THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS
When Hannah meets Howard, the elusive best man in her friend’s wedding, Hannah is instantly drawn to the damaged alpha because they share a connection that makes her heart race and her head spin. But his past, his family and how he slaked his sexual needs keep him prisoner, and challenges her faith in people. With time, Hannah sees the real him, but when he does the one thing she can’t accept, her own demons whisper: Run away from the only man who has ever made her heart full.
Inside, I gave my dogs Patsy and Eddie some attention then rushed into the shower, almost tripping into my clawfoot bath before putting on my dress, more mascara and some Chanel Mademoiselle. With five minutes to spare before I would be end-of-friendship late, I stoked the fire, fed the hounds and headed out.
The winery was situated on a hill surrounded by grape vines wearing their autumn coats. The wedding would be held at the renovated butter factory that now served as the cellar at the winery. It was made of old red brick with high ceilings and big wooden doors, and was attached to the farmhouse where Molly lived. As I neared the house, I could hear our friend Annie’s English accent animatedly recounting something, and Bruce snorting in response. Walking up the back steps I was met at the door by a relieved Dave and a near to tears Molly.
“Oh shit,” I muttered as she threw her arms around me. I leaned down to hug her, resting my head on her blonde curly hair. She was usually a little ray of sunshine, but not tonight.
“She won’t let me kick her out,” Dave ground out. Clearly the twig bitch had brought her A-game. Molly shook her head and I whispered fiercely in her ear, “She ain’t got nothin’ on us.” And she didn’t.
Molly gave me a small smile in return, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “It’s fine, I only have a few more weeks to endure it.” Molly had decided to tolerate Franny, but I wanted to give her a bloody nose. I released my friend and turned to walk inside, even thirstier now.
“I need a fuck,” I started to say before going smack-bang into a wall of muscle. The wall was tall because I was staring at a tanned throat and I was no short-ass. I stumbled back before looking up again. Fuck. I felt slammed into all over again. I’d run into a GQ model with broad shoulders, a square jaw and short dark hair that was faultlessly un-coiffed. I eyed his perfectly formed lips (that were turned down) and beautiful chocolate eyes that were, at this moment, looking at me from under raised eyebrows. I felt a pull of desire as my eyes moved south along his body. The irony that I’d just declared I needed a fuck wasn’t lost on me. Dave cleared his throat to snap me out of my exploration. I blinked slowly and stepped back.
“Ah Hannah, this is Howard.” Molly introduced us, and I could hear amusement in her voice.
So Howard was not a sixty-year-old banker, I thought, still dazzled. It was a shame I hadn’t met him sooner. After a moment, Dave made a strangled sound, disrupting my musing. I turned to see him looking down trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to stifle a laugh. Bugger. I’d spoken out loud. Now I was flushing red like a sunburnt ginger kid.
Slowly, I raised my eyes to Howard’s. “Well, Howard, it’s a pleasure to meet the man I’ll be joining at the end of the aisle,” I quipped as if I was hilarious. I wasn’t. This was embarrassing.
One Word. He didn’t need to say more—my undies incinerated.
So deep and melodic, he had a voice that made my mouth go dry and my girl parts tingle. I hadn’t had sex since my ex, almost two years ago, and that sad realisation made more blood rush to my cheeks, twice in two minutes. Shit. I needed to lie down before I fainted.
Howard stood there looking at me, neither smiling nor scowling, probably trying to figure out what planet I was from.
“Well, about that drink, ” I said breaking the awkward silence abruptly, moving past him into the kitchen to drown myself in a bucket of wine.
“I can’t believe you said that out loud,” Molly stage-whispered as she followed me, closing the door. I was humiliated but at least Molly was smiling.
“Sorry I sounded like a complete cock. I didn’t embarrass you too much did I? He didn’t look happy.”
“Oh, he wasn’t unhappy.” Molly smiled suggestively.
“What happened? What’d I miss?”Annie rapped out as she walked in, hands on hips and demanding an answer. Annie, my other closest friend was also tiny like Molly, but had raven black hair cropped short and jewel-like eyes now glittering with anticipation. She was a smart ass. My antics were perfect cannon fodder for her.
“Nothing.” I yawned, feigning nonchalance.
“She met him,” Molly said to Annie with a knowing wink.
I sighed. “Yeah, and I made a complete dick of myself.” This would’ve been hysterical if I wasn’t the dick.
“Oh, I don’t think he saw it that way,” Molly said smirking. I huffed, grabbed a drink and went through to the dining room to get away from my friends making fun of me.
Representing Australia from a young age she eventually took up a scholarship at the University of Iowa. Living in America and being a full-time athlete in a college town was an eye-opening experience and lots of fun (from what she can remember). #gohawkeyes
Returning from the States, her career took a different turn as she started working at the Red Cross and completed her Masters of Law in Human Rights. As one of the few non-lawyers in the class, her essays were far more floral than the rest, something that caused the discerning professors to shake their heads. Through working and studying, she realised there are other ways to win hearts and minds.
While she’s spent the last 14 years as an advocate against poverty and homelessness, the desire to change the world through storytelling has gotten stronger. She now lives in the Alpine Valley of North East Victoria, Australia with her husband, daughter, two dogs and seven chooks. When she’s not doing the whole mum thing, working at a homelessness agency, renovating her farmhouse or trying to do laundry bleary-eyed at midnight, she is writing.