Out of breath, p.50
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       Out of Breath, p.50

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
 
Page 51

  ‘You know what, I think I’m going to go to bed,’ I declared. ‘I’ll read until I fall asleep. ’

  ‘Oh,’ Evan replied with disappointment. ‘Okay. Well …’

  Sara’s exuberant laughter carried down the stairs. Evan eyed the second floor in dread.

  ‘You can stay in my room … if you want,’ I offered.

  ‘Are you sure?’ he asked cautiously. ‘I don’t want it to feel like we’re –’

  ‘I know,’ I responded. I was very aware of what we weren’t, and I didn’t need to hear him say it.

  ‘I’ll be right down,’ he told me. ‘I need to get my bag. ’

  Evan rushed up the stairs, probably not wanting to be within earshot of them any longer than he had to. I continued to the bedroom to prepare for bed. Evan knocked lightly on the bathroom door while I was brushing my teeth. ‘I’m changing out here, so give me a minute before you come out. ’

  ‘Okay,’ I responded, my voice garbled with a mouthful of toothpaste. And of course, the only thing I could think about was Evan changing.

  I rinsed my mouth and washed my face, patting it dry just as he knocked again.

  ‘You can come in,’ I announced. Evan opened the door, dressed in a pair of shorts and a worn T-shirt that left little to the imagination about what was concealed underneath. I let out an exasperated breath as I passed him.

  ‘What?’ Evan laughed, obviously reading my expression.

  I got into bed without responding and clicked on the bedside lamp. I could hear the water running as Evan brushed his teeth. Eyeing his bag on the chaise, I wondered just how many nights he planned to spend in this room.

  I opened the book as Evan emerged from the bathroom, setting the oak leaf on the pillow next to me. He slipped under the covers on the far end of the bed.

  ‘That’s a good book so far,’ he noted. ‘I was reading it earlier today. ’

  ‘Want to read it with me?’ I offered, without really thinking it through.

  ‘Have you ever done that before,’ he asked, ‘read a book at the same time as someone else?’

  ‘No. Have you?’

  ‘No. ’ He laughed lightly.

  ‘Come here,’ he beckoned, gently picking up the leaf and scooting towards the middle pillow. I eyed him suspiciously. ‘Don’t worry, just come here. ’

  I moved over, and he opened his arm and patted the shoulder closest to me. ‘Lie here, and I’ll hold the book. ’

  I hesitated, contemplating.

  ‘Emma, just come lie down. ’

  I sighed and rested my head on his chest, fitting perfectly along the dip of his shoulder. He handed me the leaf, taking the book from me. I could hear his heart beating under my ear. I didn’t know where to put my arm, so I rested my hand on his chest, listening to his heart pick up its pace at my touch, knowing mine was doing the same thing. I took a slow breath and tried to concentrate on the words as he held the book above our heads.

  ‘I’m a couple of pages behind,’ he told me. ‘Do you mind if I catch up real quick?’

  ‘Go ahead,’ I said, pinching the stem of the leaf that was still in my hand, brushing it gently against his chest.

  I lay there silently as he read. I could feel the heat from his body along my skin. I could hear the erratic beating of his heart. I was being pulled to him, and it was becoming too much for me to resist. Just as I was about to move away, Evan said, ‘I’m going to miss that house. ’ His gaze was focused on the leaf I was nervously playing with.

  He rested the opened book on his stomach and brushed his fingers along my arm. I propped up on my elbow so I could see him, still closer than I should’ve been.

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘My mother’s selling it,’ he told me, his voice heavy and quiet.

  ‘She can’t do that,’ I said passionately, my heart convulsing at the thought of it belonging to anyone else.

  ‘I’m working on it,’ he assured me with a deflated breath. ‘But it’s not looking good. ’

  I lowered my head back on his chest, reflecting.

  ‘I love this tree,’ I said in a hushed tone, ‘and the swing. ’ I stared at the leaf so he wouldn’t see the emotion surfacing.

  ‘Me too,’ he muttered softly. ‘And the barn. That was such a great place to escape to. ’

  ‘Yeah. ’ I flipped the leaf over on his chest. ‘If those walls could talk, right?’

  Evan laughed. ‘I would listen. ’ I smiled fondly at the thought of what they’d say.

  ‘Those woods freaked me out though,’ I recalled. ‘Or maybe it was your driving. ’

  ‘Hey,’ he balked defensively. ‘I thought I was pretty good on that bike. You didn’t trust me?’

  ‘Only when my eyes were closed,’ I teased.

  ‘I love that kitchen,’ Evan stressed. ‘I set it up exactly how I wanted it. ’

  ‘The kitchen, really?’ I laughed. ‘Of course you’d love the kitchen. ’

  ‘If I remember correctly, you loved that kitchen too. ’

  ‘It was more about the food than the kitchen,’ I corrected. I paused, mentally walking the halls of the house, inhaling the scent of wood and polish. ‘You never did play the piano for me. ’

  ‘No,’ he said quickly. ‘That never did, or will, happen. My parents forced me take lessons, but these fingers are most definitely not meant to play the piano. ’ He splayed his fingers in front of him, and I grinned, lying back against his shoulder to look up at them.

  ‘Yeah, you’re right; they don’t look worthy of a piano,’ I mocked.

  ‘I wish I could’ve swum in that pool at least once. ’

  ‘I still don’t believe there was a pool. I think it was just a hole, because why else would it never get uncovered?’

  ‘Guess we’ll never know,’ he sighed, his voice heavy. ‘I can’t believe she’s selling it. The best moments of my life happened in that house. ’

  ‘Mine too,’ I whispered, lost in the remembrance of all the life-changing moments that had happened while I was protected within the borders of that property. Evan was quiet. I suddenly realized what we were really saying.

  ‘Have you caught up?’ I asked, clearing my throat.

  Evan picked up the book again. ‘Yeah. ’

  We began reading. I’d nod when I was done with the page, being the slower reader – or maybe he wasn’t really reading any more.

  At one point he shifted, and I could feel his breath along my cheek. I couldn’t concentrate. My heart raced, and my body flooded with heat.

  I closed my eyes, pushing away the desire to tilt my head up towards him. I knew he was right there; I could feel him. I pressed my lips together and inhaled. When I opened my eyes, the book was gone, and Evan had carefully removed the leaf from my hand.

  ‘I know this is hard,’ Evan said in an exhale, rolling on his side with his arm still under my neck. I kept facing up, staring at the ceiling, trying to breathe. I knew I should move away, but I couldn’t. ‘I feel it too. And I’m having just as hard a time resisting, Emma. Because I don’t want to do anything we’re not ready for. ’

  I closed my eyes, my chest tightening, knowing I wasn’t ready. But the firmness of his body against my side and his scent held me captive, keeping me from moving a single muscle. I was afraid to lose this – his touch, his warmth. His hand ran across my stomach, and I inhaled quickly.

  ‘Oh, Emma,’ he murmured in my ear, making me bite my lip. His fingers coiled into a fist on my stomach, and his arm tightened in restraint. ‘Maybe I should go upstairs. ’

  Just as he turned on his back, I uttered, ‘Don’t go. ’ He was suddenly very still. ‘You’re right. We’re not ready. And I don’t know what’s happening between us. But … if you can, will you just lie with me? If you can’t, I …’

  ‘I can do that. ’

  He exhaled deeply. I realized he needed some distance, so I rolled on my side and shut off the light. A few minutes later, Evan slid behind
me and I found his hand, gripping it tightly in front of me.

  ‘Goodnight, Emma,’ he whispered in my ear just before he kissed the top of my head. My breath faltered. I squeezed his hand, and as impossible as it seemed, I fell asleep.

  32

  Relentless

  I THOUGHT I HEARD VOICES. I TRIED TO ignore them, but they were … giggly and almost shrieking. I shifted and Evan mumbled something behind me, his arm still draped over me. ‘Evan?’ Still deep in sleep, he didn’t respond.

  I listened again and heard, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. We’re going to have the best weekend. ’ I shot up in bed, forcing Evan to roll over.

  ‘Evan, wake up,’ I urged in a panic.

  ‘Yeah, Emma’s still in bed,’ Sara said to one of the girls. ‘Her room’s right there, if you want to wake her. ’

  ‘Shit, Evan. ’ I shoved him. He blinked his eyes open. ‘The girls are here. Get out of my bed. ’

  ‘What?’ he mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

  ‘Get out, now. ’ I pushed against his shoulder. ‘They’re coming into my room. ’

  He finally caught on just as a knock sounded at my door. Evan scrambled out of the bed and practically fell over, tripping on the sheets in his dazed state. He disappeared behind the bathroom door as Serena poked her head in.

  ‘Emma?’ When she saw that I was awake, she smiled brightly. ‘Hi. ’

  ‘Hi,’ I said, smiling in return and trying to calm down from panic mode. I glanced at the bathroom out of the corner of my eye, and had to force myself to keep smiling when I noticed the door was cracked open. I wanted to throw something at him, but I redirected my attention to Serena before she caught on.

  ‘Good morning,’ Meg said as she entered the room. ‘You slept late. ’

  ‘What time is it?’ I asked, fighting the urge to look at the bathroom again.

  ‘Ten thirty. ’ Meg sat on the edge of the bed.

  ‘How was the drive?’ I asked, my heart beating so hard I could feel it in my ears. I needed to figure out how to get them out of my room without it seeming obvious.

  ‘Not bad,’ Serena said, sitting on the bed in the spot Evan had just left. ‘This house is insane by the way. Nice find. ’

  ‘Thanks,’ I responded, twisting the sheets under the covers. ‘I was just –’

  ‘Finally!’ Sara interrupted, coming into the room and shutting the door behind her. I wanted to groan, knowing I wouldn’t be able to make them leave now. ‘I thought you’d never wake up. Now that the girls are here, we can finish that conversation we started last night. ’ I opened my mouth to argue, but she stopped me. ‘Don’t you dare. This is a big deal. ’

  ‘What’s a big deal?’ Meg asked, looking from Sara to me.

  ‘What’s going on between you and Evan?’ Sara began the interrogation.

  I braced myself for the heart attack that was about to happen. I actually hoped it would, so I could avoid this conversation.

 
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