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Take a Chance on Me

By:Susan May Warren

of the other hotshots. They’d spent the last couple weeks mopping up, making sure no new fires ignited, but the rainfall of the past few days meant they might be leaving soon.

He noticed the new guy, Conner, in the corner, talking with Liza Beaumont. And his dad, sitting at a high top, his chair close to his mom’s. She caught Darek’s eye as he came in. Her smile filled him with an odd, boyish sense of joy.

Ivy pointed to a chair next to Jensen, and Darek nodded. Jensen stood, grabbing Darek’s hand.

Yeah, that had felt good yesterday, standing up in court for his best friend. Forgiving him.

“You ready?” Darek asked.

Ivy glanced at them with a frown.

Jensen nodded.

As they sat, he noticed a dog lying at Jensen’s feet. “They let you bring a dog in here?”

“This is Rusty!” Jensen said over the last bars of the song. “He’s my moral support.”

“And what am I?”

He grinned. “You know what you are.”

The song ended with whistles and cheering. And then Emma stepped back and Claire took the mic. She was looking pretty tonight in a simple white-and-blue floral dress, a pair of leggings, and red Converse high-tops. Her dark hair flowed in waves around her face. She looked out into the audience, her gaze landing on Jensen.

“I have a treat for you tonight, folks. You might not know it, but we have another musician in the audience.”

Jensen’s smile faded.

“If you live near Evergreen Lake, sometimes you can hear the tunes of a lonely harmonica drifting over the water. Those would be the magic melodies of our very own Jensen Atwood! Jens, get up here and join me onstage.”

Jensen glanced at Darek, something of panic on his face. “Did you know about this?”

Darek reached into his pocket, pulled out a harmonica.

“I’ll get you.”

“I dare you,” he said.

Jensen swiped the harmonica and took the stage amid the rousing cheer of the crowd.

Ivy slipped her hand into Darek’s and squeezed.

“What are we singing, darlin’?” Jensen said to Claire.

“How about ‘Ring of Fire’?”

He smiled. “Right.” Then he leaned close to the mic and began to blow out the bars. He got the band going, then belted out the song, his voice the tenor Darek remembered.

The crowd sang along, and Darek grinned at Ivy as she clapped, met his eyes.

“‘The taste of love is sweet when hearts like ours meet. . . .’”

Ivy suddenly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

“What was that for?”

“For being the right bachelor to take a chance on.”

“Ha. Right. I don’t think you’ve gotten your money’s worth yet.”

“Not quite yet,” she said but winked.

Claire sang the next verse, laughing, and Jensen finished it, his eyes in hers.

The crowd went wild. Onstage, Claire went into Jensen’s arms.

“They’re so cute,” Ivy said.

Darek leaned over to pet Jensen’s dog. “Oh, it’s going to get better.”

Indeed. Jensen put Claire down and took the mic from the stand. Then he took her hand and knelt in front of her.

Yes, much, much better.

“I can’t believe it, but I’m actually a little chilly.” Ivy sat straddling Darek’s motorcycle, her back against him as they parked on the Pincushion overlook above Deep Haven. A breeze had gathered in the woods surrounding the parking lot and now rushed over the edge, toward the inky lake below.

“I can solve that.”

Ivy snuggled back into Darek’s chest and he wrapped his arms around her. He smelled of the outdoors, the wind in his hair, the slightest sense of the hard work he’d done today cleaning the property. They probably had a year or more of work before they could rebuild and reopen. But Darek seemed to be leaning into it, already trying to talk his parents into the improvements that would bring new life to Evergreen Resort.

He seemed a new man since the fire. Instead of letting it knock him over, it energized him. Turned him into a man his parents could count on to rebuild their legacy.

He pressed his lips against her neck, and she shivered, although not from the chill.

“Didn’t you tell me you used to bring girls up here during high school to neck?”

“Nope,” he said. “Only you. You’re the only one, baby.”

She gave him a playful swat. “Darek. I can find out the truth, you know. I am a lawyer—I know how to get information out of people.”

“Okay, okay, fine. I did bring a few girls here. But it was always about the view. Really. I promise.”

She laughed and tucked herself into the curve of his embrace. The view was beautiful, the way the town sparkled under the night sky. A thousand brilliant lights glittering against the velvet darkness. She could point out where the courthouse stood and her little rental behind the Footstep of Heaven Bookstore and of course the lighthouse at the point where he’d first kissed her. Where he’d first made her believe that she could belong here. That this might truly become . . . home.

“Your mom said the funniest thing to me tonight. She said, ‘Welcome home.’”

Darek lifted his head. “Huh. She said that to me, too.”

“But you’ve lived here all your life. It’s hardly a ‘welcome home’ for you.”

“Maybe, but it sort of feels that way right now. Like I’ve been gone for a long time, on a trip I didn’t know how to find my way back from. Until now. Until you came into my life, Ivy. Maybe you brought me home.”

She curled her hands around his arms. “Or maybe God brought us both home.”

“You believe that?”

“I’m starting to. I want to.”

“Yeah,” he said. “So do I.”

He rested his cheek against her head, silently watching the view with her. A ship moved across the water, lights floating in the darkness. The rich scent of evergreen and pine fragranced the air as he said, “I love you, Ivy Madison. Welcome home.”

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