Thankful For Him by Flora Ferrari

 

 

Chapter One

Misty

“I just don’t understand how a picture could go missing like that,” my Dad exclaims.

“I think it’s only fair his picture is on display if he’s coming home. Coming all this way, especially for Thanksgiving!” he continues as I hide the smile playing on my lips with my hand.

Dad’s rummaging through boxes and drawers, muttering under his breath he knew exactly where it was when we moved last.

But I know.

I know exactly where Zak’s photograph is.

It’s under my mattress.

“Maybe it’s already up at the lake house?” I venture, hoping to put Dad off the scent for a bit.

“Are you sure you don’t know where it is?” Dad asks, knowing how terrible a liar I am, and I feel myself blush as I look at my feet shaking my head.

It’s silly I know. Dad’s best friend moved overseas years ago, a finance job.

It was a positive step for him, making his way in the world and my Dad encouraged him to go all the way to South Africa to live his lifelong dream of being a big shot finance broker.

Me? I was a little girl back then, didn’t think much of it. Dad has just a few friends, and none like Zak, admittedly.

As I got older, especially when I came home for spring break during my last year of college, Zak’s photograph took on a whole new meaning.

His thick shoulders, dark hair, and sultry eyes started to follow me every time I passed it on the piano until the day I took it.

I stole it.

I covet it still as if it’s a piece of the man himself.

I wish it was, I’ve held it so tight in both my hands often enough.

The man I know I have a total and unreasonable crush on.

Pure fantasy.

As if he would ever go for a younger, thicker girl like me.

He could have any girl or woman he wants.

Maybe he already has?

I block the thought from my mind. Those eyes, their light tells me he hasn’t found what he wants yet, because he wants me.

The man of my dreams, my Dad’s best friend, and a successful international financier, Zak Ramon.

Sigh.

I never knew what attraction was, never even thought about myself in that way until I was old enough, and until I made the direct association with the man himself and my newfound desires.

Now, he’s coming home.

After a decade in the financial wilderness, Zak’s coming home.

Coming home to me, I tell myself. But I know from experience that I’ll melt like butter in his company, even a quick hi and bye on the phone over the years always leaves me in a state.

Whatever the real reason, Zak’s coming home. And my Dad’s spent weeks preparing for our thanksgiving dinner he insists will be his true homecoming.

Bringing him home to the States to celebrate everything he should be thankful for. To give thanks for having him as such a true friend.

I can’t wait.

So much so, I’ve volunteered to pick him up from the airport at four A.M.

Dad’s made sure the lake house is spick and span, even in November which is a time of year we rarely go up there. And with the weather this year, I was sure he’d call it off at one point.

“Well,” Dad finally sighs with disappointment. “We’ll have the man himself to look at all week, don’t suppose his picture matters too much,” he says, trailing off before he remembers something.

“Oh, and I think I’ll go pick Zak up from the airport too, sweetie. It’s too wet on the roads. I don’t want you out there on your own at-”

I feel a weight on my chest, which explodes as I shout at my Dad. “No! I’m going to pick Zak up. We agreed on that, he’s expecting me!”

Dad is taken aback and raises a brow with an ‘is he now?’ look before frowning. “Plus, you have so much to do, with the turkey and all,” I remind him as I work to try and calm myself down.

“I’m not a little girl anymore Dad,” I add, and he holds his hands up in mock resignation before hugging me.

“Alright, sweetie, you win. But if it gets too wet on the roads I want you to pull over and call me, alright?”

“I will,” I chime, imagining just how wet I’d be with Zak Ramon all to myself out in the woods on a winding, mud-soaked road.

I shiver at the thought, almost squealing with excitement. I’ve never felt like this about anything or anyone in my whole life.

If my Dad knew though, I know what he’d be telling me.

Just don’t set yourself up for disappointment, Misty. Zak’s a friend and he likes you - a lot, but just not like that…

I have to pretend though. I have to tell myself there’s always a chance. Thing is, nobody’s ever liked me like that. And if things don’t change soon in that department, I’ll end up going mad I know it.

“Speaking of the roads, Dad, shouldn’t you get going if you want to get to the market before heading up?” I ask, noticing the time.

“Shoot! Honey, you’re right. I’ll call you when I get to the lake house then. And please drive carefully, okay,” he pleads and I peck his cheek, already counting the seconds as I look at the clock until it’s just me and Zak.

For a few hours anyway.

I see Dad off and try to relax while also packing up the last of everything I know Dad’s left behind into the SUV. This dinner, the whole week, it all means so much to Dad.

But I’m excited for another reason.

It gets dark early and despite trying to get some sleep after setting my alarm so I don’t miss Zak’s arrival, I find myself holding him again with both hands as I stare into his eyes.

His picture anyway.

Tracing a finger across his powerful jaw, wondering what it would feel like to have him so close to me in real life, I’m sure I won’t sleep a wink.

I bolt upright with a start.

Crap!

I’ve slept through two alarms already and now I’m late.

I had a whole get ready for Zak routine, a special outfit even but all that’s gone to hell if I want to make it to the airport in time.