“Call me if you need anything. I’ll be nearby.”
“You’re the best, Angus.” I rode back up to the penthouse. When the doors opened, I heard the penthouse phone ringing.
I made a run for it, sliding into the kitchen on my bare feet to snatch the receiver off its base, hoping the noise hadn’t woken Gideon.
“Eva, it’s Arash. Is Cross with you?”
“Yes. He’s still sleeping, I think. I’ll check.” I headed down the hall.
“He’s not sick, is he? He’s never sick.”
“There’s a first time for everything.” Peeking into the bedroom, I found my husband sprawled magnificently in sleep, his arms wrapped around my pillow with his face buried in it. I tiptoed over to put the hangover bottle on his nightstand, and then I tiptoed back out, pulling the door closed behind me.
“He’s still crashed,” I whispered.
“Wow. Okay, change of plan. There are some documents you both have to sign before four this afternoon. I’ll have them messengered over. Give me a call when you’re done with them, and I’ll send someone to pick them up.”
“I have to sign something? What is it?”
“He didn’t tell you?” He laughed. “Well, I won’t ruin the surprise. You’ll see when you get them. Call me if you have any questions.”
I growled softly. “Okay. Thanks.”
We hung up and I stared down the hall toward the bedroom with narrowed eyes. What was Gideon up to? It drove me crazy that he set things in motion and handled issues without talking to me about them.
My smartphone started ringing in the kitchen. I ran back across the living room and took a look at the screen. The number was an unfamiliar one but clearly based in New York.
“Good grief,” I muttered, feeling like I’d already put in a full day of work and it was just past ten thirty in the morning. How the hell did Gideon manage being pulled in so many directions at once? “Hello?”
“Eva, it’s Chris again. I hope you don’t mind that Ireland gave me your number.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m sorry I didn’t call you back sooner. I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
“Is he okay, then?”
I went to one of the bar stools and sat. “No. It was a rough night.”
“I called his office. They told me he was out this morning.”
“We’re home. He’s still sleeping.”
“It’s bad, then,” he said.
He knew my man. Gideon was a creature of habit, his life rigidly ordered and compartmentalized. Any deviation from his established patterns was so rare it was cause for concern.
“He’ll be all right,” I assured him. “I’ll make sure of it. He just needs some time.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“If I think of anything, I’ll let you know.”
“Thank you.” He sounded tired and worried. “Thank you for saying something to me and being there for him. I wish I had been when it was happening. I’ll have to live with the fact that I wasn’t.”
“We all have to live with it. It’s not your fault, Chris. Doesn’t make it easier, I know, but you need to keep it in mind or you’ll beat yourself up. That won’t help Gideon.”
“You’re wise beyond your years, Eva. I’m so glad he has you.”
“I got lucky with him,” I said quietly. “Big-time.”
I ended the call and couldn’t help but think of my mother. Seeing what Gideon was going through made me appreciate her all the more. She had been there for me; she’d fought for me. She had the guilt, too, which made her overprotective to the point of craziness, but there was a part of me that hadn’t gotten quite so damaged as Gideon because of her love.
I called her and she answered on the first ring.
“Eva. You’ve been deliberately avoiding me. How am I supposed to plan your wedding without your input? There are so many decisions to make and if I make the wrong one, you’ll—”
“Hi, Mom,” I interrupted. “How are you?”
“Stressed,” she said, her naturally breathy voice conveying more than a little accusation. “How could I be anything else? I’m planning one of the most important days of your life all by myself and—”
“I was thinking we could get together on Saturday and hash it all out, if that fits into your schedule.”
“Really?” The hopeful pleasure in her voice made me feel guilty.
“Yes, really.” I had been thinking of the second wedding as being more for my mother than anyone else, but that was wrong. The wedding was important to Gideon and me, too, another opportunity for us to affirm our unbreakable bond. Not for the world to see, but for the two of us.
He had to stop pushing me away to protect me, and I had to stop worrying that I would disappear when I became Mrs. Gideon Cross.
“That would be wonderful, Eva! We could have brunch here with the wedding planner. Spend the afternoon going over all our options.”
“I want something small, Mom. Intimate.” Before she argued, I pressed forward with Gideon’s solution. “We can go as crazy as you want with the reception, but I want our wedding to be private.”
“Eva, people will be insulted if they’re invited to the reception and not the ceremony!”
“I really don’t care. I’m not getting married for them. I’m getting married because I’m in love with the man of my dreams and we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together. I don’t want the focus to ever shift from that.”
“Honey . . .” She sighed, as if I were clueless. “We can talk more about this on Saturday.”
“Okay. But I’m not changing my mind.” I felt a tingle race down my back and turned.
Gideon stood just beyond the threshold to the kitchen, watching me. He’d pulled on the sweatpants from the night before and his hair was still mussed from sleep, his eyes heavy-lidded.
“I’ve got to go,” I told my mom. “I’ll see you this weekend. Love you.”
“I love you, too, Eva. That’s why I only want the best for you.”
I killed the call and set my phone down on the island. Sliding off the seat, I faced him. “Good morning.”
“You’re not at work,” he said, his voice raspier, sexier, than usual.
“Neither are you.”
“Are you going in late?”
“Nope. And you’re not, either.” I went to him, wrapping my arms around his waist. He was still warm from the bed. My sleepy, sensual dream come true. “We’re going to hole up today, ace. Just you and me hanging out in our pajamas and relaxing.”
His arm cinched around my hips, his other hand lifting to brush the hair back from my face. “You’re not mad.”
“Why would I be?” Lifting onto my tiptoes, I kissed his jaw. “Are you mad at me?”
“No.” He cupped my nape, pressing my cheek to his. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’ll always be here. Until death do us part.”
“You’re planning the wedding.”
“You heard that, huh? If you’ve got requests, tell me now or forever hold your peace.”
He was quiet for a long time, long enough that I figured he didn’t have anything to add.
Turning my head, I caught his lips and gave him a quick, sweet kiss. “Did you see what I left you by the bed?”
“Yes, thank you.” A ghost of a smile touched his mouth.
He looked like a man who’d been well f**ked, which filled me with feminine pride. “I got you off the hook at work, too, but Arash said he had some papers to send over to us. He wouldn’t tell me what they were.”
“Guess you’ll have to wait and find out.”
I brushed my fingertips over his brow. “How are you doing?”
His shoulder lifted in a shrug. “I don’t know. Right now, I just feel like shit.”
“Let’s revisit that bath you missed last night.”
“Umm, I’m feeling better already.”
Linking our fingers together, I started leading him back toward the bedroom.
“I want to be the man of your dreams, angel,” he said, surprising me. “I want that more than anything.”
I looked back at him. “You’ve got that in the bag already.”
I stared down at the contract in front of me, my heart racing with a dizzying combination of love and delight. I looked up from the coffee table as Gideon entered the room, his hair still damp from our bath, his long legs encased in black silk pajama bottoms.
“You’re buying the Outer Banks house?” I asked, needing his confirmation despite having the proof in front of me.
His sexy mouth curved. “We’re buying the house. We agreed we would.”
“We talked about it.” The agreed-upon price was a bit staggering, telling me the owners hadn’t been easy to persuade. And he’d asked them to convey the copy of Naked in Death with the property, along with the furnishings in the master bedroom. He always thought of everything.
Gideon settled on the couch beside me. “Now, we’re doing something about it.”
“The Hamptons would be closer. Or Connecticut.”
“It’s a quick hop down by jet.” He tipped my chin up with his finger and pressed his lips to mine. “Don’t worry about the logistics,” he murmured. “We were happy there on the beach. I can still picture you walking along the shore. I remember kissing you on the deck . . . spreading you across that big white bed. You looked like an angel and that place, for me, was like heaven.”
“Gideon.” I rested my forehead against his. I loved him so much. “Where do we sign?”
He pulled back and slid the contract over, finding the first yellow sign here flag. His gaze roved over the coffee table and he frowned. “Where’s my pen?”
I stood. “I’ve got one in my purse.”
Catching my wrist in his hand, he tugged me back down. “No. I need my pen. Where’s the envelope this came in?”
I spotted it lying on the floor between the couch and table, where I’d dropped it when I realized what Arash had sent over. Picking it up, I realized it was still weighted and upended it over the table to let the rest of the items inside spill out. A fountain pen clattered onto the glass and a small photo floated out.
“There we go,” he said, taking the pen and slashing his signature on the dotted line. As he went through the rest of the pages, I picked up the picture and felt my chest tighten.
It was the photo of him and his dad on the beach, the one he’d told me about in North Carolina. He was young, maybe four or five, his small face screwed up in concentration as he helped his dad build a sand castle. Geoffrey Cross sat across from his son, his dark hair blowing in the ocean breeze, his face movie-star handsome. He wore only swimming trunks, showing off a body very much like the one Gideon boasted today.
“Wow,” I breathed, knowing I was going to make copies of the image and frame one for each of the places we lived in. “I love this.”
“Here.” He pushed the contract, with the pen lying atop it, over to me.
I set the photo down and picked up the pen, turning it over to see the GC engraved on the barrel. “You superstitious or something?”
“It was my father’s.”
“Oh.” I looked at him.
“He signed everything with it. He never went anywhere without it tucked in his pocket.” He raked his hair back from his face. “He destroyed our name with that pen.”
I set my hand on his thigh. “And you’re building it back up with the same pen. I get it.”