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“I’m going to ask Scott to arrange the flight,” he continued. “We’ll leave Friday evening and plan to return Monday in time for you to go to work, if you are ambitious enough.”

“Where is Eva going?”

“I have no idea. Shawna wouldn’t say, because it’s not for you to know. She told me only that they would be gone for the weekend and I should plan on keeping you occupied, because Cary doesn’t want you to interfere.”

“That’s not his decision to make,” I snapped.

He paused. “Being angry at me won’t help you, Gideon. And if you don’t trust her, my friend, you shouldn’t be marrying her.”

My grip on the phone tightened. “Arnoldo, you’re the closest friend I have. But that’ll change if you don’t get your head out of your ass when it comes to Eva.”

“You mistake me,” he corrected hurriedly. “If you cage her for your own security, you will lose her. What is considered romantic in a boyfriend can be stifling in a husband.”

Realizing he was offering advice, I started counting to ten. I made it to seven. “I can’t believe this.”

“Don’t get me wrong. Arash assures me she is the best thing to ever happen to you. He says he has never seen you happier and that she adores you.”

“I’ve said the same.”

Arnoldo exhaled audibly. “Men in love do not make the best witnesses.”

Amusement replaced irritation. “Why are you and Arash discussing my personal life?”

“It is what friends do.”

“Girl friends. You’re grown men. You should have something better to do with your time.” I rapped my knuckles on the desktop. “And you want me to spend a weekend in Brazil with a bunch of guy gossips?”

“Listen.” His tone was annoyingly calm. “Manhattan is out. I love the city, too, but I think we’ve exhausted its charms. Especially for such an occasion.”

Chagrined, I looked out the windows at the city I loved. Only Eva knew about the hotel room I’d kept perpetually reserved—my “fuck pad,” as she’d called it. Until her, it was the only place where I took women for sex. It was safe. Impersonal. There was nothing to learn about me there but how I looked nude and how I liked to fuck.

Leaving New York meant I wouldn’t get laid, so of course I’d always insisted the guys keep our prowling close to home.

“All right. I won’t argue.” I was going to discuss it with Eva—and Cary—but that wasn’t Arnoldo’s concern.

“Excellent. I will let you get back to work. We can catch up this weekend.”

We ended the call. I looked over at Scott through the glass wall and lifted one finger, telling him I needed an additional minute of time. Picking up my smartphone, I called Eva.

“Hey, ace,” she answered, sounding flirty and happy.

I absorbed that, along with the punch of pleasure and heat that moved through me. Her voice, always throaty, was huskier than it had been lately. I was reminded of the long night, the sounds she made when aroused, her cries for me when she came.

It was a new goal of mine to keep her sounding like that eternally, to keep her skin flushed and her lips swollen, her stride slow and sultry because she could still feel me inside her. Wherever she went, it should be obvious that I fucked her often and thoroughly. It felt obvious on me. I was loose-limbed and relaxed, a bit weak in the knees—although I’d never admit it.

“Have our plans for the weekend changed?” I asked.

“I might increase my vitamins,” she teased, “but otherwise, no. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The purr in her voice aroused me. “I’ve been told our friends plan to keep us apart this weekend for our respective bachelor and bachelorette parties.”

“Oh.” There was a pause. “I was kinda hoping everyone forgot about that.”

My mouth curved in a smile I wished she could see. “We could run away where they can’t find us.”

“I wish.” She sighed. “I think these things are more for them than us. It’s their last chance to have us all to themselves in the way they’re used to.”

“Those days were over when I met you.” But I knew they weren’t yet over for Eva. She’d hung on to her independence, maintaining her friendships as she always had.

“It’s an odd sort of ritual, isn’t it?” she mused. “Two people commit to each other for life and their friends take them out, get them drunk, and encourage them to be bad one last time.”

All the sexy playfulness she’d had when the conversation started was gone. My wife was an intensely jealous woman. I knew that, accepted it, just as she accepted my possessiveness. “We’ll discuss this more tonight.”

“Yay,” she said, sounding anything but happy about it.

There was some consolation in that. I preferred to picture her suffering through a weekend without me rather than having the time of her life.

“I love you, Eva.”

Her breath caught. “I love you, too.”

Ending the call, I turned to retrieve my jacket from the coatrack, then changed my mind. I retraced my steps to my desk and called Cary.

“What’s up?” he answered.

“Where are you planning on taking my wife this weekend?”

He answered so quickly, I knew he’d been braced to hear from me. “You don’t need to know.”

“The hell I don’t.”

“I’m not going to have you controlling her,” Cary said tightly, “with guards cockblocking any dude that comes near her, like you did in Vegas. She’s a big girl. She can handle herself and she deserves to have fun.”

So that was what this was about. “There were extenuating circumstances then, Cary.”

“Really?” Sarcasm was heavy in his tone. “Like what?”

“Nathan Barker was still breathing and you’d just had a goddamned orgy in your living room. I couldn’t trust her safety to you.”

There was a pause. When he spoke again, his voice was markedly less heated. “Clancy’s covering security. She’ll be fine.”

I took a deep breath. Clancy and I were wary of each other, since he knew what I’d done to remove Nathan as a threat to Eva’s life. Regardless, we both wanted the same thing—for Eva to be happy and safe. I trusted him with her, knew him to be very good at his job running Stanton and Monica’s security.

I would talk to Clancy personally, put him in contact with Angus. Contingencies had to be planned for and communication aligned. If she needed me, I had to be able to get to her as swiftly as possible.

My gut tightened at the thought. “Eva needs her friends and I want her to enjoy herself.”

“Great,” he said airily. “We agree.”

“I won’t interfere, Cary, but keep in mind that no one’s as invested in keeping her safe as I am. She’s only part of your life. She is my life. Don’t be too stubborn to reach out to me if you need me. Is that clear?”

“Yeah. I get it.”

“If it helps you feel better, I’ll be in Brazil.”

He was quiet a minute. “I haven’t nailed down where we’re going yet, but I’m leaning toward Ibiza.”

I cursed silently. It would take half a day to get to her from Rio.

I wanted to argue—I would certainly be making some alternate suggestions for locales in South America—but I held my tongue for the moment, too aware of Dr. Petersen’s comments about Eva’s need for a wide social circle. Instead, I said, “Let me know what you decide.”

“Okay.”

Ending the call, I grabbed my jacket and slipped it on.

I was sure Eva and Dr. Petersen would disagree, but friends and family could be more of a pain in the ass than anything.

The rest of the afternoon passed as scheduled and planned. It was nearing five o’clock when Arash strolled in and settled comfortably on the nearest sofa, spreading his arms wide across the back.

I wrapped up my call with one of our distribution centers in Montreal and stood, stretching my legs. I was due for a session with my trainer, but he was going to kick my ass. I was sure Eva would be delighted to know she’d sapped my stamina.

Not that it would prevent me from having her again when the day was done.

“There’d better be a good reason why you’re making yourself at home,” I told Arash dryly, rounding my desk.

He flashed a cocky grin. “Deanna Johnson.”

My stride slowed, the name taking me by surprise. “What about her?”

Arash whistled. “You do know her.”

“She’s a freelance journalist.” I walked to the bar and pulled two chilled bottles of water out of the refrigerator. Deanna was also a woman I’d fucked, which turned out to be a colossal mistake in more ways than one.

“Okay. The hot blonde I bailed on last night?”

I shot him an impatient look. “Get on with it.”

“She works in the legal department of the publishing house that acquired the rights to Corinne’s book. She told me the ghostwriter is Deanna Johnson.”

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