By the time dinner was over Mrs. Tarans had fed him half a peach cobbler. Then Sgt. Tarans had insisted on driving him back to the barracks—Evans wasn’t fooled, he knew the old man wanted his cigarettes back. On the way they’d had a surprisingly coherent discussion on the merits of Ethan Day’s writing between the three of them because Mrs. Tarans had insisted on coming along—and again, Evans wasn’t fooled, Mrs. Tarans had no intention of letting her husband get his hands on those cigarettes again. He said his goodbyes, and started across the quad towards his barracks, and instead ended up sitting in his car.
If it starts, it’s a sign, and I’ll drive back out there.
Naturally it didn’t start. Not the first time. It was still a sign even if it took twenty-four tries and shanghai-ing two guys to give him a push start to get it going, right? Well, that’s what Evans was going with as he drove back out toward Ryan’s house at eleven o’clock at night. He had a bad moment at a flashing red light intersection about half-way there when the engine stalled. Fortunately it was on a hill, so with a little muscle thrown in he ran and jumped back behind the wheel to pop the clutch and bang, the car was running again.
The lights were shining from the kitchen windows when he pulled into the drive. Evans parked carefully, mindful of the fact that his car might not start the next time he tried it. Either Pretty or Ryan could get called away at a moment’s notice. He shut his car off and got out. Walking up to the door, he felt the itch starting up again.
I won’t get any answers if I run away again.
At the door he laid his palm against the weathered wood. It felt oddly as though the house welcomed him, even invited him in. He moved to lay his forehead against the door as well but the added weight pushed the door slightly ajar. Evans pushed the door further open and stepped back into the house he’d left—run from in fact—only hours before.
Voices spilled across the living room with the splash of light from the kitchen’s doorway, one low and resonant, the other light and mellifluous. Evans’s heart started to pound as he carefully placed one foot in front of the other.
I can do this. I can.
Half-way across the living room he started to pant. The air felt thick and his breaths became uneven.
I want to know what he’s dreamed with me since that first time.
A low, rumbling laugh sounded in the kitchen. Evans froze for a moment, glancing wildly around. His eyes followed the warm yellow fall of light from above the kitchen table to where it ended aslant the wall directly in front of him. It fell across the Henry Avignon print like a purposely placed accent light.
I want to know why he didn’t come for me.
A higher laugh followed, tinkling gently, brushing against his skin like butterfly wings. He could almost feel the silken residue of their touch.
I want to know why I can feel Pretty’s anger and her joy.
He drew in a shaky breath and took a last step. Standing in the doorway, unable to move any farther forward, he hungrily drank in the sight before him. Pretty was sitting at the table, a ceramic mug the same shade of blue as her incredible eyes clasped in her hands. Little tendrils of steam wisped up from where she held it close to her face to curl around the high rounds of her cheeks in the dimly lit kitchen. Ryan’s broad back and shoulders were directly in front of Evans, their outline highlighted by the play of light and shadow. The rich red of his tee-shirt was a perfect foil for the gleaming, waist length ebony hair that lay in tangles down his back.
“Someone should brush your hair out, before those snarls get any worse.”