Matt got out of his car and stopped short when he saw her. She was just leaving her house and she looked gorgeous. He hadn’t spoken to Eva in two weeks. Being called a rapist kind of didn’t lend itself to making you feel welcome in your accuser’s home. But no matter what she said to him or how low below the belt she hit, he would always come back to her.
It made him a sap, yes, but that was the downside of love. It required you to look past the bad. Not every day was going to be rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it was being called ugly things and looking past it because the person saying those words was hurting. It was knowing that the other person loved you and hoping that would be enough to get you both through. But even he had a breaking point. What they were doing had to stop. Enough was enough.
Jogging up the steps to her front door, he didn’t bother pretending to be happy. She would know he was lying. “You look well. Where are you headed?”
“Fundraiser for the school.” She responded.
Well, at least she was talking to him. “Is a car coming to pick you up?”
“Yes. Why are you here?”
Even though she was saying the words and was keeping her distance physically, emotionally she was a mess. And her magic was still calling out to him. Apparently, three years feeding off each other magically had opened a permanent channel between them. It hadn’t been a problem when they were together, but he could see how she hated being attached to him in such a way now.
He, on the other hand, would use whatever was at his disposal to win her back. “I wanted to see you. Check in.”
“I’m going out so I can’t be too bad off.” She headed down the stairs. “You can go home.”
“Eva, stop for a second.” He followed her down the stairs and grabbed onto her arm. The moment they made contact, her magic flared.
“Stop that,” she hissed.
He frowned. “That wasn’t me; that was you.”
She was shaking her head, already denying his words. “No. It was you. It only happens when you come around. So stop.”
“Honestly, that was not my magic. That was all you. Can’t you feel the pull? Every time I’m near you, you call to me.”
She was frowning now. “No, I don’t. I don’t feel anything unless you touch me.”
“Is that such a bad thing, you needing me? I wish you would let me help you, Eva.”
“Stay the hell away from me!” She pulled back to slap him across the face. At least she would have, if he hadn’t caught her hand.
“I will take a lot from you because you’re grieving but you do not get to hit me. We are not going down that road. Do you understand me?” It was an effort to keep his voice down and to speak calmly.
She stared at him, defiant. Always so damn stubborn. “If you don’t like it then leave me alone.”
Matt sighed, they were getting nowhere. “Can we talk, just for a few minutes, please.”
Eva narrowed her eyes but nodded. Finally, some progress!
Unlocking her front door and walking through, she slipped off her shoes and walked barefoot to the set of couches off to the right. The area was strewn with Al’s toys. As Matt continued to look around, he noticed how messy the place was getting. And where was Icky? “Where’s the cat?”
Eva glanced at him before looking around. “I have no idea.”
She shrugged. “When he’s hungry, he’ll come home.”
He made a mental note to make sure there was food in the dish.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“I love you.” She started to protest but he waved her denials away. “I do. It’s a feeling that will never go away. I want to fix us, but I need your help.”
Eva sat and listened to Matt talking. She was getting so tired of fighting him. She missed him, needed him more than she thought was healthy. Everyone else in her family had forgiven him, why couldn’t she?
“You’re so adamant about not being like your mother that you won’t allow yourself to love. You are becoming your mother and you don’t even realize it.”
“You don’t know me -”
“I know you. I know you wake up early because it’s the perfect time to paint. I know you live and breathe for your son. I know you like to hold on to me while you sleep. I know you love me. I know I hurt you, deeply, but you still love me.”
She turned away from him, hiding herself from his eyes. This is how her mother must have felt all those years ago. She was turning into her mother.
“Eva, look at me.” When her eyes travelled back to his own, he said, “I love you. Maybe since day one, maybe at the art gallery, or maybe on our first date when you gushed about your son. I don’t know when but I do know that I’m not ready to let you push me away because you’re scared. We lost a child, it’s okay to feel vulnerable, to feel less than invincible. I can be brave enough for the both of us.” He sat down next to her. “You’re going to have to ask me though. I’m not putting myself out there anymore without reciprocity. You’ll have to come to me, Eva.”
“What?” He couldn’t be serious!
“I’m tired. I’m through trying to apologize and begging for your forgiveness. I’m not going anywhere, but the ball’s in your court now.”
She stared at him. “Are you kidding me? Your sister tried to kill my father. After she tried to ruin my parents’ marriage. But I’m the one in the wrong?”
“Eva, my sister tried to kill your father, not me. My sister tried to ruin their marriage. Not me. If I had known, I would have stopped her. I helped your family find her. I chose you over my own sister! So please, just stop. I am not the bad guy here. If you need to be angry at me, if you need to take your hurt and pain out on me. Fine. I can handle that. But you have to own up to it. If we don’t make it, I want us to be crystal clear about why. Because I want to fight for us, Eva. I just need to know if there’s anything left fighting for.”
He wanted to know if they could make it? He wanted her to make the next move? She pressed her hands against her flat stomach, listening to the silence of her empty womb. “I don’t know, Matt. I just, I don’t know.”
Matias seemed to deflate. That was clearly not the answer he’d been hoping for but how could he expect anything more? She was a shell of the woman she’d been when they’d met. What could she offer him now, other than distrust and a life raising another man’s son, never being able to give him one of his own? She wasn’t just angry at him because of his sister. He was a reminder of all the things she’d lost.
She felt his magic reaching out to her, trying to soothe her. She must be telegraphing her emotions again. If only Siobhan could see me now. An utter disappointment in every facet of life.
“Eva, I need you. I’m hurting too. I want to mourn for our son with you. I lost everything the day I lost you. You and Alistair are the only family I have left and I can’t give up on you two. I won’t. Please tell me I don’t have to.”
She’d never once stopped to think about how this was effecting him or Al. Your daddy is a good man, she thought. She sometimes found herself talking to Steven. Maybe she was going crazy but she liked to think he could hear her, wherever he was. Eva took a deep breath and when she exhaled, she let go of some of her anger and bitterness. She’d been selfish for long enough, it was time to pull herself together.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Were you relieved that I lost the baby? I know you were worried about having a child. And now -”
“No.” He shook his head, cutting her off. “I would never – no. My hesitation had nothing to do with the baby and everything to do with my family. I wanted this child as much as you did, Eva.”
She looked at him and knew he was telling the truth. “If we try again, it will be on my terms.”
Matt sat up straighter and smiled. “Of course.”
“We can’t just pick up where we left off. There’s still a lot of anger and resentment in my heart. That’s going to take some time.”
“Understood. Maybe we can go see someone.”
She nodded. That was a good idea, actually. “I can’t promise it will work out but I am willing to try.”
“I think we can find each other again Eva. I just need you to work with me.”
She nodded again. “I promise I will.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
She shook her head. “I’ve missed you.”
Matt grinned and said, “I bought us a house. I’d like you and Alistair to move in with me.”
Eva frowned. She should have known. “Matt, what part of ‘take it slow’ didn’t you get?”
“I heard you but this was something we’d discussed before all this stuff happened. I’d put an offer in and it was accepted, now I have a house. It would be a fresh start for all of us.”
“No Matt. It’s too soon.”
“Oaky. I understand.” He smiled. “I’d like to kiss you now.”
She studied him; he was doing the question with no question mark thing again. “Maybe later. Will you help me find Icky?”
“Yes.” He stood up and offered her a hand. When she placed her hand into his, she felt a jolt of energy. There was no other way to describe it. It was as if she’d plugged herself directly into a power source. “How can you not feel that?” He asked.
“I do,” she replied. It was the same bursts of lust and warmth and power they’d always had, except multiplied by like a thousand.
He pulled her closer into his body, smiling his megawatt smile down at her. “I’ve missed you too, Eva. Is it later yet?”
“So many questions…” She smiled and leaned up, giving in to his request for a kiss. Why was she such a pushover when it came to this man?
Matt laughed and said, “We can still go slowly.” Then he proceeded to give her the slowest, most thorough kiss she’d ever received in her life.
A few days later, Eva woke up and felt – different somehow. Her mind was clearer than it had been in weeks. She knew it was because of Matt. Turning her head, she almost expected to see him in the bed with her but he wasn’t. The pang of disappointment she felt seemed to underscore her decision to try to be with him again. They could work; she just had to put aside her anger.
She got dressed in shorts and a sports bra. For the last two weeks, she’d realized just how dependent on Matt she’d become. She couldn’t let it happen again. She had a son who was alive that she needed to be there for and so far, she’d done a crap job. She’d woken up after that conciliatory night with Matt with this urgent need to have her son back home. So she’d gone to pick him up, just to find him home alone. They’d grabbed his things, left a note for his father and headed back to the house.
Glasgow hadn’t even called to make sure Alistair got home okay, which was very unlike him. But she’d been fuming to find her eight-year-old home alone in the first place so she didn’t think too much about his reasons why. Al was not going to that man’s house ever again.
She headed down the stairs and immediately smelled pancakes. Trying not to smile, she looked up to find Matt in the kitchen, eating breakfast with Alistair. The radio was on, playing an old pop song. “Good morning,” she said softly. Humming to the song, she kissed her son on the top of his head.
“Hey, what about me?” Matt asked, feigning hurt. Or maybe he really was.
Shrugging, she surprised herself by leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. “Good morning, Matias.”
Matt grinned and went back to eating his pancakes. Alistair smiled before stuffing half a pancake in his mouth. Eva rolled her eyes and went to the living room to stretch.
“Aren’t you going to eat?”
She glanced back at Matt, “Later. When I get back from my run.”
He watched skeptically as she finished her stretches. When she put her headphones on and opened the door, she gave them both a small wave.
Running around her block, she thought about how normal that had just been. She’d said they couldn’t go back to the way things had been but that was a typical morning for them. And it had felt right. More than right, it had felt perfect. Turning her music up, she picked up her pace. She had so much to think over.
“You gonna marry my mom now?”
Matt choked on the bite of pancake he’d just placed in his mouth. “What?”
Alistair watched him quietly but didn’t repeat himself. Sometimes the boy freaked him out.
“I hadn’t thought that far out, kid.”
“Yes you have.”
“Say I was, that I wanted to,” he raised a hand to cut off Alistair’s protests. “If I wanted to do something like that, it would be a big step for your mom and me. For you. Would you be cool with that?”
Alistair paused, as if really thinking the question through and Matt felt his heartbeat pick up. “I want to be a King,” Alistair finally said.
Matt blinked. He’d hoped the boy would be okay with it, he’d meant to find a good time to talk to him about it. But hearing the enthusiasm, the excitement, he had to admit to himself that he’d been putting it off for fear the kid would reject him. It was one thing to have Eva turn him down, he could work on her but if Alistair had said no, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. “Good man,” he said.
“Can I ask her?”
“What?” Matt laughed before standing and clearing both their plates from the counter.
“She’ll say yes if I ask.”
Matt stopped and frowned down at Alistair. “Will she say no if I ask?”
Alistair gave him a grin. “No.”
“You’re a weirdo, kid.” Matt shook his head but couldn’t help feeling a bit relieved. If he asked, she’d say yes. He walked to the dishwasher, a small grin playing at the corners of his lips.
“I know.” Alistair hopped off the stool and started to head outside but turned around and ran back to give Matt a quick hug. “Love you, Matt.”
Matias hugged him back. “Love you too, kid.”