Second Chance Hero (previously published as Once Smitten, Twice Shy)


By Lori Wilde

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New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde’s heartwarming story will prove that second chances are always possible.

Wedding videographer Tish Gallagher is at the end of her rope. She’s just spent her last buck on nonreturnable (but oh so fabulous) shoes. And her most sustainable relationship is with a pint of Hv§agen-Dazs. So she makes a wish on a lucky wedding veil…and sees the man she never stopped loving, her ex-husband, secret service agent Shane Tremont. Sure, their chemistry was hotter than a Texas summer, but their clashes were legendary, and no amount of longing will change that.

When her dream job of recording the first daughter’s wedding appears out of the blue, Tish knows it’s her only shot to get out of the red. Just one teensy glitch: Shane is the groom. From the moment they see each other, she knows nothing’s changed–the same old magic is still between them, as irresistible and potent as ever. But he’s promised to another and Tish has been burned before.



Lori Wilde's



"A dynamite novel that readers will treasure for years to come."

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

"Superb! . . . Well-written and very entertaining . . . I can't wait to read the next in this wonderful new series."


"Thrilling . . . riveting, and extremely exhilarating . . . a passionate, well-crafted story that is full of heart."


"A fun, sweet romance . . . You'll enjoy this book."



"Fast-paced adventure, sexy situations, and lots of suspense will make Wilde's book appeal to a wide spectrum of readers."


"Readers will be . . . laughing at the shenanigans."

—Publishers Weekly

"Super fun romantic suspense . . . humorous contemporary thriller worth reading."

—Midwest Book Review

"Part thriller, part adventure, and always humorous, Wilde's latest is just what the doctor ordered to chase away the blues. This author proves that she does humor right."

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine


"4 stars! This novel has a nice balance of humor, sexy romance, and a large splash of danger."

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

"Sexy . . . An action-packed, fast-paced adventure."


"Fun, romantic . . . humorous and fast-paced . . . Fans who appreciate a breezy, lighthearted romantic suspense . . . will enjoy reading the adventures of the wilder Cooper twin."



"This zany romantic comedy will steal your heart . . . sexy, fun, and hard to put down . . . It's pure delight."


"Witty . . . the chemistry between David and Maddie is hot enough to satisfy those looking for light summer reading."

—Publishers Weekly

"Quite the exciting romp. Fans will be charmed."

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

"Lovable . . . Wilde has a unique voice that will soar her to publishing heights."



"With a sassy, in-your-face style reminiscent of Janet Evanovich, Wilde has created an unforgettable heroine."


"Hot and funny and at the same time sweet . . . will have you turning the pages long after the lights should be out."


"Sexy . . . Wilde dishes up a delicacy that really hits the spot."

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine

"Great fun . . . A wild ride! Her characters are so alive and the plot is outstanding. I loved every word."


Also by Lori Wilde

There Goes the Bride

You Only Love Twice

Mission: Irresistible

Charmed and Dangerous

License to Thrill

Copyright © 2008 by Laurie Vanzura

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


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The Forever name and logo is a trademark of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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First eBook Edition: December 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-55340-7

This book is dedicated to my parents, Fred and Maxine Blalock, who lost two children but never lost their faith or love in each other.


No one writes a book alone. It feels like it sometimes, all those hours spent in front of a computer wrestling with the words, but if it weren't for the following people propping me up, I wouldn't be able to make the magic happen.

To my husband, Bill, who takes care of all the domestic details so I don't have to worry about any of that and who loves me unfailingly. I'm the luckiest person on earth.

To my editor, Michele Bidelspach, who gently nudges me in the right direction.

To my agent, Jenny Bent, who keeps my spirits up when the publishing business closes in.

To the people of my hometown, who from Jay, Melinda, and June at the post office who smilingly accept my numerous packages to Leah Western at Freedom House to Linda Bagwell at Weatherford College, I'm blessed to know you all. Thank you for all your support over the years.

Chapter 1

From behind his high-end designer sunglasses, Secret Service agent Shane Tremont scanned the crowd gathered for the groundbreaking of the Nathan Benedict wing at the University of Texas campus.

His elbows were loose, his breathing regular, his stance commanding and self-confident. The perimeter had been secured. The crowd controlled. His Sig Sauer P229 357-caliber pistol nestled comfortably in his shoulder holster, freshly cleaned and loaded, along with a full capacity of ammunition clips stowed in the holster pockets and a bulletproof vest molded against his chest.

Although Nathan Benedict, the President of the United States, was being honored at his alma mater, he wasn't attending the ceremony. In Nathan's place was his twenty-two-year-old daughter, Elysee, who'd been entrusted with clipping the ceremonial ribbon in her father's absence.

Everyone loved sweet-natured Elysee, and it was Shane's job to guard her life with his own. His nerves might be relaxed, but his muscles were tense as coiled springs, cocked and ready for action.

The sky was clear and blue and balmy—the perfect mid-October afternoon in Texas. He was acutely aware of the political protesters. They carried signs scrawled with anti-Benedict sentiment. The Austin police held them at bay behind the picket line several hundred yards from the groundbreaking site.

Potential assassins, all of them. From the smiling young mother with a towheaded toddler in her lap to the elderly man leaning on a cane, to the trio of cocoa-skinned, dark-haired men gathered at the periphery of the crowd.

Shane narrowed his eyes and took a second look at the three men. They fit a profile that was politically correct to ignore, but he was Secret Service. Political correctness didn't figure into it. A whiff of Al-Qaeda and his adrenaline kicked into hyperdrive. He touched his earpiece and quietly mouthed a coded message that sent another Secret Service agent closer to the trio. Better safe than sorry.

"Everything okay?" Elysee laid a hand on his elbow.

"Yes, miss."

"Miss? Getting formal on me, Agent Tremont?" Her eyes twinkled.

"We're in public. I'm on high alert." He resisted the urge to smile.

"The crowd looks pretty tame to me."

"Protesters lined up on the sidewalk."

"Ubiquitous," she said. "I'm surprised. Usually there's more."

"It's because it's you here and not your father. Few are eager to protest a true lady."

"Why, Agent Tremont." A soft smile touched her lips. "What a gentlemanly thing to say."

He gave her a conspiratorial wink and her smile widened.

"Your tie's crooked," she said and reached up to give his plain black necktie a gentle tug, then passed the flat of her hand over his shoulder. "There now. Spit-polish perfect."

"What does that mean?" he teased.

"I don't know. Just something my mother always said to my dad when she hustled him out the door each morning."

Shane and Elysee and her entourage were standing on a small platform suspended over the site of the groundbreaking. A fat yellow backhoe, along with several other heavy construction vehicles, sat with their engines powered up and running, ready to get to work as soon as Elysee sliced through the thick scarlet ribbon.

Some committee had decided a ballet of earthmoving equipment would be more cinematic than Elysee shoveling dirt. Although in the end, cinematography had turned out to be a nonissue. A devastating category four hurricane had just crashed ashore along the South Carolina coastline, pulling news crews eastward. Other than a few print journalists, the groundbreaking ceremony was devoid of the usual media brouhaha.

Shane swung his gaze back to the President's daughter. He had been assigned to her detail for the past thirteen months and in that time they'd become close friends. The relationship between a bodyguard and his protectee bore many similarities to that between a psychiatrist and his patient. Elysee told him things she couldn't tell anyone else. He listened, sympathized, and kept his mouth shut.

The intimacy had created a special connection. Shane liked her, even though she was seven years younger than he. This unexpected emotional bond wasn't something his training had fully prepared him for.

Elysee was petite and soft-spoken, with earnest opinions and tender sensibilities. She loved fully, completely, and without reservation, although men were always breaking her heart.

Shane couldn't understand why she hadn't become hardened or cynical about love. Her capacity to pick up her crumpled spirit and move on with the same degree of hope, trust, and optimism impressed him.

He thought of his ex-wife and his own heart—which was finally, finally starting to mend—swelled, testing the tentative seams of its emotional stitches. Two years divorced and thoughts of Tish still made him shaky. He'd loved her so damned much and she'd disappointed him so deeply. No pain had ever cut like Tish's secrecy and betrayal.

Many times over the past twenty-four months he'd tried to convince himself that he hated her. His anger was a red-hot flame he held close to his chest and stoked whenever his mind wandered to tender memories. But he couldn't hate her. Not really. Not when it counted.

Thing was, no matter how hard he tried to suppress his weakness, in the dark of midnight, he found himself longing for Tish and all that they'd lost.

He still ached for the feel of her curvy body nestled against his. Still longed to smell the spicy scent of her lush auburn hair. Still yearned to taste the rich flavor of her femininity lingering on his tongue. Even here, in the brightness of the noonday sun, surrounded by a crowd, he felt it.

Dry. Empty. Desperately alone.

The tip of his left thumb strayed to the back of his ring finger, feeling for the weight of the band that was no longer there. He swallowed past the unexpected lump in his throat.

Head in the game, Tremont.

Shane clenched his jaw to keep from thinking about Tish. Channeling all his attention onto safeguarding Ely-see. This was his life now. Without a wife. Without a real home. The job was the only thing that defined him. He was a bodyguard, a protector, a sentinel. He was descended from war heroes. It was in his blood. In his very DNA.

The University of Texas chancellor stepped to the microphone and made a speech about Nathan Benedict and the dedication of the new Poli-Sci wing in his honor. Then he introduced Elysee.

A cheer went up. She was a crowd pleaser.

Elysee smiled and cameras clicked. An award-winning high school marching band that had been recruited for the event struck up "God Bless America." Shane's eyes never stopped assessing; his brain never ceased analyzing.

An assistant handed Elysee a pair of scissors so outrageously large that she had to grab onto them with both hands. Laughing, she raised the Gulliver-sized shears. Whenever she smiled, Elysee was transformed. Her bland blue eyes sparkled and her thin mouth widened and she tossed her hair in a carefree gesture. For one brief moment she looked as beautiful as any runway model.

Elysee snipped.

The thick red ribbon fell away.

The backhoe dipped for dirt at the same moment the bulldozer's blade went to ground and the road grader's engine revved.

The crowd, including the protesters behind the picket line, cheered again and applauded politely. Nearby, the backhoe operator was apparently having trouble with the equipment. It moved jerkily as its bucket rose. Elysee was perched precariously close to the platform's edge.

The backhoe arm swung wide.

In that instant Shane saw pure panic on the backhoe operator's face and realized the man had lost control of the machinery. The bucket zoomed straight for Elysee.

Shane reacted.

He felt no fear, only a solid determination to protect the President's daughter at all costs.

But it felt as if he were moving in slow motion, his legs locked in molasses, his arms slogging through ballistics gel. He lunged, flinging his body at Elysee.

He hit her with his shoulder. She cried out, fell to her knees.

Spinning, Shane turned to face the earthmoving equipment, hand simultaneously diving for his duty weapon at the same second the backhoe bucket sluiced through the air, slinging loamy soil.

His arm went up, gun raised.

The bucket caught his right hand, yanking him up off the platform. He heard the awful crunch, but the pain didn't immediately register. He was jerked from his feet. He tried to pull the trigger, not even knowing what he was shooting at, just reacting instinctively to danger. He'd kill for Elysee, if that's what it took.

But his fingers refused to comply. What the hell was wrong with his fingers? Shane frowned, puzzled.

The driver looked horrified as his gaze met Shane's. He was dangling from the bucket right before the operator's eyes as the man frantically grabbed levers and fumbled with controls.

Distantly, Shane heard Elysee screaming his name. Was she hurt? In pain? Had someone gotten to her? Was she being kidnapped? Was the runaway backhoe all a ruse to deflect attention from hostage takers? The questions pelted his mind, hard as stones.

People were running and screaming, rushing in all directions, ducking and dodging, tripping and falling. He feared a stampede.

Shane swiveled his head, trying to locate Elysee in the confusion. Why couldn't he feel the pistol in his hand? Dammit, why couldn't he feel his hand?

"Elysee!" Her name tore from his throat in a guttural growl.

The backhoe arm slung Shane up high, and then slammed him down hard onto the cab of the earthmoving vehicle.

Metal contacted with bone.

Pain exploded inside his skull, a starburst of bright searing light.

Then his vision went dark as he tumbled toward the hardpacked ground and slumped into the inky-black tunnel of unconsciousness.

Chapter 2

Affluence attracts affluence.

Tish Gallagher repeated her mother's favorite mantra to herself as she wriggled into a fifteen-hundred-dollar gray tweed Chanel suit. Her potential client was a banker and quite conservative.

After a quick peek into her closet, she added a lavender silk blouse to the ensemble. The color complimented her deep auburn hair. She removed four earrings from the multiple piercings in her ears, leaving only a single pair of simple gold studs. She clipped a strand of pearls around her neck and then donned four-inch, open-toed, lavender-and-gray Christian Louboutin stilettos. Because, hey, an artistic girl's just gotta wear something whimsical.

Although it was mid-October, the weather in Houston was still in the upper eighties and dastardly humid. But Tish knew La Maison Vert, the upscale French restaurant where she was meeting Addison James and her daughter, Felicity, kept their dining room chilled like fine champagne. Hence the long-sleeved tweed jacket. This job was very important. She couldn't afford to shiver throughout the interview.

As she studied herself in the full-length mirror mounted on the inside door of her closet, Tish spied the price tag dangling from her sleeve. "Uh-oh, that won't do."

Since her divorce, she'd lived in a one-bedroom garage apartment behind a lavish manor house in the old-money section of River Oaks. The apartment had once served as maid quarters and its 1950s décor, with black-and-white tiled floors and foam green appliances, held a certain kind of retro charm. Not to mention that the six-hundred-dollar-a-month rent was a salve to her strained budget.

The elegant neighborhood was quiet. The only drawback to the apartment was that her bedroom had to double as her office. Consequently, everything was always in disarray. Cameras hung from hooks on the wall, a bank of editing monitors vied for space on the bedroom furniture, and papers and files were stacked on the floor.

A search for the scotch tape amid the disorganized, overflowing room finally turned up the dispenser, lurking beneath a tote bag on her computer desk, but not before she almost knocked the bookend off.

Her fingers traced over the weighted statuette of a little girl with a pail of water in her hand. The bookend had been carved from the burl of two banyan trees that had twined and grown together.

Her ex-husband, Shane, had bought the Jill half of the Jack and Jill bookends for her at a rummage sale while they were on their honeymoon. She'd fallen in love with the bookend the moment she'd seen it, although Shane had tried to discourage her from getting it because it was just one lone bookend. But she'd wanted it so much, he'd used Jill's singleness as a bargaining chip to get the price down.

Seeing how happy the bookend made her, he'd promised he would search the Internet and haunt garage sales until he found the missing Jack and reunited him with his Jill.

An empty feeling settled in her stomach. That was another promise Shane hadn't kept.

Tish shook her head, shook away Shane. Water under the bridge.

She peeled off a strip of adhesive tape and carefully taped the price tag up inside the sleeve of her suit jacket so she could return it to Nordstrom's for a refund on her credit card once her meeting was over.

Then, she took another spin in front of the mirror. Yes. She exuded money, polish, and sophistication. Never mind that deep inside she still felt poor, tarnished, and from the wrong side of town. "Please, please, let me get this job."

Her car payment was two months overdue and she'd been eating Ramen noodles at every meal for the past two weeks. She was hoping to procure a down payment from Addison so she could zip it to the bank before the check she'd written for the stilettos ended up costing her thirty bucks in overdraft protection.

For five years now she'd been struggling to get her fledgling business off the ground. She was a damned good videographer and she knew it, but she couldn't seem to catch a break. She wasn't one to give up on her dreams, but at some point didn't prudence step in? When did common sense shout that your dreams were going to destroy you and you'd better let go of them before you lost everything that was important to you?

Like Shane.

Tish winced and bit down on her bottom lip. The love of her life. The man she'd foolishly allowed to get away. But she wasn't going to think about him. Not today, dammit.

Sometimes, in spite of her best attempts to look on the bright side of life, it felt as if everything was slipping, spreading, festooning headlong into a disaster she could neither name nor predict. Her throat tightened and she shook her head against the dark, creeping thoughts.

No, no. She wasn't the sort to dwell on unhappy things. Onward and upward. That was her motto. She was just about to shut her closet door when she caught sight of the wedding veil in her peripheral vision.

The three-hundred-year-old veil was carefully folded and sealed in a special bag. Her best friend in the whole world, Delaney Cartwright, had given Tish the veil for good luck after her own wedding the previous December.

Tish remembered the day they'd found the veil in a tiny consignment shop. Delaney had immediately fallen under the spell of it, but Tish had been skeptical. Then the mysterious shopkeeper, Claire Kelley, had told them a fantastical tale about the veil that Tish did not believe.

Still, it had been a compelling fable and she recalled it with clarity. For some reason, the story had stuck with her.

Once upon a time, according to the legend, in long-ago Ireland, there lived a beautiful young witch named Morag who possessed a great talent for tatting lace. People came from far and wide to buy the lovely wedding veils she created, but there were other women in the community who were envious of Morag's beauty and talent.

These women made up a lie and told the magistrate that Morag was casting spells on the men of the village. The magistrate arrested Morag, but fell madly in love with her. Convinced that she must have cast a spell upon him as well, he moved to have her tried for practicing witchcraft.

If found guilty, she would be burned at the stake.

But in the end, the magistrate could not resist the power of true love. On the eve before Morag was to stand trial, he kidnapped her from the jail in the dead of night and spirited her away to America, giving up everything for her love.

To prove that she had not cast a spell over him, Morag promised never to use magic again. As her final act of witchcraft, she made one last wedding veil, investing it with the power to grant the deepest wish of the wearer's soul.

She wore the veil on her own wedding day, wishing for true and lasting love. Morag and the magistrate were blessed with many children and much happiness. They lived to a ripe old age and died in each other's arms.

Claire Kelley had gone on to claim that whoever wished upon the veil would get their heart's deepest desire.

Delaney had believed. She'd wished upon the veil and ended up finding her true love in Houston Police Department undercover cop Nick Vinetti.

Tish was truly happy for Delaney, but magical wedding veil or not, she wasn't sinking all her hopes into happily ever after. She'd thought she'd found true love with Shane, and look what had happened. The old familiar misery rose up in her, the misery she'd struggled for two long years to exorcise.

She took the veil from the bag and fingered it, wrestled with the idea of making a wish. It seemed silly.

But what would it hurt? Even if you don't believe?

Good point. Tish slipped the veil from the hanger. The lace felt strangely warm to the touch.

Tentatively, she settled it on her head and examined herself in the mirror. The design was constructed of tiny roses grouped to form a larger pattern of butterflies. The veil was so white it was almost phosphorescent.

Her scalp tingled. Her pulse quickened. There was something undeniably magnetic about the veil, even to a die-hard cynic.

"I wish," Tish said out loud. "I wish, I wish, I wish . . ."

Her voice tapered off. Oddly, the veil seemed to shimmer until it looked like butterfly wings were fluttering all around her.


She swallowed hard. Goose bumps danced across her forearms. "I wish to get out of debt. I wish I didn't have to struggle over money. Oh hell, I'm just going to come out and say it. I wish for my career to skyrocket into the stratosphere and I'll become rich beyond my wildest dreams."

Instant heat swamped her body. The tingling at her scalp intensified. Her lungs felt at once both breathless and overly oxygenated.

She almost ripped off the veil, but something held her back. She stared into the mirror. Stared and stared and stared.

The looking glass blurred.

She'd skipped breakfast that morning. Was that why she was feeling weak and a little dizzy?

Tish blinked, shook her head. Her reflection swept in and out, her mirror image fading before her eyes as if she were in a slow, dreamy faint.

A face appeared. Indistinct at first. Fuzzy.

A man's face.

Not just any face, but a familiar one. A face she loved. Joy, full and unexpected, filled her heart.

"Shane," she whispered breathlessly. "Shane."

And then she could see all of him. He was dressed the way she'd seen him last, in his Secret Service black suit, white shirt, and black tie. Her man in black. Even through his clothes she could see the steel of his muscles and she knew that beneath the tailored material his body was ripped, perfectly defined.

His jaw was clenched, his brow furrowed. Some who did not know him might think him angry. But she knew that look. She saw it in the edges of his mouth, the corner of his eyes. He was in pain.

"Tish, I need you. I'm lost and I can't find my way back. Help me, Tish, help me."

Mesmerized, she reached out a hand to touch him, but her fingers met the hard surface of the looking glass.

Tish gasped as if she'd been splashed with cold water.

The vision vanished.

She stumbled backward, her temples pounding, eyes wide with awe and terror. She was back in her bedroom, back in the closet, gaping at the mirror, struggling to breathe.

The cursed veil lay on the floor at her feet.

Her stomach pitched. Her knees swayed. Impossible.

She stared into the mirror, but nothing was there except her own frightened reflection. Tish couldn't explain what had just happened, but her body hummed and ached with raw energy, rattling her to the very core of her soul.

"Holy shit," she exclaimed. "Shit, shit, shit. Today of all days, I certainly didn't need this."

Consciousness filtered in by degrees.

First, Shane detected sounds. Distant, muted. He tried to make sense of them, but when he concentrated too hard the fog in his head thickened.

Squeaky wheels on a rolling cart. Voices dark and soft. A rough scratchy kind of noise, like Velcro pulled apart. He heard a steady blipping. A heartbeat. Was it his?

Where was he? What had happened? Was he dead? Was this hell? He tried to think, but his memory was a curtain, heavy and black. It hurt too much to think. His brain burned. He willed himself back down from where he'd climbed. Willed the pain away and slept once more.

Time passed.

During his second swim up from unconsciousness, his nerve endings swarmed with feeling, buzzed with pain. Fuck-o-fuck, his head hurt like there was a steel beam jammed through it.

And his hand. What in the hell had happened to his hand?

Then a wisp of memory was there. Tenuous as a broken spiderweb. Free-floating and sticky. Something bad had happened. He didn't know how long he'd been out, but his body identified the minutes, hours. Days? Surely not weeks. Please, God, not weeks.

His skin ached. His joints were stiff. He tried to move, but his mind did not seem connected to his limbs.

Move your hand,


On Sale
Aug 27, 2019
Page Count
352 pages

Lori Wilde

About the Author

Lori Wilde is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 80 romance novels. She is a three-time RITA award nominee, a four time Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice nominee, and has won numerous other awards. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Texas Christian University and holds a certificate in forensics. She is also certified yoga instructor.

Her books have been translated into 27 languages and featured in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Complete Woman, All You, Time, and Quick and Simple magazines. She lives in Texas with her husband, Bill.

Learn more about this author