Second Chances (Woodburn Book 1)(10)

By: Rhea Madison

She laughed and wandered closer to him. “Do you trust me, John?”

“Yes,” he said in a hoarse whisper as she crowded into his personal space. “Should I not?”

“I don’t know,” she told him. “I’ve always considered myself a trustworthy person. I’ve always been the one to do the right thing, the safe thing. But here I am in the home of a devilishly handsome stranger, and I find myself not entirely wanting to do the right thing.”

“And what would the right thing be?” Her breasts were pressed against his chest now, making it hard for him to think. His body began to respond to her proximity, his blood coursing rapidly through his veins.

“To go to your guest room, lock the door, and go to sleep.”

Though he’d been instantly attracted to the damsel in distress the moment he’d laid eyes on her, John knew that this was a bad idea. Ellen was tired. She’d suffered some sort of tragedy today and everything afterward had spiraled out of control. “That’s probably the best idea,” he said softly. His fingers couldn’t resist tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. It was as soft as he’d imagined it would be.

Ellen’s face fell, pink shame coloring her cheeks. With a quick nod, she grabbed her glass of whiskey and swallowed it down, grimacing at the taste.

John tried not to laugh, turning to grab her backpack in order to hide his amusement. “Let me show you the guest room,” he said, heading down the hall. He pointed out the cabin’s single bathroom and linen closet on his way. “You never told me what sent you running from Atlanta,” he said at the door to the guest room.

“You didn’t get me drunk enough,” she said with a breath of laughter that contained more derision than amusement. Her face fell immediately afterward, and he saw the tremor in her lip, the wetness of her eyes.

Unable to stop himself, John reached for her, tipping her chin up so their eyes met. “Tell me,” he whispered.

“My... husband,” she said in a shaky voice. “I... I came home to surprise him for lunch, and... and...”

Tears spilled down her cheeks, and John pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her, laying a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m so sorry, Ellen.”

The woman clutched his shirt in her fists as she wept, body quaking in his arms. “I feel so stupid,” she confessed. “So utterly foolish... Why couldn’t I be enough for him?”

John grit his teeth against the fury welling within him. “I don’t know.” He held her closer, breathing in the scent of her shampoo, floral and herbaceous and utterly intoxicating. They stayed locked together until her tears gradually subsided.

She pulled away with a laugh, snuffling and wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “God, do you think I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one day?” She shook her head. “Would it trouble you too much if I took a bubble bath?”

“Help yourself,” he said with a smile. “I think I’m going to turn in for the night. Do you need anything else before I go?”

Shaking her head, she smiled gently at him. “Thank you, John. You’ve gone above and beyond to show me hospitality. You can’t imagine how much that means to me.” Balancing on her toes, she leaned up and pressed her full lips to his cheek.

John watched her take the backpack into the bathroom and close the door. Blowing out a long breath, he ran his fingers through his unkempt brown hair. “Shit,” he muttered, heading back to the kitchen for another swallow of Jameson. The water was running in the tub when he passed the bathroom again, and he did his best not to imagine Ellen Hastings’ naked body on the other side of the solid pine door.


Ellen felt terrible. Stomach queasy and head pounding, she groaned and rolled away from the ruthless sunlight pouring in the window. Though John Bramlett’s cabin was small and darkened by the wood floors and walls, it had a cozy feel and the soft touch of a woman’s hand. A downy, off-white quilt covered her, and gauzy curtains hung over the window, letting in the sun’s warmth. Ellen wished she felt more like enjoying it. She regretted that burger and all those fries - and soda! The glass of whiskey and three-quarters of a bottle of wine she’d had last night probably didn’t help matters, either.

Remaining perfectly still to avoid the return of last night’s mistakes, Ellen gazed out the window trying not to think about how humiliated she was over her behavior. Her father would have been so disappointed in her. After she’d left John standing in the hallway covered in her tears, she’d hidden out in the claw-foot tub in the bathroom until she was sure he’d be asleep. The Walmart wine wasn’t as bad as she’d feared, and she’d consumed the majority of it in the tub as she’d cried over her ruined life. How could she go back to Atlanta and face Mark again? She couldn’t. Two days ago, she’d loved him with all of her heart, now the mere thought of seeing him again had her swallowing back the rising bile in her throat.