I was speed-dialing Gideon before I realized I’d thought of it.
“Angel,” he answered. “Are you on your way home?”
“Not quite. I’m done at my mom’s, but I’m going to meet Trey.”
“How long will that take?”
“I’m not sure. Not more than an hour, I think. God, I hope he doesn’t tell me he’s done with Cary.”
“How did it go with your mother?”
“I told her we were getting married on the beach by the Outer Banks house.” I paused. “I’m sorry. I should’ve asked you first.”
“I think that’s an excellent idea.” His raspy voice took on the special timbre that told me he was moved.
“She asked me how we’re planning on lodging everyone. I kinda dropped that on you and the wedding planner.”
“That’s fine. We’ll work something out.”
Love for him spread through me in a warm rush. “Thank you.”
“So the big hurdle’s behind you,” he said, understanding as he so often did.
“Well, I don’t know about that. She got all teary about it. You know, she had big dreams that aren’t coming true. I hope she lets them go and gets on board.”
“What about her family? We haven’t talked about making arrangements for them to come.”
I shrugged, then remembered he couldn’t see me. “They’re not invited. The only things I know about them are what I found with a Google search. They disowned my mom when she got pregnant with me, so they’ve never been a part of my life.”
“All right, then,” he said smoothly. “I’ve got a surprise for you when you get home.”
“Oh?” My mood instantly brightened. “Will you give me a hint?”
“Of course not. You’ll have to hurry home if you’re curious.”
I pouted. “Tease.”
“Teases don’t deliver. I do.”
My toes curled at the rough velvet of his voice. “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“I’ll be waiting,” he purred.
THE traffic near the fair was impossible. Raúl left the Benz in the garage beneath my apartment building, then walked me over to the street fair.
When we were half a block away, I started smelling the food and my mouth watered. Music drifted in the air and when we reached Amsterdam Avenue, I saw that it came from a woman singing on a small stage for a packed audience.
Vendors lined either side of the overflowing street, their wares and heads shielded from the sun by white tent tops. From scarves and hats, to jewelry and art, to fresh produce and multinational eats, there was nothing one could want that couldn’t be found.
It took me a few minutes to spot Trey in the crowd. I found him sitting on steps not too far from the corner we’d agreed upon. He was dressed in loose jeans and an olive-hued T-shirt, with sunglasses perched on the crooked bridge of his once-broken nose. His blond hair was as unruly as ever, his attractive mouth tightened into a firm line.
He stood when he saw me, holding out his hand for me to shake. I pulled him into a hug instead, holding him until I felt him relax and hug me back. Life flowed by around us—New Yorkers were comfortable with all sorts of public displays. Raúl moved a discreet distance away.
“I’m a f**king mess,” Trey muttered against my shoulder.
“You’re normal.” I pulled back and gestured toward the steps where I’d found him. “Anyone would be reeling right now.”
He sat down on the middle step. I perched next to him.
“I don’t think I can do this, Eva. I don’t think I should. I want someone in my life full-time, someone who’s there to support me while I get through school, then try to build my practice. Cary’s going to be supporting that model instead and fitting me in when he can. How am I not going to resent that?”
“That’s a valid question,” I said, stretching out my legs in front of me. “You know Cary won’t be sure the baby is his until a paternity test is done.”
Trey shook his head. “I don’t think it’ll matter. He seems invested.”
“I think it’ll matter. Maybe he won’t just walk away, maybe he’ll play uncle or something. I don’t know. For now, we have to go with the assumption that he’s the dad, but maybe he’s not. It’s a possibility.”
“So you’re telling me to hang in there for another six months?”
“No. If you want me to give you answers, I don’t have any. All I can tell you for sure is that Cary loves you, more than I’ve ever seen him love anyone. If he loses you, it’s going to break him. I’m not trying to guilt you into staying with him. I just think you should know that if you leave, you’re not the only one who’ll be hurting.”
“How is that helpful?”
“Maybe it’s not.” I set my hand on his knee. “Maybe I’m just small enough to find that comforting. If Gideon and I didn’t work out, I’d want to know he was as miserable as I was.”
Trey’s mouth curved in a sad smile. “Yeah, I see your point. Would you stay with him if you found out he’d knocked someone else up? Someone he was sleeping with while dating you?”
“I thought about that. It’s hard for me to imagine not being with Gideon. If we weren’t exclusive at the time and the woman was in his past, if he was with me and not her, maybe I could handle it.”
I watched a woman hang yet another bag of purchases onto the overburdened handle of her kid’s stroller. “But if he was mostly with her and seeing me on the side . . . I think I’d walk.”
It was tough being honest when the truth was the opposite of what Cary would want me to say, but I felt like it was the right thing to do.
“For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t think less of you if you toughed it out with Cary. It’s not weak to stand by the person you love when they’re trying to fix a big mistake, and it’s not weak to decide to put yourself first. Whatever decision you make, I’ll still think you’re a helluva guy.”
Leaning into me, he rested his head on my shoulder. “Thanks, Eva.”
I linked my fingers with his. “You’re welcome.”
“I’LL go get the car and pull it around,” Raúl said, as we entered the lobby of my apartment building.
“Okay. I’m just going to check the mail.” I waved at the concierge as we passed the desk. I turned into the mailroom, while Raúl headed to the elevator.
Sliding my key into the lock, I pulled the brass door open and bent low to peer inside. There were a few postcard advertisements and nothing else, which saved me a trip upstairs. I slid them out, tossed them in the nearby trash can, then shut and locked the mailbox.
I headed back into the lobby just in time to catch a woman exiting the building. Her spiky red hair caught my attention and held it. I stared hard, waiting for her to turn onto the street, hoping I’d catch a glimpse of her profile.
My breath caught. The hair was familiar from a Google image search. The face I remembered from the shelter fund-raiser Gideon and I had attended a few weeks back.
Then she was gone.
I ran after her, but when I reached the sidewalk she was already sliding into the back of a black town car.
“Hey!” I shouted.
The car sped off, leaving me staring after it.
“Everything all right?”
I turned to face Louie, the weekend doorman. “Do you know who that was?”
He shook his head. “She doesn’t live here.”
Going back inside, I asked the concierge the same question.
“A redhead?” she asked, looking perplexed. “We haven’t had any visitors who came in without a tenant today, so I haven’t really paid attention.”
“Hmm. Okay, thank you.”
“Your car’s here, Eva,” Louie said from the doorway.
I thanked the concierge and headed out to Raúl. I spent the ride between my place and Gideon’s thinking about Anne Lucas. By the time I stepped out of the private elevator into the foyer of the penthouse, my spinning thoughts had me distracted.
Gideon was waiting for me. Dressed in worn jeans and a Columbia T-shirt, he looked so young and handsome. Then he flashed me a smile and I almost forgot the world altogether.
“Angel,” he purred, crossing the black-and-white checkerboard flooring on bare feet. He had that look in his eye I knew well. “Come here.”
I walked right into his open arms, cuddling up tightly to his hard body. I breathed him in. “You’re going to think I’m crazy,” I mumbled against his chest, “but I could swear I just saw Anne Lucas in the lobby of my building.”
He stiffened. I knew the shrink wasn’t his favorite person.
“When?” he asked tightly.
“Twenty minutes ago, maybe. Right before I came over here.”
Releasing me, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his smartphone. His other hand caught mine and pulled me into the living room.
“Mrs. Cross just saw Anne Lucas in her apartment building,” he said to whoever answered.
“I think I did,” I corrected, frowning at his hard tone.
But he wasn’t listening to me. “Find out,” he ordered, before hanging up.
“Gideon. What’s going on?”
He led us to the couch and sat. I settled next to him, putting my purse down on the coffee table.
“I saw Anne the other day,” he explained, holding on to my hand. “Raúl confirmed that the woman who spoke to you at the fund-raiser was her. She admitted it, and I warned her to stay away from you, but she won’t. She wants to hurt me and she knows she can do that if she hurts you.”
“Okay.” I processed that.
“You need to tell Raúl the moment you see her anywhere. Even if you just think it’s her.”
“Hold on a minute, ace. You went to see her the other day and didn’t tell me?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“Why didn’t you tell me then?”
He exhaled roughly. “It was the day Chris came over.”
I gnawed on my lower lip a minute. “How would she hurt me?”
“I don’t know. It’s enough for me that she wants to.”
“Like would she break my leg? My nose?”
“I doubt she’d resort to violence,” he said dryly. “It would be more fun for her to play mind games. Showing up where you are. Letting you catch glimpses of her.”
Which was more insidious. “So that you’ll go to her. That’s what she really wants,” I muttered. “She wants to see you.”
“I won’t be obliging her. I said what I needed to.”
Looking down at our joined hands, I played with his wedding band. “Anne, Corinne, Deanna . . . It’s a bit crazy, Gideon. I mean, I don’t think this is normal for most men. How many more women are going to lose their minds over you?”
He shot me a look that was patently not amused. “I don’t know what’s gotten into Corinne. None of what she’s done since she returned to New York is like her. I don’t know if it’s the medication she was on, the miscarriage, her divorce . . .”
“She’s getting divorced?”
“Don’t take that tone, Eva. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to me if she’s married or single. I’m married. That’s never going to change, and I’m not a man who cheats. I have more respect for you—and me—than to be that kind of husband.”
I leaned forward, offering my mouth, and he took it in a soft, sweet kiss. He had said exactly what I needed to hear.