Page 23 of Finding Eden

I smiled, thankful for his words. "Thank you, Detec—" I looked up as Calder moved into my vision. His jaw was hard and he put the two glasses of water down on the coffee table hard enough that a little bit of water sloshed over onto the wood. I looked up at him and his eyes widened and he looked embarrassed.

"Sorry, I'll go get a napkin."

When he left the room, the detective said, "This is just as hard on Calder, I'm sure. Take care of each other."

I let out a breath. "We will. I appreciate that." I walked him to the door and stood against it for a minute after I'd closed it behind him, considering the situation now in front of us. I wasn't sure what to think yet.

I went into the kitchen where Calder was standing with his hands braced on the counter. I put my arms around his waist and hugged him. "Hey," I said.

"Hey," he said softly, turning in my arms. He brought his arms around me and I laid my cheek against his chest.

"Everything's going to be okay," I murmured.

"Yeah," he said and paused. "Just seeing Clive's face . . ." He let out a harsh breath.

"I know."

We stood like that for a few minutes, taking comfort in each other.

"What do you think he thought?" Calder asked. "When he heard we're still alive? What do you think went through his mind?"

I leaned my head back and looked up at him. "I don't want to even try to get into his mind. I can only imagine it's a really ugly place to be." A shiver ran down my spine.

The look on Calder's face told me he agreed wholeheartedly.

After that, the media amped up their efforts to get to us—for now, it was safest and most convenient to be at my mom's house. So a couple days after we'd arrived, the police drove us to Calder's apartment so he could pack a small bag and grab what he needed for an extended stay.

When we all got to the top of the stairs, one of the policemen said suddenly, "Stand back," and drew his gun. Adrenaline burst through my system and Calder's arm shot out in front of me, pushing me back, before he positioned his body in front of mine.

The police officers hurried past us and one of them nudged Calder's door open with his foot. It was then that I understood. Calder's door was slightly ajar. My heart sank. I knew we had closed it and that Calder had locked it when we had left a couple days before.

I peeked around Calder as the door swung open and gasped, horrified, when I saw the destruction.

Calder let out a choked groan as the police officers went in, their guns drawn. Calder grabbed my hand and moved me to the side of the door as we heard the officers inside the apartment searching it. After about five minutes, they came out. "I'm really sorry," one of the officers said. "Prepare yourself. It's bad in there."

Calder held on to my hand as we both entered the apartment. I put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from crying. All the kitchen cabinets had been torn from the walls, and the beautiful flooring was gouged and looked like a jackhammer had been taken to it. The counter was smashed and all the light fixtures had been torn down. Oh God, oh no. Why? Calder had done all the work on this place himself. I looked up at him and he looked shocked, his expression blank, but his jaw hard and set.

I dragged my eyes from him and read the words written in black paint all across what had been clean, white walls: SATAN WORSHIPPERS, ACADIA DEVILS DIE, and EVIL LIVES HERE.

I choked out a horrified sob. My eyes flew to Calder's and before his eyes met mine, I saw something that looked like shame on his face as he read the words. Hector had called him evil, too. Satan's spawn. Somewhere inside, did he believe that was true? Oh, Calder.

Calder pulled me through the destruction that was the open-space living and kitchen area down the hall to his studio. I cried out again when I saw what had been done. Every painting was smashed and destroyed—completely obliterated. I looked around, bile rising up my throat. The same graffiti was all over the walls of his studio, too, but when I looked at Calder, he wasn't looking at that. His eyes were moving over all his ruined work. Devastation hit me in the gut. "Calder," I whispered, "I'm so sorry." My voice broke on the last word.

Calder stared straight ahead for a minute, clenching and unclenching his fists, and then he looked down at me and pulled me in to his chest. We stood there for a few minutes, simply breathing together, tears coursing down my cheeks.

"It's okay," Calder said soothingly, running his hand over my hair. "Those paintings were my longing for you, Eden. I have the real you now. I don't need them."

I shook my head against him. "But it was your work. Your beautiful, beautiful work."

He was quiet for a minute. "I can make more. And now I have you right in front of me so every detail will be right and perfect." His words were calming, but the lack of emotion in his voice scared me.

I turned my face into his T-shirt and cried a little more as he held me. "I'm sorry. I should be holding you right now."

Calder breathed out, smiling a small, sad smile down at me as I gazed up at him. "You are."

I sniffled out a small, sad laugh when I realized that indeed I was–and tightly.

We walked to his bedroom and I looked around unbelievingly at more graffiti and the clothes that were cut and flung all over the room. And in the middle of it all, the sheets had been stripped off our Bed of Healing and the mattress was slashed everywhere. I felt as if it was me that had been slashed right down the middle. I felt violated and sick. Calder's hand gripped mine until it was almost painful. His whole body was tense as we turned and walked out of the room and back to where the two officers were waiting. "There's nothing here to pack," Calder said as we walked past them.

"We'll write up a report when we get back to Mrs. Connor's house," one of them said behind us.

The police created a barrier from reporters as we got back in the cruiser parked out front. Calder stared out the window as we drove. "That was the first place that was ever my own," he said softly. "I wanted to keep you safe there."

My heart squeezed painfully. I pictured the small, two-room cabin he'd grown up in . . . and then the blanket on the floor in the laundry room where Hector made him sleep. He had never had a place of his own, a place to take pride in, a place to enjoy privacy. And he had wanted to make it ours.

I didn't have any words. I simply moved over on the seat and held him.

**********

The weeks dragged by. Calder didn't talk a lot about what had been done to his apartment. But I could tell it had affected him deeply—not just the destruction of his things, his space, but the fact that there were people that hated us for being any part at all of Acadia. Both of us were even more leery of the media and of making any attempt to go out of the house. When he wasn't with me, Calder spent most of his time sitting out by the pool. I couldn't help seeing the similarities of when I had looked out my window at the main lodge and saw the shadow of a boy sitting out on a small front porch. The house was bigger this time, but just like then, he was looking for his own space—and not finding it.

As the days passed, I could tell Calder was getting more and more antsy to get out of my mom's house, and what had felt like a refuge for a little while, was now beginning to feel like a prison. We did try to go out one day when the yard was empty and we thought we could get out unseen, but as soon as we stepped outside, car doors opened and closed down the street and reporters ran toward us shouting questions. I felt Calder tense beside me and I dragged him back inside.

Xander visited whenever he wasn't working, and my mom and Molly fluttered around us trying to make sure we were doing okay, and that we were entertained.

There was almost a competition between my mom and Calder for my time, though, especially on my mom's end. I did my best to split myself between them. But I was only one person. And we were all trapped together in one house.

The media was making Xander's life inconvenient, but they weren't hounding him to the degree they were hounding us. The triple news story of my kidnapping and return, Calder and I having been at Acadia the day of the flood, and our love story turned the media into vultures.

The police still came and went, stopping by to clarify something, or to give us information they thought we'd appreciate having, such as the fact that all of Clive's assets had been frozen in lieu of the money laundering charges. He wouldn't be able to make bond—he'd be in jail until his trial. Somehow I doubted he had any friends who were willing to help him out.

It was obvious my mom had a special affinity for Detective Lowe, the young, handsome detective I felt most comfortable talking to as well. One day after he'd been by with some questions, my mom came into the kitchen where I was making popcorn for a movie Calder and I planned on watching.

"Eden," my mom said, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet next to her and handing it to me. "Bobby is so handsome, isn't he?"

I paused. "Bobby?"

"Oh." She laughed. "Detective Lowe."

"Uh, yeah, he is, Mom."

She smiled happily, leaning on the counter and taking in a deep breath. "I think he likes you," she said.

I halted in opening the bag of popcorn and stared back at her. "I'm with someone, Mom, in case you might have forgotten? Calder? He lives in your house here with us?"

My mom laughed uncomfortably. "Well of course, I'd never forget Calder. How could I?" She pressed her lips together, but then her expression gentled and she took a deep breath. "I just hope you notice how attractive other men find you. You've never experienced any of that." She looked down. "I know I'm meddling, Eden, I do. It's just . . . I never got to be involved in giving you any motherly advice when it came to dating, or . . ." Pain washed over her face, but I didn't reach out to her. "I just think it's always good for a woman to recognize all her options." She paused for a brief second. "Calder is such a nice boy, and so very handsome, obviously, but, you know, you don't have to feel guilty if you think about experiencing a man who could possibly give you more security, someone who doesn't constantly remind you of the terrible past. I swear to you, I'm only saying this out of love."

Then why didn't it feel loving? I opened my mouth to say something to her, I wasn't even sure exactly what, when I heard movement behind me. I turned to see Calder standing in the doorway, a look of hurt plastered all over his face.

"Calder—" I started, glancing between him and my mom who was avoiding his gaze.

"The movie's starting," he said, turning and leaving the room.

I gave my mom a death glare. She shrugged, but had the grace to look embarrassed.

"Hey," I said, when I got to the living room where he was waiting for me on the couch. "I'm not making excuses for her, but you know my mom is just kind of controlling with me because she's fearful of losing me again, right?" God, I was making excuses for her. Frustration filled me, for the situation, with myself. I wasn't sure what I should do.

Calder was quiet for a few beats. "Yeah." He looked at me. "This is just a tough situation. It'll pass."

I nodded, but he still looked hurt. Surely he knew I'd only ever love him? For the three years I'd lived with Felix, I'd never even looked at another man—never had interest in another man. He had to know he meant everything to me. I moved in and snuggled with him on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, ignoring my mom, but not knowing if that would make things better or worse.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Eden

A couple days later, I awoke bright and early, despite the fact that I had barely slept the night before. I was worried about Calder. We spent all our time together, and yet I felt like he was withdrawing from me. And for the first time since we'd arrived at my mom's house, he hadn't come to my room. The thunderstorm that went on and on all night hadn't helped matters.

When I went downstairs, I heard a male voice in the kitchen and walked in to see Xander sitting at the kitchen table with Molly.

"Hey," I said to both of them.

"Hey," Xander said, standing up and giving me a hug.

"Morning." Molly smiled

"What are you doing here so early?" I asked Xander. I poured myself a cup of coffee from the pot on the counter and returned to the table to sit down with them.

"I work this morning," he said. "I just wanted to stop in and check on Calder. And I was hoping you'd be up first so we could talk."

I smiled a small smile. "Yeah, he's still sleeping," I said, pouring some Half and Half that was sitting on the table into my cup. "Were you worried about him?"

"Yeah. He called me last night," he said. "It sounded like he's having a rough time."

I paused, my cup halfway to my lips. My shoulders sagged and I felt the weight of the situation. I set my cup down. "This is just so hard. I never expected things to be this way. I wasn't prepared for this situation, especially so soon after reuniting with Calder." I paused. "He's not handling it well."

Xander shook his head. "I can't say I blame him. He's trapped again, pent up, feeling worthless."

I let out a breath. "What do I do?"

Xander looked out the window for a minute. "You could get away from here for a while."

"Oh God," Molly interrupted. "Carolyn would freak."

I groaned and put my face in my hands. When I looked up, I said, "I know, she would. But she doesn't want to share me with him either. And she still wants me to be twelve . . . or six . . . or, sometimes I don't even know."

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