Cary shook his head. “He’s the one sane thing I’ve got going on right now. I lose him, I’ll lose my mind.”
“He’s stayed with you so far.”
“And I have to work for it, Eva. Every day. I’ve never worked so hard. And I’m not talking about f**king.”
“I didn’t think you were.” I pulled two clean bowls out of the dishwasher, along with spoons. “What I think is that you’re an amazing guy and anyone would be lucky to have you. I’m pretty sure Trey feels the same way.”
“Don’t. Please.” His gaze met mine. “I’m trying to be real here. I don’t need you to blow smoke at me.”
“I’m not. Maybe what I said wasn’t deep, but it’s true.” I paused in front of the rice cooker. “Gideon doesn’t tell me what’s going on with him a lot of the time. He says he’s trying to protect me, but what he’s really doing is protecting himself.”
And it took saying the words aloud to really make them sink in for me.
“He’s afraid that the more he tells me, the more reason he gives me to walk away. But it’s just the opposite, Cary. The more he doesn’t say, the more I don’t feel like he trusts me, and that’s hurting us. You and Trey have been together as long as Gideon and I have.” I reached out and touched his arm. “You have to tell him. If he finds out about the baby some other way—and he will—he might not forgive you.”
Cary sagged against the island, suddenly looking so much older and so tired. “I feel like if I just had more time to get a handle on things, I could deal with Trey.”
“Waiting isn’t helping,” I said gently, scooping rice into the bowls. “You’re backsliding.”
“What else have I got?” His voice came hard with anger. “I don’t f**k around anymore. A monk gets off more than I do.”
I winced, knowing Cary was a man who exemplified what Dr. Petersen had talked about. When Cary had sex, he could turn his brain off and let his body make him feel good, if only for a little while. He didn’t have to think or feel beyond the sensory. It was a coping mechanism he’d had to perfect back when he was the one being f**ked, long before he was old enough to even want to.
“You’ve got me,” I countered.
“Baby girl, I love you, but you’re not always what I need to get by.”
“Cutting yourself and banging everyone who’ll let you isn’t getting you by, either. They certainly don’t help you feel good about yourself.”
“Something has to.”
I poured curry over the rice and passed the bowl over along with a spoon. “Taking care of yourself will do it. Trusting the people you love will help, too. Being honest with yourself and with them. Sounds simple, but we both know it’s not. Still, it’s the only way, Cary.”
He flashed me a quick, sad smile and took the food I handed him. “I’m scared.”
“There,” I said softly, returning his smile. “That was honest. Would it help if I’m with you when you talk to Trey?”
“Yeah. I’ll feel like a pu**y for not doing it alone, but yeah, it’d help.”
“Then I’ll be there.”
Cary caught me in a hug from behind, his cheek resting against my shoulder. “You really are always there for me. I love you for that.”
Reaching back, I ran my fingers through his hair. “I love you, too.”
THE comforter lifted away from my skin, waking me, and then the mattress shifted under the weight of the man sliding into my bed.
Eyes closed, I turned to him. Breathing deep, I inhaled the scent of his skin. My hands found the cool strength of his body, slid over him, pulled him close to warm him.
He took my mouth in a deep, urgent kiss. The shock of his hunger woke me the rest of the way; the greed in his touch sent my heart racing. He slid over me, then down, his mouth searing my ni**les, then my belly, then my sex.
I gasped and arched. He tongued my cl*t with demanding focus, driving me higher, his hands pinning my h*ps as I writhed under the lash of his tongue.
I came hard, crying out. He wiped his lips on my inner thigh and rose, a seductive looming shadow in the dark of night. He mounted me, thrust hard inside me.
Over my moan, I heard him growl my name as if the pleasure of taking me were too great to bear. I gripped his waist; he gripped the sheets. His h*ps surged and rolled, stroking that magnificent penis deep and tirelessly inside me.
When I woke again the sun was up, and the place beside me in the bed was cold and empty.
I WAS FIXING a cup of coffee for Eva the next morning when my smartphone started ringing. Leaving the half-and-half on the counter, I crossed to the bar stool where I’d hung my coat and pulled my phone out of the pocket.
Steeling myself, I answered, “Good morning, Mother.”
“Gideon. I’m sorry to cancel on such short notice”—she took a shaky breath—“but I won’t be able to make lunch this afternoon.”
I returned to my coffee, knowing I’d need it for the long day ahead. “That’s fine.”
“I’m sure you’re relieved,” she said bitterly.
I took a drink, wishing it were something stronger though it was barely past eight. “Don’t. If I didn’t want to have lunch with you, I would’ve canceled.”
She was quiet a minute, then asked, “Have you seen Chris lately?”
I took another sip, my gaze on the hallway as I waited for Eva. “I saw him Tuesday.”
“That long ago?” There was a note of fear in her voice. It gave me no pleasure to hear it.
Eva rushed into the living room in bare feet, her body encased in a pale beige sheath dress that managed to be professional while still hugging all her curves. I’d picked it out for her knowing the color would showcase the color of her skin and the paleness of her hair.
Pleasure at the sight of her slid through my veins like the liquor I’d wished were in my coffee. She could do that to me, intoxicate and captivate me.
“I have to go,” I said. “I’ll call you later.”
“You never do.”
I set my mug down to pick up Eva’s. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”
Ending the call, I shoved the phone in my pocket and handed the coffee to my wife. “You look stunning,” I murmured, bending to press a kiss to her cheek.
“For a man who claims not to know a damn thing about women, you sure know how to dress one,” she said, eyeing me over the lip of her mug as she took a sip.
A low moan of pleasure escaped her as she swallowed, a sound very similar to the one she made when I slid my c**k inside her. Coffee, I’d learned, was one of Eva’s addictions.
“I’ve made mistakes, but I’m learning.” I leaned back against the counter and pulled her between my spread legs. Had she noticed one less Vera Wang dress in the closet? I’d removed it from her wardrobe after realizing just how much of her luscious tits it exposed.
She held the mug up. “Thank you for this.”
“My pleasure.” I brushed my fingertips across her cheek. “I have to talk to you about something.”
“Oh? What’s up, ace?”
“Do you still have a Google alert on me?”
She looked into her mug. “Is this when I should plead the Fifth?”
“That won’t be necessary.” I waited until she looked up at me again. “Corinne has sold a book about our time together.”
“What?” Her eyes darkened from pale gray to slate.
I cupped her nape and stroked over her racing pulse with my thumb. “From what I read in the press release, she kept a diary during that time. She’s also sharing personal photos.”
“Why? Why would she sell that stuff for people to paw through?”
The hand holding her mug trembled, so I took it from her and set it back on the counter. “I don’t think she knows why.”
“Can you stop it?”
“No. However, if she lies outright and I can prove it, I can go after her for that.”
“But only after it’s released.” Her hands came to rest on my chest. “She knows you’ll have to read it. You’ll have to see all the photos and read about how much she loves you. You’ll read about things you did that you don’t even remember now.”
“And it won’t matter.” I pressed my lips to her forehead. “I never loved her, not the way I do you. Looking back on that time isn’t going to make me suddenly wish I were with her and not you.”
“She didn’t push you,” she whispered. “Not like I do.”
I spoke against her skin, wishing I could press the words into her mind in a way that she would never doubt them. “She also didn’t make me burn. Didn’t make me hunger, and hope, and dream like you do. There’s no comparison, angel, and no going back. I would never want to.”
Her beautiful eyes closed. She leaned into me. “The hits just keep on coming, don’t they?”
I looked over her head and out the window beyond, at the world that waited for us once we stepped outside. “Let ’em come.”
She exhaled roughly. “Yeah, let ’em come.”
I entered Tableau One and spotted Arnoldo immediately. Dressed in his pristinely white chef’s jacket paired with black slacks, he stood by a small table for two in the back, talking to the woman I’d come to see.
Her head turned toward me as I approached, her long dark hair sliding across her shoulder. Her blue eyes lit brightly for a moment when she spotted me, and then that light was quickly banked. Her smile when she greeted me was cool and more than a little smug.
“Corinne.” I greeted her with a nod before shaking hands with Arnoldo. The restaurant he ran and I backed was crowded with lunch guests, the buzz of numerous conversations loud enough to drown out the instrumental Italian-themed music piping through recessed speakers.
Arnoldo excused himself to see to the kitchen, lifting Corinne’s hand to his lips in farewell. Before he walked away, he shot me a look that I understood to mean we’d talk later.
I took the seat across from Corinne. “I appreciate your taking the time to see me.”
“Your invitation was a pleasant surprise.”
“I don’t believe it was unexpected.” I leaned back, absorbing the soft lilt of Corinne’s speech. While Eva’s throaty voice stirred a deep craving, Corinne’s had always soothed me.
Her smile widened as she brushed at an invisible speck on the plunging neckline of her red dress. “No, I suppose not.”
Irritated by the game she was playing, I spoke curtly. “What are you doing? You value your privacy as much as I do mine.”
Corinne’s lips flattened into a firm line. “I thought the exact same thing when I first saw that video of you and Eva arguing in the park. You say I don’t know you, but I do, and having your private life splashed all over the tabloids isn’t something you would ever allow under normal circumstances.”
“What’s normal?” I shot back, unable to deny that I was a different man with Eva. I’d never indulged women who tested me expecting some grand gesture. If they pursued me aggressively enough, I let them catch me for a night. With Eva, I’d always been the one chasing.
“That’s exactly my point—you don’t remember. Because you’re wrapped up in a passionate affair and you can’t see beyond it.”
“There is nothing beyond it, Corinne. I will be with her until I die.”
She sighed. “You think so now, but stormy relationships don’t last, Gideon. They burn themselves out. You like order and calm, and you won’t have that with her. Ever. Somewhere inside you, you know that.”