rose-petal-coloured lips. He was getting hard just thinking about her and cursed himself inwardly for being so weak. He had come to Caddo Lake to spend time alone and get his life back into perspective, not to find romance. That was something he was hoping to avoid at all costs. His heart had already been shattered and left in a million pieces once before, six and a half years ago when his wife Georgia and precious daughter, Ellie, were killed, and he had vowed every day since that he would never allow himself to love that much again.
He and Georgia had been high school sweethearts and had dated for four years before finally getting married at the young age of 21. The first three years of their marriage had been like a fairy-tale come true; he and his business partner, Kurt, had been slowly building up their investment business, Jackson Waylon Investments, and Georgia had finished her business management degree at The University of Texas at Austin and had opened her own small business downtown selling high end antique furniture.
Then , when they were just 24, Georgia had fallen pregnant and they had made their move from a modest house in Cedar Park to a much larger, two-story, 1940’s-built manor in the more affluent suburb of Rosedale.
However, by the time Ellie was three, cracks had started forming in their marriage. Building up Jackson Waylon into a billion dollar business had meant many frequent trips during those early years of their marriage, both interstate and abroad, to meet with existing and prospective clients and, at first, Georgia had loved using their frequent business trips to see the world as much as Crank had loved taking her along. But after giving birth to Ellie she had found it easier and more practical to stay at home and, over time, had begun to resent his frequent trips away.
At first Crank had not realised how deep the resentment went and he had compensated for his frequent trips away from home by lavishing Georgia and his daughter with gifts on his return, but the gifts only made Georgia even more resentful and she began to believe, quite inaccurately, that he was covering up infidelities.
Eventually, when Georgia was in her late twenties and Ellie almost six, she had moved out of their Rosedale home while he was out of town on business one weekend and took Ellie with her.
At first their separation and subsequent divorce , although painful, had been quite amicable and Crank’s broken heart had finally started to mend. He began delegating the jobs outside of Austin to his employees and going away less frequently, preferring to spend quality family time in Austin with his daughter, Ellie. They had even begun including Georgia in some of their weekend outings to local parks, with Crank secretly hoping that the two of them might be able to reconcile at some point in the future, even though Georgia had no such ideas.
N ot long after Ellie’s sixth birthday, their relationship was strained even further when Georgia announced, out of the blue, that she had begun dating a local businessman, Wade Jennings. Crank had had no inkling whatsoever that Georgia had even been ready to move on so soon after their divorce and felt heartbroken all over again, but remained on friendly terms with Georgia for Ellie’s sake, even when she sold her apartment and moved her and Ellie in with Wade only three months into their relationship.
For a while things seemed to settle down again and he and Ellie resumed their trips to the local parks, without Georgia, on the weekends that she came to stay. But then things turned sour again when Crank had smelt alcohol on Wade’s breath when he had turned up alone one Sunday afternoon to pick up Ellie.
Naturally , after smelling the alcohol on Wade’s breath, he had refused to let Ellie drive home with him and when Georgia turned up an hour later to collect her they had had a huge argument over his refusal to let Wade take Ellie home. But he had stood his ground and made new