The final chapter in the global blockbuster Crossfire® quintet.
Gideon Cross. Falling in love with him was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It happened instantly. Completely. Irrevocably.
Marrying him was a dream come true. Staying married to him is the fight of my life. Love transforms. Ours is both a refuge from the storm and the most violent of tempests. Two damaged souls entwined as one.
We have bared our deepest, ugliest secrets to one another. Gideon is the mirror that reflects all my flaws … and all the beauty I couldn’t see. He has given me everything. Now, I must prove I can be the rock, the shelter for him that he is for me. Together, we could stand against those who work so viciously to come between us.
But our greatest battle may lie within the very vows that give us strength. Committing to love was only the beginning. Fighting for it will either set us free … or break us apart.
Heartbreakingly and seductively poignant, One with You is the breathlessly awaited finale to the Crossfire® saga, the searing love story that has captivated millions of readers worldwide.
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New York was the city that never slept; it never even got sleepy. My condo on the Upper West Side had the level of soundproofing expected in a multimillion-dollar property, but still the sounds of the city filtered in—the rhythmic thumping of tires over the well-worn streets, the protests of weary air brakes, and the nonstop honking of taxi horns.
As I stepped out of the corner café onto always-busy Broadway, the rush of the city washed over me. How had I ever lived without the cacophony of Manhattan?
How had I ever managed living without him?
I cupped his jaw in my hands, felt him nuzzle into my touch. That show of vulnerability and affection cut right through me. Just hours before I’d thought he might never change, that I would have to compromise too much to share my life with him. Now, I stood in the face of his courage and doubted my own.
Had I demanded more of him than I had of myself? I was shamed by the possibility that I’d pushed him to evolve while I had remained obstinately the same.
He stood before me, so tall and strong. In jeans and a T-shirt, with a ball cap pulled low over his brow, he was unrecognizable as the global mogul the world thought it knew but still so innately compelling he affected everyone who walked by. In the corner of my eye, I noted how the people nearby glanced at him, then did a double take.
Whether Gideon was dressed casually or in the bespoke three-piece suits he favored, the power of his leanly muscular body was unmistakable. The way he held himself, the authority he wielded with faultless control, made it impossible for him to ever fade into the background.
New York swallowed everything that came into it, while Gideon had the city on a gilded leash.
And he was mine. Even with my ring on his finger, I still sometimes struggled to believe it.
He would never be just a man. He was ferocity sheathed in elegance, perfection veined with flaws. He was the nexus of my world, a nexus of the world.
Yet he’d just proven that he would bend and yield to the breaking point to be with me. Which left me with a renewed determination to prove I was worth the pain I’d forced him to face.
Around us, the shop fronts along Broadway were reopening. The flow of traffic on the street began to thicken, black cars and yellow cabs bouncing wildly over the uneven surface. Residents trickled onto the sidewalks, taking their dogs out or heading toward Central Park for an early-morning run, stealing what time they could before the workday kicked in with a vengeance.
The Benz pulled up to the curb just as we reached it, Raúl a big shadowy figure at the wheel. Angus slid the Bentley into place behind it. My ride and Gideon’s, going to separate homes. How was that a marriage?
Fact was, it was our marriage, though neither of us wanted it that way. I’d had to draw a line when Gideon hired my boss away from the advertising agency I worked for.
I understood my husband’s desire for me to join Cross Industries, but trying to force my hand by taking action behind my back…? I couldn’t allow it, not with a man like Gideon. Either we were together—making decisions together—or we were too far apart to make our relationship work.
Tilting my head back, I looked up into his stunning face. There was remorse there, and relief. And love. So much love.
It was breathtaking how handsome he was. His eyes were the blue of the Caribbean, his hair a thick and glossy black mane that brushed his collar. An adoring hand had sculpted every plane and angle of his face into a level of flawlessness that mesmerized and made it hard to think rationally. I’d been captivated by the look of him from the moment I first saw him, and I still found my synapses frying at random moments. Gideon just dazzled me.
But it was the man inside, his relentless energy and power, his sharp intelligence and ruthlessness coupled with a heart that could be so tender…
“Thank you.” My fingertips brushed over the dark slash of his brow, tingling as they always did when they touched his skin. “For calling me. For telling me about your dream. For meeting me here.”
“I’d meet you anywhere.” The words were a vow, spoken fervently and fiercely.
Everyone had demons. Gideon’s were caged by his iron will when he was awake. When he slept, they tormented him in violent, vicious nightmares that he’d resisted sharing with me. We had so much in common, but the abuse in our childhoods was a shared trauma that both drew us together and pushed us apart. It made me fight harder for Gideon and what we had together. Our abusers had taken too much away from us already.
“Eva… You’re the only force on earth that can keep me away.”
“Thank you for that, too,” I murmured, my chest tight. Our recent separation had been brutal for both of us. “I know it wasn’t easy for you to give me space, but we needed it. And I know I pushed you hard…”
My mouth curved at the quick bite of ice in his words. Gideon wasn’t a man used to being denied what he wanted. But as much as he’d hated being deprived of access to me, we were together now because that deprivation drove him forward. “I know. And you let me, because you love me.”
“It’s more than love.” His hands banded my wrists, tightening in the authoritative way that made everything inside me surrender.
I nodded, no longer afraid to admit that we needed each other to a degree some would consider unhealthy. It was who we were, what we had. And it was precious.
“We’ll drive to Dr. Petersen’s together.” He said the words with unmistakable command, but his gaze searched mine as if he’d asked a question.
“You’re so bossy,” I teased, wanting us to leave each other feeling good. Hopeful. Our weekly therapy appointment with Dr. Lyle Petersen was only hours away, and it couldn’t have been more opportunely scheduled. We’d turned a corner. We could use a little help in figuring what our next steps should be from here.
His hands circled my waist. “You love it.”
I reached for the hem of his shirt, fisting the soft jersey. “I love you.”
“Eva.” His shuddered breath gusted hot on my neck. Manhattan surrounded us but couldn’t intrude. When we were together, there was nothing else.
A low sound of hunger left me. I yearned for and craved him, shivering with delight that he was once again pressed against me. I breathed him in with deep inhalations, my fingers kneading into the rigid muscles of his back. The rush sliding through me was heady. I was addicted to him—heart, soul, and body—and I’d gone days without my fix, leaving me shaky and off-balance, unable to function properly.
He engulfed me, his body so much bigger and harder. I felt safe in his embrace, cherished and protected. Nothing could touch or hurt me when he was holding me. I wanted him to feel that same sense of security with me. I needed him to know he could drop his guard, take a breath, and I could protect us both.
I had to be stronger. Smarter. Scarier. We had enemies, and Gideon was dealing with them on his own. It was innate to him to be protective; it was one of his traits I deeply admired. But I had to start showing people that I could be as formidable an adversary as my husband.
More important, I had to prove it to Gideon.
Leaning into him, I absorbed his warmth. His love. “I’ll see you at five, ace.”
“Not a minute later,” he ordered gruffly.
I laughed despite myself, infatuated with every rough-edged facet of him. “Or what?”
Pulling back, he gave me a look that made my toes curl. “Or I come get you.”
– posted November 17, 2015
I should have tiptoed into my stepfather’s penthouse with my breath held, since the time—a little after six A.M.—meant getting caught sneaking back in was likely. Instead, I strode in with purpose, my thoughts occupied with the changes I needed to make.
I had time for a shower—barely—but I decided not to take one. It had been so long since Gideon had touched me. Too long since his hands had been on me, his body inside mine. I didn’t want to wash the memory of his touch away. That alone would give me the strength to do what had to be done.
An end table lamp clicked on. “Eva.”
I jumped. “Jesus.”
Pivoting, I found my mother sitting on one of the living room settees.
“You scared the crap out of me!” I accused, rubbing a hand over my racing heart.
She stood, her floor-length ivory satin robe shimmering around her toned, lightly tanned legs. I was her only child, but we looked like we could be sisters. Monica Tramell Barker Mitchell Stanton was obsessive about maintaining her looks. She was a career trophy wife; her youthful beauty was her stock-in-trade.
“Before you start,” I began, “yes, we have to talk about the wedding. But I really have to get ready for work and pack up my stuff so I can go home tonight—”
“Are you having an affair?”
Her curt question shocked me more than the ambush. “What? No!”
She exhaled, tension visibly leaving her shoulders. “Thank God. Will you tell me what the hell is going on? How bad was this argument you had with Gideon?”
Bad. For a while, I worried that he’d ended us with the decisions he made. “We’re working things out, Mom. It was just a bump in the road.”
“A bump that had you avoiding him for days? That’s not the way to deal with your problems, Eva.”
“It’s a long story—”
She crossed her arms. “I’m not in a hurry.”
“Well, I am. I have a job to get ready for.”
Hurt flashed across her face. I felt instantly remorseful.
Once, I had wanted to grow up to be just like my mother. I spent hours dressing up in her clothes, stumbling around in her heels, smearing my face with her expensive creams and cosmetics. I tried to emulate her breathy voice and sensual mannerisms, certain my mother was the most gorgeous and perfect woman in the world. And her way with men, how they looked at her and catered to her… well, I’d wanted that magic touch of hers, too.
In the end, I had matured into her spitting image aside from the style of our hair and the color of my eyes. But that was just on the outside. Who we were as women couldn’t be more different and, sadly, that was something I’d come to take pride in. I stopped turning to her for advice, except when it came to clothes and decorating.
That was going to change. Now.
I’d tried a lot of different tactics in navigating my relationship with Gideon, but I hadn’t asked for help from the one person close to me who knew what it was like to be married to prominent and powerful men.
“I need your advice, Mom.”
My words hung in the air, and then I watched comprehension widen my mother’s eyes with surprise. A moment later she was sinking back onto the sofa as if her knees had failed her. Her shock was a hard blow, telling me how completely I’d shut her out.
I was hurting inside when I took a seat on the couch opposite her. I’d learned to be careful about what I shared with my mom, doing my best to withhold information that might start discussions that drove me crazy.
It hadn’t always been that way. My stepbrother Nathan had taken my warm, easy relationship with my mother away from me, just as he’d taken my innocence. After my mom learned of the abuse, she had changed, becoming overprotective to the point of stalking and smothering me. She was supremely confident about everything in her life, except for me. With me, she was anxious and intrusive, sometimes bordering on hysterical. Over the years, I’d forced myself to skirt around the truth far too often, keeping secrets from everyone I loved just to maintain peace.
“I don’t know how to be the kind of wife Gideon needs,” I confessed.
Her shoulders went back, her entire posture shifting to one of outrage. “Is he having an affair?”
“No!” A reluctant laugh escaped me. “No one is having an affair. We wouldn’t do that to each other. We couldn’t. Stop worrying about that.”
I had to wonder if my mother’s recent infidelity with my father was the true root of her concern. Did it weigh on her mind? Did she question what she had with Stanton? I didn’t know how to feel about that. I loved my dad so much, but I also believed that my stepfather was perfect for my mom in just the way she needed a husband to be.
“Gideon and I eloped a few weeks ago.” God, it felt good to put that out there.
She blinked at me. Once, twice. “What?”
“I haven’t told Dad yet,” I went on. “But I’m going to call him today.”
Her eyes glistened with welling tears. “Why? God, Eva… how did we grow so far apart?”
“Don’t cry.” I got up and went to her, taking a seat beside her. I reached for her hands, but she pulled me into a fierce hug instead.
I breathed in the familiar scent of her and felt the kind of peace only found in a mother’s arms. For a few moments, anyway. “It wasn’t planned, Mom. We went away for the weekend, and Gideon asked me if I would, and he made the arrangements… It was spontaneous. Spur of the moment.”
She pulled back, revealing a tear streaked face and fire in her eyes. “He married you without a prenup?”
I laughed, I had to. Of course my mother would zero in on the financial details. Money had long been the driving force of her life. “There’s a prenup.”
“Eva Lauren! Did you have it looked at? Or was that spontaneous, too?”
“I read every word.”
“You’re not an attorney! God, Eva… I raised you to be smarter than this!”
“A six-year old could’ve understood the terms,” I shot back, irritated by the real problem in my marriage: Gideon and I had way too many people meddling in our relationship, distracting us so that we didn’t have time to tackle the things that really needed work. “Don’t worry about the prenup.”
“You should’ve asked Richard to read it. I don’t see why you wouldn’t have. It’s so irresponsible. I just don’t—”
“I saw it, Monica.”
We both turned at the sound of my stepfather’s voice. Stanton entered the room ready for the day, looking sharp in a navy suit and yellow tie. I imagined Gideon would be much like my stepfather at the same age: physically fit, distinguished, as much an alpha male as ever.
“You did?” I asked, surprised.
“Cross sent it to me a few weeks ago. ” Stanton crossed over to my mother, taking her hand in his. “I couldn’t have argued for better terms.”
“There are always better terms, Richard!” my mom said sharply.
“There are rewards for milestones such as anniversaries and the birth of children, and nothing in the way of penalties for Eva, aside from marital counseling. A dissolution would have a more than equitable distribution of assets. I was tempted to ask if Cross had his in-house counsel review it. I imagine they argued strenuously against it.”
She settled for a moment, taking that in. Then she pushed to her feet, bristling. “But you knew they were eloping? You knew, and you didn’t say anything?”
“Of course, I didn’t know.” He pulled her into his arms, crooning softly like he would with a child. “I assumed he was looking ahead. You know these things usually take a few months of negotiating. Although, in this case, there was nothing more I could’ve asked for.”
I stood. I had to hurry if I was going to get to work on time. Today of all days, I didn’t want to be late.
“Where are you going?” My mother straightened away from Stanton. “We’re not done with this discussion. You can’t just drop a bomb like that and leave!”
Turning to face her, I walked backwards. “I’ve seriously got to get ready. Why don’t we get together for lunch and talk more then?”
“You can’t be—”
I cut her off. “Corinne Giroux.”
My mother’s eyes widened, then narrowed. One name. I didn’t have to say anything else.
Gideon’s ex was a problem that needed no further explanation.
– posted November 26, 2015
It was the rare person who came to Manhattan and didn’t feel an instant familiarity. The skyline of the city had been immortalized in too many movies and television shows to count, spreading the love affair with New York from residents to the world.
I was no exception.
I adored the Art Deco elegance of the Chrysler Building. I could pinpoint my place on the island in relation to the position of the Empire State Building. I was awed by the breathtaking height of the Freedom Tower that now dominated downtown. But the Crossfire Building was in a class by itself. I’d thought so before I had ever fallen in love with the man whose vision had led to its creation.
As Raúl pulled the Benz up to the curb, I marveled at the distinctive sapphire blue glass that encased the obelisk shape of the Crossfire. My head tilted back, my gaze sliding up the shimmering height to the point at the top, the light-drenched space that housed Cross Industries. Pedestrians surged around me, the sidewalk teeming with businessmen and -women heading to work with briefcases and totes in one hand and steaming cups of coffee in the other.
I felt Gideon before I saw him, my entire body humming with awareness as he stepped out of the Bentley, which had pulled up behind the Benz. The air around me charged with electricity, the crackling energy that always heralded the approach of a storm.
I was among the few who knew it was the restlessness of Gideon’s tormented soul that powered the tempest.
Turning to him, I smiled. It was no coincidence that we’d arrived at the same time. I knew that before I saw the confirmation in his eyes.
He wore a charcoal suit with a white shirt and silver twill tie. His dark hair brushed his jaw and collar in a sexy, rakish fall of inky strands. He still looked at me with the hot sexual ferocity that first scorched me but there was tenderness in the brilliant blue now and an openness that meant more to me than anything else he could ever give me.
I stepped toward him as he approached. “Good morning, Dark and Dangerous.”
His lips curved wryly. Amusement warmed his gaze further. “Good morning, wife.”
I reached for his hand, felt settled when he met me halfway and gripped mine firmly. “I told my mother this morning… about us being married.”
One dark brow arched in surprise, and then his smile curved into one of triumphant pleasure. “Good.”
Laughing at his unabashed possessiveness, I gave him a soft shove to the shoulder. He moved lightning quick, catching me close and kissing the corner of my smiling mouth.
His joy was infectious. I felt it bursting inside me, lighting up all the places that had been so dark the past few days. “I’m going to call my dad at my first break. Let him know.”
He sobered. “Why now, and not before?”
He spoke softly, his voice pitched low for privacy. The office-bound crowd continued to flow by, paying very little attention to us. Still, I hesitated to answer, feeling too exposed.
Then… the truth came easier than it ever had. I’d been hiding so many things from the people I loved. Little things, big things. Trying to maintain the status quo, while also hoping for and needing change.
“I was afraid,” I told him.
He stepped closer, his gaze intense. “And now you’re not.”
“You’ll tell me why tonight.”
I nodded. “I’ll tell you.”
His hand curved around my nape, the hold possessive and tender at once. His face was impassive, giving nothing away, but his eyes… those blue, blue eyes… they raged with emotion. “We’re going to make it, angel.”
Love slid warmly through me like the buzz of a fine wine. “Damn straight.”
– posted December 25, 2015
It was strange walking through the doors of Waters, Field & Leaman, mentally counting down the number of days I’d be able to claim I worked at the prestigious advertising agency. Megumi Kaba waved from behind her reception desk, tapping her headset to let me know she was on a call and couldn’t talk. I waved back and headed toward my own desk with a determined stride. I had a lot to get done, a new start to get rolling.
But first things first. I dropped my purse and bag into the bottom drawer, then settled in my chair and surfed to my usual florist’s website. I knew what I wanted. Two dozen white roses in a deep red crystal vase.
White for purity. For friendship. For eternal love. It was also the flag of surrender. I’d drawn battle lines by forcing a separation between Gideon and me, and in the end, I had won. But I didn’t want to war with my husband.
I didn’t even try to come up with a clever tie-in note for the flowers, like I’d done in the past. I just wrote from the heart.
You are miraculous, Mr. Cross.
I cherish you and love you so much.
The website prompted me to finalize the order. I clicked submit and took a moment to imagine what Gideon would think of my gift. One day, I hoped to watch him receive flowers from me. Did he smile when his secretary, Scott, brought them in? Did he stop whatever meeting he was commanding to read my notes? Or did he wait until one of the rare lulls in his schedule for privacy?
My mouth curved as I considered the possibilities. I loved giving Gideon gifts.
And soon I’d have more time to pick them out.
– posted January 1, 2016
Mark Garrity’s incredulous gaze lifted from my resignation letter and met mine.
My stomach knotted at the expression on my boss’s face. “Yes. I’m sorry I can’t give more notice.”
“Tomorrow is your last day?” He leaned back in his chair. His eyes were a warm chocolate shades lighter than his skin, and they registered both surprise and dismay. “Why, Eva?”
Sighing, I leaned forward, setting my elbows on my knees. Yet again, I went with the truth. “I know it’s unprofessional to cut out like this, but… I’ve got to rearrange my priorities and right now…. I just can’t give this my full attention, Mark. I’m sorry.”
“I…” He blew out his breath and ran a hand over his dark, tight curls. “Hell… What can I say?”
“That you’ll forgive me and won’t hold it against me?” I huffed out a humorless laugh. “It’s asking a lot, I know.”
He managed a wry smile. “I hate to lose you, Eva, you know that. I’m not sure I’ve ever really expressed how much you’ve contributed. You make me work better.”
“Thank you, Mark. I appreciate that.” God, this was harder than I thought it would be, even knowing it was the best and only decision I could make.
My gaze went beyond my handsome boss to the view behind him. As a junior account manager, he had a small office and his view was blocked by the building across the street, but it was still as quintessentially New York as Gideon Cross’s sprawling office on the top floor above us.
In a lot of ways, that division of floors mirrored the way I’d tried to define my relationship with Gideon. I knew who he was. Knew what he was: a man in a class by himself. I loved that about him and didn’t want him to change; I just wanted to climb to his level on my own merits. What I hadn’t considered was that by stubbornly refusing to accept that our marriage changed the plan, I was pulling him down to mine.
I wouldn’t be known for earning my way to the top of my field. For some people, I would always have married into success. And I was just going to have to live with it.
“So, where are you going from here?” Mark asked.
“Honestly… I’m still figuring that out. I just know I can’t stay.”
My marriage could only take so much pressure before it broke, and I had allowed it to slide to a dangerous edge, trying to find some distance. Trying to put myself first.
Gideon Cross was as deep and vast as the ocean, and I had feared drowning in him from the moment I first saw him. I couldn’t be afraid of that anymore. Not after realizing that what I feared more was losing him.
By trying to stay neutral, I’d been shoved from side to side. And as pissed off as I’d been about that, I hadn’t taken the time to comprehend that if I wanted control, I just had to take it.
“Because of the LanCorp account?” Mark asked.
“In part.” I smoothed my pinstriped pencil skirt, mentally brushing away the lingering resentment over Gideon’s hiring of Mark. The catalyst had been LanCorp coming to Waters Field & Leaman with a specific request for Mark–and therefore me–a maneuver Gideon viewed with suspicion. Geoffrey Cross’s Ponzi scheme had decimated the Landon family fortune, and while both Ryan Landon and Gideon had rebuilt what their fathers had lost, Landon still hungered for revenge. “But mostly for personal reasons.”
Straightening, he set his elbows on the desk and leaned toward me. “It’s none of my business and I won’t pry, but you know Steven, Shawna, and I are all here for you, if you need us. We care about you.”
His earnestness made my eyes sting with tears. His fiancé, Steven Ellison, and Steven’s sister Shawna had become dear to me in the months I’d been in New York, part of the new network of friends I had built in my new life. No matter what, I didn’t want to lose them.
“I know.” I smiled through my sorrow. “If I need you, I’ll call, I promise. But it’s all going to work out for the best. For all of us.”
Mark relaxed and returned my smile. “Steven’s going to flip. Maybe I should make you tell him.”
Thinking of the burly, gregarious contractor chased any sadness away. Steven would give me a hard time for bailing out on his partner, but he’d do it with a good heart. “Aw, come on,”; I teased back. “You wouldn’t do that to me, would you? This is hard enough as it is.”
“I’m not opposed to making it harder.”
I laughed. Yeah, I was going to miss Mark and my job. A lot.
– posted February 14, 2016
When my first break came around, it was still early in Oceanside, California, so I texted my dad instead of calling.
Let me know when you’re up, k? Need to tell you something. And since I knew that being a cop as well as a father made Victor Reyes a worrier, I added, Nothing bad, just some news.
I’d barely set my phone down on the break room counter to get a cup of coffee when it started ringing. My dad’s handsome face lit up the screen, his photo showing off the gray eyes I had inherited from him.
I was suddenly struck with a case of nerves. When I reached for my phone, my hand was shaking. I loved both of my parents a lot, but I’d always thought that my dad felt things more deeply than my mother. And while my mother never hesitated to point out the ways I could fix my flaws, my dad didn’t seem to realize I had any. Disappointing him…hurting him…it was brutal to think of it.
“Hey, Dad. How are you?”
“That’s my question, sweetheart. I’m doing the same as usual. How ’bout you? What’s going on?”
I moved over to the nearest table and took a chair to help myself calm down. “I told you it wasn’t bad and you still sound worried. Did I wake you up?”
“It’s my job to worry,” he said, with warm amusement in his deep voice. “And I was gearing up for a run before I head in for the day, so no, you didn’t wake me. Tell me what your news is.”
“Uh…” Choked by tears, I swallowed hard. “Jesus, this is tougher than I thought it would be. I told Gideon it was Mom I was worried about, that you’d be okay with it, and here I am trying to–”
I took a deep breath. “Gideon and I eloped.”
The line went eerily quiet.
“When?” The scratch in his voice killed me.
“A couple weeks ago.”
“Before you came to see me?”
I cleared my throat. “Yes.”
Ah, God. Totally brutal. Only weeks ago I’d told him about Nathan’s abuse and that nearly broke him. Now this…
“Dad–You’re freaking me out. We were on this island and it was beautiful, so beautiful. The resort we were staying at does weddings all the time, they make it easy…like Las Vegas. There’s a full-time officiant and someone who handles the licenses. It was just a perfect moment, you know. The perfect opportunity.” My voice cracked. “Dad…please say something.”
“I…I don’t know what to say.”
A hot tear slid down my face. Mom had chosen wealth over love, and Gideon was a prime example of the type of man my mother had picked instead of my dad. I knew that created a bias my father had to overcome, and now we had this hurdle.
“We’re still having a wedding,” I told him. “We want our friends and family with us when we say our vows….”
“That’s what I was expecting, Eva.” He growled. “Damn it. I feel like Cross just stole something from me! I’m supposed to give you away, I was working up to that, and he just runs off and takes you? And you didn’t tell me? You were here, in my house, and you didn’t say anything to me? It hurts, Eva. It hurts.”
There was no way to stop the tears after that. They came in a hot flood, blurring my vision and closing my throat.
I jolted when the door to the break room opened and Will Granger walked in. “She’s probably in here,” my colleague said. “And there she–”
His voice trailed off when he saw my face, his eyes losing their smile behind his rectangular glasses.
A darkly clad arm shot in and brushed him aside.
Gideon. He filled the doorway, his eyes zeroing in on me and chilling to arctic. He was suddenly like an avenging angel, his fine suit making him look both capable and dangerous, his face hardened into a beautiful mask.
I blinked, my brain trying to process how and why he was there. Before it did, he was in front of me and my phone was in his hand, his gaze dropping to the screen before he lifted it to his ear.
“Victor.” My father’s name came out as a warning. “You seem to have upset Eva, so you’ll be talking to me now.”
Will backed out and shut the door.
Despite the cutting edge to Gideon’s words, the fingertips that brushed my cheek were infinitely gentle. His gaze was focused on me, the blue filled with icy fury that nearly made me shiver.
Holy fuck, was Gideon angry. And so was my dad. I could hear him shouting from where I sat.
I caught Gideon’s wrist, shaking my head, suddenly panicked that the two men I loved most would end up disliking–maybe even hating–each other.
“It’s okay,” I whispered. “I’m okay.”
His gaze narrowed and he mouthed, No, it’s not.
When he spoke to my father again, Gideon’s voice was firm and controlled–and all the more scary because of it. “You’ve got a right to be angry, and hurt, I’ll give you that. But I won’t have my wife twisted up over this…. No, obviously without children of my own, I can’t imagine.”
I strained to hear, hoping that reduction in volume meant my dad was calming down instead of getting more worked up.
Gideon stiffened suddenly, his hand dropping away from me. “No, I wouldn’t be happy about it if my sister eloped. That said, she’s not the one I’d take it out on….”
I winced. My husband and my father had that in common: They were both incredibly protective of those they loved.
“I’m available anytime, Victor. I’ll even come to you, if that’s what you need. When I married your daughter, I accepted full responsibility for both her and her happiness. If there are consequences to be faced, I have no problem facing them.”
His gaze narrowed as he listened.
Then Gideon took the seat opposite me, set the phone on the table, and turned on the speaker.
My dad’s voice filled the air. “Eva?”
I took a deep, shaky breath and squeezed the hand Gideon held out to me. “Yeah, I’m here, Dad.”
“Sweetheart…” He took a deep breath, too. “Don’t be upset, okay? I’m just…I need to let this sink in. I wasn’t expecting this and…I’ve got to put it together in my head. Can we talk later tonight? When I get off my shift?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Good.” He paused.
“I love you, Daddy.” The sound of my tears came through my voice and Gideon slid his chair closer, his thighs bracketing mine. It was amazing how much strength I drew from him, what a relief it was to have him to lean on. It was different from having Cary’s support. My best friend was a sounding board, cheerleader, and ass kicker. Gideon was a shield.
And I had to be strong enough to admit when I needed one.
“I love you, too, baby,” my dad said, with an aching note of pain and grief that stabbed me in the heart. “I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. I–” What else could I say? I was at a loss for how to fix things. “Bye.”
Gideon killed the call, then took my trembling hands in his. His eyes were locked on me, the ice melting into tenderness. “You will not be ashamed, Eva. Is that clear?”
I nodded. “I’m not.”
He cupped my face, his thumbs brushing away my tears. “I can’t bear to see you cry, angel.”
I forced back the lingering heartache, shoving it into a corner where I would deal with it later. “Why are you here? How did you know?”
“I came to thank you for the flowers,” he murmured.
“Oh. Do you like them?” I managed a smile. “I wanted to make you think of me.”
“All the time. Every minute.” He caught my hips and tugged me closer.
“You could’ve just sent a note.”
“Ah.” His ghost of smile made my pulse skip. “But that wouldn’t cover this.”
Gideon pulled me into his lap and kissed me senseless.
– posted March 11, 2016
We still heading home tonight? Cary texted as I waited for the elevator to take me back down to the lobby at noon. My mom was already waiting for me there and I was trying to pull my thoughts together. We had a lot of ground to cover.
God, I was hoping she could help me deal with it all.
That’s the plan, I replied to my beloved pain-in-the-ass-sometimes roommate, typing as I stepped into the car. I have an appt. after work, though, then dinner with Gideon. Might be late.
Dinner? U have to catch me up.
I smiled. Of course.
I exhaled in a rush, as if I’d been holding my breath. I guess in a way I had been.
I couldn’t blame Cary’s on-again, off-again boyfriend for taking a big step back when he’d learned that Cary’s booty-call girl was pregnant. Trey had already been struggling with Cary’s bisexuality, and now a baby meant there would always be a third person in their relationship.
There was no question that Cary should have committed to Trey sooner, instead of keeping his options open, but I understood the fear behind Cary’s actions. I knew all too well the thoughts that ran through your mind when you’d survived the things Cary and I had, yet still somehow found yourself faced with an amazing person who loved you.
When it was too good to be true, how could it possibly be real?
I sympathized with Trey, too, and if he called it quits, I’d respect that decision. But he was the best thing to happen to Cary in a long time. I was going to be extremely bummed if they didn’t make it. What did he say?
I’ll tell u when I see u.
Cary! That’s cruel.
It took him until I was walking through the lobby turnstiles to reply. Yeah, tell me about it.
My heart sank, because there was no way to interpret that as good news. Stepping aside to allow others to pass me, I typed back, I love you madly, Cary Taylor.
Love u 2, baby girl.
My mother crossed the space between us on delicately heeled sandals, a woman impossible to miss even amid the lunchtime crush of people heading in and out of the Crossfire. As petite as she was, Monica Stanton should’ve been lost in the sea of suits, but she drew too much attention for that to ever happen.
Charisma. Sensuality. Fragility. It was the bombshell combination that made Marilyn Monroe a star, and it exemplified my mother. Dressed in a navy blue sleeveless jumpsuit, Monica Stanton looked younger than her years and more confident than I knew her to be. The Cartier panthers hugging her throat and wrist told the observant she was expensive.
She came straight to me and wrapped me in a hug that took me by surprise.
“Are you okay?” Pulling back, she studied my face.
“What? Yes. Why?”
“Your father called.”
“Oh.” I looked at her warily. “He didn’t take the news well.”
“No, he didn’t.” As she linked her arm with mine, we headed out. “But he’s dealing with it. He wasn’t quite ready to let you go.”
“Because I remind him of you.” To my father, my mom was the one who got away. He still loved her, even after more than two decades apart.
“Nonsense, Eva. There’s a resemblance, but you’re much more interesting.”
That startled a laugh from me. “Gideon says I’m interesting.”
She smiled brightly, making the man passing her stumble over his own feet. “Of course. He’s a connoisseur of women. As gorgeous as you are, it would take more than beauty to get him to marry you.”
Slowing to a halt by the revolving doors, I let my mother go out first. A blast of muggy heat hit me when I joined her on the sidewalk, bringing an instant mist of perspiration to my skin. There were times when I doubted I’d ever get used to the humidity, but I considered it one of the costs of living in the city I loved so much. Spring had been beautiful and I knew fall would be, too. The perfect time of year to renew my vows with the man who owned me heart and soul.
I was thanking God for air-conditioning when I spotted Stanton’s head of security waiting by a black car at the curb.
Benjamin Clancy greeted me with an easy, confident nod. His demeanor was so business-as-usual, while I felt such gratitude for him it was hard to restrain myself from grabbing and kissing him.
Gideon had killed Nathan to protect me. Clancy had made sure Gideon would never pay for it.
“Hey, you,” I said to him, seeing my smile reflected in his mirrored aviator shades.
“Eva. It’s good to see you.”
“I was just thinking the same about you.”
He didn’t smile outwardly; it wasn’t his way. But I could feel it nonetheless.
My mom slid in first, and then I joined her in the backseat. Before Clancy even rounded the trunk of the car, she was shifting to face me and reaching for my hand. “Don’t worry about your father. He’s got that quick Latin temper, but it never lasts long. All he really wants is to make sure you’re happy.”
I squeezed her fingers gently. “I know. But I really, really want Dad and Gideon to get along.”
“They’re two very headstrong men, honey. They’re going to clash occasionally.”
She wasn’t wrong. I wanted to dream about the two of them hanging out the way guys did, bonding over sports or cars, with all the playful ribbing and back slapping that usually accompanied that sort of thing. But I had to work with reality, whatever that turned out to be.
“You’re right,” I conceded. “They’re both big boys. They’ll figure it out.” Hopefully.
“Of course they will.”
With a sigh, I glanced out the window. “I think I’ve come up with a solution for Corinne Giroux.”
There was a pause. “Eva, you have got to put that woman out of your mind. By giving her any thought at all, you’re giving her power she doesn’t deserve.”
“We allowed her to become a problem by being so secretive.” I looked back at my mother. “The world has a tremendous appetite for all things Gideon. He’s gorgeous, rich, sexy, and brilliant. People want to know everything about him, but he’s guarded his privacy to such an extreme degree that they know next to nothing. That’s given Corinne this opening to write her biography about her time with Gideon.”
She gave me a wary look. “What are you thinking?”
Digging into my bag, I pulled out a small tablet. “We need more of this.”
I flipped the screen around, showing her the image of Gideon and me that had been taken just hours before as we’d stood in front of the Crossfire. The manner in which he gripped me by the nape was both tender and possessive, while the way my face tilted up to him revealed my love and adoration. It made my stomach turn to see such a private moment spread out for the world to ogle, but I had to get over it. I had to give them more.
“Gideon and I need to stop hiding,” I explained. “We need to be seen. We spend too much time shut in. The public wants the billionaire playboy who’s finally becoming Prince Charming. They want fairy tales, Mom, and happy endings. I need to give people the story they want and by doing so, I’m going to make Corinne and her book look pathetic.”
My mother’s shoulders went back. “That’s a horrible idea.”
“No, it’s not.”
“It’s terrible, Eva! You don’t trade hard-earned privacy for anything. If you feed that public hunger, it will just get larger. For God’s sake, you don’t want to become a tabloid fixture!”
My jaw set. “It won’t play out that way.”
“Why would you risk it?” Her voice rose and became shrill. “Because of Corinne Giroux? Her book will come and go in the blink of an eye, but you’ll never get rid of the attention once you invite it!”
“I don’t get you. There’s no way to be married to Gideon and not get attention! I might as well take control and set the stage myself.”
“There’s a difference between being prominent and being a TMZ headline!”
I growled inwardly. “I think you’re taking the drama to the extreme.”
She shook her head. “I’m telling you, this is the wrong way to handle the situation. Have you discussed this with Gideon? I can’t see him agreeing to this.”
I stared at her, truly startled by her response. I’d thought she would be all for it, considering how she felt about marrying well and what that entailed.
That was when I saw the fear tightening her mouth and shadowing her eyes.
“Mom.” I softened my voice, mentally kicking myself for not putting it together sooner. “We don’t have to worry about Nathan anymore.”
She returned my stare. “No,” she agreed, not the least bit soothed. “But having everything you’ve done . . . everything you’ve said or decided dissected for the entertainment of the world could be its own nightmare.”
“I’m not going to allow other people to dictate how I and my marriage are perceived!” I was tired of feeling like a . . . victim. I wanted to be the one on the offensive.
“Eva, you’re not—”
“Either give me an alternative that doesn’t involve sitting around doing nothing or drop the subject, Mom.” I turned my head away. “We’re not going to agree and I’m not changing my mind without a different game plan on the table.”
She made a frustrated noise, then fell silent.
My fingers flexed with the need to text Gideon and vent. He had once told me I would excel at crisis management. He’d suggested I lend my talents to Cross Industries as a fixer.
Why not start with something more intimate and important instead?
– posted March 27, 2016
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