Duke closed his eyes and tried to let the sound of the water lapping against his boat and the creaking of the nearby dock steady him. A part of him wished he'd taken along the drink Evie had poured a few minutes before. The rest of him knew that the drink didn't match how he felt. It had been offered as a toast to a new life. A life he couldn't choose. Instead, he'd chosen Haven and all the dangers and heartache it possessed. It wouldn't surprise him if she was gone again come morning. Life as the wife of a full time restaurant owner/ part time smuggler in a tiny New England town wasn't the life for the Evidence Ryan he knew. Then again, she might surprise him and stay.
He honestly didn't know which option would be worse.
The longer she did stay, the more Duke was reminded that the Evie he thought he'd known never existed in the first place. Like any easy mark, he saw what she'd wanted him to see. Then again, it wasn't like he'd let her too far into himself. She certainly didn't know him beyond the shallow surface persona he maintained. He could count on one hand the people that did: Bill and Meg, because, they knew he took care of his own. Nathan saw past it too, in rare moments, and in spite of both of their best efforts. Finally, Audrey had always seen past it, because, she was Audrey.
It hurt more than he'd ever admit to anyone, even himself, that Evie had said that Audrey was the reason he wouldn't leave. Someone as observant and calculating as Evie had to know that wasn't the case. She also had to know that even if it was about Audrey, it wouldn't have mattered. Not once had Audrey ever looked at him the way Evie claimed he looked at her. The accusation was meant to cut. It had been thrown out there to provoke him into telling her the real reason he had to stay. What she didn't know was that all she'd had to do was ask and he would've told her. There were some things even he didn't lie about.
Audrey would've known that.
Another thing that Evie didn't know, couldn't know, was just how badly he wished it was about Audrey. Things would be so much simpler; so different. It wasn't inconceivable. Audrey was a huge part of his life and emerging role in the troubles of Haven. At first, it was because he pulled a woman out of the water that looked like a ghost he'd shut in a tiny wooden box. Then, it was because she kept coming around for help in spite of his almost daily reminder that he didn't deal with cops. Even he'd stopped believing it. Then, it was because she could be the little girl of the only person who gave a damn about him when he was a kid. He even gave her his most prized possession as a birthday present. He did it because he thought Lucy would've wanted it to go to her daughter. Then, around the time Audrey realized she was Lucy, he'd ran out of reasons. The reasons were like his surface persona. They were things he could admit to. Underneath them was something that scared the hell out of him. Something that cut through all the "What's in it for me?" and "Why should I care?" mantras like the nothing they were.
Audrey Parker was the first person since Lucy Ripley that made him want to be a better person. The last time she left he became the kind of person who stuck tacks into his best friend's back for a laugh. He was so very afraid of what he would become if she left again.
A breeze kicked up, brushing over his face. Duke opened his eyes to the black waters of a moonless night. People in his "profession" were supposed to prefer full moons. However, Duke had always preferred nights like this because the stars shined more brightly. As a boy, when he still believed in such foolishness, stars were linked to wishes. Tonight, he had plenty of them.
He wished it was about Audrey.
He wished that she hadn't cancelled their dinner. That he'd been successful in getting her to see that there was life beyond work.
He wished that she hadn't said he had to like it.
He wished that he was the one she turned to when she needed comfort. Hell, he'd settle for her turning to anyone instead of holding it all inside.
He wished that Evie had never shown up and hooked into his soul again. That she far away breaking some other idiot's heart.
He wished that Audrey had taken his hand when they'd left the barn.
It was probably a plane, but, Duke could've sworn he saw a shooting star out of the corner of his eye. He hadn't seen one of those in ages. Wishes made on shooting stars were supposed to come true. Well, at least that was what he used to believe. A small spark of that old belief flickered to life again as he gazed up at the tiny points of light in the sky. Why not try it? It's not like anyone would ever know. Like the little boy who slept with a necklace under his pillow-the one that belonged to the one who'd make everything okay again-he closed his eyes and wished.