“Hello Eve.” His tone was smooth and controlled.

“Julian,” she said again, her voice trembling as she stood staring, scarcely believing that she was seeing right.

Dressed in a dark suit and a crisp white shirt with a yellow tie, he stood before her, smiling gently, trying to calm his erratically beating heart. Her white shirt enhancing her tanned completion in the soft light, her beautiful black hair, and her eyes shimmering with tears, made her look absolutely stunning to him.

Being away from her for so long, and now seeing her again, it was the most exhilarating feeling he had ever experienced. “You’re more beautiful than ever,” he said, his control shaking as his voice gave hint of the struggle he was going through trying to contain himself.

A tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. “I…” she started, stepping closer, reaching out to touch him to make sure he was really there.

He closed the gap between them and caught her up in his arms, swinging her off the ground, his lips desperately seeking hers. Kissing her, he spun around, hugging her fiercely to him as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Eve gasped with pleasure as his tongue entered her mouth, seeking hers. With her arms around his neck and her hands in his hair, she pressed closer, weeping tears of joy, clinging to him for dear life.

A few minutes later, when he set her down on her feet, he pulled back, their breathing ragged and shallow. “Eve,” he rasped, his voice shaking with emotion, his eyes seeking hers.

Her need, through glistening tears reflecting in the soft light, caused him to shiver with desire as he looked into her beautiful brown eyes. Unable to control his need to kiss her, his lips settled on hers once more. He combed his fingers through her soft black hair, pressing his hand against the side of her head, turning to give him better access to her mouth. He smiled as she parted her lips, boldly seeking his tongue.

Over and over again, their intense desire to be part of each other was evident in every passionate kiss. They groaned with pleasure, simply from loving each other, touching, feeling, tasting, and thrilling in the closeness of their hearts, mind, body and soul.

Finally, with their lips swollen from the fervent heat of their kisses, they pulled apart just enough to breathe.

“Oh, Eve,” his voice trembled with emotion.

Smiling through her tears, she reached to cup his face in her palms. “I can’t believe this is happening.” She slipped her arms around his neck again and hugged him tightly. “I have dreamed of this moment for so long,” she cried into his hair.

“My love, you have no idea how often I wanted to jump on that plane and fly here to be with you.” He grazed his lips along the smooth contours of her neck.

Shivering with pleasure, she pulled back slightly and looked into his eyes. “I missed you so much. I never wanted you to leave.” She tried to wipe the tears from her eyes.

“I had to leave; you understand, don’t you, my love?” he asked, brushing his thumb across her cheek.

She breathed deeply. “I know,” she said as she reached up and traced his face with her fingers before settling them on his lips. Staring at them for a moment, she then looked up into his eyes and continued. “I just can’t bear to be apart from you, Julian; it has been so difficult…” she said quietly, turning from him.

“I know about you and TC.” He turned her to face him again, his eyes filled with concern. “I am so sorry that you had to go through that alone. I wish I had been here for you.” He pulled her into his arms and hugged her.

“How did you find out?” Eve asked in surprise.

He pulled back and lifted her chin. “I am a Crane,” he said, smiling at her expression. “Actually Whitney told me.” He looked up and stepped back when Whitney and Chad approached.

“Hi, Mom, we heard you talking and thought it was all right to come in.” She hugged Eve and whispered. “I hope you’re OK with this.”

Eve hugged her in response. “I am OK, honey, really.” Pulling out of Whitney’s arms, Eve asked, “When did you speak to Julian?”

“I called him,” she explained.

“What? When?” Eve asked, confused.

Whitney took Julian’s hand for support. “I hated to see you so unhappy, Mom. So I called Julian’s attorney and had him get me in contact with him.”

“Yes, I was looking over some property with Karen Cullen, my secretary.” He touched Eve’s arm and laughed when her eyebrows shot up. “She only came along to give me an objective opinion,” he explained.

“I called him a week ago, Mom,” Whitney said as she let go of Julian’s hand and walked up to Chad. “Chad had no idea. I told him at the park today. It was there that I told him of this plan that Julian and I came up with.”

“Plan? Plan for what?” Eve asked.

“Well, I was supposed to bid on you at the auction for Julian. He hired an older gentleman to impersonate a bum so that he could bid on you. We figured that you would be worried about him, because of his looks, and especially if he outbid everyone. This gave me the excuse I needed to bid for you, and not arouse any suspicions. He was not to exceed nine thousand dollars. That was the deal,” Whitney explained.

“You set this whole thing up?” Eve asked incredulously, turning to Julian.

“I hope you are not mad. I just wanted our first meeting to be perfect, not to mention private.” He smiled as he thought of their passionate kisses.

Blushing, Eve turned to Chad. “And this engagement, that was all part of the plan?”

“Nope, that was real.” Chad held up Whitney’s left hand and grinned. “She said ‘yes.’”

Eve hugged them. “Congratulations. I am so happy for you, both of you.” She smiled, her eyes filling with tears. She could scarcely believe her beautiful girl was getting married.

“Yes.” Julian held out his hand to shake Chad’s. “I hope that you have as great a love as your mother and I have,” he said to Whitney as he turned to her and hugged her.

“Thank you, Julian.” Whitney hugged him back. “I hope we do too.” Pulling out of his arms, she said, “I can see how much you love each other. I just pray that we grow old together and still feel the way we do now.”

“Love is something that is to be cherished. Never taken for granted, always protected, no matter what happens. The love between a man and a woman is a wonderful gift from God, never let anyone take it from you,” Julian said to them.

Eve stared at him, astonished. He really was a wonderful man, trying to be a father. She could not have given this young love any better advice. “Julian’s right, love is a wonderful gift. I was fortunate enough to get a second chance at it.” She smiled at him.

Julian stepped closer, wanting to pull her into his arms, but controlled himself.

Whitney smiled at them. “I am so happy for you.”

“Me too, Eve,” Chad smiled.

Exhaling, Julian said. “I have an idea. Why don’t you and Whitney enjoy the champagne and dinner, to celebrate your love?” he offered.

“What? This was your dinner. We can’t do that,” Chad tried to refuse.

“Sure you can. The place is closed for tonight. Besides, Eve and I need some time alone…to talk, somewhere a little more private.” He grinned mischievously.

Getting the hint, Chad and Whitney agreed.

A few minutes later, leaving a very happy couple to take advantage of the Blue Note in any way they wished, Julian held out his hand to Eve, his eyes twinkling with promise. With a final wave to Whitney and Chad, he turned and led her out of the club.

Outside, the stars and moon shone brightly, and the leaves rustled in the breeze as Julian and Eve made their way, hand in hand, towards the Crane limo waiting at the curb.

Stopping beside the car, Julian laced his fingers with Eve’s. Bringing her hand up to his lips, he gently kissed it. He lowered her hand and looked into her beautiful face, his eyes filled with longing.

Eve held her breath as she watched his handsome features studying her. With one hand still engulfed in his, she reached out with the other and brushed it up his designer suit, touching him, wanting to be near him - to feel his masculine strength.

Julian placed his free hand over hers and pressed it to his heart as a lone tear slipped down his face. Then sliding it up onto his shoulder, he drew her into his arms and hugged her tightly, lifting her off the ground. Breathing deeply, he buried his face in her hair as he molded her body to his.

Pressing closer, their emotions got the best of them as they held onto each other, the love and joy of being together again flowing freely between them.

Standing there for what seemed like hours, Julian finally set Eve back on the ground. He grazed his lips along her throat up to her chin, then after a breathless moment, settled on hers.

Eve clung to him, her fingers in his hair, tears rolling down her cheeks, as she opened her mouth to receive his kiss. Her heart soared. Loving him, being close to him, nothing mattered - just his arms around her, hugging her, and his lips passionately making love to hers.