Out of breath, p.44
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       Out of Breath, p.44

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 45

 

  Evan didn’t say a word, but my heart thrust against my chest when I felt the warmth of his hand slide over mine in the cool sand. The simple gesture made my eyes glisten with tears, and I leaned my head against his arm.

  ‘And did you leave it behind you, Emma? Did you run fast enough?’ he asked quietly.

  ‘I don’t know. ’ I paused a moment. ‘But I don’t want to look back to find out. I’d rather keep moving into the future, and be grateful that I have one. ’

  His hand squeezed mine.

  ‘Dude!’ I heard Nate yell, spinning both our heads around. ‘I can see you! If you’re going to take a piss, do it far enough away so I don’t have to see your ass. ’

  My mouth opened in amused disbelief. I whipped my head around before I accidentally saw whoever was offending Nate.

  ‘Sorry about that,’ Evan offered with a shake of his head.

  ‘It’s fine,’ I assured him, laughing lightly. ‘It’s actually kinda funny. ’

  ‘Evan!’ Brent hollered from behind us, ‘I’m starving. ’

  I rose gingerly onto my raw feet, my muscles stiff and sore. Evan took the sleeping bag from me and haphazardly folded it in his arms.

  ‘Of course you are!’ he yelled back. He looked down at me and asked, ‘Hungry?’ I nodded. ‘Do you need help walking?’

  I shook my head as I took deliberate steps towards the makeshift camp. I eyed the stairs as we got closer, uncertain how I was going to manage. Evan caught me sizing up the climb and was about to say something when Brent said, ‘Wow, Emma, you look amazing in the morning. ’

  ‘Really, Brent?’ Evan challenged.

  Brent laughed, knowing exactly what he was doing. Evan pulled Brent’s sleeping bag out from under him, dumping him on the sand. Nate chuckled in his broken morning voice while Brent jumped up quickly, his legs in a charging stance with his arms spread. I was prepared for him to tackle Evan to the ground.

  Evan raised his eyebrows in warning. ‘You sure about that? You do it, and you don’t get to eat anything I cook. ’ Brent lingered in his crouched position for a moment of contemplation, before he finally relented and stood up.

  ‘Fine, but I can still do this,’ he responded with a devilish gleam and rushed up behind me, sweeping my feet out from under me. I yelled out in surprise when I fell back in his arms. Brent practically ran to the stairs, looking over his shoulder in expectation of Evan’s retaliation. Evan rolled his eyes and continued to calmly gather the sleeping bags.

  As we started up the stairs, Brent looked down at me with a sparkling smile, ‘Good morning, Emma. ’

  I laughed and responded, ‘Good morning, Brent. Are you really going to carry me all the way to the house?’

  ‘As long as I know it’s going to piss Evan off, then yes,’ he replied with a devious smirk. ‘Besides, this is the most I’ll ever get to touch you again. ’

  ‘He’s just trying to piss you off,’ Nate said, rolling up a sleeping bag.

  ‘I know,’ I said gruffly, looking after Brent cradling Emma in his arms.

  Ren groaned in his sleep and rolled over, completely unaffected by the commotion. TJ grabbed the cooler and trudged up the stairs, still looking half asleep.

  ‘Will you make waffles, Evan?’ he grumbled as I followed behind him.

  I smiled at his request. ‘Yes, TJ, I’ll make waffles. ’

  I watched Emma laugh at something Brent said, which could have been just about anything that came out of his mouth. I reflected upon her brief moment of honesty while we were alone on the beach. Although she’d shared more than she would have if I’d asked the same question two years ago, her cryptic answer was still disconcerting. But she was trying, and everything about that felt right.

  ‘Do you have any houses on the beach, with at least three bedrooms?’ Emma asked after viewing the second small house on the realtor’s list. Emma continued to scowl at the tiny cottage set on a side street, about a mile from the water.

  I saw judgement pass across the agent’s face as she eyed the thick white socks and sandals on Emma’s feet. But Emma didn’t seem to care what she looked like as she awaited the answer.

  ‘Well, I do –’ the realtor smoothed the crisp linen of her sleeveless blue dress and answered slowly –‘but I’m afraid it may be well above your price point. ’

  ‘Really?’ Emma responded in amusement. ‘I’d like to see it. ’ I was surprised by her tenacity.

  ‘All right, then. ’ The realtor sighed, flipped her folder shut and led the way out of the house.

  ‘What was that about?’ I asked when we got into Nate’s pick-up truck.

  ‘What do you mean?’ Emma asked, although she knew exactly what I was talking about. ‘I want to be on the water. ’ I let out a short laugh as we followed the gold Mercedes down the street.

  We pulled into the driveway of a large white house. My eyes widened at the size of it. I turned towards Emma, and she smirked.

  I knew this lady wanted to put me in my place by taking us to this house. But in truth, I didn’t care how big it was. She strutted in front of us in her tight-fitting dress, clicking her heels along the stone driveway. She practically snickered when she unlocked the door and stepped aside to let us in.

  The wall of glass facing the ocean was the first thing I saw, and that was all I needed. ‘We’ll take it. ’

  ‘But you haven’t even stepped into the house,’ she stuttered.

  ‘How many bedrooms?’ I enquired.

  ‘Three,’ she answered, looking at me oddly.

  ‘Perfect,’ I responded, walking further into the space without taking my eyes off the view. ‘We’ll need it for a month. I’ll give you a card for a deposit so we can move in today and arrange for the rest of the money to be wired to you by tomorrow. You’ll be hearing from a gentleman by the name of Charles Stanley. He’ll make certain it’s all handled. ’

  I finally pulled my eyes away from the ocean and turned to find Evan and the agent staring at me like I’d just recited a poem in Gaelic.

  ‘What?’ I questioned, my eyes flipping from one stunned face to the other.

  ‘That’s fine,’ she snapped, taking the card I held out for her. ‘I’ll have the paperwork ready for you to sign this afternoon after I speak with this … Charles Stanley. I’ll be in touch. ’

  ‘Thanks,’ I smiled and limped past her to the truck.

  ‘Charles Stanley?’ Evan asked, still appearing dazed by the entire exchange. ‘And you don’t even know what it costs or what the place looks like. Emma, what just happened?’

  ‘I like the view,’ I answered simply, clicking my seatbelt into place.

  ‘Emma,’ I said sternly, causing the grin on her face to falter. Reluctantly, she faced me. ‘What aren’t you telling me?’

  Emma played with her fingers nervously before swallowing and admitting, ‘I have a trust. ’

  I blinked in surprise.

  ‘A big trust,’ she continued, her voice quiet. ‘My father set it up when I was young, and Charles came to see me before I turned eighteen to let me know it existed. He helps with whatever financial needs I have, whether it’s school, or a car, or whatever. ’ She kept her eyes cast down until she was done. Then she cautiously peered up at me, awaiting my reaction.

  ‘O-kay,’ I said, still trying to take it all in. ‘I guess we have a house. ’ I wasn’t sure what else to say. Perhaps because I was still in shock from this revelation, or maybe because it really didn’t matter. The money obviously hadn’t affected Emma, or I would have picked up on it before now. Granted, Emma was pissed off at the real-estate agent for her arrogant assumptions, but then she kind of had it coming. And the size of the house didn’t matter to Emma. That was evident as well. The only thing that she’d seen was the view of the ocean before she made her decision. ‘Let’s get our stuff. ’ I started the truck, and we drove the five minutes back to Nate’s house.

  I waited for him to be upset w
ith me for not telling him about the trust and the visit from Charles Stanley. But he barely reacted. He was more upset that I’d made such a hasty decision without knowing anything about the place.

  Evan never reacted the way I expected, but that was something that had always drawn me to him. And that hadn’t changed.

  29

  Not Knowing

  I RAN MY HAND ALONG THE SMOOTH surface of the marble and tilted my head up at the sun beaming in through the small window set above the Jacuzzi tub.

  ‘Nice place,’ Evan said from the door, spinning me around.

  ‘Can you believe the size of this bathroom?’ I replied, my voice echoing. It seemed more like an elite spa. It even had a television built into the long mirror over the double sinks.

  ‘You’re stuck on the bathroom? Have you seen this bedroom? I mean, it has a fireplace and its own private patio. ’

  ‘It does?’ I followed Evan through the master bedroom, past the king bed adorned with a mountain of pillows, and out a glass door covered with a gathered sheer curtain.

  ‘No way. ’ I gawked at the enclosed space, with brilliant pink flowers draping over the fence surrounding it. Two teak chairs and a table sat next to a small fire pit, along with, of all things, an outdoor shower. ‘Why would anyone need a shower on their patio?’

  ‘To rinse off the sand from the beach,’ Evan explained, unlatching a section of the tall fence to reveal the main deck and a set of stairs leading to the beach.

  ‘This is insane,’ I said, shaking my head.

  ‘You picked it. ’ Evan grinned.

  ‘I liked the view. ’

  ‘And you got so much more. ’ Evan laughed, walking back into the house. I followed him into the expansive living room with the cathedral ceiling. ‘I think I’m going to go to the grocery store, if that’s okay. You should sit outside and let some fresh air get to your feet. I think I saw a hammock out there. ’

  ‘That sounds perfect. ’

  ‘Do you want anything in particular?’ Evan asked, grabbing the keys to Nate’s truck from the table behind the overstuffed dark blue couch.

  ‘Ice cream?’

  ‘I can do that. ’ He smiled.

  I watched him leave. I was trying not to think about the fact that he and I were going to be alone in this house together for the next twenty-four hours until Sara returned. Thinking of it made my entire body rush with panic, despite the rebellious flutter I felt in my chest. I shook away the invasive thought, and decided to distract myself with a book.

  I inspected the tall built-in bookcase, jammed with paperbacks and hardcovers of every genre. Then I remembered the book I had in my tote bag, which I hadn’t touched since before I left for Weslyn. It was ridiculous to have thought I would be able to read on the plane en route to Weslyn.

  I removed the tote from the cavernous walk-in closet in the master suite and sifted through its eclectic contents. I pulled out the book, and a few envelopes dropped to the floor. I scooped them up.

  One was a magazine offer. I tossed that on the bed to be thrown away. The other made my insides twist in on themselves. My formal name was scrolled stiffly across the white paper. The return address read, ‘Boca Raton, Florida’. I dropped the envelope on the bed as if it were on fire. The script wasn’t George’s. I inhaled deeply to keep the nausea at bay. It had to be from my grandmother. I didn’t want to hear her brutal accusations of how I’d ruined the lives of her sons and grandchildren. I refused to let one more person blame me for what wasn’t my fault.

 
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