My mouth curved at the quick bite of ice in his words. Gideon wasn’t a man used to being denied what he wanted. But as much as he’d hated being deprived of access to me, we were together now because that deprivation drove him forward. “I know. And you let me, because you love me.”
“It’s more than love.” His hands banded my wrists, tightening in the authoritative way that made everything inside me surrender.
I nodded, no longer afraid to admit that we needed each other to a degree some would consider unhealthy. It was who we were, what we had. And it was precious.
“We’ll drive to Dr. Petersen’s together.” He said the words with unmistakable command, but his gaze searched mine as if he’d asked a question.
“You’re so bossy,” I teased, wanting us to leave each other feeling good. Hopeful. Our weekly therapy appointment with Dr. Lyle Petersen was only hours away, and it couldn’t have been more opportunely scheduled. We’d turned a corner. We could use a little help in figuring what our next steps should be from here.
His hands circled my waist. “You love it.”
I reached for the hem of his shirt, fisting the soft jersey. “I love you.”
“Eva.” His shuddered breath gusted hot on my neck. Manhattan surrounded us but couldn’t intrude. When we were together, there was nothing else.
A low sound of hunger left me. I yearned for and craved him, shivering with delight that he was once again pressed against me. I breathed him in with deep inhalations, my fingers kneading into the rigid muscles of his back. The rush sliding through me was heady. I was addicted to him—heart, soul, and body—and I’d gone days without my fix, leaving me shaky and off-balance, unable to function properly.
He engulfed me, his body so much bigger and harder. I felt safe in his embrace, cherished and protected. Nothing could touch or hurt me when he was holding me. I wanted him to feel that same sense of security with me. I needed him to know he could drop his guard, take a breath, and I could protect us both.
I had to be stronger. Smarter. Scarier. We had enemies, and Gideon was dealing with them on his own. It was innate to him to be protective; it was one of his traits I deeply admired. But I had to start showing people that I could be as formidable an adversary as my husband.
More important, I had to prove it to Gideon.
Leaning into him, I absorbed his warmth. His love. “I’ll see you at five, ace.”
“Not a minute later,” he ordered gruffly.
I laughed despite myself, infatuated with every rough-edged facet of him. “Or what?”
Pulling back, he gave me a look that made my toes curl. “Or I come get you.”
I should have tiptoed into my stepfather’s penthouse with my breath held, since the time—a little after six A.M.—meant getting caught sneaking back in was likely. Instead, I strode in with purpose, my thoughts occupied with the changes I needed to make.
I had time for a shower—barely—but I decided not to take one. It had been so long since Gideon had touched me. Too long since his hands had been on me, his body inside mine. I didn’t want to wash the memory of his touch away. That alone would give me the strength to do what had to be done.
An end-table lamp clicked on. “Eva.”
I jumped. “Jesus.”
Pivoting, I found my mother sitting on one of the living room settees.
“You scared the crap out of me!” I accused, rubbing a hand over my racing heart.
She stood, her floor-length ivory satin robe shimmering around her toned, lightly tanned legs. I was her only child, but we looked like we could be sisters. Monica Tramell Barker Mitchell Stanton was obsessive about maintaining her looks. She was a career trophy wife; her youthful beauty was her stock-in-trade.
“Before you start,” I began, “yes, we have to talk about the wedding. But I really have to get ready for work and pack up my stuff so I can go home tonight—”
“Are you having an affair?”
Her curt question shocked me more than the ambush. “What? No!”
She exhaled, tension visibly leaving her shoulders. “Thank God. Will you tell me what the hell is going on? How bad was this argument you had with Gideon?”
Bad. For a while, I worried that he’d ended us with the decisions he made. “We’re working things out, Mom. It was just a bump in the road.”
“A bump that had you avoiding him for days? That’s not the way to deal with your problems, Eva.”
“It’s a long story—”
She crossed her arms. “I’m not in a hurry.”
“Well, I am. I have a job to get ready for.”