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The Most Eligible Bachelor Bella Winters 2022/7/22 14:15:25

“That’s great,” I smiled. “We’re in agreement, then.”

“Thank you, Ashlyn, although you really didn’t have to.”

“Honestly, I could use the distraction.”

Martha glanced at me, sighed, then leaned over the desk and looked me straight in the eye. “How long are you going to keep this up, baby girl?”

“Ashlyn. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

I winced and shrugged. “I don’t know, Martha,” I admitted. “I don’t want to feel this way anymore. I just want to brush it all off and get on with my life.”

“No, I can’t,” I shook my head. “I try so hard, and he still pops up in my head. And other places…” I put my hand over my heart. “Why won’t he just stay out of there?”

Martha smiled. “I think you know the answer to that.”

“I do, sure, but it’s stupid,” I said. “It’s been a stupid idea from the get-go. I never should have even let it happen.”

“Sweetheart, these things don’t need your permission to happen,” Martha said. “They just do.” She leaned back. “Do you think I planned to fall in love with Chuck? The man was a mess when I met him, and is still a mess, in a way. He used to be this scrawny young man working in my daddy’s garage, without a dollar on him. He was charming, and funny, but he was definitely not relationship material. But I fell for him anyway, and the rest is history.”

She paused, her eyes briefly glazing over as she reminisced, then she looked at me again. “That boy’s truck broke down right outside Ludwig, and he came across the most beautiful flower girl in Texas right here at this motel. He was the solution to your living up at that house all alone, to your problems with that disgusting Greene boy, and you want to call that coincidence?”

“Are you trying to tell me it’s fate that brought us together?” I asked, half-smiling.

“Call it whatever you want,” Martha shrugged. “Fate, blind luck, the devil playing a little game of chess with the big man upstairs. What I do know, Ashlyn, is that I have never seen you like this before. And if it’s Chance Ridder that’s got you like this, then that’s got to mean something.”

I thought about what she said, and although I saw the sense in what she was saying, I couldn’t quite bring myself to agree with her. “I don’t know.”

“I do,” Martha smiled. “But, then again, it’s your life. I just don’t want to see you make a big mistake and regret it for the rest of your life.”

I was about to answer her when two cars drove past the office and into the motel. I gazed out the large window and watched them park close to where Chance’s old room was. Four men stepped out of the vehicles, stretching and yawning, immediately going for the car trunks while one of them broke away from the group and made his way to the office.

“Well, I guess you’re going to have more guests than we expected,” Martha said just as the man opened the office door and stepped inside.

He flashed a wide smile at both of us and took off his shades.

Why he was wearing them in the first place would always be a mystery, I thought to myself. The skies were cloudy, and it was rare to see patches of sunlight large enough to merit sunglasses.

“Morning,” the man greeted.

“Afternoon,” Martha replied, smiling and a little bit amused by the man. He was trying too hard to fit in, his jeans and shirt looking like they had just been bought a few minutes ago, and

was clearly uncomfortable.

Big city boy, just like Chance.

Only, this one looked like he deserved to be chased out of Ludwig with a shotgun. I could already tell I was going to hate him, and silently prayed that he and his friends were only here for a night, and I wouldn’t have to deal with them in the future. Thankfully there were no deliveries after today.

“Friends and I looking to book two rooms,” the man said, fishing his credit card from his pocket and sliding it across the counter.

“Sure thing,” Martha said. “You boys been driving long?”

“All the way from Austin.”

My head snapped around, and I caught him ogling me, smiling like an ass.