Second Chances (Woodburn Book 1)(9)

By: Rhea Madison

Ellen had purchased a backpack at Walmart and filled it with enough clothes and toiletries for a couple of days and, unsurprisingly, a bottle of cheap red wine. The high-priced suit she’d been wearing earlier was ruined, John figured, and that was a real shame. The way the wet silk had clung to Ellen’s body, outlining the perfect curve of her breasts had been tantalizing. With a mental kick, he grabbed her backpack and told her to stay put so that he could open the door for her.

She followed him into the house, and he heard her slurping down the last of her vanilla Coke from the diner. “God, do you know how long it’s been since I drank a soda?” She belched and looked embarrassed as she murmured a quiet, “Pardon me.”

John laughed and shook his head. The backpack was deposited on the dining room table opposite the kitchen just inside the door, and he grabbed her takeout box and stuck it in the fridge. “Microwave’s there,” he pointed. “Help yourself to any food you find. You ready for that drink I promised?”

Ellen’s sea-blue eyes peered up at him through voluminous lashes, and John’s heart skipped a few beats. Pinching her bottom lip between her teeth, she watched him for a few breathless seconds. “Sounds good,” she admitted quietly.

Swallowing around the sudden lump in his throat, John pulled a bottle of Jameson and a couple tumblers out of the cupboard. His hand shook as he poured, and the way Ellen’s fingers brushed his when she accepted the glass from him nearly made him jump. A shiver raced up his spine, and he downed the contents of his glass quickly before pouring another.

When he turned to face Ellen again, he found her wandering his tiny living room, clutching her glass in her hand and cradling it close to her chest. John’s cabin was old, built in the twenties and updated only a few times since then to repair rotting floorboards and add modern conveniences. He wondered how it looked through Ellen’s eyes. She was undoubtedly accustomed to seeing opulence and elegance everywhere she looked. It probably looked shabby to her, but John was proud of it.

A fireplace, built of fieldstone, took up the entirety of the farthest wall. A large, rough-cut pine mantle adorned the center of it. John wasn’t much for knickknacks, but Leslie had loved family photos. There was hardly a square inch of space on the slab of wood that wasn’t covered in photographs. A leather couch, his and Leslie’s one big furniture indulgence - other than the king-sized four-poster bed in his room - sat squarely in front of the fireplace. They’d spent many nights on that couch, huddled under one of the old afghans Leslie’s grandmother had crocheted for them as a wedding gift, making love in front of a roaring fire. John had an old beat up recliner tucked into another corner of the room, close to the bookshelf so that he could spend his evenings reading. He didn’t own a television set.

Even in her White Stag Walmart jeans, Ellen carried herself with the poise of a woman accustomed to cashmere. Her long, black hair had been pulled into a low bun and was slightly frizzy from the rain. It still looked touchably soft, though, and John wondered what it smelled like. Suppressing a groan at the thought of running his fingers through the silken locks, he let his eyes wander down to the round swell of her ass. If he had to guess, he’d say she worked out at least five days a week. Probably had a personal trainer who made her do squats every day. Guilt tickled the edges of his mind as he watched Ellen, unable - and a little unwilling - to stow the thoughts he was having. Leslie was gone and never coming back, and Ellen Hastings was the first woman he’d met since Leslie’s death that had even tempted him.

Those eyes that had been threatening to suck him in since the moment he’d first stepped out of his truck on the roadside took in the room around her. “This place is lovely,” she said, and he was both surprised and relieved that there was no disdain in her voice. John could almost let himself believe that she was sincere. Slender, elegant fingers ran along the edge of a framed photo of him and his parents when he was a kid. It seemed like a lifetime since that vacation to the coast when he was sixteen.

“You sure were a looker,” she said, casting a grin over her shoulder.

“I’m not a looker now?”

Ellen smiled at him, and his stomach began a series of gymnastics. “Oh, you definitely are,” she said, and the sultry quality of her voice was assuredly a figment of his imagination. She took a sip of her drink and set it aside. “I have a confession... I’ve never been a big fan of whiskey.”

“We’ve worked so hard to build trust between us, Ellen, and now you’re telling me it was all a lie?” His heart was hammering in his chest. The sudden change in Ellen’s demeanor was a bit unsettling, and John couldn’t quite get his bearings.