Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 8

Daisy

    I’m standing in front of a building that looks like something out of an upmarket travel magazine. It’s a beautiful long white stone structure, set back from the beach. Large Grecian-style pillars stand to attention on either side of the giant double doors, which are wide open, allowing entry into the foyer.

I walk in and my hands fly to my shirt to smooth it down. When Kayla called round following Blake’s text and said she knew someone who may give me a short-term job, I expected a small business in town, not the exclusive hotel on the outskirts with its own award-winning spa.

I glance around the foyer. It’s got a country club feel about it. It’s light and airy, but on closer inspection, the furniture looks comfy, and the people dotted about underneath the central glass domed roof are a mixed bunch. Most of them look like tourists, excitedly discussing the next stop on their list, or business professionals passing through on their way to LA. Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised at the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

“Good morning, how can I help?” A young man at the reception desk flashes me a bright smile as I approach.

“Hello. My name’s Dee Matthews. I have a meeting with Maria?” My words come out more like a question, highlighting my nerves.

The young man picks up his desk phone and says, “Miss Matthews is here,” to whomever it is that answers.

He hangs up and I smile politely, standing to one side as he assists the guest behind me. I don’t have to wait long until a woman—not much older than me—wearing an immaculate white pant suit approaches, holding out her arms.

“Dee?”

“Yes. Maria?” I say, holding my hand out to shake hers. Instead, she wraps me into a gentle hug and air kisses both cheeks.

“That’s me.” She smiles as she draws back to look at me. “You’ve no idea how happy I was to get your call! Come, walk with me.”

I fall into step beside her as she leads us away from the main reception area and down a hallway, where one wall is entirely glass and has views stretching out over the beach and ocean.

“It’s spectacular, isn’t it?” She inclines her head toward the windows, her long dark hair shining in the light.

“It’s beautiful,” I answer truthfully. I’ve always thought Hope Cove was like a paradise.

“I think you forget when you see something every day. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the beauty right in front of us.” She beams as her heels click against the tile floor. “I’ll show you the spa first, obviously. Seeing as that’s where you’ll be working. And then we can have a drink on the terrace, and we can talk about any questions you might have. Does that sound good?”

I nod gratefully at her. “Yes, that sounds fantastic. Thank you.”

“Honestly,” she rolls her eyes, “I should thank you. Summer is one of our busiest times of the year in the spa. The worst possible time to be a staff member down. And you know Kayla. So you come highly recommended.”

“Yes, I do. We’ve been friends… we were friends, I mean, we’ve known each other since we were teenagers.”

“Kayla’s a lifesaver—her and Travis. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who travel with their pets and then need veterinarian help. The two of them have come to the hotel’s rescue more than once, let me tell you.”

I smile back as Maria opens a door at the end of the corridor and motions for me to step inside. My breath catches in my throat as the scent of lavender and eucalyptus greets me.

“Wow,” I say as I look around, warmth spreading in my chest at the delicious familiarity of the scents and sights around me.

Maria grins as she looks around. “Pretty special, isn’t it? We like to think so, anyway. Come on, I’ll show you around.”

I follow her with my mouth open and my eyes wide as I take in the beauty surrounding us. The entire spa has a magical temple feel to it. Cool stone walls, a waterfall trickling down one area and into a long sunken stream, running underneath a Perspex walkway beneath our feet. There is calming, meditative music playing softly in the background, and a gentle whisper of voices from the therapists coming out to greet clients in the waiting area. The entire space is dimly lit, with overhead fairy lights and lanterns providing a soft, atmospheric glow.

“I was impressed when I saw your resume you sent over,” Maria says as we walk down a curved walkway, and she shows me inside each private treatment room. They’re all beautiful. Orangey glows from natural salt lamps, private showers, massage tables piled high with sumptuous-looking towels. Some rooms even have private sunken bathtubs inside. For the oil baths I saw on their treatment menu; I imagine.

“You were?” I ask as I peer inside yet another incredible room.

“Yes. You’re far more qualified than the role requires. Working as a sports massage therapist for one of London’s top rugby clubs? That must have been rewarding.”

“It was.” I force a smile at her as my chest tightens at the mention of my old job. A job I loved.

“I saw you left without giving them the full notice period?” Maria stops and turns to look at me.

I swallow and take a deep breath. “That’s true. But I asked for their permission, and I wouldn’t have done it if it would have left them in a difficult position.”

She nods as she looks at me. “What’s his name?”

“Excuse me?”

“I can see from the way your face lit up when we walked in here, Dee. And the way it just did again at the mention of your previous job. You belong here, using your skills, feeding your passion.” She smiles kindly at me. “No woman would easily give that up and move across the Atlantic. Not unless she had something she needed to leave behind.”

My mouth goes dry as I look back at her.

“Mickey,” I whisper.

She narrows her eyes at me and then gives me a kind smile. “Good. Well, it’s our gain. When can you start?”

We spend the next hour having a look around the pool area and gardens before Maria takes me to the terrace and we have some incredible non-alcoholic fruit cocktails and matcha tea cake.

I leave feeling on top of the world. Finally, something good is happening again. I can get back to work, doing something I love. Something I wasn’t sure I would ever do again just a few months ago.

I start the walk back to the house. My high mood doesn’t last long when I see the familiar black, shiny truck pass me and then pull over up ahead.

“Hey, stranger!” Blake calls, opening the door and jumping out.

My heart skips a beat when I see him, and I force the ridiculous fluttering in my stomach back down.

“Hey yourself.”

He’s wearing old, faded jeans and a light gray t-shirt. He looks like he’s spent the morning shovelling soil by the looks of the dirt smeared across them.

He drops his eyes, following my gaze.

“Been helping my dad to get this garden job finished early so he can start on your house.”

My heart squeezes as he calls it my house. It feels more like home than anywhere to me. But it will never be mine, no matter how much I wish it could be.

“You want a lift?” He tips his head to his truck, and I can’t help but smile at the sight of Betsy sticking her head out the window at me, her pink tongue hanging from her mouth.

“It’s okay, thanks. I can walk,” I say, brushing off his offer.

“I know you can walk. You’ve got legs.” Blake’s eyes roam leisurely down my pencil skirt and calves, down to the sneakers I changed into for the walk home.

His lips curl into a smile.

“I couldn’t walk in my heels,” I explain as his eyes slowly make their way back up and come to rest on my face. I shiver at the intensity with which he’s looking at me and clamp my thighs together as an unfamiliar heat spreads in my core. “I had an interview with Maria,” I add, averting my gaze from his.

“How’d it go?”

I chance a look back at his face, and he’s waiting patiently for my answer.

“I start tomorrow.”

He breaks into a broad grin, his green eyes sparkling.

“That’s great! You’ll be sticking around, then?”

“For now.”

He purses his lips and then pulls them into a straight line, something flashing behind his eyes. “Hop in,” he says, turning back to the truck.

“No, really, I’m fine.”

“What’s the matter, Dee? Worried you’ll not be able to keep your hands off me?” He looks at me from behind the passenger door he’s holding open.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Blake Anderson,” I bite back as I climb in.

He closes the door, and chuckles to himself all the way round the truck until he slides into the driver’s seat next to me.

I fuss over Betsy, rubbing her ears and patting her on the back. She seems overjoyed to see me, licking at my face and whining.

“I’m only accepting your offer because you have a beautiful dog.”

Blake’s laugh grows louder as I glare at him.

“That’s what all the girls say, Dee. They’re attracted to my hairy hound.” His eyes crinkle at the corners as he pulls back out onto the road and drives.


Later that afternoon, I’m out in the garden, collecting some ingredients to take back into the kitchen, when I see Blake’s truck pulling up the driveway.

I stand and watch him come to a stop, wiping the sweat off my brow with the back of my hand. It’s a scorcher of an afternoon. Too hot to be out doing this really, but now that I’m starting work at the salon tomorrow, I don’t have any other time to work on what I have in mind.

“I’ve been thinking,” Blake announces as he jumps out the truck, followed by Betsy.

“Did it hurt?” I ask, cocking an eyebrow at him.

I swallow as I realize he’s wearing a pair of loose shorts, low on his hips, and nothing else. His broad chest is tanned from the sun, and I can see his tattoos. Abstract black ink snaking around his bicep, and more running down his side from his ribs, to below his shorts.

Oh, fuck, he has a V.

I snap my eyes away from the perfect V-shaped channel running down his lower abs, but I’m not fast enough. The smug bastard is grinning at me as I look back up at his face.

“She made a joke!” He cups his hands around his mouth and calls out across the lake. “She made a joke, everyone!”

“Who are you talking to?” I snort, leaning down to pick up my basket of supplies from the grass.

“Anyone who’ll hear me.” His eyes light up as he looks at me. “Knew you were hiding in there somewhere.”

I swallow the lump in my throat as I go to walk past him.

“Excuse me, I’ve got things I need to be doing.”

“Hey, D… Dee.” He corrects himself before he calls me Daisy.

I know he’s finding it hard not to call me that. After all, it’s all he’s ever known me as. But I’m not the same girl I was when he knew me. The sooner he accepts that, the better.

“I’m sorry, okay.” He gives me his best pathetic look, poking his bottom lip out, and I feel my body relax.

Maybe I’m being too hard on him. We were such good friends once. It must be weird for him—me coming back like this. It sure as hell is weird for me.

“Apology accepted.”

“What’s in the basket?” He peers down at the chamomile flowers and lemon myrtle I’ve gathered.

“Ingredients.” I pull the basket a little closer to me, aware of how close he’s now standing. How close his naked chest is.

“I can see that. What are you doing with them?” He looks up at me.

“You ask a lot of questions, don’t you?”

He grins like I’ve paid him a compliment. “Yep.”

I can’t help the small smile that creeps across my face. “Fine.” I sigh. “Come inside and have a drink, and I’ll show you.”

“Why, thank you.” He gestures at me to lead the way and whistles Betsy to follow.

“Oh, and put a shirt on,” I call over my shoulder as I make my way up the steps.

“Why? Are the pecs offending you?” He chuckles.

I shake my head as I go through the back door and into the kitchen. Blake follows a moment later, with a white t-shirt on, Betsy at his side.

“Here you go, beautiful,” I say as I place a bowl of fresh water down for Betsy. She pads over and drinks it happily, before finding a cool spot on the tile floor and lying down.

Blake looks around the room, his green eyes scanning over the shelves of the oak dresser where I’ve placed glass jars containing the few ingredients I’ve picked from the garden since I arrived. He wanders over to the kitchen table and picks up the one book I brought with me from home.

“You making homebrew, then?” He raises a brow at me.

“Not exactly.” I walk over to him and take the book from him, turning to a page I marked. My aunt’s handwriting stares back at me from the paper, bringing with it a bittersweet smile.

“I didn’t realize you made other things together,” Blake says as he watches me carefully.

“We’d only just started, really. Most of the recipes in this book, she wrote to prepare for us to try together. She gave it to me as a gift on my last visit.” My voice drops as I run my fingertip over the page.

“I’m sorry.” Blake gazes at me intently, his green eyes vibrant.

I stare back into them, a tiny part of me wishing I could dive into them, like the lake outside.

Dive in and never come back up.

“Anyway,” I say as I breeze over to the cooker. “You wanted to see what those were for.” I point to the basket. “Now I’m going to show you.”

His eyes dance in amusement as he watches me tie an apron around myself, emblazoned with ‘you kill ‘em, we grill ‘em’ in large black lettering.

“The previous tenants left it,” I mutter.

“Hey, did I say anything?” He holds his hands up as his shoulders shake with a suppressed laugh.

“You didn’t have to.” I give him a small smile.

“It’s just ironic, don’t you think? You’re a vegan, and you’re wearing that.” He points at the apron and loses the battle, a low chuckle escaping his lips.

“Ha, bloody ha.” I narrow my eyes at him.

“So why did you turn vegan?” He studies my face.

My back tenses, and my stomach pulls into a tight knot. “I just did.”

“You just did?” He folds his arms, arching an eyebrow at me.

I look across at him, and his eyes soften.

“What is it, Dee?”

I look over at Betsy, dozing on the floor.

“I just saw too much suffering, Blake,” I whisper, my throat burning.

Two lines appear between his eyebrows and he drops his arms to his sides, taking a step toward me.

I turn away quickly and grab a pan from the counter, forcing my voice to sound bright. “Let’s get started.”

An hour later, the house smells amazing. A mix of chamomile and lemon myrtle, from the new body butter we’ve just made. We melted mango butter and coconut oil in a pan, and then when it had cooled in the refrigerator, we whipped it by hand to make it smooth and fluffy. I think I’m wearing half of it, as is Blake, who now understands why I’d told him to put a shirt on.

“That was strangely satisfying,” Blake says, casting his eyes around and surveying the few small jars we’ve filled.

“Wasn’t it?” I unfasten the apron, taking it off and throwing it down on the counter.

I know I’m grinning. Something about doing this, making my own products, just feels so right.

“This is like body butter porn to you, isn’t it?” Blake’s amused eyes rake over my face.

“Blake!” My hands fly to my cheeks, but my grin remains. “Yes… I love it,” I confess quietly as he keeps studying me, his lips pulled into a smile. “They’re all vegan friendly, and cruelty free. Much better for the environment too.”

“It’s great to see you so passionate,” he says, his voice low and deliciously deep.

Did he always sound like that?

I shrug my shoulders, suddenly embarrassed.

He takes a step forward, and I freeze as he raises a hand to my face. His long, warm fingers dust across my cheek and his eyes drop to my lips. I’m rooted to the spot, my heart hammering in my chest. No one has been this close to me in a long time.

Not since Mick.

Blake’s eyes soften and he smiles as he removes his hand and holds it up in front of my face, a smudge of pale-yellow body butter on it.

“I think I got cream on your face when I was whipping it.” He arches an eyebrow at me and smirks.

“Does everything out of your mouth have to sound like a dirty innuendo?” I tut, pretending to sound disgusted, when really my heart’s still threatening to gallop right out of my chest.

He grins, his green eyes darkening. “I don’t know what you mean. It must be all that swimming. You’ve got water in your ears.”

I roll my eyes and throw the screwed-up apron at him. “Here, you keep it. Call it a souvenir.”

He catches it effortlessly before it hits him in the chest and then tips his head back and laughs.

I fight back my own laugh as I look at him through narrowed eyes and feel something stir inside me.

A flicker.

A seed of a memory of what it felt like to be free.

To be Daisy.

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