“I have reason to believe they sent someone here to get information from me, but I can’t confirm—at least, not yet. I know they think Travis had something to do with it.”
He stared at the floor. “I’m not sure. The local police. Maybe the FBI.”
“Did he?” I asked. “Have something to do with it?”
He shifted nervously. “He was getting married that night. In Vegas.”
“So, that’s why there’ll be another wedding. Because they eloped.”
Taylor nodded, watching me for a moment. “What if I asked you to come with me? To their vow renewal?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’d say you were trying to change the subject. Just because I don’t expect you to keep your promises doesn’t mean you also get to lie to me.”
He didn’t take his eyes from mine. “I am. I’m lying to you. And I’ll lie to anyone asking questions.”
“You could go to jail.”
“I could go to prison.”
I pressed my lips together and then exhaled, letting the air fill my cheeks before it escaped. “You’re testing me. You still think I’m a spy or something.”
“I would go to prison for Travis. I just want you to know that if it came to that, we’d all go down for him, even his wife.”
“I believe you. But I’m on your side.”
Taylor’s eyes fell to my lips, and he leaned in.
I closed my eyes, feeling the warmth of his breath on my face. I wanted nothing more than to let him envelop me like a blanket, feeling him against every inch of me.
“Maybe we should wait,” I whispered against his mouth. “We’re so close.”
“Exactly,” he said before pressing his lips against mine.
My lips parted, allowing his tongue to slip inside. Every nerve sizzled under my skin. Begging to be touched by him, my body reacted exactly the opposite of when Tyler had kissed me, when I’d felt nothing. There was no disappointment, no disenchantment. Taylor’s soft lips and the way he tugged at me as if he couldn’t stand being even an inch away from me another minute made me feel everything, all at once, and I wanted more.
A chime came over the PA system, bringing me back to reality, and Taylor pulled away, breathing hard.
“Sorry,” he said, glancing at the people sitting across from us.
The two men seated across the aisle were shamelessly staring.
“You felt that, right?” Taylor said, keeping his voice low.
I looked up at him. “Promise you’ll never do that again.”
A grin slowly stretched across his face. “You have my word.”
Taylor pulled the rental we’d obtained at the airport into his father’s drive. He’d talked most of the way—about his job, the places he’d traveled, his brothers, his cousin, and what he knew of Travis’s new wife.
I barely noticed Taylor’s father’s house. My eyes were trained on the next plot over, the ranch-style brick home set a good thirty yards from the street, its long driveway empty.
Taylor and I had arrived around dinnertime. I watched the sun sinking all the way to the horizon instead of seeing its lights burning out behind a mountain peak. That struck me as a beautiful oddity.
“Home, sweet home,” Taylor said, opening his door. “And there he is.”
I tore my eyes away from the neighbor’s house long enough to see an older gentleman stepping outside.
Taylor nodded, smiling at the stout white-haired man waving at us from the porch. It was then when I noticed Taylor had parked the rental behind a silver Toyota Camry, and a young couple stepped out from behind Taylor’s father. The woman was holding a small black dog, and the man looked so much like Taylor that, for a moment, I wondered if he were his twin.
Taylor pulled our bags from the backseat, and then we made our way up the steps. He hugged his father and then whom I assumed to be his brother since they looked so much alike.
“Falyn, this is my dad, Jim Maddox.”
Jim reached for my hand, and I took it.
He had the kindest eyes I’d ever seen, next to Chuck and Phaedra. They were patient and a bit excited and curious, too.
“This is my brother Travis and my sister-in-law, Abby.”
I shook Travis’s hand and then Abby’s. Her long caramel hair cascaded over her shoulders, much like mine. She was shorter than me, and Travis was taller than Taylor. Travis was smiling, happy simply to meet me, but Abby closely watched me, taking in every detail, likely wondering what was special about me that had led Taylor to bring me home.
“Well, it’s getting late. Let’s get you settled in,” Jim said.
The screen door complained as he pulled it open, and I followed Taylor inside.
The home was well worn. The carpets looked a lot like mine, and the furniture was so old that each piece had its own story to tell. The hallway opened up into the kitchen with a set of stairs on the other side.
“You two can take Thomas’s room,” Jim said. “We’ll see you back down here for dinner. Abby and Trav cooked.”
“All right,” Taylor said. “We’ll put our stuff away and see you in a second. Where’s Trent?”
“He’s still doing that, huh?” Taylor said, glancing at me for half a second.
“Just about once a week now,” Jim said.
Travis and Abby left us for the kitchen, and Taylor took my hand, guiding me up the stairs and down another hall. He stopped at the last door on the right and twisted the knob, pushing through.
Taylor set the bag down on a loose board, making it creak and reveal itself beneath the carpet.
I hadn’t stayed over with friends very often as a child, and leaving for college had been difficult. Moving in above the Bucksaw had been a relief but also stressful. I never did well in foreign places, but the disrepair and decades-old furniture and wallpaper felt like a place I could call home.
My palm fell flat against my forehead. “I can’t believe I’m here. They’re just next door.”
“I can’t believe you’re here either,” Taylor said, reverence in his voice.
The bedroom was decorated with plastic sports trophies, medals, old pictures, and a blanket of dust. The whole house smelled of dinner, stale smoke, and a hint of men’s aftershave.
I took a step toward the wall, the setting sun glinting off a portrait of a very young Jim and Taylor’s mother, Diane.
“Where is she?” I asked, turning to him. “Your mom.”
Taylor rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s … not here. She passed away when I was a kid.”
My mouth fell open, and I snapped it shut. “Why haven’t you told me?”
“It sure as hell has—at least twice. All that talk about trusting each other, and you failed to mention that you grew up without a mother?”
Taylor let his hand fall to his thigh. “I don’t like to talk about it. It’s kind of like the twin thing. People see me differently when they know.”