Chapter 20

Gideon arrived just as dinner was coming out of the oven. He had a garment bag in one hand and a laptop case in the other. I'd worried that he would try to go home alone after his session with Dr. Petersen and was relieved when he'd called to say he was on his way. Still, when I first opened the door and saw him on the threshold, a shiver of unease slid through me.

"Hey," he said quietly, following me back into the kitchen. "Smells delicious in here."

"I hope you're hungry. There's a lot of food and I'll be surprised if Cary joins us to help eat it all."

Gideon dropped his stuff on the breakfast bar and approached me cautiously, his gaze searching my face as he neared. "I brought some things with me to stay the night, but I'll go if you want. At any time. Just tell me."

I blew out my breath in a harsh rush, determined not to let fear dictate my actions. "I want you here."

"I want to be here." He paused beside me. "Can I hold you?"

I turned into him and squeezed him hard. "Please."

He pressed his cheek against mine and hugged me close. The embrace wasn't as natural and easy as we'd grown used to. There was a new wariness between us that was different from anything we'd felt before.

"How are you doing?" he murmured.

"Better now that you're here."

"But still nervous." He pressed his lips to my forehead. "Me, too. I don't know how we're ever going to fall asleep next to each other again."

Pulling back slightly, I looked at him. That was my fear as well, and my earlier conversation with Cary didn't help matters. He's a ticking time bomb...

"We'll figure it out," I said.

He was quiet for a long moment. "Has Nathan ever contacted you?"

"No." Although I had a deep-rooted fear that I might see him again one day, whether accidentally or deliberately. He was out there somewhere, breathing the same air..."Why?"

"It was on my mind today."

I pulled back to search his face, a knot forming in my throat at how tormented he looked. "Why?"

"Because we've got a lot of baggage between us."

"Are you thinking it's too much?"

Gideon shook his head. "I can't think that way."

I didn't know what to do or say. What assurances could I give him, when I wasn't sure my love and his need would be enough to make our relationship work?

"What's going through your mind?" he asked.

"Thoughts of food. I'm starving. Why don't you go see if Cary wants to eat? Then we can get started on dinner."

Gideon found Cary sleeping, so he and I ate a candlelit dinner for two at the dining table, a somewhat formal meal while lounging in the worn T-shirts and pajama bottoms we'd put on after our respective showers. I was worried about Cary, but spending quiet downtime alone with Gideon felt like just what we needed.

"I had lunch with Magdalene in my office yesterday," he said after we'd enjoyed a few initial bites.

"Oh?" While I'd been ring shopping, Magdalene had been enjoying private time with my man?

"Don't take that tone," he admonished. "She ate a meal in an office covered in your flowers, with you blowing kisses from my desk. You were as much there as she was."

"Sorry. Knee-jerk reaction."

He lifted my hand to his mouth and pressed a quick, hard kiss to the back. "I'm relieved you can still get jealous over me."

I sighed. My emotions had been all over the map all day; I couldn't decide how I felt about anything. "Did you say anything to her about Christopher?"

"That was the point of the lunch. I showed her the video."

"What?" I frowned, remembering my phone had died in his car. "How'd you do that?"

"I took your phone up to my office and pulled the video off via USB. Didn't you notice I brought it back last night, fully charged?"

"No." I set my silverware down. Dominant or not, Gideon and I were going to have to work on which lines crossed over into my freak-out zone. "You can't just hack into my phone, Gideon."

"I didn't hack into it. You haven't set a password yet."

"That's not the point! It's a serious invasion of my fucking privacy. Jesus..." Why in hell did no one in my life understand that I had boundaries? "Would you like me rummaging through your stuff?"

"I've got nothing to hide." He pulled his smartphone out of an inner pocket of his sweats and held it out to me. "And you won't either."

I didn't want to get into a fight now, things were too shaky as it was, but I'd let this go long enough. "It doesn't matter whether or not I have something I don't want you to see. I have a right to space and privacy, and you need to ask before you help yourself to my information and my belongings. You have to stop taking whatever you want without my permission."

"What was private about it?' he asked with a frown. "You showed it to me yourself."

"Don't be like my mother, Gideon!" I shouted. "There's only so much crazy I can handle."

He jerked back at my vehemence, clearly surprised by how upset I was. "Okay. I'm sorry."

I gulped down my wine, trying to rein in my temper and unease. "Sorry I'm mad? Or sorry you did it?"

After the length of several heartbeats, Gideon said, "I'm sorry you're mad."

He really didn't get it. "Why don't you see how weird this is?"

"Eva." He sighed and shoved a hand through his hair. "I spend a quarter of every day inside you. When you set limits outside of that I can't help but see them as arbitrary."

"Well, they're not. They're important to me. If there's something you want to know, you need to ask me."

"All right."

"Don't do it anymore," I warned. "I'm not kidding, Gideon."

His jaw tightened. "Okay. I get it."

Then, because I really didn't want to fight, I moved on. "What did she say when she saw it?"

He visibly relaxed. "It was difficult, of course. Even more difficult to know I'd seen it."

"She saw us in the library."

"We didn't talk about that directly, but then, what was there to say? I won't apologize for making love to my girlfriend in a closed room." He leaned back in his chair and exhaled harshly. "Seeing Christopher's face on the video - seeing what he really thought of her - that hurt her. It's hard to see yourself being used that way. Especially by someone you think you know, someone who's supposed to care about you."

To hide my reaction, I busied myself with refilling both my glass and his. He spoke as if from experience. What exactly had been done to him?

After a quick gulp of wine, I asked, "How are you doing with it?"

"What can I do? Over the years, I've made every attempt to talk to Christopher. I've tried throwing money at him. I've tried threatening him. He's never shown any inclination to change. I realized long ago that I can only do damage control. And keep you as far away from him as possible."

"I'll be helping you with that, now that I know."

"Good." He took a drink, eyeing me over the lip of his glass. "You're not asking me about my appointment with Dr. Petersen."

"It's none of my business. Unless you want to share." I met his gaze, willing him to do just that. "I'm here to listen whenever you need an ear, but I'm not going to pry. When you're ready to let me in, you will. That said, I'd love to know if you like him."

"So far." He smiled. "He talks me around in circles. Not many people can do that."

"Yes. Talks you back around and makes you come at it from a different angle that has you thinking, 'Now why didn't I see it like that?'"

Gideon's fingers stroked up and down the stem of his glass. "He prescribed something for me to take at night before bed. I filled it before I came over."

"How do you feel about taking drugs?"

He looked at me with dark, haunted eyes. "I feel it's necessary. I have to be with you and I have to make that safe for you, whatever it takes. Dr. Petersen says the drug combined with therapy has been successful for other 'atypical sexual parasomniacs.' I have to believe that."

I reached over to squeeze his hand. Taking medication was a big step, especially for someone who'd avoided facing his problems for a long time. "Thank you."

Gideon's grip tightened. "Apparently there are enough people with this problem that there have been sleep studies on it. He told me about a documented case where a man sexually assaulted his wife in his sleep for twelve years before they sought help."

"Twelve years? Jesus."

"Apparently part of the reason they waited so long was because the man was a better lay when he was asleep," he said dryly. "And if that's not a killer blow to the ego, I don't know what is."

I stared at him. "Well, shit."

"I know, right?" His wry smile faded. "But I don't want you to feel pressured to share a bed with me, Eva. There is no magic pill. I can sleep on the couch or I can go home, although of the two choices I'd prefer the couch. My whole day is better after getting ready for work with you."

"For me, too."

Reaching over, Gideon caught my hand and lifted it to his lips. "I never imagined I could have this...Someone in my life who knows what you do about me. Someone who could talk about my fuck-ups over dinner because they accept me anyway...I'm grateful for you, Eva."

My heart twisted with a sweet pain in my chest. He could say such beautiful things, the perfect things.

"I feel the same way about you, ace." Deeper, maybe, because I loved him. But I didn't say that aloud. He'd get there someday. I wasn't going to give up until he was absolutely, irrevocably mine.

With his bare feet propped on the coffee table and his computer on his lap, Gideon looked so at home and relaxed that he kept distracting me from my television shows.

How did we get here? I asked myself. This extravagantly sexy man and me?

"You're staring," he murmured, his gaze on his laptop screen.

I stuck my tongue out at him.

"Is that a sexual suggestion, Miss Tramell?"

"How do you see me while staring at whatever you're working on?"

He looked up then and caught my gaze. His blue eyes blazed with power and heat. "I've always seen you, angel. From the moment you found me, I've seen nothing but you."

Wednesday started with Gideon's cock pushing into me from behind, my new favorite way to wake up.

"Well, then," I said hoarsely, rubbing the sleep from my eyes as his arm hitched around my waist and hauled me closer to his warm, hard chest. "You're frisky this morning."

"You're gorgeous and sexy every morning," he murmured, nibbling on my shoulder. "I love waking up to you."

We celebrated a night of uninterrupted sleep with a handful of orgasms between us.

Much later in the day, I had lunch with Mark and his partner Steven at a lovely Mexican restaurant tucked beneath the street. We descended a short set of cement stairs into a surprisingly spacious restaurant with black-vested waitstaff and plenty of light.

"You'll need to bring your man back here," Steven said, "and have him buy you one of the pomegranate margaritas."

"Good stuff?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah."

When the waitress came to take our orders, she flirted outrageously with Mark, fluttering enviously long lashes. Mark flirted back. As the meal progressed, the exuberant redhead - whose name tag introduced her as Shawna - became bolder, touching Mark's shoulders and the back of his neck every time she came by. In return, Mark's banter became more suggestive, until I eyed Steven nervously, watching his face redden and his scowl deepen by the moment. Shifting uncomfortably, I was counting down the minutes until the tension-fraught meal was over.

"Let's get together tonight," Shawna said to Mark when she brought the check. "One night with me and I'll cure you."

I gaped. Seriously?

"Seven o'clock work for you?" Mark purred. "I'll ruin you, Shawna. You know what happens once you go black..."

I inhaled my water down the wrong pipe and choked.

Steven leaped to his feet and rounded the table, pounding me on the back. "Hell, Eva," he said, laughing. "We're just playing with you. Don't die on us."

"What?" I gasped, my eyes watering.

Grinning, he came around my shoulder and tossed his arm around the waitress. "Eva, meet my sister, Shawna. Shawna, Eva here is the one who makes Mark's life easier."

"That's good," Shawna said, "since he's got you to make things harder."

Steven winked at me. "That's why he keeps me around."

Seeing the brother and sister pair so close together, I finally caught the resemblance I'd missed before. I sagged into my seat and narrowed my eyes at Mark. "That was rotten. I thought Steven was going to blow a gasket."

Mark held up his hands in a show of surrender. "It was all his idea. He's the drama queen, remember?"

Rocking back on his heels, Steven grinned and said, "Now, Eva. You know Mark's the idea man in this relationship."

Shawna dug a business card out of her pocket and handed it to me. "My number's on the flipside. Gimme a call. I've got the inside dirt on these two. You can pay 'em back really good."

"Traitor!" Steven accused.

"Hey." Shawna shrugged. "Us girls have to stick together."

After work, Gideon and I went to his gym. Angus dropped us off at the curb and we headed inside. The place was hopping and the locker room crowded. I changed and stowed my stuff; then met Gideon in the hallway.

I waved at Daniel, the trainer who'd talked to me on my first visit to CrossTrainer, and got a smack on the ass for it.

"Hey," I protested, swatting at Gideon's chastising hand. "Cut it out."

He tugged my ponytail and gently urged my head back, tilting my mouth up so he could mark his territory with a deep, lush kiss.

The way he pulled my hair sent electricity sweeping across my skin. "If this is your idea of a deterrent," I whispered against his lips, "I have to say it's much more of an incentive."

"I'm quite willing to take it up a notch." He nipped my lower lip with his teeth. "But I wouldn't suggest testing my limits that way, Eva."

"Don't worry. I have other ways to do it."

Gideon hit the treadmill first, affording me the pleasure of seeing his body glistening with public. As often as I saw him that way in private, it never ceased to be a major turn-on.

And God, I loved the way he looked with his hair tied back. And the flex of his muscles beneath lightly tanned skin. And the graceful power of his movements. Seeing such an elegantly urbane man shed the suits and show off his animal side hit all my hot buttons.

I couldn't stop staring and was happy I didn't have to. He was mine, after all; a fact that sent warm pleasure sliding through me. Besides, every other woman in the gym was checking him out, too. As he moved from station to station, dozens of admiring eyes followed.

When he caught me ogling, I shot him a suggestive glance and ran my tongue along my lower lip. His arched brow and rueful half-smile made me tingly. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so motivated while working out. An hour and a half just flew by.

By the time we got back in the Bentley and headed to the penthouse, I was squirming in my seat. My gaze slid repeatedly to Gideon in silent invitation.

He linked his fingers with mine. "You'll wait for it."

That pronouncement startled me. "What?"

"You heard me." He kissed my fingers and had the nerve to give me a wicked smile. "Delayed gratification, angel."

"Why would we do that?"

"Think of how crazed we'll be for each other after dinner."

I leaned closer so Angus didn't overhear me, although I knew he was professional enough to ignore us. "That's a given, waiting or not. I say we go with not."

But he wouldn't budge. Instead, he tortured us both. Having us undress one another for a steamy shower, our hands petting and caressing the curves and hollows of each other's bodies; then dressing for dinner. He went all out in black tie, but skipped the tie. His crisp white shirt was unbuttoned at the collar, revealing a flash of skin. The cocktail dress he selected for me was a champagne silk Vera Wang with a strapless bustier bodice, an open back, and a tiered skirt that ended a few inches above my knees.

I smiled when I saw it, knowing it was going to drive him nuts seeing me in that dress all night. It was gorgeous and I loved it, but it was a style meant for tall, slender models, not short curvy girls. In a pitiful bid for modesty, I left my hair down to hang over my breasts, but it didn't help much if Gideon's expression was any indication.

"My God, Eva." He adjusted himself in his slacks. "I've changed my mind about that dress. You shouldn't wear it in public."

"We don't have time for you to change your mind."

"I thought there was more material than that."

I shrugged with a grin. "What can I say? You bought it."

"I'm having second thoughts. How long could it possibly take to remove it?"

Sliding my tongue along my lower lip, I said, "I don't know. Why don't you find out?"

His eyes turned dark. "We'd never get out of here."

"I wouldn't complain." He looked so damn hot and I wanted him - as always - really damned bad.

"Isn't there a jacket or something you can put over that? A parka, maybe? Or a trench coat?"

Laughing, I grabbed my clutch off the dresser and wrapped my arm around his. "Don't worry. Everyone will be too busy checking you out to even bother noticing me."

He scowled as I tugged him out of the bedroom. "Seriously. Have your tits gotten bigger? They're spilling out over the top of that thing."

"I'm twenty-four years old, Gideon," I said dryly. "I stopped developing years ago. What you see is what you get."

"Yes, but I'm the only one who's supposed to be seeing, since I'm the only one who's allowed to be getting."

We moved into the living room. In the short time it took us to pass through to the foyer, I relished the quiet beauty of Gideon's home. I loved how warm and inviting it was. The old world charm of the decor was so elegant, yet it was also remarkably comfortable. The stunning view out of the arched windows complemented the interior, but didn't distract from it.

The mixture of dark woods, distressed stone, warm colors, and vivid jeweled accents was clearly expensive, as was the art hung on the walls, but it was a tasteful display of wealth. I couldn't imagine anyone feeling awkward about what to touch or where to sit. It just wasn't that kind of space.

We caught the private elevator and Gideon faced me as the doors closed. He immediately tried tugging my bodice up.

"If you're not careful," I warned, "you'll expose my crotch instead."

"Damn it."

"We could have fun with this. I could play the role of a bubbleheaded blond bimbo who's after your cock and your millions, and you can be yourself - the billionaire playboy with his latest toy. Just look bored and indulgent while I rub up against you and coo about how brilliant you are."

"That's not funny." Then he brightened. "What about a scarf?"

Once we checked in for the gala dinner benefitting a new crisis shelter for women and children, we were directed to a press gauntlet, triggering my fear of exposure. I focused on Gideon because nothing distracted me as thoroughly as he did. And because I was paying such close attention, I was able to watch the change from private man to public persona as it happened.

The mask slipped smoothly into place. His irises chilled to an icy blue and his sensual mouth lost any hint of curve. I could almost feel the force of his will enclosing us. There was a shield between us and the rest of the world simply because he wished it to be there. Standing beside him, I knew no one would approach or speak to me until he gave them some sign that they could.

Still, the don't-touch vibe didn't extend to looking. Gideon turned heads as we walked to the ballroom and eyes followed him. I got a nervous twitch from all the attention he garnered, but he seemed oblivious and completely unruffled.

If I'd had my heart set on cooing and rubbing all over Gideon, I would've had to wait in line. He was pretty much mobbed the moment we stopped walking. I stepped away to make room for those vying to catch his attention and wandered off to find some champagne. Waters Field & Leaman had done the pro bono advertising for the gala, and I spotted a few people I knew.

I'd managed to snag a glass off a passing waiter's tray when I heard someone call out my name. Turning, I saw Stanton's nephew approaching with a broad smile. Dark-haired and green-eyed, he was around my age. I knew him from the times I'd visited my mother on holiday breaks and was glad to see him.

"Martin!" I greeted him with open arms and we hugged briefly. "How are you? You look fabulous."

"I was about to say the same." He eyed my dress appreciatively. "I'd heard you'd moved to New York and meant to look you up. How long have you been in town?"

"Not long. A few weeks."

"Drink your champagne," he said. "And let's dance."

The wine was still bubbling nicely through my system when we moved onto the dance floor to the sound of Billie Holliday singing "Summertime."

"So," he began, "are you working?"

As we danced, I told him about my job and I asked what he was up to. I wasn't surprised to hear he was working for Stanton's investment firm and doing well.

"I'd love to come uptown and take you out to lunch sometime," he said.

"That would be great." I stepped back as the music ended and bumped into someone behind me. Hands went to my waist to steady me and I looked over my shoulder to find Gideon at my back.

"Hello," he purred, his icy gaze on Martin. "Introduce us."

"Gideon, this is Martin Stanton. We've known each other for a few years now. He's my stepfather's nephew." I took a deep breath and went for it. "Martin, this is the significant man in my life, Gideon Cross."

"Cross." Martin grinned and held out his hand. "I know who you are, of course. It's a pleasure to meet you. If things work out, maybe I'll be seeing you at some of the family gatherings."

Gideon's arm slid around my shoulders. "Count on it."

Martin was hailed by someone he knew and he leaned forward to kiss my cheek. "I'll call you about lunch. Next week maybe?"

"Great." I was highly conscious of Gideon vibrating with energy beside me, although when I glanced at him, his face with calm and impassive.

He pulled me into a dance, with Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World." "Not sure I like him," he muttered.

"Martin's a very nice guy."

"Just so long as he knows you're mine." He pressed his cheek to my temple and placed his hand within the cutout back of my dress, skin to skin. There was no way to doubt that I belonged to him when he was holding me like that.

I relished the opportunity to be so close to his scrumptious body in public. Breathing him in, I relaxed into his expert hold. "I like this."

Nuzzling against me, he murmured, "That's the idea."

Bliss. It lasted as long as the dance did.

We were exiting the dance floor when I caught sight of Magdalene off to the side. It took me a moment to recognize her because she'd cut her hair into a sleek bob. She looked slender and classy in a simple black cocktail dress, but was eclipsed by the striking brunette she was speaking to.

Gideon's stride faltered, slowing fractionally before resuming his usual pace. I was looking down, thinking he'd avoided something on the floor, when he said quietly, "I need to introduce you to someone."

My attention shifted to see where we were going. The woman with Magdalene had spotted Gideon and turned to face him. I felt his forearm tense beneath my fingers the moment their gazes met.

I could see why.

The woman, whoever she was, was deeply in love with Gideon. It was there on her face and in her pale, otherworldly blue eyes. Her beauty was stunning, so exquisite as to be surreal. Her hair was black as ink and hung thick and straight almost to her waist. Her dress was the same icy hue as her eyes, her skin golden from the sun, her body long and perfectly curved.

"Corinne," he greeted her, the natural rasp in his voice even more pronounced. He released me and caught her hands. "You didn't tell me you were back. I would've picked you up."

"I left a few messages on your voice mail at home," she said, in a voice that was cultured and smooth.

"Ah, I haven't been there much lately." As if that reminded him I was next to him, he released her and drew me up to his side. "Corinne, this is Eva Tramell. Eva, Corinne Giroux. An old friend."

I extended my hand to her and she shook it.

"Any friend of Gideon's is a friend of mine," she said with a warm smile.

"I hope that applies to girlfriends as well."

When her gaze met mine, it was knowing. "Especially girlfriends. If you could spare him a moment, I've been hoping to introduce him to an associate of mine."

"Of course." My voice was calm; I was anything but.

Gideon gave me a perfunctory kiss on the temple before he stepped closer to Corinne and offered his arm to her, leaving Magdalene standing awkwardly next to me.

I actually felt sorry for her, she looked so dejected. "Your new hairstyle is very flattering, Magdalene."

She glanced at me, her mouth tight, and then it softened with a sigh that sounded filled with resignation. "Thank you. It was time for a change. Time for many changes, I think. Also, there was no reason to imitate the one who got away now that she's back."

I frowned in confusion. "You lost me."

"I'm talking about Corinne." She studied my face. "You don't know. She and Gideon were engaged, for over a year. She broke it off, married a wealthy Frenchman, and moved to Europe. But the marriage fell apart. They're now getting divorced and she's moved back to New York."

Engaged. I felt the blood drain from my face, my gaze shifting to where the man I loved stood with the woman he must've once loved, his hand moving to the small of her back to steady her as she leaned into him with a laugh.

As my stomach twisted with jealousy and sick fear, it struck me that I'd assumed he had never had a serious romantic relationship before me. Stupid. As hot as he was, I should've known better.

Magdalene touched my shoulder. "You should sit down, Eva. You're very pale."

I knew I was breathing too fast and my speeding pulse rate was dangerously high. "You're right."

Moving to the nearest available chair, I got off my feet. Magdalene sat beside me.

"You love him," she said. "I didn't see it. I'm sorry. And I'm sorry for what I said to you the first time we met."

"You love him, too," I replied woodenly, my gaze unfocused. "And at that time, I didn't. Not yet."

"Doesn't excuse me, does it?"

I gratefully accepted another glass of champagne when it was offered to me and took a second for Magdalene before the waiter straightened to move on. We clinked glasses in a pitiful display of scorned female solidarity. I wanted to leave. I wanted to get up and walk out. I wanted Gideon to realize I'd left, to be forced to leave after me. I wanted him to feel some of the pain I felt. Stupid, immature, hurtful imaginings that made me feel small.

I took comfort from Magdalene sitting silently beside me in commiseration. She knew how it felt to love Gideon and want him too much. That I sensed she was as miserable as I was confirmed what a threat Corinne might be.

Had he been pining for her this whole time? Was she the reason he'd closed himself off from other women?

"There you are."

I looked up as Gideon found me. Of course Corinne was still on his arm and I got the full effect of the two of them as a couple. There were, quite simply, impossibly gorgeous together.

Corinne took a seat beside me and Gideon brushed his fingertips over my cheek. "I have to speak with someone," he said. "Would you like me to bring you back anything?"

"Stoli and cranberry. Make it a double." I needed a buzz. Bad.

"All right." But he frowned at my request before he walked away.

"I'm so glad to meet you, Eva," Corinne said. "Gideon has told me so much about you."

"It can't have been too much. You two weren't gone that long."

"We talk nearly every day." She smiled, and there was nothing fake or malicious in her expression. "We've been friends a long time."

"More than friends," Magdalene said pointedly.

Corinne frowned at Magdalene and I realized I wasn't supposed to know. Was it she or Gideon or both of them that had decided it was best not to tell me? Why cover up something if there was nothing to hide?

"Yes, that's true," she admitted with obvious reluctance. "Although that was some years ago now."

I twisted in my seat to face her. "You still love him."

"You can't blame me for that. Any woman who spends time with him falls in love with him. He's beautiful and untouchable. That's an irresistible combination." Her smile softened. "He tells me you've inspired him to start opening up. I'm grateful to you for that."

I was about to say, I didn't do it for you. Then an insidious doubt drifted through my mind, making a vulnerable spot inside me fold in on itself.

Was I doing it for her without knowing it?

I twisted the base of my empty champagne flute around and around on the table. "He was going to marry you."

"And it was the biggest mistake of my life walking away." Her hand went to her throat, her slender fingers restlessly stroking, as if toying with a necklace she'd normally find there. "I was young and in some ways he frightened me. He was so possessive. It wasn't until after I married that I realized possessiveness is much better than indifference. At least for me."

I looked away, fighting the nausea that rose in my throat.

"You're awfully quiet," she said.

"What is there to say?" Magdalene tossed out.

We all loved him. We were all available to him. In the end, he would make a choice between us.

"You should know, Eva," Corinne began, looking at me with those clear aquamarine eyes, "he's told me how special you are to him. It took me some time to gather the courage to come back here and face you two together. I even canceled a flight I had booked a couple weekends ago. I interrupted him at some charity event he was giving a speech at, poor guy, to tell him I was on my way and to ask for his help getting settled."

I froze, feeling as brittle as cracked glass. She had to be talking about the advocacy center dinner, the night Gideon and I had sex for the first time. The night we'd christened his limo and he'd immediately withdrawn; then left me abruptly.

"When he called me back," she continued, "he told me he'd met someone. That he wanted you and me to meet when I got into town. I ended up chickening out. He's never asked me to meet a woman in his life before."

Oh my God. I glanced at Magdalene. Gideon had left me in a rush that night for her. For Corinne.