Friday, August 17, 2012
“Open up, you old rooster! I want to talk to you!”
Harper Rourke couldn’t get across his living room fast enough. He knocked over a chair, toppled a lamp, and scattered three stacks of books in his mad charge to the door.
“Evangeline! I knew it, I knew you’d come back to me,” he crowed in triumph at the sight of her poised on his threshold. He could scarcely believe his eyes. Maybe he was dreaming?
“Prove to me you’re really here, honey.” He leaned toward her with lips on the pucker. “How about a little smack?”
Evangeline obliged him with a big one. It knocked him a full pace back into the trailer.
“Thanks a heap.” He worked his jaw around to make sure it wasn’t broken. “That wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”
“Shove it, Harper. I’m not here for what you’ve got in your warped mind. I just want to ask you one straight question. And I’d better get a straight answer, or you’ll be walking crooked till Christmas.”
Well, at least she was talking to him again. It was a start.
“Ask away, honey. Everything I have is yours.” Harper grinned. “Including the contents of my head.”
“Now there’s a scary thought.” Evangeline shuddered and pushed past him into the trailer’s living room. She stopped short at the sight of the scattered volumes. A pretty weighty collection. Her gaze swept over the titles. There were books on radiation, light, magnetism, mathematics, a biography of Einstein and another on Newton...
“Okay, what’s going on here?” She planted her hands on her hips and nailed him in place with a pointed stare. “You never used to read anything heavier than Superman comics and Louis L’Amour westerns.”
Blushing like a bandit under his leathery tan, the old man broke the hold of her eyes and hustled to collect his carefully acquired reference library.
“Is that your question?” he asked, trying to skirt around the issue. His passion for physics had been triggered years before by his passion for Evangeline. Her explanations back then of why she felt such a driving need to pursue the subject had piqued his own interest enough for him to eventually begin studying it himself. But he was too embarrassed to admit that now. He doubted she’d believe it anyway.
“Wait a minute--let me see that.” Evangeline snatched one of the volumes out of his hands. “Where did you get this? This is my book.”
She didn’t mean that particular parcel of bound pages belonged to her. She meant that she had written what was on those pages, over forty years before. E=Everything: A Layman’s Guide to Physics, the book was titled.
“Mercy, this looks like a first edition.” She opened it to check. “There aren’t too many of these around. The publisher started off with a minimum print run, because the book really wasn’t expected to sell as well as it...did...” The words trickled off as a handwritten note on the flyleaf snagged her attention. Her eyes narrowed, and her voice went cold.
“Who is Maddie?”
Harper dropped his gaze. “Evangeline, you said you had one question for me. That’s three you’ve asked so far. Which do you want me to answer?”
“All of them! You can start by telling me who Maddie is.”
Would it do any good to play dumb, Harper wondered. Pretend he couldn’t remember? Ask what she was talking about? He kicked the notion aside. Evangeline would never let it pass so simply. But still...
“Honey, what difference does it make?” He lifted soulful eyes to her icy glare. “It was such a long time ago.”
Evangeline made a strangling noise in her throat, whipped the book up in front of her nose, and read aloud:
“Dearest Harper, You don’t really want to spend our precious time together discussing the unified field theory, do you? Read this, instead. The author explains it all so much better than I can. At least, I can never explain things when you’re looking at me--and if you had any idea how handsome you are, you’d understand why. Our weekends together mean the world to me, I hope you know that. And this weekend I’ll have an even better gift for you than this book. A wonderful gift, I think. But I’ll know that for sure when you tell me that you think it’s wonderful, too. Until then, Maddie. P.S. I love you.”
I... Love... You...
The words hung heavy in the air as Evangeline lowered the book. Time skidded to a crawl. Or maybe it spun backward, carrying her too many years into the past.
Handsome, huh? Well, she could hardly fault Maddie for that. Harper had turned more than one head in his day. She raised her eyes and stared hard at the rugged face across from her. Her heart skipped several beats as she saw too clearly what she’d been trying so hard to not notice since his return.
Blast his hide, he was still handsome. Gray hair, weathered skin, blackened eye and all, he was still the most beguiling man she’d ever known. She caught her breath as the memories swept in, and a long forgotten fire flared to life deep within her. Her abdomen tightened like a fist squeezed her inside, and her mouth went dry, as though all the moisture in her had drained south. Evangeline pressed her legs together till she quivered like a struck harp string where she stood.
And the player of her body--the Harper himself--stood but a tempting arm’s length away. She groaned and locked her hands at her side to keep from reaching for him. Damn the man--and damn her own traitorous hormones along with him. Where did she get off having hormones, anyway? This was depraved.
Mercy, I’m too old for this. She glared at him through rising clouds of hot steam. The randy old goat. The miserable, maddening, aggravating, disconcerting... Desirable... Oh, merciful heavens.
She grappled to wrestle her mind back to the issue at hand. “Harper, tell me--I need to know. Who was this girl?”
Stepping forward, Harper gathered her into his arms. “Only someone who wasn’t you, honey.”
Soft and sultry as his whisper, his lips claimed hers...
Every Jack Needs His Jil
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