“Sounds good to me.” I went to the kitchen and poured us both a glass of Armagnac. As I was setting the decanter down, my phone vibrated in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw a message from Eva.
It was a selfie of her bare leg glistening with water and draped over the rim of her bathtub with candles in the background. Join me?
I swiftly revised my plans for the evening. She’d been sending me provocative texts all day. I was more than happy to both satisfy and reward her.
I saved the photo and typed back. Wish I could. Promise to make you wet again when I get there.
Tucking my phone away, I turned and found Chris joining me at the island. I slid a tumbler over to him and took a sip from mine. “What’s going on, Chris?”
He sighed, both of his hands wrapping around the crystal. “We’re going to reshoot the ‘Golden’ video.”
“Oh?” That was an unnecessary expense, something Chris wisely avoided as a rule.
“I overheard Kline and Christopher arguing in the offices yesterday,” he said gruffly, “and got the story. Kline wants a redo and I agreed.”
“Christopher doesn’t, I’m sure.” I leaned back against the counter, my jaw set. Apparently, Brett Kline had some serious feelings for Eva after all. I wasn’t okay with that. Not even close.
“Your brother will get over it.”
I doubted that, but it would do no good to say so.
But Chris read what I didn’t say and gave a nod. “I know the video has caused stress for you and Eva. I should’ve been paying more attention.”
“I appreciate you being flexible about it.”
He stared into his glass and then took a long drink, nearly downing the contents in a single swallow. “I’ve left your mother.”
I took a quick, deep breath, grasping that the reason for his visit had nothing to do with work. “Ireland told me you two had a fight.”
“Yeah. I hate that Ireland had to hear it.” He looked at me, and I saw the knowledge in his eyes. The horror. “I didn’t know, Gideon. I swear to God, I didn’t know.”
My heart jerked in my chest, then began to pound. My mouth went dry.
“I, uh, went to see Terrence Lucas.” Chris’s voice grew hoarse. “Barged into his office. He denied it, the lying son of a bitch, but I could see it on his face.”
The brandy sloshed in my glass. I set it down carefully, feeling the floor shift under my feet. Eva had confronted Lucas, but Chris . . . ?
“I decked him, knocked him out cold, but God . . . I wanted to take one of those awards on his shelves and bash his head in.”
“Stop.” The word broke from my throat like slivers of glass.
“And the ass**le who did . . . That ass**le is dead. I can’t get to him. Goddamn it.” Chris dropped the tumbler onto the granite with a thud, but it was the sob that tore out of him that nearly shattered me. “Hell, Gideon. It was my job to protect you. And I failed.”
“Stop!” I pushed off the counter, my hands clenching. “Don’t f**king look at me like that!”
He trembled visibly, but didn’t back down. “I had to tell you—”
His wrinkled dress shirt was in my fists, his feet dangling above the floor. “Stop talking. Now!”
Tears slipped down his face. “I love you like my own. Always have.”
I shoved him away. Turned my back to him when he stumbled and hit the wall. I left, crossing the living room without seeing it.
“I’m not expecting your forgiveness,” he called after me, tears clogging his words. “I don’t deserve it. But you need to hear that I would’ve ripped him apart with my bare hands if I’d known.”
I rounded on him, feeling the sickness clawing up from my gut and burning my throat. “What the f**k do you want?”
Chris pulled his shoulders back. He faced me with reddened eyes and wet cheeks, shaking but too stupid to run. “I want you to know that you’re not alone.”
Alone. Yes. Far away from the pity and guilt and pain staring out at me through his tears. “Get out.”
Nodding, he headed toward the foyer. I stood immobile, my chest heaving, my eyes burning. Words backed up in my throat; violence pounded in the painful clench of my fists.
He stopped before he left the room, facing me. “I’m glad you told Eva.”
“Don’t talk about her.” I couldn’t bear to even think of her. Not now, when I was so close to losing it.
The weight of the day crashed onto my shoulders, dropping me to my knees.
I WAS DREAMING of a private beach and na**d Gideon when I was jerked awake by the sound of my phone ringing. Rolling to my side, I thrust my arm out and smacked around on the top of my nightstand, trying to find my smartphone in the dark. My fingers brushed against the familiar shape and I grabbed it, sitting up.
Ireland’s face lit up my screen. I frowned and glanced at the space beside me in the bed. Gideon wasn’t home. Of course, he could’ve found me sleeping and gone next door to go to bed . . .
“Hello?” I answered, noting that the time on the cable box said it was after eleven o’clock.
“Eva. It’s Chris Vidal. I’m sorry to call so late, but I’m worried about Gideon. Is he all right?”
My stomach dropped. “What do you mean? What’s wrong with Gideon?”
There was a pause. “You haven’t talked to him tonight?”
I slid out of bed and turned on the lamp. “No. I fell asleep. What’s going on?”
He cursed with an intensity that made the hairs rise on my arms. “I met with him earlier about . . . the things you told me. He didn’t take it well.”
“Oh my God.” I spun around blindly. Something to wear. I needed something to put on over the racy teddy I’d planned to seduce Gideon with.
“You have to find him, Eva,” he said urgently. “He needs you now.”
“I’m going.” I tossed the phone on my bed and yanked a wool trench coat out of my closet before racing out of my room. I grabbed the keys to the next-door apartment from my purse and ran down the hall. Fumbling with the deadbolt, I took too long to open the door.
The place was as shadowy and silent as a tomb, the rooms empty.
“Where are you?” I cried into the darkness, feeling the scratch of panicked tears in my throat.
I ended up back in my apartment, my fingers trembling as I opened the app on my smartphone that would track his.
He didn’t take it well.
God. Of course, he didn’t. He hadn’t taken it well when I’d told Chris initially. Gideon had been furious. Aggressive. He’d had a horrible nightmare.
The blinking red dot on the map was right where I was hoping it would be. “The penthouse.”
I shoved my feet into flip-flops and hurried back out to my purse.
“What the hell are you wearing?” Cary asked from the kitchen, jolting me.
“Jesus, you just scared the shit out of me!”
He sauntered up to the breakfast bar in just his Grey Isles boxer briefs, his chest and neck glistening with sweat. Since the air-conditioning was working fine and Trey was spending the night, I knew exactly how and why Cary was overheated.
“It’s a good thing I did—you can’t go out like that,” he drawled.
“Watch me.” I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed toward the door.
“You’re a freak, baby girl,” he shouted after me. “A woman after my own heart!”
GIDEON’S doorman didn’t bat an eye when I climbed out of the back of the taxi in front of his building. Of course, the man had seen me in worse shape before. So had the concierge, who smiled and greeted me by name as if I didn’t look like a crazy homeless person. Albeit one in a Burberry coat.
I walked as fast as I could in flip-flops to the private penthouse elevator, waited for it to descend to me, then keyed in the code. It was a straight shot up, but the ride felt endless. I wished I could pace the confines of the small, elegantly appointed car. My worried face stared back at me from the spotless mirrors.
Gideon hadn’t called. Hadn’t sent me a text after the flirtatious one promising me a steamy night. Hadn’t come to me, even if only to sleep next door. Gideon didn’t like being away from me.
Except when he was hurting. And ashamed.
The elevator doors slid open and pounding, screaming heavy metal music poured in. I cringed and covered my ears, the volume of the ceiling-mounted speakers so loud it hurt to hear them.
Pain. Fury. The raging violence of the music crashed over me. I ached deep in my chest. I knew. I understood. The song was an audible manifestation of what Gideon felt inside himself and couldn’t let out.
He was too controlled. Contained. His emotions so tightly leashed, along with his memories.
I dug into my purse for my phone and ended up dropping the whole bag, spilling the contents onto the elevator car floor and across the checkerboard foyer. I left it all where it fell except for my smartphone, which I picked up and swiped through to get to the app that controlled the surround sound. I synced it to softer music, lowered the volume, and hit enter.
The penthouse fell silent for an endless moment, and then the gentle chords of “Collide” by Howie Day began to play.
I felt Gideon approaching before I saw him, the air crackling with the violent energy of an impending summer storm. He rounded the corner from the hallway leading to the bedrooms. I lost my breath.
He was shirtless and barefooted, his hair a silky tousled mane that brushed his shoulders. Black sweats clung to the lowest point of his hips, underlining the tight lacing of his abs. He was bruised on his ribs and up by his shoulder, the signs of battle only strengthening the impression of rage and ferocity tightly leashed.
My choice of music clashed with the emotion seething from him. My beautiful, savagely elegant warrior. The love of my life. So tormented that the sight of him brought hot, stinging tears to my eyes.
He jerked to a halt when he saw me, his hands clenching and releasing at his sides, his eyes wild and nostrils flaring.
My phone slid out of my hand and hit the floor. “Gideon.”
He sucked in a breath at the sound of my voice. It changed him. I watched the shift come over him, like a door slamming shut. One moment, he was bristling with emotion. The next, he was cool as ice, his surface as smooth as glass.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, his voice dangerously even.
“Finding you.” Because he was lost.
“I’m not fit company now.”
“I can deal with it.”
He was too still, as if he were afraid to move. “You should go. It’s not safe for you here.”
My pulse leaped. Awareness sizzled across my senses. I felt the heat of him from across the room. His need. The demand. I was suddenly melting in my jacket. “I’m safer with you than anywhere else on earth.” I took a deep breath for courage. “Does Chris believe you?”
His head went back. “How do you know?”
“He called. He’s worried about you. I’m worried about you.”
“I’ll be fine,” he snapped. Which told me he wasn’t fine now.
I made my way to him, feeling the burn of his gaze as it tracked me. “Of course, you will be. You’re married to me.”
“You need to go, Eva.”
I shook my head. “It almost hurts worse, doesn’t it, when they believe you? You wonder why you waited to tell them. Maybe you could’ve stopped it sooner, if you’d just told the right person?”
“There’s always that little voice inside us that thinks we’re to blame for what happened.”
His eyes squeezed as tightly closed as his fists. “Don’t.”
I closed the distance between us. “Don’t what?”