THERE WAS no uneasiness between them as they reached the door and went inside.
«I think I can find something here for you so you can get out of those clothes. It might be a little big, but it’s warm.»
«Anything,» she said.
«I’ll be back in a second.»
Noah slipped off his boots, then ran up the stairs, descending a minute later. He had a pair of cotton trousers and a long-sleeved shirt under one arm and some jeans with a blue shirt in the other.
«Here,» he said, handing her the cotton trousers and shirt. «You can change in the bedroom upstairs. There’s a bathroom and towel up there too if you want to shower.»
She thanked him with a smile and went upstairs, feeling his eyes on her as she walked. She entered the bedroom and closed the door, then set the trousers and shirt on his bed and took everything off.
She didn’t want to shower after the rain. She liked the soft feeling on her skin. She put on his clothes before looking at herself in the mirror. The trousers were big, but she rolled up the bottoms so they wouldn’t drag. The neck was torn a little, but she liked the way it looked on her anyway. She pulled the sleeves up almost to the elbows, went to the chest of drawers and slipped on some socks, then went to the bathroom to find a hairbrush.
When she was finished, she went back downstairs.
Noah was in the living room squatting before a fire. He poked the fire, moving the logs. He didn’t see her come in, and she watched him as he worked. He had changed his clothes as well and looked good.
Allie stood in the doorway and continued to watch him. He caught a glimpse of her out of the comer of his eye and looked up quickly.
Even in his clothes, she looked beautiful.
«I didn’t hear you come in,» he said, trying to sound casual. «How long have you been standing there?»
«A couple of minutes.»
Noah pointed to the kitchen. «Can I get you some tea? I started the water while you were upstairs.» Small talk, anything to keep his mind clear. But damn, the way she looked…
She thought for a second, and then asked, «Do you have anything stronger, or is it too early to drink?»
He smiled and said, «I have some bourbon in the pantry. Is that okay?»
«That sounds great.»
He started towards the kitchen, and Allie watched him run his hand through his wet hair as he disappeared.
Thunder boomed loudly and another downpour started. Allie could hear the roaring of the rain on the roof. She took a quilt from the sofa and sat on the rug in front of the fire. Crossing her legs, she adjusted the quilt until she was comfortable and watched the dancing flames. Noah came back, and sat beside her. He put down two glasses and poured some bourbon into each of them. Outside, the sky grew darker. Thunder again. Loud. The storm was in full fury.
«It’s quite a storm,» Noah said as he watched the drops flow in vertical streams on the windows. He and Allie were close now, though not touching, and Noah watched her chest rise slightly with every breath.
«I like it,» she said, taking a sip. «I’ve always liked thunderstorms. Even as a young girl.»
«I don’t know. They just always seemed romantic to me.» She was quiet for a moment, and Noah watched the fire flicker in her emerald eyes. Then she said, «Do you remember sitting together and watching the storm a few nights before I left?»
«I used to think about it all the time after I went home. I always thought about how you looked that night. It was the way I remembered you.»
«Have I changed much?»
She took another sip of bourbon, feeling it warm her. She touched his hand as she answered.
«Not really. You’re older, of course, with more life behind you, but you’ve still got the same gleam in your eye. You still read poetry and float on rivers. And you’ve still got a gentleness that not even the war could take away.»
He thought about what she’d said and felt her hand lingering on his.
«Allie, you asked me earlier what I remembered most about the summer. What do you remember?»
It was a while before she answered. «I remember making love. That’s what I remember most. You were my first, and it was more wonderful than I ever thought it would be.»
Noah took a drink of bourbon, remembering, bringing back the old feelings.
She squeezed his hand, let go, and moved closer. She put her hand through his arm, and rested her head on his shoulder. He could smell her, soft like the rain, warm. She spoke quietly. «Do you remember walking home after the festival? I asked you if you wanted to see me again. You just nodded your head and didn’t say a word. It wasn’t too convincing.»
«I’d never met anyone like you. I didn’t know what to say.»
«I know. You could never hide anything. Your eyes always gave you away. You had the most wonderful eyes I’d ever seen.» She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked directly at him. When she spoke, her voice was barely above a whisper. «I think I loved you more that summer than I ever loved anyone.»
Lightning flashed again. In the quiet moments before the thunder, their eyes met as they tried to undo fourteen years. When the thunder finally sounded, Noah sighed and turned from her towards the windows.