NOTE: 18+ due to language and sexual content.

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{You can read the entire story as I write it here; I’ll add a chapter each week, after I post to Instagram.}

Eden was used to being woken up by many things. Alarm clocks at four a.m., demanding she make her next flight. Her phone vibrating against the dented surface of a shoddy bedside table, typically announcing a call from her editor, who never cared how many time zones separated them. And, on truly awful days, explosions shaking the ground, plaster drifting down from cracks in the ceiling as shrill cries echoed through the sand-filled air outside.

Life as a photojournalist had made Eden adaptable, and capable of waking up quickly and completely in a matter of seconds.

But the warmth of Jude’s bed kept her head hazy, her eyelids heavy.

And the soft tickling between her legs was nothing like the abrupt wake-up calls she was used to and had her heart pounding for very different reasons.

A hum vibrated in her throat as she stretched, her neck arching as her hands found Jude’s hair and tugged.

“Morning.” His greeting was muffled against the skin of her inner thighs, the rasp of his tone and his morning stubble drawing a choked giggle and a wash of arousal from her.

Eden was about to answer when his tongue slipped between her folds, the smooth skin of his shoulders hot where they pressed her legs wide, the pads of his fingers rough and divine where he held her open. Whatever she’d been about to say vanished beneath a gasp, her eyes fluttering shut as he licked her slowly. Thoroughly. So fucking well.

He dipped into her, and Eden’s throat constricted.

He groaned against her flesh, and her jaw locked.

He slipped one finger inside of her, then one more, his knuckles providing friction that lit up her body.

When his teeth caught her clit, Eden dug her nails into his scalp.

When he parted her slickness with the broad sweep of his tongue, she dropped her hands to the bed so she wouldn’t rip out his hair.

She almost growled when he stopped, the lick of heat deep in her abdomen making her skin shiver and toes twitch. But Eden was glad she stayed quiet because she heard Jude whisper, “You’ve been my fantasy for my entire life, Eden. And I didn’t think reality could ever be better than the things I dreamed of. But you….” He kissed the groove between her thigh and torso, then the tight curls above her clit, then the swollen heat of her lower lips. “You defy imagination. My gorgeous fucking runaway.”

Eden lost the ability to hear after that. The world was drowned out by the thud of her heart and the catch of her breath and the cry that started beneath the flick of his tongue and the stroke of his fingers and burned its way through her stomach and lungs and throat until she was screaming and coming and shaking beneath the relentless worship of Jude’s mouth and the gentling grip of his hands.

She didn’t have the energy to frown when he chucked against her stomach, or swat at him when he sucked on one sensitive nipple, then the other. But her limbs were suddenly working, her hands instantly mobile when he hovered over her, his thick cock seeking entry to her body.

Eden was scrambling for a condom, her anxious grasp landing on the foil wrapper just as a knock sounded against the front door.

“Ignore it,” Jude grunted, lids drooping as he watched Eden bring the condom to the tip of his erection. The latex was halfway unrolled when the knock came again.

“Fuck,” Jude grunted. Eden wasn’t sure if it was in answer to the interruption or because she stroked him as she guided him to her.

“Maybe they’ll go away,” Eden prayed, dragging his mouth down to hers. They both sighed when the knocking stopped. And both groaned when Jude’s phone rang.

He glanced at the screen where it glowed next to the bed and Eden did actually cry out when he crawled off her.

“Wha-”

“It’s Allie.”

Yup, that definitely warranted the panicked look Jude wore as he yanked on his pants. Eden searched frantically for her clothes – any clothes – before Jude took pity and threw a t-shirt her way.

“Stay up here.”

She glared at him, the shirt already on and her fingers grappling with the tangles in her hair. “I certainly don’t plan on going down and greeting the step-sister I haven’t seen in years wearing her ex-husband’s clothes after coming on his face in what I assume could possibly be her old bed.”

“Eden.” Jude’s growl was pure censure, but she guessed more because his cock twitched behind his denim than due to her choice of words.

The pounding that apparently belonged to Allie got louder.

“Go.” Eden followed him to the door but stopped when she got to the hall. She bit her cheek when she caught the thin red lines that ran down Jude’s exposed back. Eden hadn’t seen Allie in a long time, but, regardless of how her sister might’ve changed, she didn’t doubt that Jude’s ex-wife would know exactly what those marks meant.

At one time the thought would have made her smile. Maybe even laugh. Not in a nice way. But in a cold, heartbroken version of the sound.

But as Eden peeked around the corner at the top of the stairs and saw Jude kiss the cheek of a woman who looked vaguely like the seventeen-year-old girl Eden hadn’t realized she’d missed, she felt slightly ill.

Jude and Allie had been divorced for almost seven years, but time didn’t necessarily mean distance. And a failed relationship didn’t mean that the ties that had once bound them didn’t still exist.

Ties like the young woman who followed Allie into the house, carrying a suitcase and overstuffed backpack.

The second Eden saw Maddie she rushed back to the bedroom and put on her own clothes. Her hair was a lost cause, but she managed to knot it on the top of her head and wipe off the streaks of mascara that had migrated to the fine lines bracketing her eyes.

Maddie lived hours away with her mom. If she was at Jude’s house with what looked like half of her possessions, there was a solid chance she was planning on staying. Which meant Eden could either climb out of Jude’s bedroom window or go downstairs and face her family.

The first thing Eden noticed when she reached the foyer was that Jude had found a shirt. The second was that his arm was slung across his daughter’s shoulders and he was looking at her with an expression Eden had never seen before.

It was a bizarre combination of concern, love, and joy. The love she understood. When she noticed the cast on Maddie’s arm and the sling holding up, his concern made sense. But it was the joy that made her catch her breath. And slammed a truth into her. Jude was a dad. A good one, going off the way Maddie was eagerly returning his embrace and the small smile that was cutting through Allie’s vaguely annoyed expression.

Jude, her once gangly-teenage friend, now business partner and occasional dinner companion and delightfully skilled lover was a devoted dad.

I love you. She almost shouted it right there, forgetting about her sex-crazed hair and day-old dress and the two women who were practically strangers standing only a few feet away.

Her mouth was already half open when Jude turned and smiled hesitantly at her over his daughter’s head.

“Eden. We have a surprise visitor. Come, say hi to Maddie.”

The young woman turned and the smile that took over her face caught Eden completely off-guard.

“Aunt Eden? Is that really you?” The girl was out from under Jude’s arm and in front of Eden before she’d finished speaking.

“In the flesh,” Allie muttered, her expression softer than Eden would’ve guessed possible.

“Yes.” Eden took her niece’s outstretched hand. “It’s really nice to see you.”

“I can’t believe I’m finally meeting you. I’ve heard so many stories, about the places you’ve been and the things you’ve seen. I’ve been dying to talk to you about your adventures, Aunt Eden. I knew coming to Dad’s was a good idea, but I had no idea it would be this awesome.”

Maddie was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet and Eden glanced from her face to Jude’s to Allie’s and back again. Maddie had heard about her, the black sheep of the Ellis family. The woman who’d run away from home fifteen years ago and had only been back once.

Not only had Eden’s niece heard about her, she was genuinely excited to meet her.

The little voice that had wanted to shout at Jude moments ago went mute with surprise.

Jude caught her attention and said, “Maddie had an accident. Broke her arm.”

“It was just a stupid fall. Such bullshit,” the girl muttered.

“Maddie!” her parents shouted at once.

“Language,” Allie admonished.

Maddie rolled her eyes, and Eden worked hard not to laugh. Jude’s own frown wavered.

“It’s just that I won’t be able to go on my trip. And I really, really wanted to.”

“I know, honey,” Allie continued. “And I’m sorry. But there’s always next year. I’m sure you’ll qualify for the trip again.”

Maddie puffed out an irritated breath and Eden instantly sympathized with the young woman.

“Whatever. If it means I get to hang out with Dad and Eden for the next week it will definitely suck less.”

“The next week?” Eden finally found her voice.

“Yeah,” Jude chimed in. “It’s her school’s fall break and she was supposed to go on a special trip to Europe with her orchestra. But she can’t play now, and Allie has a work trip she can’t postpone.”

Eden looked over at her sister and finally noticed the large black case she was holding. “Violin?”

Maddie’s smile was impish. “Close. Viola.”

Allie met her step-sister’s gaze. “She’s very good. She qualified for a spot in a special youth orchestra. She was supposed to leave tomorrow, until this….” She waved at Maddie’s broken arm. Allie sounded almost apologetic when she continued, “I didn’t plan on surprising you guys. I did call and text. Last night, and this morning. Just, uh, no one answered.”

Eden didn’t miss the flush that hit Jude’s cheeks, one she felt mirrored on her own.

Maddie, thank god, didn’t seem to notice. “So I’m staying here, with Dad. Till Mom gets back. And I’m finally going to have a chance to get to know the famous Eden Ellis.”

“Infamous, more like,” Allie murmured, her oddly soft expression still in place.

Eden’s blush intensified. “Ah, yes. That sounds wonderful.”

“Wonderful,” Jude repeated, the joy in his eyes intensifying.

“Yeah….” Allie looked at the trio, her lips thinning. “Jude, can I talk to you for a second?” She waved him into the living room, leaving Eden and Maddie alone.

“This is so freakin’ great.” Maddie was close to bubbling with excitement. “I mean, I’m really upset that I’m not going on the trip. I spent so much time practicing. But I love staying with Dad and having you here, well, that’s just the coolest surprise. I want to hear about everything, Aunt Eden. All of your stories. Promise me you’ll tell me everything.”

Maddie was squeezing Eden’s hand so tight she felt her bones crunch together. The girl’s face was wide open, her excitement palpable. Which astonished Eden so much that she answered without evening thinking. “Yeah, Maddie. I’ll tell you everything.”

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