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Lorana Hoopes

Her Second Chance

Her Second Chance

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First Chapter

Chance stared down at the faded, crinkled picture and wondered for the hundredth time if he’d made the biggest mistake of his life. He’d thought when he left that he was doing the right thing, but now, years later, he still wondered.

“Is that your woman?”

Chance looked up to see his friend and bunkmate Israel leaning over the side of the top bunk and indicating the picture.

“She was at one time. Years ago.”

Israel’s head disappeared and was replaced moments later by his legs. Then, a soft thump sounded as he jumped to the floor and sat on the bottom bunk next to Chance. “She is pretty. What happened?”

Chance exhaled a sigh that carried the weight of the world in it. “I got scared mainly. We were high school sweethearts and we had big plans to conquer the world together, you know?”

Israel nodded, and the empathy was evident in his chocolate brown eyes. He might not understand Chance’s exact issue, but he clearly had some demons in his past as well. 

“Anyway,” Chance shook his head as the memories came flooding back, “Just before graduation, my father announced that not only was he having an affair, but that he was divorcing my mother. They’d been together for thirty years. How do you decide to leave someone after thirty years?”

“Midlife crisis?” Israel offered with a shrug.

“Maybe, but it rocked my world. Suddenly, I was no longer sure about love or Merribeth. I mean if my parents couldn’t make it, then how could I? Plus, there was this burning desire to get away from him. So, I broke it off with her after graduation and then joined the military. I guess I hoped the structure would distract me and the excitement of travel would make me forget what I was leaving behind. Most days, it works, but…” He let the sentence trail off.

“But not out here when there is so much time to think, right?”

Chance lifted his shoulder in another shrug. He knew Israel would understand.

“Have you reached out to her?”

Chance rolled his eyes. “Dude, it’s been eight years. What would I even say to her?”

“I’m sorry is always a good place to start,” Israel said with a smile. “I messed up usually works well too. At least it always did with my girl.”

“You’ve got a girl back home?” Chance was surprised he didn’t know this though Israel didn’t often share about his past. Only pieces here and there.

“No, I did, but, like you, we broke it off before I joined. I wanted her to be free to find happiness while I was gone, but we were together a few years before we split.”

“It’s never easy, is it?”

Israel didn’t get a chance to answer because their squad leader burst through the door at that moment. “Gear up, boys. It’s our turn to patrol.”

Chance tucked the picture back in his wallet before returning it to the small nightstand. He didn’t need the wallet where he was going, and he never carried personal information on him when they went on patrol. No one in their unit had been captured yet, but it was drilled in their heads to never carry personal information around with them. Pictures, names, and addresses could all be used against a soldier and dog tags served as ID enough.

He grabbed his jacket off the hook on his bunk - full uniform was required even if they were just sitting around the barracks - and followed Israel out the door. Ten minutes later, they were inside the armored tank and heading out of the relative safety of the compound.

Chance took a deep breath to try and calm his rapidly beating heart. Though he knew they were necessary, patrols always made him nervous. Too many things could go wrong on patrols. Enemies could fire at them, children could run too close to the tank, and IEDs were always an issue. He’d lost too many friends to the buried dangers that were never seen until they exploded.

Before he had finished calming his breathing down, a loud bang filled the air. Though the ringing in his ears blocked any other sounds, his eyes managed to find Israel’s and see the fear he felt mirrored in his friend’s gaze before gravity seemed to shift on him. His body flew out of his seat, and stars clouded his vision as his head rammed into the ceiling. Pain flooded his senses before the world began to gray. The last thing that registered before he lost consciousness was the smell of gasoline.

When Chance opened his eyes again, he was no longer in the tank. Nor was he in the field. Instead, the ceiling above him appeared to be green canvas and the bed he was laying on felt like a cot. A medic tent. He’d been injured, but how badly? His head pounded, so definitely an injury there? Anything else?

“Hey, Overstreet, welcome back to the land of the living!” Israel’s Latino face appeared in Chance’s vision, his smile wide and genuine. A new cut blazed brightly above his right eye, and dark smudges covered large patches of his face, but Chance had never been so glad to see his friend.

“Iz, what happened?” Vague memories of the explosion filled his mind, but not only did he have blank windows of time, his head was still pounding.

Israel’s smile faltered. “You don’t remember?”

“I remember an explosion and hitting my head, but nothing else. How did we get out?”

A soft slide of Israel’s gaze to the side told Chance there was bad news waiting somewhere on the wings. “I pulled you out. I think I took the least of the damage.” He pointed to his eye. “This cut. A few bruises, but not much more. Must be thanks to my hard head.”

Chance managed a slight smile. Israel was not only the luckiest person he knew, but he was also a machine. He worked harder than anyone else. When everyone else ran a mile, Israel ran two. If ten pushups were required, he did twenty. Chance wasn’t sure why Israel felt the need to push himself so much harder than everyone else, but he appreciated having the man by his side. Still that didn’t answer the question that was burning in his throat. “Where is everyone else?” 

Israel bit his lip and shook his head. “I managed to get you out, but I wasn’t fast enough to get anyone else. I’m so sorry, but no one else made it.”

Pain squeezed Chance’s heart both for his friends and for the guilt he heard in Israel’s voice. It wasn’t his fault, but Chance couldn’t believe the news. Everyone else was dead? Tommy with the bright red hair who had a heart as big as Texas? Nickolas, the transplant from Canada, who still ended some of his sentences with ‘ey’ even though he’d spent most of his life in the states? Simon, the nerdy web-developer, who was always trying to get them to play his newest game creation? They were all gone?

“It’s not your fault, Iz.” Unbidden, a tear trickled out of the corner of his eye, and he swiped it away. Men didn’t cry, and especially not tough military men. However, these men were like his brothers. He’d spent every waking moment with them over the last few months. He knew Tommy had a wife and child back home - a little boy with hair as red as his dad’s. Nicholas had a beautiful fiancée  who was a Canadian model. They’d been together since high school where even with her puffy permed hair and his sparkly tux, they had still been beautiful. And Simon? Well, he didn’t have a wife or a girlfriend, but he was the oldest of ten children. His youngest sibling was just four years old, but Simon would never get to see him turn five.

“I know it’s hard man, but this is military life.” Israel had emigrated from Mexico. Though he didn’t often talk about it, he had seen violence worse than Chance could even imagine. Drug lords had raped both his sister and his mother and then left them for dead. He himself had been shot at several times just trying to get food for his family. 

Chance had once asked why he’d joined the military where he was bound to see the same type of violence. Israel’s answer had been simple. America gave his family a new chance at life, and he wanted to give back. Plus, he hoped that he might be able to save others like himself. The man didn’t have a selfish bone in his body.

Chance nodded. This was military life, not the side that he liked, but a necessary evil that went along with all the good they did. He would mourn for his brothers, but he could not let grief overcome him. “Do you know how bad my injury is? My head is still pounding, so I can’t really feel anything else.”

As Israel’s eyes shifted again to the right, Chance knew he wasn’t going to like the information. “You got banged up pretty bad.”

Chance clamped a hand on his friend’s arm. “How bad, Iz? I have to know.”

Israel’s chocolate brown eyes filled with sadness as he met Chance’s gaze again. “Bad enough that they’re sending you home, Chance.”

Home? Back to his last base home? Or all the way back to Courage, Colorado? The answer didn’t matter much. The military had been Chance’s life for the last eight years. What was he supposed to do now?


A firefighter’s life torn apart by unspeakable crimes in bestselling author Lorana Hoopes’s new page turning novel of romantic suspense…

Could you let your family believe you were dead if you thought it was the only way to save them?

Five years ago, Billy “Bubba” Campbell had a different name, but after narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, he fakes his death and leaves town to keep his family safe. He’s adjusted to life in Fire Beach, but when Makenna re-enters his life, he is forced to make a gut-wrenching decision: Continue living his lie or return to his hometown to help her catch the killer.

Captain Makenna Drake believed she was saving Matt Fisher’s life when she convinced him to leave his life behind, but now the fires have started again. As the only victim to survive, she hopes seeing Matt will fluster the killer enough to make a mistake. But can she protect him this time or will the killer finish the job started five years ago?

USA Today best-selling author Lorana Hoopes takes you on another fantastic ride full of secrets, romance, and suspense. A page-turner until the end, this story will send your heart racing and having you reading late into the night as you work to figure out the killer. With over 1,648 copies sold and over 615,943 pages read, find out why The Men of Fire Beach is the hottest new series in Christian Romantic Suspense. Includes questions for a discussion group. Grab your copy by clicking above, but be sure to hang on to your hat.

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