I used the bathroom and freshened up, using his toothpaste on my finger to brush my teeth and then I blew out the candle, took a deep breath, and walked back into the bedroom.
Calder was sitting on the bed and the light in the room was flickering with candlelight now, too, as he had closed the blinds and the light from the city outside was no longer shining in.
I walked slowly over to him and when I got to where he was sitting, I moved close and he pulled me into him, laying his head on my stomach. I ran my hands through his hair, acquainting myself with the feel of his longer strands. It was thick and silky and almost black in the candlelit room. Calder turned his face into my stomach and breathed in, running his hands up over my backside and then back down again. He looked up at me and brought his hands around to the front and put them under my shirt, his warm palms grazing down the sensitive skin of my ribcage. He lifted the hem slightly, his eyes meeting mine, his were filled with something that made me catch my breath—a mixture of relief and desire and love. I took the hem from his fingers and lifted my shirt the rest of the way and tossed it on the floor.
His hands returned to my skin and he gripped my waist and then brought one of his hands around to my back again, running his fingers up my spine, pressing gently on each vertebra as if convincing himself I was real, as if those tiny parts were proof of my existence. Tenderness swelled in my heart and I drew in a quick breath.
Calder's eyes darted to mine and he stood, coming to his full height, the na**d heat of his skin touching mine. He brought his hands up my arms, leaving goosebumps in their wake and I shivered slightly.
"Are you cold?" he whispered.
I shook my head, no.
If the night before had been about testing the sturdiness—the reality of our bodies—this night was about taking in the details, investigating each swell and ridge - the miracle of fingertips, and hipbones, and shoulder blades, the beauty of lips, the curve of an ear, the hollow at the base of a throat. We explored each place slowly and reverently with hands and lips and tongues until I was dizzy with desire and bursting with love and thankfulness.
Gratitude surged through my body. Oh God, I had missed this. He pressed his lips to mine firmly and I opened for him so he could slide his tongue inside. We kissed slowly and deeply, finding our rhythm once again.
Blood pumped quickly through my veins and a throb of need beat between my legs. I pressed into Calder's heat and moaned into his mouth. He broke from me, looking awestruck and drugged, then reached around and unhooked my bra. It fell to the floor and Calder brought his hands to my br**sts, my ni**les already pebbled. I gasped out when he brought his thumbs to them and circled the tender, aching buds. It felt heavenly and I tilted my head back as the throbbing in my core increased.
Suddenly Calder's heat moved away from me as I brought my head up and saw him kicking his shoes aside and pulling his jeans off. He was wearing white briefs, the outline of his erection pressing against the thin cotton. I stared at the covered bulge. The look of the full, heavily strained material did something to my hormones and my desire for him ratcheted up another notch. I looked back up into his eyes.
"I like you in underwear," I said and he chuckled softly.
I looked back down for a few seconds and then took my thumbs and hooked them in the side of the fabric and pulled them down. He sprang free and I swallowed heavily.
I kicked off my shoes, then unbuttoned my own jeans and pulled them and my underwear off. We both stood before the other, completely naked.
"You're exquisite, Eden," Calder whispered. "You're all I've ever wanted."
He took my hand and we walked to the side where he threw back the comforter and top sheet and we both got in bed together. Our bodies met under the blankets and Calder moved his mouth to mine again.
Our hands wandered as our tongues met and my fingers brushed down Calder's stomach, grazing over his tight, ridged muscles. They tensed and contracted under my touch and he groaned into my mouth.
The feel of his warm, bare skin against mine was delicious and I pressed into him, wanting to feel every part of his body at once.
His hand moved downward until it hovered just over the spot where I needed him to touch me, the spot pulsing with desire. When he didn't immediately move his hand, I pressed myself upward into him and felt him smile against my mouth. "Tease," I whispered, lifting my lips from his, and then, "Oooh," as he dipped his finger inside me and used his thumb to massage the small bundle of tender nerves. The feel of him touching me there while his mouth was on mine and his large, hard body was over me was almost enough to make me cl**ax right then and there, but I held it back. I moaned.
He grinned and then leaned in and kissed me deeply for long minutes, our bodies heating even more as he circled his hips, rubbing his erection against my pubic bone. He took himself in his hand and used the head of his penis to circle against me and we both moaned into each other's mouths. His chest was rubbing against my ni**les and my body felt deliciously achy, and tingly, and beautifully needy. Because need could be a beautiful thing if you knew another person wanted very much to meet those needs. I smiled against Calder's mouth and wrapped my legs around his hips.
I needed him to be inside of me. I needed to be connected to him in every way possible. I reached down to guide him to my opening, but he beat me to it, lining himself up and surging inside. The feeling was so immediately full and intense that I cried out, arching backward. "Yes," I sighed out. It was like coming home.
Calder began to move very slowly, moaning out my name as I rubbed my hands up and down his body, relishing the feel of his warm skin, his size, his perfect maleness moving over and inside me. My body melted beneath his and my heartbeat pulsed between my legs where he was pressing in and out of me in the perfect rhythm. My breath came out in short gasps as bright white pleasure pulsed through my core and I came in a blinding flash of bliss. Oh God, oh God, oh God.
"Eden, Eden," Calder was moaning as his thrusts grew faster, more powerful. "I love you. Oh God, I love you so much." He pounded inside me for a few more strokes and then he froze, and his expression contorted in a look of pleasure so intense it was almost pained. I watched him, spellbound. His lips parted and his expression relaxed as he circled his h*ps slowly, opening his eyes. He was utterly gorgeous. "You were made for me," I said quietly, not even meaning for the thought to come out of my mouth.
Calder smiled gently, rolling to the side. "Yes," he said. "I was. And you were made for me." He gathered me to him and stroked my arm.
We spent the rest of that night clinging to each other, running our hands over each other's bodies, reacquainting and memorizing each part of the other, discovering the many ways in which we still fit together so perfectly.
We whispered the words of love and devotion that we still felt, reassured each other this was real, and true, and that we'd never be separated again. Our souls clung to each other as much as our bodies did. And yes, there was healing.
At some point in the night, I heard Calder cry out in his sleep and realized we'd drifted apart in the bed. I scooted over to him and ran my hand over his hair, whispering his name softly. We'd blown the candle out and so the room was dark, but I could still see the tense expression on his face. His eyes popped open and he looked around, confused for just a second. Then his eyes landed on me and relief filled them as he reached for me and squeezed me to him. "They live behind my eyes, Eden," he whispered softly. "Each one of them. I see them, I hear them, I feel their fear and their horror. I feel it. Every night."
"What makes it better?" I asked in the darkness.
He sighed and gripped his hair in his hand. "Sleeping on the floor helps sometimes. Maybe because that's how I slept as a child. It comforts me, I guess."
"Then let's move to the floor."
He looked down at me. "I don't want you to sleep on the floor."
"I don't want you to hurt."
Calder squeezed me to him tighter. "You're here. I'll be okay because you're here. And tonight I won't make myself picture each of them, one by one. I won't torture myself."
"Why do you do that?" I asked, my heart squeezing tightly.
"All these years, I've felt like I deserved it. I've felt like, if I got to live then it was my duty to keep hurting for them."
"And for me?" I asked softly.
He shook his head in the darkness. "No. It was different with you. With you, my greatest fear was that I would start forgetting you . . . the details of you. It tortured me. It tortured me," he rasped out.
He turned toward me and I faced him and his eyes moved over my face in the near darkness of the room.
"And so you painted me?" I whispered.
"Yes," he whispered back. "I painted you."
I leaned forward and kissed him hard on his beautiful mouth, my love for him bursting out of me and seeming to fill the room. "I love you, I love you," I chanted between kisses. "I'll never stop loving you, you beautiful, tortured man. I know the goodness in you, Calder. I do, more than anyone. I know the tenderness of your heart, and I know all that was taken from you. I know the dreadful sorrow inside of you. I live it, too. I know. I know. But I also believe we are going to be okay—we are going to love so hard and with so much intensity, that it's going to melt away all the pain. And if now and again, the pain comes back to haunt us, then we'll come back here, to The Bed of Healing. And we'll spend as much time as we need just escaping from the world. That's our plan because I swear to you, my beautiful, sweet love, everyone deserves a love story that doesn't hurt."
Calder let out a loud exhale of breath and leaned his forehead against mine. "Even us?"
I pressed my body more firmly against his. "Yes. I promise you. Even us."
And that's how we fell asleep, wrapped around each other, love filling the room, and Calder didn't wake up again until the next morning when I felt him pressing against me, his morning heat right within arm's reach.
We spent four days in that bed. Four days telling each other about the time we'd spent apart, four days talking about our many fears and hurts and the things that were the hardest to move past. We created our own little world, with nothing but bodies, and hearts, and whispers, and truth.
We had both spent so much time grieving for each other, that we hadn't taken the time to grieve for ourselves—for what we had endured that day, for the horrors we had seen, for the guilt we each carried. And so in that bed, we exorcised those demons still in our hearts, by speaking of them and setting them free.
I kissed his legs, the scars still visible from the torture Hector had inflicted on him. I rubbed my lips over the larger scar on the side of his thigh where he had been shot. Hurt moved through me, but just as I'd promised all those years ago, so did pride. My brave man.
Our innocence had been destroyed that terrible, terrible day. Our hope had been snatched from us. But neither of us had seen what the aftermath looked like in the other person. And there was grief in the discovery just as sure as there was pride in the evidence of our survival. A part of me rejoiced, and a part of me mourned, and I thought that was as it should be.
I moved up his body and we both forgot about scars and hurts and felt only pleasure—only the meeting of our bodies—and all the ways in which we were still very much whole, and very much alive. We both realized we'd merely been surviving these past three years. Both bereft of the completion only being in each other's lives could bring.
We only got up to use the bathroom, brush our teeth, and for me to text my mom and Molly to let them know I was still with Calder. But even after those few minutes, a small feeling of fear and loss would fill my chest and I'd practically run back to Calder. Almost every time, he would be out of bed and on his way to me, too. We weren't ready just yet. After all, who would be eager to leave the scene of a miracle?
We grabbed what food Calder had in his kitchen and ate it in bed—bread with peanut butter, raisins, half a bag of corn chips. We made do. On the third day, Calder said he was going to go out and get us some real food, but after getting dressed and kissing me goodbye and walking out of the bedroom, I started feeling anxious and so I got up to tell him not to go. I met him at the doorway to the bedroom, coming back. He wasn't ready to leave yet either. He grabbed a can of peaches from the kitchen, opened it, and brought it to bed. We undressed and fed each other peaches with our fingers, sticky syrup dripping on our skin. Calder grinned wickedly and dribbled more of it on my ni**les and licked every bit off until I was writhing and moaning and begging him for more than that. When we were both fed and satisfied, I asked jokingly, "How much sex do you think you can have?" Because there had been a lot, Calder was not a small man, and my own body was deliciously sore and achy. I didn't mind.
Calder turned toward me, his cheeks still flushed from the workout of minutes before, looking beautifully happy. "Well, I'm young, and healthy, and I'm desperately in love with the woman in my bed. So, a lot."
The Bed of Healing felt holy—as if, in it, we had been reborn somehow. And every second was precious to two people who knew the next breath was never guaranteed.
"Eden," Calder asked. "You said you've been studying religions. Why?" He was looking at me as if my answer mattered very much to him. In this way, Calder hadn't changed. I wondered how many had possibly fallen a little in love with him over the years, because his quiet intensity and unwavering ability to listen, was probably one of his finest attributes. Rare in a boy, and possibly even rarer in a man. I loved him to the depths of my soul.