After draining a shot of whiskey, she lay back down, hoping that it would help her drift off and forget about Julian Crane. She sighed deeply as her body began to relax, and soon, she drifted off to sleep.
Julian was trouble; no matter where Eve went, or what she did, he somehow managed to find a way to be with her…even in her dreams.
Thaddeus Russell and his lovely wife Eve approached the main road to the village and stopped short when they spotted a large crowd of eager people lining the road ahead of them. Thaddeus, curious, made Eve wait with their horse and cart while he checked out what was going on. A few minutes later, he returned. “The king’s horsemen are escorting a prince from another country to the palace. Let’s go. The last thing we need is to make fools of ourselves at the foot of royalty.” He grabbed the reins from Eve and turned the cart around.
“Can’t we just stay for a moment? Please? I have never met a prince before.” Eve gushed with excitement.
Thaddeus scowled for a moment but gave in. “Go ahead. I will wait for you here. Don’t take too long; we have to get to the market and home before dark,” he instructed.
Eve, a young doctor who had recently wed Thaddeus, a hard working farmer, made her way through the crowd to the front. She was greeted by a few people who came to her regularly for the treatment of various ailments. She smiled politely and moved along until she finally stood at the front of the line.
Excitement filled the air when the king’s horsemen drew nearer. Eve leaned out to get a closer look to the approaching band of horses. “I don’t see the prince!” she exclaimed to a woman next to her.
“He is the one dressed in black,” the woman returned. Her face flushed with excitement. “He is the most handsome man I have ever seen. What I wouldn’t give just to be his servant,” she gushed.
Eve laughed. The last thing she wanted to be was any man’s servant, even though sometimes Thaddeus made her feel like one. Still, he was her husband and she loved him. Eve settled back and decided to wait for the horses to pass by her so she could get a glimpse of the prince.
As the horses drew up next to her, Eve was shoved into the road by the pushing crowd. She stumbled, frightened, near a tall black stallion.
The horse jumped sideways, spooked by her sudden movement.
Eve looked up, her eyes filled with fear, into the face of the prince. Her heart stopped. Julian!
She blinked in disbelief. It couldn’t be… It couldn’t be ‘her’ Julian, the young man she had come to love so deeply when she was barely a woman…the young man who had captured her heart and torn it to pieces when he disappeared from her life, never to be heard from again. Yet, here he was, a royal prince, right in front of her.
Too shocked to move, Eve stared at him, remembering, though older, every detail of his magnificent body…his legs, long and muscular, gripping his steed, keeping it in firm control beneath him; his broad shoulders and chest, surely capable of shielding her from harm; and his arms, oh those arms that used to hold her, so strong and yet so gentle.
Lifting her gaze to his handsome face, she caught her breath as his eyes probed hers, as if seeking the very depths of her soul as she studied him. His hair, short and graying at the temples, enhanced his mature and distinguished appearance. His mouth… Eve’s lips parted as she remembered that mouth pressed against hers, his tongue seducing her…
A sudden shove from one of the guards pushed Eve back, away from the prince’s horse.
Eve stumbled but remained on her feet. She noticed Prince Julian’s eyes fill with alarm at the violent gesture. Wonder filled her as he spoke sharply, rebuking the guard, and then leaned down and extended his hand to her, his eyes never leaving hers. Did he remember her? Her mind raced, a thousand questions filling her head.
Eve held her breath as she reached her hand to him, her legs almost giving way as he grasped it and brushed his soft lips against her fingers.
“My lady.” He smiled deeply at her. His voice, rich and smooth like velvet, gave no hint that he recognized her.
Though inside Eve trembled, she forced herself to nod slightly, her eyes leaving his for a moment and then meeting them again. Her heart beat wildly when he parted his lips as if to say something else. Disappointment flooded her soul when he seemed to think better of it and dropped her hand, giving her a final nod as he moved along.
Eve watched his back until he disappeared from her view. She thought for a moment that he had turned to look back. Feeling silly, she concluded that he didn’t remember her, and chastised herself for having such strong feelings of regret and longing for a man who wasn’t her husband. Whatever affair she’d had with the young man, in the flower of her youth, was best forgotten. She was a wife and doctor now. There was no room in her heart for foolish fantasies.
A rough hand on her arm snapped her from her thoughts. “We had better go, Eve. Enough of this foolishness; we have to get home to the farm,” Thaddeus barked.
Eve brushed a weary hand across her eyes to wipe away the telltale sign of tears. She couldn’t show Thaddeus that she was crying. He would consider her ‘weak’ and foolish. With a final glance in the direction the prince took, Eve followed Thaddeus to their horse and cart. They had a long ride home.
During the bumpy ride, Eve barely listened to Thaddeus rant and rave about the rich and how they stepped on the poor and did whatever they could to get richer while the poor got poorer. Her heart and mind were on Julian…a prince! She couldn’t believe it. He had never told her that he was of royal blood. Not even once did he hint it.
Eve’s thoughts returned to the day that had changed her life so many years ago… She had been out in the forest looking for berries when she’d stumbled across a wounded young man who had been thrown from his horse. Suffering from a broken arm and a fever, he had been shivering violently when she found him. She managed to get him to his feet and into the humble home nearby that she shared with her aunt, who was off visiting her sister for a few weeks.
For two weeks Eve nursed the young man back to health, setting his arm and bathing him to reduce his fever. She blushed furiously the first time she saw him naked, but quickly overcame her shyness when he groaned in pain, his muscular frame shaking with cold. Eve piled blankets high and then climbed in bed next to him until his shivering stopped and he slept peacefully.
A few days later, he awoke. He thanked her for her help and tried to get up so that he could go home, not wanting to intrude on her a moment longer. When he stumbled and fell, weak from lack of food, Eve ordered him back to bed. He obliged with a sheepish smile.
She fed him warm soup, bread and cheese, singing to him to keep him entertained. When she asked who he was, he simply said ‘Julian.’ Satisfied with that, Eve continued to care for him until he was strong enough to get out of bed. Because his horse had run off, and Eve’s aunt had taken hers, Julian was forced to stay with her till he was well enough to run home. During that time, they had gotten closer and closer, falling deeply in love.
Never before had a man touched her heart like he did. Wild and free, they laughed and loved, passionately, without a care in the world. And when Julian was well enough, he promised to come back for her and make her his wife as soon as he was able. She wept as he kissed her goodbye, his lips soft and comforting against hers, promising to love her always. She never heard from him again.
A bump on the road almost jostled Eve from the cart. Grabbing hold of Thaddeus’ arm, she held on to keep from falling. Her husband was a good man, and she wished with all her heart that she had the same fire and passion for him that she had for Julian…Prince Julian. She sighed. That was probably never going to happen, just like she would probably never see Julian again.
Unbeknownst to Eve and Thaddeus, a man on horseback followed them home, keeping his distance to avoid being discovered. When they arrived at their farmhouse, he turned his horse and raced back to the village.
Later that evening, Eve had just finished cleaning the supper dishes, and Thaddeus was busy soaking his feet, when they heard a loud banging on the door. Eve jumped, fear creeping into her heart. It was late, and no one ever came to their home this late.
Thaddeus motioned for her to check who was at the door.
Eve obediently opened it and was stunned to find four of the king’s soldiers standing outside her house. “Yes?” she asked, trembling slightly.
“We have orders to bring you to the palace,” one of the soldiers said, reaching for her arm.
Thaddeus jumped from his chair. “No one is taking my wife anywhere!”
Immediately, the three remaining soldiers rushed into the house and pinned him against the wall, their swords pricking his throat. “Is she worth dying for?” one soldier snapped.
Thaddeus shook his head in fear.
Seeing he wasn’t going to cause any more trouble, the soldiers let him go. “She will not be harmed. We have strict orders to make sure nothing befalls her,” he told Thaddeus, hoping to calm the cowardly man.
One soldier eyed Eve appreciatively. “I would gladly die for a woman this beautiful.” He smiled.
Thaddeus scowled at him.
Eve grabbed her cloak and followed the soldiers out of the house. She was pleasantly surprised that they had brought a palace coach along in which to escort her. She sat down in the luxurious carriage, running her hands across the soft fabric. She poked her head out the window and looked back. Thaddeus had already shut the door. Her heart ached at his lack of concern for her.
An hour later, Eve was escorted into the palace and shown to a private room. There, servants helped her bathe and freshen up from her long ride. Dressed in a silk navy robe, Eve stood in the center of the room. A large towering poster bed with beautiful fabric adorning it, a fireplace, a table and chairs, pillows…lots of pillows, and candles decorated the room, leaving Eve breathless at the sight. She had never seen such luxury.
When she had finished admiring the room, she stood, facing the fireplace, wondering why she was there. Mixed with the excitement of being in the palace for the first time was a little uncertain fear, fear of what the king could possibly want with her.
The gentle touch of warm hands on her shoulders startled her.
“My dearest love,” Julian whispered against her hair, “how I have longed to hold you again.” He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her close, turning her to face him.
Tears sprang in Eve’s eyes. He had remembered her! “Julian,” she whispered, as he gently caressed her cheek.
While his thumb brushed against her lips, pressing gently against their softness, her heart pounded with excitement as she looked into the windows of his soul, brimming with tears of his own.
“My beautiful, Eve,” he whispered again, lowering his lips to hers.
Eve held her breath as she watched them descend toward her, waiting in anticipation, wondering what it would be like to kiss him again after all these years.
Finally, after a fleeting moment, his lips settled on hers. Eve’s body trembled with a familiar rush of longing and desire as she parted her lips to welcome his kiss, remembering him, getting reacquainted with a pleasure so intense that, had he not held her so tightly against him, it would have surely caused her to fall.
Completely caught up in his kiss and in his hands caressing her, she was unaware that he had moved the two of them toward the bed and was now gently lowering her onto it. As she lay on the bed, her head spinning from the overwhelming rush of emotions, she reached up and touched his cheek. “I waited so long for you,” she cried, tears flooding her eyes once more.
“Shh…” he whispered as he lowered himself next to her, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I am here now, and no one will ever keep us apart again, not ever!” he promised, closing the gap between them, placing his hard muscular body against hers.
Over and over his mouth and lips caressed hers, the passion
between them burning high and uncontrollable. Never once did Eve think of Thaddeus,
or that she was married, as Julian’s hands moved over her silk robe, parting
the delicate material, touching her smooth skin beneath.
“I love you so much, Eve. I need you. Let me hold you; let me love you tonight. Let me show you how much I have longed to be with you.” His voice was full of passion as he placed a hand against her cheek.
Eve, her eyes glazed with desire and love, nodded breathlessly, too weak from the fervent heat of his passionate kisses to deny him anything…too caught up in her longing for him, the longing she had kept buried for so long now.
The tenderness of his lips as he softly kissed her swollen upper lip, and the sensual teasing of his tongue as it lightly grazed her teeth before plunging inside her mouth once more, caused her body to melt like liquid heat.
She gasped in pleasure when his hand crept beneath her robe and touched her flat stomach. As his hand moved up toward her breasts, she waited breathlessly for his touch, eager to feel his hand upon her and to get reacquainted with him, to be loved by him, to be free with him again.
Eve’s tears ran freely as Julian caressed her, showing her all the love in his heart, through his tender touch and the gentle strength of his kisses. “I love you; I love you so,” she cried against his mouth as they became one.
Later, nestled in the crook of his arm, covered in sheets fit only for a king and his queen, Eve smiled happily as Julian pulled her closer and wrapped both his arms around her.
“I need you, Eve. I know you have a husband, but what he doesn’t know is that you belong with me. I have your heart, as you have mine. I know it. I feel it, and I will not give up until you agree to become my bride, my queen.” He kissed the top of her head.
Eve’s heart skipped a beat at his words. She knew without a doubt that he would keep his word, even if she was married. He would not let her go this time. This time he was a man, not the young boy he was in years past. This time he would not be shaken from what he wanted, and he wanted her, just as much as she wanted him…
Eve sat up in bed, her chest heaving with anxiety. She was not going to allow Julian to invade her dreams as well. She simply would not! Even if it meant she would never sleep again, she was going to conquer that man’s hold over her!
Glancing at TC, who was still sleeping soundly, she got out of bed and grabbed the bottle of whiskey on the nearby night table. Throwing back two good gulps, she thought maybe, just maybe, that would help drown Julian from her mind.
Getting back into bed, Eve tossed restlessly, afraid to go back to sleep…afraid the subconscious recesses of her mind would betray her again with dreams of Julian…their lost love, finding each other again, Julian’s promise to never let her go again, her own admission of her desire and longing to be his… ‘No, Eve! Get a grip! You cannot let Julian sway you from your duty as TC’s wife. You just can’t!’
After an hour of tossing, she got up and dressed for work. Leaving TC a note, she looked at him one more time and closed the bedroom door. Breathing deeply, she straightened up and smoothed her hair. With a new and determined confidence that she would win the war with Julian Crane, she left her home and headed for the hospital.