A Second Chance

A Second Chance by Bernadette Marie, now you can read online.

Chapter One

At the end of the long, tree-lined drive stood the house, welcoming her just as the owner would. It wasn’t the first time Madeline Carson had made the trip out to Regan and Zach Benson’s house, but she couldn’t help but wonder if it would be the last.

She batted back the tears that stung her eyes. No, she wasn’t going to cry for herself. She was there to celebrate the birth of Regan’s baby boy. Tyler Alan Benson. A child welcomed into the world by two people who were so very much in love.

Oh, she was adult enough to admit she was jealous. Who wouldn’t be? Zach doted on his wife of three years. A baby would only enhance the perfect relationship that her ex-sister-in-law had with her husband.

There had been a time when she’d felt that optimism about a man, love, and her family.

The first tear fell.

It had been five years since she and Carlos Keller, Regan’s brother, had divorced. Five years, and she still mourned it every day. After her marriage to Carlos ended, there was his best friend, Matt. He’d been there to console her in her time of need. That need had led to a relationship, and they’d married only six months after her divorce had been finalized. The marriage had ended the twenty-year friendship between Matt and Carlos, but who could blame them? Neither Carlos nor Madeline could really pinpoint what went wrong to end their marriage. It simply had fallen apart. There were money issues, of course. Then the kids came along, and the money was even tighter as Carlos finished graduate school and she worked two jobs. The very things that were to have made their family stronger had actually pulled it apart.

Matt hadn’t meant any harm when he had come to console her. He was playing the part of a friend to each of them. Things simply had changed between them, and they’d fallen in love. Or so she’d thought at the time.

Madeline pulled to the side of the driveway and wiped at her eyes.

No, it hadn’t been love. It had been comfort. Matt needed to take care of someone, and she was willing to let him take care of her. He’d let her stay home and raise her children. She couldn’t have asked for more.

Now even that had fallen apart.

Madeline glanced at the messenger bag on the passenger seat. Inside it were the divorce papers that Matt had served her with three days ago. So far, she hadn’t had the courage to sign them. She hadn’t even had the courage to discuss it with her children. They would get to that. As soon as Carlos brought them back to her after his week with them, they’d realize Matt had moved out. She’d like to think they’d be a little upset that he was gone, but she knew they wouldn’t.

Oh, it would hurt for the moment. It would hurt more because they’d know it hurt her, but they were too in love with their father to want another man in their life or hers.

Sure, Matt had been a good role model and a loving man to them all. He simply wasn’t their father. For the first time in days, she smiled through her tears. Her children loved their father and he loved them.

She took a few cleansing breaths. Matt’s leaving couldn’t have come at a worse time. Having your husband walk out on you never happened at a convenient time, but she had a bigger battle to face now.

Madeline put her hand to her chest and looked down at the swells of her breasts against her shirt. She had cancer and she hadn’t told a soul. Sadness filled her body with a heavy fullness, and anger riddled her mind. Madeline had never imagined this would happen to her.

“Well, now isn’t the time to sob over your sad life,” she said to herself as she pulled down the visor and looked in the mirror. She wiped off the smudged mascara and fixed her hair. “This is Regan’s moment. It’s time to celebrate life.”

Once she successfully pulled herself together, she started toward the house.

The chairs on the porch rocked in the breeze. The November air had chilled, but the ground was still dry. That would be changing soon, she thought as she parked the car.

Madeline looked at the house. It had been Zach’s engagement present to Regan. Or, as Regan referred to it, her bribe to marry him, which had worked in his favor. Over the past three years, Regan had added her touches. In the spring, the flowers would all bloom around the porch and lay out a colorful spread of welcome. As it was, the drive was paved with leaves that had finally given up their homes on the bare branches of the trees that lined the road.

She climbed from the car and opened the trunk. The large box she’d brought for Regan and Zach sat wrapped in bright yellow paper, reminding her that a new life was just beyond those doors. A cousin to her children, a nephew to her ex-husband, and a blessing to Regan and Zach.

She lifted the box from the trunk and moved it to her hip. Then she shut the trunk, walked up the front steps, and pushed the doorbell. When she heard it chime just beyond the door, she realized that she’d probably woken the baby.

Regan pulled open the door and smiled. “Madeline. I’m so glad you were able to come by. Please, come in.” She stood back to let her through.

“You look wonderful,” she said, but she saw the signs of motherhood streaked across poor Regan’s face. Her eyes were hollow and dark from lack of sleep. The elegant attire worn by the wife of one of Tennessee’s most prominent businessmen had been swapped for a pair of comfy sweat pants and an oversized T-shirt to encompass her swollen breasts. “This is for you and Tyler.” She handed the box to Regan.

“You didn’t have to do this.”

“It’s a box of necessities. Diapers. Diaper-rash cream. Nipple cream for the mama.”

“Thank you,” Regan said on a sigh.

“Just a few other things I think you can use up. I didn’t buy him any clothes. I figured Zach’s mother would want to do most of that.”

“You’re right. Audrey will make sure he’s the best-dressed child at the playground. I think she cleaned out the Baby Gap.” She shook her head. “Zach tells her to quit buying him things, he’s only a week old, but she insists.”

“I’d have to agree. Grandmothers get special rights.”