August 11 through September 22—a full month and a half. The thought of that was almost enough to make the next few weeks bearable.
“Eva. Gideon.” Dr. Lyle Petersen stood and smiled as we walked into his office. He was a tall man, and his gaze lowered a noticeable distance to take in our linked hands. “You’re both looking well.”
“I feel good,” Eva said, sounding strong and sure.
I didn’t say anything, extending my hand to shake his.
The good doctor knew things about me I’d hoped never to share with anyone. Because of that, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with him, despite the soothing blend of neutral colors and comfortable furniture that made up his office. Dr. Petersen himself was a comfortable man, easy in his own skin. His neatly groomed gray hair did much to soften his appearance but couldn’t distract from how incisive and perceptive he was.
It was hard to rely on someone who knew so much my vulnerabilities, but I dealt with it as best I could because I had no other choice—Dr. Petersen was a pivotal player in my marriage.
Eva and I took seats on the sofa, while Dr. Petersen settled into his usual wingback chair. He left his tablet and stylus sitting on the arm and studied us with dark blue eyes that were sharp with intelligence.
“Gideon,” he began, “tell me what’s happened since I saw you on Tuesday.”
I settled back and got to the point. “Eva’s decided to follow your recommendation to abstain from sex until we marry publicly.”
Eva’s low, husky laugh broke out. She leaned into me, hugging my arm. “Did you catch the note of accusation?” she asked the doctor. “It’s all your fault he’s not going to get any for a couple weeks.”
“It’s more than two weeks,” I argued.
“But less than three,” she shot back. She smiled at Dr. Petersen. “I should’ve known he’d bring that up first.”
“What would you start with, Eva?” he asked.
“Gideon told me the details about his nightmare last night.” She glanced at me. “That was huge. It’s a really big turning point for us.”
There was no mistaking the love in her eyes when she spoke, or the gratitude and hope. It tightened my throat to see it. Talking to her about the fucked-up shit in my head was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do—even telling Dr. Petersen about Hugh had been easier—but it was all worth it just to see that look on her face.
The ugliest things about each other brought us closer. It was crazy and it was wonderful. I pulled her hand into my lap, cupping it with both of mine. I felt the same love, gratitude, and hope that she did.
Dr. Petersen picked up his tablet. “Quite a few revelations for you this week, Gideon. What brought them on?”
“Eva stopped seeing you.”
“And speaking to me.”
He looked at Eva. “Was that because Gideon hired your boss away from the agency you work for?”
“That was the catalyst,” she agreed, “but we’d been building up to a breaking point. Something had to give. We couldn’t keep going in circles, having the same arguments.”
“So you withdrew. That could be considered emotional blackmail. Was that your intent?”
Her lips pursed as she weighed that. “I’d call it desperation.”
“Because Gideon was … drawing lines to define our relationship. And I couldn’t imagine living within those lines for the rest of my life.”
Dr. Petersen made some notes. “Gideon, what do you think about how Eva handled this situation?”
It took me a minute to answer. “It felt like a goddamned time warp, but a hundred times worse.”
He glanced at me. “I remember when you first came to see me, you and Eva hadn’t spoken for a couple of days.”
“He cut me off,” she said.
“She walked out,” I countered.
Again, it had been a night when we’d really opened up to each other. She told me about Nathan’s assaults, let me see the source of what had unconsciously drawn us together. Then I’d had a nightmare about my own abuse and she pushed me to talk about it.
I couldn’t and she left me.
Eva bristled. “He broke it off with me via interoffice memo! Who does that?”
“I didn’t break it off,” I corrected. “I challenged you to come back. You walk away when things don’t—”
“That’s emotional blackmail.” She released my hand and shifted to face me. “You cut me off for the express purpose of making me accept your status quo. I don’t like the way things are? Well, then, you’ll shut me out until I can’t take it anymore.”
“Didn’t you just do that to me?” My jaw clenched. “And you seem to take it just fine. If I don’t change, you don’t budge.”
And that killed me. She’d proven so many times that she could leave and not look back, while I couldn’t breathe without her. That was a fundamental imbalance in our relationship, which gave her the upper hand in everything.
“You sound resentful, Gideon,” Dr. Petersen interjected.
“And I don’t?” Eva crossed her arms.