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Page 52

I laughed, happier than I’d been in long time. Maybe in forever. “Absolutely.”

“Get me the deets. I’ll add the spot to the list of possibilities.”

“You have honeymoon scouting duty?” I stood so we could grab coffee together before we started the day.

“Yep.” Mark’s mouth quirked on one side. “I’ll leave the wedding stuff to Steven, since he’s been planning for so long. But the honeymoon is mine.”

He sounded so happy, and I knew just how he felt. His good mood made the start of my day even better.

THE smooth sailing ended when Cary called my desk phone shortly after ten o’clock.

“Mark Garrity’s office,” I answered. “Eva Tramell—”

“—needs an ass-kicking,” Cary finished. “I can’t remember the last time I was this mad at you.”

I frowned, my stomach tightening. “Cary, what’s wrong?”

“I’m not going to talk about important shit on the phone, Eva, unlike some people I know. I’ll meet you for lunch. And just so you’re aware, I turned down a go-see this afternoon to set you straight, because that’s what friends do,” he said angrily. “They make time in their schedule to talk about things that matter. They don’t leave cutesy voice-mail messages and think that handles it!”

The line went dead. I sat there, shocked and a bit scared.

Everything in my life ground to a screeching halt. Cary was my anchor. When things weren’t right with us, I scattered real quick. And I knew it was the same for him. When we were out of touch, he started fucking up.

I dug out my cell phone and called him back.

“What?” he snapped. But it was a good sign that he’d answered.

“If I screwed up,” I said quickly, “I’m sorry and I’ll fix it. Okay?”

He made a rough sound. “You fucking piss me off, Eva.”

“Yeah, well, I’m good at pissing people off, if you haven’t noticed, but I hate when I do it to you.” I sighed. “It’s going to drive me nuts, Cary, until we can work it out. I need us solid, you know that.”

“You haven’t acted like it matters lately,” he said gruffly. “I’m an afterthought and that fucking hurts.”

“I’m always thinking about you. If I haven’t shown it, that’s my bad.”

He didn’t say anything.

“I love you, Cary. Even when I’m messing up.”

He exhaled into the receiver. “Get back to work and don’t stress about this. We’ll deal with it at lunch.”

“I’m sorry. Really.”

“See you at noon.”

I hung up and tried to concentrate, but it was hard. It was one thing having Cary angry with me; it was totally another to know I’d hurt him. I was one of the very few people in his life he trusted not to let him down.

AT eleven thirty, I received a small pile of interoffice envelopes. I was thrilled when one of them revealed a note from Gideon.

MY GORGEOUS, SEXY WIFE,

I NEVER STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU.

YOURS,

X

My feet tapped out a little happy dance beneath my desk. My skewed day righted itself a little.

I wrote him back.

Dark and Dangerous,

I’m madly in love with you.

Your ball and chain,

Mrs. X

I tucked it in an envelope and dropped it in my out-box.

I was drafting a reply to the artist working on a gift card campaign when my desk phone rang. I answered with my usual greeting and heard a reply in a familiar French accent.

“Eva, it’s Jean-Fran?ois Giroux.”

Sitting back in my chair, I said, “Bonjour, Monsieur Giroux.”

“What time is best for us to meet today?”

What the hell did he want from me? I supposed if I wanted to know, I’d have to follow through. “Five o’clock? There’s a wine bar not too far from the Crossfire.”

“That would be fine.”

I gave him directions and he hung up, leaving me feeling somewhat whiplashed by the call. I swiveled in my chair, thinking. Gideon and I were trying to move forward with our lives, but people and issues from our pasts were still trying to hold us back. Would the announcement of our marriage, or even an engagement, change that?

God, I hoped so. But was anything ever that easy?

Glancing at the clock, I refocused on work and returned to writing my e-mail.

I was down in the lobby by five after noon, but Cary hadn’t arrived yet. As I waited for him, my nerves started getting to me. I’d gone over my brief conversation with Cary again and again and knew he was right. I had convinced myself he’d be okay with having Gideon join our living arrangements because I couldn’t imagine facing the alternative—having to choose between my best friend and my boyfriend.

And now there was no choice. I was married. Ecstatically so.

Still, I found myself grateful that I’d tucked my wedding ring into the zippered pocket of my purse. If Cary felt a growing distance between us, finding out I’d gotten hitched over the weekend wouldn’t help.

My stomach twisted. The secrets between us were mounting. I couldn’t stand it.

“Eva.”

I jerked out of my thoughts at the sound of my best friend’s voice. He was striding toward me wearing loose-fitting cargo shorts and a V-neck T-shirt. He kept his shades on, and with his hands shoved in his pockets, he seemed distant and cool. Heads turned as he walked by and he didn’t notice, his attention on me.

My feet moved. I was hurrying toward him before I thought of it, then ran straight into him so hard, his breath left him with a grunt. I hugged him, my cheek pressed to his chest.

“I missed you,” I said, meaning it with all my heart, even though he wouldn’t know exactly why.

He muttered something under his breath and hugged me. “Pain in the ass sometimes, baby girl.”

Pulling back, I looked up at him. “I’m sorry.”

He linked his fingers with mine and led me out of the Crossfire. We went to the place with the great tacos that we’d gone to the last time he had met me for lunch. They also had great slushy virgin margaritas, which were perfect on a steamy summer day.

After waiting in line about ten minutes, I ordered only two tacos, since I hadn’t hit the gym in way too long. Cary ordered six. We snagged a table just as its former occupants cleared away, and Cary inhaled a taco before I’d barely taken the wrapper off my straw.

“I’m sorry about the voice mail,” I said.

“You don’t get it.” He swiped a napkin across lips that turned sane women into giggling girls when he smiled. “It’s the whole situation, Eva. You leave me a message telling me to think about sharing a place with Cross, after you tell your mom that it’s a done deal and before you fall off the face of the earth for the weekend. I guess however I feel about it means jack shit to you.”

“That’s not true!”

“Why would you want a roommate when you’re living with a boyfriend anyway?” he asked, clearly getting warmed up. “And why would you think I’d want to be a third wheel?”

“Cary—”

“I don’t need any fucking handouts, Eva.” His emerald eyes narrowed. “I’ve got places I can crash, other people I can room with. Don’t do me any favors.”

My chest tightened. I wasn’t ready to let Cary go yet. Someday in the future, we’d be heading our separate ways, maybe only seeing each other on special occasions. But that time wasn’t now. It couldn’t be. Just thinking about it screwed with my head.

“Who says I’m doing it for you?” I shot back. “Maybe I just can’t bear the thought of not having you nearby.”

He snorted and ripped a bite out of his taco. Chewing angrily, he swallowed his food down with a long draw on his straw. “What am I, your three-year chip marking your recovery? Your celebratory token for Eva Anonymous?”

“Excuse me.” I leaned forward. “You’re mad, I get it. I’ve said I’m sorry. I love you and I love having you in my life, but I’m not going to sit here and get kicked because I fucked up.”

I pushed away from the table and stood. “I’ll catch you later.”

“You and Cross getting married?”

Pausing, I looked down at him. “He asked. I said yes.”

Cary nodded, as if that were no surprise, and took another bite. I grabbed my purse from where it hung on the back of my chair.

“Are you afraid of living alone with him?” he asked around his chewing.

Of course he’d think that. “No. He’ll be sleeping in his own bedroom.”

“Has he been sleeping in a separate room the last few weekends you’ve been shacking up with him?”

I stared. Did he know for a fact that Gideon was the “loverman” I’d been spending time with? Or was he just fishing? I decided I didn’t care. I was tired of lying to him. “Mostly, yes.”

He set his taco down. “Finally, some truth out of you. I was beginning to think you’d forgotten how to be honest.”

“Fuck you.”

Grinning, he gestured at my vacant chair. “Sit your ass back down, baby girl. We’re not done talking.”

“You’re being a jerk.”

His smile faded and his gaze hardened. “Being lied to for weeks makes me cranky. Sit down.”

I sat and glared at him. “There? Happy?”

“Eat. I’ve got shit to say.”

Exhaling my frustration, I slung my purse over the chair again and faced him with my brows raised.

“If you think,” he began, “that being sober and working steadily broke my bullshit meter, now you know better. I knew you were nailing Cross again from the moment you started back up.”

Biting into my taco, I shot him a skeptical look.

“Eva honey, don’t you think that if there were another man in New York who could bang it out all night like Cross, I would’ve found him by now?”

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