“I just wish I knew what caused the fight,” she said. “I mean as long as they didn’t cheat on each other, they should be able to get through it, right?”
Exhaling roughly, I straightened. “I’m not the person to ask about relationships. I have no idea how they work. I’m just stumbling my way through, praying not to f**k things up, and grateful that Eva is so forgiving.”
“You really love her.”
I followed her gaze to the collage of photos on the wall. It hurt sometimes, looking at those pictures of my wife. I wanted to recapture and relive every moment. I wanted to hoard every second I’d ever had with her. I hated that time slipped away so quickly and I couldn’t bank it for the uncertain future.
“Yes,” I murmured. I’d forgive Eva anything. There was nothing she could do or say that would break us apart, because I couldn’t live without her.
“I’m happy for you, Gideon.” Ireland smiled when I looked at her.
“Thank you.” The worry in her eyes lingered and sparked restlessness. I wanted to fix the problems troubling her, but I didn’t know how.
“Could you talk to Mom?” she suggested. “Not now, of course. But tomorrow? Maybe you can find out what’s going on?”
I hesitated a moment, knowing a conversation with our mother was certain to be unproductive. “I’ll try.”
Ireland studied her nails. “You don’t like Mom very much, do you?”
Weighing my answer carefully, I said, “We have a fundamental difference of opinion.”
“Yeah. I get it. It’s like she’s got this weird form of OCD that applies to her family. Everyone has to be a particular way or at least pretend to be. She’s so worried about what people think. I saw an old movie the other day that reminded me of her. Ordinary People. Ever seen it?”
“No, can’t say I have.”
“You should watch it. It has Kiefer Sutherland’s dad in it and some other people. It’s sad, but it’s a good story.”
“I’ll look it up.” Feeling the need to explain our mother, I tried my best. “What she dealt with after my father died . . . It was brutal. She’s insulated herself since then, I think.”
“My friend’s mother says Mom used to be different before. You know, when she was married to your dad.”
I set my cooled coffee aside. “I do remember her differently.”
“That’s subjective. She was more . . . spontaneous. Carefree.”
Ireland rubbed at her mouth with her fingertips. “Do you think it broke her? Losing your dad?”
My chest tightened. “It changed her,” I said quietly. “I’m not sure how much.”
“Ugh.” She sat up, visibly shaking off her melancholy. “You going to be awake awhile?”
“Probably all night.”
“Wanna watch that movie with me?”
The suggestion surprised me. And pleased me. “Depends. You can’t tell me what happens. No spoilers.”
She shot me a look. “I already told you it’s sad. If you want happily ever after, she’s sleeping down the hall.”
That made me smile. Standing, I rounded my desk. “You find the movie, I’ll grab the soda.”
“A beer would be good.”
“Not on my watch.”
She pushed to her feet with a grin. “Okay, fine. Wine, then.”
“Ask me again in a few years.”
“You’ll have kids by then. It won’t be as fun.”
I paused, hit by anxiety sharp enough to mist my skin with sweat. The thought of having a baby with Eva both thrilled and terrified me. It wasn’t safe for my wife to live with me. How could it ever be safe for a child?
Ireland laughed. “Holy f**k, you should see your face! A classic case of playboy panic. Didn’t they tell you? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”
“If you don’t shut up, I’m sending you to bed.”
She laughed harder and linked her arm with mine. “You’re a riot. Seriously. I’m just messing with you. Don’t flip out on me. I’ve got enough family members doing that.”
I willed my heart to stop pounding so damn hard.
“Maybe you should have a drink,” she suggested.
“I think I will,” I muttered.
“I’m going to give major props to Eva for getting a ring out of you. Did you have a panic attack when you proposed, too?”
“Stop talking, Ireland.”
Leaning her head against my shoulder, she giggled and led me out of my office.
THE sun had been up for over two hours by the time I returned to bed. I stripped silently, my gaze roaming over the delectable bump under the covers that was my wife.
Eva was curled in a ball, mostly hidden except for the bright strands of hair splayed over the pillow. My mind filled in the blanks, knowing she was na**d between the sheets.
Mine. All mine.
It killed me to sleep away from her. I knew it hurt her, too.
Lifting the edge of the blankets, I slid in beside her. She gave a soft little moan and rolled toward me, her lush warm body wriggling into place against me.
I was instantly hard. Desire simmered in my blood; awareness tingled along my skin. It was combustible sexual chemistry but also something more. Something deeper. A strange, wonderful, frightening recognition.