Today's Reading

Five minutes later, the Jeep was jouncing down the driveway. "That didn't take long," Ivy said as he joined her on the front porch.

"I was just waiting down at the crossroads," he said, giving her a sheepish grin. "And I did try to warn you. That lock really is the dickens to open."

He grasped the doorknob firmly, inserted the lock into the key, jiggled it a moment, then slowly turned the key to the left. As the tumblers finally clicked, he rammed his shoulder against the door, muscling it open.

"You turn it to the left?" Ivy was indignant. "You could have told me that."

"Would you have believed me?" He picked up her suitcase and gestured for her to enter the house.

Ivy paused. She'd been waiting for this moment for nine months. This day, the day she took possession of her dream farmhouse, was no accident. It was intentional. Nine months ago, to the day, her divorce from Kyle had been final.

She'd made an intentional decision to start a new life in a new town in a new state, but in an old house.

Ivy wasn't sure she wanted to start her new life in the company of this stranger, no matter how helpful he was trying to be. Ezra looked back at her, puzzled. "Aren't you coming in? I thought I'd show you the house."

She took a deep breath and stepped over the threshold with Punkin close behind.

Ivy looked around the living area. The old pine floors were scarred but beautiful to her. The fireplace, with an oak mantelpiece and mottled tile surround, was just the same as in the listing photos.

She lifted a dusty sheet from what turned out to be a large, lumpy plaid sofa straight out of 'The Brady Bunch.'

"What's with all this?" she asked, gesturing at the matching plaid recliner. "There was nothing in the contract about me buying the place furnished."

"Yeah, about that," Ezra said, looking sheepish. "James's kids only wanted a couple of pieces of their granddad's furniture, so he decided at the last minute to leave it all for the buyer."

"You mean he decided to dump all this old crap on me," Ivy said, her voice sounding harsher than she'd intended.

Ezra winced.

"Never mind," she said quickly. "I've been up since four and it's been a long day already. It's just that my movers will be here Monday with all my stuff."

"I get it," Ezra said. "I did tell James you probably wouldn't want any of this. I can get a truck and a couple guys over here in the next couple of days, and if you want, it can all be donated to charity."

She walked into the kitchen. The cabinets were dated, but serviceable. The stove and refrigerator were a recent vintage. But all of it, she decided, would eventually have to go.

"Everything works," Ezra said quickly. "I had the power changed over to your name, like you asked, and the water's hooked up too."

"Thanks for that," Ivy said. Her mind was racing with additions to her list of improvements.

He trailed her into the hallway off the living room. "The master bedroom's at the back here," he volunteered.

She nodded and opened the door. The bedroom was larger than she'd expected. The furniture was ugly, but serviceable.

"Okay," she said quietly. "Okay."

"Where were you expecting to sleep until your moving truck arrives?" Ezra asked.

"I've got a sleeping bag in the car," Ivy said. She sat on the edge of the bed, and the springs wheezed loudly. "But I guess this'll do until my own bed gets here."

"Great," Ezra said, sounding relieved. "Can I help you unload your car?"

She considered rejecting the offer. But she was tired, and the car was full, and she had a lot to do before the movers arrived.

"That'd be great," she said.

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