Once he finished advising Gavin Stokes, Shane turned toward the barn. The volunteers had things under control, and he had some overdue business. The long hours ahead would be interminable if he and Teri had to spend them walking on eggshells. They’d done enough of that their senior year, and he wasn’t that boy anymore.
He entered the building, his steps silent, his breathing soundless and measured. Even had he been a bull and the barn a china shop, he doubted anyone inside would’ve heard his approach. Overhead, the water showered down like rubble, and in the near distance, diesel engines shook the ground with the roar of heavy artillery.
In contrast to the controlled chaos outside, the barn’s interior was as still as a holding pattern. He cocked his head, his eyes adjusting to the shadows. A soft grunt followed by banging drew him toward the structure’s northeast corner, and as he passed a head-high stack of storage crates, she came into view. He slowed, stopped, stared.
Her back was to him, her hair—still blonde and crazy with waves—caught in a careless knot. She wore jeans and a white top that was already smudged with cobwebs and dirt, and as she bent to reach for a moving pad, the fabric rode up her back.
He stared harder, remembering the feel of her skin beneath her clothing, her warmth when the air outside had been so cold, the light in her eyes in a night so dark…just not dark enough to keep them from being seen.
She straightened then, turned and noticed him there. Her intake of breath shook him, but he didn’t move, just gave her a moment to acclimate while their gazes held, while the past flashed like a stun grenade between them.
Then he nodded and simply said, “Teri.”
“Shane.” She stood still, her hands hidden in the folds of the pad, her pulse visible at the base of her neck. “How have you been?”
“Good.” He shrugged, cleared his throat and added, “Relatively speaking.”
She pulled one hand from the pad and tucked the hair that had escaped her band behind her ears. “I’m so sorry about your parents. Mom just told me. I didn’t know or I would’ve…”
She let the sentence trail, and he wondered what she would’ve said, what she would’ve done. If with all the things hanging between them, she wouldn’t have stayed away and let the gulf of silence between them widen further.
He wouldn’t have blamed her. She owed him nothing.
Visit the author: Alison Kent
The daughter of an Air Force veteran and daughter-in-law of an Army veteran, both who served during the Korean Conflict, Alison Kent currently writes about the cowboys of the Great State of Texas. She lives near Houston with her petroleum geologist husband and three rescue dogs, one a Hurricane Katrina survivor. Look for her December 2012 release from Carina Press, THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, in which a doctor who has served on the front lines in Afghanistan learns the healing power of love.