“That peace you’re looking for? You’re pretending you have it during the day and suffering without it at night. It’s tearing you up from the inside, and it’s shredding me watching it happen to you. I don’t want you to live like this forever. I don’t want us to live forever like this.”
I looked at her, my soul bared to those amazing steel-colored eyes that didn’t let me hide anything. There was so much love in the look she gave me. Love and worry, disappointment and hope. The pendant lamps over the island backlit her blond hair, reminding me of how precious she was. A gift I’d never expected.
“Eva . . . I am talking to Dr. Petersen about the nightmares.”
“But not about what’s causing them.”
“You’re assuming Hugh is the problem,” I said evenly, feeling the burn of hatred and humiliation in my gut. “We’ve been talking about my father instead.”
She pulled back. “Ace . . . I don’t know exactly what’s in your dreams, but I’ve seen you wake up in two different ways: ready to beat up someone or crying like your heart is breaking. When you come out swinging, the things you say make me damn near certain you’re fighting off Hugh.”
I sucked in a quick, deep breath. It infuriated me that my former therapist—and molester—could reach out from the grave and touch Eva through me.
“Listen.” She wrapped her legs around my hips. “I said I wasn’t going to push you and I meant it. If we were two years into our relationship, I’d put up a fuss, maybe. But it’s only been a few months, Gideon. The fact that you’re seeing someone and talking about your dad is enough for now.”
“Yes. But there are things we can never discuss that are haunting you, too. Dr. Petersen is already working with a handicap because of that. The more you keep from him, the less he can help.”
Nathan. She didn’t have to say the name.
“I’m making an effort, Eva.”
“I know.” Her hands smoothed over my shoulders, then reached for the buttons of my vest. “Just tell me that you’re not hoping to avoid talking about it forever. Tell me you’re just working up to it.”
My heart rate sped up. I reached for her wrists, holding them firmly, anchoring myself to her. I felt cornered, trapped between her needs and my own, which seemed terribly divergent at that moment.
Her lips parted at the pressure of my grip, her br**sts lifting with a quickened breath. A restraining touch, a heated look, the tone of my voice . . . Eva reacted to my unspoken demands as if she’d been trained to.
“I’m doing my best,” I told her.
“That’s not an answer.”
“It’s all I’ve got right now, Eva.”
She swallowed, her thoughts scattering as her body stirred. “You’re playing with me,” she said quietly. “You’re manipulating me.”
“I’m not. I’m giving you the truth, even though it’s not what you want to hear. You told me you wouldn’t push. Did you mean it?”
Wetting her lower lip with a brush of her tongue, she stared up at me. Then nodded. “Yes.”
“Good. Let’s have some wine and dinner. Afterward, if you’d really like to play, let me know.”
“I have some silk cord I bought for you.”
Her eyes widened. “Silk cord?”
“Crimson, of course.” I released her and stepped back, giving her some space to think while I reached for the decanter to pour her a glass. “I’d like to tie you down when you’re ready for that. If not tonight, then someday. I won’t push you, either.”
We were both steering each other in directions that were uncomfortable. She chose to believe an educated observer was part of the answer we were looking for. I believed we could find a lot of the answers on our own, just the two of us connecting in the most intimate ways possible.
Sexual healing. What could be more perfect for two people who had the history Eva and I shared?
Eva accepted the wine I handed her. “When did you buy that?”
“A week ago. Maybe two. I had no expectation of using it soon, but you made me want to today.” I took a sip, letting the shiraz roll around my tongue. “That said, I’m perfectly happy with just f**king you hard.”
The wine sloshed a little in her glass as she lifted it to her mouth. She gulped it down, leaving a few drops in the bottom. “Because you’re mad at me for talking to Chris.”
“I told you I wasn’t.”
“You were furious when we left.”
“Furiously turned on.” I smiled wryly. “I can’t explain why, because I don’t understand it myself.”
I reached up and brushed the pad of my thumb over her lips. “I see you angry, passionate, ready to fight, and I want all that violence trapped beneath me. You make me want to hold you down, clawing and screaming, your cunt milking my c**k as I pound it into you. Mine. All mine.”
“Gideon.” She set her glass aside and grabbed me, claiming my mouth with a wild hunger I hoped would never abate.
“HOW come you never told Chris about what happened with Hugh?”
That unwelcome question came out of the f**king blue. I paused midchew, suddenly finding the bite of pizza in my mouth unappetizing. Dropping what was left of my slice onto the plate in front of me, I grabbed a napkin and wiped my mouth. “Why are we discussing this again?”
Eva frowned at me from where she sat beside me on the floor in between the coffee table and the couch in the living room. “We didn’t talk about it.”
“Didn’t we? In any case, it doesn’t matter. My mother told him.”
Her frown deepened. She reached for the TV remote and lowered the volume, muting the voices of the NYPD detectives on the screen. “I don’t think so.”
I pushed to my feet and grabbed my plate. “She did, Eva.”
“Do you know that for sure?” She followed me into the kitchen.
“They discussed it at the dinner table one night, something I don’t want to do.”
“He acted like he didn’t know.” She braced her hands against the counter as I dropped my leftovers into the trash. “He seemed genuinely confused and horrified.”
“Then he’s as conveniently obtuse as my mother. You shouldn’t be surprised.”
“What if he didn’t know?”
“So what?” I set the plate in the sink, the lingering smell of food making my stomach roil. “What the f**k does it matter now? It’s done, Eva. Done and over with. Let it go.”
“Why are you so mad?”
“Because I was settled in for the night with my wife. Dinner, wine, a little TV, a couple hours making love . . . after a long, rough day.” I left the kitchen. “Forget it. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Gideon, wait.” She grabbed my arm. “Don’t go to bed pissed. Please. I’m sorry.”
I paused and removed her hand from my arm. “So am I.”
“START out slow,” he whispers, his lips near my ear.
I can feel him becoming excited. He reaches around my hip to where I’m stroking my penis. His hand covers mine. His breath is quick and shallow. His erection brushes against my bu**ocks.
My stomach feels sick. I’m sweating. I can’t stay hard, even as my oiled fist slides up and down, guided by his.
“You’re thinking too much,” he tells me. “Concentrate on how good it feels. Look at that woman in front of you. She wants you to f**k her. Imagine how it’d feel to push your c**k into her. Soft. Hot. Wet. And tight.” His grip closes harder over mine. “So tight.”
I look at the centerfold spread over the top of my toilet’s water tank. She’s got dark hair and blue eyes, and her legs are long. They always look like that, the women in the pictures Hugh brings.
He pants in my ear, and the sickness is back. Wrong. There’s something wrong with me. This feels wrong. His eagerness makes me feel dirty. Bad. I’m a bad boy, even Mom says so. She yells it at me when she’s crying, when she’s angry with me about Dad.
A low moan cuts through the sound of his heavy breaths. It’s me making that noise. It feels good, even though I don’t want it to.
It’s hard to breathe, to think, to fight . . .
“That’s it,” he coaxes. His other hand pushes between my bu**ocks.
I try to pull away, but he’s got me trapped. He’s bigger than me, stronger. No matter how I struggle, I can’t push him off.
“Don’t,” I tell him, squirming.
“You like it,” he grunts. His hand pumps me harder. “You shoot off like a geyser every time. It’s okay. It’s supposed to feel good. You’ll be better once you’ve come. You won’t fight with your mother so much . . .”
“No. Don’t! Oh, God . . .”
He pushes two slick fingers inside me. I cry out, writhing away, but he won’t quit. He’s rubbing and thrusting into me, hitting the spot that makes me want to come more than anything. The pleasure grows despite the tears burning my eyes.
My head falls forward. My chin touches my heaving chest. It’s coming. I can’t stop it . . .
Abruptly, I look down from a higher vantage. My hand is suddenly bigger, my forearm thicker and coursing with veins. Dark hair dusts my arms and chest, my abdomen ripples with muscle as I fight the orgasm I don’t want.
I am not a child anymore. He can’t hurt me anymore.
There’s a knife atop the centerfold, gleaming in the light from the vanity beside me. I grab it and jerk free of the fingers f**king me. I turn and the blade sinks into his chest.
“Don’t touch me!” I roar, grabbing his shoulder and yanking him into the knife, all the way to the hilt.
Hugh’s eyes widen with horror. His mouth falls open in a silent scream.
His face morphs into Nathan’s. My childhood bathroom shimmers and transforms. We’re in an eerily familiar hotel room.
My heart pounds harder. I can’t be here. They can’t find me here. Can’t find any trace of me. I have to leave.
I stumble back. The knife withdraws in a smooth, blood-soaked glide. Nathan’s eyes turn milky with death. They’re gray. Gray eyes. Beautiful, beloved dove gray irises. Eva’s eyes. Clouding over . . .
Eva is bleeding in front of me. Dying in front of me. I’ve killed her. My God . . .
Can’t move. Can’t reach her. She crumples and pools onto the floor, those stormy eyes dull and sightless—
I jerked awake with a gasp, sitting up in a rush that sent an air-conditioned breeze across my sweat-soaked skin. I couldn’t breathe through the panic and fear choking me. Shoving off the sheet tangled around my legs, I stumbled out of bed, blind with terror. My stomach heaved in protest and I lurched into the bathroom, barely reaching the toilet before I vomited.
I showered, washing away the sticky sweat covering me.
The grief and despair weren’t so easy to get away from. As I scrubbed a dry towel over my skin, they weighed heavily, suffocating me. The memory of Eva’s pale face etched with betrayal and death haunted me. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
I stripped the bed with rough, jerky movements, then yanked a clean fitted sheet over the mattress.
I straightened and turned at the sound of Eva’s voice. She stood in the doorway to my bedroom, her hands twisting in the hem of the T-shirt she wore. Regret hit me hard. She’d gone to sleep alone in the room I’d had redesigned to look like her bedroom on the Upper West Side.
“Hey,” she said softly, tentatively, shifting on her feet in a way that told me how uncomfortable she felt. How wary. “Are you okay?”