The devastation on her beautiful face got to me before I could process what she’d said. Then it registered. Horrified, I shoved her away. She stumbled back as her heels caught in the carpet.
“Don’t put that on me,” I warned, my voice low and hard. “I’m not responsible for your happiness. I’m not responsible for you at all.”
“What’s wrong with you?” she cried. “This isn’t you.”
“You wouldn’t know.” I went to the door and yanked it open. “Go home to your husband, Corinne. Take care of yourself.”
“Fuck you,” she hissed. “You’re going to regret this, and I might be too hurt to forgive you.”
She stared at me for a long minute and then stormed out of my office.
“Damn it.” I pivoted, not knowing where to go or what to do, but I had to do something. Anything. I paced.
I’d pulled out my smartphone and called Eva before I consciously made the decision to do so.
“Mark Garrity’s office,” she began.
“Angel.” The one word betrayed my relief at hearing her voice. She was what I needed. Something in me had known that.
“Gideon.” She read me immediately, as she so often did. “Is everything all right?”
I glanced out at my staff in the distant cubicles getting into the groove of the day. I hit the controls to frost the glass, carving out a moment alone with my wife.
I lightened my tone, not wanting to cause her stress. “I miss you already.”
She waited a beat before replying, adjusting to my mood. “Liar,” she shot back. “You’re too busy.”
“Never. Now, tell me how much you’re missing me.”
She laughed. “You’re terrible. What am I going to do with you?”
“Damn straight. So what’s up? It’s going to be a busy day and I have to get going.”
I went to my desk and studied her photo. My shoulders relaxed. “Just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you.”
“Good. Don’t stop. And FYI, it’s nice to hear you not grumpy at work.”
It was nice to hear her, period. I’d given up trying to figure out why she affected me the way she did. I just appreciated that she could reset my day. “Tell me you love me.”
“Madly. You rock my world, Mr. Cross.”
I stared into her laughing eyes, my fingertip brushing lightly over the glass. “You’re the center of mine.”
THE rest of the morning passed swiftly and uneventfully. I was wrapping up a meeting regarding a possible investment in a proposed resort chain when yet another personal interruption showed up. So much for workflow.
“You’ve got to f**k up everything, don’t you?” my brother accused, barging into my office with Scott on his heels.
With a look, I gave Scott the okay to back out. He shut the door behind him.
“Good afternoon to you, too, Christopher.”
We shared blood but could not have been less alike. Like his father’s, his hair was wavy and fell somewhere between brown and red. His eyes were a gray mixed with green, while I was most definitely our mother’s son.
“Did you forget that Vidal Records is Ireland’s legacy, too?” he snapped, his eyes hard.
“I never forget that.”
“Then you just don’t give a shit. Your vendetta against Brett Kline is costing us money, damn you. You’re hurting all of us, not just him.”
Moving to my desk, I leaned against it and crossed my arms. I should’ve seen it coming, considering how irate Christopher had become at the Times Square launch of the “Golden” video. He wanted Kline and Eva together. More than that, he wanted Eva and me apart.
It was the sad truth that I brought out the worst in my brother. The only times he ever acted cruelly or rashly was when he was trying to hurt me. I’d seen him give brilliant speeches, charm people with his natural charisma, and impress board members with his industry savvy, but he never displayed those traits toward me.
Frustrated by his unprovoked animosity, I baited him. “I’m assuming you’re going to get to the point soon.”
“Don’t play innocent, Gideon. You knew exactly what you were doing when you systematically destroyed every media opportunity Vidal secured for Six-Ninths.”
“If those opportunities were centered on Eva, they had no business being pursued to begin with.”
“That’s not your decision to make.” His mouth twisted in a scornful smile. “Do you even comprehend the damage you’ve done? Behind the Music has delayed their special because Sam Yimara no longer owns the rights to the footage he compiled of the band’s early years. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives can’t include Pete’s 69th Street Bar in their San Diego episode, because it’s being demolished before they can film their segment. And Rolling Stone isn’t interested in pursuing their proposed piece on ‘Golden’ since your engagement was announced. The song loses its interest without the happy ending.”
“I can get you the footage VH1 wants. Put them in touch with Arash and he’ll take care of it.”
“After you remove all traces of Eva? What’s the point?”
My brows lifted. “The point is supposed to be Six-Ninths, not my wife.”
“She’s not your wife yet,” he shot back, “and that’s your problem. You’re afraid she’s going to go back to Brett. You’re not really her type and we all know it. You can eat her pu**y at parties, but what she really likes is blowing rock stars in public—”
I was on him before he blinked. My fist hit his jaw; his head jerked back. I caught him with a follow-up left and he stumbled, crashing into the glass wall.
Through it, I glimpsed Scott shoving to his feet, and then I braced for the impact of Christopher’s body hurtling into mine. We went down. I rolled, punching his ribs until he groaned. He slammed his head into my temple.
The room spun.
Dazed, I rolled away and clambered to my feet.
Christopher pulled himself up by the coffee table, blood running from the side of his lips and onto the carpet. His jaw was swelling and he gasped for air, dragging in harsh breaths. My fists ached and I flexed my hands, tensing with the need to hit him again. If he’d been anyone else, I would have.
“Do it,” he taunted, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “You’ve wanted me dead since the day I was born. Why stop now?”
Two security guards rounded the corner at a run, but I held up a hand to stop them.
“I’m f**king onto you, ass**le,” my brother growled, pushing heavily to his feet. “I’ve talked to members of the board. Explained what you’re doing. You want to take me down, I’m fighting you all the way.”
“You’ve lost it, you f**king idiot. Take your crazy somewhere else. And leave Eva alone. You want to make an enemy out of me, screwing around with her is the way to do it.”
He stared at me for a long minute, then laughed harshly. “Does she know what you’re doing to Brett?”
I winced through a deep breath, a dull ache in my side from a forming bruise. “I’m not doing anything to Kline. I’m protecting Eva.”
“And the band is just collateral damage?”
“Better him than her.”
“Fuck that,” he snarled.
Christopher stalked toward the door.
I should’ve let him go but found myself speaking instead. “For Christ’s sake, Christopher, they’re talented. They don’t need a gimmick to be successful. If you weren’t so damned eager to make me pay for something you’ve imagined I’ve done, you’d be concentrating on better angles than making them into a one-hit wonder.”
He rounded on me with clenched fists. “Don’t tell me how to do my job. And don’t get in my way or I’ll shove you out.”
I watched him leave, escorted by security. Then I went to my desk and checked my message log. Scott had noted that two of Vidal Records’ board members had called over the course of the day.
I opened the line between Scott and me. “Get me Arash Madani.”
If Christopher wanted a war, I’d give him one.
I arrived at Dr. Lyle Petersen’s office on time at six o’clock. The psychologist greeted me with a welcoming smile, his dark blue eyes warm and friendly.
After the day I’d had, spending an hour with a shrink was the last thing I wanted to do. Spending an hour alone with Eva was what I needed more.
Our session began as they always did, with Dr. Petersen asking how my week had been and me answering as succinctly as possible. Then he said, “Let’s talk about the nightmares.”
I leaned back, laying my arm on the sofa’s armrest. I’d been up front about my sleep problems from the beginning in order to get the prescription medication that made me marginally safer for Eva to be near at night, but dissecting the dreams had never been one of the topics on discussion.
That meant someone else had brought them up. “You talked to Eva.”
It wasn’t a question, since the answer was evident.
“She sent me an e-mail earlier,” he confirmed, folding his hands atop his tablet screen.
My fingers drummed silently.
His gaze followed the movement. “Does it bother you that she contacted me?”
I weighed my response before giving it. “She worries. If talking to you alleviates that, I won’t complain. You’re also her therapist, so she has a right to discuss it with you.”
“But you don’t like it. You’d prefer to choose which issues you share with me.”
“I’d prefer Eva to feel safe.”
Dr. Petersen nodded. “That’s why you’re here. For her.”
“What does she hope the outcome of our sessions will be?”
“Don’t you know?”
He smiled. “I’d like to hear your answer to that question.”
After a moment, I gave it to him. “Eva previously made bad decisions. She learned to rely on the advice of therapists. It worked well for her and it’s what she knows.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Do I have to feel anything?” I countered. “She asked me to try it out and I agreed. Relationships are about compromise, aren’t they?”
“Yes.” Picking up his stylus, he tapped at the screen of his tablet. “Tell me about your previous experience with therapy.”
I took a breath. Let it out. “I was a child. I don’t remember.”
He glanced at me over the rim of his glasses. “How did you feel about seeing someone? Angry, frightened, sad?”
Glancing down at my wedding ring, I replied, “A little of all that.”
“I imagine you felt similarly about your father’s suicide.”
I stilled. Studying him, my gaze narrowed. “Your point?”
“We’re just talking, Gideon.” He leaned back. “I often feel like you’re wondering what the angle is. I don’t have an angle. I just want to help you.”
I forced my posture to relax.
I wanted the nightmares to stop. I wanted to share the same bed as my wife. I needed Dr. Petersen to help me do that.
However, I didn’t want to talk about things that couldn’t be changed to get there.
“HEY, GIRL. WHAT are your thoughts on karaoke?” Shawna Ellison asked the second I answered the phone.
I dropped my pencil onto the notepad I’d been scribbling in, then sat back on the couch and curled my legs onto the cushion. It was rolling past nine o’clock and I hadn’t heard from Gideon yet. I didn’t know if that was a good or bad sign, considering he’d had an appointment with Dr. Petersen earlier.