“For fuck’s sake, Eva,” I muttered.
She looked at me innocently. “Just trying to give some context, baby. And give credit where it’s due. Anyway, poor Deanna is torn between hating his guts and wanting to bang him like a drum. Since she can’t do the latter, she’s stuck with the former.”
I looked at her. “Are you done?”
My wife blew me a kiss, then took a big swallow of water.
Arash sat back. “Props for laying that all out for her,” he said to me. “You’re a saint, Eva, for putting up with him and the trail of scorned women in his wake.”
“What can I say?” Her lips pursed. “How’d you guys find out?”
“I’ve got an inside connection at the publishing house.”
“Oh. I thought maybe Deanna said something.”
“She won’t. They don’t want it known that Corinne isn’t writing the book, so they’ve got a confidentiality clause. They’re negotiating the contract now.”
Eva sat forward, her fingers picking at the label on the bottle. Her phone buzzed on the chair by her thigh and she picked it up to read the text. “Off I go. Megumi’s ready.”
She stood. Arash and I stood with her. She was in my arms a moment later, tilting her head back for a kiss. I gave it to her, nuzzling my nose against hers before she retreated.
“You’re so lucky I came along.” She handed me back the water. “Think of how much more trouble you would’ve gotten into if you’d stayed single any longer.”
“You’re trouble enough for a lifetime.”
She said good-bye to Arash, then headed out. I watched her leave, hating to see her go. She waved to Scott as she passed him, then disappeared.
“She got any sisters?” Arash asked, as we both sat down again.
“No, she’s one of a kind.”
“Hey, wait,” Eva called out as she ran back in.
Arash and I both jumped to our feet.
She rejoined us. “If they’re negotiating, nothing’s been signed, right?”
“Right,” Arash answered.
She looked at me. “You can get her not to sign.”
My brows rose. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“Offer her a job.”
I stared at her, then said, “No.”
“Don’t say no.”
“No,” I repeated.
My wife looked at Arash. “Your employee agreements include things like nondisclosure, nondisparagement, noncompetes, et cetera, right?”
Arash considered that a minute. “I see where you’re going, and yes, they do. But there are limitations as to what those clauses cover and how they can be enforced.”
“Better than nothing, though, maybe? Keep your enemies close and all that.” Her gaze turned to me expectantly.
“Don’t look at me like that, Eva.”
“Okay. It’s just an idea. I have to go.” She waved and hurried back out.
The lack of a kiss or good-bye rubbed me the wrong way. Seeing her leave again … I hated it more the second time.
She’d made me wait to have sex with her. She’d just casually suggested I seduce another woman.
The Eva I knew and loved would never have done either of those things.
“You don’t want that book published,” I called after her.
Eva stopped at the door and turned. She looked at me, her head tilting slightly. “No, I don’t.”
That examining look of hers got my back up. She saw right through me, saw the roiling inside me. “You know she’d expect me to offer her more than just a job.”
“You’d have to entice her,” she agreed, retracing her steps. “You’re a juicy carrot, Cross. And you know how to dangle out of reach without even trying. She just needs to sign on the dotted line. Afterward, you can transfer her to Siberia as long as you give her work that fits the job description.”
Something in her voice set me on edge—that and the way she looked at me like a lion tamer circling the lion, cautious and watchful but very much in control.
Provoked, I baited her. “You’re whoring me out to get what you want.”
“Jesus, Cross,” Arash muttered. “Don’t be an ass.”
Eva’s gaze narrowed, the clear gray of her eyes turning stormy. “Bullshit. You’d have to lead her on, not fuck her. I want that book published as much as you want to hear ‘Golden Girl’ on repeat, but you’re living with the damn song and I can live with the damn book.”
“Then why bring up hiring her?” I countered, taking a step toward her. “I don’t want that fucking woman within a mile of me, let alone working for me.”
“Fine. It was just a suggestion. I could tell you were upset about it when I got here and I don’t like you upset—”
“For Christ’s sake, I don’t get upset!”
“Right,” she drawled. “Of course not. You like bad-tempered better? Sullen? Moody? Are those more masculine for you, ace?”
“I should take you over my knee.”