Forever Now(3)

By: Ruth Cardello

“She’s busy with her charter business. Remember her first broken-down helicopter? The one we all thought she’d sell as soon as that phase passed? Well, she has a fleet now of top-of-the-line helicopters that fly back and forth to Melbourne for some corporate bigwigs. I thought she was in it for the adventure, but now I tease her that she runs a glorified limo service. You should see her; she even has a uniform. Very serious stuff. And you? How’s it going? It’s been too long since we’ve seen you ’round.”

“Snowed under with work most days. Can’t complain. It’s better than no business.”

“I guess. Never thought I’d see more of your dad than you. He looks a little lost since he retired.”

“It was time. After his health scare last year—no one wants to see him trekking up a mountain alone or as a guide. I tried to get him to stay in the office, but you can imagine how that went.”

Harrison nodded and wiped a towel across the bar. “He’s real proud of you, Kade. You’ve done all right by your parents.”

“Thanks.” Although they weren’t meant to, Harrison’s words stung. He had no idea how complicated Kade’s life had recently become. Kade was no longer the hard-working son of a good man. He didn’t know what he was. Two days ago, his mother had called to tell him that nothing he’d thought he knew about himself was true. His mother and father were not his biological parents. Had it been a simple case of adoption, he could have handled the revelation. No, it had to be some far-fetched story about revenge and murder. At first he’d thought it was a joke, some kind of prank even though his mother had never been one for those. Stolen from a rich family? Hidden halfway around the world until they discovered the truth? Bullshit. That couldn’t be his story. His parents were too normal, too nice. Until that phone call, Kade would have said his parents had never lied about anything. Now he had to accept that his mother—at least—had lied about everything. A realization like that shook a man to the core. None of that, however, was a topic for the curious ears around them. “How have you been?”

“Good. Busy. Dad spends more time fishing with your father than working the bar, but I don’t mind. I used to dream of moving away, but the older I get the more I can imagine raising my own family here.”

“Good for you. I had no idea you were even seeing anyone.”

“I’m not.” Harrison took a glass from a drying rack, flipped it in the air, then filled it with water and ice. “But the unexpected happens every day.”

That was for damn sure.

Harrison smiled. “Hey, while you’re here, make time for a Mystic Park run.” He gave his still-flat stomach a pat. “I’m getting fat without you to drag my ass down those bike trails.”

“You’re on.” Kade was in the best physical shape of his life. Even though he had employees who could do it, Kade still guided tours through the mountains. Nothing like the workout of setting up and breaking down a mountainside picnic for city folk who could barely carry themselves up the trails. Kade savored his next gulp of ale.

Coming to see the Martins had been a good choice, particularly in the face of the craziness going on. They would be a safe harbor and sane sounding board while he figured out how to handle the next day. He had other friends, but it was Annie he needed. Sweet, sensible Annie and her easygoing family.

Just then Mitch, Annie and Harrison’s father, entered and called across the room. “Well, look who wandered home. Is that Kade, or are these old eyes imagining things?”

Kade stood, turned, and greeted the older man with a back-thumping hug. “Hey, mate.”

“It’s good to see you, Kade. Real good. You staying for dinner?” Harrison was the spitting image of Mitch, apart from the curls. Mitch had started buzzing his hair short as soon as his hairline began to recede, but he still looked much younger than his sixty or so years. Martins aged well—Mitch joked it was all the beer. And who could argue with him? Although Mitch was a third-generation brewer, at his family’s urging, he’d studied medicine at uni. He’d even opened his own general practice in Melbourne until he came home and was served a beer by his family’s new accountant, Hazel, who had agreed to work the bar one night as a favor. One favor. One drink. One woman for the rest of his life. Mitch said he was in love with not only Hazel, but the idea of applying what he’d learned about medicine to the family business. That’s the way the Martins lived and loved—with everything they had. They were the kindest, most loyal family Kade had ever met, and he felt lucky to have been raised alongside them.