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Sometimes all you need is a second chance. . . .
“L. P. Dover knows how to create the men who make us swoon, the book boyfriends we all want.”—New York Times bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin
Aubrey Reynolds is a small-town girl who’s made it big. A successful Hollywood director, Aubrey doesn’t have time to linger on what could have been. But when a routine blood test comes back with a false positive, she decides to take some time off to do the things she’s always wanted to do: taste the famous chocolate chip cookies at the Minnesota State Fair, hike the Grand Teton National Park, scuba dive in the Caribbean. But after Aubrey admits to herself what she’s really missing, she heads back home to Dusty Valley, Oklahoma . . . and the man she left behind.
Cole Haywood is a small-town fireman and that’s just fine with him. Sure, when the love of his life left their hometown to chase her dreams he was heartbroken and—he’ll admit—damn mad. But Cole would have never forgiven himself if he had held Aubrey back from success. So the last thing he expects after all these years is to walk into his favorite bar one night and find the girl he’s always loved—there—looking for him. Maybe now’s the time to make his dreams come true.
Look for more of New York Times bestselling author L. P. Dover’s captivating novels: The Breakaway series: HARD STICK • BLOCKED • PLAYMAKER The Second Chances: CATCHING SUMMER • DEFENDING HAYDEN • INTENDED FOR BRISTOL
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Advance praise for Love, Again
“Aubrey and Cole are sure to steal your heart. Love, Again is one of my new favorites!”—New York Times bestselling author Krista Lakes
“A remarkable love story—I highly recommend Love, Again.”—New York Times bestselling author Jill Sanders
“Looking for a classic love story? Love, Again is that and more!”—USA Today bestselling author Devney Perry
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Love, Again
Chapter 1 Aubrey
“Where the hell are my keys?”
I was going to be late to a very important meeting if I didn’t find them fast. I scrambled around my living room and kitchen hunting for them, but they were nowhere to be seen. It never failed. Every time I came home late from a Hollywood party, I always misplaced my keys. I blamed it on the copious amounts of alcohol I’d consumed. Not that I was a heavy drinker, but last night was a celebration. I’d just accepted the offer to direct what was going to be one of the biggest movies of the year, and my best friend, who happens to be an A-list actress, thought it’d be a good idea to go out and celebrate. Unfortunately, none of that mattered now, because in forty-five minutes, the producer and I had our very first meeting. It was going to look bad if I was late. I was never late.
My phone rang, and I groaned. I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. I’d always thought at times like this I should have set up one of those find your key apps. A normal person would’ve learned their lesson the last time they lost their keys. Not me. “This is so not my day,” I said with a huff. I followed the sound to my bedroom, and finally found my phone, hidden under my silky lavender sheets. I snatched it up and answered it quickly, already knowing who it was by the name on the screen. “Hey, Em.”
“Hey. Feeling okay this morning?”
I rubbed my forehead and sat on the bed. “Just a slight headache. I can’t find my keys, and I’m blaming it all on you. It’s your fault if I’m late to my meeting.”
She burst out laughing. “Better not be late. I’m counting on you to pick my audition tape.”
“I’m not going to be picking anything unless I get to the set.” Emilia Hart was one of Hollywood’s sexiest women and most sought-after actresses. We were the same age and height, but she had golden blond hair, while mine was dark brown. A lot of people thought we looked like sisters. She was beautiful, so I welcomed those compliments. We clicked instantly after I met her a couple of years ago while directing what became my top-grossing film. I tore off the sheets on my bed, figuring if my phone was here maybe my keys weren’t too far behind. I rummaged around while Emilia snickered through the phone. “I’m so glad you find all this funny,” I snapped.
She laughed again. “Geez, stop worrying so much.”
“Says the woman who has a driver take her everywhere. You don’t have to worry about finding your car keys.” Huffing, I rushed into my walk-in closet to see if I dropped them in the laundry basket when I took off my clothes last night. I tossed things about and found nothing.
“Hey, I have a car, thank you very much,” Emilia stated. “I just enjoy having David drive me around. You could afford your own driver too, you know.”
I looked at my ransacked room and sighed. There was more money in my bank account than I knew what to do with. But scheduling a driver was not my style, though Uber may have to suffice today. “I’m not as popular as you, Em. I work behind the camera, not in front of it. I don’t have to worry about people following me.”
“Consider yourself lucky, my dear friend.” David was a professional driver. If Emilia ever ran into a situation where she was being followed or chased by the paparazzi, David knew just what to do. I didn’t have that problem. “And by the way, I know where your keys are. Go into your living room and look inside that wooden bowl you keep on your coffee table. I put them in there before I left last night.”
Relief washed through me, and I grabbed my chest. “Thank God. Why didn’t you tell me that before?” I went straight to my living room and found them just where she said. It was the last place I’d have thought to look.
“Because I like giving you grief,” she said. “Though I’m sure I’ll get payback soon.”
I snorted. “You’re damn right you will.” We both laughed, and I grabbed my purse off the kitchen counter. “All right, now that I have my keys, I have to go. I’ll call you later.”
“Sounds good. Again, congrats on the job. You’re now one of Hollywood’s most famous directors.”
I was. It was all I’d ever wanted. Watching movies together with my mom was a sacred tradition. After they were over, we’d always discuss what we’d change or not change about the movie to make it better. She always loved my ideas and kept saying I’d make an amazing movie director. Ever since then, it sparked my dream to become one. My mother nurtured it by sending me to filmmaking camps every single summer in New York. It was there I was noticed by the man who’d later take me under his wing, big-time director Norman Reed. I worked with him for three years until he passed, leaving me with a lifetime of knowledge. It was all a dream come true. “Thanks, Em. Talk to you later.”
We hung up, and I glanced around at my multimillion-dollar home. Growing up, I never thought I’d live a life of luxury. Going to the filmmaking camps was fun, but I couldn’t have imagined I’d actually be able to pursue something so ambitious. It always seemed so far out of reach. I figured I’d still be in Dusty Valley, Oklahoma, married with three kids. Not that that would be a bad thing, but I didn’t want the small-town life. My parents wanted me to make something of myself too, and I did.
After snatching a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, I was ready to go. Just as I was about to walk out the front door, my phone rang. I was going to ignore it, but when I saw the name on the screen, I couldn’t. It was my doctor’s office.
“Hello,” I said, expecting it to be one of the nurses. I’d been waiting for their call about my MRI results to see if there was a reason I was having these bad headaches. My first thought was a brain tumor. I tend to go dramatic—hence my job—and I prayed like hell that wasn’t the case.
“Good morning, Aubrey.” Hearing Brad’s voice made me pause. He didn’t sound like his usual self. Brad Danbury was my doctor, and also happened to be Emilia’s cousin. I met him at one of their family gatherings. Emilia had hoped to play matchmaker, but Brad and I both agreed we had nothing in common. We were still good friends, and I trusted him with my medical care.
I shut my front door and set my purse back on the counter. “Hey, Brad. Please tell me you’re not calling to say I have a brain tumor.” I held my breath. Half joking, but not.
“No. Your MRI came back fine.”
Relief flooded through me, and I blew out all the air I’d been holding in my lungs. “Whew, thank goodness. By your tone, I was a little worried. What do you think is causing all of my headaches?”
He sighed. “There could be a lot of reasons, Aubrey. However, that’s not what I want to talk to you about right now. I wanted to see if you could come in to see me sometime today.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling my stomach drop. I sat down at the kitchen bar. There was something in the tone of his voice I didn’t like. “What’s going on?” I wasn’t expecting the line to go silent. I wanted answers so I asked again. “Brad, tell me. It’s not my bloodwork, is it? When you did my physical, everything looked good, right?”
“Yes, that’s what I don’t understand. Do you think you can come in today so we may talk about it?”
“What?” I snapped. “You can’t be serious. If there’s something going on, I want to know now, dammit. You can’t call me with that tone of yours and expect me to wait.”
“I know, I’m sorry. You’re my friend, which makes this more difficult.”
It felt like the world was closing in all around me. I was terrified of the unknown, and I had a feeling that what he was about to say to me would change my life forever. “Tell me, Brad.”
I held my breath and waited for him to speak. What could possibly be wrong with me? I was a healthy thirty-two-year-old woman who ate clean, most of the time, and exercised regularly.
Brad sighed, and I could hear the thickness in his voice. “You have a rare blood disease, Aubrey, called multiple myeloma. It’s a cancer that affects your plasma cells, which are important to your immune system. It affects your body’s ability to fight off infection.”
The breath left my lungs, and everything swirled around me. “Excuse me?” I answered breathlessly. “I don’t understand.” What the hell was he talking about? How could I have cancer? As far as I knew, no one in my family ever had anything like that.
“I’m so sorry, Aubrey. I just got the results. The last thing I wanted to do was tell you over the phone.”
I couldn’t seem to comprehend it. “Multiple myeloma? What do we do about it? Is there a medicine I’ll have to start taking?” I was clueless. I hurried over to the coffee table where my laptop was and turned it on. I had to know what the hell I was dealing with. Of course it was taking its sweet time booting up.
“There are some drugs that can help, but it may be more involved than just taking medicine,” he replied, sounding sad. “But, Aubrey, there’s something you must know.”
My chest tightened, and I closed my eyes. “What is that?”
He blew out a nervous breath, which only made me dread hearing his response even more. “Aubrey, I don’t really feel comfortable talking to you about this over the phone. Let me come over there and see you.”
“No,” I exclaimed impatiently. “Either you tell me now or I’m going to Google this shit and find out for myself. I already have my laptop on and ready to go.” Actually, I didn’t since the damn thing still hadn’t booted up yet.
“Dammit, Aubrey. You have no idea how hard this is for me to tell you.”
I wanted to hang on to my anger. It was the only thing keeping me from breaking down. “Probably not as hard it is for me to hear it,” I said, clenching my teeth. I didn’t want to cry, but I could feel myself barreling toward the edge.
“All right, I’ll tell you everything I know right now, though I still want to run more tests. I’d rather you hear it from me than self-diagnose yourself with the wrong information. I know what happens when people Google their own symptoms.” I could hear his deep breathing again as he said, “People who have this disease don’t live very long if it’s caught in the late stages. One minute you’ll be fine, but then things change quickly. All it could take is a simple cold or the flu to set you off. Your body won’t be able to fight it.”
I heard what he said, but I couldn’t believe it. It was as if I was in shock, but I was still coherent. Swallowing hard, I opened my eyes. Suddenly, everything around me didn’t matter anymore. “By quickly, what are you saying? That I could die within a few weeks?”
The line went silent again, but then he answered, his voice barely audible. “That’s what we don’t know. We need more tests. Please come to the office so we can sit down and discuss all of this. It’s not ethical for me to give you this information over the phone.”
“Just f***ing tell me!” I shouted. My breaths came out as rapid pants. “Jesus, Brad. This is me you’re talking to. I don’t give a shit about what’s ethical. This is my life we’re talking about.” I didn’t know whether to cry, punch the wall, or break down. All I wanted was answers.
“I’m so sorry, Aubrey.” His voice choked up. “When most people start showing the symptoms, they only have a few months . . .” His voice trailed off, and my heart sank further. “And on some occasions,” he continued, “some just have a couple of weeks left. With you never being sick, you’ve gotten lucky. We need to make sure you stay that way.”
“Oh my God.” Tears sprung to my eyes, but I was frozen. I couldn’t move. My life was over. Brad called my name, again and again, but my voice was gone. There was nothing he could say that would help. I hung up the phone and dropped to my knees, the couch at my back being the only thing keeping me upright. The sun shone in through the windows, and I could see the ocean, glistening in the morning light. I’d taken it all for granted . . . everything. And I never appreciated it really, like I should have. All I wanted was to be something more than a small-town girl, but the sacrifices I made were for nothing if I wasn’t going to live long enough to enjoy what I’ve accomplished.
After my parents died I felt compelled to do something important, fulfill my dreams, and I never stopped once to enjoy my achievements. And now they don’t seem as important as they once were. There were other things in life I’ve missed out on. All of these emotions were hitting me now and I started to feel hysterical.
Of all the things I’d accomplished in my life, there was one thing that was for certain. I was going to die with nothing but regret.
L. P. Dover is the New York Times bestselling author of the Second Chances series, the Breakaway series, the Forever Fae series, the Gloves Off series, the Armed and Dangerous series, the Society X series, the Royal Shifters series, and a standalone novel, Love, Lies, and Deception. She loves not only to write, but also to play tennis, hike in the mountains, go white-water rafting, and sing. A Southern belle with a former life in periodontics, L. P. Dover lives in North Carolina with her husband and two beautiful girls.