Eden Gray is still traumatised from his rape eighteen years earlier and the part Sean Keller played in it isn't easy to forget. Eden can go from happy to desperate within minutes; he's never sure how long a good mood will last. But one thing is sure: Eden loves Sean with all his heart and is looking for a way to lay his ghosts to rest permanently.
Sean Keller watched the moonlight and shadows play over Eden Gray’s face as he slept. He still didn’t know what he was doing here. Running away from Clear Water Creek like the villain he was, taking off for Canada with Eden and pretending they could start again when that awful crime still sat between them.
Two weeks into their adventure and Sean harboured fears their relationship was going to come unravelled far too quickly. Staying in a string of hotels, working their way from city to city until Eden found the place he wanted to put down roots, Sean dealt with coldness, silence and sullen apathy. The thaw he had sensed between them seemed to have been rescinded on Eden’s part. But Eden had agreed to this, had agreed to Sean running away with him, a desperate offer made by a desperate man who was terrified Eden would commit suicide if left to his own devices.
Now he was just terrified Eden would kill himself regardless of Sean’s presence and he didn’t know what to do to get through to him.
Eden’s mental health remained fragile. He was swift to anger, swift to criticise and blame Sean for the smallest thing. Sean’s touch was rebuffed time and time again. They seemed, for the most part, to be back to being the strangers they had been all along, apart from brief flashes of affection, where Eden sought the comfort of Sean’s arms, kissed him on the head before he went to sleep or touched his hand fleetingly as they walked down the street.
Sean slid into the bed and lay down next to Eden, as close as he could get without touching. He had learned a few things about Eden. He had nightmares almost every night. Sometimes he woke from sleep with a cry, other times he whimpered his way through most of the dark hours until Sean couldn’t take any more of watching his torment and shook him awake. He always chose the side of the bed farthest from the door. As if he was safer there from whoever was coming for him. He was a bookworm and read incessantly from both Kindle and paperbacks. The only time Sean saw the anguish on his face relax was when Eden became engrossed in a novel. He always covered himself in Palmer’s cocoa butter when he came out of the shower. The bed smelt of chocolate. The scent made Sean’s blood hot with desire. Eden had the most terrible road-rage, yelling, swearing and gesticulating at anyone who crossed his path. Oftentimes Sean had told him to pull over and taken control of the car. Another thing he knew about Eden was he loved and adored all animals helplessly. He was a vet, so of course he should, but Eden’s love went beyond a mere job. He fed birds crumbs from his sandwich when they were out together. He cooed at cats he saw in the street and enticed them into cuddles and petting. He struck up conversations with strangers in the park just so he could meet their dogs. And when they had seen a dead moose on the highway, Eden had sobbed inconsolably for two hours.
Eden shifted slightly in sleep. He turned his head Sean’s way, mouth open partially, breathing the scent of toothpaste and Listerine over him. Something else Sean had found out about him. Eden was compulsive about oral hygiene.
Sean wanted to touch his soft, scented skin and hold Eden close to him. He wanted to be the new man Eden had obviously had faith Sean could become. He wanted to bury the shadow of that cruel bully once and for all and be Eden’s everything for as long as he could.
He wanted to make it all right again.
He cuddled up close, burying his face against Eden’s neck. Eden stirred. He put a hand to Sean’s head and Sean groped blindly for him, held Eden hard, praying the strength of his need would not cause Eden to reject him this time.
But Eden only stroked his head. His voice was a whisper. “Are you okay?”
Sean swallowed around the lump in his throat. His jaw ached and his eyes burned. A terrible feeling rose up in his chest, begging to find a vent. He clutched Eden ever closer, his voice breaking as he spoke.
“I don’t know where to begin.”
He knew Eden would understand what he meant. All he hoped for was some reassurance, but he didn’t expect to get it. Why should Eden offer him anything? Sean had to take whatever kindness he could get and learn to live with it. It was the price he had to pay.
“It’s all right.” Eden lifted his head in both hands. He feathered a light kiss over Sean’s lips. “You’re doing just fine.”
Sean stared a moment in shock. Then he buried his face again and the torment inside subsided just enough for him to breathe easily. Eden held him as he slept.