I tightened the belt on my robe. "I'm going to get dressed and go."
"What?" Gideon glared. "Go where?"
"Home," I said, weary to the bone. "I think you need to digest all this."
His arms crossed. "We can do that together."
"I don't think we can." My chin lifted, grief overwhelming my shame and heartrending disappointment. "Not while you're looking at me like you feel sorry for me."
"I'm not made of fucking stone, Eva. I wouldn't be human if I didn't care."
The emotions I'd run through since lunch coalesced into a searing pain in my chest and a cleansing burst of anger. "I don't want your goddamn pity."
He shoved both hands through his hair. "What the hell do you want, then?"
"You! I want you."
"You have me. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"Your words don't mean shit when you can't back them up. From the moment we met, you've been hot for me. You haven't been able to look at me without making it damn clear you want to fuck my brains out. And that's gone, Gideon." My eyes burned. "That look...it's gone."
"You can't be serious." He stared at me as if I'd grown two heads.
"I don't think you know how your desire makes me feel." My arms wrapped around me, covering my breasts. I suddenly felt naked in the worst way. "It makes me feel beautiful. It makes me feel strong and alive. I - I can't bear to be with you if you don't feel that way about me anymore."
"Eva, I..." His voice faded into silence. He was hard-faced and distant, his fists clenched at his sides.
I loosened the sash of my robe and shrugged the whole garment off me. "Look at me, Gideon. Look at my body. It's the same one you couldn't get enough of last night. The same one you were so desperate to get into that you took me to that damn hotel room. If you don't want this anymore...if you don't get hard looking at it - "
"Is this hard enough for you?" He broke the drawstring of his pants pushing them down to expose the heavy, thickly-veined length of his erection.
We both lunged at the same time, colliding. Our mouths slid over each other as he lifted me to wrap my legs around his hips. He stumbled to the couch and fell, catching our combined weight with one outstretched hand.
I sprawled beneath him, breathless and sobbing, while he slid to his knees on the floor and tongued my cleft. He was rough and impatient, lacking the finesse I'd become used to, and I loved that he was. Loved it more when he levered over me and shoved his cock into me. I wasn't yet fully wet and the burn made me gasp, then his thumb was on my clit, rubbing in circles that had my hips churning.
"Yes," I moaned, raking my nails down his back. He wasn't icy anymore. He was on fire. "Fuck me, Gideon. Fuck me hard."
"Eva." His mouth covered mine. He fisted my hair, holding me still as he lunged again and again, pounding hard and deep. He kicked off the armrest with one foot, powering into me, driving toward his orgasm with single-minded ferocity. "Mine...mine...mine..."
The rhythmic slap of his heavy balls against the curve of my buttocks and the harshness of his possessive litany drove me insane with lust. I felt myself quickening with every twinge of pain, felt my sex tightening with my growing arousal.
With a long, guttural groan he started coming, his flexing body quaking as he emptied himself inside me.
I held him as he climaxed, stroking his back, pressing kisses along his shoulder.
"Hold on," he said roughly, pushing his hands beneath me and flattening my breasts against him.
Gideon pulled me up, and then sat down with me straddling his hips. I was slick from his orgasm, making it easy for him to push back inside me.
His hands brushed the hair away from my face; then wiped my tears of relief. "I'm always hard for you, always hot for you. I'm always half-crazy with wanting you. If anything could change that, I would've done it before we got this far. Understand?"
My hands wrapped around his wrists. "Yes."
"Now, show me that you still want me after that." His face was flushed and damp, his eyes dark and turbulent. "I need to know that losing control doesn't mean I've lost you."
I pulled his palms from my face and urged them down to my breasts. When he cupped them, I splayed my hands on his shoulders and rocked my hips. He was semi-hard, yet quickly thickened as I began to undulate. His fingers on my nipples, rolling and tugging, sent waves of pleasure through me, the gentle stimulation arrowing to my core. When he urged me closer and took a hardened tip in his mouth I cried out, my body igniting with need for more.
Clenching my thighs, I lifted. I closed my eyes to focus on the way he felt as he slid out; then bit my lip at the way he stretched me sliding back in.
"That's it," he murmured, licking across my chest to my other nipple, fluttering his tongue over the tight, aching tip. "Come for me. I need you to come riding my cock."
Rolling my hips, I relished the exquisite feel of him filling me so perfectly. I had no shame, no regrets as I worked myself into a frenzy on his stiff penis, adjusting the angle so that the thick crown rubbed right where I needed it.
"Gideon," I breathed. "Oh, yes...oh please..."
"You're so beautiful." He gripped the back of my neck in one hand and my waist in the other, arching his hips to push a little deeper. "So sexy. I'm going to come for you again. That's what you do to me, Eva. It's never enough."
I whimpered as everything tightened, as the sweet tension built from the deep rhythmic strokes. I was panting and frantic, pumping my hips. Reaching between my legs, I rubbed my clit with the pads of my fingers, hastening my climax.
He gasped, his head thrown back into the sofa cushion, his neck corded with strain. "I feel you getting ready to come. Your cunt gets so hot and tight, so greedy."
His words and his voice pushed me over. I cried out when the first hard tremor hit me; then again as the orgasm rippled through my body, my sex spasming around Gideon's steely erection.
Teeth grinding audibly, he held on until the clenches began to fade; then he clutched my hips aloft and pumped upward into me. Once, twice. On the third deep thrust, he growled my name and spurted hotly, laying the last of my fears and doubts to rest.
I don't know how long we sprawled on the couch like that, connected and close, my head on his shoulder and his hands caressing the curve of my spine.
Gideon pressed his lips to my temple and murmured, "Stay."
He hugged me. "You're so brave, Eva. So strong and honest. You're a miracle. My miracle."
"A miracle of modern therapy, maybe," I scoffed, my fingers playing in his luxuriant hair. "And even with that, I was really fucked up for a while and there are still some triggers I don't think I'll ever get past."
"God. The way I came on to you in the beginning...I could've ruined us before we even got started. And the advocacy dinner - " He shuddered and buried his face in my neck. "Eva, don't let me blow this. Don't let me chase you away."
Lifting my head, I searched his face. He was impossibly gorgeous. I had trouble taking it in at times. "You can't second-guess everything you do or say to me because of Nathan and what he did. It'll break us apart. It'll end us."
"Don't say that. Don't even think about it."
I smoothed his knit brow with strokes of my thumb. "I wish I could've never told you. I wish you didn't have to know."
He caught my hand and pressed my fingertips to his lips. "I have to know everything, every part of you, inside and out, every detail."
"A woman has to have some secrets," I teased.
"You won't have any with me." He captured me by my hair and an arm banded around my hips, urging me against him, reminding me - as if I could forget - that he was still inside me. "I'm going to possess you, Eva. It's only fair since you've possessed me."
"And what about your secrets, Gideon?"
His face smoothed into an emotionless mask, an act so easily accomplished I knew it had become second nature to him. "I started from scratch when I met you. Everything I thought I was, everything I thought I needed..." He shook his head. "We're figuring out who I am together. You're the only one who knows me."
But I didn't. Not really. I was figuring him out, learning him bit by bit, but he was still a mystery to me in so many ways.
"Eva...If you just tell me what you want - " His throat worked on a swallow. "I can get better at this, if you give me the chance. Just don't...don't give up on me."
Jesus. He could shred me so easily. A few words, a desperate look, and I was cut wide open.
I touched his face, his hair, his shoulders. He was as broken as I was, in a way I didn't yet know about. "I need something from you, Gideon."
"Anything. Just tell me what it is."
"Every day, I need you to tell me something I don't know about you. Something insightful, no matter how small. I need you to promise me that you will."
Gideon eyed me warily. "Whatever I want?"
I nodded, unsure of myself and what I hoped to get out of him.
He exhaled harshly. "Okay."
I kissed him softly, a silent show of thanks.
Nuzzling his nose against mine, he asked, "Let's go out to dinner. Or do you want to order in?"
"Are you sure we should go out?"
"I want to go on a date with you."
There was no way I could say no to that, not when I knew what a big step it was for him. A big step for both of us, really, since the last time we'd gone on a date it'd ended in disaster. "Sounds romantic. And irresistible."
His joyful smile was my reward, as was the shower we took to clean up. I loved the intimacy of washing his body as much as I loved the feel of his palms gliding over me. When I took his hand and put it between my legs, urging two of his fingers inside me, I saw the familiar and very welcome heat in his eyes as he felt the slick essence he'd left behind.
He kissed me and murmured, "Mine."
Which prompted me to slide both hands over his cock and whisper the same claim back to him.
In the bedroom, I lifted my new blue dress off the bed and hugged it to me. "You picked this out, Gideon?"
"I did, yes. Do you like it?"
"It's beautiful." I smiled. "My mother said you had excellent taste...except for your preference for brunettes."
He glanced at me just before his very fine, very firm naked ass disappeared into his massive walk-in closet. "What brunettes?"
"Ooh, nicely done."
"Look in the top drawer on the right," he called out.
Was he trying to distract me from thinking about all the brunettes he'd been photographed with - including Magdalene?
I left the dress on the bed and opened the drawer. Inside were a dozen Carine Gilson lingerie sets, all in my size, in a wide range of colors. There were also garters and silk stockings still in their packages.
I looked up at Gideon as he reappeared with his clothes in hand. "I have a drawer?"
"You have three in the dresser and two in the bathroom."
"Gideon." I smiled. "Working up to a drawer usually takes a few months."
"How would you know?" He laid his clothes on the bed. "You've lived with a man other than Cary?"
I shot him a look. "Having a drawer isn't living with someone."
"That's not an answer." He walked over and brushed me gently aside to grab a pair of boxer briefs.
Sensing his withdrawal and darkening mood, I replied before he moved away. "I haven't lived with any other men, no."
Leaning over, Gideon pressed a brusque kiss to my forehead before returning to the bed. He paused at the footboard with his back to me. "I want this relationship to mean more to you than any others you've had."
"It does. By far." I tightened the knot of the towel between my breasts. "I'm struggling with that a little. It's become important so quickly. Maybe too quickly. I keep thinking it's too good to be true."
Turning, he faced me. "Maybe it is. If so, we deserve it."
I went to him and let him pull me into his arms. It was where I wanted to be more than anywhere else.
He pressed a kiss to the crown of my head. "I can't stand the thought that you're waiting for this to end. That's what you're doing, isn't it? That's what you sound like."
"We just have to make you feel secure." He ran his fingers through my hair. "How do we do that?"
I hesitated a moment, then went for it. "Would you go to couples therapy with me?"
The stroking of his fingers paused. He stood silently for a moment, breathing deeply.
"Just think about it," I suggested. "Maybe look into it, see what it's about."
"Am I doing this wrong? You and me? Am I fucking it up that much?"
I pulled back to look at him. "No, Gideon. You're perfect. Perfect for me, anyway. I'm crazy about you. I think you're - "
He kissed me. "I'll do it. I'll go."
I loved him in that moment. Wildly. And the moment after that. And all through the ride to what turned out to be a dazzling, intimate dinner at Masa. We were one of only three parties in the restaurant and Gideon was greeted by name on sight. The food we were served was otherworldly good and the wine too expensive to think about or I wouldn't have been able to swallow it. Gideon was darkly charismatic; his charm was relaxed and seductive.
I felt beautiful in the dress he'd chosen and my mood was light. He knew the worst of what there was to know about me, but he was still with me.
His fingertips caressed my shoulder...drew circles on my nape...slid down my back. He kissed my temple and nuzzled beneath my ear, his tongue lightly touching the sensitive skin. Beneath the table, his hand squeezed my thigh and cupped the back of my knee. My entire body vibrated with awareness of him. I wanted him so badly I ached.
"How did you meet Cary?" he asked, eyeing me over the lip of his wineglass.
"Group therapy." I set my hand over his to still its upward slide on my leg, smiling at the mischievous glimmer in his eyes. "My dad's a cop and he'd heard of this therapist who supposedly had mad skills with wild kids, which I was. Cary was seeing Dr. Travis, too."
"Mad skills, huh?" Gideon smiled.
"Dr. Travis isn't like any other therapist I've ever met. His office is an old gymnasium he converted. He had an open door policy with 'his kids' and hanging out there was more real to me than lying on a couch. Plus he had a no-bullshit rule. It was straight up honesty both ways or he'd get pissed. I've always liked that about him, that he cared enough to get emotional."
"Did you choose SDSU because your dad's in Southern California?"
My mouth twisted wryly as he revealed another bit of knowledge about me that I hadn't given him. "How much have you dug up on me?"
"Whatever I could find."
"Do I want to know how extensive that is?"
He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed the back. "Probably not."
I shook my head, exasperated. "Yes, that's why I attended SDSU. I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my dad while I was growing up. Plus my mother was smothering me to death."
"And you never told your dad about what happened to you?"
"No." I rolled the stem of my wineglass between my fingers. "He knows I was an angry troublemaker with self-esteem issues, but he doesn't know about Nathan."
"Because he can't change what happened. Nathan was lawfully punished. His father paid a large sum for damages. Justice was served."
Gideon spoke coolly. "I disagree."
"What more can you expect?"
He drank deeply before replying. "It's not fit to describe over dinner."
"Oh." Because that sounded ominous, especially when paired with the ice of his gaze, I returned my attention to the food in front of me. There was no menu at Masa, only omakase, so every bite was a surprise delight, and the dearth of patrons made it seem almost as if we had the whole place to ourselves.
After a moment, he said, "I love watching you eat."
I shot him a look. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You eat with gusto. And your little moans of pleasure make me hard."
I bumped my shoulder into his. "By your own admission, you're always hard."
"Your fault," he said, grinning, which made me grin, too.
Gideon ate with more deliberation than I did and didn't bat an eye at the astronomical check.
Before we stepped outside, he slid his jacket over my shoulders and said, "Let's go to your gym tomorrow."
I glanced at him. "Yours is nicer."
"Of course it is. But I'll go wherever you like."
"Someplace without helpful trainers named Daniel?" I asked sweetly.
He looked at me with an arched brow and a wry curving of his lips. "Watch yourself, angel. Before I think of a suitable consequence for mocking my possessiveness where you're concerned."
I noted he didn't threaten me with a spanking again. Did he understand that administered pain with sex was a major trigger for me? It took me back to a mental place I never wanted to return to.
On the ride back to Gideon's place, I curled into him in the back of the Bentley, my legs slung over one of his thighs and my head on his shoulder. I thought about the ways Nathan's abuse still affected my life - my sex life in particular.
How many of those ghosts could Gideon and I exorcise together? After that brief glimpse of toys I'd seen in the hotel room drawer, it was clear he was more experienced and sexually adventurous than I was. And the pleasure I'd derived from the ferocity of his lovemaking on the couch earlier proved to me that he could do things to me no one else could.
"I trust you," I whispered.
His arms tightened around me. With his lips in my hair, he murmured, "We're going to be good for each other, Eva."
When I fell asleep in his arms later that night, it was with those words in my head.
"Don't...No. No, don't.... Please."
Gideon's cries had me jackknifing up in the bed, my heart thudding violently. I fought for breath, glancing wild-eyed at the man thrashing next to me.
He snarled like a feral beast, his hands fisted and his legs kicking restlessly. I moved back, afraid he'd strike out at me unknowingly in his dreams.
"Get off of me," he panted.
"Gideon! Wake up."
"Get...off..." His hips arched upward with a hiss of pain. He hovered there, teeth gritted, his back bowed as if the bed was on fire beneath him. Then he collapsed, the mattress jolting as he bounced off of it.
"Gideon." I reached for the bedside lamp, my throat burning. I couldn't reach it, had to throw the tangled blankets off to get closer. Gideon was writhing in agony, thrashing so violently he shook the bed.
The room lit up in a sudden flare of illumination. I turned toward him...
And found him masturbating with shocking viciousness.
His right hand gripped his cock with white knuckled force, pumping brutally fast. His left hand clenched the fitted sheet. Torment and pain twisted his beautiful face.
Fearing for his safety, I shoved his shoulder with both hands. "Gideon, goddamn it. Wake up!"
My scream broke through the nightmare. His eyes flew open and he jerked upright, his eyes darting frantically.
"What?" he gasped, his chest heaving. His face was flushed, his lips and cheeks red with arousal. "What is it?"
"Jesus." I shoved my hands through my hair and slid out of bed, snatching up the black robe I'd hung over the footboard.
What was in his mind? What could make someone have such violently sexual dreams?
My voice shook. "You were having a nightmare. You scared the hell out of me."
"Eva." He looked down at his erection and his color darkened with shame.
I stared at him from my safe place by the window, tying the sash of my robe with a yank. "What were you dreaming about?"
He shook his head, his gaze lowered with humiliation, a vulnerable posture I didn't know or recognize in him. It was as if someone else had taken over Gideon's body. "I don't know."
"Bullshit. Something's in you, something's eating at you. What is it?"
He rallied visibly as his brain struggled free of sleep. "It was just a dream, Eva. People have them."
I stared at him, hurt blooming that he would take that tone with me, as if I was being irrational. "Screw you."
His shoulders squared, and he tugged the sheet over his lap. "Why are you mad?"
"Because you're lying."
His chest expanded on a deep breath; then he released it in a rush. "I'm sorry I woke you."
I pinched the bridge of my nose, feeling a headache gathering strength. My eyes stung with the need to cry for him, to cry for whatever torment he'd once lived through. And to cry for us, because if he didn't let me in, our relationship had nowhere to go.
"One more time, Gideon: what were you dreaming about?"
"I don't remember." He ran a hand through his hair and slid his legs off the edge of the bed. "I have some business on my mind and it's probably keeping me up. I'm going to work in my home office for a while. Come back to bed, and try to get some sleep."
"There were a few right answers to that question, Gideon. 'Let's talk about it tomorrow' would've been one. 'Let's talk about it over the weekend' would've been another. And even 'I'm not ready to talk about it' would be okay. But you have some nerve acting like you don't know what I'm talking about while speaking to me like I'm unreasonable."
"Angel - "
"Don't." My arms wrapped around my waist. "Do you think it was easy telling you about my past? Do you think it was painless cutting myself open and letting the ugliness spill out? It would've been simpler to cut you off and date someone less prominent. I took the risk because I want to be with you. Maybe someday you'll feel the same way about me."
I left the room.
"Eva! Eva, damn it, come back here. What's wrong with you?"
I walked faster. I knew how he felt: the sickness in the gut that spread like cancer, the helpless anger, and the need to curl up in private and find the strength to shove the memories back into the deep dark hole they still lived in.
It wasn't an excuse for lying or deflecting the blame onto me.
I snatched my purse off the chair where I'd dropped it on the way in from dinner and I rushed out the front door into the foyer to the elevator. The car doors were closing with me inside when I saw him step into the living room through the open front door. His nakedness ensured he couldn't come after me, while the look in his eyes ensured I wouldn't stay. He'd donned his mask again, that striking implacable face that kept the world a safe distance away.
Shaking, I leaned heavily against the brass handrail for support. I was torn between my concern for him, which urged me to stay, and my hard-won knowledge, which assured me that his coping strategy wasn't one I could live with. The road to recovery for me was paved with hard truths, not denials and lies.
Swiping at my wet cheeks when I passed the third floor, I took deep breaths and collected myself before the doors opened on the lobby level.
The doorman whistled down a passing cab for me and was such a consummate professional that he acted like I was dressed for work rather than sporting bare feet and a black dressing gown. I thanked him sincerely.
And I was so grateful to the cabbie for getting me home quickly that I tipped him well and didn't care about the furtive looks I got from my own doorman and the front desk staffer. I didn't even care about the look I got from the stunning, statuesque blonde who stepped out of the elevator I was waiting for, until I smelled Cary's cologne on her and realized the T-shirt she was wearing was one of his.
She took in my half-dressed state with an amused glance. "Nice robe."
The blonde took off with a smirk.
When I reached my floor, I found Cary lounging in the open doorway in a robe of his own.
He straightened and opened his arms to me. "Come here, baby girl."
I walked straight into him and hugged him tight, smelling a woman's perfume and hard sex all over him. "Who's the chick that just left?"
"Another model. Don't worry about her." He drew me into the apartment, and shut and locked the door. "Cross called. He said you were heading back and he has your keys. He wanted to be sure I was here and awake to let you in. For what it's worth, he sounded torn up and anxious. You wanna talk about it?"
Setting my purse down on the breakfast bar, I went into the kitchen. "He had another nightmare. A really bad one. When I asked him about it he denied, he lied, then he acted like I was nuts."
"Ah, the classics."
The phone started ringing. I flicked the switch on the base that turned the ringer off and Cary did the same to the handset he'd left on the counter. Then I pulled out my smartphone, closed the alert that said I'd missed numerous calls from Gideon, and sent him a text message; Home safe. Hope you sleep well the rest of the night.
I powered the phone off and tossed it back in my purse; then I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. "The kicker is that I told him all my junk earlier tonight."
Cary's brows shot up. "So you did it. How'd he take it?"
"Better than I had any right to expect. Nathan ought to hope they never run into each other." I finished the bottle. "And Gideon agreed to the couples counseling you suggested. I thought we'd turned a corner. Maybe we did, but we hit a brick wall anyway."
"You seem okay, though." He leaned into the breakfast bar. "No tears. Really calm. Should I be worried?"
I rubbed my belly to ease the fear that had rooted there. "No, I'll be all right. I just...I want it to work out between us. I want to be with him, but lying about serious issues is a deal breaker for me."
God. I couldn't let myself even consider that we might not get past this. I was already feeling antsy. The need to be with Gideon was a frantic beat in my blood.
"You're a tough cookie, baby girl. I'm proud of you." He came to me, linked our arms, and turned off the kitchen lights. "Let's crash and start a new day when we wake up."
"I thought things were going well with you and Trey."
His grin was glorious. "Honey, I think I'm in love."
"With who?" I leaned my cheek against his shoulder. "Trey or the blonde?"
"Trey, silly. The blonde just provided a workout."
I had a lot to say about that, but it wasn't the time to get into Cary's history of sabotaging his own happiness. And maybe focusing on how good things were with Trey was the best way to handle this instance of it. "So you've finally fallen for a good guy. We should celebrate."
"Hey, that's my line."