“Nah.” He glanced away from the TV to look at me, his green eyes serious. “She left all pissed off. I told her we wouldn’t be moving in together.”
“Oh.” To be honest, I didn’t like Tatiana Cherlin. Like Cary, she was a successful model, although she hadn’t yet attained his level of recognition.
Cary had met her on a job. Their purely sexual relationship had shifted drastically when she’d found out she was pregnant. Unfortunately, she’d discovered she was expecting around the same time Cary found a great guy he wanted to work on a relationship with.
“Big decision,” I said.
“And I’m not sure it’s the right one.” He ran a hand over his gorgeous face. “If Trey weren’t in the picture, I’d be doing the right thing by Tat.”
“Who says you aren’t? Being a good parent doesn’t mean you have to live together. Look at my mom and dad.”
“Fuck.” He groaned. “I feel like I’m choosing myself over my child, Eva. What does that make me, if not a selfish bastard?”
“It’s not like you’re cutting her off. I know you’ll be there for her and the baby, just not in that way.” Reaching over, I twirled a lock of his chocolate brown hair around my finger. My best friend had suffered through so much in his life. The twisted way he’d been introduced to sex and love had left him with a lot of baggage and bad habits. “So Trey’s going to stick?”
“He hasn’t decided.”
“Did he call you?”
Cary shook his head. “No. I broke down and called him before he forgot about me altogether.”
I gave him a little push. “As if that could ever happen. You, Cary Taylor, are utterly unforgettable.”
“Ha.” He stretched out with a sigh. “He didn’t sound too happy to hear from me. Said he’s still working some stuff out in his head.”
“Which means he’s thinking about you.”
“Yeah, thinking he dodged a bullet,” Cary muttered. “He said it was never going to work for us if I was living with Tat, but when I told him I’d fix that, he said that would just make him feel like an asshole for getting in the way. It’s a no-win, but I laid it all out for Tat anyway, because I have to try.”
“It’s a tough spot to be in.” I couldn’t imagine it myself. “Just try to make the best decisions you can. You have a right to be happy. That’s the best thing for everyone around you, including the baby.”
“If there is a baby.” His eyes closed. “Tat says she’s not doing this alone. If I’m not going to be there, she doesn’t want to go through with it.”
“Isn’t it getting a little late for her to say that?” I couldn’t keep the anger out of my voice. Tatiana was a manipulator. It was impossible not to look ahead and see that being a source of misery for an innocent kid.
“I can’t even think about it, Eva. I lose my shit. It’s all so fucked up.” He huffed out a humorless laugh. “And to think I once said she was easy to deal with. She’s never cared that I’m bisexual, and she didn’t care if I slept around …. Part of me feels good that she cares enough now to want to be exclusive, but I can’t help how I feel about Trey.”
He turned his troubled gaze away. It tore me up to see him so down.
“Maybe I should talk to her,” I offered.
He tilted his head back to look at me. “How is that supposed to help? You two don’t get along.”
“I’m not a fan,” I admitted. “But I can work around that. A woman-to-woman talk—if it’s done right—could help. It really couldn’t make things worse, right?” I hesitated before saying more. I meant well, but my good intentions did sound naïve.
He snorted. “There’s always worse.”
“Way to look on the bright side,” I chastised. “Does Trey know that you talked to Tatiana and she’s not moving in?”
“I texted him. Got nada back. But I really didn’t expect to.”
“Give him a little more time.”
“Eva, at the end of the day, he wishes I were totally gay. In his mind, being bisexual means I have to sleep around. He doesn’t get that just because I’m attracted to men and women doesn’t mean I can’t be faithful to one person. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to get it.”
I blew out my breath. “I don’t think I helped with that. He brought it up to me once and I didn’t explain things well.”
That had been eating at me for a while. I needed to reach out to Trey and set that straight. Cary had been in the hospital recovering from a vicious assault when Trey approached me. My mind hadn’t been at its sharpest at the time.
“You can’t fix everything for me, baby girl.” He rolled over onto his stomach and looked at me. “But I love you so much for trying.”
“You’re part of me.” I struggled to find the right words. “I need you to be okay, Cary.”
“I’m working on it.” He scooped his hair back from his face. “I’m taking this weekend in Westport to deal with the possibility that Trey might be out of the mix. I have to be realistic about that.”
“You be realistic, I’ll be hopeful.”
“Have fun with that.” He sat up and put his elbows on his knees, his head hanging. “Which brings me back to Tatiana. I guess I am clear about that. We can’t be together. Baby or not, it wouldn’t work for her or me.”
“I respect that.”
It was hard not to say more. I would always give my best friend the support and reassurance he needed, but there were some hard lessons to be learned here. Trey, Tatiana, and Cary were all hurting—with a baby on the way to join them—because of Cary’s choices. He pushed those who loved him away with his actions, daring them to stay. It was a test rigged for failure. Facing the consequences might just get him to make a change for the better.
His grin was wry, one beautiful green eye peeking through the fall of his long bangs. “I can’t pick and choose based on what I’m going to get out of it. Sucks, but hey … I gotta grow up sometime.”
“Don’t we all?” I gave him an encouraging smile. “I quit my job today.”
Accepting what I’d done got easier every time I said it aloud.
Looking up at the ceiling, I replied, “No shit.”
He whistled. “Should I break out the bourbon and some shot glasses?”
I shuddered. “Ugh. You know I can’t stand bourbon. And really, Cristal and flutes would be more appropriate for my resignation.”
“Seriously? You want to celebrate?”
“I don’t need to drown any sorrows, that’s for sure.” I stretched my arms out over my head and let the last of my tension go. “I’ve been thinking about it all day, though.”
“I’m good. Maybe if Mark had taken the news differently, I’d have second thoughts, but he’s leaving, too, and he’s been there way longer than the three months I’ve been there. It wouldn’t make sense for me to be more upset about moving on than he is.”
“Baby girl, things don’t have to make sense to be true.” Grabbing the remote, he turned the speaker volume down.
“You’re right, but I found Gideon at the same time I started at Waters Field and Leaman. Practically speaking, there’s no comparison between a job you’ve had three months and a husband you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.”
He shot me a look. “You went from sensible to practical. This just keeps getting worse.”
“Oh, shut up.” Cary never let me get away with the easy explanation. Since I was often good at deluding myself, his no-bullshit policy was a mirror I needed.
My smile faded. “I want more.”
“More of everything.” I looked his way again. “Gideon’s got this presence, you know? When he walks into a room, everyone straightens up and pays attention. I want that.”
“You married that. You get it de facto with the name and the bank balance.”
I sat up. “I want it because I’ve earned it, Cary. Geoffrey Cross left behind a lot of people who want some payback from his son. And Gideon’s made his own enemies, like the Lucases.”
I wrinkled my nose. “The bat-shit Anne Lucas and her equally insane husband.” Then it hit me. “Oh my God, Cary! I didn’t tell you. About the redhead you messed around with at that dinner a few weeks back. That was Anne Lucas.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Remember when I asked you to run a search on Dr. Terrence Lucas? Anne is his wife.”
Cary’s confusion was obvious.
I couldn’t go into how Terry Lucas had examined Gideon as a child and lied about finding signs of sexual trauma. He’d done so in order to shield his brother-in-law, Hugh, from prosecution. I would never understand how he could do that, no matter how much he loved his wife. As for Anne, Gideon had slept with her to get back at her husband, but her physical resemblance to her brother had led to sexual depravity that haunted Gideon. He’d punished Anne for the sins of her brother, leaving both himself and her mentally warped in the process.
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