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 in the world to dictate how I and my marriage are perceived!” I was tired of feeling like a … victim. I wanted to be the one to go 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?
“More flowers?” Arash Madani drawled as he strolled into my office through the open glass double doors.
My lead attorney walked over to where Eva’s white roses decorated the main seating area. I’d had them placed on the coffee table in my direct line of sight. There, they had been successfully drawing my attention away from the stock tickers streaming on the wall of flat screens behind them.
The card that accompanied the flowers sat on the smoked glass of my desk and I fingered it, rereading the words for the hundredth time.
Arash pulled a rose out and lifted it to his nose. “What’s the secret to getting sent some of these?”
I sat back, absently noting that his emerald-hued tie matched the jeweled decanters decorating the bar. Until his arrival, the brightly colored carafes and Eva’s red vase had been the only spots of color in the monochromatic expanse of my office. “The right woman.”
He returned the flower to its vase. “Go ahead, Cross, rub it in.”
“I prefer to gloat quietly. Do you have something for me?”
Approaching my desk, he grinned in a way that told me he loved his job, although I never doubted it. His predatory instincts were nearly as highly developed as my own.
“The Morgan deal is coming together nicely.” Adjusting his tailored slacks, he settled into one of the two chairs facing my desk. His style was slightly flashier than mine but couldn’t be faulted. “We’ve ironed out the bigger points. Still finessing some clauses, but we should be ready to proceed by next week.”
“You are a man of few words.” Casually, he asked, “You up for getting together this weekend?”
I shook my head. “Eva may want to go out. If so, I’ll try to talk her out of it.”
Arash laughed. “I gotta tell you, I expected you to settle down at some point—we all do, eventually—but I thought I’d have some warning.”
“So did I.” Which wasn’t quite the truth. I never expected to share my life with anyone. I’d never denied that my past shadowed my present, but I saw no need to share that history with anyone before Eva. It couldn’t be changed, so why rehash it?
Standing, I walked to one of the two floor-to-ceiling walls of windows framing my office and took in the urban splendor sprawling beyond the glass.
I hadn’t known Eva was out there, had been afraid to even dream of finding the one person in the world who would accept and love every facet of me.
How was it possible that I’d found her here, in Manhattan, at the very building I’d had built against sound advice and at great risk? Too expensive, they’d said, and unnecessary. But I’d needed the Cross name to be memorable and mentioned in a different way. My father had dragged our name through the mud; I’d lifted it to the heights of the most relevant city in the world.
“You showed no sign at all you were leaning that way,” Arash said behind me. “If I remember correctly, you tagged two women when we blew out Cinco de Mayo, and a few weeks later you’re telling me to draft an insane prenup.”
I surveyed the city, taking a rare moment to appreciate the hawk’s-eye view afforded me by the height and position of my office in the Crossfire Building. “When have you known me to delay sealing a deal?”
“It’s one thing to expand your portfolio, another to reboot your life overnight.” He chuckled. “So what are your plans, then? Breaking in the new beach house?”
“An excellent idea.” Taking my wife back to the Outer Banks was my goal. Having her all to myself had been heaven. I was happiest when I was alone with her. She revitalized me, made me anticipate living in a way I never had before.