“I’m not saying definitively that I won’t.” I tried to shrug it off as no big deal. “I’m just not sure that Gideon and I should be working together. I mean I’m not sure he should be my boss . . . or whatever. You know what I mean.”
“I hate to say it,” Steven said, “but she’s got a point.”
“This is not helping my problem,” Mark muttered.
“I’m sorry.” I couldn’t tell them how sorry I really was. I didn’t even feel like I could offer advice. How could I be nonbiased about Mark’s options?
“On the bright side,” I offered instead, “you’re definitely a hot commodity.”
Steven elbowed Mark with a grin. “I knew that already.”
“SO”—Cary slung his arm around me when I curled into his side—“here we are again.”
Another night at my mom’s. She’d finally gotten suspicious, considering it was our fourth night in a row at her place. I confessed to arguing with Gideon, but not why. I didn’t think she would understand. I’m sure she would think it was perfectly normal for a man in Gideon’s position to handle all the pesky little details. And as for me possibly losing my job? Why would I want to work when I had no financial reason to?
She didn’t understand. Some daughters wanted to grow up to be just like their mothers; I wanted the opposite. And my need to be the anti-Monica was the main reason I struggled so much with what Gideon had done. Any advice from her would only make things worse. I almost resented her as much as I did him.
“We’ll go home tomorrow,” I said.
After all, I’d be seeing Gideon at Dr. Petersen’s office at the very least. I was desperately curious about how that would go. I couldn’t help but hope that Gideon had turned a major corner with therapy. If so, maybe there were other corners we could turn. Together.
I crossed my fingers.
And really, I had to give Gideon credit for doing his best to give me the space I’d asked for. He could’ve caught me in an elevator or the lobby of the Crossfire. He could have told Raúl to drive me to him instead of wherever I directed. Gideon was trying.
“Have you heard from Trey?” I asked.
It was kind of miraculous how often Cary and I ended up in the same place at the same time. Or maybe it was a shared curse.
“He sent me a text saying he was thinking about me but wasn’t ready to talk yet.”
“Well, that’s something.”
His hand ran up and down my back. “Is it?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m in the same place with Gideon. I think about him all the time, but I don’t have anything to say to him right now.”
“So what’s next? Where do you go from here? When do you decide you’ve got something more to say?”
I thought about that a minute, absently watching Harrison Ford hunt for answers in The Fugitive, which we had on mute. “When something changes, I guess.”
“When he changes, you mean. What if he doesn’t?”
I didn’t have that answer yet, and when I tried to think about it, I went a little crazy.
So I asked Cary a question instead. “I know you want to put the baby first and that’s the right thing to do. But Tatiana’s not happy. And you’re not, either. Trey’s definitely not. This isn’t working out for any of you. Have you thought about being with Trey and the two of you helping Tatiana with the baby?”
He snorted. “She’s not gonna go for that. If she’s miserable, everyone else has to be, too.”
“I don’t think that should be her choice to make. She’s as responsible for getting pregnant as you are. You don’t have to do some sort of penance, Cary.” I put my hand over the arm he had lying in his lap, my thumb brushing carefully over the fresh scars on his inner forearm. “Be happy with Trey. Make him happy. And if Tatiana can’t be happy with having two hot guys looking after her, then she’s . . . not doing something right.”
Cary laughed softly and pressed his lips to the crown of my head. “Solve your own problem that easily.”
“I wish I could.” I wished for that more than anything. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy.
And I feared it might be impossible.
THE vibration of my smartphone woke me.
When I realized what the buzzing was, I began searching blindly for my phone, my hands sliding around the bed until I found it. By then, I’d missed the call.
Squinting at the glaringly bright screen, I saw it was just past three A.M. and Gideon had called. My heart skipped as worry chased away sleep. Once again I’d gone to bed cradling my phone, unable to stop reading the many texts he had sent me.
I called him back.
“Angel,” he answered on the first ring, his voice hoarse.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yes. No.” He blew out his breath. “I had a nightmare.”
“Oh.” I blinked up at the canopy that I couldn’t see in the dark. My mother was a fan of blackout drapes, saying they were necessary in a city that was never truly dark. “I’m sorry.”
It was a lame reply, but what else could I say? It would be pointless to ask if he wanted to talk about it. He never did.
“I’m having them a lot lately,” he said wearily. “Every time I fall asleep.”
My heart hurt a little more. It seemed impossible that it could take so much pain, but there was always more. I’d learned that long ago.
“You’re stressed, Gideon. I’m not sleeping well, either.” And then, because it had to be said, “I miss you.”
“Eva . . .”
“Sorry.” I scrubbed at my eyes. “Maybe I shouldn’t say that.”
Maybe it was a mixed signal that would only make things worse for him. I felt guilty for staying away, even though I knew I had good reason to.
“No, I need to hear it. I’m scared, Eva. I’ve never felt fear like this. I’m afraid you won’t come back . . . that you won’t give me another chance.”
“I dreamed about my father at first. We were walking on the beach and he was holding my hand. I’ve been dreaming about the beach a lot lately.”
I swallowed hard, my chest aching. “Maybe that means something.”
“Maybe. I was little in the dream. I had to look up a long way to see my dad’s face. He was smiling, but then I always remember him smiling. Even though I heard him fighting with my mom a lot toward the end, I can’t remember any other expression on his face but a smile.”
“I’m sure you made him happy. And proud. He probably always smiled when he looked at you.”
He was quiet for a minute, and I thought maybe that was it. Then he went on. “I saw you up ahead on the beach, walking away from us.”
I rolled onto my side, listening intently.
“Your hair was blowing in the breeze and the sun lit it up. I thought it was beautiful. I pointed you out to my dad. I wanted you to turn your head so we could see your face. I knew you were gorgeous. I wanted him to see you.”
Tears welled in my eyes and slid down to wet my pillow.
“I tried to run after you. I was pulling at his hand and he was holding me back, laughing about chasing pretty girls at my age.”
I could picture the scene so clearly in my mind. I could almost feel the brisk breeze whipping through my hair and hear the seagulls calling. I could see the young Gideon in the picture he’d given me and the handsome, charismatic Geoffrey Cross.
I wanted a future like that. With Gideon walking down the beach with our son who looked just like him, my husband laughing because our troubles were behind us and a bright, happy future lay ahead of us.
But he’d called it a nightmare, so I knew that future I envisioned wasn’t one he saw.
“I was tugging so hard on his hand,” he continued, “digging my bare feet into the sand for traction. But he was so much stronger than me. You were walking farther and farther away. He laughed again. Only this time, it wasn’t his laugh. It was Hugh’s. And when I looked up again, it wasn’t my father anymore.”
“Oh, Gideon.” I sobbed his name, unable to hold back the sympathy and grief. And the relief that he was talking to me at last.
“He told me you didn’t want me, that you were going away because you knew everything and it made you sick. That you couldn’t get away fast enough.”
“That’s not true!” I sat up in bed. “You know that’s not true. I love you. It’s because I love you so much that I’m thinking so hard about this. Us.”
“I’m trying to give you space. But I feel like it would be so easy for us to drift apart. A day goes by, then another. You’ll find a new routine without me in it . . . Christ, Eva, I don’t want you to get over me.”
I spoke in a rush, my thoughts tumbling out of my mouth. “There’s a way to get through this, Gideon, I know there is. But when I’m with you I lose myself in you. I just want to be with you and to be happy, so I let things ride and put them off. We make love and I think we’ll be okay, because we have that and it’s perfect.”
“It is perfect. It’s everything.”
“When you’re inside me, looking at me, I feel like we can conquer anything. But we’ve really got to work on this! We can’t be afraid to deal with our baggage because we don’t want to lose each other.”
He growled softly. “I just want us to spend time together not dealing with all this other shit!”
“I know.” I rubbed at the pain in my chest. “But we have to earn it, I think. We can’t manufacture it by running away for a weekend or a week.”
“How do we earn it?”
I swiped at the tears drying on my cheeks. “Tonight was good. You calling me, telling me about your dream. It’s a good step, Gideon.”
“We’ll keep making steps, then. We have to keep moving together or we’re going to end up moving apart. Don’t let that happen! I’m fighting here, with everything I’ve got. Fight for me, too.”
My eyes stung with fresh tears. I sat for a while, crying, knowing he could hear me and that it was hurting him.
Finally, I swallowed the pain down and made a snap decision. “I’m going to that all-night café on Broadway and Eighty-fifth for coffee and a croissant.”
He was silent for a long minute. “What? Now?”
“Right now.” I tossed back the covers on the bed and slid to the floor.
Then he got it. “Okay.”
Killing the call, I dropped the phone on the bed and fumbled for the light. I ran to my duffel bag, digging out the butter yellow maxi dress I’d shoved in there because it was easy to pack and comfortable to wear.
Now that I was decided on seeing Gideon, I was anxious to get to him, but I had my vanity, too. I took the time to brush out my hair and put a little makeup on. I didn’t want him to see me after four days and wonder why he was so gone over me.
My phone buzzed a notification of a text and I hurried over to it, seeing a note from Raúl: I’m out front with the car.
A little zing went through me. Gideon was anxious to see me, too. Still, he never missed a trick.
I shoved my phone into my purse, my feet into sandals, and hurried out to the elevator.
GIDEON was waiting on the street when Raúl pulled up to the curb. Many of the storefronts on Broadway were shuttered and dark, although the street itself remained well lit. My husband stood within the light cast by the café’s awning, his hands shoved into the pockets of his dark jeans and a Yankees ball cap tugged low over his brow.
He could’ve been any young man out late at night. Clearly attractive by the way his hard body filled his clothes and the confidence in the way he carried himself. I would’ve given him a second and third look. He wasn’t as intimidating outside the three-piece suits he wore so well, but he was still dark and dangerous enough to hold me back from the lighthearted flirting most devastatingly handsome men inspired.