With the mysterious death of Kate’s husband two years before, Evan and Kate were estranged. But circumstance and a long, wild road trip bring them back together, and they soon become lovers. It’s going to be tough for “just for now” to turn into “HEA,” considering the financial difficulties and secrets that threaten to drive them apart.
Evan is determined to seize every chance at love with Kate, though. He decides to be perfectly honest with her about a condition he has, which we’d today call clinical depression. In this scene, he describes it to her, and by the end, their relationship has become more honest and trusting. I hope you enjoy it.
When the path broke into a small clearing, Evan tipped back his head. Through the dapple of gold leaves and the first bare branches, the sky was like cobalt glaze, translucent and blue, wisped with clouds like thrown cotton.
“Sit with me,” he said.
“Here?” Kate looked around, her hands working at the edge of her cloak.
“Right here.” Evan whisked aside some damp leaves, then stretched out on the ground. He tossed his hat aside, folded his arms behind his head, and looked up.
After a moment, Kate joined him, settling onto the ground in the soft folds of her cloak.
It was easier to think about what was right in a place like this, and have it seem simple. There were no slides, no crowds to convince. There was land to cross, and his hands and eyes to use, and if something seemed gray, then he could look up toward the blue.
“That cloud looks like a wedge of fried potato,” he said.
Kate choked. “Does it? Well, that cloud looks like the expression of shock on your face when I…steal your hat.” With a quick snap, she caught it up and flung it back over her head.
“Minx.” Evan didn’t even budge. “You can have my hat. I’ll only look more handsome if I get a bit of sun on my manly features.”
She laughed, but the tone was a little out of tune. “Are you never serious? How can I know what you feel?”
Listen to me. Look at me.
But there were only so many times a man could be frank, then be left behind. Kate, the one to leave during the night. Kate, the one to take his kisses, then get up from the bed of straw.
“I’m a man,” he said. “You’re not meant to know what I’m feeling. I have this stoic exterior, and within me, muscles and virility.”
“How tempting.” She settled at his side again. Trailed a hand down his chest. “I like the muscles and virility, Evan.”
“Oh, I could tell.”
Her hand rested over his heart. “But in truth I like it all.”
The gray cloak covered her arm, stretching across his body like a fog. And suddenly, he couldn’t bear that there was something so important about himself that she didn’t know.
“You want to know what I’m feeling,” he said. “The truth is, I can’t always put a name to it.” And he told her about the grayness: how it came in a wave, how it sometimes ebbed. But it was like an ocean and a tide. It was always there, and it would always come back. It had always been with him, and it had never been understood, because it was beyond the scope of understanding.
While he spoke, she looked at him—at first. Then she settled into a copy of his pose, her arms folded in a pillow behind her head as she stared up at clouds that shifted.
When he finished, she was still looking into the sky. “It is like grief.”
“It is like some grief.” He traced her profile with a gentle fingertip. “Everyone grieves differently. This is leadenness of spirit.”
Although now that he had told her, he felt nothing but the blue above, reflected within.
“I have not felt what you describe, so I do not understand it,” she said slowly. “But I want to. Does it last?”
“It is always there, faint like mist. Sometimes I forget about it. Sometimes it creeps over everything.”
What is the purpose of it all, Evan? What does it matter?
So asked his mother, once, about his excavation of a midden. About his efforts to learn about the past: one of the only things that mattered to him.
And so what did a question matter? What did it matter what food one ate? What drink passed one’s lips? What did any of the God-damned bits of everyday existence matter?
He didn’t have an answer. But for the moment, he had Kate at his side, and a cloud above that truly did look like a wedge of potato.
Or a smile.
“What brings the color back, when you feel so gray?” Kate asked.
“Sometimes, nothing but time. When I am more fortunate, I can bring myself out of it with an effort of will. Thinking of others. Trying to do something worthwhile in the world.” He raised himself onto one elbow, then dropped a kiss on her nose. “Being with you.”
“Then you’d better be with me.” She crooked her finger into the edge of his waistcoat. “Do your best, Evan, to show me something worthwhile.”
“What’s this, insatiable woman?” He feigned shock, covering the real thump of his eager heart. “Are you asking me to tickle your loveliest bits while you call them terrible names like lumpy?”
“No. I’m asking you to be with me, as I am.” Her eyes were sea-deep and warm, and her lips held a tremulous curve. “I’m not perfect, Evan, but…I think I might be just right.”
“I know you are,” he said. “I have always known that.”
And beneath the blue sky, they banished the gray.
Thanks for reading! And now I’d love to know about your favorite romance heroes. Tell me one of your favorites and what you like best about him. I’m looking forward to getting some great book recommendations from you all!
Historical romance author THERESA ROMAIN pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in Wichita, Kansas.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Does love really heal all wounds?
After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.
Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.