Their new lives began. Neither knew of the other’s difficulty that first week with Morgan and bedtime. If he was with one parent, he wanted the other. His happy little face filled with tears, ripping their hearts to shreds. Yet, each day they’d report to the other things were going well.
Eden had devised a way of helping that made the second week much easier. She’d converted a conference room near her office into a play area and hired a sitter to be with Morgan during the days he wasn’t off to pre-school. This gave him the opportunity to see his parents throughout the day if they were in their offices, and to see them working together. In front of Morgan, a happy family. Their issues set aside for the sake of their son. Privately, on the nights they were without Morgan, each felt the loneliness deep inside. Both stubbornly telling themselves this would pass and get easier…with time.
Weeks passed since the scene in his office. Explaining changes to the crews had them confused. Eden was now a partner with authority. The loss of Lorraine and Lawrence was a shock to the employees, no explanations given. Over the first couple of weeks, acceptance of Eden grew and they all welcomed her.
Eden met with foremen from Noah’s sites to determine new orders while Noah became familiar with Lawrence’s sites. New orders were placed and were arriving in record time getting the sites up and running and back on track.
Noah sat in his office daily feeling confused and overwhelmed. Eden had done as she’d said she would, finding a townhouse for her and Morgan close by the house. He had been angry at her dismissing Lorraine without his knowledge, but was impressed with the replacement receptionist she’d hired in her place.
Trisha worked hard, picked up on things quickly, and was becoming an asset he hadn’t imagined. Lorraine had been such a part of the Ark since it began, not seeing her in the reception area felt odd.
Eden had taken up residence in Lawrence’s office. When they first opened the office, an adjoining door had been built between the two partners’ offices. He and Lawrence never had the sliding door open over the past few years. With Eden in the next office, unless one of them had meetings or phone calls to make, the door was always open. Noah could sit at his desk and hear her movements, hear her soft voice as she’d speak with various people, and smell her soft perfume as it’d waft over. Not the perfume that told him she wanted sex. This was a softer, more feminine scent that sent the same pool of blood south as the other. It had never been the perfume that made him want her. He just simply wanted her.
Eden had taken one of the conference rooms near the kitchen and converted that into a lunch room. She’d find time most days to cook up a special treat for anyone who wanted or was able to eat lunch. His foremen would make comments on being fed better at work than by their wives at home. Eden was turning this place into a comfortable place to work again. At least for his employees.
Noah came out of his office and approached Trisha. “Have you been able to make any headway with our designer?” he asked her.
“I’m sorry Mr. Carrington. Perhaps they’re busy with the holidays,” she offered.
He didn’t like this. Lorraine, up until this senior housing project, had been able to work out their end smoothly. Time to get involved himself. He got their phone number and email information from Trisha and went back to his office.
Just as Lorraine had told him, the voicemail system for the designer was an automated voicemail system with digitized voice. He left his contact information and then set about sending an email.
Noah found it odd that no one was answering the phones, yet he received a response to his email within five minutes. However, the contents of the email were also confusing.
Thank you for contacting us on your design needs for an upcoming project. We appreciate your business and hope to work out something soon. We are currently working on doing our designing with partnerships. We ask your patience as we work through this new phase and we’ll be in touch next month.
He sat looking at the computer screen. What the hell? No name. No contact information. The senators wanted answers after the first of the year, and it was the new year. How was he going to give them any if this designer was now going to play games?
He became distracted at the sounds of Eden and Morgan in the next office. He rose and went to the adjoining door. Morgan was sitting on her lap as she moved the mouse and worked on something. A purple laptop?
“Pretty,” Morgan said bubbly and pointed to the screen.
Eden clicked on something and Morgan’s laughter filled the room.
Eden was laughing along with him when she caught sight of him standing there. Noah stepped into the office. Morgan climbed down from her lap and went to his legos building table in the corner of her office.
“What’s up?” she asked.
The only tension in the room was within Noah himself. She was relaxed and enjoying her time here. She’d organized shipments and other details for the sites. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t one crisis in weeks. Considering they were happening almost daily before.
“You seem to be handling things well. Up for a challenge?” he asked.
She sat back and smiled at him. “A challenge.”
He sat down in a chair facing her desk. Crossing one ankle over his opposite knee, he sat back. “Seems our usual designer isn’t in the mood to communicate.”
“Done something to upset him?” she asked.
“No. But I’d like to set up a meeting to discuss specifics for the senior housing project. The senators want a final proposal. The designer has blown me off.”
“Blown you off?”
“Yeah. My first instinct is to find another designer. One who is easier to connect with.”
“And you haven’t looked at another because…”
“Because properties the senators have looked into and like have been done using this designer.”
He stood and watched Morgan build a tower. His back to her, he continued. “Look, I’m not sure what you want out of this partnership Eden.”
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” she asked.
He turned now and looked at her. Now there was a million dollar question. Uncomfortable? Yes, but not in the way she was implying.
“Working here? No,” he answered honestly.
She stood now and walked to the front of the desk. He caught himself before his jaw could open and hit the floor. She was wearing tight cream colored jeans with a matching cowl neck sweater highlighted with sequins. Of course she was wearing the killer boots to match! The same boots she wore that afternoon with the negligee.
Luckily, she didn’t seem to notice his physical reaction as she stood before him. “I can look into it if you want.”
He cleared his throat
She stepped past him and went to Morgan. She lifted their son in her arms and turned to face him. “I’ll get to it as soon as lunch is done.”
As she walked away toward the kitchen, she smiled. Maybe they couldn’t be good at the whole marriage thing. But, he was willing to work at things at work. It was a start. At least until she had enough figured out to decide what to do about Noah’s Ark. She didn’t need the money or the partnership. But, it was the only way for her to work in this office.
He stood in confusion after she left the office. Eden, this Eden wasn’t shutting him out. Hell, they actually communicated quite well. Unless he attempted discussing their relationship. Then, she’d divert the conversation right back to work. It frustrated him as he knew they had something. They wouldn’t be able to work together otherwise. How could he turn their compatibility in the office around to make her see they could make them work? He loved her. How could he make her love him again? Could he?
Three weeks and she was close to getting the sub-standard building supplies mess cleaned up. One last phone call to cancel the order Lawrence had made and Noah’s sites would now get supplies above standard.
She’d ordered and had delivered the best materials possible as the senior housing project had begun.
She watched Morgan build with his blocks as she sat on hold. She worked at something on her computer screen while waiting.
“Ms. Larson, good to hear from you,” the voice came through the line.
“Oh, I’m not…” A gut instinct told her not to continue. “I’m sorry, I’m a bit distracted today. I’m calling about our order from you.”
“My assistant informs me you wish to cancel your order? Are you sure?”
“Quite. I made an error in the ordering process. I’m afraid these aren’t the supplies Mr. Carrington was originally wanting.”
“Are you sure? I remember we had extensive discussions on this. I must say I am rather confused.”
“I do apologize for the confusion. It seems the project has had some changes and these will no longer work for us.”
“I see. Well, I am disappointed. If there is anything we can help you with in the future, please be sure to let us know.”
“I will. Thank you.”
Eden hung up the phone and sat in thought. She next called back the other suppliers. One simple question had her re-thinking a host of things. Was Lorraine Larson the one who ordered the supplies? All had answered yes. None had ever had contact with Lawrence Larson.
“Oh my God!” she whispered in shock.
She reached for her phone one more time. “Hi. It’s Eden. I need to see you.” A pause as she listened. “I need to talk to you. Please.” Another pause. “Can we meet for dinner? Say seven o’clock?” She waited an answer. “Great, I’ll meet you there at seven.”
Mike Ashton sat in Noah’s office. Noah was requesting an extension on a final quote.
“Daddy!” Morgan raced into his office through the adjoining door. Noah scooped the boy up and set him on his lap.
“Hey Buddy! Daddy needs to meet with this gentleman here. Can you go find Mommy?”
“Oh, Mr. Carrington, that’s quite alright.” Ashton smiled at the sight. “You’re a lucky man.”
“You’re working side-by-side with your wife, able to see this little guy whenever you want. I envy you.”
“Thanks.” Yeah, if only he could tell him working side-by-side with his wife was distracting due to their unresolved issues. Then, he wouldn’t be so envious.
“As for the final contract, your wife has been working with our office. Right now, we’re using the quote just on the portion of Noah’s Arkitects. Because it’ll be some time before the designer is needed, we’d rather have you be able to work out an amicable agreement with them for our needs.”
“Eden’s been working with you?”
“Again, you are a lucky man. The woman knows her way around negotiations. I’ve never seen the senators challenged like this before.”
“Challenged?” Oh please don’t let her jeopardize the project.
“She knows what you can and cannot do and for what time and price. She’s not letting them undercut you in any way.” Ashton smiled.
“You’re looking well,” Lawrence said to her across the table at the restaurant.
“Thanks,” Eden nervously replied. “Look, I’m really sorry about all this confusion. I have a feeling you and I were used.”
Lawrence looked at her with his head cocked. She knew he wasn’t entirely trusting after their last encounter in Noah’s office. She couldn’t blame him. Everything pointed in his direction.
“Go on,” he encouraged, taking a drink.
She handed him the file folder she’d brought with her. “Did you place these orders?” she asked.
Lawrence looked them over briefly and handed them back. “Don’t look familiar,” he answered coldly.
“That’s what I figured.” She hated the fact that she had been so wrong. She’d been played and had never seen the signs. Now she knew what the invoices and ledgers she had from the Ark were about. Only Lorraine had the programming for the ledgers. And, she’d figured it out prior to the accident.
Lawrence noticed her demeanor and softened. “What’s going on Eden?”
She lifted her eyes to look at him. “Lawrence, is what Lorraine said in the office that night true? Have you always loved me as she claims?”
He reached across the table and took her hands in his. “Eden, you don’t remember anything, do you?”
She pulled her hands free, looked down and shook her head. “No.”
He sat back and dragged his hands through his hair. “Eden, there was no us in the way you thought. Do I care for you?” She lifted her gaze to his again and felt his compassion and empathy. “Yes. In college, Noah and I both noticed you sitting under that tree every afternoon. Once you saw him,” his voice trailed off. “Why are you asking?”
“What did you mean when you asked if I remembered us then? And all that talk of us having something special between us that I’d remember when I got my memories back?”
He had to be careful in how he answered this. Without her memories, she didn’t know their true connection. “Look, we were both going through some tough times with our marriages. I’d try to cheer you up. Y’know, make you laugh. God Eden, you were such a bright spot. You held on longer than me. I don’t know how you did it, but you had faith I simply didn’t.”
“I don’t kid myself any more. Haven’t for a couple years. Lorraine married me to stay close to Noah.”
Eden’s eyes grew wide. “So, this feeling I’ve had about them…”
He again reached across the table and took her hands. “Honey there was no proof. I know you don’t remember, but that was our connection before the accident. The wondering. We had our suspicions. Our gut feelings. Whatever you want to call them.” He squeezed her hands a little. “Eden, there were days the only reason I kept sane was because of you.”
“Did we…” she let the question hang.
“No. At first, it riled up Noah. He kept seeing things that weren’t really there. I think he was getting those ideas from Lorraine.”
“Noah was jealous?”
“I admit, I didn’t help any. In school, we’d always joke around. He started taking things seriously.” He paused. “Eden,” he called. When she looked at him, “I won’t lie to you. You are very special to me. I love you.”
Her eyes grew wide. “But you said there wasn’t…”
His smile was soft. “I love you as a very special friend. Noah is … was like a brother to me. I love you as I would a member of my family.”
She swallowed. “Am I why you and Noah…”
“Honey, Noah and I have been butting heads since we were kids. I think once Lorraine began giving him suspicions, he took them seriously.”
“But, you kissed me.”
He chuckled. “That was more for Noah’s benefit than yours.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It was his chance to deal with what he thought was going on before the accident. All Noah had to do was step up. I honestly thought he would. I was surprised when he didn’t.”
She looked down, a sadness flowing through her.
“Eden?” She looked up. “Care to share?”
She shook her head and looked back down.
“Eden, you can talk to me.”
For some reason, she felt she could talk to him. “He doesn’t love me,” her voice barely a whisper.
Lawrence sat back in his chair. “Then he’s an idiot.”
“Did he ever…” She couldn’t finish her question.
“Yes. You and Noah had something many only wish for.”
“What happened?” she asked. When he remained silent, she pushed. “Lawrence, I know you have the answers.”
He shook his head, remaining silent.
“You said you weren’t the reason for my marriage collapsing. Please. I need to know.”
“I meant having an affair wasn’t the reason. That was the answer you were looking for that day.”
“I was looking for more than that,” she said as she lowered her head again.
He reached across the table and lifted her face to look at him. “Honey, I love you and hate to see you hurting. I can’t tell you the reason.”
Her hopes for finding out the reason dashed. She truly thought he held the key.
Lawrence patiently waited as she remained silent. If he had to, he’d lie to her. Nothing would come of her learning what they shared. Time to let that secret remain buried in the past.
She nodded finally, a weight lifting off him. Very little talking as they finished their dinner.
Eden sat in thought a moment. “Can you come back to the office?”
“I have something on the computer I need to show you.”
“Alright,” he reluctantly agreed.
Lawrence followed her to the office. As they pulled in, Eden noticed Noah’s truck still up front. She parked at the back of the building, just like always.
Lawrence and Eden entered via the back door, which was closer to her office. With Noah working late, Eden didn’t want him to know what she was doing there. She was in her fact finding phase, and didn’t want another confrontation until she had all her ducks in a row. Just one final piece to the puzzle. Verifying with Lawrence that Lorraine was the only one with the ledger software that placed all the orders for all the sites.
Security lights illuminated the area, allowing Eden to go into her office without turning on any. She powered up her computer and accessed the ledger program. Both she and Lawrence stopped frozen at the sound of Noah’s voice.
It took a moment for them to realize he was speaking from his office. Cautiously, they approached the still open adjoining door.
Oh, this oughta be good, Eden thought as the scene played out before her and Lawrence.
Noah hated going home on the nights he wasn’t with Morgan. The house back to its cold, lonely feel without his wife and son. He stood at the copier watching it spit out his request, deep in thought. How had everything fallen apart so quickly? Working with Eden during the day, or at least seeing her each day, had things stirring in him he was having a hard time keeping under control. Gone still was the contempt she held before the accident.
The office ran smoother than it ever had. How had Lawrence maneuvered all the crisis at the sites keeping him at work late hours; causing the turmoil at home that had Eden running to Lawrence for comfort? Why hadn’t he seen it coming?
Noah leaned against the copy machine. How could the man who stood beside him at his wedding rip the one thing he treasured most from him? And how did he allow it to happen?
Lawrence had been such a friend. If it hadn’t been for him, Noah felt his marriage would have fallen apart after the first few months. His mind drifting back…
“Hey, Mr. Dynamo,” Lawrence called as he entered the small room they rented for an office.
Noah looked up from the drafting table. Nothing was coming. He sat there looking at a sheet of paper that was as blank as it was when he sat down an hour ago.
Lawrence approached and looked at the blank page. “Look Buddy, I get the whole newlywed thing. But, you need to get some sleep. I need you here.”
Noah stood and paced. “I wish I could sleep,” Noah answered.
“Okay, you’re married to the woman with a great body. I got that. But, if we’re going to get this Ark of yours off the ground, we need a start.”
“I know. I just can’t concentrate.”
They hadn’t come up with a design that was unique to Noah’s Arkitects. The only income they had coming in was from remodels. And those were only going to last so long.
Lawrence noticed Noah’s serious mood. “Buddy, what’s going on?”
Noah turned and faced his best friend. “I’m gonna lose her.”
Lawrence’s eyes grew wide. “You just got married a month ago!”
Noah sifted his fingers through his hair. “I know!” he paused. “It’s just not turning out how I thought it would.”
“What happened?” Lawrence asked in shock. “You guys have been puppy-dog eyed since the beginning.”
“We’re not … compatible.”
“What?” Lawrence asked loudly.
Noah paced, continuing to pull at his hair, something he did when he was frustrated. “The wedding night wasn’t good.”
“With a body like hers, how the hell could it not be?”
Noah sighed. “That’s just it…”
“Noah, what the hell happened?” Now Lawrence was getting worried.
“Look, I knew she was a virgin, okay?”
“Holy shit Noah! I thought you guys were together before the wedding. What happened?”
“She ended up in tears. Man, I didn’t know what to do.”
“So, you guys haven’t …?”
“Oh, we did. And, it was the worst experience of her life.”
Lawrence dragged his hand through his hair. “Okay, so it had to get better. Right?”
“I told her it would. But…” Noah paced.
“But what Noah?”
Eden would die of embarrassment if she knew he said something to anybody. But, Noah was at a loss. Their sex life hadn’t even made it up to mediocre.”
“She’s never … you know.”
“You know, what?” Lawrence asked, then noted the expression fall over Noah’s face. “She’s never had an orgasm?” Lawrence couldn’t believe it.
“Would you keep your voice down!” Noah scolded. “No, she hasn’t. It’s always … painful for her.” Noah paced some more, Lawrence watching in utter disbelief. “Lawrence, she’s so … small.” He wasn’t about to tell Lawrence that his newlywed life consisted of sex a total of three times.
Lawrence shook his head. “Okay, there has to be a way to fix this.”
“How?” Noah shouted. “She panics. Tenses up. It’s like breaking into Fort Knox!”
Lawrence now paced as well. After a few silent moments. “I’ve got an idea,” Lawrence said before going to the phone. Once he was connected, he said, “Andre, how are you?” A pause. “Say, I need you to help me out.”
Noah reached for Lawrence’s arm to turn him to him. “What are you doing?”
Lawrence put his hand over the phone. “I’m saving your ass.”
Lawrence went back to his phone call. “I need to make a reservation for two, tonight. Need the works, know what I mean?”
Noah’s eyes widened, having no idea what Lawrence was up to.
“Andre, you know this is Lawrence the third. Don’t play games with me. I’m not my father.”
Lawrence came from money, though he didn’t flaunt it. Not unless he needed to. It was also Lawrence’s money that helped get the Ark created.
“Great, now the reservation is for Carrington. Six-thirty.” A pause. “Great. I owe you. Oh, and the tab is on me.” Lawrence hung up the phone and turned to Noah. “Okay, here is your game plan.”
“My game plan,” Noah repeated.
Lawrence put his hand on Noah’s shoulder. “You are going to romance the hell out of your wife. And tonight, you are going to show her what that gorgeous body of hers can experience if it kills you.”
“And how exactly am I supposed to do that?”
“Well, first off, you’re going to take her to the Palace for dinner.”
“The Palace?” Noah shouted. “Are you insane?”
“Look, women like to dress up. A nice candlelit dinner, more romance at home. Not too fast…”
“I told you. She panics.”
Lawrence smiled. “Then you get her to relax.”
“And just how’m I supposed to do that?”
Lawrence pulled out his wallet and retrieved three one-hundred dollar bills. He slapped them into Noah’s hand. “You pick up some roses and a nice bottle of wine on your way home.”
Noah paced. “I’m not going to get my wife drunk Lawrence.”
“You don’t want her drunk. You want her to remember this.”
“You know her mom’s an alcoholic. She doesn’t drink.”
“She had some wine at the wedding reception,” Lawrence reminded him. “Look, a half glass. Whatever it takes to get her to relax. Then, you use the Noah Carrington charm and the rest will be history.”
“She’ll never go for this! She knows we can’t afford the most expensive restaurant in town. For God’s sake Lawrence, she’s waitressing and paying our bills while going to school while we get this place going.”
Lawrence now stood before Noah, cupping both his shoulders. “Noah my boy, you give that woman her first orgasm, and you won’t have a worry in the world.”
“She isn’t shallow Lawrence.”
Lawrence let go of his hold on Noah. “But, she is a woman.”
“She won’t go for it,” Noah repeated.
“So, tell her it’s a gift. A wedding gift.”
“She won’t accept something like this from you, you know that,” Noah reminded him. “She’ll think it’s charity and will refuse.”
“Then, you just have to convince her.” Lawrence pushed Noah to the desk, picked up the phone and handed it to him. After a moment of silence, Lawrence raised his eyebrows. “Man, you take care of her needs or I do. That body needs this.”
“Lawrence, get serious.”
“I am serious. Noah, you were top in our class for design. If all you’re going to think about is this, we might as well close up shop now.” They stared at one another a moment. “I mean it Noah. I have no problem doing it for you. Make the call.” His hand holding the phone out to him.
Noah looked skeptical a moment before taking the phone from him. Sitting behind the desk, he dialed his apartment knowing she had a week off between classes and would be home. Lawrence stood, arms folded, watching him.
“Hey Babe,” Noah called when she answered. “Got a surprise for you.”
“A surprise?” she asked.
Lawrence raised his eyebrows letting him know he had to do this.
“Yeah,” he croaked then cleared his throat. “For our one month anniversary, we’re going out to dinner.”
“Noah, we can’t afford dinner.”
“Don’t worry about the money, okay Babe?” Noah said while his face implored Lawrence to let him off the hook. Wasn’t happening.
“Noah, are you kidding? I don’t get my check until next week and the rent is due.”
Noah covered the mouthpiece. “She isn’t going for this. I told you we can’t afford it.”
“It’s a gift Noah,” Lawrence hissed to stress the point home.
“We aren’t going to pay for the dinner, Honey.”
“What do you mean we aren’t paying for it?”
Noah scrubbed his face. “It’s a gift. A wedding present.”
“Noah, we went through all the gifts.”
“This is a gift we didn’t know about. Until today.”
“What kind of gift?” she asked.
“What kind of gift?” he repeated. Looking at Lawrence.
“Lie to her!” Lawrence mouthed.
Noah’s face contorted. He covered the mouthpiece again. “I can’t lie to her,” he whispered.
Lawrence leaned down, palms flat on the desk. “You have to.”
“Noah?” Eden’s voice called to him.
“Sorry Babe, someone came into the office for a sec.”
“Noah, where exactly is this dinner?”
“Where?” he repeated, looking at Lawrence glaring back at him. “The Palace.”
“The Palace!” Lawrence even heard her shriek. “No Noah, we cannot accept a dinner gift like that.”
“Think of something Mr. Dynamo,” Lawrence whispered.
Noah roughly ran his hand through his hair.
“Who is giving this gift?” she asked again.
“Who?” he paused. “A …” Noah closed his eyes. “A client.”
“A client,” she repeated back.
“Yeah, he saw your picture here and well, I mentioned we were newlyweds and he…” Noah looked at Lawrence who had raised eyebrows, “insisted.”
Lawrence now stood straight. He knew Noah couldn’t back track out of this one.
“But, Noah. The Palace?”
“Babe, I don’t want to hurt this guy’s feelings. Lawrence has worked real hard to get this guy to talk to us. If I refuse it…”
“Oh Noah,” she sighed, interrupting him. “It’s a wonderful gift. Really. I just don’t feel right.”
“He already made reservations,” he told her. “C’mon Babe, we deserve a night out.”
After another five minutes, Noah finally convinced her. He hung up the phone and glared at Lawrence. “If she finds out this is from you and that I lied…”
“Like I said. She needs this. Go out. Have fun. Do what you need to do.” He paused as he reached into his jeans pocket. “Here, use the car,” he said as he handed Noah the keys.
“Lawrence, I can’t take the sixty-nine mustang.”
“Well, you sure as hell aren’t going to pull up in front of the Palace in your rust bucket.”
That evening, seeing her sitting across the candlelit table, he knew Lawrence was right. She was too beautiful not to show off. She had the sides of her auburn hair pulled back and held in place with combs. She wore a black, sleeveless dress that was fitted to her upper body and a neckline giving a hint of cleavage with a fuller skirt that reached her knees. He tried to keep his mind off the four-inch black pumps she also had on. He felt severely underdressed in his navy suit.
The way she looked at him filled him. Her eyes bright and still so innocent. The love he felt for her consumed him.
“Noah!” a man’s voice called to him.
“Mr. Larson?” Noah asked surprised at seeing Lawrence’s father here. He stood and the men shook hands.
“Business must be doing well,” Mr. Larson said.
“It’s growing,” Noah answered.
“And that son of mine. What has he been up to?”
Noah felt the tightening of his throat. Oh man this wasn’t good.
“You know, doing his marketing thing,” Noah answered.
“Marketing,” Larson repeated. “What’s the occasion? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Oh,” Eden spoke up causing both men to look at her while Noah felt his guilt flow through him. “We’re celebrating our anniversary.”
“Noah, who is this lovely woman?”
“Mr. Larson,” Noah responded with a dry voice then cleared his throat, “this is Eden, my wife.”
“Oh that’s right, you married recently. Such a pleasure to meet you Eden.”
Eden blushed and lowered her gaze when her hand was lifted and the elder man kissed her knuckles.
Eden lifted her gaze to him after her embarrassment faded somewhat. “A client of Noah’s heard we’re newlyweds and insisted on giving us a dinner gift.”
“A client,” Larson repeated, then looked cautiously to Noah before returning his attention back to her.
Noah knew he was busted for sure. Lawrence was always getting into trouble with his father. He felt his perfect evening slipping away.
“Well, I think it’s a wonderful gift,” Mr. Larson said causing Noah to lift his head and look at him. “I don’t mean to intrude.” He looked at Noah. “Enjoy the rest of your dinner Noah.”
“Thank you sir,” Noah responded as they shook hands again.
When their main course had arrived, the waiter also brought over a bottle of champagne. Noah closed his eyes. He told Lawrence not to do this.
“We didn’t order champagne,” Noah told the waiter.
“It’s a gift sir,” he was informed. “Mr. Larson the second insists.”
Noah was more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, as his mother used to say. He dodged a bullet earlier. Lawrence’s father was there to check up on his son. Finding Noah in his place must have seemed awkward.
“Tell him thank you,” Eden responded when Noah remained lost in his thoughts.
The rest of their dinner was romantic and without further interruption.
Eden drank an entire flute of the most expensive champagne Noah’d ever seen. Luckily, some had worn off when they entered their apartment.
They stood in the entry, his hands removing the combs from her hair so he could sift his hands through it. Her eyes, bright and full of love as they looked into his.
“God, you are so beautiful Eden,” he softly complemented.
“Oh Noah,” she sighed, filling his heart.
He kissed her softly. After gazing in her eyes a moment longer, he took her hand in his and walked to the living room.
He turned on the stereo to some love ballad cd from the eighties and turned back to her.
“C’mere,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her close.
They swayed through four songs, him holding her close, her arms looped around his neck.
The fifth song started and he pulled back slightly. His arms loosely around her waist. Her eyes hooded. He hadn’t ever seen that before.
He framed her face with his hands and brought his lips to hers. Her hands sifting in his hair. Kissing wasn’t a problem for them. She loved it and he took advantage whenever possible.
Time stood still, or so it seemed. His hands at her waist, their kiss remaining soft and gentle.
She didn’t flinch, didn’t pull back, didn’t stop kissing him when his hands slid up her sides, lightly brushing the sides of her breasts. There was progress.
After another moment, he lifted his lips from hers, a soft smile from her melted him. Her arms were still looped around his neck as she gazed into his eyes. God how he wanted this to work. Needed this to work.
He slid his arm beneath her knees and lifted her, slowly carrying her to the bedroom. Still no apprehension. Okay, maybe Lawrence was onto something here.
He gently set her feet back down on the floor, caressing her hair behind her ears. Her eyes were hooded again. Pulling him to her.
“Noah, the light.”
He kissed her softly. The bedside lamp was softly filling the room. Not a chance, he thought.
“It’s okay Baby,” he whispered.
“You’re beautiful Babe,” he said softly.
“Noah,” she sighed just before his lips captured hers again. He softly explored with his tongue. No tension. Take it slow Carrington. Take it slow, he had to remind himself.
He slowly unzipped the back of her dress. His hands now able to feel the warmth of her skin at her back. Her hands delicately tangling in his hair as their kiss continued.
He pulled free and back slightly, never removing his eyes from hers as he reached up for the straps of her dress. Slowly, he lowered them. Her arms coming from behind him as he caressed down her arms and he slid the bodice free.
Her dressed pooled at her feet. He looked down and shouldn’t have. All she had left was a black lacy bra with matching panties. And the shoes. Oh man.
His hands cupping her face. “Eden, you are so beautiful,” his voice breathless before claiming another kiss.
How he managed to remove his suit coat, tie and shirt while kissing her, he didn’t know. The feel of her sparsely clad body pressed up against his flesh was driving him insane.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her. Turning her toward the bed. The shoes. Damn the shoes!
He swallowed, this night was for her, not his fantasy. “Kick off your shoes Baby,” he whispered, kissing just beneath her ear.
Once she did as instructed, “Kneel on the bed,” he told her.
She knelt before him, his hands swimming along her back as he held her to him, kissing her softly again.
He pulled back and looked into her eyes that were gazing back into his. Her breath hitched when she felt him unhook her bra.
“It’s okay Baby. This night is for you.” She looked at him quizzically. “All for you.”
Not too much apprehension as he removed her lace. Progress.
Another soft kiss, but he didn’t pull her close to him. Her arms back around his neck, his hands lightly stroked up and down her sides. So far, so good.
Her breathing changed slightly as he brought his thumbs to her nipples. They hardened under his touch. She wasn’t pulling away.
Another moment, she lifted her lips from his. Her breathing was changing. He prayed. He pulled back and looked at her face. Her breathing, he realized, wasn’t out of panic. His thumbs and forefingers now softly teasing her nipples. Her eyes so bright as they looked into his.
“Noah,” she sighed then licked her lips. “I feel…”
“I know,” he interrupted and claimed her lips again. And he did. She was finally experiencing what he’d wanted her to all along.
This painstakingly slow lovemaking was euphoric. She was responding to his touch. Finally. Up until tonight, he hadn’t been able to learn her body with his hands. With anything for that matter.
Once both of them were completely undressed, he lay beside her. Distracting her with the kisses he knew she loved while his hands caressed, explored, teased. He found a ticklish spot here and there.
His hand slowly snaked down her body. She pulled free from their kiss and gasped as his hand reached between her thighs.
“Shh, Baby,” he soothed, looking into her eyes.
“Noah,” she whispered, her breathing increasing a little panicky.
He brought his hand up to caress her hair behind her ear. “Do you trust me?” he asked her.
Her bottom lip between her teeth, she nodded and his heart filled. She was finally trusting him with her body. Time to show her what she could feel.
His lips lowered to hers and he waited a moment before returning his hand south.
Later he knelt between her legs and brought her hips to settle on his thighs. She was doing quite well thus far.
He looked at her. In this position, he couldn’t distract her with kisses. “Trust me Eden,” he whispered.
He watched her chest rise and fall with deep breaths, her bottom lip between her teeth as he held her folds open and rubbed her sex.
Oh God, she was gonna go and he was getting harder by the second.
“It’s okay. Just let it flow through you Baby,” he coaxed as he now inserted one finger inside. Finding that one spot he didn’t think she knew existed. She lifted her hips slightly. “That’s my girl,” he said as he watched her lose herself.
“Noah,” she breathlessly called.
“Shh. Let me take you to paradise Baby,” he silenced her. He ventured forth and inserted two fingers and his thumb continued stroking her sex.
Her body continued responding as nature intended. Her hips lifting and falling. He ached to be one with her, but she was finally enjoying this.
Her head nodded side to side. He felt her tighten around his fingers. “That’s it. Go to paradise.”
He took in a cleansing breath. She was so hot and wet. He now chewed on his bottom lip at the desire flowing through him. Did he chance ruining this for her? His body screamed for him to join her.
He looked to the ceiling and prayed as he withdrew his fingers, using the juices from her orgasm to stroke her, glide over her. He prayed harder as he inserted his tip, watching for her to flinch.
She didn’t. She was still lost to the moment. Slowly, he went a little deeper. Withdrew, slid his sex over hers. Her sigh filling him.
Oh God, he wanted to take her there. He needed to take her there.
He alternated sliding inside then out. When she bucked her hips, it took him by surprise. It caused him to go in deeper than he had intended, and her gasp wasn’t one of pain this time.
“Oh Eden,” he sighed as he wrapped her legs around him.
He slid inside her warmth. He wasn’t going to last. She was already there and he was going to join her.
He softly and slowly pumped within her. He leaned forward, kissing her collar bone. Then her neck. He cradled her head in his hands before bringing his lips to hers.
He felt her tears and reluctantly lifted his lips from hers. When he looked at her, he saw they weren’t tears of pain this time. Her lips were parted, her head back as she arched into him.
“Paradise,” she sighed and he couldn’t explain the feeling flowing through him at that moment. He slid his hands up her arms and linked their hands together above her head and simply joined her there.
“I love you Eden,” he told her as he reached that wonderful place with her. She was his. Now he felt complete. As he knew he would with her.
He held her to him after. Her naked body up against his beneath the covers. Her hand absently drawing circles on his chest. The softness of it filling his heart.
“Can you take me there again someday?”
He pulled back and used his hand to angle her face to look at her. “Anytime you want, I’ll do my best.”
She blushed and set her head back down on his chest. His hand reaching up and turning off the bedside lamp, enveloping them in a serene darkness.
He was enjoying their moment of closeness when she pulled free and rose from the bed.
“I have to use the bathroom,” she answered.
As he watched her walk toward the bedroom door, she bent down for a second then left the room. He heard the bathroom door close.
He closed his eyes and prayed as hard as he could. Please, not again. Nothing. No sobs.
She entered a short time later, climbed into bed and settled back into his embrace. No signs of distress.
As his arm came around to envelop her, he noted she’d put something on. Didn’t say a word, just laid there holding her close.
“Noah?” a moment later.
“Does your heart hurt?”
He hadn’t expected that. Making her look at him again, he asked, “What?”
“Does paradise make your heart hurt?”
“Uh, no. Why?”
She lowered her gaze then back up. “Mine does.”
He crinkled his brow showing his confusion. “It does?”
She nodded softly, a tear escaping, falling to his chest. “It felt like it was overflowing. I know that sounds stupid, but it did.” He just looked at her not knowing what to say. “When you said you love me, I felt like my heart wasn’t big enough.” She lowered her head again. “I love you so much Noah. My heart’s just not big enough.”
He felt the emotion build. He didn’t have a voice. Tonight was about showing her how connected they could be. Let her see all her body could feel and experience. Instead, she showed him how endless their love is. His heart wasn’t big enough either.
“Please don’t give up on me,” she sleepily asked.
He kissed her crown. “Never,” he answered.
He came out of his memory, full of the emotion of that time. How had he lost something so precious? Had he given up on her? Again he wondered, how could the man who helped save his marriage be responsible for tearing it apart? Damn this was a mess.
Copy task finished, he made his way back to his desk. His mind still thinking about that time.
How when he woke up the next morning, he just watched her sleep. Her hair a bright halo on the pillow. She was wearing his dress shirt from the night before.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. “What are you doing?” He heard the embarrassment in her voice.
He kissed her softly. “Because you’re beautiful and I want to.”
She looked at the clock on the nightstand. “Oh my God Noah. You’ll be late.”
He smiled. “I think the boss can be lenient with me.”
He brought his lips to hers. Her arms went up and looped around his neck.
His left hand carefully unbuttoned his shirt, pushing the sides apart.
She pulled free and gasped when she felt the cooler air on her skin. “Noah!” She grabbed the sheet and pulled it over her.
He simply smiled at her as his hand went to hers and took the sheet out of her death grip.
“Noah, it’s daytime,” she panicked as he exposed her to him.
She was so shy about her body. Why he’d never understand.
He kissed her softly silencing any further protests. Like the night before, actually only a few hours, he began with her breasts. She may not understand it yet, but her body did. Her nipples instantly peaking, waiting for his touch.
He caught her sigh in his mouth. Breathing every breath with her.
He lifted his lips from hers and began soft kisses at her neck while his hand continued taking her on her next journey.
As he began kissing her collar bone and then lower, he felt her tense slightly.
“Noah?” Her breathing increasing.
“You’re so beautiful Baby,” his breath swam softly over her skin, causing her breath to hitch.
His hand went to her right breast as he took her left nipple in his mouth, swirling his tongue around the hardened bead.
Nature took over for her. Her fingers tangling in his hair, her sighs the only sound in the room.
He suckled softly as his hand reached to the juncture at her thighs. She was already wet. His fingers easily gliding over her sex.
He released her nipple from his mouth and kissed near her ear. He was so hard he thought he’d explode. The want and desire she made him feel overpowering.
“I need to taste you Baby,” he whispered in her ear.
Her head back as his fingers continued their mission. He rubbed her sex as he kissed down her body.
His eyes looked up, she had that bottom lip of hers between her teeth. He smiled and said between kisses at her stomach, “You’re so quiet Baby.” Her chest rose and fell more rapidly now. “Time for you to make some noise.”
Before she knew what was happening, his mouth replaced his fingers. His tongue gliding over her sex. “Noah!” she began to protest.
His fingers sliding within her heat as he licked and gently suckled. She wasn’t protesting any more.
Her hips bucked as she tightened around his fingers. His eyes looked up, seeing she was going to make her lip bleed if she bit down any harder.
“Let go Baby,” he sighed, his breath caressing her sex, which he noticed made her arch into him. “Oh, you like that?” he teased, licking her sex then blowing over it.
“Noah!” Her head nodding from side to side.
“Paradise Baby. Go to paradise,” he whispered.
His fingers stroked that glorious spot inside as his tongue slid over her sex. “Oh God Noah,” she called out. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t think Baby. Just go.”
His sex throbbed as he felt her fall over that edge. Her legs a shaky mess over his shoulders.
He needed to go there with her. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand as he snaked his body up and over hers.
“You’re mine Eden,” he whispered as his eyes looked into hers and he slid within her warmth.
“Yes, yours,” she responded just before his lips claimed hers and he stroked within her.
She was so tight around him. He discovered he wasn’t going to last with her as she tightened around him further and milked him deliciously.
He lifted his lips from hers and burrowed his face at her neck, calling out her name as he went over that edge.
Once their heart rates cooled, he looked down into her satisfied gaze, still above her, holding himself up on bent arms.
Her fingers shakily stroking his hair behind his ears. He softly smiled. “You Eden, are a little sex kitten.”
She blushed and tried to turn away, his hand reaching for her chin to make her look at him. “I love you Eden,” he declared.
“Oh Noah,” she emotionally sighed. “I love you more.”
And he was lost.
Of course, remembering that time was having a severe affect on him in the here and now. His body so desperately wanting to be one with her right now. To kiss and make love all their problems away.
He remembered shortly after that her involvement with marketing the Ark. She’d convinced her instructor to let her project be on a real company instead of a fictitious one. Proving if her marketing ideas would work or not. She and Lawrence had grown close during that time. Marketing was his specialty. Noah always felt Lawrence could talk anyone into buying sand in a desert.
Once he’d developed the first design, it had been Eden who marketed it to banks with Lawrence. Getting support for a vision she believed in…his vision.
She got an A in the class, and Noah’s Ark was taken seriously from that point on.