“No, this was personal.” I set my utensils down. “Eric Landon, Ryan Landon’s father, invested heavily with my dad and lost everything. Ryan Landon has been gunning for me ever since.”
A frown marred the space between her brows. “So you didn’t want us working on any campaigns for him? Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m saying that Ryan Landon asked for Mark as a way to get to you.”
“What? Why?” Irritation mixed with anger on her face. “He’s married, for chrissakes. He brought his wife to lunch with us the other day. You’ve got no reason to be jealous.”
“He wouldn’t be interested in you that way,” I agreed. “It’s more of a triumph to have you working for him. He wants the satisfaction of knowing he can give an order and you’ll have to jump to get it done.”
“You don’t know the whole of it, Eva. How many years he’s spent trying to undercut me in every way possible. Every business decision he makes is driven by the need to rewrite the connection between the Landon and Cross names. Every success he’s had has been accompanied by a mention of his father’s failure to see my dad as a fraud and what that cost the Landons.”
“Of course I don’t know,” she said coldly. “Because you didn’t see fit to tell me.”
“I’m telling you now.”
“When it doesn’t matter anymore!” She slid off the bar stool and stalked out of the kitchen.
I went after her, as I always did. “Eva.”
I caught her by the elbow, but she yanked free, spinning to face me.
“Don’t touch me!”
“Don’t walk away from me,” I growled. “If we’re going to fight, let’s get it over with.”
“That’s what you were counting on, right? You figured you’d do whatever you wanted, then sweet-talk or f**k your way through it later. But you can’t fix this, Gideon. You can’t say a few words or screw me brainless and get away with it this time.”
“Fix what? I saw someone maneuvering to take advantage of you and I took care of it.”
“Is that how you see it?” Her hands went to her hips. “I don’t see it that way at all. Landon is taking the risk. What if Mark and I do a crappy job? He’s got a lot riding on PhazeOne.”
“Exactly. He has in-house advertising, marketing, and promotion, just like I do. Why take something he’s sunk a fortune into—even by my standards—and set himself up for leaks or a massive fail?”
She threw her hands up with a snort.
“Right,” I bit out. “You can’t answer that because there is no good answer. It’s an unnecessary gamble. The only people handling the launch of the next-generation GenTen are people whose souls I own.”
“What are you saying?”
“That Landon’s waited a long time for his pound of Cross flesh. Maybe he doesn’t care that you married into the name. I don’t know what he has in mind. At the very least, he’s forcing us into a place where we’re unable to share information with each other.”
Her brow arched. “How is that any different from how our relationship usually works?”
“Don’t.” I clenched my hands at my sides, frustrated by her stubbornness. “Don’t make this about us when it’s about him. I’ll be damned if Landon drags you through hell because of me.”
“I’m not saying you’re wrong! If you’d told me about this, I would’ve made the right decision on my own. Instead, you forced me out of a job I love!”
“Back up. What decision would that have been?”
“I don’t know.” She gave me a cold, hard smile that chilled my blood. “And now we’ll never find out.”
She turned her back to me again.
“No,” she tossed over her shoulder. “I’m getting dressed. Then I’m leaving.”
“Like hell.” I followed her into the bedroom.
“I can’t be around you right now, Gideon. I don’t even want to look at you.”
My mind raced, searching for something to say that would calm her down. “Mark hasn’t taken the job.”
She shook her head and yanked open a drawer to pull out a pair of shorts. “He will. I’m sure you made him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“I’ll withdraw it.” God. I was backpedaling and it rankled, but she was so angry I couldn’t reach her. She was as distant as I’d ever seen her. Remote and untouchable. After the wildly erotic night we’d had, when we had been as close as ever, her attitude was unbearable.
“Don’t bother, Gideon. The damage is done. But you’ll get a solid employee who’ll bring a lot to your team.” She tugged the shorts on and went into the closet.
I was right behind her, blocking the doorway while she shoved her feet into flip-flops. “Listen to me, damn it. They’re coming after you. Everyone. They want to get at me through you. I’m doing the best I can, Eva. I’m trying to protect us the only way I know how.”
She paused, facing me. “That’s a problem. Because this way doesn’t work for me. It will never work for me.”
“Goddamn it, I’m trying! ”
“All you had to do was talk to me, Gideon. I was halfway there on my own. Working with you on Crossroads was just the first step. I was going to make the decision to work with you, and you took that away from me. You took it away from both of us. And we’ll never get it back.”