Julian stood at the altar, as Rebecca headed down the aisle toward him. He closed his eyes for a moment, misery written all over his face.
Eve sat in the pew to the right of Julian. She made sure to sit at the end so that he could look at her and not be too obvious about it. Her heart went out to him as she watched him close his eyes.
He opened them again, meeting hers. He held her gaze, searching her soul, finding comfort in her warm brown eyes that shimmered with unshed tears. He knew this was as hard on her as it was on him, and the fact that he was not alone made him feel better.
He smiled slightly, willing her to dream with him as he envisioned her in a beautiful white gown walking down the aisle toward him.
Eve smiled, knowing in her heart what he was thinking that could have transformed his gloomy appearance to a radiant one. Against her better judgment, she allowed her mind to wander as well.
Her hair was down, gathering in waves on her shoulders. The diamonds around her neck and on her ear lobes couldn’t come close to the radiance of her face as she walked down the church aisle toward the man she loved.
The train on her wedding dress followed her as she made her way closer to Julian. She smiled deeply as he stared at her, speechless. She stifled a giggle when his eyes followed her bare skin down to where her dress began, barely above her breasts, showing off just enough to tease him.
He gulped at her beauty. His heart pounded as she neared him; then, finally she stood before him. He took her hands in his and resisted the urge to kiss her. Her eyes twinkled, knowing what he was thinking.
Lost in the pools of her warm gaze, he didn’t even hear what the minister was saying. He saw her lips move and shook his head to clear his mind. “What?” he asked.
The minister said, “Do you take this woman to be your wife?”
Julian reached out and brushed his thumb across her cheek. “I love you,” he whispered.
“I guess that means ‘yes,’ ” the minister said.
“Yes,” Julian said. “Yes.”
Turning to Eve, he asked her the same question. She smiled as tears filled her eyes. “I do…….I do.”
Before the minister could tell Julian he could kiss his bride, Julian’s lips settled on Eve’s. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, pressing her to him.
She opened her mouth to receive his kiss, and was overwhelmed by the passion that coursed through her veins as he kissed her with all the love he possessed.
Sensing he was about to get more intimate, she pushed him back slightly. “We are in a church. We can pick this up the minute we leave,” she purred seductively.
He raised his eyebrows and grinned. “I can’t wait.”
A high pitched, whiney voice broke into his thoughts. “Pookie, where are you?”
His eyes focused on Rebecca in her white wedding gown. He snorted in displeasure.
“We are about to be married, Julian. You better act happy about it, or else,” she threatened.
He turned slightly and looked at Eve, smiling sadly.
She returned his smile and then suddenly got up from her seat and bolted from the church. TC raced after her.
Julian understood why she left. He couldn’t have endured being in her shoes either.
Outside the church, TC tried to console Eve. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Is it Julian Crane? Did that bastard make you feel uncomfortable in there when he looked at us?”
“No, it’s just….I don’t want to be here, TC.”
“Me either, sweetheart; let’s just go home.”
After the reception, Julian and Rebecca stayed at the luxurious honeymoon suite in the Crane Hotel.
“New Year’s Eve… I couldn’t think of a better thing to do than consummate our marriage to ring in the New Year,” Rebecca said in a syrupy sweet voice.
Julian’s stomach turned. It was almost midnight. “Uh…my pet…I have a surprise for you.” He smiled.
“Oooohhh, I love surprises. What is it?” she asked gleefully.
“Uh…I don’t have it here…I have to go get it first,” he said.
She pouted. “Can’t you send someone to get it? I want to make love…right now.” She started to unbutton his shirt.
He stopped her. “This is special. I don’t want anyone touching…it. I promise. I will be back as soon as possible,” he vowed and gave her a peck on the cheek.
“You can do better than that,” she insisted as she pulled his lips to hers.
Imagining it was Eve, he was able to kiss her passionately. “I’ll be back soon,” he promised as he left her satisfied for at least a while.
Julian walked on the pier, trying to think of a way to get out of spending the night with Rebecca. He prayed for a snowstorm, so he could lie to her and tell her that he got stranded.
As midnight drew closer, he had walked all the way to Lighthouse Park. Snow had started to fall gently, and many people had gathered at the park to ring in the New Year. He stood in the shadow of the trees and watched the crowd. His heart almost stopped when he spotted Eve.
Eve stood next to TC, waiting for midnight to arrive. “Do you know where the girls are?” she asked.
“No, I wish they were here so we could celebrate the New Year together as a family,” TC said as he surveyed the crowd. “Oh, there is Simone. I will go see if she has seen her sister. I will be right back.” He kissed Eve’s cheek and rushed off in Simone’s direction.
Eve watched him as he talked to Simone. She appeared to be resisting him, and she knew he would not give up till he convinced her to come. Eve sighed as she glanced at her watch. Five minutes to midnight. Suddenly her cell phone rang.
“Dr. Russell,” she said.
Grace, who stood nearby, overheard and pointed her toward the trees for privacy. “I’ll tell TC you got a call and will be right back.”
“Thank you, Grace,” Eve said as she spoke to her patient while walking toward the trees.
Julian’s heart pounded furiously as he watched her speak on the phone while heading in his direction. She stopped three feet from him and finished her call.
Eve was about to turn and walk back to Grace when Julian stepped out of the shadows and whispered her name.
Startled, she squinted to see. “Julian!” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”
He stepped back into the cover of the trees. “Come here, I don’t want TC to see us.”
She looked back, making sure no one saw her, and hurried into the shelter of the trees. “It’s nearly midnight; I thought you would be with Rebecca,” she said.
He smiled in the dim light of a street lamp. “I am doing my best to put off ‘being with her.’ ”
“Oh, Julian, I am so sorry.” She reached up and touched his cheek to console him.
He took her hand and pulled her closer into his arms and hugged her. “I feel much better now,” he whispered into her hair.
They stood in each others arms till a bell started to chime in the New Year. Julian pulled back and looked into her eyes. “There is no place I would rather be than right here with you to ring in the New Year.” He smiled.
Eve held her breath as he leaned toward her.
“I love you, Eve,” he whispered, his lips a breath’s space from hers.
“I love you too,” she whispered back as his lips finally settled on hers just as they entered the New Year.
Eve sighed as his lips softly moved over hers. Her hands slid up his chest and circled his neck, her fingers clipping his hair. She loved the softness of it, now getting wet as snowflakes gently rested in his hair and all around them.
He pushed against her mouth with his tongue, encouraging her to allow him access as his hands pressed her slim body closer.
Eve received his tongue, enjoying the softness of it, the intimacy of the kiss, as he explored every part of her mouth. She remembered when they were young, how he always excited her with his tender kisses and sensual lovemaking.
The sudden passion that coursed through her body caused her to go weak in the knees.
Julian held her closer when he realized she was swaying against him, unbalanced. He smiled at the obvious effect he was having on her and continued to kiss her senseless.
Over and over his tongue and lips expertly moved over her mouth, seducing her, making her yearn for more than just a kiss.
“EVE?!?” TC shouted.
Julian and Eve jumped apart. Julian helped her straighten out her hair and jacket.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “I had better go, before TC catches us.”
He bent and kissed her lips quickly one more time. “I love you, Eve.”
She smiled tenderly at him. “I love you too - so much.” Then she turned and headed toward TC’s voice.
“Eve, where have you been?” TC asked as she approached him. “I wanted to kiss you as the New Year started. It brings couples closer and keeps others from coming between them.”
“What?” asked Eve.
TC chuckled and kissed her. “The latest superstition, but that is OK. I know I am the first man to kiss you this year, so I am not worried.”
Julian stood in the shadows of the trees and smiled. “Someday, my love…” he whispered as he headed back to the hotel.