Home > The Wishing Tree(7)

The Wishing Tree(7)
Author: R.J. Scott

“Okay.” He looked disappointed, but then he rallied. “I would come with you, but I came straight here to find Dad. Maybe tomorrow, we could get coffee? Or go skating? Or go for a walk in Rowland wood? I have so much I need to tell you.”

Those options all seemed like the worst way to spend my time—sitting opposite Kai and/or me skating like Bambi, and him all sexy and strong.

“No.” I began to edge sideways to get around him, but stopped when he winced and dipped his head, staring at the snow at my feet. I wasn’t used to seeing him so quiet, more used to his confidence and the broad grin he threw at everyone he saw, not this brittle half smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“I think about you a lot.” His voice dropped to a whisper again, and the words stabbed me in the chest. He stepped closer.

Something made me brave because I stayed so still I could have been carved in ice. Just having him stand close to me made me want to grab him and hold on to him, or thump him for ignoring me, or shout at him for shoving me away. All those times I’d avoided him in case I did something stupid, and here he was within reach. I’d trusted Kai, told him who I was, and he’d been so kind, even with our age difference. So damned grown-up about everything. He’d given me a hope I’d carried in my stupid heart for a long time, so much so that I’d even written that stupid wish.

“I’m sorry for what I did in the summer,” he said in a tone filled with remorse.

“Apology accepted,” I murmured.

It hurt that he was standing there apologizing after what he’d said to everyone. It might only have been a few drunken words, but after we’d hugged and I thought maybe we’d connected, he’d cupped my face and stared into my eyes, and I’d seen so much pain there. I’d told him to breathe, and then he’d cursed and walked away, shoving me back when I went to follow. My stupid heart had held all this hope that, somehow, he needed me, and for a single, shining moment, I believed he’d been leaning on me. Not as family, or a friend, but as a man.

How wrong was I? Completely freaking wrong.

He leaned in. “Just one coffee?”

That was it, I was done. This close to Kai, with his beautiful eyes, and his kind words, I was angling toward him as if… as if what?

“Night,” I said, and moved back so he wasn’t in touching distance.

“There’s something you should know, something that’s been—”

Shouting from the path cut him short, and I stumbled back and away as Lucas arrived on the scene with a ton of noise and a yell that would have woken the dead.

“Bailey? Callum said you left, are you okay, what… Kai? What the f—hell! You told me you’d get here at the weekend! Not tonight!” Lucas summarized from the trail.

“Watch out everyone, Fugly’s arrived!” Kai deadpanned.

“Shut it, Pretty-Boy!” Lucas snapped back.

Then they bro-hugged, with this complicated fist-bump, hug, hand-slap thing, and I took my chance.

I ran.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

KAI


I loved Lucas like a brother—my childhood best friend—but right then, I wanted to bury him in snow and sit on him because he’d interrupted me talking to his brother.

Bailey was shocked when he’d first spotted me, and then he’d withdrawn, dropped his gaze, seemed uncertain, and then he’d gotten angry. I could see all those emotions as they passed over his face. I had to fight the instinct to talk at him about how I felt, and what was happening in my life, and how sorry I was about how I’d been in the summer. He’d accepted my apology, I guess, but there was an edge to his voice, and I think he was biting back what he really wanted to say. No doubt it was to tell me that I was an asshole and needed to fuck off.

I couldn’t tear my eyes from him, with his blond curls escaping his hat, and the way he had to tip his chin to look up at me. I’d never seen any man so perfect, and I wanted him to say that he’d get coffee with me, or skate on the pond, or anything, because it was me who’d put the hurt in his expression, and I wanted his beautiful eyes to fill with warmth, not pain.

Seeing Bailey in the flesh, standing in front of me, did nothing for the images I had from the dreams. He was still as perfect as I recalled, his eyes wide, and his lips parted as if he was going to say something.

All I wanted to say back was that I hoped he could forgive me for walking away from him in the summer. He’d offered his help, his shoulder to lean on, and I’d pushed him away and left. So stupid.

“What are you doing here, Mr. Hockey?” Lucas dragged me out of my introspection as he slapped my back again.

“Thought I’d catch the skating—coach your technique,” I snarked, and hoped Lucas didn’t catch on that I wasn’t fully invested in our reunion.

“Whatever,” Lucas called me on my lie.

“I need to find Dad.”

“He’s with the kids.”

“Is Brooke here with him?”

Lucas side-eyed me. “Your sister? Skating? If she was skating right now, Callum would be following her around with cushions.” He made a gesture for a big belly. “She’s home, and exhausted, and Callum’s with the kids. I know he’s keen to get home though.” He gave me a sly glance. “Probably so he can get his sex on with his wife.”

“Jesus!” I shoved at my asshole friend. Hearing words like that about his brother with Brooke, was a step too far, and he knew it. As far as I was concerned, my little sister would die a virgin—despite knowing she’d had two kids and had another on the way.

He chuckled and tugged me down the path. “Let’s find your dad, and then beer,” he announced.

“Coffee would be fine,” I said quietly. I’d not touched anything alcoholic since I’d lost my shit at the barbecue. I wasn’t sure Lucas had heard me, but I didn’t want beer; I wanted a clear head and quiet talks with my family. Without missing a beat, Lucas started on a story about Duncan and his lack of skating prowess.

“… so then, Duncan fell over and squashed Callum flat, and I swear it was the funniest shit ever.”

“Uh huh,” I searched the pond for my dad, caught sight of him at the top by the skate rental. He was an older version of me, without the bulk that professional sports and muscle-building exercise had gifted me. He was tall, with the same dark hair and weirdly colored eyes as me, so I could imagine exactly what I’d look like when I reached fifty-five, and it wasn’t a bad picture at all. He was on a bench with Alice next to him—Alice was seven now, and I hadn’t seen her since the summer. I hadn’t seen Dad. Or friends like Lucas. I’d been hiding out in my McMansion, licking my wounds, and wondering why I’d messed everything up so much. Lucas cupped his hands to his lips to shout that I was there, but I clamped a gloved hand over his mouth and shoved him back into a snowdrift for good measure. He let out a loud huff as he hit the snow, but somehow, he caught my leg and took me with him. Luckily, I didn’t fall on my already fucked-up wrist, and God help me if I’d landed awkwardly on my hip—that was how fragile I felt. But I didn’t let on, gave him a face wash of snow, then used him as a lever to help me stand. He fake-glowered at me, so I offered him a hand up, which he took, then proceeded to dump snow down my neck.

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