“Crossfire,” she sobbed, the word cracking like a gunshot.
I released her abruptly, stumbling back, even as my mind screamed at me to hang on.
I let her go, and she left me.
THE sea breeze blows through my hair and I close my eyes, absorbing the feel as it buffets me. The rhythmic push and pull of the waves against the beach and the raucous cries of seagulls anchor me in the moment, in this place.
It’s home in a way I haven’t known for a long time, although I’ve spent less than a handful of days here. It is a place I’ve shared only with Eva, so all of my memories of here are as drenched with her as the sand is with rays of the sun. Like the sand, I’ve been crushed down into fine, tiny bits by the forces around me. And like the sun, Eva has brought joy and warmth to my existence.
She joins me on the deck, standing behind me at the railing. I feel her hand on my shoulder, then the press of her cheek against my bare back.
“Angel,” I murmur, and place my hand over hers.
This is what we needed, to come back to this place. It’s our retreat when the world closes in on us, trying to separate us. We heal each other here.
Relief washes through me. She’s back. We’re together. She understands now why I did what I did. She was so angry, so hurt. For a moment, I had felt crippling fear that I’d destroyed the most precious part of my life.
“Gideon,” she breathes, in that husky siren’s voice. One arm slides around my waist to hold me from behind.
I tilt my head back and let the power of her love pour through me. Her fingers glide over my hip, and then she’s holding my c**k in her hand. Stroking it from root to tip. I harden and thicken, ready for her. I live to serve her, to please her. How could she have doubted it?
A moan rumbles up from the very depths of my soul, the desire I always feel for her climbing through me. Pre-cum leaks from the swollen head of my dick, my balls growing heavy and full.
Her hand on my shoulder glides down my back, pressing lightly, urging me to bend forward.
I obey because I want her to see how she owns me. I want her to understand that I would do anything, give anything, to make her safe and happy.
Her hand traces my spine, kneading lightly. I grip the wooden handrail that circles the deck and spread my legs at her urging.
Now, both of her hands are between my thighs, her breath hot and panting against my back. She’s pumping my c**k with a firm, practiced grip. Harder than I’m used to from her. Demanding. Her other hand is massaging my sac, driving the urgency into me.
Her grip slickens as the pr**cum streams steadily from the slit at the tip of my dick. The salty air washes over me, cooling the sweat misting my skin.
“Eva . . .” I gasp her name, so hard for her, so desperately in love.
Her fingers, now creamy and always cleverly agile, slide back and tease the dark rosette of my anus. It feels good, even though I don’t want it to. The stroking of my penis is making it hard to breathe, to think, to fight . . .
“That’s it,” she coaxes.
I try to arch away, but she’s got me trapped with my dick in her hand.
“Don’t,” I tell her, squirming.
“You like it,” she purrs, working my cock, her touch something I crave and can’t resist. “Show me how much you want me.”
She pushes two slick fingers inside my ass. I cry out, writhing away, but she’s rubbing and thrusting into me, hitting the spot that makes me want to come more than anything. The pleasure grows despite the tears burning my eyes.
My head falls forward. My chin touches my heaving chest. It’s coming. I’m coming. I can’t stop it. Not with her . . .
The fingers inside me thicken, lengthen. The thrusting becomes frenzied, the slap of flesh against flesh drowning out the sounds of the ocean. I hear a rough, lusty growl but it’s not mine. A c**k is in me, f**king me. It hurts and yet the pain is tinged with a sick, unwanted pleasure.
“Keep stroking it,” he pants. “You’re almost there.”
Agony explodes in my chest. Eva isn’t here. She’s gone. She’s left me.
Vomit rises into my throat. I throw him off violently, hearing him crash through the sliding door behind us, the glass shattering. Hugh laughs hysterically and I round on him, finding him sprawled amid the glistening slivers, his hair as red as his blood, his eyes lit with that vile lustful avarice.
“You think she’d want you?” he taunts, clambering to his feet. “You told her everything. Who’d want you after that?”
“Fuck you!” I lunge and tackle him back down. My fist pounds into his face again and again.
The shards of glass pierce me, cut into me, but the pain is nothing next to what I feel inside.
Eva is gone. I’d known she would leave, that I couldn’t keep her. I’d known it, but I had hoped. I couldn’t fight the hope.
Hugh won’t stop laughing. I feel his nose shatter. His cheekbone, his jaw. His laughter turns to gurgles, but it’s still laughter.
My arm pulls back to hit him again—
Anne is lying beneath me, her face battered nearly beyond recognition. Horrified at what I’ve done, I jerk away, scrambling to my feet. The glass digs deep into the soles of my feet.
Anne laughs as bubbling blood pours from her nose and mouth, spreading through the home that was once a sanctuary. Staining everything, the taint washing away the sun until only a blood moon remains . . .
I woke up with a scream in my throat. Sweat drenched my hair and skin. Darkness suffocated me.
Scrubbing at my eyes, I rolled onto my hands and knees, sobbing. I crawled toward the only light I could see, the weak silver glow that was my only guide.
The bedroom. God. I collapsed on the floor, racked by tears. I’d fallen asleep in the closet, unable to move after Eva left me, afraid to take one literal step in any direction toward a life without her in it.
The face of the clock glowed brightly in the darkened room.
It was one A.M.
A new day. And Eva was still gone.
“YOU’RE here early.”
Scott’s cheery voice lured my gaze from the photo of Eva on my desk.
“Good morning,” I greeted him, feeling as if I were still in a nightmare.
I’d come to work shortly after three A.M., unable to sleep anymore and unable to go to Eva. I wanted to, would have—nothing could keep me away from her—but when I tracked her phone I found her at Stanton’s penthouse, a place I couldn’t reach. The anguish of that, knowing she was deliberately keeping herself from me, ate at me from the inside out like acid.
I couldn’t stay home and go through the morning routine of preparing for work without Eva. It had been easier to revert to the schedule I’d often kept before her, coming into work while the moon was high, finding peace in the place where I exercised complete control.
But today there was no peace. Only the torment of knowing that she was in the same building I was by now, so damn close and yet farther away than she’d ever been.
“Mark Garrity was waiting by reception when I came in,” Scott continued. “He said you’d discussed having him come in today . . . ?”
My gut knotted. “I’ll see him.”
I pushed back from my desk and stood. I’d thought of nothing but Eva and the offer I had made to Mark, trying to reason out how I could have done anything differently. I knew Eva too well. Telling her about Ryan Landon wouldn’t have made her leave Waters Field & Leaman any more than telling her about Anne would cause her to be more cautious.
Eva would face them head-on instead, growling like a lioness to defend me and failing to see the danger to herself. It was her way and I loved her for it, but I would also protect her when the situation called for it.
“Mark.” I extended my hand as he entered, knowing immediately that he was going to say yes. Energy radiated off him and his dark eyes were lit with anticipation.
We agreed that he would begin in October, giving Waters Field & Leaman nearly a month’s notice. He wanted to bring Eva along with him and I encouraged him to make the offer, even as I doubted that she would accept it. He countered some of my terms and I negotiated by instinct, keeping him in check without my heart being in it.
In the end, he left happy and pleased with his changed situation. I was left with the deepening fear that Eva would not forgive me.
MONDAY blurred into Tuesday. There were only three times a day when I felt any life at all—at nine when I knew Eva arrived for work, at lunch, and again at five when she finished for the day. I waited with endless hope for her to reach out to me. To call or communicate in any way. Another horrible fight would be better than the aching silence.
She didn’t. I could only watch her on the security monitors, devouring the sight of her coming and going like a man dying of hunger, scared to approach her and risk widening the chasm between us.
I stayed in the office overnight, afraid to go home. Afraid of what I would do if I entered any of the residences I shared with her. Even my office was a torment, the couch where I had f**ked her an inescapable reminder of what I’d had only days before. I showered in my office’s washroom and changed into one of the many suits I kept at work.
I’d never thought it strange to live for work before. Now, I was overwhelmed by emotion I couldn’t express, comprehending just how much of my life Eva had come to fill.
She stayed at Stanton’s again. It didn’t escape my notice that she preferred to spend time with her mother than to risk having to deal with me.
I texted her constantly. Pleas for her to call me. I just need to hear your voice. Notes about nothing. Cooler today, isn’t it? Comments about work. Never realized Scott always wears blue. And most of all, I love you. For some reason, it was easier to type those three words than to say them. I typed them a lot. Over and over again. I didn’t want her to forget that. Whatever my faults and f**k-ups, everything I did or thought or felt was love for her.
Sometimes I got mad, hating what she was doing to me. To us. Goddamn you! Call me. Stop doing this to me!
“You look like shit,” Arash said, eyeing me as I reviewed the contracts he’d placed on my desk. “You getting sick again?”
“My man, you are anything but fine.”
I glared at him, shutting him up.
IT was nearly six and I was on my way to Dr. Petersen’s office when Eva finally reached out to me.
I love you, too.
The words wavered as my eyes stung. I typed back with shaking fingers, nearly dizzy with relief. I miss you so much. Can’t we talk, please? I need to see you.
She didn’t reply before I reached Dr. Petersen’s, which blackened my mood to the point of violence. She was punishing me in the worst possible way. I was as jittery as a junkie, desperate for a hit of her to function. To think.
“Gideon.” Dr. Petersen greeted me at the door to his office with a smile that quickly faded when he saw me. Concern drew his brows down. “You don’t look well.”
“I’m not,” I snapped.
He calmly gestured for me to take a seat. I remained standing, roiling inside, debating leaving and searching for my wife. I couldn’t stand around and wait anymore. It was too much to ask of me.
“Maybe we should walk again,” he said. “I could stand to stretch my legs.”
“Call Eva,” I ordered. “Tell her to come here. She’ll listen to you.”
He blinked at me. “You’re having trouble with Eva.”
Shrugging out of my suit jacket, I threw it on the couch. “She’s being irrational! She won’t see me . . . won’t talk to me. How the f**k are we supposed to work things out if we’re not even talking?”
“That’s a reasonable question.”
“Damn right! I’m a reasonable man. She, however, is out of her damn mind. She can’t keep doing this. You have to get her here. You have to make her talk to me.”