He was done.
I knew it deep down in my heart.
It seemed like forever before he replied: You should.
I debated calling in sick after that, but I didn't.
I had been down that road too many times.
I knew I could so easily fall back into old self- destructive habits to dull pain.
It would kill me to lose Gideon, but I'd be dead anyway if I lost myself.
I had to hang on.
One step at a time.
And so I climbed into the back of the Bentley when I was supposed to, and while Angus's grim face only made me worry more, I locked it down and slid into the autopilot mode of self- preservation that would get me through the hours ahead.
My day passed in a blur.
I worked hard and focused on my job, using it to keep me from going crazy, but my heart wasn't in it.
I spent my lunch hour running an errand, unable to tolerate the thought of eating or making small talk.
After my shift was over, I almost blew off going to my Krav Maga class, but I stuck it out and gave a similar amount of focus to the drills as I'd given to my work.
I had to keep moving forward, even if I was heading in a direction I couldn't bear to go.
"Better," Parker said, during a break.
"You're still off, but you're better than last night."
I nodded and wiped the sweat from my face with a towel.
I'd started Parker's classes solely as a more intense alternative to my usual gym visits, but last night had shown me that personal safety was more than just a convenient side benefit.
The tribal tattoos that banded his biceps flexed as he lifted a water bottle to his lips.
Because he was left-handed, his simple gold wedding band caught the light and my eye.
I was reminded of the promise ring on my right hand and I looked down at it.
I remembered when Gideon had given it to me and how he'd said that the diamond-crusted Xs wrapping around the roped gold were representative of him "holding on" to me.
I wondered if he still thought that way; if he still thought it was worth it to try.
God knew I did.
"Ready?" Parker asked, tossing his empty bottle in the recycle bin.
"There she is."
Parker still worked me over, but it wasn't from lack of trying on my part.
I was in it every step of the way, venting my frustration with good, healthy exercise.
The few victories I managed to earn spurred my determination to fight for my rocky relationship, too.
I was willing to put in the time and effort to be there for Gideon, to be a better and stronger person so we could get through our issues.
And I was going to tell him that, whether he wanted to hear it or not.
When my hour was over, I cleaned up and waved good-bye to my classmates and then shoved at the push bar of the exit door and stepped out into the still-warm evening air.
Clancy had already brought the car around to the door and was leaning against the fender in a pose that only a moron would think was casual.
Despite the heat, he wore a jacket, which concealed his sidearm.
"Things moving along?" He straightened to open the door for me.
As long as I'd known him, he'd kept his dark blond hair in a military crew cut.
It added to the impression of his being a very somber man.
"Working on it."
Sliding into the backseat, I told Clancy to drop me off at Gideon's.
I had my own key and I was prepared to use it.
On the drive over, I wondered if Gideon had gone to see Dr.
Petersen for his appointment or if he'd blown it off.
He'd agreed to individual therapy only because of me.
If I wasn't part of the equation anymore, he might not see any reason to make the effort.
I entered the understated and elegant lobby of Gideon's apartment building and checked in with the front desk.
It wasn't until I was alone in his private elevator that the nerves really hit me.
He'd placed me on his approved list weeks before, a gesture that meant so much more to him and me than it would to others because Gideon's home was his sanctuary, a place he allowed few visitors to see.
I was the only lover he'd ever entertained there and the only person, aside from his household staff, who had a key.
Yesterday I wouldn't have doubted my welcome, but now .
I exited into a small foyer decorated with checkerboard marble tiles and an antique console bearing a massive arrangement of white calla lilies.
Before I unlocked his front door, I took a deep breath, steeling myself for however I might find him.
The one previous time he'd attacked me in his sleep, it had shattered him.
I couldn't help but fear what the second time had done to him.
I was terrified that his parasomnia might be the wedge that drove us apart.
But the moment I entered his apartment, I knew he wasn't home.
The energy that thrummed through a space when he occupied it was markedly absent.
Lights that were activated by my movements came on when I entered the expansive living room, and I forced myself to settle in as if I belonged there.
My room was down the hall and I went to it, pausing on the threshold to absorb the weirdness of seeing my bedroom replicated in Gideon's place.
The duplication was uncanny, from the color on the walls to the furniture and fabrics, but its existence was more than a little unnerving.
Gideon had created it as my safe room, a place for me to run to when I needed some space.
I supposed I was running to it now, in a way, by using it instead of his.
Setting my workout bag and purse on the bed, I showered and changed into one of the Cross Industries T- shirts Gideon had set aside for me.
I tried not to think about why he still wasn't home.
I'd just poured a glass of wine and turned on the living room television when my smartphone rang.
"Hello?" I answered, unfamiliar with the number on the nameless Caller ID.
"Eva? It's Shawna."
"Oh, hey, Shawna."
I tried not to sound disappointed.
"I hope it's not too late to call."
I looked at the screen of my phone, noting that it was almost nine o'clock.
Jealousy mingled with my concern.
Where was he? "No worries.
I'm just watching TV."
"Sorry I missed your call last night.
I know it's short notice, but I wanted to see if you'd be up for going to a Six- Ninths concert on Friday."
"A what concert?" "Six-Ninths.
You haven't heard of 'em? They were indie until late last year.
I've been following them for a while and they gave their e-mail list first dibs, so I scored tickets.
Thing is, everyone I know likes hip-hop and dance pop.
Not to say you're my last hope, but .
well, you're my last hope.
Tell me you like alt rock."
"I like alt rock."
My phone beeped.
When I saw it was Cary, I let it go to voice mail.
I didn't think I'd be on the phone with Shawna too long and I could call him back.
"How did I know that?" She laughed.
"I've got four tickets if you've got someone you'd like to bring along.
Meet up at six? Grab something to eat first? The show starts at nine."
Gideon walked in just as I answered, "You've got a date."
He stood just inside the door with his jacket slung over one arm, the top button of his dress shirt undone, and a briefcase in his hand.
His mask was in place, showing no emotion whatsoever at finding me sprawled on his couch in his T-shirt with a glass of his wine on his table and his television on.
He raked me with a head-to-toe glance, but nothing flickered in those beautiful eyes.
I suddenly felt awkward and unwanted.
"I'll get back to you about the other ticket," I told Shawna, sitting up slowly so I didn't flash him.
"Thanks for thinking of me."
"I'm just glad you're coming! We're going to have a great time."
We agreed to talk the next day and hung up.
In the interim, Gideon set his briefcase down and tossed his jacket over the arm of one of the gilded chairs flanking the ends of the glass coffee table.
"How long have you been here?" he asked, yanking the knot of his tie loose.
My palms grew damp at the thought that he might kick me out.
"Have you eaten?" I shook my head.
I hadn't been able to eat much all day.
I'd gotten through the session with Parker courtesy of a protein drink I'd picked up during my lunch hour.
He walked past me toward the hallway.
"Menus are in the kitchen drawer by the fridge.
I'm going to grab a quick shower."
"Do you want something?" I asked his retreating back.
He didn't stop or look at me.
I haven't eaten, either."
I'd finally settled upon a local deli boasting organic tomato soup and fresh baguettes - figuring my stomach could maybe handle that - when my phone rang again.
"Hey, Cary," I answered, wishing I were home with him and not about to face a painful breakup.
"Hey, Cross was just here looking for you.
I told him to go to hell and stay there."
I couldn't blame him; I'd do the same thing for him.
"Thanks for letting me know."
"Where are you?" "At his place, waiting for him.
He just showed.
I'll probably be home sooner rather than later."
"You kicking him to the curb?" "I think that's on his agenda."
He exhaled audibly.
"I know it's not what you're ready for, but it's for the best.
You should call Dr.
Talk it out with him.
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