“All right. But first I need to understand what’s happened.” He sat in his chair. “I’m not going to be much use to you if I don’t know what’s going on.”
I pointed a finger at him. “Don’t play your head games with me, Doc. Not today.”
“I think I’m being as reasonable as you are,” he said smoothly. “I want you to work things out with Eva, too. I think you know that.”
Exhaling in a rush, I sank onto the edge of the sofa, then dropped my head into my hands. It was throbbing viciously, pounding front and back.
“You’re fighting with Eva,” he said.
“When’s the last time you spoke with her?”
I swallowed hard. “Sunday.”
“What happened on Sunday?”
I told him. It came out in a rush that had him scribbling frantically on his tablet. The words spewed out in an angry purge, leaving me feeling wiped out and exhausted.
He continued to write for a few moments after I finished, and then his gaze lifted to my face. I saw compassion and it tightened my throat.
“You cost Eva her job,” he pointed out, “a job she’s told us both that she enjoys very much. You can see why she’d be upset with you, can’t you?”
“Yeah, I get it. But I had valid reasons. Reasons she understands. That’s what I don’t get. She understands and she’s still cutting me off.”
“I’m not sure I understand why you didn’t discuss this with Eva beforehand. Can you explain that to me?”
I rubbed at the back of my neck, where the tension felt like steel cables. “She would’ve stewed over it,” I muttered. “It would’ve taken her time to come around. In the meantime, I’m trying to manage a ton of other shit. We’re getting hit from all sides.”
“I saw the news about Corinne Giroux’s book about you.”
“Oh, yeah.” My mouth curved grimly. “She probably got the idea from Six-Ninth’s ‘Golden’ video. Landon got to Eva through a hole in my guard. I couldn’t risk giving him another opening while I was distracted with everything else Eva and I are dealing with right now.”
Dr. Petersen nodded. “You’re facing a lot of pressure. Don’t you trust Eva to help you reach the decisions you’re making? You have to know that her conflicts with her mother often stem from not being consulted before actions are taken.”
“I know that.” I tried to articulate my chaotic thoughts. “But I need to take care of her. After what she’s lived through . . .”
My eyes squeezed shut. Knowing what she’d suffered was almost too much for me to think about sometimes. “I have to be strong for her. Make the tough calls.”
“Gideon, you’re one of the strongest men I know,” he said quietly.
I opened my eyes and looked at him. “You haven’t seen me the way she has.”
Crying like a child. Brutalized by memories. Masturbating while unconscious. Violent in my sleep. Weak, so weak. Helpless.
“Do you think she doubts you because you’ve let her see you vulnerable? That doesn’t sound like Eva to me.”
My eyes stung. “You don’t know everything. You just . . . You don’t know.”
“But Eva does. And she married you anyway. She loves you—very much—anyway.” He offered a kind smile that somehow slashed like a blade, cutting me open. “You asked me once if relationships were about compromise. Do you remember that?”
I jerked a nod.
“That compromise means you don’t always have to be the strong one, Gideon. You can do the heavy lifting on occasion, and you can let Eva do it sometimes. Marriage isn’t about whether you’re strong enough as an individual. It’s about how strong you are together and the luxury of taking turns carrying the load.”
“I . . .” My head bowed again. Eva had said the same thing. “I’m trying. I swear to God, I’m trying.”
“I know you are.”
“She has to take me back. She has to come back. I need her. She’s killing me right now. She’s ripping me apart.” I stared at my hands, at the rings she’d given me that made me hers. “What do I do? Tell me what to do.”
“Eva is going to want to know that you’re willing to change. She’ll want to see you taking steps to demonstrate that. You won’t face these big decisions too often, so she may adopt a wait-and-see attitude. That will be hard for you, I think. Very hard.”
I nodded slowly, but I couldn’t wait anymore. If Eva needed proof that I’d do anything to keep her, I would give it to her.
My hands clenched into fists. My gaze stayed on the carpet between my feet. “I was—” I cleared my throat. “The therapist. The one I had when I was a child.”
“He . . . he molested me. For nearly a year. He . . . raped me.”
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 f**ked 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 f**king 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 f**king 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.