My fingers brushed her cheek, the only touch I would allow myself. “This will be more comfortable for now.”
I tucked her into bed, smoothing her hair back from her cheeks. She was going to sleep believing her world still had her mother in it and that her husband would never lie to her.
“I love you.” I pressed a kiss to her forehead, wanting those words to echo in her dreams.
It was all too possible that she wouldn’t believe them once she was awake.
Leaving Eva to rest, I shut the bedroom door and headed to the kitchen for a drink, something strong and smooth that might ease the cold knot in my gut.
I found Cary in the living room, sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands. Angus sat at the far end of the dining table, talking quietly on his phone.
“Would you like a drink?” I asked Cary, as I passed him.
His head came up and I saw the tears. The devastation. “Where’s Eva?”
“She’s trying to sleep. It’s best that she does.” I entered the kitchen, grabbed two tumblers and a bottle of scotch, and poured two hefty rations. I slid one over when he joined me at the island.
I tossed mine back, gulping down the contents. Closing my eyes, I felt the burn. “You’ll stay in the guest room.” My voice was roughened by the liquor’s bite. “She’s going to need you in the morning.”
“We’re going to need each other.”
I poured another glass for myself. “Victor’s coming.”
“Fuck.” Cary swiped at his damp eyes. “Stanton, man … He aged right in front of me. Like thirty years just ran through him while I was standing there.” He lifted his tumbler to his lips with a violently shaking hand.
My phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out, answering it even though I didn’t recognize the number. “Cross.”
“Gideon. It’s Dr. Petersen. I got your message.”
“Just a minute.” I pressed the phone to my chest and looked at Cary. “I have to take this.”
He waved me off, his gaze locked into the amber liquid in his glass.
I went to the bedroom and cracked open the door, relieved to find Eva fast asleep with the dog curled up next to her. Backing out, I shut myself in my office. “I’m sorry. I needed to step away for privacy.”
“That’s fine. What’s happened, Gideon?”
Sinking into my desk chair, I dropped my head into my hand. “It’s Eva’s mother. There was an incident tonight. She was killed.”
“Monica …” He took a deep breath. “Tell me what happened.”
I remembered then that Monica was—had been—a patient of Dr. Petersen, too. I relayed the same information I’d passed to Victor. “I need you to come to my home. I need your help. I don’t know how to tell Eva.”
“How to …? I’m sorry, Gideon. It’s late and I’m confused. I assumed she was with you when it happened.”
“She was right by my side, but I knocked her down to get her out of the way. Knocked the breath right out of her. She passed out and when she came to, I told her it was a false alarm.”
“Oh, Gideon.” He sighed heavily. “That wasn’t wise.”
“It was the right decision. There’s nothing she can do about what happened.”
“You can’t protect her from everything, and lying is never a solution.”
“I can protect her from being a target!” I surged to my feet, furious that his reaction and Angus’s reflected my worst fears about how Eva would respond to the choice I’d made. “Until I know what the threat is, I won’t have her out in the open, which is exactly where she’d want to be!”
“That’s her choice to make.”
“It would be the wrong one.”
“Regardless, it’s a decision she has a right to come to on her own.”
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see it. “Her safety is nonnegotiable. She worries about everyone else. It’s my job to worry about her.”
“You could tell her your concerns,” Dr. Petersen said, his voice low and soothing. “Explain them to her.”
“She wouldn’t put her safety first. She’d want to be with Stanton.”
“Being with others who share her grief can—”
“He’s standing over her mother’s corpse on a city sidewalk right now!”
The words and the image they evoked were vile. My stomach churned, revolting against the liquor I’d poured into it. But I needed someone to grasp the full extent of the horror and understand why I’d made my decision. To give me some hope that Eva would understand.
“Don’t tell me what would be best for her right now,” I said coldly. “I won’t let her go there. She would be haunted for the rest of her life if she saw … that.”
He was quiet. Then, “The longer you wait, the more difficult this will be for both of you.”
“I’m going to tell her as soon as she wakes up. You’re going to come over here and help me do that.”