“It’s too soon,” I whispered, my throat tight. I lifted slightly, trying to gain some distance, but he pulled me back and held me down. “I don’t know if I can.”
“But you’re not going anywhere,” he reminded, his jaw set. “And neither am I. Why put off the inevitable?”
“That’s not the way you need to look at it. We’ve got too many triggers. If we’re not careful, one or both of us will shut down, cut the other one—”
“Ask me, Eva,” he commanded.
Frustrated by his obstinacy, I stewed for a minute, then decided that whatever the reason, there were questions that needed answers no matter what. “Dr. Lucas. Do you know why he lied to your mother?”
His jaw worked as he clenched his teeth, his eyes turning hard and cold. “He was protecting his brother-in-law.”
“What?” I sat back, my thoughts spinning. “Anne’s brother? The woman you were sleeping with?”
“Fucking,” he corrected harshly. “Everyone in Anne’s family is in the mental health field. The whole fucked-up lot of them. She’s a shrink. Did any of your Google searches dig that up?”
I nodded absently, more concerned with the vehemence with which he said the word shrink, practically spitting it out. Was that why he hadn’t gotten help before? And how much did he love me to make the effort to see Dr. Petersen despite his loathing?
“I didn’t know it right away,” he went on. “I couldn’t figure out why Lucas lied. He’s a pediatrician, for chrissakes. He’s supposed to care about kids.”
“Screw that. He’s supposed to be human!” Rage filled me, a white-hot desire to find Lucas and hurt him. “I can’t believe he could look me in the eye like he did and say all that shit he said.”
Blaming Gideon for everything … trying to drive a wedge between us …
“It wasn’t until I met you that I finally started to get it,” he said, his hands tightening around my waist. “He loves Anne. Maybe as much as I love you. Enough to overlook her cheating and cover up for her brother to spare her the truth. Or embarrassment.”
“He shouldn’t be practicing medicine.”
“I don’t disagree.”
“So why is his office in one of your buildings?”
“I bought the building because his practice is in it. Helps me keep an eye on him and how well he’s doing … or not.”
Something about the way he said “or not” led me to wonder: Did he have anything to do with Lucas’s less profitable times? I remembered when Cary had been taken to the hospital and how special arrangements had been made for him and for me, because Gideon was such a generous benefactor. How much could he influence?
If there were ways to put Lucas at a disadvantage, I was certain Gideon knew them all.
“And the brother-in-law?” I asked. “What happened to him?”
Gideon’s chin lifted and his gaze narrowed. “The statute of limitations ran out for me, but I confronted him, told him if he ever went into practice or laid a hand on another child I’d set up an unlimited fund dedicated to prosecuting him civilly and criminally on behalf of his victims. Shortly after that, he killed himself.”
The last was said without inflection, which made the hairs on my nape stand on end. I shivered with a sudden chill that came from inside me.
He rubbed his hands up and down my arms, trying to warm me, but he didn’t pull me into him. “Hugh was married. Had a child. A boy. Just a few years old.”
“Gideon.” I hugged him, understanding. He’d lost a father to suicide, too. “What Hugh chose to do isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible for the decisions he made.”
“Aren’t I?” he asked, with that ice in his voice.
“No, you’re not.” I held him as tight as I could, willing my love into his tense, rigid body. “And the boy … His father’s death might have prevented him from experiencing what you did. Have you thought of that?”
His chest lifted and fell roughly. “Yes, I’ve thought of it. But he doesn’t know what his father was. He only knows that his dad is gone, by choice, and he’s left behind. He’ll believe his father didn’t care enough about him to stay.”
“Baby.” I pulled his head toward me, urging him to rest against me. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t make excuses for Geoffrey Cross and I knew Gideon was thinking of him, as well as the boy he himself had once been. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I need you to stay, Eva,” he whispered, his arms finally coming around me. “And you’re holding back. It’s driving me crazy.”
I rocked gently, cradling him. “I’m being cautious because you’re so important to me.”
“I know it’s not fair to ask you to be with me”—his head tilted back—“when we can’t even sleep in the same bed, but I’ll love you better than anyone else could. I’ll take care of you and make you happy. I know I can.”
“You do.” I brushed his hair back from his temples and wanted to cry when I saw the longing on his face. “I want you to believe I’ll stay with you.”
“Not of you.” I sighed, trying to pull the words together in a way that made sense. “I can’t … I can’t just be an extension of you.”
“Eva.” His features softened. “I can’t change who I am, and I don’t want to change who you are. I just want us to be who we are—together.”
I kissed him. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted us to live the same life, too, to be together in every way we could be. But I also believed that neither of us was ready.
“Gideon.” I kissed him again, my lips clinging to his. “You and me, we’re barely strong enough on our own. We’re getting better all the time, but we’re not there yet. It’s not just about the nightmares.”
“Tell me what it’s about, then.”
“Everything. I don’t know … It’s not right for me to live in a place Stanton pays for anymore now that Nathan isn’t a threat. And especially not now that my parents hooked up.”
His brows shot up. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah,” I confirmed. “Total mess.”
“Move in with me,” he said, rubbing my back to comfort me.
“So … I skip right over making it on my own? Am I always going to live off someone else?”
“For fuck’s sake.” He made a frustrated noise. “Would you feel better if we shared the rent?”
“Ha! Like I could afford your penthouse, even paying just a third of it. And there’s no way Cary could.”
“So we’ll move in here or next door, if you want, and take over the lease. I don’t care where, Eva.”
I stared at him, wanting what he was offering but afraid I’d miss a big pitfall that would hurt us.
“You came to me as soon as you got up this morning,” he pointed out. “You don’t like being away from me, either. Why torture ourselves? Sharing the same space should be the least of our problems.”
“I don’t want to screw this up,” I told him, my fingers brushing over his chest. “I need us to work, Gideon.”
He caught my hand and pressed it over his heart. “I need us to work, too, angel. And I want mornings like this and nights like last night while we do it.”
“No one even knows we’re seeing each other. How do we go from being broken up to living together?”
“We start today. You’re taking Cary with you to the video launch. I’ll come up to the both of you with Ireland, say hi—”
“She called me,” I interrupted, “and told me to go up to you. She wants us to get back together.”
“She’s a smart girl.” He smiled and I felt a little thrill at the thought that he might be opening up to her. “So one of us will approach the other, make small talk, and I’ll say hi to Cary. You and I won’t have to fake the attraction between us. Tomorrow, I’ll take you out to lunch. Bryant Park Grill would be ideal. We’ll make a show of it.”
It all sounded wonderful and easy, but … “Is it safe?”
“Finding Nathan’s bracelet on a criminal’s corpse opens the door to reasonable doubt. That’s all we need.”
We looked at each other, sharing the feeling of hope, the sense of excitement and expectation in a future that had seemed so much more uncertain just yesterday.
He touched my cheek. “You made a reservation at Tableau One for tonight.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I had to use your name to get on the list, but Brett asked me out to dinner and I wanted us to go to a place connected with you.”
“Ireland and I have a reservation at the same time. We’ll join you.”
I shifted awkwardly, nervous at the thought, and Gideon thickened inside me. “Uh …”
“Don’t worry,” he murmured, his focus clearly shifting to more heated thoughts. “It’ll be fun.”
Banding his arms around my hips and shoulder blades, Gideon scooped me up and moved, rolling and putting me beneath him. “Trust me.”
I was going to reply, but he kissed me quiet and fucked me senseless.
I showered and dressed at Gideon’s, then hurried back down the hallway to my apartment for my purse and bag, trying not to look like I was sneaking around. It was easy to get ready at Gideon’s apartment, since he’d stocked the bathroom with all my usual toiletries and cosmetics, and had purchased enough clothes and underwear for me to never have to wear anything from my own closet.
It was too much, but that was the way he was.
I was rinsing off the mug I’d used for a quick cup of coffee when Trey came into the kitchen.
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