“We will,” I told him. “For sure.”
As he left the office, I turned to Gideon. “Can I hug you?”
“You never have to ask.”
My heart felt squeezed by the warm indulgence in his eyes. “The glass is clear.”
“Let them see,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around me. He exhaled long and slow when I clung to him. “Talk to me, angel.”
“I don’t want to talk.” Didn’t want to think about the mess I’d made of my life, which was now impacting the man I loved. “I want to hear your voice. Say anything, I don’t care.”
“Kline won’t hurt you. I promise you that.”
My eyes squeezed shut. “Not about him. Tell me about work.”
“Eva . . .”
I felt the tension in his body, the strain of concern and worry, so I explained. “I just want to close my eyes for a minute and feel you. Smell you. Hear you. I need to just soak you in for a minute, and then I’ll be okay.”
His hands rubbed up and down my back, his chin resting on the top of my head. “We’re going away. Soon. For at least a week, although I’d prefer two. I was thinking we might go back to Crosswinds. Spend the time na**d and lazy—”
“You’re never lazy. Especially when you’re naked.”
“Especially when you’re naked,” he corrected, nuzzling me. “But I’ve never had you that way for an entire week. You could wear me out.”
“I doubt that’s possible, fiend. But I’m willing to try my best.”
“It won’t be our honeymoon, per se. I want a month for that.”
“A month!” I pulled back and looked at him, my mood lifting. “The entire economy of New York could collapse if you’re out of the game that long.”
He cupped the side of my face, his thumb brushing over my brow. “I think my highly capable team can manage a few weeks without me.”
I caught his wrist and let a little of my anxiety out. “I couldn’t manage it. I need you too much.”
“Eva.” He lowered his head and pressed his lips to mine, his tongue teasing them open.
Gripping his nape in my hand, I held him still while I deepened the kiss. Fell into it. He pulled me closer, lifting me onto my tiptoes. His head tilted, tightening the seal until every breath was shared, every moan and whimper.
I gasped when we broke for air. “When will you be home?”
“When you want me there.”
“That would be when your day is done. You’ve lost enough time over me today.” I smoothed his perfectly placed tie. “You weren’t just spying on me this afternoon. You knew my lunch with Brett was going to go south.”
“It was a possibility.”
“The spying? Or the heading south?”
He shot me a look. “You’re not going to give me a hard time about being there for you. You would’ve done the same had the situation been reversed.”
“How did you know what he wanted?” Was the video’s existence eating at him, too? What I’d done and who I’d been before?
“I know he’s getting pressure from Christopher, who’s also putting pressure on the rest of the band.”
“Why? To get to you?”
“In part. You’re not just some random hot blonde. You’re Eva Tramell and you’re news.”
“Maybe I should dye my hair. Get rid of the ‘Golden.’ How about red?” I couldn’t go brunette, not with Gideon’s history of dark-haired women. It would kill me to look in the mirror every day.
His face shuttered, closed up like a steel trap even though nothing else about him gave away any tension. I got a tingle at the back of my neck, a prickling warning that something had shifted.
“Don’t like the idea?” I prodded, abruptly reminded of a redhead from his past—Dr. Anne Lucas.
“I like you just the way you are. That said, if you want a change, I won’t object. It’s your body, your right. But don’t do it just because of them.”
“Would you still want me?”
The tightness around his mouth eased, the inflexibility on his face fading away nearly as swiftly as it had appeared. “Would you still want me if I had red hair?”
“Hmm.” I tapped my chin with my finger, pretending to contemplate the change. “Maybe we should stick with what we’ve got.”
Gideon kissed my forehead. “That’s what I signed up for.”
“You also signed up for letting me have my way with you tonight.”
“Name the time and place.”
“Eight o’clock? Your apartment on the Upper West Side?”
“Our apartment.” He kissed me softly. “I’ll be there.”
“BY THE WAY, congratulations on your engagement.”
My gaze shifted from the project engineer’s face on my monitor to the photo of Eva blowing kisses. “Thank you.”
I would much rather look at my wife. For an instant, I pictured Eva as she’d been the night before, those plush lips wrapped around my cock. I had given her carte blanche with my body and all she’d wanted was to suck me off. Again and again. And again. Christ. I had been thinking about the night we’d had all day long.
“I’ll keep you posted on the impact of the storm,” he said, bringing my attention back to work. “I appreciate you calling personally to check on us. The weather conditions may set us back a week or two, depending, but we’ll open on time.”
“We have a cushion. Take care of yourself and your crew first.”
“Will do. Thanks.”
I closed the chat window and checked my schedule, needing to know exactly how much time I had to prepare for my next meeting with the lead R and D team at PosIT.
Scott’s voice projected from my phone’s speaker. “Christopher Vidal Sr. is on line one. It’s his third call today. I’ve already told him you’ll get back to him when you can, but he’s insistent. How do you want me to handle?”
Calls from my stepfather never boded well, which meant delaying them ate into the time I had to fix whatever problem he needed to impose on me. “I’ll take it.”
I hit the speaker button. “Chris, what can I do for you?”
“Gideon. Listen, I’m sorry to disturb you, but you and I need to talk. Would it be possible for us to meet today?”
Prodded by the urgency in his voice, I picked up the receiver and took him off speaker. “My office or yours?”
“No, your penthouse.”
I sat back, surprised. “I won’t be home until close to nine.”
“Is everyone all right?”
“Yes, everyone’s fine. Don’t worry about that.”
“It’s Vidal, then. We’ll take care of it.”
“God.” He laughed harshly. “You’re a good man, Gideon. One of the best I know. I should’ve told you that more often.”
My gaze narrowed at the edge in his tone. “I’ve got a few minutes now. Just lay it out.”
“No, not now. I’ll see you at nine.”
He hung up. I sat for a long minute with the receiver in my hand. There was a knot in my gut, one that was cold and sharp.
I returned the receiver to its cradle and my attention to work, pulling up schematics and reviewing the packet Scott had placed on my desk earlier. Still, my mind raced.
I couldn’t control what happened with my family, had never had any power there. I could only clean up the messes Christopher made and try to keep Vidal from going under. I drew the line, however, at using the footage of Eva. Nothing Chris could say would change that.
Time was racing toward the PosIT meeting when the message app popped up on my monitor and Eva’s avatar appeared.
I can still taste you. Yummy.
A dry laugh escaped me. The knot I’d been ignoring eased, then disappeared. She was my clean slate. My fresh start.
Soothed, I replied. The pleasure was mine.
“I’VE got a lead.”
My head turned to find Raúl entering my office.
He came to my desk with brisk strides. “I’m still running through the guest list for that event you attended a couple weeks ago. I’ve also been running twice-daily searches for photos. Got an alert on this one today. I secured a copy and made some zoom views.”
I glanced at the photos he slid across my desk. Picking them up, I examined them more closely, one by one. There was a redhead in the background. In each successive picture, she was brought closer to the fore. “Emerald green dress, long red hair. This is the woman Eva saw.”
It was also Anne Lucas. Something about the way she was standing, with her face averted, spurred a familiar sickness in my gut.
I looked up at Raúl. “She wasn’t on the guest list?”
“Not officially, but she was on the red carpet, so I’m thinking she had to have been someone’s plus-one. I don’t know who her escort was yet, but I’m on it.”
Restless, I stood, shoving my chair back. “She went after Eva. You need to keep her away from my wife.”
“Angus and I are developing new protocols for event security.”
Turning, I retrieved my jacket from its hook. “You’ll tell me if you need more men.”
“I’ll let you know.” He scooped up the photos and started toward me. “She’s at her office today,” he said, accurately gauging my intention. “Was still there when I headed up to see you.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
“EXCUSE me.” The petite brunette behind the desk stood in a rush as I walked by. “You can’t go in there. Dr. Lucas is with a patient now.”
I grabbed the knob and opened the door, walking into Anne’s office without breaking stride.
Her head snapped up, her green eyes widening the instant before her red mouth curved in a satisfied smile. The woman on the couch across from her blinked at me in confusion, swallowing whatever she’d been about to say.
“I’m so sorry, Dr. Lucas,” the brunette said breathlessly. “I tried to stop him.”
Anne slithered to her feet, her eyes on me. “An impossible task, Michelle. Don’t worry, you can go.”
The receptionist backed out. Anne glanced at her patient. “We’ll have to cut today’s appointment short. I apologize for this incredibly rude interruption”—she glared at me—“and of course I won’t charge you. Please talk to Michelle about rescheduling.”
I waited in the open door as the flustered woman gathered her stuff, and then I moved aside as she stepped out.
“I could’ve called security,” Anne said, leaning back against the front of her desk and crossing her arms.
“After going to all the trouble of luring me here? You wouldn’t.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Regardless, it’s good to see you.” She dropped her arms and gripped the edge of her desk in a deliberately provocative pose, exposing her bare thigh as the slit in her blue wrap dress slid open.
“I can’t say the same.”
Her smile tightened. “Break your toys, then throw them away. Does Eva know her days are numbered?”
Unease dimmed her bright eyes and shook her smile. “Is that a threat, Gideon?”
“You’d like for it to be.” I stepped closer, watched her pupils dilate. She was becoming aroused and that revolted me as much as the smell of her perfume. “Might make your game more interesting.”
She straightened and came toward me, her h*ps swaying, her red-soled black stilettos sinking into the plush carpet.