Hearts of Sacrifice

Hearts of Sacrifice

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Bad boy Hunter Cartwright always has been the black sheep in his loving but prosperous family. He's overshadowed by his big brother Billy who everyone loves and looks up to. When tragedy strikes, it is a wound that cuts deep and one that separates Hunter from everyone who loves him. Eight years after his abrupt departure, Hunter makes his return home to Oregon. Much has changed including the girl he grew up with Sophie. She's always been around as his sister Michelle's best friend and his friend too once upon a time. Sophie dates his younger brother Evan now. The fiercely competitive Evan is none too thrilled with his return just like Sophie. Can Hunter make amends to his family and regain all he's lost including the friendship of the one girl Sophie who means more to him than he ever realized?

Summary

Bad boy Hunter Cartwright always has been the black sheep in his loving but prosperous family. He's overshadowed by his big brother Billy who everyone loves and looks up to. When tragedy strikes, it is a wound that cuts deep and one that separates Hunter from everyone who loves him.

Eight years after his abrupt departure, Hunter makes his return home to Oregon. Much has changed including the girl he grew up with Sophie. She's always been around as his sister Michelle's best friend and his friend too once upon a time. Sophie dates his younger brother Evan now. The fiercely competitive Evan is none too thrilled with his return just like Sophie.

Can Hunter make amends to his family and regain all he's lost including the friendship of the one girl Sophie who means more to him than he ever realized?

Chapter41 (v.1) - Conflicted

Author Chapter Note

Sophie finds Hunter...<br /> <br /> “Honor and vigilance are what our nation’s armed forces represent. An act of valor…their willingness to answer our country’s call is a constant reminder of duty, honor, and sacrifice.”<br /> <br /> --Unknown

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 04, 2018

Reads: 425

Comments: 4

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: June 04, 2018

A A A

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CHAPTER FORTY-ONE – Conflicted

 

Sophie reined her gentle paint horse to the post of the boathouse.  Toward the rear of the structure, she found Hunter’s blue and white Yamaha WR426F dirt bike on its kickstand.  She remembered when his parents bought it for his sixteenth birthday and how excited he was.  He must have talked her ear off about all the specs on the bike.  The fact she still remembered the model amazed her.  It sat at the side of the small one-story building.  When she touched it, she could feel the heat coming off it in waves.  It had not been long since Hunter arrived there from another one of his favorite spots no doubt.

Sophie breathed deeply.  She had not been back to the boathouse they used as a clubhouse as kids since the last time Hunter, and she had been there eight years ago.  A feeling of déjà vu overcame her in knowing she performed the same actions like riding a horse opposed to  Hunter on his dirt bike.  Unlike the time contending with Billy’s loss, no darkness descended around them. 

The light of afternoon was still upon them.  A bright gray sky shone with a blanket of cloud cover as far as Sophie's eye could see.  The threat of rain felt closer, she thought.  The chill in the air did not come from a cool summer’s night but rather a fall afternoon where the leaves began their metamorphosis from green to crimson and gold.  

Sophie walked around the boathouse with its blue metal roof toward the lake.  She believed that she would perhaps find Hunter inside tearing up the place, yet she heard nothing of the sort.  In fact, when Sophie peeked through a window, nothing appeared out of place inside.  Further, Hunter was not within at all.  In an amble toward the lake, she found him seated at the end of the boat dock.  His feet dangled in the water.  Hunter back on his arms near his socks and shoes.

Sophie approached slowly.  With a frown, she watched him in wonder.  He looked very still sitting there staring ahead.

“Have they sent you to fetch me now, Sophie?” Hunter questioned without turning.  He still faced forward overlooking the dark waters before him, dotted with trees.

“How did you know it was me?” she asked with a gasp of awe.

“I can smell your favorite perfume.  Eternity by Calvin Klein, am I right?”

Sophie blinked at his back.  Discretely she sniffed inside her shirt wondering if she put on too much.  She did not think she had that morning.  One pump of the perfume seemed to do her fine and lasted the whole day unlike some of the others Sophie wore over the years.  It agreed with her own scent best and was by far her favorite.  That Hunter even remembered such a mundane detail about her shocked her.

Sophie scowled at his back that failed to turn to her.  “You are, but how did you even know I was here, Hunter?  I made no sounds.”

“I heard you just the same.”

Sophie walked down the small pier and stood just behind him. “Your family is worried about you.  To them, you act strangely.”

“And what do you think?” he asked without looking at her or shifting his position.  His bare feet barely touched the surface of the water.

“You’ve always been strange.”  She shrugged, squatted and then moved his Nike sneakers behind him with his black hoodie jacket.  She sat beside him Indian style.  “I told them that they should give you time.”

“Yet still here you are.”

Sophie glanced to the side of his face that she could see and noticed his eyes were closed.  “I am.”

“Why when you have gone out of your way to stay away from me would you even consider doing this?”

Sophie grimaced.  “If you know your sister, you understand that she can be very persuasive.”

He nodded with a chuckle, but there did not sound to be much humor in it.  “Yes, I almost forget Chelle can be just like Dad in that way.  Is that all then that makes you brave such proximity to me?”

“I like challenges.  You were always the biggest of my life once upon a time.”

“Was I?” Hunter inquired, opening his eyes.  He did not look at her though.

Sophie looked ahead with her nod.  “You would pretend to be so tough, but I knew better.”

“How?”

A hint of a smile curled the corners of her mouth.  “I could see who you were in your eyes.”

“Can you still see that?” Hunter queried while shifting to stare her in the eyes.

She gasped at the sadness she saw there.  It burned behind his pale green eyes with unshed tears.  “I do.”

He looked away from her serious scowl and out before him again.  “Billy loved it here.  Did you know that?”

The twitch of a smile played on her lips.  “Yeah, because it was away from the grownups and better than any treehouse under God’s creation.”

“Yeah.  That’s how he would have said it.”  Hunter chuckled drily.  “It was his idea, you know.  Big bro loved to swim and fish here when there was no time to go to Bandon at the beach house our family has there.  Our pool here just was too pretty for him.  In Bandon though, that house had that great Olympic-size pool and being indoors it was great to have parties when the weather crapped out.”

“Right."  Sophie nodded with the memory of them as little kids looking up to the cool older boy Billy who seemed to like hanging around them as much as they did him.  "I remember we lived in Portland in the early years and my parents dropping me by that place in the summer.  I always thought it was awesome that it was so close to the beach.”

“Yeah, but summertime weather at the beach was unpredictable or not warm enough for swimming most days.  There was always the indoor pool for that though.”

“So the boathouse became a clubhouse when not there.”

“Right.”  A half-smile surfaced on his face.  “Billy would come here and spend hours on this pier when he was home, and he would bring me along with him on the back of his dirt bike when I was big enough to hold on tight.  He and I would sit here for hours on end like you and I are now.  Neither of us saying a word.  I never felt more at peace than when I was with him.”

“Billy did have a calming effect on you didn’t he?” she asked softly.

“Yeah.”  Hunter glanced at her before he looked away too quickly.  “Just like you.”

Sophie gaped at him.  “Me?”

He offered a half smile.  “Yeah.  I always thought it was something you learned from Billy.”

Sophie returned his smile briefly.  “Maybe it was.”

“Being here makes me miss him so much.”

“We all miss him and you,” she added softly, looking at the tranquil waters.

“Do you, Sophie?”  His eyes widened on her eager for her answer and the hope it could give him.

The young black woman searched his pained eyes and reached to touch his square face tentatively that wore rough beard stubble.  “Of course.  When you left so suddenly all those years ago, it was like we lost you both.”

Hunter looked away from her and sighed.  He never thought of it that way.  He just hadn’t been thinking much beyond his own anger and thirst for vengeance.  However, now Hunter knew that he was right about Sophie still caring about him.  To hear her admit it made his heart rush with joy.

Sophie commented when he said nothing, “Now, you retreat from us when we only want to help you any way we can through your grief if you’d let us.”

“Are you just saying this to me so that I’ll go back with you?  Because they know I’ll listen to you due to our friendship?”

“No.  Because…because I care about you, Hunt, and while you may try to fool your family and yourself, I know you’re hurting over your friend’s passing.  I can see it in your eyes and know you have yet to deal with it.”

He snorted at her.  “How could you know?  I am not the same boy I was.”

“True, but the man you’ve become draws his roots from that boy.”

“So what?”

“That boy I knew well once before…” Sophie trailed off growing uncomfortable with the old feelings revisiting her at such proximity to Hunter.  Her face flushed at the memory of all that transpired with him that night in the boathouse.

“Before what?” Hunter pressed softly while looking at her again.  Her head turned away from him and lowered with a shake. 

Geez, did Sophie ever not want to be there!  What was she doing telling Hunter that she cared about him?!  Damn it all!  She didn’t want to care either.  Not one bit!  However, the truth flew unhindered from her lips.  Sophie could not take them back no matter how much she wanted to.  She hated that Hunter affected her so much no matter how she desired for it to be different.

Sophie decided that she would avoid his question and said instead, “You blame yourself for Billy’s death just like you do Ollie’s.  That’s not fair.”

“Now you claim to know what I feel.  Amazing.  How do you manage that?” Hunter asked with a measure of disbelief and sarcasm he could not seem to help let slip from his full lips.

“You really can be a dick; you know that?”  Sophie pushed off to her feet angrily.

“I didn’t ask you to come here,” he snapped icily.

“No,” she replied with the lift of her eyebrow, “Your sister begged me to because she’s scared to death to lose you.”

Hunter shook his head with the roll of his eyes.  “Of course, my sister did.”

“I love her enough to forgo my own reservations to do what she asks.  To talk to you and get you to unbury your head from your own ass for a second and see how your actions affect those around you.  Those people who are still here, Hunter, and love you.”

“What?  Like you?”  He chuckled derisively.  “You who’s done her very best to give me the cold shoulder since I returned?”

“Haven’t you been listening to anything that I’ve said?  I just told you that I care about your stupid ass and you’re right there being a snide little prick having a pity party!”  She stomped away from him grumbling with her hands in the air.  “Why the hell did I even bother?”

Hunter quickly swung his legs back on the pier and jumped to his feet.  He ran after her and grabbed her arm.  “Why did you come really, Sophie?”

She yanked her arm away from him as she turned back to face him.  “With all Chelle’s been through, how can you be so damn selfish!”  She tapped her palm against her forehead.  “Oh, but wait, that’s right!  You’re the same selfish prick from eight years ago.  That hasn’t changed at all, now has it?  So wrapped up in yourself, you couldn’t see all those who loved you that you hurt or used and discarded just like you discarded every girl you’d ever been with.”  Panting in her fury with him and herself, Sophie turned hastily away from him.  She could not believe what she was saying.  She needed to get away from him.  Sophie knew that she said too much already.

Reaching for her again, Hunter thought he finally understood why she was so pissed with him.  “Sophie, wait.  Please,” he said gently. 

“No!”  She began to run, and he ran after her.

“Sophie…”  Hunter grabbed her arm again, and she turned.  She slapped him soundly across his chiseled face when she glared at him, infuriated.  He pulled her to his chest desiring to feel her near him.  Sophie slapped his face again.  “I’m sorry,” he said softly.

“No!  You just can’t be sorry.  I don’t want to forgive you!” she panted and slapped him again.

Hunter let her slap him if that’s what it took for her to be honest with him and herself about what she felt.  He gladly endured the blows if that made her feel better, but needed to hear the truth of it aloud just once.  Hunter also needed to say his fill and be heard.

“Sophie, I never meant to hurt you.”

“But, that’s exactly what you did!”

“I know!”

“Why do it to me then?” she fumed while staring into his eyes.

Hunter scowled with the clench of his jaw.  “I was so angry over Billy’s death as I’ve already shared with you.”

“Yes, but not why you treated me as you did in the boathouse.  Why, Hunter?”

“I was so scared, Sophie, because... because I loved you.  It took me leaving to realize how much I did.”

Sophie gasped in shock at his words.  Her mouth opened yet no words came out.  She did not know what to say since she had no idea he felt that way about her.

Hunter lowered his head to her full mouth he dreamed of since that night he felt her heart shift with understanding.  Briefly, his lips brushed hers in a tender stroke followed by a second before he pulled away taking a sudden, shaky breath.  He squeezed his eyes closed and released her all at the same moment.  Hunter licked his lips focusing on her full mouth he craved to taste again at least before he saw the stunned swell of her teak brown eyes.

“I shouldn’t have said that.”  He sighed knowing how much of a mistake that had been to reveal so much brewing inside him.  However, once again, it was his way to lay to ruin everything before him.  Some things never did change. 

Shaking his head, Hunter turned away from her and walked back down the pier.  He sat down and put his socks and shoes back on angrily at such impulsiveness on his part.  What was he thinking to jeopardize all he accomplished with Sophie in the last few months?

Perhaps that was the problem.  Hunter didn’t think at all.  He only acted at the will of his heart.  It longed for Sophie with an ache he could not hide anymore.

Sophie merely stared at him with bugling eyes.  She touched her mouth with her fingertips where his soft lips touched hers.  With his sneakers back on, she watched him stand again and walked toward her with his hoodie in his hand.  Hunter failed to look at her when he passed.  Without pause or gazing back, he entered the boathouse. 

It began to rain.  Sophie stared after Hunter's path and then stared up to the dark gray sky emptying its contents upon her with increased intensity like her conflicted emotions right now.  She ran toward the boathouse and the canopy as she wiped her face of the chilly rain.  She also rubbed her drenched hair out of her face and contemplated for a moment all that they said.  When she dared think of their time together and the last, Sophie always felt there were things left unsaid.  Yet, this?  Hunter’s confession floored her for it had not been expected.


© Copyright 2020 Amy F. Turner. All rights reserved.

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