Updated: Aug 14, 2020
So that’s how I met Arielle,” Cade said, concluding his slightly exaggerated tale of their odd meeting and the past week as Arielle, his little sister, and Forrest listened intently―well, Kerri was the most attentive of the three―over coffee and blueberry muffins.
Beforehand, Arielle and Kerri had been sucked into Forrest’s story of how he ended up shipwreck on the shore of Lake Huron. As it turned out, Forrest wasn’t investigating, like Arielle assumed, but was on his way to visit his dying mother, who happened to live a few hours away in Detroit.
He would be leaving as soon as his wounds healed, which could be a while considering all the pain he was in. Arielle had guessed his leg was broken and the gash in his head would require stitches. Fortunately, Arielle knew how to create a splint for his leg and had sewn up the cut.
Kerri then told what she was doing in Michigan, seeking adventure and trouble and visiting family. Cade said that was perfectly normal for his younger sister. Kerri gave Cade a run down on how her arranged marriage to Marcus Cannon was going, making Arielle feel terrible. So many young women were sent to marry a man they had never met and live in a loveless marriage, while Arielle happily spent her days at the lighthouse.
When Kerri-Leigh was only sixteen, her grandparents gave her to a wealthy man in New York in marriage. Two years later, and her marriage had only gotten worse. Kerri said her husband was always gone on business trips, but when he was home, he was constantly drinking and gambling. So, taking a vacation, Kerri came to visit her brother. Though Cade had found her first.
Afterward, Cade had lightened the mood, telling about his past week, which was filled with painting and teasing Arielle.
Arielle hopped from her chair and started removing the empty cups and plates from the table. “I’m gonna get these washed up,” she said, heading towards the kitchen.
Cade jumped out of his seat and began to help her.
She poured water into a basin and started washing the dishes, then handed them to Cade for him to dry.
After wiping the last plate dry, Cade took the towel he was using and cleaned a streak of flour off of Arielle’s face, which turned its normal pink at the touch.
“Thanks, Cade. Probably should’ve cleaned myself up earlier,” Arielle said with a smile.
“I’ve seen you in worse states,” he mentioned.
“Can we forget that ever happened? I mean, Forrest and your sister probably think I’m some kind of creep, or something,” Arielle told him, leaning up against the kitchen counter. Honestly, she couldn’t blame them if they thought so. The rest of the town already did. Two other people wouldn’t hurt.
“Speaking of a creep, I’ve heard there was a ghost that haunts this place,” Cade stated, his eyes glistening like usual.
At his statement, she found it hard to hold back a grin. “Yes, the townsfolk think I’m a ghost. It all started when one person saw me gardening, then from there on out, I’m known as Emily’s ghost.”
“Well, I’ve never met a prettier ghost in my life. Why do they call you ‘Emily’s ghost’?” Cade questioned.
“Well, the man who started building the lighthouse had a daughter named Emily, who died before it could be completed. So, people started saying that her spirit still lives within the lighthouse.” Which was probably the dumbest thing she’d ever heard; but to each their own.
“Alright, that makes sense. You know, a lady came up to me and was telling me about the ghost and you know what she said?” Cade asked, leaning forward slightly.
“No. What did she say?” That she had a dog, perhaps? There wasn’t much to insinuate about her.
“She told me to beware of the ghost girl, that she might do something harmful to a young man like me,” Cade told her, sitting himself on top of the counter.
Arielle splayed a hand over her heart in mock horror and let out a gasp. “Really?! I can’t believe she would say such a thing. Though she may be right,” she teased.
“What do you mean, Ari?” His eyebrows scrunched in confusion, though his lips tugged upward in a grin.
“I could always chop your head off, cut your heart out, or something like that,” she played, then let out an evil cackle. Oh, yes, she’d been waiting for just the perfect opportunity to draw her knife and plunge it into his heart. And if perhaps she failed at that particular feat, her next plan was to suffocate him in his sleep.
“She said you were a ghost, not a witch,” Cade teased back with a fake shudder of fear. He inched backwards, covering his eyes with his hands, then peeked through his fingers, revealing a grin.
“Very few know me, Mr. Darren. One can never know what I’m capable of.” She lifted her eyebrows in a haughty manner as she turned to walk away.
“I daresay I shall keep that in mind, Ms. Myers,” Cade said, walking back into the dining room behind her.
Arielle inwardly laughed at her teasing as she sat herself in a chair beside Cade at the table.
“Arielle, I recommend you stay with my brother; the other men out there are crazy, trust me,” Kerri said, acknowledging her presence. She glanced up at Arielle, her eyes giving way to a hurt she couldn’t quite describe. What kind of pain haunted this poor girl?
“Oh, I’m not...we’re not,” Arielle stammered. Thinking she was a creep was one thing. Thinking she and Cade were in a relationship of some sort was another.
“Deary, I wasn’t saying that. Just a little warning. But you know, my brother would make a wonderful husband,” Kerri replied, waving her hand in an odd up-and-down motion, that unknown pain replaced with a delightful sparkle.
“Good. I just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression,” Arielle explained with a mental sigh.
Absolutely fine. Besides, if Cade were married to a gorgeous young woman like you, he’d tell me. Wouldn’t you, Cade?" Kerri-Leigh remarked with a refined tone of voice that overshadowed her Southern accent.
“I, uh, yeah. Of course I’d tell you, but I’m not married to Arielle or anyone for that matter,” Cade stated, giving his sister a look that said ‘please, don’t start’. It was obvious he’d suffered some kind of irritation from Kerri-Leigh.
“Obviously.” Kerri rolled her eyes with a huff. “You’re not getting any younger, Cade. No one wants to marry an old man. I can vouch for that. You’re twenty-six; you could’ve gotten married and had children in past six years, silly.” Her lips tugged upward in a disapproving expression that Arielle couldn’t call a frown but couldn’t call it a smile either. Something, though, about that look resembled a mother’s look.
“Alright, alright. Don’t rush me, Kerri. Or I could end up married to someone I don’t love or even know,” Cade argued, the words rushing out as though he’d rehearsed them.
“Well, I never. Are you saying I rushed things? I didn’t want to get married. If I could make my own choices, I’d probably live in my own lighthouse with a bunch of bunnies and butterflies. I’d run around bare-footed in the water with my skirt up to my knees. I’d be the reckless child I never was. You don’t know how easy you’ve got it, brother!” Kerri exclaimed, her rising voice fading as Arielle found herself scurrying out of the room.
Poor girl, she thought to herself, she’s still a child.
Blast it. She knew better than to blow up like that. Two years of endless arguing should’ve taught her something by now. Apparently not. Kerri-Leigh took in a deep breath, trying not to roll her eyes in such a way to brush aside her horrid behavior. And to think, she was in the presence of a total stranger. Like that had stopped her before. “I’m sorry, Cade,” she apologized, getting up from her chair and wrapping her arms around her brother’s neck. “I shouldn’t have taken out my hurt on you. And still, that’s no excuse.”
Cade smiled. “It’s alright, Kerri. I know you didn’t choose to get married. I shouldn’t have made it sound like you did. Forgive me?” He gave her that silly look of his that was a cross between a pout and smirk. There had been more than one time she’d wanted to slap that expression off his face, but now she was grateful for his nonchalant dismissal of her actions. Which had happened on more than one occasion. If only Marcus was so forgiving.
Kerri returned his smile with one of her own. “Of course.” She turned to face the handsome detective that sat to her right. She gave him a weak grin. “Mr. Billingham, could you accept my most sincere apology?” she asked the man, trying and failing not to meet his gaze. She should’ve thought before turning her brother’s innocent words into an argument. She had a way of doing that. Hopefully, Detective Billingham wouldn’t pay it much mind. Maybe.
“Certainly. Not a problem in the least. I understand how you feel,” Detective Billingham replied, though something in his eyes said more than she suspected his mouth would. He’d showed himself to be a man of few words in such a way that he didn’t appear to be shy; he just preferred short conversations. Far from Kerri.
She took in a deep breath before seating herself back in her chair. “Where did Arielle go?” she asked while looking around the room, realizing the girl had left. Not that Kerri would blame her.
“She walked outside,” Detective Billingham answered. Of course he would know that; he was a detective after all.
“I’ll get her,” Cade said, rising from his chair. He walked out of the dining room and out of the cabin, leaving Kerri and the detective to themselves.
Kerri cleared her throat. “So, um, what’s it like being a detective?” Kerri-Leigh asked, hoping to strike up a conversation that had nothing to do with marriage. And something told her Detective Billingham hoped for the same. Or maybe just silence.
“Arielle,” Cade called, walking around the side of the house towards where she stood, leaning up against the wall. As he neared her, he could see tear stains on her cheeks. Way to go, Cade. You’ve made her cry and got Kerri mad.
“Are you alright?” he asked as he moved to stand beside her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
Arielle lowered her head and wiped a teardrop from her eye, though she didn’t shrug away from his touch. Not that he figured she would. “I feel so terrible, Cade,” she confessed. “So many people, like your sister, live such hard lives, and look at me, I live her dream. Minus the bunnies. I’m free to run and play and splash in the lake. And I have a good person to do it with, not a drunk husband.” She turned to him and laid her head on his shoulder.
Cade wrapped his arms around her, trying not to focus on how good she felt in his arms. “But you have it hard, too,” he said, “You might seem free, but I can see it; you’re trapped inside the past, Ari. I don’t know much, but I know you’re hurting and you’ve never had anyone to share that hurt with... except me.”
She brought her gaze up to his after a long moment, her once soft eyes icy steel. “I don’t want to talk about that. Please,” she pleaded, her voice slightly sharp. “Let’s go inside.” She tore from his embrace and started to the door.
“Arielle, whenever you do want to talk, I’m here,” Cade told her. He wasn’t going to let this go. Not any time soon.
“Thank you, Cade,” she whispered over her shoulder, though her tone declared that she was far from grateful.
When they returned to the house, they were greeted by Forrest’s deep voice and Kerri interested hmms.
“And so that is what happened when he fired the shot. Your deduction was correct,” the detective told her in a monotonous tone. Obviously he found this story of his beyond boring. Far from what Cade expected Kerri was thinking of it.
Kerri laughed before turning to face Cade and Arielle, a twinge of disappointment in her gaze. Apparently she was upset with her actions. She had that look Cade knew all too well. “Don’t tell me. I scared you off, didn’t I, deary?” She focused her eyes on Arielle as though hoping the more she stared at her the better of a chance she had at a forgiving answer.
“No, Mrs. Cannon, you didn’t. I just needed a moment,” Arielle replied in such a way no one could ever be able to tell what kind of moment she’d needed. A cry moment.
Kerri shook her head, making a tsk sound with her tongue. “My, my. Please, Arielle, don’t call me Mrs. Cannon, it makes me sound old. I am younger than you, you know.” Though one could never tell, what with the way she had such an air about her that reminded him of an old widow and the way she called everyone ‘deary’, not matter if they were seventy years her senior. She must’ve picked that up from their grandmother.
Arielle smiled. “Very well then...Kerri.”
Kerri stood and smoothed her dress. “I must thank you for your hospitality, but I oughta be getting on. My next stop is Gramma and Grampa’s; that’ll be a long trip,” she stated, giving Cade a hug. She turned to Arielle. “It was very nice meeting you. I’m very sorry for my outburst.”
Arielle wrapped her arms around Kerri, and Cade could see a tear fall from her eye. “Möge Gott mit dir sein,” she said, pulling back and brushing the tear away.
Kerri giggled. “I just love your German accent and speech. What was it that you said?” “May God be with you,” she answered.
“And you, too.” Kerri looked at Forrest. “It was very nice to meet you as well, Mr. Billingham.”
“Same here, Mrs. Cannon, uh, Kerri,” Forrest replied, shaking Kerri’s hand.
“Goodbye,” Kerri said, walking towards the door.
Cade followed and stopped her at the door. “Kerri, if you ever need anything, a place to visit, someone to talk to, I’m here. And never forget, God is with you through it all. I’m praying for you.”
Kerri nodded her head. “I know. Thank you, Cade. I love you very much.”
“I love you, too.”