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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 1


10 Years Earlier

    maker, Anderson!”

A laugh follows the high-pitched squeal as I’m hit in the face with an armful of water.

“You’re going to regret that, Daisy!” I yell back as I swim toward my friend, a maniacal grin spreading over my soaked face.

“Only if you can catch me!” she calls over her shoulder as she pushes her arms out and swims back in the direction of the jetty.

I watch the light catching her blonde hair, frozen to the spot for a fraction of a second as the sight steals my breath. But it’s enough to allow her to get a head start that has her climbing up the wooden ladder and running down the wooden jetty and onto the grass.

“Truce! Truce!” she surrenders, holding her hands up in front of her, her blue eyes bright and glowing as I catch up and stride toward her.

I see them widen in the moment before I grab her around the waist and haul her over my shoulder, carrying her across the grass toward the campfire where our friends are.

“Blake Anderson! Put me down right now!” She hammers on my back with her small hands as her legs flail around, narrowly missing my crotch.

“Hey! Watch the goods!” I chuckle as I land a playful slap across her wet bikini-clad butt. The temptation to keep my hand there a moment longer hits me like a slap in the face, but I shake it off.

She’s your friend, Blake. Don’t be a creep.

I deposit her on the ground, and she grins at me as our friend, Kayla, hands her a towel.

“We were beginning to think we would have to eat without you guys,” she scolds as Daisy drops to sit next to her.

“Yeah, man. It’ll be getting cold,” my mate, Travis, says as he hands me a takeout bag.

“Aww, double cheeseburger.” I let out a moan and roll my eyes, then reach over and give Travis a fist-bump. “You know me so well.” I grin as I take a bite.

“Animal.” Daisy laughs as sauce drips down my chin.

I turn to her and wink as I take another huge bite.

“You know it’s good though, right?” I say after I swallow.

She opens her takeout bag and holds up an identical burger to the one I’m eating.

“Oh, yeah.” She grins, wrapping her lips around it, and I watch as she licks them and lets out a soft moan.


I clear my throat as I cast my eyes to the fire and try to ignore the heat that’s threatening to ignite in my pants.

“How’s your aunt’s latest brew going?” Kayla asks Daisy.

Daisy hands her burger to Kayla and reaches behind her into her backpack, pulling out a glass bottle with a stopper in the neck.

“One way to find out.” She grins, waving the bottle in the air.

“You star!” Kayla shrieks, bouncing up and down.

“Oh, God,” Travis moans. “If that’s as strong as the last one, I think I’m going to pass.” He laughs as he shakes his head.

“Won’t she realize it’s missing?” Kayla asks as Daisy pulls the stopper out and takes a sip. She screws her face up, then laughs, her cheeks glowing under the light of the fire.

“I think she knows. But as long as we’re not stupid, she turns a blind eye. Besides, she’s not home tonight.” Daisy wipes her mouth with the back of her hand as she passes the bottle to Kayla and takes her burger back.

“Your Aunt’s so cool.” Kayla smiles as she holds the bottle to her lips and tips her head back. “Wow! That is so good!” She laughs as she hands the bottle over to me. “Try it, Blake. It’s even better than the last one. What did she put in that one, Daisy?”

I take the glass bottle from her and hold it up, looking at the clear liquid inside.

“Elderflowers,” Daisy says as she goes back to devouring her burger.

Daisy’s aunt is well known locally as being a bit of a live wire. She makes her own gin, which is ready every summer—just as Daisy arrives for her visit. She lives here, on the lake in Hope Cove, less than two hours’ drive from Los Angeles. She’s always in her garden growing plants and herbs, some I’ve never even heard of before. Rumor has it she has some popular medicinal home remedies she sells. I always suspected those old person tea mornings were a front for something. Why would anyone want to sit around drinking that and making polite small talk otherwise?

I tip my head back and take a swig from the bottle. The burn hits my throat, stealing the air from my lungs.

“Christ!” I laugh, choking back a cough as my eyes water. “I think it’s meant to be mixed, Daisy.”

“Nah! Ruins the fun. Gin for the win, Blake.” Her eyes light up as she takes the bottle from me and glugs down two giant mouthfuls.

“Slow down.” Travis laughs and shakes his head when Daisy offers the bottle to him.

“More for us then.” She grins at Kayla, who giggles back.

I catch Travis’ eye over the top of the fire, and he rolls his eyes at me, the corners of his lips pulling into a smile as he glances back at the girls.

I know what he’s thinking. We’ve been friends our entire lives. We can read each other with just a glance.

I lift my chin at him and give him a reassuring smile.

They’ll be fine.

He arches an eyebrow back at me as Daisy takes another swig from the bottle. I shake my head with a chuckle, scrunching up the empty burger wrappers and shoving them into my bag, being careful not to scrape them against the camera inside, which my granddad gave me. Then I lean over and pluck the bottle from Daisy’s hand before she can take another mouthful.

“Blake!” she cries. “Don’t be a spoilsport!”

Her eyes have already taken on that glassy quality that comes with hard liquor as she reaches toward me, missing the bottle as I hold it above my head. Her hand lands against my bare chest instead.

“I think you’ve had enough, Miss Matthews.” I tut.

“Please.” She sticks out her bottom lip and looks up at me with big eyes.

“No.” I smile handing the bottle to Travis, who expertly steals it away, out of sight.

She lets out a frustrated sigh before her eyes light up again. “Let’s play truth or dare!”

“Yay!” Kayla claps her hands together, the gin taking its effect on her too, as she sways slightly where she’s sitting.

“Oh, God,” Travis groans.

“Aww, come on.” Daisy takes her hand back from my chest and sits up straight. “It’s my last night here. I fly home to England tomorrow.”

“Boo,” Kayla says sadly.

Daisy reaches over and hugs her. “I know. Big, fat, stinky boo. I hate leaving you guys.”

Kayla’s arms tighten around her. “You’ll be back for the next school break though, right?”

“Aren’t I always?” Daisy sighs, lifting her head and looking out over the lake at the sun setting over the treetops in the surrounding forest.

“Why don’t you just tell your mom and dad that you want to move here permanently?” Kayla whines.

“They’d never listen.” Daisy’s shoulders drop as she sighs again. “But, hey! You’ve got me for tonight!.” She breaks into a grin as she glances between me and Travis. “So, who’s first?”

Travis lets out a low chuckle and averts his eyes, but it’s too late. Daisy rounds her attention on him like a missile on its target.

“Travis…” she draws out his name slowly. “Truth or dare?”

He shakes his head and lets out a sigh, as though he’d rather play anything else. “Truth.”

“Boring!” Kayla snorts. “You always say truth.”

“Fine.” He blows out a breath. “Dare, then.”

Daisy lets out an excited squeal as she rubs her hands together.

“Okay, it’s got to be good, Oh…” She chews on her lip as she thinks. “I know!” She looks up, grinning, her eyes glittering, the same way they did when she produced the bottle of homebrew. “Your dare is to kiss Kayla!”

“What?” Travis and Kayla both say, glancing at each other.

“You heard me. And you said dare, Travis. So you have to do it!” Daisy grins as Travis and Kayla continue staring at each other.

He runs his hand around the back of his neck. “I don’t think—”

“No… that’s not…” Kayla cuts in, fiddling with the towel which fell off Daisy’s shoulders earlier. “It’s a silly dare, Daisy. Think of another.”

“Nope.” Daisy grins, then waves a finger between the two of them. “Come on! You’re like, eighteen. It’s not like you haven’t kissed anyone before.” She rolls her eyes. “You don’t have to use tongues.”

Travis clears his throat in the silence which follows. Daisy sits patiently, not at all bothered by how uncomfortable her two friends are obviously feeling.

“Daisy,” I lean over and whisper in her ear, “think of another dare.”

“Shh, Blake,” she whispers back out the side of her mouth, placing a finger up to my lips as she keeps her eyes glued on Kayla and Travis.

I sit and watch as my best friend leans over and places his hand on Kayla’s cheek. Her eyes never leave his as he leans forward and presses the gentlest of kisses to her lips.

Nice, man. Who knew he could be so smooth?

Travis sits back quickly, and Kayla’s cheeks glow as Daisy takes her finger away from my mouth. She turns to me and raises a brow, a smug smile on her face. I narrow my eyes at her, a smile spreading across my face.

Well played, Daisy.

The kiss marks the start and end of the game, and we spend the rest of the sunset sitting and chatting around the campfire before it’s the only light left.

“I can’t believe it’s your last night. I hate goodbyes,” Kayla says as she pulls Daisy into a hug.

“Me too,” Daisy says, embracing her. She breaks away and gives Travis a hug before smiling at them both. “Thank you for the best summer.”

“We’ll miss you, Daisy.” Kayla smiles before turning and heading up the driveway, back toward town with Travis.

“I’ll miss you too,” Daisy calls after them. “Make sure you walk her right to the door, Travis.”

“I always do,” he calls back, lifting his hand in a wave as Kayla blows a kiss.

Then they’re gone.

“The end of another summer in Hope Cove.” Daisy sighs as she lies back against the grass and stares up at the night sky.

It’s cooler now that the sun has set, so she’s put her jean shorts and sweatshirt on. It’s too big for her and falls off one shoulder.

She looks adorable.

I fight the sudden urge to wrap her in my arms and protect her forever. It creeps up on me, making my heart pound in my chest.

“Yep.” I lie back next to her, stretching my hands up behind my head in an attempt to relax.

“Last one before you start college.”

I frown, shuffling my back to get comfy. “True.”

She turns onto her side, leaning on one elbow. Her large blue eyes gaze at me, still glassy from the gin.

“Do you ever wish you could stay in a moment, Blake?”

“What do you mean?” My eyes drop to her lips as I swallow.

She looks at me, like she’s searching my face for the answer to a question which has only just occurred to her.

“I mean. Stay here, forever.” She lets out a sigh as she looks at me. “I love coming to stay with my aunt during the holidays. I love this place!” She looks out over the water, the moon shining off its calm surface.

“It’s pretty cool, I guess.” I shrug.

“You don’t know how lucky you are, Blake. I’m miles away from nature back in England. And it’s nothing like this.” She looks around again before bringing her eyes back to me. “The sound of the water, the sea air, the forest, swimming in the lake!” Her eyes light up. “It’s paradise.”

She leans closer to me and I can smell the gin, sweet on her breath.

She pauses, and then slowly lowers her lips to mine.

Time freezes for a moment as my heart battles with my head.

My head wins.

“Daisy.” I place a hand on her shoulder and gently push her back as I sit up.

“I’m sorry… I…” Her eyes are wide and her hand flies to her mouth.

“No, it’s okay—” I reach out to her, but she stands up, pushing dirt over the last dying embers of the fire with her foot.

“It’s the homebrew.” She laughs suddenly and looks away. “Phew! You were right. It must have been stronger this time.”

I blow out a deep breath as I stand. “Daisy, I—”

“Let’s not mention it again, Blake,” she cuts me off. “Walk with me awhile before you go home?”

I look at her, wishing I could take away the look of rejection on her face.

“Sure.” I smile, walking around the lake’s edge with her, aware that every second is one second closer to saying goodbye again. Until her next visit, anyway.

We walk for almost an hour. Daisy’s back to her usual cheery self—telling me stories about her school back home, and what it’s like living in London. By the sounds of it, she doesn’t live in the nicest part. No wonder she thinks Hope Cove is paradise.

“Thanks, Blake.” She turns to me as we reach the bottom of her aunt’s porch steps.

“Don’t mention it. I always walk you home,” I joke. We’ve already been ‘home’ all evening, just hanging out by the lake.

“I mean, thanks for everything.” She looks at me, twisting her hands in front of her, a subtle blush colouring her cheeks. Her eyes seem clearer now. The walk probably sobered her up.

I lift my chin. “Like I said. Don’t mention it.”

“I’ll see you at Christmas, then?” She flashes me a grin that lights up her entire face. Something about the way she looks, so light and carefree, makes me pull my camera out of my bag and capture a quick picture of her.

“Ho, Ho, Ho,” I answer with a smirk as the flash goes off.

Daisy’s mouth drops open as she squints. “Hey! What did you do that for?”

I shrug my shoulders, giving her a half smile. “Just because, I don’t know, you look happy.”

For a second, I wonder if she’s going to give me an earful, but this is Daisy—cheerful, positive, insanely perky, Daisy.

Instead, she throws her arms wide and tips her head back and gazes up at the stars, a giggle escaping from her lips.

“Look at that sky, Blake! How could I be anything but happy?”

I let out a low chuckle, and she brings her gaze back to rest on my face, letting out a small sigh.

“Bye, Blake.”

“Bye, Daisy,” I reply, waiting for her to open the front door before I turn to leave.

“See you when the big guy in the red suit comes!” she calls with another giggle as she goes inside and closes the door.

I smile to myself as I walk down the driveway. It’s only a few months, no time at all, really. I put my camera away and then shove my hands into my jean pockets, whistling out Jingle Bells as I make my way home.

But the guy in red never came.

The reaper in the dark robe came for her aunt that winter instead.

The Daisy I knew never came back.


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