"Hey, Dad. I caught you." I adjusted my grip on the phone receiver and pulled up a stool at the breakfast bar. I missed my father. For the last four years we'd lived close enough to see each other at least once a week. Now his home in Oceanside was the entire country away. "How are you?"
He lowered the volume on the television. "Better, now that you've called. How was your first week at work?"
I went over my days from Monday through Friday, skipping over all the Gideon parts. "I really like my boss, Mark," I finished. "And the vibe of the agency is very energetic and kind of quirky. I'm happy going to work every day, and I'm bummed when it's time to go home."
"I hope it stays that way. But you need to make sure you have some downtime, too. Go out, be young, have fun. But not too much fun."
"Yeah, I had a little too much last night. Cary and I went clubbing, and I woke up with a mean hangover."
"Shit, don't tell me that." He groaned. "Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about you in New York. I get through it by telling myself you're too smart to take chances, thanks to two parents who've drilled safety rules into your DNA."
"Which is true," I said, laughing. "That reminds me...I'm going to start Krav Maga training."
"Really?" There was a thoughtful pause. "One of the guys on the force is big on it. Maybe I'll check it out and we can compare notes when I come out to visit you."
"You're coming to New York?" I couldn't hide my excitement. "Oh, Dad, I'd love it if you would. As much as I miss SoCal, Manhattan is really awesome. I think you'll like it."
"I'd like anyplace in the world as long as you're there." He waited a beat, then asked, "How's your mom?"
"Well...she's Mom. Beautiful, charming, and obsessive-compulsive."
My chest hurt and I rubbed at it. I thought my dad might still love my mom. He'd never married. That was one of the reasons I never told him about what happened to me. As a cop, he would've insisted on pressing charges and the scandal would have destroyed my mother. I also worried that he'd lose respect for her or even blame her, and it hadn't been her fault. As soon as she'd found out what her stepson was doing to me, she'd left a husband she was happy with and filed for divorce.
I kept talking, waving at Cary as he came rushing in with a little blue Tiffany & Co. bag. "We had a spa day today. It was a fun way to cap off the week."
I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, "I'm glad you two are managing to spend time together. What are your plans for the rest of the weekend?"
I hedged on the subject of the charity event, knowing the whole red carpet business and astronomically-priced dinner seats would just highlight the gap between my parents' lives. "Cary and I are going out to eat, and then I plan on staying in tomorrow. Sleeping in late, hanging out in my pajamas all day, maybe some movies and food delivery of some sort. A little vegetating before a new work week kicks off."
"Sounds like heaven to me. I may copy you when my next day off rolls around."
Glancing at the clock, I saw it was creeping past six. "I have to get ready now. Be careful at work, okay? I worry about you, too."
"Will do. Bye, baby."
The familiar sign-off had me missing him so much my throat hurt. "Oh, wait! I'm getting a new cell phone. I'll text you the number as soon as I have it."
"Again? You just got a new one when you moved."
"Long, boring story."
"Hmm...Don't put it off. They're good for safety as well as playing Angry Birds."
"I'm over that game!" I laughed and warmth spread through me to hear him laughing, too. "I'll call you in a few days. Be good."
"That's my line."
We hung up. I sat for a few moments in the ensuing silence, feeling like everything was right in my world, which never lasted long. I brooded on that for minute; then Cary cranked up Hinder on his bedroom stereo and that kicked my butt into gear.
I hurried to my room to get ready for a night with Gideon.
"Necklace or no necklace?" I asked Cary, when he came into my bedroom looking seriously amazing. Dressed in his new Brioni tux, he was both debonair and dashing, and certain to attract attention.
"Hmm." His head tilted to the side as he studied me. "Hold it up again."
I lifted the choker of gold coins to my throat. The dress my mom had sent was fire engine red and styled for a Grecian goddess. It hung on one shoulder, cut diagonally across my cleavage, had ruching to the hip, and then split at my right upper thigh all the way down my leg. There was no back to speak of, aside from a slender strip of rhinestones that connected one side to the other to keep the front from falling off. Otherwise, the back was bared to just above the crack of my buttocks in a racy V-cut.
"Forget the necklace," he said. "I was leaning toward gold chandeliers, but now I'm thinking diamond hoops. The biggest ones you've got."
"What? Really?" I frowned at our reflections in my cheval mirror, watching as he moved to my jewelry box and dug through it.
"These." He brought them to me and I eyed the two-inch hoops my mother had given me for my eighteenth birthday. "Trust me, Eva. Try 'em on."
I did and found he was right. It was a very different look from the gold choker, less glam and more edgy sensuality. And the earrings went well with the diamond anklet on my right leg that I'd never think of the same way again after Gideon's comment. With my hair swept off my face into a cascade of thick, deliberately messy curls, I had a just-screwed look that was complemented by smoky eye shadow and glossy nude lips.
"What would I do without you, Cary Taylor?"
"Baby girl" - he set his hands on my shoulders and pressed his cheek to mine - "you'll never find out."
"You look awesome, by the way."
"Don't I?" He winked and stepped back, showing off.
In his own way, Cary could give Gideon a run for his money...er, looks. Cary was more finely featured, almost pretty compared to Gideon's savage beauty, but both were striking men that made you look twice, and then stare in greedy delight.
Cary hadn't been quite so perfect when I met him. He'd been strung out and gaunt, his emerald eyes cloudy and lost. But I'd been drawn to him, going out of my way to sit next to him in group therapy. He'd finally propositioned me crudely, having come to believe the only reason people associated with him was because they wanted to fuck him. It was when I declined, firmly and irrevocably, that we finally connected and became best friends. He was the brother I'd never had.
The intercom buzzed and I jumped, making me realize how nervous I was. I looked at Cary. "I forgot to tell the front desk he was coming back."
"I'll get him."
"Are you going to be okay riding over with Stanton and my mom?"
"Are you kidding? They love me." His smile dimmed. "Having second thoughts about going with Cross?"
I took a deep breath, remembering where I'd been earlier - on my back in a multi-orgasmic daze. "Not really, no. It's just that everything's happening so fast and going better than I expected or realized I wanted..."
"You're wondering what the catch is." Reaching out, he tapped my nose with his fingertip. "He's the catch, Eva. And you landed him. Enjoy yourself."
"I'm trying." I was grateful that Cary understood me and the way my mind worked. It was just so easy being with him, knowing he could fill in the blanks when I couldn't explain something.
"I researched the hell out of him this morning and printed out the interesting recent stuff. It's on your desk, if you decide you want to check it out."
I remembered him printing something before we got ready for the spa. Pushing onto my tiptoes, I kissed his cheek. "You're the best. I love you."
"Back atcha, baby girl." He headed out. "I'll head down to the front desk and bring him up. Take your time. He's ten minutes early."
Smiling, I watched him saunter into the hallway. The door had closed behind him when I moved into the small sitting room attached to my bedroom. On the very impractical escritoire my mother had picked out, I found a folder filled with articles and printed images. I settled into the chair and got lost in Gideon Cross's history.
It was like watching a train wreck to read that he was the son of Geoffrey Cross, former chairman of an investment securities firm later found to be a front for a massive Ponzi scheme. Gideon was just five years old when his dad committed suicide with a gunshot to the head rather than face prison time.
Oh, Gideon. I tried to picture him that young and imagined a handsome dark-haired boy with beautiful blue eyes filled with terrible confusion and sadness. The image broke my heart. How devastating his father's suicide - and the circumstances around it - must have been, for both him and his mother. The stress and strain at such a difficult time would've been enormous, especially for a child of that age.
His mother went on to marry Christopher Vidal, a music executive, and had two more children, Christopher Vidal Jr. and Ireland Vidal, but it seemed a larger family and financial security had come too late to help Gideon stabilize after such a huge shakeup. He was too closed off not to bear some painful emotional scars.
With a critical and curious eye, I studied the women who'd been photographed with Gideon and thought about his approach to dating, socializing, and sex. I saw that my mom had been right - they were all brunettes. The woman who appeared with him most often bore the hallmarks of a Hispanic heritage. She was taller than me, willowy rather than curvy.
"Magdalene Perez," I murmured, grudgingly admitting that she was a stunner. Her posture had the kind of flamboyant confidence that I admired.
"Okay, it's been long enough," Cary interrupted with a soft note of amusement. He filled the doorway to my sitting room, leaning insolently into the doorjamb.
"Really?" I'd been so absorbed; I hadn't realized how much time had passed.
"I would guess you're about a minute away from him coming to find you. He's barely restraining himself."
I shut the folder and stood.
"Interesting reading, isn't it?"
"Very." How had Gideon's father - or more specifically, his father's suicide - influenced his life?
I knew all the answers I wanted were waiting for me in the next room.
Leaving my bedroom, I took the hallway to the living room. I paused on the threshold, my gaze riveted to Gideon's back as he stood in front of the windows and looked out at the city. My heart rate kicked up. His reflection revealed a contemplative mood. His gaze was unfocused and his mouth grim. His crossed arms betrayed an inherent unease, as if he was out of his element. He looked remote and removed, a man who was inherently alone.
He sensed my presence or maybe he felt my yearning. He pivoted; then went very still. I took the opportunity to drink him in, my gaze sliding all over him. He looked every inch the powerful magnate. So sensually handsome my eyes burned just from looking at him. The rakish fall of black hair around his face made my fingers flex with the urge to touch it. And the way he looked at me...my pulse leaped.
"Eva." He came toward me, his stride graceful and strong. He caught up my hand and lifted it to his mouth. His gaze was intense - intensely hot, intensely focused.
The feel of his lips against my skin sent goose bumps racing up my arm and stirred memories of that sinful mouth on other parts of my body. I was instantly aroused. "Hi."
Amusement warmed his eyes. "Hi, yourself. You look amazing. I can't wait to show you off."
I breathed through the delight I felt at the compliment. "Let's hope I can do you justice."
A slight frown knit the space between his brows. "Do you have everything you need?"
Cary appeared beside me, carrying my black velvet shawl and opera length gloves. "Here you go. I tucked your gloss into your clutch."
"You're the best, Cary."
He winked at me - which told me he'd seen the condoms I had tucked into the small interior pocket. "I'll head down with you two."
Gideon took the shawl from Cary and draped it over my shoulders. He pulled my hair out from underneath it and the feel of his hands at my neck so distracted me, I barely paid attention when Cary pushed my gloves into my hands.
The elevator ride to the lobby was an exercise in surviving acute sexual tension. Not that Cary seemed to notice. He was on my left with both hands in his pockets, whistling. Gideon, on the other hand, was a tremendous force on the other side of me. Although he didn't move or make a sound, I could feel the edgy energy radiating from him. My skin tingled from the magnetic pull between us, and my breath came short and fast. I was relieved when the doors opened and freed us from the enclosed space.
Two women stood waiting to get on. Their jaws dropped when they saw Gideon and Cary, and that lightened my mood and made me smile.
"Ladies," Cary greeted them, with a smile that really wasn't fair. I could almost see their brain cells misfiring.
In contrast, Gideon gave a curt nod and led me out with a hand at the small of my back, skin to skin. The contact was electric, sending heat pouring through me.
I squeezed Cary's hand. "Save a dance for me."
"Always. See you in a bit."
A limousine was waiting at the curb, and the driver opened the door when Gideon and I stepped outside. I slid across the bench seat to the opposite side and adjusted my gown. When Gideon settled beside me and the door shut, I became highly conscious of how good he smelled. I breathed him in, telling myself to relax and enjoy his company. He took my hand and ran his fingertips over the palm, the simple touch sparking a fierce lust. I shrugged off my shawl, feeling too hot to wear it.
"Eva." He hit a button and the privacy glass behind the driver began to slide up. The next moment I was tugged across his lap and his mouth was on mine, kissing me fiercely.
I did what I'd wanted to do since I saw him in my living room: I shoved my hands in his hair and kissed him back. I loved the way he kissed me, as if he had to, as if he'd go crazy if he didn't and had nearly waited too long. I sucked on his tongue, having learned how much he liked it, having learned how much I liked it, how much it made me want to suck him elsewhere with the same eagerness.
His hands were sliding over my bare back and I moaned, feeling the prod of his erection against my hip. I shifted, moving to straddle him, shoving the skirt of my gown out of the way and making a mental note to thank my mom for the dress - which had such a convenient slit. With my knees on either side of his hips, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and deepened the kiss. I licked into his mouth, nibbled on his lower lip, stroked my tongue along his...
Gideon gripped my waist and pushed me away. He leaned into the seat back, his neck arched to look up at my face, his chest heaving. "What are you doing to me?"
I ran my hands down his chest through his dress shirt, feeling the unforgiving hardness of his muscles. My fingers traced the ridges of his abdomen, my mind forming a picture of how he might look naked. "I'm touching you. Enjoying the hell out of you. I want you, Gideon."
He caught my wrists, stilling my movements. "Later. We're in the middle of Manhattan."
"No one can see us."
"That's not the point. It's not the time or place to start something we can't finish for hours. I'm losing my mind already from this afternoon."
"So let's make sure we finish it now."
His grip tightened painfully. "We can't do that here."
"Why not?" Then a surprising thought struck me. "Haven't you ever had sex in a limo?"
"No." His jaw hardened. "Have you?"
Looking away without answering, I saw the traffic and pedestrians surging around us. We were only inches away from hundreds of people, but the dark glass concealed us and made me feel reckless. I wanted to please him. I wanted to know I was capable of reaching into Gideon Cross, and there was nothing to stop me but him.
I rocked my hips against him, stroking myself with the hard length of his cock. His breath hissed out between clenched teeth.
"I need you, Gideon," I said breathlessly, inhaling his scent, which was richer now that he was aroused. I thought I might be slightly intoxicated, just from the enticing smell of his skin. "You drive me crazy."
He released my wrists and cupped my face, his lips pressing hard against mine. I reached for the fly of his slacks, freeing the two buttons to access the concealed zipper. He tensed.
"I need this," I whispered against his lips. "Give me this."
He didn't relax, but he made no further attempts to stop me either. When he fell heavily into my palms, he groaned, the sound both pained and erotic. I squeezed him gently, my touch deliberately tender as I sized him with my hands. He was so hard, like stone, and hot. I slid both of my fists up his length from root to tip, my breath catching when he quivered beneath me.
Gideon gripped my thighs, his hands sliding upward beneath the edges of my dress until his thumbs found the red lace of my thong. "Your cunt is so sweet," he murmured into my mouth. "I want to spread you out and lick you 'til you beg for my cock."
"I'll beg now, if you want." I stroked him with one hand and reached for my clutch with the other, snapping it open to grab a condom.
One of his thumbs slid beneath the edge of my panties, the pad sliding through the slickness of my desire. "I've barely touched you," he whispered, his eyes glittering up at me in the shadows of the backseat, "and you're ready for me."
"I can't help it."
"I don't want you to help it." He pushed his thumb inside me, biting his lower lip when I clenched helplessly around him. "It wouldn't be fair when I can't stop what you do to me."
I ripped the foil packet open with my teeth and held it out to him with the ring of the condom protruding from the tear. "I'm not good with these."
His hand curled around mine. "I'm breaking all my rules with you."
The seriousness of his low tone sent a burst of warmth and confidence through me. "Rules are made to be broken."
I saw his teeth flash white; then he hit a button on the panel beside him and said, "Drive until I say otherwise."
My cheeks heated. Another car's headlights pierced the dark tinted glass and slid over my face, betraying my embarrassment.
"Why, Eva," he purred, rolling the condom on deftly. "You've seduced me into having sex in my limousine, but blush when I tell my driver I don't want to be interrupted while you do it to me?"
His sudden playfulness made me desperate to have him. Setting my hands on his shoulders for balance, I lifted onto my knees, rising to gain the height I needed to hover over the crown of Gideon's thick cock. His hands fisted at my hips and I heard a snap as he tore my panties away. The abrupt sound and the violent action behind it spurred my desire to a fever pitch.
"Go slow," he ordered hoarsely, lifting his hips to push his pants down farther.
His erection brushed between my legs as he moved and I whimpered, so aching and empty, as if the orgasms he'd given me earlier had only deepened my craving rather than appeased it.
He tensed when I wrapped my fingers around him and positioned him, tucking the wide crest against the saturated folds of my cleft. The scent of our lust was heavy and humid in the air, a seductive mix of need and pheromones that awakened every cell in my body. My skin was flushed and tingling, my breasts heavy and tender.
This is what I'd wanted from the moment I first saw him - to possess him, to climb up his magnificent body and take him deep inside me.
"God. Eva," he gasped as I lowered onto him, his hands flexing restlessly on my thighs.
I closed my eyes, feeling too exposed. I'd wanted intimacy with him and yet this seemed too intimate. We were eye-to-eye, only inches apart, cocooned in a small space with the rest of the world streaming by around us. I could sense his agitation, knew he was feeling as off-center as I was.
"You're so tight." His gasped words were threaded with a hint of delicious agony.
I took more of him, letting him slide deeper. I sucked in a deep breath, feeling exquisitely stretched. "You're so big."
Pressing his palm flat to my lower belly, he touched my throbbing clit with the pad of his thumb and began to massage it in slow, expertly soft circles. Everything in my core tightened and clenched, sucking him deeper. Opening my eyes, I looked at him from under heavy eyelids. He was so beautiful sprawled beneath me in his elegant tuxedo, his powerful body straining with the primal need to mate.
His neck arched, his head pressing hard into the seatback as if he was struggling against invisible bonds. "Ah, Christ," he bit out, his teeth grinding. "I'm going to come so hard."
The dark promise excited me. Sweat misted my skin. I became so wet and hot that I slid smoothly down the length of his cock until I'd nearly sheathed him. A breathless cry escaped me before I'd taken him to the root. He was so deep I could hardly stand it, forcing me to shift from side to side, trying to ease the unexpected bite of discomfort. But my body didn't seem to care that he was too big. It was rippling around him, squeezing, trembling on the verge of orgasm.
Gideon cursed and gripped my hip with his free hand, urging me to lean backward as his chest heaved with frantic breaths. The position altered my descent and I opened, accepting all of him. Immediately his body temperature rose, his torso radiating sultry heat through his clothes. Sweat dotted his upper lip.
Leaning forward, I slid my tongue along the sculpted curve, collecting the saltiness with a low murmur of delight. His hips churned impatiently. I lifted carefully, sliding up a few inches before he stopped me with that ferocious grasp on my hip.
"Slow," he warned again, with an authoritative bite that sent lust pulsing through me.
I lowered, taking him into me again, feeling an oddly luscious soreness as he pushed just past my limits. Our eyes locked on each other as the pleasure spread from the place where we connected. It struck me then that we were both fully clothed except for the most private and intimate parts of our bodies. I found that excruciatingly carnal, as were the sounds he made, as if the pleasure was as extreme for him as it was for me.
Wild for him, I pressed my mouth to his, my fingers gripping the sweat-damp roots of his hair. I kissed him as I rocked my hips, riding the maddening circling of his thumb, feeling the orgasm building with every slide of his long, thick penis into my melting core.
I lost my mind somewhere along the way, primitive instinct taking over until my body was completely in charge. I could focus on nothing but the driving urge to fuck, the ferocious need to ride his cock until the tension burst and set me free of this grinding hunger.
"It's so good," I sobbed, lost to him. "You feel...Ah, God, it's too good."
Using both hands, Gideon commanded my rhythm, tilting me into an angle that had the big crown of his cock rubbing a tender, aching spot inside me. As I tightened and shook, I realized I was going to come from that, just from the expert thrust of him inside me. "Gideon."
He captured me by the nape as the orgasm exploded through me, starting with the ecstatic spasms of my core and radiating outward until I was trembling all over. He watched me fall apart, holding my gaze when I would've closed my eyes. Possessed by his stare, I moaned and came harder than I ever had, my body jerking with every pulse of pleasure.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," he growled, pounding his hips up at me, yanking my hips down to meet his punishing lunges. He hit the end of me with every deep thrust, battering into me. I could feel him growing harder and thicker.
I watched him avidly, needing to see it when he went over the edge for me. His eyes were wild with his need, losing their focus as his control frayed, his gorgeous face ravaged by the brutal race to climax.
"Eva!" He came with an animal sound of feral ecstasy, a snarling release that riveted me with its ferocity. He shook as the orgasm tore into him, his features softening for an instant with an unexpected vulnerability.
Cupping his face, I brushed my lips across his, comforting him as the forceful bursts of his gasping breaths struck my cheeks.
"Eva." He wrapped his arms around me and crushed me to him, pressing his damp face into the curve of my neck.
I knew just how he felt. Stripped. Laid bare.
We stayed like that for a long time, holding each other, absorbing the aftershocks. He turned his head and kissed me softly, the strokes of his tongue into my mouth soothing my ragged emotions.
"Wow," I breathed, shaken.
His mouth twitched. "Yeah."
I smiled, feeling dazed and high.
Gideon brushed the damp tendrils of hair off my temples, his fingertips gliding almost reverently across my face. The way he studied me made my chest hurt. He looked stunned and...grateful, his eyes warm and tender. "I don't want to break this moment."
Because I could hear it hanging in the air, I filled it in. "But...?"
"But I can't blow off this dinner. I have a speech to give."
"Oh." The moment was effectively broken.
I lifted gingerly off of him, biting my lip at the feel of him slipping wetly out of me. The friction was enough to make me want more. He'd barely softened.
"Damn it," he said roughly. "I want you again."
He caught me before I moved away, pulling a handkerchief out from somewhere and running it gently between my legs. It was a deeply intimate act, on par with the sex we'd just had.
When I was dry, I settled on the seat beside him and dug my lip gloss out of my clutch. I watched Gideon over the edge of my mirrored compact as he removed the condom and tied it off. He wrapped it in a cocktail napkin; then tossed it in a cleverly hidden trash receptacle. After restoring his appearance, he told the driver to head to our destination. Then he settled into the seat and stared out the window.
With every second that passed, I felt him withdrawing, the connection between us slipping further and further away. I found myself shrinking into the corner of the seat, away from him, mimicking the distance I felt building between us. All the warmth I'd felt receded into a marked chill, cooling me enough that I pulled my shawl around me again. He didn't move a muscle as I shifted beside him and put my compact away, as if he wasn't even aware I was there.
Abruptly, Gideon opened the bar and pulled out a bottle. Without looking at me, he asked, "Brandy?"
"No, thank you." My voice was small, but he didn't seem to notice. Or maybe he didn't care. He poured a drink and tossed it back.
Confused and stung, I pulled on my gloves and tried to figure out what went wrong.