NOTE: 18+ due to language and sexual content.
NOTE FROM KATY: This story started as a way to thank romance readers for their passion and support. I couldn’t think of a better way to show my appreciation than by bringing everyone into the heart of the story, literally. So, #ChooseYourOwnRomance was born — a serial in which readers voted each week on how the story continued. Now, almost five months later, Chapter 20 marks the end of Eden & Jude’s romance, at least in this format. And, again, it’s time to say thanks. Thank you to everyone who read, followed along, and voted. This story wouldn’t exist without you. As is the case with every reader for every book, I am indebted and forever thankful.
(Oh, and I can’t wait to bring you an extended version of the story in novella form in a few months – stay tuned!)
“Say it again,” Jude whispered.
“I love you.” Her breath blanketed his neck.
Letting go was impossible now. A fact confirmed by both his hands and heart. Jude’s grip tightened and Eden’s warmth pushed past his skin and settled low in his abdomen.
I love you. He could say it. He had often enough, out loud and in his head. But Jude wanted more than words. He wanted her.
Eden pulled back and met his eyes. And smiled. “Here?”
His answer would always be anywhere. Everywhere. But he just said, “Yes.”
“Yes,” Eden repeated, her hands dropping to her clothes.
“Slowly,” she agreed, her smile stretching.
Jude let her slip away, his fingers finding his knees as Eden’s found her sweater. Then her shirt and bra. She touched him for just a second, her hands resting on his as she rose to her feet.
Jude didn’t blink. Not once. Not when she leaned forward, her nipples pebbling and breasts swaying as she pushed her jeans over her hips. Definitely not when she sent her underwear in the same direction, the black fabric slipping down her legs to join the rest of her clothes.
Eden’s bare, beautiful body was inches from his fully clothed one and, still, Jude didn’t blink. He didn’t even breathe.
But, fuck, did he feel.
Her first touch met his cheeks, the brush against his stubble sending fire down his spine. When she traced his lips with her nail, his cock pushed so hard against his zipper Jude thought the teeth would leave a mark.
Eden’s smile wavered and pupils dilated as her eyes drifted lower and she straddled his lap.
Her knees squeezed the outside of his hips, her bare ass skimming his jeans; leaning forward she asked, “Is this what you want?”
I want everything. Forever. “Yes.”
Jude traced the sweep and slope of her back, his fingers lingering at the very base, pressing them together. Her nipples teased him through his shirt.
“Well,” she said, her voice rough with whiskey and longing, “now that you have me, what are you going to do with me?”
Everything. Forever. “This.”
Jude kissed Eden, with lips and tongue and teeth and a depth of love that threatened to crack his chest wide open. But the pressure of her breasts against his chest, her weight on his lap and her nails in his skin kept him together.
Chaos and certainty. Madness and absolute peace. With Eden in his arms, her air in his lungs, her limbs melting against his, her love clear in every shift and sigh, Jude felt like he was going to fly apart at the seams. And he knew he’d never been so happy in his entire life.
Eden came even closer, her tongue swiping across his. Jude spread her legs wider, dragging her center across his groin. Eden moaned and bit his lip.
“Take my cock out, Eden. I want your hands on me.”
“I thought you said slowly.” She was already attacking his zipper.
A groan replaced his answer. Eden held him, stroked him, her grip greedy and encouraging as she gently kissed the corner of his mouth.
“Slow later. Condom, now.”
Jude pushed up so Eden could grab the wallet from his back pocket. Their fingers met, trembling, across the leather, and they scrambled to sheath him. Eden’s fist lingered at the base of his erection and she squeezed. Jude groaned.
She held him in her hands. Jude cupped her neck in his palms. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the universe to stop their lungs from burning and their lips were desperate when they met, but the glide of his erection through her wetness, the slide of his body entering hers….
It was slow, excruciating.
It was everything.
Eden rocked, taking him deeper. Jude’s eyelids finally fell, the movement of her body making sight impossible.
“I love you,” she whispered.
Jude answered with his hands, his lips, his moans. Eden was naked, every inch of her available to his touch, his teeth. Just…his.
And as the grinding of her hips got more frantic, and the soft scrape of her skin across his fully-clothed form got louder, they became more and more desperate.
“Fuck, Eden,” Jude growled, his hips driving up hard. “You’re never leaving. Never again.”
“Never…leaving….” It was a promise broken by a gasp, her nails biting his neck as Jude thumbed her clit.
He licked one nipple, then the other, before drawing her breast into his mouth. The pull of his tongue matched the stroke of his thumb and the slide of his cock and Eden started to shake.
“Jude….” Her head lolled back and her neck arched. Jude tugged her nipple with his teeth, the rhythm of his finger and thrusts driving her mad.
Eden’s cry came a split second before her muscles clenched. The second tremor was harder, tighter, and made Jude’s balls burn. A tear slipped down one of Eden’s cheeks, the drop meeting her lips as they widened on a scream.
His name. It filled the cabin and Jude filled her. With his body, his heart, and all of the pieces left of his soul.
He tasted sweet tears when they kissed. His blood pounded in his veins and sweat slicked his back, and Jude pulled Eden closer. She was boneless, her body sprawled across his.
His gorgeous fucking runaway was home.
Jude didn’t know how long they stayed that way but eventually Eden murmured, “Is this how you imagined it?”
“Us. Starting over. Or, I don’t know…just starting.”
Imagined. Dreamed. Wished. Hoped…. Prayed. He’d done them all. But he didn’t have to, not anymore.
“Eden.” Jude cradled her jaw, his eyes full of warmth and undiluted love. “Is this where you think we begin?”
She hesitated, then nodded. “Yes.”
Jude brushed their lips together, lingering, knowing no amount of Eden would ever be enough. “No. We began a lifetime ago. Years and thousands of miles and too many heartbreaks ago. Through every misstep, every mistake, every loss, we’ve been tethered together. We’ve fought it and tried to ignore it and sometimes even hoped distance would break it, but it’s always been you and me, Eden. Just like you said. I’ve always been your home. And you’ve always been mine.”
Eden burrowed into his chest, their combined heat enough to protect her from the cold.
“So, you’re saying we started as kids?”
“Yes,” he answered with a low chuckle.
“Well….” Eden cocked a brow as she glanced at her naked body, squeezing him where they were still joined. “We’re not kids anymore.”
“No. Thank God.”
“And you’re not worried? About what our past might say about our future?”
“I’m not.” Jude tipped her face to his, smiling until she couldn’t help but smile back.
“Because, think of what we’ve survived, what we’ve overcome to get here. We made it this far, despite our past. And that makes me feel so very good about our future.”
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen you this optimistic.”
“That’s only because I’ve never been this happy.”
Eden’s mouth shaped an “O” before her expression softened to reflect the same joy that was practically burning Jude’s chest from the inside out.
His heart fell out of rhythm for a second when he asked, “And, you, Eden – are you happy?”
She didn’t say anything, but her lips caressed his ear, his neck, his cheek, till they stopped, hovering just above his. “I really, really am.”
They were millimeters apart, Jude’s body hardening as Eden’s softened and warmed to welcome him, those smiles of happiness splitting to something almost giddy.
“I’m going to do everything I can to keep you that way.”
Eden slipped her hands beneath his shirt, tugging it off as her teeth tugged her lower lip. “Hmm…, why’s that?”
“Because this is my wildest dream come true. You, here. Back home, happy, and in love. With me.”
Eden kissed his shoulder and pressed them skin to skin, her satisfied hum as intoxicating as her touch. “Then I’m glad.”
“Glad?” Jude had to force the question out, his mind slowing as Eden’s hands moved lower.
“That we started, anywhere, somewhere. That we started at all. Because you, Jude Cavanaugh, aren’t just my wildest dream.”
“No?” His question danced across her neck before he anchored it there with his lips.
Her answer was better than any kiss. “No. You’re my future.”