Ellie’s Gift

Ellie was supposed to spend spring break with her girlfriends, but when she shows up, it’s to find only her friend’s oldest brother in attendance. Cam is standoffish and rude about her presence, making Ellie forget all about the crush she has on the older man. It’s only later, when his walls crumble and she learns how badly his ex-girlfriend betrayed him, that she offers comfort. Ellie can make him feel good, but is she brave enough to fulfill her own yearnings and offer the ultimate gift—her fertile body to nurture the baby he wants so badly?

This story is loosely connected to “Kaity’s Forbidden Fantasy,” but both stories may be read independently.

This is a QuikRead and the perfect length to finish during the morning commute or while waiting for an appointment. No cliffhangers!

Excerpt

Ellie nearly missed the turnoff for the cabin in the snow that was just starting to fall. The dark didn’t help, and neither did the fact she hadn’t visited the cabin belonging to her friend’s family in a long time. She was looking forward to the week away from school with her friends, a few cases of wine, and absolutely no LSAT study materials anywhere. She just wished she could have joined the rest of them when they drove up earlier in Jen’s Suburban, but she’d had to stay long enough to take a midterm for a late class.

The snow had started to pick up a bit by the time she reached the end of the long, winding drive composed of pressed gravel that flew up and hit the side of her Jetta with each bump and dip. The cabin looked darker than she would have expected, but there was a single light in the front window. The Suburban wasn’t out front, and she frowned, wondering if they had gone somewhere else. There was a small general store about ten miles down the other side of the mountain, if she remembered correctly.

Grabbing her bag, she turned off the ignition, pocketed her key, and slid from the small red car. The bag made her grunt with the effort of slinging it over her shoulder, but she managed to lug it to the front door. Ellie tried the doorknob, and it opened easily. “Hello, ladies,” she called loudly as she let herself in and kicked the door closed with a gentle tap of her foot.

A large male figure at the end of the hall, features obscured by the shadows, stalked toward her as she turned to walk down the foyer. Ellie fumbled for her keychain, looking for the mace, since this was supposed to be a girls-only week. “Who are you?”

He scowled as he came closer. “A better question is, who the hell are you, and why are you in my cabin?”

Ellie gulped, suddenly questioning if she’d made a wrong turn. “Uh, I’m sorry, I guess? I was looking for the McCormick place?”

He frowned. “You’ve found it, but why are you here?”

Stepping a bit closer brought his features into focus, and she sighed with relief. “Cam?”

His scowl lessened, but didn’t go away. “Do I know you?”

She tried not to let that sting. After all, he hadn’t seen her since the summer she was fourteen, so that was six years ago. Ellie had changed a lot since then. She was no longer all legs and braces. For that matter, Cam had changed a lot also. His green eyes seemed colder, and his face looked harder. There was a hint of gray at his temples woven through the dark black hair that he wore longer now. He’d been attractive when he was thirty, even to a fourteen-year-old, but now she could appreciate his masculine beauty even more, with the eyes of an adult woman.

“I’m Jen’s friend, Ellie.” The duffel was getting heavy, so she dropped it on the floor. “So, uh, where is Jen? Did she go for supplies or something?”

His scowl returned. “Jen isn’t here. I canceled her annoying party, because I need the cabin.”

It was Ellie’s turn to scowl now. “What? The cabin belongs to your parents, and we’ve had this get-together planned since before Christmas break.”

“Too fucking bad. You aren’t supposed to be here, and you aren’t welcome.”

Ellie reached into her bag for her phone, dismayed to see she had missed three texts and had a new voice mail, since she had forgotten to turn on her phone ringer again after the test. She opened the first missed text and groaned.

Cam’s throwing a fit. Girlfriend dumped his ass or something. Mom says we have to be sensitive to his needs. Our spring break trip is canceled. It’s bullshit.

He looked pleased with himself when she looked up again. “I guess you finally got the message, huh?”

Rolling her eyes, she put the phone into her pocket. “Look, it’s late, and I’m not driving down the mountain again tonight, especially not with this snow.”

“You aren’t welcome here,” he said again, as if she hadn’t gotten the point the first time.

She lifted a shoulder. “Too bad. I’m not going anywhere until tomorrow morning, unless you want to physically kick me out.” Waiting a moment for him to act, she finally lifted her bag again. “Where do I sleep?”

“Your car.”

Ellie sighed. “I don’t want to intrude on your pity party, Cam. Don’t worry. I just need a bed and some food. I’ll be out of here in the morning.”

His green eyes had frosted over at her words, but he seemed to accept she wasn’t leaving tonight. “Fine. You can have the small room at the end of the hall.” As she slipped past him, he added, “It’s the farthest one from mine.”

She rolled her eyes again and kept walking, easily finding the room he’d indicated. It was cozy, with a quilt that looked handmade, so had probably cost a lot. The pine log headboard and footboard matched the armoire and knotted pine floors covered with throw rugs placed strategically to give the feeling of warmth and homey charm.

After unpacking, Ellie took a shower in the en suite bathroom and slipped on warm fleece pants, cotton tank top, and a cardigan. She had packed for comfort and hanging out with her girlfriends, not to impress men. Not that she’d stand a chance of impressing him anyway. “Like I’d want to,” she said to her reflection as she combed the shoulder-length platinum waves. She’d long since gotten over her awkward crush on him. Mostly. As if to prove it to herself, she didn’t bother with makeup or styling products.

As a final step, she slid her feet into sock monkey slippers Jen had given her for Christmas and left the bedroom. As she walked by the living room, she glanced in and saw Cam staring morosely at the burning fire, a large glass of some clear alcohol in his hand. Great, he was sure to be fun company. What kind of thirty-six-year-old man sat around moping because his girlfriend left him? As far as Ellie knew, Cam hadn’t been involved with the mystery woman for long. Jen occasionally mentioned him, and his life updates, and Ellie always listened a bit more closely than she was comfortable with, not liking the bit of lingering crush that persisted despite her best efforts to quash it.

Going into the kitchen, she opened the fridge, happy to find a wide selection of food. Jen must have had the caretakers lay in a store for their weekend. She dug through, taking out several items that sounded delicious. After putting them on the table, she went to the doorway, deciding to make an attempt to be nice. “You want anything?” she called into the living room, where Cam still sat in the same position.

At his lack of response, she turned and went back to the kitchen. Ellie piled her plate with various items, including a chilled baked brie dish, raw vegetables, smoked salmon, olives, and crackers. She had just opened a bottle of wine when Cam surprised her by appearing in the doorway. “Do you want something?” she asked again.

He shrugged, but sat down at the table. She got him a plate, feeling a bit like serving girl to the lord of the manor, but drew the line at fixing it for him. Eventually, he started putting things on the dish as she consumed firsts. He’d finally finished nibbling at some of his food by the time she had seconds and had finished half a bottle of wine. Feeling pleasantly mellow, she said, “It’s not the end of the world.”

He looked up from the cracker he’d been holding, smeared with the brie and a dollop of cranberry sauce. “Huh?”

“The girlfriend du…leaving you. It happens.” She patted his hand. “You’ll move on soon enough. Women will be waiting to throw themselves at your feet.”

He grimaced. “You think this is about my girlfriend dumping me?”

She frowned. “I don’t know. That’s what Jen’s message said.”

“Stella and I had broken up weeks ago. I dumped her.”

“Oh.” In lieu of anything constructive to contribute, Ellie took another long drink of wine before refilling her glass.

He frowned as she did so. “Should you be drinking that much?”

She eyed the tumbler he’d brought with him, looking freshly refilled. “Should you?”

“Touché.” He lifted his glass in a mockery of a toasting gesture before downing half the contents in one gulp. “Why’re you drowning your troubles?”

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