Eve stopped his exploring hand as it ventured to the swell of her right breast. “Don’t start anything, Julian,” she said, flipping from her side to her back and, much to his shock and displeasure, bringing the white satin sheet previously draped haphazardly around her waist, to right below her neck. “We need to get going.”
Julian flopped onto his back. “Oh, my love, you wound me.” He attempted to lower the sheet but Eve was having none of it. He groaned. “It’s our honeymoon,” he reminded her.
“I’m not denying you, Julian. I think your boat…”
“Our boat,” he corrected, nuzzling her neck.
“I think our boat is duly christened.” She removed his hand from her chest. “But there’s another performance we have to take care of now.”
He glanced across the way at the alarm clock. Five thirty. The things champagne, satin sheets, and intense lovemaking with Eve did to his mind. He sat up. “I forgot all about that.”
“No kidding.” She laughed. “I’d say you got a little sidetracked.”
“You’re not complaining, are you?”
Eve shook her head. “Not at all. Aside from this unfortunate situation with Alistair, I have never been happier. Our son is alive out there somewhere, and we’re married.” She pulled up beside him and caressed his cheek. “I don’t think I told you just how much yesterday meant to me, and how glad I am to finally be your wife.”
The touch of her hand was as soft as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings. Julian pressed his cheek against her open palm as he drank in the lovely vision of seduction she presented in the slinky sheet. He flashed her a rascally smile. “I do believe you managed to express your heartfelt gratitude.”
She chuckled. “I’m being sincere, Julian.”
“So am I,” he said with a kiss. “If you insist, I’ll allow you to thank me some more later.” He gave her another kiss and swung his legs off the bed. “But, first, we have to present our next act, and I think we’ll pull it off without a hitch. Simone is going to be at the Bennetts’, and she’ll be a wonderful partner in crime for us, yes?”
“I think so. She’s still not comfortable with lying to Chad, and I feel bad he can’t know the truth, but I know she’s going to come through for us.”
“She really is an incredible young woman. You have amazing daughters, Eve.” Stepping over his trousers, Julian padded to the closet and pulled open the sliding doors. “You know, there are clothes in here for you, too,” he called to her over his shoulder.
Eve slipped out of bed and into his discarded shirt. Julian frowned. Why did she insist on covering perfection? He turned back to the closet.
“You really care about my girls, don’t you?” she said, joining him and sifting through her rack of clothing.
“Of course, they’re your children. I feel honored to be their stepfather.” He motioned to the mint green silk pantsuit Eve had come upon. “I really like that one,” he said.
She removed the outfit and laid it on the bed. “I wish I knew your children better, Julian. I know Fox and Little Ethan somewhat, but I haven’t seen your girls since they were very small. Where are they now?”
“Somewhere in Europe, I think,” he answered, spotting some tans slacks he thought would do nicely. “Why?”
“I’m touched you care so much about my children, but what about yours? When was the last time you talked to your daughters?”
“They are sent extra checks on their birthdays and at Christmas,” he said, making his exit from the closet with the pants and a dark brown Oxford shirt and dropping them on the bed next to Eve’s ensemble.
Furrowed eyebrows and down turned lips marked her annoyance. She folded her arms across her chest, presenting a delectable view of cleavage exposed from the loosened top buttons of his shirt. There was no denying the affect that particular action had on him.
Eve’s gaze dropped for a moment before meeting his eyes again. She cleared her throat, her frown still in place. “That does not answer my question, Julian.”
He shrugged. “Perhaps, but that is the nature of my relationship with them.” His arms encircled her waist. “You know, you’re even more beautiful when you’re miffed.”
Her cheeks flushed and her heart pounded against his chest, but her expression remained unchanged. “Don’t you want more?” Eve said.
He answered with a smile, pressing his hips against her. “Do you have to wonder?”
Eve stepped out of his embrace and sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m serious, Julian. I’ve seen you with my daughters. It’s amazing how caring and understanding you are with them. I can only imagine how seeing that side of you would affect your children and your relationship with them.”
Julian sighed. His abundance of charm would get him nowhere this time. He pushed his clothes aside, and taking Eve’s hand, sat beside her. “I’m going to apologize for how this sounds ahead of time, but I don’t have a relationship with my children. It’s terrible, I freely admit that, but it’s true.”
“But you can have one, Julian. I look at everything we’re going through in order to find our son, brother to your children, don’t you want them to know him, too?”
“How can that happen if you don’t even know them?”
“In my younger days, I wasn’t the most paternal guy in the world, Eve. As a result, my older children were spared my warmth. Theresa wants me to have nothing to do with Little Ethan. And considering his conception, I think I should abide by her wishes. Ethan is more a father to him than I’ll ever be. For goodness sake, she named the boy after him.”
Eve tightened her hand around his. “All I’m saying is if we’re going to have a new start, why can’t it be a new start all around? I saw how you were with Ethan, and regardless of what you said and did when the truth came out, you were a good father to him, and I know you still care very much about him.”
Julian nodded. “You’re right. I do. He was the apple of my eye for so many years. Who I believed to be my firstborn. He was such a good son, too, Eve. I couldn’t believe he was mine and Ivy’s.” A cynical laugh rumbled in his throat. “And of course, he wasn’t mine and Ivy’s.” Anger and hurt dueled in his heart at the betrayal. “Damn that bitch and her lies.” He couldn’t wait for Eve to blow her out of the water. “She’ll no doubt be at the Bennetts’ when we get there. All but begging you to keep quiet about her blackmailing you.”
“Don’t remind me.” Eve placed a kiss on his shoulder. “What I was getting at is I know how much that hurt you, Julian, but you managed to forge a relationship with Ethan, and he’s even living at your house. That gives me hope for you,” she teased, mussing his hair. “Now, if you can care about him, my girls, and the son you’ve never met the way you do, I know you can do it with your daughters and Fox.”
“Humph. After all these years, they’ll be very suspicious.”
“Maybe, but you’re willing to give it a try, aren’t you?”
Julian pressed a kiss to her cheek. “For you, my love, I’m willing to do anything.”
“I’m glad to hear that, but I want you to do this for you, too.”
He smiled. “Okay. I’m doing it for me, too.”
“Good.” Eve stood from the bed, pulling him along. “This conversation cut into our preparation time, so in order to make it up, I think we’ll have to shower together. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?” she said with a coquettish grin, unbuttoning the short and dropping it to the floor.
“Hmm. Do I have a problem with showering with you?” He narrowed his eyes, pretending to give her question some thought, as he feasted on her lovely, lithe body. “I think I’ll be able to suffer through it,” he said, chasing his squealing wife into the stall.
Simone wandered into the Book Café. The scent of French vanilla and hazelnut coffee attacked her from all sides, tempting her with the possibility for an immediate and intense caffeine high. If only that would help. She clasped her shaky hands as her eyes darted about the crowded shop. Coffee was the last thing she needed. She shouldn’t have come here.
The unlikely events of this afternoon, meeting with her mother and Julian and her subsequent encounter with Alistair Crane, came rushing at her like raging waters. How did she get swept up in this madness? What in the world had she done? Turning to leave, she smashed into an arriving customer in her haste.
“I’m so sorry,” she readily apologized.
“Watch where you’re going!” the angry voice returned.
Though peppered with unrest, the voice sounded familiar. She met the glassy, red eyes of her irate victim. “Chad.”
“Leave me alone,” he said with measured words, pushing past her and stomping to the counter. He slammed his hand on the bar. “Regular coffee!”
Beth came over with a steaming pot. She gave him a nervous smile. “Hi, Chad. How are you doing?” she asked, pouring the brew into a mug.
“How do you think?” He threw a crumbled bill to the counter and settled at an empty table with his coffee.
Simone bristled. She had never seen Chad behave like that. Granted, he had reason to be upset, but he was never rude, and he never looked so unkempt. Sans the jacket, he was still in his suit from the wedding, and he obviously hadn’t slept all night. After debating with herself for a moment, she ambled to his table.
Chad held the mug between both his hands, still the hot beverage sloshed around in the cup like it sat on an active fault line. Some of the coffee spilled onto his hand. His skin reddened, but he didn’t even flinch.
“Chad, look, I uh—”
“Are you deaf?” he said, not looking up. “I said leave me alone.”
“I heard what you said I just-- I’m sorry about all of this.”
“You’re sorry?” He laughed. “Yeah.”
“I am. This situation is…”
“Horrible! Alistair Crane is a fuc— Forget it.”
Chad’s hatred was palpable, but she couldn’t blame him. Alistair was beyond evil and today with her he… No. She wouldn’t drown in a sea of regret because of that old man. She did feel bad for Chad, though. He was in a world of pain because of Alistair and his cruelty, and she couldn’t tell him it was a lie. Maybe she should have left him alone. “Look, I’m sorry I bothered you.”
“Wait.” Chad lowered the cup and met her gaze. He was clearly sleep deprived, but there was something more in his eyes, something dark, disturbing. “Do you know where Whitney is?”
Simone dropped her head. She definitely should have left him alone. “No,” she murmured, only able to look at him for a second before dropping her head again. “I don’t know where Whitney is.”
Chad leapt from the chair. The steel legs scraped the wood floor like fingernails on a chalkboard. “You’re lying!”
Tears filled her eyes. Fear gripped her racing heart. “Chad, I--”
He grabbed her arm. His fingernails dug into her flesh through her long sleeves. She tried to free herself, but his hold only got stronger. “Tell me the truth, Simone,” he demanded, shaking her. “Tell me now!”
In the next moment Chad went flying over his chair and to the floor. Dylan took a protective stance in front of her as the customers around them scurried to get away from the fracas.
Dylan glanced at her over his shoulder. “Simone, are you okay?” he asked, his blue eyes filled with fury but his voice calm, soothing.
She nodded. “Yeah.”
Dylan’s fixed his venomous glare at Chad. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You and my sister,” Chad answered, finally getting to his feet and approaching. “Simone, you tell me where Whitney is!”
“Stay back!” Dylan warned.
She shook her head. Not even bothering to wipe away her tears. “I’m sorry, Chad. I can’t help you.”
“Thanks a lot, Simone. For nothing!” Chad kicked over the table and stormed out the café.
“Simone, you’re shaking like a leaf.” Dylan sat right the table and chair and helped Simone down. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“As okay I can be,” she answered, taking a paper napkin and dabbing her tears.
“Do you want something?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“I’ll go get you some water,” he said, rushing to the counter.
Simone buried her face in her hands. How much worse can this day get? She had to go to the Bennetts’. Face to face with the Chief of Police. She sighed. Things could definitely get worse, but there was no use in prolonging it. Whatever would be would be. She stood to leave, just as Dylan returned with her water.
“Here you go, Simone,” he said handing her the glass. “Drink some of this now.”
Normally, she would balk at being given an order but the worry on his face prompted her to take a few sips. The water actually calmed her; at least as much as she could be calmed under the circumstances. She lowered the glass to the table. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Were you going somewhere?”
“Yeah. I’m going to visit my mother’s best friend. See if she’s heard anything.”
“You’re not driving yourself. You’re too upset.”
“You are not fine,” he said lowering her back to her chair before taking the one across from her. “Your new brother is a hothead.”
“Chad’s just upset.”
“No kidding. Brother or not, he has no right to manhandle you like that.”
She shrugged. “Maybe he does.”
Dylan reached across the table and took her hand. His touch was a little cool from the water glass, but somehow it managed to warm her all over. She thought to move her hand away, but could bring herself to do it.
“Tell me what’s wrong, Simone. You’re acting all stoic, but I can tell something’s bothering you. Is it something more than your mother and what happened just now with Chad? Why did you change your clothes?”
Did he take an inventory on her? Simone stood, anxious to get away from these questions she didn’t want to answer. “It’s a hot day, so I went home and showered, if that’s okay?”
“You took off a sundress and put on long sleeves? That shower must have chilled you to the bone.”
“I don’t have time for Twenty Questions. There’s someplace I have to be.”
Dylan shot up. “Fine. I’m going with you.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Yes, I am.”
Simone sucked in a breath and willed herself not to lose her temper. “I appreciate your concern, Dylan, and rushing to my rescue like you did, but this is none of your business.”
“I’m making it my business. I won’t live with the guilty conscience
I know I’ll have if you get hurt driving yourself somewhere when you’re
upset. Now, either you’ll let me drive you, or I’m going to follow you.
Something happened since I last saw you, Simone, and I’m not going to
stop digging until I find out what it is.”
||Chapter 27, Part 2