry heat billowed out into the damp winter air the second he opened the shop door, biting at his cheeks. He got in line and began to mentally review his plan. Every restaurant in town was booked solid by the time he’d tried to make a reservation, but Moira was easy to please and take-out would surely due. The tricky part would be tearing her away from work so close to the fifteenth of the month.
He was ruminating on his midweek conversation with Jack for the umpteenth time when he heard an orotund voice behind him point out, “I think it’s your turn.”
Returning to the present, Paul threw an apology over his shoulder and stepped forward.
“No ,” the man replied. “I’m in no hurry myself, but the guy behind me is sweating bullets. Once you’re in, you’re in, I told him. Florists want to make money just like the rest of us.”
Nodding in agreement, Paul turned his attention to the person addressing him from behind the counter.
“Picking up, sir?”
The perky teenager punched at the keyboard and consulted the computer monitor. “ Spring bouquet, roses.” She hit a few more keys, then handed Paul a receipt. “They’ bring it right up.”
Paul followed her silent direction and stepped aside. The customer behind him advanced and started with a sigh, “I know it’s slim pickings, but are there any red roses left?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the girl apologized with the inklings of a smirk. “’re sold out of red roses, but have an array of other flowers. We could arrange something lovely for you.”
Undaunted by what should be a less than startling revelation, the man rounded his cheeks conspiratorially. “Surely there must be something in the back? Even some imperfects? This is a first date; someone I’ been interested in for some time. I don’t to blow it.”
“We don’t the owner is very particular,” she explained with a more compassionate smile. “But I could double-check the cuttings. You’ have to wait until I fill all these orders, though.” She tipped her head at the dozen man deep line. “It might be a few minutes.”
“No . ’s working late anyway.” The man joined Paul next to the near-empty glass door cooler. “I guess cuttings are better than nothing,” he said around a shrug.
“I’m sure they’ find you something,” Paul encouraged, feeling sorry for the . “Might not be red roses though.”
“I knew that would be a long shot.”
“I wish I could have given you mine. I had them switched out.”
“You’re kidding,” he responded with a jolt. “What woman ’t like roses? Especially on Valentine’s Day?”
“It’s not that she ’t like them. They just don’ her.”
The man laughed without opening his mouth. “For your sake I hope not.”
Just then a woman appeared from behind the counter calling, “Mr. Webster?”
Stepping forward, Paul took the cellophane wrapped bouquet from her hands. “Thanks.”
Turning around, he shot his new acquaintance a tight nod. “Good luck.”
“Same to you.”
Suddenly dismayed by the thought he would need it, Paul turned on his heel and walked out into the brisk night. It was full dark now and the headlights gleaming off the wet pavement reminded him of his next stop. He wondered if Moira would be as surprised to receive the gift as he’d been to buy it. But he’d felt as compelled to purchase it as he had been to be with her tonight. He’d held up his part of the deal, whatever the deal was. The rest was up to her.
Moira pushed her side-swept bangs out of her eyes and blew out her third calming breath. She’d flown through payroll before running home to change and freshen up. Now she was back at the office with the intention of reconciling the ledgers. Instead, she was contemplating herself in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door for at least the fifth time. She ’t wanted to wear the distressed jeans and cotton sweater she’d thrown on this morning, but ’t to try too hard either. A dress was out of the question and presumptuous, not that she had anything appropriate anyway. she’d chosen the floral blouse she’d bought on her last trip to San Francisco and skinny jeans with a little bling on the back pockets. The outfit had been the easy part; the shoes were the problem. She glanced from one foot to the other, each modeling an option. Boots were casual and sexy. Heels were stylish and sexy. Both sent a message—a sexy one. But Moira ’t sure sexy was the message she wanted to send.
She ’t had a date, first or otherwise, in ages. Lindsay’s wedding had been as close to a real date as she and Paul had gotten, Moira supposed. Aside from that it was going here and there, seeing a movie, attending an event or a family function. None of which were ever followed by anything more than a parting good night kiss.
Except for that night.
That kiss, or kisses, she corrected herself, had been the first time there’d been more, much more. The first time the pull in her stomach had crept downward and settled between her thighs. The first time the buzzing in her head had spread to every cell in her body and exploded. The first time the steady canter of her heartbeat became a hastening gallop. But not the first time Paul backed off and said good night. That happened every time. Not that she would have wanted to lose her virginity in such a wine-induced state anyway, she grunted under her breath. And to all people, Paul Webster, her lab partner and brother’s best friend. she did, she thought, grimacing at her reflection. But of late Paul had been aloof, indifferent, busy. And in Portland half the time.
Jason Parker, however, the ash-blond, spring ski-tanned, five o’clock-shadowed window salesman was in office . And he spending the with . And just . Valentine’s Day. A Valentine’s Day date. Jason had said so himself. Her thoughts were returning to her footwear dilemma when she heard the door chimes ring. “Shit!” she swore under her breath, pushing down the melancholy. She kicked off the chunky heel and tugged on the other pump boot, then indulged herself with another quick glance in the mirror. Scrunching the teeming she’d grown up hating, she squared her shoulders and painted on a smile. But when Moira emerged with a cheery greeting on her lips, she found the office just as empty as she had left it. Except for the artfully arranged bouquet of red roses cradled in white carnations sitting on the counter. She discharged a shotgun breath. This was date. The rosebuds were small and the stems short, peeking out of the hourglass-shaped vase girdled with a red velvet bow. She was leaning down to sniff one when she realized Jason was standing in the doorway watching her. Shuffling back a step, she threw an alarmed hand to her chest. “Oh! I ’t you there.”
He took the two remaining strides to complete his entry and approached her. “Sorry. I ’t to startle you. I dropped those off and ran back out to the car for the food.” His appreciative gaze took her in from head to toe. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Moira. You look incredible.”
He’d traded his dress shirt and tie for a casual button-down and dress pants for slim-fitting jeans. He was standing within a few breaths of her now with a blank look on his face, seeming to debate something. Like kissing her.
Admittedly only partly relieved when he ’t, she shifted her gaze back to the flowers. “The roses are beautiful. Thank you.”
“My pleasure. And my second lucky break of the day,” he told her. “By the time I got to the florist, they were already sold out. I talked the clerk into selling me the day’s cuttings.”
How sweet, Moira thought. That sounded like something Paul would do. For Lindsay. She cleared the past from her throat. “I bet they were slammed.”
“As advertised. So was Bernini’s.” He raised his arms to the elbows, displaying two brown shopping bags. “I took the safe route with Italian. Hope that’s okay.”
“Perfect. I haven’t eaten all day. Where do you want to sit?” she asked, gesturing around the room with her hand. “We don’t really an eating area. Just a kitchenette in the back.”
He gave the office an appraising once-over, then rested his gaze on the desk in the corner. “Want to pull up another chair over there?”
The desk was in cleared off thanks to Lindsay pretending she was over Brian summer before last. Being Paul’s biggest fan, she’d be furious to know it went to such use. Moira snickered to herself. “Sure.”
“So, did you get the books done?” Jason asked, setting down the bags and hanging his leather jacket on the back of the desk chair. A woodsy, gingery scent wafted through the air and formed a steady Moira’s nose.
“Almost,” she answered as they opened the foiled-covered containers. “Payroll is sent and that’ the most important thing. I can always reconcile over the weekend.”
His eyes filled with and she could almost see the wheels turning in his head. “Do you work a lot on the weekends?”
“Lately it seems. First world problems. How about you?”
“Yeah. Paperwork, paperwork. Or should I say paperless work? But either way, I’d or boarding.” His voice trailed off and he pulled two wine bottles out of the second bag. “Which do you prefer?”
“Skiing,” she told him, relaxing a little. “My eye-hand coordination is better than my sense of balance.”
Chuckling, he glanced down. “I’ keep that in mind. But I meant red or white?” He displayed a bottle of each.
Moira felt her cheeks burst into flame. “Oh,” she faltered. “Red would be great. Do you need a corkscrew? I think there’s one back there.”
“No,” Jason declined, producing one. “Got that covered. Just some glasses.”
Moira started to walk away, but Jason caught her arm and said, “I’m you agreed to have dinner with me, especially tonight. I was almost afraid to ask.”
“I’m glad you did,” Moira affirmed, hoping she sounded more sincere than she felt inside. He really was a nice guy. She left him with a closemouthed smile and headed for the kitchen. All she could find was plastic cups, but they would have to do. She considered bringing out the candles they kept around for thought better of it. She ’t to come on too strong and give Jason the wrong impression. And no matter how hard she tried, she ’t Paul out of her mind. What was he doing tonight, she wondered?
when she returned to the front a few minutes later and found him just inside the threshold of the door, she blinked hard a couple of times, thinking her eyes were playing tricks on her. There were a few seconds of shared consternation as she watched him stand there, rooted in pie-eyed wonder, slicing his astonished stare between Jason and her.
It was a good thing Solo cups all Moira could find, because they immediately fell through her splaying fingers. They struck the tile floor, one clangorous bounce at a time, then rolled away. Frozen in the inertia of disbelief, she could only let them go and bring a shocked hand to her mouth. It took her three reflective beats to process the flowers in Paul’s left hand, the bottle of wine in his right. Then her prickling eyes reunited with his caramel-colored ones. His were stormy, full of confusion and awe. And bygone scars. Guilty satisfaction joined the shock and wound into a tight braid of angst in her stomach. Finally, she stammered, “Paul, what are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same question,” he replied derisively.
There was a long, heavy silence during which Moira fought an overwhelming urge to run away. She was still striving for calm when she heard Jason clear his throat uneasily and announce, “I’ just go grab some napkins from the back.”
With a grateful nod Moira waited for him leave, then answered Paul loftily, “I’m having dinner.”
“I can see that.” His voice clipped. “With whom?”
Paul’s sable brows furrowed suspiciously. “I don’t him.”
“You don’t all my friends,” she told him, sniffing the air.
“Besides, he’s a new friend.”
“Dinner with a new friend. On Valentine’s Day,” he disdained. “How quaint.”
“I ’t any other plans, did I?