Second Chances (Woodburn Book 1)(2)

By: Rhea Madison

“Need some help?” he asked from where he stood, practically hugging his truck door as if he was afraid she’d say yes.

“Yes,” she told him. “My car was overheating, so I stopped, and I’ve got no signal on my phone.”

The man chuckled lightly, “Yeah, cell service is spotty at best up here on the mountain.” He glanced around, fumbling for words, and seeming as though he were having second thoughts about having stopped. When he finally met Ellen’s eyes again, she could see that it was with a hint of trepidation. At least she wasn’t the only one nervous about this situation, though the stranger could very well be questioning whether or not he really wanted to go through with killing her.

“Listen,” said the man, “I know people probably always say this in these types of situations, but I promise I’m not a serial killer or anything. Name’s John Bramlett. I’m the local mechanic and tow truck driver around here.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” If he was a serial killer, he couldn’t have come up with a worse explanation for what he was doing driving around on the side of the mountain at near dark.

John Bramlett grinned. “Nope. Not kidding. I know you don’t know me from Adam’s house cat, but I’d be happy to give you a lift into town. I can drop you at the local inn or diner then come back for the car.”

Ellen stared at the man. It was difficult to make out all his features in the dwindling light, but she didn’t think he looked like the kind of man to hurt her. Then again, wasn’t that what serial killers wanted you to think? With her hands on her hips, she gazed at their surroundings. Twilight approached quickly, and with the torrential rains, she couldn’t hope to make heads or tails of the area around her. Her instinct was to run. Handsome strangers rarely had a stranded woman’s best interests at heart. However, she had enough sense to know that she was out of alternatives. Either she got into John Bramlett’s truck or she stayed cold and hungry on this mountainside.

“Seems I have little choice but to trust you,” she concluded at last. “Just... if you’re going to kill me, could you make it quick and painless? I’ve had a really shitty day!”

John Bramlett laughed, a melodious sound that relaxed Ellen marginally. “It’s a deal,” he said

Ellen stepped close enough to finally get a good look at him. Eyes, blue as sapphire, shown back at her and seemed to twinkle with amusement in the waning light. His cheekbones sat high on his face, enhanced by a thin nose and a jawline sharp enough to cut glass. Christ, he could pass for a model! Her mind was suddenly filled with an image of the man before her on a two-page spread in the middle of a fashion magazine wearing nothing but a pair of tight-fitting boxer briefs. Ellen sucked in a quiet breath, playing it off as a chill, and watched John’s face fall.


“Freezing,” she admitted, seeing the way John Bramlett looked her over. She was dressed for work - a navy pencil skirt, silk shell, and cut, navy, tweed jacket along with her matching Prada pumps. Half of her outfit would likely have to go into the trash after this much exposure to rain and mud, but she didn’t have anything else. Having come home in the middle of the day to surprise Mark with lunch, she’d hurried out of the house as quickly as she’d entered it. To his credit, Mark had seemed as shocked as Ellen, herself, had been. The joke had been on her, however. Mark was already having his dessert when she arrived.

Sighing, she glanced out at the valley below them. Frigid rain slid its icy fingers down her back. She’d been enjoying the views as much as possible on her drive up from Atlanta, Georgia. It was difficult to take pleasure in the scenery when your world was falling apart around you, though. Her stomach rumbled, loud enough for the gorgeous model-slash-mechanic to hear.

“How long’s it been since you ate?”

“Uh... I think I had a yogurt for breakfast. I can’t really remember.” The remains of that yogurt and her appetite had been deposited into the bushes outside her front door hours ago. The prospect of food was less than appealing, but her stomach betrayed her by rumbling again.

John Bramlett quirked an eyebrow at her. “The diner in Woodburn is pretty good. I’ll drop you there so you can eat while I come back for the car. Town may be a bit crowded with the blueberry festival starting tomorrow, but I’m sure we can find someplace to accommodate you.”

“A blueberry festival?”

“Yep. Woodburn’s famous for it. Now, why don’t you grab your things and we can head on back? No need for us to keep standing around in the rain.”