Something beeped and he pulled his smartphone out of his coat pocket.


"Ah, my latest patient has just entered the world."


He pushed to his feet and looked down at me, setting his hand on my shoulder.


"You'll be the one who gets away.


I'm glad."


I watched him walk briskly out of the cafeteria and collapsed into the seat back the moment he disappeared from view, deflating from exhaustion and confusion.


My gaze moved to the sleeping screen of my tablet.


I didn't have the energy to finish my letter.


I packed up and went to get ready for Angus's arrival.


* * *


"You up for Chinese?" I looked up from the layout of the blueberry coffee ad on my desk into the warm brown eyes of my boss.


I realized it was Wednesday, our usual day to go eat with Steven.


For a second, I considered bowing out and eating at my desk because I wanted to make Gideon happy.


But just as quickly, I knew I'd resent him if I did.


I was still trying to build a new life in New York, which included making friends and having plans that existed outside the life I shared with him.


"Always up for Chinese," I said.


My very first meal with Mark and Steven had been Chinese takeout here in the office, on a night when we'd worked well past closing and Steven had stopped by to feed us.


Mark and I headed out at noon, and I refused to feel guilty about something I enjoyed so much.


Steven was waiting for us at the restaurant, seated at a round table with a lacquered lazy Susan in the middle.


"Hey, you."


He greeted me with a big bear hug, then pulled a chair out for me.


He studied me as we both sat down.


"You look tired."


I guessed I must really look like shit, since everyone kept telling me that.


"It's been a rough week so far."


The waitress came by and Steven ordered a dim sum appetizer and the same dishes we'd shared for that first late-evening meal - kung pao chicken and broccoli beef.


When we were alone again, Steven said, "I didn't know your roommate was gay.


Did you tell us that?" "He's bi, actually."


I realized Steven, or someone he knew, must have seen the same newspaper Cary had showed me.


"I don't think it came up."


"How's he feeling?" Mark asked, looking genuinely concerned.


"Better.


He might be coming home today."


Which was something that had been weighing on me all morning, since Gideon hadn't called to tell me definitively one way or the other.


"Let us know if you need any help," Steven said, all traces of levity gone.


"We're here for you."


"Thank you.


It wasn't a hate crime," I clarified.


"I don't know where the reporter got that.


I used to respect journalists.


Now, so few of them do their homework, and fewer still can write objectively."


"I'm sure it's tough living in the media spotlight."


Steven squeezed my hand on the table.


He was a gregarious, playful fellow, but beneath that fun exterior was a solid man with a kind heart.


"But then you have to kinda expect it when you're juggling rock stars and billionaires."


"Steven," Mark scolded, frowning.


"Ugh."


My nose wrinkled.


"Shawna told you."


"Of course she did," Steven said.


"Least she can do after not inviting me along to the concert.


But don't worry.


She's not a gossip.


She won't be telling anyone else."


I nodded, having no anxiety about that.


Shawna was good people, but it was still embarrassing having my boss know I'd kissed one man while dating another.


"Not that it would be a bad thing for Cross to get a taste of his own medicine," Steven muttered.


I frowned, confused.


Then I caught Mark's sympathetic gaze.


I realized the gay newspaper wasn't the only news they'd seen.


They must have seen the photos of Gideon and Corinne, too.


I felt my face flush with humiliation.


"He'll get a taste," I muttered.


"If I have to cram it down his throat."


Steven's brows shot up, and then he laughed and patted my hand.


"Get him, girl."


* * *


I'd barely returned to my desk when my work phone rang.


"Mark Garrity's office, Eva - " "Why is it so damn difficult for you to follow orders?" Gideon asked harshly.


I just sat there, staring at the collage of photos he'd given me, pictures of us looking connected and in love."Eva?" "What do you want from me, Gideon?" I asked quietly.


There was a moment of silence, then he exhaled.


"Cary will be moved to your apartment this afternoon under the supervision of his doctor and a private nurse.


He should be there when you get home."


"Thank you."


Another stretch of quiet filled the line between us, but he didn't hang up.


Finally, I queried, "Are we done?" The question had a double meaning.


I wondered if he caught that or even cared.


"Angus will give you a ride home."


My grip tightened on the phone.


"Good-bye, Gideon."


I hung up and got back to work.


* * *


I checked on Cary the minute I got home.


His bed had been moved aside and propped vertically against the wall to make room for a hospital bed that he could adjust at will.


He was asleep when I came in, his nurse sitting in a new recliner and reading an e-book.


It was the same nurse I'd seen the first night in the hospital, the pretty and exotic-looking one who had trouble taking her eyes off Gideon.


I wondered when he'd spoken to her - if he'd done it himself or sent someone else to do it - and whether she'd agreed for the money or for Gideon or both.


The fact that I was too tired to care one way or another said a lot about my own disconnection.


Maybe there were people out there whose love could survive anything, but mine was fragile.


It needed to be nurtured in order to thrive and grow.


I took a long, hot shower, then crawled into bed.


I pulled my tablet onto my lap and tried to continue my letter to Gideon.


I wanted to express my thoughts and reservations in a mature and cogent way.


I wanted to make it easy for him to understand my reactions to some of the things he did and said, so he could see things from my point of view.


In the end, I didn't have the energy.


I'm not elaborating any more, I wrote instead, because if I keep going, I'll beg.


And if you don't know me well enough to know that you're hurting me, a letter isn't going to fix our problems.


I'm desperate for you.


I'm miserable without you.


I think about the weekend, and the hours we spent together, and I can't think of anything I wouldn't do to have you like that again.


Instead, you're spending time with HER, while I'm alone on my fourth night without you.


Even knowing you've been with her, I want to crawl on my knees for you and beg for scraps.


A touch.


A kiss.


One tender word.


You've made me that weak.


I hate myself like this.


I hate that I need you this much.


I hate that I'm so obsessed with you.


I hate that I love you.


Eva I attached it to an e-mail with the subject line My thoughts - uncensored and hit send.


* * *


"Don't be afraid."


I woke to those three words and utter darkness.


The mattress dipped as Gideon sat beside me, leaning over me with his arms bracketing my body and the blankets between us, a cocoon and barrier that allowed my mind to wake without fear.


The delicious and unmistakable fragrance of his soap and shampoo mixed with the scent of his skin, soothing me along with his voice.


"Angel."


He took my mouth, his lips slanting over mine.


I touched his chest with my fingers, feeling bare skin.


He groaned and stood, bending over me so his mouth stayed connected to mine while he yanked the blankets off and away.


Then he was settling over me, his body nude and hot to the touch.


His ardent mouth moved down my throat, his hands pushing up my camisole so he could get to my breasts.


His lips surrounded my nipple and he suckled, his weight supported by one forearm on the mattress, his other hand pushing between my legs.


He cupped my sex, his fingertip gliding over the satin along the seam of my cleft.


His tongue flickered over my nipple, making it hard and tight, his teeth sinking lightly into the taut flesh.


"Gideon!" Tears slid in rivulets down my temples, the protective numbness I'd felt earlier falling away, leaving me exposed.


I'd been withering without him, the world around me losing its vibrancy, my body hurting from its separation from his.


Having him with me .


touching me .


was like rain in a drought.


My soul unfurled for him, opening wide to soak him in.


I loved him so much.


His hair tickled my skin as his open mouth slid over my cleavage, his chest expanding as he breathed me in, nuzzling and wallowing in my scent.


He captured the tip of my other breast with hard, deep suction.


The pleasure shot through me, echoing in the clenching of my sex against his teasing fingertip.


He moved down my torso, licking and nibbling a path across my stomach, the breadth of his shoulders forcing my legs wider until his hot breath gusted over my slick cleft.


His nose pressed against the wet satin, stroking me.


He inhaled with a groan.


"Eva.


I've been starved for you."


With impatient fingers, Gideon shoved the crotch of my panties aside and his mouth was on me.


He held me open with his thumbs, his tongue lashing over my throbbing clit.


My back arched with a cry, all my senses painfully acute without the benefit of sight.


Tilting his head, he thrust into the quivering opening of my sex, fucking rhythmically, teasing me with shallow plunges.

***

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