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Just in the past few months, Vanessa Rutledge has buried her husband and given birth to their son. Matt's best friend Paul Haggerty has been in love with her for years. Now, with some meddling by the good folks of Virgin River, Vanessa and Paul might get a second chance. Original.
Vanessa Rutledge stood in front of her husband's grave, her coat pulled tightly around her against the crisp March breeze, red hair billowing in the wind. "I know this is going to seem like a strange request--but I just don't know who else to ask. Matt, you know I love you, that I'll always love you, that I see you in your son's eyes every day. But, darling, I'm going to love again, and I need your blessing. If I have that, I'd like you to give the man who is to be my future a little nudge. Let him know it's all right. Please? Let him know he's so much more than--""Vanessa!"Her father was standing out on the deck behind the house holding the baby away from himself, like he'd just pooped on his mess dress. It was past time to leave. Little Matt had been born six weeks ago and this morning they were both seeing Mel Sheridan for their first checkups since his birth. Her father, retired general Walt Booth, was acting as chauffeur so that he could watch the baby while Vanessa had her exam."Coming, Dad!" she called. She looked back at the grave. "We'll have a real conversation about this later," she told the headstone. She blew a long kiss in that direction and hurried down the little hill, past the stable and up to the house.The last place Vanessa ever expected to find herself was in a tiny mountain town of six hundred. When her father chose this property a couple of years before his retirement from the Army, she and Matt had taken a look at it. Matt fell in love with it at once. "When I go," he had said, "plant me on that little hill, under that tree.""Stop it!" she had laughed, slapping his arm, neither of them realizing how prophetic his words would be.There was a time, years before she met Matt, that Vanni had envisioned herself as a high-powered news anchor; using her degree in communications. She decided to take a year before pursuing an eighty-hour-a-week career path and, on a whim, went to work as a flight attendant. One year turned into five because she loved the job, the travel, the people. She'd still been working for the airline when Matt left for Iraq. It was her loneliness and advancing pregnancy that had sent her packing to Virgin River. She had thought it would be temporary--she'd have the baby, wait for her husband's return from war and move on to his next assignment with him. Instead Matt was brought here, to that little hill with the tree on it.She didn't cry as much anymore, though she missed him; missed the laughter, the long, late-night talks. Missed having someone hold her, whisper to her.Walt had the diaper bag slung over his shoulder and was headed for the car. "Vanessa, you spend too much time talking to that grave. We should've put him somewhere else. Out of sight.""Oh, dear," she said, lifting a curious eyebrow, the corner of her mouth twitching. "Matt hasn't been complaining that I'm bothering him, has he?""Not funny," he said."You worry too much," she told her dad, taking the baby from him to put him in the car seat. "I'm not brooding. There are some things no one but Matt should hear. And gee, he's so handy...""Vanessa! For God's sake!" He took a breath. "You need girlfriends."She laughed at him. "I have plenty of girlfriends." She had lots of girlfriends from flying days and, even though they didn't live nearby, they were great about visiting and staying in touch, giving her every opportunity to talk about Matt, about grief, then about the baby and recovery. "You'll be happy to know Nikki's coming up for the weekend," she said. "A girlfriend."Walt hefted himself into the driver's seat. "We've been seeing a lot of Nikki lately. Either she can't stay away from the new baby or things aren't going so well with her and that... that..." Walt couldn't seem to finish."She can't stay away from the baby and no, things aren't going well with Craig. I smell a split coming," Vanessa said."I never liked him," Walt s