Forests of the Heart

Forests of the Heart by Charles De Lint

Book: Forests of the Heart by Charles De Lint Read Free Book Online
Authors: Charles De Lint
she was just this amazing little accordion wizard who’d sneak into the sessions when she was still too young to legally have a drink.
    “Don’t worry,” Donal told him with a smile. “I’m not going to turn into some mad hard man to protect the honor of my little sister.”
    “Well, she’s a bit young for me …” Hunter began.
    “Ah, but she’s an old soul.”
    Hunter shook his head. “So now what? Are you turning matchmaker?”
    “ ‘Course not. I’m just looking out for the best for both of you. Don’t tell her I’ve said a word or she’ll have my bloody head.”
    “I won’t,” Hunter told him.
    “Good man.”
    So far as Hunter was concerned, just the idea of it made everything feel far too complicated to think about, never mind talk about. But of course, now he couldn’t
not
think about it.
    “How’s work going?” he asked to change the subject.
    Donal sighed. “You know that new gallery down the street from your store?”
    “Le Grand Corbeau Bleu,”
Hunter said with a nod. “I’ve seen they’re hanging some of your work.”
    “And that’s just lovely, except they’ve sold three pieces and I’ve yet to see a check from them. Now I’m as patient as the next man, their being a new business and all, but Jaysus, a man has to pay his own bills—do you know what I’m saying? It wouldn’t be so bad if I thought they were trying to put me off, because then I could go in and shout and carry on and all. But they’re so bloody earnest and broke …”
    Donal left before either Hunter and Miki were ready to go. By twelve-thirty, the crowd had thinned considerably, though Hunter noted that the hard men were still in their booth. The music had changed now—not quite so frantic and showy. There were fewer musicians, the ones remaining being the better players. The music they drew from their instruments was as likely to be tender and heart-wrenchingly melancholy as up-tempo, the tunes all much more intricate and twisty than what they’d been playing earlier. Miki would have had no trouble keeping up, but she’d put her box back in its case and the two of them had moved to a bench near the fireplace, close to where the musicians were playing. It still left them out of the circle of players, but they were now near enough to be able to listen to the music without the distracting noise of the pub’s remaining patrons.
    They’d been sitting there for a while when Miki slipped her hand into the crook of his arm and gave him a contented smile. It seemed an entirely innocent gesture, but Hunter remembered what Donal had told him and an immediate awkwardness came over him. He could feel himself tense up and Miki was quick to pick up on the change.
    “What’s the matter?” she asked. She leaned closer to him, keeping her voice low.
    “Nothing.”
    “Oh, right.” She squeezed his arm. “The muscles of your arm feel so tight it’s like you think you might catch a disease from me or something. So ‘fess up already. What’s the problem?”
    “It’s nothing, really. It’s just…” Never mind what he’d promised Donal, Hunter decided. “Only Donal was saying …”
    His voice trailed off but Miki shook her head and finished for him.
    “That I have a crush on you.”
    Hunter nodded.
    “Bloody hell. He’s doing that all the time. It’s his way at getting back at me for making his life miserable with what he calls my incessant practicing.”
    Hunter knew an immediate relief. It wasn’t that he disliked Miki. Far from it. He simply wasn’t ready for any more complications in his life at the moment. Not when the ache Ria had left in his heart was still so raw.
    “So you don’t…” Hunter began.
    “I didn’t say that.”
    He looked the question at her, but she only smiled.
    “That’s for me to know and you to find out,” she said.
    “But…”
    “Shh. Listen. Isn’t that a beautiful air?”
    It took a moment for Hunter to switch gears and pay attention to what the musicians were

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