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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 26

Daisy

    watering can, my eyes wandering over the flowers and herbs. My heart squeezes, knowing this will be one of the last times I do this.

“I wish you could see how beautiful your garden is.” I tip my head back and talk to the sky. I know my aunt is up there somewhere. Listening.

I turn to head inside and glimpse at Blake’s house. My shoulders drop as I swallow the lump that’s permanently taken up residence in my throat.

He loves me.

No.

He loves me not.

He loves Daisy. He’s in love with seventeen-year-old me. I can’t let myself forget that. Who I am now, who I will always be—she’s not who he wants. The sooner I leave, the better. Things can go back to normal. He can find someone else. God knows he won’t be short of offers.

I head back through the house, grabbing my bag and locking the door behind me. It’s time I had a talk with Maria. Seeing Kayla this afternoon was hard enough. At least I got to say goodbye to her properly this time. But she wanted me to promise I would come back to visit. How can I? How can I come back and see everyone moving on with their lives when I so desperately wish I could join them? How can I ever see Blake moving on, without it feeling like an arrow to my heart? Even though the thought of never coming back here is almost enough to bring me to my knees, I know I can’t.

When I leave, it will be for good.

My thoughts drift to Maria as I walk to the hotel. She’s been so kind, giving me a job. Trusting me to help with the products for her business pitch to Griffin Parker. I feel like a prize bitch to be leaving her in the lurch like this. But what choice do I have? Stay here and hide while putting my parents in an even worse financial situation? Or go home and try to do everything I can to get justice for Rocket and all those other dogs? All those beautiful dogs and their owners.

My soul may not feel whole anymore. But what’s left of it still wants to fight for what I believe in. Being here, with Blake; spending time with Betsy; seeing those bear cubs—it all confirms to me I’m doing the right thing. I must stand up for what I believe in. Blake may not know it, but he’s made me strong enough. I know I didn’t deserve the way Mick treated me. But it took Blake showing me how it felt to be loved to realize.

I am strong.

It took Blake loving me for me to realize…

Fuck.

Blake loving me.

My stomach lurches, and I suck in a deep breath as I walk. I would wish upon every leaf… every petal in my aunt’s garden that he loved the real me.

The love Blake Anderson gives would be worth trading the garden of Eden itself for.

That kind of love… it’s what makes every sound you hear more amplified, every colour you see brighter, every scent you inhale so much more vibrant.

When Blake Anderson loves, he loves with his body, heart, and soul.

I just wish the glimpse I had was real.

I wish I could be that girl.

His girl.


I push open the main spa door and head into the reception area. It’s quiet. The other therapists are probably in appointments. Maria looks up from the desk, her long, dark hair shining as she smiles at me.

“Hi, Dee. Is everything okay? You sounded worried on the phone when we spoke?” She walks around from the back of the desk and gestures over to the soft seats in the client waiting area.

Guilt rises in a wave through my body, starting at my toes.

“I… I have something I need to talk to you about. Thank you for making time for me. I know you’re busy with the New York spa negotiations and everything.”

I sink into the seat and some of the tension leaves my shoulders as the scent of lavender drifts up from the fabric.

“Don’t be silly.” Maria waves a manicured hand in the air. “After all you’ve done for me? Of course I have the time! And besides, I consider you a friend, Dee.”

My mouth goes dry as I look at her.

“Maybe you won’t when you hear what I’m about to say.”

Her forehead creases. “I don’t follow?”

I wipe my hands on my thighs. I knew this would be hard. She’s been so wonderful to me since I arrived. And now? Now I’m about to leave her with no notice. My voice cracks as I say the words I’ve been dreading since that phone call with my mum.

“I have to go back to England.”

Maria’s brows shoot up her forehead, before understanding fills her eyes and she looks at me with concern.

“The man you told me about?” Her voice is soft and kind. It makes me feel even worse about leaving.

I nod. “He did some terrible things. Things I thought he was going to pay for. But it turns out he may get away with it. I need to go back and help the police. Do whatever I can…” I trail off as I chew my lip and wait for Maria to say something.

“Of course. You must. You must do what you need to do.” The compassion in her eyes makes my chest burn with guilt.

“But you… you’ve been so kind to me. Giving me a job…. being a friend. I feel awful about letting you down and—”

“Dee.” She places a hand over mine and squeezes. “You’ve done far more for me than I’ve done for you.”

I stare at her.

She smiles appreciatively before continuing. “You helped make another dream of mine possible. There’s no way I would be negotiating a contract for a new spa at the freaking Songbird hotel in New York if it weren’t for you!” Her eyes light up, and I giggle as she squeezes my hand again. “Honestly, I knew we could never keep you here forever. As much as I’d like to.”

I wipe at my blurry eyes with my free hand.

“Oh. You’re going to make me cry!”

“Me too!” She laughs as she releases my hand so I can root around in my bag for a tissue.

I know I’ve got some in here somewhere. They must be right at the bottom. I feel around with my hand and my fingers slip through a tear in the lining. Typical. How long’s that been there?

Something scrapes against my fingers, and I wrap it inside my fingers and pull it out. As I uncurl them, a bright pink, shiny wrapper glows in my palm.

“Oh?” I study it.

“You like those too?” Maria says, looking at the pink candy.

“Huh?”

“We can’t get them in the states. My grandma goes nuts for them.” Maria rolls her eyes with a smile. “She brought at least four giant bags with her on her last visit.”

My mind casts back to when Maria took some time off, saying she had family visiting.

“It was your grandma who came to stay with you?”

“It was. She comes as much as she can. She loves to travel, always has. When we lost my grandad, she made an even bigger point of it. She said he would want her to be happy and to live. She said she’s saving up stories to tell him when it’s her turn to go through the pearly gates. She’s a bit of a character.” Maria laughs.

I look up from the pink shiny wrapper as something slots into place in my memory.

“She certainly is. We shared a taxi from the airport when I arrived.” I shake my head in disbelief as I watch Maria’s face light up.

“Really? That was you?”

“That was me.” I grin as I remember Vera practically forcing me into her taxi. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. “I know Hope Cove’s hardly the biggest town, but still… what a funny coincidence. She was really kind to me. My suitcase broke, and I was feeling all lost and emotional. I told her about my aunt’s house and how I hadn’t been back here since she died and was worried about selling it. Letting it go forever. She told me our memories stay in our hearts.”

“You’re Daisy Girl.” Maria smiles.

“What?” I meet her eyes. She’s always known me as Dee, I don’t understand how—

She gets up and rushes over to her bag behind the counter.

“Gran called you Daisy Girl.” Maria holds out a small glass jar with a daisy flower sticker on the lid.

My jar.

“I had to beg her to leave the jar with the bit that’s left inside behind when she went home. This stuff is amazing!”

“She used it all?” My eyes widen.

“Put it on all the time. Handed it around to random people we met when we went out!” Maria laughs, and I shake my head, a grin spreading on my face.

“I’m so pleased she liked it. She was so kind to me. It’s the only thing I had that I could thank her with. Honestly, I was such a mess that day.”

“So, the flower?” Maria cocks her head and looks at me.

I puff out my cheeks as I look at the jar in her hands.

“I made those stickers a long time ago. My real name is Daisy. But I’ve been using Dee for a while now.”

Maria smiles at me. “I see. It makes sense. You look more like a Daisy than a Dee.”

“I wish I felt more like one.” I pull my bottom lip in between my teeth as Maria rolls her lips together, her eyes studying me.

“You know. Who we are… it starts with what we believe in our hearts. My gran taught me that. No one else gets to tell you who you are or what you can and cannot do. If you want to feel like the person who made this incredible hand balm”—she clutches it to her chest and looks to the ceiling in glee, making me laugh—“then be her again. Believe it and make it happen.”

I give her a small smile. “I wish it were that simple.”

“It is simple. But it’s not easy. Most things worth doing aren’t. Where would be the sense of achievement if they were? What would be the point of the journey?”

I look at Maria, my mind swirling with emotions. Confusion, fear, pain, anger…

Love.

If only I could make a wish or believe it hard enough that it happens. I could be the girl that laughs again—really laughs. The girl who takes delight in nature. The girl who loves swimming at sunrise and dreams about kissing in thunderstorms.

I could be that girl again.

My breath catches in my throat, and I stare back down at the pink foil again, my heart thundering in my chest, my palms sweating.

That girl again.

A realisation hits me, like a bolt of lightning to the heart. The foil swims in front of my eyes as my vision blurs with unshed tears.

I have done all those things.

I didn’t understand it at the time, when it was happening, when I was doing it. But now it’s coming into focus, I can see it as clear as the sky on a cloudless day.

I have done them.

I’ve laughed so hard that I’ve cried. I’ve watched black bear cubs while holding my breath in awe. I’ve swam at sunrise and felt the calm from the water seep into my body, into my mind.

And I’ve kissed in a thunderstorm.

I have been that girl again.

With Blake.

My heart goes into overdrive in my chest as my fingertips tingle. I gaze down at the shiny pink gift in my hand as tears drip onto it. Vera gave me more than she could ever have realized that day. Looking at her small symbol, hearing Maria’s words, I realize…

I’m still her.

It may be deep inside, and I may need help to remove all the weight on top of me, holding me down. But she’s in there. Somewhere. And if I have to scratch away to find her—scratch until my nails break and my skin bleeds, then I will do it.

I will find myself again.

Mickey Frost thought he’d won. He thought he’d broken me.

But he didn’t consider that I could re-build myself. That I could grow back from where he’d spent months cutting me down, slashing at me with his words and abuse. He may have broken me above the surface, but my roots?

He never touched those.

He didn’t know I just needed that one person to help me remember. Not forget as I’ve so wrongly thought.

But remember.

Remember who I am and what makes my soul sing.

He didn’t know about Blake Anderson.


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