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       Fallen Eden, p.1

           Nicole Williams
Fallen Eden

  Copyright © 2011 by Nicole Williams

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  All Rights Reserved.

  No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical without express permission from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

  Cover Image Copyright © Eric Williams 2011

  For Eric

  For being the kind of man that inspires a girl to write a great love story,

  and for ten years of wonderful. You’ve made me a better person and given

  me another love of my life in our precious daughter.

  I love you. Forever.





























  If anyone had a reason to wake up with a smile on their face, it was me, but this didn’t stop me from rising with a grumble every morning of this best worst summer of my life. I might have had a man in my life girls by the dozens were waiting in line for, but forces against our control were making sure he wasn’t in my life, at least physically. I rolled over in the twin-size bed—strategically selected, no doubt—checking to see if he’d magically appeared beside me while I slept and just like every one of the twenty-eight mornings before, I awoke alone.

  With the discipline of a rooster, I announced morning with a groan that rumbled my pillow, scrambling after my dreams from last night before they got away from me, but my dreams were as evasive as they were sigh-worthy and I’d learned from experience that the faster I chased them, the further they got away from me. It didn’t stop me from trying, though. Another grumble escaped me, this one vibrating the walls of my bedroom.

  “Good morning, Bryn,” a voice that was too cheery for this early in the morning emitted above the sound of coffee beans whirring in the grinder. “You’re sounding your normal jolly self this morning.”

  And you’re sounding your normal chipper self, I thought, knowing why—she had the man she loved under the same roof as her, where she could love him without fear of retribution.

  “I wouldn’t want to disappoint you,” I grumbled under my breath, knowing she could hear me one floor below in the kitchen. A perk to the Immortal life and while there were many—living forever, possessing gifts that would scare the tights off a superhero, a sense of belonging, and a worthy cause to fight for, just to name a few—the cons of Immortality engulfed the pros. At least for me.

  No one but yours truly could manage to have my soul possessed by a man more of the dream-world than this one, only to be told we couldn’t ever be together. And, oh yeah, ever had a completely different meaning now when the centuries laid in waiting before me

  “Come on. Get your pouty little self out of bed and enjoy a cup of our favorite Indulgence before Joseph gets up.”

  Second favorite Indulgence, I thought . . . though I had yet to experience what I knew would be my first favorite. Yet another Immortal wonder: Indulgences. Rough translation—anything we no longer needed but still liked to enjoy. Things like food, drink (namely, coffee in my case), sleep, and physical intimacy.

  “Your favorite Indulgence?” a voice—endlessly happy, even in rebuke—called from the room down the hall.

  “She just doesn’t want to rub it in,” I assured Joseph, who I could hear rousing down the hall. “We all know what her favorite one is.”

  I knew. Despite “sleeping” two rooms down from them, my Immortal ears, an equal blessing and curse depending on the stimulus entering them, didn’t miss a single soft word or sigh the two shared with about the same frequency as Cora had a cup of coffee. Needless to say, I went on a lot of runs at night.

  “Are you decent, Bryn?” Joseph asked, knocking outside my door.

  “No. Go away.”

  “Come on, don’t make me come in there and get you again,” he threatened, while I rolled over and threw the comforter over my head—only delaying the inevitable. “One . . . two . . .”—I heard the doorknob twisting—“Last chance, Bryn!”

  “Come on, Joseph,” I called out, knowing it would have no effect on him. “This is getting old—”


  The door fired open at the same time the comforter was parachuting across the room. Joseph had me over his shoulder and down the stairs before I had a chance to make my futile protest.

  “Thanks a million,” I muttered, as he heaved me off his shoulder and into one of the chairs circling the kitchen table.

  “To remind you . . . again,”—he smiled at me, rounding over to where his wife stood manning the coffee machine—“you can blame my older brother if you don’t like my morning . . . encouragement. He made me promise I wouldn’t let you get too . . .” he paused, before pointing his arms at me. “Whatever you are right now,” he said, sounding somewhat frustrated, partly annoyed, but mostly happy, of course. Joseph was the happiest person I’d known, happy in that child-on-Christmas-morning kind of way.

  I lifted my legs up to my chest and circled my arms around them, looking away from the man who looked so much like the one I loved. Other than a couple years and a few inches, William and Joseph could have been twins. Dark hair, bronze skin, bodies that made you think dirty things, souls that inspired you to do pure things . . . basically, so divine they were half-god.

  With my demi-god gone, Joseph and Cora were a welcome distraction. They’d been gracious beyond expectation and, second only to William, the best company I’d had in my new life of Immortality. They loved easily, didn’t keep pretenses, and were the only ones in the Hayward family—Patrick aside—who hoped to see William and me together one day in the official way our Council seemed hell-bent against allowing us.

  Oh yeah, that was one of the other thorns twisted in my side. Immortals had their own kind of government, in the form of seven senior Immortals elected by their individual Alliances. Seemed logical enough, except the Council presiding over our Alliance wasn’t being logical about William and me being together.

  “You’re right, I’m being a pain,” I admitted, as I did every morning since I’d been sequestered to their home hundreds of acres from the one William stayed at with his father and brother, Patrick. The Council seemed to think it was too much of a temptation for us if we were under the same roof.

  They were right.

  “You guys are the best, I don’t know what I’d do without you two,” I smiled an apology between them. “Sorry I’ve been such a grouch to be around lately. I just can’t believe how long he’s been gone this time.” I winced just thinking about it. “A whole month.”

  Cora glided across the kitchen and set a mug as tall as it was wide down in front of me, wrapping one of her
china doll arms around my shoulders. “No need to apologize. We know how hard it’s been,” she said, encouraging me with the tone of her voice and the squeeze of her hand over my shoulder. “He’s been away so long I’m getting close to going mad missing him myself.”

  “Hmmm,” Joseph mumbled to himself while he poured a cup of coffee—it was out of place, he never had a cup of coffee with his girls, as he called us. He obviously had something to add to our morning talks that circled around things as trivial as the color Cora should repaint the kitchen, to my anger at the Council for keeping William away on back-to-back missions.

  I knew it was his duty, we were Guardians tasked with preserving and protecting Mortal life, but no other doctor in our Alliance was gone a third as much as William had been as of late. I suppose partial blame could be placed on the Inheritors, the other half of the Immortal world. Whereas our duty was to preserve Mortal life, their duty was to preserve the planet (A.K.A. Eden), two agendas that ideally should have worked well together, but over the past hundred years, Mortals and the planet had become more enemies than allies, resulting in the same between Guardians and Inheritors. The more tenuous that relationship became, the more tenuous the Immortal world became, translating into William being gone. A lot.

  “I think I have a piece of news for you two that will brighten your outlook considerably today,” Joseph said, ambling over to the table as if he were enjoying a stroll along the beach.

  “Are you going to share it with us anytime soon?” I wasn’t looking at her, but I knew her eyebrows were sky high from the tone of voice. “Or are you going to keep pretending to be so enthralled by that ‘perfectly ineffective Indulgence’?” Cora finished, mimicking his rebuff for us every morning he found us so engrossed over our steaming cups of nirvana.

  He smiled into the cup of coffee, lifting his eyes to us. They were sparking out of control. “He’s back.”

  Was it possible two words could make me want to drop to my knees at the same time I felt like levitating? I was living proof it was.

  A shrill sound of elation came from Cora’s mouth and her hand was now slapping my shoulder in agitated fits.

  “When?” I breathed, all I could muster.

  His smile grew, a moment before I heard the screen door in the front room slam shut. I was out of my chair with the speed of a bullet and flying across the kitchen.

  “Just now.” I heard Joseph chuckle behind me.

  It felt like it took forever to pass through the hall to get into the front room. It was less than the tick of a watch’s second hand, but I knew it was the last second I’d spend without him—at least until the Council decided to send him away—and that gave it a never-ending quality that was torturous.

  I skidded to a stop the moment I came in view of the entryway. Was it possible? Was he really standing here in front of me now, an agonizing, but easily remedied twenty feet away? Had he somehow grown more beautiful tramping through the African desert on his mission? It seemed plausible given the way my body ached just looking at him.

  “Seeing you right now makes that hellacious month away from you almost worth it,” he said, and, despite the splendor of his mouth moving, his eyes held me like they always did—a bomb could have gone off in my hands and I wouldn’t have noticed.

  “Almost,” he whispered, smiling the one he knew would undue my resolve ten days out of ten before dropping his bag and coming for me. It was a relief because I was frozen in place. A minute ago he’d been as far away as the North Pole and a minute later, he was here, closing the space between us in two final strides.

  “Bryn,” he whispered, resting his hands over my cheeks. My stone-like condition shattered the instant his touch entered me and the current he’d loved me with . . . he’d saved me with, entered with such voltage it felt like it was jump-starting my heart.

  I knew the tears were forming and would be spilling soon. There was too much emotion circling around me to contain their release. I was sweltering in it.

  William’s eyes traced the first one that streamed down my face. “There’s no need to cry,” he said, erasing the wet sphere from my jaw. “No need to be sad. I’m back.”

  “I’m not sad,” I said, my voice all high and pitchy. “I’m happy . . . it’s the happiest day of my life.”

  He smiled and stopped another tear short with his thumb. “You say that every time I get back.”

  “That’s because every time it’s true,” I whispered, as my emotions began to pull themselves together, only to be replaced by something else that spread through me like hot lava. He saw it in my eyes, recognized it, and responded.

  His thumb moved from the corner of my eye to the tip of my chin. He tilted it up and his eyes burned with the kind of fire I could have stepped into. They burned all the way in his journey to my lips, until I lost my view of them when my eyelids dropped like heavy curtains when his mouth met mine. Whenever he kissed me, everything weakened, sending all my energy into my lips where they used every last bit of the stolen power.

  His lips didn’t move against mine at first, they just rested there in silence as if getting reacquainted, but it became too much for me. I released my anticipation with a tremble, shuddering harder when he responded by cinching his arms around me and lifting me off the floor. I wrapped my legs and arms around him, wanting everything else to be able to wrap around him as well, so I wouldn’t have to be without him again.

  The burst of his heart shunned the two layers of cotton separating our bodies. It rattled its beat into my body, filling my soul with an intimacy I’d never known before William and I knew I never would with anyone else.

  Despite the waist my legs were wrapped around and the neck my arms clutched to, his mouth distracted me from these other embraces and it wasn’t long before I was gasping in the parted spaces of our mouth—as if I’d drown from it.

  “Alright, we’ve been patient enough.” I was vaguely aware of a voice interrupting our reunion from behind, but it wasn’t until I felt two sets of arms wrap around us that I took any notice of it.

  He groaned with his lips still adhered to mine.

  “You’re only delaying the inevitable, William,” Joseph warned, as Cora’s and his embraces tightened. It was a good thing I didn’t need to breathe anymore because it would have been impossible.

  William sighed and squeezed me tighter to him for a moment before gripping his hands to my hips and hoisting me down from the position I would have spent the rest of my eternity in.

  “I think I know why little brothers are generally classified as annoying,” he said, smiling between me and Cora before embracing Joseph.

  “Thanks for taking care of her,” William said to Joseph. “You too, Cora.” He patted his brother on the back before grabbing up Cora, who barely reached the height of William’s armpit, in a hug. “She looks better than the last time I came back from an extended vacation.” He used the term we used for the endless missions the Council sent him on; partly because of his unparalleled skill in the medical field as a doctor with two centuries of experience, but mostly to keep us apart I guessed.

  William had been doing his dutiful part as an Immortal this past summer in hopes he’d gain favor from the Council so they might consider granting us a Betrothal. He was doing this all for me, because I’d asked him to—it was ultimately my decision that tortured us both by the thousands of miles that separated us more days than we were together. Yet another thorn in my side senactually, this was more like a stake through my heart—was an Immortal stipulation that we were not allowed to choose who we wanted to spend our lives with.

  The Council did that, by granting Betrothals they deemed satisfactory by plugging an equation into their dimwitted minds and shooting an answer out their butts. It was a bunch of bull to me, but Immortals were as merciless as they were dogmatic and I knew the penalty William and I would face if we broke the rules. I didn’t mind risking my neck to shun the Immortal way if it meant being with him every way possible, but I would
n’t risk his. Not again.

  “She did better this time, too,” Cora lied, looking at me with a knowing expression. “She got out of bed most mornings on her own”—another lie—“and even managed to kick Patrick’s butt a couple of times during her training.”

  This was actually true. The Council had assigned my strength training to Patrick—William’s younger brother, Joseph’s older brother, and my biggest bother—who was as adept at martial arts as he was at running his mouth. Patrick was my age, the worst kind of good-looking because he was fully aware of it, and incorrigible in the non-charming kind of way, although there wasn’t a fiber of his make-up he didn’t see as charming. He’d classified himself as a lady’s man first and foremost, although I had yet to see him with an actual lady who wasn’t his sister-in-law. For the past few months, I’d spent a few hours every day learning how to spar, jab, block, and generally become a butt-kicking, bad-ass Immortal thanks to Patrick.

  Despite my earlier view of Patrick being a carefree charmer who would rather smirk at responsibility than embrace it, he’d proven me wrong. But this was Patrick we were talking about, so he could always be counted on to add some infuriating comment or obscene gesture just when I’d let myself be impressed by him, and the past few times, I’d been angry enough to drop him, thanks to the moves he was teaching me.

  William released his hold on Cora and slid back to me, eyeing me with pride. “Bryn’s a woman of many talents,” he said, his eyes flashing with a hidden meaning that made me blush. He drew me back to him and placed a kiss over my forehead. I felt a little self-conscious having Joseph and Cora as an audience to our intimacy, but William didn’t look the slightest bit uneasy.

  He lowered his mouth to my ear. “I’m whole again,” he breathed. I didn’t need an explanation—I couldn’t have understood what he meant better.

  I unhooked one of his hands from my waist and lifted it to my heart. “Me too.”

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