AGE OF EVE Book 2 Chapter 1 - the Saga takes a new twist! - Deborah M. Pratt
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AGE OF EVE Book 2 Chapter 1 – the Saga takes a new twist!

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Chapter One

Eve Dowling left Thibodaux Hospital and never looked back.  After surviving thirteen months in a deep coma she’d returned to consciousness unable to remember huge chunks of her recent past. She remembered her childhood, her parents and relatives, her home in Chicago, high school, college and moving to New Orleans for her dream job at Southern Style Magazine. Her most recent and last memory was of a fabulous party at her favorite estate outside of New Orleans on a lush romantic night dancing sensually with a seriously handsome stranger. That dance led to the greatest seduction she had ever experienced in her life and ended with an orgasm so intense she was told she arched back and hit her head hard enough to give herself a concussion which left her unconscious and in coma for over a year. When Eve finally awoke, she was greeted by the amazing, intelligent and seriously handsome man with whom she’d danced at the party.

If there was such a thing as love at first sight, she knew the moment she saw him she was his. Like Cinderella at the ball, he had pursued her, found her and stayed by her side during her dark sleep. Like Sleeping Beauty, when her eyes fluttered open, he was there, waiting and wanting her.  To her utter surprise, he wanted to marry her and take her into his life with their beautiful … son; Philip. Okay, that was a shocker she hadn’t expected, especially because she’d slept through both the pregnancy and her son’s birth. The nurses had insisted jokingly that after being pregnant and going through the birthing process themselves while conscious, she should count herself very lucky.  They had pumped her breast milk three times a day while she slept, fed her son and cared for her sleeping body.

Eve was convinced she was experiencing some type of fairytale syndrome, but her psychotherapist, Dr. Lisette Honoré, with her mountain of blonde hair and lizard green eyes, tried to convince Eve that her feelings were normal reactions to a set of very, very unusual events.  As for Eve’s struggle to remember events from her life before the coma, Dr. Honoré said, “That’s just your mind dealing with the gap of time you spent in a coma. Sounds enter your subconscious while one is in an unconscious state.  The conversations of visitors, television programs, radio shows that play in another room are carried into the mind through auditory nerves and translated into memory. Even smells picked up through the olfactory nerves can stimulate the mind and be translated into memory. Our brains try very hard to make rational sense of our lives, especially after this kind of trauma.”

“This kind of trauma?” Eve thought.  She sounded so annoyingly logical. Eve had awakened into a ridiculously perfect life and, despite the rather scary missing pieces and the occasional flashes that came in shadowed and bazaar images that woke her from her sleep drenched in sweat, Eve told herself she shouldn’t care. She was happy. Right?  So happy she promised everyone, especially the police, which the sordid details of her ‘accident’ were of absolutely no importance to her … and mostly that was true … mostly.

 

Beauregard Gregiore Le Masters was kind and patient during the months Eve was kept at the hospital for observation and physical therapy. Her muscles had severely atrophied and despite all those damn years at the gym doing classes, weights and yoga, she had literally gone to mush.  Beau was there every day, encouraging her and cheering her every victory. In between the medical tests and the mental and physical therapy, he courted her, winning her trust, getting to know her and she him. They shared stories like two teenagers dating.  In the afternoon he’d pushed her around the hospital grounds in her wheelchair and they had as many meals together as he could.  He was dealing with “family matters,” the details of which he wouldn’t discuss with her until she was better.  More often than not he had the finest chefs in New Orleans prepare and deliver gourmet meals featuring Louisiana’s most decadent cuisine: etouffé or gumbo or crawdads boiled in Cajun spices, creamy rice and sautéed mustard greens with sweet iced fruit, bread pudding with whisky sauce. Beau had fine French cheeses flown in from Paris. Her favorite was accented with figs and laced with apricot jam. Linen table cloths, flowers and candles were the finishing touches for these unforgettable evenings that made her fall more and more deeply in love with him every day.

Once, even though he got into trouble with the hospital that night, Beau filled her room with sterling silver roses of the palest most delicate color lavender she’d ever seen. Their scent caught the night breeze and make her pleasantly light-headed.  He hired a mariachi band to entertain everyone on Eve’s hospital floor. The patients and staff enjoyed the show before the harsh reprimand from the squinty and slightly cock-eyed senior medical advisor ended the performance. When the medical advisor finished fussing at them like naughty school children and left, Eve and Beau turned to each other and burst out laughing so hard they thought they would never be able to stop. Beau was funny and charming, wonderfully loving and romantic, smart and amazingly down to earth. Eve loved him and in turn, Beau seemed totally captivated by her and told her he was happier than he could ever remember.

When he finally kissed her for the first time since her re-awakening, it reminded Eve of an innocent and gentle kiss between two twelve-year-olds and the night she lifted her bedcovers and invited Beau into her tiny hospital bed, the chemistry that had drawn them to each other the night of the party, came flooding back. The sensual rush of discovery reminded Eve why she’d let this stranger seduce her in a garden during a party without even first asking his name. He was both strong and gentle. When his lips found hers, he took her breath away.  Beau explored her entire body with leisurely, meaningful kisses; his lips brushing every inch of her face, her mouth, her neck. When his hands found her breasts, her nipples were already erect, anxious for his touch … his mouth and kiss. Every caress, turn of his tongue, each kiss and delicate bite woke her body from another kind of sleep: the kind that shuts down when a body is left unloved. Still, a strange little voice in the back of her head kept whispering to her, “None of this makes sense”. How could she have fallen so easily for him? She was Eve, the original wall flower when it came to men. Okay, yes, the physical attraction was off the charts, but from what she could remember of her past, she was beyond cautious when it came to men. She had meticulously placed so many walls around her heart, letting anyone, especially a man inside was akin to cracking the fire wall into the CIA. Yet, from the moment she woke and looked into Beau’s eyes, he seemed to have an instant place so deep inside her heart it had to be true love. He belonged there, as comfortable and right as if they had been together in another life and found their way back in this one. There was no question her body wanted him to make love to her again no matter how many times the little voice said, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Dr. Honoré insisted they could not have intercourse until Eve regained her strength, which inspired Beau’s creativity. Each night he slipped into her bed and found new ways to bring her to the brink of orgasm, only to stop and whisper that they would have to wait until the doctor said it was safe. He promised her delights and bliss beyond her wildest imagination.

“My imagination is pretty wild,” she said with a lascivious smile.

“Good,” he replied.  “I’m counting on it.”

‘Once they were allowed to return home’ was the mantra from hell from the senior doctor, the one she hated most. Frustrated and sure Beau was as well, Eve tried to give Beau the same exquisite pleasure with her hands and mouth.  He gently refused with a smile, kissing her sweetly.

“I’ll have my turn when we can climax together.”

When Beau was gone, her time was spent cooing and talking and playing with her beautiful little boy.  It wasn’t hard to fall in love with him. Like his father he was perfect.  Now and then the little voice whispered that he was “too perfect”, but Eve brushed it away like a few strands of loose hair.

Upon her release from Thibodaux Hospital, Eve and their amazing son Philip were piled into a limo.  They rode, wrapped in each other’s arms, through the vast expanse of Louisiana countryside, and after what felt like a thousand hours arrived at the family estate.  Upon seeing the main house again, its commanding beauty and expansive, architectural grace almost took her breath away.  Beau handed Philip to the nanny so he could lift Eve into his arms and carry her through the massive double entrance doors of the Gregoire Estate mansion.  On that day her husband-to-be, Beauregard Gregiore Le Masters, gave her a six carat, D, flawless white, pear-shaped diamond set in platinum and asked for her hand in marriage.  Eve felt the rush of warm salt tears swell in her eyes as she whispered, “Yes.” She had never felt such complete joy.

From that day forward she, Beau and Philip began the quiet process of settling into the life of a too perfect, happy family. Eve was doing her best to ignore the little voice that kept getting incrementally bigger bringing with it the relentless, gnawing feeling of terror that pulled at her when she was alone or drifting in and out of sleep. Despite her haunting fears, all of which she kept secret from Beau, the little family moved into the guest house just off the west wing of Gregoire Manor. From there they were close enough to keep involved in the daily progress of the restoration, but far enough away to avoid breathing the clouds of plaster dust and paint fumes, which was a Godsend.

Ten months passed in the blink of an eye. Beau insisted on waiting for the title to the Gregoire Estate to be transferred out of the trust and back into his name before they officially tied the knot. The legal transfer process was finally nearing completion.  Despite his parent’s complicated will and his grandfather’s relentless attempts to override the legal provisions, when he thought his grandson was dead, Beau found himself buried in a quagmire of legal details that needed to be addressed by an army of attorneys.  It and the day-to-day responsibilities of the estate kept a layer of tension in the house whenever she broached the subjects. She could see Beau did his best to leave the events at the door and she did her best to make their home a respite from the troubling reality. Eve had met Beau’s grandfather, Millard Le Masters, the very day she woke from her coma. From the moment she laid eyes on her grandfather-in-law-to-be, she didn’t like him. More importantly, she didn’t trust him. Yes, Beau had left right after college. He did run away and disappear for twelve years. And no one had heard from Beau for eight years, as Millard explained, in the pain and grief of losing his only grandson, he declared him dead and went on with life and the responsibilities Beau had apparently walked away from. Occasionally. The hint of a deeper, uglier truth reared its head and triggered horrible fights between grandfather and grandson. The clashes left Eve feeling trapped in the middle. One part of her wanted no part of the sorted details behind the Gregiore family secrets, but the ever curious journalist inside her wanted to know everything.  Why did Beau’s parents block Millard’s access to Beau and the estate in the first place? Why had Beau run away and disappeared?  Both subjects were taboo when Eve asked questions. In good old Southern tradition, no one would speak about what had happened all those years ago and what legacy Beau needed so desperately to escape from living. Clearly Eve would not be getting any answers, at least not until she was officially a member of the family.  The wedding was still months away so Eve channeled her attention to the needs of Beau, baby Philip and the mansion.  So much still needed to be done to redecorate the main house in time for the ceremony so Eve set  to work sweeping away the thick layers of dust, sadness, real and historical cobwebs that clung to the paint, wood and stone that was the Gregiore Manor.  Most of all Eve wanted to eradicate the past memories that clung to the tattered silk wall fabric, Persian carpets and brocade curtains. Even after they’d all been pulled down and carried away, the aromas lingered to taunt her olfactory senses each time she stepped through the front door.  There were days when she felt like an unwelcome intruder as the house fought against the changes she wanted to make, but day by day it released its hold, somehow knowing she wanted the best for it, and with a creek and a windy sigh it finally let her win.

Beau told Eve her job, if she chose to accept it, was to breathe new life into the grand, old house. Beau wanted her to keep the bones that had stood for centuries, but rip away the past that covered them like an old loved outfit of fine, but outdated and musty, old clothes. She was to design an elegant look for every room using her favorite colors, fabrics, wood and stone, all the new things that would someday have meaning only to them. The renovation in the house moved laboriously slow and all the wedding details ate into the precious moments she wanted to spend on her newest and favorite job: raising their new son, Philip.

 

Beau and Eve were the loving parents of a smart eleven-month-old who was very busy joyously navigating the countless halls and rooms of the estate’s west wing on two wobbly little legs.  As Eve entered the makeshift guest house nursery every morning, the sight of Philip happily playing with his fingers and toes in his crib made her smile. The soft, pale blue chiffon curtains that draped over his crib hung from a brass ceiling hook that always glowed in the wash of sunlight that spilled in through the window.  The light appeared to give Philip’s body its own aura, a magical spirit from another realm, Eve thought. Just looking at him made her smile. Loving Philip and Beau were the greatest gifts she could have imagined receiving. Her heart swelled with love as Philip pulled himself up to his feet by the crib bars and stood smiling with arms outstretched for her to take him. She gathered him into her arms, sat on the soft cushions of the rocker by his crib and offered him her breast. His mouth on her nipple made the world and all its problems and responsibilities, save for him, fall away. Philip was an amazing baby and Eve adored him.

Eve looked at her son and, as he stared back at her with those deep, mysterious, unreadable dark eyes—not hers, not Beau’s, but somehow she didn’t care—she’d lose herself in their silent communication and his unflinching and often unnerving gaze. She didn’t want to admit it, but sometimes he frightened her. Eve closed her eyes and held her breath, fighting against a crushing sense of terror. Those moments and that tiny growing voice that screamed in her head something is very wrong… but what?  Those moments of sweat drenched terror were followed by violent headaches that stabbed her like a knife piercing through her skull.  They came at irregular, random intervals caused by seemingly nothing, but they always came and carried with them flashes of blinding images.  At first the image was always the same; a long hallway with a door at the far end she could not open when she finally had the courage to get there. She pressed her ear to the hard wood and could always hear voices on the other side saying things she couldn’t understand, speaking in a low, persistent whisper as harsh and hissing as an icy winter wind relentlessly rushing as it passed through a slivered crack in an almost but not quite sealed window pane.

Today was different. Today the images expanded into a barrage of indiscernible faces and frightening events that made no sense. Places she’d never been to yet she knew them as well as if she had gone and done and seen them a thousand times. The images surrounded her and closed in on her Eve held her breath, opening her mouth to cry out for help, but no sound emerged only more images. These pictures in color and black and white were even more frightening that the last. Eve knew the longer she stayed in this terrifying nightmare the more horrifying it would become.

“Wake up,” Eve heard herself say in a voice so distant no one else could possibly hear her.  Wake up from what was the question that echoed back to her. Again and again she commanded herself to wake from the hellish nightmare, to push past the wild swirling and very confusing images that held her captive inside their strange, funnel of meaningless information.

These tortuous terrors now came every night. Always fragments of images that were becoming more and more complicated and twisted. Some were new and whole, some the same broken and shattered: flashes of events, people, places, pieces of a broken puzzle that didn’t fit together. And the voices, whispering and insistent, a jumble of words that were not quite understandable, too muffled to be coherent, but never completely silenced. Eve opened her mouth to scream, but the more she tried to call out, the more she couldn’t. Now even the air from her lungs stopped flowing. Finally she screamed and with her desperate scream the visions retreated and all she could see was Beau rushing in to hold her.

Here scream still echoing in the room, she watched, trembling as Beau switched on their bedroom light. Eve’s feelings of hopeless misery and helpless fear slipped away as he bundled her into his arms. He held her and kissed her tears away, stroked the river of honey hair that had grown luxuriously think since her time in the hospital. Beau would bury his face and hands into her waves. He loved to forage through her silken forest of hair to find and gently kiss her flesh until she calmed, relaxing into his embrace. His kisses warmed and melted her until she surrendered to his touch. Then, she would softly whisper, “Make love to me.”

He made love to her as only he could do. His touch, his lips on hers, his hands caressing her skin would conquer all her ghostly fears, driving them farther away with each kiss. Then he would slip slowly and methodically inside her again and again, until she was wet and wanting all of him. Beau rode into her with the force of a hundred gentle waves sliding into shore then retreating again and again into the ebb and flow she loved so much. Together they fell into the ever building rhythms of a sensual tide and with each stroke he would carefully bring her back until the present was all she could think about and all she could feel. Her husband-to-be, her son, her home, her friends, and her world came rushing back around her. They were real, warm and safe tingling through her as Beau quickened his stride pushing in and out of her until he masterfully brought her to orgasm and commanded Eve back to joy.

Her euphoria would last a few days, sometimes even a week, then her scattered memories rushed back in and brought the inky blackness of night’s prison. They held her captive until the dim shadows of morning’s first light crept back across her bedroom floor. Even then, fragments of her lost memories seeped into her mind once again, filling her with dread that something dark and scary was hiding deep inside her. This mental fog clouded her dreams, both her daydreams and her nightmares. It lingered, waiting, billowing with an inaudible yet urgently important message, too foggy to see clearly.  Eve thought of these days as shrouded time, cocooning everything in a cowl of stormy clouds that rolled across her world, blocked the sun and pained her every thought.

“It’s all the stress,” Beau kept reminding her. “Just like a storm, darlin’. It’ll pass.” But something in her throat clenched and made her catch her breath.  To make it pass she knew she needed answers to questions she was afraid to ask.  Eve made it through the days by staying busy with Philip and the house. Philip would giggle and squeal and fall into her arms and make the world right again. At night she learned to watch her open eyed visions in silence as the rush of images bombarding her mind until finally they faded and stopped. Eve would make herself go back to sleep allowing the last of the strange mental pictures to drift away like clouds blown away by high winds as she tucked herself into the safety of Beau’s arms…  until the next time the headaches cracked her thoughts and flooded in.

There was no way she could handle these “attacks” alone and Beau nor Cora were capable of understanding. She returned for sessions twice a week and shared with Dr. Honoré some of the images from her strange nightmares and even the occasional auditory hallucinations that plagued her.  Dr. Honoré said that post-coma patients did experience both auditory and visual hallucinations sometimes.

“The release of endogenous dopamine could be a residual of the trauma to your head,” Dr. Honoré explained.

Eve could consider haloperidol-based drugs and cognitive therapy if the hallucinations became more prominent, but at the moment she wanted to keep nursing and her doctor felt they were unnecessary.  Ultimately, it was about time: allowing the brain to heal and allowing the love of her family to surround her and take away her unfounded sense of paranoid delusion.  Her doctor’s words sounded all too logical until a headache gripped her and the flashes of incoherent, violent images sped past her mind’s eye showing up when she caught a reflection moving through a mirror or an unnatural shadow wriggling on a wall. Eve promised herself she would learn to live with it until whatever it was in her brain went away.  In her heart she simply prayed she could survive.