“So I’ve been told,” I said dryly.
“You have the family you were born into and the family you’ve married into, but you keep yourself separate from both. Their activities and overtures don’t impact you in a meaningful way because you don’t allow them to. They’re disruptive to the order of your life, so you keep them at a comfortable distance.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m certainly not the only person to say family is who you choose.”
“Who have you chosen, aside from Eva?”
“It … wasn’t a choice.”
I pictured her in my mind the way she’d been when I first saw her. She had been dressed to work out, her face naturally bare, her amazing body hugged by form-fitting fitness gear. Just like thousands of other women on the island of Manhattan, but she’d struck me like lightning without even knowing I was there.
“My concern is that she’s become a coping mechanism for you,” Dr. Petersen said. “You’ve found someone who loves you and believes you, who supports you and gives you strength. In many ways, you feel like she’s the only one who will ever truly understand you.”
“She’s in a unique position to do so.”
“Not that unique,” he said kindly. “I’ve read the transcripts of some of your speeches. You’re aware of the statistics.”
Yes, I knew that one in every four women I met had been exposed to sexual abuse. That didn’t change the fact that none of them had evoked the feelings of affinity that Eva did. “If there’s a point, Doctor, I’d like you to get to it.”
“I want you to be mindful of a potential tendency to seclude yourself with Eva, to the exclusion of everyone else. I asked if you would gift her with a pet, because I can’t see you doing so. That would shift her focus and affection away from you, even if only slightly, while your focus and affection is centered entirely on her.”
I drummed my fingertips on the arm of the sofa. “That’s not unusual for newlyweds.”
“It’s unusual for you.” He leaned forward. “Did Eva say why she gave Lucky to you?”
I hesitated, preferring to keep something so intimate to myself. “She wants me to have more unconditional love.”
He smiled. “And I’m certain it will give her great pleasure to see you reciprocating that. She’s pushed very hard for you to open up to her and to me. Now that you’re taking those steps, she’ll want you to open up to others. The bigger her intimate circle is, the happier she is. She wants to pull you into that, not have you pull her out of it.”
My lungs expanded on a long, deep breath. He was right, much as I hated to admit it.
Dr. Petersen sat back again and resumed scrawling on the screen of his tablet, giving me time to absorb what he said.
I asked him something that had been on my mind. “When I told you about Hugh …”
He gave me his full attention. “Yes?”
“You didn’t seem surprised.”
“And you want to know why.” His gaze was kind. “There were certain markers. I could say I deduced it, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.”
I felt my phone buzz in my pocket but ignored it, despite knowing that only a handful of people were programmed to bypass the do-not-disturb setting I used during my meetings with Dr. Petersen.
“I saw Eva shortly after she moved to New York,” he went on. “She asked me if it was possible for two abuse survivors to have a meaningful relationship. It was only a few days later when you contacted me and asked if I’d be open to seeing you, in addition to seeing you and Eva as a couple.”
My pulse quickened. “I hadn’t told her then. I didn’t until we’d been coming to you for a while.”
But I’d had nightmares, the really bad ones that had been coming less frequently of late.
My phone buzzed again and I pulled it out. “Excuse me.”
It was Angus. I’m outside the office door, he’d texted first. This time, It’s urgent.
My spine stiffened. Angus wouldn’t disturb me without a very good reason. I stood. “I’ll have to cut this short,” I told Dr. Petersen.
He set aside his tablet and rose to his feet. “Is everything all right?”
“If not, I’m sure you’ll hear about it on Thursday.” I shook his hand quickly and left the office, passing through the empty reception area before stepping out to the hallway.
Angus stood there, looking grim. He wasted no time. “The police are at the penthouse with Eva.”
My blood turned to ice. I strode to the elevator with Angus falling into step beside me. “Why?”
“Anne Lucas filed charges of harassment.”
My hand shook as I poured freshly brewed coffee into three mugs. I couldn’t tell if that was because I was so pissed off or because I was afraid. Certainly, I was both. Being a cop’s daughter, I understood the unwritten rules followed by those who worked behind the blue wall of law enforcement. And after everything Gideon and I had been through regarding Nathan’s death, I was doubly on my guard now.
But it wasn’t Detectives Graves and Michna of the homicide division who wanted to speak to me. I couldn’t decide if that made me more or less anxious. They were the devil I knew, so to speak. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to call Shelley Graves an ally, she’d dropped the case when she still had questions without answers.
This time around, it was Officers Peña and Williams who had shown up on our doorstep.
And it was Anne Lucas who sent them my way. That fucking bitch.
I’d had to cut my appointment with Blaire Ash short, knowing it was unavoidable that the designer would pass the officers in the lobby when he exited the private elevator. I didn’t have time to worry about what he’d make of that. Instead, I took the brief time alone to call Raúl and tell him to find Arash Madani. I wanted to call Gideon, but he was with Dr. Petersen and I considered that more important. I could handle the police. I knew the basics: Have an attorney present and be succinct. Don’t elaborate or offer information not asked for.
Setting the three mugs of coffee on a serving tray, I searched for something to pour the half-and-half into.
“You don’t have to go to any trouble, Ms. Tramell,” Officer Peña said as he and his partner entered the kitchen with their hats tucked under their arms.
Peña had a baby face that made him look younger than he probably was, which I guessed was close to my age. Williams was a petite, curvy black woman, with sharp cop eyes that told me she’d seen things I would never want to.
I’d asked them to wait in the living room and they had followed me instead. That made me feel hunted, which I’m sure was part of their intention.
“It’s no trouble.” I gave up trying to be classy about the half-and-half and just set the carton on the island. “And I’m waiting for my attorney to arrive, so there’s really not much else for me to do in the meantime.”
Officer Williams eyed me coolly, as if she were wondering why I felt the need for counsel.
I didn’t have to justify myself but knew it wouldn’t hurt to let them know why I was cautious. “My dad’s on the job in California. He’d chew me out if I didn’t follow his advice.”
I grabbed the box of sugar I’d dug out of the pantry and set it on the tray before moving it all over to the island.
“Where in California?” Peña asked, grabbing a mug and taking his coffee black.
“San Diego area, right? Nice.”
“It is, yes.”
Williams took her coffee with a splash of half-and-half and a whole lot of sugar, which she poured straight from the box. “Is Mr. Cross here?”
“He’s in a meeting.”
She kept her gaze on me as she lifted her mug to her lips. “Who was the guy leaving when we came up?”
The deliberate casualness of her tone made me glad I’d sent word to Arash. I didn’t believe for a minute that the question was just small talk. “Blaire Ash. He’s the interior designer working on some renovations we’re doing.”
“You live here?” Peña asked. “We stopped by an apartment on the Upper West Side we heard was yours.”
“I’m in the process of moving in.”
He leaned into the island and looked around. “Nice place.”
“I think so, too.”
Williams caught my eye. “Have you been dating Gideon Cross long?”
“She’s married to me, actually,” Gideon said, appearing in the doorway.
Peña straightened, swallowing quickly. Williams set her mug down with enough force to spill some coffee.
Gideon’s gaze swept over all of us, then locked with mine. He looked perfect, his suit pristine, his tie immaculately knotted, his dark hair framing that savagely beautiful face. There was the faintest shadow of stubble around his sensual mouth. That, and the sexy length of his hair, lent a dangerous edge to his otherwise civilized appearance.
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