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Page 14

His arch look told me he got the message.

“You won’t hear me arguing,” Clancy said gruffly.

“You owe me,” I told him, knowing just how I was going to collect. “Big-time.”

“You know where to find me.”

I killed the call, then sent a text to my mom: We need to talk.

My shoulders sagged with disappointment and frustration.


I shot Gideon a look that warned him not to push me. “Don’t you dare make excuses—for yourself or for her.”

His eyes were soft and shadowed, but the set of his jaw was resolute. “I was there when you were told Nathan was in New York. I saw your face. There’s no one who loves you who wouldn’t do whatever they could to shield you from that.”

And that was really hard for me to deal with, because I couldn’t deny that I was glad I hadn’t known about Nathan until after he was dead. But I also didn’t want to be insulated from bad things. They were part of living.

Reaching for his hand, I gripped it tightly. “I feel the same way about you.”

“I’ve taken care of my demons.”

“And mine.” But we were still sleeping apart from each other. “I want you to go back to Dr. Petersen,” I said quietly.

“I went on Tuesday.”

“You did?” I couldn’t hide my surprise at learning he’d kept his regular schedule.

“Yeah, I did. I only missed the one appointment.”

When he’d killed Nathan …

His thumb brushed over the back of my hand. “It’s just you and me now,” he said, as if he’d read my mind.

I wanted to believe that.

I was dragging when I got to work, which wasn’t a good omen for the rest of the day. At least it was Friday and I could be a slug over the weekend, which would probably be a necessity Sunday morning if I partied too hard Saturday night. I hadn’t had a girls’ night out in ages and I felt the need for a good stiff drink or two.

In the previous forty-eight hours, I’d learned that my boyfriend had killed my rapist, one of my exes was hoping to spread me across his sheets, one of my boyfriend’s exes was hoping to smear him in the press, and my mother had microchipped me like a damned dog.

Really, how much was a girl supposed to take?

“You ready for tomorrow?” Megumi queried, after she buzzed me through the glass doors.

“Hell, yeah. My friend Shawna texted me this morning and she’s in.” I mustered a genuine smile. “I arranged for a club limo for us. You know … one of those that take you to all the VIP spots, cover included.”

“What?” She couldn’t hide her excitement, but still had to ask, “How much is that?”

“Nada. It’s a favor from a friend.”

“Some favor.” Her grin made me happy, too. “This is going to be awesome! You’ll have to tell me the deets over lunch.”

“You’re on. I expect you to dish about your lunch yesterday, too.”

“Talk about mixed signals, right?” she complained. “ ‘We’re just having fun,’ but he shows his face at my work? I would never pop into a guy’s office for an impromptu lunch if we were just messing around.”

“Men,” I huffed sympathetically, even as I acknowledged that I was grateful for the one who was mine.

I went to my desk and got ready to start my workday. When I saw the framed photos of Gideon and me in my drawer, I was struck by the need to reach out to him. Ten minutes later, I’d asked Angus to place an order for black magic roses to be sent to Gideon’s office with the note:

You’ve got me under your spell.

I’m still thinking about you.

Mark came to my cubicle just as I was closing the window on my browser. One look at his face and I could tell he wasn’t doing so hot. “Coffee?” I asked.

He nodded and I stood. We headed to the break room together.

“Shawna was over last night,” he began. “She said you’re going out tomorrow night.”

“Yes. Is that still okay with you?”

“Is what still okay?”

“If your sister-in-law and I hang out,” I prodded.

“Oh … yeah. Sure. Go for it.” He ran a restless hand over his short, dark curls. “I think it’s cool.”

“Great.” I knew there was more on his mind, but I didn’t want to push. “Should be fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

“So is she.” He reached for two single-serving coffee pods, while I took mugs from the shelf. “She’s also looking forward to Doug getting back. And popping the question.”

“Wow. Now that’s cool! Two weddings in your family in a year. Unless you’re planning a long engagement … ?”

He handed the first cup of coffee to me and I went to the fridge for half-and-half.

“It’s not going to happen, Eva.”

Mark’s tone was weighted with dejection, and when I turned to face him, his head was down.

I patted his shoulder. “Did you propose?”

“No. There’s no point. He was asking Shawna if she and Doug were planning on having kids right away, since she’s still in school part-time, and when she said they weren’t, he went into this lecture about how marriage is for couples ready for a family. Otherwise, it’s better to keep things simple. It’s the same crap I once shoveled to him.”

I rounded him and lightened my coffee. “Mark, you won’t know Steven’s answer until you ask him.”

“I’m scared,” he admitted, looking into his steaming mug. “I want more than we’ve got, but I don’t want to ruin what we have. If his answer is no and he thinks we want different things out of our relationship …”

“Cart before the horse, boss.”

“What if I can’t live with no?”

Ah … I could understand that. “Can you live with not knowing for sure either way?”

He shook his head.

“Then you have to tell him everything you’ve told me,” I said sternly.

His mouth quirked. “Sorry to keep dumping this on you. But you’re always great at giving me perspective.”

“You know what to do. You just want a kick in the ass to do it. I’m always up for ass-kicking.”

He smiled full on. “Let’s not work on the divorce attorney’s campaign today.”

“How about the airline instead?” I suggested. “I have some ideas.”

“All right, then. Let’s hit it.”

WE hard-charged through the morning, and I was energized by our progress. I wanted to keep Mark too occupied to worry. Work was a cure-all for me, and it quickly became clear that it was for him as well.

We’d just wrapped up for lunch and I had stopped by my desk to drop off my tablet when I saw the interoffice envelope on my desk. My pulse leaped with excitement and my hands shook slightly as I unwound the thin twine and let the note card inside slide out.




I held the card to my chest, wishing it were the writer I was holding instead. I was thinking about sprinkling rose petals on our bed when my desk phone rang. I wasn’t all that surprised when I heard my mother’s breathy bombshell voice on the other end.

“Eva. Clancy talked to me. Please don’t be upset! You have to understand—”

“I get it.” I opened my drawer and tucked Gideon’s precious note into my purse. “Here’s the thing: You don’t have Nathan as an excuse anymore. If you’ve got any more bugs or trackers or whatever in my stuff, you better fess up now. Because I promise you, if I find something else moving forward, our relationship will be irrevocably damaged.”

She sighed. “Can we talk in person, please? I’m taking Cary out to lunch and I’ll just stay over until you get home.”

“All right.” The irritation that had started prickling at me dissipated just as quickly as it had come up. I loved that my mother treated Cary like the brother he was to me. She gave him the maternal love he’d never had. And they were both so appearance- and fashion-conscious that they always had a blast together.

“I love you, Eva. More than anything.”

I sighed. “I know, Mom. I love you, too.”

My other line flashed a call from reception, so I said good-bye and answered it.

“Hey.” Megumi’s voice was low and hushed. “The chick who came by for you once before, the one you wouldn’t see, she’s here again asking for you.”

I frowned, my brain taking a second to latch on to what she was talking about. “Magdalene Perez?”

“Yep. That’s the one. What should I do?”

“Nothing.” I pushed to my feet. Unlike the last time Gideon’s friend-who-wished-she-were-more had come around, I was prepared to deal with her myself. “On my way.”

“Can I watch?”

“Ha! I’ll be there in a minute. This won’t take long, then we’ll head out to lunch.”

Vanity had me smearing on some lip gloss before I slung my purse over my shoulder and headed out front. Thinking of Gideon’s note put the smile on my face that greeted Magdalene when I found her in the waiting area. She stood when I came into view, looking so amazing I couldn’t help but admire her.

When I’d first met her, her dark hair had been long and sleek, like Corinne Giroux’s. Now, it was cut in a classic bob that showed off the exotic beauty of her face. She wore cream slacks and a black sleeveless shell that had a big bow tied at the hip. Pearls at her ears and throat completed the elegant look.

“Magdalene.” I gestured for her to return to her seat and took the armchair on the opposite side of the small conversation table. “What brings you here?”

“I’m sorry to barge in on you at work like this, Eva, but I was visiting Gideon and thought I’d stop here, too. I have something to ask you.”

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