The Widower's Second Chance (Love Inspired Series)

The Widower's Second Chance (Love Inspired Series)

by Jessica Keller

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460337462
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 08/01/2014
Series: Goose Harbor
Sold by: HARLEQUIN
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 351,341
File size: 287 KB

About the Author

Avid reader, coffee drinker, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica has degrees in Communications and Biblical Studies. She is a multi-published author. Jessica lives in the Midwest. To learn more please visit www.jessicakellerbooks.com

Read an Excerpt

That sure smelled like fire.

Caleb Beck backed out from his crouched position under the sink and laid down the wrench. Hopefully the patch on the pipe would work. "Mags! Are you cooking something?"

He clomped over to the industrial oven he'd installed at the bed-and-breakfast a few years ago. Cool to the touch. He peeked inside, just in case. Empty.

The inn had seven guest bedrooms, and four of the rooms had their own fireplaces. He sniffed the air and turned in a circle, his fingers looped on his tool belt. The smell didn't come from upstairs. Out the window over the kitchen sink, Caleb spotted the inn's owner, Maggie West, working in the garden. It would be just like his ab-sentminded sister-in-law to not follow city code and burn something out in the yard.

He yanked open the back door. "Maggie. Are you burning something? Leaves, maybe?"

Maggie rolled her eyes at him, her hands on her hips and her curly brown hair puffing out in every angle imaginable. "Burning leaves at the end of summer? We have months yet for that. Don't tell me you hit your head in there."

Caleb growled. Should have known he wouldn't get a straight answer out of her. Maggie had been stubborn since they were kids playing on the beaches of Lake Michigan together.

He let out a long breath. Be patient. "Well, something is burning, and if you're just going to stand there…"

"It's probably faulty work done by my handyman." A laugh in her voice, she bent back down to tend to her garden.

"But I'm your handyman."

"Like I said."

He shoved through the back door and his eyes landed on the door that led to the basement. Of course. These old Victorians came complete with ancient and terrible wiring. Sure, the homes filled the tourist town of Goose Harbor with charm, but the laws against changing historical landmarks made it difficult to improve the buildings when safety came into play. Maggie might not take him seriously, but the whole place could go up in a heap of smoke if he didn't act fast. Caleb hurtled down the stairs, taking them two at a time.

The sight that met him made him freeze for a moment.

A woman he'd never seen before hunched over a metal tub in the middle of the cold floor. Her blond hair splayed across her face and blocked him from seeing her expression. Pieces of paper fanned out in all directions around her.

He took a step forward. She didn't look up. Caleb scooped up one of the papers. A letter.

Dear Paige.

Her shoulders trembled. "Never again."

Paige tossed a stack of folded papers onto the small fire burning in the tub. Flames licked the edge of the bin as the paper started to curl and turn black. Next, she grabbed a mound of white fabric from beside her. If she tossed that wispy bunch of cloth into the small tub, the fire would get out of control. Not to mention smell awful.

He crossed to where she sat on the ground.

Almost in a daze, Paige lifted her arms, ready to stuff the white pile of fabric into the fire.

Caleb caught her wrists. "What are you, crazy? Don't do that." He tugged what now registered in his head as a dress out of her clutches.

Paige slammed her hands onto her hips. "Give that back."

Caleb tossed it out of her reach. She moved to go after the dress, but he grabbed her slender shoulders, and she finally looked at him. When her crystal-blue eyes locked on his, something warm curled inside his chest. He knew enough about women to know only one thing could cause those huge raccoon marks on her face. She'd been crying. Not just crying—sobbing. But even the running mascara couldn't mask her simple beauty. The splash of freckles across her cheeks, delicate nose and pursed lips as she exhaled…everything about her screamed protect me.

Had he ever been able to deny someone who needed help?

Caleb shook that thought away. He'd had the opportunity to protect more than one person he cared about and failed. Miserably. Never again.

He didn't deserve another chance.

A thin breath rattled out of her, and she shrank away from him. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I'm…rm…" Paige looked like a scared animal begging a hunter not to shoot her.

"What were you doing?" Caleb kept his voice low and even.

"Can you please hand me my wedding dress?"

"Your…?" His eyes darted to the white pool of fabric he'd thrown to the corner of the basement. The girl was going to shove a wedding dress into the fire? What could have happened to her? "You can't burn that in here. It's not safe. Besides, a wedding dress is something to keep forever."

"Forever. Ha. Forever doesn't exist." Paige ran the back of her hand under her eyes and pushed up to her feet. Brushing past him, she scooped up the dress. "I can do whatever I want with it."

Caleb tugged the dress away from her. "Not toss it in that fire. In fact—" He strode past her to the sink near the washer and dryer and filled a pitcher with water. Walking back to the small metal tub, he doused the fire inside. The flames hissed as they died.

"You had no right." She crossed her arms over her chest and her foot tapped on the cement floor. Too bad the petite woman couldn't have looked menacing if she tried.

"And you have no right trying to burn down Maggie's inn."

"I wasn't going to—I promise I won't put it in the fire." She yanked a hair tie off her wrist and pulled her hair into a quick, messy bun. "It's been a bad day."

He took a step closer. Yes, this woman was beautiful. Of that there was no doubt. Despite her obvious grief and the spotty lighting in the basement, Paige's features were stunning—legs a mile long and honey-colored hair a man couldn't help but want to run his hands through. Her blue eyes were deep with locked secrets, kind of like an animal in a cage at the shelter—a little sad yet with the promise of hope. A dusting of freckles formed striking constellations on her cheeks. They were cute, making her seem approachable even in her present state of distress.

What was she doing here? "Who are you, anyway?"

She lifted her chin. "I live here."

"Listen. I know everyone in this town and I have never seen you in my life. Who are you?"

Her lips quivered. "Can I just have the dress back?

Please?"

"Not if you're going to try to do something crazy with it again." He moved his hands behind his back so she couldn't make a grab at the fabric.

She balled her fists up at her sides. "I'm so tired of people telling me what I can and can't do." She marched toward him, bringing along a sweet, flowery smell that made him want to lean closer even with the blaze in her eyes.

Her pointer finger jabbed into his chest. "You can't tell me what to do."

"I don't know what you're talking about, but—"

"It's just… I can't believe—" She dissolved into a mess of tears and ragged breaths. Hands covering her face as her shoulders hunched, her knees began to buckle.

Caleb dropped the dress and caught her elbows before she hit the ground. She wasn't even trying to stand anymore. He had to press her to his chest and wrap his arms around her just to keep her upright. Her head fit right into the place next to his heart. "Shh. Hey. You're okay."

Okay? Should he have said that? It's not like he knew her problems. But no man in the world could handle a woman when she cried like that. He didn't even know her and her tears were making his heart bunch into a knot.

He tightened his hold a bit. "Did someone harm you? Are you in any sort of danger?"

One of her fists pounded against his shoulder three times before her fingers worked open and bunched the fabric of his flannel shirtfront. "How could he? I was ready…. Life was set…. How could he?" She sniveled into his shirt right next to his heart.

"I'm sorry. Whatever happened, I'm sorry you had to go through it." He rubbed a circle on her back.

Paige rested her forehead against his chest and took a few rattling breaths. He fought the foolish urge to bury his nose in her soft hair. Not counting his sister or Maggie, how long had it been since he held a woman in his arms? Two years.

The washing machine along the south wall clicked and started whirling. The tiny legs of the machine clattered against the cement with a high-pitched scratching sound. Maggie probably overfilled the thing, again.

The sound snapped the woman in his embrace back to attention.

Paige pushed out of his arms. "Oh. I'm so sorry. How stupid of me. You must think that I…"

He held up a hand. "You don't have to explain." He handed her the wedding dress.

"Thank you," she mumbled.

Caleb glanced up at the ceiling as if he could find directions on how to deal with distraught women written up there. A stuffed snowman grinned back at him. Nothing but beams packed with Maggie's decorations for all the different holidays.

He wouldn't leave the woman alone in the basement in case she did something else irrational, but he could hold his tongue and give her a minute to collect herself. Besides, it's not like he could help her if she asked. He'd never been able to help anyone before.

Not really.

Stop acting crazy.

Paige Windom took a long, deep breath. What a way to start life in a new town. Good thing Dad couldn't see her now. Windoms don't crack. At least, that was what he always said. Then again, he'd lost his right to speak into her life. Cheaters and liars don't get to give advice.

Why wouldn't this man leave her alone? Her pity party was supposed to be an invitation-only thing. Table for one.

She didn't need a stranger seeing her in this state because this wasn't her. She organized everything, made to-do lists and had every lesson plan she'd ever written in a color-coded binder. Not that she'd admit it to anyone, but she even kept an Excel spreadsheet of her wardrobe to help match outfits for work. But well-laid plans hadn't led to dreams coming true. Not once. So maybe being rational wasn't worth it.

She sank to her knees.

Her fingers traced over the beadwork on the dress in her hands. The perfect Pronovias gown—an A-line organza with a sweetheart neckline, complete with a cascade of ruffles. It had taken thirteen shopping trips to find the perfect dress. Thirteen. She should have known better.

She hadn't cried when she discovered Bryan with another woman and hadn't even shed a tear on the three-hour drive from Chicago to Goose Harbor. But for some reason, as she unpacked her bag in the little room on the back side of the inn, her body started to ache. It felt like a bad case of heartburn, but more painful. And no matter how tightly she pressed a pillow to herself, the hurt in the pit of her stomach remained.

Would she have to walk through the rest of life feeling numb?

Sure, she wanted independence, but no one told her how abandoned being free felt.

Floorboards above her creaked, and the sound drew her back to the present. A damp, mildew smell clung to the cracked cement along the walls of the basement. The other side of the room still boasted a dirt floor. Sunlight filtered in through the basement's window wells.

The man in the basement with her worked his bearded jaw back and forth. Had she really just tossed herself into his arms? Quite the first impression. Paige felt her cheeks begin to burn. What must he think of her?

He hooked his hands on his tool belt. The man's silhouette against the evening sunlight outlined broad shoulders as his flannel shirt molded over coiled biceps. When he held her, he'd smelled like a midnight rainstorm, fresh with a slight scent of pine trees. His athletic form made him look ready to build a house from scratch or chop down a tree. The man was all strength, but carried a gentle reassurance about his person all the same.

Regardless of his relaxed pose, he would be able to move quickly if she did something reckless with her dress again. Not that she planned to.

The man took a slow step closer and then knelt down in front of her. "Miss, are you all right?" His forehead creased. Only a foot or two away, she locked her gaze with his for the first time. His eyes were warm—the color of hot chocolate laced with cream.

Paige swallowed hard. "I'm okay."

He raised a brow. "Are you sure? You could talk to me, if that would make things better. I'll listen." His voice was a balm. Strong and reassuring.

Stop. Stop analyzing him. She hadn't come to Goose Harbor to check out the first man she bumped into. Not the first or the fifteenth.

"This isn't how I usually am. You caught me at a bad time." Paige rose from the floor, the dress clutched to her stomach. Maybe she'd sell the thing at a consignment shop in town. At least get some money out of it to help save toward a home of her own. Then strange men couldn't wander downstairs and find her during an off moment, and she wouldn't be able to embarrass herself again.

Although, the sooner she found a place of her own, the more the loneliness might seep in.

She set the dress on top of the washing machine. No need to bring it back to her bedroom. It would only serve as a reminder there.

The man got to his feet. "My name's Caleb. I'm friends with Maggie. Do you want me to go get her?"

Paige shook her head.

Caleb looped his hands on his tool belt again as if they needed to do something tangible. "Is there something I can do to help you? Anything?"

"Just go." Her voice cracked a little, even though she fought it.

"I'd feel better if I stayed here with you."

"I'm sure you have better things to do."

"Right now, making sure you're safe is the most important thing on my list."

Fine. She couldn't make Caleb leave—not if he shared a friendship with the inn owner, but she could make him feel unwelcome. Make sure she was safe? Unless he was the town greeter or an undercover cop, she didn't need him babysitting her.

Paige turned her back on him. A chill ran through her body. Why were basements so cold?

Caleb cleared his throat. "You're pretty quiet for a girl."

"For a girl, huh?" Paige fought back the first smile of the day as she turned to face him.

Like sunshine after a week of cloudy days, a full smile broke out across Caleb's lips, lighting up every plane and angle of his face. "I have a sister." His voice was bathed in tenderness. "She talks a mile a minute."

So he loved his family, had a nice voice and knew how to comfort a girl in need. Paige needed to get away from him. Quick. She couldn't afford to go soft on her vow against men so soon.

"I have to go. I'm sorry we had to meet like this." Paige rushed to the stairs and grabbed the railing. She looked back at Caleb. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but didn't.

Go, Paige. Just go. She'd gotten good at running away the past few months. At least, it was nice to think so. Without looking behind her again, she climbed the stairs and tried to forget the image of the concerned man in the basement with the gentle, chocolate eyes.

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The Widower's Second Chance 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved it. And I also love that it is set in Michigan!!! It seemed like a good mash-up of features that make Michigan such a great state to live in--the sand dunes, the small-towns, down-to-earth people, the Great Lakes, and, of course, the fudge... anyway, besides the setting, the message was good. Both Caleb and (ohh, I hate it when I forget a name of a main character especially when I remember everyone else's name...) they both had been badly hurt. She by all her cheating boyfriends (she can't trust men), and Caleb by the guilt of feeling that he should protect the ones he loves (his wife was murdered and his sister was injured in a fire). Anyhow, in order to make a new life for themselves, they need to find closure and healing. It's a great story!
TrixiO More than 1 year ago
Caleb grew up in this town, married Sarah his longtime love, and lost her in a brutal attack two years ago. He shut his heart up to any kind of love, even from his sister Shelby & the townspeople who cared about him. He’s just living his life in limbo, not moving forward but staying in a past that’s full of hurt & guilt. He blames himself for anything bad that happens to anyone he cares for, instead of trusting in God who has control over all. Enter Paige, who is starting life over after breaking her engagement to a cheating fiancé. Maybe a new town and people who don’t know her will cover up her hurt, anger & distrust of men in general. Her volunteer work at Sarah’s house, a safe place for teens living in a bad city outside of Goose Harbor, is like a balm to her heart. Maybe if she can help these teens find hope again it will make her feel like she’s worth something to someone! Forgetting that, in the eyes of God, she already is worthy of His love and a treasured child of His. Can these two broken and hurting people find love again in the midst of pain? Can they move past those hurts to be healed of heart and spirit so they can move on in life? I literally devoured this book in one day! I could not put this down, it touched me in so many different levels. I was once again reminded that I AM treasured & worthy of love from God, no matter my past mistakes or hurts. Through the many characters in this book who struggled just like I do in my daily walk, they opened my heart just a little more to those in my own life. I can truly say I need to work on past issues so that I too can walk a new life! You will fall in love with each character, there is such a depth to not only them, but the town gets under your skin in a good way! Goose Harbor, though fictional, is a town you’d like to settle right into! Jessica does a wonderful job of pulling you into a story so full of life, that you will long to visit one day. To get to know each and every character, to explore each corner of this quaint small town, and to enjoy life to the fullest! I highly recommend this to readers of contemporary inspiration fiction who love a spiritual theme throughout & strong faith-filled characters! I can’t wait to read more of her Goose Harbor books & revisit the town and the people! I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review which I have given here. Thank you Jessica for a wonderful story to get lost in!
Tari_Faris More than 1 year ago
Loved it! I don't always enjoy the shorter romance novels but Author Jessica Keller nailed it! I loved her characters from the first chapter and found them very real and believable. Between the engaging plot and romantic sparks, I couldn't put this book down. I am glad to know this is just the first in the series. Grabbing the next in the series right now.
Janine_S More than 1 year ago
“The Widower's Second Chance” by Jessica Keller is the first book in her “Goose Harbor” series and it was a wonderful start to the series. I really hope that the future books are settled around Amy, Maggie and Shelby. Those three young ladies really touched me even as simple secondary characters that they were. This is a story that deals with guilt and past hurts, hurts so deep that they are almost crushing of the spirit. These hurts are different for both Paige and Caleb and it is how they both react to those hurts that makes these two so interesting when interacting with each other. Though each have been hurt in different ways, there is one common thing they have which is the fear to trust and that fear holds them back in so many ways to the point that they risk loosing so much more than they thought possible. It is not often that I actually quote from the book, for I have only done it one other time, but there was a statement made that was so beautiful that frankly the image that it created, created a warmth within myself. The statement can be found on page 222, “[...] I like to picture God as my dance partner leading me in all sorts of new and fun steps. Sometimes I mess it up, but He's right there to catch me in the midst of those stumbles.” I have always known God is there for me, no matter what I do, but to think of this life as one big dance with the greatest dance partner who will always catch me when I fall is just another wonderful reminder that I am always caught when I fall. Paige is a woman who frankly is a mess in the opening scene and that was so refreshing for too many times the heroine or hero is well past the point where they are a mess, but not this time. To watch her to work through that pain to the point where she is at the end of the story was so beautiful for she was a work in progress the entire story and some of that progress was done subtly while some progress was forced out in the open. Caleb is a man who is carrying the world on his shoulders it seems like and because of that people treat him a certain way, that bothered him but he wasn't sure how to change it. Caleb also was a typical stubborn character for he didn't want to listen to those around him even when what was said needed to be said until things got to the point where he was about to loose so much. Regardless of his flaws this is a man who was so caring and only wanted to help and protect those who he cares about. There is conflict within the story but in the end the conflict was actually a benefit more than just helping Paige and Caleb to realize they are meant for each other, but the conflicts (yes there are a couple going on) are used to improve the characters and strengthen them. Truly the story with all that was going on, was not overwhelming with just interesting enough to keep me turning the page to see what was going to happen. I hope all who read this book enjoy it as much as I did.
mustlovetoread More than 1 year ago
The Widower’s Second Chance By: Jessica Keller This is book one in the Goose Harbor, Michigan, series. From the time Caleb Beck meets Paige Windom, he is fascinated with her. First of all, because she is burning her wedding dress, in the basement of the West Oaks Inn Bed-and-Breakfast, and then because she is unlike any woman he has ever met before. Can he let go of his fear to embrace a future with Paige; or will he let past events control him? Paige is done with men controlling what she does and how she does it. She moves to Goose Harbor, Michigan, to start over. With a new teaching job, and volunteering at Sarah’s Home with the inner-city mentoring program, Paige has all she needs. Caleb teaches science at the school where Paige now works. His wife Sarah died in an attack outside the home she founded for inner-city kids. When Paige shows up wanting to volunteer there, Caleb tells her she can’t. Why won’t she listen to reason? He knows it’s dangerous. Caleb is broken by his past. He can’t forgive himself for the things that happened to people around him. He feels he should have protected them. Can Paige help him see he was not to blame? Can Caleb see that his trust needs to be in God? Will Paige learn the difference between control and caring? When you are broken and feel like all is lost, God is there always offering another chance. Even when you make mistakes, God is right there full of love with arms open wide. The secondary characters were well thought out and brought additional life to the story. I would love to read more about the inner city kids and Amy, see how they are doing. Jessica Keller does a great job of bringing these characters and this town to life. Can’t wait to read more! God is all about second chances. Caleb thought after his wife died, he would have to run around protecting everyone. Will he see that by doing that he is keeping them from growing? Paige is afraid of letting others control her because of her past experiences. Can she learn to trust Caleb so they can have a future together? Pick up this great book today about God’s love and how ever many second chances are needed to get it right, and enjoy Caleb and Paige’s story!
JPropst More than 1 year ago
I loved Paige and Caleb's story at a second chance to have the life they've dreamed of having. Paige came to Goose Harbor to heal her broken heart and to volunteer at Sarah's House, a non profit organization for at risk teens. Caleb and his wife started Sarah's Home and it was where his wife died two years ago when she was mugged. Caleb still mourns her loss and feels guilty for not there when she needed him. He feels he needs to protect everyone becoming overprotective. When he finds out Paige is going to Volunteer at Sarah's Home he try's to discourage her from doing it. When it's obvious she won't change her mind he's determine to keep her safe. I loved watching these two pick and choose their battles, fall in love and helping each other to see they deserved a second chance. There were some things that I knew would happen but there were some surprises also. A wonderful story of forgiveness, learning to trust and the second chance to have the life you dreamed of having. After reading and falling in love with Paige and Caleb I can't wait to read the other stories in Jessica Keller's Goose Harbor series.
Proudmom508 More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about two people learning to trust in themselves and in God. Paige comes to Goose Harbor with a broken heart trying to get away to heal and to help others. Caleb is lost in his grief missing his wife and going through the motions of life. He takes on the role of Paige's protector while everyone in Goose Harbor protects him by walking on eggshells around him like they're waiting for him to crack. Paige wants to help the inner city kids who go to center for at-risk teens that Caleb and his late wife started. His wife was attacked and died there and Caleb is afraid that the same thing will happen to Paige. As Paige finds the courage to stand up to Caleb, she finds that she also needs to stand up to her ex. Paige grows so much in this book that you want to be her friend. Caleb learns that protecting others sometimes means supporting them not fighting their battles for them. It's a touching book that anyone can relate to. It was a great reminder that our God is a God of second chances and sometimes we get a second chance at love.