We can hardly wait for the release of The Second Chance Hotel (September 2023) by Sierra Godfrey—so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on this cover reveal and exclusive first two chapters! In this uplifting and humorous rom-com, it’s all fun and games until you accidentally marry a stranger in Greece and inherit a ramshackle hotel.

Preorder The Second Change Hotel on Bookshop.org today!

Amelia Lang’s life is kind of a mess. She’s stuck living at home with her narcissistic mother. Her tech bro ex-boyfriend deliberately sabotages her at work, and she gets fired after throwing a mug at his head (it’s okay! She missed.) Then she has a major falling out with her best friend. So Amelia does what Amelia does best: She runs away.

After traveling around Europe for three months, she settles on a small Greek island to reset her life and figure out what’s next. But after too much retsina, she gets tricked into marrying James, another guest at the hotel, who is perfectly nice―but perfectly boring. To top it off, they are gifted the very hotel they’re staying in―a hotel they don’t want that is in desperate need of some TLC. They agree to keep the hotel open through the busy summer season for the sake of the island’s quirky but well-meaning residents, after which Amelia plans to return home to start rebuilding her disastrous life.

Amelia and James must work together to determine how to get out of their situation―easier said than done for Amelia, who’s started to feel a strong spark of attraction for James. But Amelia is sure her real life is waiting for her back in San Francisco. Is it time for Amelia to return home or could this be the second chance at a new life she didn’t know she wanted?

Read on for an exclusive excerpt below—and can you believe this gorgeous cover?!


Amelia Lang was not aiming for Micah’s head when she threw the coffee mug. But if he hadn’t moved, it would have hit him right between the eyes. Instead, it hit the conference room window behind him with a resounding smack. Tea dripped down the spiderweb of cracks in the glass. The mug, Amelia saw with regret, had broken. It was her favorite one, with whimsical travel illustrations and a gilded rim. Too bad about the tea too—it was a fancy French blend that was hard to find.

Those standing in the vicinity watched in shocked silence.

Amelia’s boss, severe on the best of days, looked thunderous. “Amelia. Go sit in my office.”

Micah had the gall to smirk as she passed. She closed her boss’s office door behind her and sank into the guest chair. And then it hit her. She’d thrown a mug at someone’s head. Never mind that it was Micah’s head, and that she, still in the flush of fury, thought he deserved it. She’d never done anything like that. Never gotten into a fist fight, never even shoved anyone. She, who gently escorted spiders out of her house and always held the door open for others. Throwing a mug and cracking a window? That was irreversible, evidenced by being sent to sit in her boss’s office like she was five.

The minutes ticked away. She wished she was the type to escape out of the window and briefly considered becoming that person. It looked bad, she could see that. Thirty-two years old, living with her parents again, and about to be fired for throwing a mug at her ex-boyfriend’s head at work. The past week had been a one-way ticket to Failureville.

Finally, after a long stretch that suggested her boss and HR were discussing how to handle her, they came in and closed the door behind them.

“Amelia,” her boss said. “I’m sure you can appreciate the difficult situation we’re in.”

Amelia did not appreciate anything, least of all what Micah said right before the mug left her hand, but she nodded.

“Can you explain what happened?” the HR manager asked.

She considered how much to tell them. It had been a terrible morning. She had left home late, and because she’d been running behind, it was a certainty that a traffic incident on Highway 101, running south out of San Francisco into Silicon Valley, slowed her down further. A car fire, no less. And if you were running late, and there was a car fire on the freeway, it stood to reason that your mobile phone would be dead so you couldn’t call and let people know you’d be late. Amelia didn’t even know where her charger was, because it was that kind of morning.

As a result, she’d missed most of the morning developer meeting. Sliding into the conference room, far from invisible, her boss had pounced on her. In a tone that sounded like he was sucking a lemon, he asked her what the status of the code release was.

“It went out last night, as scheduled,” she said. Obviously the code release had gone out. That was the entire point of her job.

There had been a visible shuffling in the room. Amelia looked around, but no one met her eye. Including Micah, but this was no surprise. They’d broken up last week, and he’d done it in the most craven way possible, trotting out the ol’ I need to work on myself line. She wasn’t heartbroken, not by a long shot, but they were supposed to have gone to Paris in three weeks. Amelia had been looking forward to the trip for months. Now, two non-refundable tickets and a breakup later and they couldn’t even look at each other. Which was a problem considering they worked together.

But there was no reason for the others to avoid her eye. A shiver of horror slid down her spine as she realized that the release had clearly not gone out.

“Apparently there was a problem,” her boss confirmed. “Let’s take this offline. Amelia, meet me in my office in five and we will discuss. Okay, Standup’s over.”

Everyone shot out of the room, causing a brief logjam at the door. No one wanted to be blamed for a failed code release, which would freak out the investors and send everyone panicking. There could be restructurings and layoffs, and Amelia, who was the project manager responsible for code releases, would surely be at the top of the list.

She needed something to do with her hands while her boss told her off, so she made some tea. She was almost to her boss’s office when Micah rounded the corner. A little spike pounded into her chest at the sight of him. She tried not to picture how they would have settled back into their airplane seats in three weeks’ time, getting magazines out for the flight, studying the emergency procedures card, hoping they wouldn’t have to use the instructions. Along with not going to Paris, she’d had to move back in with her parents across the Bay, a fate worse than death. So it was fine that he wasn’t talking to her. She didn’t want to talk to him either.

Except he stopped in the hall as she passed.

“I can’t believe you didn’t get the code out,” he said.

The cheek of him. “I can’t believe you walk around with that reptile face.” She regretted the words as soon as they were out. They made her sound angry. Which she was, but he didn’t need that satisfaction.

He shook his head as though disappointed by her childishness. “You’re supposed to run the final check before it deploys.”

“I did,” she hissed. Why was he needling her? Unless there was something… “What are you suggesting?”

“I’m suggesting that it’s your job to run the deployment check, and you didn’t.”

“Nothing had changed since six p.m. yesterday.” As soon as she said the words, she knew. Micah had stuck something in the code after hours, knowing her parents’ house had terrible Wi-Fi because they refused to upgrade their equipment or plan—it was like living in prehistoric dialup times—and she wouldn’t be able to check after hours. But she had made sure the code was solid before leaving work.

“Your job is to perform a check right before deployment, not leave it the day before and call it good.” He blinked and squinted all at once, which looked like a facial tic, but Amelia knew better. It was the same squint he’d used when he was breaking up with her or when he was lying. She’s seen that blink-squint a lot in the past few months.

She knew he’d crashed the release on purpose.

Two years with this horrific assface, one living with him. She’d supported him as he took classes to advance at his job, supported him as—wait. Wait, wait. That was it. She’d taken a full-stack engineering certification course a few months ago, passing with flying colors. She was proud of it, because it was damned hard. Not that she wanted to become a developer—God, no—but it leant her a deeper understanding of their work and put her in a prime spot for a promotion. Micah, who suffered from a light case of techbro-ism, had decided he needed the certification too. Except he’d failed the final. And he worked as a developer.

She was sure he’d broken up with her as a result. Not that he’d said that—never—but his I need space to work on me line was suspiciously timed with news that he’d failed the course. Now he was sticking pieces of crap in the code and crashing her on purpose. No one would believe her, of course, and it would be easy for him to make it seem like she was a hysterical, spurned ex. She squeezed the handle of her mug to tamp down the anger.
Their boss’s door flew open behind them. “Amelia. Let’s go. I need to know what happened with this deployment.”

“It’s pretty obvious what happened,” Micah said loudly, verging on yelling. His eyes were on Amelia’s, glittery and mean. “Amelia went home last night and assumed the code was fine. She didn’t bother running the final check, so if someone added a piece of code, she wouldn’t have known. And it crashed. She always makes developers here feel rushed because she wants to get home to dinner.”


“That’s when the mug left my hand,” Amelia told the HR manager now.

“Amelia, we cannot tolerate acts of violence in the workplace,” the HR manager replied. She pushed over a folder. “Effectively immediately, your employment here at Swinck Software is terminated.”

Amelia cringed. “Micah sabotaged me. He let his personal bias affect the work here.” Even to her ears it sounded desperate.

Her boss and the HR manager exchanged a look. To her surprise, a different folder was pulled out.

“We will offer you a small severance in exchange for you signing a paper saying you will not file suit,” the HR manager said.

This suggested they might be somewhat familiar with the situation between her and Micah and that they clearly saw the sexism that ran amok at Swinck despite their official policy opposing it. She signed the paper anyway.

Security walked Amelia out to the parking lot.

In the sanctuary of her car, she let out a breath and took stock. For the millionth time, she wondered if she would have broken up with Micah anyway as soon as they were back from Paris. Part of her had been waiting for the trip to happen to see how she felt about him. She had vague fantasies of ditching him in one of the gardens in Versailles, hiding out in Le Petit Trianon until he gave up and went away. It was ridiculous, of course. She should have just dumped him and gone on her own.

And in fact, now she could.

The tickets were still valid, since they were non-refundable. She could probably change the flight to a sooner date for a small fee and jet off to Europe by her glorious self, unrestricted by work obligations and unfettered by Micah’s whining about French culture, which surely would have been plentiful. The man did not like crepes, which was reason enough to be rid of him.

She clicked around her phone, and in less time than seemed believable, she found two flight options: one for a few hours from now, and one for tomorrow morning. Both had available seats. She chose the one for tomorrow. She stared at the Swinck parking lot, hardly daring to believe that throwing a mug at someone’s head had worked out for the best.

An incoming text buzzed her phone. Her best friend Ella’s characteristic to-the-point words greeted her: Celia just texted me that you were escorted out of work. Call me????? Celia was a mutual friend, and one of the few female developers at Swinck.

Amelia dialed her as she pulled out of the parking lot. “Celia is right, Ells. I was fired.”

“What happened?”

Amelia sighed, letting out some of the upset. “I threw a mug at Micah’s head.”

There was a long silence on the line. And then, “Shit.”

“It’s actually fine.” Amelia came to a stoplight before the freeway entrance, hoping it was the last time she’d ever make this commute home. The light turned green. Traffic was clear now—it always was when you didn’t have to be anywhere on time—and she merged onto the freeway with nary a brake light. “It made me realize I’d been holding myself back in a lot of ways.”

“So you threw a mug at his face? I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it. But that’s—a lot.”

“I know.” She trusted Ella’s opinion. They had been friends since high school, their friendship cemented when their controlling mothers picked them up from swim meets and, with uncanny timing, berated their daughters at the same time for not placing first. Amelia and Ella had supported each other ever since, through things like Ella fighting her strict Chinese parents on everything from attending Chinese classes after a full day of high school, to Amelia struggling with her mother’s constant attempts at coercion for Amelia to go to the college her mother wanted.

“I know it’s bad and I’m shocked by what I did,” Amelia continued. She did feel shocked, but it was beginning to wear off. Now she felt exhilarated about that trip to Paris, and excited that it was going to work out. “So I’m taking some time off. Taking a little time out.”

“What does that mean, taking time out?” Ella asked. “You were fired, right?”

“Yes.” Amelia’s mind was racing. A freeway sign announcing the exit for the airport loomed overhead. She’d have to drive back over to the East Bay to pack for tomorrow, and her mother would interrogate her as to why she was home early. When she heard Amelia was fired, it would be hand-wringing and screeching and general mayhem and Amelia could not. It would be so much easier to bypass all that and leave now on that flight today. What did she even need?

Because here was the thing: in the backseat was her brother’s old backpack—the one he’d used to hike in Lassen in high school—currently filled with a bunch of clothes that she hadn’t yet taken into her parents’ house to wash after leaving her and Micah’s apartment. Crucially, there was also something in one of the many utility pockets of the backpack: her passport.

“Amelia?” Ella said. “Are you listening to me? What made you throw the mug?”

“Micah stuck a piece of code in the release and crashed it, knowing I’d signed off on the final the evening before.” The exit sign for the airport screamed at her, her heart racing. Should she do it?

Ella sighed. “He’s an ass. But babes, you should have seen this coming.”

Amelia frowned. “Are you saying this is my fault for not predicting he’d do this?”

“I’m just saying that the two of you ended badly, and I know how much you wanted to go on that trip you’d planned. And we also know Micah is a childish loser, so the fact that this all happened isn’t overly surprising.”

Amelia felt a stab of hurt. “Okay, but I did not expect him to sabotage me professionally.”

“It sounds like you did that yourself by throwing the mug.”

The seed of hurt bloomed into a full-petaled flower now. Get off the freeway or keep driving? Either way, she was leaving. It was a matter of listening to her mother or not.

She chose not and took the exit. “Maybe you’re trying to be supportive here, but I’m not hearing it.”

“Look, I get it. He was a terrible boyfriend. He was constantly staying late at work to play foosball and Call of Duty with the other techdouches. He never did laundry and always left you to do the washing up. He never wanted any of your friends to come over, saying it was his sacred space or some nonsense, and what about the time he spent thousands of dollars setting up a saltwater aquarium that took up a whole wall, but you weren’t allowed to spend a few hundred on a new sofa when the old one was covered in stains and smelled like feet?”

“Okay, Ells, it sounds like you’re angrier at him than I am.” Amelia veered toward the sign that said Long Term Parking.

“You should be angry!” Ella yelled.

“I was! I threw a mug at his face. Sorry I missed too.” Amelia slowed the car and took the ticket from the machine at the gate. “But all is well. I’m still going to Europe.”


“I’m still doing it.” Amelia’s voice sounded calm to her. “Now, in fact. I’m here at the airport.”

“What do you mean, you’re there at the airport? Did you plan this?”

“No. But I have a backpack full of clothes in my car and my passport. I got a severance check that’s direct deposited into my account. I’m going and I feel great about it.”

There was a long silence, which did not come off as supportive or encouraging. And then, “Amelia. I am getting married in three weeks.”

Amelia felt her eyes go wide. In the melee of getting fired, the swirl of horror that she’d thrown a heavy object at someone’s face, and the sweet temptation of going to Paris anyway, she had neglected to remember that Ella was getting married and that Amelia was the maid of honor. Amelia wondered if she’d been lobotomized sometime in the night. It would explain her choices today, including forgetting her best friend’s wedding.

“How long are you planning to be gone?” Ella asked. “Because there’s the bachelorette party, and my aunt is throwing me that shower, and I still have my final dress fitting.”

Amelia pulled into a parking spot. The initial plan had been to go immediately following Ella’s wedding. If she went now, it would be longer than three weeks. Why not stay months? Three, even. Three was arbitrary, but she didn’t have a job to come back to and it seemed like a good, long time to figure things out.

“Say something, Amelia.” A note of hysteria had entered Ella’s voice.

“Um, I’m trying to think.” Amelia turned off the car.

“What is there to think about? If you’re gone for a few days, I mean, maybe okay, but—”

“I can’t stay in Europe for a few days,” Amelia said.

Like the signs calling her to the airport, Amelia had to make a choice. Only this sign said Piss off your best friend possibly forever, next left and below that, Or go to Europe and figure shit out, right lane only.

Thing was, she might not get this chance again. If she waited until after the wedding, her mother most surely would talk her out of going, and she’d get trapped into looking for another job. She’d forget. Momentum would be lost. She had to go now. She and Ella had been friends for years. They could weather this. It was only a wedding.

Amelia got out of the car and rummaged in the backseat. Yes! Passport in the pocket. And enough underwear in the bag to last a week at least. Even better were the four dresses she’d bought for the trip, which she’d shoved in the backpack and had not wanted to look at after Micah had broken up with her.

“Amelia,” Ella hissed. “Are you seriously getting on a flight? Are you really doing this?”

“I’m here at the airport,” Amelia said. She picked up loose change from her car’s console, grabbed her extra sunglasses, and hefted the backpack onto her shoulders. “I have to do this.”

“You don’t. You’re being selfish and dramatic.”

Amelia sensed a dent occurring in their friendship. She might not agree with Ella, but she could see that leaving now was hurtful. For that, Amelia was sorry, but she had to leave. Now. “Ella. I know it’s your wedding. And I know you’re upset—”

“This is the shittiest thing you’ve ever done,” Ella yelled. “It’s my wedding, Amelia!”

Amelia walked toward the sky tram that would take her from the long term parking lot to the international terminal. Her body tingled with a mixture of feelings: excitement, fear, and worry.

“Listen. I’ll call you as soon as I land, okay?” Amelia said. “We can talk about it and maybe work something—”

“There’s nothing to work out.” Ella’s voice was tight and seething. “Don’t bother calling. At all. Ever.”

The call ended.

Amelia climbed aboard the tram, feeling numb. She was still wondering if this was the right choice when it deposited her at the international terminal. Before today, there were plenty of reasons not to fly to Paris on a whim, but now there was only one: Ella’s wedding. And it just wasn’t a big enough reason. Didn’t fifty percent of marriages end in divorce anyway? Would Ella even forgive her at this point, if she stayed? The answer was unclear. Amelia felt bad about that, but surely Ella would come to understand in time how important it was for her to go.

The busy chaos of the airport swirled around her. How nice it would be to lose herself in a crowd, sleep in new places, and become someone new.

“Men do this kind of thing all the time,” Amelia said aloud as she headed to the ticket counter to get her ticket changed one last time. “They’re called brave and adventurous.” As though to prove the point, a tall, blond, very handsome man walked by and gave her such a nice, interested smile that she almost buckled. Surely that was the weight of the backpack. Pleased, she stepped into the ticket line.

When she got back, she and Ella could talk things through. She would explain that she had to go, that she was at a rare crossroads and unlikely to get this chance again. Upon her return, she’d get a new job—a better one—and an apartment. She would come back stronger and better—an Amelia who made wise decisions, thought before she leaped, who knew exactly where she was going and who always landed solidly on her feet.



The moment the ferry bumped against the rotted wood of the small dock, Amelia feared she had made a horrible mistake.

She stepped off the ferry and promptly tripped, falling heavily on her chest with an unseemly whomp sound. “Ah,” the man said. It was a kind of disappointed noise combined with amusement. “Okay?”

“Okay.” Once she got back to her feet, Amelia held out her hands to show that she was fine, thanks, and steady, none of which was true. If she believed in signs, she would read into the fall that Asteri was going to be a disaster.

“Kala,” the man said. That meant good according to the copy of Learn Greek in 30 Minutes a Day that Amelia had studied on the ferry to the island.
She had not expected a welcoming committee with a fruity cocktail pressed into her hands—this was Greece, not the Caribbean, but the port was desolate. Ahead, a rental car lot consisted of a small patch of dirt with a few vehicles that looked like they had been around since the seventies. Beyond that, a single dusty road zigzagged up a stomach-turning cliff. Or maybe that was residual sea sickness from the ferry.

Amelia had been warned about the island when she booked the ferry from Santorini. “Asteri?” the booking agent had scoffed. “Pah! Not good island. Too quiet. You stay here, you go beach here.”

But Asteri it was, partly to shut her mother up. Amelia had been to amazing places during her three months in Europe, but her mother had consistently hounded her to go to Asteri and stay in the “most darling hotel ever,” which her parents had stayed in thirty years earlier, in happier times. Amelia agreed to come because she needed a quiet island to reflect on her trip before going back home. And there was work to do—the most annoying kind. The tiresome and possibly unpleasant task of reverting back to who she was before she left for this trip. That meant no distractions of bars, clubs, or new people. She definitely had not indulged in thoughtful silence throughout her trip. So, despite the alarming indications that Asteri might offer too much contemplation, she booked a ticket.

Her palms smarted, but she dusted them off and hoisted her heavy backpack into the familiar grooves on her shoulders. She walked past three filthy cats sitting beside the water as though they were waiting for something to change. A decrepit kiosk advertising Vespas and cars for rent on a hand-painted sign was ahead. The rental kiosk appeared to be empty. She knocked and yelled “Yasoo” anyway.

“Yah.” A young man sat up sleepily. “Yah. You want car?”

“Yes,” Amelia said. “I’d like to rent one for two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” he yelled. “No, no, too long.”

She was starting to think two weeks was too long but, shading her eyes against the fierce sun, she asked, “Why is it too long?”

“You not stay here two weeks.” The guy shook his head solemnly.

She hid her eye roll. “A week, then? Can I have it for a week?”

The man’s face drooped even further. “A week, no.”

She sighed, feeling the annoyance bubbling inside her. She was grimy and tired, having flown direct from Rome to Santorini. Then there had been the lengthy argument with the ticket clerk on Santorini about getting the ferry to Asteri, followed by a six hour wait for said ferry. “Only comes one time a week,” he had warned her, indicating that if she hated Asteri, she would have to wait a week to leave again. Amelia had assured him that she was willing to accept the risk. Then the ferry ride itself, which was three hours in choppy water. An archetypal old-world Greek woman wearing a faded black mourning dress had vomited quietly but steadily into a plastic bag the entire way. Amelia badly wanted to lie down and sleep for a while.

“Can I have a Vespa for a few days, then?” She pointed to a scuffed blue moped.

“Ah! Nay, sure, sure.” The man returned to the kiosk and got keys and paperwork. She could not imagine why this sleepy car rental wouldn’t want to rent her a more expensive car for a longer period, but it didn’t matter as long as she could get out of this port and to her hotel. She signed, paid in advance, and got directions to the Ria Hotel.

“Far,” he said vaguely. “You go end of road.” He pointed at the hill, as if there was any other place for her to go but up. Photos of the Ria Hotel showed it was built on the side of a cliff face, hanging on like a whitewashed crab, nothing but dramatically rugged green cliffs and pure blue sea. The island was only eight miles in length and three wide, so she thought she’d easily be able to find the hotel. After navigating her cranky Vespa up the steep switchback road, she came to a crossroads at which she could either go north or south. A small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sign said that the Ria Hotel was up the north road.

It didn’t take long to get there. There was nothing else on the road except one dusty dirt road turnoff, and the rest of the way was stepped farmland separated by low rock walls. Beyond that, nothing but blue sky and sea. Despite her misgivings, a zip of excitement ripped up her middle. It was all so beautiful in its simplicity. Occasionally, a single sugar cube of a building appeared, nestled into the green and brown land. She stopped several times to take photos.

The Ria Hotel appeared at the end of the road, a small cluster of buildings so white that they blinded her eyes. Apparently the hotel owners were the most in-love couple her mother had ever met, forming the picture of marital bliss on which her parents had initially based their marriage. This had not worked out, as evidenced by her mother’s sobbing call only a week into Amelia’s trip with the unsurprising news that she and Amelia’s dad were getting a divorce. Amelia had been weaving her way through a crowded Gare du Nord at the time and her response might have lacked the sympathy her mother was expecting, but honestly, her mother was insane if she thought no one knew that she and Amelia’s dad had existed in a bubble of codependent hatred for longer than anyone could remember. Nevertheless, the Ria Hotel remained a sacred and untouchable beacon of true love, run by the king and queen of bliss, Takis and Maria, who had impressed Amelia’s parents enough to prolong their marriage by several years more than it should have.

That it was also dirt cheap was a key reason for Amelia caving to her mother’s incessant requests that she come here.

Gray cobblestones with thick white lines separating them lined the hotel’s courtyard, pulled together with colorful pots of purple bougainvillea and red geraniums stuck in improbable smidgens of shade. The terra-cotta tiled roof contrasted gorgeously with the whitewashed walls. Amelia pulled to a stop in front of bright blue doors and cut the Vespa’s engine. The silence was grotesquely loud, but then her ears adjusted to the more subtle calls of the wind and the undulating whine of cicadas. The smell of a familiar, sweet spice hit her nose and she recognized it as oregano. It grew in rambling clumps around the side of the road, a visual and aural heaven, as though the three months of adventures throughout Europe had led her here, to this quiet, literal endpoint.

The wood doors flung open and a stout, mustachioed older man shot out, clapping his hands.

“You are the Amelias, yes? Come, come, welcome to Ria Hotel!” He took her pack from her, giving her that airy feeling that came whenever the thing was off her, like she was floating. “I am Takis!”

“Amelia Lang. So nice to meet you,” she said. He ushered her into the building and into a cool respite from the afternoon heat. She looked around at the small reception: two uncomfortable-looking chairs and a table covered in piles of paper filled the space.

“Best room,” Takis said, rummaging in a drawer. He produced a key attached to a comically large piece of plastic. “Best view.” He handed her the key holder and made a tiny check mark in a book on his desk. She had not mentioned the role the Ria Hotel or Takis and Maria played in the canon of her parents’ marriage when she booked the room over email. Maybe she should have, but she couldn’t imagine Takis and Maria remembering two young newlywed Americans from thirty years ago. He probably got starry-eyed honeymooners all the time.

“Is the hotel busy right now?” She stretched to get the road kinks out of her shoulders and found herself hoping that it was busy. All of her stops across Europe had been a marvelous party, and she had loved it.

“Not busy.” Takis beamed as though this was a good thing. “You have whole hotel to yourselves. I take you to room now, you come for a drink later after you have rested, and then dinner. Best dinner.”

Amelia put away the worry of an empty hotel in June at peak tourist time in Greece and followed him back outside through the blue doors and across the courtyard. Takis, carrying her pack, wound between white walls and down shallow but steep steps, and then through another set of worn wooden doors and into another courtyard. Down more steps and it was beginning to feel like she was in an Escher painting, with Greek flair.

“Look.” Takis pointed down the worn stone stairs leading to a narrow dirt path, like a sentence that had trailed off. “Path goes to a small beach far below. Is steep, not easy. But private, yes?”

She smiled, delighted at the idea of a private cove, even though the cliff was so steep and the path so narrow that it was almost a deterrent.

Takis stopped in front of a plain door and unlocked it. He pushed it open and stepped back for Amelia to go in.

The room was narrow and long, minimalist, with a white domed ceiling and a simple bed covered in a bright, tomato-colored bedspread hugging one wall. In another world, the bedcover would be a charming textile, but Amelia suspected it wasn’t trying to be stylish. The other wall had a sink and a table so small that it looked like it had been built for Chihuahuas. Two tightly closed, heavy wood shutter doors stood at the end of the room. She understood the plainness was purposeful because the occupant would be spending most of their time outside, but it was a little disappointing. It looked as though it had not changed since her parents visited. Their brief honeymoon on Asteri was much-treasured family lore and in their telling, the Ria was the height of luxury and elegance. Amelia might need to tread carefully when she told her mother how it was looking these days.

“Is okay?” Takis seemed anxious. His thick eyebrows knitted together.

“It’s great.” She gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. The past three months had been spent sharing rooms in hostels and even sleeping outside on cots under the stars in particularly crowded places—all of which had been amazing. But a cell-like room was what she needed now. She was not here for a luxury suite with an infinity pool.

“Come and see.” Takis pushed open the two doors. Amelia followed him out to a balcony and stopped, astonished.

The small veranda was covered in the same hot cobblestones as the drive, but in front of her was nothing but a jagged green cliff that plunged into the sea. The sky and water were so deeply blue that it hurt her eyes. It was like a screensaver, or stock photography, except she could feel a slight breeze on her face, so she knew it was real.

“You like?” Takis asked.

“Yes,” she breathed. The four pixelated photos on the hotel’s single-page website hadn’t exaggerated. This view was everything.

“Okay, you relax,” Takis said, stepping back into the room. “Rest, then come up to top. For drinks.” He left the room, closing the door firmly behind him, and Amelia turned back to stare at the sea and sky.

After a long time taking in the view, she felt her body let go of the tension, muscle by muscle. It had dogged her throughout Europe and the best remedy, she’d found, was people and adventures. Without either of those distractions on Asteri, at least there was this view. And this balcony, with its weathered and sagging wood lounge chair. She stretched, arching her back, and slipped off her shoes. This meant leaping over the flagstones to the lounge chair so as not to burn her feet, but it was worth it. She flopped down and closed her eyes. A flicker of memories—the mug, the scowl on her boss’s face, the anger in Ella’s voice—came to her, but she refused to allow them to take root. The drone of cicadas lulled her from somewhere far below the cliff. Yes. Better. The Ria Hotel on Asteri might actually be perfect. And she should know.

The past three months had been spectacular. Amelia had eaten excellent foods, been ill on her own, had a lover or two, washed her undies in the hostel sinks regularly, and let herself go days without showering. She had felt beautiful in her skin. In Paris, she cut her hair. In Porto, she’d eaten animal intestines and bugs—twice— once on purpose. She had made friends and felt physically stronger with healthier skin. And now, on the last leg of the trip, she had a quiet Greek paradise with the solitude to think about what to do when she got back.

First thing: see Ella and beg for her forgiveness in person. None of her calls or texts to Ella had been answered since Amelia had been in Europe, which was rough. Amelia had tried stalking her but had found herself blocked on all social media accounts. She had a steep road back to Ella’s good graces—or if not good, then she’d take a single grace.

Second, Amelia needed to get a job and start repairing the professional reputation she’d detonated.

It was getting into that headspace that required Asteri’s quiet. It was going to take a monumental effort to put back on that persona of diligent job hunter and ideal prospective employee— not to mention penitent ex-best friend. She thought about her unused laptop, which had not been opened once over the past three months. She looked at her battered phone case, itching to call Ella. A familiar feeling.

As much as she missed Ella, she had made friends in Europe. Like Evi in Amsterdam, whose infectious laugh was a delight and with whom she was still texting, and Pau in Madrid, whose chiseled features and low growl had waylaid her until he suggested that she stay and live with him, a commitment she did not want. There was the de Filini family in Salerno, who had taken her in and told her in firm, inarguable tones that she was now one of them, an honorary daughter. They’d had designs on her marrying Alessandro, the handsome son who was older than Amelia but still single, much to his parents’ lament. Amelia discovered why after experiencing his propensity for coyote-like howls during sex and shouting instructions to his mother on what he wanted for breakfast, also regrettably during sex. That had been the perfect time for Amelia to give into her mother’s insistence to visit Asteri. Amelia had emailed Takis and received a fast response, letting Amelia know that he did indeed have a room available for her and yes, he would be happy to take her payment upfront for a two-week stay, and Amelia escaped from the de Filini grasp.

She gave into the heady drowsiness now, enjoying the complete relaxation of not having to be on her guard. In Amsterdam, she had stayed in a noisy hostel full of drunk Germans who would burst in, gathering volunteers for another of their tiresome hikes. In Prague, two men followed her to her hostel, where she’d locked herself in a closet and stayed until their knocking stopped. In Ibiza she had lost her head entirely at a rave on the beach and woken up in the arms of a man whose face she had never seen before.

But here, there was only her and that blue.

She woke with a start. A furry tail wound over her shin, attached to the butt of a handsome and enormous white and orange cat who eyed her with open expectation. He looked as though he’d been through a few tough encounters in his time.

“Hey you,” she said, her voice a croak.

The cat gave a prrt sound and booped his head up under her hand, clearly knowing the drill. She palmed the top of his head, luxuriating in her drowsiness and the touch of softness on her skin. Her palms had grown callused from the heavy straps of her backpack. She was officially tired of traveling, although she wouldn’t have changed a thing about the last three months.

The cat meowed again, demanding more attention, and leaped onto Amelia’s middle. She made an “oof” sound and shoved him off. She sat up and eyed him, knowing that this guy was likely to try the same tricks if she lay back down, so she stood and stretched. She itched to get into that blue water, but already the heat of the afternoon had waned. A good time, then, for that drink Takis promised her.

She made her way back up the multitude of staircases, stepping over two scrawny cats balled up in the shade of the stairs. Through more indistinguishable courtyards with faded wooden doors and junk piled up in corners. She was considering leaving herself a breadcrumb trail to find her way back when she found a set of stairs that looked familiar based on the pots of fuchsia geraniums on them.

“Ah!” Takis boomed when she stepped into the small, cave-like den that housed the hotel’s bar. An aged Formica countertop that was worn white in several spots separated them. “You like Ria Hotel?”

“It’s lovely. The view is something I never imagined.”

Takis looked delighted. “Is best place in Greece, I thinks. Good views, the secret beaches cove, good water from spring, best thing in the worlds. You tastes.”

“Is—is your wife here?” Amelia asked. It seemed too quiet.

“Ah, no.” Takis picked up a wet glass to dry. “No. My Maria dies three years ago.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that.” Amelia felt as though she knew Maria from her parents’ stories. “My parents stayed here many years ago when they were first married and were impressed with you and your wife.”

“Ah.” Takis turned his face, but Amelia saw the tears fill his eyes. “Ah. That is good. Very nice. Thank you.”

An awkward silence settled, and Amelia tried to think of something to say that could lighten the mood. “It’s lovely here. Is—ah—is there Wi-Fi?” That would truly make the Ria Hotel the palace of the gods. Being disconnected for the past three months had been glorious, but it was time to plug in.

“Yes, we haves,” Takis said, seeming to cheer up. “Two years now. Very lucky. You take drinks, yes?”

“Yes, efcharisto.” She let Takis guide her to a shady table on the bar’s veranda, which was so high above the buildings below that it gave the impression she was floating over the cliff.

Takis slid an enormous glass of amber liquid to her. Amelia could smell the fumes from where she sat. Takis raised his own glass to her and yelled, “Yamas!” and tipped the contents back, followed by a satisfied smacking sound. Not wanting to insult her host, Amelia swigged back a hearty mouthful of the stuff and then nearly died. The liquid instantly disintegrated her sinus system. She squeezed her eyes shut as tears streamed out of her eyes and pretended she was reaching down to adjust her shoe so she could wipe them away.

“You like?” Takis asked, his thick mustache wiggling in what Amelia suspected was amusement at her struggle.

She gasped the words out. “What is that?”

“Ah, island specialty,” Takis said. “I make all island specials for you, no problem. Tonight, we have lamb.”

“I hope you’re not going to any trouble.”

Takis’s thick eyebrows moved. “No, no, it is slow time for Ria.” He spread his arms wide. “Only one other guest come, later. I am having a hard time to let rooms.” He looked comically sad, like an actor in a school play hamming it up for the parents. “You sit here or take walk, and I will cook. Come in two hours.”

Amelia smiled. “I’ll do that.” When her glass was empty, she got up, somewhat wobbly, and decided to explore how far the hotel spread across the cliff. Down one staircase, through yet another courtyard, and up another, she lost track of time gazing out at the Aegean as the golden hour descended—that time of late afternoon when everything was tinged with a shade of orange that had no name. Every courtyard offered Instagram-worthy photos. She couldn’t imagine why the place was empty. Then again, she wouldn’t have known about the place if her mother hadn’t talked about it as the fount of love. She could see why this might not be a hidden gem, seeing as there were no rugged adventures on offer, no significant monuments, and likely no sultry flings with deliciously unsuitable men.

It was far more than two hours later when she finally found her way back to the hotel’s bar-restaurant. Male voices greeted her. One of them belonged to a tall man with cropped, sandy hair, wearing a light-blue linen shirt and white shorts. His back was to her, and Takis was grinning ear to ear at whatever he was saying. From the back, Amelia could see this newcomer was handsome, but she’d fallen in love many times that way sitting in traffic—a glimpse at someone’s ear or neck and she was his, only to scooch up alongside the car and discover he was a gargoyle.

Takis caught sight of her hovering at the entrance and brightened. “Amelias! Come. We have a new guest. Meet James.”

James turned to her, and Amelia’s breath caught. What a pleasant surprise. A treasure in the driver’s side window.

“Hello, Amelia,” James said. He smiled, a dimple creasing one of his cheeks, and it was the cutest thing. He was not Greek; he looked Scandinavian if anything, and by the sound of his two words, American.

“Hi, James.” She ignored the pleased look on Takis’s face and took the seat next to James. Maybe she could do with one last fling after all.

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Excerpted from The Second Chance Hotel, by Sierra Godfrey. Sourcebooks, 2023. Reprinted with permission.