Second Chance Christmas
by Alison Packard
Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
Struggling actress Maddie Hart is home for the holidays in her small town and comes face-to-face with the last man she wants to see—the one she abandoned four years ago when she ran off to chase her dreams.
Police Sergeant Ben Ashford had an engagement ring in his pocket the night Maddie blindsided him. He doesn’t expect the gut punch of seeing her again or that she’d reignite feelings he’d thought long buried.
Ben’s not about to get tangled up with a woman who’ll just run again, but Maddie has never stopped thinking about him. Can she trade the bright lights of Hollywood for the twinkling Christmas lights of her hometown and a second chance at love?
“The coast is clear,” he said, lowering his voice. “We can sneak in through the back entrance to the garden.”
Her eyes widened. “Isn’t that trespassing?”
“Not if we’re guests of the hotel or attending the dance.”
“We’re neither of those things.”
“No one will know we’re not attending the dance.” He nodded in the direction of the alley. “C’mon. You really should see it. We won’t stay long.”
After a few seconds, she nodded. “Okay. But if we get busted, you’re the one taking the fall. Not me.”
“Way to have my back,” he said, firing a sarcastic grin.
“Hey.” She lightly poked his upper arm. “I’m not built for prison. I’d be someone’s bitch two seconds after the cellblock door slammed behind me.”
He let out a snort of amusement and grabbed her hand. “You do have a flair for drama. Let’s go.”
After they rounded the corner, he walked beside her until they reached the alley behind the hotel. Once they were out of sight from the street, he guided her along the dimly lit alleyway past a large trash dumpster and what looked like an area for deliveries until they reached the white stucco wall that enclosed the terrace.
“You sure know how to show a girl a good time,” she whispered.
He chuckled under his breath as they approached the wrought iron door that would grant them entry. “Trust me. It’ll be worth it,” he said and reached for the handle on the door. “Damn it.” He let out a groan of frustration when the handle didn’t budge. “It’s locked.”
“A sure sign this is a bad idea.”
“No, it’s not.” Ben stepped back and surveyed the white stucco wall next to the gate. “We just need to be creative. Wait here.” He turned and jogged back to the dumpster.
“What are you doing?” she called after him in a loud whisper.
“Just wait there.” At the dumpster, he grabbed a wooden vegetable crate sitting next to it and hurried back to where Maddie stood, wearing a puzzled expression on her face. After a furtive glance over his shoulder, he set the crate at the base of the wall. “I’ll climb over and unlock the door.”
“Are you serious?” she said, keeping her voice low. “Why don’t we try to get inside the normal way?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” He stepped on the box, which gave him enough height to pull himself up, swing his leg over the wall, and easily straddle the top. He grinned at her as he balanced himself.
He froze as one of the hotel’s security guards approached them. As the young man moved closer, Ben recognized him, and suddenly, his idea of harmless fun had turned into a colossal error in judgment. “Hey, Andre.” He looked down at Andre with a sheepish grin. Then he glanced at Maddie, who had covered her mouth with her hand. Probably to hide a gloating smile. “Long time, no see.”
Andre cocked his head and grinned. “It looks like the shoe’s on the other foot. When you were a patrol officer, you came upon me and my buddies trying to jump the fence over at the skate park.”
“Well, it was after hours. And the skate park was closed for the evening.”
“The garden door is locked for a reason,” Andre replied, using similar verbiage Ben used that night to Andre and his friends.
Under Andre’s amused gaze, a knot tightened in Ben’s stomach. He grimaced. Andre was enjoying this. And who could blame him?
“You’re right,” he acknowledged with an apologetic smile. “I shouldn’t be climbing the wall.”
“You don’t have to break in. I’d be happy to open the door for you.” Andre grinned. “You let me off with a warning at the skate park. So I guess I can return the favor and not call this in.”
“Thanks, Andre,” he said, exhaling in relief. He swung his leg back over the top of the wall and eased himself down onto the crate. “I appreciate that.”
“No problem.” Andre unhooked a key carabiner from his belt loop and unlocked the door with one of the keys. “But if I catch you doing this again, I’m not gonna go so easy on you.”
Ben cleared his throat and nodded. “I understand. It won’t happen again,” he said as Maddie stifled a laugh.
“Have a nice evening.” Andre opened the door and motioned for Ben and Maddie to proceed.
“You too, Andre.”
“Merry Christmas,” Maddie called out to Andre as they entered the garden. Then, as Ben closed the door behind them, she burst out laughing. “The look on your face when Andre showed up was priceless. You’re lucky it was him and not one of your officers.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll be hearing about this at the station. Andre is Carolyn’s nephew.”
She chuckled. “Small towns. You gotta love ’em.”
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Alison’s love of the romance genre goes all the way back to her high school years when she gobbled up every Harlequin novel she could get her hands on. Back then, she never dreamed of writing her own stories. But years later, her inner writer emerged and she’s now a multi-published author of contemporary romance.
When she’s not plotting her next book, she hangs out with her adorable rescue dog, Bailey, consumes more chocolate than she should, and spends time with her friends and family.
Visit her website at www.alisonpackard.com to subscribe to her newsletter, get information about previous books, and updates about upcoming releases.
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