More tears fell. “God. I’m a mess.” She kissed me again. “And you have to work. But you can’t stay late. I’m going to have fun helping you into your tux—and out of it.”

I let her go when she slid away and stood, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her.


She crossed the room and disappeared into the bathroom. I sat there, not sure I had the strength to stand yet. She weakened my knees, made my pulse race too hard and fast.

“Gideon.” My mother pushed into my office, Scott hot on her heels. “I need to talk to you.”

I rose to my feet and gave a nod to Scott. He retreated, closing the door. The warmth from Eva bled away, leaving me feeling empty and cold as I faced my mother.

She wore dark jeans that fit her like a second skin and a loose shirt she’d tucked in at the waist. Her long black hair was pulled back in a ponytail and her face was bare. Most who saw her would simply see a stunning woman who looked younger than her years. I knew her to be as worn and weary as Chris was. No makeup, no jewelry. It wasn’t like her.

“This is a surprise,” I said, moving into position behind my desk. “What brings you into the city?”

“I just left Corinne.” She marched right up to my desk and remained standing, much as Deanna had only hours before her. “She’s in pieces over that interview you gave yesterday. Completely destroyed. You have to go see her. Talk to her.”

I stared at her, unable to comprehend the way her mind worked. “Why would I do that?”

“For God’s sake,” she snapped, looking at me like I’d lost my mind. “You need to apologize. You said some very hurtful things—”

“I told the truth, which is likely more than can be said about that book she’s publishing.”

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“She didn’t know you had a history with that woman … that ghostwriter. She told her editor she couldn’t work with that person as soon as she found out.”

“I don’t care who writes the book. A different author won’t change the fact that Corinne’s violating my privacy and putting something out in the world with the potential to hurt my wife.”

Her chin lifted. “I can’t even talk about your wife, Gideon. I’m upset—no. I’m furious that you would get married without your family, your friends. Doesn’t that tell you anything? That you had to do something so important without the blessing of the people who love you?”

“Are you implying that no one would’ve approved?” My arms crossed. “That’s certainly not true, but even if it were, choosing someone to spend your life with isn’t decided with a majority rule. Eva and I married privately because it was intimate and personal and didn’t need to be shared.”

“But you shared the news with the world?! Before you shared it with your family! I can’t believe you could be so thoughtless and insensitive. You need to make things right,” she said vehemently. “You have to be responsible for the pain you inflict on others. I didn’t raise you this way. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.”

I caught movement behind her and saw Eva fill the doorway of the bathroom, her face hard with rage, her hands clenched into fists at her sides. I gave her a curt shake of my head, my gaze narrowing with warning. She’d fought this battle enough for me. It was my turn, and I was finally ready.

I hit the controls to opaque the glass. “You don’t get to lecture me about inflicting pain or feeling disappointed, Mother.”

Her head snapped back as if I’d slapped her face. “Don’t take that tone with me.”

“You knew what was done to me. And you did nothing.”

“We’re not talking about this again.” She slashed her hand through the air.

“When have we ever talked about it?” I bit out. “I told you, but at no point were you open to discussing it.”

“Don’t make this my fault!”

“I was raped.”

The words lashed out and hung in the air, sharp as a blade and raw.

My mother jerked back.

Eva reached blindly for the doorjamb and gripped it hard.

Taking a deep breath to regain a modicum of control, I drew strength from my wife’s presence. “I was raped,” I said again, my voice calmer. Steadier. “For close to a year, every week. A man you invited into your home fondled me. Sodomized me. Over and over again.”

“Don’t.” She breathed harshly, her chest heaving. “Don’t say those ugly, awful things.”

“It happened. Repeatedly. While you were only a few rooms away. He’d be nearly panting with excitement when he showed up. He’d stare at me with this sick gleam in his eyes. And you couldn’t see it. Refused to see it.”

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