Read Change of Heart (The Flanagan Sisters, #2) Online
Authors: Claire Boston
Tags: #interracial romance, #hispanic romance, #latino romance, #competent heroine, #modern romance, #romance series
“It wasn’t safe anymore. Mama and Papa wanted us to have a better life, but Mama didn’t want to move to Ireland, which is where Papa was from. She said it was too far away from her family.”
It was the first time she’d mentioned her father. “Your dad died, didn’t he?” Zita had told him.
“Yes. Papa was killed before we left El Salvador.”
He put down the food. “I’m so sorry.”
“It is what it is. The civil war had ended, but there was still so much violence. He was killed after work one day.”
“That must have been devastating for your whole family.”
She nodded. “A week later we got our approval to migrate.”
Evan sat back. It was tragic. He couldn’t imagine losing a parent and then having to move to a whole different country. “Was the move difficult?”
Carly was silent as she chewed her food. “The girls coped all right. Bridget was five and starting school, and Zita was only three. They missed my grandparents and aunts and uncles, but they made friends quickly enough.”
“What about you?”
“I was the shy girl with the funny accent. I was behind in my schooling and it took me a while to grasp some things.”
He remembered what she’d said the other night about hanging out in the library as a teenager. Had she had no friends at all during school?
“Thank you for buying me lunch,” Carly said, changing the subject. “The next time we go out it’ll have to be my treat.”
He liked she was thinking about the next time. “Fair enough. When are you free for that movie night?”
She scrunched up the empty wrapper and got to her feet. “I’m not sure. Let me check.” She moved over to her computer and pressed a few buttons. “Not until next Saturday.”
Damn. He hadn’t expected it to be so long. “Seriously?”
She gave a small smile. “Yeah.” She glanced back over her calendar. “Wait a minute. I’ve got lunch at Mama’s this Sunday. I could come over afterward. Oh, but it’s Bridget’s turn to drive.”
“I can drive you home.”
She shook her head. “I can’t let you do that. It’s a long trip at that time of night.”
He didn’t care if he got to spend time with her, but she seemed adamant. Thinking of other options, he said, “Or you could stay the night, and I’ll take you home in the morning.”
At her raised eyebrows, he hurried on. “I’d take the couch and you can have my bed. Or I could drop you back at your mom’s house.” He didn’t want to come across as creepy.
She was silent.
“McClane will be there as chaperone.”
She hesitated. “Can we play it by ear?”
“Sure. It might still be early by the time we watch
. Unless there’s a movie you want to see?”
“I’ll think about it. What food do you want me to bring? We could order pizza.”
“Sounds good. I’ll make sure there’s popcorn and drinks.”
Carly shook her head. “No, it’s my turn to pay. What do you normally have at a movie night?”
He frowned. “Haven’t you ever done a movie night?”
Her expression went blank. He’d hit a sore spot. Quickly he continued, “Microwave popcorn is a must, some sort of soda, and any candy you like.”
She relaxed. “That sounds like fun.”
“Great. Why don’t you call me when you’re finished at your mom’s and I’ll come and pick you up?”
He grinned. He was looking forward to sharing his favorite movie with her.
Carly sighed. “This has been lovely, but I have to get back to work.”
He stood up. He wasn’t going to overstay his welcome. “No problem. I’d better get back as well. Basil will be wondering where I went.” He bent toward her and gave her a quick kiss. Her eyes widened in surprise and he forced himself not to smile. “I’ll see you Sunday.”
Evan walked out, throwing a grin at Hayden as he passed his desk.
arly really didn’t know what she was getting herself into. Perhaps she should have just called Bridget and said she’d drive herself to mama’s house. Then she wouldn’t be in this conundrum. What if movie night was his euphemism for sex? She wasn’t sure she was ready for that, no matter how attracted she was to him.
Yesterday she’d called Bridget to let her know she didn’t need a ride home, and then of course she’d had to explain why. Now she was standing in front of her wardrobe debating whether she should pack an overnight bag. It made sense to be prepared for every eventuality. So should she pack her footie pajamas? It was definitely the most comfortable thing she owned, and it was what she slept in in winter, but it wasn’t exactly stylish. What would Evan’s reaction be?
But if she didn’t take the pajamas, she’d have to take her boxer shorts and tank top, and that would be a little too revealing without a bra, and too cold. With a sigh, she packed both. She then checked her calendar for Monday and packed a skirt suit for work.
She let out a deep breath. She was ridiculously nervous and ridiculously excited. To think she was thirty years old and only just having her first movie night. She double checked to make sure she had everything and then headed downstairs to wait for Bridget and Jack.
When they arrived, Jack helped her put her things in the trunk and Carly climbed into the back seat.
“So, you and Evan, huh?” Bridget asked grinning.
Carly’s face heated. “It’s a movie night. He insists I watch some film.”
“What’s with the overnight bag then?”
She shrugged as if it was no big deal. “If it’s late when we finish, I might stay over. It’s a long drive back to my place.”
“You could stay at Mama’s,” Bridget teased.
That was still an option if things got uncomfortable.
“What movie?” Jack asked as he got back into the car.
Relieved for the change of topic, she said, “
Who was she kidding? She really shouldn’t be doing this. She had a hopeless track record with men. The guy she’d dated in college had moved on as soon as he’d got what he wanted, and Andrew had conned her. Since then she’d realized that most men were more interested in Comunidad than herself, which meant no one had made it past the first date.
But this was conceivably her third date with Evan. Did that count as being in a relationship? Of course not. It was just a couple of dates. Carly hadn’t quite figured out what he wanted from her yet.
It was time for a change of subject. “When do you move into the new house?”
“In a couple of weeks,” Bridget said. “I can’t wait.”
“When do we get to see it?”
“As soon as we get the keys. We’re going to move straight in. The estate agent on our rental managed to find new tenants, so we don’t have to finish out the lease.”
“That’s great.” Pleased that she had distracted her sister, they continued to chat about the new house until they arrived.
t was four o’clock before Bridget and Jack made noises about leaving. Carly had decided not to mention to her mother that she was going over to Evan’s place and had sworn her sisters to secrecy. She didn’t want the inevitable questions when she wasn’t sure where this was going herself. With that in mind, she couldn’t have Evan pick her up, so she got Bridget to drop her off at his place instead. It felt like she was sneaking around. It was probably how teenagers felt when keeping things from their parents. But she was an adult. She could do what she liked.
As they drove up the long drive, a large ranch-style house came into view. It was far bigger than she’d expected.
“Do you want us to wait to make sure he’s here?” Bridget asked.
She did, but that would be childish. They’d made a date and he would be there. “No. It’s fine.”
As she got her bag out of the trunk, a big white and brown dog came trotting around the side, its whole massive body wagging a greeting.
“You must be McClane.” She awkwardly patted him on the head, pleased when he didn’t jump up, and then said goodbye to Bridget and Jack. As they drove off, she walked up the front steps and knocked on the door.
There was no answer.
McClane trotted along the veranda and then looked over his shoulder to see if she was coming. With a sigh, she put down her bag and followed the dog, hoping he knew where he was going. As she went around the side of the house, she heard classical music. Tracing the sound, she found Evan in the backyard, standing at an easel, painting.
“Hello,” she called, not wanting to startle him.
There was no response.
She walked closer. “Evan?” Still nothing. He was completely enthralled in his work.
Moving so she could see what he was painting, she discovered it was a familiar landscape. It was the view from her office. How could he recreate it when he’d been there only once? Shifting so she could see it better, Evan suddenly blinked and whirled to face her, his brush lifted.
Her heart raced as she stepped back and put her hand to her chest. “Evan, it’s Carly.”
“Sorry. You startled me.”
“I called you twice.”
“I didn’t hear. Sometimes I get caught up.” He gave an apologetic smile. “What time is it? Wasn’t I supposed to pick you up?”
“Bridget dropped me off. It’s about half past four. Am I too early?” Perhaps she should have called.
“No, no. I lost track of time.” He put down his brush.
She hated to interrupt him. “If you need to finish something, go ahead. I can find myself a drink and a seat.”
He glanced at the canvas and then her. “Would you mind?” he asked, his eyes hopeful. “It’s coming through clearly.”
She shook her head, surprised by the fact he wasn’t pandering to her. It was a nice change. “Not at all. Just tell me where your kitchen is.”
“Through the back door, on your right. I won’t be long.” Before she could respond, he’d returned to his painting.
She smiled. She’d never seen him this intense before, but she totally understood the focus. She hated being disturbed in the middle of programming.
Wandering back to the house, she admired the long lap pool, and the comfortable outdoor sofa on the veranda. She grabbed her bag from the front door and went into the kitchen. There were dishes in the sink, but aside from that, it was clean. She put the snacks on the table and after a quick search, she found a glass, and poured herself some soda.
She was tempted to have a look around his house, but she resisted, instead taking her drink outside. Evan was still painting. Taking a seat, she settled in to wait.
It wasn’t long before McClane joined her, resting his chin against her leg and looking up at her with hope. She chuckled. “Are you after a bit of attention?” She scratched behind his ears and he panted happily.
The block was as big as her mother’s, but there wasn’t much on it. The yard stretched out toward the back with only a few trees and bushes to break up the grass. Evan had set himself up under one of the trees. He obviously wanted to work outdoors in the shade, because there was no other reason for him to be out there. He wasn’t painting anything he was looking at.
Carly would have liked to watch him closer, but didn’t want to disturb him. His hand was moving deftly over the canvas and he never hesitated. This was the master at work.
She took a deep breath, enjoying the peace and quiet, and let it out again. It was so lovely out here. She wanted to just sit there and enjoy the afternoon, but if Evan was working, she probably should too. Carly took out her phone and began reading through her emails.
cClane got bored before she did. He moved over to his food bowl and pushed it toward her. She checked the time. It was almost five-thirty and there was no sign Evan was close to stopping. Carly didn’t mind. She had plenty to do.
Still, she got to her feet and picked up the bowl. She had no idea what the dog ate, but McClane went to the door and when she opened it, he moved straight to the pantry. Inside was a bag of dog kibble and a scoop. Carly filled it up and poured the food into McClane’s bowl before placing it on the floor.
The dog gulped it down in seconds. He then sat down and stared hopefully at her. “That’s all you’re getting from me,” she told him. She didn’t want to risk overfeeding him.
Though now she was in the kitchen, she was a little hungry herself. She opened the bag of candy she’d brought with her and ate a handful.
How much longer would Evan be painting? Should she call herself a cab, or should she disturb him again? She didn’t want to do either, but she could hardly do nothing.
Wandering back outside, she took a seat. She’d go through the rest of her emails and if he hadn’t finished by then, she’d catch a cab home. She settled down and closed her eyes for a moment. As she relaxed, she fell asleep.
van placed the final flourish on the painting and stepped back. He nodded. It was exactly what he’d pictured. He signed his name in the bottom right corner and sighed. It hadn’t taken him long to complete it. Carly hadn’t even called yet.
He frowned. There was something wrong with that thought. Turning around, he saw her sleeping on his outdoor couch. The memory came flooding back of her scaring him and him saying he’d only be a few minutes more. He reached for his phone, already realizing it was late by the long shadows in the garden.
Damn. She’d been here two hours and he’d ignored her. McClane would have normally disturbed him long before to make sure he got fed, but he was sleeping on the couch next to her.
Carefully he carried the still wet canvas over to the veranda. Carly didn’t stir, so he carried the painting inside and propped it on a spare easel. When he’d finished packing and cleaning up, he went to wake her.
She was curled up on the couch, her expression calm, a slight smile on her face. It was sweet. “Carly,” he said softly. She didn’t stir.
“Carly,” he repeated, running his hand gently over her arm. “It’s time to wake up.”
She murmured something he didn’t catch.
“Come on, sweetheart. Wake for me.”
Carly’s eyelids fluttered open and she stared at him. “Oh, have you finished?”