“Are you sure you’re OK?” Julian caressed Eve’s hand as they sat at the little table in the Heavenly Trails kitchen. He had kept vigil over her the entire night, waking her up every hour, on the hour. He knew a heavenly hand had been at work, helping him stay awake all night to watch over his lady love…that, and the sheer will of his heart, which was overflowing with love for the woman of his dreams.
“I am feeling much better,” Eve declared, fingering her cup of hot tea. She had insisted on going down to the kitchen, against Julian’s better wishes. They formed a compromise…Julian would take Eve downstairs, once Dr. Bradley checked her out and gave the OK. The doctor pronounced Eve out of danger that morning on his visit, but made her promise to see her own physician when she went back to town. Julian decided to let her rest another day at Heavenly Trails. He had the ski resort closed for the weekend anyway, so they had the entire place to themselves, with just the skeleton crew of workers to help care for them.
“You know, maybe you should go back upstairs now, to get some rest. I can have Wendy fix you a nice little breakfast in bed.”
“Now, Julian, I am fine, really. I feel a little weak, but Dr. Bradley said that was normal. I am not really hungry at all right now…my stomach is a little upset.”
“That doesn’t sound good, Eve!” Julian cried. “Maybe I should call Dr. Bradley.”
“No, Julian, it’s fine…sometimes, after a head injury, the whole body is affected. But the good news is, it was only a slight concussion. And the hypothermia is long gone, thanks to all of your loving care last night.” She reached up and touched his cheek.
Julian smiled. He placed his hand over hers and massaged her fingers. He couldn’t be happier, knowing the love of his life was all right…that she would be just fine. “You know you scared me to death last night, Eve. I don’t know what I would have done…”
“Awww, honey, I’m sorry. If I could go back and do things over, I would have called before I left the hospital…”
“Oh, Eve, I am not mad at you. I was just so worried. Seeing you lying in the snow like that…hearing your cries. I never want to go through anything like that again! I can’t stand seeing you in pain. It kills me.”
Eve dabbed at the tear escaping his left eye. Julian brought her hand down to his lips and kissed it. She smiled at him. Then she lowered her hand and her eyes to her cup of tea once more. “Julian…” she began, “I know there are things you want to ask…things you need to know.”
“Eve, that can wait until you are stronger. I don’t need to know anything right now. Just that you’re safe. That’s all I care about.”
She raised her head and looked him in the eye. “I know it is, and I love you for it. But I want to tell you; I need to tell you.”
“All right, if you are sure that is what you want. But take your time, and if you need to go rest at any point, please tell me. The last thing I want is for you to have a setback.” He ran his fingers across her hand.
Eve nodded, closing her eyes for a second before she began. She opened them and drew in a deep breath. “I suppose you want to know where I have been this entire month, and exactly what went down between me and TC.”
Julian felt his face heat up upon hearing those last words.
Eve squinted. “Julian, what is it? Why do I have the feeling you’re hiding something?”
He drew in a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy. He rubbed his chin, pondering just how to break this to her. He figured he might as well come out with it…there would be no more secrets between him and Eve, not if he could help it. “Eve, I uh, I have a confession to make.”
Eve’s eyebrows arched as if to say, “All right, what did you do this time?” But the words that came out her mouth were simply, “What is it?”
Julian reached for her hand and caressed her fingers. Lowering his eyes, he decided to just come out with it. “I had your house bugged.”
Eve’s mouth dropped open and she withdrew her hand from Julian’s. “What?”
“Eve, let me explain. I…I couldn’t take the chance that TC might hurt you. I wanted to respect your wishes that you do this on your own, but there was no way I was going to leave you vulnerable to the wrath of that man’s temper.”
“So you bugged my house? You listened in on my very private conversation? Julian, how could you?”
“Eve, I know it was wrong, in a way, but I wasn’t going to let anything happen to you.”
“TC would never hurt me.”
“We don’t know that. Who’s to tell what he might do? The man loses control at the drop of a hat. This was far worse than anything he flew off the handle at before. I just…I couldn’t take that chance. I couldn’t lose you, Eve.”
Eve’s eyes softened at that last declaration. He could tell she understood. “I do know you were worried, Julian. But I just wish…I wish you had told me you would be listening in…”
“Darling, I knew you would never have gone for it then. And to be frank, I wasn’t the one eavesdropping.”
“I didn’t want to invade your privacy like that, Eve. I couldn’t because I had promised you I would step back and let you handle it. I paid people to listen in.”
“You had complete strangers eavesdrop on the most intense, personal conversation I ever had with my husband? Julian, how could you?”
Julian wiped his brow. “Eve, I thought…I thought you would accept that better than me listening in. These were professionals; they will be completely discreet. I only asked that they call me when the topic of conversation came up, and that they made sure you were safe. Once you left that night, and went to the hotel, then I knew you would be OK.”
Eve shook her head. The half smile on her face told him this crisis was about over. “Well, at least you didn’t have me followed for a month…”
Julian coughed. “Well, I…”
“Eve, I had to make sure you were safe. My men kept a respectful distance. Their only job was to make sure that no one hurt you. They weren’t spying on you so that I would know what you were up to. They just called me each night to let me know you were all right. Then I could sleep peacefully…as peacefully as possible without you by my side.” He reached for her hand again. Eve didn’t draw it back.
She sighed. “I know you were worried about my safety. I do, Julian. But I think you overreacted a little. TC would never hurt me.”
“And he didn’t, thank God. But if he had, I would never have forgiven myself. I had to do this, Eve. Just know that it was out of love. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep a wink for the entire month if I didn’t know you were safe and protected.”
Eve reached up and caressed his face. “I was thinking of myself so much that I forgot to think how you’d feel, how you were tortured too, by all of this.”
Julian kissed her hand. “I am just grateful that it is over now, and you are here with me, safe and healthy… Thank God I didn’t lose you last night.”
“You’re not going to lose me that easily, Julian.” She smiled. “But we still have to talk about what went down with TC. I don’t suppose they told you?”
He shook his hand. “Only that you told him, and that you were safe.”
Eve nodded. Her eyes teared up. “It was the worst night of my life, Julian. The very worst. It was two days after we got back from our ski trip. I couldn’t sleep either of those nights before. I knew I needed to get it over with, to tell TC the truth. My mind was already made up on what I was going to do. Deep down, I knew that. I knew, after the day we shared here, that I couldn’t turn my back on this. I couldn’t miss out on the chance to have what I have always wanted, with you. But at the same time, my family…” Her voice broke.
Julian patted her hand and reached for his handkerchief. Eve took it and dabbed her eyes. “For over twenty years, my family was my life. They were what kept me going, what sustained me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them, Julian. I don’t know where I’d be if I never had them in my life. They…TC, and later my children, gave me a new purpose in life. They were what I had always longed for, and yet…”
“Eve, if this is too hard for you, it can wait.”
“No, I need to do this now, Julian. And I am fine, really.” She paused to blow her nose in his handkerchief. “I always knew there was something missing in my life, but I knew I couldn’t be greedy. I had screwed up big-time, we both know that. And I had paid for that. I was blessed with a wonderful family, the chance to be a mom. I love my girls so much. And my job. I love what I can do for people. I love that I can help them in ways I never dreamed possible back when you and I were together before. Julian, I have practiced just about every kind of medicine known to man, and I am good at it. I actually can make a difference.”
“You are an incredible doctor, Eve, and a wonderful mother.”
“Thank you, Julian. I don’t know about the wonderful mother part, but I have tried. I love my girls but I’ve hurt them too.”
“Do they know?”
“Yes, I told them the morning after I moved out. They took it badly, but they seem to have come around a little since. Well, Simone has. She came to talk to me a couple of times at the hotel. Whitney wasn’t that shocked about it, since she had seen us kissing. I told her everything, about our past, about the baby we lost. She was very angry I kept that from her, but I do think, deep down, she understood that I had to do this. At least there are no more lies this way. That is a plus.” She smiled tiredly.
“Oh, that is something I am trying to block out…the look in his eyes. Julian, it was awful. It isn’t the words he said, or even the way he said them. It was his eyes. He was in such pain…”
“I’m sorry, Eve. Sorry you had to go through all that…”
“I’m not, Julian. I had to do it. You see, all those years I was with my family, wonderful as they were…there was just, there was something missing. Deep down, I think I knew what it was, but I never wanted to admit it…I couldn’t admit it. If I did, I would have broken into pieces.”
“Our child?” Julian asked tentatively.
“No,” Eve shook her head. “I mean, that was part of it; he was part of what I was missing. But all those years, I thought he was dead. I had to move on; there was no choice. But what I was really missing…was you.”
Julian drew in a deep breath at her declaration. He knew she loved him, but all those years… “You really, truly missed me, all along?”
She nodded. “For good or bad, Julian, our souls were intermingled together from the start. All those years, I knew, deep down, that I belonged to you…that you belonged to me. Only I could never think of that consciously. I wouldn’t have believed it. I wouldn’t have wanted to believe it. But it was true. Even at our worst, Julian, you were my soul mate. And you will always be my one true love.”
Julian leaned across the table and gently kissed her lips. The sweet taste of them almost set his hormones on fire, but he knew this wasn’t the time or the place. He pulled back and smiled at his love. She was finally, totally his. “I won’t ever let you go, Eve. Not now, not ever. You are my heart and soul. Without you…”
“I feel the same way,” she said, caressing his hands. “And you know, I wasn’t the only one who had to go through a lot for us to be together again. What happened between you and Rebecca?”
A smile crept across Julian’s face at the memory of removing that fiery-haired obstacle from his life. “Well, let’s just say Rebecca was able to see the wisdom in the two of us going our separate ways.”
Eve grinned. “You paid her off, didn’t you? How much did it take?”
“My darling, one doesn’t discuss business transactions at the dinner table.” Julian chuckled. “That’s all my marriage amounted to, one lousy business transaction. Thank God it’s over and done with. And it really didn’t take as much green as I thought, but that’s because my dear Becky was a little fearful of some of her own nasty secrets coming to light.”
“I won’t ask,” Eve said, but the arch to her eyebrow told Julian she wasn’t thinking of a shady business dealing here.
“Good. There are probably some things best left unsaid.” He grinned. “I can’t believe I have you back in my life after all these years. And we are going to enjoy every last moment we have together. I won’t mess up this second chance we’ve been blessed with.”
This time it was Eve who leaned forward to kiss Julian. Their lips parted, and her tongue collided with his. Hungry for so long for the taste of this exquisite woman, Julian kissed her like there was no tomorrow. It had been too long. They finally parted, their foreheads pressed together and eyes closed. Still, after all these years, the sparks of their kisses literally took their breath away.
“Eve, if we don’t stop this now…”
“It’s OK, Julian. I feel fine. I am not tired at all anymore; I am suddenly wide awake. But I do think it’s time I went back up to our room, since I am beginning to feel a little flushed here. Care to join me?” she asked, her lips curled in a sly smile.
Julian didn’t need her to ask twice. He hopped up and helped her out of her seat. The two walked upstairs to their suite hand in hand.
Stopping outside the door, Eve fingered the letters on the plaque as Julian opened it. “ ‘Crane Suite.’ I can’t believe I am finally going to be a Crane.”
“Yes, you are, my dear, as soon as I can make it happen. And you know what? I don’t know if there is any better time than now to spring this upon you. He reached into his pocket and drew out a tiny box, as he dropped to one knee. “This isn’t the way I had planned doing it, but when we are together inside that suite, this time, I want it to be after I give you the one thing I should have given you all those years ago.” Julian opened the box, and Eve gasped. The diamond ring inside was absolutely exquisite.
“Oh, Julian…this, even for you, this is too much.”
“Nothing is too much for you, darling,” Julian said. “And may I take that as a yes?”
“Oh, yes, yes, you know the answer is yes!” she exclaimed, bending down to kiss him as he slipped it onto her finger. Eve held her hand up, admiring the incredible stone. “I feel like I’m in Heaven…” she cried.
“You are,” Julian agreed, standing and sweeping her up in his arms. “Heavenly Trails – our own little slice of Heaven.” With that, he kicked open the door to their suite, still decked out like paradise, and carried the love of his life in to begin their incredible life together.