Bared to You

Page 12


Pinching the bridge of my nose, I said, "I think it's time for us to have another joint appointment, Mom."
"Oh...of course. He did mention that he'd like to see you again."
Probably because he suspects you're not being forthcoming. I changed the subject. "I really like my new job."
"That's wonderful, Eva! Is your boss treating you well?"
"Yes, he's great. I couldn't ask for anyone better."
"Is he handsome?"
I smiled. "Yes, very. And he's taken."
"Damn it. The good ones always are." She laughed and my smile widened.
I loved it when she was happy. I wished she were happy more often. "I can't wait to see you tomorrow at the advocacy dinner."
Monica Tramell Barker Mitchell Stanton was in her element at society functions, a gilded shining beauty who'd never lacked male attention in her life.
"Let's make a day of it," my mom said breathlessly. "You, me, and Cary. We'll go to the spa, get pretty and polished. I'm sure you could use a massage after working so hard."
"I won't turn one down, that's for sure. And I know Cary will love it."
"Oh, I'm excited! I'll send a car by your place around eleven?"
"We'll be ready."
After I hung up, I leaned back in my chair and exhaled, needing a hot bath and an orgasm. If Gideon Cross somehow found out I masturbated while thinking about him, I didn't care. Being sexually frustrated was weakening my position, a weakness I knew he wouldn't be sharing. No doubt he'd have a preapproved orifice lined up before day's end.
As I swapped out my heels for my walking shoes, my phone rang again. My mother was rarely distracted for long. The five minutes since we'd ended our call was just about the right length of time for her to realize the cell phone issue hadn't been resolved. Once again, I debated ignoring the phone, but I didn't want to take any of the day's crap home with me.
I answered with my usual greeting, but it lacked its usual punch.
"I'm still thinking about you."
The velvet rasp of Cross's voice flooded me with such relief I realized I'd been hoping to hear it again. Today.
God. The craving was so acute I knew he'd become a drug to my body, the prime source of some very intense highs.
"I can still feel you, Eva. Still taste you. I've been hard since you left, through two meetings and one teleconference. You've got the advantage, state your demands."
"Ah," I murmured. "Lemme think."
I let him wait, smiling as I remembered Cary's comment about blue balls. "Hmm...Nothing is coming to mind. But I do have some friendly advice. Go spend time with a woman who salivates at your feet and makes you feel like a god. Fuck her until neither of you can walk. When you see me on Monday you'll be totally over it and your life will return to its usual obsessive-compulsive order."
The creak of leather sounded over the phone and I imagined him leaning back in his desk chair. "That was your one free pass, Eva. The next time you insult my intelligence, I'll take you over my knee."
"I don't like that sort of thing." And yet the warning, given in that voice, aroused me. Dark and Dangerous for sure.
"We'll discuss. In the interim, tell me what you do like."
I stood. "You definitely have the voice for phone sex, but I've got to go. I have a date with my vibrator."
I should've hung up then, to gain the full effect of the brush-off, but I couldn't resist learning if he'd gloat like I had imagined he would. Plus, I was having fun with him.
"Oh, Eva." Cross spoke my name in a decadent purr. "You're determined to drive me to my knees, aren't you? What will it take to talk you into a threesome with B.O.B.?"
I ignored both questions as I slung my bag and purse over my shoulder, grateful he couldn't see how my hand shook. I was not discussing Battery Operated Boyfriends with Gideon Cross. I'd never discussed mast***ation openly with a man, let alone a man who was for all intents and purposes a stranger to me. "B.O.B. and I have a longtime understanding - when we're done with each other, we know exactly which one of us has been used, and it isn't me. Good night, Gideon."
I hung up and took the stairs, deciding the twenty-floor descent would serve double-duty as both an avoidance technique and a replacement for a visit to the gym.
I was so grateful to be home after the day I'd had that I practically danced through my apartment's front door. My heartfelt "God, it's good to be home!" and accompanying spin was vehement enough to startle the couple on the couch.
"Oh," I said, wincing at my own silliness. Cary wasn't in a compromising position with his guest when I barged in, but they'd been sitting close enough to suggest intimacy.
Grudgingly, I thought of Gideon Cross, who preferred to strip all intimacy out of the most intimate act I could imagine. I'd had one-night stands and friends with benefits, and no one knew better than I that sex and making love were two very different things, but I didn't think I'd ever be able to view sex like a handshake. I thought it was sad that Cross did, even though he wasn't a man who inspired pity or sympathy.
"Hey, baby girl," Cary called out, pushing to his feet. "I was hoping you'd make it back before Trey had to leave."
"I have class in an hour," Trey explained, rounding the coffee table as I dropped my bag on the floor and put my purse on a barstool at the breakfast bar. "But I'm glad I got to meet you before I left."
"Me, too." I shook the hand he extended to me, taking him in with a quick glance. He was about my age, I guessed. Average height and nicely muscular. He had unruly blond hair, soft hazel eyes, and a nose that had clearly been broken at some point.
"Mind if I grab a glass of wine?" I asked. "It's been a long day."
"Go for it," Trey replied.
"I'll take one, too." Cary joined us by the breakfast bar. He was wearing loose-fitting black jeans and an off-the-shoulder black sweater. The look was casual and elegant, and did a phenomenal job of offsetting his dark brown hair and emerald eyes.
I went to the wine fridge and pulled out a random bottle.
Trey shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and rocked back on his heels, talking quietly with Cary as I uncorked and poured.
The phone rang and I grabbed the handset off the wall. "Hello?"
"Hey, Eva? It's Parker Smith."
"Parker, hi." I leaned my hip into the counter. "How are you?"
"I hope you don't mind my calling. Your stepdad gave me your number."
Gah. I'd had enough of Stanton for one day. "Not at all. What's up?"
"Honestly? Everything's looking up right now. Your stepdad is like my fairy godfather. He's funding a few safety improvements to the studio and some much-needed upgrades. That's why I'm calling. The studio's going to be out of commission for the rest of the week. Classes will resume next Monday."
I closed my eyes, struggling to tamp down a flare of exasperation. It wasn't Parker's fault that Stanton and my mom were overprotective control freaks. Clearly they didn't see the irony of defending me while I was surrounded by people trained to do that very thing. "Sounds good. I can't wait. I'm really excited to be training with you."