His Second Chance

Publisher: Cardinal Press, LLC

Formats: eBook, print 

ASIN: B07JVGS7GC

ISBN: 978-1944777166

 

Is Sarah and Cullen’s marriage truly over? Or will they get a second chance at romance and a happily ever after?

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His Second Chance


Nothing interests Sarah Purcell more than the volcanoes she studies until she meets Dr. Cullen Gray. Maybe that’s why she marries him two days later. Illogical, yes, but nothing has ever felt so right. As the honeymoon period ends and real life sets in, everything falls apart. A year after their separation, when Sarah is injured, she’s shocked when Cullen shows up to help.

Even though Cullen’s still hurting from their breakup, Sarah has no one else. He brings her to his home in Hood Hamlet to heal. Once she recovers, she can return to her beloved work and he can move on with his life—without her. But soon, sparks fly anew, long-buried emotions resurface, and much needed conversations happen.

Is Sarah and Cullen’s marriage truly over? Or will they get a second chance at romance and a happily ever after?

Previously published as Winning Back His Wife.


Read an Excerpt


Where am I?

Sarah Purcell wanted to open her eyes, but her lids felt as if they’d been glued shut. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t pry them open.

What was going on?

Something pounded. It took her a minute—maybe longer—to realize the noise was coming from her head. Maybe she shouldn’t try opening her eyes again.

Her head wasn’t the only thing hurting. Even her toenails throbbed. But the pain was a dull ache as if it were far off in the distance. Much better than being up close and personal like a battering ram pummeling her.

She’d been hurting more. A whole lot more. This was…better.

White. She’d been surrounded by white.

Cold. She’d been so cold, but now she was warm. And dry. Hadn’t she been wet? And the air… It smelled different.

Strange, but it felt as if something were sticking out of her nose.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

She didn’t recognize the sound, the frequency of the tone, or the rhythm. But the consistent beat made her think of counting sheep. No reason to try opening her eyes again. Not when she could drift off to sleep.

“Sarah.”

The man’s voice sliced through the thick fog clouding her brain. His voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him. Not surprising, given she had no idea where she was, why it was so dark, or what the beeping might be.

So many questions.

She parted her lips to speak, to ask what was going on, but nothing came out. Only a strangled, unnatural sound escaped her sandpaper-dry throat.

Water. She needed water.

“It’s okay, Sarah,” he said in a reassuring tone. “You’re going to be okay.”

Glad he thought so. Whoever he might be.

She wasn’t sure of anything. Something told her she should care more than she did, but her brain seemed to be taking a sabbatical.

What had happened?

Clouds had been moving in. A horrible noise had filled the air. Swooshing. Exploding. Cracking. The memory of the teeth-grinding sound, worse than two cars colliding on the freeway, sent a shudder through her.

A large hand covered hers. The warmth of the calloused, rough skin felt as familiar to Sarah as the voice had. Was it the same person? She had no idea, but the touch comforted and soothed. Maybe now she could sleep.

“Her pulse increased.” Concern filled his voice. He seemed to be talking to someone else. “Her lips parted. She’s waking up.”

Not her. He couldn’t mean her.

Sarah wanted to sleep, not wake up.

Someone touched her forehead. Not the same person still holding her hand. This one had smooth, cold skin. Clammy.

“I don’t see a change,” a voice she didn’t recognize said. Another man. “You’ve been here a long time. Take a break. Eat a decent meal. Sleep in a real bed. We’ll call if her condition changes.”

The warm hand remained on hers. Squeezed. “I’m not leaving my wife.”

Wife.

The word seeped through her foggy mind until an image formed and sharpened. His eyes, as blue as the sky over Glacier Peak on a clear day, had made her feel like the only woman in the world. His smile, rare to appear but generous when it did, had warmed her heart and made her want to believe happy endings might be possible, even if she’d known deep in her heart of hearts they didn’t exist. His handsome face, with its high forehead, sculpted cheekbones, straight nose, and dimpled chin, had haunted her dreams for the past year.

Memories rushed forward, colliding and overlapping with each other until one came into focus.

Cullen.

He was here.

Warmth flowed through her like butter melting on a fresh-from-the-oven biscuit.

He’d come for her. Finally.

Urgency gripped Sarah. She wanted—no, needed—to see him to make sure she wasn’t dreaming.

But the heavy curtain, aka her eyelids, didn’t want to open. She struggled to move her fingers beneath his hand. It had to be Cullen’s, right?

Nothing happened.

A different machine beeped at a lower frequency. Another machine buzzed.

Cullen.

Sarah tried to speak again but couldn’t. Whatever was stuck in her nose seemed to be down her throat, too. No matter. She was so thankful he was with her. She needed to tell him that. She wanted him to know how much…

Wait a minute.

Common sense sliced through the cotton clogging her brain.

Cullen shouldn’t be here. He’d agreed divorce was the best option. He no longer lived in the same town, the same state as she did.

So why was he here?

Sarah forced her lips apart to ask, but no sound emerged. Her frustration grew.

“See,” Cullen said. “Something’s going on.”

“I stand corrected, Dr. Gray,” the other person said. “This is a very good sign.”

“Sarah.”

The anxiety in Cullen’s voice surprised her as much as the concern. She tried to reconcile what she was hearing. Tried and failed. She wanted to believe he cared about her—that even if they’d both given up on their marriage, their time together hadn’t been so bad he’d wanted to forget about everything.

Maybe it would help if she tried to let him know that now.

Sarah used every bit of strength she could muster.

A slit of light appeared. So bright. Too bright. She squeezed her eyelids shut.

The light disappeared as darkness reclaimed her, but the pounding in her head increased. No longer far away, the pain was in her face, as if someone were playing Whac-A-Mole on her forehead.

She gritted her teeth, unsure if the awful growling sound she’d heard came from her. Everything felt surreal, as if she were a part of some avant-garde indie film. She wanted out. Now.

“It’s okay, Sarah. I’m right here.” Cullen’s rich, warm voice covered her like one of his grandmother’s hand-sewn quilts. “I’m not leaving you.”

Not true. He had left her.

As soon as she’d mentioned divorce, he’d moved out of their apartment in Seattle, taking everything of his except the bed. After completing his residency, he’d moved to Hood Hamlet, Oregon. She’d finished her PhD at the University of Washington and then accepted a post-doctorate position with MBVI—Mount Baker Volcano Institute—in Bellingham, a town in northwest Washington.

Another memory crystalized.

Sarah had been developing a program to deploy additional seismometers on Mount Baker. She’d been trying to determine if magma was moving upward. She’d needed more data. Proof one way or the other. Getting the information meant climbing the volcano and digging out seismometers to retrieve data. Putting in expensive probes that provided telemetered data didn’t make sense with their limited funding and the volatile conditions near the crater.

The crater.

Sarah had been at the crater rim to download data onto a laptop and rebury the seismometer. She’d done that. At least, she thought so. Everything was fuzzy.

Apprehension rose. Anxiety escalated.

The rotten-egg scent of sulfur had been thick and heavy in the air. Had she retrieved the data or not? Why couldn’t she remember?

Machines beeped, the noise coming faster with each passing second.

She tried to recall what had happened to her, but her mind was blank. Pain intensified, as if someone had cranked up the volume to full blast on a television set and then hidden the remote control.

“Sarah.” His voice, sharp-edged like fractured obsidian, cut through the hurting. “Try to relax.”

If only she could. Questions rammed into her brain. The jackhammering in her head increased tenfold.

“You’re hurting,” Cullen said.

She nodded.

The slight movement sent a jagged pain ripping through her.

Her throat burned. Her eyes stung. The air in her lungs disappeared when she exhaled. Inhaling, she could barely take in a breath. A giant boulder seemed to be pressing down on her chest.

“Dr. Marshall.”

Cullen’s harsh tone added to her discomfort, to her fear. Air, she needed air.

“On it, Dr. Gray.”

Something buzzed. Footsteps sounded. Running. Wheels clattered against the floor. More voices. She couldn’t hear what they were saying, nor did she care.

She gasped for a breath, sucking in a minuscule amount of air. The oxygen helped. Too bad the hurting more than doubled.

Make it stop. Please, Cullen. Make it…

The fear dissipated. The pain dulled. The boulder was lifted off her.

By Cullen?

At times, he’d taken such good care of her, whether she wanted him to or not. If only he could have loved her….

Floating. Sarah felt as if she were a helium-filled balloon let loose and allowed to float away into the sky. Up, up toward the fluffy white clouds. But she didn’t want to go yet. Not until… 

“Cull…”

“I’m right here, Sarah.” His warm breath fanned her cheek. “I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

Promise.

The word echoed through her fuzzy brain.

Promise.

They’d promised to love, honor, and cherish each other. But Cullen had withdrawn from her, putting his heart into his all-consuming work and nothing into her. He’d seemed so stable and supportive, but he wasn’t as open as she’d originally thought, and he’d held back emotionally. Still, they’d shared some wonderful times and adventures together. A year living in Seattle. Climbing, laughing, loving.

But none of that had mattered in the end. She’d brought up divorce, expecting to discuss their marriage. Instead, he’d said okay to a divorce, confirming her fear he regretted his hasty decision to marry her. Not only had he been willing to let her go without a fight, but he’d also been the first one to leave.

That was why she couldn’t believe Cullen was promising to stay now. Maybe not today, but tomorrow or the next day or the day after he would be gone, leaving her with only memories and a gold wedding band.

The knowledge hurt, a deep, heart-wrenching agony, worse than any physical pain she’d endured.

I’m not going anywhere.

A part of her wished Cullen would remain at her side. A part of her wished marriage vows exchanged in front of an Elvis impersonator had meant something. A part of her wished love…lasted.

But Sarah knew better. She knew the truth.

Nothing ever lasted. No one ever stayed. Even when they promised they would.

And with that thought, she let herself float off into oblivion.