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."

"I'm excited, too. I'm going to work you hard, Eva. Your parents are going to get their money's worth."

I set a filled glass in front of Cary and took a big gulp out of my own. It never ceased to amaze me how much cooperation money could buy. But again, that wasn't Parker's fault. "No complaints here."

"We'll get started first thing next week. Your driver has the schedule."

"Great. See you then." I hung up and caught the glance Trey shot Cary when he thought neither of us was looking. It was soft and filled with a sweet yearning, and it reminded me that my problems could wait. "I'm sorry I caught you on the way out, Trey. Do you have time for pizza Wednesday night? I'd love to do more than say hi and bye."

"I have class." He gave me a regretful smile and shot another side-glance at Cary. "But I could come by on Tuesday."

"That'd be great." I smiled. "We could order in and have a movie night."

"I'd like that."

I was rewarded with the kiss Cary blew me as he headed to the door to show Trey out. When he returned to the kitchen he grabbed his wine and said, "All right. Spill it, Eva. You looked stressed."

"I am," I agreed, grabbing the bottle and moving into the living room.

"It's Gideon Cross, isn't it?"

"Oh, yeah. But I don't want to talk about him." Although Gideon's pursuit was exhilarating, his goal sucked. "Let's talk about you and Trey instead. How did you two meet?"

"I ran across him on a job. He's working part time as a photographer's assistant. Sexy, isn't he?" His eyes were bright and happy. "And a real gentleman. In an old-school way."

"Who knew there were any of those left?" I muttered before polishing off my first glass.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. I'm sorry, Cary. He seemed great, and he obviously digs you. Is he studying photography?"

"Veterinary medicine."

"Wow. That's awesome."

"I think so, too. But forget about Trey for a minute. Talk about what's bugging you. Get it out."

I sighed. "My mom. She found out about my interest in Parker's studio and now she's freaking out."

"What? How'd she find out? I swear I haven't told anyone."

"I know you didn't. Never even crossed my mind." Grabbing the bottle off the table, I refilled my glass. "Get this. She's been tracking my cell phone."

Cary's brows rose. "Seriously? That's...creepy."

"I know, right? That's what I told Stanton, but he doesn't want to hear it."

"Well, hell." He ran a hand through his long bangs. "So what do you do?"

"Get a new phone. And meet with Dr. Petersen to see if he can't talk some sense into her."

"Good move. Turn it over to her shrink. everything okay with your job? Do you still love it?"

"Totally." My head fell back into the sofa cushions and my eyes closed. "My work and you are my lifesavers right now."

"What about the young hottie bazillionaire who wants to nail you? Come on, Eva. You know I'm dying here. What happened?"

Tags: Sylvia Day Crossfire Romance