It was the day of the meeting. Morgan was at a hotel with the Falcons who were still in town, enjoying the swimming pool. Eden worked furiously all day cooking and cleaning. The house was going to have two senators and their wives. This was a chance to feel a part of Noah’s world. She’d been a part of it in the past. Maybe her memory could be jostled.
She chose an emerald green cocktail dress with matching pumps to wear. Now she knew why she had so many shoes!
The evening was going well. The senators’ wives loved how she decorated the home for the holidays. The Christmas tree blinking multicolored lights as it sat in the living room corner. Towels in the bathrooms, placemats, utensils; everything screamed Christmas.
“Eden, you should contact the Governor’s office. I’m sure they’d love tips from you on decorating for their meetings like this.”
Eden sipped her club soda. She needed her wits about her. “Do you really think I could do something like that?”
“You definitely have the ability Mrs. Carrington. I’m going to add your name and number to my list of entertainment coordinators,” Senator Caine’s wife told her.
“Oh, and mine too!” Senator Jeffries’ wife added.
A little later into their evening, Eden gathered the senators into the dining room. She powered up the laptop and opened the program with Noah’s design. Praying with everything she had, she opened the blueprints she’d been working on for days. She’d found Noah’s latest draft and made tweaks here and there.
“I’d like to show you something,” she told them as the three of them stood before the screen.
The program gave a virtual tour of a building, complete with decorating and looking like a place someone lived in.
“Gentlemen, what are your thoughts when someone says senior housing?” she asked them.
“A nice affordable apartment,” Senator Jeffries answered.
“Mr. Caine, where would you like to see your parents live out their retirement years?” she asked.
The senators were taken back by her question and remained silent.
At their continued silence, she began. “My parents have passed on, but I’d like to think after all the years of raising children and working, they’d have someplace they could call home.”
They both nodded in agreement. “I realize your objective with this project is one of cost. However, Noah’s ideas cannot fit within those restraints.”
“Are you saying Noah’s Ark doesn’t want the contract?” Senator Caine asked.
“I’m saying the people to think about first and foremost are those who will live in these apartments.” She gestured to the screen. “These are people who have probably lived in one house to raise their families. Should they be penalized with small units because they’ve grown old?”
“Senators,” she clicked another icon and pulled up Noah’s plans, “this complex is something that is needed. Each unit has two bedrooms.”
“Mr. Caine, in many instances, one spouse takes care of another. They want to be with them, but due to illness or disability, may not be able to share a room. In the event these life partners do still share a room, an extra bedroom will provide a hominess to them.”
“Go on,” Senator Jeffries told her, both of them listening intently.
She pointed to the other half of the complex. “On this side, an assisted living section. Each unit still providing a home to the couple, but state of the art assistance available at a moment’s notice. This will provide peace of mind.”
She went silent a moment so they could digest what she was saying. “Gentlemen, these people have worked their entire lives. Paid taxes. Supported their communities. Being able to stay in a complex as Noah is proposing would actually decrease the cost of nursing home expense in the long run. These people just want to still feel productive.”
“And what exactly is the proposal your husband is suggesting?”
She retrieved a paper she’d printed off Noah’s ledger program and handed it to them, consciously keeping her bottom lip from going between her teeth. Showing nervousness now was not an option. “Yes, it is quite a bit more than what Mr. Larson was proposing. However, his proposal was only for an apartment complex. Noah’s design here has all the comforts of home with centralized social areas, a community dining area within the assisted living section for those unable to cook for themselves but can still enjoy a home cooked meal and social interaction. A community gathering place available to others in the community for a rental fee. There is so much potential for this complex, the list will continue to grow as the occupants fill the units.”
The senators looked back and forth and to the screen and paper she gave them.
Just then, Noah approached them, placing his arm around her waist. His eyes grew wide when he saw his plans on the computer screen and the numbers he’d put together to build the complex in the senators’ hands.
Before Noah could ask what was going on, Senator Jeffries spoke up. “Noah, is this your design for the project?” he nodded to the screen.
Noah felt the opportunity slipping past. This was his ideal design. There was no way he could come close to this with the numbers Lawrence had given them.
“This would be what I’d propose, Senators,” he finally answered.
“And, you’d be able to build this? As shown here with all the amenities?” Senator Caine asked.
“Oh, and the interior design?” Senator Jeffries added.
“Interior design sir?” he asked. He hadn’t done anything other than floor plans.
“Oh Noah, you know,” Eden gave him a searching look before clicking on the program with the virtual tour. “Noah has contacts throughout the business. I’m sure he could find an interior designer who would be more than helpful,” she turned to Noah, “Wouldn’t you Noah?”
He hadn’t anticipated this. “Yeah,” he replied. “I mean, we have worked with a very reputable designer in the past. It’s been awhile, but I’m sure Lorraine could get in touch with them and work something out.” He looked at her with the question What are you doing? in his eyes before turning to his guests. “Are you saying you’ll consider this?”
“Noah, you have a very convincing wife here. She has me wanting to put in my reservation for a unit when I retire.”
“Seriously,” Noah said.
“Noah, if you can do all you have proposed here, down to the state of the art medical facility on site, I think we can work out a deal,” Senator Jeffries told him, extending his hand to Noah.
Noah shook his hand in utter disbelief. “I’ll work out the specs for you,” he told them.
The three men walked away, discussing more details while their wives approached Eden.
“Tell me your secret, Eden,” Mrs. Caine said. “I can’t convince my husband of anything.”
They all laughed.
“Sounds like congratulations are in order!” Lawrence approached the trio, Lorraine at his side. “Let’s make a toast to our lovely hostess,” he said as he handed Eden a flute of champagne. Something didn’t feel right, but she knew she couldn’t refuse in front of her guests. She contained the trembling in her hand as she took the glass from him.
“To Eden,” he drawled, touching the tip of his glass to hers.
“To Eden,” the rest chimed and clinked glasses before sipping the bubbly liquid. Lorraine silently stewing at Eden’s ability, even without her memories, to win over the clients.
Eden was in the kitchen when Lawrence entered behind her. “You’re looking very lovely tonight, Eden,” he softly spoke in her ear from behind, causing her to startle.
“Thank you, Lawrence,” she nervously accepted his compliment as she turned to face him.
“You’re letting your hair grow,” he noticed. His hand rising and taking a tendril framing her face within his fingers, feeling its softness. “It looks nice on you.”
She stepped back out of his grasp. Where were these butterflies coming from?
Noah approached the entrance to the kitchen and stopped dead at the sight. Eden up against the counter, Lawrence standing close. Lorraine had also approached now, Noah grabbing her arm and shaking his head warning her not to interfere.
Lawrence brushed the backs of his knuckles over Eden’s cheek. “Remember us Eden?”
She swallowed. Us? What the hell is he talking about? She looked down, shaking her head to focus.
Lawrence tipped her head up and lowered his face towards hers. Oh God! She couldn’t move. His hand sliding to the nape of her neck, angling her better to accept his kiss.
She rest her hands at his chest. Complete shock rolling through her. Lawrence took her mouth with his. Moaning at the taste of champagne on her lips.
Noah stormed away. Hurt so deep he thought he’d suffocate. His throat so tight he could barely breathe.
Lorraine stood immobile. Unable to believe what was happening before her. Never in a million years did she think Lawrence would actually help in her pursuit of Noah.
When Lawrence deepened his kiss, gliding his tongue within her mouth, Eden snapped back to reality. She pushed him away, her hand slapping across his cheek with a force she didn’t know she possessed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“Thanking you for getting the deal for us. As always,” his voice dripping seduction.
“I am Noah’s wife! Your partner! Remember him?”
His hand rose to caress her cheek and she slapped it away. “If you don’t remember Noah, why should I?”
She stepped away from the counter, away from him. “This little party is just about over. I expect you to leave.”
Lawrence grabbed her arm, keeping her from bolting from the room. “You’ll remember,” he told her.
“I doubt my memory will be anywhere near your fantasy Lawrence!” she spat, yanking from his hold and leaving the room. Her eyes connected with Lorraine’s as she passed. “Take your husband home Lorraine!”
Eden was a jumble of nerves as she lie in bed listening to Noah preparing for bed. Her mind raced with what Lawrence had done to her earlier. What us was he talking about? She still felt the cold chill flowing through her from his touch. She wasn’t imagining it. Every time Lawrence touched her, she felt a dreadful loss. Why?
Noah turned off the lights and climbed into bed. She needed comfort. Something to take this cold feeling away. Only Noah could do that.
She turned and snuggled up just like any other night. His left arm came down to hold her close, caressing her upper arm. His mind wouldn’t shut down. Why was this happening again?
“Noah?” she softly called him from his thoughts.
She could tell he was wound up.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. He lightly shook his head. Before the accident, he was the one to always apologize. “I know you’re angry with me for showing your plans to the senators.”
“Eden, I’m not angry.” At least not about the senators. He knew he was angry with Lawrence. Was he also with her? “I was surprised to see them looking at them. But, it all worked out.”
She lifted her head and looked down at him. “But, I stepped over a line, didn’t I?”
That would be an understatement.
His hand rose and caressed her cheek. “Oh Eden,” he whispered, sliding his hand to the back of her head and pulling her to him.
She opened to him, as she always did. What was different was the desperation he had flowing through him. Lawrence was once again trying to rip her from him.
He rolled their bodies and made love to her, desperately trying to fill whatever void Lawrence could.
Eden felt something different. She needed Noah. Needed to erase the past few hours and feel safe again. Her hands tangling in his hair.
Noah needed to join with her every way he could. As he slid inside, his hands caressed up her arms. Holding them above her head, intertwining their fingers. Not allowing her to break their connection. To reach for him. Needing to claim her as his.
Not being able to reach for him felt odd. If she tried to pull her hands free, he’d clutch them tighter.
He lifted his lips from hers, suckling at her neck. Collarbone. Shoulder. A little rougher than he probably should have been, but his desperation couldn’t be quenched.
“Noah,” she softly called, her head going back. “Please,” she pled, trying to pull her hands free. He wouldn’t allow it.
He couldn’t talk. He communicated with his mouth on her sensitized flesh. Feeling her orgasm beginning to grow.
This bondage he was doing was driving her crazy. Why was he not allowing her to touch him? She simply wanted to take him as high as he was taking her. He stroked within her torturously slow, his five o’clock shadow rough against her skin as his mouth continued kissing and suckling.
She was getting so close. When she was just about to go over, he’d slow down. Then take her back up that climb. She was going insane with not being able to release.
She arched her back, lifting her hips. Anything to get him as deep inside as possible. This allowed him access to her breasts. He suckled. He nipped. He tugged.
“Oh God Noah! Please,” she begged.
All he could think was he was going to give her so much pleasure, she would never think of Lawrence again. You’re mine, went over and over in his mind as he’d get her close then bring her back down.
Her breathing in short bursts. “Noah, please. I want … to …” He was relentless. She was oh so close again. “Please!”
Back down again. She again tried to pull her hands free. No use. He was on a mission.
She tried matching his rhythm with lifting her hips. Anything to get her to release. She was getting close again. “Please Noah,” she cried.
He silenced her with a kiss. Swallowing her words. Mine, Eden. Mine.
She bucked her hips. Pulled at her hands. If he didn’t bring her to release soon, she was going to have a heart attack.
Her hands squeezed his tighter. She was close again. She bucked more. Somehow he kept her at the point just before falling over the edge. His rhythm oh so nice.
He broke their kiss and took her nipple in his mouth.
“Oh my God Noah,” she sighed. Waiting for her orgasm to shake through her. She was so close. “Yes,” she said over and over.
His rhythm increased. Faster. Harder. Deeper. “Noah!” she called out, finally falling over that edge. Her entire body trembling as Noah joined her.
He collapsed atop her. Finally releasing his grip on her hands. She looped them around his neck, sifting through his hair.
They remained still for a moment before he rolled and pulled her to rest at his chest. Had it been enough? Could he possibly prevent her craving for Lawrence?
She nestled in his embrace. She was exhausted. Her eyes growing heavy with the sound of his heart beneath her ear and his soft caresses at her arm.
“Noah?” she softly called.
“Shh.” His hand sifting through her hair, feeling her relax. He couldn’t talk now. He knew he couldn’t erase the events of the evening. But, for this moment, she was his.
“Noah,” she sighed just before sleep overcame her.
Sleep evaded him. His mind going over and over what he had seen. The train wreck was coming again, and he didn’t know how to stop it.
It had been two days since the dinner party. Tension filled the house. Eden felt shame and scorn. She couldn’t even make eye contact with Noah. What if he’d seen? He’d never forgive her.
She couldn’t get making love with him that night out of her mind. It had been different somehow. As wonderful as it had been, something nibbled at her brain.
And, last night. Nothing. She felt how tense he was as she snuggled up close. Felt a distance between them. Had she put it there? Oh God, what if Lawrence had told him?
The Falcons stopped for one last evening before returning to their homes. Noah hiding in his office. After Morgan was put to bed, Abby pulled Jake and James to the den with her while Eden was busy in the kitchen cleaning up. Everyone noticed the awkwardness between them.
Abby burst into his office. Noah looked up with a start at the intrusion.
“What have you done to my sister?” Abby demanded.
“Abby,” James warned.
“Great, now I get the Falcon family on me.”
James stepped closer. “Care to tell me what happened over the past couple days?”
“It’s none of your business, James,” Noah angrily told him.
“I warned you, hurt my baby sister and I’d step up.”
Noah was pacing, running his hands through his hair. He chuckled. “Hurt your sister. Now there’s a funny scenario.”
Jake stepped forward now. “Noah, we can see something’s going on. Eden’s almost in tears constantly. You’re hiding in here. You guys have a fight or something?”
Eden heard voices and walked toward the den. Standing outside, she listened in. Bad she knew, but listened just the same.
“I knew it was only a matter of time!” Abby angrily shot at him. “Fess up Noah. What’d ya do this time?”
Noah had had enough. He had to see Lawrence in the office, on the sites, everywhere. Then, home he had Eden avoiding him. Not even able to look at him. Obviously she remembered Lawrence. It burned him that she so easily remembered him and yet not their life.
Noah yanked open his briefcase and pulled out the legal document he’d kept there. He threw it on the desk, glaring at the three siblings facing him, throwing accusations. “Do you want to know why your sister wanted that divorce?”
Divorce? What divorce? Eden shook her head clearing a fog that had begun to build.
“We all know why Noah,” Abby shot back. “Because you weren’t the husband you should have been.”
Noah chuckled sarcastically. “It’s never the fault of a Falcon. Always blame someone else.” He paced some more. “Well, let me tell you something about your precious, baby sister. She wanted that divorce because she was having an affair.”
Eden’s legs grew weak. She closed her eyes, forcing herself to search her mind.
“What?” all three asked stunned at the same time.
“With my partner!” he sneered. “So, don’t stand there and…”
All eyes turned to see Eden at the door. “Sprite!”
She didn’t acknowledge her brother. She only looked at Noah. His eyes full of pain. She squinted, trying to get past the wall he had up but couldn’t.
“No,” she whispered. “No.”
They all stood watching her. Her breathing close to hyperventilating. “No!” she screamed before racing to the garage.
“Sprite!” James called, racing after her.
She stood beside the driver’s door, hand on the handle, unable to open the door. Paralyzed. James went to her, grasped her hand away. She looked up at him and burst into hysterical tears.
Noah, Jake and Abby watched from the door as Eden punched at James’ chest sobbing so hard she couldn’t stand up on her own. “I couldn’t have,” she sobbed. James slumped to the ground with her, holding her. Rocking her as she continued sobbing hysterically. “No,” she said over and over until her voice was gone.
Noah walked away from the sight. His heart was already broken. Abby going and kneeling down with her brother and sister, trying to offer comfort.
Noah went to slam the den door and Jake caught it. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Jake demanded of Noah.
“Get out Falcon.”
“You don’t drop a bombshell like that and expect us to walk away from her, do you?”
“I really don’t care what any of you do, if you must know.”
“Dammit Noah, call Dr. Miller!”
“You call him! Maybe now that this is all out in the open, I don’t have to play doting husband any more!”
“You son of a bitch! You’ve been playing a game this whole time?” James shouted from the door.
“Learned how to do it from your sister I guess.”
“I outta pummel you Carrington!” James ground out.
“Make you feel better? Go ahead!”
James entered and stood on the opposite side of his desk. “I’d strongly recommend you go and talk to Eden.”
“For what? So she can dig the knife in deeper? No thanks!”
Jake reached for James arm. He nodded toward the door, indicating he wanted time alone with Noah.
James left, closing the door behind him.
Jake paced. “Alright,” Jake started. “Let’s say Eden is having an affair with your partner.”
“She is. He’s trying to pick things up where they left off.”
“And you know this how?”
“Saw them. Right here in my very own kitchen. Two nights ago.”
“Two nights ago was your dinner soiree with the senators.”
“Exactly. Seems they celebrated a little too early after the senators agreed to the contract,” Noah told him. “They didn’t seem to care that Lorraine and I got to watch the show.”
“C’mon Noah, do you really think Eden would do something like that where she knew she could get caught?”
“Heat of the moment and all,” Noah returned.
“Stand up,” Jake ordered.
“You heard me, stand up.”
Noah stood. “Okay, now what?”
“Hit me,” Jake repeated.
“So you can charge me with assault and battery? I don’t think so.”
Jake approached, lightly shoving at Noah’s shoulders. “What’s the matter tough guy? Can pick on a woman but not her big bro?”
“Jake, I’m warning you.”
Jake shoved again. “Warning me what,” he laughed.
Noah’s anger broke. He swung and connected with Jake’s face.
As Jake regained himself, Noah slumped to his chair.
“I toldja man. You were gonna hurt,” Jake said.
“I don’t love…”
“Bullshit!” Jake shouted. “You got it bad.”
Noah swallowed the lump in his throat. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jake repeated with a chuckle. “Of course not. You two have been through hell and back. You have a beautiful little boy upstairs. And you’re telling me it doesn’t matter?”
Noah stood and paced. “Dammit Jake! If I knew what pushed her into…” he couldn’t say it. “If I knew why, don’t you think I’d have done something?”
“Maybe yes. Maybe no.”
Jake watched him pace some more. “C’mon Noah. Try to picture them together!”
“I don’t have to picture it Jake! They were making out in my kitchen!”
“Were they really? Or are you adding more into it?”
“He had his tongue down her throat for Christ’s sake!”
“Ya wanna know what Jim’s doing right now?”
“Packing up Eden and my son?”
“Nah, Abby’s doing that,” Jake joked, but probably was an accurate statement. “He’s telling baby sister she needs to talk to you.”
“There’s nothing left to say.”
“Man, you are a selfish jerk! You’re chastising Eden for something she may or may not have done.”
“I’ve gotten some pretty interesting details from Lawrence.”
Jake threw his hands in the air in frustration. “Noah, did you see the knee jerk reaction Eden just had? Gee for someone sleeping with your partner, it sure looked like news to her!”
And that’s what bothered him most. He felt her pain, in addition to his own. But, he couldn’t discount what he’d seen with his own eyes.
“Look, I’m telling you right now. You don’t talk this out with Eden, Jim’s gonna beat the crap out of you.”
Eden’s brothers and sister stayed at the house overnight. Exhaustion was finally what made Eden sleep. Noah refused to leave his den, knowing Eden and her family were working on their next steps. He finally dozed off, though restlessly, on the sofa in the den. Leaving early the next morning before anyone woke.
As Eden descended the stairs the next morning, she heard her siblings in the dining room.
“Do we stay? Do we take Eden home with us?” Jake asked.
“I have no idea what we do,” James answered. “We need to hear what she wants.”
“If all of you just would have listened to me,” Abby spoke up, “none of this would be happening right now.”
Both Jake and James looked at her.
“I said when she was in the hospital, tell her about the divorce. But you all slammed me down.”
“So why didn’t you?” Eden’s voice came from behind them, causing them all to turn to her.
Eden’s eyes locked with Abby’s. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she repeated her question directly at Abby.
Abby swallowed, not knowing how to answer.
Eden continued looking at her sister. “I find it very surprising that you of all people Abby wouldn’t say something. You enjoy making others miserable.”
Eden knew she was being hurtful, but what everyone had done to her by keeping the truth from her was a hurt so deep she could barely breathe.
“Eden, I don’t want to see you miserable,” Abby shot back.
“Don’t you? Mom held me a prisoner in my own home because of you!” Eden shouted. “So tell me big sis, why didn’t you tell me?!”
“She was told not to,” James answered.
Eden stepped into the dining room and sat at the table. “Why?” she asked.
“You were asking to go home. Dr. Miller and Dr. Fredericks felt we needed to go by what you thought was real at the time.”
“What I thought was real?” Eden yelled at them. “I had to fight for every ounce of information … from all of you! How was I supposed to know what was real?”
“Sprite, we did what we thought was the right thing to do.”
Eden stood and looked out the French doors to the yard. “So, telling me I was divorced wasn’t the right thing to do?” Eden’s voice was barely audible.
“You’re not divorced,” Jake told her.
She turned and looked at him. “What do you mean I’m not divorced? Noah showed you the papers.”
Jake stood and went to her. His hands at her shoulders, he told her, “You served Noah with the papers. He didn’t sign them.”
Eden pulled away, more confused than ever.
Eden laughed at the irony of it all. “I’m divorced. I’m not divorced.” She paced a little. “Let me guess, I was still living here waiting for the divorce.”
“No,” James spoke up first. “You left two weeks before the accident.”
Eden was exasperated at all this information.
“I’ve had enough,” she announced as she walked past them.
“Eden, what are you doing?” James asked.
She turned to face him. “I’m going to take my son to pre-school and then I’m going to get some answers. Once and for all.”
“Eden!” James called to her.
She turned to face him again. “I want all of you to go home.”
“Eden, you need us here,” Abby said.
“What I need is something not one of you can give me. The truth. Please. Just go.”
She didn’t leave an option for discussion. She went upstairs, showered, dressed and got Morgan ready for school.
When she returned home from Morgan’s school, she was restless. Her entire life, or what she’d thought was her life, was nothing but one big lie.
She retrieved her cell phone and looked through the phone book until she found who she was looking for. Getting no answer wasn’t helping her frustration.
“Okay, if you won’t answer your cell phone, let’s try something else,” she said before dialing a now familiar number.
“Noah’s Arkitects,” Lorraine’s cheerful voice came through the line at her.
“Where’s Lawrence?” Eden demanded, not bothering with pleasantries.
“Lorraine, I am in no mood to chit chat with you. Where is he?”
“He’s meeting with Noah…”
“Then I’d suggest you get your butt in that office and interrupt their meeting.”
“Hold on,” Lorraine nervously answered before music filled the line.