Cold Heart

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Falling

When Hunter and his father arrived at the site where his whole family was, he found only a few of them there. It was usual for his parents to gather with their big family on vacations where Hunter could meet his cousins, uncles, aunties, nephews, and nieces. Even though he was not related by blood, they had accepted him like their own family.

Now, where is she? Hunter searched around as far as his eyes could see but he couldn’t find where Claire was.

“Bro! Finally! Where were you?”

Someone patted Hunter’s back from behind. It was Nate Wright, his cousin from his father’s side. Nate had the same age as him, not only that, Nate was practically the only best buddy he had.

“Chatting with my dad, changing my outfit too,” Hunter said while responding to Nate’s fist bump and light hug.

“Hey, congrats on your wedding, man! Thank you so much for not making me your best man,” Nate said, sarcastically.

Hunter was about to speak when one of his uncles, Nate’s dad cut in. “Nate flirted with your wife, Hunter, you should punch him in the face!” he said with chuckles.

“Hah! Bad jokes!” Nate nervously laughed. “To be fair…I didn’t know she’s your wife,” he added between his grins. But then he realized that Hunter was not laughing or smiling at all.

“Wait… you’re not actually jealous, are you?” Nate quickly said. As far as he knows Hunter, he never shows any jealousy when it comes to the women he’s with.

Hunter couldn’t lie that he was bugged by the joke his uncle threw at Nate and him, but he knew Nate his whole life. Nate was practically his real brother, his wingman, somebody he trust.

Besides, he clearly was not jealous. Hunter thought.

“Ahem, where is she…?” Hunter diverted the whole conversation by trying to find Claire’s whereabouts.

“She’s there… playing with the kids,” Nate said, pointing in her direction.

No wonder Hunter couldn’t find her since he didn’t expect to find Claire near the water. But there she was, splashing water, playing with the kids, laughing, and looking happy. It was the first time he saw her happy.

She’s glowing… and sexy. Wait, what am I thinking? Hunter quickly thought. No wonder if Nate had flirted with her, because her beachwear was stunning, and her body was amazing.

She’s wearing a one-piece swimsuit which perfectly fits her in a sexy and elegant way. She also wore white mesh outerwear, off-shoulder style, maybe she wasn’t confident enough to use only her bikini, but it only made her sexy curves more intriguing.

Shit. I’m doing it again. Hunter slightly looked down. He decided to focus his hearings on what Nate had said since Nate’s voice was blurred before.

“Everybody loves her… except… you know, your fan cousin…? Serena,” Nate explained, half whispering. “It’s very weird that she still thinks that you guys should be together,”

“Dude, please don’t start,” Hunter said, pinching his nasal bone. “I don’t know what’s going on in her head, she still texted me so often. I mean, come on, even though I’m not her cousin by blood, but still…it feels weird,” Hunter shook his head, sighing.

“I know! That’s what I’m trying to say!” Nate said.

“So, maybe you should prepare your wife if Serena stings her or gives her a hard time… Oh, by the way, she’s nice, man… Where did you find her…? Does she have a sister? You’ve got a lot of things to tell me,--” Nate talked without any pause, bringing Hunter to the bench.

They were catching up for some time and since Hunter refused to keep an eye on Claire, he forced himself to be caught up in the conversation which he succeeded.

There’s no way he’s gonna let himself dwell in some sort of unnecessary emotions toward Claire. And he just needs to block every thought or feeling that bothers him as soon as possible. As easy as that. Hunter thought inside.

An hour had gone by where he successfully ignored his thought of Claire, he even managed not to look at her at all. Hunter was in the middle of his proud moment when his mom, nieces, and aunties got back and joined his crowd.

They quickly surrounded him, greeting him and congratulating him, except for Serena who was staring at Hunter.

“Where’s Claire?” Hunter asked his mother after putting down one of his nieces.

“She’s still with Kayla and her mother, buying some ice cream and balloons,” his mother replied as she slightly pointed in their direction.

Hunter’s eyes quickly followed to where he’s supposed to find Claire, but he only found Kayla and her mother Ashley.

“I’m better to go see her,” Hunter said to his mother before heading toward Kayla.

From a distance, Kayla looked like she was crying with her finger pointed up to somewhere near the oak tree, Ashley was kneeling trying to soothe her daughter.

As Hunter got closer to them, he was starting to hear Ashley’s voice.

“Stop crying, Kayla…This is not a big deal, okay? I’ll buy you a new one…” Ashley said before she looked up to the tree too. “Claire, please get down from there before you get hurt, it’s just a balloon…!”

“Just a second, I’m al...most… Got it, yes!” Claire slightly shouted when she managed to take the ribbon of a bunny-shaped gas balloon in her hand.

But then her hand and foot were slipping since her body was still partly wet. She couldn’t get a good grip and all she could remember was closing her eyes, waiting for her back to crash on the ground and a panic shout from Ashley.

Claire was still closing her eyes when she felt a hard thump on her back and under her thighs. She remembered thinking; ’This is not what sands and ground are supposed to feel.′

“What are you doing…?” Hunter said. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Claire, who had already opened her eyes just to find a muscle popped out between Hunter’s clenched jaws in front of her, was unable to speak.

Being in Hunter’s arms, rescued by him, just made her even more dazzled in her romantic mind at the moment. She really couldn’t decide which had taken her breath more, her falling, or Hunter’s presence.

“Oh my goodness, Claire! Are you okay??” Ashley said, still in shock.

Hunter gently put Claire down as soon as he heard Ashley talk, but he kept his hand on Claire’s waist for a while. Guarding her just in case she was stumbling or still in shock since Claire’s hand was holding on to his arm, as if she was trying to get her feet steady on the ground.

“Are you hurt?” Hunter asked.

“I-I’m okay…” Claire finally said.

“I told you not to climb there…!” Ashley said, sounded both worried and angry.

“It’s…not really that high, heh,” Claire said with a soft chuckle. She suddenly raised her pointer, in a gesture to ask Hunter and Ashley to wait before she took a small rock and tied the balloon ribbon to the rock. After she managed to attach the balloon with the rock, she gave it to Kayla who quickly thanked her.

“I’m fine… I’m not hurt,” Claire calmly said to both Hunter and Ashley as she glanced nervously at them.

“It was still a dangerous thing to do--” Ashley said before she had to leave, chasing away Kayla. “Don’t do that again-- and thank you, Claire!!” She shouted from her shoulder.

“You-you’re welcome!” Claire said between her nervous smile, rubbing her arm under Hunter’s eyes that seemed upset. Not to mention she’s not that confident to stand in front of Hunter in her swimsuit.

She was about to leave and heading to Hunter’s family when Hunter caught her arm. She could spontaneously feel her skin burning under his skin.

“What was that...?! What were you thinking?” He burst out.

“It’s--... She was crying…I--” Claire stammered. She was like a little girl who’s found guilty with her round eyes.

“And your first solution was to climb an oak tree, half wet, in a swimsuit, to get it for her?”

Hunter was swearing inside as he found Claire’s big eyes messing with his head. Moreover to see her whole sexy looks that close.

Claire was lightly shuddering between her thoughts of why Hunter got that mad with her. Not to mention the heavy intimidating vibes from Him that weakened her knees even when he wasn’t angry.

“It’s- it’s the last bunny balloon the seller had, and the tree is not that high, and nothing’s happened. I’m fine!” Claire finally explained between her pantings.

Another muscle popped out when Hunter clenched his jaws again, he was slightly looking away as if he was trying to get a grip on himself. Which made Claire’s heart pounding faster.

She had made him upset, she thought. The question was, why would he be that upset? Was he cares about her safety and well-being? Claire bit her bottom lip out of her nervousness, preventing it from trembling.

"Fine…? I’m sure it’s gonna be a very different story if I hadn’t gotten here in time--!” Hunter said, clenching his jaws. He was crazy mad inside.

The thoughts of how it could be a total disaster if he was not there in time and found her hurt just drove him crazy.

Why did it bother him so much? He didn’t know. And the fact that it bothered him just annoyed him even more. He ran his hair with his fingers, not happy with the way his mind works.

“--It’s just a balloon, okay? It’s not worth a broken arm or-or legs, or even an attempt to impress my family,” Hunter said before clenching his jaws, feeling upset.

To impress his family. The words were echoing in Claire’s head for a second. She felt as if she kept flattering herself, to think that Hunter cared about her.

She was silently gasping between her parted lips and just staring at Hunter.

“...I’m not trying to--”

Claire was about to explain but she stopped.

What’s the point of telling him her reason? Claire let out a breath and looked away.

“--...Never mind, I’m gonna go get changed,” she said flatly, taking a step away.

“Are you sure you’re not hurt?” Hunter asked again, holding her arms for the second time as he searched Claire’s eyes.

“Yes! I’m fine.” Claire said with a bit of an angry tone. Angry at herself maybe, disappointed, and heartbroken to be exact.

She avoided any eye contact with Hunter, she was afraid that she couldn’t hide her disappointment or her glassy eyes that started to show.

“Thanks for rescuing me,” she swiftly thanked him and walked away.

Hunter was just sighing as he watched her getting farther.

*

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