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Captured by Mr. Wild: Chapter 9


    first day?” I call, wrapping my knuckles against the open door.

“God, Blake!” Daisy shrieks from inside the hallway where she’s crouching down, putting her sneakers on.

“That’s what they all cry out.” I chuckle as Daisy composes herself and stands, facing me head-on.

“Seriously? How the hell you have all these women chasing after you is a mystery.” She tuts, her hands on her hips.

“Women are chasing after me?” I grin as she rolls her eyes and grabs her bag from the floor.

“You know what I mean. Your fan group, or whatever it’s called.”

I stand back as Daisy steps out onto the porch and locks the front door, double checking it before she turns to head down the steps.

“Blake’s Babes.”

“What?” She turns to me, her blue eyes wide.

I shrug a shoulder and lean back against the doorframe. “It’s called Blake’s Babes.”

She stares at me before her eyes light up and she laughs, doubling over to rest her hands on her knees. “Oh,” she gasps, trying to catch her breath. “That’s… that’s…” Her face creases up with laughter again.

I stand and watch her, my lips curled in amusement.

“Thank you, Blake,” she says finally, straightening up to look at me. “I’d forgotten how good it felt to laugh. You know, really laugh.” She wipes at her eyes.

I push off the doorframe and jog down the steps to her. “Glad to be of service.”

She looks up at me, catching her breath, her eyes bright.

“I always loved your laugh.” I pause in front of her and watch the shutters come back up over her face.

Her smile drops and her eyes lose their shine.

You idiot.

I pushed her too far.

Whatever brought her back here, she’s determined to keep it buried.

“I take it you’re planning on walking again?” I look down over her body, hugged by her fitted white dress and down to her sneakers.

“I don’t have a car. Besides, I like the exercise, and it’s not far.”

“Let me give you a lift. Me and Betsy are headed that way.” I motion to my truck and to Betsy, her chocolate brown head watching us from the open window.

“Really, I’m fine.” She walks off, stopping to give Betsy a fuss before continuing down the driveway.

“C’mon, Dee,” I say.

I swear I’m going to screw up and call her Daisy any day now.

“I’m good, Blake,” she calls over her shoulder.

“Fucking stubborn…” I mutter under my breath before opening the truck door to let Betsy jump out.

“What are you doing?” Daisy scowls at me as the two of us catch up with her.

“We fancied a walk,” I say, striding past her, Betsy by my side.

“You fancied a walk?”

“That’s what I said.” I flash her a wide grin.

“And I suppose this walk takes you down by the hotel near the beach?” She draws level with me and matches my pace.

“You’re really something, Dee. Your powers of deduction are incredible. Do you have a crystal ball or something?”

She snorts, and I sneak a sideways glance at her. Her lips are twitching at the corners, fighting off a smile.

A smile that I put there.

We walk halfway there in silence, just listening to the sounds of the forest on our right, and the ocean in the distance on our left. Betsy runs off ahead, darting from tree to tree along the side of the track, sniffing at anything that grabs her attention.

“You know, I’ve always loved the sound of the ocean. It makes me think of all the times I came here to visit. It calms me somehow.”

I look over at Daisy and her brows are pulled together, as though she’s lost in a memory.

“I listen to it on an app on my phone every night before I go to bed. Is that silly?” She turns to look up at me, her crystal blue eyes searching mine.

I swallow. “That’s not silly at all. Why would you think it is?”

She sighs and I watch as her eyes cloud over with something before she looks away.

“I don’t sleep well, Blake. The sound helps me.”

“You used to sleep just fine. I remember many nights you and Kayla woke me and Trav up snoring your heads off in the tent.”

Daisy smiles at the mention of the nights we all camped out together during those long, hot summers.

“So, what happened?”

She shakes her head and keeps her gaze focussed straight ahead.

“Bad choices, Blake. That’s what happened. Ones I can never take back.”

I stop walking and take hold of her arm gently, turning her so she has to look at me.

“We all make mistakes. You can’t let them dictate your future.”

Her eyes flick back and forth between mine, two creases appearing between her brows as I stroke the bare skin of her upper arm with my thumb.

“I don’t know how not to,” she whispers, her eyes filling with unshed tears.

“Hey, hey.” I pull her to me and wrap my arms around her tiny frame, pressing my nose into her hair and inhaling as I hold her. She smells of fresh flowers, and all things sweet.

She stiffens and presses the flats of her hands against my chest, pushing me back.

“I’m sorry, I totally ruined what should have been an enjoyable walk.”

I try to pull her back into my arms, but she takes a step back. “There’s no need to apo—”

“There is. I’m sorry, Blake.” She turns and walks off. “Thank you for the company. I’m going to walk the rest alone,” she calls over her shoulder.

I stand glued to the spot as I watch her disappear up the road and around the corner. Betsy trots over and sits next to me, her dark brown eyes looking up.

“Come on, girl. Let’s go.” I turn, and we walk back home.

“Great job, son. Thanks for your help.” My dad wipes his brow with the back of his hand as he loads up his van.

“Thanks, Dad. I know you had to shuffle a lot to squeeze this job in.”

“Ah, don’t be silly, Blake. It’s no bother at all.” Dad shuts the back of the van up. “Besides, Iris’s niece could do with someone helping her out.”

“What do you mean?” I grab a bottle of water out of the cooler in my truck and hand it to him.

He twists the lid off and takes a long drink.

“Iris used to worry about her a lot. There wasn’t a nice crowd where she lived. That’s why she used to come here every vacation. Her parents were so worried about her falling in with the wrong people. I thought about her a lot after Iris passed. Wondered how she was getting on.”

I look up at the house as I lean back against my truck, the metal hot against my back from the day’s sun. The fresh, bright white paint is brilliant under the clear blue sky.

“She was getting on fine, Dad. She trained in sports therapy and massage and got a job at one of the big rugby clubs. That’s before she stopped using social media. After that, I don’t know.”

I blow out a breath as I think about how, although she’s back, she’s different. She’s less open, less free.

Just… less Daisy.

“Well, things can happen that mold you, Blake. But you’ll never be changed completely. She’ll find her way through whatever she’s dealing with. I’m sure you’ll help her.” He looks over at me and smiles. “You were good friends once, Blake. She just needs help to remember.”

I open my mouth to ask what he means, but he stands, his eyes lighting up.

“Ah, speak of the devil!” Dad grins and walks down to meet Daisy as she comes back up the driveway. “How was your first week?”

She grins at him and then looks over at me, our eyes meeting for a fleeting moment, before she turns her attention back to Dad.

“It was fantastic, Bill. Thank you for asking. And thank you for all your hard work!” Her eyes widen as she looks past him and up at the house. “It’s incredible! It looks just like it did when…” Her voice trails off.

“I know.” My dad pats her hand. “Your aunt would be so proud of you.”

She dips her head down and runs her fingers along her forehead. “Thanks, Bill.”

Dad turns and raises a hand. “See you, Blake. Betsy.” He nods to Betsy, who’s laid down in the shade underneath my truck.

“Take care of yourself.” He lowers his voice to Daisy, and then he climbs in his van and drives off.

“So, good first week, then?” I ask as Daisy walks toward me.

“Yeah, it was.” Her cheeks are sun-kissed and her eyes bright. “It feels good to be doing something I enjoy again. Kayla insisted we go out tonight for a drink to celebrate.”

“Yeah, she told me.”

She cocks her head to the side. “Does everyone know everyone’s business around here?”

I grin. “You better get used to it.”

She bites her lip and I lift my hand and pull it from between her teeth, watching her eyes widen as my fingers brush the soft skin on her neck as I draw my hand back.

“Have fun tonight. You deserve it.” I give her a wink as Betsy and I get into the truck.

She stands and watches us leave, never moving.

When I look back at her in the rear-view mirror, she’s still watching us, her fingertips pressed to her lips.


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