My dad nodded slowly. “That’s too bad.”
“While we’re discussing the wedding,” Gideon segued smoothly, “it would be my pleasure to provide transportation. It would give me a chance to contribute, which I’d appreciate.”
I took a deep breath, understanding—as I knew my father would—that my husband’s directness and tact made him hard to refuse.
“That’s very generous of you, Gideon.”
“It’s a standing offer. With an hour’s notice, we can have you in the air and on your way. It’ll make it easier for you and Eva to work around your schedules and maximize your time together.”
My dad didn’t answer right away. “Thank you. It might take me a while to get used to the idea. It’s a bit extravagant, and I don’t want to be a burden.”
Gideon pulled his shades off, baring his eyes. “That’s what money’s for. All I want is to make your daughter happy. Make that easy on me, Mr. Reyes. We all want to see Eva smiling as much as possible.”
It sank in then why my dad was so opposed to Stanton paying for anything. My stepdad didn’t do it for me; he did it for my mom. Gideon would only ever consider me when making decisions. I knew my dad could live with that.
I caught Gideon’s gaze and mouthed, I love you.
His grip on my hand tightened until it hurt. I didn’t mind.
My dad smiled. “Making Eva happy. How can I argue with that?”
THE smell of freshly brewed coffee brought my well-trained senses to life the following morning. I blinked up at the bedroom ceiling of my Upper West Side apartment and gave a sleepy smile when I discovered Gideon standing beside my bed, stripping out of his shirt. The sight of his leanly muscular torso and washboard abs almost made up for the fact that I’d obviously spent the night alone after falling asleep in his arms.
“Good morning,” I murmured, rolling onto my side as he pushed his pajama bottoms down and kicked them off.
Whoever said Mondays sucked had obviously never woken up to a na**d Gideon Cross.
“It will be,” he said, lifting the covers and sliding between the sheets with me.
I shivered as his cool skin touched mine. “Yikes!”
His arms slipped around me, and his lips touched my neck. “Warm me up, angel.”
By the time I was done with him he was sweating and the coffee he’d brought me was cold.
I didn’t mind in the least.
I was in an excellent mood when I got to work. Morning sex contributed to that, of course. Also the sight of Gideon getting dressed for the day, watching him transform from the private man I knew and loved into the dark and dangerous global magnate. The day only got better when I exited on the twentieth floor and saw Megumi sitting at her desk.
I waved at her through the glass security doors, but my smile faded the moment I got a good look at her. She was pale and had dark circles under her eyes. Her usually sassy asymmetrical haircut looked limp and overlong, and she was wearing a long-sleeved blouse and dark slacks that were out of place with the August mugginess.
“Hey,” I greeted her when she buzzed me through. “How are you? I’ve been worried about you.”
She gave me a weak smile. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m totally antisocial when I get sick. I just want to curl up in bed and be left alone.”
Her lower lip quivered and her eyes grew shiny with tears.
“Are you okay?” I glanced around, worried about her privacy as other employees passed through the reception area. “Did you see a doctor?”
She started crying.
Horrified, I stood frozen for a minute. “Megumi. What’s wrong?”
She pulled off her headset and stood, tears spilling down her face. She shook her head violently. “I can’t talk about it now.”
“When is your break?”
But she was already hurrying to the bathroom, leaving me staring after her.
I headed to my cubicle and dropped off my bag, then went down the hall to Will Granger’s desk. He wasn’t there, but I found him in the break room when I stopped to grab some coffee.
“Hey, you.” His eyes behind his square-framed glasses looked as worried as I felt. “Did you see Megumi?”
“Yeah. She looks wiped out. And she started crying when I asked how she’s doing.”
He slid the carton of half-and-half over to me. “Not good, whatever it is.”
“I’m bad with not knowing. My imagination runs wild. I’m bouncing between cancer, pregnancy, and everything in between.”
Will shrugged helplessly. With his neatly trimmed sideburns and subtly quirky-patterned shirts, he was the sort of affable and easy-natured guy who was hard to dislike.
“Eva.” Mark stuck his head in the door. “I’ve got news.”
My boss’s bright eyes told me he was excited about something. “I’m all ears. Coffee?”
“Sure. Thanks. See you in my office.” He ducked back out again.
Will grabbed his mug off the counter. “Have a good one.”
He left. I hurried to get the coffee ready, then went to Mark’s office. He’d taken his jacket off and was studying something on his monitor. He looked up, smiling when he saw me.
“We’ve got a new RFP request.” His smile widened. “And they asked for me specifically.”
I tensed. Setting his coffee down, I asked warily, “Is it another Cross Industries product?”
As much as I loved Gideon and admired all that he’d accomplished, I didn’t want to be totally overshadowed by his world. Part of who we were as a couple was two people who had separate working lives. I enjoyed riding to work with my husband, but I needed to say good-bye to him, too. I needed those few hours when he didn’t consume me.
“No, it’s bigger.”
My brows rose. I couldn’t think of anything or anyone bigger than Cross Industries.
Mark slid a picture of a silver-and-red box across the desk to me. “It’s the new PhazeOne gaming system from LanCorp.”
I settled into the seat in front of his desk with an inner sigh of relief. “Sweet. Sounds fun.”
IT was a little after eleven when Megumi called to see if I was free for lunch.
“Of course,” I told her.
I considered our options. “I’ve got an idea. Leave it to me.”
I sat at my desk. “How’s your morning been?”
“Busy. I have to get caught up.”
“Let me know if I can help with anything.”
“Thank you, Eva.” She took a deep, shaky breath, her composure slipping. “I appreciate you.”
We hung up. I called Gideon’s office, and his secretary answered.
“Hey, Scott. It’s Eva. How are you?”
“I’m good.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “What can I do for you?”
My feet tapped restlessly. I couldn’t help but be worried about my friend. “Could you ask Gideon to give me a call when he has a free minute?”
“I’ll put you through now.”
“Oh. Okay, great. Thanks.”
A moment later I heard the voice I loved. “What do you need, Eva?”
I was startled for a minute by his brusqueness. “Are you busy?”
“I’m in a meeting.”
Fuck. “My bad. Bye.”
I hung up, and then called Scott again to discuss how we should handle calls in the future so I didn’t come out looking like an ass. Before he answered, the secondary line flashed with an incoming call. I switched over. “Mark Garrity’s office—”
“Don’t ever hang up on me,” Gideon snapped.
I bristled at his tone. “Are you in a meeting or not?”
“I was. Now I’m dealing with you.”
Hell if anyone was going to “deal” with me. I could be as pissy as him any day of the week. “You know, I asked Scott to give you a message when you had time for it and he patched me through. He shouldn’t have done that, if you were busy with—”
“He has standing orders to always connect your calls. If you want to leave me a message, send a text or an e-mail.”
“Well, excuse me for not knowing the etiquette for getting in touch with you!”
“Never mind that now. Say what you need.”
“Nothing. Forget it.”
He exhaled roughly. “Don’t play games with me, angel.”
I was reminded of the last time I’d called him at work and how off he’d sounded then, too. If something was bugging him, he sure wasn’t sharing it.
I hunched over my desk and lowered my voice. “Gideon, your attitude pisses me off. I don’t want to deal with you when you’re aggravated. If you’re too busy to talk to me, you shouldn’t have standing orders that interrupt you.”
“I’m never going to be unreachable.”
“Really? ’Cause you seem that way right now.”
“For f**k’s sake.”
Hearing his exasperation gave me a surge of satisfaction. “I didn’t text you because I didn’t want to bother you in a meeting. I didn’t send an e-mail, because it’s a time-sensitive favor and I don’t know how often you get to your inbox. I figured a message with Scott would get the job done best.”
“And now you have my complete attention. Tell me what you want.”
“I want to get off the phone, and I want you to get back to your meeting.”
“What you’re going to get,” he said, with dangerous evenness, “is me at your desk if you don’t cut the shit and explain why you called.”
I glared at his photo. “You make me want to find a job in New Jersey.”
“You make me crazy.” He growled softly. “I can’t function when we’re fighting, you know that. Just say what you need, Eva, and forgive me for now. We can argue and have makeup sex later.”
The tension left me. How could I stay mad at him after he admitted how vulnerable I could make him?
“Damn you,” I muttered. “I hate when you get reasonable after irritating me.”
He made a low sound of reluctant amusement. I instantly felt better.
“Angel mine.” His voice took on the sexy, raspy warmth I needed to hear. “Definitely not a quiet, comfortable ornament.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t worry about it. You’re perfect. Tell me why you called.”
I knew that tone. I’d turned him on somehow. “You’re a maniac. Seriously.”
“Anyway, ace, I wanted to see if I could borrow one of your conference rooms for lunch with Megumi. She’s back, but she’s a mess and I think she wants to talk about it but there’s really not a good place to go nearby that’s private and quiet.”
“Use my office. I’ll have something ordered in and you’ll have the space to yourself while I’m out.”
“Of course. However, I have to remind you that when you work for Cross Industries you’ll have your own office to lunch in.”
My head fell back. “Shut up.”
THE research involved in prepping for the PhazeOne RFP kept me hopping, but I was antsy for information from Megumi, so the hour seemed to drag anyway.
I met up with her at the reception desk at noon. “If it’s not too weird,” I said, as she pulled her purse out of a drawer, “we’re going to use Gideon’s office for lunch. He’s out and it’s private.”