I pulled my hand out from under his and twisted the other way, giving him my back while I looked out the window at the teeming city.
"If I lose you, Eva," he said hoarsely, "I have nothing.
Everything I've done is so I don't lose you."
"I need more."
I rested my forehead against the glass.
"If I can't have you on the outside, I need to have you on the inside, but you've never let me in."
We drove in silence, crawling along through the morning traffic.
A fat drop of rain hit the windshield, followed by another.
"After my dad died," he said softly, "I had a hard time dealing with the changes.
I remember that people liked him, liked being around him.
He was making everyone rich, right? And then suddenly the world flipped on its head and everyone hated him.
My mother, who'd been so happy all the time, was crying nonstop.
And she and my dad were fighting every day.
That's what I remember most - the constant yelling and screaming."
I looked at him, studying his stony profile, but I didn't say anything, afraid to lose the moment.
"She remarried right away.
We moved out of the city.
She got pregnant.
I never knew when I'd run across someone my dad had fucked over, and I took a lot of shit for it from other kids.
From their parents.
It was big news.
To this day, people still talk about my dad and what he did.
I was so angry.
I had tantrums all the time.
I broke things."
He stopped at a light, breathing heavily.
"After Christopher came along, I got worse, and when he was five, he imitated me, pitching a fit at dinner and shoving his plate across the table and onto the floor.
My mom was pregnant with Ireland then, and she and Vidal decided it was time to put me into therapy."
Tears slid down my face at the picture he painted of the child he'd once been - scared and hurting and feeling like an outsider in his mom's new life.
"They came out to the house - the shrink and a doctoral candidate she was supervising.
It started out all right.
They both were nice, attractive, patient.
But soon the shrink was spending most of the time counseling my mother, who was having a difficult pregnancy in addition to two young boys who were out of control.
I was left alone with him more and more frequently."
Gideon pulled over and put the car into park.
His hands gripped the wheel with white-knuckled force, his throat working.
The steady patter of rain softened, leaving us alone with our painful truths.
"You don't have to tell me any more," I whispered, unbuckling my seat belt and reaching out to him.
I touched his face with fingertips damp with my tears.
His nostrils flared on a sharply indrawn breath.
"He made me come.
Every goddamned time, he wouldn't stop until I came, so he could say I liked it."
I kicked off my shoes and pulled his hand away from the wheel so I could straddle his lap and hold him.
His grip on me was excruciatingly tight, but I didn't complain.
We were on an insanely busy street, with endless cars rumbling past on one side and a crush of pedestrians on the other, but neither of us cared.
He was shaking violently, as if he were sobbing uncontrollably, but he made no sound and shed no tears.
The sky cried for him, the rain coming down hard and angry, steaming off the ground.
Holding his head in my hands, I pressed my wet face to his.
I know how that feels, the way they gloat afterward.
And the shame and confusion and guilt you felt.
It's not your fault.
You didn't want it.
You didn't enjoy it."
"I let him touch me at first," he whispered.
"He said it was my age .
I needed to masturbate and I'd be calmer.
Less angry all the time.
He touched me, said he'd show me how to do it right.
That I was doing it wrong - " "Gideon, no."
I pulled back to look at him, imagining in my mind how it would develop from that point on, all the things that would have been said to make it seem like Gideon was the instigator in his own rape.
"You were a child in the hands of an adult who knew all the right buttons to push.
They want to make it our fault so they have no culpability in their crime, but it's not true."
His eyes were huge and dark in his pale face.
I pressed my lips gently to his, tasting my tears.
"I love you.
And I believe you.
And none of this was your fault."
Gideon's hands were in my hair, holding me in place as he ravaged my mouth with desperate kisses.
"Don't leave me."
"Leave you? I'm going to marry you."
He inhaled sharply.
Then he pulled me closer, his hands careless and rough as they slid over me.
Impatient rapping against the window made me jerk in surprise.
A cop in rain gear and safety vest looked at us through the untinted front window, scowling at us from beneath the brim of her hat.
"You've got thirty seconds to move on or I'll cite you both for public indecency."
Embarrassed, my face flaming, I climbed back into my seat, sprawling in an ungraceful tumble.
Gideon waited until I had my seat belt on, then put the car in drive, tapped his brow in a salute to the officer, and pulled back out into traffic.
He reached for my hand, lifted it to his lips, and kissed my fingertips.
"I love you."
I froze, my heart pounding.
Linking our fingers together, he set them on his thigh.
The windshield wipers slid from side to side, their rhythmic tempo mocking the racing of my pulse.
Swallowing hard, I whispered, "Say that again."
He slowed at a light.
Turning his head, he looked at me.
He looked weary, as if all his usual pulsing energy had been expended and he was running on fumes.
But his eyes were warm and bright, the curve of his mouth loving and hopeful.
"I love you.
Still not the right word, but I know you want to hear it."
"I need to hear it," I agreed softly.
"As long as you understand the difference."
The light changed and he drove on.
"People get over love.
They can live without it, they can move on.
Love can be lost and found again.
But that won't happen for me.
I won't survive you, Eva."
My breath caught at the look on his face when he glanced at me.
"I'm obsessed with you, angel.
Addicted to you.
You're everything I've ever wanted or needed, everything I've ever dreamed of.
I live and breathe you.
I placed my other hand over our joined ones.
"There's so much out there for you.
You just don't know it yet."
"I don't need anything else.
I get out of bed every morning and face the world because you're in it."
He turned the corner and pulled up in front of the Crossfire behind the Bentley.
He killed the engine, released his seat belt, and took a deep breath.
"Because of you, the world makes sense to me in a way it didn't before.
I have a place now, with you."
Suddenly I understood why he'd worked so hard, why he was so insanely successful at such a young age.
He'd been driven to find his place in the world, to be more than an outsider.
His fingertips brushed across my cheek.
I'd missed that touch so much, my heart bled at feeling it again.
"When are you coming back to me?" I asked softly.
"As soon as I can."
Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to mine.
When I got to my desk, I found a voice mail from Christopher.
I debated for a moment whether I should continue to pursue the truth.
Christopher wasn't a man I wanted to invite any deeper into my life.
But I was haunted by the look that had been on Gideon's face when he told me about his past, and the sound of his voice, so hoarse with remembered shame and agony.
I felt his pain like my own.
In the end, there was no other choice.
I returned Christopher's call and asked him out to lunch.
"Lunch with a beautiful woman?" There was a smile in his voice.
"Any time you have free this week would be great."
"How about today?" he suggested.
"I occasionally get a craving for that deli you took me to."
"Works for me.
Noon?" We set the time and I hung up just as Will stopped by my cubicle.
He gave me puppy-dog eyes and said, "Help."
I managed a smile.
The two hours flew by.
When noon rolled around, I went downstairs and found Christopher waiting in the lobby.
His auburn hair was a wild mess of short, loose waves and his grayish- green eyes sparkled.
Wearing black slacks and a white dress shirt rolled up at the sleeves, he looked confident and attractive.
He greeted me with his boyish grin, and it struck me then - I couldn't ask him about what he'd said to his mother long ago.
He'd been a child himself, living in a dysfunctional home.
"I'm stoked you called me," he said.
"But I have to admit, I'm curious about why.
I'm wondering if it has anything to do with Gideon getting back together with Corinne."
I had to suck in a deep breath, then release my tension with it.
I knew better.
I had no doubts.
But I was honest enough to admit that I wanted ownership of Gideon.
I wanted to claim him, possess him, have everyone know that he was mine.
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