The smile she beamed at me was its own reward.
“I was thinking we could ask Cary to take some candid photos of us this weekend,” she said. “Some moments that are more personal and casual than red carpet photo ops. We can sell the ones we like best to the media and donate the proceeds to Crossroads.”
The charitable foundation I’d established had plenty of funding, but I understood that raising money was a side benefit to Eva’s plan to mitigate the impact of Corinne’s tell-all book. Because I regretted the pain the situation was bound to cause my wife, I was prepared to support her in whatever way she needed, but that didn’t mean I wouldn’t fight for a weekend alone with her.
“We can make it a day trip,” I suggested, beginning the negotiation at the extreme, which gave me room to whittle down. “We can spend Friday night through Sunday morning in North Carolina, then spend Sunday in Westport.”
“Go from North Carolina to Connecticut to Manhattan in a day? Are you nuts?”
“Friday night through Saturday night, then.”
“We can’t be alone like that, Gideon,” she said softly, setting her hand over mine. “We need to follow Dr. Petersen’s advice for a while. I think we need to spend some time dating, going out in public, figuring out how to take care of … issues without using sex as a crutch.”
I stared at her. “You’re not saying we can’t have sex.”
“Just until we’re married. It won’t be—”
“Eva, we’re already married. You can’t ask me to keep my hands off you.”
“I am asking.”
Her mouth twitched. “You can’t say no.”
“You can’t say no,” I countered, my heart beginning to pound. My palms grew damp, a low-grade panic beginning to set in. It was irrational, infuriating. “You want me as much as I want you.”
She touched my face. “I sometimes think I want you more, and I’m okay with that. But Dr. Petersen’s right. We moved so fast and we’ve been hitting all the speed bumps at a hundred miles per hour. I feel like we have this little window of time when we can slow down. Just for a few weeks, until the wedding.”
“A few weeks? Christ, Eva.” I pulled away, running my hand through my hair. Turning my head, I looked out the window. My mind was racing. What did this mean? Why would she ask?
How the fuck was I going to talk her out of it?
I felt her slide closer, then curl up against me.
Her voice lowered to a whisper. “Weren’t you the one who brought up the benefits of delayed gratification?”
I shot her a look. “And how well did that turn out?”
That night was one of the bigger mistakes I’d made in our relationship. The evening started out so strong, and then Corinne’s unexpected appearance threw everything off, spurring one of the worst arguments Eva and I ever had—an argument made more volatile by the seething sexual tension I’d deliberately stoked and held off on satisfying.
“We were different people then.” Eva drew back, her gray eyes clear as they held mine. “You’re not the same man who ignored me at that dinner.”
“I didn’t ignore you.”
“And I’m not the same woman,” she pushed on. “Yes, seeing Corinne today made me a little twitchy, but I know she’s not a threat. I know you’re committed …. We’re committed. That’s why we can do this.”
The spread of my legs widened as I stretched out. “I don’t want to.”
“I don’t either. But I think it’s a good idea.” Her mouth softened with a smile. “It’s old-fashioned and romantic to wait ’til the wedding night. Think how hot the sex will be when we do it.”
“Eva, we don’t need our sex life to be any hotter.”
“We need it to be something we do for fun, not because we’re counting on it to hold us together.”
“It’s both, and there’s nothing wrong with that.” She might as well have asked me not to eat, which I would’ve been more inclined to agree to, given the choice.
“Gideon … we have something amazing together. It’s worth the effort to make us rock solid in every way.”
I shook my head. It pissed me off that I was feeling anxious. It was a loss of control and I couldn’t have that with her. It wasn’t what she needed.
Leaning forward, I put my lips to her ear. “Angel, if you’re not missing the feel of my cock inside you, I need to step it up, not hold back.”
Her shiver made me smile inwardly. Still, she whispered, “Please try. For me.”