Three days had gone by, and I’d managed to avoid Sevin almost completely with the exception of dinnertime. It was like a sport—dodge Sevin—instead of dodgeball or something.
Luckily, Daddy had him in training a good chunk of the day. They usually didn’t return from the plant until after seven-thirty at night. The most challenging part, though, had been attempting to act normal around Elle. Over the past several months, I’d listened intently as she boasted to me about the man courting her. I’d shared in her enthusiasm and participated in endless conversations about the wedding.
Elle and I both worked upstairs in the business offices of Sutton Provisions. While I would typically sneak over to Adelaide’s after work, Elle would often ride her horse, Magdalene, in the late afternoons. But we were together almost all day until our shifts ended at three-thirty. Having to maintain the same attitude now was hard. Even harder was figuring out why I was making this so difficult. Nothing had really happened between Sevin and me. My attraction to him was my own issue. In reality, we’d just had an interesting conversation after I’d helped him with his car. Neither of us knew the other’s identity at the time. It was all one big innocent misunderstanding. So, why did I feel so guilty?
It was early evening. Elle had gone with Daddy to pick up Mama’s Aunt Imogene, who would be staying with us temporarily after being evicted from her apartment about an hour away.
I was in the kitchen when my mother emerged from the adjacent laundry room with some freshly-washed towels.
“Honey, I need you to take these over to Sevin’s. Here’s the key if he’s not there.”
I opened my mouth in an attempt to come up with an excuse, but honestly, I was going to have to face him at some point. The sooner this awkward phase ended, the better. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the towels and headed across the open field to the guesthouse, secretly hoping he wasn’t there.
The front door creaked as I slowly opened it. “Hello?”
There was no answer. He wasn’t home. My heart rate immediately slowed. Unsure of where to put the towels, I walked through the bedroom to the small bathroom. There was no space in the cabinet under the sink, so I ended up placing them on the shelf at the top of the closet in his room. The smell of his woodsy cologne was everywhere. It immediately took me back to our first encounter on the road when the wind blew it in my direction. I grabbed the sleeve of one of his hanging shirts and sniffed it nice and slowly, closing my eyes to relish the scent.
“What do I smell like?”
Sevin removed his earbuds. He was shirtless. Sweat was dripping down his bare chest, slowly travelling down to the carved V of his abdomen. His breathing was ragged.
His body was so cut that it seemed almost obscene to be looking at it. But I couldn’t look away.
Barely able to get the words out, I said, “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I went out for a quick run. You left the front door open.”
“I’m sorry…I was just…I brought you some towels. I don’t know why I was smel—”
“It’s alright, Evangeline.” His eyes were intense. “I don’t care if you smell my fucking shirt. Smell all of them if it means you’ll stop pretending I don’t exist.”
“Smelling your shirt was not okay. It was weird and—”
“You are a little weird, but it’s what I like about you.”
“Gee, thanks.” I smiled.
“I was beginning to think I’d never see that smile again. I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’ve been avoiding you.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed. I just thought you had really bad incontinence during dinner.” He grabbed a towel to wipe his face then rubbed it over his chest. I was looking down at the floor to keep from staring at him when he asked, “Will you stay for a few minutes?”
“No. I really shouldn’t be here.” I walked past him toward the door to his room.
His voice stopped me in my tracks. “You think you’re the only one who’s freaked out? After you took off on your bike that day, it was impossible to get you out of my head, even though I was certain I’d never see you again. Then, I thought I was imagining you when you walked into the dining room that first night. But, of course, you already knew what you’d be walking in on.”
I turned around to face him again. “I didn’t want to come home. I was so embarrassed.”
“Why did you run away when you figured out who I was? You could’ve just told me the truth. You could tell me anything. I thought we established that in the first hour we met.”
When I laughed, the tense look on his face seemed to soften.
“I honestly don’t know why I ran. It was a shock.”
Sevin walked slowly toward me, his tanned chest still glistening. I could feel the heat of his body even though he wasn’t touching me. “We didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I know,” I said defensively.
“Why did you tell me your name was Sienna?”
“Honestly? I just don’t like my name.”
“Evangeline is a beautiful name. It fits you.”
“Well, maybe I just don’t like myself very much then.”
“I love your name. You shouldn’t lie about it.”