“No.” Sitting back, I waved away the suggestion. “Let him have it.”
Arash blinked. “Are you shitting me? Why are you in such a hurry to get rid of that hotel?”
Because I can’t keep it in my holdings without hurting my wife. “I have my reasons.”
“That’s what you said when I advised you to sell it a few years ago and you chose to sink millions in renovations into it instead. An expense that you’re just finally breaking even on, and now you want to offload it in a still-shaky market to a guy who wants your head?”
“It’s never a bad time to sell real estate in Manhattan.” And certainly, never a bad time to dump something Eva called my “fuck pad.”
“There are better times, and you know it. Landon knows it. You sell to him, you’ll only be encouraging him.”
“Good. Maybe he’ll up his game.”
Ryan Landon had an ax to grind; I didn’t hold it against him. My father had decimated the Landon fortune and Ryan wanted a Cross to pay for that. He wasn’t the first or last businessman to come after me because of my father, but he was the most tenacious. And he was young enough to have plenty of time to dedicate to the task.
I looked at the photo of Eva on my desk. All other considerations were secondary.
“Hey,” Arash said, lifting his hands in mock surrender, “it’s your business. I just need to know if the rules have changed.”
“If you believe that, Cross, you’re further out of the game than I thought. While Landon’s plotting your ruin, you’re off at the beach.”
“Stop kicking my ass for taking a weekend off, Arash.” I’d do it again in an instant. Those days I’d spent with Eva in the Outer Banks had been every fucking dream I’d never allowed myself to have.
I stood and walked to the window. LanCorp’s offices were in the high-rise two blocks over, and Ryan Landon’s office had a prime view of the Crossfire Building. I suspected he spent more than a few moments every day staring at my office and planning his next move. Occasionally, I stared back and dared him to bring it harder.
My father was a criminal who’d destroyed countless lives. He was also the man who’d taught me how to ride a bike and to sign my name with pride. I couldn’t save Geoffrey Cross’s reputation, but I could damn sure protect what I’d built out of his ashes.
Arash joined me at the window. “I’m not going to say I wouldn’t hole up with a babe like Eva Tramell if I could. But I’d have my goddamn cell phone with me. Especially in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation.”
Remembering how melted chocolate tasted on Eva’s skin, I thought a hurricane could’ve been ripping shingles off the roof and I wouldn’t have given it a second’s attention. “You’re making me pity you.”
“LanCorp’s acquisition of that software set you back years in research and development. And it’s made him cocky.”
That was what really got Arash’s blood up, Landon’s pleasure in his own success. “That software’s next to worthless without PosIT’s hardware.”
He glanced at me. “So?”
“Agenda item number three.”
He faced me. “It said To Be Determined on my copy.”
“Well, it says PosIT on my mine. That game enough for you?”
My desk phone beeped, followed by Scott’s voice projecting from the speaker. “A couple things, Mr. Cross. Miss Tramell is on line one.”
“Thank you, Scott.” I headed for the receiver with the thrill of the hunt coursing through my blood. If we acquired PosIT, Landon would be back to square one. “When I’m clear, I need Victor Reyes on the line.”
“Will do. Also, Mrs. Vidal is at reception,” he went on, stopping me in my tracks. “Would you like me to postpone the morning meeting?”
I looked out the glass partition that divided my office from the rest of the floor, even though I couldn’t see my mother from that distance. My hands clenched at my sides. According to the clock on my phone, I had ten minutes to spare and my wife on the line. The urge was there to make my mother wait until I could fit her in my schedule, not hers, but I shoved it down.
“Buy me twenty minutes,” I told him. “I’ll take the calls with Miss Tramell and Reyes, then you can bring Mrs. Vidal back.”
I waited a beat. Then I picked up the phone and hit the rapidly blinking button.
The impact of Gideon’s voice on my senses was as hard-hitting as it had been the first time I’d heard it. Cultured yet smoky with sensuality, it knocked me for a loop both in the darkness of my bedroom and over the phone, where I couldn’t be distracted by that incomparably gorgeous face of his.
“Hi.” I slid my swivel chair a little closer to my desk. “Is it a bad time?”
“If you need me, I’m here.”
Something in his voice didn’t hit me right. “I can call back later.”
“Eva.” The authoritative bite when he said my name had my toes flexing in my nude sling-back Louboutins. “Say what you need.”
You, I almost said, which was more than a little insane considering he’d just fucked my brains out only a couple hours before. After he’d fucked my brains out damn near all night long.
Instead, I told him, “I need a favor.”
“I’ll enjoy the payback.”
Some of the tension left my shoulders. He’d hurt me by mentioning Corinne the way he had, and the argument that followed was still fresh in my mind. But I had to push it aside, let it go. “Does security have the home addresses of everyone who works in the Crossfire?”
“They have copies of IDs. Tell me why you’re asking.”
“The receptionist here at work is a friend of mine and she’s been out sick all week. I’m worried about her.”
“If you’re hoping to head over to her place and check up on her, you should get the address from her.”
“I would if she’d return my calls.” I ran my fingertip around the lip of my coffee mug and stared at the collage of pictures of Gideon and me that decorated my desk.
“Are you not on speaking terms at the moment?”
“No, we’re not fighting or anything. It’s just not like her to not get in touch with me, especially when she’s calling in sick to work every day. She’s a chatty girl, you know?”
“No,” he drawled. “I have no idea.”
If it had been any other guy who’d said that, I would think he was being sarcastic. But not Gideon. I didn’t think he’d ever really talked with women in any meaningful way. He was too often clueless when interacting with me, as if his social development hadn’t quite been well rounded when it came to dealing with the opposite sex.
“Then you’ll have to take my word for it, ace. I just . . . I want to make sure she’s all right.”
“My lawyer’s standing right here, but I don’t have to ask him about the legality of giving you the information you’re asking for via the means you’ve suggested. Call Raúl. He’ll find her.”
“Really?” An image of the dark-haired, dark-eyed security specialist ran through my mind. “Is he going to be okay with that?”
“Angel, he’s paid to be okay with everything.”
“Oh.” I fiddled with my pen. I knew I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable using Gideon’s resources, but it made me feel as if our relationship were unbalanced in his favor. While I didn’t believe he would ever hold that over me, I didn’t think he’d see me as equal to him, either, and that was really important to me.
He had already taken care of issues on his own that I should’ve been a part of. Like Sam Yimara’s horrid sex tape of Brett and me. And Nathan.
Still, I asked, “How do I reach him?”
“I’ll text you his number.”
“I want either myself, Angus, or Raúl with you when you go see her.”
“And that wouldn’t be awkward at all.” I glanced at Mark’s office to make sure my boss didn’t need me for anything. I tried not to make personal calls at work, but Megumi had been out for four days straight without a single returned call or text the whole time.
“Don’t throw me that ‘chicks before dicks’ line, Eva. You need to give me something here.”
I got the subtext. He was worried about me going to San Diego and was letting that issue slide. I had to bend a little somewhere else in return. “Okay, okay. If she’s not back in the office on Monday, we’ll figure out how to handle it.”
“Good. Anything else?”
“No. That’s it.” My gaze returned to a photo of him and my heart hurt just a little, the way it always did when I looked at him. “Thank you. I hope you have an amazing day. I love you madly, you know. And no, I don’t expect you to say it back while your lawyer’s hanging around.”
“Eva.” There was an aching note in his voice that moved me more than words ever could. “Come see me when you get off work.”
“Sure. Don’t forget to call Cary about taking your jet.”
“Consider it done.”
I hung up and sat back in my chair.
“Good morning, Eva.”
I swiveled to face Christine Field, the executive chairman. “Good morning.”
“I wanted to congratulate you again on your engagement.” Her gaze went past my shoulder to the framed photos behind me. “I’m sorry, I hadn’t realized you and Gideon Cross were dating.”
“That’s okay. I try not to talk about my personal life at work.”
I made the statement casually, because I didn’t want to antagonize one of the partners. Still, I hoped she got the hint. Gideon was the center of my life, but I needed some parts of it to belong only to me.
She laughed. “That’s good! But just goes to show that I’m not keeping my ear close enough to the ground.”
“I doubt you’re missing anything important.”
“Are you the reason Cross approached us with the Kingsman campaign?”
I winced inwardly. Of course she’d think I would recommend my employer to my boyfriend, because she’d assume Gideon and I had been dating at least long enough to make an engagement plausible. Telling her I had been with Waters Field & Leaman longer than I’d been with Gideon, when I had been employed there only a couple of months, would open up speculation I didn’t want floating around.
Worse, I was pretty certain Gideon had used the vodka campaign as an excuse to draw me into his world on his terms. That didn’t mean Mark hadn’t done a phenomenal job on the request for proposal. I didn’t want my relationship with Gideon to shift any of the focus away from my boss and his accomplishments.
“Mr. Cross approached the agency on his own,” I replied, sticking to the truth. “Which was a great decision. Mark rocked that RFP.”
Christine nodded. “He did. All right. I’ll let you get back to work. Mark’s been singing your praises, too, by the way. We’re glad to have you on our team.”
I managed a smile, but my day was off to a rocky start. First, Gideon knocked me sideways with his Corinne bullshit. Then, finding Megumi still out sick. Now, I’d rolled into being treated differently at work because my name was connected to Gideon’s in a significant way.
Opening my inbox, I started going through the morning’s e-mail. I understood that Gideon wanted to make me feel what he was feeling, so he’d leveraged Corinne against me. I’d known talking about Brett was going to be a problem, which was why I’d put it off, but I hadn’t had an ulterior motive in bringing it up or when I’d kissed Brett, either. I had hurt Gideon, yes, but could sincerely say I hadn’t consciously intended to do so.
On the flip side, Gideon had deliberately set out to hurt me. I hadn’t realized he was capable of that or willing to do it. Something important had shifted between us that morning. I felt as if a core column of trust had been shaken.
Did he know that? Did he understand how big a problem that was?
My desk phone rang and I answered with my usual greeting.
“How long were you going to wait to tell me about your engagement?”
A sigh escaped me before I could hold it back. My Friday really was shaping up to be a trial. “Hi, Mom. I was going to call you during my lunch.”
“You knew last night!” she accused. “Did he ask you on the way to dinner? Because you didn’t say anything about a proposal when we talked about him asking your father and Richard for permission. I saw the ring at Cipriani’s and was pretty sure, but when you didn’t say anything, I didn’t push because you’ve been so touchy lately. And—”