Chapter 1

The winter lodge was everything it had promised to be. The cheery fire never ran out, the soft furnishings emphasizing the warm feelings of the room, the colors all warm whites punctuated what should have been a very promising start to a very promising future. However, as the snowflakes softly patted against the floor to ceiling windows, she listened as her second long term boyfriend began her swan song.

She was too hard to hold. She waited on baited breath, waited for him to say the exact phrase that had spelt the end for her last relationship. She wouldn’t cry, wouldn’t beg. She could see already his mind was made. This week-long trip was he attempt at one more try. She hadn’t even been aware there was a problem. She truly felt in her heart that they were connecting but here he was telling her that he’d never felt so alone. So abandoned. He told her she could keep the room for the rest of the week. They could settle everything else when she got back. She said nothing. He left her sitting in the same exact spot she’d been in for the last hour and a half.

Her eyes were dry. She hadn’t realized they were open until she felt their dryness. She blinked and suddenly the tears that had been absent before found their reprieve. She wept. Great, shuttering, sobs that bounced off the walls.


Two hours later she found herself in her car with no idea where she was going until she pulled up at the docks. She walked out onto the pier. It was freezing cold, she didn’t feel it. She estimated that the water was probably twenty degrees colder than the outside air. She would jump. She hadn’t really thought it out but she realized she’d already decided. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her life, she’d had by any estimate a good one. She just didn’t want to live it alone. She was tired of the glaring inadequacy. Surely something had to be fundamental wrong with her because no one could build something permanent with her. Getting out of the car she walked toward to pier. After a few tentative steps she found the wooden planks stronger than it looked. Gazing out at the water she was surprised by high she was and just how far she was away from the shore. She hoped she wouldn’t realize this was an incredibly stupid idea when she was already in the water. With the fierceness of the sea, no one would hear her.

“It’s a wee bit chilly for a swim dontcha think?” A voice called out, piercing through the dark.

“God??” She called back.

Seeing. A shadow she whipped a round and was greeted by a friendly, scruffy face.

“I’ve been told I have a very serious voice but I doubt I’ve ever been mistaken for Him before.” He said with a smile.

She stared at him. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So of course she did both. She hadn’t realized he was holding her until she leaned forward and found her head resting on a very broad chest.

“You smell like fish.” She said.

“I’m told Jesus was a fisherman.” She laughed then. A warmer voice than he’d imagined and for the first time since he saw her walking on the pier he relaxed.

“Come on. Let’s get you inside.”

They walked into a very shabby looking building and she wondered if it would hold up long enough for her to get something to eat. The inside of the building proved much better than the outside and she soon found herself right at home. He guided her to a table and she sat in a very antique looking chair.

“This is the weirdest bar I’ve ever been to. It’s doesn’t even look like a bar. It’s like a cross between a bar, a tavern, and someone’s living room.

He chuckled and she found the sound very appealing. She frowned. She’d just been dumped and already she was moving on to the next one? A scruffy fisherman at that.

He watched her. For someone who had been contemplating a jump she rebounded fast enough. She’d smiled at him a minute ago and now she was frowning. Women, he thought, think entirely too much for their own good.

“Enough thinking for one day.” She jumped when he spoke. She hadn’t realized she’d zoned out until his voice interrupted her thoughts.

She glared at him. “That’s the second time you’ve interrupted me in what? Twenty minutes? I hope you don’t make a habit of intruding on people’s private thoughts”. She was rewarded with another chuckle, richness of it warmed her even as it sent little tingles through her.

“One would’ve thought both interruptions were timely in your case.” He said with a smirk.

Her frown deepened and he found that her her already dark eyes darkened a few more shades. Despite himself, he found her even more interesting as she proceeded to chew him out for making light of a very serious situation. He been all but absorbed in her story until she mentioned the recent breakup.

“Wait. You were going to jump. Over a guy? That’s stupid.”

The clarity of his point stabbed her right in heart. “What an incredibly rude, insensitive, basic, idiotic, callus thing to say!” Jumping up from her chair she slammed her fist down causing the lone little candle to jump.

“I loved him! He was supposed to be it! Instead he planned an amazingly romantic trip and gave me the boot. I had a momentary lapse in judgment but before you so rudely interrupted me I was thinking about whether I was about to make a huge mistake.”

“You thought you were making a huge mistake right before you made the huge mistake? Whoever this clown of man was sure did a number on you.”

She gaped at him as she slumped back into a previously discarded chair.

“It wasn’t his fault. I’m just too hard to hold on to.” She said remorsefully.

“Not from where I was standing.”

Those stupid butterflies were dancing again at the bottom of her belly. She shook her head causing the curls gathered at the nape of her neck to dance, her halfhearted attempt to disagree with him and to silence those darn butterflies.

“It’s the truth. Two long term boyfriends have said the same thing. Word for word and I never told my ex what his predecessor said about me.”

“Ma’am. I don’t care what you say.  I’ve got no respect for a man that would bring a woman on a trip and leave her there alone.”

“He didn’t leave me alone…” when she his eyes narrow she quickly added, “I drove myself up here. I had a meeting so I met him at the lodge.”

“Let me get this straight. He plans a trip and lets you drive up here by yourself? Have you ever been up here before??” He asked incredulously.

She huffed a breath, “Listen. I’m all for chivalry but I’m nobody’s shrinking violet and yes we’d been up here twice before. He knows how I feel about my work! He understood!”

“Then you two didn’t love each other enough.” He said, his express calm.

Utterly shocked and surprising hallowed out she asked,”What?”

“You thought he would propose but didn’t cancel your meeting. Work was more important. He planned a romantic trip for the two of you to save your relationship but he said nothing when you said you were going to a meeting first. Neither of you loved each other enough.”

Her shock at his directness blend into anger and then outrage. “How dare you! Just who do you think you are making such a statement! We’d been together four years! We understood one another! He knew how hard is worked for this promotion and he wanted it just as badly for me!”

“Really?” His relaxed pristine disguising a bubbling temper.

“Yes really! What would you know?!” Her voice rising almost to a shriek, causing the waiter who had been discreetly reading in the corner to look at them anxiously.

His arms on the table he slowly leaned forward, his voice was deliberately soft but the intensity was unmistakable. “Did you ever ask him? Did you ever ask him if he felt like he was playing second fiddle instead of first? Did you ever wonder why he was ok with being second? Everyone works. If you’re lucky, you may even like your job. But hear me, no man wants to play second to anything where his woman his concerned. I sure as heck wouldn’t.”

Unnerved by his speech but determined not let it go unanswered she said, “Well I guess it’s lucky for me that you’re not my man.”

His eyes flashed. He looked like he was about to say something but changed his mind. Turning instead to the jittery waiter still stationed in the corner, “Hey Ernie, can we get a couple menus. Ms. Independent is hungry.”

She aimed a fierce gaze at him as she ordered a burger.

When the food arrived they ate in silence. Annoyed by a sense of guilt she couldn’t shake and a sense that this complete stranger had read her better than even some of her closest friends, she swallowed her pride. Truth be told, the man had saved her life most likely.

“Thank you.”

He grunted and barely smothered a sigh when he saw her face.

“I’d never seen such a lonely person. Surrounded out there by all that water…I couldn’t not say anything.”

“Would you have jumped in after me?” She asked, her voice soft.

“Are you nuts? That water’s freezing!”

At her shell shocked expression, he erupted into laughter and sent her system into a tailspin. His face lit up with mirth revealing beautiful teeth and an even handsomer face than she expected.

“You have a lovely smile when you’re busy scolding heartbroken people” she said casually as she sipped on her soda.

His laughter abruptly stopped, his face suddenly serious, eyes searching. The lightening speed of the switch startled her.

“I was always amazed by how women can compliment you one minute and then slice into the next.” He said shaking his head. “But you’re right. I did bite into you. Perhaps a little too hard and I’m sorry for it.” He offered her a sheepish smile and she swore she felt her heart sigh.

Completely unmanned she reached a crossed the table and touched his hand. “Consider it spades.”

“Spades?”

“Yeah, you’re forgiven. We used to say that all the time when we were kids. So,” she said, making a silly show of wiping her hands on her napkin, “what’s your story?”


 

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