I didn’t want Gideon to hurt. He’d been hurt too much already.
Pulling out my smartphone, I texted him. I love you.
His reply was almost immediate. Calling. Pls answer.
A moment later the phone vibrated in my hand and his picture appeared on my screen. It was like a quick stab to the heart to see his face after spending the last few days avoiding any image of him. I was equally afraid to hear his voice. I didn’t know if I could be strong. And I didn’t have the answers he needed from me.
My voice mail kicked in and the phone quieted. It started vibrating again right away.
I answered, lifting the phone to my ear without speaking.
There was silence on the line for a long, breathless moment. “Eva?”
My eyes watered at the sound of Gideon’s voice, the rasp in it so deep, as if his throat were rough. What was worse was the hope I heard in the way he said my name, the desperate longing.
“It’s okay if you don’t talk,” he said gruffly. “I just . . .” He gave a shaky exhale. “I’m sorry, Eva. I want you to know I’m sorry and that I’ll do whatever you need me to. I just want to fix this.”
“Gideon . . .” I heard him suck in a sharp inhalation when I said his name. “I believe that you’re sorry we’re not together now. But I also believe that you would do something like this again. I’m trying to figure out if I can live with that.”
Silence hung on the line between us.
“What does that mean?” he asked finally. “What would be the alternative?”
I sighed, suddenly feeling so tired. “I don’t have any answers. That’s why I’ve stayed away. I want to give you everything, Gideon. I never want to say no to you, it’s so hard for me. But right now, I’m afraid that if I make this compromise, if I stay with you knowing how you are and that you’re not going to change, I’m just going to resent you and, eventually, fall out of love with you.”
“Eva . . . Christ. Don’t say that!” His breath snagged. “I told Dr. Petersen. About Hugh.”
“What?” My head snapped up. “When?”
“Last night. I told him everything. About Hugh. Anne. He’s going to help me, Eva. He said some things . . .” He paused. “They made sense to me. About me and the way I am with you.”
“Oh, Gideon.” I could imagine how difficult that must have been for him. I’d lived through that confession myself. “I’m very proud of you. I know it wasn’t easy.”
“You have to stick with me. You promised. I told you I was going to f**k this up. I’ll f**k up again. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but God . . . I love you. I love you so f**king much. I can’t do this without you. I can’t live without you. You’re breaking me, Eva. I can’t . . .” He made a low, pained noise. “I need you.”
“Ah God, Gideon.” Tears poured down my face and splattered onto my chest, sliding down beneath the neckline of my dress. “I don’t know what to do, either.”
“Can’t we figure it out together? Aren’t we better—stronger—together?”
I wiped at my face, knowing my makeup was ruined and not caring. “I want us to be. I want that more than anything. I just don’t know if we can get there. There hasn’t been a single time when you’ve let me figure things out with you. Not once.”
“If I did . . . if I do—and I will—you’ll come back to me?”
“I haven’t left you, Gideon. I don’t know how.” I looked out the window, spotted a young couple kissing each other good-bye in front of a revolving door before the man ran off. “But yes, if we could really be a team, nothing could keep me away.”
“HEARD you guys landed the PhazeOne campaign.”
I turned my attention from the coffee I was sweetening to raise my brows at Will. “I haven’t heard that.”
He grinned, his eyes sparkling behind his glasses. He was such a happy guy, anchored solidly in a relationship that worked. I was so envious of that serenity. I had felt it only a few times since I’d been with Gideon, and every time it was . . . bliss. How amazing would it be if we could get there and stay there?
“That’s the buzz I’ve been hearing,” he said.
“Man.” I gave an exaggerated sigh. “I am always the last to know.”
I’d been putting on an Oscar-worthy performance all week. Between Mark’s excitement, the imminent adjustment in my work situation, starting my period, and dealing with the mess in my private life, I was focusing every ounce of energy I had left on acting calm. As a result, I’d avoided the office gossip cliques to limit my contact with people. There was only so much happiness/joy/contentment I could fake.
“Mark’s going to kill me for telling you.” Will looked completely unapologetic. “I wanted to be the first to congratulate you.”
“Okay. Thank you. Maybe.”
“I’m dying to get my hands on that system, you know. The tech blogs are wild with rumors about PhazeOne’s features.” He leaned against the counter next to me and gave me a hopeful look.
I wagged my finger at him. “You won’t be hearing any leaks from me.”
“Damn it. A guy’s gotta hope.” He shrugged. “They’re probably going to lock you in solitary somewhere until the release just to keep a lid on it.”