Authors: Kimberly McKay
Acclaim for Second Chances
Second Chances is one of those books you can't help but finish in a day or two, but the characters will stay with you long after that. McKay has created a story that is grounded by realistic people and familiar situations, with just enough drama, romance, and humor to keep readers interested.
Paige finds herself starting over after years of marriage to a cold, controlling man. Her divorce gives her the chance to rediscover herself, her family, her hometown, and most importantly, the star football player from her high school. They'd always secretly had eyes for each other, and while I can't say the ending came as any sort of surprise, I enjoyed how McKay got them there.
Second Chances is an engaging read that may even have you thinking about your own life and decisions you've made. I hope this isn't the last we see of these characters because I can't wait to see what happens to them next."
--Cara Rice, host/producer of 107.7 The Franchise
and coming soon
Copyright 2016 Kimberly McKay
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the publisher or author, except for the inclusion of brief quotation in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to places, events, or persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 First Edition
First Printing, January 2016
Printed in the United States of America
To every woman who has suffered a loss and learned to love again. Life is full of surprises …
Swift winds whipped through her hair, as she sat on her bicycle staring out at the Potomac River. Paige pushed a few strawberry locks from her eyes and inhaled, unsure of how she came to this point in her life.
As she peered over the mirror-like waters, she was drawn to the reflection of bright billowy clouds that spanned across the surface. They reminded her of when she was a child when she would spend minutes, which led to hours creating images and characters from a mere cumulous cloud. Back then; she could easily see bunny rabbits chasing carrots across the sky. Today, however, all she saw were clouds. The depths of her spirit had dampened her vivid, child-like imagination.
The crunch of gravel behind her brought her back to reality, as she turned in time to see a young hard-bodied girl running down the path that curved beside the pier. She eyed the jogger, noticing that not a single ounce of her bounced. Every inch was toned, taught, and on display for any passerby as the young woman blasted through the park with only a pair of running shorts and a small sports bra.
Paige couldn’t blame her really. After all, it was the middle of July. If she had that body – she’d probably think nothing of it either. Casually, she glanced from the runner to her own legs, which had softened some over the years. In her forties, she no longer had the hard body she once was accustomed to, but she wasn’t what you would call out of shape. She just wasn’t in her twenties anymore.
Paige grimaced, ran her hand through her matted hair, and started to push off toward a nearby dock when a young couple caught her eye. Laughing, they chased after their toddler, with arms outstretched. For a split second, she envisioned the family she’d always dreamed of but quickly berated herself for holding on to something that was likely never going to happen now. She exhaled as the reality of it hammered through her heart much like the tides, which slammed against the boats, which were docked to her side.
Her heart seized with envy as the young mother scooped up her child and tightly cradled her, knowing this would never be a reality in her life. She quickly wiped away a tear and fought the bitterness that was bubbling from beneath her broken heart.
Paige Jefferson took one last look at the young family, and mentally wished them well. Lord knows they’d need it. After years of living what she considered a happy life with her husband, today everything had been turned upside down without any notice.
For the last two hours, she’d searched for any telltale signs or red flags that may have alerted her to the fact that her whole world was about to change. But, there wasn’t anything that was out of the norm until she awoke this morning to find a set of divorce papers on Davis’ pillow.
Paige bit her lip. Yes, she knew better than anyone that one day’s joy could instantly turn into the next morning’s despair. She was living proof.
Just yesterday, she was walking this same path with her husband thinking they’d had a great afternoon. Davis seemed a bit distracted, but nothing was out of place, as he often had work on his mind.
Shell-shocked, she looked to the sky and let out a deep breath before dropping her gaze to her left hand, where she wore his grandmother’s diamond. The divorce decree, what little of it she read, stated that she return it immediately, as it was a family heirloom.
Paige twirled the ring on her finger and fought back the tears. How could everything change with the flip of a switch? One day she had what she thought was a happy marriage and the next, she was asked to give up everything she’d built.
She slowly slipped off her bike and parked it under a shade tree, before strolling down the dock. In walking past one of the boats, she noticed the bold letters painted on the transom, which read
For Better or Worse
. She tried not to stare as a young couple cast off, thinking it was fitting they take their voyage as her marriage was ending. They were sailing out to happily ever after, as she was about to turn the next page in her story, unsure of where she’d land next.
As boat crossed to the other side, she stopped to stand at the end of the dock and bitterly laughed.
“This is just great,” she said to no one in particular. “I can’t believe I’ve worked my whole life for this.”
As the world went on around her, anger slowly replaced the hurt that claimed her heart. She glared at the boat until it was nothing more than a blip on the horizon. She then gently slipped off her wedding ring, holding it for a few moments, before tossing it high into the air. She watched as Davis’ heirloom diamond sailed across the Potomac and sliced down into the deep waters never to be seen again.
“Take that,” she muttered, before running back for her bike. As she maneuvered through the tourists, tears freely flowed from her eyes blurring her vision. Instead of trying to wipe them away, she pedaled faster and faster toward an unknown future.
One month later
As she sat on the steps of her empty townhome, Paige leaned against the banister and watched the hustle and bustle of Alexandria blow by - as if time never skipped a beat. From a short distance, she heard her neighbor call out to her as she descended the steps of her adjoining townhome. Although not feeling very neighborly at the moment, Paige numbly smiled and waved in her direction, as Julia jogged down the street and around the corner toward the Potomac.
She glanced at her bare feet, which were in desperate need of a pedicure. After the divorce, she didn’t have the heart to keep up appearances anymore. For the last couple of months, she found it hard to apply a stitch of makeup. What was the point?
Paige drew her knees in and studied the chipped purple paint on her toes, which had been at one point pristine until she skipped yet another appointment at the salon. Now they looked neglected. She huffed, realizing her feet were much like her life at the moment.
Paige slowly dropped her arms and stood to face the vast tomb, which used to be what she considered a warm home. She had worked hard to give Davis everything he needed, by providing a comfortable and quiet environment. Now that there was no trace of her husband left, while still quiet – the unease she felt inside was unbearable.
As she was about to step inside, a car door slammed from the curb. She spun in anticipation to see Davis exit his BMW and confidently step up the curb and make his way through the traffic on the sidewalk in front of their home. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw him approach their bottom step.
Although expecting his arrival, she wasn’t prepared for what was to come. As their eyes connected, she caught her breath. His cold stare gave her little to no hope that this would go well. Paige sighed in remembrance of the stranger he became once he moved out. It was an overnight transition.
At least, when she was in the dark, unaware of his transgressions, Davis still tried to make an effort to be kind. However, once his affair was revealed, he became a cold and calculating man, whom she wondered if she ever really knew.
Davis was never what she would call overly attentive or affectionate, but he showed her he loved her in his own way. He’d bring home flowers and used to make it a point to take her to dinner every few weeks. The fact that he tried to make time for her amongst his busy schedule gave her the reassurance she needed throughout his habitual late nights from work. She caught her breath as he took the first step up toward her, only to stop short leaving a distance between them that seems to span for miles.
Paige wanted nothing more for him to finish making his way up the stairs and tell her it was all a mistake, but his body language spoke volumes. Paige slowly blinked and let out a soft breath. No matter what had transpired between them, she still thought him to be one of the most handsome men in the world. His tall stride and blonde Nordic good looks gave many women in their life reason to comment on how lucky she was. She saw how most flirted with her husband at company events but never worried because she knew he was never the kind to cheat. Or at least, she thought.
With every second that passed, she felt her anger and resolve melting away. More than anything she just wanted him back in her life. They’d had sixteen years together, and that should count for something. As he made his way up the corporate ladder, she’d been the dutiful wife, who dazzled his clients or co-workers with stellar dinner parties. She gladly took care of every domestic duty – even through their rough patches and his mood swings. Paige allowed for any shortcomings, as her vows meant something.
They were married and when you take that step it’s supposed to be for better or for worse. She even put her dreams of motherhood on hold so he could further his career. After all of it - he left her for another woman, whom she knew nothing about. She felt her loyalty should warrant more than to wake up to a goodbye letter and a set of divorce papers.
On that dreadful morning, she learned just how cold Davis could be. As soon as she opened his note, she tried calling him for some sort of explanation, but her attempts only resulted in hearing the same tired voicemail she’d heard their whole married life. By the fifth call, a young woman finally answered only to deliver another bitter blow with the words, ‘It’s over. Deal with it.’
At that moment, Paige threw her phone on the couch and biked to the Potomac without an inkling of what to do next. Before she knew it, she was tossing her wedding ring into the Potomac, only to regret instantly. She wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. Davis Jefferson. It’s all she’d known her whole adult life. Without her marriage, who was she?
In the last month, she left multiple voicemails to no avail. Eventually, she started showing up at his work but was never allowed past the receptionist, whom she now named the warden. The final nail in her coffin was when she received a call from his divorce lawyer, telling her that Davis was not interested in reconciling and signing the divorce papers was in her best interest. If that wasn’t insulting enough, his lawyer threw in for good measure – ‘and if you can’t find the ring to return to the family, we’ll have to deduct it from your settlement’.
Even though she could have continued to fight an uphill battle, she knew she did everything thing humanly possible. After finally agreeing to the terms and signing the papers, she still felt the need to find excuses to see him. So here she sat as he slowly approached, hoping she’d get past this huge weight that sat on her heart.
Davis watched the myriad of emotions that crossed his ex-wife’s face as he stepped through the pedestrian traffic and approached his former townhouse. Although he felt bad for breaking her heart, he couldn’t live a lie any longer. He finally knew what true love was – and not only was he willing to do anything to keep it but wasn’t looking back at what was lost in its wake. He only wanted to move past this chapter in life and to do that meant breaking all ties with Paige. Hurt or not, she was his past. Veronica was his future.
Paige opened her mouth to speak but was having a hard time getting anything to come out. She cleared her throat and tried once more with no success.
Davis took her in. Her flawless beauty always stunned him. Her looks were a definite plus as he climbed the corporate ladder. She was an asset in so many ways as she entertained his boss or his high dollar clients. Her charm and quick wit allowed him to look his best to his superiors. She knew just when to butter up any decision makers at client parties, and by doing so, she opened so many doors just by being her.
However, her esteemed composure was also a deficit in their marriage, as her polished façade always seemed to be her priority. He lived his marriage hoping to see more of the undeniable woman inside he’d known in their younger years, but it seemed the better he did in life, the more ‘Paige’ retreated and the respectable ‘Mrs. Jefferson’ appeared. He wasn’t sure who his real wife was, but either way, he became too focused on his work to figure it out. He’d spent sixteen years hoping his young bride would reemerge when Veronica had given him what he’d been waiting for in one night. After one liaison with her, he knew he couldn’t go back to the perfect marriage he seemed to have with his wife.
“You called? Did you find the ring?” He crossed his arms and looked up at her.
Veronica gave him hell for giving in and leaving her for the townhome, but Paige’s voicemail sounded urgent. He told Veronica that at the very least, he’d bluntly cut ties and say what needed to be said. It was time for Paige to let go and allow him to live his new life.
“I told you I lost it.” Paige blankly stared toward the end of the street. It hurt too much to look him in the eyes when it was clear they held no love for her anymore - only irritation.
“That’s convenient.” He looked her over, noticing her normal spotless appearance was a bit disheveled. Her long red hair was roughly pulled back into a ponytail, and her flawless skin was fresh, void of any makeup.
Immediately he was taken back to when they were in high school, and it made his heart twinge with nostalgia. For a minute, he could have sworn she wasn’t a day over eighteen, except for a few wrinkles that framed her oval blue eyes.
Irritated at himself for having such tender thoughts, he shoved his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts and anxiously adjusted his weight from one foot to the next.
“Look. We can’t keep doing this. I’ve moved on. You should too.” His firm eyes softened.
As she saw the sympathy that crossed his face, it hit her.
Did he ever really love me?
She frowned and bit her lip. Realizing he pitied her when all she could think of was how his arms used to feel, Paige wiped a tear away that had escaped before she could hold it back.
“After packing up the house, I found a box in the attic that I thought you’d want.” She nodded toward the small landing outside the front door.
“Okay.” He was taken back. “You could have told me that on your voicemail. I would have swung by to get it when you weren’t here, and we wouldn’t be going through this.” His hands gestured toward the sky.
Paige squinted at him with disdain. Just who was this man? He’d never been this disrespectful in all the years she’d known him. Sure he was always a bit harsh, but never once did he make her feel like she didn’t matter.
His voice rose an octave. “I mean - you sounded distraught if not frantic. I thought you were in trouble. And it was for a box?”
“Frantic? Really? Do you think I want to go through this? We had sixteen years, Davis! Sixteen years! And all of the sudden you pack up one night with no notice or explanation and leave me for someone you’ve yet to tell me about. And all time, you’ve given me no reason why! You’ve been avoiding me - making me go through your lawyer. Now the divorce is final. There is no lawyer you can hide behind. Right now it’s just you and me. And while we’re on the subject, you didn’t leave me much. I gave you everything with next to nothing in return!”
He watched her fiery temper surface, wondering why she’d waited so long to finally break her cool façade. Maybe if she’d given him some of this kind of heat in the bedroom, they’d never had drifted this far apart.
“I gave you as much money as I could afford.” His guilty conscience kicked in, but he pushed it to the back of his mind and continued, “There is no you and me anymore. There’s only Veronica and me,” he snapped and instantly felt bad when he saw her face fall. He wasn’t trying to hurt her, but if he didn’t cut her where it hurt she wouldn’t move on.
Paige’s vision blurred through the tears that continued to flow. “That was low, but now, at least, I know her name.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled. “Listen …”
“No.” Paige put her hands on the railing for support and took a step-down. “You listen. I never did anything but build you up. How can you do this? How can you act like you love me one minute and leave me the next like you never cared? I still love you!”
“We lived life as if we were going through the motions…” His voice wavered. He didn’t want to get into any of this. It’s not like telling her would change the outcome. He’d made his choice.
“I did what I thought you wanted … needed to give you a home and career!” She sniffed and took a few more steps toward him. As she finally reached the bottom of the landing, she laid her hand on his arm - hoping for any sign that he still cared.
His deadpan eyes told her all she needed to know, but what came next was the final blow.
“Paige, my family gave us this townhome as a wedding gift, and I’ve let you live here to sort through … your emotions.” He winced. “They want it back. So you have till the end of the month.”
Paige lifted an eyebrow. “Oh, that’s rich. After all this time, I invested in you – taken care of you. And they’re kicking me out? And you’re letting them? How could you? I have nowhere to go! I worked to put you through law school. I have no means to provide for myself!”
“Don’t. I wasn’t…” Davis took a step back. “I’m not trying to hurt you, but it’s too late. I’ve found true love.”
It was like a dagger to the heart. “Just what did we have all these years?”
“We got married right out of college. We were kids, Paige. We didn’t know any better.”
“I knew!” She wiped her face dry.
“Well, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I thought I did but what I have with Veronica is real.” He sidestepped her to reach for the box.
Paige stood with her back to him, unable to move. She felt like her spirit was tearing in two. Once she heard him descend the steps behind her, she said, “So what was I to you all these years, Davis? Someone to take care of you? Someone to bide your time with until you found your soul mate?” She watched his eyes narrow, and finished with a whisper, “Was I just a convenience?”
He gently set his package down, unsure of how to answer. He felt for her but wasn’t going to let her tears dissuade him from his purpose. Davis drew her in for a quick hug like he would for his grandmother. It was quick and contrite.