Stephanie hummed her contentment as she leaned against Eric, satisfied for the moment to just be with him in the quiet of their home. “I still can’t believe we did this,” she sighed then chuckled.
Caressing her arm, Eric pressed a kiss to her head. “I know, but I’m happy that we did. I was afraid there for a few minutes that you weren’t going to let me talk you into it.”
She shook her head and patted his hand. “Honey, you know better. You’ve always been able to talk me into doing things.” She tilted her head back so that she could look at him. “Especially with your sweet words.” She swallowed, a sudden lump forming in her throat. “Did you really mean what you said about wanting everything?”
Wiping away the tear that had escaped the corner of her eye, Eric cupped her cheek. “I want you, Stephanie. Everything that comes with you. Criticism, derisiveness, sweetness,” he paused, his own eyes filling with tears. “Cancer…dying. The last bit will break my heart, but if it comes to that, I want it because it’s part of you.”
Reaching up, she wiped at his tears even as he did the same for her. “I don’t want to break your heart. I’m fighting as hard as I can.”
“I know that, Sweet girl, and I’m going to be right here with you.”
Snuggling back into her spot, she stared at the cold fireplace. “Why did you really want to marry me again?” she asked, knowing that the answer he’d given her before wasn’t all of the reason.
Lacing his fingers with hers, Eric caressed the back of her hand with his thumb. “Because being your husband means a great deal to me. I want to be the husband I should have been all those other times. I want to prove to you that I can be what you need. I,” he sighed and nuzzled her. “I just want to be able to call you my wife. I don’t want there to be any question about my devotion to you this time. If I just kept living with you, then people would think I’ve gotten tired of going through the divorces and have just decided to be with you until the next young girl comes along. I have grown tired of the divorces, but only because I’ve grown up and can now see the pain it put us through, especially you.”
“Especially this last one,” she whispered.
Squeezing her, he pressed a kiss to her head. “I know. I was especially brutal to you this time. It was cruel of me to ask you to my wedding. And it was even more cruel the day I kicked you out of our business and uttered those hateful, hurtful words.”
“That’s all in the past now, Honey. We’ve put that behind us.”
Sighing, he rubbed her arm. “I need to go to work. At least go in to check on how things are going with the new designs. I don’t really want to, though.”
She sat up. “No, you go on. We don’t want them to get suspicious.”
Eric laughed and kissed her. “I doubt that. I’m sure Ridge figures there’s not much,” he cleared his throat. “sin going on over here.”
Cupping his cheek, she patted it gently. “There isn’t much.”
“It’s alright, Sweet girl.” He smiled as he clasped her hand and brought it to his lips. “Why don’t you meet me at work about lunch time? I’ll take the rest of the day off and we can go for a drive.”
“Up in the mountains?” she asked with a smile.
He nodded. “Pack a picnic?”
“Alright. I’ll bring you some clothes to change into.” Standing when he did, she wrapped her arms around him, smiling up at him with sparkling blue eyes. “I’m glad I’m your wife again.”
“And I’m happy that you’re glad.”
Kissing him, her fingers toying with his hair, she pulled back, chuckling when he growled at her. “Go on. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Don’t be late.”
Eric moaned when Stephanie licked the chocolate off his fingers as she took the last piece of Godiva treats that he’d had delivered to her after he left for work. “You aren’t playing nice, Mrs. Forrester,” he told her, his voice low and sexy.
She smiled and patted his cheek. “Your fingers were sticky,” she answered.
Shaking his head and smiling, he leaned forward, nuzzling her nose with his. “I didn’t intend for you to share those with me.”
“I know,” she answered, nuzzling his nose in return. “I love Eskimo kisses.”
He winked. “I know.”
She laughed and wrapped her arms around him. “This afternoon has been wonderful.”
Eric stared down into the blue eyes that he had always seemed to drown in. “I agree. Now, what do you want to do?”
She bit her lip and thought for a moment. “If we go home, we’ll hear more about this Hope, Liam, and Steffy drama. I love my granddaughter but,” she sighed. “I’m tired of all the nonsense. I’m tired of the huge soap opera Brooke is turning this into. Besides,” she smiled at him. “It’s our wedding day. Can we stay at the cabin?”
Tucking her hair behind her ears, he smiled. “I know how tired you are of the nonsense. To be truthful, so am I.” He shook his head. “My word. Our girls would have had fits if you’d gone around telling everyone something like that.”
Stephanie huffed. “As if I knew.”
Eric chuckled, “You did. Admit it.”
Smirking slightly, she gave in. “Alright, I did, but only the morning after.”
“And then you would tell me in the privacy of our bedroom.”
She nodded. “And you told me about the boys, even though I already knew.”
He frowned. “How did you know about the boys?”
She smiled. “Same way I knew about the girls. I remembered what we were like after. And because…I’m the mama.”
Eric nuzzled her neck as he laughed, “God, I love you.”
Snuggling into him, she sighed, “I love you, too.”
Standing up, he bent over, his hands outstretched to help her up. “We can do whatever you want to.”
Standing, she studied him. “What did you have planned?”
“Oh, I had thought I might take you out to eat and then maybe some dancing.”
Helping him pack away their things, she thought it over. “I like the sound of that. We can go to the cabin tomorrow or over the weekend.”
“I really don’t mind changing plans, Sweet girl.”
She smiled. “I know, but I really do like the sound of dinner and dancing. It’s been a long time since we were out together like that.”
“If you’re sure.”
She nodded. “I am.”
He smiled. “Will you wear that new blue outfit?”
She rolled her eyes. “Depends on where you’re taking me for dinner.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll be the perfect place for that outfit.”
She shook her head. “Alright,” she gave in. Squeezing his hand as they walked to the car, she winked at him when he looked at her.
“What?” he asked.
“See what I mean about you talking me into things?”
Smiling at her, he pressed a soft kiss to her lips then continued on to the car. Stopping by the trunk to put away their things, he turned and pulled her into his arms. Wrapping them tightly around her, he kissed her, taking away her breath.
“Umm,” she whispered as she recovered from the kiss. “That was some kiss.”
“There’s plenty more where that came from.” He winked at her as he opened her door and helped her into the car.
Stephanie shook her head as he walked around the car to his side, whistling a silly tune. Her heart swelled with the love she had for him. She knew that by marrying him she’d made him one very happy man.
Snuggled against his chest, his body guiding hers easily in the slow dance, Stephanie sighed. Dinner had been just as wonderful as lunch had been, and the dancing was divine. But, dancing with Eric was always divine.
“Happy, Sweetheart?” he asked, pressing a kiss to her temple.
“Very,” she answered, nodding her head. Looking up at him, she smiled. “I’m always happy when I’m dancing with you.”
“I think we’ve had our picture taken a time or two.”
She shrugged. “You should be used to that by now.”
“I am.” He nodded. “I just wanted to make sure you realized it.”
“I do and I don’t much care.”
“That’s my girl,” he whispered as he drew her a bit closer, his hand holding hers over his heart. Humming to the song that was playing, he realized it was an old one he hadn’t heard in years, and his heart broke as he listened to the lyrics. So many times the woman in his arms had wished this for him even though she was hurting because he had left her for someone new.
Stephanie felt his shift in moods with the song and looked up at him. “I did you know. Even though I didn’t always show it or give in that easily. Once I did give in, this was what I wished for you. I wished for you to have all the love I couldn’t give you anymore.”
“I know. I wished it for you, too, Sweetheart.”
She smiled. “I have it.”
Not caring that someone was more than likely going to snap a picture, Eric brushed his lips against hers. “So do I.”
“Mmm,” she hummed as she settled back against his chest. “I miss Café Russe.”
“I do too, but this place is nice.”
“And we’re going to make memories here, just like we did at Café Russe.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“You tired, Sweetheart?”
She nodded. “A bit. It’s been a long day.”
“Yes, it has.” He caressed her neck, smiling when she looked up at him. “Thank you for m,” he started then stopped when her finger covered his lips.
“Shh,” she whispered. “Someone might hear you.” She caressed his cheek. “You’re welcome.”
Shaking his head, he gave her an Eskimo kiss then led her from the dance floor to gather their things from their table. “Come on, Sweetheart. Let me take you home before you fall asleep.”
Covering a yawn with the small clutch she’d brought along to put her phone in, she looked up at Eric, his eyes twinkling. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, she moved the clutch and stuck her tongue out at him then quickly moved away, chuckling at the look on his face as he rushed after her.
“Oh!” he huffed as he caught up to her. “You’re sassy tonight.”
She looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “When am I not sassy?”
“Well,” he thought for a moment. “Not very often.”
Eric blinked in surprise when he opened their bedroom door. The room was dark except for the candles and one beside lap on its lowest setting. Walking into the room, letting the door close quietly behind him, he moved to the bed, surprised again at finding the bottoms of the pajamas he’d had made so many weeks ago when things hadn’t gone exactly as he’d planned them, laying across the foot of the bed. But where was the shirt?
“Yes, Sweet girl?”
“Just wanted to make sure it was you.”
He laughed, “Who else would it be?”
“Oh, around here, you never know.”
He laughed again, “That is very true.” Unbuttoning his shirt, he shook his head, still amazed at the things she’d done. Putting his shirt then pants, socks, and underwear in the hamper, he walked back to the bed and slipped into the pajama bottoms waiting for him. Knowing how much this was costing her, he turned the lamp off just before he heard the bathroom door open.
Stephanie bit her lip as she walked into their room, immediately noticing that Eric had turned off the lamp. Smiling at him, she fidgeted with the hem of the garment she wore. “I,” she started. “I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
Walking to where she stood, Eric rubbed her arms, admiring the way she filled out the missing shirt to his pajamas. “Now I see where my shirt went to,” he whispered. “What are you apologizing for?”
“For that night. For making you feel the way I did.” She fingered the material. “I thought that maybe if I wore the shirt, knowing how much you like it when I do that, that it might possibly make up for hurting your feelings.”
Caressing her face, Eric smiled. “I don’t know what to say. Thank you.” Nuzzling her neck, he felt her shiver as he moved closer. “You’re right, I like it very much when you wear my shirts.” Holding out his hand, he squeezed hers when she took it. “Come on. Come snuggle with me.”
Stephanie felt her heart melt. He knew. Even though she’d said nothing. He knew. Crawling into bed beside him, she sighed when he spooned their bodies tightly together, his arm wrapping around her waist. “I’m sorry for,” she shook her head. “I wish,” she started again but didn’t finish.
Eric squeezed her hip. “It’s alright, Sweet girl.”
“But it’s our wedding night.”
“It is,” he agreed. “I understand better now than I did that night, Sweetheart. You can’t make your body do something it isn’t in the mood for. Why couldn’t you tell me that night? I would have understood. Remember the little blue pills?”
Her lips trembled. “I do remember them, but,” she paused.
“But what?” he encouraged her to go on.
“You haven’t had to use those pills since we’ve been back together.”
“No, I haven’t. I’ve never needed anything to be with you.”
She felt tears roll down her cheeks. “I love you for that.”
“It’s the truth,” he whispered as he took her hand.
Settling their joined hands just under her breasts, Stephanie took a shuddering breath. “I don’t know what’s happened to me.”
“I do,” he told her. “You don’t think you’re beautiful because of the cancer, because of the surgery. Because you feel that way about yourself, you can’t bring yourself to think of desire, because you don’t feel desirable.”
“But Thanksgiving,” she reminded him.
Eric smiled at the mention of that night. “Was beautiful,” he finished for her. “I saw the scars that night and I’m still here. I still want you. Only you can change what’s happening, Sweetheart. Only you.”
Lying in the silence surrounding them, the candles’ flames casting shadows on the walls, Stephanie watched them flicker and felt her heart race. Closing her eyes, she let her mind go back to that night and the few nights after when she’d been in the mood to make love. Looking deep within herself, she knew he was telling the truth. She’d questioned her doctors about the medications and if any of them could cause her problem, but only one had that as a possible side-effect and it was one that she hadn’t been taking for months now.
So why, on their wedding night, did she suddenly feel so confused? Yes, she realized, that’s what was wrong. She was confused. But confused about what? He’d told her so many beautiful things, so many wonderful reasons why he was here with her. She knew that this time was the last. That there would be no more divorces because he’d found someone else.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and lifted his hand to her breast. “Take it slow,” she whispered.
“I’ll go as slow as you need, but you don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready for it,” he told her as he gently cupped her breast, his hand never leaving the position she’d put it in. “I’m perfectly happy just lying here holding you, talking quietly, enjoying the candle light.”
Turning so that she was facing him, she looked up at him and nodded. “Just,” she bit her lip. “Remember how you used to touch me while we were talking? How you’d,” she blushed slightly before continuing in a quieter voice. “How you would arouse me without me even realizing it?”
He smiled. “Of course I remember.”
“Can we try that? I want to make love with you, Eric. I just need help.”
“I’ll do anything you ask, Stephanie.” He caressed her face, an idea forming as he did. “Do you trust me, Sweet girl?”
“You know that I do.”
He nodded with a smile. “I’ll be right back. While I’m gone, take off your clothes and get back under the blankets.” He winked at her when she raised an eyebrow. “Trust me,” he breathed against her ear before pressing a gentle kiss there.
She swallowed and nodded. “Alright.”
“That’s my girl.”
She would have balked at that, but she remembered what he’d said so many months ago; she was his girl, always had been, always would be no matter how old they were. Watching him walk into the bathroom, she got up, pulling his pajama shirt over her head then placing it on the end of the bed for later. Taking a deep breath, she hurriedly pushed her underwear down, stepping out of them then tucking them under the bed before climbing back under the covers.
Eric smiled as he came back into the room, a brush hidden in his hand as he went around, blowing out the candles. The half moon outside provided enough light for him to see his way to his side of the bed. Placing the brush on his nightstand, he quickly shed his pajama pants then pulled back the covers, uncovering Stephanie completely so that he could touch all of her unhindered.
“Eric?” she questioned.
“Shh,” he soothed as he caressed her face. “Do you know what I start with when I sketch you?” he asked, leaning over to once again pick up his brush.
Stephanie blinked in surprise at the question, closing her eyes to keep herself calm. “No,” she answered softly.
Drawing the brush lightly across her closed eyes, he traced their shape. “Your eyes. Always your eyes. They’re what first drew me to you,” he answered, his voice low and steady.
Stephanie relaxed slightly at the feel of the soft bristles of the brush traced across her eyes. “My eyes?” she whispered.
“Yes. These gorgeous blue eyes that made me feel like I was drowning.” He traced across her nose. “Then I draw your nose.” He chuckled when it twitched.
“That tickles. And for heaven’s sake, my nose?”
“I love your nose.”
She shook her head. “It’s a nose.”
Eric smiled as he pressed a soft kiss on the tip of said nose. “No, it’s not just a nose. It’s a perfect nose. Not too big, not too small. Perfect to draw my finger down before I caress your lips.” He drew the brush down her nose then around her mouth. “Which are the next thing I always sketch.”
“I think I can guess why my lips are next,” she whispered, a smirk playing on her mouth.
Eric laughed and kissed her. “I love that mouth because of all the naughty things it can do, but no, that is not why it’s next. It’s next because I love your little smirk. I love the way you pout when I don’t give you what you want when we’re being silly together. I love the gentle words you whisper to sooth me when things haven’t gone my way…when I’m dying.”
“Eric,” she breathed and opened her eyes to stare up at him, barely seeing him in the dim moonlight.
“Shh,” he whispered as he nuzzled her nose with his. “It happened, Sweetheart. I was dying. I know it. You know it. It was your love that brought me back. If,” he stopped and kissed her gently before continuing. “If you hadn’t brought me back to our home, if you hadn’t said those beautiful words, if you hadn’t been here,” he let tears fall. “I wouldn’t be here.”
Sitting up, Stephanie wrapped her arms around him. “Yes, I knew you were dying. I didn’t want to accept it, but I had to. I did the only thing I could. I brought you to the home we’d laughed, loved, and made memories in. I couldn’t bear the thoughts of you dying in that cold, sterile hospital room.” She pulled back, her fingers wiping his tears away.
Kissing her fingers, Eric smiled. “Lie back down, Sweetheart.”
Settling back against her pillows, Stephanie once again closed her eyes, waiting to see what he did next.
Trailing the brush down her neck, he smiled when she shivered at the feel of the brush moving across her breast bone then down. “The next thing I sketch is your body.”
She scowled. “Not a very lovely thing to sketch now days.”
Ah, he thought. Now I’ve hit the sore spot. “I’m the artist, Stephanie.”
She opened her eyes and frowned at him. “And what does that have to do with anything?”
He held up the brush. “I’m doing the sketching.”
“I still don’t understand,” she shook her head.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When I look at you, when I sketch you, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” Slowly he caressed the brush over familiar curves, pausing at the newest scars, his eyes filling with tears as they always did at the thought of how close he’d come to losing her. Tracing the soft skin of her neck again he whispered, “Graceful,” before moving over the contours of her shoulders. “Strong enough to carry the weight of everything I’ve dumped on you through the years.”
“Eric,” she whispered. “No.”
“Yes,” he countered then moved down to her hands, the brush tracing each finger then the palms. “Gentle hands that have tenderly bathed our children. That have held their tiny hands as they learned to take their first steps. That gave them comfort when their hearts were broken for the very first time. Hands that have given me pleasure over the years, more pleasure than I deserved some times.” Moving the brush to her breasts, he traced the swell of them then the nipples, blowing softly on the sensitive flesh, causing her to shiver.
Stephanie felt it, the shift in the way her body felt. She shivered when his hand moved the brush lower, and lower still, until he was tracing the length of her legs. His voice was low and sexy, just the way it always was when he was talking to her like this. With each description he gave of her features, he soothed her troubled mind, and made her long to be with him.
Eric gently caressed her inner thighs, listening to her breathing, smiling when he heard it quicken as he drew near her center. Lying down beside her after dropping the brush onto his nightstand, he kissed her cheek. “Is it alright?” he asked, knowing that she understood what he was asking.
Looking at him, her eyes full of trust and want, she nodded. “Please,” she whimpered.
Moving his hand down her stomach then lower, he touched the sensitive flesh at the apex of her thighs, moaning at the feel of her wet and ready for him. “Do you want me, Sweet girl?” he asked as he continued his intimate caress.
Lifting her hand, she tangled her fingers in his hair. “I always want you, it’s just this body of mine that doesn’t always co-operate.” She squirmed, her breath catching when his finger slid inside her heat. “Oh, Eric,” she breathed, her legs shifting further apart as he gently moved his finger in and out.
Moving over her, he settled his body in the cradle of her thighs. “I love you,” he whispered as he joined their bodies, his arms wrapping around her.
Holding him tight, Stephanie wept as he made love to her slow and sweet, taking the time to make sure she wasn’t left behind when their climax drew near. Crying out his name, she arched into him as they fell over the edge into that hazy world that she’d only ever been to with Eric.
Lying on his back, Stephanie resting on his chest, Eric caressed her bare back, her tears continuing as he held her close. “Why the tears, Sweet girl?”
“Because it was beautiful,” she whispered.
“It’s always beautiful with you.”
“You helped me tonight, more than I think you realize.”
He smiled and caressed her hair. “I’m glad I helped, but all I did was make you see what was wrong.”
“Something I wouldn’t have seen on my own.”
“Yes you would have,” he paused to press a kiss to her head. “…eventually.”
She chuckled and pressed a kiss to his chest. “But this way was better.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
“What brush did you use?”
He chuckled, “Your powder brush. It was the softest one I could find.”
She titled her head back and nuzzled his neck. “Thank you for helping me get some of my self-esteem back.”
She shook her head. “Not yet. Will you promise to keep helping me?”
“You know that you don’t have to ask.”
Snuggling closer once more, she sighed in contentment. “You know,” she started.
“I think this is the best wedding night we’ve ever had.”
“I think I agree with you. You were pregnant the first time, sick the second time, not even wanting to be married to me the third time.”
“Well, actually the third time was good too. That was the renewing of our vows. The fourth time was when I didn’t really want to be married to you,” she softly snorted. “And you definitely didn’t want to be married to me.”
“Mind like a steel trap,” he murmured. “You’re right, our third was good. It was the first wedding night I made love to you somewhere other than our bedroom.”
She chuckled. “It wasn’t the first time you’d made love to me in another country though.”
He shook his head, his voice low as he countered, “No, most definitely not.” Turning on his side, he wrapped a leg over hers and caressed her mussed hair. Running his hand down her arm, he laced his fingers with hers and brought them up to his mouth. “I have something for you.”
“Oh?” she asked.
Winking at her, he rolled away from her and sat up. “Close your eyes, Sweet girl.”
“Okay,” she agreed softly, doing as asked.
Turning the lamp on the lowest setting, Eric rummaged around in the bottom drawer of his nightstand, smiling when he found what he’d been looking for. Turning back to Stephanie, he smiled at the sweet sight she made. “You look like a woman who’s been well loved.”
She opened her eyes and smiled. “Because I am.”
Holding out the velvet box, he opened it, waiting for her to sit up enough to see what was in it. Watching as her eyes studied the rings, he heard her breath catch then saw her eyes well with tears. “Now, here,” he murmured. “No tears.”
She swallowed and sniffed, reaching up to wipe at her eyes. “Our rings. The original ones.”
He nodded. “I figured that if this was going to be the last wedding, we might as well come full circle.”
“The first for the last,” she finished the thought.
“Yes,” he whispered as he lifted the smaller band from its resting place. Pressing a kiss to the cool gold, he smiled at her as he took her left hand, gently sliding the ring into its resting place.
Repeating the action, Stephanie held his hand to her mouth, pressing a kiss to the back. “Eric?”
“What is it?”
She bit her lip as she looked up at him. “Can we keep this between us for a few days?”
He smiled. “You want this to just be about us this time?”
She nodded. “Is it unfair of me?”
He shook his head. “Was it unfair of me to marry you without our family?”
“Then it isn’t unfair to keep this to ourselves for a little while.” He smiled as he turned and dropped the box back in the drawer, closing it before tapping the lamp to turn it off. “Now, snuggle back under the covers. We need to get some rest.”
“We wouldn’t want anyone to suspect that we were up late making love or anything,” she chuckled.
Snuggling against her, loving the feel of her bare body pressed against his, Eric sighed in contentment. “I love you, Mrs. Forrester.”
“Mmm, that’s a good thing,” she murmured, pulling his arm tighter around her. “Because I love you too, Mr. Forrester.”