4 Where Have You Been?!
Wednesday has come again and that means another delivery. The sun is shining and there’s a gentle breeze making it the perfect day for a scenic drive. Everything else is done for the day, so for once I just enjoy the drive and take in the scenery. Unfortunately, the closer I get, the tenser I feel as a sense of unease creeps over me.
Sara steps out the front door as I pull up and I see her call back over her shoulder. I put my truck in park and make my way to the tailgate as Jace shows up. “Sup, lil’ elf?” He asks with a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Nothing much now, you’re my last stop then I’m done for the day. Not even sure what to do with the rest of my afternoon. I don’t get done this early very often,” I laugh.
He waves over a couple young guys to grab the produce while he keeps chatting. “Well if you aren’t busy I could show you around a little bit if you’d like? We don’t often allow visitors. It’s a rare chance, take it while you can,” he says with a goofy grin.
He can see my hesitation. Part of me wants to give them their order and be gone as fast as possible, but the other side of me wonders what he’ll show me. After teasing me about just being on the front lawn last time, I can’t turn him down. “I may have a bit of time to spare,” I say, smiling.
“Natural wonder or man made marvels? Visitors choice, I’m feeling gracious today,” he says with a wink.
“Dealers choice?” Not really sure what either means so whatever he picks will be fine.
“Beautiful day so nature it is!” Jace grabs my hand and sets off through the east lawn. The moment he grabs it though, my heart starts to race! Instinct kicks in and I pull away. I must look like a deer in the headlights because the moment he turns around, his look of confusion is quickly replaced with regret. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt or upset you.”
I just kept my wrist clutched to my chest and look at him, willing my heartbeat to slow down. “Sorry, I just don’t like people touching me. It freaks me out when I don’t expect it,” I trail off, dropping my gaze. I hate the look he’s giving me. He means well, but it just makes my anxiety feel ten times worse.
“Come on, tour’s still on me,” he says with a small smile. This time he points in a direction instead of trying to lead me. “I promise it’s worth the trek.” His kind grey eyes twinkle with sincerity, helping me to relax.
Having regained my composure, I return his smile. “Lead the way, but if you get us lost in the woods I’m gonna kick your butt,” I warn with a small laugh.
As we start down the path there’s an awkward silence, it’s not totally uncomfortable for me but I can tell by the way he keeps side-eyeing me it’s bugging Jace. “So where are we going?”
“What, and ruin the surprise, not likely!” The mischievous glint is back in his grey eyes. “For real though, it’s one of my favourite places. I think you’re really gonna like it, just about a twenty minute walk up this path.”
“So have you lived here all your life?” I ask, trying to put my freak out behind me.
Small talk... I can do this.
“Yup, my parents moved here as teens. They met, fell in love, had me and the world has been a better place ever since.”
Before I can answer, he smirks. “What about you? What’s your story?”
Not my favourite topic.
“Nothing much to me,” I admit. “I was born and raised here; my adoptive parents have been great. Lost my mum five years ago, which has been so hard. My dad comes and goes, her death hit him hard so he travels a lot now. I think me and home remind him too much. I get it,” I trail off, not really having anything else to add.
‘Way to kill the convo.’ ‘Fuck, dude I don’t know what else to say.’
His eyes shift to a darker shade of grey. “Sorry to hear that, family is everything. You may have noticed we are a tight knit group here. After Chris’s parents died, he spent a lot of time with me and my parents, he’s like a brother to me.” This serious, sentimental side is new, I’ve only ever seen playboy Jace.
“I guess that explains why he’s so serious all the time, eh?” I muse, more to myself. Chris’ energy is so dominant and serious, I don’t think I’ve seen him crack a single smile.
“He’s actually a great guy, but sometimes he just needs to lighten up. He takes his job too seriously; so focused on the business side of things he’s missing out on the little joys. Like an afternoon hike with a lovely lady in the woods,” he says with a wink.
“Cheesy even for you Jace,” I say while rolling my eyes.
“Almost there!” I can feel his excitement as the sound of running water reaches us now. “Do you trust me?”
“No,” I reply immediately as his face sinks. “Don’t take it personally, trust isn’t easy for me.”
“Come on, think of this as a turning point, a little trust goes a long way. Just close your eyes, grab my arm and I’ll lead you to the clearing. It’s for maximum effect, trust me it’s worth it,” he says almost pleading while he sticks out his elbow.
“Fine,” I grumble.
I can always open my eyes if it’s taking too long or whatever.
So I grab his arm and close my eyes, following his lead. The smell of the woods begins to fade as the sound and smell of water increases. After what feels like ten minutes, we finally come to a stop.
“Open your eyes, lil’ elf.”
I blink away at the brightness as my eyes adjust. We are by crystal blue water now decorated with rainbow coloured pebbles. It’s beautiful! A waterfall crashes off to the left and a small stream leaves the quaint lake to the right. “Wow. I’ve never seen such clear blue water before!”
“I’ve been coming here since I was just a little kid, best swimming hole around.” He waggles his brows suggestively as his classic playboy smirk plays across his lips. I blush and turn away, focusing on the water instead.
“I bet, looks nicer than any pool I’ve seen before. It’s just so peaceful here, kinda makes me want to curl up for a nap,” I muse. I can’t remember the last good night sleep I’ve had.
Next thing I know, Jace is pulling off his shirt.
Wow what is with the guys here? Perfectly chiseled chest and six pack.
“Like what you see?” He asks, grinning having caught me looking at him. I quickly turn to hide my blush.
“Caught me off guard, I didn’t expect you to be stripping.” Hearing a splash, I turn back towards him. Moments later, he breaks through the surface, shakes out his golden brown hair, then runs a hand through it to slick it back.
“Come on in, the water is beautiful!” I just stare at him as he laughs at me.
He’s crazy. Certifiable.
“Yeah, no, sorry I left my bathing suit at home,” I say.
“Live a little, the water is perfect, I won’t let anything happen to you.” I reach down and the water is perfect. “See, would I lie to you? Now come in already!” He splashes at me.
“I still don’t have a suit.”
“Strip,” he teases. “Bra and panties are like a bikini after all.” I just glare at him. “You can use my shirt. Come on, the water’s fine, besides the best sight is behind the waterfall. Hurry up and change behind the bush, haven’t got all day! Chop, chop!”
I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I quickly change. Thank god his shirt is so big. It’s mid thigh on me, which is still more leg than I’m comfortable with, but whatever. “Don’t look, lemme get into the water first.” He laughs but turns and I quickly get into the water; so refreshing on this warm sunny afternoon.
Once I’m in, I swim over to him. He looks at me with disbelief. “Have to admit I didn’t think you had it in you.” I shove him in his shoulder, rolling my eyes.
“Come on you’ll need to hold onto my shoulder, it’s easy to get lost behind the falls.” I frown, so touchy feely. We swim over to the front of the falls. “Take a deep breath and hold on tight, okay?” he asks. His grey eyes search mine, making sure I’m sure. I nod.
On the count of three we swim, once we pass the waterfall it gets so dark, but he pushes us onward. I feel my chest getting tight so squeeze my hand on his shoulder. Suddenly I see a faint blue glow and we swim up and break the surface, leaving me gasping for air. “Shit man! You could have warned me it was so far!”
“You would have bailed and missed all this,” he says, spreading his arms wide.
I look up and am floored. The top of the cave is clear blue, green, white and teal crystal, you can see the shimmer of the water above, making the cave come to life with dancing light. I just tread water looking at this beautiful galaxy, barely hearing him get out.
“Come on,” he commands holding out a hand.
Too distracted by the beauty around me to care about his touch, I take his hand without hesitation and he lifts me out like I’m nothing. “This is amazing.” I reach out and touch the cave wall, tracing the gem like crystals with my fingertips. The smooth crystal is so intricately blended, the colours swirl like some celestial body brought to earth.
Slowly I notice he’s staring at me. Suddenly I’m feeling quite naked, standing there in just his t-shirt and my underwear.
“Sorry, you just look like a kid on Christmas, just awestruck, it’s cute! So, was it worth it?”
“Absolutely,” I say, turning away and continuing my inspection. “What is this place? I’ve never seen anything like it. The way the light comes through the water and crystal it looks alive,” I trail off. I tuck a couple loose curls back behind my ear as I continue to study my surroundings.
“We call it the heart of the lake. It’s always been here but it’s unique, I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere else. Growing up here I always thought this was how all waterfalls were. I’ve swam behind every one I’ve come across and never seen anything even remotely like this.” He looks amused. “It never gets old, you know. But it’s days like this, when the sun is just right that makes it look perfect, it takes on a completely different feel on a full moon, you’d think it was a different cave.”
“Thanks for showing me this, it really is incredible. I can’t help but wonder what else is around here if you chose to lead with this? Might sound dumb but this place has some sort of, energy... like I feel refreshed, energized and at ease. The swim was nice but not that nice,” I laugh.
His grin widens. “Right you are, I wasn’t sure if you would pick that up or not. Our people come here to heal their spirits and relax their minds. Unfortunately, the sun is starting to drop and it will be harder to see the way out, so we should go.”
We slip back into the water, I take hold of his shoulder, and on the count of three we take a deep breath and go back under. The journey out isn’t as bad as the one in. We make our way to shore where I change, then we set off back to the main house.
“Shit! Got to go, I was supposed to be on patrol like twenty minutes ago,” Jace apologizes. He breaks off when we hit the main house clearing, so I wave and head back to my truck. I shut the back door and jump seeing Chris standing there, staring at me.
“Where have you been!?” His hazel eyes are locked on mine, and are flashing all sorts of emotions; shock, surprise, confusion and excitement are the ones I pick up on. “I’ve been looking for you for so long,” he trails off.
Looking for me? Why was he looking for me?
He’s been stepping closer with every moment and is towering above me now, staring down at me. I’ve never felt so small and uncomfortable in my life and suddenly desperate for some space, I start backing up.
“Wait!” He commands in a sharp tone, grabbing my wrist. I gasp at his touch and try to pull away, but his eyes narrow at me.
“Why do you smell like Jace?” He asks as his grip tightens. Panic explodes in me as I try to free myself from his iron grip around my wrist. My free hand claws desperately in vain to pry off his fingers.
“We went swimming, I was just le-leaving, please let me go,” I plead. “I didn’t know you were waiting, I’m sorry.”
“You would run away? From me?!” His eyes have turned hard and unreadable, my heart is now racing as I anxiously try to free my wrist from his iron grasp.
“Fine! Go! Don’t return until you know your place!” He releases my wrist and I fall against my truck as he turns around, storming off to the main house while grumbling something I can’t make out.
I don’t waste a moment to catch my breath, rub at the skin on my wrist, or calm my racing heart. I just jump in my truck and take off for home as fast as I can. His intense hazel eyes will haunt my sleep for sure.