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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 7

Blake

    lake every morning at the break of dawn. Just as Betsy and I are return from our run. She doesn’t see us, and I never call out. She seems to want the space. I get the feeling she needs it somehow. I’m not sure what it is, but I suspect she’s working through something. You don’t come back to a house in another country you’ve not seen in ten years just to clean it before it sells.

Maybe I can recognise it because when I need to think, Betsy and I take off camping in the woods for a couple of days. Whatever it is that Daisy needs, I hope she finds it here. I hope she finds her way back to herself.

“Let’s go, girl.”

I whistle at Betsy, and she hops down from the seat of the truck onto the sidewalk. We walk down Hope Cove’s main street, saying good morning to people we pass. Betsy gets lots of fuss, which she laps up. It goes with the territory when you live in a small community.

We head inside the general store, run by Ralph. I swear the guy never ages. He ran this store when I used to come in as a kid with my brother and granddad to get a packet of sweets at a weekend, and he still runs it now. That’s Hope Cove all over—family-run businesses looking out for one another.

“Hey, Ralph.” I raise my hand in greeting as he nods at me from behind the counter. His dog, Duke, peers around the edge of the wood, his ears pricking up when he sees Betsy by my side. I’ve never quite figured out what breed Duke has in him. He’s a wiry beast, who bounces around as though he believes he’s half his size.

Ralph watches the pair of them, sniffing one another, tails wagging, and shuffles over to a large glass jar on the counter full of dog biscuits and pulls one out, handing it to Betsy.

“Don’t you go trying to make my girl sweet on you, Ralph,” I joke as Betsy crunches the biscuit down and then drops her nose to the floor to sniff out the crumbs.

Ralph shakes his head with a chuckle. It’s the same routine every time we come in here.

“I don’t think it’s me you need to worry about.” Ralph tips his head, and I follow his gaze back down to where Duke is busy licking Betsy’s jaw.

I smirk. He’s certainly got balls; I’ll give him that.

“How’s he settling in?”

“He’s doing good. Settled right in. I was worried, you know, adopting and all. Can never tell what kind of past they’ve had. But he’s a good boy.” A smile settles over Ralph’s face as he watches the two of them crouch down on their front legs, trying to entice the other into a game of chase. “He’s been good company.” Ralph’s eyes mist momentarily, and I pat him on the arm.

He lost his wife six months ago. Getting Duke was Travis’ suggestion, so he’d have a companion and a reason to get up each morning. Nothing like someone depending on you to force you to keep yourself going.

Ralph tuts and pats his hand over mine on his arm. “Keeps running off mind. Always comes back. But I’ve no idea what he’s up to. I fix one spot in the fence where he’s getting out, and the next day, another appears.”

I chuckle. “He’s running the show, Ralph.”

Ralph takes his hand away from mine and bats it in the air, dismissing my comment, but not before I see the smile pulling at his lips. He loves that scruffy hound. Anyone can see that.

“You after more film then, Blake?” He lifts his chin.

“How d’you guess?”

He clicks his tongue and then lets out a deep, throaty chuckle, turning away and rummaging about on a shelf behind the counter.

“I can always tell, son. You come in here with that determined gleam in your eye, you do. The same one you have every time you’ve seen something you want to capture. What is it this time? Another mountain lion?”

“Nope.” I grin as Ralph stands and places what I came for down on the counter.

“Spit it out, then. I ain’t getting any younger here.”

“Cubs, Ralph. Three, I reckon, from the tracks I’ve seen. Me and Betsy have been out early every morning looking for them. I was thinking we’d missed this season’s; they’ll have grown now.”

Ralph lifts his wiry gray brows, the corners of his mouth turning down as he nods.

“I haven’t seen a black bear cub in years. Mind you, I don’t get up and out into the forest as much as you do. I take Duke to the beach for his run. Your pop’s camera still doing you well?”

I nod at Ralph as I lean down and rub Duke and then Betsy, around the neck.

“Sure is. Never let me down in all these years.”

I grin as I stand and plant some money down on the counter and grab the roll of film.

“Thanks, Ralph,” I say as I throw it up in the air, catching it and shoving it into the pocket of my cargo pants.

“Come, show me what you get, won’t you, Blake?” he calls after me as Betsy and I head out the door.

“I always do.” I flash him a smile.

“Where to now, girl?” I ask Betsy as we go back out onto the street again.

She lets out a whisper of a bark, her tail wagging as she fixes her gaze on something across the street.

I follow her eyes and feel myself breaking into a huge grin as I clock the tiny pair of denim shorts, hugging long, slender legs.

Betsy jogs over to the opposite sidewalk with me, until we’re standing right next to their owner.

“Reminding yourself of all the delights Hope Cove has to offer?” I say, my eyes tracing down the side of Daisy’s face to where she’s chewing on her bottom lip as she stands in front of the town noticeboard.

She turns to me, and her eyes widen, as though she’s shocked someone is speaking to her.

“Blake?”

“Last time I checked.” I smile at her and my hands go to my hips as she stares at me. She drops to fuss over Betsy, her face lighting up. “So, what you looking for?” I tilt my head toward the board.

Her forehead wrinkles as she stands and returns her gaze to the board, her eyes scanning over the advertisements and local news bulletins tacked up.

“Well, I was looking for a painter to help with the outside of the house.”

I look at her full pink lips as she speaks, my eyes flicking back up to hers as she turns to face me.

“Also, I…” She tips her head to the side and narrows her eyes at me as though she’s not sure about what she’s going to say next.

“You what?” I study her as her face relaxes, and she blows out a breath.

“I was thinking about looking for some work while I’m here. Just something short-term to pay for groceries and things.”

“Well, Dee”—I swear I will never get used to calling her that—“it’s your lucky day.”

“Why’s that?” She tips her head back and gazes up at me, her bright blue eyes waiting.

“Because you bumped into me.” I beam at her.

She snorts before it turns into a giggle. “Oh, right, must be my lucky day.”

“Calm down.” I smirk. “I’m being serious.”

Her gaze returns to my face and I detect a flash of curiosity in her eyes.

“Enlighten me then, Blake.” She folds her arms across her chest, and it takes every ounce of energy not to drop my eyes to her incredible tits, which are pushed up. “Why exactly is seeing you lucky for me?”

“Your doubt cuts me.” I pull my best hurt face at her and the corners of her mouth lift.

Pride swells in my chest that I can still make her smile.

“Carry on, then.” She laughs.

“Well.” I puff my chest out. “For starters, did you forget my dad has his own home maintenance business?” Her mouth gapes open as though she’s about to speak, so I reach my hand up and place a finger over her lips. “He’ll do a significantly better job than anyone else you can find, and it’ll cost you less. And second, if you’re looking for a job, ask Kayla. Her and Trav know just about everyone in this town who runs their own business. They go to all these town meetings and shit. If anyone’s got anything going, she’ll know.”

I take my finger away from Daisy’s lips. Her cheeks flush the tiniest bit pink, and she looks down at Betsy.

“That’s kind of you, Blake. But I’m sure your dad’s busy with clients.”

I arch an eyebrow at her as I lean forward into her eyeline, so she has to look at me.

“You’re kidding, right? He’d love to help you out. He’ll shuffle some stuff around.”

Her brow wrinkles as she looks into my eyes.

“Honestly, I can sort it out myself. The same with the job.”

I blow out a breath. “Sure, you can, Dee. But that’s the beauty of having friends. You don’t have to do it alone.” I reach out and squeeze her arm.

She bristles under my touch and averts her eyes again.

“Fine,” I mutter, dropping my arm from hers and pulling out my cell phone.

“What are you doing?” She glances up at me.

I tap out a message on my phone and hit send.

“That’s a text to Dad. Now… Kayla.” I type out another message and send it. “Right, sorted. They’ll be in touch.”

“Blake!” Her mouth drops open. “You didn’t have to do that. I could—”

“I know you could. But you wouldn’t have. So, I did.” I wink at her and then pat my leg, signalling to Betsy it’s time to go.

“See you around… swimming in that little bikini,” I call over my shoulder as I head back across the street.

I hear her let out a frustrated sigh before she answers. “I wouldn’t count on it!”

I raise a hand in a wave, chuckling all the way back to my truck.


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