Saving forever, p.17
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       Saving Forever, p.17

         Part #3 of The Ever Trilogy series by Jasinda Wilder
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  "Take me to our bed, Cade."

  He stood up with me, supporting my weight with his hands under my ass, and I crossed my feet at the ankles behind his back, pressed my nose to his neck and tasted the salt of his skin. I felt hope burgeon inside me, hope that he'd find his way back to me, hope that I'd been imagining things, inventing the guilt in his eyes.

  Cade set me carefully onto our bed, holding onto my thighs as they gripped his waist. He kneaded the muscle of my legs, gazing with open desire at my bare upper torso. He leaned forward, traced around the waist of my skirt, searching for the zipper. I angled one hip up, and he found the pull-tab at the center of my spine, tugged it down. Curled the fingers of both hands into the waistband of the skirt and the elastic of my panties, black to match my erstwhile bra. I'd dressed for this, hoping, praying, wishing for this. I'd shaved my legs and crotch, shaved myself bare for him.

  He pulled the skirt and underwear down, tossing them aside, and I curled my legs around his waist once more. His eyes roved over me, from face to boobs to belly and core, and then he faltered and stopped at the scar tissue where the surgeons had done the hysterectomy. Cade reached out and touched the scar, tracing the ridged line of tissue where it ran from one side of my torso to the other, low, just above my pubis.

  I tensed at the touch. We'd made love before now, and he'd obviously seen me naked, so surely he'd seen the scar. Yet he acted as if he hadn't. His fingers paused on the scar, and his mouth opened as if to speak.

  I put my hand over his, pushed his touch lower. "No. Don't talk about it. Not now." He hesitated still. I brought his touch to the apex of my thighs, lifted my hips. "Please."

  I wouldn't say it again. I'd begged him once. I wouldn't again. I shouldn't have to.

  He nodded and then bent over me, kissed my diaphragm, my ribs on the left side, down to the crease of my hip. Kissed across the scar, inch by inch, kiss by kiss. The inside of my thigh. Slid his hands under my backside, lifting my hips and kneeling down at the foot of the bed. My legs hung over his shoulders now, my thighs framing his head. His stubble scratched the tender skin on the inside of my thighs, and I couldn't quite catch my breath as the heat of his mouth warmed my core. He knew how much I loved it when he did this, when his tongue slid into me. God, yes, just like that, bringing me to the rocking, fiery, roiling edge of pleasure. His tongue and lips, his hands splayed under my ass, supporting me as I hung partially off the bed, my knees bent over his shoulders, heel hooked over his ankle, toes curling with each laving lick of his tongue into my wet aching heat.

  He always knew when I was on the edge, and this time, he kept me there, letting me come away from the edge before falling over.

  I opened my eyes to meet his. "What...?" I couldn't breathe; the ache in my core and the need rifling through me was stealing my words. "I need...Cade...more--"

  He helped me slide up onto the bed, and I leaned back on my hands, shaking, watching him as he peeled his shirt off. I edged forward and planted my feet on the floor, twisted the button of his jeans free, jerked the zipper down. He stilled, letting me finish undressing him. I stared up at him as I tugged his pants down, his eyes blazing with need. I didn't look away as I pulled the elastic of his underwear away from his erection, slid them down past his hips. I didn't look away as I lowered my face to him, keeping my eyes on his until the last second. Cade gasped and then grunted as I wrapped my lips around him, gliding my fist around his steel thickness, caressing his soft skin stretched so tight around him.

  He moaned my name and tangled his fingers in my hair as I slid my mouth down his length, tasting the moisture leaking from him. I worked my fingers gently around him at the root, slid my hand up as I let him fall from my mouth, spreading my saliva over the broad head of his cock with my palm. His knees buckled as I twisted my hand around his tip, dragged my thumb across the head and then licked the drips of pre-come as they leaked out.

  I brought Cade to the edge, as he had me, and then I released him. I sat on the edge of the bed, one hand wrapped around his cock and the other clutching the firm globe of his ass. He was breathing hard, staring down at me, eyes hooded, muscles tense. He grabbed me by the forearm, tugging me upward. I stood slowly, my body sliding against his.

  We stood naked together, face to face, body to body, his erection an iron length between us, hard against my belly. I reached up with one hand, dragged the back of my hand across his jaw, then my palm across the opposite side, cupped his cheekbone and leaned in to kiss him. As our mouths met, he pressed into me, leaning down, his arm supporting me at my waist, a hand at my nape, laying me down.

  He knelt over me, staring into my eyes. I smiled up at him, clawed my fingers into the muscle of his buttocks, pulled at him. And then I had an idea.

  I scooted up the bed, wiggling out from underneath him, ignoring the confusion on his face. The look cleared and turned to heat and burning desire as I rolled to my stomach and brought my knees up beneath me. Lifted my hips to him. For him. "You used to love this."

  He growled in his chest. "I still do."

  I craned my neck to watch him lift onto his knees and slide up behind me, fitting his cock between my buttocks, taking my hips in his hands. I felt my body tensing in preparation. He held his erection in his fist and guided himself into me, into my tight wet waiting cleft. I moaned and rocked forward as he entered me, biting my lip at the delicious feeling of fullness.

  I fisted my hands in the sheets, letting all my weight rest on my forearms. He slid deep, groaning, and then pulled back, paused. Palmed my ass cheeks, smoothing his hands over them, then gripped my hips and drove deep. Whispered my name. Pulled back, almost out, and impaled me once more. I gave full voice to my pleasure, to the perfection of his body puzzle-made to fit into mine. I rocked back into his thrusts, moaned and groaned and grunted deep in my throat as he set a rhythm, slow but pounding hard.

  A thick balloon of tension welled up inside me, burgeoning tighter and filled with explosive heat, intensified with each grinding clash of our bodies. His voice met mine in the late morning air of our bedroom, his deep rumble of pleasure winding around my higher whimpers. We moved together, finding true union at last.

  One of his hands slid up my spine and the other tugged me by the crease of my hip against him, moving faster and faster now, encouraged by the needy, mewling shrieks of my impending orgasm.

  "Yes, Cade, yes...don't stop...god, yes, fuck me hard, Cade--" I heard my voice grating and gasping, distinctly feral growls as detonation neared, white-hot lightning spearing through my core. "Now, harder, please--yes, yes--oh, fuck, Cade, yes!"

  I slammed back into him, breathless and shaking as I was seized by a wrenching, spasming, dizzying climax.

  And then he pulled out of me completely, leaving me empty and clenching and moaning with confusion and need. He nudged at me, pushed me over onto my back, and I grasped at him, pulled at him, found his slick hard cock with my hands and fisted his length desperately, guided him into me, frantic for his body to complete mine yet more.

  "I need to see you," he whispered, "I need to see your eyes when I come inside you."

  I locked my legs around his waist and clawed at his shoulders, needing to feel his skin against mine, his weight and his heat and his flesh. I rocked my hips against his, keeping my eyes open and fixed on his.

  He pulled back and slid deep, breathing hard, holding back, tensed and flexed. Again, and then again, he drove into me. I accepted his thrusts and met them with my own, and each slide of his cock inside me sent lances of ecstasy through me as he stimulated my sensitive nerves. I held on to him, pulling him against me with my legs, lifted up and kissed him, sucked his tongue into my mouth and bit his lip.

  And then he couldn't hold the kiss, could only slump over me, pressing his mouth to my chest, and gliding hard and fast into me as his own orgasm gripped him, made him frenzied and wild. He grunted against my skin, gasped my name, wrapped his arms under my neck and held me tight. I lifted up, arched my back and held
him to my breasts, grinding my hips against his, clenching with my inner muscles as he thickened within me.

  He came with a shout, squeezing his eyes shut and then forcing them open, meeting my gaze as he emptied himself inside me. I held him, caressed his back, his hips and his ass and his thighs and his face, everywhere I could reach.

  "I love you, Ever. God, I love you."

  "Forever, and after forever, Cade. Always. I love you, no matter what. No matter what. I promise."

  He let his weight cover me for me a few minutes, a few short perfect moments of complete bliss.

  I held onto those moments of afterglow, cradling Cade's head on my breast, hoarding the joy I felt, the completion and love. I'd need them, something told me.

  All too soon, he rolled off me and tucked me into the nook of his shoulder, and we drifted off to sleep together.

  northward

  I woke up alone in bed. His side was cold. Pale yellow sunlight streamed in through the open window, the weak remnants of a late winter's afternoon. Without sitting up, I glanced through the open doorway, catching a glimpse of Cade. He was at the kitchen table yet again, wearing a pair of gym shorts, his sketchpad open in front of him, pencil case to one side, a bottle of Jameson and a tumbler on the other. The glass was empty, and the bottle was a third gone. It had been full the day before, brand new, a gift to him from his supervisor at UPS.

  He was leaning forward, his elbows on the table, head in his hands. Fists clenched in his hair. His posture was one of utter agony, pure defeat. His breathing was slow, as if he had to convince himself to drag in each breath.

  I hurt for him. I wanted to take away his pain. I wanted to share it with him.

  But cowardly me...I was afraid of the pain, afraid that it meant pain for me, too. I could endure pain if it meant helping the man I loved. I could endure pain if it meant he and I were together. But if the pain was sourced in a wedge between us, then I wasn't sure I could withstand it.

  I watched him from my place in our bed. I watched, and I worried.

  Long minutes passed, and he didn't move except to breathe. He wasn't a heavy drinker, my Cade. But this man, the broken ghost who sat in my kitchen, poured another half-glass of golden whiskey, liquid the color of his eyes swirling in the glass, and he knocked it back, hissed, finished it, and slammed the glass down on the table. Then did it again.

  Unable to take it anymore, I slid out of bed, padded still naked into the living room. I didn't speak, didn't ask him what was wrong. I stood beside him, leaned against him, waited until he reached for the bottle once more. He poured, and I grabbed the glass from him. Swallowed the contents in three burning gulps. Coughed, my wrist to my mouth. His arm snaked around my hips and held me. I held the glass out to him, and he went to take it from me, but I shook my head. "Again," I rasped, my throat still raw from the first shot.

  He hesitated, then poured once more, while I held the tumbler. I sipped it more slowly this time, exploring the burn, the smoky fire of it, the way it made my throat convulse and shudder as I swallowed.

  "If I asked, would you tell me?" I said to him, setting the glass down.

  His fingers scratched at my hip, dug into the crease where leg met hip. "I don't know."

  "Do I want to know?"

  He shook his head. "No. You don't." Cade reached for the bottle but missed, and his hand flopped to the table. "Fuck, I'm drunk."

  I put the cap on the bottle, pushed it away from him. "Even though I promised you I'd love you forever, no matter what?"

  "Yeah."

  I turned to face him, and even drunk his gaze was tormented. "I have midterms coming up soon. We're going to go on vacation, and you're going to tell me then." I put my hands on his cheeks, my thumbs brushing his temples. "I love you, Cade."

  "Okay." He slumped forward, his face resting just beneath my boobs. "I love you too, Ev. Don't ever doubt that."

  I choked, hearing Eden's words, all those months ago. Just before she left me. I blinked away tears. "Don't say that. Eden said that, and now she's gone."

  "I won't leave." The way he said it made it seem like someone would be leaving, but it wouldn't be him. "And we'll find Eden. She'll come back. She loves you too much to have left forever."

  "If she loved me, why did she leave?" It was a question that had plagued me since the day she walked out of my room at the nursing home.

  Cade just shook his head, shrugged one shoulder. "Dunno."

  I stepped away from him. "Go take a shower, and then watch a movie with me." I pushed at his shoulder, trying desperately to regain the happiness I'd felt only hours before. "It's Christmas Day. We have to watch Christmas Vacation."

  He nodded sloppily, and shuffled into the bathroom. I put on one of his T-shirts while he showered and then got the movie cued up, curling in the corner of the couch while I waited for him. He emerged a little clearer-eyed half an hour later, his hair mussed and shaggy and way too long, wearing a pair of clean gym shorts and nothing else.

  He laughed with me at the movie, even though we'd both seen it countless times. Eden and I used to watch it every year on Christmas Day. We'd drink eggnog and eat a shitload of cookies, and quote our favorite lines along with the actors. Cade had told me once that his mom had loved it, too, so it held significance for him as well.

  When it was over, I eyed the shelf of movies beside the TV. "How about James Bond?" I knew those movies reminded him of his dad.

  Cade's expression shuttered closed, and he shook his head. "No. Not Bond." I was puzzled by the strength and immediacy of his reaction, but didn't push it.

  We ended up watching the entire Riddick trilogy, and didn't go to bed until after two in the morning.

  Merry Christmas.

  With the knowledge that midterms were approaching, and with it the conversation both Cade and I knew was coming, time slipped past all too quickly. Yet not fast enough. I dreaded the conversation, yet craved the closure I knew would accompany it, for good or ill. It meant an end to the wondering, an end to the questions and the fear. But it meant pain. I knew that much as clearly as I knew my own name.

  Cade was easier to be with, strangely. I didn't question it, though, only tried to enjoy the casual conversations he'd engage me in, the way he held me tight at night. The way he'd wake me up early in the morning and make love to me with silent fervor. They were wild, those morning tumbles. Intense. Not so much passionate as...desperate. Frantic. As if he was afraid he was going lose me.

  I always held him, and told him I loved him, and he returned it, but his eyes held a distance, a sadness, a resignation.

  January wound down, and spring break approached. I took my tests, turned in papers, and fought the feeling of impending doom. Some days, it felt as if I couldn't breathe, as if a weight was sitting on my chest.

  Prompted by I didn't know what, I put in my notice at the office where I worked part time.

  Cade requested two week's vacation from both jobs, and ended up quitting the janitorial job when they'd only grant him one week.

  The last day of midterms was a bright and sunny Friday. I only had one exam, mid-morning, a low-level math class I had to take to finish out my requirements. I hated math but was pretty sure I'd at least passed the test, which was all I cared about.

  I turned it in, put on my coat, shouldered my purse, and sent Cade a quick text that I was on the way home. When I arrived, he had a bag packed for us. We were going to the cabin. I'd managed to find the address and had printed out directions.

  Cade drove. We were both quiet, tense.

  "Think she'll be there?" Cade asked.

  I'd wondered the same thing myself, over and over again. I'd written a letter, put it in an envelope, and put a stamp on it, but hadn't been able to send it. I couldn't bear the waiting, the not knowing if I'd get a response from her, or a yellow "return to sender" sticker, or simply nothing at all.

  "I don't know," I said. "It's the only place I can think of that she might have gone."

  "Are
we planning on staying there?"

  I shook my head. "Probably not. If she is there, she's been living there for almost nine months, and we couldn't crash in on her like that. And if she isn't there, the cabin probably isn't in any condition to stay in."

  He just nodded, and silence descended between us once more, and lasted the rest of the way up to Traverse City. We ate at Red Ginger, a sushi place downtown, and walked the sidewalks together, hand in hand, stopping into shops here and there, browsing through the trinkets and baubles and artwork. We spent over an hour in an art gallery on Front Street, admiring the work of local artists. There was a series of landscapes which were fairly underwhelming, some abstract pieces that had Cade and I both nodding in appreciation, and, along one entire wall, hand-carved wood sculptures by someone named Carter Haven. They were fascinating pieces, all of them. They were varied in style, ranging from life-size squirrels and birds to topographical maps of the Traverse City area, to abstract twists of wood fused with straps of black iron.

  I had put off the trip up the Old Mission Peninsula, and I knew Cade was putting off the conversation. The Conversation. It deserved the capital letter.

  But I knew we couldn't put it off any longer. I stood with Cade at the corner of Front Street and Union, cars passing and flurries of late winter snow swirling around us. I took his hands in mine, looked up at him. "We should head up."

  He nodded. "Okay." A glance down at me, to assess my mood. "You ready?"

  I shook my head and shrugged. "Not really. But I have to know if she's here."

  I'd booked a room at a hotel on the tourist strip, so we didn't have to worry about finding somewhere to stay once we'd visited the cabin.

  With evening falling around us, Cade pointed the Jeep north on M-37 and, with every passing mile, my heart pounded harder.

  She was here. I could feel her. I could sense her.

  EDEN

  unlikely wisdom

 
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