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Chance Encounter - A Chance and a Hope Book 1 (ebook)

Chance Encounter - A Chance and a Hope Book 1 (ebook)

Sweet n Steamy Romance

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1698+ 5-Star Reviews

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Chance Encounter is the first book in A Chance and A Hope trilogy. These books are NOT meant to be read as standalones. If you like your entire story wrapped up in one book, you won't enjoy this one. This one is for you if you don't mind journeying with a character who has some healing to do before he's ready for his forever.

Chance knew love once—a long time ago. She died when they were eighteen and the best of him died with her. Since then his work on a ranch in Montana has allowed him to keep his distance from people and from happiness. Eighteen years later, he may be ready to start living again—maybe. He’s watched all his friends find love and embark on the next stage of their lives. Part of him would like to do the same; part of him would rather cling to the past.

He’s hoping that a trip to the Oregon Coast, and a couple of weeks away from his normal life, might help him figure out how he can move forward and maybe even be happy.

It’s taken him eighteen years to get to this point, but a chance encounter on the beach will make him want to figure it all out in just two weeks.

He’s come a long way, but can he really open his heart up to happiness—and to Hope?

Available to Read on Kindle, Nook, iThings, Kobo, Phone, Computer, Tablet, Etc! Your eBook will be delivered to your provided email address by BookFunnel. 

Chance Encounter is the first book in USA Today Bestselling Author SJ McCoy's international hit A Chance and a Hope series, loved by over 1,000,000 fans of sweet and steamy romances. 



Chapter One Look Inside

Chapter One

Chance got to his feet and stood back to survey his work. There, that was better. He’d removed the dead flowers from the pot beside the headstone and replaced them with several bunches of fresh snowdrops. Chloe used to love snowdrops. They were the first sign of spring and … he closed his eyes for a moment, not wanting to acknowledge the significance … she’d always said they were a sign of new life. He didn’t want a new life; he didn’t want to move on. It didn’t matter that it had been eighteen years since she died, he still wanted his old life back—his life with Chloe in it.

He stood there for a long time, head bowed, hands folded in front of him. He wasn’t praying; he didn’t do that. He just wanted to be here with her, close to her. In the early years after she died he could still feel her everywhere. He hated that, as the years had gone by, he found it harder to feel her close. He resented the fact that this cemetery, this field full of dead bones was now the only place he could still feel her. This was the only place where new layers of life, new memories hadn’t built up over the memory of her—the memory of them. He drew in a deep breath and shook his head. And here he was bringing flowers that represented new life.

The sky had been gray all morning, suiting his mood. Now the first raindrops were beginning to fall. He turned up the collar of his jacket then picked up his hat from where he’d hung it on her headstone and put it on. He wasn’t ready to leave. He’d come to spend some time with her. There were things he needed to say. Things he needed her to understand. Who was he kidding? She didn’t need to understand. She couldn’t understand. She was dead. He was here to make some kind of peace with himself about what he was feeling. He just didn’t know how. The rain was really coming down now, but it didn’t matter. He was used to being exposed to the elements. A smattering of California rain was nothing compared to the harsh Montana winter.

He stared at the headstone, not seeing it, only seeing her face. Even that seemed wrong, though, somehow. Her face was the face of an eighteen-year-old girl. That was who she’d been when she died. He was now a thirty-six-year-old man.

“I’ll always love you, you know. Nothing will ever change that. You’re a part of me.” His voice cracked on the next words. “But I finally have to admit that you’re part of my past, not a part of my future. You know me; I’m a stubborn bastard. You were supposed to be my future and I never stopped believing that you should be. I don’t know what changed, honey, but something has. Maybe it was seeing all our friends get married. Seeing all of them, even Renée, moving on to the next chapter of their lives. I don’t know what changed, but I do know that I’m still alive. I kept telling Ben that where there’s life, there’s hope. When I told him that, what I meant was that he had hope because Charlotte was still alive. I was right; they’re married now. But all that advice I kept giving him, I finally came to understand it for me too. Where there’s life, there’s hope. And I’m still alive. I’ve decided it’s time to live. I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what that looks like. It doesn’t mean letting you go, I can never let you go. But it does mean I have to take you with me in a different way. I have to accept that you’re just a memory.” He brought his hand up to cover his eyes and swallowed back the tears. “All these years I’ve only been living a half-life. I didn’t want a full life because I couldn’t have the life we were supposed to live. Isn’t acceptance supposed to be one of the stages of grief? I think I finally found acceptance that you’re not coming back, that I can never have that life, and that I do deserve a full life. Whatever that means.”

He stared at the headstone, wishing she could answer. His heart felt heavy, but it was lighter than when he first arrived here. He needed this. He’d chosen to close himself off from life in so many ways since she died, preferring to shut himself away with her memory. Something inside him had changed over the last couple of years, though. Some part of him did still want to live, did still want to be happy even though it couldn’t be with Chloe.

He stood that way for a long time. Eventually the rain started to ease up. He didn’t want to leave. He knew that when he walked away from her grave this time it would mark a change, a turning point in his life. He’d decided that that was what he needed, but he still wasn’t sure it was what he wanted.

When the rain finally stopped, the sun peeked through a break in the clouds. It felt like a sign, like she was telling him it was okay. The rain might have stopped, but the tears were still streaming down his face. He dropped to his knees in front of her headstone. He kissed his fingers and then pressed them against her name. “I love you, Chloe.” He nodded. “It’s time.” He got to his feet and backed away until he reached the path. He tipped his hat to her then turned and strode back to his truck.

~ ~ ~

She checked her watch. Only seven minutes left. She pedaled harder. The stationary bike wasn’t her favorite piece of equipment, but she had to get it over with. It was Friday morning and Friday morning meant the bike. The seven minutes seemed to drag, but finally they were over. She climbed off and grabbed her water bottle and towel then headed back upstairs. Her schedule was unusually quiet today; she’d have time for some laps in the pool if she wanted. She smiled. She did want.

Once she’d changed into her swimsuit, she made her way out onto the terrace. It was a beautiful morning to say it was this early in the year. The sky was blue and the sun was already warm. She threw her towel down on one of the loungers and dived in. While the stationary bike wasn’t her favorite, the pool definitely was. She loved to swim, loved to move through the water and loved to feel that not only was she in a different element, but she was in a different world. Her world was a busy place, full of demands and expectations—not to mention meetings and appointments. Her business was successful; she was successful. She flipped on her back to get in a couple of lengths of backstroke—it helped to keep her arms and shoulders nicely toned.

After fifteen minutes, she made her way up the steps and grabbed her towel. She sat down on the lounger to dry herself off. The view of the city was amazing from up here. She rarely made time to enjoy it. She and Drew threw parties out here on the terrace most weekends, and guests often commented on the amazing skyline, but that wasn’t the same as her actually taking the time to enjoy it. It was more like a possession, a status symbol. She owned this view, this section of the LA skyline and was gracious enough to share it with her friends. She shook her head and toweled off her hair. At least that seemed to be how they saw it. It was certainly how Drew saw it. Status and money, or at least the things it could buy, were very important to him. She chewed the inside of her lip. She shouldn’t be thinking like that, but lately she couldn’t help it. At first their relationship had been a lot of fun, but the attention and pressure that came with being part of a celebrity couple had soon taken the fun out of things, at least for her. Drew seemed to be thriving on it. In her less charitable moments she had taken to wondering whether the attention was what he was in it for. She hated herself for thinking it, but it had crossed her mind that being in a relationship with a well-known heiress could do a lot to help a B-list actor make the leap to the A-list. In fact, his popularity had soared while they’d been together.

She got up and made her way back inside. She didn’t need to be thinking about that right now. What she needed to be doing was taking a shower and getting dressed. She didn’t have a busy day lined up, but she did have a meeting with her design team later this morning.

She checked her cell phone before getting into the shower. There were three texts from her assistant, Toby.

6.48 am Have you seen any TV this morning?

7.01 am Either you have and you’re not answering or you’re still working out. Whatever you do don’t turn the TV on. I’m on my way over.

7.13 am Traffic sucks! I’ll be there as soon as I can. DO NOT turn the TV on!

She smiled, wondering what he was getting himself all upset about. Toby was the best assistant she’d ever had. He was incredibly intelligent. She’d never known a man—or a woman for that matter—who was as equally blessed with logic and analytical thinking as he was with creativity and intuition. Whatever was bothering him this morning, she’d no doubt find out when he got here. Unless the traffic was really awful. If he wasn’t here by the time she was showered and dressed, she was turning the TV on. He couldn’t leave her in suspense like that for too long.

Twenty minutes later there was still no sign of him. She sat at the island in the kitchen and sipped her orange juice, turning the remote over and over in her hands. What didn’t he want her to see? She smiled. She was about to find out. She knew which channel to select. She and Toby often chatted in the mornings with one of the talk shows playing in the background. Toby liked to critique what the hosts were wearing. She liked to watch their fitness section—to see if they were wearing her designs.

She pointed the remote at the huge flat screen TV set into the wall above the microwave. They were just finishing a story on a downtown car chase that had ended in a shooting. She shook her head. Why did people want to kill each other?

“And now, we’re heading back to our Hollywood correspondent for more on the Drew Lowry story.”

She froze. There was a story about Drew? She stared at the screen as Leyla Walsh, the Hollywood gossip girl, came into view.

“That’s right, Allie. It would appear that the rumors about Drew and his co-star, Carrie Washington, are true.”

She sucked in a deep breath. He’d been working with Carrie for the last few months on a new blockbuster movie that was supposed to land him firmly on the A-list. He’d laughed off the rumors about the two of them sleeping together when they were away on location. Only last weekend he’d reassured her—for no apparent reason, she hadn’t been at all concerned—that there was nothing going on between Carrie and him.

“It seems Drew and Carrie have been working on more than their lines during all the time they’ve been spending in her trailer. Photos have been published this morning that leave nothing—and I mean nothing, Allie—to the imagination. It comes as such a shock to Hollywood insiders because Drew has been in a long-standing relationship with the Davenport heiress and businesswoman—”

“Tell me you’re not watching TV?” Toby came rushing into the kitchen looking white-faced. “I told you not to turn that thing on!”

She stared at him. She was in shock. “He’s fucking Carrie?”

Toby shook his head. “You don’t know that! You know what the press is like. They get wind of a rumor and want to turn it into a story. They’ve probably got no real news this morning so they made something up.”

“Bullshit!” Her heart was racing, but now the initial shock was wearing off she was feeling strangely calm. “They said there were photos that left nothing to the imagination.” She slid down from her seat at the island and went through to the den for her laptop. She opened it up, but Toby slammed it closed again.


She raised an eyebrow at him. “You know I have to. I need to see the photos and they’re bound to be online somewhere.” She opened it up again. “What?”

Toby sighed and sat down beside her. “They are online. I’ve seen them.”

“Oh. So, why don’t you want me to … Oh.”

Toby nodded sadly. “They really don’t leave anything to the imagination. They’re not showing them on TV because they’re too explicit.”

“But you said you didn’t know if it was true!”

“No, I said you didn’t. And I wanted you to have time to process your initial shock. I wanted you to wonder if it was possibly true before you were hit with the sledgehammer of yes, it is true and here is the grossly graphic evidence.”

She sighed and folded her arms on top of her laptop. “I see. Thanks, Toby.”

He nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“So am I. This is going to be a real shitstorm, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. It already is. I cancelled your meeting this morning. In fact, I cleared the whole day.”

She shook her head. “No! I don’t want to sit around here all day watching it on TV!”

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but even that is preferable to going out there. The press is already at the gate. I had to fight my way through them.”

She blew out a big sigh. “Shit! They’re like vultures, aren’t they? Come to pick over the carcass of a love that died.”

Toby gingerly put an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

She let out a little laugh, not sure if it was at his discomfort and ineptitude at having to provide comfort or at the fact that she was more upset about the inevitable violation of her privacy by the press than about Drew’s violation of her trust. She patted Toby’s hand. “It’s okay, really. I’m all right. Of course, I’m shocked and I’m hurt, but I’m not heartbroken.”

“You’re not?”

She shook her head. “No, I think if anything, I’m relieved. Just this morning while I was swimming I was wondering about Drew’s true feelings for me. Now I have my answer. He doesn’t give a crap! I was just a steppingstone for him.”

Toby nodded. “Am I allowed to admit that I never liked him?”

She laughed. “You are, but it’s no big revelation.”

“It isn’t? I thought I did a good job of hiding it.”

She laughed. “Don’t worry, you did. I don’t think even he realized, but I knew. I know you far too well. Come on, we’ve worked together day in day out for the last how many years? When you don’t like someone you’re just a tiny bit too polite, too enthusiastic … I don’t know, too something. It never bothered me, in fact I kind of liked it. I’ve had my own misgivings, but I still thought I was maybe just being too idealistic. The fact that you obviously had your doubts, too, reassured me that I wasn’t just being a princess.”

Toby made a face. “You’re never a princess. You are one of the most down-to-earth, hard-working people I have ever known. It’s only because you like your privacy. You don’t give the press anything to talk about so they have to make shit up. We both know that none of it’s true, so don’t you let them go getting in your head.”

“Thanks, Toby. What would I do without you?”

“You’d be just fine, but that’s just a hypothetical because you don’t have to do without me. I’m here. We’ll get you through this. It’s just another bump in the road. You’ve had more than your fair share of those and they’ve never gotten to you yet.”

“You’re right. What do you think I should do, should I call him?”

Toby shrugged. “What do you want to do?”

“Honestly, I’d like to just forget all about him. I don’t want to listen to his lies and excuses. I just want it to be over.”

“Do you really think it can be that simple? I don’t, not with the wolves already at the gate.”

“You asked me what I wanted, not what I thought was realistic. I’ll deal with it, I’ll deal with him, but I think I’ll wait for him to call me. I think I should probably just hunker down here for the weekend. Do you have any plans this weekend? I don’t suppose you feel like hanging out, do you?”

Toby grinned. “As soon as I saw the TV this morning I canceled all my plans for the weekend. I brought lots of work for us to catch up on in case you feel like it, and if you don’t, we can binge watch movies and eat junk food.”

She smiled at him. “You’re the best friend a girl could ask for, you know that?”

“Just doing my job, ma’am,” he said with a grin.

“Whatever!” She pushed at his arm. “What about your mom, though? Wouldn’t you be spending time with her this weekend?

“No. Drew’s timing is pretty good. My brother is taking her to a new therapist for the weekend. I don’t think it’s going to be any help, but we’re prepared to try anything.”

She narrowed her eyes as a thought struck her. “I know you don’t like to talk about her at work, and you know I’ve always found that really weird. This weekend you’re going to tell me all about how she’s doing and what kind of therapy she needs.”

Toby rolled his eyes. “I don’t like to talk about it because we’re always too busy with work, but honestly, I think I do need to talk about it; the stress has been building up. Maybe I can help you forget about your problems by dumping mine on you.” He gave her a rueful smile.

“Sounds like a plan to me.” She felt bad; she hadn’t realized that he was stressed about his mom. It helped put things in perspective for her. She was feeling shocked and hurt that a man whom she already knew she didn’t love had cheated on her. It seemed a little ridiculous that the world should have to stop because of that, but Toby had to soldier on in the face of real problems.

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