During a short reprieve before dinner that night, I attempted to sketch. Drawing was always my outlet to battle stress, but tonight it wasn’t helping me. As I lay on my bed with my sketchpad in hand, all I wanted was to draw her: her curvy ass, the swell of her breasts, her silky black hair. Those caramel brown eyes. I wanted to recreate the passionate look in them when she answered my question with more honesty than I could have ever hoped for.
I looked down at the blank paper in front of me. The nudes I’d always sketched were typically of nameless, faceless women. I no longer had the desire to create them. It was like my hand was paralyzed when I tried to force myself to draw. The pencil wouldn’t move. Chucking it across the room, I walked over to the mirror above my chest of drawers and ran my fingers through my hair as I stared at my reflection.
When Evangeline listed her hopes and dreams last night, something completely unfamiliar developed in my chest. It was like she was naming all of the things I never knew I wanted. I had always convinced myself that I didn’t deserve certain things because of my role in Rose’s death. But with each wish that came out of Evangeline’s beautiful mouth, my heart beat faster and faster as if she were speaking directly into it. It was the first time I realized that maybe I did truly want more out of life. I may not have deserved it, but I wanted it.
I wanted her.
I continued to stare at myself in the mirror.
Evangeline wasn’t an option, plain and simple. What was I supposed to tell Lance? That he made a mistake in the daughter he chose for me? That I’m more attracted in every way to Evangeline, even though I made a promise to his other daughter who truly believes she loves me? Where would that leave sweet Elle? She would be devastated, and I knew Evangeline would never betray her sister. In the end, I’d be out on the street—or worse—back in Oklahoma with Lillian. My plans were already set in stone. This was what my father wanted, for me to take over Lance’s business. I owed it to his memory. It was the least I could do after years of fucking up. My bed was made, and I had to lie in it. What I wanted…craved…didn’t matter. It was just unfortunate that the one woman who made me feel alive was the only person in the world I couldn’t have.
You have to find a way to get past this, I thought to myself as I continued to examine my reflection.
The only thing that made sense was to try to get closer to Elle, to uncover some of the same things in her that drew me to Evangeline. I vowed that tonight was the night I would start the process of trying to fall in love with my soon-to-be wife.
“Evangeline won’t be joining us for dinner tonight,” Olga said as she placed a pork tenderloin down on the dining room table.
“Why not?” Elle asked.
“She just called to inform me that she would not be coming home at all tonight.”
I suddenly lifted my head. “What?”
Jesus. Try to hide your interest a little, Sevin.
She looked at Elle. “Her friend…Lorraine…passed away about an hour ago. Evangeline took the keys to your father’s car without asking and drove over to their house.”
My heart suddenly felt heavy. Shit. She must have been devastated.
“She’ll be duly punished for that when she gets back,” Lance said.
I turned to him. “Don’t you think that’s a little harsh? It’s not like she took it out for a joy ride. Someone died.”
Elle seconded my sentiments. “Yeah, Daddy. You couldn’t expect her to not be there for Adelaide at a time like this.”
“Your sister knows how I feel about the company she keeps. What happened is unfortunate, but it doesn’t change that. She had no right to steal the car without my permission. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. Thou shalt not steal, Elle. Have you not learned anything from the Bible?”
The rest of that dinner was the quietest on record. After everyone helped Olga clean up the table, I pulled Elle aside.
“I need you to do me a favor.”
“Anything.” She smiled sweetly.
“After you go upstairs for the night and everyone is asleep, I want you to quietly sneak out and come to the guesthouse.”
She looked behind her shoulder and whispered, “You know I can’t do that.”
“I realize it’s against the rules, but I just think we really need to have some time alone. I promise you I’m not going to try anything. I just want to talk, Elle. I want to spend time with you without everyone breathing down our necks.”
“Just think about it, okay?”
A look of extreme worry crossed her face. “Alright.”
Shortly after midnight, just when I’d drawn the conclusion that Elle wasn’t coming, there was a light knock at the door. When I opened it, my heart nearly stopped.
She was shivering, standing there with wet hair and tears in her eyes.
“Can I come in?”
“Sure.” I swallowed and opened the door wide. “Please.”
My heart was palpitating as she stood before me.
Her hair was dripping down onto her heaving breasts. “I don’t know why I’m here, Sevin.”
I stood there speechless, in total shock that she was in my house.
Fucking speak, Sevin.
“They said you were spending the night at Adelaide’s.”
“I was planning to, but I started to worry about Daddy’s reaction. I didn’t want the stress of dealing with his yelling tomorrow. I figured at least if I were sleeping in my bed in the morning, he might not punish me as hard. Your light was on. I know I’m not gonna be able to sleep. I didn’t want to be alone up there with everyone sleeping. I just needed to talk to someone. I know I really shouldn’t be here.”