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Page 37

“I know.”

The hoarseness of his voice concerned me. How long had he been asleep and dreaming? The thought of him tormented by his own mind, alone and in pain, wounded me. “Did they visit you, too?”

“No. But they’ve been making inquiries.”

I flicked the lights on and he stopped, his grip tightening to make me stop, too. “Eva.”

“Hop in the shower, ace. We’ll talk when you’re done.”

He cupped my face in his hands, his thumbs brushing over my cheekbone. “You’re moving too fast. Slow down.”

“I don’t want to get hung up every time you have a nightmare.”

“Take a minute,” he murmured, lowering his forehead to rest against mine. “I frightened you. I’m frightened. Let’s just take a minute and deal with that.”

I softened, my hand coming up to rest over his racing heart.

He buried his nose in my hair. “Let me smell you, angel. Feel you. Say I’m sorry.”

“I’m okay.”

“It’s not okay,” he argued, his voice still low and coaxing. “I should’ve waited for you at our place.”

I rested my cheek against his chest, loving the idea of “our” place. “I’ve been checking my phone all night, waiting for a text or message.”

“I worked late.” His hands slid under my shirt, brushing over the bare skin of my back. “Then I came here. I wanted to surprise you … make love to you …”

“I think we might be free,” I whispered, clutching at his shirt. “The detectives … I think we’re going to be okay.”

“Explain.”

“Nathan had this bracelet he always wore—”

“Sapphires. Very feminine.”

I looked up at him. “Yes.”

“Go on.”

“They found it on the arm of a dead mob guy. Russian Mafia. They’re running with the theory that it was a criminal association gone bad.”

Gideon stood very still, his gaze narrowed. “That’s interesting.”

“It’s weird. They were talking about photos of me and sex trafficking, which just doesn’t mesh with—”

His fingers pressed against my lips, quieting me. “It’s interesting because Nathan was wearing that bracelet when I left him.”

I watched Gideon take a shower while I brushed my teeth. His soapy hands slid over his body with economical indifference, his movements brisk and rough. There was none of the intimate worship I caressed him with, none of the awe or love. He was done in minutes, stepping out of the shower in all his nude glory before grabbing a towel and scrubbing away the water on his skin.

He came up behind me when he was done, gripping my hips and pressing a kiss to my nape. “I don’t have any underworld ties,” he murmured.

I finished rinsing my mouth and looked at him through the mirror. “Does it bother you to have to say that to me?”

“I’d rather say it than have you ask.”

“Someone went to a lot of trouble to protect you.” Turning, I faced him. “Could it be Angus?”

“No. Tell me how the mob guy died.”

My fingertips drifted over the ridges of his abdomen, loving the way the muscles flexed and clenched in response to my touch. “One of his own took him out. Retaliation. He was under surveillance, so Graves said they’ve got proof of that.”

“So it’s someone connected, then. To either the mob or the authorities, or both. Whoever’s responsible, they chose a fall guy who could take the blame and not pay for it.”

“I don’t care who arranged it, just so long as you’re safe.”

He kissed my forehead. “We need to care,” he said softly. “To protect me, they have to know what I did.”

15

SHORTLY AFTER FIVE in the morning, I went from unconscious to wide awake in a heartbeat. The remnants of a dream clung to me, one in which I’d still believed Gideon and I had broken up. Loneliness and grief weighed me down, pinning me to the bed for several minutes. I wished Gideon were beside me. I wished I could just roll over and press my body to his.

Partly due to my period, we hadn’t had sex the night before. Instead, we had enjoyed the simple comfort of just being together. We’d curled up on my bed and watched television until the exhaustion of my overkill run on the treadmill pulled me under.

I loved those quiet moments when we just held each other. When the sexual attraction simmered just beneath the surface. I loved the feel of his breath on my skin and the way my curves fit into his hard planes as if we’d been designed for each other.

Sighing, I knew what had me on edge. It was Thursday and Brett was coming to New York, if he wasn’t in the city already.

Gideon and I were just starting to find a new rhythm again, which made it the worst possible time for Brett to come back into my life. I was anxious about something going wrong, some gesture or look that would be misconstrued and cause fresh problems for Gideon and me to work through.

It’d be the first time Gideon and I would be out together in public since our “breakup.” That was going to be torture. Standing next to Brett while my heart was with Gideon.

Sliding from bed, I went to the bathroom and cleaned up, and then pulled on a pair of shorts and a tank top. I needed to be with Gideon. We needed to spend some time together before the day started with a vengeance.

I moved quietly from my apartment to his, feeling slightly naughty as I ran down the corridor to his—our—front door.

Once I’d gone inside, I tossed my keys on the breakfast bar and headed down the hallway to the guest room. He wasn’t there and my heart sank, but I kept searching, because I could feel him. There was a tingling awareness I experienced only when he was nearby.

I found him in the master bedroom, his arms wrapped around my pillow as he slept partially on his stomach. The sheet clung to his hips, leaving his powerful back and sculpted arms bare, and revealing just a hint of the topmost curve of his amazing ass.

He looked like an erotic fantasy come to life. And he was mine.

I loved him so much.

And I wanted him to wake up to me, at least once, with pleasure instead of fear, sadness, and regret.

I undressed quietly in the early light of dawn, my thoughts spinning with ways I could pleasure my man. I wanted to run my hands and mouth all over him, make him breathless and hot, feel his body quiver. I wanted to reaffirm our connection to each other, my whole and irrevocable commitment to him, before the harsh realities we faced came between us.

As my knee sank into the mattress, he stirred. I crawled to him, pressing my lips to the small of his back and working my way up slowly.

“Umm. Eva,” he said in a husky voice, lightly stretching beneath me.

“You better hope it’s me, ace.” I nipped his shoulder blade. “This would turn out bad for you, if not.”

I lowered onto him, laying my body over his. His warmth was divine and I took a moment to savor it.

“It’s early for you,” he murmured, resting easily, just as content as I was to be touching each other.

“Way,” I agreed. “You’re hugging my pillow.”

“Smells like you. Helps me sleep.”

I brushed his hair aside and pressed my lips to his throat. “That’s a beautiful thing to say. I wish I could lie around like this with you for the entire day.”

“You remember I want to take you away this weekend.”

“Yes.” I ran my hand over his biceps, my fingers gliding over the hard muscle. “I can’t wait.”

“We’ll leave as soon as you get off work on Friday and fly back just in time for work Monday. You won’t need anything but your passport.”

“And you.” I kissed his shoulder, then spoke in a nervous rush. “I want you and came prepared to have you, but it could be messy. I mean, it’s the tail end, so maybe not, but if period sex isn’t your thing—which I’d totally get, because it has never been my thing—”

“You’re my thing, angel. I’ll take you any way I can get you.”

He flexed, warning me he was going to turn around. I slid to the side, watching his body roll with a fluid rippling of muscle.

“Sit up for me,” I told him, thinking he was even more amazing than I’d given him credit for. Or more horny, which I would never hold against him. “With your back against the headboard.”

He arranged himself to my liking, looking sleepy-eyed and sexy, his jaw shadowed with stubble. I climbed into his lap, straddling him. I took a long moment to savor the attraction between us, the delicious and provocative edge of danger he exuded even while at rest. Because Gideon wasn’t tamed and never would be. Just like a panther still had its claws, even when they were sheathed.

That was one of my joys. He gentled for me but remained true to himself. He was still the man I’d fallen in love with—hard with rough edges—yet he’d changed, too. He was all things to me, everything I wanted and needed in one imperfect man.

Smoothing his hair back from his face, I traced the curve of his lower lip with the tip of my tongue. His hands, so warm and strong, gripped my hips. His mouth opened, his tongue touching mine.

“I love you,” I whispered.

“Eva.” Tilting his head, he took over the kiss, deepening it. His lips, so firm yet soft, pressed against mine. His tongue stroked deep, licking and tasting. The soft rasp of it against the tender flesh inside my mouth caused goose bumps to spread in a wave over my skin. His cock began to thicken and lengthen between us, the silky flesh hot against my lower belly.

My nipples tightened, aching, and I shimmied, rubbing them against his chest.

One of his hands cupped my nape, capturing me, holding me steady as he kissed me passionately. His mouth slanted across mine, seeking and ravenous, sucking on my lips and tongue. Moaning, I arched into him, my fingers clutching at his black hair.

“Christ, you turn me on,” he growled, pulling his knees up. He urged me back, his body forming a cradle that supported me. His hands cupped my breasts, his thumbs circling the hard points of my nipples. “Look at you. You’re so fucking gorgeous.”

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