When I exited the elevator on the twentieth floor, I was dry-eyed and determined. Megumi buzzed me through the security doors and pushed to her feet. “Is everything all right?”
I stopped by her desk. “I have no fucking clue. That man is a total head trip.”
Her brows rose. “Keep me posted.”
“I should just write a book,” I muttered, resuming my walk back to my cubicle and wondering why in hell everyone was so interested in my dating life.
When I got to my desk, I dropped my purse in the drawer and sat down to call Cary.
“Hey,” I said, when he answered. “If you get bored-”
“If?” He snorted.
“Remember that folder of information you compiled on Gideon? Can you make me one of those on Dr. Terrence Lucas?”
“Okay. Do I know this guy?”
“No. He’s a pediatrician.”
There was a pause, then, “Are you pregnant?”
“No! Jeez. And if I were, I’d need an obstetrician.”
“Whew. All right. Spell his name for me.”
I gave Cary what he needed, then looked up Dr. Lucas’s office and made an appointment to see him. “I won’t need to fill out any new-patient paperwork,” I told the receptionist. “I just want a quick consult.”
After that, I called Vidal Records and left a message for Christopher to call me.
When Mark came back from lunch, I went over and knocked on his open door. “Hey. I need to ask for an hour in the morning for an appointment. Is it all right if I come in at ten and stay ’til six?”
“Ten to five is fine, Eva.” He looked at me carefully. “Everything okay?”
“Getting better every day.”
“Good.” He smiled. “I’m really glad to hear that.”
We dived back into work, but thoughts of Gideon weighed heavily on my mind. I kept staring at my ring, remembering what he had said when he’d first given it to me:
Wait. For him? For him to come back to me? Why? I couldn’t understand why he’d cut me off the way he had, then expected me to take him back. Especially with Corinne in the picture.
I spent the rest of the afternoon going over the last few weeks in my mind, recalling conversations I’d had with Gideon, things he’d said or done, searching for answers. When I left the Crossfire at the end of the day, I saw the Bentley waiting out front and waved at Angus, who smiled back. I had issues with his boss, but Angus wasn’t to blame for them.
It was hot and muggy outside. Miserable. I went to the Duane Reade around the corner for a bottle of cold water to drink on the walk home and a bag of mini chocolates to enjoy once I got through my Krav Maga class. When I left the drugstore, Angus was waiting just outside the door at the curb, shadowing me. As I turned the corner back toward the Crossfire to start the trip home, I saw Gideon step out to the street with Corinne. His hand was at the small of her back, leading her toward a sleek black Mercedes sedan I recognized as one of his. She was smiling. His expression was inscrutable.
Horrified, I couldn’t move or look away. I stood there in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, my stomach twisting with grief and anger and a terrible, awful feeling of betrayal.
He looked up and saw me, freezing in place just as I had. The Latino driver I’d met the day my father arrived opened the back door and Corinne disappeared into the car. Gideon remained where he was, his gaze locked with mine.
There was no way he missed me lifting my hand and flipping him the bird.
Abruptly, I was struck by a thought.
I turned my back to Gideon and moved off to the side, digging into my purse for my phone. When I found it, I speed-dialed my mom, and when she answered, I said, “That day we went out to lunch with Megumi, you freaked out on the walk back to the Crossfire. You saw him, didn’t you? Nathan. You saw Nathan at the Crossfire.”
“Yes,” she admitted. “That’s why Richard decided it would be best to just pay him what he wanted. Nathan said he’d stay away from you as long as he had the money to leave the country. Why do you ask?”
“It didn’t hit me until just now that Nathan was the reason why you reacted the way you did.” I faced forward again and started walking quickly toward home. The Mercedes was gone, but my temper was rising. “I have to go, Mom. I’ll call you later.”
“Is everything all right?” she asked anxiously.
“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”
“I’m here for you, if you need me.”
I sighed. “I know. I’m okay. I love you.”
When I got home, Cary was sitting on the couch with his laptop on his thighs and his bare feet on the coffee table.
“Hey,” he called, his gaze still on his screen.
I dumped my stuff and kicked off my shoes. “You know what?”
He looked up at me from beneath a lock of hair that had fallen over his eyes. “What?”
“I thought Gideon took a hike because of Nathan. Everything was fine and then it wasn’t, and shortly after that the police were telling us about Nathan. I figured one thing was linked to the other.”
“Makes sense.” He frowned. “I guess.”
“But Nathan was at the Crossfire the Monday before you were attacked. I know he was there to see Gideon. I
He sat back. “Okay. So what does that mean?”
“It means Gideon was fine after Nathan.” I threw up my hands. “He was fine that whole week. He was more than fine that weekend we took off together. He was fine Monday morning after we got back. Then-
“So what happened on Monday?”
Cary’s brows rose. “You’re asking me?”
“Grr.” I grabbed my hair in my hands. “I’m asking the fucking universe. God. Anyone. What the hell happened to my boyfriend?”
“I thought we agreed you need to ask him.”
“I get two answers from him:
“Is that what you think he’s doing? Really?”
Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back. “No. And I can’t decide if that makes me na?ve or willfully delusional.”
“Does this Dr. Lucas guy have anything to do with this?”
“No.” I straightened and joined him on the couch. “Did you find anything?”
“Kind of hard, baby girl, when I don’t know what I’m looking for.”
“It’s just a hunch.” I looked at his screen. “What’s that?”
“A transcript of an interview with Brett that was done yesterday on a Florida radio station.”
“Oh? What are you reading that for?”
“I was listening to ‘Golden’ and decided to run a search on it, and this came up.”
I tried reading, but my angle was bad. “What’s it say?”
“He was asked if there’s really an Eva out there and he said yes, there is, and he recently reconnected with her and hopes to make it work out a second time.”
“What? No way!”
“Yes way.” Cary grinned. “So you’ve got your rebound man lined up if Cross doesn’t get his shit together.”
I pushed to my feet. “Whatever. I’m hungry. Want something?”
“If your appetite’s back, that’s a good sign.”
“Everything’s coming back,” I told him. “With a vengeance.”
* * *
I was waiting at the curb for Angus the next morning. He pulled up and Paul, the doorman for my apartment building, opened the back door for me.
“Good morning, Angus,” I greeted him.
“Good morning, Miss Tramell.” His gaze met mine in the rearview mirror, and he smiled.
As he started to pull away, I leaned forward between the two front seats. “Do you know where Corinne Giroux lives?”
He glanced at me. “Yes.”
I sat back. “That’s where I want to go.”
* * *
Corinne lived around the corner from Gideon. I was certain that wasn’t a coincidence.
I checked in with the front desk and waited twenty minutes before I was given permission to go up to the tenth floor. I rang the bell to her apartment and the door swung open to reveal a flushed and disheveled Corinne in a floor-length black silk robe. She was seriously gorgeous, with her silky black hair and eyes like aquamarines, and she moved with a lithe grace I admired. I’d armored up in my favorite gray sleeveless dress and was very glad I had. She made me feel downright homely.
“Eva,” she said breathlessly. “What a surprise.”
“I’m sorry to barge in uninvited. I just need to ask you something real quick.”
“Oh?” She kept the door partially closed and leaned into the jamb.
“Can I come in?” I asked tightly.
“Uh.” She glanced over her shoulder. “It’s best if you didn’t.”
“It doesn’t bother me if you have company and I promise, this won’t take but a minute.”
“Eva.” She licked her lips. “How do I say this…?”
My hands were shaking and my stomach was a quivering mess, my brain taunting me with images of Gideon standing naked behind her, their early-morning fuck interrupted by the ex-girlfriend who wouldn’t get a clue. I knew how well he liked sex in the morning.
But then I knew him well, period. Knew him enough to say, “Cut the shit, Corinne.”
Her eyes widened.
My mouth curved derisively. “Gideon’s in love with me. He’s not fucking around with you.”
She recovered quickly. “He’s not fucking around with you, either. I would know, since he’s spending all of his free time with me.”
Fine. We’d talk about this in the hallway. “I know him. I don’t always understand him, but that’s a different story. I know he would’ve told you upfront that you and he weren’t going anywhere, because he wouldn’t want to lead you on. He hurt you before; he won’t do it again.”
“This is all very fascinating. Does he know you’re here?”
“No, but you’ll tell him. And that’s fine. I just want to know what you were doing at the Crossfire that day you came out looking as freshly fucked as you do now.”
Her smile was razor sharp. “What do you
“Not Gideon,” I said decisively, even though I was silently praying that I wasn’t making a total idiot out of myself. “You saw me, didn’t you? From the lobby, you had a direct view across the street and you saw me coming. Gideon told you at the Waldorf dinner that I was the jealous type. Did you have a nooner with someone from one of the other offices? Or did you muss yourself up before you stepped outside?”
I saw the answer on her face. It was lightning quick, there and gone, but I saw it.
“Both of those suggestions are absurd,” she said.
I nodded, savoring a moment of profound relief and satisfaction. “Listen. You’re never going to have him the way you want. And I know how that hurts. I’ve been living it the past two weeks. I’m sorry for you, I really am.”
“Fuck you and your pity,” she snapped. “Save it for yourself. I’m the one he’s spending time with.”
“And there’s your saving grace, Corinne. If you’re paying attention, you know he’s hurting right now. Be his friend.” I headed back to the elevators and called over my shoulder, “Have a nice day.”
She slammed her door shut behind me.
When I got back to the Bentley, I told Angus to take me to Dr. Terrence Lucas’s office. He paused in the act of closing the door and stared down at me. “Gideon will be very angry, Eva.”
I nodded, understanding the warning. “I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
The building that housed Dr. Lucas’s private practice was unassuming, but his offices were warm and inviting. The waiting room was paneled in dark wood and the walls covered in a mixture of pictures of infants and children. Parenting magazines covered the tables and were neatly stored in racks, while the dedicated play area was tidy and supervised.
I signed in and took a seat, but I’d barely sat when I was called back by the nurse. I was taken to Dr. Lucas’s office, not an exam room, and he rose from his chair when I entered, rounding the desk quickly.
“Eva.” He held out his hand and I shook it. “You didn’t have to make an appointment.”
I managed a smile. “I didn’t know how else to reach you.”
“Have a seat.”
I sat, but he remained standing, choosing to lean back against the desk and grip the edges with both hands. It was a power position, and I wondered why he felt the need to use it with me.
“What can I do for you?” he asked. He had a calm, confident air and a wide, open smile. With his good looks and affable manner, I was sure any mother would have confidence in his skill and integrity.
“Gideon Cross was a patient of yours, wasn’t he?”
His face closed instantly and he straightened. “I’m not at liberty to discuss my patients.”
“When you gave me that ‘not at liberty to discuss’ line at the hospital, I didn’t put it together, and I should have.” My fingertips drummed into the armrest. “You lied to his mother. Why?”
He returned to the other side of his desk, putting the furniture between us. “Did he tell you that?”
“No. I’m figuring this out as I go. Hypothetically speaking, why would you lie about the results of an exam?”
“I wouldn’t. You need to leave.”
“Oh, come on.” I sat back and crossed my legs. “I expect more from you. Where are the assertions that Gideon is a soulless monster bent on corrupting the women of the world?”
“I’ve done my due diligence and warned you.” His gaze was hard, his lip curled in a sneer. He wasn’t quite so handsome anymore. “If you continue to throw your life away, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“I’m going to figure it out. I just needed to see your face. I had to know if I was right.”
“You’re not. Cross was never a patient of mine.”
“Semantics-his mother consulted you. And while you go about your days seething over the fact that your wife fell in love with him, think about what you did to a small child who needed help.” My voice took on an edge as anger surged. I couldn’t think about what had happened to Gideon without wanting to do serious violence to anyone who contributed to his pain.
I uncrossed my legs and stood. “What happened between him and your wife happened between two consenting adults. What happened to him as a child was a crime and how you contributed to that is a travesty.”
“My pleasure.” I yanked the door open and nearly ran into Gideon, who’d been leaning against the wall just outside the office. His hand encircled my upper arm, but his gaze was on Dr. Lucas, icy with fury and hatred.
“Stay away from her,” he said harshly.
Lucas’s smile was filled with malice. “She came to me.”
Gideon’s returning smile made me shiver. “You see her coming, I suggest you run in the opposite direction.”
“Funny. That’s the advice I gave her in regard to you.”
I flipped the good doctor the bird.
Snorting, Gideon caught my hand and pulled me back down the hall. “What is it with you and giving people the finger?”
“What? It’s a classic.”
“You can’t just barge in here!” the receptionist snapped as we passed the counter.
He glanced at her. “You can cancel that call to security, we’re leaving.”
We exited out to the corridor. “Did Angus tattle on me?” I muttered, trying to pry my arm free.
“No. Stop wriggling. All the cars have GPS tracking.”
“You’re a nut job. You know that?”
He stabbed the elevator button and glared at me. “I am? What about you? You’re all over the place. My mother. Corinne. Goddamned Lucas. What the fuck are you doing, Eva?”
“It’s none of your business.” I lifted my chin. “We broke up, remember?”
His jaw tightened. He stood there in his suit, looking so polished and urbane, while radiating a wild, feverish energy. The contrast between what I saw when I looked at him and what I felt goaded my hunger. I loved that I got to have the man inside the suit. Every delicious, untameable inch of him.
The car arrived and we stepped inside. Excitement sizzled through me. He’d come after me. That made me so hot. He shoved an elevator key into the control panel and I groaned.
“Is there anything you don’t own in New York?”
He was on me in an instant, one hand in my hair and the other on my ass, his mouth on mine in a violent kiss. He wasted no time, his tongue thrusting between my lips, plunging deep and hard.
I moaned and gripped his waist, pushing onto my tiptoes to deepen the contact.
His teeth sank into my lower lip with enough force to hurt. “You think you can say a few words and end us? There is no end, Eva.”
He flattened me into the side of the car. I was pinned by six feet, two inches of violently aroused male.
“I miss you,” I whispered, grabbing his ass and urging him harder against me.
Gideon groaned. “Angel.”
He was kissing me: deep, shamelessly desperate kisses that made my toes curl in my pumps.
“What are you doing?” he breathed. “You’re going around, stirring up everything.”
“I’ve got time on my hands,” I shot back, just as breathless, “since I dumped my asshat boyfriend.”
He growled, fiercely passionate, his hand in my hair pulling so tightly it pained me.
“You can’t make this up with a kiss or a fuck, Gideon. Not this time.” It was so hard to let him go; nearly impossible after the weeks I’d been denied the right and opportunity to touch him. I needed him.
His forehead pressed to mine. “You have to trust me.”
I put my hands on his chest and shoved him back. He let me, his gaze searching my face.
“Not when you don’t talk to me.” I reached over, pulled the key from the control panel, and held it out to him. The car began its descent. “You put me through hell. On purpose. Made me suffer. And there’s no end in sight. I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, ace, but this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shit ain’t cutting it with me.”
His hand went into his pocket, his movements leisurely and controlled, which was when he was at his most dangerous. “You’re completely unmanageable.”
“When I’ve got clothes on. Get used to it.” The car doors opened and I stepped out. His hand went to the small of my back, and a shiver moved through me. That innocuous touch, through layers of material, had been inciting lust in me from the very first. “You put your hand on Corinne’s back like this again, and I’m breaking your fingers.”
“You know I don’t want anyone else,” he murmured. “I can’t. I’m consumed with wanting you.”
Both the Bentley and the Mercedes were waiting at the curb. The sky had darkened while I’d been inside, as if it were brooding along with the man beside me. There was a weighted expectation in the air, an early sign of a gathering summer storm.
I stopped beneath the entrance overhang and looked at Gideon. “Make them ride together. You and I need to talk.”
“That was the plan.”
Angus touched the brim of his hat and slid behind the wheel. The other driver walked up to Gideon and handed him a set of keys.
“Miss Tramell,” he said, by way of greeting.
“Eva, this is Ra?l.”
“We meet again,” I said. “Did you pass on my message last time?”
Gideon’s fingers flexed against my back. “He did.”
I beamed. “Thank you, Ra?l.”
Ra?l went around to the front passenger side of the Bentley, while Gideon escorted me to the Mercedes and opened the door for me. I felt a little thrill as he got behind the wheel and adjusted the seat to accommodate his long legs. He started the engine and merged into traffic, expertly and confidently navigating the powerful car through the craziness of New York city streets.
“Watching you drive makes me want you,” I told him, noting how his easy grip on the wheel tightened.
“Christ.” He glanced at me. “You have a transportation fetish.”
“I have a Gideon fetish.” My voice lowered. “It’s been weeks.”
“And I hate every second of it. This is torment for me, Eva. I can’t focus. I can’t sleep. I lose my temper at the slightest irritants. I’m in hell without you.”
I never wanted him to suffer, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my own misery better knowing he was missing me as much as I was missing him.
I twisted in my seat to face him. “Why are you doing this to us?”
“I had an opportunity and I took it.” His jaw firmed. “This separation is the price. It won’t last forever. I need you to be patient.”
I shook my head. “No, Gideon. I can’t. Not anymore.”
“I’ve already left. Don’t you see that? I’m living my life and you’re not in it.”
“I’m in it every way I can be right now.”
“By having Angus following me around? Come on. That’s not a relationship.” I leaned my cheek against the seat. “Not one I want anyway.”
“Eva.” He exhaled harshly. “My silence is the lesser of two evils. I feel like whether I explain or not, I’ll drive you away, but explaining carries the greatest risk. You think you want to know, but if I tell you, you’ll regret it. Trust me when I say there are some aspects of me you don’t want to see.”
“You have to give me something to work with.” I set my hand on his thigh and felt the muscle bunch, then twitch in response to my touch. “I’ve got nothing right now. I’m empty.”
He set his hand over mine. “You trust me. Despite what you see to the contrary, you’ve come to trust in what you know. That’s huge, Eva. For both of us. For us, period.”
“There is no us.”
“Stop saying that.”
“You wanted my blind trust and you have it, but that’s all I can give you. You’ve shared so little of yourself and I’ve lived with it because I had you. And now I don’t-”
“You have me,” he protested.
“Not the way I need you.” I lifted one shoulder in an awkward shrug. “You’ve given me your body and I’ve been greedy with it, because that’s the only way you’re really open to me. And now I don’t have that, and when I look at what I do have, it’s just promises. It’s not enough for me. In the absence of you, all I have are a pile of things you won’t tell me.”
He stared straight ahead, his profile rigid. I pulled my hand out from under his and twisted the other way, giving him my back while I looked out the window at the teeming city.
“If I lose you, Eva,” he said hoarsely, “I have nothing. Everything I’ve done is so I don’t lose you.”
“I need more.” I rested my forehead against the glass. “If I can’t have you on the outside, I need to have you on the inside, but you’ve never let me in.”
We drove in silence, crawling along through the morning traffic. A fat drop of rain hit the windshield, followed by another.
“After my dad died,” he said softly, “I had a hard time dealing with the changes. I remember that people liked him, liked being around him. He was making everyone rich, right? And then suddenly the world flipped on its head and everyone hated him. My mother, who’d been so happy all the time, was crying nonstop. And she and my dad were fighting every day. That’s what I remember most-the constant yelling and screaming.”
I looked at him, studying his stony profile, but I didn’t say anything, afraid to lose the moment.
“She remarried right away. We moved out of the city. She got pregnant. I never knew when I’d run across someone my dad had fucked over, and I took a lot of shit for it from other kids. From their parents. Teachers. It was big news. To this day, people still talk about my dad and what he did. I was so angry. At everyone. I had tantrums all the time. I broke things.”
He stopped at a light, breathing heavily. “After Christopher came along, I got worse, and when he was five, he imitated me, pitching a fit at dinner and shoving his plate across the table and onto the floor. My mom was pregnant with Ireland then, and she and Vidal decided it was time to put me into therapy.”
Tears slid down my face at the picture he painted of the child he’d once been-scared and hurting and feeling like an outsider in his mom’s new life.
“They came out to the house-the shrink and a doctoral candidate she was supervising. It started out all right. They both were nice, attractive, patient. But soon the shrink was spending most of the time counseling my mother, who was having a difficult pregnancy in addition to two young boys who were out of control. I was left alone with him more and more frequently.”
Gideon pulled over and put the car into park. His hands gripped the wheel with white-knuckled force, his throat working. The steady patter of rain softened, leaving us alone with our painful truths.
“You don’t have to tell me any more,” I whispered, unbuckling my seat belt and reaching out to him. I touched his face with fingertips damp with my tears.
His nostrils flared on a sharply indrawn breath. “He made me come. Every goddamned time, he wouldn’t stop until I came, so he could say I liked it.”
I kicked off my shoes and pulled his hand away from the wheel so I could straddle his lap and hold him. His grip on me was excruciatingly tight, but I didn’t complain. We were on an insanely busy street, with endless cars rumbling past on one side and a crush of pedestrians on the other, but neither of us cared. He was shaking violently, as if he were sobbing uncontrollably, but he made no sound and shed no tears.
The sky cried for him, the rain coming down hard and angry, steaming off the ground.
Holding his head in my hands, I pressed my wet face to his. “Hush, baby. I understand. I know how that feels, the way they gloat afterward. And the shame and confusion and guilt you felt. It’s not your fault. You didn’t want it. You didn’t enjoy it.”
“I let him touch me at first,” he whispered. “He said it was my age… hormones… I needed to masturbate and I’d be calmer. Less angry all the time. He touched me, said he’d show me how to do it right. That I was doing it wrong-”
“Gideon, no.” I pulled back to look at him, imagining in my mind how it would develop from that point on, all the things that would have been said to make it seem like Gideon was the instigator in his own rape. “You were a child in the hands of an adult who knew all the right buttons to push. They want to make it our fault so they have no culpability in their crime, but it’s not true.”
His eyes were huge and dark in his pale face. I pressed my lips gently to his, tasting my tears. “I love you. And I believe you. And none of this was your fault.”
Gideon’s hands were in my hair, holding me in place as he ravaged my mouth with desperate kisses. “Don’t leave me.”
“Leave you? I’m going to marry you.”
He inhaled sharply. Then he pulled me closer, his hands careless and rough as they slid over me.
Impatient rapping against the window made me jerk in surprise. A cop in rain gear and safety vest looked at us through the untinted front window, scowling at us from beneath the brim of her hat. “You’ve got thirty seconds to move on or I’ll cite you both for public indecency.”
Embarrassed, my face flaming, I climbed back into my seat, sprawling in an ungraceful tumble. Gideon waited until I had my seat belt on, then put the car in drive, tapped his brow in a salute to the officer, and pulled back out into traffic.
He reached for my hand, lifted it to his lips, and kissed my fingertips. “I love you.”
I froze, my heart pounding.
Linking our fingers together, he set them on his thigh. The windshield wipers slid from side to side, their rhythmic tempo mocking the racing of my pulse.
Swallowing hard, I whispered, “Say that again.”
He slowed at a light. Turning his head, he looked at me. He looked weary, as if all his usual pulsing energy had been expended and he was running on fumes. But his eyes were warm and bright, the curve of his mouth loving and hopeful. “I love you. Still not the right word, but I know you want to hear it.”
“I need to hear it,” I agreed softly.
“As long as you understand the difference.” The light changed and he drove on. “People get over love. They can live without it, they can move on. Love can be lost and found again. But that won’t happen for me. I won’t survive you, Eva.”
My breath caught at the look on his face when he glanced at me.
“I’m obsessed with you, angel. Addicted to you. You’re everything I’ve ever wanted or needed, everything I’ve ever dreamed of. You’re
I placed my other hand over our joined ones. “There’s so much out there for you. You just don’t know it yet.”
“I don’t need anything else. I get out of bed every morning and face the world because you’re in it.” He turned the corner and pulled up in front of the Crossfire behind the Bentley. He killed the engine, released his seat belt, and took a deep breath. “Because of you, the world makes sense to me in a way it didn’t before. I have a place now, with you.”
Suddenly I understood why he’d worked so hard, why he was so insanely successful at such a young age. He’d been driven to find his place in the world, to be more than an outsider.
His fingertips brushed across my cheek. I’d missed that touch so much, my heart bled at feeling it again.
“When are you coming back to me?” I asked softly.
“As soon as I can.” Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to mine. “Wait.”