“Did you tell him who you were?”
“No. He still has no clue! That’s the problem. As soon as he said his name was Sevin and I put two and two together, I got up and said I had to leave. I came straight here. I wasn’t looking forward to him moving in before this, but can you imagine how I feel now? I can’t go back there! I can’t face him.”
“You have to.”
“I know.” I stared down into my tea for a while then said, “He touched my face.”
“I had some grease. It was innocent. He rubbed it off with his finger. But when he touched me, it was like I felt it throughout my entire body. One simple touch. I’m so embarrassed.”
“Don’t be. That’s a natural reaction to physical attraction.”
“But I can’t be physically attracted to my sister’s soon-to-be husband.”
“You didn’t know, Vangie. It was an innocent mistake.”
“I know, but how am I going to undo it now?”
“You may not be able to. You just have to be strong, accept this as one of life’s freakish coincidences and face it head first.”
“I’m so caught up in my own damn problem, I didn’t even ask you how Lorraine is.”
“Oh, honey, don’t feel bad about that. She had a pretty crappy day, though. The meds are making her sick. But thank you for asking.”
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do, okay? Maybe pick up some more of the slack around the shop so you can be with her longer during the day.”
“I appreciate that, but Marty and Jermaine are doing a good job. I’ll let you know if things change. Tonight, though, you need to go home and face the music before it gets too dark to head back. You know I worry about you on that bike at night.”
“Okay. I have no idea what I’m going to say or do.”
“Don’t overthink it. Just deal with each moment as it comes. I’ll be here tomorrow if you need to talk again. And I’ll save you some soup for lunch.”
“Thanks, Addy. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You won’t ever have to find out.”
I rode toward our house as if in a race against time with the fading sunset. As I passed the same grassy knoll where Sevin and I sat, guilt crept in. It wasn’t because of what happened. I felt guilty because I knew that even if given the choice to go back and erase our moment in time, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
When I pulled into the Sutton ranch, Lance, his wife, Olga, and Elle were all waiting for me on the farmer’s porch. The sun cast a bright orange glow around their massive house that sat up on a hill. A few grazing horses were scattered about. It was hard to believe that this vast property was my home now.
Elle looked beautiful in a long, white dress with multi-colored flowers. She was beaming as she ran down the front steps toward me. It seemed strange not even being able to hug her after all this time. Lance’s rules had been made very clear: Elle and I couldn’t have any close physical contact until we were married. Since we were unofficially engaged, though, hand holding was allowed in a chaperoned environment.
Elle reached both hands out to me, and they were trembling a little. “You made it!”
“You nervous or something?” I asked.
“A little. I’m just super excited to finally have you here. I hope you like it.”
“I’m happy to be here¸ Ellebell. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”
Lance came up behind her, causing me to instinctively let go of her hands. “How was the ride, son?”
“Long but uneventful.”
Wow, it only took two minutes until my first lie.
“Glad to hear,” he said.
Olga approached and gave me her hand. “The famous Sevin Montgomery. It’s wonderful to meet you. I feel like I already know you with how much Elle talks about you.”
“Please call me Olga.”
I politely nodded. “Okay.”
Olga wasted no time heading to the back of my truck. “Let’s help move these things into the guesthouse.”
Elle and I looked at each other and smiled.
A younger girl ran out to join us. “Number seven!” She looked like a little version of Elle with pig tails. Elle was the middle of three daughters. She’d mentioned that one of her sisters was a year older, while the other was much younger—about eleven.
“You must be Emily.”
“How did you know?”
“Wild guess. Nice to meet you.”
“Same.” Emily looked over at her father. “Where’s Evangeline? She should be here to meet Seven Heaven, too.”
“Evangeline is off doing whatever it is Evangeline does,” Olga answered as she pulled one of my smaller suitcases out of the truck. “She’d better be home soon, though.”
Once we’d moved all of my things into the guesthouse, Lance and Olga left to go back to the main residence but asked Emily to stay with Elle and me. That was the protocol. Elle and I could be together as long as there was someone else with us.
“Take a look around the house. Do you like it?”
“It’s cozy, but it’s way more room than I’ve ever had to myself in my life.”
The guesthouse was small but perfect for one person. There was a tiny kitchenette, a living room with a fireplace and one bedroom with a small adjacent bathroom. With dark wood and plaid décor, the house had a rustic log cabin feel. It already felt way more like home than Lillian’s; that was for sure. More than anything, I was grateful to have my own space.