“Like a nursery,” Cary said, shaking crushed red pepper onto his slice.
My appetite died and I dropped the slice I’d been eating onto my paper plate. Lately, eating pizza at home hadn’t been working out for me.
“Or a guest room,” Eva corrected. “I liked what you talked to Blaire about for your apartment.”
Cary shot her a look. “Quick dodge.”
“Hey, you may have babies on your mind, but the rest of us have other things to check off our lists first.”
She was saying exactly what I wanted her to say, but . . .
Did Eva have the same fears I did? Maybe she’d taken me as a husband because she couldn’t help herself, but drew the line at taking me as a father to her children.
I carried my plate to the trash and tossed it in. “I have some calls to make. Stay,” I said to Cary. “Spend time with Eva.”
He gave me a nod. “Thanks.”
Leaving the kitchen, I crossed the living room.
“So,” Cary began, before I stepped out of earshot, “hot-designer-dude’s got a thing for your man, baby girl.”
“He does not!” Eva laughed. “You’re crazy.”
“No argument there, but that Ash guy barely glanced at you all night and kept his eyes glued on Cross.”
I snorted. Ash had gotten the message, which reaffirmed my belief in his intelligence. Cary was free to read that however he liked.
“Well, if you’re right,” she said, “I have to admire his taste.”
I headed down the hallway and entered my home office, my gaze landing on the collage of Eva’s photos on the wall.
She was the one thing I couldn’t tuck neatly away in my mind. She was always at the forefront, driving everything I did.
Settling down at my desk, I got to work, hoping to catch up on what I could so that the rest of the week wouldn’t be thrown completely off. It took me a bit to get my head in the game, but once I did, I felt relief. It was a reprieve to focus on problems with concrete solutions.
I was making headway when I heard a yell from the living room that sounded like it had come from Eva. I paused, listening. It was quiet a moment, and then I heard it again, followed by Cary’s raised voice. I went to the door and opened it.
“You could talk to me, Cary!” my wife said angrily. “You could tell me what’s going on.”
“You know what the f**k is going on,” he retorted, the edge in his tone drawing me out of my office.
“I didn’t know you were cutting again!”
I moved down the hall. Eva and Cary squared off in the living room, the two friends glaring at each other across the span of several feet.
“It’s none of your business,” he said, his shoulders high and chin canted defensively. He glanced at me. “Not yours, either.”
“I don’t disagree,” I replied, although that wasn’t quite true. How Cary self-destructed wasn’t my concern; how it affected Eva was.
“Bullshit. That’s total f**king bullshit.” Eva’s gaze shot to me as she turned to bring me into their conversation. Then she looked back at Cary. “I thought you were talking to Dr. Travis.”
“When do I have time for that?” he scoffed, raking his hair back off his forehead. “Between my work and Tat’s, plus trying to keep Trey, I don’t have time to sleep!”
Eva shook her head. “That’s a cop-out.”
“Don’t lecture me, baby girl,” he warned. “I don’t need your shit right now.”
“Oh my God.” She tipped her head back and looked at the ceiling. “Why the f**k do the men in my life insist on shutting me out when they need me most?”
“Can’t speak for Cross, but you’re not around for me anymore. I’m getting by the best I can.”
Her head snapped down. “That’s not fair! You have to tell me when you need me. I’m not a damn mind reader!”
Turning on my heel, I left them to it. I had problems of my own to work out. When Eva was ready, she’d come to me and I would listen, being careful not to offer too much of my opinion.
I knew she didn’t want to hear that I thought she would be better off without Cary.
THE early-morning light slanted across the bed and caught the ends of Eva’s hair as she slept. The soft blond strands glowed like burnished gold, as if they were lit from within. Her hand curled gently on the pillow beside her beautiful face, the other tucked safely between her br**sts. The white sheet was draped over her from hip to thigh, her tanned legs exposed by the tangle we’d made before falling asleep.
I wasn’t a man given to whimsy, but at that moment my wife looked like the angel I believed she was. I focused the camera on the sight she made, wanting to preserve that image of her for all time.
The shutter snapped and she stirred, her lips parting. I took another shot, grateful I’d bought a camera that just might do justice to her.
Her eyelids fluttered open. “What are you doing, ace?” she asked, in a voice as smoky as her irises.
I set the camera on the dresser and joined her in the bed. “Admiring you.”
Her lips curved. “How are you feeling today?”
“Better is good.” Rolling, she reached for her breath mints. She turned back to me smelling of cinnamon. Her gaze slid over my face. “You’re ready to tackle the world today, aren’t you?”