by Tina Donahue
There’s always that moment when you know, without question, that you love someone. In real life, it may be while you’re gazing into the other person’s eyes or after you’ve made love and he’s holding you as if you’re the most precious thing in the world. It could be after an argument when he’s the first to say he’s sorry.
In fiction, that moment can come at any time. The important thing is that it packs a wallop, moving readers with the enormity of the character’s feelings, what it means for their future, whether they can accept that love or not.
In all of my novels I try for that wow moment when the depth of emotion can no longer be denied. I’ve had characters arguing, screaming at each other, with one or the other finally shouting the words – “I love you, dammit!”. I’ve also written quiet scenes where the realization of love washes over a character, changing their life forever.
In my most recent novel, Deep, Dark, Delicious, I decided to go for a quiet scene. In it, Eden’s speaking to her girlfriend Trish about Rafe. Torn by her feelings for him, Eden returns to her house, where Rafe’s staying, and it’s at that point she can no longer deny her love. She doesn’t say it, she doesn’t even think it, but you know what’s in her heart. Read on:
“This man really likes you,” Trish said, totally serious for once.
Eden countered. “For sex. He’s normal. He’s on vacation. He’s having a good time. Good times always end.”
“No. He really likes you.” She interrupted. “I’ve been married for five years, I was engaged for two and not once has Chris done anything that romantic or crazy.”
“He’s an attorney.”
“Rafe’s a chef, not a male escort or an X-rated film star, and he came up with all this stuff. So why the hell hasn’t Chris? Even attorneys carry their wives up the stairs. But not once has he done that for me.”
“Your house is a one-story.”“Our condo wasn’t.” She sounded pissed, envious. “You can’t ask him to leave. You’d be nuts if you did.”
She’d be screwed even more emotionally if she didn’t. “I have to. I’m not Anna Marie.”
“The snarly kid? What does she have to do with any of this?”
Eden dropped her hands. “I heard how his voice sounded when he spoke to her, the affection, the commitment. No matter what happens, he will be there for her and not because he really likes her, but because she’s family. She’s blood. Do you think that little girl knows how lucky she is to have parents who want her and relatives to protect her and a godfather who’d do anything to make certain she’ll never have a crappy day in her life? Hell, I still don’t know who my father is. To this day, my mother claims it’s too painful for her to talk about the so-called love of her life. My guess is she was partying so hard she’s not certain whose genes I carry. That’s what I’ve grown up with. And believe me, I’m not complaining. I had Grandma. But to hope for a guy to want me so badly he’d do anything to keep me for the rest of our lives – uh-uh. I don’t believe in that fairytale. I can’t. I’d get so damned hooked, I’d promise him anything. I’d do anything so he wouldn’t leave. And I’d end up just like my mom.”
“Oh sweetie, that’s not true.” Trish pushed to a sitting position. She wrapped her arms around Eden’s calves, hugging them. “Even if you did go temporarily crazy, I’d be here to slap you back to reality.”
She laughed. Tears spilled from her eyes. “I’m so scared.”
“Of course you are.” She rested her head on Eden’s knees. “We all get that way. I threw up minutes before my walk down the aisle to Chris and we worked out just fine.”Eden wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands. “He doesn’t carry you up flights of stairs.”
“Yeah, that is a bummer. But he does come home to me every night. He oohs and ahhs at my designs even when they suck. And he tells me I’m hot when we both know only a man who’s been in prison too long would say such a thing.”
“Stop it.” Eden gave her friend’s head a gentle slap. “No more talk like that.”
“Or about telling Rafe to leave. See this out. See where it leads. It might surprise you.”
A dull pain in the center of Eden’s chest said otherwise. Given all the unwanted and unpleasant surprises in her life, she didn’t think she could bear one more.Toiletries in hand, she trudged back to the house, promising herself to return for the rest of her stuff the moment Rafe left.
At the pool, she stopped to glance up at the master bedroom’s balcony and windows. Empty. She wasn’t certain whether to be disappointed he wasn’t looking for her or worried he’d be in the kitchen awaiting her return while he cleaned up the mess she’d made.
Please God, not that. It would be too nice, too thoughtful. She’d find it impossible to tell him she’d changed her mind, this couldn’t continue, he’d have to leave with her check for his fee. No way could she keep his funds. No way could she allow him to help her with her house or her next business venture. This had to end now.
Teeth clenched, she opened the back door, expecting to hear his rich baritone calling her name. The whoosh of the air-conditioning mingled with the whirr of the refrigerator and the hum of the ceiling fans. She cleared her throat and waited. He didn’t say anything. Stepping into the kitchen, her gaze darted from the messy prep area to the skillet and pot on the stove and then to the grease stains surrounding the deep fryer.So, he hadn’t cleaned up. Was he still trying to reason with Anna Marie?
Eden’s face lifted to the ceiling. She didn’t hear him pacing the upstairs floor, nor did she hear the hum of his voice muted by distance. Was he listening to Anna Marie crying? Couldn’t he get in a word edgewise? If Eden went upstairs now, how long would she have to wait until the girl shut up, allowing him to end the call so she could tell him the bad news about his stay?
Oh God, his tee. Her head dropped to it. She ran her free hand down the soft cotton. He’d want the garment back before he left, right? He certainly wasn’t going to allow her to keep it as a souvenir. Should she take it off now and hand it to him with her decision? Would he even be listening if she spoke to him in the nude?
She dragged from the kitchen to the formal dining room and stopped at the table – the scene of their carnal crime. Leaning over, she saw faint smudges on the polished wood from where her ass had rested as Rafe took her orally and vaginally.
A wave of renewed longing hit so hard she gripped the table’s edge for support. Head down, chest pumping, she relived every wonderful moment – his touch, smell, the vibrancy of his voice, the feel of his powerful body plundering hers.Had it been more than just great sex? Had there been an honest-to-god connection between them that meant something? See this out, Trish had advised. See where it leads. It might surprise you.
Eden’s apprehension returned. She imagined herself months from now, a younger version of her mother. Crying, pleading, throwing her arms around Rafe to keep him from leaving – just as her mother had done with her many boyfriends – begging him to stay, promising to do anything no matter how wrong if he’d only love her.
No. Hell no. That wasn’t love, it was crazy, sick. She shook her head and moved to the stairway, each step hardening her resolve. She craved Rafe as she had no other man in her life, but she wouldn’t allow herself to want him or any guy that badly. As soon as he finished his call with Anna Marie, she’d tell him the score, thank him for his offer to help, give him back his tee and wait downstairs while he got dressed and left. She wouldn’t allow herself tears or regret. She had to do this.
On the landing, she put the box of toiletries to the side so he wouldn’t think she intended to share her room or even another minute with him. Smoothing down her hair, fingering the hem of his tee, she stepped toward the master bedroom as quietly as she could, not wanting to startle him.
At the jamb, she listened intently but didn’t hear him saying ‘uh-huh’ to whatever Anna Marie might be crying about or reasoning with her in a patient voice.
Torn between waiting out here to work on a stomach ulcer or going inside to tell him they had to speak, she settled on the latter.
Her gaze shot from the cell phone in his limp hand to his beautiful body sprawled over her bed. The outside light touched the scar on his upper arm, magnifying its destruction. One leg hung over the side of the mattress, his long toes touching the floor. Steady, untroubled breaths lifted his chest. Eyes closed in sleep he looked so young suddenly, reminding her of a little boy exhausted after a busy day.
Eden’s hands flew to her mouth, covering it to quiet her mewl. Immediate, insistent tears welled in her eyes at her urge to protect him, to comfort. Consumed with her own worries in the guesthouse, she’d forgotten about his fatigue, her telling him to take a nap. She was surprised he’d lasted long enough to even say hello to his godchild.
She recalled his calm, loving voice as he addressed the girl. She imagined Anna Marie’s response and demands, her fourteen-year-old mind unaware of her godfather’s need to rest, to enjoy himself for a little while, to have someone care for him.Against all she’d decided, Eden knew she couldn’t wake him and ask him to leave just yet. It would be too heartless. When he awakened on his own, she’d deal with it.
Without Eden saying it or even thinking it, you know she loves him and there will be no turning back. In fiction, quiet moments like this are my favorite.
Deep, Dark, Delicious is available from Ellora’s Cave.
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