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I hadn’t a clue what kind of material the bikini was made of, but it was seamless and hugged her skin so perfectly it looked painted on. Thin straps at the neck, hips, and back brought to mind thoughts of tying her up and taking what I needed.

“Come here,” I ordered, reaching for her.

She danced out of reach. Tossing the sheet back, I surged to my feet.

“Down, boy,” she teased, darting around the sofa.

I fisted my cock, stroking it hard from root to tip as I stalked her into the seating area. “That’s not going to work.”

Her eyes sparkled with laughter.

“Eva—”

She snatched something off the back of the chair and ran to the door. “See you downstairs!”

I lunged for her and missed, finding myself facing the back of the slammed door instead. “Damn it.”

I brushed my teeth, threw on swim trunks and a T-shirt, and followed her down. I was the last one to make an appearance, discovering the rest of the group already seated at the kitchen island and eating heartily. A quick glance at the clock told me it was almost noon.

I looked for Eva and found her sitting on the patio with a phone to her ear. She’d covered herself in a strapless white skirt thing. I noted that Monica and Lacey were both dressed similarly, with bathing suits partially hidden by barely-there cover-ups. Like me, Cary, Stanton, and Martin had on trunks and T-shirts.

“She always calls her dad on Saturdays,” Cary said, following my gaze.

I watched my wife for a long minute, looking for any signs of distress. She wasn’t smiling anymore, but she didn’t look upset.

“Here you go, Gideon.” Monica set a plate of waffles and bacon in front of me. “Would you like coffee? Or maybe a mimosa?”

I glanced at Eva again before answering. “Coffee—black—would be great, thank you.”

Monica moved toward the coffeemaker on the counter. I joined her.

She smiled at me, her lips painted the same pink as the halter tie of her swimsuit. “Did you sleep well?”

“Like a rock.” Which was true, though that was pure luck. The entire household might’ve been woken up by a fight between Eva and me, with her struggling to fight me off while my dreams imagined she was someone else.

Glancing over my shoulder at Cary, I caught his grim gaze. He’d seen what could happen. He didn’t trust me with Eva any more than I trusted myself.

I grabbed an extra mug out of the cupboard Monica reached into. “I can get it,” I told her.

“Nonsense.”

I didn’t argue with her. I let her pour my coffee, then followed suit by pouring a cup for my wife. After adding Eva’s preferred amount of half-and-half, I grabbed the handles of both mugs in one hand. Then I picked up the plate Monica had served me and headed out to the patio.

Eva glanced up at me as I set everything on the table beside her and took the seat on the other side. She’d left her hair down. Blond tendrils fluttered around her bare face as the breeze ruffled through it. I loved her this way, earthy and natural. Here and now, she was my own piece of heaven on earth.

Thank you, she mouthed, before snatching up a piece of bacon. She munched quickly while Victor said something I couldn’t hear.

“Eventually, I’ll focus on Crossroads,” she said, “which is Gideon’s charitable foundation. I hope to be active in that. And I’ve been thinking about maybe going back to school.”

My brows rose.

“I’d like to be a sounding board for Gideon,” she continued, looking straight at me. “Obviously, he’s managed well enough without me and he’s got a great team of advisors, but I’d like him to be able to talk shop with me and at least understand what he’s saying.”

I tapped my chest. I’ll teach you.

She blew me a kiss. “In the meantime, I’m going to be crazy busy trying to pull off a wedding in less than three weeks. I haven’t even picked out invitations yet! I know it’s going to be hard for some of the family to get time off. Could you send out an e-mail in the meantime? Just to get the ball rolling?”

Eva bit into the bacon while her father talked.

“We haven’t discussed it,” she replied, swallowing quickly, “but I’m not planning on inviting them. They lost the right to be part of my life when they disowned Mom. And it’s not like they’ve ever reached out to me, so I don’t think they’d care anyway.”

I looked across the span of sand to the water beyond it. I wasn’t interested in meeting Eva’s maternal grandparents, either. They’d rejected Monica for becoming pregnant with Eva out of wedlock. Anyone who found my wife’s existence distasteful was better off not crossing paths with me.

I listened to Eva’s side of the conversation for another few minutes, and then she said good-bye. When she set her phone on the table, she gave a big sigh that sounded like relief.

“Everything good?” I asked, studying her.

“Yeah, he’s better today.” She glanced inside the house. “You didn’t want to eat with the family?”

“Am I being antisocial?”

She smiled wryly. “Totally. I can’t hold it against you, though.”

I gave her an inquiring look.

“I realized I haven’t included your mother in the wedding planning,” she explained.

Settling deeper into the chair to conceal the stiffening of my spine, I told her, “You don’t have to.”

Her lips pursed. She reached for another piece of bacon, then handed it to me. True love.

“Eva.” I waited until she looked at me. “It’s your day. Don’t feel obligated to do anything but enjoy yourself. And have sex with me, which should fall under enjoying yourself.”

That brought her smile back. “It’s going to be wonderful no matter what.”

I voiced what was left unsaid. “But?”

“I don’t know.” She tucked her hair behind her ear and shrugged. “Thinking about my mom’s parents has me thinking about grandparents, and your mother is going to be our children’s grandmother. I don’t want that to be awkward.”

I bristled. The thought of my mother and a child I created with Eva together in any way filled me with a riot of emotions I couldn’t deal with now. “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“Isn’t our wedding the place to start?”

“You don’t like my mother,” I snapped. “Don’t pretend you do for the sake of children who don’t exist yet.”

Eva jerked back slightly. She blinked at me, then reached for her coffee. “Did you try the waffles?”

Knowing it wasn’t in my wife’s nature to steer away from sensitive topics, I still let her do it. If we were going to get into the subject of my mother, we could do it later.

She set her mug down and tore off a piece of waffle with her fingers. She held it out to me. I took it for what it was: a peace offering.

Then I stood and took her hand, leading her out to the beach for a walk to clear my head.

“You’re welcome.”

Turning my head, I saw Cary grinning at me from where he lay on the sand a few feet away.

“I know you appreciate my packing that bikini,” he elaborated, jerking his chin toward Eva, who was standing thigh-deep in the water.

Her hair was damp and slicked back from her face. Oversize aviator sunglasses shielded her eyes from the sun as she threw a Frisbee back and forth with Martin and Lacey.

“Did you help her pick that out?” Monica asked, smiling from beneath an elegant wide-brim hat.

I’d watched her slather sunscreen all over Eva, a job I wanted for myself, but I didn’t press the point. Sometimes, Monica mothered Eva as if she were still a child. While my wife rolled her eyes at me, I could see that she basked in the attention. It was a very different relationship from the one I had with my own mother.

I couldn’t say that my mom didn’t love me, because she did. In her own way—within boundaries. Monica’s love, on the other hand, had no limits, something Eva found stifling at times.

Who could say which was better or worse? To be loved too much or too little?

God knew I loved Eva beyond all reason.

A sudden sea breeze snapped me out of it. Monica hung on to her hat as Cary turned his head toward her.

“I did,” Cary replied, rolling over onto his stomach. “She was looking at one-pieces and I had to intervene. That bikini was made for her.”

Yeah. Hell yeah. I had my arms crossed over my bent knees so I could take in my fill of her. She was wet and nearly naked, and I was hot for her.

As if she sensed we were talking about her, Eva crooked her finger at me, beckoning me to come to her. I nodded but waited for a few moments before rising from where I’d been sitting in the sand.

The chill of the water made me suck in a sharp breath, but I was grateful for it a moment later when she surged toward me and plastered herself against me. Her legs wrapped around my waist, her smiling mouth puckering into a heated kiss against my lips.

“You’re not bored, are you?” she asked.

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