For a minute or two, I didn’t think Gideon heard me. He slid on a pot holder, opened the oven, and pulled out the lasagna without looking my way. It wasn’t until he set the pan on the stovetop and glanced at me that I knew for certain he hadn’t missed a word.
He tossed the glove onto the counter, grabbed the wine bottle, and came directly to me. Calmly, he took my wineglass and refilled it before he spoke. “I expect he wants to see you when he’s in New York next week.”
It took me the space of a breath to respond. “You knew he was coming back!” I accused.
“Of course I knew.”
Whether that was because Brett’s band was signed to Vidal Records or because Gideon was keeping an eye on him, I didn’t know. Both reasons were entirely plausible.
“Did you agree to meet up?” His voice was smooth and soft. Dangerously so.
Ignoring the fluttering of nerves in my belly, I held his gaze. “Yes, for the reveal of the new Six-Ninths music video. Cary’s going with me.”
Gideon nodded, leaving me anxious and clueless about his feelings.
I slid off the stool and went to him. Wrapping me up in his arms, he rested his cheek against the top of my head.
“I’ll back out,” I offered quickly. “I don’t really want to go anyway.”
“It’s okay.” Swaying from side to side, rocking me, he whispered, “I broke your heart.”
“That’s not why I agreed to go!”
His hands came up and pushed through my hair, combing it back from my forehead and cheeks with a gentleness that brought tears to my eyes. “We can’t just forget the last few weeks, Eva. I cut you deep and you’re still bleeding.”
It struck me then that I hadn’t been ready to pick up the pieces of our relationship as if nothing had gone wrong. A part of me was holding a grudge, and Gideon had picked up on it.
I struggled out of his hold. “What are you saying?”
“That I have no right to leave you and hurt you—for whatever reason—then expect you to forget how that felt and forgive me overnight.”
“You killed a man for me!”
“You don’t owe me anything,” he snapped. “My love for you is not an obligation.”
It still tore through me like a bullet every time he said he loved me, despite how often he proved it with his actions.
My voice was softer when I said, “I don’t want to hurt you, Gideon.”
“Then don’t.” He kissed me with heartrending tenderness. “Let’s eat, before the food gets cold.”
I changed into a Cross Industries T-shirt and a pair of Gideon’s pajama bottoms that I rolled up at the ankles. We took candles over to the coffee table and ate cross-legged on the floor. Gideon kept my favorite sweater on but swapped his slacks for a pair of black lounging pants.
Licking a dab of tomato sauce off my lip, I told him about the rest of my day. “Mark’s gathering the nerve to ask his partner to marry him.”
“If I’m remembering correctly, they’ve been together awhile.”
Gideon’s mouth curved. “I suppose it’s still a tough question to ask, even if the answer is a sure thing.”
I looked down at my plate. “Was Corinne nervous when she asked you?”
“Eva.” He waited until the lengthy silence brought my head up. “We’re not going to talk about that.”
“Because it doesn’t matter.”
I searched his face. “How would you feel if you knew there was someone out there I’d said yes to? Theoretically.”
He shot me an irritated look. “That would be different because you wouldn’t say yes unless the guy really meant something to you. What I felt was … panic. The feeling didn’t go away until she broke the engagement.”
“Did you buy her a ring?” The thought of him shopping for a ring for another woman hurt me. I looked down at my hand, at the ring he’d bought for me.
“Nothing like that one,” he said quietly.
My hand fisted, guarding it.
Reaching over, Gideon set his right hand over mine. “I bought Corinne’s ring in the first store I went to. I had nothing in mind, so I picked one that looked like her mother’s. Very different circumstances, don’t you agree?”
“Yes.” I hadn’t designed the ring Gideon wore, but I’d searched six shops before I found the right one. It was platinum studded with black diamonds, and it reminded me of my lover, with its cool masculine elegance and bold, dominant style.
“I’m sorry,” I said, wincing. “I’m an ass.”
He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed my knuckles. “So am I, on occasion.”
That made me grin. “I think Mark and Steven are perfect for each other, but Mark has this theory that men get the urge to marry, and then it goes away if it isn’t acted on quickly enough.”
“I would think it’d be more about the right partner than the right time.”
“I’ve got my fingers crossed for it to work out for them.” I picked up my wine. “Want to watch TV?”
Gideon leaned his back against the front of the sofa. “I just want to be with you, angel. I don’t care what we’re doing.”
WE cleaned up the mess from dinner together. As I reached for the rinsed dish Gideon held out for me to put in the dishwasher, he faked me out. He grabbed my hand instead and deftly set the plate on the counter. Catching me around the waist, he spun us into a dance. From the living room, I caught the strains of something beautiful laced with a woman’s pure, haunting voice.
“Who is this?” I asked, already breathless from the feel of Gideon’s powerful body flexing against mine. The desire that always smoldered between us flared, making me feel vibrant and alive. Every nerve ending sensitized, preparing for his touch. Hunger coiled tight with heated anticipation.
“No clue.” He swept me around the island and into the living room.
I surrendered to his masterful lead, loving that dancing was a passion we shared and awed by the obvious joy he felt in just being with me. That same pleasure effervesced within me, lightening my steps until it felt like we were gliding. As we approached the sound system, the music rose in volume. I heard the words dark and dangerous in the lyrics and stumbled in surprise.
“Too much wine, angel?” Gideon teased, pulling me closer.
But my attention was riveted to the music. The singer’s pain. A tormented relationship she likened to loving a ghost. The words reminded me of the days when I believed I’d lost Gideon forever, and my heart ached.
I looked up into his face. He was watching me with dark, glittering eyes.
“You looked so happy when you were dancing with your dad,” he said, and I knew he wanted treasured memories like that between us.
“I’m happy now,” I assured him, even as my eyes stung at the sight of his yearning, a longing I knew intimately. If souls could be mated with wishes, ours would be inextricably entwined.
Cupping his nape, I pulled his mouth down to mine. As our lips touched, his rhythm faltered. He stopped, hugging me so tightly my feet left the floor.
Unlike the heartbroken singer, I wasn’t in love with a ghost. I was in love with a flesh-and-blood man, one who made mistakes but learned from them, a man who was trying hard to better himself for me, a man who wanted us to work as desperately as I did.
“I’m never happier than when I’m with you,” I told him.
He took my breath away with his kiss.
“IT was the kid,” I said.
Gideon’s fingertips drew circles around my navel. “That’s twisted.”
We were sprawled lengthwise on the couch, watching my favorite police procedural television show. He was spooned behind me, his chin on my shoulder and his legs tangled with mine.
“That’s the way these things work,” I told him. “Shock value and all that.”
“I think it was the grandmother.”
“Oh my God.” I tilted my head to look back at him. “And you don’t think that’s twisted?”
He grinned and smacked a kiss on my cheek. “Wanna bet on who’s right?”
“I don’t gamble.”
“Aw, come on.” His hand splayed against my belly, anchoring me as he rose up on his elbow to look down at me.
“Nope.” I felt him against the curve of my buttocks, a solid, weighty length. He wasn’t erect, but that didn’t stop him from gaining my attention. Curious, I reached between us and cupped him in my hand.
He hardened instantly. One black brow arched. “You copping a feel, angel?”
I squeezed him gently. “Now I’m hot and bothered, and wondering why my new neighbor isn’t putting the moves on me.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want to push you too far, too fast and scare you off.” Gideon’s eyes glittered in the light of the television.
“Is that so?”
He nuzzled his nose against my temple. “If he has half a brain, he’d know not to let you get away.”
Oh … “Maybe I should make the first move,” I whispered, wrapping my fingers around his wrist. “But what if he thinks I’m too easy?”
“He’ll be too busy thinking he’s damned lucky.”
“Well, then …” I wriggled around to face him. “Howdy, neighbor.”
He traced my eyebrow with the tip of his finger. “Hi. I really like the view around here.”
“The hospitality isn’t bad, either.”
“Oh? Plenty of towels?”
I pushed at his shoulder. “Do you want to suck face or not?”
“Suck face?” His head fell back and he laughed, his chest vibrating against me. It was a lusty, full-bodied sound and my toes curled at hearing it. Gideon laughed so rarely.
My hands slid under his sweater and glided over warm skin. My lips moved over his jaw. “Is that a no?”
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