“Angel.” I released one of her hands to cup her face. “Cary’s here, in the guest room. Your father is en route from the airport. He’ll be here soon.”
“Dad.” A lone tear slid down her face. “Does he know?”
“Yes. I told him. Cary knows, too. He was there.”
“I need to talk to him. She was like a mother to Cary.”
“Eva.” I slid to the end of my seat and gripped her shoulders. “You don’t need to worry about anyone else right now.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” She looked at me blankly. “Why lie to me?”
I started to explain, then hesitated. Finally, “To protect you.”
Her gaze left my face, drifted off to the side. “I think I knew something bad happened. I think that’s why I’m not surprised. But when we left … Was she …?”
“She was already gone, Eva. I won’t lie to you again—I didn’t know whether anyone had been hit when I got you out of there. The most important thing was to get you somewhere safe. After that—”
My chest expanded, my lungs shuddered. “There was nothing you could do.”
“It doesn’t matter now anyway.”
“You’re in shock, Eva. Look at me.” When she didn’t, I scooped her up and pulled her onto my lap. Her entire body was cold. I hugged her close, trying to warm her, and she shivered.
Standing, I took her to the bed and yanked the comforter back. I sat on the edge of the mattress and pulled the blankets around us, covering her from the shoulders down. Then I rocked her, my lips pressed to her forehead.
“I’m so sorry, angel. I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do.”
She didn’t answer me and she didn’t cry.
“Have you slept at all?” Chris asked softly. “Maybe you should lie down for an hour or so.”
I looked across my desk, startled to see my stepfather standing in front of me. I hadn’t heard him come in, my thoughts somewhere else as I stared sightlessly out the window.
Victor and Cary were in the living room with Eva, the two men barely able to talk, stunned with grief. Angus was somewhere in the building, working with the lobby staff to manage the throng of photographers and reporters camped outside the main entrance.
“Did you speak to Eva?” I rubbed my stinging eyes. “Her father and Cary are wrecks, and she’s …”
Christ. What was she? I hadn’t a clue. She seemed … detached. As if she weren’t connected at all with the anguish and powerless anger pouring from two people she loved deeply.
“She’s numb.” He took a seat. “It will hit her, eventually. For now, she’s dealing with it the only way she knows how.”
“ ‘Eventually’ isn’t quantifiable! I just need to know when … how … what to do.”
“That’s why you need to take care of yourself, Gideon.” His soft gaze searched my face. “So you can be strong for her when she needs you to be.”
“She won’t let me comfort her. She’s too busy worrying about everyone else.”
“It’s a distraction, I’m sure,” he said quietly. “Something to focus on besides her own loss. And if you’ll take my advice, right now you need to focus on you. It’s obvious you’ve been up all night.”
I gave a humorless laugh. “What gave me away? The tux?”
“The bloodshot eyes, the morning stubble. You don’t look like the husband Eva counts on to keep it together and do everything he can.”
“Damn it.” I stood. “It just seems … wrong to act like nothing happened.”
“That’s not what I meant. But life has to go on. And for Eva—that’s going to happen with you. So be you. Right now, you look as shaky as they do out there.”
I was. The fact that Eva wasn’t turning to me for comfort … It was everything I had been afraid of.
But I knew he was right. If I didn’t look like I could support her, how could I expect her to lean on me?
Chris rose to his feet. “I’ll make a pot of coffee while you’re in the shower. I brought food, by the way. Some pastries and sandwiches from a bakery your brother recommended. It’ll be lunchtime soon.”
I couldn’t imagine eating anything, but it was thoughtful of him. “Thank you.”
He walked with me to the door. “I’m staying in the city now, as you know. Christopher is going to manage things at work for the next few days so I can help you out here. If you need anything—at any time, doesn’t matter—just call me.”
I halted. My chest was too tight. I fought for every breath.
“Gideon.” Chris put his hand on my shoulder. “You’re both going to get through this. You have family and friends looking—”
His arm fell to his side.
“No, don’t,” I said, hating that he’d pulled away. Hating that I’d put that look of hurt on his face. “Look, I’m glad you’re here. I didn’t expect it, but I’m glad ….”
He pulled me into a firm embrace. “Then learn to expect it,” he said gruffly. “Because I’m not backing off this time, Gideon. We’re family. Maybe now we can start to think about what that means to all of us. You and me. Your mother, Christopher, and Ireland.”
Head bowed against his shoulder, I fought for some measure of composure. I was tired. Weary to my bones. My brain wasn’t processing anything well. That had to be why I felt … Fuck. I didn’t know what I felt.
Eva’s father and Cary were devastated. Stanton … I couldn’t even begin to imagine how shattered he must be. Whatever I was feeling didn’t matter much in comparison.
Stressed, my mind straying, I spoke without thinking. “Christopher would need a complete personality transplant to ever be family to me.”
Chris stiffened and pulled away. “I know you and Christopher don’t get along, but—”
“Through no fault of mine. Let’s be clear about that.” I tried to fight the question, tried to swallow it back unsaid. “Has he ever discussed with you why he hates me?”
For fuck’s sake. Why? Why did I have to ask? It shouldn’t matter. Not after all these damn years.
Chris pulled away, shaking his head. “He doesn’t hate you, Gideon.”
I straightened, willing myself not to shake—from exhaustion or emotion, I couldn’t tell. The past was behind me. I’d left it back there, shoved in a box where it belonged. I had Eva now—
Damn it. I hoped I still had Eva.
My wife had never pushed me to deal with Christopher, as she had with the rest of my family. My brother had gone too far in her eyes, used Magdalene too callously, which Cary had caught on video. Maybe Eva wouldn’t care if I resolved my relationship with Christopher ….
But maybe she’d be proud of me for trying.
And if she was, if it proved to her that I was different, that I’d changed in the way she needed me to … Son of a bitch. I had just backtracked on all the progress we’d made by not telling her about Monica’s death the moment I knew. If mending things with my family now would somehow help her forgive me for the lie I’d told, then it was worth whatever it cost me to make the effort.
I forced my hands to relax. When I spoke, my voice was low and even. “I need to show you something.”
I gestured for my stepfather to sit at my desk. When he slid the chair forward, I shook the mouse to wake the monitor. Hugh’s handwritten notes filled the screen.
Chris’s eyes darted from side to side, quickly reading. I knew the moment he understood what he was looking at. His spine stiffened.
“I don’t know how much of this is true,” I cautioned. “Hugh’s notes about his sessions with me are all lies. This reads like he was building a profile of me to use as a defense, in case we ever filed charges against him.”
“We should have.” The words were bitten out between clenched teeth. “How did you get these?”
“It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that he has notes from four different sessions with Christopher. One of them was supposedly a group session with me. Either that’s a fabrication or I’ve forgotten.”
“Which do you think it is?”
“I really can’t say. There are … chunks of my childhood I can’t remember.” I recalled more in dreams than I did when awake.
Chris swiveled in the chair to look at me. “Do you think he molested your brother?”
It took a beat for me to shove the memories away and respond. “I don’t know—you’ll have to ask Christopher—but I doubt it.”
“The dates and times on Hugh’s notes put Christopher’s sessions directly following mine. If those time stamps are correct—which would be wise if he was covering his tracks—then he wouldn’t have it in him.” My arms crossed. Trying to explain brought back all the bitterness. And loathing—for both Hugh and myself. “He was a sick piece of shit, but—listen, there’s no tidy way to say this. He never had anything left after he was done with me.”
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