Later, after we calmed down and returned to my truck, her face was still red with excitement when she turned to me. “What are we doing now?”
“You want more? We could go bungee jumping.”
“You’re not serious?”
I laughed. “Actually, I thought we could have dinner at Addy’s. I know she wants to see you.”
“I would really love that,” she said, looking more relaxed than I’d probably ever seen her. Life shouldn’t have been as complicated as ours was up until now. All I ever wanted was to make her happy. For today, at least, I’d succeeded.
After I called Addy to let her know we’d be bringing dinner over, Evangeline and I returned to my house to clean up. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the shower running, thinking about how incredibly good it felt having her here, knowing she was away from him.
She emerged from the bathroom with her hair wet, running my hairbrush through the long strands. She’d changed into a red dress that hugged her curves. A pair of matching flip flop wedges made her shapely legs look even longer.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her, and truly didn’t know how I was going to possibly let her go back to Wichita.
I couldn’t let her go back to him.
Evangeline must have been able to read my inner thoughts by the look on my face as I gazed at her. She stopped brushing and walked over to me. “I don’t want to go back.”
Sitting on the bed, I leaned my head gently into her stomach as she pulled me into her and wrapped her arms around my neck.
“Stay.” When I spoke into the material of her dress, her body quivered.
“How can I?”
“You don’t need to ever go back there. We’ll serve him with a letter, send someone for your things, or I can go with you when you break the news to him.”
She shook her head as if to rule out that last option.
“There are things you don’t understand, Sevin, things I haven’t told you.”
“Do you really think there is anything at this point that could fucking shock me? I didn’t know if you were even alive. Anything is still a step up from thinking you might have been dead.”
“I’m sorry.” Evangeline backed away and started to pace.
I got up and put my hands on her shoulders to stop her. “What exactly will he do? Because I’ll fucking fight him to the bone for you. You only ended up with him anyway because you were running from me. You don’t belong there.”
“I was very lost when he came into my life. He feels that I owe him for a lot. All I want is to stay with you, but he won’t let me go that easily.”
Her fear was palpable. I didn’t want to ruin our day by pushing her to tell me everything. She was clearly upset. I decided to back off for now despite my mind racing to think of ways to get her to consider never going back to Wichita.
“Let’s just have a nice dinner at Addy’s, okay?”
She wiped her eyes and smiled. “Okay.”
After stopping at the market, we prepared a spaghetti dinner at Addy’s, insisting our hostess not lift a finger. The small kitchen was filled with the smell of fresh basil and garlic bread baking in the oven. The tense mood from earlier had transformed into a comfortable camaraderie again as Evangeline and I cooked side-by-side, sipping wine and stealing glances at one another.
It was the first time everyone I cared about sat down for a meal together.
Luke passed Evangeline the salad. “So, Addy’s told me lots of stories about the days when you used to sneak over here and work at the garage.”
“Yeah…it was my favorite place in the world. She taught me a lot about fixing cars, but more about life in general.”
He looked over at Addy affectionately. “I hear that. I’ve learned a lot from this woman, too.”
“Well, thank you, baby.” She turned to Evangeline. “Vangie was probably better and faster than most of the men who’d been mechanics half their lives.”
“I used to dream about taking the business over. You know that.”
I put my hand on Evangeline’s arm. “Maybe you can still do it.”
“There’s no business to take over anymore,” Addy said.
“Sure, there is. All of the foundational stuff is still locked up in the shop. We’d just need to be creative, come up with a business plan. We’d rename it and do a grand reopening.”
Addy slapped the table. “We’ll call it the GAY-rage, paint it in rainbows. People around here would love that,” she said sarcastically.
“I’m all for that, Mama,” Luke said as he high-fived her.
I slammed my drink down. “Will you two be serious for five seconds? Why not try to get it back up and running?”
Addy shook her head. “Because there was a reason I shut it down in the first place.”
“Didn’t you say that for a while you had to temporarily turn people away when Marty and Jermaine took other jobs? It was only after they left that business really slowed because those customers you turned away found other mechanics and never came back.”
“That’s true. Yes.”
“I bet if you had the right staff, you could start it up again.”
My life had been too hectic over the past several years to really come up with a plan to help Addy get back on her feet. Now that I had a little more time on my hands, I was getting pumped to be able to help her. The fact that this endeavor might lure Evangeline back to Dodge City was an added benefit. Addy had no clue that Evangeline was working as an exotic dancer. Evangeline preferred she not know, and I didn’t betray her trust.