The question hung in the air like thick London fog. The stronghold of the previous quiet returned, amplifying the soft-spoken concerns in Eve's head and transforming them to screeching declarations of uncertainty. Would Simone keep quiet or spill all? Did anything she and Julian said about a future with Chad sink in? Anxiety crept into her shoulders, threatening to twist her body into so many knots. This wait. This quiet! When would it end?
As if sensing her need, Julian’s hands went to work, massaging the
tension away as he whispered words of assurance that Simone would not
fail them. Eve closed her eyes, riding the wave of comfort Julian’s
touch and soothing words provided to a place of no worries. A soft sigh
fell from her lips. How did she ever do without him for so long?
“I’m not going to tell Chad,” said Simone, the sound of her voice jolting Eve from her stress-free escape.
Her eyes flew to her daughter’s face. “What?”
“I don’t like this, but I’ll stay quiet. I won’t—I won’t tell him.”
Eve covered Julian’s now still hands with her own and gave Simone a smile filled with equal portions gratitude and relief. “Thank you. This means a lot to us.”
“Yes, it does,” Julian affirmed. “I already have feelers out for the investigator I hired to find your brother. I’m sure he knows his identity, so when I find him, we’ll find our son. Hopefully, this charade won’t have to last too long.”
“Let’s hope,” Simone mumbled, rubbing her forehead.
Tension knocked on Eve’s neck and shoulders as she read her daughter’s unease. What was it now?
“Take it easy,” Julian whispered, resuming his massage as her shoulders arched beneath his hands. “This could be about anything.” He cleared his throat. “Is there a problem, Simone?”
“Possibly. You know, not telling Chad is one thing; I can avoid him. But Daddy? He’s not going to be in the Dominican Republic forever.”
Eve sighed. “T.C.” She hadn’t given him a moment’s thought.
“Yeah, Daddy. He’s going to lose his mind when he finds out you and Julian are married, but when he hears about Chad...” Simone shook her head. “I think he might spontaneously combust. He’s going to have a million questions for me, and I don’t want to lie to him.”
“I understand that, but he can’t know, Simone. Keeping this from him will be hard, but you have to do just that. In fact, I think his anger will be just the help we need.”
“What you need?” Simone looked from Eve to Julian and back again. “I don’t get it.”
“It’s simple, Simone,” Julian said. “Alistair will love it. And while he’s reveling in our misery at being apart and having T.C. down our throats, we’ll be flying under his radar, hot on the trail of our son. If T.C. knew the truth, I don’t think he’d be inclined to try and help us, and red flags will go shooting up for Alistair. That’s why T.C. can’t know.”
“I guess you have a point,” Simone grudgingly conceded. “How long do you think this will take?”
“I don’t have a specific timeframe, but sneaking around in order to spend time with my beautiful wife is going to get old fast. So, I couldn’t take it lasting too long,” he said, pressing a kiss to the back of Eve’s head.
“No kidding. You two can’t stop touching each other. How are you going to convince all of Harmony you’re at odds and an annulment is imminent?”
Eve turned to face Julian. “What did we agree on? A few staged public disagreements--”
“And, as previously mentioned, lots of sneaking around,” Julian finished, dipping Eve and surprising her with a fiery kiss.
Simone groaned. “Now, I know it’s time for me to go. Geez!”
Eve pulled herself from the dizzying lip-lock and gave Julian and admonishing glare. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. She remembered they were on their honeymoon, but for him to kiss her like that in front of her daughter? What was he thinking?
“Simone, you don’t have to rush,” Eve said, smoothing her fingers against her tingling lips.
Julian’s arm circled her waist, pulling her close. “Of course she does, darling,” he corrected, drawing lazy circles about her side.
Eve stared at him in disbelief. Had he no shame? His hazel eyes darkened to midnight black with promises of untold pleasure. Clearly he did not. Her skin grew hot under the heat of his gaze. The reprimand awaiting him was forgotten. Maybe it was time for Simone to go.
“Don’t mind me, I can show myself out,” Simone said, ascending the
steps that lead off the boat.
“We have another performance planned for later at the Bennetts,” Julian called out to her retreating form. “Maybe you’d like to be around to continue persuading your mother to work things out with me.” He grinned.
Simone stopped on the steps but didn’t turn around. “When later?”
“Around say-- six-thirty?” he said, checking his watch.
“I’ll be there.”
“Thanks again, Simone.”
“Yes, thank you, sweetie,” Eve piped in.
Simone waved her hand as she continued up the steps. “Don’t mention it,” she said, disappearing out of sight.
Julian pulled Eve into an embrace. “See, that didn’t turn out too bad.”
She stepped out of his arms and gave his chest a swat.
“Ow! Was that a love tap?” he asked.
“Hardly. How could you kiss me like that in front of Simone? And the way you talked! Making her think that…”
“I wanted to make love to my wife?” Julian laughed. “Your daughter’s a big girl, Eve, and she knows how much I love you.” He showered her neck with kisses, making the ability to reason near impossible. Her heart raced and legs jellied. She was supposed to be giving him a tongue lashing, not allowing his tongue and supple lips to whip her into submission. “The days of hiding my love and desire for you are a thing of the past,” he declared.
“Well, not quite,” she replied, near breathless.
“Yes, they are, my love. See, we have to keep this charade straight. I don’t want the annulment, you do. I’m going to show you and the world how much I love you every chance I get. You’ll persist in your demand for an annulment, but I’ll fight you every step of the way. That’s what we’ll be arguing about. And in between the arguments, we’ll be spending some quality time alone.”
She smiled. “Good old quality time.”
“Uh-huh.” Julian took her hand and led her in the direction of the master stateroom. “You know, we haven’t christened the boat yet.”
He missed a step as she tugged on his hand. “Is there another problem?”
“Julian, I thought a boat was christened by going outside and cracking a bottle of champagne against it. I think you’re headed in the wrong direction,” she quipped.
Humor danced in his eyes. “Oh, my love, you know we don’t do traditional.” His soft lips coaxed hers apart, favoring her with a kiss that made the one in front of Simone look chaste by comparison. His demanding tongue and exploring hands left no question of his intentions. She trembled against him. Wanting more. Needing more. “I plan to crack open a bottle of very good, very expensive French champagne, but I refuse to let it be wasted against the side of this boat. We have three hours before our next public performance, and I don’t plan to waste a minute of it.” He reclaimed her hand and continued toward his destination. “Now, come along. We’ve got some christening to do.”
“What the hell!”
T.C. stared at the bold headlines. Rage burned in his veins like lava. The paper rattled in his shaky hands. He could not believe his eyes. He finally got a hold of a U.S. newspaper and he reads this crap!
“Damn her. Damn her to hell!” he railed, crushing the paper into a ball and tossing it across the room.
The flying mass missed Liz’s head by fractions of an inch as she stepped out the bathroom wearing only a white sheet towel. “My goodness, T.C., what is it? I heard you shouting. You almost hit me with that thing!”
“She played me, Liz. She played me for a damn fool!”
Liz shook her head. “Who played you? Eve?”
He motioned to rounded heap at her bare feet. “Read it. It’s all right there!” he said, stomping to the closet and pulling out their suitcases. They won’t get away with this. He wouldn’t let them. “We need to get back to Harmony!”
“Back to Harmony? T.C., Eve is your ex-wife. What could she have done that could make you this irate?”
“What has she done?” he repeated, tossing shirts, slacks, and dresses into the open luggage. “She married Crane, and she ruined Whitney’s life!”
“What?” Liz bent over and collected the crumpled paper as he continued packing. “Chad is Eve and Julian’s son?” she said in disbelief.
“Yes! Damn it!” T.C. kicked over a chair in his stampede to the other side of the room. Pain erupted in his left right toe. First his knee, now his toe! Crane was forever hurting him. He’d make him pay this time. He’d make him pay dearly.
Hobbling on his injured foot, T.C. cleared the chest of drawers of their possessions. “My baby, my Whitney, has been committing incest. Sleeping with her own brother because of Eve, her lies, and that bastard Julian!”
“Okay, I understand your upset, but how did Eve play you?”
“She made me believe — She and Crane made me believe they were finished. That blowup at the house had to be an act for her to marry him so quickly. She wanted a divorce and knew I wouldn’t give her one; not so she could be with Crane. She pretended it was over between them, and I bought it.” He grunted. “There is a plus side to this madness. She wants an annulment now.” He didn’t try to disguise his smile of delight. Eve pulled the wool over his eyes and ended up with a kick in the teeth. Karma was a bitch, or in Eve’s case, a bastard. A bastard named Crane. “I can’t wait to tell her I told you so.”
“Is that why you want to leave this tropical paradise?” Liz waved
her hands about the room. “To tell Eve ‘I told you so’?”
He shook his head. “No. That’s just a part of it. I’m going back to Harmony to kill Julian Crane.”
||Chapter 27, Part 1