Chapter 18

Monday mornings could be awesome, when they began with Gideon Cross. We rode to work with my back propped against his side and his arm slung over my shoulder so that his fingers could link with mine.

As he toyed with the ring he'd given me, I kicked out my legs and eyed the classic nude heels he'd bought me along with some outfits to wear on the occasions I slept over. To start out the new week, I'd decided on a black pinstriped sheath dress with a thin blue belt that reminded me of his eyes. He had excellent taste; I had to give him that.

Unless he was sending one of his brunette "acquaintances" out on buying sprees...?

I pushed the unpleasant thought aside.

When I'd checked out the drawers he had set aside for me in his bathroom, I found all of my usual cosmetics and toiletries in all my usual shades. I didn't bother to ask how he knew, which might've led to me freaking out. Instead, I chose to look at it as more proof of his attentiveness. He thought of everything.

The highlight of my morning had been helping Gideon dress in one of his seriously sexy suits. I'd buttoned his shirt; he'd tucked it into his pants. I'd fastened his fly; he had knotted his tie. He'd shrugged into his vest; I'd smoothed the finely tailored material over his equally fine shirt, amazed to find that it could be just as sexy putting clothes on him as it was to take them off. It was like wrapping my own gift.

The world would see the beauty of the packaging, but only I knew the man inside it and how precious he was. His intimate smiles and his deep husky laugh, the gentleness of his touch and the ferocity of his passion were all reserved for me.

The Bentley bounced lightly over a pothole in the road and Gideon tightened his hold. "What's the plan after work?"

"I get to start my Krav Maga classes today." I couldn't keep the excitement out of my voice.

"Ah, that's right." His lips brushed over my temple. "You know I'm going to have to watch you go through drills. Just thinking about it makes me hard."

"Didn't we already establish that everything makes you hard?" I teased, nudging him with my elbow.

"Everything about you. Which is lucky for us, since you're insatiable. Text me when you're done and I'll meet you at your place."

Digging in my purse, I pulled out my smartphone to see if it still had a charge and saw a message from Cary. I opened it and found a video plus a text; Does X know his bro is a douche? Stay away from CV, baby girl *smooches*

I started the playback but it took me a minute to figure out what I was seeing. When comprehension set in, I froze.

"What is it?" Gideon asked with his lips in my hair. Then he stiffened behind me, which told me he was looking over my shoulder.

Cary had filmed the video at the Vidal's garden party. From the eight-foot-high hedges in the background, he was in the maze, and from the leaves framing the screen, he was in hiding. The star of the show was a couple locked in a passionate embrace. The woman was beautifully teary, while the man kissed over her frantic words and soothed her with gentle strokes of his hands.

They were talking about me and Gideon, talking about how I was using my body to get my hands on his millions.

"Don't worry," Christopher crooned to a distraught Magdalene. "You know Gideon gets bored fast."

"He's different with her. I - I think he loves her."

He kissed her forehead. "She's not his type."

The fingers I had linked with Gideon's tightened.

As we watched, Magdalene's demeanor slowly changed. She began to nuzzle into Christopher's touch, her voice softening, her mouth seeking. To an observer, it was clear he knew her body well - where to pet and where to rub. When she responded to his skilled seduction, he lifted her dress and fucked her. That he was taking advantage of her was obvious. It was there in the contemptuously triumphant look on his face as he screwed her until she was limp.

I didn't recognize the Christopher on the screen. His face, his posture, his voice...it was like he was a different man.

I was grateful when my smartphone battery died and the screen abruptly winked off. Gideon wrapped his arms around me.

"Yuck," I whispered, snuggling carefully into him so I didn't get makeup on his lapel. "Majorly creepy. I feel bad for her."

He exhaled harshly. "That's Christopher."

"Asshole. That smug look on his face - Ugh." I shuddered.

Pressing his lips to my hair, he murmured, "I thought Maggie would be safe from him. Our mothers have known each other for years. I forget how much he hates me."

"Why?"

I wondered briefly if the nightmares Gideon had were related to Christopher, then I put the thought aside. No way. Gideon was older by several years and tougher all the way around. He'd kick Christopher's ass.

"He thinks I got all the attention when we were younger," Gideon said wearily, "because everyone was worried about how I was handling my father's suicide. So he wants what's mine. Everything he can get his hands on."

I turned into him, pushing my arms underneath his jacket to get closer. There was something in his voice that made me hurt for him. His family home was a place he said haunted his nightmares and he was terribly distant from his family.

He'd never been loved. It was as simple - and as complicated - as that.

"Gideon?"

"Hmm?"

I pulled back to look at him. Reaching up, I traced the bold arch of his brow. "I love you."

A violent shudder moved through him, one hard enough to shake me, too.

"I don't mean to freak you out," I reassured him quickly, averting my face to give him some privacy. "You don't have to do anything about it. I just didn't want another minute to go by without you knowing how I feel. You can tuck it away now."

One of his hands gripped my nape, the other dug almost painfully into my waist. Gideon held me there, immobile, locked against him as if I might blow away. His breathing was ragged, his heartbeat pounding. He didn't say another word the rest of the ride to work, but he didn't let me go either.

I planned on telling him again one day in the future, but as far as first times went, I thought we'd both done okay.

At ten o'clock sharp, I had two dozen long-stemmed red roses delivered to Gideon's office with the note: In celebration of red dresses and limo rides.

Ten minutes later, I received an interoffice envelope with a note card that read:

Let's do that again. Soon.

At eleven o'clock, I had a black-and-white calla lily arrangement delivered to his office with the note: In honor of black & white garden party dresses and being dragged into libraries...

Ten minutes later, I received his reply:

I'll be dragging you to the floor in a minute...

At noon, I went shopping. Ring shopping. I hit six different shops before I found a piece that struck me as being absolutely perfect. Made of platinum engraved and studded with black diamonds, it was an industrial-looking ring that made me think of power and bondage. It was a dominant ring, very bold and masculine. I had to open a new charge account with the store to cover the hefty cost, but I considered the months of payments ahead of me worth it.

I called Gideon's office and talked with Scott, who helped me arrange a fifteen-minute window in Gideon's packed day for me to stop by.

"Thank you so much for your help, Scott."

"You're very welcome. I've enjoyed watching him receive your flowers today. I don't think I've ever seen him smile like that."

A warm rush of love flowed through me. I wanted to make Gideon happy. As he'd said, I lived for it.

I went back to work with a smile of my own. At two o'clock, I had a tiger lily arrangement delivered to Gideon's office followed by a private note sent via interoffice envelope:

In gratitude for all the jungle sex.

His reply:

Skip the Krav Maga. I'll give you a workout.

When three forty rolled around - five minutes before my appointment with Gideon - I got nervous. I stood up from my chair on shaky legs and paced in the elevator on the way up to his floor. Now that the time had come to give him my gift, I worried that maybe he didn't like rings...after all, he didn't wear any.

Was it too presumptuous and possessive of me to want him to wear one just because I did?

The redheaded receptionist didn't give me any trouble getting in and when Scott spotted me emerging from the hallway, he stood from his desk and greeted me with a wide grin. When I stepped into Gideon's office, Scott closed the door behind me.

I was immediately struck by the lovely fragrance of the flowers and the way they warmed the starkly modern office.

Gideon looked up from his monitor, his brows lifting when he saw me. He pushed fluidly to his feet. "Eva. Is something wrong?"

I watched him shift gears from professional to personal, his gaze softening as he looked at me.

"No. It's just..." I took a deep breath and went to him. "I have something for you."

"More? Did I forget a special occasion?"

I set the ring box down in the center of his desk. Then I turned away, feeling queasy. I seriously doubted the wisdom of my impetuous gift. It seemed like a stupid idea now.

What could I say to absolve him of guilt for not wanting it? As if it wasn't bad enough I'd dropped the "L" bomb on him today; then I had to follow it up with a damned ring. He was probably feeling the ball and chain already, dragging after him as he ran. And the noose tightening -

I heard the ring box snap open and Gideon's sharply drawn breath. "Eva."

His voice was dark and dangerous. I turned carefully, wincing at the austerity of his features and the starkness of his gaze. His hands were white-knuckled on the box.

"Too much?" I asked hoarsely.

"Yes." He set the box down and rounded the desk. "Too damn much. I can't sit still, I can't concentrate. I can't get you out of my head. I'm fucking restless, and I never am when I'm at work. I'm too busy. But you have me under siege."

I knew damn well how demanding his work had to be, yet I hadn't taken that into consideration when the mood to surprise him - again and again - hit me. "I'm sorry, Gideon. I wasn't thinking."

He approached with the sexy stride that hinted at how great he was in the sack. "Don't be sorry. Today has been the best day of my life."


"Really?" I watched him slide the ring onto his right ring finger. "I wanted to please you. Does it fit? I had to guess..."

"It's perfect. You're perfect." Gideon caught up my hands and kissed my ring; then watched as I repeated the gesture with his. "What you make me feel, Eva...it hurts."

My pulse leaped. "Is that bad?"

"It's wonderful." He cupped my face, his ring cool against my cheek. He kissed me passionately, his lips demanding against mine, his tongue thrusting with wicked skill into my mouth.

I wanted more, but restrained myself, thinking that I'd already gone overboard enough for one day. Plus, he'd been too distracted by my unexpected appearance to frost the glass wall to give us privacy.

"Tell me again what you said in the car," he whispered.

"Hmm...I don't know." I brushed my free hand over his vest. I was afraid to tell him again that I loved him. He'd taken it hard the first time, and I wasn't sure he'd fully taken in what it meant for us. For him. "You're ridiculously handsome, you know. It's a sucker punch every time I see you. Anyway...I don't want to risk scaring you away."

Leaning toward me, he touched his forehead to mine. "You regret what you said, don't you? All the flowers, the ring - "

"Do you really like it?" I asked anxiously, pulling back to study his face and see if he was hedging on the truth. "I don't want you to wear it for me if you hate it."

His fingers traced the shell of my ear. "It's perfect. It's how you see me. I'm proud to wear it."

I loved that he got it. Of course, that's because he got me.

"If you're trying to soften the blow of taking back what you said - " he began, his gaze betraying a surprising anxiety.

I couldn't resist the soft plea in his eyes. "I meant every word, Gideon."

"I'll make you say it again," he threatened in a seductive purr. "You'll scream it by the time I'm done with you."

I grinned and backed away. "Get back to work, fiend."

"I'll give you a lift home at five." He watched me move to the door. "I want your cunt naked and wet when you come down to the car. If you touch yourself to get there, don't make yourself come or there will be consequences."

Consequences. A little shiver moved through me, but it carried a level of fear I could deal with. I trusted Gideon to know just how far to push me. "Will you be hard and ready?"

A wry smile twisted his lips. "When am I not, with you? Thank you for today, Eva. Every minute of it."

I blew him a kiss and watched his eyes darken. The look on his face stayed with me the rest of the day.

It was six o'clock before I made it back to my apartment in a state of well-fucked dishevelment. I'd known what I was in for when I found Gideon's limousine at the curb after work instead of the Bentley. He'd damn near tackled me as I climbed into the back; then proceeded to demonstrate his phenomenal oral skills before nailing me into the seat with vigorous enthusiasm.

I was grateful that I kept in shape. Otherwise, Gideon's insatiable sexual appetite combined with his seemingly endless stamina might've exhausted me by now. Not that I was complaining. Just an observation.

Clancy was already waiting for me in the lobby of my apartment building when I came rushing in. If he noted my hideously wrinkled dress, flushed cheeks, and messy hair, he didn't point it out. I changed swiftly upstairs and we took off for Parker's studio. I hoped the orientation would start out easy because my legs were still a bit jellied from two toe-curling orgasms.

By the time we arrived at the converted warehouse in Brooklyn, I was excited and ready to learn. About a dozen students were engaged in various exercises with Parker overseeing and offering encouragement from the edge of the mats. When he saw me, he came over and directed me to a far corner of the sparring area where we could work one-on-one.

"So...how's it going?" I asked, to break my own tension.

He smiled, showing off a very interesting and arresting face. "Nervous?"

"A little."

"We're going to work on your physical strength and stamina, as well as your awareness. I'm also going to start training you not to freeze or hesitate in unexpected confrontations."

Before we began, I thought I had pretty good physical strength and stamina, but I learned both could be better. We started out with a brief introduction to the equipment and layout of the space, and then moved on to an explanation of both fighting and neutral/passive stances. We warmed up with basic bodyweight calisthenics; then progressed to "tagging," where we tried to tag each other's shoulders and knees while standing face-to-face and blocking countermoves.

Parker was amazing at tagging, of course, but I started to get the hang of it. The majority of the time, however, was spent covering groundwork and I really sunk my teeth into that. I knew very well what it was like to be down and at a disadvantage.

If Parker noted my underlying vehemence, he didn't comment on it.

When Gideon showed up at my apartment later that evening, he found me soaking my aching body in my bathtub. Although I could tell he was fresh from a shower after his own workout with his personal trainer, he stripped and slid into the bath behind me, cradling me with his arms and legs. I whimpered as he rocked me.

"That good, huh?" he teased, catching my earlobe in his teeth.

"Who knew rolling around for an hour with a hot guy could be so exhausting?" Cary had been right about Krav Maga causing bruises; I could see a few shadows blooming beneath my skin already and we hadn't even gotten to the hard stuff yet.

"I might be jealous," Gideon murmured, squeezing my breasts, "if I didn't know Smith was married with children."

I snorted at yet another tidbit of knowledge he shouldn't know. "Do you also know his shoe and hat sizes?"

"Not yet." He laughed at my exasperated growl and I couldn't hold back a smile at hearing the rare sound.

One day soon we were going to have to talk about his obsession with information gathering, but today wasn't the day to get into it. We'd been at odds too much lately and Cary's warning about making sure we had as much fun as not was ever-present in my mind.

Playing with the ring on Gideon's finger, I told him about the conversation I'd had with my dad on Saturday and how his fellow cops had been ribbing him over the gossip about me dating the Gideon Cross.

He sighed. "I'm sorry."

Turning, I faced him. "It's not your fault you're news. You can't help being insanely attractive."

"One of these days," he said dryly, "I'll figure out whether my face is a curse or not."

"Well, if my opinion counts for anything, I'm rather fond of it."

Gideon's lips twitched and he touched my cheek. "Your opinion is the only one that means anything. And your dad's. I want him to like me, Eva, not think I'm exposing his daughter to invasions of her privacy."

"You'll win him over. He just wants me to be safe and happy."

He visibly relaxed and pulled me closer. "Do I make you happy?"

"Yes." I rested my cheek over his heart. "I love being with you. When we're not together, I wish we were."

"You said you didn't want to fight anymore," he murmured in my hair. "It's been bugging me. Are you getting tired of me fucking up all the time?"

"You do not fuck up all the time. And I've screwed up, too. Relationships are hard, Gideon. Most of them don't have kick-ass sex like we do. I put us in the lucky column."

He cupped water in his hand and poured in down my back, over and over, soothing me with its sinuous warmth. "I don't really remember my dad."

"Oh?" I tried to not tense up and reveal my surprise. Or my agitated excitement and desperate hunger to learn more about him. He'd never talked about his family before. It killed me not to prod with questions, but I didn't want to push if he wasn't ready....

His chest lifted and fell on a deep exhale. There was something in the sound of his sigh that brought my head up and ruined my intention to be cautious.

I ran my hand over his hard pectorals. "Want to talk about what you do remember?"

"Just...impressions. He wasn't around much. He worked a lot. I guess I get my drive from him."

"Maybe workaholism - is that a word? - is something you have in common, but that's it."

"How would you know?" he shot back, defiant.

Reaching up, I brushed the hair back from his face. "I'm sorry, Gideon, but your father was a fraud who took the easy, selfish way out. You don't have it in you to be that way."

"Not that way, no." He paused. "But I don't think he ever learned how to connect to people, how to care about anything but his own immediate needs."

I studied him. "Do you think that describes you?"

"I don't know," he answered quietly.

"Well, I know, and it doesn't." I pressed a kiss to the tip of his nose. "You're a keeper."

"I better be." His arms tightened around me. "I can't think about you with someone else, Eva. Just the idea of another man seeing you the way I do, seeing you like this...putting his hands on you...It takes me to a dark place."

"It's not going to happen, Gideon." I knew how he felt. I wouldn't be able to bear it if he was intimate with another woman.

"You've changed everything for me. I couldn't stand losing you."

I hugged him. "The feeling's mutual."

Tilting my head back, Gideon took my mouth in a fierce kiss.

In moments it became clear we were soon going to be sloshing water all over the floor. I pulled away. "I need to eat if you want to go at it again, fiend."

"Says the girlfriend rubbing her wet naked body all over me." He sat back with a sinful smile.

"Let's order cheap Chinese and eat it out of the box with chopsticks."

"Let's order good Chinese and do that."

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