The Return to Willow Lake - 2

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Chapter 17


“Three tickets to London.” Emmett grinned, slapping an envelope down on the dining table.

“What?” I looked from the white envelope to Emmett, utterly bemused.

A little over a week had passed since the attack that killed Eric. We all still felt the weight of the grief his loss came with. The funeral had been two days ago, and Mahala was a wreck, and I felt awful for her.

She was racked with guilt for how she treated Eric and never telling him that she loved him deep down. That fact only deepened my sadness.

There was nothing I could do or say to take my friend’s pain away. There was also the whole thing, knowing I knew the truth and having to hide it from her.

She had no answers to a million questions, she knew her cousin, despite his ways wasn’t so careless. They’d covered up the ordeal as a party in the woods gone wrong, a group of drunk people allowing a small bonfire to break out into a small forest fire.

I hated knowing the truth of what happened, and I hated keeping it from her, but I had no choice. She could never know, or I’d lose my friend, and I’d put my family at risk.

“Well, you have a week off school after last class on Friday, so we figured you’d like to go see Thomas with your week off.” Alicia smiled sweetly, “We know Thomas would like to see Zach, and his days are numbered. Plus, Masato should see his father. And I know you miss Daisy and Elise, and with everything going on, you three deserve a break. So, take the tickets and go to London for the week.”

“What about you two?” Zach asked, his head cocked to the side.

“We’re staying and going to keep digging.” Emmett explained, “We’ve found no clues or anything yet, but you never know. Plus, I couldn’t get the week off work, we’re working on a major project and our deadline to have a working prototype is in three weeks. We know Masato booked the week off to spend with you while you were off school. So you three go, we’ll be fine here for a few days without you.”

“Are you sure? I mean-”

“Masato, we insist.” Emmett held up his hand to stop Masato’s words. “We’ll drive you to the airport first thing on Saturday, and we’ll pick you up from the airport the following Saturday.”

“With everything that’s happened, go and enjoy yourselves away from all the stress and mess.” Alicia moved forward and placed her hand softly on my shoulder, “It will make us feel better if we know you’re taking some time to recoupe.”

“Thank’s Mom, Dad.” I grinned, wrapping my arms around Alicia before moving to hug Emmett.

“You’re the best.” Masato grinned with a look of pure happiness on his face.

I knew he’d wanted to go back to see his father one more time before he was gone. Thomas was getting sicker, and he didn’t have much more left in him. He was going to be too frail to travel for the wedding, and I knew he missed his Mom and Dad.

Although he never really said it, I could tell. When he would speak to them on the phone, there would always be a hint of sadness, and when they hung up, he looked as if someone put a mass weight on his shoulders. He’d always need a few minutes before he resumed his usual, happy go lucky persona.

“Damn, can’t believe I’m going to see Thomas after all these years. Seriously, thank you.” Zach smiled. “I had been wondering if I’d get to see Thomas again before he passed.”

“Hey, and you get to meet Daisy and Elise! I think Elise might love you.” I chuckled, “She has a thing for guys like you. Tall, dark, handsome with that rugged, dirty but clean look. You’re pretty much the kind of guy she writes in her books.”

“Oh, god.” Zach groaned. “On the scale of one to fucking insane, how crazy are these friends of Hallie’s?”

“Fucking insane, dude.” Masato sighed, patting Zach’s shoulder, “But they’re great girls.”

“Well, I suppose if Hallie loves them, I’ll tolerate it.” Zach chuckled.

“All right, well, go wash up, dinner will be ready soon.” Alicia smiled. We all nodded and headed upstairs to get ready for dinner.

------

“Hallie!” Elise squealed as she came barreling towards me full speed before I’d even stepped out the gate.

“About damn time!” Daisy beamed as she and Elise engulfed me in a hug. “We missed you.”

“I missed you guys, too.” I sighed happily, feeling every single ache, pain, and worry ebb away into nothing as I held my two dear friends.

I’d missed London, and I’d missed my friends here far more than I’d ever missed a place or people before. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d desired to be back here until we’d landed, and I saw them.

It was as if there was a little piece of me that had been missing, and now we were here, the part magically returned to its rightful spot.

“Masato! We missed you, too! I can’t believe you finally proposed too!” Elise smiled as she pulled away from me and instantly pulled him into her arms.

“Missed you too, Elise, you as well, Daisy.”

Daisy rolled her eyes and tutted, “Well, of course, we’re awesome!”

Elise turned to the awkward man standing behind me, one hand scratching the back of his head. “And who the hell is this smoking hot, hottie?”

I couldn’t help but laugh, “That’s Zach. Zach, this is Elise and Daisy. Girl’s; this is my twin brother.”

“Jesus Christ, your parents must have had some strong ass genes for you two to come out so hot!” Elise got that glint in her eyes she always did when she took an instant shine to a guy. It was that look that was a mix of fore longing and equally one that said I’d like to do naughty things to you.

“Down Elise, down.” Masato sighed, patting her shoulder. “We’ve had a long flight, and we’re hungry. Drool over Calvin Klien’s next underwear model later.”

“Woah, hey!” Zach glared at Masato, “You wouldn’t catch me dead modeling underwear!”

“What about in private?” Elise looked at Zach suggestively, and I couldn’t contain the urge to roll my eyes.

“Elise, seriously, that’s my brother, you’re my best friend. Just no.”

Elise huffed as her arms folded across her chest, “All right, fine, I’ll behave. Let’s get your bags, and we’ll find some food. Where was it you’re staying?”

“Chatsworth hotel,” I replied as we headed over to the luggage collection. “And no, you can’t stay in Zach’s room.”

My words caused Elise’s lips to turn into a pout, much like a child’s pout after they’d been told they couldn’t have the toy they wanted.

“I’m sorry, Zach, you’ll have to forgive Elise. She’s been wrapped up in her recent novel, and it’s left her a little horny.” Daisy teased, nudging Elise with her elbow lightly.

“Hey!” Elise scowled as a blush crept on her cheeks. “No one asked your opinion, Daisy.”

“No, but I give it anyway.”

“Been here for sixty seconds, and I can understand why you picked them for friends, Hale.” Zach chuckled as his head shook in disbelief at the scene he was witnessing.

“What is that supposed to mean?!” I narrowed my eyes at Zach, and I rested my hands on my hips.

“Because they’re as crazy as you are!”

“Better than being dull and boring.” Elise shrugged cooly.

“Ok, nevermind, I’ll get all our bags myself, it’s fine!” Masato sounded exasperated as he struggled to pull all three bags from the conveyer belt before they disappeared again.

Zach laughed before he jogged over to the belt to help Masato, “Sorry, buddy.”

------

“So, where do you want to get food? There’s a nice pub that does an amazing dinner menu on the way. The choices are pretty much endless.” Daisy asked as we started making our way to the exit and towards the car park.

“That sounds good to me.” I smiled widely as my stomach growled in approval.

We threw our things into the back of Elise’s dad’s range rover, which she’d borrowed to pick us up in before we climbed in.

“Food, here we come!” Elise started the car and began to drive off.

I rested my head on Masato’s shoulder as I watched the scenery pass out of the window. With everything that had happened back in Willow Lake, I was more than glad to be back in London.

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