Home > The Summer of Second Chances

The Summer of Second Chances
Author: Miranda Liasson


Chapter 1


The reason Darla Manning had bought the most sprawling, contemporary beachfront house in Seashell Harbor, New Jersey, had nothing to do with proving her success. Nope, she’d bought it because she knew beyond a doubt that Nick Cammareri, six feet two with eyes of blue, would never set foot inside any structure that wasn’t—well, vintage. No quirky curves, outlandish gingerbread trim, or a turret…no Nick.


Nick was the construction manager of the Cammareri Vintage Remodeling Company. And her ex-husband—her youthful mistake and the man she’d divorced almost a decade ago. Keeping him out of her home and her life sounded so good in theory. But in practice, it was another story.

Darla ascended the twenty-two steps up to the aqua-painted double doors of her home with her bulging suitcase and the backpack containing her precious laptop in tow. She couldn’t even see the ocean yet, but its salty tang awakened all kinds of feelings. Love of her town. Of her friends and her family. A sense of finally being home, and also a bone-deep sadness that she wasn’t going to stay.

What ifs were as plentiful as dandelion seeds. It was best to blow them away to the wind and be done with them for good.

She’d bought her house a few years ago, but she’d spent the past year in California taking advantage of a wonderful position to teach at a college creative-writing program. It had been hard being a continent away, trying to purge her mind of Nick, but it had been good for her, and she’d done it. All she had to do these next few weeks was make certain the feeling of being over him stuck around long enough for her to put her house on the market so that she could return to accept the permanent position she’d been offered.

She’d already gotten the wheels in motion, calling the premier real estate agent in town to list the house.

At the top of the steps, she glanced over the railing just as the mid-June sun was taking its final plunge over the water. In the waning light, the row of beachfront houses was a pastel ribbon of salmon, aqua, and pale yellow.

It took her breath away. The familiar coastline, the cheery colors, the ocean as her backyard, with its endless white-capped waves playfully rolling in as if nothing sad in the world could ever happen. She had so many wonderful memories growing up along this sunny shore.

The other memories—of her failed marriage, of her hard road to overcoming cancer—she tried hard to forget.

She was very, very grateful to be a Hodgkin’s disease survivor. But sometimes, even three years after she was declared cancer free, she felt that she was still in survival mode, not living mode.

She punched a code—which was, ironically, HERE2STAY—into her door lock and pushed. The doors opened with a surprisingly loud squeak, probably from not being used much in the past year. She took that as a reassuring sign that Nick had definitely stayed away—because the fixer in him would never tolerate a squeak like that.

A gust of sea breeze blew through the great room, fresh and clean. Definitely not the dust-laden stillness of a house that had been shut up for a year. There was something else in the air—the scent of rich, bold coffee. It instantly brought Nick to mind because he loved craft coffee. Did home invaders make coffee?

More surprises awaited. Her new kitchen backsplash was a stunner—a blue iridescent tile with a pattern that reminded her of waves sparkling in the sun. She touched the tiny tiles, admiring the intricate and artistic design, and a glance at the enormous wall of windows showed one of the glass sliders fronting the beach to be open.

It occurred to her that maybe she should drop everything and run before she ended up like the poor hapless victims in the bestselling thrillers she penned. But just as she stood there contemplating her next move, a head popped up from the couch.

A big, massively furry head, with a long pink tongue and a very bad haircut.

“Woof!” the interloper said, placing his massive paws on the back of her very expensive couch, done in a color her designer called “aqua heaven,” a blue that perfectly matched the color of the ocean outside.

“You’re not a scary home invader,” she said. The dog made a move as if to scramble over the sofa but appeared to suddenly remember his manners.

Unlike her best friend Hadley, who owned an animal shelter, Darla was not enamored of pets. And she had no idea what kind of dog she was looking at. A sheepdog, maybe? White face, gray ears and back. Hair seriously in need of a stylist (probably even more than hers was after nearly twenty-four hours of air travel). With one lethal shake of his head, dog hair flew. All. Over. Her. Couch.


She did not almost laugh out loud at the expression of insta-love on the dog’s dopey, drooly face as he cocked his head to the side, assessing her. Despite herself, she took a cautious step closer.

“Well, hello to you too,” she said. She was wary of animals and wasn’t sure if she should reach out a hand.

There was a bit of a standoff as the dog assessed her. Apparently deciding that she would do just fine as a petter, he struggled for purchase on the plush cushions and then galumphed over the couch to get to her quicker.

“Ouch,” came a groggy voice from the couch. “Watch it, Boss Man.”

Darla froze, her hand midpet, as the tones of that voice vibrated through her in a startling, unwelcome way. It was low and deep and gravelly from sleep, and so heart-stoppingly familiar that she was hit with a truckload of unwanted emotions.

Shock. Surprise. And yes, anger that speak-of-the-devil Nick was, indeed, in her home. Calm down, emotions, she warned herself. You’ve worked hard to be in control. Don’t screw up now.

She was ambitious. Driven. Fiercely independent. She’d conquered her rogue feelings about Nick. This was only a test, one that she would pass with flying colors.

The dog jumped up and licked her, this time on the face, probably because, in her distracted state, she’d slacked off on the petting.

“Down, Boss!” her male visitor reprimanded, but not very harshly. Nick was easygoing, slow to anger, and typically didn’t demand much of people. Or pets, apparently.

Or himself, as their five years together had taught her. The ginormous Boss lived up to his name by ignoring Nick’s command and bounding over. Darla shook his massive paws, trying not to get thrown off balance by a dog who was nearly as tall as her own five feet two, gently placed them on the floor, and patted him on his shaggy head.

Naming a dog Boss was asking for trouble from the beginning. That dog should be named Fireball or Tornado or Chaos. That was how she succeeded in her job as a top-ten thriller writer. She had careful control of words, sentences, and of course, her characters.

That was how she kept cancer out of her mind.

And that was how she planned to keep Nick out of it too.

“Sorry about that,” Nick said, flying off the couch and attempting to finger comb his dark, wavy hair, which was completely the opposite of her fine, curly, blond hair. And which made him hot in the way that attractive guys are who don’t give a fig about their appearance.

Which threw her off balance in a completely different way.

“The backsplash is beautiful. Thanks. The floor looks great too.” Darla kept her gaze everywhere but on Nick, trying not to focus on the fact that her ex-husband happened to be shirtless. With fine, broad shoulders and a tapered-down waist. And, she noticed with chagrin, he was barefoot in a faded, worn pair of jeans. Feelings tumbled around her head willy-nilly—he had beautiful long-fingered working hands, beautiful feet. Okay, fine, he was gorgeous everywhere. And his laid-backness clearly didn’t extend to his workout routine. Because the ripples of muscle on his chest were prettier than sunshine on the bay.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)