Authors: Kele Moon
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica
Book two in the Eden series.
Handsome, angry and spoiled, Danny Carlow struggles to find his place in the world when his hatred for authority makes survival difficult. The only thing keeping him from completely giving up and turning to a life of crime is his friendship with clean-cut Paul Mattling. More than his conscience and best friend, Paul’s also the one Danny secretly pines for with every ounce of his being.
Paul is a natural over-achiever with a football scholarship and straight A’s to boast about. Yet he’s haunted by an abusive childhood that’s left him more scarred than anyone realizes. Looking for an escape from his demons, Paul has his own deviant secrets, ones he doesn’t want anyone, especially Danny, to know about.
When dark desires are accidentally revealed, Danny and Paul end up coming together in a clash of wild passion more tumultuous than either of them could have anticipated. Tasting the forbidden is sweet, but it turns the tables on their relationship, putting everything, even their lifelong friendship, in jeopardy.
Ellora’s Cave Publishing
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Finding Eden Copyright © 2011 Kele Moon
Edited by Grace Bradley
Cover art by Dar Albert
Electronic book publication August 2011
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To Johnny—for being rock and roll.
Karen M for being my go-to girl and my cheerleader! Despite being the busiest lady I know you’ve always got time for my questions and I love you for it.
Dennis “Doody Cat” Cadle for all his technical knowledge.
Beth for always being wonderful and helpful.
Sa, you’re always ready to lend a hand and I appreciate you so much for it.
Grace Bradley for being an AWESOME editor. Thank you for helping to make this series the best it can be.
Saritza Hernandez for being a fantastic agent and friend. This project was a big one and I appreciate you holding my hand through some of the darker moments.
And to three wonderful, helpful critique partners who each helped me more than I can say:
Lori Toland for every long walk listening to me ramble on about characters and plot. You’re an awesome BFF and CP. Going on this wild writer journey with you has been awesome! Thank you for being you.
Tibby Armstrong: Your passion for these characters pushed me more than you’ll ever know. Thank you so much for all your encouragement.
Laurann Dohner: Last, but never least… Darling, this book became something I never anticipated because of your sharp insight. I love ya! Thank you for being such an awesome CP and friend.
“In the garden of good and evil there were more than two.”
Paul Mattling stared down at the spread of tarot cards on the kitchen table, the devil card holding a prominent spot. “I always get that card.”
, you do, always.”
“That sucks.” Paul lifted his head to smile at the beautiful, middle-aged woman on the other side of the table. “Is it bad luck?”
“He’s watching you—both of you,” she said, quirking an eyebrow at him. Her dark hair was pulled back into a bun this evening, her tanned face smooth and radiant. With a Cuban accent that was subtle, but lulling, she gave him a secret smile and promised, “He’s waiting.”
“Come on, Mama. He hates that shit. Why do you always torture him with it?”
Paul turned, frowning up at his best friend Danny Carlow when he came around the corner. He was tall like his father, but Danny’s face was his mother’s, dark and beautiful, with nicely arched eyebrows and full lips. The resemblance between them was uncanny and Paul often wondered if that meant Danny was going to look as young as his mother did when he was forty-five.
“I don’t hate it,” Paul complained, uncomfortable with the idea of Danny’s mother getting her feelings hurt. He had known her since he was very young and she was one of the few genuinely kind people he was comfortable around. He would do anything for her, even sit at a table at least twice a week staring at the devil card and hearing ominous predictions. “It’s educational. I read that tarot cards used to be just regular playing cards. You know, people played games with them. It wasn’t until later they were used for fortune telling. I think that’s fascinating.”
“Yeah, riveting.” Danny rubbed the back of his neck impatiently. “Isn’t there a lake with our name on it?”
“Right,” Paul said, grimacing. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Carlow. Can we finish next time?”
“Sure.” She gave him a bright smile and reached across the table, squeezing his hand. “You’re a good boy.”
“We gotta go, Mama,” Danny said in a bored voice. “He’s not allowed to play with those anyway. His daddy would kick the shit out of him if he knew.”
Paul pushed away from the table, knowing how Danny got when he had his mind set on something. Nothing distracted him from it and he could get really snappy out of irritation. Paul, on the other hand, was a peacemaker by nature, and was used to being Danny’s buffer to the world. He did it automatically, never minding the task or resenting Danny’s difficult attitude.
“For you.” Mrs. Carlow walked over to the counter and grabbed an apple out of the basket. She handed it to Paul, who took it without complaint. “To keep the doctor away.” She turned to Danny and handed him an apple as well. “They’re good for you.”
When Danny turned to leave, she reached for him, tugging him down to place a kiss on his cheek despite his look of annoyance. He wiped at it and stared at the smear of red lipstick on his fingers. “Oh come on,” he groaned, wiping at his cheek again. “I’ve spent my whole life covered in lipstick. When am I too old for it?”
“Never,” she said with a smile, staring up at him with pride and love glowing in her dark eyes. “You’re my only baby,
. That means you’ll never be too old for it.”
Danny rolled his eyes and bit into the apple, leaving it between his teeth as he walked out of the kitchen.
“Boy, where’re you going at this time of night?”
Danny did an abrupt about-face, the apple still in his mouth as he headed toward the back door in the kitchen rather than deal with his father. His response to the question hollered from the living room was a rude hand gesture only Paul and Mrs. Carlow could see.
Mrs. Carlow huffed and turned to call out of the kitchen, “He’s going night fishing with Paul.”
“Is that what we’re calling it now?” Danny’s father asked with obvious sarcasm, his Southern accent far heavier than his wife’s Cuban one. An extremely successful businessman, he was a functional alcoholic for most of the day, but by ten o’clock his fondness for Jack Daniel’s was always noticeable. Unpleasant sober, he was a truly dislikable drunk. His voice was slurred as he growled in disgust, “Fuckin’ faggots.”
Danny’s entire body stiffened, the apple falling out of his mouth. He caught it deftly as he turned around, his dark eyes narrowed in fury. His mother reached up, placing her fingers to his lips when he opened his mouth. He was obviously determined to start something that wouldn’t end well.
“It’s late. You know what he’s like at this time of night,” she said, her accent more noticeable in her panic. “Ignore him. Just go. Have fun. I’ll deal with him.”
“Better a faggot than a drunk!” Danny shouted past her fingers, ignoring his mother’s plea for peace. “Have another one you—”
Paul cut him off, doing a far more effective job of stilling his rant by clamping a hand over his mouth from behind and jerking him back so hard he stumbled. “Starting something with him and leaving isn’t fair to your mama,” Paul whispered in his ear. “It’s not nice.”
Danny’s elbow jerked back into Paul’s chest hard enough to leave him winded. Danny pulled away, running a hand through his hair vainly to straighten it, his eyes still blazing. It was obvious he was battling with himself to hold his tongue as Paul suggested. Taking the high road wasn’t one of Danny’s strong suits.
“Why so quiet? Making out with your boyfriend?”
They all turned toward the hallway. Danny’s mother groaned out loud from the comment that could easily start a vicious battle of wills that would ruin everyone’s night. Paul tensed, wondering why that was always the avenue his father took with him. Danny got more girls than anyone.
Danny was breathing heavily as if searching for some way to calm his temper for his mother’s sake, if nothing else.
“Someone needs to clue him in on the fact I’m meaner and stronger than him now,” Danny finally growled at his mother rather than retaliate against his father. He leaned down to her level and pointed a finger angrily. “You wanna keep the peace, you get that through his liquor-clogged brain because one of these days I’m gonna kick his ass, and I’m gonna enjoy it.”
, so angry,” Mrs. Carlow said, her beautiful face pleading for Danny to be complacent. “You need to go fishing now.”
“We’re going.” Paul put a hand on Danny’s shoulder, steering him toward the back door. Paul couldn’t help but feel guilty leaving Danny’s mother to deal with her husband once Danny had gotten him riled up. He shot her a worried look as he ushered Danny outside. “Sorry, Mrs. Carlow.”
“What’re you sorry for?” Danny asked bitterly once they stepped into the stagnant summer air. It wasn’t until Paul shut the door behind them that his friend whispered under his breath, “She’s the one who married him.”
“That’s not nice. Anyway, what does it matter? You can’t change it. You gotta learn to just go with the flow. That’s what I do.” Paul looked at the apple Mrs. Carlow gave him and turned to Danny when he took another bite of his. “You want mine? I hate apples.”
Danny paused, looking at the apple in Paul’s hand. “You eat them all the time.”
“I was being polite.”
“Have you always hated them?”
“Always,” Paul confirmed, shuddering. “I even told my father I hated them one night at dinner. Big mistake.”
Danny took another bite of his own apple as they made the long trek around Danny’s massive house. “How so?”
“You know, food is fuel. Marines eat what they’re given.” Paul couldn’t help wincing at the memory. “You don’t wanna know what happens when you refuse it.”
“I kinda wanna know,” Danny said nonchalantly as they reached the edge of the horse pasture. “Just throw it out to pasture. One of ’em will find it in the morning.”
Paul turned, throwing the apple as far as he could, watching until the darkness hid it from sight.
“Nice.” Danny took another bite of his apple before he followed suit and threw it out for the horses to eat. It landed before darkness could swallow it, glinting red under the dim barn lights. “So what happens when you tell your father you hate apples?”