Gideon unfolded and rounded his desk, opening a drawer to withdraw a paper-clipped sheaf of paper. “Angus and Raúl both agreed to let me share their salaries with you. I’ve also laid out what you can expect, to start.”

“I can’t believe this,” I complained. “You were this far along and didn’t say anything to me?”


“I worked on it earlier this morning. It hasn’t come up before now and I wasn’t going to say anything unless your father mentioned moving to the city.”

And that was Gideon Cross: He never missed a trick.

My dad took the papers, perused the top sheet, then looked at Gideon incredulously. “Is this for real?”

“Consider that Angus has been with me for more years of my life than not. He also has considerable covert and military training. In short, he’s earned it.” Gideon watched as my dad flipped the page. “Raúl has been with me a shorter amount of time, so he’s not where Angus is—yet. But he also has a broad range of training and skills.”

My dad exhaled in a rush when he flipped to the next page. “Okay. This is …”

“More than you were likely expecting, but that spreadsheet gives you the info you need to gauge the offered compensation compared to my other chiefs. You can see that it’s fair. It’s predicated on the expectation that you will consent to further training and attain the necessary permits, licenses, and registrations.”

I watched my dad’s shoulders go back and his chin lift, the stubborn line of his mouth softening. Whatever he saw, he was taking as a challenge. “All right.”

“You’ll note that a housing allowance is included,” Gideon continued, in full-on mogul mode despite his matter-of-fact tone. “If you would like, there’s a unit next door to Eva’s former apartment that’s available and furnished.”

I caught my lower lip between my teeth, knowing he was talking about the apartment he’d kept while Nathan was a threat. We had met there clandestinely for weeks while keeping up the façade that we were no longer together.

-- Advertisement --

“I’ll think about it,” my dad said.

“Another thing to think about,” Gideon began, “is the reality of your daughter being my wife. Certainly we would be mindful of your personal role in Eva’s life and be respectful of that. But respecting your place as her father means we won’t be brazen. It doesn’t mean we won’t be intimate.”

Oh my God. My shoulders hunched with embarrassment. I glared at Gideon. So did my dad.

It took my father a long minute to unclench his jaw and respond. “I’ll keep that in mind while I’m thinking things over.”

Gideon gave a brisk nod. “All right. Was there anything else we needed to cover?”

My dad shook his head. “Not right now.”

I crossed my arms, knowing I’d have more to say at some point.

“You know where to find me, angel, when you’re ready to tear into me.” My husband offered his hand to me. “In the meantime, let’s get some food into you.”

Dr. Petersen showed up around three, looking a little rattled. Getting through the throng on the sidewalk to enter the lobby had obviously been a trial. Gideon introduced him to everyone as I watched, trying to judge his reaction to meeting the people he’d heard such intimate things about.

He spoke to me briefly, offering his condolences. He’d liked my mother and often was somewhat indulgent about her neurotic behavior, to my frustration. I could tell he was affected by her loss, which made me wonder how I came across to him. Evidently, he couldn’t quite tell. I struggled to answer his questions about how I was doing.

He talked with Gideon for a much longer time, retreating with my husband to the dining room, where they spoke in hushed tones.

But not for long. Gideon turned toward me and I understood their talk was over. I accompanied Dr. Petersen to the foyer and saw him out, but not before I spotted my clutch on an end table.

When I retrieved my phone, I saw the dozens of missed calls and texts. Megumi, Will, Shawna, Dr. Travis … even Brett. I opened my messages and started to send out replies when the phone vibrated in my hand with an incoming call. I saw the name of the caller, looked up at Cary and found him talking with my dad, then headed down the hall to the bedroom.

Through the slender windows, I could see how far the afternoon had progressed. It would be dark in a few hours and the first day without my mom would be over.

“Hi, Trey.”

“Eva. I … I probably shouldn’t be intruding at a time like this, but I saw the news and I was calling you before I thought about it being a bad idea. I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am.”

-- Advertisement --