- One with You
“You could take a nap here in the guest room.” I figured she’d like that. After all, Gideon had precisely replicated her design of my apartment bedroom right here. A misguided but thoughtful effort to give me a safe haven in his home at a time in our relationship when I hadn’t known whether I should fight for us or just run away.
She shook her head and slung the carrying strap of her laptop case over her shoulder. “I’ll be fine. We covered the most important things. I’ll call you later.”
She air-kissed both my cheeks and left.
Sinking back onto the couch, I put the pills on the coffee table and watched the rest of Gideon’s interview.
“Mr. Cross.” Scott stood up behind his desk. “Will you be in today after all?”
I shook my head and opened my office door, waving Angus inside before me. “I just have to take care of something. I’ll be in tomorrow.”
I’d cleared my schedule, redistributing my meetings and appointments throughout the rest of the week. I hadn’t planned to come to the Crossfire at all, but the information Angus had been sent to gather was too sensitive to risk disclosing anywhere else.
Taking a moment to close the door and make the glass opaque, I followed Angus to the seating area and dropped into a chair.
“You’ve had a busy few days, lad,” he said, his lips twisted wryly.
“Never a dull moment.” I exhaled roughly, fighting off fatigue. “Tell me you have something.”
Angus leaned forward. “Little more than I had to start with: a marriage license with a fictitious hometown and Jackson Tramell’s death certificate, which has Lauren Kittrie listed as his spouse. He was dead less than a year after they wed.”
I homed in on the most important information. “Lauren lied about where she was from?”
He nodded. “Easy enough to do.”
“But why?” Studying him, I saw the tension in his jaw. “There’s something else.”
“Manner of death is listed as undetermined,” he said quietly. “Jackson took a bullet to the right temple.”
My spine stiffened. “They couldn’t decide if it was suicide or homicide?”
“Aye. It couldnae be determined conclusively one way or the other.”
More questions without answers, with the biggest issue being whether Lauren had any relevance at all. Maybe we were chasing our tails.
“Fuck.” I scrubbed a hand over my face. “I just want a photo, for God’s sake.”
“It’s been a long time, Gideon. A quarter of a century. Maybe someone from her hometown would remember her, but we dinnae know where that is.”
Dropping my hand, I looked at him. I knew the inflections of his voice and what they signified. “You think someone went through and tidied things up.”
“It’s possible. Also possible that the police report of Jackson’s death was truly misplaced over the years.”
“You don’t believe that.”
He confirmed my statement with a shake of his head. “I brought in a lass to pose as an IRS agent looking for Lauren Kittrie Tramell. She questioned Monica Dieck, who said she hasn’t seen her former sister-in-law in many years and to her knowledge, Lauren is deceased.”
I shook my head, trying to make sense of it all and getting nowhere.
“Monica was scared, lad. When she heard Lauren’s name she went white as a ghost.”
Pushing to my feet, I began to pace. “What the fuck does that mean? None of this is getting me any closer to the truth.”
“There’s someone else who might have the answers.”
I came to an abrupt halt. “Eva’s mother.”
He nodded. “You could ask her.”
“Jesus.” I stared at him. “I just want to know that my wife is safe. That none of this poses any danger to her whatsoever.”
Angus’s features softened. “From what we ken of Eva’s mother, protecting her daughter has always been a priority. I cannae see her putting Eva at risk.”
“Her overprotectiveness is exactly my concern. She’s been tracking Eva’s movements for God knows how long. I assumed it was because of Nathan Barker. But maybe he was just part of the reason. Maybe there’s more.”
“Raúl and I are already working on revised protocols.”
I raked a hand through my hair. In addition to their security duties, they were dealing with the problem of Anne and finding whatever records her brother had kept, as well as trying to identify the photographer who took the photo of me and unravel the mystery of Eva’s mother. Even with their auxiliary teams, I knew they were stretched thin.
My security detail was used to managing only my affairs. Now I had Eva in my life, which effectively doubled their duties. Angus and Raúl were accustomed to rotating shifts, but lately they were both working nearly round the clock. They had standing orders to hire whatever support they required, but what we needed was another security chief—maybe two. Experts whose sole charge would be Eva and whom I could trust as implicitly as I did my existing team.
I’d have to make the time to get that done. When Eva and I returned from our honeymoon, I wanted everything in place.
“Thank you, Angus.” I exhaled harshly. “Let’s head to the penthouse. I want to be with Eva now. I’ll figure out the next steps after I get some sleep.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I looked at Eva as I stripped out of my clothes. “I thought you’d like the surprise.”
“Well, yeah. But still. That was huge.”
I could tell she was happy about the interview. The way she’d tackled me when I came home had been a good indication. She was also talking fast and hopping around all over the place. Which, come to think of it, wasn’t too different from Lucky, who was darting under the bed and rolling out again, yipping happily.
Stepping out of the closet in my boxer briefs, I went to the bed and sprawled. God, I was tired. Too tired to even make a pass at my beautiful wife, who looked adorable in a strapless short romper thing. That said, I was certainly able to rise to the occasion if she propositioned me.
Eva sat on her side of the bed, then leaned over the edge to help Lucky, who tried to scramble up and couldn’t quite make it. A moment later, he was on my chest, whining in protest as I held him off from slathering saliva all over my jaw. “Hey, I get it. I like you, too, but I don’t lick your face.”
He barked at that. Eva laughed and lay down on her pillow.
It struck me then that this was it. This was home. In a way it had never been before. Nothing had really felt like home since my dad died. But I had it back, now, better than ever.
Tucking Lucky against my stomach, I rolled toward my wife. “How did things go with your mother?”
“Good, I guess. We’re pretty much ready for Sunday.”
She shrugged. “She got a headache during your interview. Seemed like she freaked out a little.”
I studied her. “About what?”
“That you were talking about our personal stuff on television. I don’t know. I don’t get her sometimes.”
I remembered Eva telling me about how she’d discussed Corinne’s book with Monica and using the media to our advantage. Monica had cautioned her against it, told her to value our privacy. At the time, I agreed with Eva’s mother and—today’s interview aside—I would continue to agree with her. But in light of what little I knew about Monica’s identity, it seemed probable that Eva’s mother was concerned about her own privacy as well. It was one thing to appear in brief mentions in the local society papers. Quite another to gain the attention of the world.
Eva had her mother’s face and some of her mannerisms. She also had the Tramell name, which was a curious error. It would have been better cover to give her Victor’s last name. Someone might be looking for Monica. If they knew at least as much as I did, having Eva’s face on national television would put an X on the map.
My heart began to pound. Was my wife in danger? I had no idea what Monica might be hiding from.
“Oh!” Eva bolted up. “I didn’t tell you … I’ve got a dress!”
“Jesus. You damn near gave me a heart attack.” Lucky took advantage of my startled state and pounced, licking madly.
“Sorry.” Eva caught up the puppy and rescued me, pulling him into her lap as she sat cross-legged beside me. “I called my dad today. My grandmother asked him if I’d want to wear her wedding dress. He sent me a picture of it, but it’s been in storage so long, I couldn’t really make it out. So he scanned a photo of her wearing it on her wedding day and it’s perfect! It’s totally what I didn’t know I wanted!”
I rubbed my chest and smiled wryly. How could I be anything but captivated that she was so excited to marry me again? “I’m glad, angel.”
Her eyes sparkled with excitement. “My great-grandmother made it for her, with the help of her sisters. It’s a family heirloom, how cool is that?”