Saving forever, p.6
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       Saving Forever, p.6

         Part #3 of The Ever Trilogy series by Jasinda Wilder
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  And in that moment, I didn't care where those emotions went. I was being selfish, I knew that. But I needed him. I couldn't find myself in this new normal without him, and I'd take lies and denial if necessary. Someday I'd face the truth, whatever that might be. But I wasn't strong enough mentally, emotionally, or physically to take anything painful, or to endure any more suffering. Neither was Cade. For now, we had to cling to each other, bound together by time and by the ropes of agony, by the lies we were telling ourselves and each other.

  He was hiding something from me. I knew that. I wasn't fool enough to be able to ignore that. I was fool enough, however, to pretend it didn't matter. To pretend I didn't care.

  His thumb brushed my cheekbone, the edge of my eyebrow. My temple. Down, touched my lips. He blinked, a long, slow shuttering of his eyelids, almost as if in slow motion. The war in his eyes faded further yet, buried deeper. I watched this happen, watched him summon reserves of strength I don't think he knew he had.

  And then...he kissed me.

  Truly, deeply, kissed me. His mouth was warm and wet, and he tasted like coffee, and his lips on mine were hesitant at first, then demanding, strong and devouring. My fingers curled around the back of his neck, clutching at him, and I kissed him back with all of me, drawing his breath into my lungs, sucking at his tongue with my mouth and tasting him, and we breathed together, held each other and kissed as we'd never kissed.

  He pulled back first, let his forehead rest against mine with a soft bump. He was breathing hard, his fingers digging into my shoulders. "Ever...." It seemed like nothing so much as a prayer.

  "Cade. It's you and me. It's always you and me."

  "I know."

  "Do you?"

  He remained there, forehead to mine, as if unable to move. "Ever, just...no matter what, I love you. I'll always love you. I'll always need you. I'll always be only yours. No matter what."

  "No matter what."

  "Don't ever forget that."

  I heard the plea in his voice. "I won't," I said. "I promise."

  As Cade drove me home, I wondered, deep in the shadowy, secret places of my heart, if I would be able to keep that promise.

  closer

  Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months. In some ways, it felt as if Cade and I were back at square one in our relationship, but a square one we'd never really had. We dated. Really, truly dated. He took me to therapy and encouraged me as I learned to walk and to write and to dress myself standing up and to do my hair, and helped me do my makeup and taught me to draw all over again. He was patient, and considerate. He went on walks with me, from the front door of our downtown Royal Oak condo building to the corner and back, shuffling slowly beside me, holding my hand, as if we were eighty years old together. He took me to dinner and to lunch and to breakfast. He left me for a few hours in the evenings to work, and I spent those times watching TV, walking from one wall of the condo to the other, slow and clumsy.

  My art was gone. I had to relearn that, too. I could barely write my name. My mind knew what to do, but my body didn't. I couldn't even think of painting. It simply hurt too much. I refused to go near the studio. I felt like I was missing a piece of my soul, a fraction of my identity.

  I spent many of the hours Cade was at work crying in frustration and loneliness. He was loving, attentive, sweet. He put my needs before his own. He helped me shower. Helped me dress. Helped me do everything and anything I had trouble with, and he never complained.

  He kissed me sometimes. Slow and delicate kisses, soft feather-light touches of his lips to mine. His hands never wandered, though. His kisses never regained that passion I'd once known. He was trying, I knew. He did love me. That much was obvious. But if I tried to push the kiss further, he would back away, acting scared, or guilty, or confused. I wasn't sure which, or maybe it was all three. Something I didn't understand and couldn't fathom. He said it wasn't me; again and again he reassured me that he loved me, that nothing had changed.

  He wanted to take it slow, he once said.

  Three months after going home--three months of loneliness and self-doubt and emotional turmoil, I finally lost my temper with him. We were sitting on our couch, watching DVRd episodes of Game of Thrones. His hand was on my leg, resting an inch or two above my knee. Touching bare skin, since I was wearing one of his old T-shirts--and nothing else. He surely knew I was bare beneath the shirt, but he made no move to touch me, to skate his fingers up my thigh. I needed it. I needed his touch.

  I needed reassurance that he loved me, that I was his, that I was still beautiful. That I wasn't alone. Because even though he was taking perfect care of me, and was physically present in my life, he seemed out of reach, distant. Untouchable.

  Over the last three months, my tolerance for his emotional frigidity waned, and my temper reached a boiling point.

  I was confused, hurt, angry. And, besides all of that, I was just simply horny. I was a young woman, and I was regaining my health, and I had a husband to whom I was deliriously attracted, with whom I was madly in love. Yet he never took any of the hints, no matter how subtle or blatant. In the hospital, before we left, I thought I'd been clear about what I needed.

  Now, with Daenerys and Sansa and Gregor and Robb playing out their drama on screen, I found myself boiling over. Silently seething. I couldn't take it anymore.

  I grabbed the remote from Cade's lap and clicked the TV off.

  "Hey!" Cade protested, turning to face me.

  "I can't take this anymore, Cade." I tossed the remote aside, pivoting on the couch so one leg was dangling to the floor and the other was curled beneath my butt. "I'm going crazy."

  "What are you talking about, Ev?" He frowned at me in confusion, but I could see fear beneath that.

  "Us. You. I'm alone, Cade. I'm lonely."

  "I'm here, Ev. I'm with you."

  "NO! You're not!" I yelled. "Your body is here. You're going through the motions of being with me, but you're...who you are, who you were...it's gone. You're...cold. Closed off."

  Cade tipped his head back and groaned, wiping his face with both hands. "God, Ever. I'm trying, okay? But what if...what if that guy you knew is just gone?"

  "That's bullshit, Cade. You claim you love me. You claim you've never stopped loving me. But you haven't touched me since I woke up."

  "You're still healing, Ev--" Cade started.

  "I'm well enough to make love, Cade," I interrupted. "I need you. I need that. I need you to touch me like you want me. Do you? Do you want me?"

  His answer was automatic, immediate. "Yes!"

  "Then prove it." I stood up in front of him, clutched the hem of the T-shirt where it hung to mid-thigh.

  "Ever, babe--" He shifted, and his knees fell open. His eyes flitted from mine down to my chest, to my legs, and back up.

  "I never thought I'd have to beg you, Cade. But I am." I lifted the T-shirt up, up.

  My crossed arms lifted my boobs, and then the shirt was free and my boobs bounced back down. I'd put on ten pounds or so, and I was nearly back to my pre-coma weight, a healthy one-twenty. I had my curves back, and I knew Cade had once loved my body. Once, he'd not been able to get enough of me. Now, his eyes roved over me. Starting at my face, searching my tumultuous gaze, then sliding down to my breasts. He licked his lips as he looked at me, and I watched his body shift. Watched his zipper tighten. His gaze went down to my legs, to the juncture of my thighs. I'd taken a bath earlier in the evening, and I'd taken extra care to shave myself for him. He liked me clean-shaven. Or he had, once. Now, I didn't know what he liked anymore.

  I stepped forward, between his knees. His thighs brushed my hips, and my tits hung at eye-level. "Touch me, Cade. I'm yours. Take me. Show me I'm still what you want. Please. Please, Cade."

  "Jesus, Ever." His face tipped forward and his mouth touched my belly, his lips grazing my ribs. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wish I could explain what's in my head, in my heart. But I just can't. You're so beautiful, Ev. So gorgeous. So strong, so br
ave."

  I feathered my fingers into his long, black shaggy hair. He'd let it grow since the accident, and it was now curling around his neck and shoulders. He shaved, but didn't let his facial hair grow into a beard, so he was always scruffy and stubbled with several days' worth of growth. I liked the look, but I wanted my Cade back, the clean jawline and the messy but clean-cut hair.

  "I don't need you to explain, Cade. Not now, at least. Yeah, I've got a million questions, and I just don't understand what's happened to you, but none of that matters. I know you need something I can't give or don't have, and I'm sorry. But right now, all I can think of is how badly I need this. I'm standing naked in front of you, Caden Connor Monroe, and I need you to make me feel something. You're my husband. Please, please, please...be my husband. Be my lover."

  His hands ascended from his knees to my hips, and his fingers dug into the flesh just beneath my hipbones. His face tipped up, and he looked at me from between my cleavage. "You're perfect, Ev. You're everything."

  I stared down at him, my fingers in his hair. "Then show me that." I pulled his face to my breasts, and his mouth met the hot flesh and his tongue licked out, laved the pale round expanse of my right breast, just beneath my nipple.

  But I was watching him, and I saw the pain on his face, the inexplicable guilt and sorrow in his expression. I clamped my eyes shut and pushed away the wonder and the fear and the curiosity and the need to know what was causing that in him. I shut down my thoughts and focused on simply feeling. Focused on his touch, his mouth that was finally, thankyougodfinally taking my erect nipple into his mouth and flicking it with his tongue, focused on his hands that were clutching my hips and curling around to cup my ass.

  If I thought too much, I would ask, and he would admit, and everything would be ruined. And I needed this first. I couldn't face the truth without feeling this at least once. It felt like I was stealing something from him. Dragging it out of him.

  I was a fool, and I knew it.

  Yet I didn't stop him, only encouraged him with little moans as his tongue darted out to flick my left nipple and his lips wrapped around my breast and his hands carved and possessed and roamed.

  He groaned, and my nipple left his mouth with a pop, and he fell back against the couch, chest heaving. "Jesus, Ev."

  I wasn't sure what the epithet meant, and I didn't care. I took his hands in mine and tugged at him. He stood up, looked down at me. "Say my name, Cade."

  "Ever."

  I slid my hands up underneath his thin white V-neck, pushed it off, and tossed it aside. Touched his chest, his abs. His shoulders. Found the button of his jeans, ripped it open, found the zipper tab and drew it down. Felt the springy hardness sheathed in black cotton boxer-briefs. His hands rested on the bell of my hips, and as I let his jeans drop, his fingers tightened. My eyes were locked on his, watching every shift in expression. I curled my fingers in the elastic waistband, paused, watching him, and then pulled the band away from his body and lowered the underwear past his erection. The boxers fell to the floor, and he was naked with me. His hands shook and his eyes hunted mine, moving back and forth, and his expression was unknowable, rife with a myriad of emotions.

  Thank god, the most prevalent emotion was desire. He wanted me. But he was holding back, and I didn't dare examine why.

  I lifted my chin, and he leaned down to kiss me. As it had been so often lately, the kiss was slow and gentle. Not what I wanted. I went up onto my toes and crushed my mouth against his, letting my sexual hunger have free rein. I put one hand to his face, holding his face to mine. My hand went between our bodies, my fingers wrapping around his erection. I just touched him at first. Felt the thick hot hardness in my hand, huge and straight, standing against his belly. A single slide down his length, and he groaned.

  "Ever..."

  "Cade." I pulled back and met his gaze.

  "You don't know how good your hand feels on me."

  "I belong to you, Cade." I whispered it against his chin. "I'm yours. Take all of me." Up, and back down his cock, sliding and slipping, reveling in the softness and the hardness and the heat of him.

  He bent and kissed my throat, the hollow at the base, just above my breastbone. Between my tits. Knelt. His hands skated down the backs of my thighs, and I began to tremble in anticipation. I let my head fall back as his mouth found my hipbone, the dip where hip met thigh. The bare skin of my pubis. His hands clutched the back of my knees, and his lips kissed across my body, to the opposite hipbone. His hands tugged gently at my legs, and I slid my feet apart willingly.

  This. Yes, please. This.

  He breathed on my sensitive flesh, and I shook all over. Gasped. Threaded my hands in his hair and pulled his mouth to me.

  "Please, Cade. Please." I would absolutely beg, because I remembered how good he could make me feel with only his mouth.

  A questing flick of his tongue against my lower lips. I held my breath, and his mouth pressed to my opening and his tongue went into me, and I whimpered in sweet relief as rockets of raw pleasure shot through me. Within seconds, my knees were trembling and about to give out. He felt this, caught me up in his arms as he stood.

  I was dizzy and disoriented. I knew only the strength in his arms, the tilt of the world as he laid me on our bed and hovered above me.

  "Finish me, Cade." I didn't know what I was saying, didn't care.

  He knelt between my legs and leaned over me, kissed my throat, palmed each of my boobs in his big rough hands, and I moaned. He ran his hands down my sides, cupped my hip, and then his fingers slid between my thighs and moved up, grazing the tender insides of my legs and touched me there, and I whimpered. He dipped one finger into me, and I gasped.

  He curled his finger inside me, and I groaned loudly.

  "Make me scream, Cade." I arched my back and kept my eyes closed, tangled my fingers in the pillow above my head.

  He added a second finger and took my nipple into his mouth, and I was afloat, fire rippling in my veins. I knew I was making some kind of noise but couldn't hear anything except the rushing of blood in my ears, the pounding of my pulse.

  This felt new somehow. Like my first time. Every molecule of my being was attuned to Cade's touch, which was the only familiar thing in my universe. It was all I needed.

  His mouth descended to my clit, pressing soft wet kisses along the way, and he sucked the hard nub of nerves into his mouth and flicked it with his tongue, worked his fingers inside my slit. He did as I'd commanded, and made me scream.

  I exploded, arching off the bed and letting my throat express the screams of release, and my belly shook and my head spun and my hands clawed at Cade.

  Cade.

  Cade.

  My lover.

  I clung to him, panting, pulled him up my body and clutched his neck with both arms, gasping his name over and over and over again. I felt his erection nudging my thigh. I opened my legs and wrapped my heels around his thighs. I was tight, and wet. In that moment, in the instant before he penetrated me, impaled me, I felt every single day of the year and a half that I'd been unconscious, felt every single second of his absence in my body. I felt every single fraction of time that I'd been without him, that he'd been without me.

  With his cock poised against the opening of my pussy, I pressed my lips to his ear and whispered. "I love you. No matter what. Forever and Always." That was a mantra to me then. I knew, no matter what came in the months ahead, that those words would be my comfort and my strength. Forever and Always.

  "You swear? You promise me? Forever and Always? No matter what?" He sounded so desperate, so afraid, that I buried my face in his neck and shifted my hips, buried his thick hard cock in my wet soft heat.

  "Yes, Cade. I swear. I swore when I married you, and I meant it. Forever." My words were soft and quick and without hesitation.

  He moved with me, and I thought I heard a stifled sob escape him, but it was gone just as quickly. "I love you, Ever. This...this is home. You. Me. This is my only home."


  I felt him within me, filling me, completing me. Our bodies moved in perfect unison, as they always had, and time fell away. I was with him then, in every moment we'd spent together, bare flesh pressed to flesh, breathing in the living silence of our love, in the tender fierce fury of our mated bodies, I was there with him in the moment when we'd first made love, in my studio at Cranbrook. I was there with him in the studio of this very condo--a room which I'd not been brave enough to venture into yet--as he fucked me against the wall, bent over and grinding hard into me in the way I loved so much, watching us move together in the mirror. I was there with him in this bedroom, an endless parade of nights that was at once a lifetime of memories and not nearly enough time. I was there with him through the span of forever.

  He planted a fist into the pillow beside my temple and stared down at me, his eyes intense and fiery amber, lit by the moonglow from the window, and he moved into me. I held onto him and let him move. I was still and searching his eyes, his soul through those beautiful orbs, and let him love me as I'd begged him to.

  Then, when I could hold still no longer, I crushed my hips against his in a counter thrusting rhythm. I pressed my lips to the column of his throat and bit the muscle of his shoulder and clawed at his back.

  When his rhythm faltered and his breath caught, I tangled my fingers in his wild black hair and met his mouth in a demanding kiss, and we found release together, him groaning and me screaming and both of us panting as it relinquished its grip on us and left us limp together in the sheets.

  We rolled and found the position of afterglow bliss, my head in the crook of his arm, my breasts brushing his chest and my leg thrown across his thigh.

  It was only as I drifted toward sleep that I thought of any kind of practicalities. "Cade...I'm not...I haven't--" My brain was muzzy and heavy with near-sleep fog. "Are we...protected?"

  Cade sucked in a sharp breath, and his shoulders shook. "Fuck, Ever. Fuck."

  I didn't understand the intensity of his reaction. "It'll be fine, Cade--"

  "No, Ev. It's not." His voice was flat, the kind of emotionless tone that meant he was battling something painful and trying to hold on.

  "Why not?" I dreaded his answer. "I mean, if I do get pregnant--"

 
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