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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 25

Blake

    the stone breaks the surface on the river, sending water flying up and out in all directions. I grab another off the ground and hurl it from the ledge that I have set up camp on. It shatters the water’s surface, destroying the calm. Piercing it. The way my heart felt when Daisy walked away from me after I told her I loved her.

She didn’t even turn around. Couldn’t even face me.

I fall back onto my ass on the dry earth. Betsy nuzzles my arm, pushing her way underneath it until she’s snug against my side, her warm body pressed against my torso.

“Looks like it’s just you and me again, girl.”

She grumbles and looks up at me with big brown eyes.

“Hey, it would have been a squash for three in that tent, anyway.” I jerk my chin to our accommodation for the night.

As soon as Daisy walked off, I grabbed our pack. I needed to be up here.

Away.

Away from the lake and her house staring at me over the water. Taunting me. It’ll soon be empty. And then what? Sold? To a couple who wants to start a family together? Wants to build a life together? All on my fucking doorstep. A constant reminder of the way things turned to shit.

I drop my head into one hand, the other holding Betsy close.

“Why can’t she see what we see, eh, girl?”

I squeeze my eyes shut and press my finger and thumb into the sockets. I understand that she’s been emotionally manipulated and abused. I get that her ex is a piece of shit. But to tell me she thinks she’s lost a piece of her soul?

Fucking hell.

I know she’s still the same caring, loving person she’s always been. I can see it in her eyes when she lets her guard down. Hear it in her laugh when it breaks free from deep in her chest. I can feel it on her lips when she kisses me. Sense it every time I’m in the same room as her.

She’s still Daisy.

She has to be.

But then? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m seeing what I want to see? What if the girl I knew really has gone? Disappeared, never to be found again. Buried so deep that I could dig my entire life to find her again, but it wouldn’t be enough.

I curl my fingers around a handful of sharp stones and squeeze. Traces of red appear, spreading as small rivulets of blood snake out between my fingers and drop to the earth.

My instincts have never let me down before. I’m not wrong.

She’s in there.

I just need to show her.

Make her realize.

Before it’s too late.


Trav: What the hell? Kayla just told me what happened yesterday! You okay?

I read the message as I hand Betsy a treat. We spent the night in the forest and took an early morning hike back down, just as the sun was rising. It’s one of my favorite times of the day, usually. Only this time I couldn’t even be bothered to get my camera out and take a photo. I didn’t even pack it. It’s the first time in years I’ve left it at home.

Me: Good news travels fast.

My phone rings in my hand, Trav’s name flashing on the screen.

“Hey.”

“Blake? What the hell happened? Kayla said Dee’s leaving. Something about a trial for her ex-boyfriend?”

The corners of my mouth curl down in disgust at the mention of him.

“She’s going back to give evidence in person. He was running an illegal dog fighting ring and laundering money to fund it.”

“Fuck,” Travis hisses.

“Yeah. Fuck.” I rub my fingers across my eyes. “She says she doesn’t know who she is anymore. That Daisy hasn’t existed since. The bastard sent her to collect a dog to re-home, then used it as bait in a fight. Daisy saw the entire thing.”

“What the… fucking hell! God, if—”

“I know.”

I sink down onto the stool at the kitchen counter. Travis hates animal suffering. It’s why he became a vet. And I know he’s seen his fair share of neglect at the hands of humans. He’s usually calm. The sensible one. But this? This will make him want to explode and nail that fucker. I know it will.

I hear him sucking in a breath down the phone.

“Kayla said she’s booked a ticket for Friday.”

That’s in two days’ time.

Two days and she’ll be gone.

“What are you going to do?” he asks when I don’t speak.

I’m too busy staring out the back window across the lake. Wondering if she’s home… if she’s packing.

Has she even thought about me once since yesterday?

“I don’t know, Trav… You know I told her I loved her?”

“You did?” His voice raises in surprise.

“Well, kinda shouted it at her back as she left. Kayla didn’t tell you?”

“No. Maybe Dee told her. But if she did, she kept it to herself.”

I don’t know whether it’s worse that Daisy probably didn’t tell Kayla or not. Don’t women tell each other those sorts of things? Maybe she doesn’t care? The fact that she never stopped or turned around probably means that she doesn’t give a shit. I was a distraction, like she said. A way to help her forget.

“It’s a load of shit. Maybe she’s right. Maybe the Daisy we all knew has gone forever.”

“Blake!”

The power in his voice makes me sit up straighter.

“Who’ve you spent the last couple of months with?”

“I’m asking myself the same thing.”

I was so sure last night in the forest when my head was clear. I was convinced she’s still the same girl I knew years ago. Now I’m back home, staring at her aunt’s house, knowing she’s inside, packing to leave with no regrets.

It has me doubting everything.

“That’s a load of crap! I’ve seen you together, Blake. I‘ve seen the way she lights up when you look at her. She’s grown more relaxed with you the longer she’s been here. And you? You’re different with her.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying. You’re good for each other. You might remember her when she was seventeen. But that’s not the woman you’ve fallen in love with. You’ve fallen in love with who she is now. You’ve fallen in love with her. Not a memory.”

I blow out a breath as I listen.

“Tell me. When you’re with her, do you picture her being seventeen? Imagine that she still is?”

“What?” I screw my face up. “I’m not a creep, Trav.”

“Exactly. You don’t. You know why? Because you see her. You see the real her. The one with the pain and ugly past. That’s the woman you’ve fallen in love with.”

“You’re a sweet romantic at heart, aren’t you?” I sigh as his words sink in.

He’s right. I’ve fallen in love with the woman who came back. Not the girl who left.

“Takes one to know one,” Trav murmurs.

“All right, all right, don’t tell anyone.”

He chuckles lightly. “I’ve never seen you be the way you are with her before.”

“A fucking mess?” I snort.

“Basically.” I can hear the smile in his voice. “It takes someone special to make you think you’re losing your shit.”

“Kayla makes you lose your shit?”

“All the fucking time!”

“I knew it.”

He laughs and I join him. It feels good to ease the weight of the boulder that’s lodged itself in my chest—even if only for a second.

“Don’t let her leave without telling her, Blake. And this time, try saying it instead of shouting it at her back, all caveman style.”

“Jackass.”

“Jerk.”

I blow out a breath as Travis chuckles.

“Thanks, man.”

“Anytime.”

I hang up the phone with renewed purpose.

She left ten years ago without knowing what she meant to me.

I’m not making the same mistake again.


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