“Eva.” Chris slowed as he neared me. “How are you?”
He nodded, looking over my shoulder at Gideon’s office. “Can’t complain. Do you have a minute? I’d like to talk to you about something.”
“Sure.” The door opened behind me and I turned to see Scott stepping out.
“Mr. Vidal,” he said, coming toward us. “Miss Tramell. Mr. Cross will be another fifteen minutes or so. Can I get either of you something to drink while you wait?”
Chris shook his head. “Nothing for me, thank you. But if you have a private room we could use, that would be great.”
“Of course.” Scott looked at me.
“I’m good, thanks,” I answered.
Leaving his tablet on his desk, Scott led us to a conference room with a sweeping view of the city. A long, polished wood table gleamed beneath the recessed lighting, with a matching cabinet covering one wall and a large monitor lining the other.
“If you need anything,” he began, “just dial one and we’ll take care of it. There’s coffee in the cabinet there, and water.”
Chris nodded. “Thank you, Scott. Appreciate it.”
Scott left. Chris gestured for me to sit, then took the chair to the right of mine, spinning it to face me.
“First, let me congratulate you on your engagement.” He smiled. “Ireland speaks very highly of you, and I know you’ve been instrumental in bringing her and Gideon closer together. I can’t thank you enough for that.”
“I didn’t do much, but I appreciate the thought.”
He reached for my left hand, which was resting on the table. His thumb rubbed gently over my engagement ring and his mouth curved ruefully.
Was he thinking about the fact that Geoffrey Cross had selected the ring for Elizabeth?
“It’s a beautiful ring,” he said finally. “I’m sure it meant a great deal to Gideon to give it to you.”
I didn’t know what to say to that. It meant a lot to my husband because it was a symbol of the love between his parents.
Chris released my hand. “Elizabeth is taking this very hard. I’m sure there are a lot of complicated emotions a mother must feel when her first child decides to get married, especially with a son. My mother used to say that a son is a son until he gets married—then he’s a husband—but a daughter is a daughter for life.”
The conciliatory explanation rubbed me the wrong way. He was trying to be kind, but I was tired of all the excuses, especially when it came to Elizabeth Vidal. The pretending had to end or Gideon would never stop hurting.
I needed the pain to stop. Every time he woke up crying, it shattered me a little more. I could only imagine the damage it was doing to him.
Still, I debated letting it go for now. I could argue and push forever, but Gideon needed to be the one to demand the answers and hear them given.
Put it away. When the time is right, it’ll happen.
But I found myself leaning forward instead, unable to hold the silence Gideon had kept for too long.
“Let’s be honest,” I insisted quietly. “Your wife didn’t have this reaction when Gideon became engaged to Corinne.” I didn’t know that for sure, but having seen Elizabeth with Corinne’s parents at the hospital, it seemed likely.
His sheepish smile proved me right. “I think that was different because Gideon had been with Corinne awhile and we knew her. You and Gideon haven’t been together long, so there’s still some adjusting to do. I don’t want you to take it personally, Eva.”
The smile chafed, but it was the words that were too much for me. Resentment welled and flowed over the wall I tried to contain it behind.
Chris wasn’t blameless, either. Taking a grieving, troubled boy into his home had to have been hard—especially when he’d been building his own family with Christopher Jr. and Ireland on the way. But he’d accepted the role of stepfather when he married Elizabeth. He shared responsibility for pursuing justice for a wounded and exploited child. Hell, a stranger would have an obligation to report the crime.
Leaning forward, I let him see how angry I was. “It’s very personal, Mr. Vidal. Elizabeth is feeling threatened because I’m not going to put up with this bullshit anymore. You both owe Gideon an apology and she needs to admit to the abuse. I’m going to keep pressuring her to make things right. You can count on that.”
His posture stiffened visibly. “What are you talking about?”
I snorted with disgust. “Seriously?”
“Elizabeth would never abuse her children,” he said tightly when I didn’t reply. “She’s a wonderful, devoted mother.”
I blinked, then stared at him. Was he as delusional as Elizabeth? How could they both act like they didn’t know?
“I think you’d better explain yourself, Eva. Fast.”
I sagged back into the chair, stunned. If he was acting, he deserved a goddamned Academy Award.
He surged forward without getting up, bristling and aggressive. “Start talking. Now.”
My voice came quiet. Small. “He was raped. By the therapist he was seeing.”
Chris froze. For a long minute, he didn’t even breathe.
“He told Elizabeth, but she didn’t believe him. She knows he was telling the truth, but she’s denied it for whatever screwed-up reason she’s come up with.”
He straightened, shaking his head vehemently. “No.”