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Second Chance Christmas

Second Chance Christmas

by Ellen Butler

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Prominent DC attorney Emma Taylor is pulled away from a promising date the week before Christmas to pick up her ex-fiance from the ER after a bar fight. She's in no mood to re-open old wounds, but it's Christmas and she can't just leave him alone and injured.

Eight hundred eighty-four days. That's how much time has passed since Major Colton Evans made the biggest mistake of his life. Even after two tours of duty and too much shrapnel in his leg, it's still the loss of Emma that haunts him. And if he can win her back, he'll take any chance.

When she insists he stay with her during the holiday, they put out enough sexual electricity to rival the most decorated house on the block. But will it be enough to light the way to a future together?

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Product Details

BN ID: 2940155028895
Publisher: Power to the Pen
Publication date: 11/17/2017
Sold by: Draft2Digital
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 641,459
File size: 433 KB

About the Author

Ellen Butler has lived in the Washington, DC suburbs since the ‘80's, and military personnel have been an integral part of her life, encompassing friends, family and work. Their commitment to our country, along with their dedicated spouses inspired her to write Second Chance Christmas. When she's not writing, you'll find Ellen shuttling her kids around, or decorating a neighbor's living room. In her free time she enjoys slipping away to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine.

Read an Excerpt

Second Chance Christmas

By Ellen Butler, Gwen Hayes

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2013 Ellen Butler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62266-380-4


The strong antiseptic smell of the hospital's emergency room burned my nose. The cloying scent increased my annoyance at having been called away from a lovely piano concerto across town. I scribbled my signature along the last line of the release form and tossed the candy cane shaped pen back into the jar.

"Here." I thrust the clipboard at the receptionist behind the desk. "Is there anything else I need to sign?"

"No, Ms. Taylor. That should do it. If you'll take a seat in the waiting area, he should be out momentarily." The middle-aged blonde flashed a coffee-stained smile at me. "Would you like a candy cane? They're wintergreen." She offered a bowl of small green and white striped candies.

"No," I replied brusquely, gathering my gloves and small black beaded handbag off the grey-speckled counter.

A low whistled catcall drew my attention to the patient being wheeled out by a dark-skinned male nurse.

"Is that your ride, man?" the nurse asked the patient.

"It sure is," the patient murmured in a low voice, not meant for my ears. "You didn't have to get all dressed up for little ole me, sugar lips."

That sarcastic comment was meant for my ears. He'd referenced the black, floor-length, formal dress I wore, highlighted by a long red overcoat.

I put a hand on my hip, popped a knee through the thigh-high slit, and leveled an icy, death-ray glare that could strip paint off the broad side of a barn. The nurse, whose nametag identified him as DeShawn, grinned. The man in the wheelchair didn't bat an eye.

He'd aged in the past two years. Grey flecks were scattered along the close-cropped hair at his temples and through the five o'clock shadow he sported. Dark circles sagged under his eyes and two deep lines were freshly etched above the bridge of his nose. War did that to a man. You went to the godforsaken deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan one way and came home battle worn — an altered person. For the lucky, the changes remained physical. For the not-so-lucky, the alterations affected the mind. In World War I, they called it "shell shock." Today's psychiatrist's labeled it PTSD. Living and working so close to the Pentagon, I'd witnessed the repercussions of the ongoing ten-year war every day.

"Can he walk?" I asked DeShawn, indicating the cane lying across Colton's denim clad lap.

"I can walk," Colton snapped.

I rolled my eyes. "Let me rephrase. Should he be walking, DeShawn?"

"You'll need to keep an eye on him for the next twenty-four hours. Here's a list of concussion symptoms — dizziness, nausea, increased headache, etcetera. If he displays any of them, bring him back to the ER immediately." DeShawn handed me a blue flyer and a square prescription sheet. "You'll also need to pick up the antibiotics. He should take one pill a day for the next ten days. It's all written down."

"Fine." My glance sliced back to Colton, who sat stock straight, his expression deadpan, giving none of his thoughts away. "If you can walk, you'd better get your lazy ass out of that wheelchair. I'm parked in a loading zone." With that, I pivoted and stalked through the snowflake-decorated automatic doors, which whooshed out of my way, and into the chill of the cold December night. I must have remained in front of the motion sensor because the doors didn't close behind me, allowing me to hear DeShawn's next comment.

"Man, your ride may be a knock-out, but I'm not sure she likes you. You gonna be okay?"

"Don't worry about me." Colton's voice was resigned. "I'll be fine. Can you help me with my coat?"

If Colton Evans thought he'd make me feel guilty for my bad manners, he had another thing coming. I tapped a sparkly black stiletto as I waited with my back to the hospital. I pulled on red leather gloves and buttoned the coat up to my neck.

"Thanks, DeShawn."

"Thank you, Major Evans. I appreciate your service to our country."

Major? Colton had been promoted since last we met. I wasn't surprised by DeShawn's gratitude. Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were esteemed and supported by the community.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I glanced over my shoulder. Colton wore the brown leather jacket I'd bought him for his thirtieth birthday and, in my stilettos, we nearly came eye to eye. He approached, leaning heavily on a cane and walking with a distinct limp. Shit. The aforementioned guilt dropped like a load of manure.

"Wait here. I'll bring the car up closer." I tempered my voice to a nicer tone.

Colton didn't argue, which indicated to me how much pain he felt. In minutes I'd brought my BMW Z4, with its quiet purr, up to the entry. I pulled on the emergency brake and came around to help Colton fold his solid six foot frame into the roadster. Once he was seated, I handed him the cane and shut the door with a soft thump.

The lights bounced off my coat as I walked around to the driver's side and slid into place. I snapped my seatbelt, then turned to observe the silent soldier's profile. His build reminded me of Channing Tatum, but his face sported a chiseled jawline that softened when he smiled. From this position, I could see the two-inch cut along the side of his head that the ER doctor had glued together with medical adhesive. Splotches of blood marred the collar of the white button-down he wore. The soft glow of the dashboard light revealed tension lines around his eyes, and his posture remained erect and stiff. His left hand gripped the head of the cane hard enough to whiten his knuckles.

"Nice ride." He spoke in a neutral tone.

"Thanks." I shifted into gear and pulled away. The heated seats quickly warmed the chilly car. I wove my way through the city streets, heading toward I-395. With the hour so late, the highway would be free of heavy traffic and the fastest way to get to Colton's condo in Shirlington, Virginia.

He broke the silence. "I'm not staying at my apartment."

"Why not?"

"It's been rented."

I pulled into a street parking space and came to a stop, my hands rested on the steering wheel. "Where have you been staying?" If he gave me an address in Maryland, I would reach across the console and strangle him. It was now a quarter past one in the morning. I had zero interest in schlepping him to some friend's house in Rockville or Bethesda.

"Up until this morning? Walter Reed."

I exhaled with a rush. Clearly, my assumption that his limp had something to do with the bar fight that caused his head injury was way off base. Walter Reed Medical Center, a prominent hospital located in Bethesda, Maryland, served the DC area's population of wounded soldiers and veterans. I shifted my back against the door and faced his profile. "How long were you at Walter Reed?"

His jaw muscles contracted as he continued to gaze out the front window. "They flew me in from Ramstein Air Base about two weeks ago."

I waited, but he didn't elaborate. "What happened?"

"Caught some shrapnel from an IED."

Wind whistled through my teeth. "Did you ... that is, your leg ... is it ... ?"

For the first time since we'd gotten in the car, he turned, and his sepia brown eyes met my gaze. "Did I lose it?"

I bit my lip and nodded.

"No, it's still there." He tapped his thigh. "They dug most of the shrapnel out in Germany before flying me to the States, but they missed a piece and had to cut me open again at Walter Reed. Some specialist worked on it. Caused muscle damage. I may never be able to walk right."

"I see ... I'm sorry to hear that." I was sorry he'd been injured. "I'm glad you're still alive."

"Are you?"

"Yes, of course!" His sarcasm cut me to the quick. Our relationship might have ended on an acrimonious note, but I certainly didn't wish him pain. The tension in the car was so thick you could slice it with an X-Acto. Hurt, anger, and guilt that I thought I'd come to terms with two years ago welled up to form a choking lump in my throat.

Colton clamped his teeth and his jaw muscles flexed, whether from pain or hostility, I didn't know. His ability to hide his emotions had been one of the strike points in our relationship. That's what came from dating an Army intelligence officer. They were trained to suppress their true feelings. This wasn't the first time I had no idea what he was thinking. However, considering our last parting shots at each other, I could surmise his thoughts weren't pleasant.

I ceded the staring contest. My eyes shifted to gaze blankly out of the windshield at the white Camry in front of us. My chestnut curls fell forward to shield my face and emotions from him.

"So," I croaked, and then cleared my throat to try again. "If you hate me so much, do you mind explaining why I'm still listed in your phone as an emergency contact?"

"Why? Did I drag you away from a hot date?" he bit out.

"As a matter of fact, yes," I shot back. "I was at the French Embassy enjoying a holiday concert. Thus, the fancy dress and accoutrements."

"Please tell me you're not dating a Frog."

"He's not a Frog. He's French. He's a security specialist at the Embassy," I squawked defensively.

"Cripes! You're dating a French spook." He snorted with disdain. "A Frog in spook clothing."

"Philippe is not a spook. And stop calling him a Frog."

He mumbled something that sounded like, "worthless, cheese-eating Frenchies."

I flipped off the engine. The heat vents went silent and the dashboard turned dark. "What?"

"How old is he?"

"I don't know. Mid to late thirties, I suppose. What does it matter?"

"He's a spook."

His attack on my dating life churned in my gut and sparked off long, suppressed anger. My temper flared and I fired back. "What does it matter who I date? You no longer have a say in my life. You made that clear two years ago when you called me a selfish bitch, along with some other choice words, and accused me of putting my career ahead of yours."

"Eight hundred and eighty-four days."

"I beg your pardon?"

"It's been eight hundred and eighty-four days, since we split. Two years, one hundred fifty-four days."

I rolled my eyes. Of course he'd counted the days. He undoubtedly considered himself lucky to have escaped getting hitched to such an unpalatable creature as myself. "Whatever. Did you or did you not call me a selfish bitch?"

He crossed his arms and slumped against the door. "In the heat of the moment I might have said some things that were out of line."

I should have accepted his sullen response as an olive branch and left it alone, but he'd ripped off the scab and my temper was roused. "You told me it was time to move. No consultation, nothing! You'd known for weeks without telling me." I slashed my hand through the air. "And when I told you that I couldn't make the move with you, you accused me of putting my career ahead of yours. Forget the fact the move fell right in the middle of one of the most important court cases of my life! One that would make my career. Forget the fact that you were going to be deployed within two months of the move." I waved two fingers in front of his face. "And I'd be stuck in a new town, friendless, jobless, and alone. Forget the fact that you never bothered to consider a position right here at the Pentagon so you could stay here."

"Yeah, how'd that big court case work out for you?"

"We settled out of court for twenty-two million. But I was also fifth-year associate on track for partner."

"Mm-hm. And how'd that go?"

In the darkness, I couldn't decide if he was genuinely interested or being sarcastic. "I made junior partner last year. The youngest female and one of only half a dozen."

"Hm. Congratulations." He rubbed his hand along the leather dashboard. "I guess that explains the car."

"I guess it does." I huffed and crossed my arms.

"I'm sorry I called you a selfish bitch."


He grunted. "You're going to make me say it again. Fine." He spoke with slow deliberation. "I'm sorry I called you a selfish bitch."

His apology came so unexpectedly out of thin air that it sucked the wind out of my self- righteous sails and left me speechless.

"I should have told you eight hundred and eighty-three days ago," he continued. "I would have told you, but you packed up and bugged out, leaving your engagement ring on the kitchen table before I had a chance."

"I didn't think we had anything more to say to each other. You didn't stick around to discuss our options. You walked out," I mumbled.

He shot me a stern look. "I needed time to cool off and think. You were gone by the time I returned. You changed your phone number."

"I didn't change jobs. You could have called the office."

"I did! Your dragon of a secretary gave me an earful and never put me through. She told me you'd sue for harassment if I didn't leave you alone."

I cringed. Poor Gloria. She was the first person I'd seen following our breakup, and I'd dumped my tirade on her, painting Colton as an egotistical monster. She'd been so sweet, taking me to the bathroom to help me mop up and fix my makeup before the weekly associate's meeting.

"I never threatened a lawsuit. She must have come up with that on her own. It just seemed like we were at an impasse. Why was my career dispensable to you?"

He sighed. Forgetting the recent injury, he thunked his head against the passenger window. His eyes scrunched shut and his face contorted in pain.

I murmured sympathetic noises.

He reached back to touch the cut.

"Did it split open again?"

"No. I think it's okay."

"Thank goodness. DeShawn would have my ass in a sling if I returned you."

"Your career wasn't dispensable," he voiced quietly. "I was the selfish one. I didn't want to spend two months without you, then deploy and be without you for a year or more. I was jealous of the guys whose wives gave up their jobs to raise the kids and follow them around wherever they went."

I heaved a sigh. "That isn't me, Colton."

"I know it isn't."

"It doesn't matter. It's probably for the best." I swiped a hand down my face. "I've come to realize I'm not cut out to be a military wife. Maybe I am selfish. You'll be happy to know servicemen are off the menu. By cutting out a third of the single dating population in this area, my options are limited, so I'd appreciate it if you'd stop dissing my Frog."

He snorted.

"I mean Frenchman."

For the first time since Colton had been wheeled out of the ER, I could breathe. A modicum of the tautness between my shoulders relaxed. With a ten-minute conversation, ghosts dogging our heels for the past two years had been swept away. I think shrinks call it closure. Time and distance had weakened the pain, but clearly we'd both needed to get some issues out into the open. It was nice to know that Colton had made an effort to contact me and hadn't let me walk out of his life without a second glance. I regretted Gloria's actions and was sorry she hadn't put his call through. However, I was a realist. Colton and I wouldn't have worked. My career was a part of me, and his job required moves. Lots of them. Our relationship never would have survived.

I inhaled, breathing in a mixture of leather seats, hospital scent, and Colton's aftershave. My calm restored, I realized I no longer resented having been called away from tonight's concert.

In the short period of time the car had been turned off, the front windshield fogged up, and the cold crept into the vehicle. With a twist of a key, the Z4 rumbled to life. The heater took a moment to warm up and blow hot, but the seats toasted my backside and fought off the nippy air.

"Where were you planning to stay?"

Colton didn't shift and I could feel his gaze continue to rest on me. "My stuff is at Ryan's house."



"Didn't Ginny just have a baby?"

"Two months ago. She had a girl."

"She'll have her hands full with an infant. I can't foist a possible concussion on her. Got anywhere else you can stay? What about Luke? Or is he deployed? Is Debra living at their house in Annandale?" Luke Bellamy and Colton were best friends; the friendship went back to their college days at Virginia Tech. They were roommates who'd graduated from the Corps of Cadets, and they'd been stationed together.

"Colton?" I turned to him.

"Luke was killed by the IED that took out my leg."

"Shit. I hadn't heard." Tears sprang to my eyes, and I reached out to lay a tentative hand on his forearm. "I'm so sorry. Have they had the funeral?"

Colton relaxed under my hold and his face softened to sadness. "The funeral's at Arlington, on Thursday."

"Oh, Colton." I squeezed. "Poor Debra. How old are his boys now?"

"Josh is six and Zach, three."

"A widow and two fatherless boys. Damn this war." I swiped tears away. "You'll have to stay with me." There were no other options. I couldn't drop him on Ginny or Debra, and it was far too late to leave him with anyone else. His family lived out on the west coast — his mother in Portland, and his sister in Seattle. Even though our engagement had ended on a bitter note, there was no way I could leave him. It was less than two weeks until Christmas; in the spirit of the holiday season, I'd take him in until he got back on his feet. "I'll take you to the funeral. You shouldn't be driving with your injuries."

"I'll check into a hotel. You can drop me at the Marriott in Crystal City." He stared out his side window. In the reflection, I saw him rub his eyes.


Excerpted from Second Chance Christmas by Ellen Butler, Gwen Hayes. Copyright © 2013 Ellen Butler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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