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Always a Chance

Always a Chance

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Main Tropes

  • Second Chance
  • Secret Identity
  • Sweet Romance

She needs a story to save her career…

…He has a secret he needs to share with the world.

How did everything get so complicated?

Talia doesn't do regrets. Years ago, she made a choice to leave everything behind after an accident that changed her family forever. Since then, she's made it in the big city as a journalist.

Until the day her boss gives her an ultimatum.

Get an exclusive story with the world's most secretive author or find a new job.

The problem isn't finding said author or even figuring out the real person behind the pen name. Because she already knows who it is.

She's kept Johnny's secret since the day she walked away from him.

Once, they had a future together.

Best friends.


The single best kiss of her life.

Now, Talia needs him.

It's all a giant mistake. There's no turning back the clock, and the longer she's home, the more Talia realizes the true destruction she left in her wake.

But how can two people forgive each other when they can't even forgive themselves?


Escape into this sweet romance that will give you all the feels. Always a Chance is the fourth book in the Always in Love series. Enjoy small town beach life with sweet and swoony men, strong-willed women, and family ties that can't be broken.


Downsizing. What a strange word. I couldn’t comprehend it as I gripped the mahogany arms of the chair I’d come to know so well. My finger skimmed over a familiar chip in the wood as I flipped the word over in my mind. Businesses grew, or at least, they tried to. They didn’t consciously make the choice to get smaller, to say goodbye to the very people who’d kept the lights on for almost six years now.

Mr. Irons was still speaking, but I’d long since lost any thread to his words, any meaning beyond the phrase, “We’re sorry, but the company is downsizing.” Print was the first to go. That was always the case. No one recognized the true value of holding a newspaper in their hands, the world right at their fingertips. Not anymore.

“Tali, are you listening to me?” Mr. Irons gave me a kind smile, a gesture that fit the sweet, middle-aged man he was but not in this very unsweet moment. Unsweet, I held back a snort. Was that the right word? Some writer I was.

“Yes.” I coughed. “Downsizing. Got it.”

There was pity in his eyes now, a look I was used to that said Talia Hillson had lost her friggin’ mind. Maybe I had long ago. It was what made me such a good writer.

“Tal.” He perched on the corner of his scuffed desk, and it creaked beneath his weight as he crossed his arms. “You know I hate to do this.”

“Yeah, uh-huh.” That was the thing. I did know it. There was nothing malicious about this firing, but that was still what it was.

“Truly, this order comes from higher up. The board has decided to take the Chronicle entirely digital. It’s creating a mess for me, really. I have to reorganize my entire staff.”

“And I didn’t make the cut.” I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the way my life had always gone. But at the same time, I was. I’d only ever been good at one thing. Writing. For years, the Chronicle heralded me as their top writer, their shining star.

But not all stars shone forever.

Mr. Irons sighed and stood, moving around his desk to lower himself into the rolling chair with the slowness of a man twenty years his senior. He did everything carefully, cautiously. That was how I knew going digital wasn’t his idea. Change didn’t suit the last man hanging on to print newspaper with both fists.

Still, downsizing sounded so clinical for the emotions welling in me. I tried to pick them apart. First, shame. I was the first writer they chose to let go. What did that say about me?

Then, anger, but that didn’t last. I wasn’t an angry person. Not usually anyway. The anger quickly faded into fear. If I lost this job, how could I stay in the city? Every paper was letting people go. There were no jobs to be had. I couldn’t lose this one.

“Mr. Irons.” I almost called him Nolan, like I had so many times before, but that didn’t seem right when I was fighting for my job. “I can write for digital. I know I can.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face, as if he’d had this same argument before. “That’s what I told the board. Trust me, Talia, I fought for you. But this wasn’t my decision. They aren’t taking anyone from print for the digital team.”

“But why? I’m a better journalist than all your digital writers combined.”

We both knew it was true. “Digital is a different beast, a different type of writing. You’re meant for long-form. You’re a read-over-coffee journalist, one who digs deep into a story and gets the real news out of it.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“It’s not. For print. But digital… It's about attention-grabbing articles. Short, to the point. Sitting-in-the-dentist-office news, where our readers may only get five minutes at a time to digest world events.”

“I can do that.” I sat forward on the edge of my chair, willing to do whatever it took to keep this job. “I can write anything. You just have to give me a chance.”

He paused for a long moment. “Do you read fiction, Talia?”

“Sometimes. I really prefer nonfiction though.” I didn’t have a lot of time, so while I enjoyed reading, I used it to learn, to gather background on events I wrote about, relevant histories.

“The most popular genre in the world is romance.”

“Sir?” My brow furrowed. What did this have to do with my inability to do the job?

“You should read widely to understand what it is that captures a person’s attention. Romance, most of it, tends to engage a reader on an emotional level. They can see themselves in the story, see their desires, their experiences.”

“I’m not sure—”

“When you can write the news like a romance story, when you can engage an audience on a primal level, you can write for digital.”

“I can do that.” I knew I could. Write like a romance novelist? Easy, right?

He stared at me for a long moment, running a hand through his graying hair. Finally, he pulled open a desk drawer and retrieved a book. My gut clenched, telling me I wasn’t going to like whatever he said next.

“My wife introduced me to this author.” He dropped the book on the desk, and all I could do was stare at the familiar cover. “She’s currently the hottest author in romance, but a part of it is that she never does interviews in person. There’s a mystery around her. She’s done signings in the city before, but any questions from reporters receive answers from her publisher. I have been trying to get an interview for two years with no luck.” He tapped the book. “Read this. I want every one of our digital writers to tell the news with as much emotion as Trinity tells a love story. That is how we keep the Chronicle alive.”

Read this. They sounded like such simple words. Yet, he didn’t know what seeing that name on a cover did to me. Of course I’d read the book. I’d read every single thing Trinity ever wrote, even a few unpublished stories back when they were just written by someone I knew.

Mr. Irons was still talking when an idea came to me. A bad idea, one I knew was a mistake before I voiced it.

“I can get the interview.”

He froze, his mouth popping open. “Talia, this isn’t the time—”

“If I get it, can I keep my job? Will that be enough for the board?” Part of me wanted him to say no, to tell me this interview wouldn’t change a thing. Then I could forget about it, forget that, for a moment, I’d come very close to ripping open the wounds I’d long since thought healed.

Mr. Irons drummed his fingers on the desk. “I don’t know how you plan to manage it, but this paper would be the talk of the city.” His lips pursed. “I think that would save your job.”

I tried to smile, to feel anything other than pure dread at the thought of taking one last chance to preserve the life I’d built. There was no turning back now. I swallowed past a lump in my throat and twisted a rigid black curl around my finger.

“Okay then.” It was time to go home.

* * *

“Hey, baby.” Barrett greeted me as soon as I entered the Greenwich apartment we shared. “You’re home early.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him about my horrible, craptastic day, but it never came out. Despite living together for almost a year now, we weren’t more than a surface relationship. I knew it, and he did too.

“I have an article to work on; figured I’d do it from the comfort of my pajamas.” It was an easy enough lie, one he wanted to believe.

When I moved in with Barrett, I hadn’t had anywhere else to go. My roommate was getting married and moving to Staten Island, and there was no way I could afford our fifth-floor walk-up on my own. Barrett offered me a room, and he was a friend. The relationship was more a proximity thing than anything else. I didn’t do deep relationships. I didn’t do love. It was too easy for it to destroy a person.

I pressed a kiss to Barrett’s cheek. “How’s work going today?”

He shrugged. “Same as always.” He owned a consulting company, a rather successful one, and worked from the office off his bedroom. “I should get back to it. Dinner tonight?”


He gave me a shy smile and headed back to the office.

I kicked off my shoes and walked toward the windows that gave me a better view of the city than I ever imagined I’d have. Sometimes, I had moments where this life didn’t feel like mine. But the city, it always had.

It hummed with life, a hive protecting its colony of bees. So many lives happened here, so many stories. And yet, mine felt over before I ever arrived.

Walking into my tiny bedroom, I went to the bookshelf, where every one of Trinity’s books sat glaring at me, never letting me forget. It was a different girl who’d loved the person behind these words, a different girl who’d thought maybe they’d loved her back.

That girl wanted to be a writer who chased dreams, told great stories. How had she become this person? One who wasn’t sure she believed in anything anymore.

Her phone ringing stole her attention from the shelf, but the name flashing on the screen wasn’t someone she could face right now.

It’s okay, she said silently to the person on the other end. I’ll be home with you soon.


There was something magical about the bay at twilight. Not the pixie dust and fairy wings kind of magic, the imaginary kind that left a person wishing for something they couldn’t have. 

No, this kind of power was very much here, very much within reach. It was a quiet that came over the water after the boats were tucked into the marina and everyone who normally filled the air with their chatter along the boardwalk had gone home. 

Some people said I had my head in the clouds, that Selena Contreras would never achieve anything extraordinary. Maybe they were right, but tonight I wished for so many things as I lay in the clearing beyond the trees. Beyond the confines of the traditions that dictated what my life would be before I was even born. 

But living along the beautiful Maine coastline made me feel like anything was possible. 

I’d ridden my moped from my family’s orchard down dusty back roads and through town to get to my favorite spot near the bay boardwalk.

I stared up into the darkening sky. Soon, I wouldn’t be able to see anything save the sweeping beam of the distant lighthouse that turned the dull, gray rocks silver. 

A sigh rattled from my lungs as I let my body relax into the ground, releasing the strain of another day’s work. I loved my family’s orchard. Some days, I didn’t even mind working my hands to the bone to keep it going. We could only afford minimal help, and it was on the entire family to pitch in, even grandma, though I think she enjoyed it the most. 

But other days—days when all I felt was a bone-weary ache in my soul—on those days, I wanted something more. 

As stars began dotting the sky, I listened to the sound of the gentle waves rushing up against the rocks. There weren’t big waves this far into the inlet that led to our little town of Superiore Bay, but as the wind rippled over the surface, it created a tiny splashing that was comforting in its rhythm. 

The purr of a boat engine nearing the shore had me lifting my head. I recognized that sound. It came from a tiny fishing boat, the only one that would dare venture near the rocks this late in the day when shadows cloaked the shore. 

Because it was driven by someone who never thought anything would happen to him. Carter Ashford. My best friend. A best friend I wasn’t allowed to have.

I pushed to my feet, throwing my dark wavy hair over my shoulders before shoving my hands into the pockets of my overalls. 

The boat ran up onto the only gap in the rocks, a tiny strip of beach Carter and I found years ago, barely large enough for a boat. It was the only place we could see each other without our families hearing of it. 

The Contrerases and the Ashfords were rivals. We lived on opposite sides of the bay, them in their mansion on the edge of their vineyard and us in our run-down Victorian-style house among the orchards we put our blood sweat and tears into for generations. Grapes verses apples, but the rivalry ran deeper than fruit, though all I knew was the feud dated back several generations before us. 

Older people could be so childish. 

Carter hopped out of his boat, dragging it farther onto the beach before climbing up the rocks to the grassy area where I waited. The boardwalk sat behind us, dozens of feet above the rocks and boulders that concealed us from the prying eyes of the town. 

His wide, boyish grin made it hard to keep a stern face, but I did my best. 

His smile fell only the slightest bit. “Whoa, who died?” 

I took my hands out of my pockets and crossed my arms. “You do realize it’s getting dark, yes?”

He blew auburn curls out of his face. “I’ll be fine, Lena.” He threw himself onto the ground with a roll of his eyes. 

It wasn’t the first time we’d had this conversation. I sat beside him. “You could get seriously hurt taking your boat out at this time of day. It’s going to be completely dark when you head home.” Only experienced boaters went out at night around here, and few came near the rocks, preferring the well-lit marina instead.

He shrugged, his nonchalance irritating. “I’ll be fine,” he said again and nudged me. “You worry too much.” 

I drew my knees up to my chest. “And you don’t worry enough.”

His smile widened, and I wanted to smack it off his face, but instead, I found myself returning the expression. Carter and I had been friends ever since the first day of the second grade. Over the years, various people from our parents and brothers to random nosy townspeople had many “talks” with us about how it wasn’t appropriate for us to be friends. 

It wasn’t like I was going to marry the guy. Carter was basically my brother. Not to mention he was an Ashford. As much as I loved him, I could never join that toxic family. 

Carter threw an arm around me and pulled me into a side hug. “What else was I supposed to do to see my favorite girl? I couldn’t very well drive.”

The road to our spot led right past the boardwalk shops, and Carter’s Ferrari wasn’t exactly unrecognizable. 

I sighed, leaning into him. “I just don’t want anything happening to you.” I had very few friends in my life, in part because most people in this town bowed down to the Ashfords who practically owned the very roads they drove on. And then, there was the fact I spent all my free time working for my family. Not exactly the kind of girl people wanted to be friends with. 

Except for Carter, I’d only ever had one close friend. And she left years ago, and was never coming back. 

“You seem tired, Lena.” He pulled back to look at me in the way only he did, like he could tell exactly what was going on in my head. I swore, in another life, we were twins separated at birth. 

“I’m tired.” It was a particularly long week. I’d worked all day every day and then spent the evenings on my own plans. Plans my family would never approve. 

I got to my knees and crawled over to my little yellow moped. It wasn’t exactly a Ferrari, but it got me where I needed to go. I reached into the bag hanging off the back and pulled out a roll of papers. 

Returning to Carter, I flattened them on the ground. He pulled out his phone to use as a flashlight, leaning down to look at my drawings. “You did these?” 

I nodded, nibbling on my lower lip. He was the only person who knew how far into the project I was. My parents still thought it was an abstract idea I’d never actually follow through with. 

When my grandfather died, he left me his half of the orchard without telling anyone ahead of time. I’d never known why he didn’t give it to my grandma, but now I was an equal partner with my dad, something he still couldn’t wrap his head around. 

I thought it was time for us to stop barely getting by and make an effort to improve our business. To diversify our income before it dried up completely. 

Carter flipped through the pages, my drawings of the complex I wanted to build. A cider tasting room. A general store to sell apples and apple-like things. And so much more. 

“You added a restaurant?” He rubbed his fingers over the stubble that was a constant on his unshaven face. He’d never been one to grow a full beard, but he also wasn’t all about the extra personal grooming. 

It made him look less like a fancy Ashford, and I liked that about him. 

His eyes lifted to mine in the dark, and I knew exactly how they appeared. Gray. Intelligent. 

Some days, I really wanted to love this man. I mean, I did, but not like that. I wished he gave me butterflies, the kind I’d never felt before. Even though it would be way too complicated if he did. 

“I thought there could be a cafe where we’d serve apple dumplings, hot cider, and the like. Then, a more formal sitting room where people could get fancier dishes like apple braised pork.” 

“It’s genius.”

“You think so?” Any time I talked about this dream with my family, they nodded along as if they understood, but they didn’t. Not really. 

“Lena, the town needs something like this to bring in tourism year round.”

A smile spread slowly across my lips. “My thoughts exactly.” 

He continued looking at the drawings, flipping back and forth between them. “Have you shown this to your dad?” 

I snorted out a laugh. “Because that would go over so well.” 

“Give the man some credit. He loves you.” Carter was forever lecturing me about my dad. He didn’t really know him since he wasn’t allowed at the house, but from what he’d told me, his relationship with his own father was a lot rockier than mine. The Ashford, as people tended to call the patriarch of Carter’s family, was a force to be reckoned with. 

My dad might not believe in this idea, but his didn’t believe in him

I rolled the papers up and stuffed them back in the bag before returning and lying back on the grassy slope. Carter rested beside me, his face lifted to the sky. 

A cool wind ruffled through the trees, and I breathed in the fresh, salty air. There was nothing like late spring or summer in Superiore Bay, no comparison. It was only May, but during the day, I could already feel the summer heat.

“Do you remember the summers in high school?” he asked suddenly.

I turned my head to look at him, knowing exactly where this was headed. Harper. The girl neither of us quite got over. She’d spent her summers here, and Carter had loved her. Me … well, she was the best female friend I’d ever had, maybe the only true one. 

And she’d left us eight years ago and never came back. 

I reached over and threaded my fingers through his. “We’ve got us.” It was what we said whenever anything got real in other parts of our lives. When we felt stuck in a cycle we couldn’t break free of, stuck in lives we didn’t want, we had us. When other people broke our hearts, we had us. 

“You realize we’re like the Romeo and Juliet of best friends, right?”

I couldn’t help laughing at his comparison. “Just please don’t die for me.” 

He squeezed my hand. “I wish we didn’t always have to hide.”

 I knew exactly how he felt. Having Carter in my life was like having a secret lover without the physical aspects. It was like keeping the most important relationship I had from the other people I loved. 

I scooted closer and rested my head on his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart. No one else would ever understand. They wouldn’t get that while we loved each other deeply, we weren’t in love. 

There were other kinds of closeness. And one day, when I did fall in love, that person would have to let Carter keep a part of me, the best friend part. We were soul mates. 

“You and I, Lena, we’re more than they say we are.” 

I hummed in agreement, trying to keep my eyes open. 

He went on. “Our fathers will see that one day. My brother …” He sighed. 

I lifted my head. “What did Conner do now?”

Conner Ashford was the second oldest Ashford sibling, the second of three boys and one girl. He was also kind of a jerk. 

“Nothing, it’s just … he saw me leaving tonight and interrogated me.”

“That’s nothing new.”

“No, but I got so frustrated with him I didn’t hide the direction I went in.” 

“So, Conner knows you’re here.”

“He probably assumes.”

“Will he tell your father?” I asked. 

He was quiet for a moment. “I never know what he’ll do.”

Car tires coming up the dirt road had me jerking up. “You have to go.” 

Carter didn’t have to be told twice. “Love you, Lena.”

“Love you too.” I pushed him toward the rocks. 

He jumped over and ran his boat out into the water. I heard the engine start up and prayed he’d make it back to Ashford Estates safely. 

A beat up red pickup truck stopped next to my moped, and the door opened. I waited for my dad to step out and tell me he’d seen Carter here, but instead, a smaller foot reached for the ground. My grandma hopped out with surprising agility. 

She walked through the dark to approach me, her arms crossed. “Mija, I’ve been sent to find you for dinner.” I loved my grandma, but I was an adult, and my entire family treated me like I was still a teenager. Sure, I didn’t have to live in the main house anymore, instead living in the converted old bunk house my brother and I fixed up, but I was still expected for dinner, even when that dinner came very late.

“I was just out here … thinking.” 

She chuckled softly. “And I’m sure that Ashford boy helps with that.”

“Gram …” My steps faltered. “Are you going to tell Dad?”

She studied me for a moment. “Your father has a lot on his mind. He doesn’t need to know everything.” She winked. Winked! I loved this woman. 

I surprised her with a hug. “Thank you.” If my dad found out I was still spending time with Carter, he’d find a way to put an end to it. And sometimes, it felt like Carter was the best part of my life. 

How sad was that? Our families hated each other. We were from different worlds. There were absolutely no romantic feelings between us. Yet, the thought of losing him stole the breath from my lungs. 

Grandma shoved me away from her with a laugh. “Get that bike of yours in the truck.”

“It’s a moped, not a bike.” 

She ignored my correction. “We need to get back to the house before Enzo eats all our dinner.” 

I hauled the moped into the truck bed and climbed in next to her, feeling lighter than I had when I first sought an escape out here with Carter. 

It was that magic. 

The magic of the bay at dusk.

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