Authors: Connie Stephany
Book #2 in the New Beginnings Series
Copyright © 2016 – Connie Stephany
All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. .
Formatting by Rik:
Wild Seas Formatting
To Cathy Christy, I cannot thank you enough. Your brutal honesty was exactly what I needed, round after round after round of edits, to make Second Look something I can really be proud of. You’re a great friend and a fantastic editor!
To Colette Tupy, my sister, thank you for helping me with my initial draft edits as well as reading multiple revised copies. You have truly become more than my sister – you are also one of my best friends. Odd, considering we hated each other growing up!
To Sam Wicks, my fabulous sister –in-law, who designed the cover for this book as well as Second Chances. I absolutely love them and maybe someday I can pay you in more than a free copy!
To Cari Peterson, for coming up with the book title, which had changed several times, it was a relief!
To Stephanie Cohen, a huge thank you for being willing to beta read by story (a couple times) and make fantastic suggestions! It is much appreciated.
I had several other beta readers who I want to thank. Your willingness to read my book and provide me with your honest (hopefully!) opinion was much appreciated. I won’t list all of you but you know who you are.
A huge thanks goes to Peter Hiltner, one of the top magicians in Zimmerman, who created an original unique twist on a classic magical effect especially for this book.
I must also thank Kimberly Stueve for helping me perfect the magic descriptions in the book. I love our girl’s night in and your never-ending positive vibes.
Lastly, thank you to my husband and children, who never, ever give up on me even when the house is a mess, I work in my jammies and I look like I haven’t showered in days. I love you more than life itself!
Adam Jackson is not proud of his string of bad decisions. Cheating on his girlfriend, irrevocably hurting the woman he loved since high school and dumping his fiancée on their wedding day are just the tip of the iceberg. When an unspeakable tragedy pushes him to take a hard look at his life, Adam says goodbye to the no-strings hookups and begins to make amends with the women he hurt in the past. The only problem is the woman he wants to find the most has disappeared off the face of the earth.
Jennifer Sylvester has only loved one man in her life, but she’s made one mistake after another with him. She hasn’t seen him in four years and she’s determined to make sure their paths never cross again. When Jennifer is offered her dream job back home in Minnesota, she’s unable to turn it down. She packs up her daughter and moves back home, hoping she’s able to stay hidden from the man who still holds her heart.
When Adam and Jennifer finally reunite, old sparks begin to fly. But can Adam break down the walls Jennifer has spent so long building up? And more importantly, is Jennifer brave enough to ask Adam for something that could once again tear them apart?
Four years ago
A sign for
The Dive Bar
came into view, it’s full name flashing on and off before each red letter lit up slowly, one by one.
Adam Jackson’s car started to slow down as he approached the bar’s parking lot, almost as if it had a mind of its own. Instead of stopping, he sped back up at the last second and continued on his way. As much as he wanted a shot to calm his nerves, Adam didn’t want to take the time.
He thought about the past week and how it was finally coming to a head.
Adam shook his head and groaned. He completely deserved the panic he felt.
He left his fiancé on their wedding day without an explanation. That same day, he flew to California with his ex-girlfriend to take a paternity test to see if he was the father of her child. Being a father wouldn’t be so bad except the kid doubled as the undeniable proof he cheated on his fiancé.
Sure, there was a lot more to the story, but that about summed it up.
He never would have guessed something he did over two years ago would come back to haunt him and affect so many people.
Now, Adam was on his way to find out if Amber was truly his daughter. Based on what his ex-girlfriend told him over the last week, he believed she probably was.
He was still nervous as hell, though…because, well, what if she wasn’t?
He didn’t think Jennifer would put them all through something like this without being pretty sure.
Then again, he never would have thought she’d be capable of hiding something this big. Amber was already 18 months old. He wasn’t entirely sure if Jennifer purposely chose the morning of his wedding to tell him about Amber, but it was the worst possible moment.
Adam shook his head and frowned. Just thinking of Abby’s reaction when he told her he couldn’t marry her that day made his stomach clench. At the time, he panicked and left with no explanation other than he couldn’t marry her. He should’ve just been honest.
As he pulled into Jennifer’s driveway, Adam wished he already knew what he was going to do. There were so many questions but he had no answers. He came to the conclusion he needed to wait to see the test results and then figure what to do next. Should the test results matter? He wasn’t sure.
Adam got out of the car and headed towards the house. It was time to find out what his future would be.
Her hands were steady as she opened the envelope. She could tell Adam was nervous by the way his leg bounced non-stop under the table, but she wasn’t. Not about this part, at least. Jennifer Sylvester was certain Adam was her daughter’s father.
She was more nervous about what came after. Would he go back to his fiancé? Or could she possibly hope for another chance with him?
Jennifer unfolded the letter and started reading while Adam watched her every move.
She’d heard before that her face showed every emotion. As she read the letter, Jennifer lowered her head further to hide her face. She sucked in a breath and shook her head in disbelief.
“What does it say?”
Jennifer could hear the worry in Adam’s deep voice and she reread the letter, hoping she misunderstood.
This isn’t happening.
After several seconds, she heard his harsh whisper. “I’m not her father, am I?”
She took a deep breath and raised her head to meet his narrowed eyes.
As she shook her head, she could see his face change as he let the information sink in. The words that followed crushed any hope she had left with making things work.
“So let me get this straight.” His deep voice grew angry. “You chose my wedding day to tell me I have a daughter, I drop everything, and I’m
Amber’s father?” He paused. Jennifer watched as he looked up to the ceiling, running his hands through his hair. “Great. Just. Fucking. Great.”
Adam’s angry words broke her shocked silence.
“The test says you’re not, but it can’t be right.”
Jennifer’s voice shook. She didn’t bother to try to explain again she didn’t know it was his actual wedding day.
“These tests don’t lie.”
The edge to Adam’s voice sliced through her. She opened her mouth and closed it.
What am I supposed to say?
He stared at her, his eyes a mix of confusion and anger. “So if I’m not her father, who the hell is?”
Jennifer squared her shoulders and looked into his handsome face. His chocolate eyes were darker than normal, unnaturally cold. His blonde hair was pointing in all different directions from running his hand through it so many times.
“There isn’t anyone else it could be.”
Adam let out an angry huff. “Obviously there has to be someone else.”
The only other person she was with during that time used protection, while she and Adam did not. But she didn’t explain that to him. Instead, she shook her head no.
Adam pinched the bridge of his nose, and she watched him take a calming breath. “God, I can’t believe this. I’ve been here for a week, thinking I’m Amber’s father.”
“You are. The test is wrong.” She hated how her shaky voice made her sound insecure instead of confident.
“I don’t think so, Jenn.”
This cannot be happening.
They stared at each other for several seconds, before he looked down. His voice came out in a harsh whisper.
“I need to go.”
“Please Adam, don’t. You have to believe me. Let’s do another test.”
Jennifer could feel the tears rising to the surface. She didn’t want him to see her cry but she really didn’t want him to leave.
Adam eyes narrowed as he shook his head. “I’m not her father, Jennifer. I’m going back home.”
It was like she was kicked in the gut. His unspoken words were easy to fill in. He needed to go back home…to
. He was choosing
She didn’t say another word as she watched him leave. Instead, she let the tears fall and tried to figure out what the hell to do next.
Chapter One – Present Day
Too many regrets
Adam was at work when his cell phone started blaring
by Abba. He grabbed his phone and glanced down at the caller ID to see his Mom’s smiling face.
Adam cursed his sister and said under his breath, “I have to remember to change that ringtone.”
Was he a bad son for not answering his mom’s phone call? Probably. Did that mean he was going to answer the phone? No.
Half the song played before it finally went to voicemail, prolonging the guilt he felt at ignoring her. At least he had a decent excuse. Adam was due in his last meeting of the day in a few minutes and didn’t have time to chat. It was always a long conversation when he talked to his mom.
Adam leaned back in his chair to look out the window. As he stared down at the large pond surrounded by apple trees in with pink flowers and the lilac bushes bursting with purple, he had to admit he wasn’t proud of the man he’d become.
He didn’t see his parents or his sister enough and often times he ignored their phone calls and texts. He wasn’t even sure why. He always had excuses to get out of family get-togethers and he hadn’t shown up to a Sunday dinner in ages.
The laugh that escaped Adam’s mouth was harsh, almost a growl.
He only ever had two serious relationships in his life and they both ended in spectacular disaster. Even worse, both women were involved in the tangled mess which ultimately made Adam give up on love altogether.
He started dating Jenn in high school and they had a long and happy relationship. She blindsided him when she dumped him after college. She apparently had other plans that didn’t involve him.