“Isn’t it dangerous for Angus to be put in the middle?”
“He’s former MI6. Clandestine phone calls are child’s play for him.” He paused, then said, “Full disclosure, Eva: I can track you through the phone and I will.”
“What?” I slid out of bed and stood. My thoughts bounced back and forth between MI6—British secret service!—to geotracking my cell, unsure of what to latch on to first. “No way.”
He stood, too. “If I can’t be with you or talk to you, I at least need to know where you are.”
“Don’t be this way, Gideon.”
His face was composed. “I didn’t have to tell you.”
“Seriously?” I stalked to the closet to grab a robe. “And you said warning someone about ridiculous behavior isn’t an excuse for it.”
“Cut me some slack.”
Glaring at him, I shoved my hands into the sleeves of a red silk dressing gown and yanked the belt into a knot. “No. I think you’re a control freak who likes having me followed.”
He crossed his arms. “I like keeping you alive.”
I froze. After a moment, my brain rewound to look at the events of the last few weeks again—with the addition of Nathan in the picture. Abruptly, everything made sense: the way Gideon had freaked out when I’d tried to walk to work one morning, why Angus had shadowed me around the city every day, Gideon’s fury when he commandeered the elevator I was riding …
All those times I’d almost hated him for being an asshole, he’d been thinking about keeping me safe from Nathan.
My knees weakened, and I sank inelegantly to the floor.
“Give me a minute.” I’d figured out a lot of it already during the time we’d been apart. I’d realized Gideon would never allow Nathan to simply stroll into his office with photos of me being abused and violated, then just stroll back out again. Brett Kline had only kissed me and Gideon had beaten him up. Nathan had raped me repeatedly for years and documented it with pictures and video. Gideon’s reaction to meeting Nathan the first time had to have been violent.
Nathan must have visited the Crossfire Building the day I’d found Gideon freshly showered with a crimson stain on the cuff of his shirt. What I’d originally suspected was lipstick was Nathan’s blood. The sofa and sofa pillows in Gideon’s office had been skewed from a fight, not from a lunch quickie with Corinne.
Scowling fiercely, he crouched in front of me. “Damn it. Do you think I want to micromanage you? There have been extenuating circumstances. Give me credit for trying to balance your independence with keeping you safe.”
Wow. Hindsight didn’t just make things crystal clear; it smacked me upside the head and knocked some sense into me. “I get it.”
“I don’t think you do. This”—he gestured impatiently at himself—“is just a fucking shell. You’re what drives me, Eva. Can you understand that? You’re my heart and soul. If something ever happened to you, it would kill me, too. Keeping you safe is goddamned self-preservation! Tolerate it for me, if you won’t do it for yourself.”
I surged into him, knocking him off-balance and onto his back. I kissed him hard, my heart pounding and blood roaring in my ears.
“I hate to freak you out,” I muttered between desperate kisses, “but you’ve got it real bad for me.”
Groaning, he squeezed me tightly. “So we’re okay?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Maybe not about the burner phone. The cell stalking is nuts. Seriously. Not cool at all.”
“I know, but—”
He put a hand over my mouth. “I put directions on how to track my phone in your purse.”
That news left me speechless.
Gideon smirked. “Not such a bad idea on the flip side.”
“Shut up.” I slid off him and smacked his shoulder. “We are totally dysfunctional.”
“I prefer ‘selectively deviant.’ But we’ll keep that to ourselves.”
The warmth I’d felt bled away, replaced by a flare of panic at the reminder that we were hiding our relationship. How long would it be before I saw him again? Days? I couldn’t repeat the last few weeks of my life. Even thinking about going without him for any length of time made me feel sick.
I had to swallow past a painful lump to ask, “When can we be together again?”
“Tonight. Eva.” His beautiful eyes were haunted. “I can’t bear that look on your face.”
“Just be with me,” I whispered, my eyes stinging all over again. “I need you.”
Gideon’s fingertips glided softly down my cheek. “You were with me. The whole time. There wasn’t a second that passed when you weren’t on my mind. You own me, Eva. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I belong to you.”
I leaned into his touch, letting it soak into me and chase the chill away. “No more Corinne. I can’t stand it.”
“No more,” he agreed, startling me. “I’ve told her already. I’d hoped we could be friends, but she wants what she and I used to have, and I want you.”
“The night that Nathan died … she was your alibi.” I couldn’t say more. It hurt to think of how he might have filled the hours with her.
“No, the kitchen fire was my alibi. It took most of the night dealing with the FDNY, the insurance company, and making emergency arrangements for food service. Corinne stuck around for some of that, and when she left, I had plenty of staff on hand to vouch for my whereabouts.”
The surge of relief I felt must have shown on my face, because Gideon’s gaze softened and filled with the regret I’d seen so many times now.
He stood and held his hand out to help me up. “Your new neighbor would like to invite you over for a late dinner. Let’s say eight o’clock. You’ll find the key—and the key to the penthouse—on your keychain.”
I accepted his hand up and tried to lighten the mood with a teasing reply. “He’s seriously hot. I wonder if he puts out on the first date?”
His returning smile was so wicked it revved me up a notch. “I think your odds of getting laid are pretty good.”
I gave a dramatic sigh. “How romantic!”
“I’ll give you romance.” Pulling me into him, Gideon dipped me with consummate ease.
Pressed against him from hip to ankle and bowed backward in a yielding curve, I felt my robe slide apart, exposing my breast. He deepened my arch, until my tender sex hugged his hard thigh and I couldn’t help but be hyperaware of the power of his body as he supported my weight and his.
That quickly, he seduced me. Despite hours of pleasure and a very recent orgasm, I was primed for him in that moment, aroused by his skill and strength and self-assurance, his command of himself and of me.
I rode his leg with a slow slide, licking my lips. He growled and surrounded my nipple with the wet heat of his mouth, his tongue worrying the hardened point. Effortlessly he held me, aroused me, possessed me.
I closed my eyes and moaned my surrender.
BECAUSE of the heat and humidity, I chose a lightweight linen sheath dress and pulled my blond hair back in a ponytail. I accessorized with a small pair of gold hoop earrings and kept my makeup light.
Everything had changed. Gideon and I were back together. I was now living in a world without Nathan Barker in it. I was never going to turn a corner and run into him. He was never going to appear on my doorstep out of the blue. I no longer had to worry that Gideon would learn things about my past that would drive a wedge between us. He knew it all and wanted me anyway.
But the budding peace that came with that new reality was accompanied by fear for Gideon—I needed to know that he was safe from prosecution. How could he definitively be proven innocent of a crime he actually did commit? Were we going to have to live with the perpetual fear that his actions would come back to haunt us? And how had this changed us? Because there was no way we could be what we’d been before. Not after something so profound.
Leaving my room, I headed out for work, looking forward to the hours of distraction I’d find at my job with Waters Field & Leaman, one of the leading advertising firms in the country. When I went to grab my purse off the breakfast bar, I found Cary in the kitchen. He’d clearly been as Busy with a capital B as I had.
He was leaning back into the counter, his hands gripping the edge as his boyfriend, Trey, cupped his face and kissed him passionately. Trey was fully dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, while Cary wore only gray sweats that hung low and sexy on his lean hips. They both had their eyes closed and were too lost in each other to realize they were no longer alone.
It was rude to look, but I couldn’t help it. For one, I’d always found it fascinating to watch two hot men make out. And two, I found Cary’s pose very telling. While his handsome face was markedly vulnerable, the fact that he was holding on to the counter instead of the man he loved betrayed his lingering distance.
I picked up my purse and backed out as quietly as I could, tiptoeing from the apartment.
Because I didn’t want to be totally melted by the time I got to work, I hailed a cab instead of walking. From the backseat, I watched Gideon’s Crossfire Building come into view. The gleaming and distinctive sapphire spire was home to both Cross Industries and Waters Field & Leaman.
My job as assistant to junior account manager Mark Garrity was a dream come true. While some—namely my stepfather, megafinancier Richard Stanton—couldn’t understand why I’d take an entry-level position considering my connections and assets, I was really proud to be working my way up. Mark was a great boss, both hands-on and hands-off, which meant I was learning a lot both by instruction and from doing it myself.
The cab turned a corner and pulled up behind a black Bentley SUV I knew all too well. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of it, knowing that Gideon was nearby.
I paid the cabdriver and climbed out of the cool interior into the steamy early-morning air. My eyes were riveted to the Bentley in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of Gideon. It was crazy how excited I was by the idea, especially after a night spent rolling around with him in all his naked glory.
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