Then I strode up to the lane and lined up my shot. Only this time, I started the ball all the way at the very right edge of the lane so that when it made the sharp turn at the end, it hit the center pin and they all went flying. Spare!
I heard Eden whoop behind me and turned around to her grinning and clapping. I laughed and walked back to her. I picked her up and spun her once and then kissed her hard.
"Dance with me," I mumbled into her hair after I'd broken from her mouth and hugged her to me.
She looked up at me and then seemed to hear the music coming from the sound system. The lyrics sang of loss and something about all of the stars, which seemed apropos.
"Since when do you know how to dance?" she asked teasingly. I opened my mouth to speak, but then closed it, not wanting to bring Madison up. Her face fell slightly and she said, "Oh," her eyes darting away from mine.
I took my fingers and put them under her chin, turning her face back to mine. "I've never danced with you. I want to change that. Dance with me."
She licked her lips. "I'll probably step all over your feet."
"That's okay," I said, taking her in my arms and pulling her close.
Our bodies started to sway to the music, the boisterous noise of the bowling alley fading away for me as the song seemed to rise in volume and it was only me and her, our bodies moving as one, her sweet softness pressed against me.
"Come home with me, Eden," I whispered into her hair.
She exhaled a sharp breath and leaned back, her large, deep blue eyes looking up at me with love and tenderness. She nodded her head, yes, but didn't say anything. Joy pulsed through my body. We continued dancing until the song ended and then got back to our game. We laughed and had fun through the next nine frames. Eden was even a pretty good bowler after she got the hang of it. Mostly though, I just enjoyed sitting back and watching her have fun. Other than that long-ago game of Kick the Can, I'd never had the privilege of watching Eden play. I was going to give as much of this to her as I possibly could. It was going to be my life's goal to make up for everything she'd lost.
As we were getting ready to go and changing shoes, a little girl around three or four ran by, giggling and being chased by her mother who was laughing, too, and calling, "Get back here, you!" I smiled and looked back over at Eden who looked up at me with sorrow in her eyes. She seemed to catch herself and her expression brightened and she looked down, adjusting the back of the shoe she'd just put on.
"Eden," I said softly, going over to her and sitting down next to her. She turned toward me, the look of sorrow back in her eyes. "I know. They told me about the baby. Someone slipped me a note while I was in the cell in Acadia."
She blinked at me and bit her lip. Tears sprung to her eyes and they grew large. She shook her head slowly. "I wasn't going to say anything," she said. "I didn't want you to have to carry that, too."
I took in her pained face, sadness filling my chest at the realization she was going to bear that burden all alone to save me the pain. "My Morning Glory," I whispered. "I'm so, so sorry you endured that. It killed me to imagine what you must have gone through." I let out a breath, attempting to compose myself, to be strong for her. "We'll remember that small life together, and someday when we're ready, we'll make another."
Her brow furrowed and she looked up at me with sad eyes. "Calder," she started, my name seeming to catch in her chest. She stopped and bit her full bottom lip.
"What is it?" I asked, my eyes moving over her sad expression.
Eden took a deep breath. "When I first came to Cincinnati, I had a lot of pain and Marissa took me to a doctor and . . . he told me that I have scarring from the miscarriage. Hector gave me some kind of tea and it . . ." She shook her head again, furrowing her brow. "The doctor didn't think there was much chance I could get pregnant ever again," she finished softly. "I can't have any more babies."
Pain hit me straight in the gut like a body blow. "No," I choked out.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have told you now. It's just—"
"Shh," I said, pulling her in to my body and gripping the back of her head with one hand. Sorrow pulsed through me in waves. I pulled back and rubbed my nose along hers and then put my forehead against hers. "We'll get a second opinion when we're ready, or we'll adopt, or . . ." I shook my head, "whatever you want."
Eden let out a small breath. "Okay."
"My sweet Morning Glory. You've been carrying that around all this time, too?"
She released a shuddery breath. "I had accepted it," she said very quietly. "Before . . ." She trailed off.
I moved a piece of hair off her cheek and smiled what felt like a sad smile at her. "Is that why you cried last night?" I asked. "When I put on the—"
"Partly," she said. "Mostly."
"I understand." My voice sounded gravelly.
She nodded, looking away for a second and then back to my eyes. "This date is really all over the place, isn't it?" she asked on a small laugh.
"That might just be us for a little while."
"Us," she said softly, a light coming into her eyes that hadn't been there a moment before.
"Yeah. Us," I repeated, smiling. I took her hand and pulled her up. "Now let's get us home."
She nodded and we left the bowling alley and walked out into the crisp night air. I pulled her into me as we crossed the parking lot and then helped her up into the truck.
We drove to my apartment mostly in silence, the radio playing softly in the background. I only lived about ten minutes away.
When we walked into my apartment, the city lights glowed outside and the entire place was bathed in soft light. I really did love this place, despite the fact that there was still no electricity. I loved the open feel of it, the view, but most of all, I took pride in the fact that I'd done the hard work to fix it up myself. I'd made it my own, picking out and installing the hardwood for the floors, choosing the countertops I liked best, and learning how to hang cabinets. I didn't actually own it, but it was the first thing that had ever been mine.
Eden put her purse down and looked at me almost shyly. A flash of her standing under moonlight looking at me in the same way skittered through my mind, bringing not sadness as it had these past few years, but a warm happiness and a sense of deep gratitude.
"I have something to show you," Calder said, taking my hand.
I cocked my head and looked at him curiously, but he just smiled and led me down the hall. Calder pulled me into a room and I looked around at the semi-small bedroom, the only furniture a big bed against the far wall with a gray and white striped comforter and a few pillows. I looked over at Calder and he was looking expectantly at me.
"What am I looking at?" I asked.
"That," he said, pointing at the bed. "I bought it for us today. All the bedding, too." He let go of my hand and walked over to it, pulling the comforter back to reveal light gray and purple flowers on the other side. "It's reversible," he said. "You can put it on whatever side you like better."
"Calder," I said, walking over to him and taking the hand that was holding the comforter so that he dropped it back to the bed. "This is your house. You should pick what you like."
"I want it to be your house, too," he said quietly, vulnerability moving over his expression. "I want my home to be your home, my bed to be your bed. I want your nighttime heat to be within arm's reach."
My heart skittered to a stop and then took up an erratic beat as I made a small choking sound, emotion moving up my throat. "Our letters," I said.
He smiled tenderly at me. "Please move in here. Live with me. Let me protect you. Not just for tonight, but for always."
I chewed on my lip for a second, uncertainty filling my chest. "I want to. I do. I don't ever want to be apart from you again. It's just . . . you were living in another woman's house yesterday and I worry . . . I worry that us moving too quickly will be us reacting out of desperation." I looked up into his deep brown eyes. "I want to make sure we're starting out right here. I have to be sure about the way you feel," I finished.
"Then ask me," he said, emotion filling his voice, making it more raspy than usual. "Just ask me. All you ever have to do is ask me."
Tears pricked my eyes as I stared up at his intense expression, his body perfectly still. I took a shaky breath. "Do you still love me, Calder? Am I the only woman you want?"
"God, yes," he said before I'd even gotten the last word fully out.
I breathed out and then sniffled. "I love you, too."
Warmth filled his eyes. "I never stopped loving you. I never will. Ever."
My shoulders relaxed and I wiped the tears out of my eyes. "Do you think we're making a mistake rushing back into this too quickly? We've both changed . . . we have issues."
He considered me for a minute. "It's because I cried on our first date, isn't it?"
I let out a tremulous laugh and then laughed harder when he smiled a lopsided grin. God, he was adorable—gorgeous—ridiculously beautiful. I glanced down at the bed again. He had bought it as a gift to me, just today. My heart squeezed.
"See," Calder said, going serious, "the thing is, we are both desperate . . . still hurting, probably needy," he paused, "no definitely needy." He took a deep breath. "I was dead yesterday, Eden." He ran a hand through his hair, thinking. "I was trying to live, I was. But, now you're back, and I'm alive again." His eyes filled with something that looked like wonder. "I don't want to waste time 'figuring things out,' or 'taking time.' I don't need time. I need you. You're all I've ever needed."
I opened my mouth to speak, but Calder cut me off. "And before you say anything, there's something you should know about this bed. It's not just an ordinary bed." I raised one eyebrow and Calder shook his head. "No, this here is . . . uh," he smiled suddenly as if something had just occurred to him, "The Bed of Healing." He paused, his eyes warm. "This bed here has the power to heal the hurt, the pain, and all the desperation inside of us. But we'll need to stay in it for quite a while, until we feel like we can leave each other's presence without that sick feeling of dread. We'll need to stay in it until we've made up at least a little bit of the time we've lost. And once that's done, and we're both more level-headed, then you can decide whether or not you'll move in with me."
I laughed softly, shaking my head and raising my brows. "The Bed of Healing?"
Calder nodded again, his face serious.
I glanced at the bed and then back up at him, raising one brow. "I mean, it's worth a try, I guess. We could use some healing."
Calder let out a breath. "Are you saying that I can take you to bed now?"
I nodded slowly.
His eyes warmed and moved over my face.
He brushed my bangs away from my eyes and said, "You realize you might be here for quite some time working through our . . . issues. Do you need to clear your schedule?"
I shook my head. "No. I don't have a schedule. But I should text my mom so she doesn't worry."
We stared at each other for a few moments, my eyes darting to his lips and then back to his eyes. The air between our bodies seemed to thicken and charge. We had had sex the night before, but this was different. This was going to be different. We were going to take our time. We had a bed. Our bed. A thrill ran along every nerve ending, and a flock of butterflies took up flight in my ribcage.
I turned and walked out of his room on rubbery feeling legs, looking behind me once to see him watching me with dark eyes.
I hurried out to my purse and quickly texted my mom. I felt like a little girl checking in, but it was only polite, and I didn't ever want to cause her one more minute of pain than she'd already experienced over me in her lifetime. She deserved to know I was safe.
When I got back to Calder's room, I heard him in the master bathroom. I sat down on the bed and waited, feeling suddenly very nervous.
Calder came out with no shirt on and rubbing a towel on his neck. My eyes moved slowly over his muscular chest, and arms, down to his ridged stomach and lower to that sparse trail of hair. I knew right where that led. I swallowed heavily, my body alert, alive. The last time I had really looked at him naked, he had barely been a man. He was twenty-two now and he had filled out in ways that made my stomach clench and a steady buzz begin between my legs.
"Do you want to use the bathroom? I have a candle in there. Sorry, still haven't gotten to the electricity."
I cleared my throat. "Well, you were shopping for healing beds today," I said softly, my eyes still on his chest. When I finally dragged my eyes to his, he was smiling a knowing smile.
I let out an embarrassed exhale. I stood up and moved around him to the bathroom, almost jumping away from him when I felt the heat of his body so close to mine. Get a hold of yourself, Eden. This is Calder. Not some stranger. Only in some ways that's exactly what he was.
I closed the door to the bathroom and stood against it for a minute, taking deep breaths. A single candle was flickering on the counter, casting the bathroom in a dim glow. I stood there watching the flame jump.
Calder was right; we didn't have to decide anything right now. Didn't we owe it to ourselves to try to work through the feeling of desperate neediness and surrealism that I, at least, hadn't been able to shake since I'd walked into that gallery? It'd only been a day since we'd found out we were both still alive, but was there really a good reason to force ourselves to stay apart? I wanted him and he still wanted me. Did it need to be more complicated than that?