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Captivated By You: Chapter 20

I miss you so much. Can’t we talk, please? I need to see you.

“Still staring at that text?” Cary asked, rolling onto his back on the bed beside me and pressing his temple to mine.

“I can’t sleep.” It was torture to stay away from Gideon. I spent every minute—waking and sleeping—feeling like someone had hacked out my heart and left a gaping hole in my chest.

I looked up at the canopy above my mom’s guest bed. Like her sitting room, the bedroom she’d put me in was newly redecorated. With its palette of cream and moss green, the room was soothing and tastefully elegant. The guest bedroom Cary occupied was done in a more masculine style with grays and navy, with walnut furnishings on the opposite end of the spectrum from the white gilded pieces in my room.

“When are you going to talk to him, baby girl?”

“Soon. I just …” I lowered the phone to my chest and pressed it against my heart. “I think we both need a little time.”

It was so hard to think when Gideon and I were fighting. I hated it.

And it was worse because he was the one who’d fucked up, and like everything he did, he had done so spectacularly. I couldn’t imagine how I could forgive him and live with myself. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine how I could go forward without him and live, period. I felt dead inside. The only thing keeping me going was the belief that somehow we’d work things out and be together. How could we not? How could I give so much of myself to someone and then let that person go?

I thought about the advice I’d given to Trey and how we were both facing the same decision—did we choose love or did we choose ourselves? I was so pissed off at Gideon for being the one who forced my hand. I’d recognized that certain situations were pushing me into that spot, but I had never thought my husband would.

And why the hell did the two choices have to be mutually exclusive? It wasn’t fair.

“You’re running him through the wringer,” Cary pointed out, unnecessarily.

He’s done it, not me.” Gideon had taken something precious from me, but worse, he had taken something precious away from us—my free will and the trust I’d given him to respect it. After that last night we’d had … as much as I had trusted him and opened myself to him … And he’d already talked to Mark. The feeling of betrayal was heartrending. “Thanks for sticking with me.”

He shrugged. “I like Stanton. It’s no hardship hanging at his place a few days. We are eventually going home, right?”

“I can’t hide forever.”

“So you’ve always said,” he muttered. “Personally, I like hiding. Just taking a fucking break and forgetting about all the crap.”

“But the crap’s always out there waiting for you.” And knowing that, I always preferred to face it head-on. Get it out of the way and behind me.

“Let it wait,” he said, reaching up to ruffle my hair.

Turning my head, I pressed a kiss to his cheek. I’d cried gallons on him the last three days and curled up against him at night. At times, it felt like his arms were the only things holding me together.

God. I hurt all over. I was a fucking mess, a zombie in the vibrantly lively city of New York.

Where was Gideon now? Was the pain of our separation starting to ease? Or was he still as devastated by it as I was?

“Mark asked me to move to Cross Industries with him,” I said, just to force my mind onto something else.

“Well, you saw that coming.”

“I guess, but it was still surreal when he brought it up.” I sighed. “He’s so excited, Cary. He’s getting a hefty raise, and that will change a lot of things for him and Steven. They’ll be able to afford a really fancy wedding plus a long honeymoon, and they’re looking for a condominium now. It’s hard to hold on to my resentment when this is such a good thing for him.”

“Are you going to work for Gideon?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t kidding when I told him I was halfway toward making that decision on my own. But now … I kinda want to apply elsewhere just to spite him.”

Cary lifted his fists and shadowboxed. “Show him he’s not the boss of you.”

“Yeah.” I threw a few punches, too, just to give myself a little lift. “But that’s stupid. I’d never know if I got hired for me or for his name, whether that turned out to be a good or a bad thing. Anyway, I’ve got a month before Mark moves on. I’ve got time to think about it.”

“Maybe Waters Field and Leaman will keep you. Have you considered that?”

“It’s a possibility. I’m not sure how I would respond. It would save me a job search, but I wouldn’t have Mark, and he’s the reason I love my job. Would I still want to be there without him?”

“You’d still have Megumi and Will.”

“There’s that,” I agreed.

We lay there in companionable silence for a while.

Then he said, “So it looks like you and me are just floating around in the hell-if-I-know boat.”

“Trey is going to call,” I assured him, even though I still had no idea what Trey would say when he did.

“Sure. He’s a nice guy. He won’t leave me hanging.” Cary sounded so weary. “It’s what he’s going to say, not when, that’s the kicker.”

“I know. Love should be easier than this,” I complained.

“If this were a romantic comedy, it’d be called Love Actually Sucks.”

“Maybe we should’ve stuck with Sex and the City.”

“Tried that. Ended up Knocked Up. I should’ve gone for being a 40-Year-Old Virgin, but I had way too much of a head start.”

“We can write a manual on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Weeks.”

Cary looked at me. “Fucking perfect.”

WEDNESDAY morning hit me like a hangover.

Getting ready for work at my mom’s place helped me to not miss Gideon so much, but it sure as hell didn’t separate me from my mother, who was driving me nuts talking about the wedding nonstop. Even Stanton, with his endless capacity for indulging my mom’s neurosis, gave me sympathetic looks when he was around.

I couldn’t think about the wedding now. I couldn’t think beyond each and every hour of the day. That was how I was getting by—one hour at a time.

When I stepped out of the lobby onto the street, I found Angus waiting for me with the Bentley rather than Raúl with the Benz. I managed a smile, genuinely pleased to see him, but I was wary, too.

“Good morning, Angus.” I jerked my chin toward the car and whispered, “Is he in there?”

He shook his head, then touched the brim of his vintage chauffeur’s hat. “Good morning, Mrs. Cross.”

I squeezed his shoulder briefly before sliding past the door he opened and into the backseat. In short order we were easing into the snarl of morning traffic and heading toward midtown.

Leaning forward, I asked, “How is he?”

“Worse than you, I expect.” He glanced at me briefly before returning his attention to traffic. “He’s suffering, lass. Last night was the hardest.”

“God.” I sank back into the seat, at a loss for what to do.

I didn’t want Gideon to hurt. He’d been hurt too much already.

Pulling out my smartphone, I texted him. I love you.

His reply was almost immediate. Calling. Pls answer.

A moment later the phone vibrated in my hand and his picture appeared on my screen. It was like a quick stab to the heart to see his face after spending the last few days avoiding any image of him. I was equally afraid to hear his voice. I didn’t know if I could be strong. And I didn’t have the answers he needed from me.

My voice mail kicked in and the phone quieted. It started vibrating again right away.

I answered, lifting the phone to my ear without speaking.

There was silence on the line for a long, breathless moment. “Eva?”

My eyes watered at the sound of Gideon’s voice, the rasp in it so deep, as if his throat were rough. What was worse was the hope I heard in the way he said my name, the desperate longing.

“It’s okay if you don’t talk,” he said gruffly. “I just …” He gave a shaky exhale. “I’m sorry, Eva. I want you to know I’m sorry and that I’ll do whatever you need me to. I just want to fix this.”

“Gideon …” I heard him suck in a sharp inhalation when I said his name. “I believe that you’re sorry we’re not together now. But I also believe that you would do something like this again. I’m trying to figure out if I can live with that.”

Silence hung on the line between us.

“What does that mean?” he asked finally. “What would be the alternative?”

I sighed, suddenly feeling so tired. “I don’t have any answers. That’s why I’ve stayed away. I want to give you everything, Gideon. I never want to say no to you, it’s so hard for me. But right now, I’m afraid that if I make this compromise, if I stay with you knowing how you are and that you’re not going to change, I’m just going to resent you and, eventually, fall out of love with you.”

“Eva … Christ. Don’t say that!” His breath snagged. “I told Dr. Petersen. About Hugh.”

“What?” My head snapped up. “When?”

“Last night. I told him everything. About Hugh. Anne. He’s going to help me, Eva. He said some things …” He paused. “They made sense to me. About me and the way I am with you.”

“Oh, Gideon.” I could imagine how difficult that must have been for him. I’d lived through that confession myself. “I’m very proud of you. I know it wasn’t easy.”

“You have to stick with me. You promised. I told you I was going to fuck this up. I’ll fuck up again. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but God … I love you. I love you so fucking much. I can’t do this without you. I can’t live without you. You’re breaking me, Eva. I can’t …” He made a low, pained noise. “I need you.”

“Ah God, Gideon.” Tears poured down my face and splattered onto my chest, sliding down beneath the neckline of my dress. “I don’t know what to do, either.”

“Can’t we figure it out together? Aren’t we better—stronger—together?”

wiped at my face, knowing my makeup was ruined and not caring. “I want us to be. I want that more than anything. I just don’t know if we can get there. There hasn’t been a single time when you’ve let me figure things out with you. Not once.”

“If I did … if I do—and I will—you’ll come back to me?”

“I haven’t left you, Gideon. I don’t know how.” I looked out the window, spotted a young couple kissing each other good-bye in front of a revolving door before the man ran off. “But yes, if we could really be a team, nothing could keep me away.”

“HEARD you guys landed the PhazeOne campaign.”

I turned my attention from the coffee I was sweetening to raise my brows at Will. “I haven’t heard that.”

He grinned, his eyes sparkling behind his glasses. He was such a happy guy, anchored solidly in a relationship that worked. I was so envious of that serenity. I had felt it only a few times since I’d been with Gideon, and every time it was … bliss. How amazing would it be if we could get there and stay there?

“That’s the buzz I’ve been hearing,” he said.

“Man.” I gave an exaggerated sigh. “I am always the last to know.”

I’d been putting on an Oscar-worthy performance all week. Between Mark’s excitement, the imminent adjustment in my work situation, starting my period, and dealing with the mess in my private life, I was focusing every ounce of energy I had left on acting calm. As a result, I’d avoided the office gossip cliques to limit my contact with people. There was only so much happiness/joy/contentment I could fake.

“Mark’s going to kill me for telling you.” Will looked completely unapologetic. “I wanted to be the first to congratulate you.”

“Okay. Thank you. Maybe.”

“I’m dying to get my hands on that system, you know. The tech blogs are wild with rumors about PhazeOne’s features.” He leaned against the counter next to me and gave me a hopeful look.

I wagged my finger at him. “You won’t be hearing any leaks from me.”

“Damn it. A guy’s gotta hope.” He shrugged. “They’re probably going to lock you in solitary somewhere until the release just to keep a lid on it.”

“Makes you wonder why LanCorp would take it to an outside agency, doesn’t it?”

He frowned. “Yeah. I guess. Hadn’t thought about it.”

Neither had I. But Gideon had.

I looked back down at my mug, stirring absently. “There’s a new GenTen coming out soon.”

“I heard. That’s a no-brainer, though. Everyone’s going to buy it.”

Flexing my fingers, I studied my wedding ring and thought about the vows I’d made when I accepted it.

“You got plans for lunch?” he asked.

I picked up my mug and faced him. “Yes, I’m going out with Mark and his partner.”

“Oh, right.” He moved toward the coffeemaker when I got out of the way. “Maybe we could grab drinks after work sometime this week. Drag our significant others with us. If Gideon’s up for it. I know he’s a busy guy.”

I opened my mouth. Closed it again. Will had given me the perfect opening to excuse Gideon. I could take it, but I wanted to share the social parts of my life with my husband. I wanted him with me. If I started excluding him from my life, wasn’t that the beginning of the end?

“Sounds like fun,” I lied, imagining a tension-fraught evening. “I’ll talk to him about it. See what we can work out.”

Will nodded. “Cool. Lemme know.”

“I’VE got a problem.”

“Oh?” I looked across the table at Mark. The Cuban restaurant Steven had chosen was both large and popular. Sunlight streamed in through a massive skylight, while colorful murals decorated the space with parrots and palm fronds. Festive music made me feel like I’d gone on vacation to somewhere exotic, while the rich smell of spices made my tummy perk up for the first time in days.

I rubbed my hands together. “Let’s fix it.”

Steven nodded. “Eva’s right. Lay it on us.”

Mark pushed the menu aside and set his elbows on the table. “So Mr. Waters told me this morning to start working on the LanCorp brief.”

“Yay!” I applauded.

“Not so fast. In light of that, I had to give him my notice. I’d been hoping to wait until Friday, but they need someone who can stick with the client all the way through, not just the first month.”

“You’ve got a point,” I conceded, my smile fading. “What a bummer, though.”

“It sucked, but …” He shrugged. “It is what it is. Then he called in the other partners. They told me that the LanCorp brass was insistent that I head the campaign when they first approached the agency, enough so that the partners are worried they’ll lose the account if I’m not managing it.”

Steven grinned and slapped him on the shoulder. “That’s what we like to hear!”

Mark gave a sheepish smile. “Yeah, it was a boost, for sure. So anyway, they offered me a promotion and a raise if I’ll stay.”

“Whoa.” I sat back. “That’s a serious boost.”

“They can’t offer what Cross did. Not even half, but let’s be honest, he’s overpaying me.”

“Says you,” Steven scoffed. “You’re worth every penny.”

I nodded, even though I had only a vague idea of what Gideon had put on the table. “I agree with that.”

“But I feel like I owe Waters Field and Leaman some loyalty.” Mark rubbed at his jaw. “They’ve been good to me and they want to keep me, even knowing I can be poached by someone else.”

“You’ve given them good work for years,” Steven countered. “They got a lot out of you. You don’t owe them any favors.”

“I know that. And I was fine with leaving an empty office behind, because they could fill that quick enough. But I’m having a hard time with possibly costing them the LanCorp campaign when I go.”

“But that decision isn’t yours to make,” I pointed out. “If LanCorp doesn’t retain the agency, that’s up to them.”

“I’ve tried spinning it that way, too. But it’s still not something I want to see happen.”

The server came by to take our order. I looked at Steven. “Can you do the honors?”

“Sure.” He looked at Mark, who gave a quick nod to signal the same request. Steven ordered for all of us.

I waited until we were alone again to speak, unsure of how to say what needed to be said. In the end, I went with blunt. “I can’t work on the PhazeOne campaign.”

Mark and Steven stared at me.

“Look, the Landons and the Crosses go way back,” I explained, “and there’s bad blood between them. Gideon’s got some concerns, and I see his point. It’s strong enough for me to be cautious.”

Mark frowned. “Landon knows who you are. He doesn’t have a problem with it.”

“I know. But the PhazeOne system is a pretty big deal. There’s risk involved with having access to it, and I don’t need to contribute to that in any way.” It was hard admitting that Gideon was right, because I knew I was right, too. Which left us at an impasse I didn’t know how to get around.

Steven leaned closer and studied me. “You’re serious.”

“Afraid so. Not that your decision is in any way affected by me, Mark, but I thought I should put that out there.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Mark said.

“She’s telling you that if you stay with your job, you’ll be losing both the money and your assistant,” Steven clarified. “Or you can move to Cross Industries as you’ve already agreed to do, get the money, and keep Eva.”

“Well …” God. This was harder than I’d thought it would be. I had heard it but now I was living it: Any woman who loses or gives up a job she loves because of a man will resent it … What had ever made me think I would be somehow exempt? “I can’t say yet that I’ll be making the move with you.”

Mark fell back against the burgundy vinyl booth. “This just keeps getting worse.”

“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.

In jeans or Fioravanti, Gideon Cross was not a man to be taken lightly.

He was at the car almost before Raúl pulled to a complete stop, yanking the door open and then freezing in place, staring at me with such scorching hunger and possessiveness that I found it hard to breathe.

I swallowed past the lump in my throat, my equally ravenous gaze sliding all over him. He was unbelievably more beautiful, the expertly sculpted planes of his face honed further by his torment. How had I lived the past few days without seeing that face?

He held his hand out to me and I reached for it, my own trembling in anticipation of his touch. The brush of his skin against mine sent tingles of awareness racing through me, my bruised heart surging with life at being in contact with him again.

He helped me out, then pushed the door closed, rapping twice on the roof to send Raúl away. As the Benz left us, we stood barely a foot apart, the air crackling with tension between us. A taxi raced by, honking its horn as another car turned onto Broadway without looking. The harsh sound jolted Gideon and me both.

He took a step toward me, his eyes dark and hot beneath the brim of his hat. “I’m going to kiss you,” he said roughly.

Then he cupped my jaw and tilted his head, fitting his mouth over mine. His lips, so soft and firm and dry, pressed mine open. His tongue slid deep and rubbed, withdrew, slid deep again. He groaned as if he were in the greatest pain. Or pleasure. For me, it was both. The hot stroke of his tongue into my mouth was like a sweet, slow fucking. Smoothly rhythmic, skilled, with just the perfect tease of leashed passion.

I moaned as euphoria sparkled through me like champagne, the ground shifting beneath my feet so that I clung to him for balance, my hands wrapping around his wrists.

I whimpered in protest when he pulled away, my lips feeling achy and swollen, my sex wet with desire.

“You’ll make me come,” he murmured, unable to resist brushing his lips over mine one last time. “I’m right there.”

“I don’t care.”

His mouth curved and chased the shadows away. “The next time I come will be inside you.”

I sucked in a shaky breath at the thought. I wanted that, and yet I knew it would be too soon now. That we’d fall too easily back into the unhealthy pattern we had established. “Gideon …”

His smile turned rueful. “Guess we’ll settle for coffee and a croissant for now.”

I loved him so much in that moment. Impulsively, I pulled off his hat and gave him a great big smacking kiss on the mouth.

“God,” he breathed, his gaze so tender it made me feel like crying again. “I’ve missed you so damn much.”

I slid the hat back on his head and grabbed his hand, leading him around the little metal fences cordoning off an outside seating area from the pedestrian traffic. We entered the café and settled at a table by the window, Gideon on one side and me on the other. But we didn’t stop holding hands, our fingers stroking and rubbing, each of us touching the other’s wedding bands.

We ordered when the server walked over with the menus, then turned our attention back to each other.

“I’m not even hungry,” I told him.

“Not for food, anyway,” he rejoined.

I shot him a mock glare that made him smile. Then I told him about the retention offer Waters Field & Leaman had made Mark.

It seemed wrong to talk about something so practical, so mundane, when my heart was giddy with love and relief, but we had to keep talking. Reconnecting wasn’t enough; I wanted a full and total reconciliation. I wanted to move into the renovated penthouse with him, start our life together. To do that, we had to keep communicating about the things we’d spent our relationship avoiding.

Gideon nodded grimly when I finished. “I’m not surprised. An account like that should be handled by one of the partners. Mark’s good, but he’s a junior manager. LanCorp would’ve had to push to get him. And you. The request is unusual enough to give the partners cause for concern.”

I thought about Kingsman Vodka. “You did the same thing.”

“I did, yes.”

“I don’t know what he’s going to do.” I looked at our joined hands. “But I told him I couldn’t work on the PhazeOne campaign even if he stayed to manage it.”

Gideon’s grip tightened on mine.

“You have good reasons for doing the things you do,” I said quietly, “even if I don’t like them.”

He took a slow, deep breath. “Will you come with him to Cross Industries if he moves?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m feeling pretty resentful right now. Unless that changes, it wouldn’t be a healthy working relationship for either of us.”

He nodded. “Fair enough.”

The server came back with our order. Gideon and I released each other by necessity to give her room to put the plates on our settings. When she walked away, a heavy silence descended between us. There was so much to say, but so much that had to be figured out first.

He cleared his throat. “Tonight—after Dr. Petersen—could I take you out to dinner?”

“Yes.” I accepted eagerly, grateful to move past the awkwardness into action. “I’d like that.”

I could see similar relief soften the hard line of his shoulders and wanted to do my share to build it. “Will asked if we’d be up for grabbing a drink with him and Natalie this week.”

A hint of a smile touched Gideon’s mouth. “I think that’d be great.”

Small steps. We would start with those and see where they took us.

I pushed back from the table and stood. Gideon pushed to his feet quickly, eyeing me warily. I rounded the table and took the seat next to him, waiting until he sat again so that I could lean into him.

His arm came around me and he settled me into the crook of his neck. A soft sound escaped him when I snuggled in.

“I’m still mad at you,” I told him.

“I know.”

“And I’m still in love with you.”

“Thank God.” His cheek rested against the top of my head. “We’ll figure out the rest. We’ll get back on track.”

We sat together and watched the city rouse from sleep. The sky lightened. The pace of life quickened.

It was a new day, bringing with it a new chance to try again.


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