Second Chances (Woodburn Book 1)(5)

By: Rhea Madison

Honestly, it wasn’t surprising that Devon’s first reaction to him finding a woman, alone and on the side of the road, and describing her as “wet” would send the man into a fit of seventh-grade giggles. The man needed to grow the hell up. What surprised John was the surge of jealousy that he had felt. It had been years since a woman had even made him look twice, but Ellen Hastings was something different.

Ellen enthralled him. Even drenched through with rain, she’d been beautiful. But John had always preferred the softer, more touchable, natural look to the overly made up Hollywood types. Ellen Hastings had stirred something within him that hadn’t been touched in a very long time, but he couldn’t be bothered with dwelling on the implications of that at the moment.

Cold rain sluiced down the collar of his work shirt, sending a shiver down his spine. John had always loved working on cars. The roar of an engine. The satisfaction of troubleshooting a vehicle’s issues and solving them. Even the oily, musty smells of his garage brought a certain feeling of nostalgia with it - hours spent in his dad’s garage when he was a kid, the two of them tinkering with old cars and farm equipment. But towing was his least favorite aspect of the job. He’d have just as soon hired someone else to do it. While he made enough money to live comfortably, he owed money on his house and shop and couldn’t afford to take the risk of hiring a full-time driver. Besides, it was hardly necessary in a town like Woodburn.

When he stood, the rainwater that had collected in his boots squelched between his toes, and he reconsidered hiring a driver. Maybe part-time. Shaking the mud off his hands and futilely swiping at the rivers of water cascading down his face, John checked all his connections once more before climbing into the cab to activate the rig.

If he hadn’t promised Ellen that he’d take her to the inn after getting the car settled, he’d have showered and crawled into his cozy bed, maybe even lit a fire in the fireplace to chase away the chill in his bones. As it was, he ran through the shower as soon as he got home to get the worst of the mud off and quickly changed into something dry before heading back to the diner.

The smell of Ellen’s perfume lingered in the cab of his truck - something fruity and probably expensive. John liked it, despite his instincts telling him not to.

Ellen seemed like a nice girl, down on her luck, but John had no way of knowing whether or not she was a Grade A bitch. Only time would tell. She had the last name for it, and if she was mixed up with that vile clan from Atlanta, there was a very real possibility that she’d turn on him as soon as the car was repaired. Still, it wasn’t like him to judge a person before getting to know them. He owed her at least the benefit of the doubt.

John paused outside the diner window and watched as Ellen alternately dabbed her eyes with a napkin and nibbled at her dinner. His heart constricted so that it was difficult to breathe for a few seconds. A tear escaped, rolling down Ellen’s milky, smooth skin, and John felt the sudden urge to strangle whoever had done this to her with his bare hands. He was getting wetter by the second, standing in the rain as he was, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the nubile Ellen Hastings.

The ringing of the bell over the diner’s door snapped him out of his musings, and he ignored the voice inside his head telling him that this was his chance for another beginning.


Every eye in the place was on her as she perused her menu. She cursed Mark and whats-her-face for eating her lobster bisque. She’d been looking forward to that damn dinner reservation all week. A fried shrimp basket with fries and hush-puppies was the only seafood on the menu. Ellen wrinkled her nose.

Nothing on the menu sounded like something she would normally eat, though most of it sounded incredibly delicious - the shrimp basket notwithstanding. Glancing around the room, she saw the quickly averted eyes of the other patrons. She stood out like a sore thumb in Small Town, USA. Ellen Hastings was a wealthy Atlanta socialite, used to having things her way, used to lobster bisque and Viognier. Before marrying Mark Hastings and his father’s money, she’d been down-to-earth Ellen Harper from a dinky little town in middle Georgia. She’d met Mark at the University of Georgia where he was studying law and she, business. It was lust at first sight that blossomed into love over time. And until this afternoon when she’d walked in on him screwing that bitch in her bed, she’d thought they were happy.

Fighting another wave of tears, she ordered the bacon mushroom burger with extra pickles, a side of chili-cheese fries, and a vanilla coke to wash it all down with. She’d probably be sick as a dog later, but if greasy burgers and fries didn’t say ‘break-up food’ she didn’t know what did. A waitress with dark, creamy skin and strawberry lips plopped a mound of food down in front of her with a wink, and Ellen’s mouth began to water. “Thanks,” she muttered.