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Her Second Chance

Her Second Chance

A Braxton Brothers Romance, Novella, Book 6

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He's about to learn her secret.

MAIN TROPES

  • Ex's Brother
  • Secret Baby
  • Second Chance
  • NFL Hero
  • Protective Hero
  • Family

Synopsis

Zach "The Stud" Stedman has it all. As an Offensive Lineman for the Georgia Patriots, life couldn't get any better.

Until Danielle returns.

Danielle is just trying to survive. As a single, working mom, she's put her past behind her and is trying to do what's best for her son.Reuniting with Zach was not part of her plan.

If only Zach wasn't so nice.If only she were stronger.If only he wasn't the exact thing that's been missing in her life, then keeping a secret from him wouldn't be so hard.

PLUS, Jonathan Braxton, from the Braxton Brother's series makes an appearance in this book as Zach's best friend.

Chapter One Look Inside

Zach

This was the moment Zach lived for. Everything—all the sweat, tears, and sore muscles—came down to this moment. He crouched down at the line, waiting for the sound of his teammate, snapping the ball. 

Three, two, one

Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he straightened and shifted, pushing against the grass with his cleats. He needed to slip past the outside linebacker, narrowly missing the cornerback, and make his way to the end zone. 

Panic rose up inside of him as he felt the hands of Jonathan Braxton—his college best friend but right now, rival—graze his skin. He jerked his arm up while twisting his body to the left. Jonathan’s grasp snapped, freeing Zach. 

Taking this moment to push forward, he raced past the safety who was headed toward him. 

He had mere seconds to get to the end zone. The football was headed for him if he was ready or not. Just as he crossed the white line, he turned, raising his hands. It was as if he and Rigby Breeland were in sync. Before he even had a chance to steady his feet, the ball landed right into his hands. 

Flipping his body over to protect it, he staggered his stance as a cheer rose up in the stadium. 

Touchdown. 

Raising up, he held the ball into the air, pumping his fists in time with the chant. 

He’d done it. He’d won the game. His entire team rushed over to him, lifting him onto their shoulders as they paraded him around the field. 

This was it. This was what Zachary “the Stud” Stedman lived for. 

Once the team set him down, Zach unsnapped his helmet and slipped it from his head. He clapped a few teammates on the shoulders as he made his way to the table where the large Gatorade cooler sat. 

“Nice escape,” Jonathan’s voice filled the air. 

Zach turned to see Jonathan’s wide grin. They closed hands and then leaned forward where they pounded each other’s shoulder pads. They made a thumping sound. 

“I was always too fast for you,” Zach said, reaching out and tousling Jonathan’s hair. 

Jonathan dropped his jaw. “Um, no you aren’t. You just got lucky.”

Zach grabbed a plastic cup and filled it with the bright blue liquid. “Lucky or natural born talent like ESPN said last night.” He turned to wink at Jonathan as he downed the liquid and scrunched up the cup. After he threw it—swooshing—into the garbage, he faced Jonathan. “I’d say let’s go again, but I don’t want to school you twice in one night.”

Jonathan chuckled but if he said something in response, Zach didn’t notice. Instead, the familiar, curly haired woman standing a few feet off with a microphone in her hands, talking to a cameraman, distracted him. 

He said a quick goodbye to Jonathan as he made his way over to her. 

It couldn’t be, could it?

He blinked a few times, trying to clear his sight and get a better look. He’d never expected to see Danielle again. Not since…

He cleared his throat as he shook his head, forcing the feelings and memories of that night eight years ago from his mind. He swore he’d never think about that again. He couldn’t. There was too much pain wrapped up in that memory. It was better to bury it deep down. His parents hung onto the anguish from that night, but Zach preferred to ignore it.

However, the sudden appearance of Danielle didn’t help his resolve to forget the past. 

Coach intercepted him before he could approach her. He was talking about some press release that Zach would need to do. But, if Zach were honest with himself, he wasn’t really listening. Instead, he was watching Danielle as she continued speaking into the camera. Every so often, she would tuck her long curls behind her ear and smile. 

Zach cleared his throat as he nodded toward his coach, who seemed like he was waiting for a response, and then stepped to the side. The cheering in the stadium had died down as most of the inhabitants had begun moving from their seats, all escaping as fast as they could to their cars, hoping to beat the traffic no doubt. 

“Come on, Stedman. Shower time,” Mack yelled and soon, Zach was swallowed up into the herd that was his team. 

Even though he fought against it, he couldn’t make it back to Danielle. Realizing that it was a futile struggle, he followed everyone to the showers. 

Once he was clean and dressed in his suit, he styled his hair, said a few goodbyes, and headed out of the locker room. 

With his duffel bag over his shoulder, he pushed through the doors and out into the hall. The flash of cameras and microphones surrounded him. Everyone wanted to know how he felt about the game and about the amazing tie-breaking touchdown. 

“Well, I’m just glad to be part of a team. It really was a group effort,” he said, giving all the cameras his widest grin. After a few winks at a few female reporters, he leaned in as Sparky Monroe, from ESPN, raised his hand. 

“What do you have to say about the rumors that you’re dating super model Giselle Danbury?” Sparky asked, tipping the microphone close to Zach. 

Zach just laughed. Apparently, his PR rep had been right. A night out with Giselle had been a smart move. Hoping not to give away the truth, he shrugged. “I’d say don’t listen to every rumor that you hear.” But then he let his smile do all the talking. “Giselle is such a sweetheart.”

All the reporters had knowing looks on their faces as they glanced back and forth between each other. Zach chuckled inside. He knew it was wrong to be dishonest, but he loved feeding the media. They could be so salacious about everything it was almost ridiculous. He’d learned long ago to keep them at a distance. People in the media were not his friend and would use a relationship with him to get ahead. 

A woman cleared her throat and out of instinct, Zach turned to find Danielle standing behind him with a quirked eyebrow and pinched lips. Zach’s heart instantly picked up speed as he met her stormy gaze. 

Wow. It felt as nothing had changed even though it had been years since he’d seen her. Talked to her…kissed her. The feelings of betrayal raced through him as he muscled down his feelings. It was such an odd sensation of guilt, and what he used to think was love. But it had been wrong. All of it.

“Good evening, Ms. Danaher,” Zach said, leaning forward in some weird sort of bow. Then, feeling like an idiot, he straightened. What the heck was he doing?

Danielle studied him for a moment and he could see her thoughts swarming in her gaze. 

He raised an eyebrow and smiled, hoping to calm her down. She was angry and he didn’t blame her. But what had happened was years ago. She couldn’t still hold a grudge, could she? They’d been hurt together. And sure, he’d stupidly kissed her, but he’d been confused and hurt—he hadn’t meant to insult her, or his brother’s memory.

“I just wanted to get your take on the game,” she said, her voice tight. Zach swallowed. It wasn’t the voice he’d remembered. But, even with all that had changed, he could still see the Danielle he’d known. The one who had grown up with him. The one who reminded him of home, even though the thought was so painful, it felt like a 400lb linebacker had just plowed into him at full speed.  

He cleared his throat and gave her a weak smile. “Sure, anything for you.” Out of instinct, he gave her a wink—and then instantly regretted it. Why was it that he couldn’t act normal around her? He was a grown man and yet, he was crumbling in her presence. 

She stared at him and then shook her head. “I wanted to know how you felt about the fact that Rigby could have thrown the ball to Hyde who was ready much sooner than you were, but instead threw it to you. Doesn’t really speak, teammate, does it?” She tipped the microphone closer to him.

He studied her, wondering where she was going with this, but then decided not to read into it. “Well, I’m sure that’s how it looked from the outside, but both me and the team executed the play beautifully. I couldn’t have picked a better outcome.” He gave her another smile, hoping to tell her that he’d moved on even if his family hadn’t, but that just deepened her scowl. 

“But, how is it that out of all of your teammates, you are the one with the ball most often?” She adjusted her glasses as she reached into her suit coat pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. She parted her lips as her gaze remained trained on whatever was written on it. 

He stared at her. Was she serious? He cleared his throat as he hitched up his bag onto his shoulder, stopping her mid-sentence. “What can I say? My team knows who to throw the ball to. I’m not going to apologize for helping my team score goals.” He gave a quick smile to the other reporters who were there, all leaning forward and catching this strained and awkward conversation.

Danielle’s lips tipped down. “But—”

Zach snapped his gaze over to her. “If you have questions about how I played, then I’m happy to answer them. If you have questions about the supermodel on my arm last night, I’m happy to answer those too. But I’m not going to apologize for being good at what I do.” Zach saluted her as he turned to focus on the horde of reporters around him. 

The shocked look on Danielle’s face cemented itself into his mind as he continued answering all the fawning questions that were thrown at him. None of them had the hint of distain like Danielle’s did and Zach couldn’t help the feeling of anger that rose up in his gut. 

The hope he had that perhaps she’d forgiven him, disappeared as soon as she parted her lips and spoke. He’d hoped they’d both moved on and now, he realized how ridiculous that was. He hadn’t meant to hurt her that night. It had been his parents who cut all ties, not him. She’d left. She’d walked out on him…on Isaac. He wasn’t going to apologize to her anymore, no matter how much she was glaring at him right now.

What she didn’t realize was, he’d been hurt too. She wasn’t the only one who lost someone she loved that night. He’d lost his brother and that had almost ruined him. 

But things had changed. He had changed. Or at least, he was trying, which seemed like a lot more than what she was doing. 

Growing tired of the questions, Zach concluded the interviews with a wave of his hand and pushed through the crowd. Thankfully, security was there to keep the reporters from following him. As he pushed through the outside doors and stepped into the fresh Georgia air, he took in a deep breath. 

Paul, his driver, was standing next to his Lincoln with his phone in hand. As soon as Zach neared, he glanced up.

“Leaving already?” he asked, straightening and reaching for the door handle. 

Zach nodded. “Long night.”

Paul held the door open as Zach climbed inside. Just as he was situated, Paul pushed the door shut and rounded the hood where he slipped into the driver’s seat. He started the engine and pulled away from the curb. 

Zach leaned back in the plush leather seats and took a deep breath. Why did Danielle have to show up? Wasn’t there another team she could be covering? 

Zach closed his eyes and groaned. Just his luck, she had to pick the team he was on. And for some reason, from the way she spoke to him earlier, he was beginning to think that perhaps, it wasn’t just fate that brought them back together. Could she have asked for this assignment just to torture him? 

He opened his eyes and glanced out the window, watching the city lights fly by. “I wouldn’t doubt it,” he said, to no one in particular. 

“Did you say something to me, Mr. Stedman?” Paul asked from the front. 

Feeling like an idiot, Zach shook his head. “I told you to call me Zach and no, it’s nothing. Just thinking out loud.”

Paul nodded as he flicked his gaze back to Zach from the rear view mirror. “Thinking about your win? I saw that touchdown. The team must be stoked. I’m surprised you’re not partying tonight.”

Zach shrugged. He wasn’t really in the mood for booze and women. Plus, Paul was right. He should be happy. He’d won the game. There was nothing like that last touchdown to tip a tied game in his team’s favor. But after seeing Danielle there and hearing her questions—which basically solidified in his mind how she still felt about him—he didn’t feel like celebrating at all. 

So much had changed since high school and yet, it didn’t feel that way one bit. He’d been crazy in love with her, but she wasn’t his. She’d dated his brother for years, oblivious of his feelings for her. It killed Zach to see her with Isaac. They’d been so happy together. Planning a life once he was out of medical school and she’d made it big as a journalist. But it all changed in a blink of an eye. 

Zach sighed. There was no way he could have this conversation about his past now. Not with Paul. Not when he wasn’t even sure how he felt about seeing Danielle again. 

His phone chimed which made him jump. Grateful for the distraction, he pulled the phone from his pocket and glanced down. The name Tank lit up his screen. 

His lips tipped up into a smile. Jonathan was always good for a distraction. As the known party boy of the two of them, he could help a guy forget all his worries. 

Zach swiped the screen and lifted the phone to his cheek. “Hey, man.”

The thumping of bass filled Zach’s ear and he had to pull the phone away as Jonathan started yelling, “Where are you? I thought we could hang out but I couldn’t find you. Some chick said you ditched to go home?”

Some chick repeated in Zach’s mind like a skipping CD. Had it been Danielle? Did he dare ask? 

“Yeah, sorry. Had to get out of there. I didn’t think those reporters would ever let up.” Or Danielle would ever let up.

“Not an excuse, man. I’m only in Georgia for the night. You get down to The Club with No Name cause we are catching up. And I just might slaughter you at a game of pool. I’ve got to win my dignity back somehow.” 

Zach snorted. It did sound better than going home and wallowing in his self-pity. Yes, Jonathan was the perfect person to hang out with when someone wanted to forget something. 

So Zach scrubbed his face and tipped his head back, closing his eyes for a moment. “Just for the night?”

“Yep.”

“All right.”

Jonathan whooped and hung up just as Zach leaned forward to change his destination. Paul nodded and pulled into the right lane to get onto the freeway. 

Sitting back, Zach forced all the feelings that had surfaced from seeing Danielle out of his mind and heart. He was on his way to forget the past and right now, that club couldn’t come fast enough.

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The Braxton Brothers Series

Fall in love in the small town of Honey Grove where each member of the Braxton family returns and through some meddling of their mother, fall in love and find their happily ever afters.