I cocked one eyebrow. "Who says? Not me, that's for sure. Whatever the highest rating is, that's what I give that work of art."
"Five stars." She grinned.
"Five life-changing, extremely satisfied stars," I said, smirking and raising both brows.
Eden laughed. "We'll have to hope this one measures up, then." She smiled flirtatiously at me again and went back to reading.
Later, we strolled the grounds and talked about where we saw our life going. I would call a couple galleries when we got back and Eden would pick up her piano lessons. We'd buy a new Bed of Healing and we'd hire someone to clean up and repair my trashed apartment so I could hand it back over to the guy who'd rented it to me. Then we'd find a new one in a better part of town, one we both picked out together. I'd buy the most high-tech alarm system on the market. And I'd marry my girl. I didn't mention that part to her again, but in my mind, it was my first priority when we got back. I wouldn't be able to afford a very fancy ring right away, but I didn't think Eden would mind.
We texted Xander, Carolyn, and Molly frequently updating them on what we were doing and sent them lots of pictures.
On the fifth day we were there, Molly sent Eden a text that sounded important and so Eden called her back. I was lying back on the bed flipping through the movies. It was the day we'd gone horseback riding and so we were both tired and sore and looking forward to relaxing for the evening.
"Hey, Molly," I heard Eden say.
She listened for a minute and when I saw her face drain of color, I sat up, watching her.
"Okay," she said quietly. "Thank you for letting us know . . . No, I know . . . Yes, I'm fine. We're fine." Eden glanced over at me and then away. "Okay. I love you, too. ‘Bye, Molly." She hung up and stood staring straight ahead for a minute.
"Eden?" I asked, fear creeping into my voice. "You're scaring me. What's wrong?"
"Clive Richter was murdered in jail this morning. The police just came over to tell us. Molly told them we were staying with a friend for a couple days. She told them she'd call us." Her voice sounded flat and alarm speared through me.
Eden's eyes met mine. "Stabbed."
I blinked at her for a minute, absorbing the news, trying to figure out if I was upset about it. I tilted my head. "Do they know why?"
Eden bit her lip and came to sit down on the bed next to me. She shook her head. "She said they didn't even have a suspect. He was in jail with people he arrested though. Knowing Clive's personality, he made enemies all over the place."
I furrowed my brow. I couldn't disagree with that. Clive was the type of man who got off on making people's lives miserable, especially when he held the upper hand. I thought about the time I'd physically overpowered him at the main lodge before I'd known he was a police officer. I knew now he was the type of cop who needed a gun to show any strength. And he hadn't had either the upper hand or a gun in jail. Still, was I disappointed he'd never serve time for his crimes? Was I disappointed he'd never be officially charged with the crimes against Eden and me? Flashes of him pulling up in his police car, throwing Eden and me in the back . . . watching as Hector started the fire at my feet . . . beating Xander . . . "Good," I finally said.
Eden's eyes snapped to mine. She searched my face for several beats and then she leaned in and wrapped her arms around me, pulling me close. She knew exactly what I was thinking, just like she always did. And she forgave me. I released a breath and pulled her against me.
When we let go she said, "There won't be a trial now. We know that for sure."
"Good," I repeated, realizing that although I'd have gone to trial and faced him without fear, it was another way we'd been set free. "I don't know if he deserved to die, Eden. I guess it's not my job to determine that, although if I had had the chance to kill him that day, I would have. But he was guilty, and he was an evil man, there's no doubt in my mind there. So I don't have a problem with what happened to him. And maybe we don't get justice in the court system, but the justice we get by being free of him? That's enough."
She nodded. "For me, too."
We took a long, hot shower together and when we got out, we saw that a light, but steady rain was falling outside. We got under the covers and watched movies for the rest of the evening. Inside, I felt okay, but I still held on to Eden tightly that night. And in the morning, we stayed in bed well past eleven.
"Let's go to that museum today," Eden suggested as we were getting dressed. "It's really the only thing we haven't done."
"Okay," I agreed. "Should we think about going back to Cincinnati?"
She looked sad. "Maybe just a couple more days? I'm not ready to leave just yet."
I smiled. "Me neither."
Outside, the air smelled fresh and I inhaled deeply. The rain had washed everything clean and somehow the world seemed brighter.
We strolled downtown to the small building that held the French Lick West Baden Museum and waited as the guide finished with another tour. We were the only two in the next group and I held Eden's hand as we walked through the building, the tour guide expounding on all the artifacts.
As we stood and looked at a poster of an advertisement from a company that sold the spring water as an elixir back in the eighteen hundreds, our tour guide explained, "Pluto water is what made the French Lick resort famous. It was sold as a health remedy for chronic ailments of the stomach, liver, kidneys, you name it. It was declared that these waters had miraculous powers to cure everything from asthma to alcoholism to venereal disease." He chuckled. "Guesthouses were built around the springs so people could drink and soak in the Pluto Water."
Eden tilted her head. "Why was it called Pluto Water?" she asked.
"Oh, it was named for the god of the underworld because the waters came from underground and were dark like the mythical River Styx."
I glanced at Eden who had a small frown on her face and then back at the poster. Rest for the weary, Cure for the ill, I read. "Did the stuff really work?" I asked.
The tour guide chuckled again. "Well they tested the water at some point and found it was full of two things," he looked back at us as he continued through the museum, "salt and traces of lithium."
"Lithium?" I asked as he stopped at another display.
"Yeah, they use it now as a mood stabilizer for mental health issues. ’Course you'd have to drink quite a bit of the water to get those affects, but a little bit of it could sure put you in a good mood, and the salt would clear you out real fast so that some of your ailments probably would feel better. Temporarily at least." He continued on, my heart rate picked up in speed. I looked over at Eden and I could see that she was thinking the same thing I was.
"Sir," I interrupted, "these springs, are there other ones? I mean, in other parts of the country? Is it possible?"
"Oh I s’pose it's possible. I don't personally know of any others, but could be."
I nodded and we continued through, my mind spinning in a million directions. When we finally thanked the guide and stepped back out onto the large front porch of the museum, Eden whispered, "Hector, he was here, wasn't he?"
"I think so," I said, looking around as if I would suddenly see him walking toward us on the sidewalk. I shivered despite the fall sunshine and pulled Eden into my side.
"Did he find a spring that had the same elements?" she asked, frowning.
I shook my head. "That or he added them, if that's even possible. I don't know. All I do know is, Pluto Water," I looked over at her, "it was the same as our holy water."
We walked around a little bit more and then Eden left for the appointment she had for a massage at the spa while I went back up to the room to watch another movie. I went over the spring water thing in my head, but couldn't come to any conclusions. Was it possible it was just a coincidence? What connected Hector to this place other than the fact that Eden was pretty sure Hector had brought her to this state after he abducted her? I guessed it would make sense that the first council member he would try to recruit—Eden's father—would be within driving distance. And it would be more likely that Hector would have heard Eden's father's story—it was practically local.
I lay back on the bed, not bothering to turn the TV on. My mind kept going around and around Hector's connection to Indiana, and now, this place in particular. There was the Pluto Water name—a Greek connection—just like all the other Greek connections in our religion and so many other parts of Acadia. But what did it mean? I had no clue. Was it possible Hector had simply been traveling through this part of the country and had liked the idea of the spring and sought it out in another place—in Arizona? So many things were possible. And we'd probably never truly understand any of it.
I shot Xander a quick text about the water and told him to look it up online and let me know what he thought. He texted back and told me he was working, but that he would when he got home.
Before I knew it, I'd fallen asleep and Eden was running her fingers through my hair gently. I opened my eyes and gazed up at her beautiful face, smiling sleepily. There was something almost fearful in her expression. "Hey," I croaked out.
"Hey yourself," she said softly.
I sat up a little bit. "You okay? How was your massage?"
"What? Oh, it was good. Nice." She stood up and headed toward the bathroom. "I'm going to shower all this lotion off me and then we can go to dinner?" she called behind her, closing the bathroom door.
I furrowed my brow slightly. "Yeah, okay," I called.
We took the shuttle bus to the restaurant a few miles from our resort that the front desk recommended. The atmosphere was romantic and the food excellent, and we held hands throughout our meal, but Eden seemed distracted. When I asked her about it, though, she just said the massage earlier must have fogged up her brain. And then she'd offered me a warm smile and squeezed my hand.
We went back to the hotel early and Eden got in bed and took out her book, and so I switched on a TV show and had fallen asleep before it even ended.
I was woken up by Eden's hand dipping below the waistband of my briefs and I moaned out.
"I finished my book," she said in my ear. "Were you asleep?"
"No," I lied, not willing to put any kind of halt on what she was doing.
She slid her hand downward and squeezed me gently. I groaned again. She dipped her hand lower and cupped my balls in her palm. "Oh God, Eden."
I rolled over and took her face in my hands, kissing her mouth deeply until those sweet little moans I loved so much came up her throat.
"Tell me about your book," I whispered when I'd broken free from her mouth. I smiled against her neck before I feathered my lips over it lightly. Lust shot through me as she bent her head back and arched her body into mine.
"Hmm," she hummed as I pulled her tank top up and over her head. My mouth immediately went for her sweet, pink nipple. I knew she loved it and so did I. As I sucked and teased the stiff peak, she ran her fingers through my hair.
"Hendrix Cooper, drug-addicted, alcoholic manwhore, and lead singer of Devout Wenches, has a one-night stand with who he thinks, in his inebriated state, is a crazed groupie."
I brought my head up. "Devout Wenches?"
Eden made a frustrated sound in her throat and grabbed my head, pushing it back toward her breast. I grinned and resumed what I'd been doing. She sighed.
"What he doesn't realize until later is that it was actually his assistant, Polly Honeycutt, a poor southern girl whose whole family died when a tornado came ripping through their small trailer park. She was forced to find the first job she could and of course, fell secretly in love with the damaged but lovable bad boy."
"Damaged?" I scoffed, moving to her other breast and kissing it once, lightly. "He sounds more like a complete mess."
Eden moaned as I sucked her nipple into my mouth, laving my tongue around it. She wrapped her legs around my h*ps and ground up against my hardness. I made a strangled sound in my throat. God, she felt good. I moved my h*ps in slow circles against her to the rhythm of my mouth. We were both silent for several minutes, desire making us speechless.
"Aren't we all, in our own way?"
I paused, trying to remember where we'd been. "True enough," I agreed, kneeling up so that I could remove her bottoms.
As I brought her shorts and underwear down her legs, she said, "Anyway, he had his reasons. He had been abused by the headmaster at the boarding school where his parents sent him because they couldn't be bothered by him, and although he cried out for help for years, no one ever came to his rescue." She shook her head, sorrow passing over her expression. I paused. Was I supposed to comfort her or keep going here? But Eden kicked off her bottoms and sat up, bringing her mouth to mine.
We kissed in that position until I was throbbing so hard that I couldn't stand another minute. "Eden," I groaned.
She blinked at me, her eyes shiny and half-closed. Then she pushed me down on the bed and removed my own underwear quickly.
She got on top of me and held my erection in her hand as she pushed down on it, impaling herself. I groaned out at the tight, wet grip of her.
Eden closed her eyes and started moving up and down very slowly. "It was a long road for them," she said, her eyes still closed. "Hendrix had to go to rehab and he had to fire his manager, Naomi Garnet, who was constantly trying to get in his pants and ruin things for him and Polly in shrewd and evil ways." She began moving faster and I felt like I might pass out with how good it felt. I reached up and took her small, perfect br**sts in my hands and ran my thumbs over her ni**les until she threw her head back and started riding me faster.