Bared to You

Page 24


"You keep running off," he muttered, scowling down at me.
"Seemed like Magdalene picked up the slack quick enough."
His brow arched and he drew me closer. "Jealous?"
"Seriously?" I looked away.
He made a frustrated noise. "Stay away from my brother, Eva."
"Because I said so."
My temper ignited, which felt good after all the self-recrimination and doubts I'd been drowning in since we'd screwed like feral bunnies. I decided to see if turnabout was fair play in Gideon Cross's world. "Stay away from Magdalene, Gideon."
His jaw tightened. "She's just a friend."
"Meaning you haven't slept with her...? Yet."
"No, damn it. And I don't want to. Listen - " The music wound down and he slowed. "I have to go. I brought you here, and I would prefer to be the one who takes you home, but I don't want to pull you away if you're enjoying yourself. Would you rather stick around and go home with Stanton and your mother?"
Enjoying myself? Was he kidding or clueless? Or worse. Maybe he'd written me off so completely that he wasn't paying attention to me at all.
I pushed away from him, needing the distance. His scent was messing with my head. "I'll be fine. Forget about me."
"Eva." He reached for me and I stepped back quickly.
An arm came around my back and Cary spoke. "I've got her, Cross."
"Don't get in my way, Taylor," Gideon warned.
Cary snorted. "I get the impression you're doing a smokin' job of that all by yourself."
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. "You gave a wonderful speech, Gideon. It was the highlight of my evening."
He sucked in a sharp breath at the implied insult; then shoved a hand through his hair. Abruptly, he cursed and I realized why when he pulled his vibrating phone out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.
"I have to go." His gaze caught mine and held it. His fingertips drifted over my cheek. "I'll call you."
And then he was gone.
"Do you want to stay?" Cary asked quietly.
"I'll take you home, then."
"No, don't." I wanted to be alone for a bit. Soak in a hot bath with a bottle of cool wine and pull myself out of my funk. "You should be here. It could be good for your career. We can talk when you get home. Or tomorrow. I'm going the couch potato route all day."
His gaze darted over my face, searching. "You sure?"
I nodded.
"All right." But he looked unconvinced.
"If you could go out and ask a valet to have Stanton's limo brought around, I'll run to the ladies' room real quick."
"Okay." Cary ran his hand down my arm. "I'll get your shawl from the coatroom and see you out front."
It took longer to get to the restroom than it should have. For one, a surprising number of people stopped me for small talk, which had to be because I was Gideon Cross's date. And two, I avoided the nearest ladies' room, which had a steady flow of women pouring in and out of it, and I found one located farther away. I locked myself in a stall and took a few moments longer to finish my business than absolutely required. There was no one else in the room besides the attendant, so there was no one to rush me.
I was so hurt by Gideon it was hard to breathe and I was so confused by his mood swings. Why had he touched my face like that? Why had he gotten mad when I didn't stay by his side? And why the hell had he threatened Cary? Gideon gave new meaning to the old adage about "running hot and cold."
Closing my eyes, I shored up my composure. Jesus. I didn't need this.
I'd bared my emotions in the limo and I still felt horribly vulnerable - a state I'd spent countless therapy hours learning to avoid. I wanted nothing more than to be home and hidden, freed from the pressure of acting like I was completely pulled together when I was anything but.
You set yourself up for this, I reminded myself. Suck it up.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped out and was resigned to finding Magdalene leaning against the vanity with her arms crossed. She was clearly there for me, lying in wait at a time when my defenses were already weak. My step faltered; then I recovered and made my way to the sink to wash my hands.
She turned to face the mirror, studying my reflection. I studied her, too. She was even more gorgeous in person than she'd been in her photos. Tall and slender, with big dark eyes and a cascade of straight brown hair. Her lips were lush and red, her cheekbones high and sculpted. Her dress was modestly sexy, a flowing sheath of creamy satin that contrasted beautifully with her olive skin. She looked like a f**king supermodel and exuded an exotic sex appeal.
I accepted the hand towel the bathroom attendant handed me, and Magdalene spoke to the woman in Spanish, asking her to give us some privacy. I capped the request with, "Por favor, gracias." That earned me an arched brow from Magdalene and a closer examination, which I returned with equal coolness.
"Oh, dear," she murmured, the moment the attendant stepped out of earshot. She made a tsking noise that scraped over my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. "You've f**ked him already."
"And you haven't."
That seemed to surprise her. "You're right, I haven't. You know why?"
I pulled a five-spot out of my clutch and dropped it in the silver tip tray. "Because he doesn't want to."
"And I don't want to either, because he can't commit. He's young, gorgeous, rich, and he's enjoying it."
"Yes." I nodded. "He certainly did."
Her gaze narrowed, her pleasant expression slipping slightly. "He doesn't respect the women he f**ks. The minute he shoved his dick in you, you were done. Just like all the others. But I'm still here, because I'm the one he wants to keep around for the long haul."
I maintained my cool even though the blow had been a perfect hit right where the most damage could be done. "That's pathetic."
I walked out and didn't stop until I reached Stanton's limousine. Squeezing Cary's hand as I got in, I managed to wait until the car pulled away from the curb to start crying.
"Hey, baby girl," Cary called out when I shuffled into the living room the next morning. Dressed in nothing but a loose pair of old sweats, he was stretched out on the couch with his feet crossed and propped on the coffee table. He looked beautifully disheveled and comfortable in his own skin. "How'd you sleep?"
I gave him the thumbs-up and headed into the kitchen for coffee. I paused by the breakfast bar, my brows lifting at the massive arrangement of red roses on the counter. The fragrance was divine and I inhaled it with a deep breath. "What's this?"
"They came for you about an hour ago. A Sunday delivery. Pretty and super pricey."
I plucked the card off the clear plastic stake and opened it.
I'm still thinking about you.
"From Cross?" Cary asked.
"Yes." My thumb brushed over what I assumed was his handwriting. It was bold and masculine and sexy. A romantic gesture for a guy who didn't have romance in his repertoire. I dropped the card on the counter as if it'd burned me and fetched a mug of coffee, praying caffeine would give me strength and restore my common sense.