Righting a Wrong (A Ripple Effect Romance Novella)By: Rachael Anderson
For my beautiful and talented niece, Cambri
You’re as gorgeous on the inside as you are on the outside
Thick snowflakes dotted Jace Sutton’s windshield, slowly marring his view of the rundown bungalow-style house with a for sale sign pounded into the frozen ground out front. He eyed the home with a mixture of irony and resignation. In two weeks, he’d officially be homeless, and unless he wanted to move in with his grandfather and sister—which he didn’t—Jace needed to make an offer on a house soon.
Only ten months earlier, his best friend had swooped into town, turned the head of Jace’s girlfriend, Eden, and stolen her heart. Now Drew wanted to steal Jace’s house too. Well, not steal exactly, more like take back what rightfully belonged to Eden. It was the house she’d been raised in, the house where her roots were firmly planted, the house she would always call home. The only reason Jace had purchased it from her in the first place was because she desperately needed the money and wouldn’t accept his help any other way.
So Jace had moved in, and Eden and her mother had moved out. Jace had fixed up a few things here and there, including replacing the warped and damaged hardwood floors. But instead of installing the rich mahogany planks he’d always wanted, he went with a knotty light oak color because it was the closest match to the original floor. He’d wanted to knock down walls, open up the living space, and replace the cobblestone fireplace with white painted wood paneling and a large, craftsman style mantle. He wanted to update the kitchen cabinets, the bathroom tile, and the freestanding vintage bathtub that Eden’s grandmother had picked out herself.
But if he did any of that, he’d be changing a place that was dear to Eden’s heart, and he could never bring himself to do it. He’d loved her that much, even though it was never enough for either of them. So when Drew came knocking on his door, asking to buy it back for his new wife, Jace had agreed. And although it was difficult to see them so happy when he was left alone, it was better this way. The house was finally back in the right hands, and Jace could now get the fresh start he needed.
Unfortunately for him, there were only three homes on the market in Bridger, Colorado. And since Jace didn’t know what to do with ten acres of farmland or have the money to repair a cracked foundation and some major structural damage, that left only one option—the home currently disappearing behind the soft layer of snow on his windshield.
There was no denying it had character or that enough sweat equity could turn it into something he’d always wanted. The fact that it was close to the store and situated in a quaint neighborhood was an added bonus. Really, nothing should stop him from snatching it up and thanking his lucky stars it was available—nothing except the painful memories it unlocked every time Jace looked at it. Maybe he was cursed or just plain unlucky because it seemed to be his lot in life to own yet another home that held a special place in the heart of a woman he’d once loved.
But where buying Eden’s home had felt like a step in the right direction, contemplating the purchase of this house felt like a huge step backward, reminding him of a girl he’d rather forget.
But what other choice did he have?
He drew in a deep breath as the house disappeared completely. Maybe this was a good thing. Maybe, if Jace got to work covering up the old with the new and took a chainsaw to that cursed maple tree, he might finally be able to erase the memory of a certain girl who’d once wanted to buy this house and make it her own. A girl who’d gotten in the way of every relationship he’d ever had.
Early Spring, Five Months Later
Cambri rolled down her car window and breathed in the fresh air. It had been nearly six years since she’d navigated these streets—not that there was much to navigate. The town consisted of one stoplight, a handful of stop signs, and a lot of intersections with no signage at all. There was a time when Cambri had thought it was the perfect size, but after living in University Park, Pennsylvania and Charlotte, North Carolina, she’d come to realize that Bridger was as podunk as they came.
She turned down her old street and unconsciously slowed the rental car she was driving. A few trees had grown larger. A few homes had obviously gotten a new paint job. A yard that was once fenced was now open, and a yard that was once open was now fenced. But overall, her street remained unchanged.