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Chas’s Fervor(5)

By:Chiah Wilder

It had been two years since she’d arrived in Pinewood Springs with a new name, profession, and life. Everything so far had been wonderful; she loved the small town of nine thousand people, and she adored her job and the kids she worked with. Life was peaceful for her, and she’d even begun to relax a bit and quit looking over her shoulder every time she heard a noise. Her life in Chicago seemed more and more like nothing but a bad nightmare as time passed.

The last thing she needed in her new life was a badass. Addie appreciated a handsome man with raw sex appeal, though, and it had been two years since she’d been with a man. As a matter of fact, Chas was the first man to have touched her since she fled from Ian. Even though Chas’s contact with her body was most probably inadvertent, it seared right through her, reminding her how good it felt to have a man’s touch.

As lonely as she had been over the past two years, she wasn’t interested in being involved with another bad boy. She’d had her fill of them, and she was doing just fine without a man. Running the library and the pilot after-school reading program took up most of her time. She really liked the children, but her favorite—before she’d laid eyes on his sexy dad—was Jack. He was a good kid who struggled with his reading, but never gave up. He was a bright, curious, and ambitious boy. Making a mental note to call his mother and ask her if she could set up one-on-one reading sessions two times a week, Addie went into her office to clean off her desk before she headed home.

Locking the big, double-paned glass door, Addie walked down the library’s front steps and made her way to her car, parked in the adjacent lot. The sun dipped behind the mountain peaks, and the scent of pine drifted around her. Tall evergreens looked like narrow cones silhouetted against the darkened eastern sky. As she walked on the pavement, leaves crackled under her black pumps, and a thin mist sprayed around her. Picking up her speed, she wanted to make it to her car before the sprinkles turned into a downpour.

Parking in front of her apartment building, Addie turned off her windshield wipers, cut the engine, and settled back, hoping the rain would dissipate enough so she wouldn’t be drenched if she made a run for it. Sheets of water bathed her Ford Taurus, and the lightning’s jagged designs crisscrossed the darkening sky. After fifteen minutes of pouring, Addie—plastic bag covering her head—dashed to the entrance of her building.

Opening her apartment door, Addie switched on the overhead light and a warm glow filled her small place. She loved the character of her one-bedroom abode. Because the building used to be a Victorian mansion built in the late 1800s, the crown molding, the tin ceiling, and the stained glass windows lent her apartment the charm she loved. At first, she’d taken it because it was on a quiet tree-lined street near the library, but after a few months of living there, she had come to love it. Her place was one of five in the converted house, and the quietness of the building was a welcoming change to all the chaos and noise she had lived with when she and Ian resided in their Chicago high-rise penthouse.

The ring of her landline made her jump, and she held her breath until she heard the canned voice of a solicitor trying to sway her to purchase life insurance. Every time the phone rang, a cold sweat broke out over her neck in anticipation of hearing Ian’s deep voice over the receiver. Even though she was becoming more relaxed the longer she went undetected, she still had pins-and-needles moments, and she longed for the day when she could shake off her past once and for all.

Going underground was harder than she’d thought it would be, but Addie was able to create a new identity for herself using her maternal grandmother’s last name and her paternal great-aunt’s middle name. Amazed at how easy it was to purchase a new social security card for the right price, she became Addie O’Leary in less than four weeks after running away from Ian. Hoping a small town in Colorado would be the last place Ian would look for her, she laid down her roots in Pinewood Springs and was pleased by how well she liked it and the town’s residents.

After kicking off her heels, Addie went into her tiny kitchen, poured herself a glass of red wine, and made up a small plate of cheese and crackers. Opening the French doors, which led to a small balcony, Addie let in the cool, autumn air as she inhaled deeply the scent of pine needles riding on the light breeze and the rich, earthy smell which accompanied a good rainstorm.

Since the rain had let up, she took her wine and cheese plate and went out on the balcony, sitting on one of the chairs around a small table, the bright yellow awning keeping her dry.

The cool air made her shiver in spite of the warm wine coursing through her body. Looking out at the street, she watched the rustling leaves skip down the wet pavement, and her mind wandered back to Chas. The disillusionment in her marriage and life on the lam had made her suppress her urges; but when she’d seen Jack’s father, her strong reaction to him had stunned her. Never had she experienced such a pull toward another person as she did when she shook his hand, and the way he cocked his eyebrows told her he’d experienced the intensity of their encounter, too.