Had he breathed those words in the second before the doors shut? Or did I just wish that he had? * * *


The moment I walked into Cary's private room, he knew I was running on fumes.


I'd endured a tough Krav Maga session with Parker, then stopped by the apartment only long enough to shower and eat a tasteless instant- ramen meal.


The shock of the salt and carbs to my system after a day without food was more than enough to exhaust me past the point of no return.


"You look like shit," he said, muting the television.


"Look who's talking," I shot back, feeling too raw to take any criticism.


"I got hit with a baseball bat.


What's your excuse?" I arranged the pillow and scratchy blanket on my cot, then told him about my day from beginning to end.


"And I haven't heard from Gideon since," I finished wearily.


"Even Brett got in touch with me after lunch.


He left an envelope at the security desk with his phone number in it."


He'd also included the cash I left at the restaurant.


"Are you going to call him?" Cary asked.


"I don't want to think about Brett!" I sprawled on my back on the cot and shoved my hands through my hair.


"I want to know what's wrong with Gideon.


He's had a total personality transplant in the last thirty-six hours!" "Maybe it's this."


I lifted my head off the pillow and saw him pointing at something on his bedside table.


Rolling to my feet, I checked it out - a local gay periodical.


"Trey brought that over today," he said.Cary's picture capped a front-page piece covering his attack - including speculation that the assault might have been a hate crime.


His living situation with me and my romantic entanglement with Gideon Cross were mentioned, for no other reason, it seemed, than for a salacious punch.


"It's on their website, too," he added quietly.


"I figure someone at the agency gossiped, and it spread and turned into someone's political crap.


Honestly, I'm having a hard time imagining Cross giving a shit - " "About your sexual orientation? He doesn't.


He's not like that."


"But his PR people might feel differently.


Could be why he wants to keep you under the radar.


And if he's worried that someone might go after you to get to me, that explains why he wants to keep you tucked away and off the streets."


"Why wouldn't he tell me that?" I set the paper down.


"Why is he being such a prick? Everything was so wonderful while we were gone.


He was wonderful.


I thought we'd turned a corner.


I kept thinking he wasn't anything like the man I'd first met, and now he's worse.


There's this .


I don't know.


He's a million miles away from me now.


I don't understand it."


"I'm not the guy to ask, Eva."


Cary grabbed my hand and squeezed.


"He's the one with the answers."


"You're right."


I went to my purse and pulled out my phone.


"I'll be back in a bit."


I went to the little enclosed balcony off the visitors' waiting area and called Gideon.


The phone rang and rang, eventually going to voice mail.


I tried his home number instead.


After the third ring, Gideon answered.


"Cross," he said curtly.


"Hi."


There was silence for the length of a heartbeat, then, "Hang on."


I heard a door open.


The sound on the phone changed - he'd stepped away from wherever he'd been.


"Is everything all right?" he asked.


"No."


I rubbed at my tired eyes.


"I miss you."


He sighed.


"I .


I can't talk now, Eva."


"Why not? I don't understand why you're acting so cold to me.


Did I do something wrong?" I heard murmuring and realized he'd muffled the receiver to talk to someone else.


A horrible feeling of betrayal tightened my chest, making it hard to breathe.


"Gideon.


Who's at your place with you?" "I have to go."


"Tell me who's there with you!" "Angus will be at the hospital at seven.


Get some sleep, angel."


The line went dead.


I lowered my hand and stared at my phone, as if it could somehow reveal to me what the fuck had just happened.


I made it back to Cary's room, felt weighted down and miserable as I pushed open the door.


Cary took one look at me and sighed.


"You look like your puppy just died, baby girl."


The dam broke.


I started sobbing.



Chapter 14



I hardly slept all night.


I tossed and turned, drifting in and out of consciousness.


The frequent nurse visits to check on Cary also woke me.


His brain scans and lab reports were looking good and there was nothing absolutely definitive to worry about, but I hadn't been there for him when he'd first gotten hurt.


I felt like I needed to be there for him now, sleep or no sleep.


Just before six, I gave up and got out of bed.


Grabbing my tablet and wireless keyboard, I headed down to the cafeteria for coffee.


I pulled up a chair at one of the tables and prepared to write a letter to Gideon.


In the short amounts of time I'd managed to pin him down the last couple of days, I hadn't been able to get my thoughts across to him.


Writing it all out would have to be the way it got done.


Maintaining steady, open communication was the only way we were going to survive as a couple.


I sipped my coffee and began typing, starting with my thanks for the beautiful weekend away and how much it meant to me.


I told him how I thought our relationship had taken a massive leap forward during the trip, which only made the week's backslide harder to bear -  "Eva.


What a pleasant surprise!" Turning my head, I found Dr.


Terrence Lucas standing behind me holding a disposable coffee cup like the one I'd filled for myself.


He was dressed for work in slacks and tie with a white lab coat.


"Hi," I greeted him, hoping I hid my wariness.


"Mind if I join you?" he asked, rounding me.


"Not at all."


I watched him take the seat beside me, and I refreshed my memory of his appearance.


His hair was pure white, without a hint of gray, but his handsome face was unlined.


His eyes were an unusual shade of green and they were keen with intelligence.


His smile was both reassuring and charming.


I suspected he was popular with his patients - and their mothers.


"There has to be some special reason," he began, "for you to be in the hospital long before visiting hours."


"My roommate's here."


I didn't volunteer any more information, but he guessed.


"So Gideon Cross threw his money around and made arrangements for you."


He shook his head and took a sip of his coffee.


"And you're grateful.


But what will it cost you?" I sat back, offended on Gideon's behalf that his generosity was reduced to having an ulterior motive.


"Why do you two dislike each other so much?" His eyes lost their softness.


"He hurt someone very close to me."


"Your wife.


He told me."


I could tell that startled him.


"But that wasn't the beginning, was it? That was a result."


"You know what he did, and you're still with him?" Lucas set his elbows on the table.


"He's doing the same thing to you.


You look exhausted and depressed.


That's part of the game to him, you know.


He's an expert at worshipping a woman as if he needs her to breathe.


Then suddenly he can't bear the sight of her."


The statement was a painfully accurate description of my present reality with Gideon.


My pulse quickened.


His gaze slid to my throat, then back to my face.


His mouth curved in a mocking, knowing smile.


"You've experienced what I'm talking about.


He's going to continue to play with you until you rely on his mood to gauge your own.


Then he'll get bored and dump you."


"What happened between you?" I asked again, knowing that was key.


"Gideon Cross is a narcissistic sociopath," he went on as if I hadn't spoken.


"I believe he's a misogynist.


He uses his money to seduce women, then despises them for being shallow enough to find his wealth attractive.


He uses sex to control, and you never know what sort of mood you'll find him in.


That's part of the rush - when you're always steeling yourself for the worst, you psych yourself up for a surge of relief when he's at his best."


"You don't know him," I said smoothly, refusing to take the bait.


"And neither does your wife."


"Neither do you."


He sat back and drank his coffee, appearing as unruffled as I tried to be.


"No one does.


He's a master manipulator and liar.


Don't underestimate him.


He's a twisted, dangerous man capable of just about anything."


"The fact that you won't explain his grudge against you makes me think you're at fault."


"You shouldn't make assumptions.


There are some things I'm not at liberty to discuss."


"That's convenient."


He sighed.


"I'm not your adversary, Eva, and Cross doesn't need anyone to fight his battles.


You don't have to believe me.


Frankly, I'm so bitter I wouldn't believe me if I were in your place.


But you're a beautiful, smart young lady."


I hadn't been lately, but it was my responsibility to fix that.


Or walk.


"If you take a step back," he continued, "and look at what he's doing to you, how you're feeling about yourself since you've been with him, and whether you're truly fulfilled by your relationship, you'll come to your own conclusions."

***

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