“Right? And we’re about the same height. I get my butt and boobs from that side of the family. It might not need to be altered at all.”
“I love your butt and boobs.”
“Fiend.” She shook her head. “I feel like it’ll be good for the relatives on that side to see me in it. I’ve been worried that they’ll feel out of place, but now I’ll be wearing the dress, so they have to feel like they’re included in a big way. Don’t you think?”
“Agreed.” I crooked my finger at her. “Come here.”
She eyed me. “You’ve got a look.”
“Are you still thinking about my butt and boobs?”
“Always. But for now, just a kiss will do.”
“Hmm.” Leaning over, she offered her mouth.
I cupped the back of her head and took what I needed.
“It’s impressive, son.”
I’m looking up at the Crossfire from street level, but the sound of my father’s voice turns my head. “Dad.”
He’s dressed like me, in a dark three-piece suit. His tie is burgundy as is the handkerchief tucked into his breast pocket. We’re the same height and that startles me for a moment. Why does that surprise me? The answer hovers in the back of my mind, but I can’t grasp it.
His arm comes around my shoulders. “You’ve built an empire. I’m proud of you.”
I take a deep breath. I hadn’t realized how badly I’d needed to hear him say that. “Thank you.”
He shifts, turning to face me. “And you’re married. Congratulations.”
“You should come to the penthouse with me and meet my wife.” I’m anxious. I don’t want him to say no. There are so many things I want to say to him and we never have time. Only a few minutes here and there, snatches of conversation that can only scratch the surface. And with Eva there, I would have the courage to say what I needed to. “You’ll love her. She’s amazing.”
My dad grins. “Beautiful, too. I’d like a grandson. And a granddaughter.”
“Whoa.” I laugh. “Let’s not move too fast.”
“Life moves fast, son. Before you know it, it’s over. Don’t waste it.”
I swallow past a hard lump in my throat. “You could’ve had more time.”
That’s not what I want to say. I want to ask him why he gave up, why he checked out. But I’m afraid of the answer.
“All the time in the world wouldn’t have seen me build something like this.” He looks back up at the Crossfire. From the ground, it seems to reach to infinity, an optical illusion created by the pyramid at the top. “It’ll be a lot of work, keeping this standing. Same with a marriage. Eventually, you’ll have to put one before the other.”
I think about that. Is it true? I shake my head. “We’ll keep it standing together.”
He slaps a hand on my shoulder and the ground reverberates beneath my feet. It starts out faintly, then builds, until glass begins to rain down around us. Horrified, I watch as the distant spire at the top explodes outward, then radiates down, windows bursting under the pressure.
I woke with a gasp, breathing hard, pushing at the weight on my chest and feeling warm fur. Blinking, I found Lucky climbing over me, low whimpers rumbling in his chest.
“Jesus.” I sat up and shoved my hair back.
Eva slept beside me, curled in a ball with her hands tucked beneath her chin. Through the windows beyond her, I saw the sun was fading fast. A quick glance at the clock told me it was just past five in the evening. My alarm had been set for quarter past the hour, so I reached for my smartphone to turn it off.
Lucky shoved his head beneath my forearm. Picking him up, I held him at eye level. “You did it again.”
He’d woken me from a nightmare. Who the fuck knew if he was doing it consciously or not? I was grateful either way. I gave him a brisk rubdown and slid out of bed.
“Are you getting up?” Eva asked.
“I have to go to Dr. Petersen’s.”
“Oh, yeah. Forgot about that.”
I’d debated skipping the appointment, but Eva and I would be leaving for our honeymoon soon and I wouldn’t see the good doctor for a month. I figured I could tough it out until then.
I set Lucky down on the floor and started for the bathroom.
“Hey,” she called after me. “I invited Chris over for dinner tonight.”
My stride faltered, then halted. Turning, I faced her.
“Don’t look at me like that.” She sat up, rubbing her eyes with her fists. “He’s lonely, Gideon. He’s on his own, without his family. It’s a rough time for him. I figured I’d make something simple for dinner and we could watch a movie. Take his mind off the divorce for a while, maybe.”
I sighed. That was my wife. Always circling the wagons around the lost and wounded. How could I fault her for being the woman I’d fallen in love with? “Fine.”
She smiled. It was worth going along with anything, just to see that.
“I just finished watching your interview,” Dr. Petersen said, as he settled into his armchair. “My wife told me about it earlier and I was able to catch it on the Internet. Very well done. I enjoyed it.”
Tugging up my slacks, I sank onto the sofa. “A necessary evil, but I agree, it went well.”
“Are you asking me how she reacted to seeing that photo?”
Dr. Petersen smiled. “I can imagine the reaction. How is she doing now?”
“She’s okay.” I was still shaken by the memory of hearing her being so violently ill. “We’re good.”
Which didn’t change the fact that I seethed with fury every time I thought of it. That photo had existed for months. Why hold on to it, then release it now? It would have made news in May.
The only answer I could come up with was that they’d wanted to hurt Eva. Maybe put a wedge between us. They wanted to humiliate her and me.
Someone was going to pay for that. When I was done, they’d know what hell felt like. They would suffer, the way Eva and I had suffered.
“You and Eva both say things are good. What does that mean?”
I rolled my shoulders back to alleviate the tension there. “We’re … solid. There’s a stability now that wasn’t there before.”
He set his tablet on the armrest and met my gaze. “Give me an example.”
“The photo’s a good one. There were times in our relationship when a photo like that would’ve really screwed us up.”
“This time was different.”
“Very. Eva and I discussed having my bachelor party in Rio before I left. She’s very jealous. She always has been and I don’t mind. In fact, I like it. But I don’t like her torturing herself with it.”
“Jealousy is rooted in insecurity.”
“Let’s change the word, then. She’s territorial. I will never touch another woman for the rest of my life and she knows that. But she has an active imagination. And that photo was everything she feared in living color.”
Dr. Peterson was letting me do the talking, but for a second I couldn’t. I had to push the image—and the rage that it stirred—out of my mind before I could continue.
“Eva was thousands of miles away when the damn thing exploded online and I had nothing in the way of proof. I had only my word and she believed me. No questions. No doubt. I explained as best I could and she accepted it as the truth.”
“That surprises you.”
“Yes, it—” I paused. “You know, now that I’m talking about this, it really didn’t surprise me.”
“We both had a rough moment there, but we didn’t fuck it up. It was like we knew how to make it right between us. And we knew that we would. There wasn’t any doubt about that, either.”
He smiled gently. “You’re being very candid. In the interview and now.”
I shrugged. “Amazing what a man will do when faced with losing the woman he can’t live without.”
“You were angry about her ultimatum before. Resentful. Are you still?”
“No.” My answer came without hesitation, although I would never forget how it felt when she’d forced a separation on us. “She wants me to talk, I’ll talk. It doesn’t matter what I throw at her, what mood I’m in when I tell her, how horrible she feels when she hears it … She can deal. And she loves me more.”
I laughed out loud, startled by a sudden rush of joy.
Dr. Petersen’s brows rose, a faint smile on his lips. “I’ve never heard you laugh like that before.”
I shook my head, nonplussed. “Don’t get used to it.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. More talking. More laughter. They’re connected, you know.”
“Depends on who’s talking.”
His eyes were warm and compassionate. “You stopped talking when your mother stopped listening.”