Entwined with YouBy: Sylvia Day
I FOUND GIDEON pacing like a caged panther behind his desk. He had an earpiece in his ear and he was either listening or on hold, since he wasn’t talking. He caught my eye, his face hard and unyielding. Even dressed in boxer briefs, he seemed invulnerable. No one would be fool enough to take him for anything else. Physically, his power was evident in every slab of muscle. Beyond that, he radiated a ruthless menace that sent a chill down my spine.
The indolent, well-pleasured male I’d eaten dinner with was gone, replaced by an urban predator who dominated his competition.
I left him to it.
Gideon’s tablet was what I wanted, and I found it in his briefcase. It was password protected and I stared at the screen for a long while, startled to realize I was shaking. Everything I’d feared was happening.
Looking up, I caught his eye as he appeared from the hallway.
“The password,” he explained. “It’s angel.”
Oh. All the rampant energy inside me vanished, leaving me feeling drained and tired. “You should’ve told me about the lawsuit, Gideon.”
“At this point in time there isn’t a lawsuit, only the threat of one,” he said without inflection. “Ian Hager wants money, I want nondisclosure. We’ll settle privately and be done with it.”
I sagged back into the couch, dropping the tablet onto my thighs. I watched as he walked toward me, drinking him in. It was so easy to become dazzled by his looks, enough that one could fail to see how alone he was at heart. But it was past time he learned to include me when he faced difficulties.
“I don’t care if it’s a nonstarter,” I argued. “You should’ve told me.”
His arms crossed his chest. “I meant to.”
“You meant to?” I shoved to my feet. “I tell you I’m broken up over my mother not telling me something and you don’t say a word about your own secrets?”
For a moment, he remained hard-faced and immovable. Then he cursed under his breath and unfolded. “I came home early, planning to tell you, but then you told me about your mom and I thought that was enough shit for you to deal with in one day.”
Deflating, I sank back onto the couch. “That’s not the way a relationship works, ace.”
“I’m just getting you back, Eva. I don’t want all the time we spend together to be about what’s wrong and fucked up in our lives!”
I patted the cushion beside me. “Come here.”
He took a seat on the coffee table in front of me instead, his spread legs bracketing mine. He caught my hands in both of his, lifting them to his lips to kiss my knuckles. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t blame you. But if there’s anything else you have to tell me, now would be the time.”
He pressed forward, urging me to stretch out on the couch. Coming over me, he whispered, “I’m in love with you.”
With everything going wrong, that was the one thing that was totally right.
It was enough.
WE fell asleep on the couch, wrapped up in each other. I drifted in and out of consciousness, plagued by anxiety and thrown off my schedule by our earlier long nap. I was awake enough to sense the change in Gideon, hear his fast breathing, followed by the tightening of his grip on me. His body jerked powerfully, shaking me. His whimper pierced my heart.
“Gideon.” I wriggled around to face him, my agitated movements waking him. We’d drifted off with the lights on and I was grateful that he woke to the brightness.
His heart was pounding beneath my palm, a fine mist of sweat blooming on his skin. “What?” he gasped. “What’s wrong?”
“You were slipping into a nightmare, I think.” I pressed soft kisses over his hot face, wishing my love could be enough to banish the memories.
He tried to sit up and I clung tighter to hold him down.
“Are you okay?” He ran a hand over me, searching. “Did I hurt you?”
“God.” He fell back and covered his eyes with his forearm. “I can’t keep falling asleep with you. And I forgot to take my prescription. Goddamn it, I can’t be this careless.”
“Hey.” I propped myself up on my elbow and ran my other hand down his chest. “No harm done.”
“Don’t make light of this, Eva.” He turned his head and looked at me, his gaze fierce. “Not this.”
“I would never.” God, he looked so weary, with dark smudges under his eyes and deep grooves framing that wickedly sensual mouth.
“I killed a man,” he said grimly. “It’s never been safe for you to be with me when I’m sleeping, and that’s even truer now.”
“Gideon …” I suddenly understood why he’d been having his nightmares more frequently. He could rationalize what he’d done, but that didn’t alleviate the weight on his conscience.
I brushed the thick strands of hair off his forehead. “If you’re struggling, you need to talk to me.”
“I just want you safe,” he muttered.
“I never feel safer than when I’m with you. I need you to stop beating yourself up for everything.”
“It’s my fault.”
“Wasn’t your life perfectly uncomplicated before I came along?” I challenged.
He shot me a wry look. “I seem to have a taste for complicated.”
“Then stop bitching about it. And don’t move, I’ll be right back.”
I went to the master bedroom and swapped my garters, stockings, and bra for an oversized Cross Industries T-shirt. Pulling the velour throw off the foot of the bed, I went to Gideon’s room and grabbed his medicine.
His gaze followed me as I dropped off the throw and prescription before heading to the kitchen for a bottle of water. In short order, I had him settled in, the both of us huddled together beneath the blanket and the majority of the lights turned off.
I snuggled closer, hooking my leg over his. The medication prescribed for Gideon’s parasomnia was no cure, but he was religious about taking it. I loved him all the more for that dedication, because he did it for me. “Do you know what you were dreaming about?” I asked.
“No. Whatever it was, I wish it were you instead.”
“Me, too.” I laid my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat slow. “If it had been a dream about me, what would it be like?”
I felt him relax, sinking into the sofa and into me.
“It would be a cloudless day on a Caribbean beach,” he murmured. “A private beach, with a cabana on the white sand, enclosed on three sides with the view in front of us. I’d have you spread out on a chaise longue. Naked.”
“You’d be sun-warmed and lazy, your hair blowing in the breeze. You’d be wearing that smile you give me after I’ve made you come. We would have nowhere to go, no one waiting. Just the two of us, with all the time in the world.”
“Sounds like paradise,” I murmured, feeling his body growing heavier by the moment. “I hope we swim naked.”
“Umm …” He yawned. “I need to go to bed.”
“I want a bucket of iced beer, too,” I said, hoping to detain him long enough that he’d fall asleep in my arms. “With lemons. I’d squeeze the juice over your eight-pack and lick it off.”
“God, I love your mouth.”
“You should dream about that, then. And all the naughty things it can do to you.”
“Give me some examples.”
I gave him plenty, talking in a low soothing voice, my hands stroking over his skin. He slipped away from me with a deep exhalation.
I held him close until long after the sun rose.
GIDEON slept until eleven. I’d been strategizing for hours by then and he found me in his office, his desk littered with my notes and drawings.
“Hey,” I greeted him, lifting my lips for his kiss as he rounded the desk. He looked sleep-mussed and sexy in his boxer briefs. “Good morning.”
He looked over my work. “What are you doing?”
“I want you caffeinated before I explain.” I rubbed my hands together, excited. “Want to grab a quick shower while I make you a cup of coffee? Then we’ll dig in.”
His gaze slid over my face and he gave me a bemused smile. “All right. However, I suggest I grab you in the shower. Then we’ll have coffee and dig in.”
“Save that thought—and your libido—for tonight.”
“I’m going out, remember?” I prodded. “And I’m going to drink too much, which makes me horny. Don’t forget to take your vitamins, ace.”
His lips twitched. “Well, then.”
“Oh, yeah. You’ll be lucky if you can crawl out of bed tomorrow,” I warned.
“I’ll make sure to stay hydrated, then.”
“Good idea.” I returned my attention to his tablet, but had to look when he walked his very fine ass out of the room.
When I saw him again, he was damp-haired and wearing black sweats that hung low enough on his hips that I knew he was commando underneath. Forcing myself to focus on my plans, I gave him the desk chair and stood next to him.
“Okay,” I began, “following the adage that the best defense is a good offense, I’ve been taking a look at your public image.”
He took a sip of his coffee.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I admonished. “I didn’t pay any attention to your personal life, since I’m your personal life.”
“Good girl.” He gave me an approving pat on my behind.
I stuck my tongue out at him. “I’m mostly thinking of how to combat a smear campaign focused on your temper.”
“It helps that I haven’t previously been known as having one,” he said dryly.
Until you met me … “I’m a terrible influence on you.”
“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
That earned him a quick, smacking kiss to the temple. “It took me a ridiculous amount of time to find out about the Crossroads Foundation.”
“You didn’t know where to look.”
“Your search optimization really blows,” I countered, pulling up the website. “And there’s only this splash page, which is pretty, but ridiculously bare. Where are the links and info about the charities that have benefited? Where’s the About page on the foundation and what you hope to accomplish?”
“A packet detailing all of that information is sent out to charities, hospitals, and universities twice a year.”
“Great. Now, let me introduce you to the Internet. Why isn’t the foundation tied to you?”
“Crossroads isn’t about me, Eva.”
“The hell it isn’t.” I met his raised brows with my own and shoved a to-do list in front of him. “We’re defusing the Deanna bomb before it blows. This website needs to be overhauled by Monday morning, with the addition of these pages and the information I’ve outlined.”
Gideon took a cursory glance at the paper, then picked up his mug and leaned back in his chair. I studiously focused on the mug and not his amazing torso.
“The Cross Industries site should cross-link with the foundation from your Bio page,” I continued. “Which also needs an overhaul and updating.”
I slid another paper in front of him.
He picked it up and began reading the biography I’d drafted. “This was clearly written by someone in love with me.”
“You can’t be shy, Gideon. Sometimes you just have to be blunt and say, ‘I rock.’ There’s so much more to you than a gorgeous face, hot body, and insane sex drive. But let’s focus on the stuff I don’t mind sharing with the world.”
Flashing a grin, Gideon asked, “How much coffee have you had this morning?”
“Enough to take you to the mat, so watch out.” I bumped my hip into his arm. “I also think you should consider a press release announcing the acquisition of La Rose Noir, so that your name and Giroux’s are linked. Remind people that Corinne—who you’ve been seen around with so much lately—has a husband, so Deanna can’t paint you as a total bad guy for cutting Corinne off. If she decides to go that route.”
He caught me unawares and pulled me into his lap. “Angel, you’re killing me. I’ll do whatever you want, but you need to understand that Deanna has nothing. Ian Hager isn’t going to risk a nice settlement to publicize his story. He’ll sign the necessary releases, take the money, and go away.”
“But what about—”
“Six-Ninths isn’t going to want their ‘Golden’ girl linked with another guy. Ruins the love story of the song. I’ll be speaking to Kline and we’ll get on the same page.”
“You’re talking to Brett?”
“We’re in business together,” he pointed out, with a twist to his lips, “so yes. And Deanna’s using Cary’s attack as a bluff. You and I both know there’s nothing there.”
I considered all that. “You think she’s yanking my chain? Why?”
“Because I’m yours, and if she had a press pass to any event we attended together, she knows it.” He leaned his forehead against mine. “I can’t hide how I feel around you, which is what’s made you a target.”
“You hid it well enough from me.”
“Your insecurity made you blind.”
I couldn’t argue with that. “So she freaks me out with the threat of the story. What does she achieve?”
He leaned back. “Think about it. The lid is about to blow on a scandal involving you and me. What’s the swiftest way to defuse it?”
“Stay away from me. That’s what you’d be advised to do. Distancing yourself from the source of a scandal is Crisis Management 101.”
“Or do the opposite and marry you,” he said softly.
I froze. “Is that—? Are you—?” Swallowing hard, I whispered, “Not now. Not like this.”
“No, not like this,” Gideon agreed, rubbing his lips back and forth over mine. “When I propose, angel, trust me, you’ll know it.”
My throat was tight. I could only nod.
“Breathe,” he ordered gently. “One more time. Now, reassure me that’s not panic.”
“Not really. No.”
“Talk to me, Eva.”
“I just …” I blurted it out in a rush. “I want you to ask me when I can say yes.”
Tension gripped his body. He leaned back, his eyes wounded beneath his frown. “You couldn’t say yes now?”
I shook my head.
His mouth thinned into a determined line. “Lay out what you need from me to make that happen.”
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, so that he’d feel the connection between us. “There’s so much I don’t know. And it’s not that I need to know more in order to make up my mind, because nothing could make me stop loving you. Nothing. I just feel like your hesitance to share things with me means that you’re not ready.”
“I think I followed that,” he muttered.
“I can’t take the risk that you won’t want forever with me. I won’t survive you, either, Gideon.”
“What do you want to know?”
He made a frustrated noise. “Be specific. Start with something.”
The first thing that came to mind was what came out of my mouth, because I’d been buried in his business all morning. “Vidal Records. Why are you in control of your stepfather’s company?”
“Because it was going under.” His jaw hardened. “My mother had already suffered through one financial meltdown; I wasn’t going to let it happen to her again.”
“What did you do?”
“I was able to convince her to talk them—Chris and Christopher—into taking the company public, then she sold Ireland’s shares to me. In addition to what I acquired, I had the majority.”
“Wow.” I squeezed his hand. I’d met both Christopher Vidal Sr.—Chris—and Christopher Vidal Jr. As alike as father and son were in appearance, with their dark copper waves and grayish-green eyes, I suspected they were very different men. Certainly I knew Christopher was a douche. I didn’t think his father was. At least I hoped he wasn’t. “How did that go over?”
Gideon’s arch look was all the answer I needed. “Chris would ask for my advice, but Christopher always refused to take it and my stepdad wouldn’t choose sides.”
“So you did what had to be done.” I kissed his jaw. “Thank you for telling me.”
I smiled. “No.”
I was about to ask him more when I heard my phone ringing with my mother’s ring tone. I was surprised it had taken her so long to call; I’d taken my smartphone off mute around ten o’clock. Groaning, I said, “I have to get that.”
He let me up, his hand stroking over my butt as I walked away. When I turned at the doorway to look back, he was poring over my notes and suggestions. I smiled.
By the time I reached my phone on the breakfast bar, it had stopped ringing, but it immediately started up again. “Mom,” I answered, jumping in before she started flipping out. “I’m going to come over today, okay? And we’ll talk.”
“Eva. You have no idea how worried I’ve been! You can’t do this to me!”
“I’ll be over in an hour,” I interjected. “I just need to get dressed.”
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so upset.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t sleep much, either,” I retorted. “It’s not just about you all the time, Mom. I’m the one who had her privacy violated. You’re just the one who got caught doing it.”
It was rare for me to be assertive with my mother because she always seemed so fragile, but it was time to redefine our relationship or we’d end up not having one. I looked to my wrist for the time, remembered I didn’t have a watch anymore, and glanced at the cable box by the television instead. “I’ll be over around one.”
“I’ll send a car for you,” she said quietly.
“Thank you. See you soon.” I hung up.
I was about to drop my phone back into my purse when it beeped with a text from Shawna: What r u wearing 2nite?
A number of ideas ran through my mind, from casual to outrageous. Even though I was inclined toward outrageous, I was checked by thoughts of Deanna. I had to think about what I’d look like in the tabloids. LBD, I replied, thinking the little black dress was a classic for a reason. Wild heels. Too much jewelry.
Got it! See u at 7, she texted back.
On the way to the bedroom, I paused by Gideon’s office and lounged against the doorjamb to watch him. I could watch him for hours; he was such a joy to look at. And I found him very sexy when he was focused.
He glanced up at me with a soft curve to his lips, and I knew he’d been aware of my staring. “This is all very good,” he praised, gesturing at his desktop. “Especially considering you pulled this together in a matter of hours.”
I preened a little, thrilled to have impressed a businessman whose acumen had made him one of the most successful individuals in the world.
“I want you at Cross Industries, Eva.”
My body reacted to the unwavering determination in his voice, which reminded me of when he’d said, I want to fuck you, Eva, when he’d first come on to me.
“I want you there, too,” I said. “On your desk.”
His eyes gleamed. “We can celebrate that way.”
“I like my job. I like my co-workers. I like knowing I’ve earned every milestone I reach.”
“I can give you that and more.” His fingers tapped against the side of his coffee mug. “I’m guessing you went with advertising because you like the spin. Why not public relations?”
“Too much like propaganda. At least with advertising, you know the bias right away.”
“You mentioned crisis management this morning. And clearly”—he gestured at his desk—“you have an aptitude for it. Let me exploit it.”
I crossed my arms. “Crisis management is PR and you know it.”
“You’re a problem solver. I can make you a fixer. Give you real, time-sensitive problems to solve. Keep you challenged and active.”
“Seriously.” I tapped my foot. “How many crises do you have in a given week?”
“Several,” he said cheerfully. “Come on, you’re intrigued. I can see it on your face.”
Straightening, I pointed out, “You have people to handle that kind of stuff already.”
Gideon leaned back in his chair and smiled. “I want more. So do you. Let’s have it together.”
“You’re like the devil himself, you know that? And you’re stubborn as hell. I’m telling you, working together would be a bad idea.”
“We’re working together just fine now.”
I shook my head. “Because you agreed with my assessment and suggestions, plus you had me sitting in your lap and you copped a feel of my ass. It’s not going to be the same when we’re not on the same page and arguing about it in your office in front of other people. Then we’ll have to bring that irritation home and deal with it here, too.”
“We can agree to leave work at the door.” His eyes slid over me, lingering on my legs, which were mostly bared by my silk robe. “I won’t have any problem thinking of more enjoyable things.”
Rolling my eyes, I backed out of the room. “Sex maniac.”
“I love making love with you.”
“That’s not fair,” I complained, having no defense against that. No defense against him.
Gideon grinned. “I never said I play fair.”
WHEN I entered my apartment fifteen minutes later, it felt weird. The floor plan was identical to Gideon’s next door, but reversed. The blending of his furniture and mine had helped to make his space feel like ours but had the side effect of making me feel like my home was … alien.
I looked around and saw Trey in the kitchen, pouring milk into two glasses. “Hey,” I greeted him back. “How are you?”
He looked it. His blond hair, which was usually unruly, had been nicely styled—one of Cary’s talents. Trey’s hazel eyes were bright, his smile charming beneath his once-broken nose.
“It’s good to see you around more,” I told him.
“I rearranged my schedule a bit.” He held up the milk and I shook my head, so he put it away. “How are you?”
“Dodging reporters, hoping my boss gets engaged, planning on setting one parent straight, fitting in a phone call to the other parent, and looking forward to hitting the town with the girls tonight.”
“What can I say?” I smiled. “How’s school? And work?”
I knew Trey was studying to be a veterinarian and juggling jobs to pay for it. One of those gigs was as a photographer’s assistant, which was how he’d met Cary.
He winced. “Both brutal, but it’ll pay off someday.”
“We should have another movie-and-pizza night when you get a chance.” I couldn’t help rooting for Trey in the tug-of-war between him and Tatiana. It could just be me, but she’d always seemed very adversarial toward me. And I didn’t like the way she’d put herself forward when she met Gideon.
“Sure. I’ll see what Cary’s schedule is like.”
I regretted bringing it up to Trey first instead of Cary, because some of the light left his eyes. I knew he was thinking about Cary having to fit him in between time with Tatiana. “Well, if he’s not up for it, we can always go out without him.”
His mouth tilted up on one side. “Sounds like a plan.”
AT ten minutes to one, I exited the lobby to find Clancy already waiting for me. He waved aside the doorman and opened the town car door for me, but no one looking at him would believe he was just a driver. He carried himself like the weapon he was, and in all the years I’d known him, I couldn’t recall ever seeing him smile.
Once he’d resumed his seat behind the wheel, he turned off the police scanner he routinely listened to and pulled his sunglasses down enough to catch my eye in the rearview mirror. “How are you?”
“Better than my mom, I’m guessing.”
He was too professional to give anything away in his expression. Instead, he slid his shades back into place and synced my phone to the car’s Bluetooth to start my playlist. Then he pulled away from the curb.
Reminded of his thoughtfulness, I said, “Hey. I’m sorry I took it out on you. You were doing a job and you didn’t deserve to get bitched at for it.”
“You’re not just a job, Miss Tramell.”
I was silent for a bit, absorbing that. Clancy and I had a distant, polite association. We saw each other quite a bit because he was responsible for getting me to and from my Krav Maga classes in Brooklyn. But I’d never really thought about him having any sort of personal stake in my safety, although it made sense. Clancy was a guy who took pride in his work.
“It wasn’t just that one thing, though,” I clarified. “A lot of stuff happened before you and Stanton ever came into the picture.”
The brusque reply was so like him that it made me smile.
Settling more comfortably into the seat, I looked out the window at the city I’d adopted and loved passionately. On the sidewalk beside me, strangers stood shoulder to shoulder over a tiny counter, eating individual slices of pizza. As close as they were, they were distant, each displaying a New Yorker’s ability to be an island in a crashing tide of people. Pedestrians flowed past them in both directions, avoiding a man pushing religious flyers and the tiny dog at his feet.
The vitality of the city had a frenetic pulse that made time seem to move faster here than anywhere else. It was such a contrast to the lazy sensuality of Southern California, where my dad lived and I’d gone to school. New York was a dominatrix on the prowl, cracking a mean whip and tantalizing with every vice.
My purse vibrated against my hip and I reached into it for my phone. A quick glance at the screen told me it was my dad. Saturdays were our weekly catch-up days and I always looked forward to our chats, but I was almost inclined to let the call go to voice mail until I was in a better frame of mind. I was too aggravated with my mom, and my dad had already been overly concerned about me since he’d left New York after his last visit.
He’d been with me when the detectives had come to my apartment to tell me Nathan was in New York. They’d dropped that bomb before they revealed that Nathan had been murdered, and I hadn’t been able to hide my fear at the thought of him being so close. My dad had been after me about my violent reaction ever since.
“Hey,” I answered, mostly because I didn’t want to be at odds with both my parents at the same time. “How are you?”
“Missing you,” he replied in the deep, confident voice I loved. My dad was the most perfect man I knew—darkly handsome, self-assured, smart, and rock solid. “How ’bout you?”
“I can’t complain too much.”
“Okay, complain just a little. I’m all ears.”
I laughed softly. “Mom’s just driving me a little batty.”
“What’d she do now?” he asked, with a note of warm indulgence in his voice.
“She’s been sticking her nose in my business.”
“Ah. Sometimes we parents do that when we’re worried about our babies.”
“You’ve never done that,” I pointed out.
“I haven’t done it yet,” he qualified. “That doesn’t mean I won’t, if I’m worried enough. I just hope I could convince you to forgive me.”
“Well, I’m on my way to Mom’s now. Let’s see how convincing she can be. It would help if she’d admit she’s wrong.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Ha! Right?” I sighed. “Can I call you tomorrow?”
“Sure. Is everything all right, sweetheart?”
I closed my eyes. Cop instincts plus daddy instincts meant I rarely got anything by Victor Reyes. “Yep. It’s just that I’m almost to Mom’s now. I’ll let you know how it goes. Oh, and my boss might be getting engaged. Anyway, I have stuff to tell you.”
“I may have to stop by the station in the morning, but you can reach me on my cell no matter what. I love you.”
I felt a sudden surge of homesickness. As much as I loved New York and my new life, I missed my dad a lot. “I love you, too, Daddy. Talk to you tomorrow.”
Killing the call, I looked for my wristwatch, and its absence reminded me of the confrontation ahead. I was upset with my mother about the past, but was most concerned with the future. She’d hovered over me for so long because of Nathan, I wasn’t sure she knew any other way to behave.
“Hey.” I leaned forward, needing to clarify something that was bothering me. “That day when me, Mom, and Megumi were walking back to the Crossfire and Mom freaked out … Did you guys see Nathan?”
“He’d been there before and got his ass beat by Gideon Cross. Why would he go back?”
He glanced at me through the mirror. “My guess? To be seen. Once he made himself known, he kept the pressure up. Likely, he expected to frighten you and managed to scare Mrs. Stanton instead. Effective in either case.”
“And no one told me,” I said quietly. “I can’t get over that.”
“He wanted you frightened. No one wanted to give him that satisfaction.”
Oh. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
“My big regret,” he went on, “is not keeping an eye on Cary. I miscalculated, and he paid the price.”
Gideon hadn’t seen Nathan’s attack on Cary coming, either. And God knew I felt guilty about it, too—my friendship was what had put Cary in danger to begin with.
But I was really touched that Clancy cared. I could hear it in his gruff voice. He was right; I wasn’t just a job to him. He was a good man who gave his all to everything he did. Which made me wonder: How much did he have left over for the other things in his life?
“Do you have a girlfriend, Clancy?”
I felt like an ass for not knowing that. What was she like, the woman married to such a hard, somber man? A man who wore a jacket year-round to hide the sidearm he was never without. Did he soften for her and show her tenderness? Was he fierce about protecting her? Would he kill for her?
“How far would you go to keep her safe?” I asked him.
We slowed at a light and he turned his head to look at me. “How far wouldn’t I go?”