“Don’t be what I need. Not now.”
Those fiercely blue eyes snapped open, pinning me so thoroughly that I paused midstep. “I’m hanging on by a thread, Eva.”
“You don’t have to hang on,” I told him, holding my hands out to him. “Let go. I’ll catch you.”
“No.” He shook his head. “I can’t . . . I can’t be gentle.”
“You want to touch me.”
His jaw worked. “I want to f**k you. Hard.”
I felt the heat sweep up to my cheeks. It was a testament to how much he wanted me that he could still find me desirable despite my ridiculous clothes. “I’m totally up for that. Always.”
My fingers went to the lapels of my coat. I’d partially buttoned up on the cab ride over, not wanting to flash anyone by accident. Now the trench was sweltering, my skin damp with perspiration.
Gideon lunged and caught my wrists, squeezing them too hard. “Don’t.”
“You don’t think I can handle you? After all we’ve done together? All we’ve talked about and plan on doing?”
God. His entire body was straining, tense, every muscle thick and hard. And his eyes, so bright against his tanned skin, so agonized. My Dark and Dangerous.
He gripped my elbow and started walking.
“What—?” I stumbled.
He dragged me toward the elevator. “You have to go.”
“No!” I struggled, kicking off my flip-flops and digging my feet in.
“Damn it.” He rounded on me and yanked me up, facing me nose to nose. “I can’t promise to stop. If I take you too far and you safe word, I might not stop and this—us—will all go to hell!”
“Gideon! For chrissakes, don’t be afraid to want me too much!”
“I want to punish you,” he snarled, gripping my face in both hands. “You did this! You brought this on. Pushing people . . . pushing me. Look what you’ve done!”
I smelled the liquor on him then, the rich vapor of some expensive spirit. I’d never seen him truly drunk—he valued his control too much to completely dull his senses—but he was drunk now.
The first hint of wariness rippled through me.
“Yes,” I said shakily, “this is my fault. I love you too much. Will you punish me for that?”
“God.” He closed his eyes. His hot, damp forehead touched mine, nuzzling hard. His sweat coated my skin, imprinting me with the lushly masculine scent that was his alone.
I felt him soften, relaxing infinitesimally. I turned my head and pressed my lips to his feverish cheek.
He stiffened. “No.”
Gideon pulled me toward the elevator, yanking me into the foyer and kicking the scattered contents of my purse out of the way.
“Stop it!” I yelled, trying to tug my arm free.
But he wouldn’t listen. His finger stabbed at the call button. The car doors opened instantly, the private elevator always waiting to take him down. He threw me in and I stumbled into the rear wall.
Desperate, I yanked at the belt of my coat, my urgency giving me strength. I tore at the buttons, sending them rolling in every direction. The doors were closing when I spun to face him, holding the lapels of my coat wide open so he could see what I was wearing beneath.
His arm shot out, blocking the door from closing. He shoved it open. The teddy I’d worn was bloodred—our color—and had scarcely any material to it at all. Sheer mesh exposed my br**sts and sex, while bandagelike cutouts caged my waist.
“Bitch,” he hissed, stalking into the confined space, shrinking it too small. “You can’t stop pushing.”
“I’m your bitch,” I shot back, feeling the tears well and fall. It was painful to have him so angry with me, even though I understood. He needed an outlet and I’d positioned myself as the target. He’d warned me . . . tried to protect me . . . “I can take you, Gideon Cross. I can take whatever you’ve got.”
He tackled me back into the wall so hard the impact knocked the breath from me. His mouth covered mine, his tongue plunging deep. His hands squeezed my br**sts roughly, his knee pressing hard between my legs.
I arched into him, fighting to shrug off my coat. I was too hot, sweat sliding down my back and belly. Gideon wrenched the trench off, tossing it aside, his mouth sealed to mine. A moan of gratitude escaped me, my arms wrapping around his neck, my heart swelling with the relief of holding him. My fingers pushed into his hair, my grip tightening to give me leverage to crawl up him.
Gideon tore his mouth away, then my hands. “Don’t touch me.”
“Fuck you,” I snapped, too hurt to hold the words back. Just to spite him, I broke free of his grip and let my hands roam over his rock-hard shoulders and biceps.
He pushed me back, holding me to the wall with a single hand against the middle of my chest. No matter how I shoved or scratched at his steely arm, I couldn’t budge him. I could only watch as he yanked the drawstring free of his sweats.
Desire and apprehension twisted together inside me. “Gideon . . . ?”
His gaze met mine, so dark and haunted. “Can you keep your hands off me?”
“No. I don’t want to.”
With a nod, he released me, only to spin me around to face the rear of the car. Caged by his body, I had little room to maneuver.
“Don’t fight me,” he ordered, his lips to my ear.
Then he tied my wrists to the handrail.
I froze, startled that he was actually restraining me. So surprised and disbelieving that I barely struggled. It was only after I watched him knot the thin cord that I realized he was serious.
Gripping my hips, he nuzzled my hair aside and sank his teeth into my shoulder. “I say when.”
I gasped, tugging at my hands. “What are you doing?”
He didn’t answer me.
He just left.
Twisting around as much as I was able, I caught him walking into the living room just as the doors slid shut.
“Oh my God,” I breathed. “You wouldn’t.”
I couldn’t believe he’d send me away like this . . . tied up in the elevator in only lingerie. He was presently screwed up in the head, yes, but I couldn’t believe my wildly jealous husband would expose me that way, to whoever might be in the lobby, just to get rid of me.
“Gideon! Goddamn it. Don’t you dare leave me in here like this! Do you hear me?! Get your ass back in here!”
I wrenched at the cord binding my wrists, but it was knotted tight. Seconds passed, then minutes. The car didn’t move and after screaming myself hoarse, I realized it wouldn’t. It waited for the push of a button, standing by for Gideon’s command.
Just like I was.
I was going to kick his f**king ass when I got loose. I’d never been so pissed. “Gideon!”
Bending over, I walked backward, then lifted and stretched one leg to reach the button that opened the doors. I pushed it with my big toe. As they slid open, I sucked in a deep breath to scream . . .
. . . then promptly lost it in a startled rush.
Gideon strode through the living room toward the foyer . . . completely naked. And drenched from head to toe. His c**k was so hard it curved up to his navel. His head was tipped back as he guzzled bottled water, his stride loose and easy, yet entirely predatory.
I straightened as he drew closer, panting from both the riot of my emotions and the depth of my hunger. Asshole or not, I wanted him with a ferocity I couldn’t fight. He was complicated and sexy, damaged and perfect.
“Here.” He brought a crystal tumbler to my lips that I hadn’t noticed because I’d been too busy ogling his magnificent body. The glass was nearly full, the reddish-gold liquid sloshing against my lips as he tipped it.
My mouth opened by instinct and he poured the liquor in, the potent proof burning my tongue and throat. I coughed and he waited, his gaze heavy-lidded. He smelled clean and cool, refreshed from a shower.
“It’s too strong!” I protested.
He simply poured another large swallow past my parted lips.
I kicked at him, cursing when I hurt my foot—and didn’t do any damage to him at all. “Stop it!”
He dropped the empty water bottle and cupped my face in his hand. His thumb brushed away the drops of liquor on my chin. “You need to let me settle, and you need to mellow out. We go at it like this, we’ll tear each other apart.”
A stupid tear slipped out of the corner of my eye.
Gideon groaned and bent toward me, his tongue licking the trail of the droplet off my cheek. “I’m shattered and you’re beating at me with your fists. I can’t take it, Eva.”
“I can’t take you shutting me out,” I whispered, tugging at the damned cord. The liquor was spreading fire through my veins. I could feel the tendrils of intoxication curling around my senses already.
He put his hand over mine, stilling my restless movements. “Stop that. You’ll hurt yourself.”
“Cut me loose.”
“You touch me and I can’t keep it together. I’m hanging by a thread,” he said again, sounding desperate. “I can’t snap. Not with you.”
“With someone else?” My voice became shrill. “You need someone else?”
I couldn’t keep it together, either. Gideon was the rock in our relationship, the anchor. I thought I could be the same for him. I wanted to shelter him, be his haven. But Gideon didn’t need shelter from the storm; he was the storm. And I wasn’t strong enough to bear up under the weight of his crashing mood.
“No. Christ.” He kissed me. Hard. “You need me in control. I need to be in control when I’m with you.”
I felt the panic building. He knew. He knew I wasn’t enough. “You were different with the others. You didn’t hold back—”
“Fuck!” Gideon spun away, slamming his fist into the control panel. The doors opened to the sound of Sarah McLachlan singing about possession and he threw the tumbler, shattering it against the foyer wall. “Yes, I was different! You made me different.”
“And you hate me for that.” I started crying, my body sagging into the car wall.
“No.” He wrapped himself around me, his water-chilled body curving over my back. He rubbed his face against me, his embrace so tight I could barely breathe. “I love you. You’re my wife. My goddamn life. You’re everything.”
“I just want to help you,” I cried. “I want to be here for you, but you won’t let me!”
“God. Eva.” His hands began to move, to pet and glide. To stroke. To soothe. “I can’t stop you. I need you too much.”
I gripped the handrail with both hands, my cheek pressed to the cool mirror. The liquor began to work its magic. A heated languor slid through me, drowning my anger and what fight I had left until they drifted away, leaving me sad and afraid and so desperately, terrifyingly in love.
His hand pushed between my legs, rubbing, searching. With a forceful tug, he opened the snaps that held the front and back of the teddy together. I moaned at the sudden release of pressure. My sex was wet and swollen from the skilled movements of his hands and the image in my mind of the way he’d looked walking toward me.
My head fell back against his shoulder and I saw his reflection. His eyes were closed, his lips parted. The vulnerability etched on his gorgeous face undid me. He was hurting so badly. I couldn’t bear it.
“Tell me what I can do,” I whispered. “Tell me how to help.”
“Shh.” His tongue rimmed the shell of my ear. “Let me settle.”
The featherlight stroke of his thumb over the mesh covering my nipple was driving me mad. The slide of his fingers between the slick folds of my cleft had me quivering. He knew where to touch me, how much pressure.