"Eva honey. Richard says you forgot your cell phone at his office."
I exhaled in a rush and sagged back into my chair. I could picture the handkerchief wringing that usually accompanied that particular anxious tone of my mother's. It drove me nuts and it also broke my heart. "Hi, Mom. How are you?"
"Oh, I'm lovely. Thank you." My mom had a voice that was both girlish and breathy, like Marilyn Monroe crossed with Scarlett Johansson. "Clancy dropped your phone off with the concierge at your place. You really shouldn't go anywhere without it. You never know when you might need to call for someone - "
I'd been debating the logistics of just keeping the phone and forwarding calls to a new number I didn't share with my mom, but that wasn't my biggest concern. "What does Dr. Petersen say about you tracing my phone?"
The silence on the other end of the line was telling. "Dr. Petersen knows I worry about you."
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.