Bared to You
"Hey, Dad. I caught you." I adjusted my grip on the phone receiver and pulled up a stool at the breakfast bar. I missed my father. For the last four years we'd lived close enough to see each other at least once a week. Now his home in Oceanside was the entire country away. "How are you?" He lowered the volume on the television. "Better, now that you've called. How was your first week at work?"
I went over my days from Monday through Friday, skipping over all the Gideon parts. "I really like my boss, Mark," I finished. "And the vibe of the agency is very energetic and kind of quirky. I'm happy going to work every day, and I'm bummed when it's time to go home."
"I hope it stays that way. But you need to make sure you have some downtime, too. Go out, be young, have fun. But not too much fun."
"Yeah, I had a little too much last night. Cary and I went clubbing, and I woke up with a mean hangover."
"Shit, don't tell me that." He groaned. "Some nights I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about you in New York. I get through it by telling myself you're too smart to take chances, thanks to two parents who've drilled safety rules into your DNA."
"Which is true," I said, laughing. "That reminds me...I'm going to start Krav Maga training."
"Really?" There was a thoughtful pause. "One of the guys on the force is big on it. Maybe I'll check it out and we can compare notes when I come out to visit you."
"You're coming to New York?" I couldn't hide my excitement. "Oh, Dad, I'd love it if you would. As much as I miss SoCal, Manhattan is really awesome. I think you'll like it."
"I'd like anyplace in the world as long as you're there." He waited a beat, then asked, "How's your mom?"
"Well...she's Mom. Beautiful, charming, and obsessive-compulsive."
My chest hurt and I rubbed at it. I thought my dad might still love my mom. He'd never married. That was one of the reasons I never told him about what happened to me. As a cop, he would've insisted on pressing charges and the scandal would have destroyed my mother. I also worried that he'd lose respect for her or even blame her, and it hadn't been her fault. As soon as she'd found out what her stepson was doing to me, she'd left a husband she was happy with and filed for divorce.
I kept talking, waving at Cary as he came rushing in with a little blue Tiffany & Co. bag. "We had a spa day today. It was a fun way to cap off the week."
I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, "I'm glad you two are managing to spend time together. What are your plans for the rest of the weekend?"
I hedged on the subject of the charity event, knowing the whole red carpet business and astronomically-priced dinner seats would just highlight the gap between my parents' lives. "Cary and I are going out to eat, and then I plan on staying in tomorrow. Sleeping in late, hanging out in my pajamas all day, maybe some movies and food delivery of some sort. A little vegetating before a new work week kicks off."
"Sounds like heaven to me. I may copy you when my next day off rolls around."
Glancing at the clock, I saw it was creeping past six. "I have to get ready now. Be careful at work, okay? I worry about you, too."
"Will do. Bye, baby."
The familiar sign-off had me missing him so much my throat hurt. "Oh, wait! I'm getting a new cell phone. I'll text you the number as soon as I have it."
"Again? You just got a new one when you moved."
"Long, boring story."
"Hmm...Don't put it off. They're good for safety as well as playing Angry Birds."
"I'm over that game!" I laughed and warmth spread through me to hear him laughing, too. "I'll call you in a few days. Be good."
"That's my line."
We hung up. I sat for a few moments in the ensuing silence, feeling like everything was right in my world, which never lasted long. I brooded on that for minute; then Cary cranked up Hinder on his bedroom stereo and that kicked my butt into gear.
I hurried to my room to get ready for a night with Gideon.
"Necklace or no necklace?" I asked Cary, when he came into my bedroom looking seriously amazing. Dressed in his new Brioni tux, he was both debonair and dashing, and certain to attract attention.
"Hmm." His head tilted to the side as he studied me. "Hold it up again."
I lifted the choker of gold coins to my throat. The dress my mom had sent was fire engine red and styled for a Grecian goddess. It hung on one shoulder, cut diagonally across my cle**age, had ruching to the hip, and then split at my right upper thigh all the way down my leg. There was no back to speak of, aside from a slender strip of rhinestones that connected one side to the other to keep the front from falling off. Otherwise, the back was bared to just above the crack of my bu**ocks in a racy V-cut.
"Forget the necklace," he said. "I was leaning toward gold chandeliers, but now I'm thinking diamond hoops. The biggest ones you've got."
"What? Really?" I frowned at our reflections in my cheval mirror, watching as he moved to my jewelry box and dug through it.
"These." He brought them to me and I eyed the two-inch hoops my mother had given me for my eighteenth birthday. "Trust me, Eva. Try 'em on."
I did and found he was right. It was a very different look from the gold choker, less glam and more edgy sensuality. And the earrings went well with the diamond anklet on my right leg that I'd never think of the same way again after Gideon's comment. With my hair swept off my face into a cascade of thick, deliberately messy curls, I had a just-screwed look that was complemented by smoky eye shadow and glossy nude lips.
"What would I do without you, Cary Taylor?"
"Baby girl" - he set his hands on my shoulders and pressed his cheek to mine - "you'll never find out."
"You look awesome, by the way."
"Don't I?" He winked and stepped back, showing off.
In his own way, Cary could give Gideon a run for his money...er, looks. Cary was more finely featured, almost pretty compared to Gideon's savage beauty, but both were striking men that made you look twice, and then stare in greedy delight.
Cary hadn't been quite so perfect when I met him. He'd been strung out and gaunt, his emerald eyes cloudy and lost. But I'd been drawn to him, going out of my way to sit next to him in group therapy. He'd finally propositioned me crudely, having come to believe the only reason people associated with him was because they wanted to f**k him. It was when I declined, firmly and irrevocably, that we finally connected and became best friends. He was the brother I'd never had.
The intercom buzzed and I jumped, making me realize how nervous I was. I looked at Cary. "I forgot to tell the front desk he was coming back."
"I'll get him."
"Are you going to be okay riding over with Stanton and my mom?"
"Are you kidding? They love me." His smile dimmed. "Having second thoughts about going with Cross?"
I took a deep breath, remembering where I'd been earlier - on my back in a multi-orgasmic daze. "Not really, no. It's just that everything's happening so fast and going better than I expected or realized I wanted..."