Recap of Chapter 1: New to town and with a new bar and restaurant business, Penny explains the reasons behind the bar’s name, Lucky Penny. It was a nickname from her Granddad, but her life so far didn’t seem to hold much luck. That is, up until now, when she is feeling the advantage of a second chance. She just might make it if she can keep her secrets hidden.

Penny was setting up the buffet luncheon for the real estate meeting, thinking she should set out more napkins, when the door chimed. It was a young couple and a toddler looking for a place to eat. Penny directed them to the small dining area with a window overlooking the creek, and set them up with water, beverages, some crayons and a kids’ menu. The parents sighed with gratitude. Penny could see them from the kitchen where she was putting finishing touches on the herbed chicken. She watched as the parents settled the little boy into his chair, handed him crayons and oohed and ahhed over his scribbles. It looked as if the mom was expecting. It was a sweet tableau and she watched with a wistful smile. Penny had wondered a time or two about how different life would have been had she had children. Her rat-bastard ex never wanted to be a father, but the way he ran around, he could have copies of himself all over the planet and simply not be aware.

“Simone turned out of Antonio’s embrace and slapped him hard across the face.”

Thoughts of what could have been never failed to bring up painful memories for Penny, especially on the topic of unfaithfulness. Try as she might, she couldn’t seem to forget the awful day she learned the truth. Antonio had surprised her by picking her up from work for a romantic dinner. It would have been better if she’d been able to change first, especially since he looked so clean and handsome and she so disheveled and weary from a hard day. She gave her hair a quick toss in the restroom and put on fresh lipstick. Luckily, she had youth and good cheekbones working in her favor. And who wouldn’t feel great on the arm of such a handsome and attentive man? Antonio had a way of making her feel beautiful, like the only woman in the world in his eyes. How far from the truth that was! Antonio had just ordered wine, when she stepped away from the table to take a quick phone call from work. There was a big meeting coming up and she simply had to take the call. She apologized and stepped outside. It was only a five-minute call, surely worth forgiveness. But, when she stepped through the door, she stopped dead in her tracks. She quite clearly saw Antonio embracing a woman in a tiny red dress. Her long black hair tumbled down her back and swayed when she tossed her head to laugh, perfectly white teeth flashing between ruby red lips. It was unclear exactly what was going on until he kissed her neck. Not her cheek, not her hand, but the long curve of her neck, as if it were a practiced move. This was no stranger and certainly not a casual acquaintance. With his lips still stuck on woman-in-red’s neck, Antonio’s gaze met hers as she stood staring from across the room. Here was the most telling part: He didn’t look shocked or embarrassed. There was no ‘caught me’ guilt tainting his beautiful features. He simply spun the woman to the outside and waved to his wife. With a suddenly sick stomach and a red-hot face, Penny moved forward as if on borrowed legs and feet. Antonio’s arm was still around the woman when he invited Penny in, giving her a kiss on the cheek. The woman on his other arm did not look pleased. Many scattered thoughts flashed in Penny’s mind—mainly, what earthly excuse could he have for any of this? Before she could form any words, Antonio, ever the smooth player, said, “This is Simone, my friend.”

Penny’s thoughts fired. Friend? I’m sorry, but friends do not have curves like that or look at another woman’s husband with unabashed lust. And of course her name is Simone. This exotic creature couldn’t be named Ruth or Jean.

Simone scowled in distaste. “And who is this?” she demanded, taking a claws-out, possessive stance. Penny’s left eyebrow arched upward as she scowled back. Antonio pulled at her waist, bringing her closer. “This is Esme, my wife,” he said in a manner that meant to say they should all be great friends. Simone turned out of Antonio’s embrace and slapped him hard across the face. It made a loud crack that sounded across the room. Penny saw many faces turn their way, eyes wide and mouths covered to hide laughter. Everyone loves a scandal. She also drew out of Antonio’s arm. While they had an audience, she’d give them a show. She grabbed the full glass of red wine that her adoring husband had ordered for her just minutes ago and threw it in his face. Without a word, she turned and exited the restaurant to gasps of shock, laughter, and clapping from the other patrons.

Many hours later, Penny heard his key in the door, but she had locked the chain. His drunken pleas fell on deaf ears, as she pushed the door closed and turned the deadbolt. He pounded angrily and shouted, but she wouldn’t yield. Two days later, he showed up on the doorstep with a huge bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a sob story about how lonely he was because she worked so much. She winced at the memory of how she gave him an opportunity to explain himself and how easily she was made to believe that if she paid more attention to him, he wouldn’t have the need to fill the void. The rest of their marital downfall was reduced to a blur of transgressions and teary apologies until she could bear it no longer. She remembered the exact moment the realization hit. She was peering at her reflection in the mirror one morning, washing her face and checking yet again for signs of post-crying puffiness when she realized she couldn’t hear one more false promise or ignore one more lie. If she failed to put a stop to this pattern, she simply wouldn’t be able to face herself in the mirror. She deserved more. By shedding herself of 180 pounds of unfaithful, disloyal man, she gained back her dignity. And by saying goodbye to her old, toxic existence, she ultimately got a second chance at life.

Penny took the family’s order and filled it between final preparations for the real estate meeting. Delivering the plates, she giggled at the little boy’s glee with his star-shaped grilled cheese sandwich. Then the door opened and in flooded the real estate agents, smiling, waving and chatting. It was never a dull moment with that crowd. Penny grabbed a pitcher of water, took a deep breath and headed in.