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How the fuck was I going to talk her out of it?

I felt her slide closer, then curl up against me.

Her voice lowered to a whisper. “Weren’t you the one who brought up the benefits of delayed gratification?”

I shot her a look. “And how well did that turn out?”

That night was one of the bigger mistakes I’d made in our relationship. The evening started out so strong, and then Corinne’s unexpected appearance threw everything off, spurring one of the worst arguments Eva and I ever had—an argument made more volatile by the seething sexual tension I’d deliberately stoked and held off on satisfying.

“We were different people then.” Eva drew back, her gray eyes clear as they held mine. “You’re not the same man who ignored me at that dinner.”

“I didn’t ignore you.”

“And I’m not the same woman,” she pushed on. “Yes, seeing Corinne today made me a little twitchy, but I know she’s not a threat. I know you’re committed …. We’re committed. That’s why we can do this.”

The spread of my legs widened as I stretched out. “I don’t want to.”

“I don’t either. But I think it’s a good idea.” Her mouth softened with a smile. “It’s old-fashioned and romantic to wait ’til the wedding night. Think how hot the sex will be when we do it.”

“Eva, we don’t need our sex life to be any hotter.”

“We need it to be something we do for fun, not because we’re counting on it to hold us together.”

“It’s both, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” She might as well have asked me not to eat, which I would’ve been more inclined to agree to, given the choice.

“Gideon … we have something amazing together. It’s worth the effort to make us rock solid in every way.”

I shook my head. It pissed me off that I was feeling anxious. It was a loss of control and I couldn’t have that with her. It wasn’t what she needed.

Leaning forward, I put my lips to her ear. “Angel, if you’re not missing the feel of my cock inside you, I need to step it up, not hold back.”

Her shiver made me smile inwardly. Still, she whispered, “Please try. For me.”

“Fuck.” I dropped back into my seat. As much as I wanted to say no to her, I couldn’t. Not even about this. “Damn it.”

“Don’t be mad. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think it was important to try. And it’s such a short time.”

“Eva, five minutes would be a short amount of time. You’re talking weeks.”

“Baby …” She laughed softly. “You’re pouting. It’s so adorable.” Leaning forward, she pressed her lips to my cheek. “And really flattering. Thank you.”

My gaze narrowed. “I’m not agreeing to make this easy for you.”

She trailed her fingers down my tie. “Of course not. We’ll try to make it fun. A challenge. See who breaks first.”

“Me,” I muttered. “I’ve got no fucking incentive to win this.”

“How about me? Wrapped up in a bow—and nothing else—as your birthday present?”

I scowled. Nothing was capable of making this more palatable. Even the thought of her bursting out of a cake naked couldn’t make this better. “What does my birthday have to do with anything?”

Eva dazzled me with her smile, which only made me want her more. She was sunlight and warmth at any time, but when she was beneath me, writhing in pleasure and moaning for harder … deeper …

“That’s when we’re getting married.”

It took a second for that to sink into my lust-addled brain. “I didn’t know that.”

“I didn’t either, until today. On my last break, I went online, trying to see if there was anything happening in September or October that I should consider when setting a date. Since we’re getting married on the beach, we don’t want it to be too cold, so we’ve got to get it done this month or next.”

“Thank God for winter,” I grumbled.

“Fiend. Anyway … I got a Google alert about you—”

“You’re still doing that?”

“—and there was a post about us on this fan site. There was—”

“Fan site?”

“Yep. There are whole sites and blogs dedicated to you. What you’re wearing, who you’re dating, events you’re attending.”

“Jesus.”

“The one I went to had all your stats: height, weight, eye color, birth date … everything. To be honest, it freaked me out a little that some total stranger knew other details about you that I don’t, which is another reason why I think we need to date each other and talk more—”

“I can recite stats while we’re fucking. Problem solved.”

Her grin was delighted. “You slay me. Anyway, having the wedding on your birthday is a good idea, don’t you think? You’ll never forget our anniversary.”

“Our wedding anniversary is August eleventh,” I reminded her dryly.

“We’ll have two to celebrate.” She ran her hand through my hair, tripping my pulse. “Or better yet, we’ll celebrate straight through from one to the other.”

August 11 through September 22—a full month and a half. The thought of that was almost enough to make the next few weeks bearable.

“Eva. Gideon.” Dr. Lyle Petersen stood and smiled as we walked into his office. He was a tall man, and his gaze lowered a noticeable distance to take in our linked hands. “You’re both looking well.”

“I feel good,” Eva said, sounding strong and sure.

I didn’t say anything, extending my hand to shake his.

The good doctor knew things about me I’d hoped never to share with anyone. Because of that, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with him, despite the soothing blend of neutral colors and comfortable furniture that made up his office. Dr. Petersen himself was a comfortable man, easy in his own skin. His neatly groomed gray hair did much to soften his appearance but couldn’t distract from how incisive and perceptive he was.

It was hard to rely on someone who knew so much my vulnerabilities, but I dealt with it as best I could because I had no other choice—Dr. Petersen was a pivotal player in my marriage.

Eva and I took seats on the sofa, while Dr. Petersen settled into his usual wingback chair. He left his tablet and stylus sitting on the arm and studied us with dark blue eyes that were sharp with intelligence.

“Gideon,” he began, “tell me what’s happened since I saw you on Tuesday.”

I settled back and got to the point. “Eva’s decided to follow your recommendation to abstain from sex until we marry publicly.”

Eva’s low, husky laugh broke out. She leaned into me, hugging my arm. “Did you catch the note of accusation?” she asked the doctor. “It’s all your fault he’s not going to get any for a couple weeks.”

“It’s more than two weeks,” I argued.

“But less than three,” she shot back. She smiled at Dr. Petersen. “I should’ve known he’d bring that up first.”

“What would you start with, Eva?” he asked.

“Gideon told me the details about his nightmare last night.” She glanced at me. “That was huge. It’s a really big turning point for us.”

There was no mistaking the love in her eyes when she spoke, or the gratitude and hope. It tightened my throat to see it. Talking to her about the fucked-up shit in my head was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do—even telling Dr. Petersen about Hugh had been easier—but it was all worth it just to see that look on her face.

The ugliest things about each other brought us closer. It was crazy and it was wonderful. I pulled her hand into my lap, cupping it with both of mine. I felt the same love, gratitude, and hope that she did.

Dr. Petersen picked up his tablet. “Quite a few revelations for you this week, Gideon. What brought them on?”

“You know.”

“Eva stopped seeing you.”

“And speaking to me.”

He looked at Eva. “Was that because Gideon hired your boss away from the agency you work for?”

“That was the catalyst,” she agreed, “but we’d been building up to a breaking point. Something had to give. We couldn’t keep going in circles, having the same arguments.”

“So you withdrew. That could be considered emotional blackmail. Was that your intent?”

Her lips pursed as she weighed that. “I’d call it desperation.”

“Why?”

“Because Gideon was … drawing lines to define our relationship. And I couldn’t imagine living within those lines for the rest of my life.”

Dr. Petersen made some notes. “Gideon, what do you think about how Eva handled this situation?”

It took me a minute to answer. “It felt like a goddamned time warp, but a hundred times worse.”

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