was sure he heard the screech of car tyres over the sound of his electric
sander. He let the sander whir to a slow stop, and whipped his
to the top of his head.
through the sun drenched dust floating in the air about him in his backyard
But there was
nothing bar the regular sounds of suburbia – a creaky Hills Hoist
clothesline twirling in the tropical breeze, noisy miner birds fighting over
scraps, an amateur pianist a few houses over practicing his scales...
He must have
His hand moved
back to the goggles on his head, ready to get back to work when he heard a
car door slam in his front yard.
He was out of
his workshop and sprinting down the driveway before his work gloves even hit
The first thing
he saw was a green Ute mounted halfway up the curb, it’s driver’s side door
open wide, it’s front fender crunched in against his front tree, and a soft
wisp of smoke spiralling from the bonnet.
thing he saw was Kane’s bike lying on its side on the street behind the car.
ripped through him like someone tearing a photograph in half. If Kane was
taken from him too...
just know, his numb feet took him to the curb, and once there he saw enough
to stop him from thinking such seditious thoughts.
Kane sat on the
road, leaning back against the far side of the car. He was alive. He was
animated. And he was talking to a young woman who was crouched down in
front of him, running frantic hands over his limbs and head.
A slight young
woman with shaggy brunette curls finishing just below her ears. A gauzy
sort of black top sat high on her back as she crouched, revealing a wide
band of olive skin above the waistline of her tight dark jeans.
James stared at
the skin, realising in a completely unexpected flash of awareness that it
was the first time he had seen that part of a woman’s anatomy in an age.
the disturbing thought and his feet to a very definite stop with a crunch of
work boot on gravel.
over, his pale brown eyes widening as he saw that he and his new friend
weren’t alone. Instant tears ensued as though the magnitude of what had
happened was only realised once James was there to witness it.
said, his high voice cracking.
“I’m here now,”
James said as he willed his feet to pick up where they left off.
One step at
he repeated in his head with each footfall.
He had no idea
where he had picked up such a mantra – Kane’s varied counsellors, late night
Internet browsing, or even Dr Phil, but it seemed the right mantra for that
towards his son, still not ready to find blood or pain or cracked bones.
“Buddy, are you okay?”
Kane nodded and
stood as though he knew James needed to see that he was in one piece. “I’m
fine. I scraped my arm, but as I told Siena, it hardly hurts.”
At the mention
of the woman’s name, James looked back to find her face drawn with
apprehension, her thin eyebrows arched into a frown, her stunning ocean
green eyes wide and blinking, and a full lower lip hooked guiltily beneath
her two front teeth.
shaking hands down her tight jeans as she stood, her slim legs wobbling on
ridiculously high, fire engine red, pointy heels. Why anyone would drive in
such contraptions he had no idea. He fought down a sudden urge to tell her
exactly that. To yell, to let loose with every thought that was streaming
through his frantic mind, to twist his recent fright back into much more
thought that crossed his mind flitted across her remarkable face and he knew
that he didn’t have to. He saw mortification. Embarrassment. Something
else so quick he missed it, but he caught the tail end of it through a brief
flash of pink across her cheeks.
And then, with
an almost imperceptible shake of her head, he recognised the moment she
reached the “get over yourself and go talk to the guy” phase.
Capuletti,” she said in a lilting voice, holding out a thin hand.
he said in return, moving to her to shake.
Her hand was
warm. And almost impossibly delicate. This was a hand that had known more
manicures than manual labour. For the first time ever he actually felt
self-conscious of the work-hardened calluses marring his own large hands.
He let go first
but she whipped her hand back with equal speed. As she tucked it into the
back pocket of her dark, low rise jeans, James caught a flash of flat tanned
insubordinate gaze flickered upward, but he then had to contend with those
eyes. Big, green, framed by the darkest thickest lashes he had ever seen.
Suddenly he wasn’t quite sure where to look.
“This is my
car,” the woman said, pointing at the green Ute when he said nothing.
“Well, it’s my brother Rick’s. I would never buy a T-shirt in such a
colour much less a sixty thousand dollar car. I was only going slowly,
thank goodness, but I didn’t see Kane until he was upon me and when I did I
braked as hard as my size sevens would allow, and I swerved, and I missed
turned at the waist and pinned Kane with a stare. “You are quite sure I
missed you completely?”
earnestly, watching Siena with extreme interest, and James could see that
the kid was as captivated as he was himself.
God,” she continued, crossing herself with a flourish. “This car is just so
bloody big and powerful and...excuse my French. I think I may have hurt
your gutter and I have definitely hurt the car and Rick is going to kill me
but I will of course pay for any damage to your garden, or driveway, or tree
It took James a
few moments to realise she had come to the end of her speech. He looked
back down at Kane who was now leaning beside the car, sniffling but no
longer crying. He was cradling his elbow, but of the two of them, James was
pretty certain Siena Capuletti had come out of it the more afflicted of the
the woman a smile by way of acceptance of her apology. Thankful for the
reprieve, she smiled back, her eyes glittering like sun off the coral-laden
waters off Green Island.
He stamped out
his own smile before his imagination got the better of him. He leant over
and picked up the bike and rested it against his thighs, creating a wall
between himself and the winsome stranger.
“If Kane says
you missed him,” he said, “then you missed him. He shouldn’t have been
riding out onto the road as it is.”
She shook her
head, her riotous dark curls swishing about her ears. “I should have been
more careful, especially driving down a suburban street.”
She looked up
at his house, staring at it for a few moments, her face haunted, overly so
he believed, considering how little damage had been done to either person.
and then looked back over at him, her big green eyes blinking ten to a
dozen. He couldn’t help himself - he just stared right on back. Was it
because she was familiar? Perhaps she lived locally and he had seen her at
wasn’t it. He had never seen this woman before. But there was definitely
something tugging at him. Something potent enough that he found a
sudden need to drag his eyes away and down to Kane.
“Now what have
you done to your arm, buddy?”
his arm to show him the nasty scrape. And blood. Seeing blood dribbling
down Kane’s arm clouded James’s mind until he felt like he was watching the
world through a pinhole.
At the behest
each and every counsellor who had drifted in and out of Kane’s life
over the past year – the first recommended by the hospital, yet another
organised through Kane’s school, and even a private one who James thought
smelled of his old gym bag but Kane liked him and that was recommendation
enough - James had pared his life back to one core mission: devoting himself
to Kane. To protect him. To keep him safe. To shield him from all
further pain. So how the hell had he allowed this to happen?
should whip you down to the emergency room to make sure.”
As soon as the
words left his mouth James knew it was the exact wrong thing to say. Kane’s
pale eyes grew as big as saucers, and his face lost the last vestiges of
Damn it! Over
a year of being a single dad and he still managed to find new and
interesting ways of screwing it up.
The last time
the poor kid had seen his mother she was in the care of a pair of smiling
ambulance drivers on her way to the hospital for tests. And she had never
James ran a
quick hand back and forth over his short hair. This wasn’t the time for all
that. Late at night, while Kane slept, he could kick himself for any
mistakes he’d made before and since to his heart’s content, but in daylight
hours, it was all about keeping Kane on an even keel.
“What was I
thinking?” he said, bending down until he was eye level with his son. He
reached out and tucked his hand behind Kane’s thin neck. “A bit of Dettol
and a bandage ought to do it. It might sting a bit, but you can take it
can’t you, Buddy?”
the fear in his eyes dampening. “’Course I can.”
“I know first
aid,” a modest voice said from behind them. “Only last week I took my
yearly refresher course.”
James turned to
find Siena shuffling from one high-heel shod foot to the other, wringing her
slender hands together so hard he could see her knuckles turning white.
entirely my fault,” she said, decreasing the distance between the two of
them until she was close enough that he could smell her perfume. Subtle.
Expensive. Drinkable. “Please let me make it up to you.”