The Truth About Eve

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The Truth About Eve cover
The Truth About Eve is now available in paperback and eBook on Amazon. Audiobook coming SOON! Yes, for the first time, ever, Eve Sumptor “comes to life” in an all new audiobook read by Tessa Stavers. Visit my website (www.jourdynkelly.com) and sign up for the free newsletter to be sure you don’t miss any updates! Also at my website, a “just one more chapter” story about Eve and Lainey. If you haven’t read The Truth About Eve, read that BEFORE you read the story on the website! Spoilers!

I’ll be having a contest to celebrate the release of the audiobook! If you’re not a member of the Secret Society of JoKels (free), come on in for a chance to win a free audiobook and more! Those who sign up free newsletter will also be eligible for a free audiobook!

Thank you for reading!

Eve Sumptor is Back

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Therapy sessions will be halted for now. A new Eve and Lainey book is on the way! For exclusive information, join The Secret Society of JoKels!

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Session Seventeen

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“I’m so sorry I’m late!”

Dr. Woodrow rushes into the office, tossing her briefcase to the side. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her flustered before. It’s nice to know she’s as human as I am.

“Not a problem. I just got here myself.” Fifteen minutes ago, but there’s no need to make her feel worse. Whatever was bothering her was enough. “Everything all right?”

“Oh!” She waves a hand in the air as though she’s fanning away all the bad vibes. “Yes, yes. My flight was a bit delayed, then my car service . . . and, we’re not here for me.”

“Please, doc. It makes me feel a little better that your life isn’t perfect.”

Dr. Woodrow let out a bark of laughter. “Perfect! Child, I wish. I made an impromptu visit to my niece in L.A. for the first time in a while. I had forgotten how terrible traveling can be when you don’t have a private jet.”

The good doctor winked at me to soften her slight jab. “All you have to do is ask, Willamena.” I’ve never used her first name before. But if I’m going to offer her my plane, I figure it’s more appropriate. “You tell Lainey and Adam I’m all cured and I’ll buy you a plane of your own.”

“You don’t have a disease, Eve.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Quite positive.”

“Hmm. How is Rebecca, by the way?” Mmhmm, I’m stalling. Seems to be my M.O. these days.

Dr. Woodrow hands me a cup of tea — when the hell did she make this — and parks herself in her usual seat. She sets her own tea on the small table next to her and lays that damn notebook on her lap.

“She’s fine. Actually, she’s more than fine. She’s happy.”

I smile genuinely. After everything Rebecca has been through, I’m glad she can now be happy. I’ll have to send Cass a nice gift basket. Or, maybe I’ll just buy a Cass Giles original painting. The woman is amazingly talented. And, I’m trying my best not to be jealous that she does it so effortlessly.

“Eve?”

“Hmm?”

“Where were you just then?”

I almost roll my eyes. Sometimes I wish I could see the look on my face when my mind starts to wander. Is it really that obvious, or is Dr. Woodrow just that good at what she does?

“I was just thinking about how happy I am for Rebecca and Cass. They’re truly great for each other.”

Dr. Woodrow opens her notebook and poises her pen. “And which part of that bothers you more? That they are happy, seemingly without problems? Or that Cass is doing what you want to do the most?”

The urge to get up and walk out is nearly too great to ignore. I hate that she asked the damn question. I hate even more that I’m not sure which bothers me more. Which, of course, makes me a terrible person.

“It’s normal to feel a bit of jealousy when your life seems to be in shambles,” she suggests gently when I don’t answer.

“Get out of my head, doc.”

Dr. Woodrow chuckles. “I’m a head shrink. It’s in the rule book that I get in there.”

“I don’t like it.” And now I sound like a petulant child. “Sorry. Truth is, I don’t know how to answer your questions.”

She writes something in her notebook. I think momentarily that I’ve finally become immune to that little action. Then that thought disappears when I’m actively wondering what was written.

“Give it a try.”

I clear my throat, take a sip of my tea, and clear my throat again. “Fine. I’m happy for Rebecca. She deserves someone good like Cass. I’m happy for Cass. She deserves for the world to know about her talent. And I wonder what the hell I ever did that was so wrong . . . no.” I shake my head. I’ve been thinking of this for weeks. I’m not pleased with my conclusion, but life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

“Eve?”

“I’m incredibly lucky,” I say quickly. “I’m loved by a great man. I have a beautiful, smart daughter. I’m rich, successful, and respected. What the fuck do I have to complain about?”

“Your mother was killed by your father who also tried to kill you. You were sold to the highest bidder when you were a mere child. You fell in love with someone you feel you can’t be with.” Dr. Woodrow flips back through her notebook with deliberate movements. “Did I miss anything?”

“That is the past.”

“Things that happen in the past tend to linger, Eve. What happened to you is bound to stay with you forever. It affects you. You may be a powerful woman in the business world, but you’re not immune to human emotions.”

“Obviously,” I mutter.

“Have you talked to Lainey lately?”

There’s that familiar flip of the stomach. That extra little beat of the heart. Damn it.

“Every day. She’s my partner.” Unfortunately, not in the way I’d like her to be.

“I think you know what I mean, Eve.”

I sigh. “Doc, we don’t spend every moment talking about how we can’t be together.” Just some moments. “In fact, I try to avoid it for her sake.”

Dr. Woodrow clicks her tongue and writes something down. “I’ll address that in a later session. First, have you talked to Adam?”

“Every day. He’s my husband.”

“You’re being particularly stubborn today, Eve. If this is how you want to conduct the session, it’s a waste of time for both of us. I came here straight from the airport after a very long flight. If you’d rather not be here, let’s call it a night and go our separate ways.”

Well, Willamena Woodrow is not playing games today. She must be as tired and irritable as I am.

“I apologize. And, while I never really wish to be here, I made a promise.”

“There’s one of your biggest mistakes.” Dr. Woodrow closes her notebook. “This will not work if you’re doing it for someone else. Whether that’s Lainey, Adam, Bella, it’s not enough. You have to do it for you, Eve. No one else. The others, they may feel the residual effects of your time here, but only if you allow you to be here for yourself.”

Damn it. “For me.”

“Right. What do you want for you, Eve? Let’s take everyone else’s feelings out of it. Take all of the consequences away. Say what you would do the moment you walk out of here when everything is right in your world. Don’t think, just say what’s in your heart.”

I close my eyes and let my heart show me the future I desire the most.

“I go home, and Lainey is waiting for me. The boys are still up, playing with Bella. Lainey looks up at me and smiles, welcoming me home with open arms and a light kiss. There’s an easel in the corner of the living room because I can’t bear the thought of being away from my family for too long. So, I paint right there while they play or while Lainey reads.”

“And how do you feel in this scenario?” Dr. Woodrow asks softly.

Happy,” I whisper.

“What else?”

“Just happy.” I open my eyes. “Is that even possible?”

“For you to feel happiness?”

“Without guilt,” I amend.

Dr. Woodrow leans forward. “I believe that the one thing we forget as we get caught up in our lives is that we’re all adults. We may get hurt or hurt the people we care about, but we’re resilient. We move on. Unless you refuse to let yourself live, you move on.”

“You’re saying I’m blocking myself.”

“It’s a very real possibility, Eve. You’re stuck in limbo. Paralyzed by your love and desire to be with Lainey, and your obligation to Adam and Bella. You’re not moving forward. You’re not even in the moment, Eve, because you’re afraid that by living, you’ll be hindering someone else from living their life.”

“Won’t I?”

“People survive heartbreak, Eve. I believe that with enough discussion, anything can be worked out.”

“Do you think I could survive the loss of my daughter, Dr. Woodrow?”

“You’re a good mother, Eve. Adam knows that. But he couldn’t keep her away from you just because you don’t want to be with him if that was your choice.”

“I cheated.”

“While some would see that as a moral indiscretion, it is not illegal. Nor does it play a role in determining who gets custody of a child. Unless you have some kind of prenup?” she asks.

“No prenup.”

She nods. “My best advice for you will always be to talk to Adam. People are more intuitive than you realize.”

“I’ve been thinking about it. Even if I don’t end up with Lainey, it’s not fair to Adam to keep stringing him along. I love him. I truly do. But it’s hard for me to be with him now.”

“Is sex off the table with Adam?”

I avert my eyes. As much as he has tried to be with me, I can’t. Of course, that makes me feel like shit. He’s a desirable man and very good at sex. But . . . “I haven’t been able to be with him since I was with Lainey in Paris.”

“I see. Is that because you’ve realized Lainey is the one you truly want to be with?”

“I . . .” I have no idea how to answer that. Is it the reason? Or is it something more?

“May I ask you something personal?” The doc asks into the silence.

I let out a very unladylike snort. “What in the hell have you been doing since the moment I first walked into your office?”

Dr. Woodrow smiles devilishly. Sometimes she makes me wonder what she’s like outside of the office. According to Dr. Woodrow’s niece Rebecca, she’s a hoot. I’ll take Rebecca’s word for it. Not that I don’t like the doc. It’s just hard to look at her and not think about all of the shit I’m going through.

“Has sex with Adam changed for you? Do you no longer enjoy it?”

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy it . . . him. How can I be with him, give him hope, when I honestly don’t know if I can stay?”

“What is it like at home between you and Adam?”

“Awkward at times. Comfortable at others. He’s incredibly sensitive and attentive. Then, things change and he’s distant and irritable. I can’t blame him because I’ve been distant. I make it a point to have Bella with us at all times.”

“And when it’s bedtime?”

“I stay awake until he falls asleep. Reading, doing nonsense stuff on the computer, researching artists. There’s always something I can do to keep myself busy. I know he knows what I’m doing, but he never says anything.”

“Is that a problem? Do you wish he would say something? That he would fight you? Or perhaps that he would leave you, so you don’t have to be the bad guy?”

“I’m already the bad guy, Dr. Woodrow. With that being said, maybe I do wish that. I’ve seen him agitated a few times, and each time has been because of me. When I broke up with him the first time, when I was shot, and when I was almost killed again. But when he found out about Lainey, he shut down. There was no yelling, no anger. I don’t know why that makes me feel worse.”

“He asked you to stay away from her,” Dr. Woodrow reminds me. She doesn’t need to remind me of that. I felt my heart tear in two that day.

“Only to change his mind when I went crazy. And I’ve slept with her since then,” I remind her in return.

“I’m going to put a jar here on the table and each time a patient says they’re crazy, I’m going to make them add five dollars.” She raises an eyebrow at me. “Except you. You will have to put five hundred bucks in.”

It just so happens that I’m taking a sip of tea the moment she flings that at me. I somehow manage not to spit the liquid in her face. As tempting as it is. “How is that fair?”

“You can afford it. Five dollars is nothing to you. Maybe if I make a dent in your deep pockets you’ll get the hint,” she said defiantly.

“I get it. You don’t like the word crazy.”

“I don’t like that you think you’re crazy, Eve. Though I will admit that sometimes love does make us a little . . .”

“Crazy?”

“Ah, ah.” She waggles her finger at me. “I was going to say bonkers.”

I laugh out loud. “I take it that’s the medical terminology?”

“The extremely clinical term, yes.”

She says it with such a straight face that it makes me laugh harder. I honestly think this right here is the reason I keep coming back to therapy. It drains me. Leaves me completely raw. Yet, these moments of levity by the good doc heal bits and pieces of me. I feel a moment of normality in my chaotic life. Even my time with Lainey is strained these days because there’s so much tension there. We just try to ignore what kind of tension it is until we figure something out.

“So, I can say I’m bonkers without having to pay the fee?”

Dr. Woodrow taps her lips with a fingertip. “Hmm. Since it is the clinical term, I may allow it in the right circumstance.”

“Thanks,” I smile slightly before it fades. “I have to talk to him.”

“I agree.”

“I’m working my way up to it. But I think I have to talk to Lainey first.”

“Working your way up to that one, too?” The doc asks gently.

“Yes. I see the way she looks at me. I know she wants me as much as I want her. But I’m also intelligent enough to know that she would never choose me over her kids. And I would never want her to.”

Dr. Woodrow nods. “Believe it or not, you’re making progress.” She chuckles. “When you roll your eyes, I’m reminded of how young you are. It’s not always apparent when someone meets you. Of course, you look young, but you have an old soul. I like the moments I get to see what’s underneath the sophistication.”

“Underneath the sophistication. My childish side?”

“I wouldn’t say childish. I’d say unguarded. There aren’t many of those moments with you. Have you ever had one with Adam?”

I shake my head. “That’s not who he wants. He fell in love with a confident, strong woman.”

“So, you’ve hidden your vulnerable side to him. And Lainey?”

“She sought out my vulnerability,” I confess. “She wasn’t fooled by the façade. I don’t think I ever had a choice than to be exposed with her.”

“My professional response to that is, the woman you portray to the world, Eve, is not a façade. You are that woman, through and through. However, you’re also the sweet, sensitive woman underneath.”

I resist rolling my eyes again for fear I’ll look even more childish. “It was much easier being the one without a heart.”

“You’ve always had, and always will have, a heart, Eve. I’ve heard quite a bit about your generosity through my niece.” She sighs. “I know I’ve told you that I can’t make the decision for you and that remains true. I will say, though, I think deep down you know you’ve made your decision.”

“If I take everyone out of the equation, being completely selfish, then yes. I’ve made my decision. Now, I just have to find the strength to do something about it.”

“You have it in you.”

“Yeah, well. As you pointed out, I also have a scared little weakling in me, too.”

“That’s not exactly what I said, Eve.”

“Close.” I hold my hand up when she gets that look on her face. The one that tells me she’s not happy with me. “I apologize. I’m getting tired and cranky.”

Dr. Woodrow laughs softly. “Perhaps you should go have a nap.”

I embrace my inner child and stick my tongue out at her. “I would argue with you just out of spite, but I could absolutely use a nap. Lainey and I will be leaving for L.A. in the morning.”

“Will you use this opportunity to talk to her?”

I shrug. “I promise I will try. Is that good enough?”

“It’s all anyone can ask.”

“Is that my homework?” I ask cheekily. Okay, so stress, lack of sleep, and pure, unadulterated lust for someone I can’t fully have are taking their toll on me. I am adult enough to admit that.

“Your homework is to accept your decision and forgive yourself.”

I scoff. “You could have asked me to take over the world. That would have been easier to accomplish. But, again, I’ll try.”

“It’s all anyone can ask,” Dr. Woodrow repeats.

“Right. Just so you know, that’s never been my experience in life. Trying was not good enough.” I stand abruptly. I cannot get sucked into another conversation about my shortcomings. “I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks.”

Dr. Woodrow stands as well. “You know how to contact me if need be.”

“I do. Thank you, Doc. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Eve.”

Session Sixteen

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“Eve?”

I stand up straight, pushing away from my Lexus. “Hello, Doc. I’m sorry for ambushing you like this.” I have been waiting for the doctor in the parking lot of her office building for the past thirty minutes. It’s not the most orthodox way of getting a session in, but . . .

“It’s all right.” Dr. Woodrow points behind her. “Would you like to go inside?”

“No.” My voice is a little firmer than I intend. “Sorry, I’ve been feeling a bit closed in lately. Would you mind talking to me out here?” I lift my face to the star-filled sky. It’s a chilly night, but not unbearably so.

Dr. Woodrow checks her watch, and not for the first time I wonder if I’ve made a good decision coming here. It’s late and I’m sure the good doc has more important things to do than to stay here and talk to me.

“Of course. There’s a bench right around the corner. We can sit there if you want?” She leads the way and sits, waiting patiently for me to do the same.

“I’m sorry . . .” I begin again, but she stops me.

“Eve, whatever it is that’s on your mind must be important for you to be here at all. I’m available anytime for you, you know that.”

She stays quiet after that and I suppose she’s waiting for me to get to the reason I’m here. Fleetingly, I wonder what she’s going to do without her trusty notebook. How will I know if what I’m saying is bothersome to her?

“I’m going crazy.” The doc raises her eyebrow at my word and I smile apologetically. “Poor choice of words even if I do feel exactly that way.”

“Why do you feel you’re going crazy?” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a damned notebook.

“Do you always walk around with one of those things?”

“I find they come in handy. You know, just in case a patient is waiting for me in the parking lot and refuses to come inside.” She smiles warmly.

I know she’s kidding me, but being called a patient makes me cringe. Intellectually, I know there’s nothing wrong with needing help. Unfortunately, I’m not being very intellectual at the moment. My heart is winning over everything else. Which brings me to why I’m here.

“I need to talk about my last session,” I blurt out unceremoniously.

“I’m surprised it took you this long.”

I think one of the reasons I like Dr. Woodrow so much is because she’s unconventional. I can pretend that we’re old friends sitting out here having a normal conversation.

“Yeah, well, I had homework to do.”

“The being alone and thinking,” Woodrow nods. “I had a feeling that would be difficult for you.”

“For years, I thought I didn’t have a heart, Dr. Woodrow. Those men who hurt me stole that from me. Then, I meet Adam and I start to feel something. I didn’t allow myself to give in because no matter how nice he was to me, I just never felt I could completely be myself with him. He has this image of me, as most people do, and I strive to be that person for him.”

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Then, I meet Lainey. God, it was so easy with her. She never expected anything of me. And, maybe that’s because she knew how it felt, being a wife and mother who everyone expected things from. I don’t know. I just know there wasn’t a moment when I felt I couldn’t be me. Oh, I wanted to resist getting close to her. I couldn’t. I knew that what I was feeling was more than just friendship. Seeing the way she looked at me, I knew she could feel it, too. It suddenly became a need to be close to her.”

“Do you think Lainey being a woman has anything to do with the way you feel?”

“You mean because it was men who hurt me?”

“Precisely.”

“That was one of the things I thought about. With my heart, I might add. I have been pulling at every little thread trying to figure out why I’m hurting Adam.”

“And?” Dr. Woodrow prompts when I pause.

“No, I honestly don’t think that’s it. I don’t see Adam as someone who can hurt me. Not like they did.”

“May I ask you a few questions?”

“Isn’t that your job?” I smirk, and she smiles back.

“Part of it. Is Lainey the only woman you’ve been attracted to?”

“Yes.”

Woodrow writes something in her notebook and I resist rolling my eyes like a sullen teenager.

“Do you love Adam?”

“Yes.”

“Are you in love with Adam?”

My answer isn’t as quick this time and she writes again.

“Should I take your non-answer as an answer?” she asks kindly.

“I don’t know,” I answer honestly. “I thought I was. I thought that by letting Lainey go — in that way — I was doing the right thing. For both of us. What if I was wrong?”

“Well, I can’t say you were wrong in your decision that you made then.”

“What can you say?”

“I can say that when I asked you a few sessions back if you were in love with Lainey, you said yes,” she answers matter-of-factly.

“So, I should divorce my husband, leave my daughter, and whisk Lainey away from her family? What are you writing?” I ask as she scribbles something in her notebook.

“What about this notebook bothers you so much?”

“Every time I say something wrong, you write.”

“What makes you think what you said is wrong?”

I stand abruptly and start pacing. All of this shrink back and forth is frustrating me.

“I can’t do what I just said! That’s what makes it wrong! Cheating is wrong! Being in love with someone who belongs to someone else is wrong!” I stop and look at her pleadingly. I’m breathing heavily, and my entire body is shaking. “I’m not a bad person, Doc. I just fell in love with the right person at the wrong time.”

“I know you’re not a bad person, Eve. Nor is Lainey.” She stands and takes a step towards me. “The thing about love is it’s never predictable. Both you and Lainey have circumstances that may be factors in what has transpired between you two.”

“You still think this has to do with men hurting me.”

“No. What I mean is, from what I’ve learned from Lainey, Jack is her first, and only, before you. They met when she was young, and she’s been with him ever since.”

“So, she’s sowing her oats with me?”

“Eve.”

My mom used to say my name like that when I was being a brat. I felt the same way then that I do now. Like a chastised little girl.

“She’s not ‘sowing her oats’. But, perhaps, when she met you she discovered there was someone else out there who could capture her heart. That doesn’t make her a bad person. It makes her human. As for you,” she continues. “You grew up so fast, and yet, in a way, you remained a child.”

I frown. “I don’t understand.”

“The things that happened to you, should never happen to anyone at any age. Having gone through it at such a youthful age, you were forced to grow up. But, you never went through the normal phases of a relationship. Adam was nice to you and you weren’t used to that. So, you held on to that. Now, I’m not saying that what you feel or felt for him isn’t real. It undoubtedly is. But, you weren’t able to explore your feelings more in-depth as a woman.”

“So, Lainey and I are exploring?”

Dr. Woodrow sighed. “You can be extremely hard-headed sometimes. You continually want to hear what makes you look bad. What I’m actually saying is that each of you found someone in each other that you’re completely comfortable being yourselves with. In doing that, you both found something you might have been missing in your lives.”

“Then why did we make the decision we made to stay apart?” That was the question that was constantly in my head. If I loved Lainey so much, why did I marry Adam? Why did I have Bella? Did I know deep down that Lainey would never leave Jack because of her sons? Did I want what she had, only since I couldn’t have it with her, I chose the next best thing? If that was true, what kind of person did that make me? And, how in the hell am I supposed right my wrong? The thought of hurting Adam, of breaking up my daughter’s home, kills me.

“I can only assume, Eve.”

“Assume, please.”

“It’s what you both know. Lainey has been with Jack for close to twenty years. They have two sons. How daunting it must be to change your entire life after so long. And, you are as selfless as you are self-deprecating. You’re willing to give up what you truly want if you think it will make those you care about happy.”

“Are we talking about Lainey or Adam?”

“Both.”

I sit back down, not trusting my legs to keep me upright anymore. “Am I a lesbian?”

“I don’t think we need a label, Eve. Love is love.”

I chuckle. “Spoken like a true advocate.”

She smiles at me. “As you know, my niece Rebecca is a lesbian. That’s what she has always identified as. I have no problem with labels, Eve. I just don’t think we need one in your case. But if it helps you, I’d say either bisexual or pansexual.”

“Hmm. I guess I have more homework to do.”

“I can give you pamphlets.”

It’s the sparkle in her eyes that gives her away. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if you did have pamphlets,” I laugh. It hits me then that I’ve laughed more in the past thirty minutes than I had all weekend. “What am I going to do?”

She sighs and sits next to me. “What did your heart tell you?”

“That I’m in trouble.” I shake my head. “They deserve so much better,” I murmur.

“What about you? What do you deserve, Eve?”

“I don’t think you want me to answer that right now.” I stand again. “I’ve scratched and clawed my way out of hell, doc. I’ve been beaten, raped, shot. Yet, I’m still here. Against all odds, I’ve become a very successful woman. I have galleries all over the world, businesses that flourish, more money than I will probably ever need, and a beautiful family. The one thing that brings me to my knees is love. Fucking love. I’ve fought my demons and won. But how in the hell do I fight something I can’t see, change, or control?”

“Perhaps you shouldn’t be fighting it.”

“Right,” I scoff. “Just keep on like we are. More of Paris. Marriages be damned.”

“Eve, I’m not advocating cheating. In fact, I would normally say cheaters are selfish and cruel.” Ouch. “But, your situation is different.”

“Why? Because we’re women?”

“No. Because you’re not purposefully trying to hurt others. In fact, you’re fighting so hard not to hurt others that you’re hurting yourselves.”

“Doesn’t make it right.”

“No, it doesn’t. And, that’s something the two of you will have to come to terms with. My point is, you’re so focused on that aspect of it that you’re ignoring everything else. I won’t deny that this is a severely complicated situation. But it is my job as your therapist to get you to think about yourself and what makes you happy.”

“I’m in this mess because I only thought about myself.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” I confess softly. “Why couldn’t I leave her alone?”

“Vilifying yourself won’t help. And you can’t keep taking away Lainey’s accountability for her actions. I realize many may see you as irresistible, but you didn’t force her to be with you. She chose that.” She reaches out and takes my hand. A move that surprises me more than a little. “You’re scared, and I get that. You’re not used to putting yourself out there. I think you’re feeling extra pressure now because I’ve tasked both you and Lainey to think about what your hearts want. As much as you know she loves you, you can’t be sure her heart will choose you.”

My eyes flutter shut as I feel my stomach drop. “Guess I should stop referring to you as a quack,” I joke. Suddenly uncomfortable, I pull my hand back. “And if that’s what happens?”

“Fear is never an effective way to live life, Eve.”

I shake my head. “Such a psychiatrist response.”

“As much as I would like to help you, I can’t make your decisions for you.” She holds her hand up before I can speak. “There are no negotiations on that, Eve. But I can be here for you — for both of you — no matter what those decisions are.”

If my mother were still alive, I think she would be like Dr. Willamena Woodrow. Caring, yet firm. Always there when needed. The thought saddens me even more and I realize how tired I am. An exhaustion that no amount of sleep will help. Tired of always fighting to be happy. Sometimes I wonder just how far my strength will stretch.

“I need to go. You can bill me for this,” I say suddenly. I see a flash of disappointment in the doctor’s eyes and I soften my tone. “Thank you for talking to me out here. I apologize for disrupting your night.”

“No need to apologize. The good thing about bubble baths and wine is they’re always there no matter what time I need them.”

I give her a genuine smile. “That sounds like heaven right about now.”

“It does, doesn’t it? Should I give it to you as homework?”

“Don’t ruin it!” I chuckle. “I think I need to spend some time with my daughter. She brings light to my world in a time when I need it most.”

“I think that sounds perfect.” She takes her keys out of her purse. “I want you to remember that I’m available anytime.”

“I will, thank you.”

“Eve? One more thing. I know you probably can’t imagine this right now, but perhaps it would be a good thing for you to talk to Adam about this.”

My eyebrows shoot upwards. “Are you crazy?”

“Wouldn’t that be something?” she laughs. “But I’m pretty sure there’s a clause somewhere in some legal mumbo jumbo that says therapists can’t be crazy.”

“Perhaps you’ve found a loophole,” I counter jokingly.

“Perhaps,” she shrugs with a smirk. “But, in this case, I believe it might help you.”

“Because he’ll divorce me and take my daughter away which leaves me completely available to ruin Lainey’s life?”

The doc shakes her head. “You’re not a villain, Eve. I will keep telling you that until you get it through your head.”

“You may want to save your voice by recording it,” I suggest. “Listen, I’m capable of many things, Doc, but talking to Adam about this isn’t one of those things.”

“You must be aware that your feelings are changing for him. I can only imagine he’s aware of it as well. No matter what decisions you make, he needs to know how you feel.”

“I’m not ready for that.”

She nods. “All right. Keep it in mind?”

“If I can find the room for it up there, I will do just that.” No promises, I add silently. “I get it, okay? I’m not being fair to him and that kills me. But, I’m in no hurry to devastate him even more than I already have.”

“Like I said earlier, Eve, it is my job to help you think of yourself in these situations. With that said, I’m not here to pressure you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with.”

I laugh. “That’s all you’ve done by making me talk, Doc.” I hold up my hands before she can respond. “Work in progress, Dr. Woodrow.”

“As long as you remember to progress, Eve.”

“Such a shrink.”

“That’s what it says on my doorplate,” she winks. “Go home and hug that beautiful daughter of yours.” She looks as though she has something more to ask, but apparently changes her mind. Perhaps she can sense I’ve had all I can handle for the night. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful for the reprieve. “I expect you back here regularly.”

“I’m doing my best. Goodnight, Doctor. Enjoy your night of relaxation.”

“Goodnight, Eve.”

Session Fifteen

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“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.” Lainey stood awkwardly at the door of Dr. Willamena Woodrow’s office.

Dr. Woodrow smiled pleasantly. “Of course, Lainey. Please, come in and have a seat.”

She gestured to one of the comfortable chairs in her office, and Lainey sat immediately. Her legs were shaking, her heart was racing, and she felt sick to her stomach. It made her wonder if this was how Eve felt when she was here.

“Would you like some tea?” the doc asked, interrupting Lainey’s thoughts. Dr. Woodrow’s voice was calming, yet it had no effect on Lainey’s frayed nerves.

“Yes, thank you.”

“I must say, I was surprised to hear from you,” she said as she poured steaming tea from a charming teapot into a delicate cup.

If the doctor’s everyday life was this peaceful, she’s either the luckiest woman in the world or just extremely good at categorizing what’s in her brain. Lately, that had been something that Lainey hadn’t been very successful at. That’s why she was here.

“I was surprised I called you,” Lainey admitted. “This is confidential, right? Even from Eve?”

“Of course, it is.”

Dr. Woodrow handed Lainey the tea with steady hands. Unfortunately, Lainey’s were not as steady and the tea sloshed slightly onto the saucer as she took it.

“I take doctor-patient confidentiality very seriously, Lainey. I would never disclose anything you say in a session. Just as I would never reveal anything Eve has said.”

Lainey nodded, sipping the hot tea cautiously. She had to confess, even if just to herself, that she would’ve done anything to know what Eve had said in these closed sessions. It was impossible to read someone as complicated as Eve Sumptor. Riley, Lainey, she reminded herself with a dash of self-disgust. Eve is married. Hell, she is married. They both had kids. There were so many reasons she should remember Eve’s married name.

“Lainey?” Lainey looked up, startled to see the doctor sitting in the chair in front of her with a notebook resting on her lap. “Would you like to tell me where you just were?”

“I guess we’re starting now.” Lainey offered a tremulous smile.

“We could sit here and drink tea if that’s what you prefer. It would be an expensive cup of tea.” Her smile was contagious and Lainey felt the laughter bubbling up. It was most likely hysterical laughter, but she doubted there was anything the good doctor hadn’t seen before.

“To answer your question,” Lainey began after she finished laughing. “I was thinking if what I’m feeling right now is how Eve feels when she’s here.”

“And how is that?”

“Scared shitless.”

The doctor smiled again and made a note in her notebook. Lainey remembered something Eve had told her once that made perfect sense now. She said that whenever Dr. Woodrow wrote in her notebook, Eve felt as though she had said something wrong. She was right.

“Remind me not to ask you or Eve for references,” Dr. Woodrow chuckled.

“Perhaps we should be the ones to do that for you,” Lainey countered with amusement. “It means you’re very good at getting to the core of things. I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.”

Dr. Woodrow nodded. “I’m sure you’re aware that I haven’t seen Eve for some time now. May I ask how she is before we get too far into this session?”

“She’s . . . complicated. Honestly, I don’t know, Dr. Woodrow. Maybe that’s why I’m here. We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately with the opening of her new gallery in L.A.” She paused, gathering her courage. “We even went to Paris together for work.”

“Alone, I’m assuming?”

A nod.

“I sense there is more you need to say, Lainey.”

“I don’t know how fair it is for me to be here without Eve knowing. Or without her permission.”

“Does she make you feel you need her permission?”

“No! Of course, not.” Lainey sighed with frustration. “I feel as though Adam and I forced her into doing this, and I don’t know if she would appreciate me interfering.”

“Is that what you’re here for? To interfere with Eve’s therapy?”

“No.” Lainey carefully placed her tea on the table beside her and sat back. “I’m not explaining any of this right. I guess I feel as though I’m intruding on something that was supposed to be for Eve. I want her to paint again and hopefully relieve herself of the night terrors. Be happy. It was never supposed to be about me. Yet, here I am.”

“Oh, Lainey, surely you know that you are very much an important part of Eve’s life. That’s not revealing any secrets, simply stating the truth. I feel Eve would encourage you to be here if you feel it’s needed. Of course, you know Eve would probably want to fix everything for you.”

She laughed softly and Lainey joined in. She was absolutely correct. Eve was a fixer when it comes to someone she cares about.

“But, the reason I’m here is very personal. I should have talked to her first.” Lainey was now questioning her impulsive decision to make this call. Perhaps her very first call should have been to Eve. That would have been the decent thing to do.

“If you’re that concerned, we could call Eve and have her meet us here.”

Even that innocent suggestion had Lainey’s heart beating even faster than before. Whether it was the prospect of seeing Eve or her knowing what Lainey was here for, she wasn’t sure.

“I — I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.”

“It’s okay. It was only a suggestion, Lainey,” Dr. Woodrow soothed.

“I know, but even if I think it’s a bad idea, I also think it might be the right thing to do.”

“Do you always do the right thing, Lainey?”

Lainey released a sharp laugh. “Obviously not. I cheated on my husband. With another woman. And, as much as I wish I could, I can’t stop thinking of her. Or wanting her.”

“Is that true? That you wish you could stop?” Dr. Woodrow asked carefully.

“Honestly? I’m not sure.” Lainey pressed a hand to her stomach, hoping she could keep the contents in place. “I should stop. My husband deserves better than a wife who has feelings for someone else.”

“For the sake of this session, let’s keep others out of the equation,” the doctor suggested.

“That’s impossible!” Lainey argued heatedly. “They are in the equation! If they weren’t, Eve and I would be happily together.” Astonished, she slapped a hand over her mouth. She hadn’t meant that. Had she?

“Is that what you want, Lainey?”

“I think we need to call Eve.” Came the quiet response.

***

I knock quietly, squeezing my hand into a fist hoping to stop the shaking. I was beyond shocked when I received the call from Dr. Woodrow to meet her at her office. Even more so when I found out Lainey was there.

I should have predicted this. After what happened between us in Paris, things have changed. For both of us. It’s harder now to ignore what we feel. Maybe we made things worse, but I can’t regret what happened. Unless it’s the reason Lainey is here. What if she’s here because she can’t handle what happened? Or if she can’t handle the guilt? Guilt that I should feel, too. Do I? The door opens to Dr. Woodrow’s pleasant face, and I’m sure I’m about to learn the answer to that question soon.

“Eve, thank you for joining us.”

She steps back and gestures for me to come in. My eyes immediately find Lainey’s and I see fear in those lovely green eyes. My heart drops.

“Lainey,” I murmur.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers.

“You never have to apologize to me. For anything.” Somehow, I resist taking her hand in mine. I glance over to see the good doctor watching us intently. “Okay, I’m here.”

“You seem a little defensive,” Dr. Woodrow observes.

“Sorry.” It’s a defense mechanism. I don’t know what I’m here for. What I’m up against. I don’t know if my heart is about to be shattered into a million pieces by the woman sitting next to me. And, I don’t know why, when I’m married, that it’s so important to me that I keep Lainey in my life in the intimate way we’ve become accustomed to.

I feel Lainey’s hand cover mine and I involuntarily shiver. She’s the only one that has this effect on me. Even the man I’m married to, as much as I love him, doesn’t cause me this much turmoil inside. I blow out a breath and try to relax.

“I asked Dr. Woodrow to call you, Eve. There are things we need to talk about, and I think it would be helpful to be here for some support. Or advice.”

“All right. Is this about Paris?” I ask warily.

Lainey’s eyes shift to Dr. Woodrow before returning to me. “Yes.”

“I’ve tried many times asking how you felt, Lainey.” I try desperately to keep my tone even. I’m not upset with her, just disappointed in the fact that she didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk to me about this. Alone.

“If I may,” Dr. Woodrow interrupts softly. “In order for me to be able to fully understand and help, I would need to know what happened in Paris. Do either of you feel comfortable telling me?”

“We made love,” I tell her matter-of-factly, and wince when I hear a small gasp coming from beside me. “I apologize for my frankness, but I’ve learned that beating around the bush doesn’t work here with the nice doc.”

Dr. Woodrow smirks. “This is true. Besides, I’ve been in this business for — well, more years than I care to disclose. There’s not much that can shock me.” She turns her kind gaze to Lainey. “If it helps, I pretty much discerned that for myself in the first few minutes you were here.”

“Is it written all over my face?” Lainey asks as she slouches back in her chair.

“No,” Dr. Woodrow chuckles. “But, again, I’ve been doing this for a long time.”

“What Eve said is true,” Lainey says softly. “We let our emotions get the best of us while we were in Paris.”

I turn to Lainey, hurt coursing deep in my soul. “Get the best of us? Is that how you feel, Lainey?”

Tears pool in Lainey’s eyes. “That’s not how I meant it. I wanted to be with you, Eve. I want to be with you. Every second of every minute of every day. Do you realize how that makes me feel when I’m with Jack?”

“Yes! I do! I feel the same way when I’m with Adam!” Frustrated, I run a hand through my hair.

“Ladies?”

We both stop staring at each other and turn to the doctor.

“What you’re both feeling is normal.” She holds up a hand, effectively cutting off the retort she knows is brewing inside me. “Yes, normal. I know you both feel guilty and a bit crazy — as much as I despise that word — but I assure you, it is natural. You fell in love with each other in a time when you both needed something more in your lives. That isn’t something that just goes away. You didn’t stop loving each other when you made your choices to be with Jack and Adam.”

“But, we did make those choices,” Lainey reiterates. “Doing what we did, no matter how much I wanted it — want it — is not fair to our husbands. Or children.”

“I would argue that ignoring how you feel for each other is not good for you. Or anyone else,” the doctor counters. I have to say, the doc is scoring major points with me right now.

“I don’t regret it.” My voice is quiet and for a moment I wonder if I actually spoke out loud.

“Oh, honey, I don’t regret it either.” Lainey’s fingers thread through mine and squeeze. “I don’t think the guilt I feel is equivalent to regret. Is it?” she asks Dr. Woodrow.

“No. I believe they are separate emotions.”

She sits back, with that damn notebook of hers, and watches. I suppose she’s willing to remain quiet and let us hash it out ourselves. Fine. I can do that. I turn back to Lainey.

“I know I should feel terrible for what I’m about to say, but that moment in Paris with you is something I want to relive over and over. Even though we haven’t repeated that moment since, when we’re in L.A. alone together, I feel free. I want to repeat that moment every chance we get, but I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what?” Lainey whispers. I can see her shaking and a tear rolls down her cheek.

“That you’ll say no. That you’ll tell me you don’t want me anymore. That I’ll touch you one day and you’ll pull away from me.”

She’s crying now and my heart breaks.

“Don’t you know, Eve, that that would never happen? Don’t you realize that I hurt this much because I can’t let you go? We’re married to other people and, yet, my heart belongs to you. I don’t know how to handle that. There’s no scenario where someone doesn’t get hurt. Including our children.”

“Do you want me to walk away, Lainey?”

“No!”

“Do you need me to walk away?” I ask sadly, and I’m devastated when she hesitates.

“I — I need you, Eve. And, I don’t know how to have you without destroying multiple lives.”

It’s true. There’s not a naïve bone in my body. I know everything will not be full of unicorns and rainbows if Lainey and I decide to be together. But the thought of not being with her is something I can’t fathom, either. Especially after Paris.

“Eve?”

I hear Dr. Woodrow’s voice penetrate my thoughts and I give her my attention. All the while, I’m still holding Lainey’s hand and I refuse to give it up.

“Can you respond to Lainey’s fears?”

“She’s right. If we give in to our desires fully, we destroy the lives of our families. I love my husband.” I grasp Lainey’s hand tightly when she tries to pull away. “I love my daughter. And I know that Lainey loves Jack and her sons. It’s an impossible situation.”

“But?” Dr. Woodrow prompts.

“But,” I turn to Lainey and gaze into her eyes, “it doesn’t stop me from loving you. It doesn’t stop me from wanting you. It doesn’t stop me from wanting Paris all over again.”

“How do we do that, Eve? How do we justify what we’re doing?”

“You stop trying to justify it,” Dr. Woodrow answers. “Neither of you are going to have the ability to rationalize what you’re feeling. The only thing you can do is make decisions. And, you need to realize that it’s not just others who can be hurt.”

“What can we do?”

I almost laugh at the thought that Lainey is desperate enough to ask the therapist step-by-step instructions on how to navigate through this dilemma. It’s not a laughing matter, but it’s either that or go a little (more) insane.

“That’s something I can’t tell you,” Dr. Woodrow answers apologetically Lainey and then looks at me. “Do you object to me revealing something you’ve said in here?”

I shake my head. There’s really nothing that I want or need to keep from Lainey. It should be telling that I wouldn’t have agreed had it been Adam in here with me.

Dr. Woodrow flips back a couple of pages in her notebook. “In our last session, we delved a little deeper into your creative block.” I hold my breath knowing exactly where she was going with this. I should have objected. It’s only going to make Lainey feel worse. “You explained to me that the possibility of losing Lainey is what caused this block.”

Another small gasp beside me had me lowering my head. “It’s not her fault.”

“Of course, it isn’t. I’m merely repeating what was said. I also recall telling you that you needed to discuss your feelings with Lainey.” She smiles softly. “I must say, you took it a little further than I imagined and I’m not sure how much talking was actually done, but it’s a good start.”

I smile back, I can’t help it. Just thinking of being with Lainey makes me happy. If I could stop loving her life would be easier. Hell, if I could stop loving Adam life would be easier.

“Do you need me to walk away, Eve?”

Lainey’s voice is small and insecure. Very close to how she used to sound when we first met. I get down on my knees in front of her and speak from the heart. It’s all I really know how to do with Lainey. The moment she walked into my life, I changed. She exposed the deepest part of me, and that’s the part only she can claim. Maybe that’s why I can’t give her up. Maybe that’s why, despite how much I love my husband, Lainey will always be a part of me.

“I didn’t want to do this, Lainey,” I begin, gesturing around me. “Therapy scares the hell out of me. I knew I was going to have to open every little box I have carefully closed in here,” I tap my head. “I already know I’m fucked up, I don’t need to spend $150 an hour to hear someone else tell me that.” I hold up my hand to stop the protests from both of the women in the room with me. “You can’t go through what I’ve gone through and not be a little fucked up. But the sanest part of me knows that if you walked away from me I would never be the same.”

I shrug self-consciously. Something else I’d never been accustomed to before Lainey.

“Maybe it’s unfair of me to say these things to you,” I continue. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that the reason I can’t paint is that I’m using so much energy trying to bury my feelings for you. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that I feel less and less guilt and more resentment towards Adam. That alone should make me feel terrible as none of this is his fault. It’s mine. I pursued you even though you were married. I let you go even though I knew I still loved you. I got married and had a child even though I knew I couldn’t get you out of my head or heart. I wanted it all. I was selfish. Perhaps not being able to paint is my punishment. Yet, I still can’t let you go. Forgive me, but I can’t.”

Lainey slides off the chair into my arms and hugs me fiercely, sobbing. After a moment, she pulls back and stares at me intently.

“You’re blaming yourself,” she says finally. “But it wasn’t only you. You didn’t do anything to me that I didn’t allow. Or want. You weren’t the only one who let go despite the love I still felt. And you’re not the only one who feels resentment that we aren’t together.” She touches my cheek gently. “God, Eve, you must know that the only thing holding me back is the children. I hate what I’m doing to Jack. I love him very much. But if it were only between you and him, I would choose you.”

Exhausted, I plop back on the floor, still holding Lainey close, and look at the doctor. Of course, she’s watching everything with the eagle eye of a therapist, scribbling in that God-forsaken notebook. One day, I will rip that thing out of her hands and set it on fire. After I read it, naturally.

“There’s your talk, doc. It doesn’t fix anything, does it?”

“On the contrary, I believe both of you feel a sense of relief now that it’s out in the open.”

Well, hot damn, the woman is right. A pressure — slight as it may be — has lifted. At least for me. I can’t speak for the woman huddled in my arms.

“But, Eve is right,” Lainey sniffles. “It doesn’t fix anything. All we’ve done is expose our feelings to each other. Where does that leave us? Where does it leave our families?”

“Well, as far as the two of you are concerned, it leaves you with validated feelings towards each other. I don’t see why that can’t help you in your decision-making.” Dr. Woodrow sets her notebook aside, and to my surprise, slides off her chair to sit next to us on the floor. “This is a delicate situation, and I cannot tell you what to do. Those decisions must come from you. From your heart.”

“No magic pills?” I ask flippantly, absently caressing Lainey’s arm.

Both Dr. Woodrow and Lainey chuckle. “No magic pills,” doc responds. “However, I do have some homework for you both.”

We groan at the prospect of having to do more after this draining session. Still, we dutifully nod our heads and listen.

“Spend the night alone. No husbands, no children, not each other. Just you. Think about what was revealed here. Let your heart speak to you, not your mind. I understand that both will need to be present when you’re ready to make decisions, but for this exercise, just listen to your heart. Can you do that?”

Lainey and I look at each other and then nod. It may be an easier task for Lainey. I’m not used to listening to my heart. But, for some reason, I know that the only way to get through this, and possibly paint again, is to do what is being asked of me. From the doc or Lainey.

“Good.” Dr. Woodrow stands, waiting for us to follow. “I think this is a good place to finish. You both must be weary. If you need me, I am always here.”

“Thank you,” Lainey says softly, receiving a smile from the doctor.

“Yes, thank you,” I echo. “For calling me and . . . everything.”

“My pleasure. Please, try and have a peaceful night. I expect you back for regular sessions. That goes for both of you if need be.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I salute. “Goodnight.”

With my hand at the small of Lainey’s back, I guide her out. I stop in the empty hallway before getting to the reception area and turn her towards me.

“Are you okay?”

She nods, but I see the truth in her eyes. I let it go for now.

“Will you be all right getting home?” It’s a silly question given that we live next door to each other. I’ll be following her anyway. The only problem will be she will go into her house and I will go into mine.

“Yes. I just wish . . .”

Her voice trails off, but she doesn’t need to say the words for me to know the wish. I would give anything to be able to grant it without destroying everything else around us. So, I give her what I can right now and take her in my arms, hugging her to me tightly.

“It’ll be okay. We’ll work things out,” I murmur close to her ear.

“Will we?”

She backs up slightly and looks up at me through her long lashes. It’s a look that always kills me. Without much thought to the consequences — which seems to be par for the course these days with me — I caress her face and lean in.

Eve.

The kiss was meant to be quick and reassuring. When our tongues met, it became a battle for dominance. Something that surprises me a bit. I had noticed during our time in Paris that Lainey had become more aggressive. Which, coincidentally, was extremely arousing. Just as it is now. Only, I had chalked it up as pent-up frustration from being apart for so long. Perhaps this new Lainey that is emerging is more than just pent-up frustration. God, how I would love to explore that right now.

I feel her hands move up my back to curl into my hair and a sigh against my lips before she pushes me back gently.

“I shouldn’t . . . this . . . I have to go,” she stutters, agitated.

“Wait!” I grasp her arm and pull her back to me. “You made that negative. I can’t let you leave with a kiss like that being negative in your mind.”

“Not negative, honey. Just more confusing.”

She must notice or sense the sadness in me, because she sighs again and moves in until her body is brushing against mine. With her hands on my face, she brings my head closer.

“Tell me again this will all work out,” she begs.

“It will all work out,” I answer decisively. How? Hell if I know, but I will promise her the world with her looking at me like this. When she kisses me again, it’s tender, yet full of heated desire.

“We should go,” she whispers against my lips. “Before I can’t let you go.”

I’m tempted to kiss her again and make her fulfill that need I know we both have. But I find some idiotic inner strength and nod.

“Goodnight, Eve.”

“Goodnight, Lainey.” I watch her walk away, taking in the casual jeans and a white t-shirt. “I love you.” She turns back just then and smiles.

I love you, too,” she mouths before motioning for me to follow her as she turns the corner.

“Eve?”

Startled, I look over to see Dr. Woodrow leaning against the doorframe of her office.

“Is everything all right?”

“It will be,” I answer as I take off after Lainey. Somehow, someway, it will be. One day.

Session Fourteen

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*Contains harsh language

 

“You’ve been avoiding your sessions, Eve.” Dr. Woodrow offered me a cup of hot tea as I sat down in front of her.

“Not avoiding,” I started, but was immediately silenced by her disbelieving look. “The holidays are a busy time,” I try again.

“They are,” the doc agreed. “But I don’t think that’s why you haven’t been in. Would you like to talk about the real reason?”

“You’re not going to let me get away with the busy holiday time, huh?” She shook her head and smiled at me. “I just wanted to get out of my head for a while,” I sigh.

“And, you thought you could do that by skipping your sessions?”

“All I do here is stay inside my head. It’s not always a great place to be, Doc.”

“You’re only delaying the inevitable, Eve.” She took a sip of her tea, watching me over the rim. Then she set her cup to the side, and picked up her notebook. “You had a breakthrough in your last session with Lainey. Have you thought more about that?”

I closed my eyes for a moment. If I allowed myself to think about my ‘breakthrough’ I would have to admit that Lainey – or the thought of losing Lainey – is one of the major issues blocking my creativity. I would have to admit that my feelings for Lainey go deeper than I want to acknowledge.

“What were you just thinking, Eve?”

I sigh. “What is this hold Lainey has on my heart?” I ask quietly. “Why can’t I let her go? At least that part?”

“Eve, I’m going to ask you something, and I don’t want you to think about the answer. Thinking will make you consider other people’s feelings. Just answer.” I nod. “Are you in love with Lainey?”

Yes.” The whispered answer shocked me as much as it scared the shit out of me. “How? How can I feel that for her and my husband? How do I stop?”

“I don’t think it’s something we have control over, Eve,” Dr. Woodrow said softly.

“No. There has to be something we can do. Help me.” I know I sound desperate. I am. I can’t have these feelings for Lainey. It’s not fair. To her, to Adam. Hell, it’s not fair to me.

“Alright, Eve. Let’s say there is something I can do for you. That I can help you turn your feelings off for one of the two people you love. Which one would you like to stop loving?”

I opened my mouth to answer, and not a damn word came out. Shit. Why wasn’t Lainey my automatic answer? I should want to stop loving Lainey, right? She’s married. I’m married. That’s what I should want.

I can’t do this,” I whisper. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“Avoidance isn’t the answer.”

“It’s the only answer I have!” I stand up, and begin to pace. “Life was so much easier when I didn’t have to worry about feelings.”

“Easier or emptier?” Dr. Woodrow asked quietly. “Sit down, Eve. Let’s see if we can talk through this.”

“Talk through what?” I ask irritably. “You just said I couldn’t change the way I feel. So, what are these sessions good for?”

“You’re fighting me. Fighting your feelings. I can practically see you building your walls again. Reverting back to the way you were will not help you.”

“At least I was able to paint then,” I mutter.

“Fine. Go back to the way you were. That way you risk losing both Adam and Lainey.” The good doctor was frustrated with me. Not that I blame her. I was frustrated with myself. However, I did have to question the professionalism of what she just said. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that,” she acknowledged before I could say anything.

“It’s fine. Perhaps I need a kick in the ass.” I sit back down with a sigh, and run a hand through my hair. “Okay. Let’s talk about this.”

Dr. Woodrow studied me for a moment, then wrote something in that damned notebook. “Let’s begin with the breakthrough. In our last session, you said that,” she glanced at her notes again, “the possibility of losing Lainey is what started the chaos in your head. Can you tell me more about that?”

Though we’ve touched on the subject of what happened when Adam was taken by Laurence, we have never really gotten into the details. Somehow, talking about seeing my husband, bloodied and beaten, was harder to talk about than what happened to me all those years ago.

I take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “I believe I’ve told you before that I let my guard down after I killed Tony.”

“Can I just stop you right there for a moment?” Dr. Woodrow interrupted. “I don’t like when you say you ‘killed’ Tony.”

My brows furrowed. “But I did. I shot him.”

“No. I’ve read the reports. I know there was a struggle, even though you haven’t gone into details about that day. The way you say it, it’s like you think you shot him in cold blood. You saved Lainey’s life. You protected your own life. If you’re holding on to some kind of guilt for that, you need to let it go.”

Guilt? For killing Tony? I don’t think I hold guilt, but hell, what do I know? “Fine,” I concede. “After Tony died, I felt safe again. My feelings for Lainey were still there, but I was dealing with them. I thought I was dealing with them,” I corrected before continuing. “But, when they took Adam, I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions that took over. His disappearance, coupled with my fear of something happening to Bella and Lainey, maybe that’s when the chaos really started. But when I had to stand in front of my battered husband, seeing the pain in his eyes when . . .  ” I paused and stood up again, not able to keep still. “You know, I couldn’t even say it.”

“Say what, Eve?”

“I still didn’t know who was behind it all, he used text message to communicate,” I began again, not yet answering her question. “When I walked in that warehouse, all I saw was Adam tied to that chair. I was told to confess. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to confess to. Or maybe I did, but I didn’t want Adam to find out. If I think that way, each time Adam was electrocuted because of my hesitance weighs on my conscience.”

She scribbles something in her notebook, then glances at me again. “Continue.”

I sigh. “I still didn’t say it,” I repeated. “I didn’t tell Adam about the affair. He was the strong one. He protected me once again and saved me from having to say the words. But that pain I saw in him after I confirmed it; that pain had nothing to do with his physical state. I hurt him. And, I knew I would possibly have to give Lainey up if we made it out of there alive. A part of me died at that moment.”

“Your guilt is overwhelming you, Eve.” She put her notebook to the side, and stood up. “You’re demonizing yourself for being human, and having human emotions.”

“I hurt him! I hurt Lainey!”

“Stop.” Dr. Woodrow stood in front of me, placing her hands on my shoulders in an attempt to either stop me from pacing or calm me. Perhaps both. “I get that loving two people can be confusing. I even get how it can cause guilt.”

“Do you? Have you ever been in love with two people before?” God that was childish, and I immediately feel shame for saying it.

“Yes, actually,” she answered, surprising me. “But this isn’t about me.”

“What do I do?”

“Let’s continue talking.” She guided me back to my seat. “After that situation, did Adam confront you?”

“Not like I thought he would. He never yelled at me, never got mad at me.” I look up at her. “He was more upset with Lainey.”

“He loves you.”

“That makes things much better,” I mumble.

“Would it have made it better if he left you? If he didn’t love you? Lainey would still be married,” she reminded me. When I didn’t answer, she nodded, picking up her notebook.

“What did you just write?” I ask her.

“That you find it easier to believe someone should stop loving you for your faults, than love you more.” She paused for a moment. “I also wrote that you wonder if Lainey would still be married if you weren’t with Adam.”

I frown at her. “I didn’t say that.”

“Your expression did. Let me ask you this. If you weren’t with Adam, would you pursue Lainey?”

“Of course not! She’s married.”

“What if it were something she wanted?”

I hesitate. “I – I don’t know.”

“You’re not being honest. Whether it’s with yourself or just me, I don’t know. Eve, would you want to be with Lainey if you both were free to do so?”

“Yes.” God. How many times have I dreamt of that? As much as I love my husband, I still dream of someone else. That has to be wrong. I know that’s wrong.

“Does Lainey know this?”

“Hell no. Why would I do that to her?”

“Have you discussed your feelings with Adam?”

I blink at her. Surely she must be joking. “And, hurt him even more by telling him, ‘hey, I love Lainey and still think about being with her’?” I say irritably.

“I understand your frustration, Eve, but we’re here to talk about these things.”

“I know. But all of this talking is doing nothing but confusing me more!”

“You said you were dealing with your feelings for Lainey. How?”

“What?”

“How were you dealing with them? By denying them?”

“What else could I do? We’re both married. Denying them, or hiding them just seemed like the right thing to do.” Wow. My frustration is running rampant tonight.

“You must realize from your past that covering it up doesn’t mean it goes away, Eve.”

“My past doesn’t hurt other people, it only hurts me. My feelings for Lainey? Those feelings hurt others. Adam, Bella, Jack, Kevin, Darren. Lainey.”

“And, what about you, Eve? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself, your creativity to keep those around you from feeling the pain you’re feeling yourself?”

“Yes.”

“It’ll only get worse,” she said softly. “Are you also willing to stop seeing Lainey if that happens?”

My chest tightened with pain. I felt my eyes begin to fill with tears. “I can’t. God help me, but I can’t.”

“You need to talk to Lainey about this, Eve.”

“What good would that do?” Except to make Lainey feel worse about what’s going on. She already feels guilty.

“You must realize that she feels the same way about you.”

My heart sped up a little at that thought. And, then the guilt came. “She’s in love with her husband.”

“She’s in love with you, too. Do you not think she’s going through the same things you are? Perhaps talking about it would help you both. And, if you’re afraid to have that conversation alone, have it here.”

“She’s not in love with me,” I say defiantly.

“You can deny all you want. Her feelings, yours. That doesn’t change the facts, Eve. So, if you want to actually move in some direction, you’re going to have to face it.”

“This is so fucking hard.” I was seriously considering going back to my old, solitary life. But, of course, that was impossible. I’m a mother. Bella depends on me, and if I can’t get my shit together, I’m not going to be much use to her. What would it do to her if I left Adam? My stomach lurched at the thought of leaving Adam. I couldn’t imagine not having him in my life any more than I could imagine not having Lainey. I’m such a fucking mess.

“People typically come to see me when things are too difficult to handle on their own,” Dr. Woodrow said with a small smile. It actually made me smile. “Eve. I see no other way of you getting past this block. You need to be truthful about the way you feel.”

“So, I don’t paint anymore. There could be worse things.” Like losing Adam. Or Lainey. Or my daughter if Adam is angry enough.

“Not for someone like you. Art is like breath to you.” Dr. Woodrow closed her notebook, and put it to the side again. “Your night terrors are back, you don’t laugh nearly as much as you should. These are things Adam and Lainey told me when they first contacted me. So, even if you’re not worried about yourself, they’re worried about you.”

“And, do you think Adam would want this if he knew that all it’s doing is bringing my feelings for Lainey to the forefront again?”

“Is that what you think it’s doing?” When I just shrug, she continued. “In order for therapy to work, we must get to the root of the problem. Then it’s like peeling an onion. Layers and layers of feelings that are most likely going to make you cry and feel worse.”

“It’s a wonder you don’t use that in your advertising,” I say sarcastically, then smile so she knows I’m teasing.

She chuckles before becoming serious once again. “Eve, you are a very complicated woman. You have many reasons for that defense mechanism. We just need to work our way through it. And, you’re going to need help with that.”

“By talking to Lainey about my feelings?”

“That’s one thing, yes.”

“And, you wondered why I was avoiding the sessions.”

She laughed. “I thought you weren’t avoiding them. That it was just the ‘busy holiday time’.”

“Caught me,” I smiled before sighing. “You’ll be with me when I talk to Lainey?”

“Of course.”

“And, you’ll put me back together when I lose everything?”

“Why do you think you’ll lose everything?”

“Lainey isn’t in love with me, Doc. She won’t want to be around me anymore when she finds out how I feel. And, the next thing you’ll tell me to do is confess all to Adam. He’ll leave me for sure, and take Bella with him. This is what your suggestion is likely to do.”

“Have you always been a pessimist?”

“I don’t think that’s pessimism. I think it’s realism. It’s definitely possible.”

“Alright. I’ll concede that it’s possible. And, you know you don’t have to do anything you feel uncomfortable with.”

I laugh harshly. “I’m uncomfortable with this, but Adam and Lainey wanted me here.” I pause. “I’ll bring Lainey in next time. I can’t promise I will do what you ask, but I can try.”

“That’s all I ask, Eve.”

“I’m not ready to tell Adam anything, yet.”

“Very well. We’ll go at your pace, Eve. With Lainey and Adam both.” She looked at her watch. “Would you like to stop here?”

“Yes.” My head was pounding, and I felt a little sick to my stomach. I can’t imagine what I’ll feel like during the next session. “I know I should thank you for tonight’s session, but . . . “

“Eve, you don’t have to thank me.” She stood as I did. “In fact, there will be times you want to curse me. Like tonight, perhaps?” She laughed. “Just remember that we’re here for your benefit.”

I nod. “Maybe one day I’ll feel that way,” I say truthfully. “Goodnight, Dr. Woodrow.”

“Goodnight, Eve.”

Session Thirteen

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“Are you ready for this?”

I glance at Lainey, my hand resting on the door knob of Dr. Woodrow’s office.

“As I’ll ever be,” she replies softly. I can see the trepidation in her face, the slight tremble in her hand.

“Hey.” I turn to her, lifting her chin until she’s looking at me. “You don’t have to do this, Lainey.”

“I want to, Eve. For you.” She took my hand in hers, squeezing it slightly before releasing it. “For me, too.”

I know this is hurting her. If the quick release of my hand wasn’t a good indication, the tension that is radiating from her certainly is. We both feel guilty about the feelings we have for each other. I also think that she’s scared that these sessions are going to change how I feel for her. Or vice versa. It’s a confusing situation, feeling guilty but not wanting to lose that closeness. As Lainey told me once before, it’s like being bipolar. I give her a small smile, and open the door.

“Good evening, Eve,” Dr. Woodrow greeted. Her eyes widen a little with surprise when she sees Lainey step in as I hold the door open for her. “Lainey.” The doctor stands, greeting Lainey by offering her hand. “It’s so nice to have you joining us tonight.”

“Dr. Woodrow, it’s nice to finally meet you. Formally.” Lainey smiled politely, shaking the doc’s hand briefly.

Dr. Woodrow slanted me a look, and I shrugged. I hadn’t told her that Lainey was coming along. Of course, I hadn’t been sure if Lainey actually would come with me. She had been agreeable when I first asked her, but when it came time, she was hesitant.

“Let’s have a seat,” Woodrow suggests, and I see Lainey hesitate, then settle in beside me. Dr. Woodrow obviously saw the hesitation as well. “Are you nervous to be here, Lainey?”

“A little.”

It unnerved me that Lainey was so timid. It reminded me of how she was when we first met. Though she would often find the courage to let me know exactly what she thinks, the reality was that Lainey had been painfully modest. It was only after our . . . affair that she found her confidence. She wasn’t showing any of that confidence here in Dr. Woodrow’s office.

“Lainey . . . ”

“Eve,” she interrupts me. “I want to be here. I told you that. It’s just a little intimidating. Just give me a moment to get adjusted.”

Well, she found a little bit of that spirit. I’m thankful for that. I nod, noticing that Dr. Woodrow is watching the exchange intently.

“I would like to start by making an observation while you ‘adjust’,” the doctor said to Lainey, who nodded in return. “Just this small interaction has told me a lot about your relationship with each other.”

I glance at Lainey who blushes. Involuntarily my mind notes how cute she looks when she blushes, and I close my eyes, chastising myself for that thought.

“Eve?”

“What did this interaction tell you,” I ask quickly to avoid the question I knew she had for me.

Dr. Woodrow watched me for a moment, then nodded. “Well, you had mentioned to me that you felt more control when you were with Lainey.” Lainey’s head pops up at that, and she looks at me with a mixture of amusement and confusion.

“Control?”

“Um. Yeah, well . . . ” Good lord! Why do I suddenly feel like a scolded child?

“Because of my inexperience?” Lainey asked, turning towards me with complete interest.

“I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps it was that.”

“But I pursued you.”

I laughed softly. “You did not. I pursued you!”

“No . . . ” she trailed off when she saw my brow lift. “Fine, but I let you.”

It might have been the defiant little lift of the head, or perhaps the bold statement of ‘letting’ me pursue her. Whatever it was, it made me laugh. A loud, hearty laugh that I hadn’t had in a while. Lainey frowned at me, and Dr. Woodrow looked at me curiously.

“You let your guard down so much with Lainey,” the doctor said softly after I finished laughing. “But with Adam, you are constantly trying to be that woman everyone who meets you believes you are. Why?”

And, there goes any joy I just felt. “Isn’t that what I’m here to figure out?” I asked irritably.

“Eve.”

I turn my glare on Lainey, only to have it soften when I saw her concern. Protective. I’m protective of Lainey. But I don’t want to be protected. I want to know I can protect myself. Lainey isn’t fragile, but she has a vulnerability about her, and it brings out my protective side. There’s nothing like that with Adam. He’s self-sufficient, self-confident, strong and he would fight for me until his dying breath. Is that what I’m afraid of?

“So much just went through your head. I can only help you if you tell me, Eve.”

“I don’t want to be protected,” I said simply, as though it answered all questions.

To my surprise, the doc nodded, and scribbled a note in her notebook. “And, with Adam you feel like the protected and not like the protector that you feel with Lainey?”

Damn. Doc was good at her job. “Yes.”

“You feel like my protector?” Lainey asked warily. “Is that why you? Why we?”

I could tell Lainey was getting irritated, not able to articulate what she was feeling.

“We had an affair because we felt . . . feel something for each other, Lainey,” I reassured her softly. “It wasn’t because I wanted to conquer you, or whatever you thought when you heard the word protector. Yes, I feel that way. I want to shield you . . . ”

“I don’t need you to protect me, Eve.”

“I know you don’t, but I can’t change how I feel. Obviously.” I sigh. “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on in my head, so this is all as new to me as it is to you.”

Lainey’s eyes softened, and she reached over to place her hand over mine. “I’m sorry.”

I shake my head. “Don’t be. We need to be able to express ourselves freely here, right?” My question was directed at Dr. Woodrow, and she nods. “I just don’t think there’s one thing that attracted me to you. Still attracts me to you. And, I know you feel just as guilty as I do about our feelings for each other.”

Lainey nodded sadly. “It’s not fair to Jack. Or Adam.” She turns to Dr. Woodrow. “Is that what’s blocking Eve’s creativity? Her feelings for me?”

I wonder briefly why she didn’t ask me, but if I know Lainey – and, I like to think I know her very well – she’ll think that I would give her any answer that spares her any kind of responsibility for my problems.

“Lainey, I believe there’s a myriad of matters that are blocking Eve’s creativity,” the doc answered carefully.

“That doesn’t really answer my question, does it?”

That’s my Lainey. I waited for the guilt to hit me after that thought, but it didn’t. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t a sexual thought. Lainey is my best friend, and will always be important to me.

“I suppose it doesn’t,” Dr. Woodrow admitted with a smile. “All of Eve’s feelings are what is blocking her.”

“So, yes.”

“Lainey, honey, it’s not you.” Okay, honestly the endearment just slipped out. “It’s not you, it’s not Adam. It’s me.” I slip off my chair, kneeling in front of her. “I love you. I will always love you. I don’t know how to stop that, or if I even want to.” My heart breaks a little when a tear slides down her cheek. “You were the one who showed me that I was worth being loved. Could Adam have done that? Perhaps, if I had let him in enough. But I wasn’t able to open myself up. Until you. So, for that, I will always be grateful. And, I will always be protective of you, love you. I don’t want to feel guilty for that, but it hurts Adam.”

“I know,” she whispered softly. “It must be harder for you because Adam knows. Jack doesn’t know. He doesn’t hurt from this. But you know I never want to hurt Adam. Knowing that I am, or that I’m part of the reason . . . knowing that you’re hurting . . . ” She paused to take a deep breath. “I love you, too, Eve. But I also understand how much you’re in love with Adam. Do you hear me, Eve? I understand. And, if you need me to step back . . . ”

“No!” I grip her hands. “I don’t want you to step back. It was the possibility of losing you forever that started this chaos in my head.” I stopped, as I realized that was the first time I had come to that conclusion.

“Eve? Did you just have a breakthrough?” the doctor asked curiously.

“I guess I did.”

“Would you like to talk about when that chaos started?”

I glance at Lainey. I haven’t told her exactly what happened when Adam was taken. I didn’t tell her how I had to stand in front of my bloodied and battered husband, his life on the line, and confess to what happened with Lainey. I haven’t told her about how Laurence had tried to force me to kill the man that I love.

“Maybe you should wait until next time when you have a one on one session,” Lainey suggested knowingly.

I squeeze her hand in gratitude.

“I think you’re right,” Dr. Woodrow agreed. “We’re close to our time, as it is. I would like to see the two of you again, if you both agree.”

I stand, taking a step back. “Yes, I think that would be good.”

Lainey nodded. “I’ll do whatever I can to help. If having me here does that, I’ll be here.”

“Good.” Dr. Woodrow smiles at both of us, standing to say our goodbyes. “I hope you both have a good night.”

“I’m surprised, doc. No homework?” I tease.

She chuckled, as did Lainey. “My homework for both of you is to go home to your husbands, try to forget all of this guilt nonsense,” she laughed again at my raised eyebrow. “Yes, I think it’s nonsense. We can’t help how we feel, just how we react to it. You two have done nothing to be guilty about, have you?”

Lainey and I glanced at each other. “No,” we answer together. It’s not that we haven’t thought about it, or at least I have. But I know I’d never hurt Adam like that again. I hope.

“Then go home,” the doc continued. “Forget the guilt, and try to relax. Eve, if you really need homework, try to flesh out your breakthrough.”

“Hmm. Perhaps I’ll just relax with my husband and daughter.” I smile, noting that I even feel a twinge of guilt talking about my husband in front of Lainey. Damn. This situation may very well be the death of me. After everything I’ve been through, it’s love that breaks me.

“Very well. Next time we’ll also discuss what just went through your head.”

The good doctor misses nothing. I just nod, and tell her goodnight. Once we were outside the office, I turn to Lainey.

“Thank you.”

Lainey smiled, leaning in to hug me. “You’re welcome.”

I take a second – just a second – to enjoy Lainey’s arms around me. Then step back once again. “Goodnight,” I whisper.

“Goodnight, Eve.”

Session Twelve

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“Good evening, Eve. Adam, it’s nice to see you again.”

I watch as Dr. Woodrow accepts a kiss on the cheek from Adam as I settle in my seat. I haven’t opened my mouth, yet. I’m almost afraid of what will come out. Dr. Woodrow’s gaze shifted from Adam to me and back again. I have no doubt that she can feel the tension that is thick in the air.

“Please, take a seat,” she instructs Adam, sitting in her normal spot, picking up her notebook. “I can’t help but notice there’s some strain between you two. How about we talk about that.”

I feel Adam’s eyes on me, but I refuse to look at him. And, as childish as it is, I remain quiet.

“Eve is upset with me,” Adam sighs. I almost snort a not so nice rebuff, but I don’t.

“Would you like to tell me why, Eve?” The doc watches me for a moment before raising a questioning eyebrow. “Would you like to tell me about it?” she asks Adam.

“I would if I knew.”

“Seriously?!” Yes, that was my first word. Spoken with so much irritation that both of Dr. Woodrow’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline. I turn to Dr. Woodrow. “Ask him what he did when I tried talking to him about our sex life. Like you told me!”

“Adam?”

Adam actually had the good sense to look sheepish and contrite. I wonder if he really thinks he was wrong, or if he just doesn’t like being called out by the ‘principal’.

“We had an argument. I tried being what she needed me to be. I tried . . . ”

“I need you to be you, Adam! I don’t need you to change!”

“If I were all that you needed you wouldn’t have these feelings for Lainey,” he says quietly, though I can plainly hear the accusation in the words.

I stare at him for a moment, afraid to say anything that I’m quite sure I’ll regret later. The best thing I can think to do is walk out. So, I get up and head for the door.

“Eve?” My hand freezes on the doorknob at the doctor’s voice. “Leaving isn’t the answer.”

“With all due respect, doc, leaving may be the best answer right now,” I counter.

“I’m asking that you stay and talk this out. That’s why we’re here.”

I take a deep, cleansing breath before acquiescing. I sit back down, back ram-rod straight, and cross my legs as well as my arms. Totally defensive posture, I know. And, exactly what I’m going for.

“I didn’t mean that, beautiful.”

“Yes you did.”

“No, I didn’t. I just don’t understand. First you say I’m too dominate, now I’m too . . . what is it? Sweet?”

“That’s not what I said, Adam! You’re misunderstanding everything that I said to you.”

“I don’t think I am. You used the dominate excuse for your reason to . . . ”

“I’m going to stop you, Adam,” Dr. Woodrow interjects. “I understand that this can be extremely confusing for you. Both of you. However, instead of jumping to your own conclusions, I think it’s best if we discuss this in a rational manner.”

Adam nods, as do I.

“Eve? Would you like to explain to Adam what you meant?”

I bite back the sigh that’s fighting to get out. I’ve tried explaining this to Adam for the past week. Ever since he got pissy about me saying something about our lovemaking.

“He thinks . . . ”

Dr. Woodrow raises a hand to stop me. “Talk to Adam, not me,” she says gently.

This time I couldn’t hold back the sigh. I turn in my seat and face my husband.

“Adam.” I pause, trying to figure out my words. “When you were here with me and you asked why I was with Lainey, I told you it was because I felt more control with her. I didn’t mean just . . . sexually. And, I certainly wasn’t complaining when I said you were dominate. I love how you are with me. I love when you lose control. Adam, I never wanted you to change the way you make love with me.”

“Then why, Eve? Why Lainey?”

“I don’t know!” I run my hand through my hair, jumping out of my seat to pace. “Don’t you think I would stop these feelings if I knew how? Jesus, Adam, I can’t fucking paint. I’m hurting you, and that’s killing me!”

Adam stands and steps into my path, wrapping his arms tightly around me. The gesture annoys me at first, as I want to just run away and lose myself in my art. Then I remember I can’t, and I’m even more annoyed. When Adam’s arms tighten even more, I lose that annoyance and feel guilt and sorrow flowing through me. To my utter embarrassment, my breath hitches on a sob. If that wasn’t bad enough for me, my legs give out and Adam sinks to the floor with me, rocking me gently.

“It’s okay, beautiful,” he murmurs close to my ear. “I’ve got you.”

If I could stop crying, I would in a heartbeat. I feel so vulnerable and weak as uncontrollable sobs rack my body. I remember the last time I cried like this. It was when I lied to Lainey, saying she meant nothing to me, and told Adam we were over. I wonder if Woodrow would give me a prescription. Just something to get rid of this pain inside. No, Eve. Don’t think like that. That part of your life is over.

After a moment, my vision cleared enough to see that Dr. Woodrow had joined us on the floor and was currently holding a box of Kleenex out to me.

“Thank you,” I whisper, my voice hoarse from crying.

“I know you don’t like feeling like this, Eve. But this was good for you,” she says softly.

I wonder if my glare is as intimidating when I have red, puffy eyes. This certainly doesn’t feel like it’s good for me.

“It doesn’t feel good, I know, but it is.” There she goes again, reading my damn mind.

“I hate this,” I whisper.

“I’m so sorry, beautiful. I should’ve listened better.”

“Don’t do that, Adam. You can’t take all of the blame for this.” God, I wish my voice wasn’t so weak. “I can’t explain it to myself, how can I possibly explain it to you?”

“Eve, I handled this all wrong. I let my ego replace my good sense, and I hurt you because of it.”

Dr. Woodrow still sat next to us – on the floor – but said nothing. I suppose she’s letting us work it out ourselves.

“I never meant to bruise your ego, baby. I only tried to explain that I didn’t need you to change.” I lift my hand to his cheek. “I love you the way you are. I love the way you make love to me. None of that has ever been a problem.” I pause again when I remember a conversation I once had with Lainey. “I once told Lainey that she was ‘safe’ for me.”

Adam frowned. “Meaning?”

“Meaning I knew neither of us could give ourselves fully to one another. I knew she is in love with her husband, and I’m in love with you. But I didn’t know how to give myself to you. I was able to open myself up to Lainey because I knew her life belonged to someone else.”

“But I thought you told me she almost left her husband for you.”

I shake my head. “No. She thought maybe she wanted that, but I knew it wouldn’t happen.”

“So, why did that make it easier for you?”

I shrug. “I don’t really know. Perhaps because I knew there wasn’t a chance that I could lose myself with her.” I look to Dr. Woodrow for confirmation, and she nods.

“Do you feel like that with me? That you could lose yourself?”

“I do lose myself with you. In you. That’s not a bad thing, but at the time, it scared the shit out of me.”

“And, your feelings for Lainey are the way they are because she was the first one that you allowed yourself to be open with?” Adam asks, and to my surprise, there wasn’t reproach only curiosity.

I shrug again.

“If I may?” Dr. Woodrow cuts in, then continues when I nod. “It took a lot for Eve to be honest about her past. In order for her to be able to do that, she had to have immense trust in that person, as well as a feeling of complete safety. Please don’t take this as an insult to how Eve felt about you. Truth of the matter is, Eve’s feelings for you were too strong for her at the time. That, coupled with her fear that she wasn’t good enough for you, caused her to back away from you.”

“Did you not feel that with Lainey?”

I sigh. “What I feel for Lainey is strong, but my love for you eclipses anything I’ve ever known. It’s overwhelming sometimes. In a good way,” I add hastily. “Don’t change because you think it’ll change the way I feel for Lainey. I have to work that out on my own. But I don’t want what I feel for you to change. Love me the way you always have. With passion, baby.”

Adam lowers his forehead to mine. “It scared me when you wanted to talk to me about our love making. I felt inadequate, no matter what I did, I felt like it wasn’t enough.”

“I’m so sorry. I never meant for you to feel that way. I should’ve been more clear.”

He leans forward, brushing his lips to mine. Forgetting where we were, I deepen the kiss, feeling that oh so wonderful feeling of arousal.

“Ahem. I think that this would be a good place to stop for tonight,” Dr. Woodrow states, standing up. “At least my part in it,” she chuckles.

Adam laughs as well, and, I’m blushing again. “Sorry,” I murmur.

Adam stands, reaching his hand out to mine, helping me up. He wraps his arm around my waist, pulling me close to him. “We needed this, Dr. Woodrow. Thank you.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” she smiles. “Just remember that stubbornness and ego do not help the situation.” She looks pointedly at both of us. Apparently I’m the stubborn one. “You two can choose whether the next session will be together or just Eve.”

“Thank you,” I tell her, walking to the door. I stop when I hear her call my name.

“A session with Lainey would help as well,” she reminds me.

I feel Adam stiffen for a moment, before relaxing against me again. I nod to her, glancing at Adam. When he winks at me, I know he’s okay, and we’re on our way home to finish what we started. I hope he is in the mood to go back to the way he was before. I know I certainly am.

Session Eleven

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“Sorry I’m late.” I take off my jacket and sit in the chair in front of Dr. Woodrow. I am so tired that, for once, I wish she had a couch that is so cliché for psychiatrists’ offices. Then again, I would probably just fall asleep if she did.

“It’s alright. Thank you for calling to let me know.” Dr. Woodrow smiles kindly before continuing. “I see you’re here alone. I thought Adam wanted to attend another session.”

“He does. He will. However, Bella wasn’t feeling well, so he stayed home with her tonight.”

“The poor dear. Will she be okay?”

I smile at the doctor. “Yes. A bit of a cold, I’m afraid. At least her temperature is leveling off.” Suddenly, I find it a bit odd that we’re sitting here talking about everyday things as though we were friends. Which, I suppose we are to some degree. It isn’t like we haven’t seen each other outside of the sessions. In fact, Dr. Woodrow has purchased a few pieces of art from me, and she and her husband have attended many functions with Adam and me.

“Is it uncomfortable to speak to me as a friend, Eve?”

I blink at her for a moment.

“It’s uncomfortable that you seem to be able to read my mind,” I respond teasingly.

“Have I?” she chuckles.

“I was just thinking that it was odd to speak to you about other things besides my problems. But no, it’s not uncomfortable.”

“Good. Would you like to tell me about your week? How were things between you and Adam after our session?”

“Um, quiet,” I confess. “First, my week has been busy. Auctions, speaking with artists about shows, charity functions. All very normal for me. But what hasn’t been normal is my and Adam’s love making,” I finish quietly.

“What do you mean?”

I hesitate for a moment, trying to find the words to express what has been going on in the bedroom.

“I think Adam took what we discussed here a little to personally. He feels like he’s been too dominate in our love making, and he’s . . . changed. Not that it hasn’t been wonderful,” I add hastily. “It’s just been different.”

“Different how?”

“He’s very gentle. Passionate.” I let out a frustrated sigh. I’m not explaining this right. “He’s been that way before, and I love it. What I’m trying to say is that he hasn’t been, um . . . ”

“He doesn’t dominate you anymore?”

I actually blush a little. I didn’t think that could happen anymore after all I’ve been through.

“No, he doesn’t. It hasn’t been rough or dominating or reckless. It’s like he’s consciously making the effort not to lose control. He’s holding back.”

“Have you discussed this with him?”

“No,” I sigh. “I want to, but I don’t want him to think I’m not enjoying the sex we are having. I am. I just . . . ” my voice trails off, and I hang my head.

“Eve, it’s understandable that you would want your sex life to continue the way it was. I don’t think you’re complaining, and I don’t think Adam would see it that way either. Communication is imperative in any relationship. If you don’t tell him how you feel, how will he know? Are you still climaxing or have you had to . . . ”

I didn’t think I would ever see the day that Dr. Woodrow would blush. Surely this isn’t the first time she’s talked about this subject. That aside, I think I know what she’s trying to ask and I’m quick to answer.

“I have never faked it with Adam. I never have to and I never will. Yes, he still gives me orgasms this way. Like I said, it’s still wonderful. But I don’t want him to hold back anymore. I want him to be who he is. And sometimes that person loses control, and I love that.”

“Then I suggest you speak to him about it. Let him know that when we had our session, you weren’t complaining about anything with him. It sounds to me as though he’s scared. That maybe if he gives you what he thinks Lainey gives you, you won’t have to have those feelings for her anymore.”

“Ugh!” I slump a little in my seat and lean my head back. “That’s not even what it is. At least not all of it! I don’t know why I’m drawn to Lainey. Believe me, I’ve tried to stop it, but I can’t. Adam changing things in the bedroom with me isn’t going to help.”

“And that’s what you need to tell him,” Dr. Woodrow suggests. “May I ask you a question?”

I chuckle. “Isn’t that sort of your job?”

“I suppose it is,” she smiles. “Was sex with Lainey as fulfilling for you as it seems to be with Adam?”

Oh God. Don’t ask me that! “Um . . . ”

“You know you don’t have to answer, Eve,” she says gently as I’m sure she sees the reluctance in my face.

“Please don’t write this down in your notebook.”

Dr. Woodrow closes her leather bound notebook, and lays it and her pen to the side.

“It was different,” I begin. “Sex with Lainey is – was – beautiful. Yes, it was fulfilling, and exciting. Being with Adam is exquisite. He’s powerful and talented. Sincere and loving. It’s extremely fulfilling.” I bring my legs up, curling them under me in the chair. I wonder if Armani envisioned one of his power suits being used in such a childish way. “It would be so much easier if the sex hadn’t been wonderful.”

“With Lainey or Adam?” Dr. Woodrow asks softly.

Well, isn’t that the million dollar question. I’m a coward. I know this, I accept this. And because I’m a coward, I refuse to answer that question.

“I want things to go back to the way they were with Adam,” I say instead.

“The only way that will happen, Eve, is if you tell him how you feel. I realize that talking about your feelings is difficult for you. You’ve held them in for most of your life. But if you want your marriage to work, you have to be honest with each other.”

Just the idea that my marriage could be in trouble makes me shiver with dread. I love Adam so much. So why in the hell do I still have feelings for Lainey?

“How are things with Lainey?” Dr. Woodrow asks, interrupting my internal chastising.

“Good. Fine.”

“Eve?”

Sigh.

“We’re fine. We’re still close, but there are moments when there’s awkwardness between us. We’re trying to get back to the friendship we had before we . . . ” Before we what? Ruined it? Made a mistake? Why don’t I feel like being with Lainey was a mistake? Perhaps it was wrong because she’s married, and I was with Adam. Do I regret it? I can’t.

“Can you tell me what just went through your mind?”

“I was trying to think of being with Lainey as a mistake. I was trying to regret it.”

“But you can’t,” she guesses.

“No. I can’t.” I hate that even though I don’t regret it, my voice still carries a bit of guilt.

“I don’t think that’s wrong, Eve. You did what your heart told you to do at the time.” She smiles at my raised eyebrow. “I’m not an advocator of cheating,” she says gently. “But I can’t find fault in something that helped both you and Lainey so tremendously.”

Helped me so much I can’t paint.”

“I don’t think your affair with Lainey is what caused you to stop painting, Eve.”

My eyes snap up to hers. Had I really said that out loud? “You don’t think it plays a part?”

“Actually, no. Perhaps Adam finding out the way he did plays a small part, but I think everything concerning your past, your parents, Agent Donovan and Laurence is what is blocking you. Your love for Lainey and Adam opened up your ability to let those deeply buried feelings out. That’s not a bad thing, you just need to learn how to manage it.”

They’re all dead. What am I still fearing?” I whisper.

“You.”

“Me?”

“I’ve gotten to know you pretty well, Eve. You’re very good at showing that confident, strong side. When people look at you, they see a powerful, successful woman. Inside, you don’t feel that way all the time. Your fear is being the victim you were all those years ago. Your fear is that you’ll be weak enough to let all of this take away the confidence you so carefully built. When you buried those emotions a long time ago, that was your defense. Now they’re out in the open, and it has left you feeling vulnerable.”

“I hate it.”

She chuckles. “I know you do. But it’s a process you have to go through. Eve, you have people who love you and want to help you. You’re not alone in this. Don’t be afraid to lean on those people. Remember, it’s not weakness to need help.”

I take a deep breath. “I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all anyone can ask,” Dr. Woodrow smiles, then looks at her watch. “Would you like to stop here?”

“Yes.”

“Very well. Perhaps Bella will be feeling better next time, and Adam can attend with you. But until then, Eve, talk to him. Don’t make him have to figure this out on his own.”

“I will talk to him. I promise.”

“Good. Perhaps you should just attack him tonight. Let him know that slow and gentle isn’t what you need all the time.”

I laugh heartily as I make my way to the door. “Why Dr. Woodrow, I’m shocked! Who knew you had it in you?” I tease.

“It’s always the quiet ones,” she smirks. “Good night, Eve.”

“Good night, doc.”

Session Ten

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“Adam, it’s so nice to see you, again.” Dr. Woodrow took Adam’s hand as he leaned in to kiss her gently on the cheek.

“It’s good to see you, Dr. Woodrow.” His deep voice reverberates through me, even though he’s speaking softly. I’ve always loved my husband’s voice. I find it soothing, not to mention incredibly sexy.

“Hello, Eve.”

I give the doctor a small smile. It’s all I can muster up at the moment since I don’t trust my voice. I’m always nervous when I come here, but having Adam here intensifies that nervousness tenfold. Adam sits next to me, immediately grasping my hand, and begins rubbing my knuckles with his thumb.

The silence is uncomfortable to me, but I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m certainly not going to be the one spilling my guts first. I see Dr. Woodrow watch me for a while, scribble something in that damn notebook, and then turn to Adam.

“Do you know why I asked you to come here, Adam?”

Great. Perfect way to start the conversation by making me feel guilty for not discussing this in more detail with Adam. But honestly? What would I have said?

“Eve didn’t say much about it, just that you wanted to see both me and Lainey.”

Now, it could have just been my imagination, but I could have sworn that Adam’s voice shook as he mentioned Lainey’s name.

“I had no idea what to say,” I defend myself, irritably. “I told you that she wanted to speak with us together because that’s what she said.”

“I didn’t mean anything by that, beautiful. I was just answering the question honestly.” He squeezes my hand gently before turning back to the doctor. “I’m willing to discuss anything you think would help.”

I instantly regret my little outburst. He’s here trying to help me, and all I can do is be a bitch.

“Eve?” Crap. “Would you like to tell Adam why you asked Lainey about these sessions first?”

Uh, no! Sigh. “Can’t you?” Yes, I’m being childish, and that only serves to piss me off more. This isn’t who I am! After everything I’ve been through in my life, I’ve learned to be strong. Why do I feel so vulnerable with Adam here? And, why does it scare me so much to have him see me that way?

Dr. Woodrow stares at me for a long moment, and writes more in her notebook. “I saw a lot of emotions on your face just then, Eve. Why don’t you say what you just felt out loud?”

Wow. She really is trying to destroy me. Okay, so I know she’s not, but it sure as hell feels like it right now.

“I don’t like feeling vulnerable,” I whisper low enough that Adam had to lean closer to hear me.

“Eve. You’re safe here. No one in this room wants to hurt you,” Dr. Woodrow says softly. “Adam wants to help. Look at him and tell him how you feel.”

I consider giving the good doctor a death stare, but decide against it since she’s in no way intimidated by me. Hell, if I met the “me” in here, I wouldn’t be intimidated either. So, I turn to my husband, seeing nothing but compassion and love in his eyes.

“This isn’t who you fell in love with. This shell of a woman that can’t paint, who isn’t strong, and is scared all the time. I didn’t want you to come here because I didn’t want you to see me this way. I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what, beautiful?” Adam’s eyes are glimmering with unshed tears. It reminds me that the last time I saw him cry was when he found out I had betrayed him.

Afraid that you won’t love this person,” I barely whisper.

Adam drops to his knees in front of me. “Eve, do you think my love for you is that superficial?”

He pauses long enough for me to answer, so I shake my head.

“When we got married and I said my vows, I meant every one of them. For better or worse. I love you unconditionally, beautiful. When you’re strong, I’ll stand beside you. If you need help, I’ll be there to hold you. Let me in, Eve. Please?”

A tear slides down my cheek and he lovingly brushes it away with his thumb.

“I’m so sorry.” My voice breaks and I fight to control the sob I know wants to get loose. “I don’t mean to shut you out, I just . . . ”

“You just find it easier to be open with Lainey?”

To my surprise, I don’t hear any accusation or resentment in his voice. I shrug.

“And, is that why you . . . had the affair?” Now I hear the hurt, and it tears me apart.

I don’t know how to answer that question. How do I tell my husband that I’m inexplicably drawn to someone else, even though I love him with all my heart? Hell, even I don’t understand it.

“I don’t know,” I answer honestly.

He studies me for a minute, then nods. “I can’t say that I enjoy seeing how close you still are with Lainey, beautiful. It makes me feel like an outsider sometimes. And, I’ll admit that I sometimes feel insecure, and untrusting.”

“I haven’t slept with her!” I tell him hastily. “I swear!”

“But you still think about her that way,” he says sadly. “I can see it. I’m trying to understand, Eve.”

“May I say something,” Dr. Woodrow interjects. When Adam sat back in his chair to face her, she continued. “From what I’ve been able to determine, Eve is as confused with her feelings as you are, Adam. She knows she loves you, and that she doesn’t want to hurt you. But, if I may, she feels a certain kind of protection from Lainey.” She quickly raises her hand when Adam begins to speak. “I’m not saying she doesn’t feel safe with you. I’m saying that she is able to let down these barriers with Lainey because Eve feels in control in that relationship.”

My brow furrows as I listen to the doctor. Do I feel control with Lainey? I am the one who pursued her. Adam pursued me. Lainey was the inexperienced one with me. Adam taught me what making love really was, and all the different ways to do it.

“Because she’s a woman?” Adam asks.

“No,” I answer. “I’ve been hurt by a woman.” I thought of how Madame Bussiere used to treat me. Use me. Beat me. “It’s because of who she is, and our dynamic. With you and me, you’re more dominant.”

“So I shouldn’t be that way?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying, baby. Look,” I sigh and run my hand through my blonde hair. “I’m not really clear on all of this, yet. It’s just, something clicked with me when Dr. Woodrow said what she said.”

Adam looked at the doctor. “I would like to come back to discuss this further. Can I do that?”

Wow. That hurt. These are my sessions, and yet he doesn’t ask me how I feel about him coming to more of them. That control thing really does have some relevance.

“You should ask Eve that question,” Dr. Woodrow admonishes gently.

He looks downright contrite as he turns to me again. “Damn. I should have asked you. I’m so sorry, beautiful. Forgive me?”

I nod silently.

“May I come back, Eve? I really would like to explore this further. And, if I’m doing something that makes you shut me out, I would like to change that. Please, baby?”

“I think that would be good,” I answer softly.

He grins that lopsided grin I love so much. “Thank you. And, if you need Lainey to come in before that, I don’t mind. Or if you need us both here . . . ”

“No! I’m not ready for that!” The fear must be evident in my voice and my eyes, as he places his hand on my thigh, and rubs it gently.

“Okay. You tell me what you need, when you need it. I’ll accommodate you. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“I think that’s a good place to end tonight,” Dr. Woodrow announces as she glances at her watch. “I don’t want to give you homework, but if you do decide to keep talking, make sure you listen completely to each other without judgment. Honestly, I think you should just go home and hold each other.”

“That’s homework I can do,” Adam tells her with a smile.

“Sounds good to me,” I agree. “I’ll see you next time, Doc.”

Dr. Woodrow smiles at both of us. “Goodnight you two.”