As my stepfather had loved her—inordinately.

“I’ve tried calling Stanton,” I said, “but I just get his voice mail.”


“Me, too.” Cary rubbed at his unshaven jaw. “I hope he’s okay, but I realize he’s probably not.”

“I think it might be a while before any of us are okay.”

We settled into comfortable silence for a moment. Then Cary spoke. “I was talking to your dad this morning, before we headed to the airport, about his plans to move to New York.”

My nose wrinkled. “I would love to have him near, but I can’t help thinking how bizarre it would be if he worked for Gideon.”

He nodded slowly. “You have a point.”

“What do you think?”

He shifted his body to face me. “Well, just the pregnancy part of having a kid has changed my life, right? So, multiply that by twenty-four years in your case, and I’d say a loving parent would do just about anything to make things better for their child.”

Yep, something had definitely shifted for Cary. Sometimes, you just needed a hard jolt to bump you in the right direction. For Cary, that was the thought of being a father. For me, it had been meeting Gideon. And for Gideon, it had been the possibility of losing me.

“Anyway,” Cary went on, “he was saying that Gideon offered him a housing allowance and he was thinking he’d like to stay in the apartment with me.”

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“Wow. Okay.” There was a lot to process there. One, my dad was obviously taking the idea of working for Gideon in New York seriously. Two, my best friend was thinking about living separately from me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. “I’d been worried Dad would have a hard time using that room after him and my mom … you know.”

I didn’t think I could stay in the penthouse if I didn’t have Gideon. Too much had happened between us there. I didn’t know if I could handle remembering what I no longer had.

“Yeah, I’d wondered about that, too.” Cary reached out and touched my shoulder, a simple comforting touch. “But you know, memories are all that Victor has ever really had of Monica.”

I nodded. My dad had to have wondered more than once over the years if the love had always been one-sided. After that afternoon with my mom, maybe he realized that wasn’t true. That’d be a good memory to hold on to.

“So you’re thinking about staying there,” I said. “Mom told me she’d offered you that option.”

He gave me a smile tinged with melancholy. “I’m considering it, yes. Kinda makes it easier if your dad’s going to be there, too. I warned him it was likely there’d be a baby around now and then. I got the impression he might like that.”

Looking back into the house, I saw my dad making silly faces to amuse my baby cousin. He was the only one of his siblings to have just one child, and I was an adult.

I frowned as I watched Gideon walk to the front entrance. Where was he going with an apron tied around his denim-clad hips? He opened the front door and stood unmoving for a long minute. I realized someone must have knocked, but I couldn’t see because Gideon was blocking my view. Finally, he stepped aside.

Cary looked over to see where my attention was and scowled. “What’s he doing here?”

As Gideon’s brother walked in, I wondered the same thing. Then Ireland appeared behind him, holding a gift bag.

“What’s up with the gift?” Cary asked. “An unreturnable wedding present?”

“No.” I noticed the design on the bag, which was definitely too colorful and festive for a wedding. “It’s a birthday present.”

“Oh, shit,” Cary muttered. “I totally forgot about that.”

When Gideon closed the door without his mother making an appearance, I realized Elizabeth was a no-show on her firstborn’s birthday. A potent mix of sympathy and pain swamped me and caused my fists to clench.

What the fuck was wrong with that woman? Gideon hadn’t heard from his mother since confronting her in his office. Considering what the day was, I couldn’t believe she could be so thoughtless.

It made me realize I wasn’t the only one who’d lost a mother in the past few days.

Chris stood and went to his children, hugging Christopher while Ireland hugged my husband. She smiled up at him, offering the bag. He took it and turned, gesturing toward where I stood on the deck.

Fresh and lovely in a delicately printed sundress, Ireland joined us outside. “Wow, Eva. This place is choice.”

I hugged her. “You like it?”

“What’s not to like?” Ireland hugged Cary, and then her lovely face sobered. “I’m really sorry about your mom, Eva.”

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