Chaise picked me up at nine in the morning. When I
hopped into his car, I noticed that the white SUV was gone.
I almost backed out of coming to this weekend getaway.
I felt uncertain about how Denise’s cousins would react to
me. One of his cousins already didn’t like me that much, he
was trying his best to forget he even knew me at all.
When we got to Denise’s house, she was already in the
front garden waiting. She almost cursed at Chaise for being
late. She went inside a black SUV and I could see there were
people with her.
Just then, a beautiful white Escalade went out of the
garage and went ahead of us. It looked a lot like the car that
was parked in front of my house last night.
As soon as the Escalade was in motion, Denise drove
behind it, signaling Chaise to start his engine and follow.
“How long is this drive?” I asked Chaise.
“Not sure. But it could be more than half an hour.”
I yawned, my eyes getting heavier by the second. My
lack of sleep last night was catching up on me.
“Sleepy?” he asked.
“Go ahead and close your eyes. I will wake you up when
we get there.”
I leaned back on Chaise’s passenger seat and
immediately drifted off. I was panting when Chaise tapped
my cheeks. I sat up on the seat, ready to shield my face
from the blow that I thought was coming.
But nothing came. Sunlight hit my skin and I could smell
the fresh scent of the earth.
Chaise was looking at me with a worried expression on
his face. I realized that I was having one of those
nightmares again. They rarely came then. But when they
did, they didn’t feel like nightmares at all. They were fresh
memories replaying in my head over and over again.
I sighed in relief when I realized that I was safe. I looked
at Chaise’s handsome face and I knew nothing would hurt
me where I was. After all, my guardian angel was just sitting
right next to me.
“I’m sorry. Are we here?”
Chaise nodded. Then he asked, “Are you alright? It
looked like you were having some nightmares.”
I shook my head. “I’m okay.”
We went out of the car and took our bags from the
backseat. We approached Denise. She was with two guys
and two girls who were all eyeing us curiously. The girls
were stealing side glances at Chaise. I couldn’t blame them.
Chaise was really cute, no doubt about that.
The two guys were Ben and Ross. The girls introduced
themselves as April and Mica. While they looked interested
in Chaise, they barely smiled at me. Mica didn’t even hide
the fact that she was curious about my scars when the wind
blew the opposite direction and made my hair fly away from
my face, revealing the monstrous patch of skin I hid
underneath a mass of hair.
The Escalade’s door opened. My heart skipped a beat
when I saw the familiar figure stepping out of it, wearing a
pair of jeans, black shirt and sleek pitch-dark sunglasses.
The SUV that looked a lot like the car in front of my
house last night and this morning belonged to Hunter.
Was it him in front of my house?
I heard my thoughts in my own head.
What would Hunter Vaughn be doing in front of my
house all night?
For a moment, I was scared that Tania would be with
him. I prayed so hard that she wasn’t. This weekend would be an even worse nightmare than it already was.
I heard Chaise’s silent groan when he saw Hunter. I also
did not miss the hard intakes of breath coming from Mica
I stared at them curiously.
Mica caught me staring at her and realized how obvious
they were in ogling at Hunter. She glared at me. I just shook
my head and looked away. Tania was nowhere in sight. But I
was still pretty sure this weekend was going to be epic!
The house was a magnificent combination of wood and
glass. The ceilings were high and the walls facing the
beautiful view of the lake was made of glass, making the
whole house almost visible to anybody on the opposite side.
“Why don’t you do the honors of touring us, Hunter?”
Hunter just raised a brow at her. “Go knock yourself
out,” he replied and then left us to disappear through the
Denise rolled her eyes. “He doesn’t even care!”
“Why does he need to come anyway?” Ben asked.
Obviously, he wasn’t fond of Hunter either.
“Because Dad thought there should be somebody older
than me who should be in-charge. I don’t completely agree
because Hunter is only a few months older. But then again,
this is actually Hunter’s house.”
“Isn’t he too young to own a house?” Ross asked.
“He’s eighteen,” Denise replied. “After his operation, he
gained access to his trust funds and inheritance from his
mom. Part of that inheritance is his own place. He chose this
one. Yet he barely comes here. And when you guys came,
Mom thought it would be a good idea for this house to have
Chaise rolled his eyes and I had to nudge him with my elbow.
Denise led us all towards the glass staircase that led to
the second floor of the house. It had five massive bedrooms.
Denise announced the room assignments. The master’s
bedroom, of course, would be occupied by Hunter. According
to Denise, she’d seen all the parts of the house in her
previous visits, but nobody was allowed inside the master’s
Denise and I would be sharing the room opposite
Hunter’s. The two girls would room together while the two
guys got another room. Chaise got the room nearest to the
staircase. Chaise’s room was almost empty save for the sofa
bed lying on the corner.
“Hunter planned to turn this into a game room. But I
hope you will find this cozy enough,” Denise told Chaise
“I’ll be fine.” Chaise winked at her.
Denise and I went to our room to freshen up and change
into bathing suits.
“Denise, how are you cousins with them?” I asked.
“They’re my mom’s brothers’ kids. Ben, Ross and April
are siblings. Mica is an only child. You have to excuse her.
She’s seventeen and quite a brat.”
“So Hunter is…”
“Not related to them at all. But they’ve met him plenty
of times when we were growing up,” she said.
That explained why they were drooling over him. Not
related by blood. I was almost afraid that something was
wrong with Denise’s family.
“What do you think of the house?” Denise asked.
“It’s a dream,” I whispered.
“Hunter has a certain preference for lakes, I guess. I
don’t know why. He was so obsessed with getting a lake
house after his surgery.”
I smiled to myself. I knew why Hunter liked lakes. For
almost a year since he lost his mom and eyesight, that garden by the lake was what made him feel safest. It had
been his refuge… a place where he found a haven.
“There’s a smaller cabin on the opposite side of the
lake. It’s part of this property.” Denise said, interrupting my
thoughts. “It only has one bedroom and a fireplace. The
water on that side is much more suitable for swimming. We
will go there in a while.”
I emerged from the bathroom wearing a pair of white
shorts and a decent blue bikini top. I had this swimming
outfit for more than a year as a gift from Meredith, but I
never wore them. There was no need for me to go
swimming. I couldn’t even swim to save my life.
Denise gave me a smile of approval. “See? That’s one of
the reasons why Chaise is crazy about you!”
“Denise!” I groaned at her.
“I’m just saying. You’re pretty. And your body… rocks!”
Okay, in a way, that wasn’t really a lie. I didn’t always show
much skin but I did have a slender figure and a flat belly. I
didn’t exercise much but since I was so careful about
spending money, I got to walk a lot, which had its own
I took a smaller bag with me and stuffed it with one set
of clothes that I could change into. The others were already
in the patio, all dressed in their swimming outfits. Chaise
was staring at me as I walked towards him, I actually felt
“Stop that!” I hissed at him.
He laughed and pushed a lock of hair away from my
“You never cease to take my breath away, rock
princess,” he said.
“And you never cease to make me feel guilty about it,
Chaise,” I said evenly.
He smiled at me but that smile did not exactly touch his
eyes. “Maybe someday, babe.”
I sighed. “Chaise… could you also not… call me that?”
“Babe?” he asked, his eyes twinkling playfully.
I nodded. “It gives others the wrong impression about
“I don’t really care what others think. I can’t hear their
thoughts, you see,” he grinned playfully.
I sighed. “But I care. Because it makes them hate me
He raised a brow. “Why?”
I shrugged. “People can’t seem to believe that I could
get a guy like you.”
“They better believe it. Because you got me.
Unfortunately, it does not work both ways.”
“They can’t hurt or touch you. Unfortunately, it doesn’t
work both ways too.”
Chaise sighed in frustration. “Okay. I’ll stop.”
I smiled up at him. “Come on, Denise is getting
We went to the dock.
“What are we doing here?” Chaise asked when we
reached Denise. She was only with Mica.
“We’re going to the cabin on the other side. The water
there is better for swimming. Hunter took Ross, Ben and
April already. The speedboat could only carry four at a time.
We’re waiting for one of the guys to come back and take us
to the other side.”
After half an hour, we were all in the cabin in the middle
of the lake. This house was small but cozy. It only had one
bedroom and a big living room with a fireplace. The glass
doors opened up into a huge patio with a sundeck, and
loungers. The edge of the dock was about thirty meters
away from the house itself.
Denise was right. The water here seemed cleaner and
deeper. Denise’s cousins wasted no time jumping into the
water. Denise and Chaise also dove in. I sat at the edge of
the dock and watched them.
“Come on, Alice! Jump in!” Chaise urged me.
shook my head. “I’ll be okay here. You guys have fun.”
Well, the truth was, the water looked very deep and I knew I
didn’t stand a chance of staying afloat the minute I dove in.
There weren’t even enough posts to hold on to.
I stared at the sky. It was unusually dark for this time of
the day. The clouds looked thicker and darker. I suspected
that rain would come in the evening. I hoped the others
realized that, too, because the speed boat could not carry
all of us in one go.
I heard music from afar. I looked to my right and found
Hunter sitting in one of the loungers on the opposite end of
the deck, dressed in only a pair of board shorts. He was
wearing his sunglasses I wouldn’t know if he was looking at
me or watching the others swim. He just acted like we didn’t
I turned away from him. I felt really sad because the
truth was… he had been acting like I didn’t exist at all. Not
only did he make me feel like he didn’t know me, he made
me feel that he didn’t give a damn.
After a while, the others went up from the water and
into the deck. We ate some of the snacks that Denise
brought with her. I only half-listened to the conversation.
Chaise seemed to be feeling at ease with our new company.
The girls were absolutely charmed by him and I couldn’t
blame them. If they didn’t give me the impression that they
were brats, I would have liked for Chaise to hook up with
one of them. They were gorgeous and seemed eager for his
attention. But I loved Chaise as a friend. I would want
someone better for him.
Hunter was still on his spot on the opposite end of the
deck, playing his guitar, oblivious of our existence.
While Chaise was telling a story to the group, I turned
around and admired the view before me. I was reminded of
the lake I shared with Hunter. If we were still together, this
place would have been a dream for me. It was absolutely
beautiful. This little lake house was almost a mile away from the main house. It seemed isolated, like it was in a world of
its own. Like if a couple owned the house and preferred to
spend time in isolation and privacy, this cabin would be
perfect for them to leave the rest of the world behind.
I was so engrossed in my thoughts I didn’t realize that
somebody was standing behind me. I didn’t have time to
think or even turn around. I felt hands on my back and then
a strong push that made me lose my balance and sent me
flying out into the water.
Panic gripped me. I knew that once my entire weight
sank into the water, I would be helpless to go back up. I just
hoped that somebody realized quickly that I would not be
coming up for air soon.
The water was cold and dark. I couldn’t see a thing even
if I opened my eyes. I waved my arms and legs around me
and struggled to come up on my own but I was only sinking
lower and lower.
Suddenly, I felt strong arms wrap around my waist,
pulling me securely above the water. I wrapped my arms
around the person who caught me, thankful enough that I
didn’t have to struggle too much or too long. Somebody
jumped in the second I fell off the dock. I knew it could only
be Chaise. He was the closest person to me, apart from the
person who pushed me in.
When we emerged to the surface, I looked up and found
Hunter looking down at me, his arms were wrapped tightly
around my tiny waist.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
His voice was so familiarly gentle, I wanted to cry. He
sounded like he did before he left.
I couldn’t find my voice, so I nodded.
“I got you,” he whispered so softly only the two of us
heard that. He swam towards the ladder. He gently guided
me until I could grip the handles securely. He slowly let me
go so I could pull myself up the stairs.
Chaise and Denise were standing at the top, waiting for
me anxiously. Chaise pulled me up to the deck and Denise
wrapped a towel around me. Hunter followed soon after.
I took a couple of breaths to steady myself as I realized
how scared I was. Chaise put an arm around my shoulder
and gave me a gentle squeeze. “Are you okay?” he asked,
and I managed to nod.
Hunter walked past us with a furious look on his face. He
went straight to Mica and pointed a finger at her.
“Next time you push people into deep waters, make
sure they know how to swim!” he said in a booming voice.
Mica looked dumbfounded. The rest of Denise’s cousins
were quiet too and they genuinely looked scared of Hunter.
“You don’t know how to swim?” Denise whispered to me.
I didn’t answer.
“Touch her again, and I’ll make sure you’ll regret it for
the rest of your life!” Hunter said in a threatening voice,
even I felt scared.
Hunter turned around to look at me. My eyes were
welling up with tears. Mixed emotions were running wildly
inside my chest. I could still feel the fear and the panic that I
felt when I fell into the water.
I felt happy and broken about the fact that Hunter saved
me. He spoke to me so gently, the concern on his face when
he said he got me was genuine. For a short moment, I was
reminded of the boy he used to be, the boy who used to
“How did you know she doesn’t know how to swim?”
Chaise asked Hunter in a cool, careful voice.
Hunter stared at us for a moment. My heart pounded
inside my chest while I waited for his answer. I was waiting
for him to finally admit that he remembers me.
He turned away from us and replied in a sober voice, “If
she did, then she would have joined you all when you were
in the water, wouldn’t she?” His voice was steady,emotionless and his response was nothing but logical. It
frustrated the hell out of me.
Hunter walked away from us and disappeared into the
house. When I met Mica’s eyes, she looked away from me.
“What were you thinking?” Denise asked her angrily.
“Do you guys have a problem with Alice?”
The girls looked down on their feet, unable to answer.
“Alice is my best friend! She’s done nothing to you. Now,
apologize!” Denise sounded like she was talking to a bunch
April and Mica approached me. Mica had tears in her
eyes when she said, “Alice, I’m sorry. I meant that as a joke.
I didn’t know you couldn’t swim. I never intended to hurt
They didn’t like me. If I had to guess, I think they were
jealous because they thought I was with Chaise and they
found him charming. I knew they didn’t intend to drown me.
I didn’t exactly come with an ‘I-don’t-know-how-to-swim’
sign written on my forehead.
I just nodded at Mica and April. They both smiled at me
ruefully and then went back into the house. We were all
quiet after that.
Chaise was unusually quiet too. I eyed him curiously. He
seemed genuinely bothered that I was almost endangered
from right under his nose.
“I’m okay,” I assured him.
He snapped out of his deep thoughts and stared back at
me. He gave me a gentle smile. “I’m glad you’re alright.”
April and Mica didn’t want to stay a minute longer in the
house. I suspect, it was because they were afraid of Hunter.
Ross volunteered to take them on the boat first and come
back for the rest of us.
“Do you mind if I come with them?” Chaise asked.
“I… left my phone in the car. I need to call my mom. She
would be worried,” he replied.
I thought his excuse was lame but I was really not in the
mood for an argument right now. So I nodded instead.
It was getting dark and we could hear the soft bellows of
thunder. My suspicions were right. It was going to rain soon
and we still needed to make two trips so all of us would be
back in the main house.
“You’re going to be cold,” Denise told me. “Go change
your clothes while we wait for Ross to come back.”
I nodded and took my bag. As I went into the bathroom,
I caught a glimpse of Hunter sitting on the deck alone,
making no effort to make chit-chats with Denise and Ben.
He was already dressed in a clean pair of shorts and a white
I took a quick shower to wash out the lake water from
my skin. Then I dried myself off and took out a fresh pair of
underwear from my bag. I dressed in a pair of white capri
pants and purple long-sleeved shirt. The trip back was going
to be cold. I didn’t hear Denise knock or call for me so I
assumed that Ross had not returned yet. I got hold of a
blow-drier and dried my hair.
When I went out of the bedroom, the whole house was
quiet and the living room was empty.
“Denise!” I called.
No answer. I went out to the front door and found that
the boat was not there.
“Denise!” I called again.
Still no answer.
I went to the deck. I found Hunter standing at the edge
of the dock, looking out the view in the horizon, lost in his
thoughts. It was already drizzling but he didn’t look like he
had plans of coming inside the house. I approached him
“Where is Denise?” I asked.
“They left,” he replied.
He turned around to face me. “Apparently, Mica was
having panic attacks, she had to breathe into a brown bag.
Denise had to rush there to control the situation. I guess I
am scary if I chose to be.”
“So Denise left me here alone?” I asked, trying not to
He raised a brow and looked at me as if I was out of my
mind. “Not really,” he replied. His face turned serious and
mischievous at the same time. Then he added, “She left you
here alone… with me.”
My heart made three booming beats before it
plummeted to my toes. I held my breath for the longest
time in my life. And as I saw the slight smirk on Hunter’s
face, I was sure that my cheeks turned into the brightest
shade of red.