She was letting Lucky out when I stepped back into the bedroom. A laugh escaped her at the puppy’s enthusiasm. The joyous sound, one I loved so much, pierced me like a knife in the chest.
Kissing Lucky’s head, she looked at me with bright eyes. “You should put him on his puppy pad. He’s been locked up awhile.”
“I’ll take him.”
She rubbed Lucky’s head before passing him over. “I hear a bath running.”
“A soak might do you good.”
“Limber me up?” she teased. The look in her eyes … It killed me. I almost told her, but I couldn’t get the words past the lump in my throat.
Instead, I turned away and headed down the hallway to the half bath off the living room, where Lucky’s patch of fake grass was. I set him down on it, ran my hands through my hair.
Think, damn it. God, I needed a drink.
Yes. A drink. Hard liquor.
I went to the kitchen, tried to think of something strong that Eva would actually drink. A digestif, maybe? The house phone. Shit. I went to turn off the ringer and saw that someone had already thought of it. Turning back around, I spotted the coffeemaker.
Something hot. Relaxing. No caffeine.
Tea. I went the pantry and searched, shoving around the items on the shelves looking for a box of tea Angus kept at the penthouse. Some herbal crap he said smoothed the rough edges. I found it and focused, filling a mug from the instant hot water tap. I dropped two tea bags into it, a liberal pour of rum, then a scoop of honey. I stirred, spilled onto the counter. More rum.
Tossing the tea bags into the sink, I headed back to my wife.
For an instant, when I didn’t find her in the bedroom, I panicked. Then I heard her in the closet and my breath left me in a rush. I set the mug down by the bath, turned the water off, and went to her. I found her sitting on the bench, taking off her shoes.
“The dress is ruined, I think,” she said, as she stood in her bare feet, showing me the tear along the left side.
“I’ll buy you another.”
She flashed me a big smile. “You’re spoiling me.”
It was fucking torture. Every second. Every lie I told. Every truth I left unsaid.
I was flayed by the love in her eyes. The utter trust. Sweat slid down my back. I yanked my jacket off and tossed it aside, clawing at my bow tie and collar until they both came apart and let me breathe.
“Help me out of this.” She turned her back to me.
I unfastened the gown and pushed it off her shoulders, letting it fall to a puddle on the floor. Then I unhooked her bra, hearing her sigh with pleasure as its constriction eased.
Looking her over, I cursed silently at the bruise already shadowing her hip and the abrasions on her arm from the red carpet.
She yawned. “Wow. I’m tired.”
Thank God. “You should sleep, then.”
She shot me a heated look over her shoulder. “I’m not that tired.”
Jesus. Being gutted couldn’t hurt worse. I couldn’t touch her, make love to her … not with my deceit between us.
I swallowed hard. “All right, then. I’ve got to see to some business first. And get your purse. I made a hot toddy for you. It’s by the bathtub. Just relax and I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
“Is everything all right?”
Unable to lie any more than I already had, I told her an irrelevant truth. “I’ve missed a lot of work this week. Some pressing things need to be dealt with.”
“Sorry. I know that’s my fault.” She kissed my jaw. “Love you, ace.”
Grabbing a robe off the hooks, she slid into it and walked out. I stood there, surrounded by the smell of her, my hands still tingling from the feel of her, my heart pounding with fear and self-loathing.
Lucky raced in so fast, he ricocheted off the door before barreling into my feet. I picked him up, rubbing the top of his head.
This was one nightmare he couldn’t wake me from.
Raúl waited in my home office, talking briskly on his phone. I joined him, closing the door behind me.
He ended the call and stood. “The police are on scene. The gunman’s in custody.”
“They’re waiting for the medical examiner.”
I couldn’t imagine it. I went to my desk, sat heavily in the chair. My gaze went to the photos of Eva on the wall.
“The detectives have been told that you and Mrs. Cross will be here at home when it’s time to get your statements.”
I nodded, and prayed for them to wait until morning to make that house call.
“I took the phone off the hook in the kitchen when we arrived,” he said quietly.
“I noticed. Thank you.”
There was a knock at the door. Tensing, I expected Eva to walk in. I exhaled in relief when it was Angus instead.
“I’m going to head back,” Raúl said. “I’ll keep you posted.”
“I need Eva’s purse from the car. And Cary. Get him here.”
He nodded and left.
Angus settled into the seat Raúl had just vacated. “I’m sorry, lad.”
“So am I.”
“I should’ve been there.”
“And have someone else I love in the line of fire?” I pushed to my feet, too restless to sit. “It’s a blessing you were at the Lucases’.”
He stared at me a moment, and then his gaze dropped to his hands.
It took me a second to realize what I’d said. Another to know that I hadn’t told him I loved him before now. I hoped he’d known anyway.
Taking a deep breath, his chin lifted and he looked at me again. “How’s Eva?”
“I have to check on her. She’s taking a bath.”
“She doesn’t know.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “I haven’t told her.”
“Gideon.” His eyes were wide with the same dismay I felt. “You cannae—”
“What good would it do?” I snapped. “We don’t have answers. Her mother’s gone. I can’t have her going back to the scene and seeing … that. Why torture her or put her at risk? Christ, it could’ve been her! It could still be her if we don’t keep her safe.”
He watched me pace, with eyes that had seen—and still saw—too much.
“I’m going to make some calls.” I pulled out my phone. “I need to get a handle on the situation before I tell her. Try to cushion the blow as much as I can. She’s been through so much—” My voice broke. My eyes burned.
“What can I do to help?” he asked softly.
I pulled myself together. “I need a jet available for Eva’s father. I’m going to call him now.”
“I’ll see to it.” He stood.
“Give me a few minutes to break the news to him, then text him the info when you have it.”
“Consider it done.”
“Gideon … You should know my search of the Lucas residence was successful.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a flash drive no bigger than a dime. “She kept this in a bedroom safe, buried beneath her jewelry in a box. She scanned all his notes.”
I looked at him blankly. Anne and Hugh were the least of my concerns at the moment.
“It’s all lies,” he continued. “He mentioned nothing of what really went on. What you may find of interest, when the time comes, is what he had to say about Christopher.”
Setting the drive on my desktop, Angus left the room.
I stared at it. Then I went to my desk, opened a drawer, and swept the drive into it with a brush of my hand.
Turning my phone back on, I saw that there were texts and voice mails from Cary, Magdalene, Clancy, Ireland, Chris …
Overwhelmed, I went to the home screen.
I pulled up Dr. Petersen’s office in my contacts and dialed. Going through the automated menu, I selected the after-hours emergency switchboard and told the answering operator that it was very much an emergency—a death was involved and the doctor needed to call me back as soon as he could.
The entire interaction was cold and clinical, especially for something so desperately personal. The grim process seemed like a terrible insult to the vibrantly beautiful wife and mother who was no longer with us. And yet I found myself wishing the next call I had to make could be accomplished with so little emotion.
As the line rang on the other end, I sank into my chair. The last time I’d talked to Victor had been the call I had placed from Rio de Janeiro, when I explained that the photo of me with two women was taken before I ever met his daughter. He had received that information with chilly reserve, letting me know without saying it that I wasn’t good enough for Eva. I couldn’t disagree. Now, I had to tell him that the other woman he cared for had been taken from him again—this time, forever.
Eva believed her father was still in love with her mother. If so, the news would level him. I could still taste the bile at the back of my throat and feel the icy panic that had blanked my mind in those first few moments after the shooting. There would be nothing for me without Eva.
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