Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Believe it or not, I'd had the idea for the below scene planned out for weeks before I ever wrote it. (I even jotted down a few sentence on paper.) But it's a very good thing those ideas never came into fruition, because it kind of got a little...compromising, shall we say.
Arielle’s vision blurred as the smoke drifted towards her, the burnt scent traveling through her senses. Blessing whimpered by her side, and she wished she could crouch down and comfort her, but thing only thing on her mind was running. If only her and Mother had ran fast enough to escape the flames that swallowed Mother and Vater only moments ago.
The setting sun that glistened over the lake to her side was a glorious sight Arielle would have loved to paint, but now was not the time to even think of happy things. The fire had destroyed everything, how was that happy?
Blazing sand underneath her bare feet then drifted into a patch of drying grass as she ran farther from her home. Following her dog, she traveled closer to the water, letting the cooler temperature sooth her, as if anything could comfort her after what had happened.
Arielle knew without a doubt this would haunt her forever.
And it did.
Arielle flipped over on her bed, unable to face the light of day. Just yesterday the images flitted through her mind in such a way, she thought she was reliving the moment. Now, she still felt the smoke choking her and the water rushing over her feet. When would it end?
A moan left her lips as she turned over onto her stomach, burying her face in her pillow, wishing the sun didn’t shine so brightly.
Then came another groan, but she knew the sound didn’t come from her.
She lifted her face to find sleep-walking Cade stumble through the doorway, then crash onto her bed. She sat up, rubbed her eyes, and shook Cade’s shoulders, hoping to awaken him before he decided to roll on top of her.
“I don’t wanna wake up, Mommy,” he mumbled, weakly swatting at her hand and rolling over her legs. He yawned, his breath blowing in her face.
Arielle rolled her eyes as she wiggled her legs out from under his back. That stinker ought to be glad he was sleeping, because his unawareness might just help to soften his landing once she shoved him to the floor. Using her feet, she turned him to his side and pushed him off her bed.
He landed with a thud that jolted him awake. "What happened?" he asked groggily, picking himself up off the ground and scanning the room. When his gaze landed on her, his face deepened into a scowl. "Of course, I should have known it was you."
Arielle jumped out of her bed with a start and placed her hands on her hips. Why was it that she was remembering their first encounter? She could feel her face taking on the very same expression she wore the day he barged into her house. "I’ll have you know you were the one who hopped onto my bed, Mr. Darren," she replied. So, she wasn't really mad at him, but it was fun to pretend.
His gaze fell to the floor as he jammed a hand through his wavy hair. "Gosh. Ari. I'm so sorry. I didn't know what I was doin' You'll forgive me, won't you?" he questioned, chancing a glance at her.
She could tell he was surprised to see a smile on her lips. "Yes, don't you worry." She giggled, wrapping her arms around him in a hug.
It was at that moment that a knock sounded from the front of the house.
Oh, drat, Cade thought, hurrying towards the door, Arielle and Blessing walking behind him. Last time someone knocked on the door, Arielle's grandfather showed up. So, unless Kerri came back for an unexpected visit, their visitor could be a problem.
He opened the door, surprised to find his best friend from his juvenile years, Edward McAllister. Cade had grown up with Ed after his grandparents took him in, and it was because of Ed he was a light keeper. But judging by his friend's fancy suit and business face, he could tell Ed wasn't there for a friendly visit, but to inspect the lighthouse. And he'd caught Cade and Arielle at the worst time.
"Cade, it's nice t' see ye. Am I interuptin' somethin'?" Ed asked in his familiar Scottish brogue. His gaze travel to Arielle, who was practically hiding behind Cade, her cheeks bright pink with embarrassment.
"Oh, no. This is Arielle Myers. She was living here when I arrived," he explained, knowing good and well Ed would give him a talking-to later. "I guess you're here to examine everything? The lighthouse is back there." He pointed towards the right, hoping he didn't look as nervous as he felt.
Ed cleared his throat. "I know, I helped me brother-in-law build the thing. I already checked the tower. Ye've done nicely. Everythin' meets me standards." He turned to face Arielle. "Miss Myers, would ye excuse us a moment?" He clasped an arm around Cade's shoulder.
Arielle nodded and walked towards her room.
Once her door closed, Ed drew him into the kitchen, crossed his arms over his broad chest, and tilted his head to the side, popping his neck, a bad habit of his. "Ye're gonna have t' marry her, ye know," he stated, boiling right down to the point.
Cade sighed as he hefted himself atop the kitchen counter. From the very moment he'd met her, he had wrestled with that fact. He didn't what to end up in a loveless marriage like Kerri's, and he wanted to believe his love for Arielle would be enough, but if she didn't truly love him, she would be miserable. Then there was always the fact nobody knew she existed, except for Kerri, Forrest, her grandfather, and Ed. And Ed was his problem; he was a lighthouse inspector, it was his job to report anything that wasn't right to the board, like an unmarried man living with an unmarried woman. If the board found out, well, Cade would lose his job. "I know, Ed. But see, you, me, my sister, and a friend of mine are the only living people who know she exists," he clarified, aware it wouldn't really help. "Nothing's happened between us. The dog can vouch for that." As if on queue, Blessing snuggled up beside him.
"Sure doesn't look like it, ye both as ye are. Ye'll lose yer job, Cade."
"Nothing has happened!" Cade banged his fist on the counter to emphasize his words, hitting his head on the cabinet behind him. He laid his forehead in his palm. "I love her, Ed, I do. Haven't felt this way about anyone before. But she's been through so much, and I can't tell if she's ready to love again."
Ed nodded sympathetically while placing a hand on his shoulder. "I'll give ye a pass, but someone's gonna find out. Ye'll have to marry her one of these days. Until then, ye need a cover story should ye have any other visitors. No matter if nobody knows she lives, yer reputation could be ruined."
"I hope not. Now, aside from all my problems, how have you been doing? Finally married Margaret?" Cade hopped off the counter and led his friend into the dining room.
Ed's business face disappeared and was replaced by a love-sick grin. "Just got married this summer. Best day of me life," he replied, seating himself and propping his legs atop the table, crossing his ankles.
Cade opened his mouth to speak, but clamped it shut at the sound of a door creaking open. He turned to find Arielle peeking out of her room like a child sneaking around at midnight.
"Can I come out now?" she asked with child-like innocence. She took a step forward, looking quite confused over the situation. After Cade nodded, she walked up to them and sat down beside him.
Ed smiled at Arielle as he extended his hand. "I dinna believe we have been properly introduced. I am Edward McAllister, Cade's best friend and lighthouse inspector," he said, grasping her hand and shaking it.
All pink nervousness faded from Arielle's expression, and she seemed to immediately become comfortable in the moment. "Hallo, I am Arielle Myers, Cade's best, best friend and housekeeper, as well as cook and disciplinarian," she replied with a giggle.
Ed chuckled at her statement. "Now, what makes ye think ye're his best, best friend?" he teasingly asked.
Arielle seemed prepared for his question, and answered quite well. "Because he has not mentioned you once in the month we've known each other. One would think that if Cade and yourself were so close, he would've shared stories of your many antics. But, alas, you must only be a past acquaintance, whereas I am Mr. Darren's most favorite person in the world," she responded in a hilarious refined tone, only make her answer all the more amusing. She turned to face Cade and gave him a charming smirk. "Isn't that right, leibling?"
Cade couldn't help but burst into laughter. "Um, yeah, sure, Sunshine. My most favorite person in the world," he said between laughs. He tipped his head back as he tried to control his roaring chuckles. Finally, he calmed down, and noticed both Arielle and Ed staring at him like he was crazy. "What? It was funny," he stated, looking between them as they began to laugh themselves.
Ed was the first to cease his chortling. "I see why ye are still living, Cade, ye've found someone who can tolerate bantering." He looked towards Arielle. "Good on ye for not killing him yet," he told her as he stood and began to collect himself. "Well, no matter how much I want to stay and jaw with ye, I must be on me way."
Cade sighed as he followed his friend to the door. "Oh, c'mon, Eddie, just a few more minutes," he pleaded, knowing he sounded much like a child.
Ed shook his head while opening the door. "I'm afraid I canna, I've two more lighthouses to inspect today. Ye have done good to the place, ye two. Goodbye." He tipped the edge of his hat in farewell as he started out the doorway.
After Cade waved goodbye, he collapsed in a chair with a sigh. "Well, that was the shortest visit we've had in a while," he remarked. That comment got his wheels turning towards what Ed had said about a cover story. "Arielle, we've got a problem."
Al had finally managed to get over his anger towards Carl and his inability to steal a book, but he was still beside himself in fury considering the fact he couldn't get any information on Cade Darren and that girl of his. Just that morning, he'd sent Smith to spy on the pair, figure out their comings and goings, how they did things, the like.
And at that moment, his scout returned.
Al stopped his pacing and turned to face Smith. He glowered at him as he crossed his arms over his chest and awaited his report. "Well, anythin'?" One word, that was all he needed and the papers would be within his reach. He really should've known Maria knew and was keeping track of all his crimes. But if she knew, why didn't she divorce him and turn him in? Well, he had to be glad she didn't, but she didn't have to hide the records.
Smith walked up to Al and grabbed a whiskey bottle from the table behind him. "Not really, boss. The kid's got the Bible, alright. They don't go nowhere often. Best to do's catch 'em at night," he reported, taking a long swig of his drink.
Al rolled his eyes. "Yep, Smithy, that's the exact information I need. Good job," he stated sarcastically. He crashed onto the worn sofa behind him with an exaggerated sigh. "C'mon, y'know good and well I know he's got the book. Of course they don't go nowhere. Where do they have to go? Visit their ole man? And it don't take a professor to figure out the best time to rob somebody ain't at broad daylight. I mean, really, you moron?" He was tempted to yell in the man's face, but he didn't have time to waste his breath hollering at a dimwit like Smith.
For now, he'd think up a different plan of attack.