Saved By The Lumberjack

Page 8

“Fine,” I say, my voice tight.
She flinches as if I hit her. “I’m sorry I asked.”
I suck my bottom lip between my teeth and sigh, feeling guilty I made her feel bad. “Don’t be. I’m just grumpy, that’s all.”
“Well, grumpy, how about you tell me where we’re going to take your mind off of things?”
I chuckle, almost against my will. “No. I want it to be a surprise.”
Before she can reply, she lets out a gasp and stumbles. Instinctively, I grab her waist to stop her from falling.
“Oops,” she says, panting. I’m hyper-aware of how close she is. “That was close.”
“The snow hides all the roots and stones. You have to be careful.”
But within minutes, she trips over something again, and this time, I can’t stop her from falling. She looks up at me, her eyes wide, as if she can’t believe she actually fell. And then she laughs, the sound bright and clear in the brisk winter air, and I can’t help joining in.
I hold out my hand to help her up, and when she takes it, her small hand disappears in mine. Once she’s on her feet again, I don’t let go. Just to make sure she doesn’t fall again, of course.
We continue down the path, and Daisy asks me all sorts of questions about the logging business. How I got into it, if it’s dangerous, if my family has been doing it for generations, and I answer all of them patiently. Normally, I’m not one for small-talk, but it’s different with Daisy. She’s not just asking to be polite, it’s like she’s genuinely curious, like she really wants to get to know me.
“We’re almost there,” I tell her.
“Wherever you’re taking me better be spectacular,” she says, grinning up at me.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.”
We round a bend in the path, and Daisy lets out a squeal, her eyes wide. Before us is a small, frozen lake, surrounded by trees, the surface glittering in the sun.
“It’s beautiful,” she says, her eyes shining. “Do you come here often?”
I nod. “I come here when I need to think. When my… when I went through a tough time, I came here almost every day. You should see it in spring and summer. It’s breathtaking.”
“It’s breathtaking now.” She tugs at my hand to pull me toward the old wooden bench that gives a spectacular view of the lake.
We sit down, and I realize I’m still holding her hand. I should let go. There’s no reason to hold on to her anymore, after all. But I don’t want to.
So instead, I grab her fingers tighter and look out over the sparkling lake, breathing in the crisp air.
We sit in comfortable silence for a while, enjoying the view. When I hear footsteps approaching, I turn to see a familiar figure coming toward us, and I scowl. Daisy follows my gaze. “Who’s that?” she asks quietly, as the figure comes nearer.
“That’s Stephen. Marianne’s brother.” And one of my best friends.
“Burke! How’s it going, man?”
I stand up to shake Stephen’s hand, hating him for interrupting us. Especially because I had to let go of Daisy’s hand. “Hi, Stephen. It’s going.”
But he’s not even looking at me. His eyes are on Daisy, and his smile is a little too charming. I clear my throat, glaring at him, but the dickhead doesn’t even notice.
“And who’s this beautiful creature?” he asks. I love Stephen, but right now I want to punch him.
“That’s Daisy,” I say, and she waves at him. Instead of waving back, he takes her hand in his, brushing a kiss to her gloved hand. Fucking bastard.
“Shouldn’t you be at work?” I ask, gritting my teeth.
He shrugs. “Shouldn’t you?”
When he sees my thunderous face, the too charming smile slips a little. “I took the morning off. I’ll be in after lunch. Matt okayed it.”