“That’s beautiful.” I could feel my eyes widening. “God, it has to be old.”
“It’s St. Peter’s Church.”
We stopped to cross the street, and I felt one of his fingers brush over the top of my hand. Heart thumping heavily, I turned my hand palm up, extending a finger along his. Luc didn’t hesitate. His fingers immediately closed around mine, his grip warm and strong. It was such a simple gesture, but it was huge to me.
“I think it was built in the early 1800s,” he said, voice rougher than normal. “It’s also haunted.”
My head snapped toward him. “What?”
Luc was grinning as he led me across the street to the wide set of steep steps that led up to the church. “Yeah, supposedly by a priest or a nun … or a chupacabra.”
“Chupacabra?” I laughed.
“I think it was a priest or reverend. A man of the clergy.” He guided me to the stone courtyard of the church, past the crowds taking pictures. We were getting looks—well, he was. Not because of his eyes. Because of that face and his height. “We did a ghost tour down here once with Paris.”
My smile faded at the mention of the deceased Luxen’s name.
“You got so scared, you started crying.” Luc was looking ahead. “You made us leave halfway through the tour and take you home.”
“Never.” He slid me a sidelong glance, eyes twinkling with mischief.
We went past the church, onto another narrower trail that consisted of earthen-stone steps leading up a rather steep hill surrounded by trees. To the right, there were stone ruins behind the trees, remnants of a brutal past. My calves were burning by the time we reached the halfway point, proof I needed to, like, walk more. Luc’s hand remained around mine, all the way to a collection of smooth boulders that a few people stood on.
Immediately, I turned to our left and that tingling feeling from earlier resurfaced, but this time, it was all over my body, like I’d walked into a cobweb.
“This is Jefferson Rock.” Luc nodded at the shale rocks that appeared precariously piled on top of one another, perched on the edge of the cliff. Four stone pillars held the top rock up.
Luc was explaining why it was called Jefferson Rock, something to do with Thomas Jefferson, but there was a buzzing in my ears. A small child raced past us, toward the stone steps we’d just climbed, followed by a ragged-looking father.
I was drawn to the rocks. Slipping my hand free from Luc’s, I walked over, legs jerky, and I stopped, placing a hand on the boulder as I stared out over the Shenandoah.
I could never catch him.
The words came out of nowhere, raising the tiny hairs all over my body. Dizziness swept over me, sudden and acute. Air seized in my lungs. I didn’t know if it was because of the height or—
“Careful,” Luc murmured, suddenly beside me, a hand on my lower back. “Really don’t want to go diving after you.”
I drew in a breath to speak, but nothing came out. White flashed behind my eyes, and suddenly, I didn’t see the roaring river down below or the blue, cloudless sky.
I saw a boy running past the church and up those old, ancient steps. He was laughing, and the sun turned his hair bronze. He was running too fast, and I couldn’t catch up to him.
I could never catch him.
I tried—I always tried.
And he let me catch him by the rock, when our clothing was covered with dust and sweat dotted our skin, and I’d kissed him. I’d stretched up on the tips of my red-and-white sneakers, looped scrawny arms around his neck, and I’d kissed him.
The memory fragmented as quickly as it had formed, disappearing like raindrops in the sun.
“Evie?” Concern filled his tone.
“I…” I couldn’t catch my breath as I stared into his eyes—the eyes of the boy I kissed right here, years ago. “I remember.”6Luc had taken my hand again, leading me away from the people crowding Jefferson Rock, farther up the trail and to the grassy knoll that bordered the cemetery.
Nothing about the irregular rows of white and gray tombstones was familiar to me. Some of them were decayed with age, others glossy and new, but the sensation of invisible fingers along the back of my neck continued.
Luc sat, tugging me down with him in the plush grass. From where we were, we overlooked the river cutting through the valley. The hand he held trembled in his tight grasp. “You remember?” he asked, his voice rough as if his throat were thick.
I rubbed my palm over my leg, nodding as I swallowed hard. “I remember you running up the steps, and it was like we’d done that so many times before and I could never catch you, but then I did. You…” I squeezed my eyes tight and then reopened them. “You let me catch you, and I kissed you. I stretched up, threw my arms around you, and kissed you. Is it real? The memory?”