“Good.” I’d gotten what I needed. Eva couldn’t hide her jealousy when she was angry. She was seething with it, vibrating with fury. I, however, was appeased.
“And maybe Deanna dropping out won’t change anything,” she continued, still spitting mad. “The publisher could hire someone else to ghostwrite the fucking book. Hopefully someone unbiased, but hey, you’ve got ex-lovers crawling out of the woodwork, so they might get lucky again.”
“That’s enough, Eva.”
“I wouldn’t whore you out just to stop that book from being published. You’re the fuck of the century. I could get a few grand an hour for you, at least.”
“Goddamn it!” I lunged for her and she hopped out of the way.
“Whoa!” Arash interjected, jumping between us. “As your attorney, I have to point out that pissing off your wife could cost you millions.”
“He likes pissing women off,” she goaded, darting back and forth behind Arash to elude me. “It turns him on.”
“Get out of the way, Madani,” I growled.
“He’s all yours, Arash,” she tossed out, then made a break for it.
I gave chase. I caught her as she passed through the doors, grabbing her around the waist and hauling her off her feet. She struggled, growling.
I sank my teeth into her shoulder and she squealed, drawing a dozen pairs of eyes our way. Including Megumi’s as she rounded the corner at just the right moment.
“Kiss me good-bye,” I demanded.
“You don’t want my mouth anywhere near you right now!”
Tossing her up, I spun her in midair and brought her down facing me, catching her mouth in a hard kiss. It was sloppy, graceless. Our noses bumped. But the feel of her mouth under mine, her warm skin beneath my hands, was just what I needed.
She nipped my bottom lip with her teeth. She could’ve hurt me, drawn blood. Instead the bite was a gentle scold, as was the tug of my hair in her fists.
“You’re crazy,” she complained. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
“Don’t leave without kissing me good-bye.”
“Are you for real?” She glared at me. “I did kiss you.”
“The first time. Not the second or third.”
“Well, fuck me sideways,” she breathed. Tightening her grip on my neck, she pulled herself up and wrapped her legs around my waist. “Why didn’t you just ask?”
“I won’t beg.”
“You never do.” She touched my face. “You give orders. Don’t stop now.”
“The stuff you get away with when you’re the boss,” Megumi said to Scott, who sat at his desk with his gaze studiously fixed on his monitor.
Scott wisely said nothing.
Arash, however, wasn’t as circumspect. “Temporary insanity caused by prewedding jitters, right, Scott?” He came up beside me. “Diminished capacity. An epic brain fart of some kind.”
I shot him a warning look. “Shut up.”
“Be nice.” Eva kissed me lightly. “We’re going to talk about this later.”
“Your place or ours?”
She smiled, her temper gone. “Ours.”
Her legs unwound and I set her down.
I could let her go now. I still didn’t like it, but the knot in my stomach had eased. Eva was no worse for wear. Her temper always hit like a sudden storm and dissipated as swiftly, washing the slate clean.
“Hello, Megumi.” I extended my hand.
She took it, showing off glittering nude nails. Megumi was an attractive woman, with jaw-length black hair and almond-shaped eyes.
Eva’s friend and former co-worker looked stronger than she had the last time I’d seen her, which pleased me, because I knew how much my wife worried about her. I knew her only in passing prior to the sexual assault that had recently changed her life. I regretted that. The woman who stood before me now had a wounded look in her dark brown eyes and an air of bravado that betrayed vulnerability.
Experience had taught me she had a long road ahead of her. And she would never again be the person she’d been before.
I glanced at Eva. My wife had come so far, from both the girl she’d been long ago and the young woman I had first met. She was stronger now, too. I was happy to see that and wouldn’t change it for anything.
I could only pray that strength wouldn’t eventually take her away from me.
I left James Cho’s studio exactly the way I expected—with my ass handed to me. Still, I’d managed to redeem myself at the end, taking the former champion fighter down in our last sparring match.
Angus was waiting for me outside, standing beside the Bentley. He opened the door and took my duffel bag but didn’t smile. On the backseat, Lucky barked in his carrier, his excited face peering from behind the bars.
Pausing before sliding into the back, I held Angus’s gaze.
“I have some information,” he said grimly.
Considering the search for Hugh’s files, I’d been braced for bad news. “We’ll talk when we get to the penthouse.”
“Your office would be better.”
“All right.” I slid into the back, frowning. Either location was private. I’d suggested home so that Eva could be with me, supporting me, when he relayed whatever information he had. Angus’s preference for the office could only mean he didn’t want Eva nearby.
What would he have to tell me that was best kept from my wife?
Lucky pawed at the carrier door, whining softly. Absently, I opened it and he tumbled out, climbing into my lap and rearing up to lick my jaw.
“Okay, okay.” I held him so he wouldn’t fall in his frenzy, tilting my head back to avoid getting licked on the mouth. “It’s nice to see you, too.”
Rubbing his warm, soft body with one hand, I looked out at the city as we drove through it. New York was an entirely different landscape at night, a fusion of dark alleys and twinkling high-rises, garish neon storefronts and intimate sidewalk dining.
With nearly two million people living on an island of less than twenty-three square miles, privacy was both rare and imagined. Apartment windows faced each other, with scarcely any distance between them. Often those windows remained uncovered, exposing private lives to anyone who chose to look. Telescopes were a popular item.
It was a New Yorker’s way to live within a bubble, minding their own business with the expectation that others would do the same. The other option was to feel claustrophobic, the antithesis of the spirit of freedom that was the foundation of the Empire State.
We reached the Crossfire and I exited the Bentley with Lucky. Angus followed me through the revolving doors and we crossed the lobby in silence. The security guards stood as I approached, greeting me briskly by name, while darting glances at the tiny puppy tucked under my arm. I smiled inwardly as I caught my reflection. Dressed in sweats and a T-shirt with shower-damp hair, I doubted any person not in the know would believe I owned the building.
The elevator shot us up quickly and we were walking through the Cross Industries headquarters within moments of our arrival. Most offices and cubicles were dark and empty, but some ambitious employees were still getting things done—or didn’t have a reason to go home. I could relate. It wasn’t long ago that I’d spent more time at work than the penthouse.
Entering my office, I turned the lights on and activated the opacity of the glass wall. Then I went to the seating area, settling on the couch and dropping Lucky on the cushion beside me. It was at that time I noticed Angus carried a worn leather binder.
He pulled a club chair close to the coffee table and sat. His gaze held mine.
My throat closed as another possibility came to mind. Angus seemed too somber, the meeting too formal.
“You’re not retiring,” I preempted him, the words thick in my mouth. “I won’t let you.”
He stared at me a moment, and then his face softened. “Ah, laddie. Ye’ll be stuck with me for a while yet.”
Relief hit me so hard, I sagged back into the sofa, my heart pounding. Lucky, always ready to play, jumped on my chest.
“Down,” I ordered, which only made him more excitable. I pinned him in place with one hand and gave a brisk nod to Angus to get started.
“You’ll remember the dossier we compiled when you met Eva,” he began.
Focused by the sound of my wife’s name, I straightened. “Of course.”
The memory of the day I met Eva came rushing back. I’d been seated in the limo at the curb, seconds from pulling away from the Crossfire. She had been entering the building. I watched her, felt the pull of her. Unable to resist, I told Angus to wait and I went back in to find her, chasing after a woman—something I’d never done.
She’d dropped her name badge when she saw me and I retrieved it for her, noting her name and the company she worked for. By the end of the night, I’d had a thin folder on my home office desk containing a quick background check—again, something I’d never done for a mere sexual interest. Somehow, on a level I hadn’t yet recognized, I knew she was mine. Knew that however I deluded myself, she was going to be important to me.