That Second Chance (Getting Lucky #1) by Meghan Quinn – delivers a smart and cheeky romance about love’s power to lift hearts . . . and curses.
It was supposed to be an innocent night, celebrating my brother’s birthday. Nothing was supposed to go wrong. We’d vowed to be on our best behavior after all . . .
But it only took one rowdy night with my brothers to flip my world upside down. One unlucky encounter saddled us with a family curse and the promise of doomed relationships. I laughed it off immediately. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “A love curse. Ha!”
Boy, was I wrong.
Word spreads quickly in a town like mine; rumors about that night soon made us the most eligible yet untouchable bachelors in Port Snow, Maine. As a subject of endless gossip and speculation, I could kiss my dating life goodbye.
It would have stayed that way if Ren Winters, the new girl in town, hadn’t crashed into my life. Brave, beautiful, and smart—her vivacious thirst for a fresh start has given me hope that maybe, just maybe, I can have one too.
Everyone wishes for that second chance . . . but could this really be mine?
THAT SECOND CHANCE- Prologue
“Arooooo woooo!” Brig howls, brandishing a Hand Grenade—New Orleans’s famous green tube drink.“Twenty-one. I am twenty”—he pauses and bends at the waist, bowing to my brothers and me—“one.” Breaking into the Running Man, my youngest brother shuffles along the grimy cobblestones, drunk off his ass, just like the rest of us.
“He’s twenty-one—buy this man a drink,” Reid, my second-youngest brother, shouts to no one in particular.
“Buy us all drinks.” Brig twirls in the middle of the narrow, deserted street, arms spread, face cast up to the dark sky.
Neon signs advertising big boobs and beer illuminate the area around us, encouraging nothing but high-level debauchery on this densely humid summer night. When we told our parents we were going to New Orleans to celebrate Brig, the last Knightly brother to turn twenty-one, they had their reservations. And now that I see Brig and Reid spinning in circles together while the usually uptight and silent Rogan takes video of them, I’m thinking they might have had a point.
Being the oldest brother, I was tasked with keeping everyone in line, but right about now, I’m seeing double, and all I can focus on is finding a giant soft pretzel with extra salt.
Corralling my brothers like a sheepdog, I say, “Let’s get pretzels.”
“But we weren’t done dancing. We were just finding our groove,” Brig complains.
“We need food. We haven’t eaten since the casino, and that was hours ago.”
Reid pats his stomach. “Best chicken fingers I’ve ever had, and that honey-mustard sauce, ooooeeee, that was good. What I wouldn’t give for a tub of that as a souvenir.”
“Mom really enjoyed hearing about all the money you lost on roulette,” Rogan says, squinting past the hair that has fallen over his face as he taps away on his phone. As he’s one of the taller brothers, it’s funny seeing him hunched over, typing on his phone . . . talking to Mom. “Said she owes you a wallop to the head when we get home.”
“Dude,” Reid complains. “What the hell, man? Why are you reporting things back to Mom?”
He shrugs, which throws his balance askew and sends him off the sidewalk. He catches himself before falling to the ground and chuckles, a sound I haven’t heard from Rogan in a long time.
“She slipped me one hundred bucks to give her all the details about this weekend.”
“What?” I ask, insulted. I attempt walking in a straight line next to Reid but fail miserably thanks to the uneven cobblestones. “She didn’t give me any money for making sure everyone came back alive.”
“That’s because you’re already the oldest brother. It’s in the job description,” Rogan says, walking past me in his tight, form-fitting clothes, still texting. Of the four of us, he’s the only one with any sort of fashion sense. I tend to stick with regular jeans and a T-shirt. It’s how I’m most comfortable.
“It’s true,” Brig cuts in, strolling—or more accurately, stumbling—ahead of me. “Being the oldest means you’re our designated voice of reason.”
“What about Jen? Technically, she’s the oldest,” I answer, speaking of our older and only sister, who was too busy taking her kids to their nonstop activities to come on this trip. Though honestly, I think she wanted to stay as far away from this weekend as possible. I don’t blame her. We’ve been hell on wheels since we arrived. “Shouldn’t she hold any kind of responsibilities?”
All three of my brothers exchange looks and then shake their heads, laughing. Brig and Reid link their arms through Rogan’s, and the three waltz off like they’re skipping their way down a yellow brick road rather than a derelict, alcohol-encrusted street. I traipse slowly behind them, really focusing on each step I take.
Do not trip. Do not trip.
One step at a—
My phone buzzes in my pocket, breaking my focus. With one faulty step, I fall to the side and stumble against a parked car as I reach for my phone in my pocket. Chuckling, I accept the call, my eyes too unfocused to even make out the name flashing across the screen.
“Hello, this is Griffin Knightly,” I answer. “I’m drunk and am prone to saying stupid things. How may I help you?”
There’s a soft chuckle at the other end, and my heart starts to race immediately.
“Wifeeeeeey!” I stop pursuing my brothers and lean back against the car. Honda Civics: very comfortable for drunk leaning. My brothers’ obnoxiously loud laughter fades as my wife’s voice comes through the phone.
Soft and sweet, just like her skin.
“Mmm, you sound like you’re having a good time.”
I lean my head against one of the cool windows, not caring about who its owner might be. “I am. We had Huge Ass Beers—that’s what they call them—and then made our way through some Grenades, and I also had some white frozen drink at the casino that tickled my fancy.”
She chuckles. “Oh, you’re really drunk. I can always tell because you start adding a little bit of a British accent in your voice.”
“Is that so? Cheerio, mate, and good day to you.” I dip my head as a greeting even though she can’t see me.
“Oh, I miss you. Have you started calling people wankers yet?”
“No.” I sigh, the liquid mixing around in my stomach. Oh boy. “Not yet, but I can feel it coming on.”
“Are you going to remember to get on your flight home tomorrow?”
“Yeah, no problem. We’ve got this.” I yawn and shut my eyes briefly, the ground spinning beneath me. “The white drink was really good.”
“And how were the cocktail waitresses at the casino?”
“Not as pretty as you on a Saturday night with that old-lady turtleneck thing you like to wear.”
She laughs some more. “Good answer. I’ll let you go—I just wanted to make sure you’re still alive.”
“Yup, totally alive, and so are my brothers. Brig, though . . . not sure how much longer he’s going to last. He’s starting to really belt those Disney songs.”
“I can only imagine what he must sound like.”
“Not good, babe, not good.”
“Okay, well, maybe you guys call it a night soon. You don’t want to get into any trouble. New Orleans can be a shifty place if you’re not paying attention.”
“Don’t worry, babe; we got this under control. I love you.”
“I love you too, Griffin. Be careful.”
“Always.” I hang up the phone and put it back in my pocket before staggering after my brothers, who didn’t get very far.
While unsteadily jogging after them, I trip over a protruding cobblestone and accidentally hurtle myself onto Rogan’s back. He stumbles beneath my weight and tips into Reid, and just like a domino, he slams into Brig, who falls to the ground with a giant crack . . . of wood?
And sure enough, Brig is sprawled out on a rickety pile of broken wood. My foggy brain strains to comprehend the picture.“Oh fuck, my back.” Brig rolls off the wood and clutches himself in pain. “What is that? There are splinters everywhere. I can feel them.”
“Dude, you broke a table,” Reid points out while I bend down in a clumsy attempt to check Brig’s vitals.
“Shit, did I?” He sits up, and a giant smile stretches across his face as he swats me away, his sandy-brown hair tousled from his fall, those blue eyes we all share wild with excitement. “Alcohol has given me Hulklike superpowers. Look at that thing—I smashed it to smithereens.”
We all take in what’s left of the table, and I have to admit he really did a number on it.“That’s not from Hulklike superpowers,” Reid points out. “That’s straight up from your fat ass eating twelve beignets this morning.”
“Excuse me.” A thin voice breaks up our banter, and we turn to see an elderly woman step out from a shadowy alleyway. She’s draped in velvet robes, and her face is twisted in anger. “That was my table you smashed.” Her hands are covered with henna tattoos and shake slightly as she points to what’s left of the table.
Once again, we take in the damage, really trying to give it a good once-over, our alcohol-soaked brains attempting to comprehend what we just did.
“Oh shit, that was your table?” Brig asks.
“Was it important to you?”
“It was where I conducted my work.”
I feel a stab of guilt at her words. “Yeah, it’s where she conducts her work, dumbass.” Reid falls to the ground and tries to put the table back together but fails miserably. “Uh”—he glances over his shoulder, two table legs in his hand—“what do you do exactly?”
“I’m a palm reader.”
I groan inwardly as my guilt quickly dissipates. A palm reader? More like a professional con artist. I mean, how could they possibly be legitimate? Oh, look at that line; it means you will live a long, happy life. And this line right here—you’re going to be married. Oh, and right here, this says you’re going to have a pool.
Talk about the most evasive “storytelling” you’ll ever witness. “Really?” Brig looks a little too excited, still sitting in the gutter, covered in New Orleans’s finest sewer water. “Will you read my palm? I feel bad I broke your little table, and I want to make it up to you.” Pulling a twenty from his wallet, he waves it in the air as if to say, Come and get it.
“Dude, she’s not going to tell you anything you don’t already know. You’re a nitwit who can’t see past his own damn feet,” Rogan interjects with an eye roll, voicing what no one else will say.
With a smack to his stomach and a sharp eye, I step in front of him so he can’t make the situation any more awkward than it is.
The palm reader eyes the bill quizzically and then snatches it from Brig’s fingertips and sits next to him on the street. I stifle a sigh as Reid, Rogan, and I step closer, our broad shoulders forming a brotherly barricade. A part of me wants to stop this, to pick Brig off the scum-laden streets of New Orleans and drag him to the pretzel joint, but with how invested he looks, I know he’s going to be unmovable.
Brig holds up his hand. “Take a picture, Rogan, and send it to Mom. Tell her she’s about to find out if I’m going to give her any grandkids.”
Rogan rolls his eyes and takes a picture while the palm reader gently takes Brig’s hand in hers.
Eyes closed, head tilted to the sky as if looking for answers, her fingers dance across Brig’s skin.
“Oh, that tickles,” he whispers.
Silently we stare at her, watching her lightly sway with the wind breezing through the narrow streets of the French Quarter.
She takes a deep breath in through her mouth, eyes still shut, fingers now pressing deeply into Brig’s palm. “I see . . . brothers.” Oh, for Christ’s sake. Right there, see what I was talking about? Professional con artists, stating the absolute obvious.
“I have three of them,” Brig says, getting into it.
“Hell, I’m not drunk enough to watch this,” Rogan comments with a long groan and irritated stance. The palm reader flashes an eerie glare in his direction, sharp and calculating, before returning to Brig’s hand.
“They’re protective, with big hearts.”
I roll my eyes. How long is this going to take?
“They’re going to get you into trouble one day.”
Brig turns his attention on all of us. “You motherfuckers. I knew you would double-cross me eventually.”
The palm reader spouts off a few more generic things, Brig interjecting with his commentary the whole time, though I block the rest of the reading out. From what I can tell, it’s all bullshit. The lady is clearly just trying to make a few bucks off of drunk tourists. When she opens her eyes, they settle on the three of us watching over our little brother. “Who’s next?”
Like the moron he is, Reid holds his hand out excitedly. “Please, for the love of all bare boobs on Mardi Gras, tell me I’m going to run my own restaurant again someday. I really need a break here, lady. Give Daddy the good news.” He bounces on his feet, pumping himself up for what I can only imagine is going to be one massive fabrication from this professional liar.
Rogan scoffs, the most outspoken among us, and presses his hand against Reid’s chest, backing him away from the palm reader. “You’re kidding, right? You didn’t tell Brig anything we didn’t already know. Why would we want to pay you another twenty dollars to hear about how we’re . . . I don’t know . . . wearing shoes, when we could be spending that money on soft pretzels with extra salt?”
Can’t agree with him more. “Yeah, we’re not interested. I’m sorry my brother smashed your table, though. I’ll keep a better eye on him.” I nod my head toward the lit-up street behind us.
“Come on, dude, let’s go get a pretzel.”
“What I speak is the truth,” the palm reader insists, standing up and squaring her shoulders.
“Yeah, we know, because you said the obvious. He has brothers who are going to get him into trouble.” I roll my eyes again. “Pretty sure our three-year-old nephew could have predicted that.”
“Yeah. Sorry, lady.” Rogan helps Brig to his feet. “You’re a hoax.”
“Here.” I reach into my pocket, wanting to solve the problem quickly and get the hell away from this lady. “Here’s forty more dollars for a new table. I’m sorry Brig’s beignet butt smashed it.”
Looking irritated, the lady comes closer. “What I do is not a hoax. It’s sent to me straight from the cosmic forces above.”
A strangely chilly gust of wind whips by us as we all take a moment to glance around, silently communicating about the batshit crazy woman in front of us. And almost in unison, we throw our drunk heads back and guffaw.
Midchuckle, Rogan holds on to Brig for support and gasps, “Cosmic forces! Shit, that’s good.” He wipes at his eye. She shoots a venomous glare in our direction, spending at least five seconds apiece on each of us, never wavering her stare, only letting it grow more and more intense. We fall silent, our laughter blowing away with the wind.
Sheesh, she’s fucking scary.
“You’ll regret this,” she sneers.
Okay, this is getting to be a little too intense. Time to get out of here. But Reid seems to have other plans, his anger taking over. Classic Reid. I can see it in his shaking shoulders, in his clenched jaw: the anger he harbors for other reasons has surfaced and is about to come out.
“Oh surrrre.” His voice drips with sarcasm. Typical Reid. Placing my hand on his stiff chest to calm him down, I start to guide him away.
But not quickly enough . . .
Another gust of wind blows past us, this one stronger than the other, pushing me back a step as street trash whips around us. When I turn to the lady again, she’s standing with her arms spread, head tilted toward the dark sky. Her velvet robes blow angrily in the strengthening wind.
With bone-chilling conviction, her words pour forth:
“Those who belittle and make others feel worse will feel the ungodly wrath of my curse.” Snapping her head forward, she eerily points to all of us, and we draw close together as the wind blasts us from behind. “Listen to me, to the words I have spoken.” Her voice grows stronger, louder, more sinister. “From this day on, your love will be broken. It isn’t until your minds have matured that the weight of this curse will forever be cured.”
She slams her arms down to her sides, and the wicked winds die down, the litter that was whirling around us like some kind of tornado feathering down to the street. The palm reader stands idly, eyes lasering in on us.
What the fuck just happened?
Reid and Brig are gripping tightly to my arms; Rogan’s knuckles are white as they clutch Brig’s shoulder. I scan each of my brothers, making sure no one has turned into a rooster head or any crazy shit like that. Together, we take a deep breath, and—
Reid starts laughing again, but nervously this time. “Okay, lady, thanks for the ‘curse.’” He uses air quotes and then nods in the opposite direction. “Pretzels, here we come.”
I cast one last glance at the palm reader, eyes boring in on our backs, a chill running up and down my spine. Rogan and I follow close behind as Brig brings up the rear. “Hey, wait up,” he calls out. “You guys, I think she was serious back there. She actually cursed us with broken love.”
I bite my tongue as we round a corner, not wanting to project my niggling, alcohol-induced fears on my younger brother, but honestly, that entire situation back there was pretty alarming. Where the hell did all that wind come from?
But being the protective older brother, I wrap my arm around Brig’s neck and pull him close to me. “There is no way you’re going to believe that, are you?”
“I mean, there was wind and shit.” Yeah, the wind got me too, bud.
Rogan rolls his eyes. “It’s called coincidental timing. There’s no way she controlled the wind and set some crazy curse on us. That just doesn’t happen in real life.”
“But what if she really did?”
Wanting to ease the anxiety in my very gullible little brother, I shake my head. “Brig, I can promise you, that palm reader gets her jollies from scaring tourists. Believe me, there is no broken-love curse. Okay?”
Five days later . . .
“You’re such a good boy, Griffin.”
Mrs. Davenport looks up at me as she perches on her mauve wingback chair. Hands steepled under her chin, gratefulness shining brightly in her eyes. It might not seem like much, but this right here is why I wanted to become a volunteer firefighter: to help out the people of my small town.
I twist the cover back onto the smoke detector, pocket the old battery, and hop down from the chair I borrowed from Mrs. Davenport’s little kitchenette set. She lives in a quaint brick apartment building known in Port Snow, Maine, as Senior Row. It’s where all the singles over the age of seventy go to live. It isn’t very big, but they have their fun during the day in the courtyard, hit up the early bird specials out on Main Street, and turn out the lights by eight.
“Anytime, Mrs. Davenport. You know I’m here to help.”
I pack up my things quickly, trying to not give Mrs. Davenport an opening for her usual long conversations.
“Am I your last stop for the day?”
“Oh, lovely.” She moves some old crossword puzzles clipped from newspapers off the chair beside her wingback and pats the seat. “Why don’t you stay for a bit? Tell me about your wild adventure in New Orleans.”
I knew that was coming. Happens every time. A week ago, she held down Jim Bryan for over two hours, going into detail about her arthritic hip. Poor guy. He missed dinner and bedtime with his kids. And instead of kissing their little cherub faces good night, he wound up helping Mrs. Davenport into her room after she conked out midsentence. I’m not going to let that happen to me.
No way in hell.
Wincing, I close my small toolbox and straighten up. “Oh man, I would love to, Mrs. Davenport, but I have a few houses on the way back to the station I have to check up on, or else I would stay.”
Eyeing me suspiciously, she shakes her finger in my direction. “Griffin Knightly, how dare you lie to an old lady? You just want to go see that wife of yours, don’t you?”
Since I’ve gotten back, she’s been on the night shift at the hospital, and our paths have only crossed for a few short, stolen moments. I want nothing more than to lie in bed, snuggle up next to my wife, and watch a movie.
“You got me, Mrs. Davenport. The missus is waiting. Do you mind? Maybe we can catch up another time.”
Shakily, she stands, using her cane for assistance. Patting me gently on the forearm, she says, “That sounds nice. I’ll walk you to the door.”
“No need. I can see myself out. Thank you, though, and if you need anything, let me know.”
She smiles sweetly and sits back in her chair. “Thank you, Griffin. Say hello to your folks for me.”
I’m out the door in five steps, reaching for my phone just as it starts to buzz. Wifey is written across the screen. Smiling, I haul my toolbox down the street as I answer the phone. “Hey, babe.”
There’s silence and then a male voice. “Griffin.” I know that voice. It’s Larson, one of the EMTs in town.
“Larson, what the hell are you doing with Claire’s phone?”
“Man . . .” His voice sounds tight, almost as if he’s been crying. “I don’t know . . . shit, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
“Tell me what?” The hairs rise on the back of my neck.
“It’s Claire . . .”
I stop midstride, my feet feeling like they’re being weighed down by cement, my chest seizing, wrapping around my heart, my lungs. The air is squeezed viciously from my body as a piece of me slowly breaks in two.
Those words, those eerie words, reverberate in my mind, spoken with such malice, with unpredictable promise . . .
From this day on, your love will be broken.
Rattling around in my head, echoing, spoken over and over again. The wind picks up, smacking me hard in the chest, and leaves twirl around me, a sense of dread looming over my now-shadowed heart.
There’s no way . . .
I’m counting out our register drawer, trying to stay focused on the numbers whipping through my head, but it’s difficult with Reid’s constant small talk. I jot down another tally mark on the paper in front of me and set aside a stack of bills.
“Hello, are you listening?” Reid asks, sounding annoyed.
“No. I’m counting.”
“Well, I’m talking about you, so you might want to lend me your ear for a second.”
Huffing, I set the cash on the counter, knowing my very persistent brother won’t be quiet until I give him my full attention. “What’s up, Reid?”
Satisfied, he smiles. “You should ask her out.”
“Ask who out?”
Yeah, that’s not going to happen. “No.”
I go back to counting, but Reid starts snapping his fingers at me. “Hey, I wasn’t finished.” I look back up at him, not even slightly interested in this conversation. “I saw the way she was looking at you today. I think she likes you.”
“You’re confused. She was probably just being nice, since I’m the guy who pulled her out of the window of her car after her accident. And even if she does like me, which I highly doubt, there’s no interest on my end. So that’s the end of that.”
“Bull,” Reid and Jen both say at the same time.
Christ. My two most nagging siblings are ganging up on me. Just what I need when I’m trying to get home and relax.
“Can we not make this into a dissection of my personal life, please? I’m not in the mood, and I want to get this done so I can go home.”
“Griff, she’s pretty, she’s sweet, and she’s smart. She’s new to town and, I’m sure, could use a friend,” Jen says just as the door opens, its bell chiming through the space. Brig pops in, grease all over his shirt and a smirk on his face.
Uh-oh. There’s only one reason why he’d be smirking at me that way.
“What are we talking about?” He rubs his hands together and takes a seat on a barstool near the window. “If it’s about the hot new teacher in town, I want in on this conversation.”
“We’re trying to convince Griff to ask her out.”
Brig slow claps his appreciation. “Novel idea. I think they’re a perfect match.”
“I’m not asking her out,” I huff, giving up on the register and leaning against the wall behind me, arms crossed. There’s no way I’ll be able to concentrate on counting while these three are yapping in my ear.
“Why the hell not? She’s perfect for you,” Brig says, a little insulted at my rejection. “Before you even say no, you should at least get to know her a little. I told her today she could borrow your truck while her car is in the shop.”
I count to five before answering, tamping down my temper. “Why the hell would you do that?” Okay, maybe I didn’t tamp it down enough.
“Uh, because she lives three houses down from you?” Brig rolls his eyes as if I’m the stupid one in this conversation. “She needs some help, so be a knight in shining armor, dude. Help out the damsel in distress and then make out with her on the beach. Maybe cop a feel; get some for once.”
“I’m not doing that,” I answer, going back to the money, letting them know this conversation is over.
“And why not?” Jen asks.
“Because I’m not interested in starting or being in a relationship. I’m happy with how my life is right now, and I don’t need anything complicating it.”
“But she has heart eyes for you,” Brig says like a jackass.
“Don’t worry; there are plenty of Knightly brothers to choose from,” I reply.
“Come on, Griff, how fun can going home to an empty, lonely house really be?” Jen chimes in, concern evident in her voice.
I shift on my feet, my voice terse. “I like my house. It’s fine. I’m fine.”
Silence falls between us, an awkward air moving in like a fast-moving cold front.
“Is this because of New Orleans?” Reid finally asks, taking a seat next to Brig. Both of my brothers fix their gazes on me, waiting for an answer.
Why is this a thing whenever we talk about my love life? Can’t they just let it go? What happened was … hell, I don’t even know how to describe it. All I know is I don’t foresee love in my future.
Claire was the love of my life, and I lost her; in a blink of an eye she was gone. I’m not going through that again. Not ever.
Shaking my head, I turn away from my family. This conversation is over.
And with that, I take the cash to the back office, where I can get some peace and quiet.
Ask Ren Winters out on a date? Not going to happen.
And she’s not going to drive my truck either. I think that’s evident in the fact that she drove her car in between two trees.
Can’t blame a guy there.