One chance meeting can change everything.
Serendipity Tsang never suspected the kind, sweet guy she once met would become famous. Aiden Andale—Australia's newest hotshot tennis player. And to think she accidentally hit him on the head with a tennis ball!
As years pass by, she's busy juggling her family's beloved Chinese bakery, her future career, and navigating relationships.
Then she starts seeing Aiden again—in magazines, on TV, in tennis tournaments. He's everywhere she turns. Looking happy with his life. Unlike her.
But reality isn't always straightforward. What happens when serendipity finds them both again in the most unlikely of ways?
Perfect for fans of tennis and baking, Chances for Serendipity is a standalone contemporary romance that spans over several years with a happily ever after.
Release date: August 16, 2021
Publisher: Natalie Chung
Print pages: 320
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Chances for Serendipity
“Ohhh no. You’re kidding me, Liz.” I squinted against the blinding sunlight, trying to glare up at my friend. “Why are we here?” I gestured at the grey building in front of us. A building I hadn’t set foot in for more than a year.
“Let’s go out,” she’d said yesterday afternoon when she’d dropped by my family’s bakery. I’d expected we’d do something like browsing dresses on sale or sampling desserts at a cute cafe. I mean, her invite had implied something fun. At least, I thought it had.
Liz shrugged. “It’s been a while since you’ve gone to the sports centre. I thought you’d want to visit while we have school holidays.”
I closed my eyes and reached for patience. Liz had good intentions, but she didn’t know how much this place could possibly hurt me. If I let myself get caught up in the memories… “No thanks. I think I’ll pass. I forgot I need to finish my maths homework.” Despite it being the summer holidays, I still had several work booklets to do for tutoring school. Not fun.
Liz groaned and hooked her arm around mine before I could bolt back to the train station. I squirmed in her grasp. My sweaty clothes already clung to my back, and her added body heat was not helping. Nope, nope.
She presented me with a perfect, puppy-dog-eyed face, her brown eyes rounded and bottom lip pouting. “Come on, Miss Gloomy. Don’t be a party pooper. Moping at home all the time isn’t going to make you happy.”
“So?” I challenged, my arm straining in her steel grip.
“So, you need some fresh air. Besides, you’ve never played tennis here in December. I heard that some famous tennis players come to practice here this time of year. You know, off-season and all.”
I stopped struggling, suddenly as still as a statue. “Really?” My heart rate spiked at the idea of meeting an Australian tennis star in the flesh. But… My mind crashed back down to reality. Liz habitually omitted important details to suit her agenda. For all I knew, “famous tennis players” could mean absolute unknowns who won local tournaments. Why would anyone remotely famous train in Sydney? Most of them wouldn’t be living here.
My eyes narrowed. “How would you know? Have you seen someone famous?” Liz played tennis at the centre at least twice a week. Or she had when I used to go.
“Nope, but my sister works at the centre now.”
I flailed in her grasp. “You never mentioned that before.”
“Well, you ditched tennis club for a year.”
I winced at the unexpected bluntness in her voice, and she grimaced.
“Sorry, I’m not blaming you. But a lot has changed, you know. They did a huge renovation on the building. Just come in and see.”
She dragged me to the entrance like a disobedient dog on a leash. I considered a game of tug of war with her, but my sore arm already sagged in her unrelenting grip. “Fine,” I said. Since we were already here. And, okay, I’d admit the slim chance of seeing a tennis star would be a dream come true.
The double automatic doors slid open, and we walked through. A blast of cold air immediately engulfed me. I sighed in relief at no longer baking outside in the hot summer sun. Liz finally released me, and I took the opportunity to unstick my clothes from my sweat-drenched body. Ugh. Gross day to be out, but summer wasn’t getting any cooler.
With some of my discomfort gone, I focused on my surroundings. The same old potted plants as before still lined the sides of the corridor, but it now opened up to a more spacious lobby with a large front counter. A flowy banner hung across the counter, the words “Summer Fun—Join a Sports Club!” emblazoned in block letters. I breathed in the strong smell of fresh paint. They really had renovated this place during my long absence.
A girl sitting at the counter looked up and waved. “Hey, Liz. Didn’t know you were dropping by today. Who’s your friend?”
Liz nudged me in the shoulder. “This is Serendipity.”
“Serena,” I immediately corrected.
Liz rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. I heard you clear as air, Sere,” she said, putting extra emphasis on my nickname by making it rhyme. “Anyway. Sere, this is my sister, Ellie.”
I lifted a hand shyly in greeting. “Hi.”
I’d never met Liz’s sister before since she went to a different school than us. She looked a lot like Liz, with her thin, pointed nose, rosy, freckled cheeks, and brown hair pulled back into a high ponytail.
“Hi, nice to meet you.” Ellie stuck her hand out and I shook it. “Feel free to look around, but some areas are off-limits without a pass.”
“Sere’s a club member too,” Liz interrupted. “But she’ll need a new pass. She bought a two-year membership last year. You can check the system.”
Ellie’s mouth made a wide O shape, her large eyes somehow looking bigger as she stared at me. “Sorry, I’ve never seen you around before.”
Liz frowned, and I didn’t miss her sideways glance at me. “I told you before. She took a one-year break.”
My lungs constricted, choking on the reply I’d prepared over a month ago in case anyone asked this exact question. “I—I, uh—”
Liz let out an exasperated breath and shot Ellie a pointed look. “You never listen, Eleanor.” She wound an arm around my waist and guided me away from her sister. “Come on, Sere. Let’s go.”
“But…” I shook my head and cleared my throat. “Don’t I need a new pass?”
“We can do that later. Let’s just use mine to get in.”
Leaving no room for arguments, she steered me through the left corridor. I marvelled again at the changes. The last time I was here, yellowing wallpaper had peeled off the edges of the dingy wall, and everything, from the outdated carpet to the dusty corners, had been more than a little run down. Now the freshly painted walls depicted stylish murals of tennis players I knew by name.
As we passed a realistically drawn Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi, I whirled toward Liz. “Please don’t tell me this is what you meant when you said I’d see someone famous.”
“Yeah, sure.” Liz waved at a painted rendition of Roger Federer in front of her. “Sere, meet the one and only Swiss maestro.”
I made a pfft noise which she returned with a cheeky smile as we moved on.
At the end of the hallway, we reached a door that required membership access. She withdrew a pass from inside her backpack and swiped it through the card machine. The faint sound of a click emanated, and she pushed the door open.
“Woah,” I said at the sight I beheld.
Four—yes, four—tennis courts were set up side by side in one long line. There used to be only two! Distinct, white lines of paint marked the blue-floored hard courts. Three of them were occupied by people of various ages.
In the court closest to us, an older couple hit the ball over the net to each other with soft strokes. The next one down had four middle-aged adults. My eyes darted after the ball as they rallied in quick succession. The last one, at the far end, had a man feeding balls to a young guy who returned them with impressive drop shots.
“Cool, hey?” Liz said, beaming at my reaction.
“Liz…” My breath hitched.
In my depressed state these last few weeks, I’d refused to go anywhere outside. I’d been content with wasting the school holidays away in the confines of my home and my family’s bakery. Or, as Liz had said—moping. She hadn’t wanted that for me and had done everything possible to convince me to do otherwise. I’d all but spat in her face for it.
My eyes watered, and I turned, tugging on her jacket sleeve. “I’m sorry I was mean to you.”
Liz’s lips pursed as she blinked several times. Rubbing her eyes with the heel of her hand, she mumbled, “Silly, you weren’t mean. I just feel bad ’cause I can’t help you much.” Then she wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me hard as I buried my face in the crook of her shoulder. I was a terrible friend, bagging her out for bringing me here, claiming I was no longer interested in tennis. But that wasn’t the truth. I’d just forgotten how much I loved it here.
Now I remembered. The thud of the ball landing on my racket. The non-stop running to reach the ball in time. The laughter despite not always winning…
Liz released me and eyed me carefully. “Do you want to play for a bit?”
A choice. She wouldn’t force me if I wasn’t up to it. I stared longingly at the one empty court and then at the occupied ones. In the group of four, a lady laughed as she launched a backhand winner into an open area of the court. The other three players clapped approvingly with their rackets.
My heart skipped a beat as I turned to Liz and nodded.
She grinned. “Lucky I booked this court for half an hour.”
Geez. How far ahead had she planned this?
“I’ll grab us rackets. You wait here.”
She returned a few minutes later with two rackets and a canister of tennis balls. I took a racket, letting the familiar weight settle in my hand. This one had a different grip to my own racket, but that was to be expected with mediocre rental equipment.
I experimentally swung the racket, practicing all the strokes. Forehand. Backhand. Forehand volley. Backhand volley. I couldn't believe it’d been a year since I’d played. “I’m going to be really rusty.”
“We’re not playing in a tournament.” She rapped me gently on the head with her racket. “Just have fun.”
Have fun. It was the reason I’d decided to go out today. Well, I’d expected something a bit less demanding, but…
I did a once-over of my attire—a slim-fitting tank top, shorts, and some worn-out sneakers. Not exactly tennis-worthy, but at least I wasn’t wearing anything impractical like a tight skirt or sandals. “Let’s go serious.”
Liz raised her eyebrows, hands on her hips. I called it her Judgy Bird stance. “I won’t go easy on you just because you’re rusty.”
“Good.” I started my warm-up routine, stretching out my legs. “You can serve first.”
“How are we gonna play this? I don’t want to sweat too much.”
That made both of us. “First to four games wins?”
I jogged to the other side of the court. While she took her time to do quick stretches and get ready to serve, my eyes were drawn to the fast motion of a tennis ball on the court beside us—the one with the middle-aged man and young guy. The man fed balls to the guy who crouched in front of the net, volleying them back over. Not a match. Practicing? Maybe they entered local doubles tournaments together.
“Oi, Sere!” Liz waved frantically, catching my attention. “If I was playing a hundred percent seriously, I would’ve just hit you with an ace.”
Oops. I got into a return stance, legs apart and knees bent.
Liz bounced the ball several times. Then, throwing the ball up, she raised her racket behind her shoulder. As the ball reached the peak of its toss, her racket snapped out. I barely had a chance to blink as it shot over to my side.
I reacted automatically, racket reaching for the ball. With a reverberating twang that shook my arm, it ricocheted off the racket strings in a high arc.
I gasped in horror as the ball flew off-tangent—and struck the young guy on the next court over. Straight in the back of his head.
“Oww!” The guy cupped his head and whipped around, searching for the source of his pain.
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!” I hadn’t even played yet and I was already embarrassing myself. “Are you okay?”
His gaze landed on me. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
I took him in while he rubbed the back of his head. He looked around my age, but he stood almost a head taller than me, with eyebrows furrowed and full lips pressed together. His thick, dark brown hair curled at the ends. My face burned hot when his curious eyes pinned me with a returning stare.
Oh. My. Gosh. Out of all the people to accidentally hit, it had to be a good-looking guy.
“Aiden!” his older companion shouted.
I jolted backward as the older man ran over to our side of the net. He tilted Aiden’s head forward, examining where the ball had hit him. “You should watch where you hit the ball, girl.”
“I’m sorry.” My fingers plucked at my racket strings. Could I shrink into a corner and hide?
Aiden swatted at the man’s hand. “Geez, it’s not her fault. I’m fine. Stop making such a big deal.”
The man huffed, parting masses of Aiden’s hair this way and that. “Your head is important. Any damage to your brain—”
“I can still play tennis, even with a couple of lost brain cells,” Aiden retorted, shoving the man’s hand off his head. “Chill.”
The older man grumbled, my existence most likely forgotten. He didn’t seem to take no for an answer.
“Your mother will be furious.”
Aiden scoffed. “You don’t know anything about my mum.”
“One hit is all it takes to get someone killed.”
“You’re being an idiot. I’m still standing, aren’t I?”
I fidgeted uneasily, still wishing I could disappear from this awkward exchange.
“Fine.” The man threw up his hands. “Let’s take a break.”
“About time.” Aiden stalked to the benches on the other side of the court, leaving the man trailing behind.
Liz made her way to me, laughing as she held a hand to her stomach. “Did you really just hit a guy in the head? That in itself is a talent.”
“I told you I was rusty.” I wanted to simultaneously throttle her and bang my head against a wall. She’d watched the scene unfold and had chosen to stand aside instead of coming to my aid. Though I knew she didn’t have to stand up for me, I was used to her being my shield in confrontations. She had no problem back-chatting and offending others. Me? I avoided anything that involved angry people and fights.
She snorted, folding her arms and glancing at the two guys now sitting on a bench by the back wall. “You really are something else.”
“Blame it on your serve, Lizbeth.”
“Oh, we are so not going there, Serendipity.” Liz’s lips pressed together in a thin line.
There was a heartbeat of silence.
“Lizzzz,” I said, already giving up on using her proper first name. A bubble of laughter burst out from me.
Liz smiled. “It’s been so long since I heard you laugh. But I’ll be having the last laugh when I kick your butt and win four games to none.”
I punched her lightly on the shoulder. “Watch it. I’ll be the one to win.”
“We’ll see about that.”
We proceeded to play it out. Liz continued serving well, though a couple were faults, luckily. She won her game without me hitting another person, thank goodness. Then it was my turn to serve.
I’d never been that great at serving, to be honest. A pins-and-needles sensation spread along my fingertips as I bounced the ball. I swore I could see from the corner of my eye that the guy I’d hit earlier, Aiden, was watching me. I didn’t dare look to properly check.
“Did you forget how to serve?” Liz shouted.
All of a sudden, I felt more eyes on me. Great, Liz. Now you’ve gone and done it. If that guy hadn’t been looking at me before, he definitely was now.
I gulped, trying to calm my nerves. One breath. Two. I kept bouncing the ball and gave myself a pep talk. Remember how you used to do it. You can do it again. Muscle memory and all that.
Instead, my brain chose to push another memory onto me.
Nice shot, Sere, the familiar voice echoed in my head, followed by the ghost of a hand high-fiving mine.
I froze as a hiccup made its way out of my mouth. The ball I’d just bounced flew past my outstretched arm, missing my palm entirely. I stumbled forward to catch it in mid-air.
Gah. Don’t think about the past.
I shook my head. Focus. I was serving. Or trying to, very badly.
I chucked the ball up and swung at the highest point of the toss. A resounding off-feeling vibration coursed through my arm as the ball hit part of the racket frame.
The ball flew straight into the net.
I grumbled as I went to collect it. My shorts lacked pockets to hold any extra balls. Why couldn’t I get anything right today?
For my next serve, I didn’t even bother to bounce the ball. I straight-up flung it high like I knew what I was doing.
Except my racket hit nothing but air. The ball grazed my arm before dribbling to a stop on the ground.
“Double fault!” Liz yelled.
“Bright observation, Liz!”
She grinned, curving her hands around her mouth like a speakerphone. “Love–15!”
“Stop embarrassing me!”
“You’re doing a good job of that yourself!”
From the benches behind Liz, Aiden threw his head back and laughed. His older companion wasn’t next to him; he stood with a mobile phone pressed against his ear, his attention elsewhere. At least someone was completely unaware of my incompetence. But that meant Aiden was most likely laughing at me.
I slapped my thighs. Get a hold of yourself, Serena Tsang! Who cared if he laughed at me? I would show him. I went to pick up the ball again. Maybe the ball hated me, or maybe I hated the ball. Maybe we both hated each other. It didn’t matter.
Squeezing the ball tight, I willed it to forget whatever grudge we had against one another. Let’s do this. Less force, more accuracy. Emotions could make or break you. In my case, frustration was breaking me. It made me hit the ball into the net or out wide. I needed to be calm.
I relaxed my shoulders and straightened my arm, palm facing up. When I tossed the ball, I imagined it to be like a rising ocean wave. Calm. Smooth. This time when I hit the ball, it sailed over the net and into the service box. By sailed, I meant it was slow. Horribly slow. But I’d done it! A proper serve.
That was where my positivity ended. While I was distracted by my small success, Liz returned the ball with a forehand that blitzed past my left side.
“Love–30,” she announced in a sing-song voice full of glee.
She broke my game fairly quickly after that. I tried to be more aggressive on her serve, but she held easily at 40–15. Miraculously, I managed to hold serve in my other games, but that was my only victory. Being down a break, Liz eventually took the win.
“Nice game,” she said, high-fiving me.
We went to cool off by the benches on my side of the court. Good thing it was further away from the bossy man and Aiden who were both still at the benches on the opposite end of the court. As cute as Aiden was, I’d already made the world’s worst first impression on him.
Liz repeatedly tugged on her shirt collar, airing herself. “I’m going to the bathroom,” she declared. “I need a cool shower. Plus I have to check on something.”
A shower sounded glorious, but I hadn’t brought any spare clothes or bathing essentials. Guess I’d live without one until I got home.
As Liz left, my attention drew to someone walking my way. Oh my gosh. It was Aiden.
Relax, Serena. Maybe he was going to the bathroom too. Not like he would come talk to me after I hit him in the head.
I averted my gaze, fumbling through my backpack for my drink bottle. Finding it, I took a gulp of water—and nearly spat it out.
Aiden had covered the distance from his end of the other court to the end of mine in a matter of seconds. His eyes locked onto me, dashing all my hopes of avoiding him.
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