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Second Chances

Over You Book Two

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After surviving an attack by a madman, Jessica’s terror turns to joy when Kyle admits that he never stopped loving her after breaking their engagement five years before. Though thrilled that he still loves her, she is uncertain how he feels about Melanie, the woman he was dating when Jessica came back to town.

Complicating matters, Melanie seems less than willing to give up the man she loves, the man who is like a father to her young daughter.

When Jessica begins receiving frightening warnings, she is unsure who is behind them. With several people in her life who are unhappy with her, Jessica doesn’t know who to be scared of and who to trust.

Will she discover who wishes her harm before that person’s desires are fulfilled? And will this second chance with Kyle come to fruition, or will he decide to take another path?

Scroll down to read the first chapter.

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Chapter 1

It had been two days since she’d nearly been killed by a madman, and one day since the man she’d never stopped loving had confessed his love for her, and now, as Jessica recuperated in her aunt’s sunroom, she finally felt all was right in her world. Yes, this newly rekindled relationship with Kyle was still fresh and tender, but her hopes were extraordinarily high that they would be able to work through the challenges that they were sure to encounter.

The sound of Kyle descending the staircase filled her with anticipation, and when he entered the sunroom where she was reading, she set her book down and smiled at him.

He smiled in return, his sea green eyes showing his pleasure in seeing her. “I wanted to let you know that I’m going to run a couple of errands.” 

“Okay.”

His smile grew as he walked over to her and placed his hands on the arms of her chair, then leaned towards her.

She smiled up at him, eager to receive the kiss he offered. As his lips touched hers, her arms went around his neck, holding him close.

“This is going to take some getting used to,” he said as he pulled away a moment later.

“What?” she said, one eyebrow arched.

“Being able to kiss you whenever I want.”

Her smile grew. “I know I’ll be able to adjust.”

Laughing, he straightened, forcing her arms to release him. “That’s what I’m counting on.”

“Don’t be long,” she said.

“I won’t. But if I want to get your aunt’s bathroom finished before she comes home on Monday, I need to get a few last supplies.”

Her smile dimmed. “Do you think it will be done in time?” Her Aunt Ellen had been in a long-term care facility recovering from ankle surgery, and Jessica wanted her homecoming to be wonderful. If her master bathroom wasn’t functional yet, her homecoming would be less than spectacular.

“That’s what I’m working towards. I still have tomorrow and the rest of today, so I’m confident I’ll be able to get it done.”

“Thanks for working so hard, Kyle.”

He smiled. “It’s what I do.”

Jessica laughed, then watched her former fiancé and brand-new boyfriend walk toward the front door. Admiring the way his t-shirt accentuated his muscular build, she embraced the feeling of joy that suffused her. A feeling brought on by the fresh possibilities for a future with the man she’d never stopped loving, even after he’d broken their engagement five years ago.

The previous day, when she’d asked him why he’d left her five years before, he’d said, “As the time for our wedding got closer, I started having nightmares, flashbacks really, to when I was a teenager and my parents were going through a bitter divorce and . . . well, I started thinking that if I made a mistake in getting married that I would have to go through the same thing. The thought paralyzed me, and I panicked.” His voice had softened. “But Jess, I never stopped loving you.” Then he’d told her that the idea of committing to marriage didn’t scare him anymore. 

Now, as Jessica thought about his explanation, she felt a tentative hope that she had a future with him, but then she frowned as the emotions of the last few weeks washed over her. She’d come to stay with her aunt to help her out after she’d been sick with a bout of the flu, but that simple task had turned into a roller coaster of emotions when Kyle had turned up to do some remodeling work for her aunt. 

Pushing aside the sadness, jealousy, and anger she’d experienced so recently, Jessica focused on her newly acquired happiness—happiness she’d begun to think she would never have.

A soft meow next to her chair pulled her attention to the gray tabby looking up at her. She patted her lap. “You’ll have to jump up, Hudson. My back’s too sore for me to pick you up.” The furry bundle leapt to her lap and rubbed his head against her shoulder, the volume of his purring increasing. “I love you too, big guy,” Jessica murmured as she scratched his head.

He moved around on her lap, his paws pressing into her legs. “Ouch,” she said, cringing, as he stepped on the spot where her sweat pants covered the bandage on her thigh. “That’s where the bullet grazed my leg.” She gently moved him so that he was lying on her lap, and shivered as she thought about the terrifying encounter with Douglas Harrington two days before.

A knock at the door startled her out of her thoughts, and she flashed back to Douglas showing up at her door unexpectedly on the day he’d attacked her. Hudson froze at the sound, then jumped down and went behind a chair.

“It’s not him,” Jessica said to her cat. “He’s in jail now.” But in the back of her mind, she worried that it could be the man who had tried to kill her. I doubt he’d show the courtesy of knocking, she thought as she walked toward the door, her sore body slowing her down.

She looked through the peephole. “Oh no.” The words came out on a sigh, then she took a deep breath and opened the door.

“Jessica, are you okay?”

Jessica gazed at the man standing on her porch, her thoughts churning. “Alex, hi.”

“I saw on the news that some man shot you.” His eyes were frantic with worry. “I tried to call you, but your phone went to voice mail, so I drove straight here.”

“I had to turn it off,” she said. “Too many reporters were calling.”

“Oh.” His gaze searched her face. “Are you okay?”

Nodding, Jessica pushed a smile onto her lips. “I’ll be okay.”

“So it’s true? You were shot?”

Briefly closing her eyes, Jessica gathered her thoughts. “Why don’t you come in, Alex. We need to talk.”

His eyebrows drew together, but he nodded and followed her into the living room.

As Jessica settled herself on the couch, her thoughts darted from one explanation to another as she tried to come up with a way to tell Alex that her decision was final, that she was not going to marry him. She still had the engagement ring he’d given her—and which she’d initially accepted. But today she would give it back. 

She’d tried to give it back at lunch on the day Douglas had attacked her, but Alex had insisted that she keep it and take some time to think about marrying him, and then let him know her decision once she’d gotten back home. She’d agreed, only too willing to put off breaking the news that there was no future for them. He’d left the area after lunch, and headed home. That same afternoon Douglas had attacked her.

Now, Alex took the seat on the couch right next to her, obviously believing that they were still a couple, then took her hands in his. Resisting the urge to yank her hands away, Jessica put a smile on her face.

“I can’t believe I almost lost you,” Alex said, his eyes shiny with unshed tears. “Tell me what happened.”

Knowing Kyle would be back from his errands soon, Jessica wanted to get this conversation with Alex over with as quickly as possible—preferably before Kyle got back. “It’s a long story.”

“I have time.” Alex smiled warmly. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Oh boy. As much as she was tempted to brush him off, he’d been thoughtful enough to drive three hours to see her, plus she already felt guilty since she knew she’d be dumping him, so she dove in to the story. 

“I came across some fifty-year-old letters in my aunt’s attic,” she began. “They were love letters from a mystery woman who called herself ‘B’, written to the man who owned this house before my aunt and uncle bought it thirty years ago. His name was William.” She paused, recalling the details of the letters. “Evidently the woman was married, but was having an affair with William, and she became pregnant, and eventually had a son.”

A look of incredulity crossed Alex’s face. “Wow, that’s really something.” Curiosity filled his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me about this when I was here last week?”

Jessica shook her head. “It was getting complicated, and I just didn’t want to get into it.”

He frowned, like that explanation didn’t satisfy him. “What do you mean it was getting complicated?”

“The letters made me curious, and I began investigating who ‘B’ was, and by extension, who her son was.”

“Did you find out?”

Recalling the barely repressed fury on Douglas’s face as he explained the reason why he’d killed his mother and William, Jessica shuddered. “Yes. The child was the man who shot me.”

Alex’s grip on her hands tightened. “Why did he shoot you?”

“It turns out that when he discovered his true parentage, he murdered his mother and William. This was over thirty years ago, but he got away with it. No one had made the connection between the two apparent accidental deaths—until I found the letters and did some digging, that is.”

“Oh, I see. He was covering his tracks. Afraid you’d turn him in.”

“Exactly.” It was as if she could feel the cold metal of Douglas’s gun pressed against her temple, and she shivered.

Alex released her hands and placed them on either side of her face. “My poor, sweet Jessica.” He gazed at her a moment. “How did you manage to get away?”

The relief she’d felt when Kyle had burst through the front door just when Douglas was about to push her down the stairs swept over her, and she smiled. “Kyle saved me.”

Alex look confused. “The guy working on your aunt’s house?”

He was so much more than that. “Yes,” she said instead, hoping this would be the opening she needed to break the news to him.

His fingers stroked her face. “I should have been there, Jessica. I should have been the one to save you.”

A replay of that afternoon went through her mind, with Kyle bursting through the door just as Douglas was about to push her down the stairs. And then Jessica knocking the gun out of Douglas’s hands when he’d threatened to shoot Kyle. She’d lost her footing, and as she’d begun falling down the stairs, Kyle had kept her from tumbling to the bottom, then used his own body as a shield when Douglas had started shooting. Then when a bullet had grazed her leg, Kyle had carried her out of the house and away from Douglas.

She wondered what would have happened if Alex had come through the door instead of Kyle. Would he have reacted the same way? Would he have known what to do? Would he have risked his life to save hers? She wasn’t sure. All she was sure of was that Kyle actually had risked his own life to protect hers. Because he loves me. She smiled at the thought, but when she saw the look of distress on Alex’s face, she said, “It’s okay, Alex.”

He sighed. “Well, I’m glad he was there.”

“Me too,” she said without thinking, her smile radiant.

Alex’s hands stilled on her face, and he slowly withdrew them, placing them in his lap. He gazed at her a moment. “I’d like to thank him for saving you.”

Jessica felt a moment of panic that she’d exposed her feelings for Kyle too soon. “That’s sweet of you, but totally unnecessary.”

“No.” He smiled stiffly. “I want to.”

He may have his chance, she thought, wondering how much longer Kyle would be. “Look, Alex. I need to tell you something.”

He must have sensed her seriousness, because he took her hands in his again and leaned closer. “What is it?”

Just then, the front door opened.

Jessica’s gaze shot to the entry where Kyle was holding a bag from the hardware store. Their eyes met, then his gaze went to her hands clasped in Alex’s. Kyle’s eyes narrowed, and Jessica yanked her hands from Alex’s, ignoring the man sitting next to her, her only concern Kyle and what he thought.

“What’s wrong?” Alex said, obviously unaware of the silent communication between Jessica and Kyle. Then his gaze followed her’s, and he looked between her and Kyle. Standing abruptly, Alex stared at Kyle, and in the voice he reserved for legal opponents, said, “Come back later. We’re busy.”

Evidently his gratitude toward Kyle for saving Jessica had been forgotten.

Jessica’s gaze zoomed back to Alex, and her mouth hung open at his brash command. Then she looked at Kyle, who did not seem amused to be ordered around by the man who had been holding hands with his former fiancée and newly obtained girlfriend. His jaw clenched as he stared at Alex, but he didn’t say anything. After a moment, Kyle glanced at Jessica, then he walked toward the staircase, and up the stairs.

“That guy is something else,” Alex said, obviously irritated with Kyle’s sudden appearance. He turned to Jessica, who stared at him in silence, then sat next to her and reached for her hands. “Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?”

She fisted her hands in her lap, making it impossible for him to hold them, then met his gaze. “I . . . uh . . . I’m not quite sure how to break this to you, but . . . well, I’ve come to a decision, and . . . I’m not going to be able to marry you.”

Alex held very still as he stared at her. “Look, I know I showed up unexpectedly, and you haven’t had enough time to think things over, so I wasn’t expecting an answer today, Jessica.” He swallowed, and his Adam’s apple bobbed once. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.” He smiled, but it seemed forced. “And I see that you are. So I’m going to leave now, and I want you to take your time to think about this before you give me your answer. I can wait until you come home.”

Jessica opened her mouth to speak, but he pressed his fingers against her lips, effectively silencing her.

“No, Jessica.” He shook his head. “No.” His lips curved into a smile, then flattened. “Not yet.” He stood then, and without another word, he walked briskly toward the front door, opened it, and shut it quietly behind him.

Jessica stayed in place, too stunned by the sudden turn of events to move. After a moment, Hudson crept in and jumped onto the couch next to her. Reaching out to pet him, she said, “What was that, big guy? It’s like he refuses to hear my answer.”

Confused, and not happy that she hadn’t put things to rest with Alex, Jessica stood, then made her way up the stairs and into her aunt’s bathroom where Kyle was working. “Hi,” she said, uncertain what he must be thinking after the little drama with Alex.

“Hey.” He stopped what he was doing and faced her.

“Sorry about that. I didn’t know he was coming.”

“Yeah, so what was that all about anyway? I thought you’d ended things with him.”

Jessica frowned. “Sort of.”

Kyle scowled. “What does that mean?”

“When I went to lunch with him the other day, I told him I wasn’t ready to marry him. But he told me to keep the ring and to think it over, and then tell him my decision when I went home.”

Kyle nodded, but stayed silent.

“This was before you and I . . .” Jessica thought about the day before, when Kyle had told her he’d loved her all along. “Well, before we talked.”

“Okay. So what was he doing here today?”

Why did she feel like she’d done something wrong? And why did it feel like Kyle was mad at her? “He saw what happened to me on the news and he was worried, so he came to make sure I was okay.”

“And you told him it’s over, right?”

Jessica shook her head, frustrated that she hadn’t been able to get that settled.

Irritation swept over Kyle’s handsome features. “Why not?” Then a look of panic crept onto his face. “Have you changed your mind? About us? About me?”

She shook her head again, but with more vigor. “No, no. That’s not it at all.”

Relief replaced the panic. “Then why not? He was right there.”

Now Jessica began to feel irritated. “I know. Don’t you think I know that?” She sighed loudly. “And actually I did tell him, but he wouldn’t hear it. He told me to take my time and think it over, that he didn’t expect an answer yet, that I could give him my decision when I got home.”

A look of puzzlement filled Kyle’s eyes. “But when you told him about us, didn’t that make it clear that the two of you are done?”

Jessica’s face paled.

“You didn’t tell him about us, did you?” Hurt and confusion were clear on his face.

“He didn’t give me a chance,” she said in a rush, although if she was honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she would have told him that she was with Kyle now. That would just be cruel. It was bad enough that she didn’t want Alex, but to throw in his face that she was with someone else now? She knew how that felt, and she didn’t want to be the cause of someone else feeling the way she’d felt when she’d seen Kyle with Melanie and her daughter.

Kyle’s lips were set in a grim line. “Or you didn’t want him to know.”

“I didn’t even get to break up with him, let alone tell him I’ve moved on.”

“Come on. Do you really expect me to believe that the man you were kissing only days ago . . . and who you were engaged to . . .” He frowned. “Do you expect me to believe that you couldn’t somehow tell him the truth?”

“What are you saying?” Any good feelings toward him were rapidly vanishing.

He shook his head. “I don’t know what I’m saying.”

“I think you do,” Jessica challenged, wanting the opportunity to defend herself against whatever arbitrary accusation he was thinking.

His jaw clenched, showing his agitation. “Okay, maybe I do know what I’m saying.”

“And what is that?”

He looked just past her, then met her gaze. “Maybe I’m saying that you’re keeping him in the wings in case things don’t work out between us.”

Jessica gasped. That was the last thing she would have considered. “If you really think that, then you don’t know me at all.” She turned and stumbled out of the room, but between her injured leg and her sore back, she couldn’t move very quickly, and walked toward her room as fast as she was able, then closed the door behind her.

“How dare he say such a thing,” she said under her breath. “Why would he accuse me of that?” Sinking into one of the chairs near the foot of the bed, she fumed, furious that he would think she was that duplicitous.

Then a thought came to mind, a thought that she didn’t even want to consider. But why else would such a thing occur to him?

Maybe he was keeping Melanie in the wings in case things didn’t work out with her. 

The idea made her physically ill and she clutched her suddenly aching stomach. Melanie, the gorgeous and smart blonde woman he’d been dating when Jessica came to town. The woman who had an adorable two-year-old girl named Avery who Kyle admitted he was crazy about and couldn’t abandon. The woman who had told Jessica that she would jump at the chance to marry Kyle. 

Yes, Jessica could believe that Kyle was keeping Melanie as an option. 

And the trust issues Jessica had with Kyle weren’t helping to convince her otherwise. She had to get past those issues before she would be ready to get serious with him. Not the least of which was her trust that if he made a commitment to her, that he would keep it.

That was at the heart of their problems. He’d ended their engagement five years before because he’d gotten scared, but when they’d talked the day before, he’d told her he’d changed, that he wasn’t afraid to make a commitment now. But if that was true, how could he so easily dump Melanie? Unless he hadn’t truly let her go.

Jessica stared at the wall across from her, images of Kyle, Melanie, and Avery in different family poses filling her mind. Images that she’d found on the disc Melanie had given her. Images that were not in her imagination, but ones she’d seen on her computer screen in vivid and crystal clear color.

* * *

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