Can we do that?" Realizing something was seriously off, I twisted to face him.


"What's wrong?" "I just want some time with you."


My eyes stung with tears.


There was more he wasn't telling me, so much more.


Our relationship was swiftly becoming a minefield of words left unsaid and secrets not shared.


"Okay."


"I need it, Eva.


You and me with no drama."


His wet fingertips brushed across my cheek.


"Give me that.


Please.


Then give me a kiss."


Turning around, I straddled his hips and cupped his face in my hands.


I angled my head to find the perfect approach and pressed my lips to his.


I started out soft and slow, licking and suckling.


I tugged on his bottom lip, then coaxed him to forget our problems with teasing strokes of my tongue along his.


"Kiss me, damn it," he growled, his hands bracketing my spine and kneading restlessly.


"Kiss me like you love me."


"I do," I promised, breathing the words into him.


"I can't help it."


"Angel."


Pushing his hands into my damp hair, he held me how he wanted me and kissed me senseless.


* * *


After dinner, Gideon worked in bed, propping his back against my headboard and his laptop on a lap desk.


I sprawled on the bed on my belly, facing the TV and kicking my feet in the air.


"Do you know every line in this movie?" he asked, luring me to turn my attention away from Ghostbusters to look at him.


He wore black boxer briefs and nothing else.


I loved that I got to see him that way - relaxed, comfortable, intimate.


I wondered if Corinne had ever seen this view.


If so, I could imagine her desperation to see it again, because I was desperate to never lose the privilege.


"Maybe," I conceded.


"And you have to say them all aloud?" "Got a problem with that, ace?" "No."


Amusement lit his eyes and curved his mouth.


"How many times have you seen it?" "A gazillion times."


I curved around and rose up on my hands and knees.


"Want more?" A dark winged brow rose.


"Are you the keymaster?" I purred, crawling forward.


"Angel, when you're looking at me like that, I'm whatever you want me to be."


I looked at him beneath lowered eyelids and breathed, "Do you want this body?" Grinning, he set his lap desk aside.


"All the damn time."


Straddling his legs, I climbed his torso.


I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and growled, "Kiss me, subcreature."


"That's not how that line goes.


And what happened to me being a pleasure god? Now I'm a subcreature?" I pressed my cleft against the hard ridge of his cock and rolled my hips.


"You're whatever I want you to be, remember?" Gideon gripped my rib cage and tipped his head back.


"And what's that?" "Mine."


I nipped his throat with my teeth.


"All mine."


* * *


I couldn't breathe.


I tried to scream, but something blocked my nose .


covered my mouth.


A high-pitched moan was the only sound to escape, my frantic calls for help trapped inside my mind.


Get off me.


Stop it! Don't touch me.


Oh, God .


please don't do that to me.


Where was Mama? Ma-ma! Nathan's hand covered my mouth, mashing my lips.


The weight of his body pressed down on me, squashing my head into the pillow.


The more I fought, the more excited he became.


Panting like the animal he was, he lunged into me, over and over .


trying to shove himself into me.


My panties were in the way, protecting me from the tearing pain I'd lived through too many times to count.


As if he'd read my mind, he growled in my ear, "You haven't felt pain yet.


But you will."


I froze.


Awareness hit me like a bucket of ice water.


I knew that voice.


Gideon.


No! My blood roared in my ears.


Sickness spread through my gut.


Bile flooded my mouth.


It was worse, so much worse, when the person trying to rape you was someone you trusted with everything you had.


Fear and fury blended in a potent rush.


In a moment of clarity, I heard Parker's barked commands.


I remembered the basics.


I attacked the man I loved, the man whose nightmares blended with mine in the most horrific way.


We were both sexual-abuse survivors, but in my dreams I was still a victim.


In his, he'd become the aggressor, viciously determined to inflict the same agony and humiliation on his attacker as he himself had suffered.


My stiffened fingers rammed into Gideon's throat.


He reared back with a curse and shifted, and I slammed my knee between his legs.


Doubled over, he fell away from me.


I rolled out of bed and hit the floor with a thud.


Scrambling to my feet, I threw myself toward the door to the hallway.


"Eva!" he gasped, awake and aware of what he'd almost done to me in his sleep.


"God.


Eva.


Wait!" I bolted out the door and ran into the living room.


Finding a darkened corner, I curled into a ball and struggled to breathe, my sobs echoing through the apartment.


I pressed my lips to my knee when the light came on in my bedroom and didn't move or make a sound when Gideon stepped into the living room an eternity later.


"Eva? Jesus.


Are you okay? Did I .


hurt you?" Atypical sexual parasomnia was what Dr.


Petersen called it, a manifestation of Gideon's deep psychological trauma.


I called it hell.


And we were both trapped in it.


His body language broke my heart.


His normally proud bearing was weighted with defeat, his shoulders slumped and his head bowed.


He was dressed and carrying his overnight bag.


He stopped by the breakfast bar.


I opened my mouth to speak; then I heard a metallic clink against the stone countertop.


I'd stopped him the last time; I'd made him stay.


This time, I didn't have it in me.


This time, I wanted him to go.


The barely audible latching of the front door lock reverberated through me.


Something inside me died.


Panic welled.


I missed him the moment he was gone.


I didn't want him to stay.


I didn't want him to go.


I don't know how long I sat there in the corner before I found the strength to stand and move to the couch.


I vaguely registered that dawn was lighting the night sky when I heard the distant sound of Cary's cell phone ringing.


Shortly after that, he came running into the living room.


"Eva!" He was on me in a minute, crouching in front of me with his hands on my knees.


"How far did he go?" I blinked down at him.


"What?" "Cross called.


Said he'd had another nightmare."


"Nothing happened."


I felt a hot tear roll down my cheek.


"You look like something happened.


You look ."


I caught his wrists when he surged to his feet with a curse.


"I'm okay."


"Shit, Eva.


I've never seen you look like this.


I can't stand it."


He took a seat beside me and pulled me into his shoulder.


"Enough is enough.


Cut him off."


"I can't make that decision now."


"What are you waiting for?" He forced me back to glare at me.


"You're going to wait too long and then this won't be just another bad relationship, it'll be one that permanently fucks you up."


"If I give up on him, he'll have no one.


I can't - " "That's not your problem.


Eva .


Goddamn it.


It's not your responsibility to save him."


"It's -  You don't understand."


I wrapped my arms around him.


Burying my face in his shoulder, I cried.


"He's saving me."


* * *


I threw up when I found Gideon's key to my apartment lying on the breakfast bar.


I barely made it to the sink.


When my stomach was empty, I was left with pain so agonizing it was crippling.


I clung to the edge of the counter, gasping and sweating, crying so hard I wondered how I'd make it through another five minutes, let alone the rest of the day.


The rest of my life.


The last time Gideon had returned my keys to me, we'd broken up for four days.


It was impossible not to think that repeating the gesture signified a more permanent break.


What had I done? Why hadn't I stopped him? Talked to him? Made him stay? My smartphone signaled an incoming text.


I stumbled to my purse and dug it out, praying it was Gideon.


He'd talked to Cary three times already, but he'd yet to contact me.


When I saw his name on the screen, a sweet, sharp ache pierced my chest.


I'm working from home today, his message read.


Angus will be waiting out front to give you a ride to work.


My stomach cramped again with dread.


It had been a tremendously difficult week for both of us.


I could understand why he'd just given up.


But that understanding was wrapped in a gut-gnawing fear so cold and insidious that goose bumps swept up my arms.


My fingers shook as I texted him back: Will I see you tonight? There was a long pause, long enough that I was about to demand a yes or no answer when he sent: Don't count on it.


I have my appt with Dr.


Petersen and a lot of work to do.


My grip tightened on my phone.


It took me three attempts before I was able to type: I want to see you.


For the longest time, my phone sat silently.


I was reaching for my landline in a near panic when he replied: I'll see what I can do.


Oh God .


Tears made it hard for me to see the letters.


***

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