It was different now. She’d become as necessary as air. Protecting her happiness was more crucial than ever. I knew what it felt like to be judged for the sins of someone else and I would never put my wife through that. Contrary to her belief, I could live without having my hand in everything Cross Industries was involved in.
I wouldn’t spend my days in a damned loincloth role-playing Tarzan, but there was a comfortable medium between the two extremes.
“You warned me about Anne.” I shook my head. “I should’ve listened to you.”
He shrugged that off. “What’s done is done. Anne Lucas is a grown woman. She’s old enough to take responsibility for her decisions.”
What are you doing, lad? he’d asked, as Anne slid into the back of the Bentley that first night. In the weeks that followed, he made his disapproval more and more clear until one day, he raised his voice to me. Disgusted with myself for punishing a woman who’d done nothing to me, I’d taken it out on him, telling him to remember his place.
The brief look of pain he’d quickly hidden would haunt me to my grave.
“I’m sorry,” I said, holding his gaze. “For how I handled it.”
A small smile crinkled the lines on his face. “The apology isn’t necessary, but I accept it.”
Scott’s voice came through the speaker. “The PosIT team is here. I also have Arnoldo Ricci on the line for you. He says it won’t take long.”
I looked at Angus to see if he had anything further for me. He tapped his brow in a casual salute and left.
Speaking to Scott, I said, “Put him through.”
I waited for the red light to flash, then opened the line on speaker. “Where are you now?”
“Hello to you, too, my friend,” Arnoldo greeted, his voice accented with the notes of Italy. “I hear I missed you and Eva at the restaurant this week.”
“We had an excellent lunch.”
“Ah, it is the only kind we serve. We are not so bad with dinner, either.”
I rocked back in my chair. “You’re in New York?”
“Yes, and planning your bachelor party, which is why I’m calling. If you have plans this weekend, cancel them.”
“Eva and I will be out of town.”
“She will be out of town. In fact, out of the country, from what I understand from Shawna. And you will be out of town, too. The rest of the guys are in agreement with me. We are going to force you to leave New York for a change.”
I was so taken aback by the first part of what Arnoldo said that I hardly heard the last. “Eva isn’t leaving the country.”
“You’ll have to take that up with her and her friends,” he said smoothly. “As for us, we are going to Rio.”
I found myself standing. Damn it. Eva wasn’t in the Crossfire. I couldn’t just take an elevator and find her.
“I’m going to ask Scott to arrange the flight,” he continued. “We’ll leave Friday evening and plan to return Monday in time for you to go to work, if you are ambitious enough.”
“Where is Eva going?”
“I have no idea. Shawna wouldn’t say, because it’s not for you to know. She told me only that they would be gone for the weekend and I should plan on keeping you occupied, because Cary doesn’t want you to interfere.”
“That’s not his decision to make,” I snapped.
He paused. “Being angry at me won’t help you, Gideon. And if you don’t trust her, my friend, you shouldn’t be marrying her.”
My grip on the phone tightened. “Arnoldo, you’re the closest friend I have. But that’ll change if you don’t get your head out of your ass when it comes to Eva.”
“You mistake me,” he corrected hurriedly. “If you cage her for your own security, you will lose her. What is considered romantic in a boyfriend can be stifling in a husband.”
Realizing he was offering advice, I started counting to ten. I made it to seven. “I can’t believe this.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Arash assures me she is the best thing to ever happen to you. He says he has never seen you happier and that she adores you.”
“I’ve said the same.”
Arnoldo exhaled audibly. “Men in love do not make the best witnesses.”
Amusement replaced irritation. “Why are you and Arash discussing my personal life?”
“It is what friends do.”
“Girl friends. You’re grown men. You should have something better to do with your time.” I rapped my knuckles on the desktop. “And you want me to spend a weekend in Brazil with a bunch of guy gossips?”
“Listen.” His tone was annoyingly calm. “Manhattan is out. I love the city, too, but I think we’ve exhausted its charms. Especially for such an occasion.”
Chagrined, I looked out the windows at the city I loved. Only Eva knew about the hotel room I’d kept perpetually reserved—my “fuck pad,” as she’d called it. Until her, it was the only place where I took women for sex. It was safe. Impersonal. There was nothing to learn about me there but how I looked nude and how I liked to fuck.
Leaving New York meant I wouldn’t get laid, so of course I’d always insisted the guys keep our prowling close to home.
“All right. I won’t argue.” I was going to discuss it with Eva—and Cary—but that wasn’t Arnoldo’s concern.