The pull I felt drew me across the room in long, quick strides.
I didn’t say the word aloud, didn’t want Corinne to hear it. But I could see that Eva felt it. I reached for her hand, felt a tingle of deep recognition that tightened my grip.
She shifted to look past me and acknowledge the woman who was no rival. “Corinne.”
I didn’t turn to look.
“I have to run,” Corinne said behind me. “Those copies are for you, Gideon.”
Unable to take my gaze off Eva, I spoke over my shoulder. “Take them with you. I don’t want them.”
“You should finish going through them,” she countered, approaching.
“Why?” Aggravated, I glanced at Corinne when she stopped next to us. “If I have any interest in seeing them, I can always flip through your book.”
Her smile tightened. “Good-bye, Eva. Gideon.”
As she left, I took another step toward my wife, closing the final bit of distance between us. I caught her other hand, leaning over her to breathe in the scent of her perfume. Calm drifted through me.
“I’m glad you came.” I whispered the words against her forehead, needing every connection I could manage. “I miss you so much.”
Closing her eyes, she leaned into me with a sigh.
Feeling the lingering strain in her, I tightened my grip on her hands. “You okay?”
“Yeah. I’m good. I just wasn’t expecting to see her.”
“Neither was I.” As much as I hated to pull away, I hated the thought of those photos even more.
Returning to my desk, I put the lid back on the box and tossed the whole thing into the trash.
“I quit my job,” she said. “Tomorrow’s my last day.”
That decision was one I’d wanted her to come to. I believed it was the best and safest step for her to take. But I knew what a difficult conclusion it must have been for her to make. Eva loved her job and the people she worked with.
Knowing how well she could read me, I kept my tone neutral. “Did you?”
I studied her. “What’s next for you, then?”
“I’ve got a wedding to plan.”
“Ah.” My mouth curved. After days of fearing she had second thoughts and wanted out of our marriage, it was a relief to hear otherwise. “Good to know.”
I beckoned her closer with a crook of my finger.
“Meet me halfway,” she shot back, with a glint of challenge in her eyes.
How could I resist? We met in the middle of the room.
That was why we were going to get past this and every other hurdle we faced: We would always meet each other halfway.
She wouldn’t ever be the docile wife my friend Arnoldo Ricci had wished for me. Eva was too independent, too fierce. She had a jealous streak a mile wide. She was demanding and stubborn, and she defied me just to drive me crazy.
And that friction worked in a way it never could have with any other woman, because Eva was meant for me. I believed that as I believed in nothing else.
“Is this what you want?” I asked her quietly, searching her face for the answer.
“You’re what I want. The rest is just logistics.”
My mouth was suddenly dry and my heartbeat too quick. When she lifted a hand to brush my hair back I caught her wrist and pressed her palm to my cheek, my eyes closing as I absorbed her touch.
The past week melted away. The days we’d spent apart, the hours of silence, the crippling fear … She’d been showing me all day that she was ready to move ahead, that I’d made the right decision to talk to Dr. Petersen. To talk to her.
Not only didn’t she turn away, she wanted me more. And she called me miraculous?
Eva sighed. I felt the last of her tension drift away. We stood there, reconnecting with each other, taking the strength we needed. It shook me to the core to know that I could bring her some measure of peace.
And what had she brought me?
The way Angus’s face brightened when Eva exited the Crossfire Building moved me in ways I could never explain. Angus McLeod was quiet by nature and by training. He rarely showed any emotion at all, but he made an exception for Eva.
Or maybe he couldn’t help himself. God knew I couldn’t.
“Angus.” Eva flashed him her bright, open smile. “You’re looking especially dapper today.”
I watched as the man I loved like a father touched the brim of his chauffeur’s hat and smiled back with an amusing touch of embarrassment.
After my dad’s suicide, my entire life was upended. In the messy years that followed, the one point of stability had been Angus, a man hired to be a driver and bodyguard but who turned out to be a lifeline instead. At a time when I felt isolated and betrayed, when even my own mother refused to believe I’d been repeatedly raped by the therapist who was supposed to help me adjust, Angus had been the one to anchor me. He never doubted me. And when I struck out on my own, he’d come with me.
As my wife’s sleek, toned legs slid out of view into the backseat of the Bentley, Angus spoke. “Let’s not muck it up this time, lad.”
My mouth twisted ruefully. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
I joined Eva, settling in as Angus rounded the car to reach the driver’s seat. I set my hand on her thigh and waited for her to look at me. “I want to take you to the beach house this weekend.”
She held her breath a moment, then released it in a rush. “My mom invited us up to Westport. Stanton’s asked his nephew, Martin, to come, and Martin’s girlfriend, Lacey—she’s Megumi’s roommate, I don’t know if you remember …. Cary will be there, too, of course. Anyway, I said we’d come.”
Wrestling with disappointment, I considered my options.
“I want us to do some family things,” she went on. “Plus, my mom wants to talk about this plan I have.”
I listened as she related her lunchtime conversation with Monica.
Eva studied my face as she finished. “She said you wouldn’t like the idea, but you’ve used the paparazzi before, when you dipped me on the sidewalk and kissed me until I couldn’t think straight. You wanted that picture out there.”
“Yes, but the opportunity presented itself, I didn’t seek it out. Your mother’s right—there is a difference.”
Her lower lip curved downward, and I revised my strategy. I wanted her involved and actively participating. That meant encouragement and acknowledgment, not roadblocks. “But you’re also right, angel. If there’s an audience for Corinne’s book, there’s a market void that needs to be filled and we should address that.”
The smile she beamed at me was its own reward.
“I was thinking we could ask Cary to take some candid photos of us this weekend,” she said. “Some moments that are more personal and casual than red carpet photo ops. We can sell the ones we like best to the media and donate the proceeds to Crossroads.”
The charitable foundation I’d established had plenty of funding, but I understood that raising money was a side benefit to Eva’s plan to mitigate the impact of Corinne’s tell-all book. Because I regretted the pain the situation was bound to cause my wife, I was prepared to support her in whatever way she needed, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t fight for a weekend alone with her.
“We can make it a day trip,” I suggested, beginning the negotiation at the extreme, which gave me room to whittle down. “We can spend Friday night through Sunday morning in North Carolina, then spend Sunday in Westport.”
“Go from North Carolina to Connecticut to Manhattan in a day? Are you nuts?”
“Friday night through Saturday night, then.”
“We can’t be alone like that, Gideon,” she said softly, setting her hand over mine. “We need to follow Dr. Petersen’s advice for a while. I think we need to spend some time dating, going out in public, figuring out how to take care of … issues without using sex as a crutch.”
I stared at her. “You’re not saying we can’t have sex.”
“Just until we’re married. It won’t be—”
“Eva, we’re already married. You can’t ask me to keep my hands off you.”
“I am asking.”
Her mouth twitched. “You can’t say no.”
“You can’t say no,” I countered, my heart beginning to pound. My palms grew damp, a low-grade panic beginning to set in. It was irrational, infuriating. “You want me as much as I want you.”
She touched my face. “I sometimes think I want you more, and I’m okay with that. But Dr. Petersen’s right. We moved so fast and we’ve been hitting all the speed bumps at a hundred miles per hour. I feel like we have this little window of time when we can slow down. Just for a few weeks, until the wedding.”
“A few weeks? Christ, Eva.” I pulled away, running my hand through my hair. Turning my head, I looked out the window. My mind was racing. What did this mean? Why would she ask?