Authors: Samantha Horne
I was just hopping out of the car- proud of myself that I had found the way to town all on my own- when a shadow fell across me and I jumped back in fright. I quickly smiled when I saw the gorgeous man leaning on my car like he owned it, throwing me the most beautiful smile full of dimples and everything. He had prominent cheekbones that models would kill for, a black t-shirt and jeans which moulded to his strong body, and messy black hair slightly longer than was usual, but so sexy. I didn’t know what they were putting in the water here, but they’d probably make a load of money using this place as a tourist attraction for horny women.
“Hey, beautiful. You must be Laura.”
He reached out his hand for me to shake, and I once again gasped at how warm he was to the touch. These guys were like human radiators, and all I could think about was curling up against one during a cold, lonely night.
Yeah, it’s definitely been a while
“Is it that obvious I’m new around here?”
He laughed and I smiled in response. This guy had to be the local heartbreaker around here, that’s for sure.
“You could say that. Also, I’d have definitely remembered seeing your beautiful face before.”
“Smooth. And you are?” I brushed off his compliment like he had no effect on me whatsoever, which of course was a total lie.
“I’m Blake. My brother’s told me all about you.” It was then that I noticed the small paw print tattoo on his left hand, although it was hard to see amongst all the other tattoos that decorated his hands and arms.
“Ah. I’m guessing your brother would be Jackson?”
“The one and only. I heard what you did the other day, rescuing my niece like that. I was just going to thank you and be on my way, but after seeing how hot you are I’m gonna have to ask you out for some food. Of course, a proper thank you does involve a kiss or three as well.”
I giggled at his blatant ways to try and chat me up, before I locked my car door and headed towards the bank.
“So, that’s a no then?” He shouted after me, smiling and throwing me a wink so I knew he wasn’t offended by my brush off.
“Nice to meet you, Blake! I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around.”
“You can count on it.” I walked in to the bank, happy that at least one other person had treated me like a normal woman, rather than someone harbouring the plague.
Two hours later, and I was no further on in to my investigation to find out what the hell was going on in this place. Although there had been a few people looking at me strangely, there had been no whispered conversations about me or hostile vibes sent my way. In fact, everyone had been fairly pleasant, offering to help me find things when they could see me looking lost, and telling me all about the best places to eat in the local area. Although I was used to living in the hustle and bustle of the city, with streets full of restaurants and things to do, I found myself feeling an innate sense of peace here, and I quite liked the fact that everything was set apart. The people seemed quite happy, and the town was so clean you’d have thought the Queen was about to pay a visit. The only thing that worried me, was the amount of Jackson’s men I had seen walking around. I called them Jackson’s men but I still didn’t really understand their job roles, or why Jackson was so important here. They didn’t seem to be heading anywhere in particular; they were just walking around and talking to the locals. They would take the time to talk to me, offering me assistance if I needed it, and complimenting me enough to make me suspicious, but I presumed it was just because they were friends with Jackson, and they had seen us hanging out together. I knew I’d never be able to remember their names, but I was going to try my hardest to put in the effort, because for some reason I really wanted to belong here. I found myself
these people to like me, which could only lead to heartache for myself I was sure.
I was just walking back to the car when my phone started vibrating in my back pocket. I groaned when I pulled out the phone and saw Craig’s name flash up on the screen. I counted to five slowly before answering the call.
“Baby? No Craig, you can’t call me that now. We’re not together anymore, remember?”
“Yeah, for the moment. You’ll change your mind eventually.”
“What kind of planet are you living on Craig? How many times do I have to tell you it’s over?”
“Oh come on! Over something so stupid?!”
“Stupid?! You slept with my best friend! In my bed!”
“It was our bed, babe.”
I screamed out in frustration, not even bothered by the amount of people who had gathered around and were listening to this embarrassing conversation.
“Look, just come home and we can sort it out.”
“Craig, get it through your thick head. I’ve moved away, forever. There’s nothing tying me there anymore, so don’t wait for me to come back. You’ll get the divorce papers soon enough.”
“You’re making a big mistake, baby.”
“The only mistake I ever made was marrying you,
I ended the sentence with a shout, and my face flushed red as I looked up to find not only most of the locals watching me, but Jackson standing to the side of me, clearly witness to my humiliation.
“Everything okay?” He asked with concern in his gaze and that voice that sent shivers down my spine.
“Yes! Everything’s fine.” I laughed and shrugged off my discomfort, turning to walk towards my car when Jackson’s hand reached out to stop me.
“Erm. I do, yes. Thanks.” Confused by his question, I kept walking when I heard him laughing behind me.
God, even that guys laugh can turn me in to a puddle of goo
“No. I meant, do you want to go for a drink? There’s a restaurant with a bar just around the corner. You look like you could use someone to talk to.” Touched by his gesture, I was mortified to feel my eyes filled with unshed tears.
This day could not get any more embarrassing
“How much of that conversation did you hear?” I asked him.
“Do you want me to be honest, or to lie?”
“Honestly, I heard the whole thing. I know I can seem like a grumpy git sometimes, but I promise I’m a good listener, if you need it.”
My heart warmed as I realised I had probably judged him a bit too quickly, and I could feel myself liking him a lot more than was healthy. Pushing back the tears and holding my head high, I nodded and smiled at him. He held his arm out for me to take in an old fashioned gesture which took me pleasantly by surprise, and we walked together- our arms linked- towards the restaurant.
“So, I met another one of your brothers.”
“Ah, the elusive Blake. Yeah, he’s a character.”
I laughed and tucked in to my ceasar salad with a groan, as I realised how hungry I was. Jackson and I had walked to the restaurant in a comfortable silence, before deciding we could both do with some food, so our quick drink had turned in to a dinner date. Well, I say ‘date’, but in his eyes he probably just saw it as helping the new guy out. I felt like a school girl with her first crush as I even found Jackson tucking in to his ginormous burger, attractive. You know you fancy them when the sight of them scoffing meat turns you on rather than making you feel nauseous. So far we’d been having pleasant small talk, with Jackson telling me more about his family and how Annabelle’s intelligence was already causing trouble. I laughed as he told me tales of how good she was at hiding, and how the times was silent was when she’d normally be hatching her next plan. I failed to see this evil genius and mastermind when I looked at the cherubic face of the young girl.
A comfortable silence passed while we ate our food, when Jackson looked at me with a questioning look on his face.
“So, do you want to talk about it?”
I chewed a piece of chicken slowly to give me time to think about how I was going to answer the question. I didn’t particularly want to bare all with my humiliating tale of betrayal, but then again these would be my new neighbours.
I may as well reveal how much of a mess my life is now, rather than having to spill it all later.
“Let’s just say I was stupid.”
“Being trusting of someone is not being stupid.”
I looked up to find him smiling at me, and I felt more confident with telling my story. I needed to remind myself that Craig was in the wrong; not me.
“Well, I trusted the wrong people. Kind of a theme at the moment.”
“Is that how you ended up here?”
“Yeah, I guess. I thought that packing a bag and running away would solve all of my problems, but there are some things you can’t hide from.”
“He was an idiot.” I looked at him in confusion, before remembering that he had heard my conversation with Craig on the phone.
“Or I was. I genuinely believed that my marriage was going to be for life. Turns out it didn’t even last a month.” I laughed without humour, and carried on picking at my food. A shiver jolted through my body when Jackson used his hand to pick my chin up, so I was looking at him instead of the table. I was drawn to his eyes and found I could not look away.
“He had no idea what he had until it was too late. He’s calling you because he’s realised now what he’s lost. Something that should be treasured.”
He leant toward me and I felt a thrill go through me at the thought of him kissing me, but then someone nearby dropped a glass, startling us out of our moment. For a second there I forgot where we were, and I was unnerved by the effect he seemed to have on me. My heart sank when he moved back, although his eyes never left me once.
“It wasn’t even Craig’s betrayal which hurt the most. It was my best friend’s. I’ve known Craig for a few years, but Natalie? I’ve known her my whole life. How could anyone do that to their friends?”
“I don’t know. What I do know, is that if you stay around here you’ll see what true friends really are. This community is like a family, whether related by blood or not. Who needs friends when you have family, right?”
I smiled at him, and felt a weight lift from my chest now I’d finally spoke about everything. There was no judgment in Jackson’s eyes, and all he’d done was make me feel better about the situation.
Something that should be treasured.
Man, I was so lost.
My head was muddled and I had no idea what to make of my feelings. I’d always been one of those guys who enjoyed the company of women, and certainly enjoyed spending my evenings with them, but I was never bothered about having anything permanent with one. My role in Wolves Creek meant that I barely had time to watch television, let alone have time to put the effort required to achieve a blossoming relationship. Laura seemed to be changing all that for me. The longer I spent with her, the more she filled my thoughts, and now even my dreams were filled with her. On the one hand, I wanted to leave her alone so that my feelings wouldn’t have a chance to develop, but on the other hand I was desperate to see exactly where these feelings could lead us. I’d meant what I had said to her, when I’d told her that she was something to be treasured. I always scoffed when Noah would say soppy shit like that to Jasmine, but it had felt like the right thing to say at the time.
It made me angry with how she had been treated by her ex-husband in the past, and I needed to try and make her feel better. I didn’t understand why I needed that so much, but I wasn’t going to argue with it. Laura had been looking at me, with a sadness her in eyes that didn’t belong there, and I had an urge I could not diminish, to eradicate it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I inwardly cheered when a smile had lit her eyes up, and I had found myself just enjoying her company, and the conversation. I had been so close to kissing her, I’d had to physically restrain myself, with a newfound strength despite the fact that she seemed to make me weak. I was suddenly pulled from my thoughts by the ringing of my phone, and answered it quickly, knowing it was bad news from how late the hour was. Three words were all it took for me to jump out of bed, and run out of the house like my life depended on it.
Fire at Noah’s.
I woke up in the middle of the night, confused and wondering what had woken me. I looked around me and rubbed my eyes to try and clear them, but everything remained foggy and I struggled to see anything. It was then that I started to cough, and realised the room was filled with smoke. I heard an alarm beeping somewhere in the distance and my heart dropped as I realised what was happening.
Jumping from the bed, I stopped as another wave of coughs hit me, and I struggled to breathe through the thick smoke which seemed to be building in the room. Covering my nose and mouth with my arm, I rushed towards the door, only to be flung back by an unseen force as soon as I opened it. Realising my mistake, I tried not to panic as I saw flames through the doorway and they started to find their way in to the bedroom, just feet away from me. The heat was unbearable, but I knew that if I passed out now, I would die, so I called on a reserve of strength deep down, and kept low on the ground, crawling over to the window. The smoke had made me practically blind, so I crawled across the floor, praying the window was wide enough for me to fit through. I thought I heard someone calling my name in the distance, but I didn’t stop to think about it as the flames came close enough that I could feel their heat licking my feet. The smoke stung my eyes, causing tears to stream down my face as I stood up and felt around for the opening of the window. I cried out in despair as the seconds went by and I could not open the window. Banging my fists against it, I decided to try and break it instead, not caring about being cut by the glass, because that was more preferable than being burned to death. I looked around for something to help me smash the window, when I saw a crowd of people forming in the garden outside, all looking at me and shouting things I could not understand. I cried out in relief as I saw Noah, Jasmine and Anabelle stood to the back of the group, covered in black from the smoke but alive, and I thanked God that they had managed to make it out okay.