A Little Piece of Paradise
Tori awoke with a pounding headache. The light in the bedroom was
still on and she saw by her watch it was just after 10pm.
'Come on, pull yourself together. It's not as if it hasn't happened before, what's the big deal?' She thought, sitting up. 'The big deal is you loved her.' She realised.
'Don't be a stupid bitch.' Tori's best conversations were always with herself. 'You don't have it in you. Get yourself back to London, that's where you belong. With the people that understand you, the kind that know you.'
Tori stood and walked to the mirror, looking at herself long and hard. "You really thought you'd found it this time didn't you?" She said out loud.
"Love.................. Don't make me fucking laugh."
She went downstairs and into the kitchen, looking through the cupboards to find a bottle of wine she'd bought only the day before.
It caught her eye. A small piece of crumpled paper. She reached under the table and picked it up. It was part of a cheque. One half, screwed up and thrown there.
She saw the signature and the amount it was made out for. The space for a payee had been left blank.
"You bitch." She said. "You fucking BITCH!"
Knocking a chair over on her way she made for the door, ignoring her coat and slamming the front door on her way out.
Cathy was still sitting in the lounge when the knock came. She'd listened to Eden's music playing, and had seen her once or twice when she emerged from her room to find more alcohol. Eden had managed to find three small bottles of strong 'designer' cider, and a bottle of wine she'd bought some time before.
She knew before she opened the door who she'd find standing on her doorstep.
"Is she here?" Said Tori, peering beyond her into the flat.
"Yes, she's here." Said Cathy pushing the tall woman back slightly and pulling the door together behind her. "She's been drinking.................. What happened?"
"Hasn't she told you?" Asked Tori.
Cathy shook her head. "Nope. She's in a pig of a mood. Just said it was over and has spent the last few hours in her room."
Tori sighed. "I think my mother paid her a visit. I went to London to sort some things out. When I got back she was gone."
Cathy looked at the tall woman who was shivering on her doorstep. "Come on in." She said and held the door open for Tori to enter.
Tori stopped in the hallway and looked back at Cathy. "In there." Cathy pointed to the lounge. "Sit down."
Tori sat on the chair and rested her head in her hands. When she looked back up the tears that had been threatening fell. "This is the last thing I wanted." She said, suddenly feeling a need to explain herself.
"I've know Eden for nine years, and this week she's been the happiest I've ever seen her and the saddest."
Tori shook her head. "I need to talk to her. I need to tell her........................" Tori's throat closed.
"Tell her what?"
"How much I love her." Again Tori was surprised at her own words.
"And if she won't talk to you?"
"I'll go." Said Tori quickly, "she'll never hear from me again. But I just want one chance, just a few minutes."
Cathy stood suddenly. "I'll go talk to her.............. but if she says no?"
"Just tell her I said I love her."
"Ok. Wait here." Cathy watched the taller woman stand. "No, wait here."
Tori sat again, and waited.
Cathy stood outside Eden's door and listened. She couldn't hear the music that her friend had been playing earlier in the evening, and she couldn't hear Eden moving around. She tapped on the door. "Eden?" There was no answer.
She turned the knob and pushed the door open.
The only light came from a lamp which had been placed on the floor. The display glowed red on the cd player, the last cd long finished.
Eden lay face down on the bed, the empty cider bottles on the floor, but the wine bottle unopened.
Cathy sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand on the gently moving back.
"Hey there. " She whispered.
"Cathy?" Two bloodshot green eyes turned her way.
"Yeah, how d'you feel?" Asked Cathy feeling the heat beneath her hand.
"Bloody awful." Eden sat up and leaned back against the headboard. "I didn't drink the wine."
"I saw, good idea."
"What's the point huh? It won't change anything. Just makes me forget for a while." She turned red rimmed eyes on her friend.
Cathy saw the beginnings of tears and held her arms open for her friend.
Eden didn't refuse the comfort and fell into her flatmate's arms. "I feel so stupid." She said between sobs.
"I really thought she meant it. I thought she loved me, she said she did." She paused as her throat constricted. "But I was just another number, another notch."
"You gonna tell me what happened?"
"She sent her mother to see me off."
"Did her mother tell you this?"
Eden nodded into her friend's shoulder.
"And you believed her mother?" Cathy asked.
"Why shouldn't I?"
Cathy shrugged. "Have you spoken to Tori?"
Eden shook her head. "She ran off, let her mother do her dirty work."
"I think you should let Tori explain herself."
Eden shrugged herself out of Cathy's embrace. "Why?"
"Because she deserves the chance."
"What aren't you telling me?" Eden pushed the damp hair off of her forehead, cider always made her sweat.
"She's here, she wants to talk to you." Cathy watched her friend stand, wobble a little then steady herself.
Cathy stood too. "She says to tell you she loves you."
Eden crumpled as her hands flew to her face and the tears started again, she ended up on her knees beside the bed.
Cathy knelt beside her and put an arm around shaking shoulders. "Just give her a chance." She pushed golden hair back from the flushed face. "Let her explain."
"I don't know if I can trust her again. I don't want to hurt like this anymore."
"She's here Eden, would she be if she didn't care. Hmm? Come on." She stood offering her hand to her friend.
Eden nodded and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. "Let me wash my face." She said as she tried to pull herself together.
Tori looked up as Cathy returned to the lounge, she stood but stopped as Cathy held up her hand. "She's a little drunk, though not as bad as I thought. She's very upset, but she's going to talk to you." She walked up to the tall woman and put a hand on her arm. "Don't blow it Tori."
"I won't, thank you Cathy."
Behind Cathy the door opened. She turned and left the room placing a hand on Eden's shoulder as she left.
Tori started to make her way towards her. "No, sit down Tori." Said Eden, who shut the door and leaned against it, staring at the carpet.
Tori did as she was asked. She watched the blonde, the pain in her chest intensifying.
Tori waited, giving Eden some time.
"You just left." Said the blonde.
Eden looked up, green eyes finding blue. "You just left me."
Tori looked away, unable to meet the accusing glare.
"Did you send her?"
Tori shook her head. "No. I told father I was going to London. He must have sent her."
"She said you were getting married." Eden still leaned against the door, her hands behind her, taking her weight.
"I'm not, I told father today."
There was a long silence. Eden regarded her lover for the longest time, looking for the lie in her eyes, and seeing none.
Eden's chin dropped onto her chest. "My head hurts."
Tori stood and slowly closed the distance between them. She stood in front of the blonde, her feet appearing in Eden's line of sight.
"I love you Eden."
Eden brought her hands from behind her and crossed her arms across her chest as if in pain. Tori could see that the hands were shaking.
"You're trembling." She said reaching for the small hands.
Eden snatched her hands away, Tori retreated a little. "Eden, I'm sorry. I didn't send her, I didn't know she was coming."
"You could have left a note."
Tori ducked so that she could look into the flushed face. "I did. I left it on the kitchen table."
Eden's breathing seemed to become difficult. "She must have taken it." She said, then she looked at Tori. "She offered me money."
Tori sighed. "That's the only language they know. If there's something they want, they buy it. They wanted you out of my life."
"Why did you go? Why didn't you wake me?"
"Because it was going to be a surprise." Tori ran a shaking hand through her hair. "I put the Chelsea flat on the market." She smiled. It was a smile that had haunted Eden all day. "I'm burning my bridges Eden, I'm not going back."
The sob that erupted from Eden's chest startled Tori almost as much as the small body that flung itself into her arms.
She held on, burying her face in the golden hair. "Ssshh, don't cry over me." She said, trying to calm the sobbing woman.
Tori eased them both back so that they could sit on the sofa. She pulled Eden close and held the fair head against her chest.
"You're hot." She said to her lover.
"It's the cider." Said Eden. "You're heart's pounding." She noticed, her ear picking up the thumping sound.
"You scared the shit out of me, that's why."
Eden pulled away and looked at the tense face above her. "I did?"
Tori nodded. "When I got home and you weren't there, I thought you'd taken the chance to run."
"Run? Do these last few days say nothing to you?" Eden shook her head in disbelief.
"You have to understand, I've never had this happen before. I'm expecting you to leave at any moment." Tori rubbed her forehead. "I'm not handling this love stuff very well am I?"
Eden snuggled into the tall woman's arms again. "Don't do that again."
"Leave without waking me."
"Oh, ok." Tori was quiet for a moment, but there was a question on the tip of her tongue. "I was thinking." She held on a little tighter. "The week's nearly over. Well, I was wondering if you'd like to stay on a little longer."
Eden's head came up from its place on Tori's chest. "At the cottage?"
"I have to go back to work on monday."
"That's fine, I'll take you." Said Tori, pulling the blonde head back to its resting place. "I'd just like you around for a little longer. I've kinda gotten used to you being around."
Eden sighed deeply. "What are you going to do about your parents?" She heard the heartbeat increase.
"I'll call them tomorrow. Make it perfectly clear that I'm not going back. I didn't get to see Damien today, I ran out of time."
"What did you do then?"
Another sigh. "Well, I saw a friend. He's going to put the Chelsea flat on the market. He's also arranging for it to be cleared and all my stuff put into storage." At the quizzical look she got from her lover she added. "I worked with him at the family business in London. He works for another agency now though."
"Your mother said she'd done it before. Paid off your girfriends."
"Eden, my mother has never taken a blind bit of notice of what I do with my life. The only difference now is that it's affecting what she considers to be the running of things. Father is probably going crazy right now. All she's worried about it having a peaceful life."
"Isn't that what we all want?"
"Sure, but at what cost? She was willing to lie to get you away from me."
"She had a key too. That was another reason I thought you'd sent her."
Tori thought for a moment. "They probably asked the landlord for a key when father sent the rent advance. When I buy it I'll get................."
"What!" Eden sat bolt upright. "What did you say?"
Tori smiled. "That was another surprise. I called the landlord and asked him if he'd be willing to sell. I like it here. I'd like to make it my home."
"Wow. What did he say?"
She looked like a kid on Christmas morning, how could a half hour change someone so much Tori wondered.
"He said he'd think about it. It was his mother's house, most of the furniture used to be hers, he said he'd want that."
"That's ok isn't it?"
"Yeah, fine. I'll have all the furniture from London. I'll need some stuff, but you can help me choose that."
Eden hugged her again. "I can't believe you're staying. I was dreading the day you were going back."
"I think the possibility of that flew out of the window last sunday night. I knew then you were stuck with me."
There was a knock on the door and a dark head poked around it. "You two ok?"
"Cathy, come in. It is your flat after all." Eden said staightening up on the sofa.
Cathy sat opposite them in the chair. "So, you've sorted it out?"
"We have, it was a misunderstanding." Eden grabbed Tori's hand and wrapped both of hers around it.
"I'm glad. Can't take too much of tipsy Gallagher here." She said, smiling at her friend.
Eden blushed. "I'm sorry, I know it's stupid. I'm surprised I haven't been sick yet."
"Well, you didn't get round to the wine, that's why." Cathy stood. "As you two are obviously ok, I'm going to bed. " She looked from one to the other. "See you in the morning?"
Tori looked at Eden and shrugged.
"Sure." Said the blonde.
Tori stood in Eden's room and eyes the bed suspiciously. "You really think we'll both fit in there?"
The bed was a single, and not quite as long as the king sized bed in the cottage.
"It'll be cosy." Said Eden. "Come on, I need a shower and with this damn bandage, I'll need some help."
"I think it could probably come off now anyway."
Eden held her hand protectively to her chest. "No, I don't want to take it off yet. I'm not ready to see it for a bit."
Tori pulled her into her arms. "Ok, lets find something to cover it though."
They went into the kitchen and managed to find a palstic bag. They put that over the hand a kpt it in place with a thick elastic band.
"There." Said Tori, "but I'm still gonna wash your back."
The shower took far longer than it should, and eventually Eden was snuggled up in bed and fighting to keep her eyes open.
"Hey, budge up." Said Tori as she pulled the covers back and attempted to squeeze into the bed.
Eden shifted over slightly and latched onto the warm body of her lover.
Tori pulled the quilt up and over them, and then wound her arms and legs around the smaller body beside her.
"Told you." Came the tired voice.
"Told me what?" Asked Tori.
"Yeah, it is that, but if I end up on the floor, you're coming with me." She said and held on tighter to the incredibly soft and warm body of the blonde.
The green eyes found hers. "You're not going anywhere without me. Ever."
"Ok." Said Tori. "That's a deal."
Eden was cold, and yet she was hot. Her mouth felt like a carpet, and her head like a rock.
But she felt happier than she had in her entire life.
She cracked open one eye and her vision was filled by smooth tanned skin, which rose and fell gently with the movement of breathing.
She was half on top of Tori, but the quilt had slipped off of her and was half on the taller woman and half on the floor.
One long arm was wound around her back holding her in place and her right arm was draped across Tori's stomach.
She lifted her head, regretting it immediately when the pounding at her temples increased, but lessened slightly when she took in the relaxed countenance of her lover.
With a sigh she disentangled herself from the woman, standing beside the bed and pulling the quilt back across the sleeping form. She was vaguely surprised that she hadn't woken Tori, before remembering the previous day and the early hour her companion had left the house.
Picking up her robe she left the bedroom and made her way to the bathroom.
Ten minutes later she was in the kitchen, filling the kettle.
"Good morning." She turned at the sound of her friend's voice and took two steps and threw herself in Cathy's arms.
"Thank you." She said, burying her face in her friend's shoulder.
"For what?" Asked Cathy, a little shocked at Eden's reaction.
Eden released her and leaned back against the counter. "I'd given up, had enough. If you hadn't persuaded me to talk to her I would never have seen her again."
"You didn't see her face when she got here. She was desperate."
Eden chuckled. "Cathy, Tori is many things but I wouldn't call her desperate. She would have gone on."
Cathy shook her head. "No, I don't think so. She acts tough, but under all that she's pretty fragile. She needs you."
"Cathy, I.............." Eden began.
"No, Eddie, believe me. She needs you."
Eden was still for a long moment, unable to accept what her friend was telling her until the shrill whistle of the kettle brought her round.
She reached over and turned down the gas under the kettle then turned back to her friend. "I thought I was the needy one."
"I saw pain in her eyes last night." Said Cathy. "She thought she'd lost you, she was virtually begging me to ask you to talk to her."
"What d'you think would have happened if I hadn't?"
Eden nodded. "I am. It's been a struggle, she thinks she doesn't deserve happiness."
"I'm not sure, I haven't really gotten to the bottom of it yet." She smiled at her friend. "But I will."
Eden turned the gas up again, bringing the kettle to the boil again, before pouring the steaming water into the three mugs.
She turned back to Cathy who was retrieving the milk from the fridge. "I think she may be a little afraid of commitment."
"I guess we all have a problem with that. It's knowing who to commit to I suppose, putting all your hopes and fears into one basket and offering it to someone to hold." Cathy screwed her face up, trying to understand her own statement.
Eden paused before answering. "Yeah well, I don't think there's a basket big enough for all my hopes, and certainly not one big enough for Tori's fears. But maybe, between us, we can get through."
"So what now?" Asked Cathy, taking a sip of her tea.
"She's asked me to stay on at the cottage a little longer." Eden looked up from her cup. "That's ok with you isn't it?"
"I'm your flatmate Eden, not you're mother. You can do what you like."
"I'll still pay you the rent."
"Actually, you may not need to." Said Cathy.
"Don't tell me! Darren's moving in." Said Eden, a huge smile creasing her face.
"Yeah, he, um, asked me to marry him."
The squeal that erupted from Eden, was cut short when she remembered her sleeping lover in the other room. "Oh wow, when was this?" She whispered loudly.
"And you didn't tell me?"
"Well, you weren't exactly in a listening mood last night, were you?"
Eden put her mug down and embraced her friend. "I'm so happy for you." She said.
"Thanks, I knew you would be." Cathy picked up her mug again. "There's plenty of time though, I don't want you to feel forced out."
"I know." Eden picked up the two steaming mugs. "I'm going back to bed
for a while, see you later."
Eden stood just inside the door of her bedroom and regarded the sleeping figure with affection. Tori had turned onto her stomach and was still deeply asleep. Both feet stuck out from the bottom of the quilt and one hand brushed the floor.
"Look who's sleeping in my bed." Eden whispered as she put the mugs down on the bedside cabinet.
She knelt beside the bed, lifting the hand of her lover from the floor and cradling it in both of hers. She brought the fingers to her lips and kissed them gently, watching a slight smile form on the sleeping face.
She brushed back some dark hair from the relaxed face. "Hey there." She said quietly and watched as the blue eyes fluttered open.
"'Morning." Said Tori as her eyes found and then focused on the form of her lover. "Been up long?"
"No. I brought you a cup of tea."
Tori shifted over so that Eden could get back into the small bed, and, with it being such a small bed, she held onto the blonde fiercely.
"You must have been tired." Said Eden. "I don't think I've ever woken up before you."
Tori smiled down at the blonde. "What d'you mean ever? We've only had a week."
"You're right, but it seems like forever. Don't you think?"
Tori nodded. "You know, I've never been with anyone longer than a few days. Well, except for Jodie."
"Tell me about her?" Asked Eden.
"Not much to tell. We were room-mates at Uni. We slept together, that was about it."
"Did you love her?"
"I told you Eden, I've never loved anyone before." Tori reached over and carefully picked up her mug of tea. "Oooh, that hit the spot." She said after taking a mouthful.
"So it was just a sex thing?" Eden persisted.
"Yeah, I suppose so."
"Was she your first?"
Tori put her mug back down. "Is this an interview?"
Eden shook her head. "No, I'd just like to know some more things about you."
"No she wasn't my first."
"Was your first a woman?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Said Eden, sitting up and reaching across Tori for her mug, giving her lover a look when she sniggered at the Snoopy mug.
"Would you call a sixteen year old girl a woman?"
"You lost your virginity to a sixteen year old?"
Tori nodded. "I was sixteen too, we were at the boarding school. We were just fooling around really. What about you?" Tori wanted to steer the conversation away from her.
There was silence for a long moment. "I was seventeen." Eden began. "There was this boy at college, he asked me out." She curled her hands around the mug and Tori noticed that they were shaking slightly.
"Hey, don't tell me if you don't want to." She said as she took the mug out of the smaller woman's hands.
"No, it's about time."
"For getting rid of this." Eden took a deep breath. "Anyway, I went out with him. I was playing along with what my parents wanted, but even then I'd decided that something wasn't right. I wasn't really interested in going out with him, but all my friend's had boyfriends so I thought I should 'fit in.' He used to be able to borrow his father's car. We went to some pubs. I don't know how he managed to get me drinks. At seventeen I looked about fifteen, but somehow he managed. He got me pretty drunk, drove me out to a country lane and parked up."
Eden paused, her eyes were far away, back there in that country lane. The steamed up windows, the grasping hands.
"He raped you, didn't he?" Tori asked, her heart hammering in her chest.
Eden nodded and Tori pulled her over and into her arms.
"Did you report it?"
"No, I was young, I couldn't face the police. But most of all I was ashamed."
Eden shrugged. "Don't know. Thought it was my fault I guess. He told me I'd lead him on, said I didn't object when he drove me out there. I started to believe it."
Tori tightened her embrace. "I'm sorry that happened to you."
"Yeah, me too. Taught me some lessons though, I was a little less trusting after that."
"Did it, um." Tori sought for the right words. "Did it put you off men completely?"
"If you're asking if that's when I decided I was gay, the answer's no. I went out with other men, slept with them. But on my terms. I've also had sex with a few women." She turned towards Tori, shifting over so that she was laying on top of the taller woman. "But I've only made love to you."
Tori was quiet for a long moment. "Eden, the things you say. You know, no-one's ever said anything like that to me before."
"I've never had cause to say that to anyone before." Said Eden, leaning forward and nipping her lover's bottom lip. "But it's true." She waited a moment, then asked. "Tell me what you did in London. Tell me why you think you don't deserve this."
Tori closed her eyes. How much should she tell this woman? How much could she know before running screaming into the night?
'Ok, let's get this over with.' Tori took a deep breath.
"After I left Uni and Jodie I went home and started working for my father. I inherited the Chelsea flat from my maternal grandmother. For a while the business took up most of my time. Then I began going to The Gym. It's a gay club in Chelsea. Well, a lesbian club. "
Eden gave her a squeeze and encouraged to continue.
"I built myself a reputation there. It wasn't good."
"Go on." Said Eden.
"You don't want to hear this." Said Tori, suddenly uncomfortable
"Yes, I do."
Tori looked at her, and in that moment knew she could trust her. "It became a game." She began. "I'd time myself and see how long it took before I was invited home."
"By someone at the club?"
"They all wanted a piece of me. I was the rich bitch, they all knew my name. They all thought I was a ticket to the good life, so I used that. I used them."
"So what's different here?"
Tori sighed. "You." She said simply. "This is why I fought. I didn't think I'd be able to get out of the habit of using. I didn't want to use you."
Eden smiled. "Hey." She said huskily. "Use me."
"Don't joke about it." Said Tori, pouting.
"That's new, I've never seen that face before." Eden kissed away the pout.
"Don't let me hurt you." Tori said seriously.
"The only way you can do that is by leaving. Twice you left me....... " Tori started to interrupt, but Eden silenced her with a shake of the head. "No, I know you didn't leave me yesterday, but it felt like you did. I just want to be with you Tori."
The dark woman wrapped her arms tighter around her lover. "And I want to be with you. But there's one condition."
Eden's head snapped up. "What?" She didn't like conditions.
"We never, ever, sleep in a bed as small as this again." Said Tori wiggling her chilly toes.
Eden butted Tori's chest with her forehead and smiled into the soft skin. "It's a deal." She said. "Should we get up?"
"Not for a bit." Said Tori who closed her eyes and enjoyed the closeness of her love.
Eden must have dozed because she woke up some time later, alone.
Getting up she picked up her bathrobe from the floor and went in search of her lover. She found Cathy in the kitchen talking to Darren.
"Hey." She said rushing to the man and giving him a hug.
At his questioning look Cathy said."I told her."
"Oh. You ok with that?" he asked the blonde who released him slowly.
"Of course you silly man! It's about time." She said and then looked round. "Where's Tori?"
"She's gone." Said Cathy, but seeing the fearful look on her friend's face she added. "But she says she'll only be an hour."
Eden smiled at her. "Stupid huh?"
Cathy put her arm around the blonde and lead her out of the kitchen and into the lounge, smiling at Darren's understanding look as she went.
"Are you going to be like this every time you wake up and she's not there?" Asked Cathy.
"Probably not, it's all still a little raw right now." Eden sat on the sofa. "I asked her not to leave without waking me."
"I've tried to wake you in the past, it's not the easiest thing to do."
"I was only dozing."
"If you were only dozing you would have woken when she went."
Eden pulled the robe tighter around her. "Did she say where she was going?"
"No, only that she wouldn't be long."
"Oh, well that's ok then." Eden stood. "I'm going to have a bath then pack some stuff."
"Are you......... you're going aren't you?" Said Cathy.
"She's asked me to stay longer, and I'm going to. Cathy, this is the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me. I'm not going to let this go."
Cathy sat beside her friend and gave her a hug. "I'm happy for you Eddie. I just hope you know what you're doing. It's all moving awfully fast."
"We've been through just about everything in the past week. Now we just want to be together and enjoy it."
"I wish you luck." She said and held her friend until she heard the doorbell and heard Darren open the door to admit Eden's lover.
A dark eyebrow rose at the sight of the two friend's on the sofa. "Did I miss something?" Asked Tori.
"Come here you." Said Eden, rising and rushing into Tori's arms.
"What's this for?" She asked, and looked at Cathy over the blonde's shoulder as she made her exit from the lounge.
"Just for being you." She pushed away from the taller woman. "But on the other hand, I'm angry with you." Eden tried, but couldn't look angry.
"You are?" Said Tori, looking innocent, no easy feat.
"I told you to wake me before you went anywhere."
"Ah, well. I had some things to do. And if I hadn't left you then, I would never have gotten away."
"Really, why?" Asked Eden.
"Um, well, because............ you know." Tori took a couple of steps back from the advancing blonde.
"No I don't, explain." Said Eden, a small smile creasing her face.
Tori stopped and let Eden step closer so that their bodies just touched. She reached out and took Eden's shoulders in her hands, pulling the smaller woman into her own body. "I wanted you, I wanted my hands on you. I do now."
"So why did you go?" Eden said into the warm flesh of the woman's neck.
"I had things to do." Said Tori, letting her head fall back to expose more skin to the soft mouth.
"Must have been important things." Said Eden, taking a step back and pulling Tori with her towards the lounge door and then through the hallway into her bedroom.
Cathy and Darren saw them pass. "It's one o'clock in the afternoon." Said Darren, drinking his tea.
"So?" Asked Cathy.
"Well." Said Darren as means of explanation.
"You are such and old fogie." Said Cathy, "let's get rid of some of your inhibitions." She took him by the hand and lead him to her bedroom, leaving the rest of the flat in silence.
It was after five in the evening by the time Tori and Eden had changed, packed most of Eden's clothes and travelled to the cottage in Summer Lane.
"What would you like to do this evening?" Asked Tori.
"You know, I'd really like a night out on the town. Finishing up at the Tap." Said Eden, emptying the large plastic bag filled with her clothes onto the bed.
"Yeah, call me egotistical, but I want to show you off." She said, sorting underwear from socks and putting them in drawers.
"Um, last time I was there I didn't make much of an impression." Said Tori, sitting on the bed and reaching for a silky pair of briefs.
Eden snatched them out of her hand. "Well, I don't remember much about it. And anyway, I need to talk to Karen." She looked at her lover. "Don't you think?"
"Yes, I think. You gave her some pretty strong signals last time."
"I did didn't I." She said staring at the underwear in her hands. "I still can't believe I did that."
"You were drunk. And mad." Tori stood and walked over to the window.
"That's no excuse, you don't use people like that." She looked up to see Tori's tense back. "Tori, I'm sorry, I didn't mean....."
Tori turned when she felt a gentle hand on her back. "I know." She said, dipping her head and capturing the soft lips of her lover.
After the kiss the taller woman held her love close. "C'mon, let's get ready and go out."
Eden nodded and untangled herself from her lover's arms. "Ok, are we going smart or casual?"
"Casual, I think." Said Tori and pulled out a pair of jeans and a sweater.
"Well, I only got dressed an hour or so ago, so I'm going as I am." Said Eden as she tucked the last of her clothes away into a drawer. She moved towards the door and turned to watch Tori removing the clothes she'd worn that day, the one's she'd left in when she'd gone to London.
"Oh, and Tori?" Came the voice from the landing.
"What?" Asked Tori, naked.
"Wear something I won't have any trouble removing later."
Tori went out onto the landing, but Eden had disappeared downstairs. "Where are you?" Tori called down.
"I'm watching telly." Eden appeared at the bottom of the stairs. "Why?"
"Nothing. Just wondered. Won't be long." Tori said, and disappeared into the bathroom.
The night was windy, cold and wet. They didn't have any trouble finding a parking space a short distance from the entrance to the Bath Tap. As it was shortly after nine in the evening, they didn't have to pay the entrance fee and Eden took Tori's hand and preceded her lover into the pub.
As usual the female population was outnumbered by the male, and the small amount of women were seated around a table in the corner.
"Hi." Said Eden as she seated herself in a vacant chair. She looked over at the bar where Tori was ordering them drinks. "Is Karen here?" She asked Annie who was sitting, separated slightly from the other two women at the table.
"Upstairs I think. I heard about last week."
Eden cringed. "Really?"
Annie nodded, then beckoned Eden closer. "Is this it?" She asked and immediately knew the answer when she saw the smile that lit her friend's face.
"Yes it is." Said Eden quietly. "Thanks."
"For telling me to wait. Thanks for the adivice."
Annie shrugged. "I think you would have worked it out for yourself anyway." She looked towards the bar. "She's lovely."
Eden turned and regarded the woman who was now moving towards them with drinks in both hands.
Tori looked at the admiring looks she was getting from two sets of eyes.
"What?" The tall woman said as she set the glasses on the table.
"Tori, this is Annie." Eden said changing the subject.
Tori reached out her hand. "Pleased to meet you. You're the bus driver aren't you?"
"I am, though I wish I wasn't." Said Annie with a sigh.
"No, I don't think I'd have the patience. All that stopping and starting." Tori managed to ease into the vacant seat beside Eden.
But as soon as she'd settled Eden sprang to her feet. "I have to go upstairs." She said seeing Tori's puzzled look.
"You do?" Said her lover.
Eden nodded ."Karen." She said, explaining everything, and bent and kissed Tori on the cheek before making her way towards the stairs.
Tori watched her until she disappeared, smiling as one or two of the men stopped her as she squeezed past them, some of them planting a kiss on her cheek.
"Everyone loves Eden." Annie said, regaining Tori's attention.
"It's understandable." Said Tori, regarding the liquid in her glass.
"I'm happy for you both, though a few hearts will be broken in here." Annie chuckled. "I remember the first night she came in here. We thought she'd walked into the wrong place."
"She told me she'd spoken to you. About her feelings. I'm glad she had someone to talk to."
Annie nodded. "She was pretty messed up for a while. She thought that once she'd accepted what she was feeling, she'd be able to go out find herself a good woman and settle down to a life of bliss. But it didn't happen." Annie sighed. "She looks happy."
"She does, doesn't she."
Annie sensed something going on within the dark woman. "What are you afraid of?"
"I'm not afraid." Said Tori, sitting straighter in her chair.
"I'm sorry." Said Annie. "I'm prying."
Tori rubbed her eyes, and looked at the two women who were sitting nearby. Neither seemed interested in the conversation taking place.
"No, Eden is your friend, she's come to you with her problems. You're not prying." Tori took a deep breath. "You would hate to see her hurt, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, I would hate it, very much."
"That's what I'm afraid of. She's giving herself, so wholeheartedly. I'm afraid of not living up to what she wants."
"Eden wants someone to love. That much is obvious. Do you want someone to love you?"
Tori thought for a while. "Of course I do. Doesn't everyone?" For now, that was enough, Tori didn't want to go into everything, all her problems.
"Then let her love you. Let her give something she's desperate to give. Is that so hard?"
"What if I can't give back in equal measure?" Tori asked.
"I don't think Eden is the kind who gives to receive. Just give her what you can. She's obviously happy with what she has now, so you must be doing something right." Annie reached over and squeezed Tori's hand. "I'm happy for you."
"You love her too, don't you?" Said Tori, an almost apologetic look on her face.
Annie smiled. "Like I said, everyone loves Eden."
Suddenly the subject of their conversation was back, she sat beside Tori and put a hand on her arm. "Whatcha talking about?" She asked, reaching across her lover to place her drink on the table.
Annie stood. "I need to get a refill." She said, and headed for the bar.
"So?" Said Eden, giving Tori a quizzical look.
"Ok, we were talking about you." Tori took the smaller hand in her own.
Tori nodded. "She wants you to be happy. That's what I want too."
"I am." She lifted the long fingers to her lips and kissed them gently.
"So how did it go with Karen?" Tori said.
"Ok I think. She's not happy, but I don't think she'll bother me anymore. I apologised, and told her to come over here and join us, but she refused."
Tori chuckled. "I don't think I'd be too happy if I lost you either. I know how she feels." But the smile faded when Tori's eyes found Eden's. "I mean that."
Eden squeezed the hand she was holding. "Dance with me?" She said, standing.
"Lead on." Said Tori, and followed her to the stairs that led to the basement.
They enjoyed the remainder of the evening, and were about to leave just after 1.30 in the morning.
Tori had put her jacket on and was waiting for Eden who was talking to her friends. She managed to catch the blonde's eye. Pointing at the door she indicated that she was going on without her.
Annie held her arms wide and Eden walked into them, returning the hug. "I'm so pleased for you." She said, holding her friend at arms length. "What are you doing tomorrow? Are you coming here? I think they're having a special evening."
"Why? What's so special about tomorrow?" Said Eden, pulling on her jacket.
"Eddie! It's St. Valentine's Day!" Said Annie, her hands on her hips.
"Oh my God, I forgot. So did Tori. Completely slipped my mind."
"There are reminders all over town. Don't tell me, you didn't see anything." She smiled at the blush that crept up her friend's face.
"I've been a little preoccupied the last week." Eden nodded. "We may well come down then. We have nothing else planned.
Annie smiled and led Eden to the notice board which held the plans for the St. Valentine's Day activities.
Tori decided she'd go on ahead and get the engine started so that the car would be a little warm by the time her lover got there.
She pulled her collar up against the cold night and cupped her hands, breathing on them to ward off the chill.
The voice broke the silence just as she got to the Shogun.
She stopped dead, her hands still clasped in front of her face. Then she turned, taking in the sight in front of her.
Three men, probably in their mid twenties, walked slowly towards her. Two of them held small beer bottles, the third pulled a thin knife from a pocket.
'Do something!' Her mind screamed.
So she turned, and ran. Away from the Shogun. Away from the pub. Away from Eden, wanting to put as much distance between her lover and the threat as possible.
But they were too fast. They caught her after about twenty yards, pushing her over a low wall and on to a small grassed area. One of them managed to get an arm around her throat, while another knelt on her shins, immobilising her. They ended up with one man sitting, his back against the wall of the end building, Tori between his legs, his arm across her throat. They were out of sight now, behind a low bush.
While his companion increased the pressure on Tori's throat, the man who'd originally spoken held the knife in the tall woman's face.
"I hate queers." He said, following the line of her jaw with the cold blade. "I've cut up a few fags. But I've never had me a dyke. Always wondered what it'd be like." The blade was now following the high cheek bone across to an ear. "Ooops." He said, as the blade produced a scarlet line.
The third man was sitting on the wall, looking down the road, drinking from the half filled bottle.
Tori was sitting on the cold grass, her hands on the forearm that was cutting off her breathing. "Please." She croaked, the sound barely audible.
"Please what dyke? You want me to show you what you're missing?" He said, lifting her chin with the blade.
"We got company." Said the man, who hopped down off the wall and hid behind the bush.
Tori started to struggle, knowing exactly who it was that made the quick footsteps that they could all hear.
The man behind her pulled tighter, and she felt her throat close and the edges of her vision grow dark.
Eden couldn't see Tori in the car and found it to be still locked when she tried the door. She'd taken a moment to say goodbye to her friend's, but hadn't thought she'd been that long.
She heard a noise. "Tori?" She called gently, and started walking towards the end of the street.
As she reached the end of St. James Parade she heard the low voice of a man, which made her stop dead. She looked round the corner, just as an arm reached out and a strong hand clamped over her mouth.
She was dragged over the low wall, the stone hitting her shins hard. She struggled against the hands that held her, until she was spun round and faced the sight that caused her heart to leap from her chest.
Her lover was held fast in the hands of a man who sitting with his back against the last building in the street.
Tori's eyes held fear and panic, her hands clawed at the arm across her throat.
"Let her go." Said the man with the knife.
Eden gazed at Tori with wide eyes, but didn't move once the man released her.
The knife man knelt next to the seated woman. "This your girlfriend?" He asked the blonde.
Eden nodded, her eyes never leaving Tori's face. Watching as her lover tried to focus on her surroundings.
Suddenly the third man pushed Eden further into the bushes and held his hand over her mouth again as a few pub goers made their way home.
Once they'd passed the conversation resumed.
"So what can she do for you that I can't?" The knife wielder said, advancing on Eden.
The blonde took a step back, but found her way blocked by the large form of the third man.
The knife found its between the fastenings of Eden's jacket and she felt the sharp point on her skin.
The knifeman looked over Eden's shoulder at his companion and nodded. The man stepped away.
"I'll make you a deal." He said. "Let me show you what you're missing, and I'll let you girlfriend here go." He moved the knife up, cutting through Eden's clothes, then removing it. Then his hand replaced the knife, finding warm, soft flesh.
Eden flinched when his cold hand made contact with her skin, but stood her ground.
On the floor, Tori knew what was going on and started to struggle again. The knifeman took a step towards her and kicked her in the hip.
Eden made a move towards him, but was held by the third man.
The other man tightened his grip around Tori's neck and Eden watched in alarm as the tall woman's hands fell limply from his arm.
"You're killing her!" She said, certain she could see Tori's lips turning blue in the limited moonlight.
The knifeman advanced on Eden, enjoying her struggles against the solid grip of his friend. He reached a hand out and caressed her face. "Such a waste." He said. "So what d'you say. Do we have a deal?"
Eden closed her eyes and nodded.
The man smiled and put his hands on either side of the rip in her clothes and tearing them open. Eden's knees buckled slightly when the cold winter air hit her skin, but she was held fast.
She didn't move as he inserted the blade between her breasts and cut the lace of her brassiere, releasing her breasts into the cold air.
"Such a waste." He said again, tracing a line with his blade from her bellybutton, to the nipple of her left breast.
For a moment Eden didn't realise it was Tori's voice, so restricted was her throat.
All eyes turned to the fallen woman.
The knifeman smiled as his hand cupped a firm breast. "She's not going to." He lifted his eyes from dark haired woman, to the eyes of the smaller woman standing in front of him. "Are you dyke?"
Eden felt the vice-like hands of the third man tighten around her upper arms and shook her head at the man's question.
"See dyke?" He said to Tori. "She's doing this for you." His eyes caught the attention of the man holding Tori, he wanted her concious for this. The arm about her throat relaxed slightly, and the man pulled her head up using a handful of dark hair.
Eden was pulled back against the third man, they turned sideways so that Tori could see what was happening.
The knifeman reached down for the fastening of Eden's jeans, looking into her face as he undid the buttons, one by one.
But Eden's eyes were on her lover's. Trying to convey to the stricken woman that she could handle this, that it meant nothing, but failing.
And suddenly she was falling, reaching her hands out to break her fall, but still feeling the cold damp grass on her skin.
The sound of running footsteps brought her back to her situation and she looked around for her lover, finding her lying on her side, her back against the wall.
"Tori?" She said, feeling the damp seep through her jeans as she crawled towards the woman.
She reached her and pulled the taller woman into her arms, feeling Tori's hands clutching at her clothing as she did so.
"Did they........?" Tori croaked, weakly trying to lift her head and see her lover.
"No, nothing............... No. I don't know.................."
Eden turned her head to see a police woman appear between the bushes.
"Are you both alright?" She said shining the torch on them and crouching to assess their injuries.
"My friend's hurt." Said Eden, forgetting her own state of undress.
The police woman stood and went back to the van that Eden could see between the branches of the bush, only now seeing the blue flashing light reflecting off the nearby windows.
She returned with a couple of large blankets, which she handed to Eden. "There's an ambulance coming, and my colleagues are trying to catch the men."
Eden's attention was on Tori as she wrapped the stunned woman in the blanket, then wrapping the other around her own shoulders before sitting on the ground next to her lover and holding her.
Two more police officers came to join their colleague, one of them kneeling next to Eden. "Will you be able to answer some questions?" One of them asked.
"Not right now, maybe later." He said putting his hand on her shoulder.
Then the ambulance was there, the paramedics fussing over the two women and leading them back to the ambulance.
Once inside Eden watched as her lovers cut face was cleaned and assessed. It seems the small cut wouldn't need stitches.
In all this time Tori hadn't said a word, and Eden was wondering if her friend was in shock.
Suddenly Tori pushed the hands away from her. "I'm fine." She growled and jumped down from the back of the ambulance.
She strode over to the police van. "Did you get them?" She asked, her voice barely a whisper, but still venomous.
"Not yet." Said the officer looking up from his notes.
"You won't." She husked. "They're just queer bashers. They're long gone."
Eden came up behind her lover, placing a gentle hand on her back. "Tori?" She asked.
"D'you need us?" Said Tori.
"Yes, we'd like a description and your details."
Tori gave a brief description of the three men and her address and Eden's home address. She gave her phone number, putting a hand to her throat as she finished.
"I really want to go home now, is that ok with you?" She said to the officer.
He nodded. "You're sure you don't want to get checked out at the hospital?"
"No, I just want to go home."
The police officer shrugged. "Someone may be round to see you tomorrow....... If we apprehend................"
But Tori had gone, the blanket covered form of her lover following the limping taller woman.
Eden eased into the passenger seat and regarded the tense profile of her partner. "You ok?" She whispered.
Tori gripped the steering wheel, and turned to face the blonde. "Why the fuck didn't you run?" She growled, her abused larynx making her sound even more frightening.
"I thought.............. I wanted them to let you go." Eden pulled the blanket she'd kept tighter around her shoulders.
"And you think after he'd raped you he would have just let you go? Let us both go?"
Eden's face creased as tears filled her eyes. "I didn't know what else to do! I thought they were going to kill you!" She covered her face with shaking hands.
But Tori couldn't comfort her. Her anger was all consuming and threatened to overtake her. Never before has someone put their own soul on the line for her, and she was failing miserably in dealing with it. She started the engine and sped away, wanting to put as much distance between her and that damn street as she could.
Eden was still crying when they reached the cottage.
Tori got out of the Shogun in silence, slamming the door as she went, and entering the cottage.
Eden walked on shaky legs to the cottage and closed the door quietly. She stood in the hall, her back against the door, still clutching the blanket.
Tori had mixed herself a drink, and was standing at the window, watching the clouds racing across the moon. The liquid burned her abused throat, but felt good. With a sigh she turned and went to look for her lover.
Eden was still standing with her back against the door.
"Come in here." Said Tori, "it's warmer."
Eden didn't move, and Tori saw the white knuckles on the small hands that clasped the blanket around shaking shoulders.
"Eden?" She said, advancing on the girl.
She tried to pull her lover's hands from their place, holding the blanket tight against her chest. "Eden, come on, come into the lounge." Her voice was still husky.
Then Eden started shaking. "I.I'm sssorry." She said. "I was scared."
"I know." Said Tori. "Come here."
She pulled the shaking woman into her arms and led her into the lounge, just making it to the couch as the blonde collapsed.
Tori managed to pry the rigid fingers open and remove the blanket but the sight she revealed only brought back her anger.
She took a step back, her eyes fastened on the shredded clothing that Eden wore.
"No." Groaned Eden and fell sideways on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably.
Tori knelt by her lovers side and took her shoulders in her hands, easing her back to a sitting position. "I'm sorry." She pushed the golden hair back from the face she loved and pulled Eden into her arms.
"Sshhh. It's over." She said, knowing her own temper had added to Eden's fear. "Come with me." She said pulling the blonde to her feet.
"So tired." Said Eden, leaning heavily against the taller woman.
"Yeah, me too."
Tori led her up the stairs and sat her on the bed, while she went into the bathroom and turned on the shower above the bath. Then going back into the bedroom, she started to pull the ruined clothes off of Eden.
Once she'd completed that, she removed the mud stained bandage from Eden's hand. Quickly removing her own clothes she led the blonde to the bathroom, helping her to step over the edge of the bath and into the warm spray of the shower.
Eden rested her head on Tori's chest and let the water wash away the feel of the man's hands on her. She felt her lovers hands begin to soap away the dirt and self loathing that had returned after so long. She looked up into the eyes that held her heart. "Tori?" she said.
"Mmm?" Said the taller woman, her hands soaping a smooth back.
"I couldn't have let them hurt you."
"Eden, I want you to promise me something." Tori began.
"No, whatever it is, no. I know what you're going to say."
The hands stilled. "It's hard. Knowing what could have happened."
"I know." Said Eden. "But it's alright now. We're home."
"Yes we are." Said Tori, and wrapped her arms tighter around her lover. "Let's go to bed."
Eden stood beside the bed, allowing Tori to dry her and examine her hand. "I don't think it needs to be re-bandaged for now. I'll do it in the morning."
Eden slipped into bed watching her lover walk around turning off lights, noticing the black and blue bruise on her hip. "Tori! Is that painful?"
"Only a little." Said Tori, turning off the last light.
She got in next to the blonde and gathered her in her arms.
"Thankyou." Said Tori, burying her face in the damp hair.
"I love you." Said Eden.
There was no reply from Tori and Eden knew that any further conversation would have to wait 'til the morning.
The force of Tori's scream grated against her throat, but still the blonde woman stood, unmoving, oblivious to Tori's panic.
Tori couldn't move an iron band across her throat made her breathing difficult, her limbs heavy.
Eden was lowered to the ground by the two men holding her. One held her shoulders, the other stood over her, looking first at the blonde on the ground and then across at Tori. He smiled at the two women's helplessness.
Tori looked back at her lover. Eden's arm was outstretched, reaching toward the taller woman, but there was no fear in her eyes.
"I love you Tori." She said, gentle green eyes smiling.
"No!" Tori sat bolt upright, her hands flying to her own throat to loosen the grip of the man behind her, but found only the soft flesh of her own neck.
She struggled for long moments to conquer her ragged breathing, dragging in lungful's of air until the grasping pain in her chest subsided.
Finally she was calm and looked to her right, and found the peaceful, deeply asleep form of Eden, oblivious to the drama being played out in the bed she shared with her lover.
Tori sank back down, turning towards the smaller woman as she did so. Reaching out a hand she pushed some golden hair away from the relaxed face, watching as the girl's forehead crinkled at the touch.
"Sssh." She said to the sleeping woman, "it's only me."
Eden moved towards the sound of the low husky voice and wrapped herself around the warm body she found.
Tori accepted the gift and held on tight, there would be no more sleep for her that night.
Many hours later, Eden woke alone. Slowly the events of the previous night came back to her, and with it pain in her left breast and in her injured hand. She looked at her palm, pleased to see that the stitches had done their job and the cuts were healing nicely.
She had known immediately that her lover was not in the bed, but she was not surprised. Tori's reaction to the attempted rape had been unexpected. Eden had needed her to be supportive, but she had been anything but. In fact she'd made things worse. She had taken out her anger and frustration on the younger woman, seemingly unable to come to terms with the helplessness she'd felt. But things did get better Eden accepted. Tori had realised that she was hurting her lover and had turned back into the woman that Eden had come to love. The woman that Eden was rapidly falling in love with.
Eden rolled onto her back and regarded the ceiling. She listened carefully, but couldn't hear Tori moving around anywhere in the cottage. The numbers on the clock on the bedside cabinet told her it was 09.48. The curtains were drawn, and the small amount of daylight that slipped between them was dull.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs brought Eden's attention to the door. It opened very slowly and a dark head poked around the door.
"Hi." Said Eden.
"'Morning." Said Tori, but didn't enter the room. "I thought you were still asleep."
Eden shook her head. "Nope."
Tori still didn't move, just her head showing, and one white teeshirt covered shoulder.
"Whatcha doing?" Asked Eden.
"Close your eyes." Said Tori, and disappeared.
Eden sat up, holding the quilt close to her body against the cold. "Why?" No answer. "Tori?"
"Eden, would you just close your eyes." A voice tinted with annoyance.
A sigh. "Ok."
Tori peeked around the door again and saw that Eden was sitting up in bed, the quilt clutched in her arms, her eyes tight shut.
For a moment Tori didn't move, she just stood, taking in the sight before her.
"Ok, don't open your eyes 'til I tell you."
The strange noses that surrounded her tested Eden's will power to the limit, but eventually Tori said. "Alright, you can open them now."
Eden opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by red.
There were balloons everywhere, must have been about thirty. Thirty red balloons claiming, 'I love you Eden Gallagher.'
Eden grabbed one as it floated towards her. "Tori, this is so cute!" She said, enjoying the blush that coloured her lover's face. "Did you blow these all up yourself?"
Tori laughed. "No, the guy I bought them from gave me something to inflate them."
Eden noticed she had an arm behind her back. "What do you have there?"
Tori brought her hand out from behind her and presented Eden with the rose. A single red rose, perfect in size and shape. As she handed it to the blonde she leaned down, capturing her lips in a delicate kiss. "Be my valentine?" She asked.
Eden took the rose, sniffing it, then turned sheepish eyes in her lover's direction.
"What?" Asked Tori.
"I forgot it was today, I'm sorry,"
Tori edged onto the bed next to her lover. "Don't be sorry. You're here, that's all I need."
Eden remained silent for a moment, then shifted to look at the dark woman beside her. "Tori, we need to talk."
Tori felt her stomach muscles cramp, but nodded slightly. "About last night?"
Eden let out a long shuddering breath.
"I thought maybe I could make you forget with these." Said Tori, indicating the gently bobbing balloons with a tilt of her head.
Eden leaned heavily against a firm shoulder. "You were angry with me." It was a statement, not a question.
"You were stupid."
"Absolutely." Said Tori, sitting up straighter so that she was no longer in contact with Eden. "You had the chance to run, you should have taken it."
"So if it was me there, you would have run?" Said Eden, tapping her chin lightly with the bloom.
"Didn't think so." Said the blonde quietly.
Tori pulled her knees up to her chest and clamped two long arms around them. "No-one's ever cared enough to do anything like that for me. I guess I'm just not used to it." She ran a shaking hand through tangled ebony locks. Then found that hand captured by a smaller one. The touch broke the tenuous hold Tori had on her emotions, and she pulled her hand from her lover's and buried her face in her palms.
Eden carefully put the rose on the beside cabinet and turned, pulling the now shaking woman into her arms.
"Ssshhh." She whispered into the dark hair, rocking the trembling woman against her own chest.
"I couldn't help you." Came the muffled voice. "I couldn't get to you. If the police hadn't arrived.........."
"But they did. Don't start with 'what ifs'." Eden reasoned. "We're ok. I'm ok." She pushed Tori away so that she could see her face. Making eye contact she said. "And I'd do the same again."
"No you won't!" Said Tori, sitting up. "You will never be hurt because of me. Never!"
Tori tried to get out of the bed, but Eden held on, and in the end she gave up, allowing herself to be pulled down into the warmth of the bed with her lover.
"It's only been just over a week." Said Tori.
"And?" Said Eden, snuggling closer.
"And how many times have you been hurt in the last few days?"
"I've felt happy more than I've felt bad."
Tori sniffed. "Really?"
"Really." She snaked a hand under the teeshirt Tori was wearing, finding smooth warm skin and feeling an intake of breath from her tall lover. "I want to stay with you." The hand made its way higher, cupping a firm breast. "For a long time." A dark nipple hardened at the touch. "Is that ok with you."
When no answer was forthcoming she looked up at the angular face above her.
"Tori?" She asked, giving the nipple she was worrying a tweak.
Tori's face was a picture of calm. She turned towards the blonde and opened her eyes, making Eden's heart skip a beat when she saw the honesty in them.
"Whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. Take me now."
Eden stared at her for a long moment. Tori had never asked her that, had never given herself without the tiniest struggle.
So Eden knelt on the bed and pulled the shirt over Tori's head, depositing it beside the bed.
"So this is mine?" She asked, running her hands from broad shoulders to firm thighs, watching as the muscles beneath the skin reacted to her touch.
"Everything I have."
Eden smiled and found the blue eyes again. "Is that a proposal?"
Tori seemed to think for a moment, her brow furrowing briefly. "Dammit, I think it was."
"Say it then." Eden stilled her hands, one on a shoulder, the other firmly situated over Tori's heart. She felt the heartbeat increase, the silence in the room pulsating in her own ears.
"I want.... you. "
"Is that it?" Eden teased.
"I want you forever." Tori said in a rush. "We could go abroad, they do it there. Hawaii or somewhere."
"Tori, say it for goodness sake." Eden pressed her palm harder against the wildly beating heart. Needing to hear the words.
Tori closed her eyes. "Will you marry me?" She said, her voice surprisingly calm.
When no answer came she opened her eyes to find tearful green eyes looking down at her. "Yes." One word, but the one word Tori needed to hear above all others.
Tori reached up and pulled the smaller woman down onto her body. "No-one's ever given me so much." Said Tori, breathing in the scent of the golden hair.
Eden pushed herself back up, and surveyed the body beneath her. "Now, where were we?" She said, lowering her mouth to her lover's breast.
They were out of bed, but still in dressing gowns when the police woman who had spoken to them the previous night knocked the door. After a quick discussion they both shrugged and let her in. If she was shocked she was professional enough not to show it. She took statements from both, descriptions of their assailants, and left them some leaflets about counselling. After just under an hour she was gone.
"D'you think they'll catch them?" Asked Eden as she closed the front door.
"Probably not until they get caught in the act. They looked pretty ordinary, nothing unusual about them."
"I'd remember them again." Eden said, walking towards Tori.
"Yeah, so would I." Tori opened her arms and allowed the younger woman to walk into them, and they stood there, for a long time, just thinking.
Much later the two women were showered and changed and heading into the centre of Bath again, this time Tori parked in the grounds of the Bath Spa hotel. She'd remembered Eden's admission that she'd never been in it, so had booked a table for two for their first Valentine meal together.
It was a relaxed evening, and Tori felt it was one of the most wonderful she'd ever spent. As she waited for Eden to return from the ladies she wondered for the hundredth time why the blonde woman was sticking with her. But in that moment decided give up questioning it. She was finding something she'd never sought and certainly didn't expect. But now she had this feeling, it was beginning to fit around her like a comfortable old sweater.
Eden was giving herself. Completely. No conditions. That had never happened before. And that afternoon Tori had given herself to her lover.
It had taken will power. Once or twice she had to resist the urge to take the smaller woman and throw her onto her back, taking her as she'd taken other women in the past. But she'd allowed Eden to make her own pace. Letting her take her time, letting her take Tori to heights she thought were unattainable.
And after, as she lay sated and exhausted, she allowed Eden to pull her into her arms. And she slept, wrapped in the love and sanctuary of another. Feeling safe, protected, and at peace.
A touch on her shoulder, and she turned her head, finding her lips claimed by softness. A quick kiss and Eden was sitting opposite her again, looking with pleasure at one or two surprised faces at other tables.
"What were you thinking about? I was standing behind you for a while." Asked the blonde.
Eden smiled, playing with the cutlery on the table. "Were they good thoughts?"
Tori sat back in her chair. "Wonderful thoughts." She said and leaned forward, just as the waiter arrived with their main course.
"Fillet?" he asked.
Tori nodded at his enquiry and he put her plate in front of her. Then walked around Eden so he could serve her from the correct side.
"Can I get you a bottle of wine?" He asked.
Tori nodded. "Whichever the manager recommends." She said, then looking towards Eden. "Gotta get my own back for earlier."
"No you don't, you won't get me drunk anyway." Said Eden, cutting into her steak.
"Not on your nelly. I have to work tomorrow."
"We'll see." Blue eyes twinkled.
"I won't." Green flashed.
A slight tap on her right thigh brought Eden back to the land of the living.
"We're here." Said her lover, "how d'you feel?"
Eden pushed herself up in the car seat and peered out of the windscreen. "I'm fine, why?"
"You were making strange noises all the way back." Said Tori, who stepped out of the Shogun and walked around to the passenger side. She opened the door and waited while Eden struggled with the seat belt.
"Here." Said the tall woman, leaning across the blonde and unfastening the seatbelt clasp, taking the opportunity to have a long, leisurely taste of the soft lips of her lover.
Then she was gone. Striding across the wet driveway to the front door of the cottage, and opening it before Eden had managed to get out of her seat.
'Why does she always park so far away?' The blonde thought as she left the warm interior of the car and made her unsteady way towards the door.
Once in the cottage she went directly to the lounge and slumped down on the sofa.
"Coffee?" Came the call from the kitchen.
"Sounds good." Called Eden, pulling her feet beneath her and snuggling into a corner of the large, soft couch.
It was only five minutes later that Tori brought two mugs into the lounge and set them on the low table, but by then the blonde was fast asleep. She pulled the table within reach and lifted Eden gently, pulling her into her lap as she settled beside the sleeping woman.
Eden stirred, and Tori smoothed her hair and kissed the top of her head. "No wine huh?"
"S'your fault." The blonde mumbled.
"I didn't force you to drink it." Tori said defensively.
"Y'kept filling the glass." Eden struggled to raise her head and look at her lover. "Thanks."
"For what?" Tori asked.
"For the evening. It was wonderful. And for letting me stay here with you." She let her head drop onto the broad shoulder again.
"I don't want to be alone anymore." Tori whispered.
"You're not." Said Eden, and pulled the dark head down for a long lingering kiss. "Let's go to bed." Said Eden breathlessly as they parted.
"Can you make it all the way up there?" Said Tori as she stood and picked up the two mugs of coffee.
"I'm bloody sure I can." Said Eden who launched herself across the lounge floor towards the door, rebounding off the door frame on her way out.
Tori winced, and followed her love closely as she climbed the stairs on wobbly legs.
Eden was sure she'd only been asleep a few minutes when the alarm went off at 07.30.
After she'd managed to climb the stairs and fall into bed the previous evening she and Tori had made love until the small hours. She knew she should be trying to sleep, but every time she settled down her hand would find the soft warm flesh of her lover and start another exploration. When finally exhaustion caught up with both women it was nearly three.
And now the alarm was complaining because neither woman had the energy to turn the damn thing off. Finally a long arm reached across a small unmoving body and swatted the thing, sending it, still complaining, to the floor.
Eden leaned out of the bed and reached down, fumbling around, before silencing it. She turned back and returned to her place, winding her arm across Tori's stomach.
"Bugger." Came the voice, muffled by a smooth neck.
"Get up." Said Tori, nudging her.
"Can you afford to keep me?" Asked Eden, refusing to move.
"Probably." Said Tori, after very little thought. "Would you like me to?"
Eden shook her head, causing her hair to make the tall woman squirm. "Hey, that tickles." Tori complained.
"I just want to stay here forever." Said Eden, unwilling to venture out of the warm bed.
"Me too." Admitted Tori, who sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. "Come on. You go shower and I'll make you some breakfast." She grabbed a robe and stood in the doorway. For a moment she stood watching, and realised that Eden was drifting back off to sleep. So she crept back to the bed and leaned over her lover, capturing Eden's lips with her own. "Get up." She whispered.
"Am up." Said Eden, who sat up scrubbing her face with her hands, and hurting the injured one in the process. She peered at the stitches. "Will you make me an appointment to see the doctor one day this week? These can probably come out now."
Tori turned the small hand over in her own, examining the stitches. "Sure I will, is the number still by the phone?"
Eden nodded and started to get out of bed, when she was captured in strong arms and pulled into a tight hug. "I'm going to miss you today." Tori pouted.
"I'll miss you too." Said Eden, who managed to stand, still held tightly by the taller woman. "Go make me some toast." She said, giving Tori a quick peck on the cheek.
"Toast? Is that all?"
"That'll do. The baguette man calls about eleven, I always have one of his egg and bacon ones."
Tori shrugged and made her way down to the kitchen while Eden started the shower running.
It was a little before nine when Tori dropped Eden off on the corner of Queen Square. Eden leaned across and gave her a quick kiss before jumping out of the Shogun. She looked back and gave her lover a quick wave before disappearing around the corner.
Once Tori had lost sight of the blonde she made her way back to the cottage. She had some e-mails to write and some phone calls to make. Half way up Wellsway her mobile phone chirped.
"Yeah?" She said.
"Miss you already." Came the familiar voice. "Where are you?"
"Just turning off Wellsway."
"Call me when you get home?"
"Ok, why?" She said smiling.
"No reason, just want to hear from you every hour or so."
Tori chuckled. "Ok, every hour then."
"Thanks. Love you."
"Love you too." Tori turned off the phone and threw it on the passenger seat.
Five minutes later she was turning off Summer Lane into the driveway of the cottage she now shared with her lover.
She saw the large car immediately and pulled the Shogun to a halt beside it. As she opened the car door, so the door on the other car opened and a distinguished looking gentleman got out, slamming the door behind him.
"Victoria." He said.
"Good morning Father." Said Tori.
Tori walked past her father, opening the door to the cottage and standing back so that he could enter.
The tall man, at least four inches taller than his daughter, preceeded her into the hallway, then turned left into the lounge as if he'd lived there all his life. He was a handsome man, his face looking younger than his fifty six years, his hair showing a small amount of grey at the temples.
Tori went in the opposite direction, into the kitchen. She stood for a moment, hands gripping the side of the worktop. Then she filled the coffee maker with water and found a filter in the cupboard, measuring the correct amount of coffee and turning the appliance on. It took longer than making instant, but it was time she needed.
She walked across the hallway and into the lounge. Standing before her father she waited, he would have to be the first to speak.
"What do you think you are doing Victoria?" He asked, looking calm and executive in his suit. He cocked his head in question as he walked across the room and sat on the sofa.
Tori opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing,
Her father tapped his fingers on the arm of the sofa as she reached across and picked up the instrument.
"Hey." Said the voice she loved.
Despite the tension she felt, Tori smiled. "Hi. I thought I was going to ring you."
"Can't get into the swing of things." She said. Then, aware of the tension, asked, "is everything ok?"
"Everything's fine. Can I call you later?"
There was silence from Eden for a moment. "Tori, is something wrong?"
"I'll call you later." Tori said. "I have to go."
"Ok. I love you." Said Eden, her voice revealing the concern she felt.
"You too." Said Tori, and put the handpiece back in the cradle.
She turned back to her father, who regarded her with something approaching contempt.
"That was your little whore was it?" He asked, an eyebrow rising in question.
Tori ignored the question. "What do you want Father?" She asked.
"I want to know when you're going to accept your responsibilities as a member of your family. I also want to know when you intend to return to London."
"Father, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going back to London. I'm not going to marry Damien. I told you that the other day." She stood casually, the look hiding the hammering of her heart.
"Is that your final statement?"
"Very well." He said and reached into the inside pocket of his suit.
Tori took a step back, her eyes widening at her father's swift actions. Then feeling ludicrous when he pulled out a folded piece of paper.
"I want you to sign this." He said holding the paper for her to take.
"What is it?" Asked Tori, taking the paper and studying it.
"It's your agreement not to make any claim on the business, or use the Conrad name in any future business venture you may undertake."
Tori stared at her father blankly. "I don't understand." She whispered.
"You are no longer my daughter." He said matter of factly. "From this moment on I don't know you."
"You've never known me." She said.
He nodded. "That's probably true." He stood and walked towards her. "If your brother had lived we could have gone through life without this little trial. But as it happens, we've discovered that you obviously have no sense of duty or loyalty."
Tori couldn't help laughing. "I can't believe you just said that. For twenty eight years I was kept in the background while you prepared Rory for taking over the business. Then all of a sudden I'm needed." She threw the paper on the low coffee table and walked towards the window. "I was prepared to marry that idiot." She turned to face him. "All because you don't believe a woman could run the business."
For a moment he said nothing. "It was your mother's idea. I married her in the understanding that she would provide me an heir. In the end, she did not. I told her that you were not stable enough..........."Tori opened her mouth to object and he raised a hand to quieten his daughter. "Not stable enough to run the business. She then found Damien and arranged for me to meet him. I was impressed with the young man and decided, with time, he would be a good addition to the family."
Tori shook her head slowly. "So even Damien was a set up?"
"It doesn't matter now. " He said. "There are other arrangements I can make."
"So what about the business, are you going to sell it?" She asked.
"No, my son will inherit it."
'He's gone crazy.' Tori thought.
Seeing his daughter's look of bewilderment he smiled. "After you were born my dear, it seems your mother could no longer bear children." He took in his daughter's look of surprise. "Did you not wonder why she hated you so?"
Tori shook her head.
" I took out a little insurance policy. I have a son, at a private school in Switzerland." He walked to the coffee table and picked up the document. "He's fifteen, in about ten years he should be ready to enter into the business in some capacity, another five or so and he'll be ready to take over, with my guidance of course."
"This doesn't sound exactly moral." Tori said.
"I shall marry his mother. By the time he leaves school and university everyone that matters will have forgotten this fiasco."
"She knew the consequences." He said.
"So that was what inspired her little visit. She knew she'd lose her privileged lifestyle."
Gerald Conrad nodded. "I'll make sure she's comfortable. She may have to cut down in some areas. And speaking of comfortable, I'll transfer a small amount to your account. You do use the same one?"
Tori strode to within an arm's length of her father. "You don't need to pay me off." Blue eyes flashed with anger. "I don't need your money."
"You'll take it Victoria, I won't have some tabloid newspaper accusing me of deserting my daughter. I'll transfer enough for you to start a business if you wish. I just insist you don't use the Conrad name."
"Give me a pen." She said, holding out her hand and taking the fountain pen that her father took from his inside pocket.
She signed the papers and handed them back to him.
He took the papers, then reached a hand out and traced the cut on her temple. "Keeping some dubious company aren't we?"
Tori jerked her face away from his touch.
He smirked and folded the document, sliding it into his jacket pocket. He turned and made his way to the door. As he opened it, letting in a cold draught he stopped and turned back to face his daughter.
"I hope she's worth it." He said and walked out of his daughter's life, slamming the door behind him.
"Oh, she is. I know she is." Said Tori as she sat on the bottom stair and
buried her head in her hands.
Eden's eyes found the clock again. Then her hand found its way to the phone, again. She lifted the handset from the cradle and then replaced it again. 'She's a big girl Eden, she can look after herself."
Eden had no idea what it was that had made her lover so tense that morning. What if the Police had paid a visit? Something to do with the attack? Had her mother shown up again? Eden shivered at the memory of her encounter with Stephanie Conrad.
"Are you intending to do any work today Eddie?" Asked Mark, tapping a pen against his teeth.
"Sorry, I have this splitting headache." She said leaning her head on her hands and rubbing her temples.
"Really?" He was up out of his chair and across the office in a flash. He knelt beside her chair so he could see her face. "You do look a little pale." He said, putting a hand to her forehead.
"Do I?" Said Eden, not feeling ill in the least.
"Do you want to go home?" He asked.
"No Mark, I couldn't. I've just had a week's holiday. I'm just a little under the weather that's all." She gave him a weak smile. "It's nearly one o'clock. I'll have something hot for lunch, then I'll feel a lot better, I'm sure."
Mark stood and regarded her for a moment. "Go on. I want you to go home. There's not much to do here. Go home and go to bed."
Eden stood slowly. "Are you sure Mark?" She said, even as she retrieved her coat from the back room.
"Yeah, go on." He said, pulling the coat tighter around her. "Besides, you might be coming down with something, and I don't want it."
Eden walked slowly out of the office, giving Mark a wave through the window as she put
her umbrella up and made her way along Quiet Street towards Milsom Street and the taxi
Tori sat for a long time on that bottom stair, before making her way to the lounge. She sank onto it, raising her feet onto one end and her head on the other. A feeling of unaccountable exhaustion overwhelmed her, and as her eyes closed she whipered her lover's name and saw, in her mind's eye the beauty of her lover's smile.
It was the rain pounding against the window that awoke her some hours later.
'I'm free.' She thought. 'Dammit, I'm free.'
It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from her, and she lay there for the longest time just working out what she would do now.
She reached a hand across to the coffee table and picked up the phone. Dialling the number from memory she was surprised when Mark answered Eden's extension number.
"Oh Mark, hello. Victoria Conrad. Can I speak to Eden? She's not? She did? When was this? Ok, I'll call her there. Thanks."
Obviously Eden hadn't informed Mark where she was living, however temporary it may be.
She put the phone down and stared at it for a long time, before being snapped out of her reverie by the sound of a key in the door.
She was out of the lounge and across the hall before the blonde woman had time to undo her dripping coat.
Eden found herself pinned against the door in a crushing embrace. Frantic lips found hers and she yielded to the onslaught, allowing her obviously highly strung lover to take control of her.
Shaking hands undid her coat while her mouth was still occupied, and then her blouse. The fact that she was pinned to the door meant that her arms were trapped in the clothing that had been loosened, and as hard as she tried she couldn't free her hands.
Tori lost patience when she came to the white bra and pushed it up, fastening her mouth on the breast it revealed.
"Tori!" Eden gasped as her mouth was freed. "What's..............." She was silenced once again by her lover's mouth, the urgency of the kiss slamming her head back into the solid bulk of the door.
This was..... different. It was exciting, and scary.
Eden knew something had happened, and knew it couldn't be all bad. But what?
She winced slightly when a firm thigh was pressed against her sex. Warm hands kneaded her breasts and her lips were beginning to bruise.
Then she was falling, and yet felt safe.
She landed on the floor of the hallway, her arms still trapped in the sleeves of the coat which was bunched around her waist.
It should have brought unpleasant memories flooding back of brutal hands holding her, but instead she felt aroused beyond her wildest imaginations.
Tori looked down at her. "I love you." The older woman said. "I need you now, like this."
"I want to touch you." Said Eden, her breathing ragged.
"You will, but not yet, let me have this." Tori's eyes were glistening with unshed tears and Eden nodded gently. "Thankyou." Said Tori and lowered her head, kissing her lover with the softest lips Eden had ever felt.
Eden no longered struggled against the confining sleeves of her coat. She lay back and surrendered her body to the ministrations of her lover. She sensed the need in the tall woman. There would be time to talk later, but now she wanted to give herself.
And Tori took her. Sliding down her body and leaving a trail of sensations as her hot mouth forged a trail across the perfect flesh. First latching onto a nipple, erect and sensitive, before descending to dip into a navel which flinched under the dark woman's tongue.
Eden felt her underwear removed, feeling it brush her face as it was thrown onto the floor above her head.
A large hand parted her thigh's and ice blue eyes locked onto hers. Her own green eyes didn't waver as the long finger's entered her.
Eden arched her back into the sensation, wanting more, wanting to hold this woman who had claimed her soul and her body.
"Tori." She begged, once again struggling to free her arms.
But Tori ignored her, instead bending to add her mouth to the sweet torture.
Once again Eden's head impacted with hard wood, this time the floor. If there was pain it didn't register in the tortured mind of the young woman overloading on sensation.
Then Tori was pulling her into her arms, gathering her up as she gasped out her climax.
"You're everything." Tori was saying. "Everything I need."
Eden lay wrapped in the long arms until her breathing returned to normal. She listened to the heartbeat of her lover slow and calm. She sighed and snuggled closer, revelling in the feelings of intimacy and security.
After a long moment Eden spoke. "Hi." She said.
Tori looked down into the almost unfocused green eyes. "Oh yeah, hi."
"We sort of missed that out when I arrived."
"We did. Sorry." Said Tori, and rubbed her cheek against the golden hair.
"No don't apologise. It was the best welcome I ever had." Eden managed to pull one hand free and caught a larger one, wrapping her hand around her lover's and pulling it to her lips. "Something's happened, hasn't it." It wasn't a question.
"Something bad?" Eden asked.
"No, not bad. Some might think so, but I don't." She gave her lover a squeeze. "Shall we get comfy?"
"Might be a good idea." Said Eden, looking down at herself and the disarray of her clothes.
Tori stood, reaching down and pulling the blonde to her feet. She turned to walk into the lounge, but quickly realised that Eden wasn't following her. Turning back she saw her half way up the stairs.
Eden turned back. "I'm half undressed, might as well get comfy up here."
Tori was not going to argue and followed her lover up to the bedroom.
Once they were both comfortably naked and snuggling under the covers Eden asked the first question.
"Someone was here when I called you, right?"
"My father." Tori said simply and felt her lover tense beside her. She ran her hand in soothing movements against the smooth back and tilted Eden's chin up so she could look into her face.
"Don't leave me." Whispered Eden, suddenly afraid that Tori's almost desperate lovemaking earlier had been some sort of final fling.
"Never. I promise." She cupped a flushed cheek, kissing away the tears that had begun to roll down a glowing cheek. "Hey, hey. It's ok. He's disowned me. I'm free."
Tori hadn't expected the reaction she got from the smaller woman. She thought she'd be happy. At least she hoped she'd be happy. But what she got was a weeping lover whose whole body shook with the force of her sobs.
"What........ Eden, what is it?"
Eden felt the long arms surround her and felt ridiculous. But however hard she tried she couldn't control the emotions that were swamping her. She tried three times to explain to the worried woman who held her what she was feeling, but failed miserably each time.
She closed her eyes and willed her breathing to calm. "You've lost your family." She finally managed to gasp out.
"I can't lose what I never had Eden. And besides, I found you. I have something to thank them for. I would never have come here if it hadn't been for them."
"I suppose not." Said a sniffling Eden.
"Eden." Said Tori, the tone of the word cautious.
Eden said nothing but raised her eyes to look into her lover's.
"It's only been just over a week." Tori continued. "Are we..... Are you happy with how quickly we've progressed?"
The sentence came out in a rush, and hung in the air between them.
For a long moment Eden was silent.
"It's happend quickly hasn't it?" Eden's voice was husky after the sobbing.
"It's an old cliche." Said Eden. "Love at first sight. I never believed it. 'Til I saw you standing on the pavement, in the rain. You looked up at me, and I fell, right there and then. The most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. I love you Tori. You're the first person I've ever been in love with, and I hope the last." Eden reached up and tangled her hand in ebony locks. "Has it been too quick? No, it's been too bloody slow. I've waited all my life for you, and now I've got you, I'm never letting go, and I'm never slowing down."
"My God, I love you Eden Gallagher." Said Tori, and lowered her head, tasting the lips of her lover, her tears mingling with those of the blonde woman.
Such a small word, but large enough to describe exactly what Victoria Conrad was feeling.
The weight of her lover's head on her chest, the silkiness of her hair against her chin. The warm breath that fanned her breast. And the small hand that was wrapped around her own forearm, the strength of the grip almost possessive.
'So this is what it feels like to be loved.' Tori thought. 'It's............ overwhelming.'
Tori pulled the small body a little closer, if that was possible, and Eden sighed in response. 'But I think I can cope. Oh yeah, I can cope.'
There was nothing, Tori decided, that could ruin the moment.
Then the phone rang.
"Dammit!" Said the tall woman under her breath, regretting it when she felt the blonde woman in her arms flinch.
Who could possibly be calling them at this time of night?
"Oh." Said Tori gently, seeing that the illuminated numbers on the bedside clock indicated it was only a few minutes after nine in the evening.
"Wha......?" Began Eden, raising sleepy eyes to her lover's face.
"Phone." Said Tori, easing herself from under her lover's body, and made her way downstairs, grabbing her robe as she went.
Eden heard the phone stop ringing and wondered if Tori had made it before it rang off when she couldn't hear anything more. Then she heard a low voice. Moving across to her lover's side of the bed she snuggled back into the sheets and closed her eyes again.
It was about a quarter of an hour later when Tori returned to the bedroom.
Eden had managed to take up most of the double bed and was sprawled haphazardly under the quilt.
Tori sat on the bed and gently pushed back some golden locks from the sleeping face. "So trusting." She whispered, and ran the backs of her fingers across the relaxed skin.
In her sleep Eden moved towards the touch, looking for all the world like a contented cat.
Reluctantly Tori's hand moved to the bare shoulder and shook it gently. "Hey there." She said, and bent her head, kissing a smooth temple.
"Mmm?" Eden turned onto her back and sleepy green eyes regarded the tall woman. "Come back to bed, it's the middle of the night."
Tori smiled down at her. "Actually it's the middle of the evening." She said.
"Really?" Said Eden, and craned her head to look at the clock. "We've been in bed all day?" She asked,
"Who was on the phone?"
"A man called James Crozier."
"Who's that?" Said Eden sitting up, and for the first time seeing the tenseness in her lover's features.
"My father's lawyer."
"Oh. Is it trouble?"
Tori shook her head. "No, not trouble. He just called to tell me my mother died this afternoon."
Eden could see the muscles working in the tall woman's jaw and reached over to take the larger hand in her own.
This was difficult. She didn't know how Tori would react to the news. Anyone else would be devastated by the death of their mother, whatever the circumstances.
She looked into the blue eyes for a clue, and found nothing.
"I'm sorry." The blonde said finally. "What happened?"
"She got drunk and fell through some French windows, sliced an artery."
"No. Don't be sorry, not for her." Tori pulled her hand from the gentle grasp and ran it though her disorderly hair.
"I'm sorry for you Tori. You've lost so much." She said, pulling the quilt tighter around herself.
Tori was now sitting on the edge of the bed, her head bowed, her hands folded in her lap. Eden crept out of her warm nest and knelt behind the taller woman, tentatively she wound her arms around her lover from behind.
Resting her chin on Tori's shoulder she whispered into an ear. "You know, it would be ok to cry."
"Cry for her?"
Eden nodded against the now trembling shoulder. "It's not such a bad thing. I'll hold you if you like." She pulled Tori back against her and then started manoeuvring her back into bed.
Keeping hold of the larger woman with one hand she managed to get her out of her robe and under the quilt with the other. Then she wrapped both arms around Tori and buried the dark head against her own shoulder.
"She never loved me." Tori finally said.
"You don't know that. She......."
"I know, Father told me. He said she hated me because she couldn't have anymore children after me."
"I'm sorry." Eden was silent for a long time, aware that though Tori was holding onto her in almost desperation, she still hadn't cried.
"Yeah?" The voice was husky, and almost sleepy.
"I can love you enough to make up for all those years."
For a moment she wondered if Tori had heard her for there was no reply. Then she felt the larger body in her arms start to shake and knew that her lover was, at last, crying. Not so much for her mother, but for a lost childhood, and years of going without love. And for those lonely moments when she knew she'd never experience the joy of receiving unconditional love.
There was also joy in her tears. She knew she'd found something so precious, and she wept at the thought of losing it. Knowing that she couldn't take anything for granted, especially the love of the remarkable woman that held her.
She looked up, her blue eyes bloodshot and filled with tears.
"Everyone leaves me, eventually." She said between sobs.
"I won't." Said Eden, her own tears threatening. She pulled Tori's head back down onto her shoulder. "I promise. Believe me?"
She felt the dark head nod against her chest. "Good, now go to sleep. We'll talk more about this tomorrow."
"Ok." Said the husky voice.
Then Tori took a deep breath. "I don't want to be like them." She said.
"You're not." Said Eden. "I don't think you could be. I wouldn't be here if you were."
Eden began humming a child's lullaby her mother used to sing to her when she was a child, gently rocking the taller woman in her arms.
She smoothed the ebony locks until she felt the larger body relax and her lover's breath even out in sleep.
And then she cried, for her lover, and for a woman she'd hated for a while.
The sound of the wind woke Eden. Tori still slept.
That in itself was unusual. Eden rarely woke before her lover, and she took the opportunity to study the other woman's relaxed face.
Eden decided she was truly in love as she reached out a gentle hand and traced a dark eyebrow. Then the trembling fingers made an imaginary line down across the high cheekbone, watching the muscles in Tori's cheek react to her her touch. Down across her jaw, across a pulse point, then resting above an evenly beating heart.
She leaned forward and brushed her lips across those of her lover's, then gently slipped out of the bed and padded across the hall to the bathroom.
Tori woke some time later, reaching across and surprised to find the bed empty apart from her.
She rolled onto her back and listened. Hearing the shower running she relaxed and closed her eyes again.
The next thing she knew she was being awakened by soft lips on her own. "Hey there." Eden whispered. "I have to go to work."
"Will you be ok today?" Eden asked, brushing sleep mussed hair out of blue eyes. "I don't really want to leave you."
"I'll be fine. Give me a minute and I'll get up and take you in." She started to rise but was pushed back down by a small hand on her shoulder.
"Ssh. Go back to sleep. I've called a taxi."
Tori allowed herself to be pushed back down beneath the covers. Then she felt Eden's head rest against her shoulder.
"I have ten minutes before the taxi arrives. Let's just lie here quietly."
Tori's response was to snake her arm around the blonde's shoulders and hold her close.
The gentle moment was interrupted by the sound of a car horn outside.
Eden eased away from her and kissed her slowly. "I'll call you later. Try to get some sleep."
"Ok, love you."
Eden smiled. "I love you too Tori." She pulled the quilt snugly around her lover, and leaned down giving her another peck on the lips. "Now, go back to sleep. I'll be back before you know it."
And Tori did sleep. Right through the morning and into the afternoon. It was after 2 when Eden rang.
"Hi, how are you?" She asked.
Tori lay back in the bed, the cordless phone propped between the pillow and her ear. "Tired, though I shouldn't be, I've slept away most of the day."
"It'll probably do you good. Have you eaten anything?"
"No nothing, what about you?"
"I managed to get some lunch, I just got back. I have a viewing this afternoon, then I'll come home. We'll order a Chinese or something, aye?" She waited for an answer and after receiving none asked "Tori?"
"Just thinking. Sorry." She sat up, scooting backwards until the headboard was against her back. "Give me a call when you want me to pick you up."
"Will do, see you later."
And hour or so later found Tori pacing. She wondered when she had come to need the smaller woman, for it was becoming painfully obvious that she was needy at that moment.
News of her mother's death had knocked her off kilter.
She wished she could feel something. But she knew that, where her family was concerned, her heart was dead. It beat only for one reason now, a strawberry blonde bundle of affection called Eden Gallagher.
"I'm in love." She said out loud. Needing to hear the statment, though knowing already its truth.
Another circuit of the lounge, another glance at the clock. Another hour before she picked up Eden. Eden had rung her a little earlier giving her a time to pick her up, and now Tori watched the clock like a teenager waiting for their first date to arrive.
"I need you Eden, need you, need you." She said as she walked around the sofa again. "Eat something you stupid woman." She said to herself.
She went into the kitchen and prepared a sandwich. Returning to the lounge she sat and ate it, not really tasting it, but knowing she'd be able to tell Eden she'd eaten without having to lie.
At 5.30 she was outside the estate agents in Queen Square waiting for her lover. The rain was steady, and she peered through the gloom trying to see the familiar form.
She sat back in the leather interior of the Shogun and let the gentle sound of the rain lull her into a state of ease.
Then the passenger door was being opened and a blast of cold air intruded on her sense of calm.
"Sorry." Said a panting Eden as she pushed rain slicked hair back from her face.
Tori's answer was to lean sideways and gather the smaller woman into her arms. "I've missed you." She husked into damp blonde hair.
"I've missed you too." Said Eden, pulling slightly out of the taller woman's embrace to get a better look at her lover. "How do you feel?"
"I'm fine. Really. I've slept well, I've thought a lot. I love you."
For a long moment green and blue eyes regarded each other. A conclusion was reached.
"We're going to be ok, aren't we." Said Eden, it was not a question.
Tori opened her mouth to speak but the only sound Eden heard was the loud honking of a horn and the Shogun was filled with the lights of a vehicle parked directly behind them. To their left the faces of about twenty people regarded them with annoyance.
Tori looked in the wing mirror of the car and saw that a double decker bus was parked within a hair's breadth of her rear bumper. Ducking lower, she managed to see the face of the driver.
She pushed the button and lowered her window, poking her head out into the rain.
The driver was leaning out of the window of the bus. "Get off the bloody bus stop, can't you see all these poor people are getting wet waiting for you to move?" Though the driver's words were harsh, she had a huge grin on her face, unlike the queue of passengers who were scowling at her.
"Thanks Annie." Said Tori flatly and put the car in gear, pulling into the stream of rush hour traffic with ease.
"Oops." Said Eden.
"She's got quite a sense of humour." Said Tori, now waiting for traffic lights to change.
"She likes doing that. She usually shouts something obscene at me if she sees me with a buyer." chuckled, and moved along with the traffic, surprised to get out of Bath with little difficulty.
Back at the cottage Eden immediately found a take away menu and ordered a meal.
"Chinese, I think." The blonde said, and proceeded to order enough to feed a small country.
After the phone call she made her way quickly to the bathroom. Stripping hurriedly she showered and washed her hair. With her hair still wet and wearing only a towelling bathrobe she joined her very quiet lover on the sofa.
Tori handed her a glass of wine then snaked a long arm around the smaller woman, pulling her close.
"How was work?" Asked Tori.
Eden shrugged. "Nothing special. We're expecting an interest rate drop, things might pick up then." She looked up at the tense profile. "What about you?"
A long sigh was her answer. "Should I go to the funeral?"
"D'you want to?"
Tori shook her head.
"Then don't go."
"Ok." Tori agreed readily. She paused for a moment. "I've been thinking."
Eden nodded to herself, Tori's silence since they'd arrived home had given her an idea that the tall woman had something heavy on her mind.
"I'm considering going into business by myself, and I'd like you to join me."
If Eden was surprised she didn't show it. "I have nothing to put into a business."
Tori's thumb made circles on a robed shoulder. "You have you. I'm sure you could talk anyone into buying anything."
"So you're going into the real estate business?"
"It's what we both know."
"Where?" Asked Eden.
"Wherever you like. Wherever you want to be, that's where I want to be."
Eden turned on the sofa to face her lover. "Are you sure about this Tori? Life here isn't anywhere near as exciting as London. I want to stay in Bath, it's my home."
"And now it's mine too. I've never had a home before." She reached out a gentle hand and stroked Eden's face with the back of her fingers. "You've changed my life, you know that, don't you?"
Eden reached up and captured the larger hand in her own. "And you've made mine complete."
She leaned forward and captured the soft lips with her own. Feeling Tori's arms surround her she allowed herself to be pulled onto the warm body of her lover. Tori reached under the robe, flattening her palms against the smooth skin she found there.
"I love you so much." Tori gasped as Eden rested her head against the taller woman's heaving chest.
"I love you too." Said Eden. "Of course I'll work with you. I want to be with you every minute of every day. We'll knock their sock off." She said, lifting her head and smiling at the contented look of her lover.
"Good. But first we'll have some time off together, how does that sound?"
"A holiday? Gosh I haven't had a proper one of those for a few years."
"How much notice d'you have to give at work?" Asked Tori, pulling Eden's head back down to its resting place.
"They'll take a week." Her hand came up and cupped a breast. "You sure you want to do this?"
"Absolutely positive." Said Tori. "Type a letter of resignation on my computer later and take it in tomorrow. If they kick up a fuss, just leave. I want you here."
Eden's head came up again. "Really?" She asked, a huge smile lighting up her face.
"No, I don't want you here." Said Tori, bending her head to nibble Eden's lower lip. "I need you here."
Victoria Conrad leaned against the worktop in the kitchen and watched the steam billowing from the kettle with something approaching fascination. The appliance automatically clicked off, but the woman didn't move.
Two weeks, that was all it took. Two weeks to turn her into something approaching a normal human being living a normal existance.
Her lips quirked into a small smile. "Normal? Me?" She shook her head and collected a couple of mugs from the drainer.
Tori reached for the coffee in the cupboard, before remembering that Eden preferred tea first thing in the morning.
"I'm turning into a housewife." She told herself as she poured the steaming water into the two mugs which now held the teabags.
True, she'd spent the previous week puttering around the house, shopping for food and waiting impatiently for the evenings when she would pick Eden up from the corner of Queen Square. She'd learned her lesson however and carefully avoided the bus stop after her encounter with Annie.
Mark had insisted that Eden work her notice, so she had another week to serve. Then they could begin to plan ahead, something Tori had never done before. She'd lived from day to day, never expecting anything from the future. That way she couldn't be disappointed.
Now she had a chance.
There was still a small voice in a corner of her mind insisting that she was fooling herself. Insisting that people like her just didn't have futures, didn't have relationships with people like Eden.
She released a long shaky breath and leaned against the counter for a moment.
She lifted her face to the ceiling and whispered softly. "Please."
She stayed like that for a while, letting the feeling of contentment wash over her.
Then, pulling herself together she picked the two mugs up and made her way upstairs.
Eden was laying on her stomach. Her pillow was pushed up against the headboard, unused. She often slept like that, her cheek resting on the mattress.
Just as Tori entered the bedroom the radio alarm on the cabinet beside the bed went off. She hurried to Eden's side of the bed and put both mugs down before turning the annoying thing off.
A tousled blonde head rose, bleary green eyes looking around the room.
Tori sat on the bed beside her, gently pushing her naked lover back down.
"Gotta gedup." Said the sleep slurred voice.
"It's Saturday." Said Tori. "You forgot to turn the alarm off." She smoothed the golden hair down, leaning down and placing warm lips on the blonde's temple.
"'Snice." Said Eden, a sleepy smile across her face. "Come back t'bed."
Tori didn't need another prompt and discarded her robe as she made her way around the bottom of the bed.
Eden jumped a little as the taller woman slid beneath the sheets. "You're cold." Then gave a squeal when Tori attached herself to the small warm body.
"Give up your body heat." Tori growled, completely enveloping the warm body with her own.
Just about fully awake now, Eden turned in her lover's arms so that she was facing her.
"What are you doing up so early anyway?" Said the blonde, though she didn't wait for an answer before capturing soft lips with her own.
The kiss deepened, and Eden's breathing was further inhibited by a cool hand finding its way between her thighs.
"My hands are cold." Said Tori, her own breath catching when she encountered the liquid heat.
Tori gently pushed the blonde onto her back.
"What.....?" Said Eden, trying to roll back again and into Tori's arms.
"No." A gentle hand on her shoulder. "I want to watch you."
Eden settled back as Tori propped her head up on her left hand, her right gently coaxing, stroking Eden's passion.
"Is that ok?" Asked Tori, bending her head and taking a tense nipple into her mouth.
Eden didn't answer, but arched her back trying to push more of her flesh into the furnace like mouth.
The cold of the room hit her breast as Tori released her prize and settled back into her former position. A small frown creased Tori's forehead as she watched the closed eyes of her lover. "Eden." She said and smiled as the green eyes, slightly glazed, opened and fastened on her. At that moment she entered her, watching in fascination as the emerald eyes widened.
She bent her head and felt the small hands pull her down into a searing kiss. Eden's hips were matching her rhythm, then she felt a tightness around her fingers and her lover's hands reached up and twisted in her hair.
But she pulled back against the grip and watched Eden's face as it tensed, her mouth forming a silent scream.
Then she fell back onto the bed, pulling Tori with her.
Tori buried her face in the smaller woman's chest, easing her fingers carefully from their warm place, feeling the tiny aftershocks as she did so.
"Love you." Whispered Tori into the damp flesh.
"I'm glad you do." Said Eden, stroking the dark head.
"You are?" Tori raised her head and looked at her lover.
Eden nodded. "I'm glad it's not one sided. You see, I love you too. So much it hurts.
Tori smiled and lowered her head again.
Eden took her love's hand which had previously been resting on her breast. "Tori?"
"I'm happier than I've ever been. You know that don't you?"
There was no answer from the other woman.
"Sorry." She said, nuzzling the warm flesh. "Sometimes I still can't believe this. The things you say. I never thought anyone would say things like that to me." She sighed deeply. "I'm getting used to it though. Slowly"
Eden bent her head and kissed the top of the dark head. "Good. Because you're going to get a lot of it."
"I made you tea."
"What?" Eden's befuddled brain struggled with the sudden change in subject, then realised that her lover could take only so much sensitive chat in any one ten minute period.
"Tea." Tori twisted and sat up, reaching across to the bedside cabinet she snagged the mug and handed it to the blonde.
"Tea and sex, what more could a girl wish for?" Said Eden sitting up against the headboard and taking the mug from her lover.
"Toast?" Suggested Tori.
Eden nearly lost the mouthful of tea she'd just taken. "Tori Conrad, you say the most ridiculous things sometimes."
"You asked the question." Said Tori pouting.
"Look at this." Said Eden, changing the subject again. She was holding up her hand, the one that had had the stitches removed a couple of days previously.
"I'm looking at it." Said Tori.
"Can't you see?" She said, turning her palm and staring at it herself. "It's a 'T'."
Tori took the small hand in her own and examined the scar carefully. "Looks more like a cross. Years ago you'd have been burned as a witch."
Eden snatched her hand away, staring at it again. "It's a 'T'." She said.
Tori took it in her own hand again and brought the palm to her lips, kissing it slowly on the angry looking scar. "I'm sorry."
"For this." She said looking at Eden's hand. "You got drunk because I pissed you off."
"Old news." Said Eden, removing her hand from the other woman's grasp. "All in the past." She cocked her head. "Car coming up the drive."
"Really?" Tori slid out of bed and cracked a gap in the curtains peering through.
The morning was grey, a very light snowfall dusted the grass and the gentle swirling flakes were caught in the headlights of a car.
"What's the time?" Asked Eden, too uninterested to raise her head and look at the digital clock at her side.
"Just after eight. Oh shit!" Tori dragged a hand through her unruly hair.
"Who is it?" Said Eden sitting up again.
Tori sighed and turned away from the window. "Damien."
Tori opened the door to the cottage and stood back so her ex-fiance could enter. She'd dressed quickly in sweat pants and teeshirt and told Eden to stay where she was. "This could get ugly." She said before closing the bedroom door and leaving a hastily dressing blonde behind.
Tori shut the door and stood for a moment before turning to face Damien. He looked as immaculate as ever, even in faded jeans and leather jacket over a white teeshirt.
"You're up early." She said, facing him awkwardly.
"Vicky." He said, oblivious to the emotionless gaze from the woman. He took two steps forward and planted a kiss on her cheek. "I'm so sorry." He said.
"Stephanie." Said Damien, shaking his head slowly. Then he took a deep breath. "I've come to take you back to London. The funeral is on tuesday."
"I'm not going Damien." She gestured towards the door. "You should have called first, you've wasted your time."
His smile was almost condescending. "Vicky, your mother's funeral is on tuesday. You're coming back to London with me today. Then we're going to talk to your father and tell him this whole silly mess is cleared up. Do I make myself clear?"
Tori sighed. "I'm not going anywhere with you Damien, and certainly not to Stephanie's funeral."
"She was your mother." He said.
"She gave birth to me, she was never my mother." Tori's eyes were two blue chips of ice boring into him. He couldn't meet her gaze.
"Look." He said. "I really don't care about your relationship..... or lack of it, with your mother. But believe me, you will come back with me today. And you will call your father and tell him the wedding's back on."
"It's too late. He's already made other arrangements. Apparently he has some bastard child at a finishing school somehwere. He doesn't need you Damien."
"Well, I'll just have to convince him otherwise." He took a couple of steps towards her. "Stephanie told me you've got some little whore down here."
The blue eyes flashed with anger. "It's time you left Damien."
"Not without you." He ran a hand through his hair. "I have too much riding on this."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Tori backed away from him.
"It means there are other people interested in the outcome of our............. bonding."
"Damien, leave, now." Tori was still backing away from him.
"These people can get ugly. Vicky, you wouldn't want anything........ bad to happen to me. Would you?" He smiled. A self satisfied, mocking smile.
"What have you done?"
"I've made a deal, it'll make us both a lot of money."
"I don't need money."
"We all need money Vicky." He followed her as she backed away around the sofa. "And I need a whole pile of it right now."
"You've been gambling again." It wasn't a question.
"I've had a little run of bad luck." Now he was within arms reach of her. "But you're my lucky star. Remember?"
Tori's back was against the wall now. "I'm not going with you Damien." She tried to keep the fear from her voice, but she herself heard the trembling words which came from her own mouth.
"Yes you are Vicky." His forehead creased in thought. "Tell me something. What happened here in just a week that makes you want to give everything up?"
"None of your damn business." Tori spat.
"She must be a good lay for you to consider staying here." He did a slow turn. "It's a little different to what you're used to."
Tori remained silent.
He was facing her again now. One eyebrow raised in question. "What's going on Vicky? You usually just fuck 'em and leave 'em."
"Ever heard of love Damien?" She asked, surprising herself even as she said it.
Damien startled her with his exclamation of disbelief. "Don't give me that you stupid bitch. You and I both know you don't have it in you."
Tori shrugged. "Up until a couple of weeks ago I would have agreed with you."
"And now after two weeks you've decided it's love? What was it?" He asked, his tone mocking. "Love at first sight?"
A long sigh. "I don't expect you to understand this Damien, but I think I was already in love with her before I met her."
"I've heard enough of this crap." Said Damien shaking his head.
She flinched as Damien reached out a hand, but the expected blow didn't come. Instead he gently caressed her cheek. "Where's your little dykey friend?"
"This has nothing to do with her." Tori prayed that, just this once, Eden would do as she was told and stay away.
"Oh you're wrong. This has everything to do with her." His hand lowered and curled around her throat. "Doesn't it?"
There was no pressure in his grip.
"I was never coming back." Tori met his gaze.
Damien leaned into her, his hand tightening around her throat. His other hand was fumbling for something in his pocket, then he raised that hand up to her face. Something cold and hard pressed against her temple.
"Look what I've got." Damien said, tapping her face the the barrel of a small silver gun.
"What the fuck are you doing with that?" Said Tori, trying to squirm out of his grip.
He hit her a little harder on her temple with the gun. "Thought I might need some help. Stay still."
Tori ceased her struggling.
"That's better. Now then, where's your little whore? She and I are going to have a quiet little chat."
"She's not here." Said Tori, looking directly into his eyes. And, so intent on meeting his gaze was she, she didn't see the hand holding the gun retreat and then return to slam into the side of her head. He released her and she fell hard to the side, feeling something in her shoulder pop as she hit the ground.
There was a loud buzzing in her ears and then she was being forcibly lifted and pinned back against the wall again.
Something warm and wet was making its way down the side of her face, and she blinked a few times trying to get her ex-fiance's face in focus.
"Don't fuck with me Vicky." He said, forcing her chin up with the barrel of the gun. "Either you come with me now, or I go have a long chat with your whore. Your decision."
She closed her eyes for a long moment. Then nodded tightly. "I'll go with you. Just stay away from her."
Damien pressed his body up against her, grinding his pelvis against hers. "Knew you'd see it my way." He said, leaning his head forward nuzzling her hair, taking a deep breath. "You won't regret it." He said, kissing his way down her neck to her shoulder.
Tori shut her eyes tightly and gathered herself. She raised her knee, but there was no power in her attempt to hurt him. He slammed her back against the wall again.
"Why do I get the feeling you're not being honest with me?" He said. "Now, be good, or I'll find your girlfriend. And believe me, she won't be smiling when I've finished with her."
"Who's to say?" Came the voice from the doorway.
"No!" Cried Tori, but was stopped from her attempt to reach the blonde by Damien pulling her back against his chest. He snaked an arm around her throat from behind and pulled her close to his body. Again she felt the cold steel at her temple.
Tori's hands scrabbled at the forearm across her throat, her eyes never leaving those of her lover's.
My God, she thought, this can't be happening again.
Eden stood as still as a statue, stunned by the events taking place in front of her.
"Is that it?" Said Damien, leaning forward and speaking quietly into Tori's ear. "Is this what's caused all the trouble?"
"Go." Tori croaked. "Please."
"Oh no. You aren't going to do that, are you. " Said Damien his eyes travelling over the small blonde framed in the doorway. "Pretty little thing."
"I've called the police." Said Eden. "You'd better leave."
For a moment Damien seemed to hold his breath. "You're bluffing." He said.
"Am I?" Said Eden and started to slowly approach the man holding her lover, her soul. She walked up to them and stopped within arm's reach. Her eyes first met Tori's then slid up to the man holding her. "Let her go now and we'll work out how to get 'round this."
She was so close she could feel Tori's breath gently moving her hair. She reached her hand up traced the cut on the tip of Tori's left eyebrow, wincing at the lump she felt under the blood.
Then she took a step backwards. "Give me the gun." She said holding out her hand to him.
She avoided looking into the pleading blue eyes but concentrated on the hate filled ones of the man holding her lover. "Nothing good will come of this situation. If you've given up the gun by the time the police arrive things will be much easier. For everyone."
Eden watched the different emotions warring for dominance in the man's eyes. Then he seemed to come to a decision.
His right hand, the one that held the gun, raised. Eden took a couple of steps back.
Three things happened at once. Tori pushed back against the man holding her, the gun went off, and Eden crumpled to the floor.
Damien stumbled backwards, his foot catching the leg of the low coffee table. He fell backwards, Tori still held in his grasp. The weight of both of them propelled him backwards, and Tori heard a sickening crunch as his head impacted with the stone hearth.
She felt the arm around her neck relax and scrambled away from his motionless body. Tori stood and looked down at the limp form. A small stream of blood was snaking its way from the back of his head.
She turned back towards the doorway and felt her knees buckle when she saw the small still form huddled on the floor.
Dropping to her knees beside the blonde she put a gentle hand on an unmoving shoulder.
Pain filled green eyes blinked open. "Oh Jesus!" Tori gasped seeing the spreading red stain on the white teeshirt Eden was wearing.
The wound was just above the waistline of her jeans, near her left hip.
She pulled her lover into her lap, clamping a hand down over the wound.
"Police." Eden whispered.
"I'll call." Said Tori here eyes settling on the phone on the other side of the room.
"Called them." Tori could barely make out the words. "Ambulance too."
Tori watched the pain filled face below her until her vision blurred and a tear fell onto the face of her lover.
"Cold." The green eyes found hers and Tori felt her stomach tense as the eyes grew more unfocused. She grasped a small hand and bent her head kissing the pale lips.
"Stay awake for me now." She said straightening up. "They won't be long." But watched in alarm as Eden's eyes closed. "No, Eden, you need to stay awake. Look at me baby. Please."
The relief she felt when the green eyes opened was overwhelming. "Tired."
"I know you are. Just a little while longer."
"Love you." No more than a whisper.
"I love you too. I need you. Stay with me Eden." Tori pulled the small limp body to her own.
In the distance she heard the sirens, then they stopped as they approached the road leading to the cottage.
"They're here sweetheart." She said. But the green eyes were unfocused. The light had gone out of them.
"She's gone." She whispered.
Her Eden had gone.
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