The front door opened before I had a chance to knock.
“You just let me know if there’s anything else you need,” an attractive redheaded woman around my age said to Sevin as she exited the house.
Who was that?
I froze when his eyes landed on me with the same angry, vacant look he’d given me at Elle’s funeral.
“Who are you?” she asked. “Can we help you?”
A long, uncomfortable silence ensued as Sevin and I just stared at each other.
I finally looked back at her. “I’m Evangeline.”
“My sister-in-law,” he scoffed bitterly.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. Anyway, I’ll call you later to check on you, Sevin,” she said as she got into her Toyota and drove off, leaving a trail of dust behind.
He remained in the doorway giving me the same icy glare. My heartbeat was out of control as I really took him in for the first time. Sevin was bigger, more muscular. His hair had grown out some, and his face was framed by a five o’clock shadow. He was truly a man now in every way. And even though everything about us was shattered—there was no us—my broken heart felt more whole than it had in all the years I’d been gone simply because he was near. The electric energy that always existed between us was still there. It just manifested itself in a different way now.
After an indeterminate amount of time passed, he was the first to speak. “What are you doing here?”
Swallowing, I said, “I needed to see you.”
“All of a sudden you need to see me?” He shook his head in disbelief but didn’t say anything else.
A roll of thunder rang out in the distance, a fitting addition to this ominous reception. It was starting to rain.
“Can I come in?”
“No.” His answer was abrupt. His body was rigid, and his hands balled into fists.
Nodding, I looked down at my feet, feeling ashamed for even coming.
“I’m sorry. I should have known you wouldn’t see me.”
“I don’t really understand why you’re here.” He sounded tired, like he barely had the energy to say those words.
Why was I here?
“Because I can’t live like this anymore. I need to explain some things to you.”
My nerves were shot, but I walked closer to him anyway. His familiar smell sent shockwaves of nostalgia, desire and pain through me. All of the feelings I’d harbored away began to awaken. I just wanted to throw myself into his arms. As if he could see inside my head, Sevin took two steps back away from me and into the house.
“Get the fuck out of here, Evangeline.”
His words were like a punch in the gut.
“Please. I don’t get the car very often. I need to talk to you. I—”
The slam of the door in my face caused me to shudder.
I closed my eyes tightly as tears began to fall down my cheeks. So much had changed in our lives, but at that moment, I was simply the same Evangeline who loved Sevin with all of my heart and soul.
Walking around to the side of the house, I peeked into the window. Sevin was sitting on the couch with his head down by his knees. A bottle of Jack Daniels was open on the table. He didn’t see me. It was impossible for me to look away. That vision epitomized all of the damage I’d caused. Seeing firsthand how badly I’d hurt him was so hard to take.
I deserved every bit of the horrible existence I was left with now.
Returning to the truck, I started the engine and took off down the long, gravelly road leading out of my parents’ property. I wasn’t worthy of his forgiveness. I deserved my punishment, which was my life with Dean. I continued back to Wichita, vowing never to return to Dodge City again.
It took me nearly an hour to get up off the couch that day. I was so damn angry at myself. After everything she’d done, I should have wanted to kill her. Instead, I had to slam the door in her face because of the fucked up feelings rocketing through me. When the urge came on to grab her and hold her, I worried that I was insane. How was it possible to hate someone and love them at the same time?
My judgement was clearly fogged, which necessitated getting rid of her before I did something I would regret. Still emotionally weak from the trauma of Elle’s death, there was no way I could let Evangeline in and allow myself to become manipulated by her. I could never trust her again, but it was all too easy to get sucked in. Over my dead body would my weakness for her erase the past five years. She wasn’t going to get my forgiveness. There was no excuse for leaving me the way she did—leaving Elle in that condition. I needed to stand my ground.
But closing that door did nothing to rid my heart of her. She lived inside of me, always had¸ constantly haunting me even when she wasn’t physically present. I was going to have to try harder to fight this.
For days after her visit, I couldn’t eat or sleep and did nothing but drink. A battle was being waged inside of me. On one hand, I wanted to protect myself from the truth of where she’d been this whole time. On the other, the curiosity was killing me.
I knew I needed to talk to Addy. We’d spoken on the phone after Evangeline first showed up at her house, but she didn’t know Evangeline had now come to see me. Addy was my voice of reason all of these years, the only person who kept me sane through the worst of everything. Bonding in our misery over Evangeline’s abandonment, we’d been there for each other every day. When Luke ran away from Oklahoma and moved to Dodge City, the three of us became like a family. The two of them were a piece of normal in the midst of my life, which otherwise had consisted mostly of work and my obligations at home with Elle up until she died. Addy and Luke were my strength and my solace. At the same time, Addy’s was a place where I could just kick back with a beer and be myself.