She stood inside her townhouse after Noah dropped her off. They agreed to meet up for lunch.
She barely recalled changing into sleep pants and tee.
He’d asked her to think of everything tonight. Leave the past behind. Yet, how could she? All that they’d gone through led them to this point. Good and bad.
All of her memories were lost prior to the accident. He’d said there were good times. Without memories, could she be sure? Was he only telling her what he wanted her to hear?
“This is crazy!” she said to herself as she plopped down on her sofa, curling her legs beneath her.
All she had as keys to her past were her journals. It would be so easy to get lost in him. Again. Even with all this mess around them, she’d responded to his kiss earlier. That had to mean something, right?
She had no idea how long she’d been reading over her journals. She’d begun with those from college. She found herself smiling over her entries about a boy falling in front of her. Just like that day on the hospital patio. She’d felt drawn to him.
A knock at her door broke her from her reading. So much for giving me some time.
“Abby!” What on earth was her sister doing at her door at this hour?
Noah paced the house. Trying to sleep was pointless. Eden was unpredictable. More so now than ever. He’d just played his last card. If she decided in the end it was over, he promised to let her go. For the life of him, he didn’t know how he’d be able to do it.
It was going to be a very long night.
“You can’t be serious!” Abby exclaimed. “Getting back with Noah Carrington is the last thing you should be considering.”
“Abby, don’t get all big sister on me,” Eden warned.
“You finally came to your senses about the man. And he certainly didn’t change his spots. For heaven’s sake Eden, the man accused you of having an affair with his partner!”
“And, I accused him of having one with Lorraine.”
“At least you had more backing up your accusation!”
“Abby, you’re my sister. I love you. But, this is my life. I will make my own decisions.”
“So, you’re going back to him?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Abby stood and retrieved her cell phone from her bag. “Maybe James can talk some sense into you.”
Before Eden could stop her, Abby had called their big brother. Waking him in the middle of the night for no good reason.
Abby handed her the cell after giving James the scenario. “He wants to talk to you.”
Eden took the phone and went into the kitchen. “Jimmy, don’t start.”
“Sprite, I’m not going to tell you what to do. If I was, I’d have pulled you out of that house when this all hit the fan.”
“I’m not a baby any more Jimmy,” she said just before breaking down into sobs.
She heard the rustling of his bedding indicating he was in this for the long haul.
“Talk to me Sprite.”
“Jimmy, I’m so confused. God help me I love him. I just don’t know if trying again is the right thing to do.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” his sleepy voice came through the line.
“Morgan. He can’t go through all this back together, split up, back together crap.”
“I imagine you don’t feel you can either.”
When did her big brother get so smart?
“Jimmy, it hurts to see him. It hurts not to.” She paused. “Jimmy, is there something else from before the accident that people aren’t telling me?”
“Not that I know of, why?” he honestly answered.
“It’s Abby,” she answered.
“Is she brow beating you?”
“She’s so angry. Did I do something to make her this angry before the accident? Is that why she’s so against Noah?”
James let a sigh go. “Sprite, Abby’s marriage fell apart within two years. I think a lot of this has to do with jealousy. She couldn’t work things out with Brad.”
“Brad had an affair. He married this woman before the ink was dry on their divorce papers. Abby hasn’t been the same since.”
“Oh Jimmy. Noah isn’t Brad.”
“I know. I’ll talk to her. She needs to back off and let you make your own decisions.”
James rubbed his hand down his face. Yep, a long night.
After talking with her brother, she listened to her sister for a short time before telling her to go to bed. Once alone in the living room again, she went back to her journals. James and Abby couldn’t tell her how she’d felt before. Only a person she used to be that she couldn’t remember could.
Someone clanking around in her kitchen woke her. Her head hurt. The last time she’d looked at the clock, it had said 5 AM. She’d come to a conclusion. She just needed to get to her lawyer first.
Eden padded her way into the kitchen. Abby was trying to figure out the workings of the coffee pot.
“You know you’re waking the dead, right?” Eden said as she held her head.
“What have you decided?” Abby asked.
“Good morning to you too,” Eden retorted.
“Eden, save the pleasantries. Tell me you aren’t giving that man another chance to break your heart.”
“Okay, I’m not giving him another chance to break my heart. Happy?”
Abby raced over and enveloped her in a hug. “Honey, I’m here for you. As long as you need.”
“I don’t need you here Abby,” she answered, pushing her away.
She drank half a mug of coffee before noticing the clock. Eleven-thirty.
“Oh my God!” Eden burst out.
“Eden, what’s going on?”
“Noah wanted to have lunch. To talk about…never mind.”
She plucked the cordless phone from its charger and punched in numbers. “This is Eden Falcon. I need to have the final papers.”
After calling and asking Michelle to pick up Morgan from pre-school later in the day, Eden announced she was going to take a shower before getting things done.
Abby called out to her. “You’re making the right decision sis.”
Eden turned and gave her sister a glare. “I’m glad you finally have something to make you happy sis,” she shot back.
“I’ll be here later.” Abby wasn’t budging on the big sister routine.
When Eden finished showering and dressing and came out of the bathroom, her sister was nowhere to be found. Great, she’s probably figuring out how to move in with me.
It was well past three-thirty when Eden finally had the final legal documents in hand. Morgan’s photo on her key chain, she traced his little face with the tip of her finger.
“Oh Baby, I hope Mommy’s doing the right thing,” she said as a tear escaped and slid down her cheek.
One final stop before she couldn’t deny the inevitable any longer. Time to go to the Ark. She hadn’t called him to explain missing their lunch meeting. Meeting. A marriage, family, reduced to a scheduled meeting. Besides, her cell had died and she didn’t have time to charge it.
Noah gave up calling her cell by two o’clock. He’d done the one thing he didn’t think possible. He’d scared her off.
Mac at the site got an idea of what the problem was from Noah’s foul mood. He’d been with Noah since the beginning. Mac watched all over the past few years at a distance. Right now, Noah was hurting. And he was desperately trying to lose himself in building the house.
“Noah, let’s go for a beer,” Mac tried.
“Then take a vacation.”
Noah looked at him with a death glare. “You think going away is going to help?” Noah threw the hammer he’d been holding and watched it crash into lumber.
He was inconsolable. Mac only hoped there was enough time in this world to take the pain away Noah was feeling.
“Noah, you did the best you could. You put it all on the line.”
Thank God he hadn’t told her he loved her. It was hard enough when she’d tell him she didn’t love him before. Now, she was simply telling him a different way.
Noah unlocked his truck as they approached. “Yeah I did. I can’t even blame it all on Lorraine.”
“She did a number on all of you,” Mac reminded.
Noah had spent a night in a bar a week ago with Mac divulging all the details.
“But, why didn’t I see it, Mac? How could my wife see what Lorraine was doing and I couldn’t?”
Mac just looked at him silently.
“Instead, I turned everything around and saw it with her and Lawrence!”
“What did you see Noah?” Mac asked.
They both leaned up against the bed of his truck. Noah wracking his brain, trying to remember.
“Well?” Mac prodded after Noah stood silent.
“Oh man, I have totally screwed up,” Noah said defeated.
Noah pushed off the bed and paced in circles. “I didn’t see anything!”
“But you just said…”
“No Mac, I saw what Lorraine wanted me to see. Dammit! Lawrence never said anything to me about sleeping with my wife. Lorraine always said ‘we’ when she really meant just her.”
Noah kicked at some gravel. “Lorraine kept referring to Lawrence’s attraction to Eden. How could I not see it was really her attraction to me?”
“The woman was definitely a manipulator,” Mac commented.
Noah’s eyes met with his. “What are you saying Mac?”
“Look, everyone knew stuff was going on in that office. When you weren’t on sites, the guys would talk about how Lorraine had the hots for you. Since you blew her off, she really became the joke out here.”
Now Noah really felt like a fool. His crews even saw what he so blindly couldn’t. He was a first class ass. It also intensified the pain he felt. How could he expect Eden to take a chance? If he were in her shoes, he’d send him packing.
“It’s over Mac,” he said wounded as he walked to the driver’s door of his truck. “It’s really over.”
Mac reached for Noah’s arm, “Son, you don’t know that.”
“Yeah, I do. I shouldn’t have expected her to take a chance.”
“So, go to her. Tell her what you just told me. You didn’t see things as they were.”
“No, I promised I’d let her go. Now there’s only one thing left for me to do.”
“Noah,” Mac called in a fatherly tone.
“Mac, I need to exorcise her from me.”
“Don’t do something you’ll regret Noah,” Mac warned.
“I’ll just add it to the list of all my other regrets,” he shot back as he climbed in his truck and closed the door.
Noah entered the Ark at seven. The office empty, just how he felt.
Maybe he didn’t know Eden as well as he’d thought. Sure, she’d never run from a challenge in her life. Hell, she’d been so different since the accident, maybe running was a part of her now.
He reached in his pocket and took out the velvet box. Opening it, he looked inside. A new emerald. Not the small promise ring he’d given her the first time. A real engagement ring. Realization hit him hard as he looked at the gem sparkling back at him. He tossed the closed jewelry box in the drawer and slammed it closed before pacing. His hands tangling in his hair trying to deal with the frustration. The loss.
He stopped, afraid to turn around. His mind was playing tricks on him.
“Eden?” he softly called as he turned. And there she stood. In the adjoining door.
His first thought was to go to her and grab her close. Until his eyes saw the blue-bound documents in her hand.
She cautiously stepped into the office. He hadn’t seen her wear a denim skirt since the episode in his office before Christmas. She wore a two-tone pink button down sweater that matched the pink five-inch spike heeled oxfords. Dressed to kill would be an understatement.
“Noah, I’m sorry,” her voice said softly.
She bit on her bottom lip. Just seeing her here gave him a small dose of hope.
“Missing lunch,” she answered. She nervously laughed as she paced. “I was up all night going through … things. I fell asleep sometime this morning and finally woke up when Abby was banging around in the kitchen.”
Noah’s head shot up. “Abby is here?”
“She showed up at my door at one this morning,” she told him. “She was not happy to hear …”
That would explain why Eden was making the decision he hoped against hope she wouldn’t.
“Anyway, she called Jimmy to talk some sense into me or whatever.”
Noah ran his hand down his face. Between Abby and big brother James, he didn’t stand a chance.
She nervously laughed as she continued rambling. “You know, Abby woke him up for this. And I don’t think he was alone,” she laughed. “My big brother seeing someone, wow. It’s kinda like Chloe thinking about your parents, but y’know…”
“Eden,” he called.
She turned to face him. “I’m sorry,” she said. Then she took in a breath.
She knew she was nervous and rambling on. The finality of what she had to do was almost choking her. But, it had to be done. She loved Noah, but it wouldn’t work. He didn’t love her. It came to her at dawn this morning. Reading through her journals. Even in their darkest times before the accident, she’d written how he’d told her he loved her. It was then she realized he’d never said it since the accident. In her dreams, yes. In the light of day, or even making love, the words never passed his lips. He loved the old Eden. The one she couldn’t remember and, after reading all she had, would never become again.
As she released her breath, she visibly shuddered. He simply stood and watched. Waiting.
“It’s not going to work Noah,” she finally said.
“May I ask why?” He felt his heart shatter but held the pain in.
“I can let go of before the accident. Actually, I’d like to do nothing more than burn my journals because I can’t believe some of the things I’d written. I’d felt. I don’t know how I became her.”
Noah remained silent, going through his own internal hell as he watched her, listened to her.
“But, I can’t let go of since the accident,” she said, lifting her head to look at him sadly. “It’s all been one big lie, Noah.”
He shook his head. “I don’t believe that,” his voice hoarse.
“Are you kidding? I’ve been lied to by pretty much everyone since waking up. And, there was, is just too much to trust, or lack thereof to fix.”
“Eden,” he called and waited for her to meet his gaze. “I’ve learned a lot of things since the accident. I’ve probably ruined the best relationship I ever had with someone who’s like a brother to me because I couldn’t see what everyone else did.”
“Oh Noah,” she sighed. “I believe you didn’t see Lorraine for what she was. I’m not blaming you for that.”
He remained leaning up against the front of his desk. “Eden, you weren’t the only one who saw things with her. Hell, Mac just told me today my entire crew knew she had the hots for me and was the joke at sites when I wasn’t around.”
“It doesn’t matter, Noah. Don’t you see?”
“No Eden, I don’t see. I know what I thought was happening with you and Lawrence were things I didn’t see myself. Lorraine created those images for me.”
“Noah, it doesn’t matter. If you’d had faith. Faith in me. Faith in us. I don’t know. It’s water under the bridge.” She threw her hands in the air in a sign of defeat.
“You’re right. I should’ve had faith. For no other reason than because I loved you.”
Another slice through her heart. He loved her. The Eden of before. The words she needed to hear to reassure her she was doing the right thing.
Her silence lingered.
“I should’ve given you more time. I know I threw a lot at you last night. Hell, it’s been twenty-four hours. Barely. Take more time.”
“Noah, you promised you’d …” she breathed in to settle her emotions. “You wouldn’t pressure me to change my mind.”
And, he had. He just didn’t feel this was right. His chin to his chest, he didn’t know what to say.
She saw his resignation. “It was all a dream, Noah.”
His throat too thick he was surprised he could still breathe. His life was evaporating before him and he couldn’t stop it. This Eden had the maturity the other lacked. She fought with logic and reason; where the other simply lashed out in anger. Just like Holly said.
“Noah, please don’t think this is easy for me. It’s not.”
“I never thought it was, Eden,” he said, his head still lowered.
“I know you love Morgan. He needs two parents that love each other. He deserves nothing less.”
“Yes, he does,” he answered. “I wish we could’ve given that to him.”
“So do I, Noah. So do I,” she sighed.
As she looked at him, her emotions built higher. Her heart snapping in two.
The silence lingered for a long moment. Both taking it in, she supposed.
“I’m sorry, Noah,” she finally said softly.
“Yeah. Me too.” He just didn’t know what else to say.
He heard her walk toward the desk and place the two blue-bound documents on his desk. “These will give you Noah’s Ark,” she said softly.
She stepped back as he pushed off the front of his desk and walked around to sit, neither of them looking at the other.
He pulled the documents closer and retrieved a pen from the holder.
As he took a breath and lowered the pen closer to the page, she filled with such sadness. She looked up to the ceiling, hoping that would stop the tears. Unsuccessful.
She sniffled. Swallowing the last of her pride, she began her good-bye.
“I love you Noah. I would love nothing more than to have what we found. What I thought we found. I thought I could fool myself, y’know. I thought working here would be enough. And, it’s not. I had no idea it would hurt to see you. Hurt to want what I can’t have.” She lifted her head to face him.
He was now looking so intently at her, it was almost frightening, pen still hovering above the signature line.
“And, to be honest,” she went on, “it was all real to me.” She lowered her gaze and then back up. “I feel like I’m losing a part of myself here Noah. What I feel is so intense. The girl I was, I don’t know, maybe couldn’t handle it. But, I’m not her anymore Noah. She died in that accident. I like who I am now Noah. The woman I found within me that you brought out. I don’t want to be who I was ever again. I wish I knew what happened to cause me to change so much, but it’s probably best I don’t. I don’t know. I just feel as though I’ve been a bird with broken wings. But, I’ll never fly if I don’t try. I’m ready to fly again Noah.”
He continued looking at her, eyes wide.
He dropped the pen from his left hand and pushed away from the desk, walked toward her, continuing his intense glare.
She was taken aback by it. As though he were looking at a complete stranger.
He stood before her. The bewilderment in his eyes as they looked into hers almost scaring her.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“Haven’t you heard anything I just said?” Now she was getting angry. She’d just put her heart on the table and he was squashing it.
“No, seriously. What did you just say?”
“I’m ready to fly again?”
“Before that,” he said.
“I don’t want to be the old Eden again?”
He gestured with his head. “Before that.”
“I like who I am now?”
He rolled his neck. “No, before that.”
“Noah, this is hard enough. Please.” She turned to leave and he reached for her arm.
Her eyes met his.
“The beginning, what did you say?”
She swallowed. No, she couldn’t do this.
“Noah, please,” she whispered, lowering her head.
He took his other hand and lifted her by the chin with his thumb and forefinger. His eyes so bright. The sadness she’d seen in them earlier shadowed with something else.
His eyes drew her in. How she wanted to hate him. It would make this so much easier.
She looked into his pleading eyes and confessed again, “I love you Noah.”
Her soft whisper flowed through him like a warm tropical breeze.
“You love me,” he repeated as though he couldn’t believe he’d heard it. Hell, he didn’t believe he’d heard it the first time, and yet she just repeated it.
“Noah, please,” she begged him with her words and her eyes. “I can’t go back. I wouldn’t even if I could. I’m sorry.”
“You. Love. Me,” he said again.
She looked at him as though he’d grown another head or something.
“Noah, I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want to know…”
His hand slid to her nape, feeling that secret shudder of hers, bringing a smile to his face. “I’ve been waiting years to hear you tell me that,” he told her.
She crinkled her brows, shook her head slightly as she looked back at him. “It doesn’t matter,” she whispered.
“Are you kidding?” he asked back.
“Noah, you love your wife.” She pulled away. “I read it in my journals. You’d tell me, her all the time. I’m not her,” she pled her case.
“No, you’re not,” he affirmed, reaching for her again.
She tried to pull free, but he was having none of it.
“I did tell you. Every chance I could.”
“But, you haven’t since the accident,” she said.
“I was afraid to,” he confessed. “But, you are right about one thing. I don’t love you like I did her.”
A tear escaped and slid down her cheek. “Noah, please. Let me go.”
She needed to get away.
“I haven’t said anything because every time I did before the accident, you’d tell me you didn’t love me.”
That took her by surprise. “I what?”
Taking her lead, he decided honesty was the only way to go.
“I did love you back then Eden. But not how I should have.”
“You’re right. If I’d loved you, I’d have had faith. I’d have believed in you. Not listened to anyone else.”
“Noah, it doesn’t matter. Please,” she cried, trying to pull away.
“It does matter,” his soft voice caressed her ears. “But Honey, you didn’t make it easy.”
“I won’t go back there Noah,” she told him.
“You shut me out. Closed yourself off. That hurt like hell.” She opened her mouth to speak, and he used his thumbs at her chin to prevent her from speaking. “Uh uh. I know now it was because you were hurt. I wish I could’ve seen then what I do now. But, again, we were young.” His hands at the sides of her face as his thumbs caressed her jaw. “I do love the girl I married. But I love the woman you are now so much more.”
He smiled at the shocked look on her face. He brought his forehead to rest on hers.
“And I was afraid to tell you because it would have killed me to hear you say you didn’t love me.”
She half laughed, half cried. “Oh Noah, how’d we get here?”
“Babe I don’t care. All that matters is we are here. Now. Everything out in the open.”
Her eye lashes glistened from her unshed tears as they fluttered blinks to keep them at bay.
“I don’t know what to say,” she told him. “I thought you wanted what you had, what I’m not.”
“Baby, all I want right now is to kiss you.”
Her smile grew. “I’d like that.”
His hands angled her face as he gave her soft kisses. After a few of these too brief encounters, she whispered, “I thought you were going to kiss me,” she sighed.
Oh yeah, he loved this Eden.
She squealed when he wrapped his arms around her waist, picked her up and carried her over to the desk. She sat on the desk, scooted forward, settling him between her thighs.
She looked up into his eyes, the prettiest golden brown she knew she’d ever see. Her eyes and smile mischievous as she slid her hands up his chest. She caressed down the sides of his face. “Are you really here? Or am I just dreaming again?”
His smile wide. “Oh, I’m here Baby. I’m not going anywhere.”
She smiled. “My turn,” she cooed as she tugged him forward. She felt his shudder as her tongue slid along his lower lip before making full contact, drinking him in as though he were a lifeline.
He was instantly hard. His arms wrapped around her tightly, pulling her completely against him.
Oh yeah, this is gonna be good, she thought.
She squealed as his lips moved to the hollow near her ear. “I love you Eden. So very much,” he whispered before his tongue swirled her outer ear.
She pulled his lips from her, her breathing coming in short bursts. “I need you Noah.”
“Yes,” he hissed as he pulled her to the edge of the desk. “Let’s go home.”
She placed her hands on his chest again, that seductive smile back. “Noah, have we ever,” she nodded to the leather sofa in his office, “you know.”
“Here? In the office?”
She chewed on her lower lip and nodded.
“No,” he answered.
He felt her heat as she wrapped her legs behind him and snuggled in close to the bulge in his jeans. His moan telling her he wasn’t gonna last until they got home any more than she was.
She kissed his ear. “Let’s make some new memories, Noah.”
He answered her by scooping her up, her legs around his waist, as he carried her to the sofa. He set her down before making easy work of the snap and zipper on her jeans skirt. Panties and skirt torturously slow as he brought them down over her legs, past her calves. Over the five inch heeled oxfords.
“The shoes stay,” he told her as he tossed the clothes to the floor.
“Noah, please,” she giggled.
“Now who’s impatient?” he asked as he kissed up her legs. Nipping as he went.
He unbuttoned her sweater and thanked the heavens for the front clasp on her bra. Exposing her to him, he dipped his head, taking one aroused nipple in, swirling his tongue around the swollen bead. As he took the second nipple in his mouth, one hand plucked and teased the first. His other hand traveling lower. His thumb pad applying just the right amount of pressure to her most feminine spot as it swirled her bud.
Her head flung back, her hips bucking against him. She had seriously lost control of this seduction.
How he could torture her sensitive flesh and speak, she had no idea. “Are you coming Eden?”
She bucked and shuddered. “Yes, Noah! Please.”
“Memories, Eden,” he teased, “you want memories.”
“Yes, oh yes,” she sighed.
She knew what was coming as his mouth left her breasts and kissed down her stomach. But, when his mouth made contact, she burst into flames. As his fingers slid inside, she bucked uncontrollably.
“You’re so wet Baby,” he said, suckling harder.
“Come hard for me Eden,” he told her. “Let go.” His fingers finding that oh so sensitive spot inside.
She was lost to everything but this man. He didn’t have her on the planet any more.
“Noah,” she sighed. “My Noah.”
His heart burst at that moment. He was hers. Always had been. Always would be. And she was his.
“My Eden,” he sighed back as he began a trail of kisses up her body. His jeans falling away as he went.
He kissed her. Neither held back an ounce of emotion.
“How do you want me, Eden?” he asked, holding himself above her.
“Slow,” she purred. “Nice and slow.”
He placed his tip at her opening, watched her eyes turn black with passion. “I love you Eden.”
This is what had been missing. As he slid into her deliciously slow, his head slowly descending upon hers, her mind filled with an onslaught of memories. Times like these. No anger. No walls. Just heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul lovemaking.
“I love you more,” she whispered just before his lips claimed hers and he filled her completely. So very much more.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” he whispered.
“Shut up and make love to me Noah.”
And he did. Being with her, he knew he was home.
Noah sat on the sofa in his office the next morning and just watched her sleep. Her head on his chest, her hand at his heart. He startled at the sound of the office front door unlocking. He and Eden had spent the night in his office, making love on that leather sofa countless times. Talking and reconnecting between while they caught their breath.
Sometime around two in the morning, he’d ordered a pizza. The remnants of that still on the corner table, along with a couple of beer bottles and her diet soda can. For a few hours, this had been their sanctum. Their place to heal.
He looked down, saw her sleeping still on his bare chest, and kissed her crown as he gently rose to head off the unwelcome visitor.
“Noah?” Mac called out after entering.
Noah covered her naked body, well except for the shoes he asked her to keep on. He grabbed his tee shirt and was yanking that over his head when he met up with Mac at his office door, keeping him from coming inside.
“Hey Mac,” Noah greeted, tucking his shirt into his jeans.
“When you weren’t answering your phone, I got worried,” Mac told him.
Mac looked past Noah’s shoulder and saw the last thing he’d expected. Pizza box, beer bottles, and what was obviously a naked woman sleeping on his sofa. Her body covered and only her legs showing, including the heels.
“Oh Noah,” Mac sighed disapprovingly and turning away.
Noah followed him out of the office and closed his office door partially. “Mac,”
“I told you, don’t do something you’re gonna regret.”
Noah caught on to what Mac was thinking. He smiled. “I don’t regret anything.”
“C’mon Noah, when you said you had to exorcise…” Mac paced, rubbing along his thinning hair at the top of his head. “Where’d you pick her up?”
“Really Mac, you don’t understand.”
“Oh I understand alright. So how is this exactly going to help you with your dilemma?”
“I don’t have a dilemma. Anymore.”
“Yeah. Sex cleared that right on up now didn’t it?” Mac shot back.
Noah’s door opened, and Eden sleepily came out, wrapped only in the throw blanket from his office. Her hair tussled from sleep and other activities. She held the throw around her tightly with one hand, rubbing her eyes with the other. And Noah wanted to take her again right then and there.
Mac turned and started with the shoes and made his way up along long legs that ended upper thigh where the blanket started covering. Noah smirked at the appreciation he noticed in Mac’s inspection, also aware he didn’t know who she was yet.
“Mac?” Eden sleepily called.
“Mrs. C?” Mac almost spit out his teeth in surprise.
She used her free hand to try to calm her hair. No use. “Oh, this must look interesting,” she said.
“Not as interesting as Mac looking you over just now, but yeah,” Noah piped in.
“You two… Uh, worked things out then?”
Eden snuggled in close to Noah, who draped his arm over her shoulders, kissing her crown.
“Mac, I’m taking Eden home. It’s been a rather long night and I think we could both use a little more …”
“Sleep,” she smiled.
Mac blushed, causing Eden to giggle.
Eden stepped over to Mac and kissed his cheek, “Thanks for being there for Noah, Mac.”
Mac bristled. Uncomfortable with all this. “Sure.”
She turned to Noah, “Let me go clear out Abby. Stop by the townhouse in about an hour.”
Noah leaned forward and kissed her, “I’ll give you an hour and a half. She is not going to be happy.”
“Too bad,” Eden said before turning and winking at Mac and retreating into Noah’s office to get dressed.
Noah was overtired and on top of the world. Trisha had come in and he gave her instructions for the day, which included only getting a hold of him or Eden in an extreme emergency. He also told her to begin looking into options for new signage for the building. He chuckled as he remembered the shocked look on Trisha’s face when he told her Paradise Designs, House of Eden would be added to her receptionist duties and that Eden was the owner.
The minutes just didn’t pass quickly enough. He was anxious to share the news with his son that they were finally going to be a family again. They’d arranged for him to move into the townhouse while the new house was completed. Ashton and his wife were due to move into the old house next week.
He sat at his desk and read over the contract he almost signed last night. He realized by reading it how close he came to losing her completely. She was not only giving him her shares of Noah’s Ark, but breaking any and all ties between the Ark and Paradise Designs. He tore the contracts into pieces.
He reached into his desk drawer and took out the velvet box. He smiled before closing the ring inside and putting it in his pocket. Today was a new day. He was getting his family back. His best friend. And he wasn’t ever going to let her go again.
He used the key she’d given him to the townhouse and let himself in. The place was eerily quiet. He smelled freshly brewed coffee and made his way toward it.
He heard soft sounds coming from upstairs. He leaned in the doorframe of her bedroom and smiled. She’d just gotten out of the shower and was rummaging for clothes.
She caught sight of him out of the corner of her eye and shrieked. “Noah! You scared me half to death!”
“Just admiring the view,” he said back before taking a sip of coffee.
She stood there, completely naked. Not a shameful look about her. She’d been so unsure of herself their first time around. Not comfortable in a body that made his knees weak.
“I am not putting the heels on,” she teased as she found panties and slid them on.
He set his mug down on the top of the dresser and walked to her. He wrapped his arms around her and drew her close.
“Have I told you I love you in the past five minutes?” he asked.
“No,” she cooed as she traced his jaw with her finger. “But, I love you so I’ll let the delinquency pass.”
He chuckled before lowering his mouth to hers. Taking her breath away.
While Morgan was in pre-school, they worked on moving some of his things to the townhouse. Everything else would be put into storage until moving into the house.
Abby had left and gone home, not happy with the news. Michelle had kept Morgan overnight and took him to pre-school promising to pick him up for them.
Both felt a weight lifted and an easiness at being together they hadn’t felt before. As Noah unpacked in the master bedroom, Eden worked on a special dinner where they could tell Morgan.
Noah watched her put their dinner in the oven and set the timer before he walked up behind Eden at the stove, unnoticed by her. He slid is arms around her waist and snuggled in at her neck.
“Eden, before Morgan gets home,” he began and waited a silent moment.
She looked at him over her shoulder. “What?” she laughed at his nervousness. “He’s going to be fine Noah.”
She turned around and was taken aback by his serious demeanor. “Noah?”
His hands at her waist, he lifted her to sit on the counter. Her face playful in contrast to his nervous expression.
She hadn’t noticed him reach into his pocket and was surprised to see the velvet box he lifted into her view. Opening it, he looked at her and asked, “Marry me Eden.”
The emerald shining back at her was beautiful. Did a gem sparkle that much?
“It’s beautiful Noah,” she barely got the words through her tightened throat.
He took the ring out of the box and lifted her hand.
“I can’t,” she said just before he could slip it on.
He froze. Surely he didn’t just hear. And then he looked into her eyes. She was shaking her head no.
Now it was her turn to be nervous. She jumped down from the counter and walked around her kitchen, Noah watching her in stunned disbelief. She’d just said no to his proposal.
So much for letting happiness in for a while.
“Noah, I can’t marry you,” she repeated.
“Why the hell not?”
He wasn’t liking this at all.
“It wouldn’t be … legal,” she answered.
“Eden, why wouldn’t it be legal?” he asked cautiously. “When we talk to Morgan, and tell him we’re a family, I’d like to not be lying to him.”
“Well, we won’t be lying, exactly.”
He reached for her arm and turned her to face him. “Eden?”
She closed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. “Noah, I’m sorry. I know I should’ve told you, but it just kept getting … complicated.”
“Eden,” his patience wearing thin. “Tell me what?”
“We’re kinda still married,” she told him before taking her bottom lip between her teeth, waiting for his reaction.
He released his hold on her and the breath he’d been holding. “Okay, so we … wait a minute, what d’you mean we’re kinda still married?” He just watched her. “You didn’t file the papers I signed? Or it isn’t final yet?”
“Um, Noah, about those papers…”
“Eden…” he dragged her name out.
He followed her as she made her way to the bedroom. After searching the lock box she had in her closet, she took out the legal documents and handed them to him.
He read them over and then lifted his head to look at her.
“They’re not divorce papers,” she told him.
“I can see that! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I-I-I was going to. That night in your office, you weren’t supposed to show up. I was going to get Lawrence’s shares and then come back to the house and talk to you.”
He remembered her saying she needed to talk.
“Go on,” he encouraged.
“Well, you started saying things that I didn’t appreciate. Accusing me of things and well, when you thought you were signing divorce papers I just didn’t correct you.”
“Where are the divorce papers?” he asked.
“You have them. I guess.”
He paced in thought. And, now that he thought about it, he never wondered how she got the divorce papers to his office in anticipation of his arrival to sign them. Looking back, the event seemed too perfect and choreographed.
“I heard you,” he said as he continued pacing and thinking. “On the phone with Lawrence. Making plans to meet in my office that night.”
“Oh Noah, you weren’t supposed to know anything about that. I was going to get those shares from him and then come back to the house and tell you everything. About Paradise Designs, working with you, and an added bonus of Larry admitting there was no affair.”
He was deep in thought. He lifted his eyes to look into hers. “You weren’t going to ask for a divorce that night?”
“No! My plan was to fix things and move back to the house.”
He did a double take. “You were coming back to me that night?”
“Yeah. Only you started in with your lack of trust and assumed the worst, so I changed my mind.”
“So, if I hadn’t shown up at the office that night…”
“And assumed things that weren’t there,” she interjected.
“You were coming home?”
“Yeah. And we wouldn’t have had to pretend for your family over the holidays,” she said.
“I wasn’t pretending Eden.”
“Well, I wasn’t either, but still…”
“What’s so funny?” she asked.
“All this time, we were both fighting the inevitable.”
“Noah, I think we needed to go through all of this. If I’d have come back then, you’d have still been waiting for the old me to return, I would’ve still been unsure how you really felt,”
“Feel,” he corrected as he stepped closer.
“Feel,” she repeated. “And, Lorraine’s role in all of this would never have come to light. Maybe it happened so we could both grow up a little and see things for what they are.”
He now stood close, pulling her into an embrace. “I think you’re too smart for both of us, Eden.” He smiled and kissed the tip of her nose. “But an exclusive contract?”
“Noah, I’d been working with Noah’s Ark in secret for three years. I wanted it out in the open. That’s why I moved into Larry’s office. And then you had to go and start in with meeting the designer…”
“Who I knew was you when I asked by the way.”
She slapped at his shoulder. And then she smiled. “I guess we both had our way of feeling things out,” she said.
“But, I still want to marry you Eden,” he told her.
“We’re already married,” she deadpanned.
“No, I want to marry this Eden. The Eden you want to be and I want to be with.”
She wiggled her eyebrows at him. “I like that idea. So, yes Noah Carrington, I’ll marry you.”
He kissed her as the front door boomed open and Morgan came racing up the stairs. Noah let go of Eden just in time to catch his son flying through the air.
“Daddy!” Morgan wrapped his arms tightly around Noah’s neck. “Are you home now Daddy?”
“Yeah Buddy, Daddy’s home.”
He hugged both of them close. Looked like Morgan figured out all on his own they were a family. And right now Eden didn’t want to be anywhere else but in the envelope of her two men.
Noah’s Ark and Paradise Designs were bustling the three weeks that had passed. Now that Eden was able to conduct her business openly, Noah had the chance to see her in action. She was amazing. It wasn’t uncommon to find her back on the site at the senior housing when he’d arrive going over blueprints with his crews and instructing the needs she had.
Applications for the units within the senior housing were coming in faster than anyone had anticipated. The senators had a real win on their hands. A feather in their cap for the upcoming re-election.
Eden also made daily trips to the house getting her designs started. She hired on an additional apprentice to assist her with creating their new home.
Mac was standing at Trisha’s desk when Eden walked past them into Noah’s office.
“Noah, I need to have a meeting with you,” she said as she walked into his office.
Noah was frantically looking for papers on his desk.
“Eden, Mac and I need to get to the site,” he told her, not stopping his search. “The senators are bringing some sort of media crew out and we need to make sure everything’s ready.”
“Five minutes,” she said.
Noah stopped searching, stood straight and turned to face her. “Is there a problem with the project?” he asked, totally confused by her nervous demeanor.
“Everything okay with Morgan?”
“Can it wait until we get back in a few hours?” he further probed.
“I’d rather it didn’t.”
Noah stepped past her to speak to Mac. “Mac, can you give us a few minutes?”
Noah turned and walked back into his office, leaving his door ajar.
Noah leaned against the front of his desk, Eden standing before him. “Eden?” he called when she remained silent.
She took in a breath, bringing her hands from behind her back. With trembling hands, she presented him with a bracelet jewelry box.
He gave her a cautious look as he took the box from her hands. His mind searching desperately for an occasion he’d forgotten, coming up empty. It wasn’t their anniversary. His birthday wasn’t for another nine months. They’d renewed their vows two weeks ago. What was he missing?
As he lifted the lid, he saw her chewing on her bottom lip. Beneath the cotton was a pregnancy test. With two very distinct pink lines.
He looked at this silently a moment before lifting his gaze to meet hers.
“Are you angry?”
“Angry?” his voice sounding angry, though he was really in shock. “How did this happen?”
Mac looked to Trisha. “Is everything alright here?”
Trisha shrugged. “She’s been a bit antsy all morning.”
Eden paced tight circles before him, chewing on her thumb nail. Softly, she answered, “I haven’t had a birth control shot since before the accident.” She looked at him with pleading eyes. “You know I don’t like shots Noah.”
“You stopped the shots?” He couldn’t believe his ears.
“We were separated when I was due, and I really didn’t need them then,” she rambled on.
He looked at the test he now held in his hand. “When?” he asked, not able to look at her.
“I just took the test. Ten minutes ago.”
“That night in your office?” she sheepishly responded. She stepped forward to stand before him. “Noah, I’m sorry. I know we’re just starting out again. I didn’t mean to …”
He silenced her with a kiss. Taking her by surprise. When she melted into him, he held her to him.
When he ended the kiss, she just looked at him. “You’re not angry?”
“Oh Baby, no.” He kissed her again. “This is great news.”
Mac peeked into the office. He smiled at the sight of their embrace, seeing the test in Noah’s hand. He silently closed the door and told Trisha to have Noah meet up with him at the site. He also told her they were in an intense meeting and probably would be best not to disturb them before smiling and leaving the office.
Noah managed to stop kissing her long enough to just look at her. He held her close, caressing hair back from her face.
Suddenly he stepped back. Grasping her hand he led her to the sofa and made her sit.
“Are you feeling alright?” he asked, sounding a little panicky.
She laughed. “Noah, I’m fine.”
“Are you nauseous? Dizzy?”
“I feel fine,” she reported.
Now he paced. “Okay, we’ll need to adjust your schedule. You’ll need to rest.”
She stood and walked over to him, surprising him when she stopped his pacing.
“Noah, we have been through this before.”
All he could think of were her journal entries of the miscarriage. She looked fine. Not pale like then. Clues he should’ve seen and didn’t.
He guided her back to the sofa, sitting down next to her.
His nervous state at the news was humorous for her. “Noah, I’m not a china doll.”
“Pregnant. Close enough.”
“Tell me you weren’t like this when I was pregnant with Morgan.”
No. “Yes,” he lied.
“Well, then you’re going to have to change that routine. This will drive me crazy the next nine months!”
His hands cupped her head and he kissed her softly. “It’ll drive me crazy if I don’t take care of you the next nine months,” he confessed.
His concern warmed her heart. She lifted her hand to his cheek. “Noah…”
“Eden, you had internal injuries from the accident. What if…”
She put her fingers at his mouth, silencing him. “Then, I find out from the doctor. Don’t go jumping the gun.”
Noah stood and began his way to the door. “Let me tell Trisha to clear our calendars.”
“Noah!” she called. When he turned to face her, she continued. “I’ll make an appointment for later this week.”
“Make one for this afternoon.”
She stood and walked over to him. “Noah, please don’t do this,” she sadly plead.
His hands rubbed up and down her biceps. “Do what?”
She looked down. “Why is it so hard for us to have babies?”
Did she remember?
“Baby, I just want to make sure everything’s okay.”
She looked up to meet his gaze. “Please don’t push me away, Noah.”
He furrowed his brows in confusion.
Her hands rest at his chest. “Noah, I’ll be fine. I love working with you. Please, sending me home isn’t going to make me happy.”
He hadn’t thought of that.
“I’m not sending you home. I’d just like you to take it easy.”
“Noah, we’re going to have another beautiful baby. But, you can’t wrap me in bubble wrap any more than I can with Morgan. I’m fine. The baby will be fine. You’ll be fine.”
“I’ll be exhausted,” he joked back.
“Noah, seriously. You’ll know when I sneeze, go to the bathroom, hiccup before I do with how I know you’ll have everyone keeping an eye on me.”
He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. “I was thinking of the other side effect you have with pregnancy,” he said huskily.
“Okay, the other side effect.”
“What side effect would that be?”
He kissed her neck and felt her pulse race. “The one where you can’t get enough of me,” he whispered in her ear.
His lips were getting her all excited and warm in intimate places. “I think that’s just normal,” she sighed.
“Trust me,” he said softly.
“Oh Baby,” she sighed as his lips softly swam about her neck.
“Toldja,” he said with a smile before kissing her.
Their kiss was the most tender, love filled he’d ever felt. Her hand softly at his cheek, the softness of it filling him.
“Noah?” Mac’s voice came through the walkie on Noah’s belt.
He ignored Mac. All he wanted was to hold her as close to him as possible.
“Noah! You there?”
They both softly laughed as they broke free from their kiss. Noah removed the phone from his holster and brought it to his mouth, still holding her close.
“Yeah,” Noah answered hoarsely.
Eden was doing delicious things with kisses at his neck.
“You on your way?” Mac asked.
Instead of answering, Noah’s mouth returned to hers.
After being ignored a while longer, Mac’s voice came through again. “C’mon guys. Break it up. We got senators coming.” A pause. “Guys?”
Eden reached for the phone. Looking lovingly at Noah, she pressed the button. “Mac, we’re on our way.”
“Finally, someone of reason,” Mac answered.
Eden laughed before pulling away and entering her office, Noah following.
Once inside her office, she retrieved the file with the papers he’d been frantically looking for moments before.
“Noah, you asked me to look them over yesterday,” she answered. She took a deep breath before smiling at him. “Now, let’s get to the site. The senators are waiting.”
“Oh no, you aren’t going!”
“I’m going to be there to represent Paradise Designs.” She waved him off. “I’m leaving now Noah. You coming?”
He followed her out of the office. Trisha watched as Noah caught up to her.
“Eden,” he had that warning tone.
She stopped, again cupping his cheek in her hand. “I love you Noah,” she sighed and kissed him softly.
When their lips parted, he gave her the look of defeat and smiled. “You know I always give in to you.”
“As it should be,” she called over her shoulder at him as she laughed and made her way to his truck.
Eden sat at Mrs. Walker’s dining table. The woman had moved into the first unit at the senior housing three months ago and invited Eden in for tea whenever she saw her on the grounds to the second complex that had recently begun.
With the first units filling up quickly and many applications still on hold, Noah’s Ark was busy making another hundred and sixty unit building.
“Are you feeling alright dear?” Mrs. Walker asked when Eden hadn’t touched her homemade cookies.
“Oh, I’m fine Edith. Just a little queasy today. Must have been something I ate.”
“How long have you felt like this?” Edith asked.
“Since before dinner last night. I’m sure it’s nothing.”
The older woman smiled before excusing herself.
Edith approached someone on Noah’s crew outside. “Young man, can you tell me if that handsome Mr. Carrington is around today?”
“Yeah, he’s over there.”
Edith followed in the direction he’d pointed.
Eden and Noah had both been warmly welcomed into the Walker’s lives, as well as a few others who’d moved in.
Noah was making notations on blueprints when Mrs. Walker stepped closer to him.
“Noah,” she softly called.
As always, he gave her his charming smile as he looked at her over his shoulder. “Hey Edith,” he greeted. “What brings you out here today?” he asked before going back to making his note.
“I think you should come to my place,” she answered.
Noah stood straight and turned to face her, giving her his undivided attention.
“Something not working?” he asked. He’d done a couple of adjustments on things for them since they’d moved in.
“Oh no,” she brushed that off. “I do believe you need to get your wife to the hospital.”
That got his attention. “Eden’s here?”
“Oh, now calm yourself Noah. She’s in my dining room right now. She’s in labor.”
“What?” Noah had that panicked tone.
Edith reached for his arm and made eye contact. “Son, she doesn’t know it herself. You need to stay calm.”
This threw Noah. “She’s in labor and doesn’t know it?” he asked. “Are you sure?”
“Oh I’m sure. She’s been feeling like this since last night dear. I’d say you’d best get her to a hospital quickly.”
Just before walking back to the complex with Edith, Noah remembered he’d brought Morgan with him to the site and he was in the trailer taking a nap. Eden had gone to bed early last night saying she didn’t feel well. He’d brought Morgan with him so she could have one less thing to worry on. Now what was he supposed to do with Morgan?
Mac and a few others standing by had heard Mrs. Walker.
“Noah, we can take Morgan back to the office for you. I’ll call Trisha and have her get the sitter on site as quickly as possible.”
“No!” Noah exclaimed. “Wait. My folks are here. Can one of you get him to the house?”
“No problem,” Mac answered, chuckling at Noah’s building anxiety before turning to one of his crew. “Greg! Got an errand for you to run.”
As Noah walked with Edith, he quickly called his house.
“Mom, is Dad there?”
“Well, of course he’s here dear. Where else would he be?”
“Mom, I need to talk to Dad.”
“Oh, don’t ruffle your feathers Noah,” his mother rambled on. “John, Noah needs to speak to you,” she called out to her husband.
“Noah, is everything alright?”
Noah really wanted to let his father give her the news that Eden was in labor. They’d arrived last week in anticipation of their new grandchild and his mother would be beside herself with excitement. Time he didn’t have at the moment.
“Everything’s fine Mom,” he answered tightly.
“Oh my goodness! Eden’s having the baby, isn’t she?”
“John! The baby’s coming!”
“Where are you Noah? Are you at the hospital? Is the baby here?”
Noah needed to rein in his mother. She’d been waiting years for this.
“Mom,” he called to her more calmly. “I need to get Eden to the hospital. I’m calling to let you know one of the guys here is bringing Morgan to the house.”
“Alright, we’ll look for him to come.”
“Now what are you standing around talking to me for? Get my daughter-in-law to the hospital!”
Noah shook his head and chuckled to himself. “Bye Mom.”
Edith and Noah walked into the apartment to find Edith’s husband and Eden visiting. Henry’s Alzheimers was progressing and he remained silent most of the time. He’d taken a particular shine to Eden and would chat up a storm with her.
“Noah? What are you doing here?” Eden asked when she saw him.
Noah got an encouraging look from Edith before he walked over to Eden.
“Eden, how are you feeling today?”
Eden shrugged. “My stomach’s just upset. I’ll be fine.”
Noah had squat down before her, holding her hands in his as he looked into her eyes.
“Why aren’t you at home?” he asked.
“Noah,” she sighed, “I love Beatrice, really I do. But, she’s hovering.”
Noah chuckled. “She just wants to take care of you,” he told her, his hand cupping the side of her face.
“I know, but … I don’t know. I just felt like I couldn’t sit still.”
“Have you eaten anything today?”
“I’m just not feeling hungry today.”
Noah stood and pulled at her hands to get her to do the same. “Come with me.”
“Babe, your due date was two days ago. Let’s just make sure everything’s okay.”
“But, I’m telling you it’s nothing.”
He gave her that sidelong glance that always got to her. “Eden, let me win one. Please.”
Eden saw something in his eyes, but his voice was so calm. “Alright,” she answered cautiously.
Just before they reached the apartment door, Eden suddenly stopped. “Oh!” She’d pulled her hand from his and cradled her swollen belly with both hands.
“That was weird,” she said.
“The baby’s been really quiet the past few days. That was one heckuva kick.”
“Eden, let’s get you to the hospital.”
She looked at him wide-eyed. “Noah, you don’t think…”
He remembered when she was pregnant with Morgan. Three days before she delivered, Morgan settled down. The doctor said that was normal as the baby got ready for the birthing process. Noah just didn’t know how much time he had.
“Let’s just see what the doctor says.” He pulled her along toward his pickup in the parking lot.
“And, you’re sure I didn’t have drugs with Morgan?” she huffed through her latest contraction.
“Not a one,” Noah told her, kissing the side of her face.
“And I survived, right?” she laughed. “Of course I survived, I’m doing this again aren’t I?”
“You’re doing great Mrs. Carrington,” the nurse encouraged.
“And I let you talk me into this again, why?” she asked then grunted as another hard contraction hit.
She hadn’t remembered anything. Dr. Miller assured them, if it happened, she shouldn’t have any problem accepting them.
“It’s amazing how mothers say, even shortly after the birth, they don’t even remember this part,” the nurse said, causing them both to laugh.
“You have no idea,” Eden said.
“It wasn’t my fault,” Noah told her. “You’re the one who wanted to you know in the office that night.”
The nurse gave them a curious look and Eden hid her face in the hollow of his neck.
“She’s shy,” Noah told the nurse.
“Stop!” Eden hit at his shoulder, still burying her face. He chuckled and held her close.
“Until you decide you want to you know in another room,” he teased her more.
She peeked out at him, seeing the nurse had left them alone for a moment. “I’m so going to get even with you for this,” she warned.
“I’m counting on it.”
Two hours later, it was close to meeting their new family member.
“Where’s Morgan?” she asked.
“Mom’s got him at the house,” he answered.
He knew what she was doing. Concentrating on something else besides the pain.
“You know she’s spoiling him as we speak,” Eden said.
“I have no doubt,” Noah agreed.
The hospital was abuzz with three new babies arriving at the same time. Eden’s doctor had another patient in the next room and prayed they both wouldn’t deliver at the very same time. Eden just wanted this over with.
Noah’s first order of business was letting Morgan know he was a big brother. The next was giving his mother the news.
“Oh Noah,” his mother cried. “How’s Eden?”
“She did great, Mom.”
“And the baby?”
“She’s great too,” Noah answered emotionally.
“I want details.”
Noah took in a breath. Seeing his daughter for the first time hit him hard. Handing her to Eden after cutting the cord was a moment he’d never forget.
“Rowan is beautiful. All five-pounds, six ounces of her.”
“Oh Noah,” Beatrice’s voice cracked with emotion.
“Yeah,” he agreed.
After calling Trisha, who sent a text message to the entire team, he made his way through the hospital corridor back to her room. He was exhausted and euphoric at the same time.
He entered Eden’s room to find her sitting up in bed and nursing Rowan. He approached the side of the bed, lowering the rail and sitting down next to her, his arm draped behind her. As he looked at the two, he realized just how well their names suited them. Eden, a place of delight. Rowan, little red-headed one. And his heart felt as though it would explode in his chest.
“She’s a delicate eater,” he said, watching the new baby he’d just given a first bath to an hour ago.
“You don’t think there’s something wrong do you?” she asked panicky. “You said Morgan was a healthy eater.”
Noah smiled. “She’s fine.” He watched Eden nervously bite her bottom lip.
He reached down and began unswaddling his daughter. Man she was tiny in just the hospital tee shirt and diaper.
“Noah, what are you doing? She’ll get cold.”
“Go ahead,” he said. “You know you want to.”
Her right hand came up and inspected her new daughter. Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes.
“See, I told you she’s fine.”
Noah brought his hand to his daughter’s. He startled when Rowan grabbed his finger and held on tight, bringing it with her as she snuggled in to her mother.
“Oh, I get it,” he whispered.
Eden looked at him, “Get what?”
Noah leaned closer to Eden. “She wants me closer to you.”
“And, she’s got a grip,” he chuckled.
“So, you’re saying she’s already got you wrapped around her finger?” Eden teased.
His daughter might as well have her tiny hand around his heart. He thought for sure he’d explode from all the love he felt there.
He leaned down and kissed Eden’s neck. Her quick intake of breath filled his heart even more.
“Just like her mommy,” Noah whispered, butterfly kisses driving her insane.
“Oh Noah,” she sighed.
“It’s going to kill me to not be with you for the next six weeks,” he muttered.
Her right arm came up and looped around his neck, bringing his lips to hers. She knew she was teasing when she slid her tongue inside, the vibration of his moan filling her.
“You are a torturous woman,” he said once she released her hold on him.
“Happy birthday Noah,” she said softly.
He’d totally forgotten his birthday was the next day. All he could do in return was smile.
A short time later, Noah was coming back from the cafeteria. His steps slowed as he saw Lawrence walking toward him in the corridor.
“Larry?” he called out to him.
“How’d you know we had the baby today?” they asked each other in unison.
They both laughed.
“Holly had the baby today?”
“Yeah. Man I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
“Tell me about it. Something so small that takes forever to get here.”
“I’m talking about the c-section.”
“Is she alright?” Noah asked.
“Sore, but okay. After thirty-six hours of labor, the doctor said we didn’t have a choice. He wasn’t coming out any other way.”
Noah wrapped his friend in a hug. “Congrats Buddy!”
“Back atcha. So, what’d you guys…?”
“Larry, she’s gorgeous.”
“Ah, a little princess.” Larry said. “Can you believe how small they are?” Larry asked, still coming to terms with being a dad.
“Can you believe they delivered on the same day?” Noah asked back.
“Who’d have thought they’d get that close?” Larry laughed, Noah joining in.
Holly and Eden had bonded throughout their pregnancies together. Larry and Holly married two days before Noah and Eden renewed their vows. It was how they all assumed they’d be as the original foursome.
“Holy shit, man. Can you believe I’m a dad?” Larry asked.
“I can believe it,” Noah answered, slapping him on the back. “Now you gonna introduce me to this little guy?”
Noah shook his head as they reached the door to Holly’s room.
“What?” Larry asked.
“Eden’s room is across the hall,” Noah gestured with his head to the closed door directly across from them.
“The girls aren’t gonna believe this,” Larry said as he opened the door.
“Somehow, I think they are,” Noah said as they walked in and there was Eden in Holly’s room. Eden had showered and cleaned up and looked nothing like a woman who’d just given birth three short hours ago.
Eden’s face lit up when she looked at Noah. Took his breath away. He walked over and sat next to her on the visitor sofa while Larry went to his wife, kissing her cheek and making funny faces at his son.
“Larry, congratulations,” Eden said. She giggled at his embarrassed smile back. “You got yourself a big boy there.”
Noah looked first at Eden, then to Larry and Holly, who was holding the boy. He stood and walked over, also giving Holly a kiss on the cheek.
Noah looked at their son then to Larry. “You’ve got a football player here, Buddy.”
“What are you talkin’ about? Look how small he is?”
Larry lifted the swaddled infant, and in his large hands the baby did look small.
“Larry, he’s ten pounds two ounces. Ain’t nothing small about him,” Holly chimed in, causing Noah and Eden to chuckle.
“Well, I think Nathaniel Allen Larson is small,” Larry said.
Noah could only imagine how disappointed Larry’s father would be at not getting Lawrence the fourth. But, Larry was tired of living in his father’s shadow.
Eden stood next to Larry and looked at the boy. “He’s beautiful Larry,” she said, kissing his cheek.
Larry took a peek at the pink swaddled bundle in her arms. Rowan was wide awake and looking at Larry with the darkest eyes he’d ever seen and hair that matched her mother’s. “Holy shit Eden. She’s gorgeous.”
“Lawrence Allen Larson!” Holly scolded.
“Sorry,” he sheepishly apologized for cursing.
“Do you want to hold her?” Eden asked him.
“She’s so little,” he commented then looked at Eden. “Just like her mama.”
Larry handed Nathaniel to Noah before accepting Rowan from Eden.
His daughter looked even smaller in Larry’s arms. They’d all been through so much, but they were now closer than ever. For all the hell they’d all been put through, it only made them stronger in the end.
“Eden, you wanna hold Nate?” Larry asked her.
“Uh, Larry. She has weight lifting restrictions,” Noah joked.
They all laughed.
Eden shook her head. The sight of these two best friends holding their children was something she wanted to remember.
Larry stepped closer to Noah. “Hey Buddy,” Larry cooed to his son. “Someday, you’re gonna marry this girl here.”
“Larry,” Noah warned. “My daughter isn’t dating until she’s twenty-five.”
Holly and Eden sat back and watched the bantering.
“Who said anything about dating? Let’s write up the marriage contract now.”
“Larry,” Noah elongated his name. “Keep it up and I’ll lock her up until she’s thirty-five.”
Larry winked at Eden. “If she’s anything like her mama, you are gonna have your hands full man.”
Eden shyly looked down, but not before her gaze connected with Noah’s.
“That’s it,” Noah said. “Rowan’s becoming a nun.”
They all laughed at that. If Rowan was anything like her mother, he’d be beating the boys away with a stick in pre-school.