That had been the last time she’d seen her father alive. The last words he’d said.
Don’t think about it.
She dashed across the road and straight into the pub.
As soon as she took a step inside the murmur of hushed talking stopped and people stared at her. There’d never been a lot of visitors when she was a kid.
“Hi,” she said, waving uneasily. “I’m the new doctor in town.”
There was another few seconds of stares, which felt like an eternity, but then most people returned to their food, their conversations or their drinks.
He was positively glowering at her from the far side of the bar. And he was next to the only empty seat in the place.
Maybe it would be better to wait for pizza? But of course now that she’d made her entrance and he was staring at her she couldn’t really back down.
So she pretended to ignore him and sat down, picking up one of the vinyl-covered menus and pretending to study it, ignoring the sensation of his staring at her.
“I thought you would be cleaning,” Derek said gruffly.
She glanced at him. “Usually a gentleman would introduce himself or offer to buy a woman a drink before trying to strike up a conversation with her.”
Derek snickered, staring ahead at the bar. She could see his reflection in the mirror.
“I’m no gentleman. And you know who I am.”
“Do I?” she muttered.
He got up and just stood there, saying nothing until she turned and looked at him.
“What?” she asked.
“Hi, I’m Derek Taylor. Can I buy you a drink?”
“Not interested.” And she turned back to her menu, trying not to smile.
“Oh, for the love of…”
“Sit down.” She chuckled. “I don’t need a drink.”
Derek sat down, setting his mug of beer back on the bar. “I’m surprised to see you out and about.”
“Why is that?” she asked.
“Because usually the specialists who come into town to do their rotation don’t bother with the locals. They order in, keep to themselves—it’s somewhat of a burden.”
“Well, the cleaning of that apartment is ‘somewhat of a burden.’”
She set down the menu. She was hungry, but she wasn’t sure she really wanted to eat at this moment. Her stomach was twisting and turning from being back here. And as she glanced around the dim bar she had faint memories of this place.
Her father and Uncle Yazzie playing pool here, and her mother singing up on that stage. Her last gig before she’d got sick with the cancer that had killed her. And as she studied the room further she remembered the booth that was reserved for live entertainment. It had seemed so much bigger when she’d been curled up in it, eating ice cream.
“Daddy, what’re you doing?” Evelyn asked, seeing her father with another woman.
Her dad stood up, shocked. “Evie, what’re you doing here?”
Her eyes brimmed with tears. “I saw your truck outside. I was running an errand for Le´elk’w. Who is that woman?”
“This is Jocelyn. She’s my girlfriend.”
Jocelyn smiled and waved. She was pretty, blonde and young—and not her mother.
“No!” Evelyn screamed. “No!”
And she turned and ran out of the bar.
Her father yelled for her to come back.
“Hey, you okay?” Derek asked, interrupting her memory.
“Yeah,” she said, and ran her hand through her hair in the nervous twitch she’d always had. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You totally zoned out,” Derek said. “Tired?”
“Where did you say you were from?” he asked, trying to draw her into conversation.
“Boston, but I’ve been in Sitka a couple of days.”
“Still, the change is a bit jarring if you’re not used to it.”
“I’m used to it,” she whispered. “It’s just been a long time.”
Derek cocked an eyebrow. “Pardon?”
The door opened and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She slowly turned around in her seat, because instinctively she knew what to expect and she wasn’t sure she was ready for it.
She wasn’t ready to face a ghost from her past.
Taking a deep breath, she stood and looked up at the man who had been her family. A man she’d never thought she’d see again because her grandmother had cut off all ties to Evelyn’s life here in Alaska.
The man her father had thought of as a brother, because he had estranged himself from his WASP mother back in Boston, “throwing his life away” to live in the wilderness.
It had been Uncle Yazzie who had introduced her parents. Her mother’s loveable, goofball little brother. A man who had represented everything her grandmother had hated about her son’s life and his wife in Alaska.