Nathan had jumped Cary outside a club, and Cary was still recovering physically from that. Somehow, I’d forgotten that it was the mind that took longer to heal. He played it so cool, but I should’ve known better. “The weekend after next, you want to fly out to San Diego? See my dad, our friends … maybe even Dr. Travis, if we’re up for it?”


“Subtle, Eva,” he said dryly. “But yeah, sounds good. I may need you to front me some money, since I’m not working right now.”


“No problem. I’ll make the arrangements and we can square up later.”


“Oh, before you hang up. One of your friends called earlier—Deanna. I forgot to tell you when we talked before. She has news and she wants you to call her back.”


I shot a look at Gideon. He caught my eye and something on my face must have given me away, because his eyes took on that familiar hard gleam. He headed toward me with that long, agile stride, the remnants of dinner carted neatly in the original delivery bag.


“Did you tell her anything?” I asked Cary in a low voice.


“Tell her anything? Like what?”


“Like something you wouldn’t want to tell a reporter, because that’s what she is.”


Gideon’s face took on a stony cast. He passed me to drop the trash in the compactor, then came back to my side.


“You’re friends with a reporter?” Cary asked. “Are you nuts?”


“No, I’m not friends with her. I have no idea how she got my home number, unless she called up from the front desk.”


“What the hell does she want?”


“An exposé on Gideon. She’s starting to get on my bad side. She’s all over him like a rash.”


“I’ll blow her off if she calls back.”


“No, don’t.” I held Gideon’s gaze. “Just don’t give her any information about anything. Where did you tell her I was?”


“Out.”


“Perfect. Thanks, Cary. Call if you need me.”


“Have a banging good time.”


“Jesus, Cary.” Shaking my head, I killed the call.


“Deanna Johnson called you?” Gideon asked, his arms crossing his chest.


“Yep. And I’m about to call her back.”


“No, you’re not.”


“Shut up, caveman. I’m not into that ‘me Cross, you Cross little woman’ bullshit,” I snapped. “In case you’ve forgotten already, we made a trade. You got me, and I got you. I protect what’s mine.”


“Eva, don’t fight my battles for me. I can take care of myself.”


“I know that. You’ve been doing it your whole life. Now, you’ve got me. I can handle this one.”


Something shifted over his features, so swiftly I couldn’t identify whether he was getting pissed. “I don’t want you to have to deal with my past.”


“You dealt with mine.”


“That was different.”


“A threat is a threat, ace. We’re in this together. She’s reaching out to me, which makes me your best shot at figuring out what she’s up to.”


He threw up one hand in frustration, then raked it through his hair. I had to force myself not to get distracted by the way his entire torso flexed with his agitation—his abs clenching, his biceps hardening. “I don’t give a shit what she’s up to. You know the truth, and you’re the only one who matters.”


“If you think I’m going to sit around while she crucifies you in the press, you need to revisit and revise!”


“She can’t hurt me unless she hurts you, and it’s possible that’s what she’s really after.”


“We won’t know unless I talk to her.” I pulled Deanna’s card out of my purse and dialed, blocking my number from showing on her Caller ID.


“Eva, damn it!”


I put the phone on speaker and set it on the counter.


“Deanna Johnson,” she answered briskly.


“Deanna, it’s Eva Tramell.”


“Eva, hi.” The tone of her voice changed, assuming a friendliness we hadn’t yet established. “How are you?”


“I’m good. You?” Studying Gideon, I tried to see if hearing her voice had any effect whatsoever. He glared back, looking deliciously pissed off. I’d become resigned to the fact that whatever his mood, I always found him irresistible.


“Things are churning. In my line of work that’s always good.”


“So is getting your facts straight.”


“Which is one of the reasons I called you. I have a source who claims Gideon walked in on a ménage composed of you, your roommate, and another guy, and flew into a rage. The guy ended up in the hospital and is now pressing assault charges. Is that true?”


I froze, my hearing drowned by my roaring blood. The night I’d met Corinne, I’d come home to find Cary in a four-body sexual tangle that included a guy named Ian. When Ian had lewdly—and nakedly—propositioned me to join them, Gideon had refused the offer with his fist.


I looked at Gideon and my stomach cramped. It was true. He was being sued. I could see the proof of it in his face, which was devoid of all emotion, his thoughts hidden behind a flawless mask. “No, it’s not true,” I answered.


“Which part?”


“I have nothing further to say to you.”


“I also have a firsthand account of an altercation between Gideon and Brett Kline, allegedly over you being caught in a hot clinch with Kline. Is that true?”


My knuckles whitened as I gripped the edge of the counter.


“Your roommate was recently assaulted,” she went on. “Did Gideon have anything to do with that?”


Oh my God … “You’re out of your mind,” I said coldly.


“The footage of you and Gideon arguing in Bryant Park shows him being very aggressive and physically rough with you. Are you in an abusive relationship with Gideon Cross? Is he violent with an uncontrollable temper? Are you afraid of him, Eva?”


Gideon spun on his heel and walked away, striding down the hallway and turning into his home office.


“Fuck you, Deanna,” I bit out. “You’re going to rip an innocent man’s reputation apart because you can’t deal with casual sex? Way to represent the sophisticated modern woman.”


“He answered the phone,” she hissed, “before he was done. He answered the fucking phone and started talking about an inspection at one of his properties. Midconversation he looked at me lying there waiting for him and he said, ‘You can go.’ Just like that. He treated me like a whore, only I didn’t get paid. He didn’t even offer me a drink.”


I closed my eyes. Jesus. “I’m sorry, Deanna. I mean that sincerely. I’ve met my share of assholes and it sounds like he was one to you. But what you’re doing is wrong.”


“It’s not wrong if it’s true.”


“But it’s not.”


She sighed. “I’m sorry you’re in the middle of this, Eva.”


“No, you’re not.” I hit the end button and stood with my head bent, holding on to the counter while the room spun around me.


8


I FOUND GIDEON pacing like a caged panther behind his desk. He had an earpiece in his ear and he was either listening or on hold, since he wasn’t talking. He caught my eye, his face hard and unyielding. Even dressed in boxer briefs, he seemed invulnerable. No one would be fool enough to take him for anything else. Physically, his power was evident in every slab of muscle. Beyond that, he radiated a ruthless menace that sent a chill down my spine.


The indolent, well-pleasured male I’d eaten dinner with was gone, replaced by an urban predator who dominated his competition.


I left him to it.


Gideon’s tablet was what I wanted, and I found it in his briefcase. It was password protected and I stared at the screen for a long while, startled to realize I was shaking. Everything I’d feared was happening.


“Angel.”


Looking up, I caught his eye as he appeared from the hallway.


“The password,” he explained. “It’s angel.”


Oh. All the rampant energy inside me vanished, leaving me feeling drained and tired. “You should’ve told me about the lawsuit, Gideon.”


“At this point in time there isn’t a lawsuit, only the threat of one,” he said without inflection. “Ian Hager wants money, I want nondisclosure. We’ll settle privately and be done with it.”


I sagged back into the couch, dropping the tablet onto my thighs. I watched as he walked toward me, drinking him in. It was so easy to become dazzled by his looks, enough that one could fail to see how alone he was at heart. But it was past time he learned to include me when he faced difficulties.


“I don’t care if it’s a nonstarter,” I argued. “You should’ve told me.”


His arms crossed his chest. “I meant to.”


“You meant to?” I shoved to my feet. “I tell you I’m broken up over my mother not telling me something and you don’t say a word about your own secrets?”


For a moment, he remained hard-faced and immovable. Then he cursed under his breath and unfolded. “I came home early, planning to tell you, but then you told me about your mom and I thought that was enough shit for you to deal with in one day.”


Deflating, I sank back onto the couch. “That’s not the way a relationship works, ace.”


“I’m just getting you back, Eva. I don’t want all the time we spend together to be about what’s wrong and fucked up in our lives!”


I patted the cushion beside me. “Come here.”


He took a seat on the coffee table in front of me instead, his spread legs bracketing mine. He caught my hands in both of his, lifting them to his lips to kiss my knuckles. “I’m sorry.”


“I don’t blame you. But if there’s anything else you have to tell me, now would be the time.”

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