I stumbled back from the impact, nearly falling. The two men hit the asphalt with a sickening thud. Someone yelled. A woman screamed. I could do nothing. I stood frozen and silent, emotions twisting through me in a frenzied tangle.
Gideon pinned Brett by the throat and pummeled his ribs with a relentless series of blows. He was like a machine, silent and unstoppable. Brett grunted with each brutal impact and struggled to break free.
I wept when Arnoldo appeared. He leaped forward, reaching for Gideon, only to scramble back as Brett wrenched to the side and the two men rolled.
Brett’s bandmates pushed in through the growing crowd around the front of the buses, prepared to brawl… until they saw
“Kline, you fuckhead!” Darrin, the drummer, gripped his own hair in both fists. “What the hell are you doing?”
Brett broke free, lurched to his feet, and tackled Gideon into the side of a bus. Gideon linked his hands and hammered Brett’s back like a club, forcing Brett to lurch away. Pressing the advantage, Gideon lashed out with a roundhouse kick and followed with a lightning-quick jab to the gut. Brett swung, his powerful biceps bunching with his fist, but Gideon ducked fluidly and retaliated with an uppercut that snapped Brett’s head back.
Gideon didn’t make a sound, not when he struck out and not when Brett landed a direct hit to his jaw. The quiet intensity of his fury was chilling. I could feel the rage pumping off him, saw it in his eyes, but he remained controlled and eerily methodical. He’d disconnected in some way, retreated to a place where he could objectively observe his body doing serious damage to someone else.
I’d caused that. I had turned the warm, wickedly playful man who’d enchanted me all evening into the cold, murderous fighter in front of me.
“Miss Tramell.” Angus grabbed my elbow.
I looked at him desperately. “You have to stop him.”
“Please, return to the limousine.”
“What?” I looked over and saw blood dripping from Brett’s nose. No one was intervening. “Are you crazy?”
“We need to take Miss Ellison home. She’s your guest; you need to see to her.”
Brett swung and when Gideon feinted to the side, Brett rammed his other fist forward, nailing Gideon in the shoulder and sending him backward a few steps.
I grabbed Angus by the arms. “What’s the matter with you?! Stop them!”
His pale blue eyes softened. “He knows when to stop, Eva.”
He looked over my shoulder. “Mr. Ricci, if you would, please.”
The next thing I knew, I was slung over Arnoldo’s shoulder and en route to the limo. Lifting my head, I saw the circle of bystanders close in with my absence, blocking my view. I screamed my frustration and pounded at Arnoldo’s back, but it didn’t faze him. He climbed right into the back of the limo with me, and when Shawna hopped in a moment later, Angus shut the door as if everything was totally fucking normal.
“What the hell are you doing?” I snapped at Arnoldo, scrambling for the door handle as the limo rolled smoothly into motion. It wouldn’t open and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to unlock. “He’s your friend! You’re just going to leave him like that?”
“He’s your boyfriend.” The calm neutrality in Arnoldo’s voice cut me deep. “And
I slumped back into the seat, my stomach churning and my palms damp.
“You’re the Eva in the song ‘Golden,’ aren’t you?” Shawna asked quietly, from her position on the opposite bench seat.
Arnoldo started, obviously surprised by the connection. “I wonder if Gideon-” He sighed. “Of course he knows.”
“That was a long time ago!” I said defensively.
“Not long enough, apparently,” he pointed out.
Desperate to get to Gideon, I couldn’t sit still. My feet tapped, my body battling against restlessness so intense I felt like crawling out of my skin.
I’d hurt the man I loved and through him, another man who’d done nothing more than be himself. And I had no good explanation for it. Looking back, I had no idea what had come over me. Why hadn’t I pulled away sooner? Why had I kissed Brett back?
And what was Gideon going to do about it?
The thought that he might break up with me triggered overwhelming panic. I was sick with worry. Was he hurt? God… the thought of Gideon in pain ate at me like acid. Was he in trouble? He’d assaulted Brett. My palms went damp when I remembered Cary’s news that his clusterfuck buddy also wanted to press assault charges.
Gideon’s life was spiraling out of control-because of me. At some point he was going to realize I wasn’t worth the trouble.
I glanced at Shawna. She was looking out the window pensively. I’d blown her awesome night. And Arnoldo’s, too. “I’m sorry.” I sighed miserably. “I screwed up everything.”
She looked at me and shrugged, then offered a sympathetic smile that made my throat burn. “No big. I had a great time. I hope you work things out for the best.”
The best thing for me was Gideon. Had I blown that? Had I thrown away the most important thing in my life over some weird, inexplicable head trip?
I still felt Brett’s mouth on mine. I scrubbed at my lips, wishing I could erase the last half hour of my life as easily.
My anxiety made it feel like it took an eternity to drive Shawna home. I got out and gave her a hug on the sidewalk in front of her apartment building.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, for both earlier and then, because I was dying to get to Gideon-wherever he was-and I was afraid my impatience showed. I wasn’t sure I’d ever forgive Angus or Arnoldo for taking me away when and how they did.
Arnoldo hugged Shawna and told her that she and Doug had a standing reservation for Tableau One anytime. I softened a little toward him. He’d taken good care of her all night.
We climbed back into the limo and set off for the restaurant. I curled into a darkened corner of the seat and cried silently, unable to contain the flood of despair overwhelming me. When we arrived at the restaurant, I used my tank top to dry my face. Arnoldo stopped me from getting out.
“Be gentle with him,” he scolded, staring hard at my face. “I have never seen him the way he is with you. I can’t say you are worthy of him, but you can make him happy. I saw that myself. Do it or walk. Don’t fuck with his head.”
I couldn’t speak past the lump in my throat, so I nodded, hoping he could see in my eyes how much Gideon meant to me.
Arnoldo disappeared into the restaurant. Before Angus shut the door, I slid forward on the seat. “Where is he? I need to see him. Please.”
“He called.” Angus’s face was kind, which made me start crying again. “I’m taking you to him now.”
“Is he okay?”
“I don’t know.”
I pushed back into the seat, feeling physically ill. I barely paid attention to where we were headed, my only thought being that I needed to explain. I needed to tell Gideon that I loved him, that I’d never leave him if he’d still have me, that he was the only man I wanted, the only man who set my blood on fire.
Eventually, the car slowed and I looked out, realizing we’d returned to the amphitheater. As I peered out the window, searching for him, the door behind me opened, startling me, and I shifted around to see Gideon duck inside and settle on the opposite bench from me.
I lurched toward him. “Gideon-”
“Don’t.” His voice whipped with anger, sending me recoiling and falling on my rear. The limo set into motion, jostling me.
Crying, I watched him pour a glass of amber liquor at the bar and toss it back. I waited on the floorboards, my stomach churning with fear and grief. He refilled his glass before shutting the bar and dropping back in his seat. I wanted to ask him if Brett was okay or badly hurt. I wanted to ask how Gideon was, if he was injured or fine. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know if he would take the questions the wrong way and assume my concern for Brett meant more than it did.
His face was impassive, his eyes hard as sapphires. “What is he to you?”
I swiped at the tears streaming down my face. “A mistake.”
“Then? Or now?”
His lip curled in a sneer. “You always kiss your mistakes like that?”
My chest heaved as I tried to stem the need to sob. I shook my head violently.
“You want him?” he asked tightly, before taking another drink.
“No,” I whispered. “I only want you. I love
His eyes closed and his head fell back. I took the opportunity to crawl closer, needing to bridge the physical distance between us, at least.
“Did you come for me when I had my fingers inside you, Eva? Or because of his goddamn song?”
Oh my God… How he could doubt-?
“Isn’t that what happened when he kissed you?” Gideon’s eyes opened and focused on me. “He’s had his dick in you. He’s fucked you… blown his load inside you.”
I cringed away from the horrible bitterness in his tone, the vicious nastiness. I knew just how he felt. How badly the mental images could sting and claw until you felt like you were going mad. In my mind, he and Corinne had fucked dozens of times while I watched in sick, jealous fury.
He straightened suddenly, leaning forward to rub his thumb roughly across my lips. “He’s had your mouth.”
I grabbed his glass and drank what was left in it, hating the harsh taste and searing burn. I swallowed by force of will alone. My stomach roiled, protesting. The heat of the alcohol spread outward from my gut.
Gideon sagged back into the seat, his arm thrown across his face. I knew he was still seeing me kissing Brett. Knew it was eating a hole in his mind.
Dropping the glass on the floor, I surged between his legs and fumbled with his button fly.
He caught my fingers in an iron grip but kept his eyes covered with his forearm. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Come in my mouth,” I begged. “Wash it away.”
There was a long pause. He sat there, utterly still except for the heavy lift and fall of his chest.
With muttered curse, he released me, his hand falling limply to his side. “Do it.”
I rushed to get to him, my pulse pounding at the thought that he might change his mind and deny me… that he might decide he was done with me. The only help he gave me was a momentary lift of his hips, so I could yank his jeans and boxer briefs out of the way.
Then his big, beautiful cock was in my hands. My mouth. I moaned at the taste of him, at the warmth and satiny softness of his skin, at the smell of him. I nuzzled my cheek against his groin and balls, wanting his scent all over me, marking me as his. My tongue followed the thick veins coursing the length of him, licking him up and down.
I heard his teeth grind when I sucked him with long drawing pulls, moans of apology and bliss vibrating in my throat. It broke my heart that he was so silent, my vocal lover who always talked dirty to me. Always told me what he wanted and needed… how good he felt when I made love to him. He was holding himself back, denying me the satisfaction of knowing I pleased him.
Pumping the thick root with my fist, I milked him, sucking on the plush crown, luring his pre-cum to the tip where I could lick it up with rapid flutters of my tongue. His thighs bunched, his breath came in fierce pants. I felt him coil tight and I went wild, double-fisting him, my mouth working so hard that my jaw ached. His spine straightened, his head lifting from the seat only to slam backward as the first thick spurt exploded in my mouth.
I whimpered, his flavor igniting my senses, making me crave more. I swallowed convulsively, my hands pulling and rubbing on his throbbing penis to lure more of his rich, creamy semen onto my tongue. His body quaked as he came for long minutes, filling my mouth until he spilled out of the sides of my lips. He made no sound, as unnaturally silent as he’d been during the fight.
I would’ve sucked him off for hours. I wanted to, but he put both hands on my shoulders and urged me away. I looked up into his heartrendingly gorgeous face, saw his eyes glittering in the semidarkness. He touched my lips with his thumb, smearing his semen over and around the swollen curves.
“Slide your tight cunt around me,” he ordered hoarsely. “I’ve got more to give you.”
Shaky and frightened by his harsh remoteness, I wriggled out of my boy shorts.
“Take it all off. Everything except the boots.”
I did as he said, my body quickening at his command. I’d do anything he wanted. I would prove to him that I was his and only his. I would atone however he needed me to so he’d know I loved him. I unzipped my skirt and pushed it off, then whipped my tank top over my head and threw it on the opposite bench. My bra followed.
When I straddled him, Gideon caught my hips and looked up at me. “Are you wet?”
“It turns you on to suck my cock.”
My nipples hardened further. The blunt, crude way he talked about sex turned me on, too. “Always.”
“Why did you kiss him?”
The abrupt change in topic knocked me askew. My lower lip trembled. “I don’t know.”
He released me, reaching up and over his shoulders with both hands to grip the sides of the headrest. His biceps bulged with the pose. I was aroused by the sight, as I was by everything about him. I wanted to see his bare chest glistening with sweat, his abs tightening and flexing as he pumped his cock into me.
I licked my lips, tasting him. “Take your shirt off.”
His gaze narrowed. “This isn’t for you.”
I stilled, my heart racing in my chest. He was using sex against me. In the limo where we’d first made love, in the same position I’d first taken him… “You’re punishing me.”
“You’ve earned it.”
It didn’t matter that he was right. If I’d earned it, so had he.
I gripped the top of the seat back for balance and wrapped the fingers of my other hand around his cock. He was still hard, still throbbing. A muscle in his neck twitched as I stroked him in my fist, priming him. I placed the wide crest between the lips of my cleft, rubbing him back and forth, coating him with the slickness of my desire.
My gaze never left his. I watched him as I teased us both, looking for any sign of the passionate lover I adored. He wasn’t there. A furious stranger glared back at me, daring me, taunting me with his detachment.
I let the first thick inch push inside me, spreading me open. Then I slammed my hips down, crying out as he pierced me deep and stretched me almost unbearably.
“Jesus. Fuck,” he bit out, shuddering. “Goddamn it.”
His uncontrolled outburst spurred me. Digging my knees into the seat, I set my hands on either side of his and lifted, pulling off him, my trembling sex clinging tightly. I pushed back down, the glide easier now that he was wet from me. When my buttocks hit his thighs I found his muscles hard as stone, his body giving away the lie-he wasn’t indifferent.
I lifted again, slowly, making us both feel every nuance of the delicious friction. When I pushed back down, I tried to be as stoic as he was, but the sensation of fullness, the heated connection, was too exquisite to contain. I moaned, and he shifted restlessly, his hips moving in a delicious little circle before he could stop himself.
“You feel so good,” I whispered, stroking his raging cock with my eager, aching sex. Sliding up and down. “You’re all I need, Gideon. All I want. You were made for me.”
“You forgot that,” he bit out, his knuckles white from his grip on the seat back.
I wondered if he was just holding on or physically restraining himself from reaching for me. “Never. I could never forget. You’re a part of me.”
“Tell me why you kissed him.”
“I don’t know.” I rested my damp forehead against his, feeling the tears burning behind my eyes. “God, Gideon. I swear I don’t know.”
“Then shut up and make me come.”
If he’d slapped my face, it couldn’t have shocked me more. I straightened and leaned away from him. “Fuck you.”
“Now you’re getting the idea.”
Hot tears slid down my face. “Don’t treat me like a whore.”
“Eva.” His voice was low and raspy, filled with warning, but his eyes were dark and desolate. Filled with pain that matched my own. “You want to stop, you know what to say.”
Reaching behind me, I set my hands on his knees. I arched my back and dragged my soaked sex along the rigid length of his cock, then slammed back down. I adjusted the angle, lifted and fell again, gasping at the feel of him. Mad as hell or not, my body worshipped his. Loved the feel of him, the sense of
His breath was powering out of his lungs with every plunge of my hips. His body was hot, so hot, radiating heat like a blast furnace. I pumped my hips. Up. Down. Taking the pleasure he refused to give me. My thighs, buttocks, stomach, and core tightened with every lift, fisting him from root to tip. They relaxed when I dropped, letting him sink deep.
I fucked him with everything I had, pounding myself onto his cock. His breath hissed out between his clenched teeth. Then he was coming hard, jetting inside me so fiercely I felt each scorching burst of semen like a separate thrust. I cried out, loving the feel of it, chasing an orgasm that would shatter me. I was wound so tightly, my body desperate for release after pleasing him twice.
But he moved, grabbing me by the waist and restraining my movements, holding himself deep as he pumped me full. I choked off a scream when I realized he was deliberately preventing me from coming.
“Tell me why, Eva,” he growled.
“I don’t know!” I yelled, trying to grind my hips onto him, pounding his shoulders with my fists when his grip tightened.
Holding me pinned to his pelvis and filled with his cock, Gideon pushed to his feet and everything shifted. He pulled out of me, flipped me to face away from him, then bent me over the edge of the seat with my knees on the floorboard. With one hand at the small of my back, holding me down, he cupped my sex and rubbed, massaging his semen into my cleft. He spread it around, coating me with it. My hips circled, seeking that perfect bit of pressure to get me off…
He kept it from me. Deliberately.
The pounding in my clit and the needy clenching of my empty core was driving me mad, my body hungry for release. He pushed two fingers into me and my nails dug into the black leather seat. He finger-fucked me leisurely, sliding lazily in and out, keeping me on the edge.
“Gideon,” I sobbed, the sensitive tissues inside me rippling greedily around him. I was coated in sweat, barely able to breathe. I began to pray for the car to stop, for us to reach our destination, holding my breath in desperate anticipation of escape. But the limo never pulled over. It kept driving and driving, and I was restrained so completely that I couldn’t rise up enough to see where we were.
He folded over my back, his cock lying within the seam of my ass. “Tell me why, Eva,” he crooned in my ear. “You knew I’d be coming after you… that I’d find you…”
My eyes squeezed shut, my hands clenching into fists. “I. Don’t. Know. Damn you! I don’t fucking know!”
His fingers pulled free and then his cock was pushing into me. My sex spasmed around the delicious hardness, sucking him deeper. I heard his breath catch on a muffled groan, and then he was taking me.
I cried with the pleasure of it, my entire body shivering with delight as he fucked me thoroughly, the wide head of his gorgeous penis rubbing and tugging at tender, hyperstimulated nerves. The pressure built and built, brewing like a storm…
He pulled out at the first grasp of my sex and left me hanging on the precipice again. I screamed with frustration, fighting to get up and away from the lover who’d become the source of unbearable torment.
He whispered in my ear like the devil himself. “Tell me why, Eva. Are you thinking of him now? Are you wishing it were his cock inside you? Wishing it were his cock fucking your perfect little cunt?”
I screamed again. “I hate you! You’re a sadistic, selfish son of a-”
He was in me again, filling me, stroking rhythmically into my quivering core.
Unable to stand it a minute longer, I struggled to reach my clit with my fingers, knowing a single stroke would have me coming violently.
“No.” Gideon caught my wrists and held my hands down on the seat, his thighs between my own, keeping my legs spread wide so he could sink deep. Over and over. The tempo of his thrusts unfaltering and relentless.
I was thrashing, screaming, losing my mind. He could make me come with just his cock, giving me an intense vaginal orgasm just from riding me at the right angle, rubbing his thick crest over and over whatever spot I needed him to, a random place inside me he knew instinctively every time he had me.
“I hate you,” I sobbed, tears of frustration wetting my face and the seat beneath my cheek.
Bending over me, he gasped in my ear, “Tell me why, Eva.”
Fury boiled up inside me and spewed out. “Because you deserved it! Because you should know what it feels like! How bad it hurts, you self-centered asshole!”
He stilled. I felt his breath heave out of him. My blood was roaring in my ears, so loudly that at first I thought I was deliriously imagining his voice softening with tenderness.
“Angel.” His lips brushed over my shoulder blade, his hands releasing my wrists to slide beneath me and cup my full, heavy breasts. “My stubborn, beautiful angel. Finally, we get to the truth.”
Gideon lifted me up, straightening me. Exhausted, my head lolled against his shoulder, my tears dripping onto my chest. I had nothing left to fight with, barely able to whimper when he rolled an aching nipple between his fingertips and reached between my splayed legs. His hips began to lunge, his cock pumping upward into me as he pinched the lips of my sex around my throbbing clit and rubbed.
I came with a hoarse cry of his name, my entire body convulsing in fierce tremors as the relief exploded through me. The orgasm lasted forever and Gideon was tireless, extending my pleasure with the perfect thrusts I’d been so frantic for earlier.
When I finally collapsed in his arms, panting and soaked with sweat, he lifted me carefully off him and placed me lengthwise on the bench seat. Shattered, I covered my face with my hands, incapable of stopping him when he pushed my thighs apart and put his mouth on me. I was soaked with his semen and he didn’t care, tonguing and suckling my clit until I came again. And again.
My back arched with each orgasm, my breath soughing from my lungs. I lost track of how many times I climaxed after they began rolling into each other, cresting and waning like the tide. I tried to curl away from him, but he just straightened and yanked his shirt off, climbing over me with one knee on the seat and the other leg extended to the floor. He placed his hands on the window above my head, putting his body on display as he’d refused to do before.
I shoved at him. “No more! I can’t take any more.”
“I know.” His abs tightened as he slid into me, his eyes on my face as he pushed carefully through swollen tissues. “I just want to be inside you.”
My neck arched as he slid deeper, a low sound escaping me because it felt
Bending his head, he pressed his lips to my forehead. “You’re all I want, Eva. There’s no one else. There will never be anyone else.”
“Gideon.” He understood, as I hadn’t, that the night had fallen apart because of
He kissed me softly, reverently, erasing every memory of anyone else’s lips on mine.
* * *
“Angel.” Gideon’s voice was a warm rasp in my ear. “Wake up.”
I moaned, squeezing my eyes shut tighter and burying my face deeper in his neck. “Leave me alone, you sex fiend.”
His silent laughter shook me. He pressed a hard kiss to my forehead and wiggled out from under me. “We’re here.”
Cracking one eye open, I watched him put his shirt back on. He’d never gotten out of his jeans. I realized the sun was out. I sat up and looked out the windows, gasping when I saw the ocean. We’d stopped for gas once but I hadn’t been able to get my bearings or figure out where we were. Gideon had declined to tell me when I asked, saying only that it was a surprise.
“Where are we?” I breathed, thrilled by the sight of the sun climbing over the water. It had to be solidly into morning. Maybe even midmorning.
“North Carolina. Lift your arms.”
I obeyed automatically, and he slid my tank top over my head. “I need my bra,” I muttered, when I could see him again.
“No one’s here to see you but me and we’re going straight into the bathtub.”
I looked again at the weathered shingle-covered building we’d parked beside. It was at least three stories, with wraparound decks and balconies on the front and sides, and a quaint single-door entrance off the back. It stood on stilts at the shoreline, so close to the water that I knew the tide must come up right beneath it. “How long have we been driving?”
“Almost ten hours.” Gideon slid my skirt up my legs and I stood, allowing him to twist it straight and pull up the zipper. “Let’s go.”
He got out first, then held his hand out for me. The bracing, salty breeze hit my face, waking me. The rhythmic surge of the ocean grounded me to the moment and where we were. Angus was nowhere to be seen, which was a relief, since I was very aware of my lack of underwear. “Angus drove all night?”
“We switched drivers when we stopped for gas.”
I looked at Gideon and my pulse stuttered at the tender, haunted way he was looking at me. A shadow of a bruise marred his jaw and I reached up to touch it, my chest aching when he nuzzled into my palm.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?” I asked, feeling so emotionally raw after the long night we’d had.
He caught my wrist and pulled my hand down to press flat over his heart. “Here.”
“So am I.” He kissed my fingertips, then linked our hands and led me up to the house.
The door was unlocked and he walked right in. A wire mesh basket sat on a console just inside the door, holding a bottle of wine and two glasses tied with ribbon. As Gideon turned the deadbolt with a firm click, I plucked the
“We won’t be needing that.” He took the key from me and set it on the console. “For the next two days, we’re going to be hermits together.”
A hum of pleasure warmed me from the inside, followed by more than a little awe that a man like Gideon Cross could enjoy my company so much he didn’t need anyone else.
“Come on,” he said, tugging me toward the stairs. “We’ll break into that wine later.”
“Yeah. Coffee first.”
I took in the d?cor of the house. It was rustic on the outside and modern contemporary on the inside. The wainscoted walls were painted a bright white and decorated with massive black-and-white photos of seashells. The furniture was all white, and most of the accessory pieces were glass and metal. It would have been stark if not for the gorgeous view of the ocean and the color introduced in the area rugs covering the hardwood floors and the collection of hardcover books filling built-in bookcases.
When we reached the top floor, I felt a flutter of happiness. The master suite was a totally open space, with only two support columns to break it up. Bouquets of white roses, white tulips, and white calla lilies covered nearly every flat surface, and some even sat on the floor in strategic areas. The bed was massive and covered in white satin, which made me think of a bridal suite, an impression reinforced by the black-and-white photo of a filmy scarf or veil blowing in the breeze hanging over the headboard.
I looked at Gideon. “Have you been here before?”
He reached up and freed my now-lopsided ponytail. “No. What reason would I have to come here?”
Right. He didn’t take women anywhere but his hotel fuck pad-that he apparently still had. My eyes closed wearily as he ran his fingers through the loosened tresses of my hair. I didn’t have the energy to get riled up about that.
“Take your clothes off, angel. I’ll start the bath.”
He backed up. I opened my eyes and caught him by the shirt. I didn’t know what to say; I just didn’t want him to go.
He understood, because he got me.
“I’m not going anywhere, Eva.” Gideon cupped my jaw in his hands and stared into my eyes, showing me the intensity and laser focus that had snared me from the first. “If you wanted him, it wouldn’t be enough for me to let you go. I want you too much. I want you with me, in my life, in my bed. If I can have that, nothing else matters. I’m not too proud to take what I can get.”
I swayed into him, drawn to his obsessive and insatiable raw need for me, which reflected the depth of my need for him. My hand fisted in the cotton of his T-shirt.
“Angel,” he breathed, lowering his head to press his cheek to mine. “You can’t let me go, either.”
He swept me up in his arms and carried me into the bathroom with him.