The warm air of the summer evening was thick and oppressive. Combined
with her emotional overload, Eve felt like a corn kernel in a great big
air popper. Anymore heat and pressure would cause her to explode. Immediately
after talking with TC she phoned Julian. When she arrived at the park,
she spotted him waiting for her on their bench. Even with his back turned,
just the sight of him eased the tension that knotted her neck. He was just
what she needed. His comfort and support had been her sanity for the past
few months, and after today she would need that more than ever. As she
approached him, she could tell something was wrong. His hands covered his
face and his shoulders were slumped. Something was weighing heavy on his
mind, and it was more than just his concern for her.
He quickly rose from the bench and greeted her with a fierce hug. “Eve, my darling, how are you?”
“I’ve been better,” she answered, returning his embrace, “being with you always helps.” She brushed her lips against his and looked into his sad eyes. “What’s wrong?”
He caressed her cheek and shook his head. “Let’s not worry about me. I’m only concerned with you.” Julian took her hand and led her to the park bench. “You sounded very upset when you called.”
“Upset? Yeah, I guess I’m that.” Tears blurred her vision. “It was horrible, Julian.” Eve buried her face in his chest. His soothing touch and the scent of his cologne was like an elixir. Very calming. Exactly what she needed as she shared with him the details of her exchange with TC.
TC’s dark eyes were midnight black with rage as he backed away from her. “I must be on drugs now because I could swear you just said you were in love with Julian Crane.”
Eve extended her hand in an attempt to soothe him as she tried to explain but TC shrunk away. Her voice was whispery soft. “I know this seems like it’s coming from out of nowhere, but….”
“Does it seem that way?!” TC barked. “You come into this house and tell me, for all pretense and purposes, that our whole life together has been a lie, then cap it off with you are in love with and had a son by Julian Crane. Why in the world would that surprise me? When did you stop loving me, Eve?”
Eve sighed. “I didn’t, TC. I do love you, and I’ll always love you, but the problem is I don’t think I was ever truly in love with you. I wanted to be, and I thought I was, but if it were true, I couldn’t stop loving you and fall back in love with Julian. It wouldn’t have happened.” She found looking at him impossible to do, so she trained her eyes to her feet. “I’m sorry I couldn’t love you the way you deserved.”
“You’re not sorry,” Liz snapped, readily offering her two cents as she moved next to TC. “You’re incapable of loving anyone but yourself, Eve. That was evident when you left me all those years ago and it’s still clear now.” Liz pressed her chin to TC’s shoulder and rubbed her hand against his back. “Don’t worry, TC, I’ll be here for you when you kick her out of your home and life. I’ll take good care of you,” she cooed.
“Thank you, Liz, I do appreciate that, and I think I may just take you up on your kind offer. I believe you will take good care of me, but I think I’d like to talk with Eve alone right now. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Of course not, TC.” Liz hateful gaze chilled Eve to the bone. Her sister came over and whispered, “You deserve all of TC’s wrath.” She stepped closer to Eve and murmured in her ear. “You think you done something by coming clean, oh, sister dear, my plans for you are just beginning.” Liz gave TC a sweet smile. “I’ll be in my apartment if you need me.”
“You’ve been wonderful, Liz. Thank you very much.”
Eve had to gather strength to keep from hurling as Liz sauntered out of the house. Her sister played the pitiful me act to glorious perfection and TC had bought every word of it. If only he knew he was as much a pawn in Liz game as she was. His eyes were filled with disdain and disappointment as he turned to her. “Look at you. It’s amazing how designer clothes and the initials M.D. can turn a common tramp into someone that appears respectable. You had our girls and me fooled.” He chuckled. “It’s no wonder Whitney ran off with that street punk. She was following her mother’s footsteps. You put that need in her blood. I married a drug addicted lounge singer that got knocked up by Julian Crane. Julian Crane!” He flung out his arm sending the lamp on the end table crashing to the floor.
Eve’s heart pounded in her chest. She was startled by his outburst, though she knew she shouldn’t have been. What was a surprise was that he hadn’t stormed out of the house vowing to kill Julian.
“How could you do this?! How could you make a fool of me for all these years?”
“I never made a fool of you, TC. I did love you. I honestly believed I’d spend forever with you.” She covered her face and sighed. How could she make him understand this? Eve extended her hand in an attempt to offer him comfort, but just as before he jerked away. “I know you’re angry, and you’re definitely entitled to it, but I never meant to hurt you. The reason I kept this from you for so many years was because I was afraid of hurting you and losing you. The thought of that was just too much to bear.”
“And now it’s not?”
“TC, I have struggled with coming to terms with this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to tell you about my past. I’m tired of being blackmailed. Liz has been holding this over my head long enough.” And so had Ivy, but that part of the story was for another time. Eve closed her eyes and released a breath. The song from her days on the church choir about feeling better after laying down her burdens popped into her head. She would soon find out how true that song was. “I’m tired of living a lie.” Eve walked over to the mantle and picked up the family picture. They were all so happy in the photo. It seemed like years ago instead of the few months that it was. She replaced the picture. “I just couldn’t go on like this.”
“Keeping the truth about my past from you, and denying my feelings for Julian. No one was more surprised than I that those old feelings were still alive and smoldering in my heart, but they were. With Julian there are no secrets. I can have a moment’s peace with him. I can talk to him and he listens to me. He knows me and accepts me for who I am?”
“You never gave me the chance to accept you for who you are, because you’ve been lying to me from the moment we met. You’re a damn stranger, Eve! You always knew how I felt about Julian Crane, yet you never said a word about your past with him. Not one damn word. You talk about secrets. I didn’t keep the secrets in this marriage, you did that.”
That was the last straw. “I didn’t do it alone.” She was tired of him putting everything that went wrong with their family and marriage on her. It was time he took his share of the responsibility. “What’s in that precious shed of yours, TC?”
A muscle flinched under his eye. “That is none of your business.”
“That’s precisely what I’m talking about! I’ve tortured myself because I kept a past relationship from you. Past relationship. This shed business came to be after we were married and moved into this house. It’s always been a part of our present, yet you have no problem keeping its mysterious contents from me, and I’m the bad guy here?”
Eve folded her arms across her breasts that rose and fell with every angry breath she took. “I’m so tired of being the cause of everything that goes wrong with this family. A lot of the blame lies with you. You pushed Whitney to share your shattered dream of tennis glory, so much so that you pushed her out of this house. You forced her to choose between her first love and your blueprint for her future in the guise of family preservation. She could still be with Chad and have her family, but because a relationship would take focus away from tennis you put your foot down. I don’t want Whitney singing in a nightclub or anywhere else, but I do want her to be happy. It’s seems to me her happiness is not even as issue for you. All you want from her is an obedient tennis champ.”
“So this is my fault? I’m wrong for wanting Whitney to have what we’ve worked so hard for her to achieve? That damn Chad put this crazy singing idea in her head and because he says he loves her she believes singing is the future she wants. The dirty details of your past don’t help. This is as much your fault as it is Chad’s.”
Eve groaned. “Of course it is. What else is new?” She rolled her eyes in disgust. “I am so tired of this. All we do is argue, TC, and I don’t want to fight with you anymore. I just want us both to be happy, and we can’t be happy together, not anymore.”
“You want to be with Crane, is that what you’re saying?”
Eve nodded. “Yes, that is what I’m saying. You and I have been disagreeing a lot lately, but I believe we could end things on good terms.”
TC raked his fingers through his hair. He seemed to look through her instead of at her. “Good terms?! You come in here and tell me you’re in love with a man I hate and--” His face contorted in disgust. “You slept with Julian Crane and bore him a son. A man I wouldn’t spit on if he were on fire made love with my wife. The same man that ended my tennis career and caused my father to die of a broken heart has my wife’s heart, and you think we could end things on good terms? I lost every dream I ever had because of Julian Crane and now you’re telling me I’m going to lose you to him, too.” TC grunted in indignation. “Not in a million years. Julian Crane will not take anything else that belongs to me.”
“I don’t belong to you, TC. I’m not a possession.”
TC scoffed. “Maybe not a possession, but in the eyes of the law you are mine, and that’s not ever going to change. Sure as hell not for Julian Crane. You’re going to stay right here in this house and keep up your façade. You’ve done it for this long; you can keep doing it.” His eyes narrowed as he glared angrily at her. “You should have never married me. Your fatal flaw was sleeping with Julian Crane and bringing his sloppy seconds to my bed. God, I think I’m going to be sick. If there was ever a time for me to kill Julian Crane, this would be it.” His brows narrowed in deep thought. One corner of his mouth twisted into a dark almost sinister smirk. “You know what, I think I’m going to let him live. If he loves you as much as you say he does, seeing me with you will be a lot better than death. This will kill him from the inside out. Crane thinks he has you, just like I thought I had my tennis career. And just like he took that from me, I’m taking you from him. He’ll finally understand what it’s like to suffer.”
Julian shook his head in disbelief. “He said I would finally know what’s it’s like to suffer? I’ve suffered for years, Eve. Not having you in my life has been the worst torture I’ve ever known. TC thinks playing tennis would have given him a happy life? My God. I would trade every tennis trophy and cent I’ve ever had or could think of having to have the life he’s had with you. All I’ve ever wanted in this world is you.” He covered his face and sighed. “Fate is dealing us a cruel hand.”
“TC is not this vindictive. He’s angry right now, but he won’t make me stay with him knowing I’m not in love him.”
“I want to believe that, but you and I both know the depth of TC’s hatred for me. He will have no problem keeping his word. None at all. He’s going to make this as difficult as possible. And your miserable sister won’t help matters.” Julian rubbed his face. “I’m sorry, my love, this has been a horrid day all around.”
Eve had never seen nor heard him sound so low. She pressed her hand to his cheek. “Julian, what’s wrong? Please don’t say you’re only worried about me, I know it’s more than that.”
He nodded. “You’re right, I do have something…some things on my mind.” Julian lowered his head and sighed. Eve’s heart broke for him. She wasn’t used to seeing him like this. He took her hand and gave it a tight squeeze. “Eve, I’ve been a coward for so long. I’ve said you make me want to be a better man, and you do. Today you faced your biggest fear, coming clean about our past together and…. I want to be as brave and strong as you.” The grip he had on her hand got stronger. “This is so hard.”
Eve didn’t like the way this sounded. Alistair couldn’t have gotten to him again. “Julian, you’re starting to scare me.”
He pressed a kiss to her hand. “I’m scared,” he confessed as tears filled his eyes.
Eve wiped away his tears. “What’s wrong, Julian? Please, tell me.”
He looked at her. The sadness in his eyes matched that in his voice.
“What I have to say is….It’s not something you want to hear. It’s not good,
Eve.” He shook his head and lowered his gaze from hers. “It’s not good