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By:Francette Phal

God, but she’d never known true fear until those eternal seconds when she’d tried to resuscitate him. It’d been her neighbor who’d ultimately saved Liam’s life. Eden owed so much to Wes Courtland. His swift actions that day had saved her child’s life, and Eden was forever indebted to him. His experiences as a nurse had enabled him to get Liam to breathe again. He’d driven a frazzled Eden to the hospital soon after and had stayed with her the two days it’d taken to clear Liam. He’d been there over the last two months, buying her groceries, cooking for her, and providing stimulating adult conversation when she’d needed it most. Eden had a sneaking suspicion that he liked her, but she couldn’t really say for sure, considering the amount of women she saw coming in and out of his condo when he was home. But regardless of his unclear personal life, he was a great friend to Eden, and she appreciated his friendship. It was really all she could manage anyway; Liam was the only love she would allow in her life. She came to her feet, gently humming gently so he remained asleep. Eden carefully put him down in his bassinet and stood over him for a long while, caressing the tuft of jet black hair he’d been born with. This was among the other attributes he had not inherited from her. But she quickly shook her head, refusing to think about him.

Instead she pooled all of her focus on her day tomorrow. She was returning to work at Banks and Ronald, the real estate firm she’d been a part of since moving to Amesbury. She’d worked there temporarily as a receptionist while attending real estate classes, and the instant she’d received her license, they’d offered her a full time job as an agent. It was a small firm, fairly new, but was growing increasingly fast due the rising real estate market, so they’d needed all hands on deck and Eden had readily jumped on the offer, grateful to the two women who’d given her the amazing opportunity.

Eden raked a hand through her chin length bob, having gotten rid of the extensions and hacking nearly everything off during the first week she’d been here. She’d kept it short since then, keeping her naturally tawny locks a shade or two darker. Eden deviated from nearly everything in her old life, the only luxury afforded to her now were the occasions when she got to paint her toes and shave properly. Knowing Liam would be out for a few hours, she took the opportunity to clean her apartment.

With Liam’s laundry in the wash, she went about vacuuming, swiftering the hardwood floors until they shone, and then dusting every little corner her petite frame could reach. Tackling the kitchen next, Eden went about washing dishes, cleaning out the cabinets, cleaning out the subzero and throwing out dated food. She made sure Liam’s food supply was in order for the sitter in the morning, having pumped his milk in little bottles, Eden knew he was good until late afternoon, and by then she should be home from her showings. She walked into her bedroom and contemplated on what to wear for her first day back on the job. Eden settled on a navy blue pencil skirt, a white satin capped sleeve top, and a pair of black sling-backs.

An hour later, exhaustion finally took hold of her, and she set a hand on her mouth to cover a yawn. She chanced a glance at the clock on her nightstand. Liam would be up in exactly three hours for his next feeding, so she had exactly that amount of time to rest. She drew the bassinet to her until it was flush against her queen size mattress, once again assured that he was alive and breathing, Eden gave a sigh and relaxed. Sleep should’ve come then, but she found herself wide awake, blinking up at the ceiling as her mind wandered aimlessly, until it came to the very subject Eden had tried ignoring for nearly a year. And because there was no cure for memories, she grew sicker at the thought of him, but she couldn’t stop thinking about him. Around and around and around her mind went. Menacing green eyes haunted her, while the impression of his touch echoed along her skin and lingered in her pores.

This was when she hated herself most. At night, when her mind ran uninhibited and her body fevered so wantonly for…for…no! She couldn’t possibly be so stupid. She was just horny that was all, it could really be anyone, but not him, never again with him. Then her heart quickened at the thought of him finding her, of the unspeakable wrath he would bring down on her, and breathing became nearly impossible at idea of him taking Liam away from her. Dominic Armstrong was ruthless enough to take Liam from her out of spite, just to punish her for daring to leave him. No! Eden shot up, panic constricted her breathing, and it took all her effort not to hyperventilate. Once she was calm enough she closed her eyes and prayed fervently to remain hidden.

The last year had not been easy but she would’ve chosen this struggle any day to the degradation she’d faced as Dominic’s wife. She would be damned if she had to go back to him. She’d taken the tentative steps four months ago in contacting an attorney, but with the distraction of work, her classes, and seeing to Liam’s nursery before he arrived, she had lost focus. Eden vowed to make it a priority now. She was still married to that sadistic prick, but would resolve that soon enough. Divorce was the only option. She’d been young, desperate and had fallen for the lure of all that money. But she wouldn’t let herself fall back into that trap. She was a mother to a boy, a boy that would one day grow up to become a man, and Eden couldn’t very well allow him to think that degrading women was okay. She had to be the example she wanted to set, and every day she spent with her child Eden was learning that. The mistakes of her past were just that, mistakes, which she was learning from, another year, another touch of wisdom. Dominic was her past. A mistake. Divorce would rectify that.

She didn’t want anything from him. Even the half million dollars that was contracted to her at the end of their marriage no longer seemed appealing. There was still money left over from the jewels she’d pawned, it was enough to support her and Liam for another year if she maintained her frugality. Bolstered by strength of purpose, Eden settled back on her bed, scooting just a little closer to her slumbering child. She closed her eyes and while sleep did eventually come, it was a fitful one, filled with plaguing dreams of her husband and the ominous inevitability of his return into her life.

A good shot of espresso with her morning coffee waylaid the fatigue so that she was able to make it to work without looking like she felt. The sitter had shown up on time but it’d taken Eden some time and effort to leave her little baby behind. The day progressed uneventfully and by midmorning she was making great time with her clients. The Wilsons, expecting their third child in October, were looking for a single family, with three baths and five bedrooms. Mr. Wilson wanted a pool and Mrs. Wilson wanted French doors and a solarium for her studio. It was a bit of a challenge, but Eden was up for it. She had seven homes to show them all within the quiet suburban area of Amesbury. By the sixth showing, they were leaning towards the colonial and the Cape Cod. Mrs. Wilson, well past the eight month and nearly ready to burst, was just about done with looking, so Eden suggested they meet up at one of the local cafes. Mr. Wilson deferred to Mrs. Wilson’s choice of Italian and while they put in their order, Eden laid out the pros and cons of the six homes, with an emphasis on the two they were leaning on.

“The Cape Cod is move-in ready, although we can get the seller to fix a few things before we finalize everything. The bit of renovation on the colonial would be slightly over your overall budget, but I’m sure I can roll it in your loan. Also take into consideration that neither one of these is a short-sale, so we’re pretty good with that.”

“I think we’re leaning towards the colonial, right, sweetheart?” Mr. Wilson looked at his wife, who was too busy shoving a slice of pizza into her mouth to bother looking up at her husband. When he cleared his throat, she looked up with an embarrassed smile.

“Well,” she began, setting the slice of pizza down then wiping her mouth, “I really like the Cape Cod, honey. It has just about everything we want.”

“Except the pool.”

Mrs. Wilson rolled her eyes. “We can have an above ground for now.”

“We shouldn’t settle,” he groused.

“Yes, settling would be the worst thing you could do,” Eden quickly interceded, sensing an argument. “Buying a home is a huge investment and everything should be carefully considered before making the commitment. We have plenty of time. So, this is what I’m going to suggest. Take the information I’ve provided today, go home, and talk it over. If you want to put in an offer, we’ll go from there.”

They reluctantly agreed, and once they finished eating, Eden settled the check, thanked the Wilsons, and proceeded to her next appointment.

Dominic was in a foul mood and that mood was only getting fouler the longer he remained in the presence of the rat-faced moron seated across from him. Settling back in his seat, he steepled his fingers and regarded the man narrowly. He searched his mind briefly for a name and quickly found it...Alex. Dominic could not recall a last name, but he did remember giving the man his card several months ago. The reason why he was seated across from him now could only pertain to one thing; at least Dominic hoped so for Alex’s own good.