Standing on unsteady feet, I dropped my cell on the low table as if it had burned me. I couldn’t talk to her then. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted Gideon.
I stumbled down the hallway, my shoulder sliding along the wall. I heard Gideon’s voice as I neared his office and my tears came faster, my steps quickening.
“I appreciate that you thought of me, but no,” he said in a low, firm voice that was different from the one I’d heard him using before. It was gentler, more intimate. “Of course we’re friends. You know why … I can’t give you what you want from me.”
I rounded the corner into his office and saw him at his desk, his head down as he listened.
“Stop,” he said icily. “This isn’t the tack you want to take with me, Corinne.”
“Gideon,” I whispered, my hand gripping the doorjamb with white-knuckled force.
He glanced up, then straightened abruptly, surging to his feet. The scowl on his face fled.
“I have to go,” he said, pulling the earpiece from his ear and dropping it on the desk as he rounded it. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
He caught me as I rushed into him, needing him. Relief flooded me as he pulled me close and held me tight.
“My dad found out.” I pressed my face to his chest, my mind filled with echoes of my father’s pain. “He knows.”
Gideon swung me up in his arms, cradling me. His phone started ringing. Cursing under his breath, he walked out of the room.
In the hallway, I could hear my phone rattling on the coffee table. The irritating sound of two phones going off simultaneously ratcheted up my anxiety.
“Let me know if you need to get that,” he said.
“It’s my mom. I’m sure my dad’s called her already, and he’s so angry. God … Gideon. He’s devastated.”
“I understand how he feels.”
He carried me into the guest bedroom and kicked the door closed behind him. Laying me on the bed, he grabbed the remote off the nightstand and turned on the television, lowering the volume to a level that drowned out all other sound but my hiccupping sobs. Then he lay down beside me and hugged me, his hands rubbing up and down my back. I cried until my eyes felt raw and I had nothing left.
“Tell me what to do,” he said when I quieted.
“He’s coming here. To New York.” My stomach knotted at the thought. “He’s trying to fly out today, I think.”
“When you find out, I’ll go with you to pick him up.”
“The hell I can’t,” he said without heat.
I offered my mouth and sighed when he kissed me. “I should really go alone. He’s hurt. He won’t want anyone else to see him that way.”
Gideon nodded. “Take my car.”
“Your new neighbor’s DB9.”
He shrugged. “You’ll know it when you see it.”
I didn’t doubt that. Whatever it was, the car would be sleek, fast, and dangerous—just like its owner.
“I’m scared,” I murmured, my legs tangling even tighter with his. He was so strong and solid. I wanted to hang on to him and never let go.
His fingers sifted through my hair. “Of what?”
“Things are already fucked up between my mom and me. If my parents have a falling-out, I don’t want to get stuck in the middle. I know they wouldn’t handle it well—especially my mom. They’re crazy in love with each other.”
“I hadn’t realized that.”
“You didn’t see them together. Major sizzle,” I explained, remembering that Gideon and I had been separated when I learned the sexual chemistry between my parents was still white-hot. “And my dad confessed to still being in love with her. Makes me sad to think about it.”
“Because they’re not together?”
“Yes, but not because I want one big happy family,” I qualified. “I just hate the thought of going through life without the person you’re in love with. When I lost you—”
“You’ve never lost me.”
“It was like part of me died. Going through a whole lifetime like that …”
“Would be hell.” Gideon ran his fingertips across my cheek and I saw the bleakness in his eyes, the lingering specter of Nathan haunting him. “Let me handle Monica.”
I blinked at him. “How?”
His lips curled on one side. “I’ll call her and ask how you’re dealing with everything and how you’re doing. Start the process of publicly working my way back to you.”
“She knows I told you everything. She might break down on you.”
“Better me than you.”
That was almost enough to make me smile. “Thank you.”
“I’ll distract her and get her thinking about something else.” He reached for my hand and touched my ring.
Wedding bells. He didn’t say it, but I got the message. And of course that was what my mother would think. A man in Gideon’s position didn’t come back to a woman through her mother—especially one like Monica Stanton—unless his “intentions” were serious.
That was an issue we’d tackle another day.
FOR the next hour, Gideon pretended like he wasn’t hovering. He stayed close, following me from room to room on some pretext or another. When my stomach growled, he tugged me immediately into the kitchen, pulling together a plate of sandwiches, potato chips, and prepared macaroni salad.
We ate at the island, and I let the comfort of his attentiveness soothe my nerves. As rough as things were, he was there for me to lean on. It made a lot of the troubles we were facing seem surmountable.
What couldn’t we accomplish, as long as we stayed together?
“What did Corinne want?” I asked. “Besides you.”
His features hardened. “I don’t want to talk about Corinne.”
There was an edge to his voice that niggled at me. “Is everything all right?”
“What did I just say?”
“Something lame that I’m choosing to ignore.”
He made an exasperated noise, but relented. “She’s upset.”
“Screaming upset? Or crying upset?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes. There’s a difference between being mad at a guy and being a teary mess over him. For example: Deanna is mad and can plot your destruction; I was a teary mess and could barely crawl out of bed every day.”
“God. Eva.” He reached over and set his hand over mine. “I’m sorry.”
“Cut it out with the apologies, already! You’ll make it up to me having to deal with my mother. So is Corinne mad or teary?”
“She was crying.” Gideon winced. “Christ. She lost it.”
“I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. Don’t let her guilt-trip you, though.”
“I used her,” he said quietly, “to protect you.”
I set my sandwich down and narrowed my gaze at him. “Did you or did you not tell her that all you could offer was friendship?”
“You know I did. But I also deliberately fostered the impression that we might be more, for the sake of the press and the police. I sent her mixed signals. That’s what I feel guilty about.”
“Well, stop. That bitch tried to make me think you’d banged her”—I wiggled two fingers—“twice. And the first time she did, it hurt so bad I’m still getting over it. Plus she’s married, for fuck’s sake. She’s got no business making moves on my man when she’s got her own.”
“Back up to the part about banging her. What are you talking about?”
I explained the incidents—the lipstick-on-the-cuff disaster at the Crossfire and my impromptu visit to Corinne’s apartment, when she’d tried to play it like she’d just got done screwing him.
“Well, that changes things considerably,” he said. “There’s nothing more she and I need to say to each other.”
He reached over to tuck my hair behind my ear. “We’ll eventually be on the other side of all this.”
“Whatever will we do with ourselves then?” I muttered.
“Oh, I’m sure I can think of something.”
“Sex, right?” I shook my head. “I’ve created a monster.”
“Don’t forget work—together.”
“Oh my God. You don’t quit.”
He crunched on a chip and swallowed. “I want you to see the revamped Crossroads and Cross Industries websites when we’re done with lunch.”
I wiped my mouth with a napkin. “Really? That was fast. I’m impressed.”
“Let’s have you look at them first before you decide that.”
GIDEON knew me well. Work was my escape and he put me to it. He set me up with his laptop in the living room, made my phone stop ringing, then went into his office to call my mother.
For the first few minutes after he’d left me alone, I listened to the low murmur of his voice and tried to focus on the websites he’d pulled up for me, but it was no use. I was too scattered to pay attention. I ended up calling Cary instead.
“Where the fuck are you?” he barked by way of greeting.
“I know it’s been crazy,” I said quickly, having no doubt my mother and father would’ve been calling the apartment Cary and I shared when I didn’t answer my smartphone. “I’m sorry.”
The background noise on Cary’s end told me he was somewhere out on the streets.
“Mind telling me what’s going on? Everyone’s calling me—your parents, Stanton, Clancy. They’re all looking for you and you’re not answering your cell. I’ve been freaking out wondering what happened to you!”
Crap. I closed my eyes. “My dad found out about Nathan.”
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