Gideon's thumb caressed my knuckles, and I looked at him and smiled, feeling settled by the contact.
Petersen flipped open the protective case of his tablet and settled more comfortably in his seat.
"Is there anything in particular you'd like to discuss?" "Tuesday was tough," I said quietly.
"I imagine so.
Let's talk about Monday night.
Can you tell me what happened, Eva?" I told him about waking up from my own nightmare to find myself trapped in Gideon's.
I walked him through that night and the following day."So you're sleeping separately now?" Dr.
"Your nightmares" - he looked up at me - "how often do you have them?" "Rarely.
Prior to dating Gideon, it'd been almost two years since my last one."
I watched him set the stylus down and start typing quickly.
Something about his somberness made me anxious.
"I love him," I blurted.
Gideon stiffened beside me.
Petersen's head came up, and he studied me.
He glanced at Gideon, then back to me.
"I don't doubt it.
What made you say that, Eva?" I shrugged awkwardly, hyperaware of Gideon's gaze on my profile.
"She wants your approval," Gideon said grimly.
His words rubbed over me like sandpaper.
"Is that true?" Dr.
Petersen asked me."No."
"The hell it isn't."
The rasp in Gideon's voice was pronounced.
"It's not," I argued, although I'd needed him to say it aloud for me to understand that.
"I just .
It's just the truth.
That's the way I feel."
I looked at Dr.
"We have to make this work.
We're going to make this work," I stressed.
"I just want to know that you're on the same page.
I need to know that you understand that failure isn't an option."
He smiled kindly.
"You and Gideon have a lot to work through, but it's certainly not insurmountable."
My breath left me in a rush of relief.
"I love him," I said again, with a decisive nod.
Gideon surged to his feet, his grip crushingly tight on my hand.
"If you'll excuse us a minute, Doctor."
Confused and a little worried, I stood and followed him out to the empty reception area.
Petersen's receptionist had already gone home, and we were his last appointment of the day.
I knew from my mother that these evening appointments came at a premium.
I was grateful that Gideon was willing to pay for them not once but twice a week.
The door shut behind us, and I faced him.
"Gideon, I swear it's not - " "Hush."
He cupped my face in both hands and kissed me, his mouth moving softly but urgently over mine.
Startled, it took me the length of two heartbeats to slide my hands beneath his jacket and grip his lean waist.
When his tongue stroked deep into my mouth, a low moan escaped me.He pulled back and I looked up at him, seeing the same gorgeous businessman in a dark suit that I'd first met, but the look in his eyes .
My throat burned.
The power and scorching intensity, the hunger and need.
His fingertips brushed over my temples, across my cheeks, down to my throat.
He tilted my jaw up and his lips pressed gently against mine.
He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to.
I got it.
He linked our fingers and led me back inside.
I hurried through the security turnstiles of the Crossfire and grinned when I saw Cary waiting for me in the lobby.
"Hey, you," I greeted him, admiring how he managed to make worn jeans and a V-neck T-shirt look expensive.
He held out his hand to me and we stepped out of the building through the side door hand-in- hand.
"You're looking happy."
The noonday heat hit me like a physical barrier.
It's hot as hell.
Let's pick somewhere close.
You up for tacos?" "Hell yeah."
I took him to the little Mexican place Megumi had introduced me to and tried not to let him see how guilty his greeting made me feel.
I hadn't been home in a couple days and Gideon was planning a weekend trip away, which meant it would be another few days before I hung out with Cary again.
It had been a relief when he'd agreed to meet me for lunch.
I didn't want to go too long without checking in with him and making sure he was all right.
"Got any plans tonight?" I asked, after ordering for both of us.
"One of the photographers I've worked with is having a birthday bash tonight.
I figured I'd pop in for a bit and see how it goes."
He rocked back on his heels as we waited for our tacos and blended virgin margaritas.
"You still planning on hanging with your boss's sister? You guys wanna come with?" "Sister-in-law," I corrected.
"And she's got concert tickets.
I'm her last hope, she said, but even if I wasn't, I think it'll be fun.
At least I hope so.
I've never heard of the band, so I'm just hoping they don't suck."
"Who is it?" "Six-Ninths.
Know 'em?" His eyes widened.
"Six-Ninths? Really? They're good.
You'll like them."
I grabbed our drinks off the counter and left the tray with our plates for him to carry.
"You've heard of them and Shawna's a big fan.
Where have I been?" "Under Cross and his hard place.
You taking him with you?" "Yes."
I hurried to grab a table as two businessmen stood to leave.
I didn't tell Cary about Gideon's assertion that I couldn't go without him.
I knew that wouldn't go over well with Cary, which made me wonder why I'd let it go as easily as I did.
Usually Cary and I agreed about stuff like that.
"Can't see Cross liking alt rock."
Cary sank fluidly into the chair across from me.
"Does he know how much you like it? Especially the musicians who play it?" I stuck my tongue out at him.
"I can't believe you brought that up.
"So? Brett was hot.
Ever think about him?" "With shame."
I picked up one of the carne asada tacos.
"So I try not to."
"He was a decent guy," Cary said, before slurping up a hefty swallow of margarita-flavored slush.
"I'm not saying he wasn't.
He just wasn't good for me."
Just thinking about that time in my life made me want to squirm in embarrassment.
Brett Kline was hot and he had a voice that made me wet just hearing it, but he was also one of the prime examples of an unfortunate choice in my previously sordid love life.
"Moving on .
You talk to Trey lately?" Cary's smile faded.
I waited patiently.
Finally, he sighed.
"I miss him.
Miss talking to him.
He's so fucking smart, you know? Like you.
He's going to that party with me tonight."
"As friends? Or as a date?" "These are really good."
He chewed a bite of one of his tacos before replying.
"We're supposed to be going as friends, but you know I'll probably screw that up and fuck him.
I asked him to meet me there and to head home from there so we're not alone, but I can always bang him in the bathroom or a goddamn maintenance closet.
I have no willpower and he can't say no to me."
My heart hurt at his dejected tone.
"I know what that's like," I reminded him softly.
That'd been me once.
I'd been so desperate to feel connected with somebody.
"Why don't you .
you know .
take care of it beforehand.
Maybe that'll help."
A slow, mischievous smile spread across his handsome face.
"Can I get you to record that for my voice mail message?" I threw my wadded-up napkin at him.He caught it with a laugh.
"You can be such a prude sometimes.
I love it."
"I love you.
And I want you to be happy."
Lifting my hand to his lips, he kissed the back.
"I'm working on it, baby girl."
"I'm here if you need me, even if I'm not home."
He squeezed my hand before releasing it.
"I'll be around a lot next week.
Gotta get ready for my dad's visit."
I bit into a taco and my feet did a little happy tap dance at how delicious it was.
"I wanted to ask you about Friday.
I've got to work, so if you're around, would you keep an eye on him? I'll stock up on the food he likes and leave him some city maps, but - " "No problem."
Cary winked at a pretty blonde as she walked by.
"He'll be in good hands."
"Want to see a show with us while he's in town?" "Eva honey, I'm always game to hang with you.
Just let me know where and when, and I'll keep things clear as much as possible."
"Oh!" I quickly chewed and swallowed.
"Mom told me she saw your pretty mug on the side of a bus the other day."
She forwarded a pic she'd taken with her phone.
Awesome, right?" "Beyond.
We'll need to celebrate," I said, stealing his signature line.
* * *
"Whoa!" Shawna paused on the sidewalk outside her Brooklyn apartment complex and gaped at the limousine idling in the street.
"You went all out."
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