“I’m sorry. I thought you’d understand.”
“I do understand. Too well. That’s the problem. You love me. I love you. It’s actually quite fucking simple.”
“I love you so much, Evangeline. To me, it was crystal clear what needed to happen, and it didn’t involve either one of us marrying other people.”
“You made a promise to my sister who loves you. I was trying to make it easier for you.”
“You know what? In a way, you did make it easier for me. You helped me see that I couldn’t marry Elle.”
“What happens now?”
“I’m not going to go through with any of it. I’m leaving. I can’t pretend to love someone else, not when I’m hopelessly in love with you. That’s not ever going to change. Even if you didn’t exist, it’s not fair to marry someone whose love you can’t return. I see that now that I know how powerful real love is. I’d also be keeping her from experiencing being on the receiving end of that.”
“Do you understand what you’re saying? Daddy will ruin you. He’ll run you out of town if you do this after all of the investment he put into your future.”
“Did you not hear me say I was leaving? I understand the repercussions.”
“You’re going to ruin your life. You won’t have a job, a roof over your head…nothing. That doesn’t matter to you?”
“It matters in the sense that I don’t want to hurt Elle. But the other stuff is not important to me. There is nothing that matters to me more than you. I won’t let you marry him just to get away from me. And I won’t make you watch me marry your sister when I know in my heart it would hurt you beyond belief. No career in the world is worth knowing you’re suffering because of me.”
“Where will you go?”
“Anywhere but here.”
Grabbing his hand, I looked out at the rain pelting the window. “This is a shock.”
“Is it really, though? This day was always going to come. You couldn’t feel it looming? I knew in my bones that it would be impossible to stay away from you. I think I knew that from the very first time I saw you sitting across from me at that dining room table the day we first met. What we have is too strong.”
On the verge of tears, I asked, “What are we going to do? Daddy’s going to make your life a living hell. I don’t want you hurt, either.”
“The only thing that can possibly hurt me is losing you.”
“Where does Elle think you are right now?”
“I told her I was going back to Oklahoma for a few days. I lied. I made up a story about my brother needing me. I had to get away to figure out how I’m gonna tell her.”
“She’s going to be devastated.”
“Would you rather me do it in two years after Elle and I are married with a kid?”
Just the mention of his having a child with Elle made me nauseous.
He continued, “My mother didn’t die giving birth to me so I could spend my life living a lie. She wouldn’t want that. I want to live the truth. And you’re my truth.”
“I want us to be together. But how? How can I possibly do this to my sister?”
“I’ll love you in secret if I have to.”
“If you can’t break her heart, no one has to know.”
“I don’t have the exact answers yet. Maybe I can build a life somewhere out of town but close by. We can be together there until we can figure things out. Maybe someday things will be different. Elle will find someone who truly loves her. We can tell them someday what happened.”
“Promise me you won’t say anything to Elle about leaving until we’ve thought this through.”
“I’m going away to a hotel for a couple of days to think. I’ll come back to the ranch, and when the moment is right, I’ll tell everyone I’m leaving.”
“I can’t believe it’s come to this.”
“From the moment we met, it was supposed to happen this way. We were meant for each other, Evangeline. It’s why God led me here. Not to find her…to find you. It was fate.”
Deep down, I knew he was right. We were meant to be together. But fate didn’t always come without detours and twists. Sometimes, fate could be fatal. We’d soon learn that the hard way.
After I returned to the Sutton ranch, Evangeline and I decided to wait a week before my announcement. Talking to Elle would be the first priority. I would let her know that my feelings about the marriage had changed. That was going to be the most painful part. Then, I’d sit down with Lance to give him my formal resignation, profusely apologize for wasting his time and hurting his daughter, hoping he didn’t take his shotgun out. It was going to be a nightmare, but it had to be done.
The plan was for me to hide out at Addy’s until I could get a job. Evangeline would eventually figure out a way to come with me wherever I was. At least, that was what she was telling me and what I was banking on. Despite our consummating everything in the open field and professing our love, a lingering feeling that she wouldn’t be able to go through with it was haunting me.
Evangeline snuck into the guesthouse almost every night that week. Her signature rock would hit my window, and I’d come around to let her in. She was completely riddled with guilt, but we still couldn’t resist each other. My body ached when she wasn’t around. We were completely addicted to the sex. After we’d finish, I’d always just hold her because I knew she felt sick about giving into me while Elle still thought there was going to be a wedding. But even that didn’t matter enough; we couldn’t stay away from each other. Now that we’d gotten a taste of it, it was simply impossible to stop. Like a druggie, I was addicted to her smell, her taste, the feel of being inside of her. When she wasn’t around, it felt like I was missing an appendage. She was a part of me now.