Always, I replied.
That was how Deanna found me, smiling at my phone. I looked up as she walked in, all amusement gone in a flash. She was dressed in a white pantsuit, with a chunky gold choker around her neck; it was clear she’d taken care with her appearance. Her dark hair hung in waves around her face and shoulders, and her makeup had been applied with drama in mind.
She walked toward my desk.
“Ms. Johnson.” I set my phone aside and settled into my chair before she sat down. “I don’t have much time.”
Her mouth tightened. She tossed her purse onto the nearest chair and remained standing. “You promised me an exclusive on your wedding photos!”
“I did, yes.” And since I remembered what I’d extracted from her in exchange, I hit the control that closed my office door.
She set her hands on my desk and leaned over it. “I gave you all the information about that sex tape of Eva and Brett Kline. I held up my end of the deal.”
“While you convinced Corinne to give you what you needed to write a book about me.”
Something passed through her eyes.
“Did you think I was bluffing during the interview?” I asked evenly, leaning back and tapping my fingertips together. “That I didn’t know the ghostwriter is you?”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with the deal we made!”
Deanna pushed away from the desk in a violent explosion of movement. “God, you smug son of a bitch. You don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself.”
“So you’ve said. Which raises the question—why would you trust me to follow through?”
“Total stupidity. I thought you were actually sincere when you apologized.”
“I was sincere. I’m very sorry I fucked you.”
Fury and embarrassment colored her face. “I hate you,” she hissed.
“I’m aware. You’re certainly free to do so, but I suggest you think twice before pursuing a vendetta against me or my wife.” I stood. “You’re going to walk out the door and I’ll forget you exist—again. You don’t want me thinking about you, Deanna. You won’t like the direction my thoughts would take.”
“I could’ve made a fortune with that sex tape!” she accused. “And they were going to pay me good money to write that book. Your wedding photos would’ve made me a mint. Now, what have I got? You’ve taken everything away from me. You fucking owe me.”
I arched a brow. “They don’t want you to write the book anymore? How interesting.”
She straightened, visibly pulling herself together. “Corinne didn’t know. About us.”
“Let’s be clear. There was no us.” My smartphone chimed with a text from Raúl, letting me know that he was nearly at the Crossfire with Eva. I moved to the coatrack. “You wanted to fuck and I fucked you. If you wanted me, well … I’m not responsible for your exaggerated expectations.”
“You don’t take responsibility for anything! You just use people.”
“You used me, too. To get laid. To try to pad your bank account.” I shrugged into my jacket. “As for what I owe you for your financial losses, my wife suggested I offer you a job.”
Her dark eyes widened. “You’re kidding.”
“That was my response, too.” I retrieved my smartphone and slid it into my pocket. “But she was quite serious, so I’ve made the offer. If you’re interested, Scott can put you together with someone in human resources.”
I headed toward the door. “You can see yourself out.”
Going down to the lobby was totally unnecessary. Eva had lunch plans and the few words I could trade with her wouldn’t amount to a conversation of any importance.
But I wanted to see her. Touch her for just a moment. Remind myself that the man I’d been when I’d screwed women like Deanna no longer existed. Never again would the scent of sex turn my stomach and make me scrub my skin nearly raw in the shower.
I was passing through the security turnstiles in the lobby when Raúl escorted Eva through the revolving door, then retreated to his post outside. My wife wore a wine-colored jumpsuit with sky-high heels so delicate I couldn’t see how they stayed on. Her tanned shoulders were bared by thin straps, and gold hoops dangled from her ears. Sunglasses partially hid her face, drawing the eye to the plump mouth that had ringed my cock just hours ago. She carried a nude clutch in her hand and walked across the golden-veined marble with a naturally seductive sway to her hips.
Heads swiveled as she walked by. Some of those gazes lingered to admire her ass.
What would they think if they knew that deep inside her, she was still creamy with my cum? That her nipples were tender from the suction of my mouth and the plump lips of her perfect little cunt were swollen from the friction of my cock sliding through them?
I knew what I thought. Mine. All mine.
As if she felt the heat of that silent demand, her head turned sharply, catching me coming toward her. Her lips parted. I watched her chest lift and fall with a quick intake of breath.
Same here, angel. Like a punch in the gut every time.
Catching her slender waist in both hands, I pulled her into me and pressed a kiss to her forehead, breathing in the scent of her perfume. “Angel.”
“This is a nice surprise,” she murmured, leaning into me. “Are you heading out?”
“Just wanted to see you.”
She pulled back, her eyes bright with pleasure. “You’ve got it real bad for me.”
“It’s highly contagious. Caught it from you.”
“Oh, did you?” Her laughter flowed over me in a warm rush of love.
“There’s the big man himself,” Steven Ellison said, coming up beside us. “Congratulations, you two.”
“Steven.” Eva turned from me and offered the brawny redhead a hug.
He caught her in an embrace that lifted her feet from the floor. “Marriage looks good on you.”
He released her and shook my hand. “You, too.”
“It feels good,” I said.
Steven grinned. “I can’t wait. Mark’s kept me waiting for years.”
“You can’t keep kicking my ass about that,” Mark said, appearing next to us. He shook my hand, too. “Mr. Cross. Congratulations.”
“Are you joining us for lunch?” Steven asked.
“I wasn’t planning on it, no.”
“You’re welcome to. The more, the merrier. We’re heading to Bryant Park Grill.”
I glanced at Eva. She’d pushed her sunglasses up on top of her head and eyed me expectantly. She gave a little nod of encouragement.
“I’ve got a lot to catch up on,” I said, which wasn’t a lie. I was two days behind. Considering I needed to be ahead before we left for our honeymoon, I’d planned on eating in and working.
“You’re the boss,” Eva said. “You can play hooky if you want to.”
“You’re a bad influence, Mrs. Cross.”
She linked her arm with mine and pulled me toward the door. “You love it.”
I held back, glancing at Mark.
“I know you’re busy,” he said. “But it would be nice if you could come along. I want to talk to you both about something.”
With a nod, I agreed. We exited out to the street, immediately hit with the heat of the day and the sounds of the city. Raúl waited at the curb with the limo, his gaze catching mine before he opened the door for Eva. A glare turned my head, drawing my attention to the telephoto lens of a camera peering at us from a car parked across the street.
I pressed a kiss to Eva’s temple before she slid into the back. She glanced at me, delighted and surprised. I didn’t explain. She’d asked for more photos of us to combat the upcoming release of Corinne’s book. It was no hardship to show my affection for her, regardless of whether that damned tell-all ever saw the light of day.
It was a short drive to Bryant Park. In moments, we were taking the steps up from the street and I was taking a trip back in time, remembering when Eva and I had fought in this very location. She’d seen a photo of me with Magdalene, a woman I considered a longtime family friend but who was rumored to be my lover. I’d seen a photo of Eva with Cary, a man she loved like a brother but who was rumored to be her live-in paramour.
We had both been crazed with jealousy, our relationship too new and stunted by too many secrets between us. I was already obsessed with her, my world tilting on its axis to accommodate her. Even in her fury, she’d looked at me with such love and accused me of not knowing it when I saw it. But I did know. I did see. It terrified me as nothing ever had. And it gave me hope, for the first time in my life.
She glanced at me as we approached the ivy-covered entrance to the restaurant, and I could see she remembered as well. We’d been here more recently, too, when Brett Kline had tried to win her back. She was already mine then, my rings on her fingers, our vows exchanged. We’d been stronger than before, but now … Now, nothing could shake us. We were anchored deep.