As promised, here is the second chapter of UNSEEN MESSAGES.
This is a standalone and releasing in 2 days on the 30th March 🙂 Happy Reading. If you want to read the first chapter and prologue click HERE
To pre-order use the links below:
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G A L L O W A Y
I HATED FLYING.
The only reason I agreed to fly halfway across the bloody world was to complete my apprenticeship under one of the best builders in the style of architecture I wanted to specialise in.
For the past six months, I’d lived on his estate. I’d listened to my mentor by night. I’d worked beside him by day. He taught me how little I knew and how much I needed to learn if I wanted to excel in the profession I’d chosen (not to mention reminding me how close I was to throwing it all away).
To work with wood, to build and create with a natural resource—first, you had to understand how it worked. My teacher had come from a long line of craftsmen from furniture makers to sky-scraper designers.
The fact he had Inuit blood and could trace his family tree back to the natives on his mother’s side was a plus for learning, not just about how to hammer a nail or finesse a dovetail joint, but how to nurture the trees we used. How to take a wooden plank and turn it into a home.
I’d learned more living with his wife and two sons, absorbing every lesson, than I ever did at university (or at my more recent abode). Then again, that education had been of a different nature.
You promised you wouldn’t think about it.
For the hundredth time, I gritted my teeth and pushed away thoughts that only pissed me off and hurt. Clenching my fists, I followed the herd down the air-bridge and onto the plane.
I was sad to leave.
But eager to put a stamp on my new career. My new life. A life I was eternally thankful for after everything I’d done to screw it up.
I didn’t deserve it, but my father had agreed to help fund me. Acting as guarantor for the business loan I’d applied for: Opulent Oak Construction. Not to mention, he’d been fundamental for me securing the work permit for entry into the USA. Without him…well, my second chance wouldn’t have mattered.
He’d given me my world back. He trusted I wouldn’t let him down.
I had no intention of doing that. Ever again.
He’d granted endless support and fatherly devotion, even after everything I’d done. However, he had a condition—completely adamant with no concessions.
So, I did the only thing I could.
I gave in.
I agreed to fly to Fiji (the one place I’d always wanted to visit as a kid) and live a little before burying myself in my new company in England. He wanted me to sample freedom before I shackled myself to a long-term commitment.
He wanted me to have fun.
After everything that’d happened, he thought I knew what that word meant.
I have no bloody clue.
How could he expect me to be an average twenty-seven-year old bloke after the history I’d already clocked up? Even now, he still looked at me like the golden son…not the black stain I’d become. I didn’t deserve fun. Not after what I’d done; especially at a time he needed me the most.
I hated the word.
And even if I did remember how to indulge, I wouldn’t waste my time on girls and booze because I had a driving need to create something from nothing after I’d destroyed everything. I had a lot of sins to make up for, and if my father wouldn’t let me start atoning at home, well, I would have to find another way.
I’m a bastard, pure and simple.
I hated that I’d lied when conceding to his terms. I’d looked him in the eye and agreed to go to Fiji under the proviso of sunbaking, drinking, and having a one-night stand or ten. However, instead of reserving a bed in a gross backpackers with other self-centred idiots, I volunteered my skills to a local firm who built homes for under privileged locals.
I needed to find redemption before I drove myself insane with sickening memories and overflowing self-hatred.
Only thing was, the company expected me to start work first thing tomorrow. Otherwise, they’d give the contract to another applicant. No tardiness. No excuses. Be there or miss out.
I won’t miss out.
Trudging onto the plane, my mind skipped to the last time I’d seen my father. Over six months had passed since our last embrace. He’d slapped my back and whispered in my ear. “Learn, study, and behave. But once your training is up, fly to Fiji, get lost in warm seas, and remember how to live. Then come home refreshed and I’ll do whatever you want to make your business a success.”
He’d even pulled the cheap shot guaranteed to make me crumple like a little kid. He’d argued that if Mum were still alive, she would’ve said that work didn’t equal a life, even if it was a passion. There were other important things and having unplanned experiences was one of them.
Poor, grieving asshole.
Me, too. We were both grieving assholes, missing the one person who gave our souls purpose only to ruin us when she died.
What happened wasn’t her fault.
My nostrils flared, pushing her out of my mind.
I pulled the crumpled boarding pass from my back pocket, trying to find my seat.
Fifty-nine D. Right down the back of the plane.
The thought of having to squish around people pissed me off. But the sooner I was seated, the sooner I could pull out my headphones and lose myself in a movie.
Waiting for a family to shove their luggage into the overhead compartment, I hoisted my bag onto my shoulder and pulled out my phone. I’d promised my father I’d text him before we took off. Ever since losing Mum, he’d been neurotic at the thought of losing me.
Tapping a generic ‘I love you and talk to you soon’ message, I pressed send.
Huh, that’s strange.
I tapped the screen, waiting for confirmation that it’d sent. However, the sending icon just swirled around and around, never connecting.
The family finally slid into their row, granting me the freedom to carry on down the aisle.
Giving up on the message, I shoved the phone back into my jeans and hurried to my seat. An air-hostess stood blocking it. She backed away when I raised an eyebrow.
“You’re lucky last, huh?” Her red hair caught the glare of false illumination.
“Yup. That’s me. Always lucky.”
Luck had nothing to do with it. I was the opposite of luck. I was misfortune.
The air-hostess disappeared to help another with their seating.
I stowed my luggage, slammed into my chair, and looked out the window.
The memory of my mother’s struggle and what happened afterward clenched my heart as passengers settled and the cabin prepared for flight.
A flash of blonde caught my eye as I scanned my fellow travellers. The flight wasn’t full, providing a good view across to the other side of the plane.
That girl again.
Her carry-on, as she wedged it above her head, looked fit to explode like a shrapnel grenade.
She was pretty—very pretty.
There was something about her. Something intrinsic—something that singled her out and made me notice.
Long blonde hair, translucent skin…large hazel eyes.
She deserved to be investigated and appraised. I was interested.
When our gazes met at the boarding gate, I’d felt the first hint of normalcy in over five years. I liked that she’d affected me, but I also wouldn’t let it happen again.
Women like her were dangerous, especially for men like me.
The girl had barely sat down and fastened her seat belt before the fuselage creaked as the captain pushed off from the gate and the terminal grew smaller as we lined up to defy gravity.
Tearing my eyes away from her, I stared out the window at the blurry world and the last glimpse of Los Angeles.
After waiting our turn, the engines screamed and we shot down the runway, hurtling from stationery to rocket.
My ears popped as we traded concrete for open air.
The eleven-hour flight had commenced.
“Welcome on board this service to Nadi.” The captain’s drone dripped from the overhead speakers. “The current temperature at our destination is a humid twenty-seven degrees centigrade with a chance of rain closer to arrival. The flight today will take approximately ten hours and forty-five minutes. We encourage you to sit back, relax, and allow us to fly you to your destination in style.”
Style has nothing to do with it.
Reclining in my shitty economy class seat, I peered through the row and eyed the blonde. My glasses fogged a little, obscuring her until she glowed with a halo. I didn’t mean to glance her way. I should forget all about her.
But I couldn’t shake my interest.
Her side profile, as she bent over a tatty notebook, was as beautiful as front on. She was stunning, if not a little strange—the perfect paragon of sharp and shy.
I want to talk to her.
My legs bunched to stand. I swallowed with disbelief. What the hell?
The aircraft skipped with minor turbulence, wrenching the girl’s head up.
An air-hostess nudged my elbow as she darted up the aisle, dragging the trolley with scents of food. That solved my dilemma. I couldn’t go talk to her because I had to remain seated for the service and I wouldn’t go talk to her because I had no intention of spreading the bad luck I brought onto others.
I was better off alone.
It was the way it had to be.
End of bloody story.
Pressing the button to recline my chair, I gripped the hand-rails and closed my eyes. For the next eleven hours, I would forget about her, then disembark and never see her again.
I didn’t know it but the opposite was true.
Getting on that plane inexplicably tied our fates together.
The ending credits scrolled over my screen.
Stretching, I switched off the movie, removed my glasses, and rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know exactly how much time had passed, but I’d eaten (extremely crappy airplane food), I’d watched two movies (nothing to gush about) and I’d stolen a few more looks at Unknown Girl across the plane (okay, more than just a few).
I hadn’t forgotten my pledge to forget about her, but the tiredness of a long journey, coupled with the dark gloom of the cabin, didn’t put me in the best of moods. The darkness reminded me too much of the place I’d lived in before escaping to America. The loud hum of engines irritated me to the point of violence.
I didn’t want anything to do with the girl across the aisle.
So why do you keep looking at her?
I was happier on my own. Being on my own meant I didn’t have to answer to anyone, share my past, or worry about their reaction to who I truly was.
Dad had told me time and time again that one day my need for space would be trumped by the perfect woman.
He didn’t have a damn clue.
I didn’t want to find love. I wasn’t worthy of finding love.
I’d seen what Mum’s death did to him. He’d become hollow. A father with no spark. A man with no happiness.
I could handle being on my own.
Why would I ruin that by weakening myself and handing over my heart to a woman who could crush me?
I stole another look at Unknown Girl. She’d scooped her hair into a ponytail and slicked pink lipstick on her very kissable mouth.
Tearing my eyes away, I yanked on my headphones.
Goddammit, what was it about her that interested me?
Who is she?
Pity fate couldn’t talk. If it could, I would’ve heard the reply:
She’s your beginning.
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I’m counting down the days