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Page 59

I looked away, hating that answer. “Corinne’s pregnant.”

He exhaled harshly. “She was, yes. Four months along.”

One word chilled me. “Was?”

“She miscarried as the doctors were treating the overdose. I’m choosing to believe she didn’t know about the baby.”

I searched his face and tried to hide the pitiful relief on my own. “Four months? The baby was Giroux’s, then.”

“I would hope so,” he said curtly. “He seems to think it was his, and that I’m responsible for her losing it.”

“Jesus.”

Gideon’s head dropped to my lap, his cheek resting on my thigh. “She had to be clueless. She couldn’t risk a baby over something so stupid.”

“I won’t let you blame yourself for this, Gideon,” I told him sternly.

He wrapped his arms around my waist. “Christ. Am I cursed?”

I hated Corinne so much in that moment I felt violent. She’d known Gideon’s father had committed suicide. If she knew Gideon at all, she would know how much her attempt would devastate him.

“You are not responsible for this.” I ran my fingers through his hair, offering comfort. “Do you hear me? Only Corinne is responsible for what happened. She’ll have to live with what she’s done, not you and me.”

“Eva.” He hugged me, his breath warm through the silk of my robe.

A quarter hour after Gideon left me in the bathroom to take a call from Raúl, I was still standing at the vanity, staring into the sink.

“You’ll be late for work,” he said gently, joining me and hugging me from behind.

“I’m thinking about just calling in.” I never did that, but I was tired and feeling worn out. I couldn’t imagine pulling it together enough to give my job the focus it deserved.

“You could, but it won’t look good when you’re photographed at the gala tonight.”

I looked at him in the mirror. “We’re not going!”

“Yes, we are.”

“Gideon, if that footage of me and Brett gets out, you don’t want your name linked to mine.”

His body went stiff, and then he turned me around to face him. “Say that again.”

“You heard me. The Cross name has been through enough, don’t you think?”

“Angel, I’m as close as I’ve ever been to taking you across my knee. Luckily for you, I don’t play rough when I’m mad.”

His gruff teasing didn’t distract me from the fact that he was determined to protect the girl I’d been, the girl I was ashamed of. He was willing to stand between me and scandal, shielding me as best he could and taking the hit alongside me, if it came to that.

I didn’t think it was possible to love him more than I did, but he kept proving me wrong.

He cupped my face in his hands. “Whatever we face, we face together. And you’ll do it with my name.”

“Gideon—”

“I can’t tell you how proud I am for you to have it.” He brushed his mouth across my brow. “How much it means to me that you’ve taken it and made it yours.”

“Oh, Gideon.” I pushed onto my tiptoes and surged into him. “I love you so much.”

I was a half hour late to work and found a temp at Megumi’s desk. I smiled and said hi, but worry ate at me. I popped my head into Mark’s office and apologized profusely for being late. Then I called Megumi’s cell when I got to my cubicle, but she didn’t answer. I headed over to Will’s.

“Got a question for you,” I said, when I reached him.

“Let’s hope I have the answer,” he shot back, swiveling in his chair to look up at me through his stylish glasses.

“Who does Megumi call to say she’s sick?”

“She reports to Daphne for everything. Why?”

“I’m just worried. She hasn’t called me back. I’m wondering if I pissed her off somehow.” I shifted on my feet. “I hate not knowing or being able to help.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, Daphne said she sounds horrible.”

“That sucks. But thanks.”

I headed back to my cubicle. Mark gestured me into his office as I walked by.

“They’re hanging the six-story banner for Tungsten scarves today.”

“Yeah?”

He grinned. “Want to go check it out?”

“Really?” As scattered as I was feeling, getting out in the muggy August heat was preferable to sitting at my cool desk. “That’d be awesome!”

He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. “Let’s go.”

WHEN I got home shortly after five o’clock, I found my living room taken over by a team of white-coated beauty technicians. Cary and Trey were kicked back on the couch with green goop on their faces and towels under their heads to protect the white upholstery. My mother was chatting away while her hair was styled in a sexy cap of waves and curls.

I took a quick shower, then joined them. In an hour, they managed to take me from bedraggled to glamorous, affording me the time to think about everything I’d ruthlessly suppressed all day—the video, Corinne, Giroux, Deanna, and Brett.

Someone was going to have to tell Brett. That someone was me.

When the beautician came toward me with a lip brush, I held up my hand. “Red, please.”

She paused a minute, her head canting as she examined me. “Yes, you’re right.”

I was holding my breath through a finishing blast of hair spray when my smartphone vibrated in the pocket of my robe. Seeing Gideon’s name on the screen, I answered. “Hi, ace.”

“What color are you wearing?” he asked, without a hello.

“Silver.”

“Really?” His voice took on a warm purr that made my toes flex. “I can’t wait to see you in it. And out of it.”

“You won’t be waiting,” I admonished. “You’d better have your fine ass over here in about ten minutes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

My eyes narrowed. “Hurry up or we won’t have any limo time.”

“Umm … I’ll be there in five.”

He hung up and I held my phone for a minute, smiling.

“Who was that?” my mom asked, coming up beside me.

“Gideon.”

Her eyes lit up. “He’s escorting you tonight?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, Eva.” She hugged me. “I’m so glad.”

With my arms around her, I figured it was as good a time as any to start spreading the engagement news. I knew Gideon wasn’t going to wait long before insisting on sharing our marriage with the world.

I said quietly, “He asked Dad for permission to marry me.”

“Did he?” When she pulled back, she was smiling. “He talked to Richard, too, which I think is such a nice touch, don’t you? I’ve already started planning. I was thinking June, at the Pierre, of course. We’ll—”

“I suggest December, at the latest.”

My mother gasped, her eyes widening. “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way to pull off a wedding in that amount of time. It’s impossible.”

I shrugged. “Tell Gideon you’re thinking of June next year. See what he says.”

“Well, I have to wait until he actually proposes first!”

“Right.” I kissed her cheek. “I’m going to get dressed.”

23

I WAS IN my room, sliding the strapless gown up over my matching bustier, when Gideon came in. I literally stopped breathing, my gaze drinking in his reflection in my cheval mirror. Standing behind me in a tuxedo tailored just for him, with a lovely gray tie that matched my dress so well, he was dazzling. I’d never seen him look so gorgeous.

“Wow,” I breathed, entranced. “You are so getting laid tonight.”

His mouth quirked. “Does that mean I can skip zipping you up?”

“Does that mean we can skip going to this thing?”

“Not a chance, angel. I’m showing off my wife tonight.”

“No one knows I’m your wife.”

“I know it.” He came up behind me and secured my zipper. “And soon—really soon—the world will know it.”

I leaned back into him, admiring our joint reflection. We took great pictures together.

Which made me think of other pictures …

“Promise me,” I said, “that you’ll never watch the video.”

When he didn’t answer me, I turned to look at him directly. When I saw the closed-off look on his face, I started freaking out. “Gideon. Did you watch it already?”

His jaw tightened. “A minute or two. Nothing explicit. Just enough to prove validity.”

“Oh my God. Promise me you won’t watch it.” My voice rose and grew sharp as panic spread through me. “Promise me!”

His hands encircled my wrists and squeezed hard enough to make my breath catch. I stared at him, wide-eyed, confused by the sudden aggression.

“Calm down,” he said quietly.

The oddest rush of warmth spread outward from where he touched me. My heart beat faster, but also steadier. I stared at our hands, my attention catching on his ruby ring. Red. Like the cuffs he’d bought for me. I felt similarly captured and bound now. And it soothed me in a way I didn’t understand.

But Gideon obviously did.

That was why I’d been afraid to marry him so quickly, I realized. He was taking me on a journey that had an unknown destination and I had agreed to follow him blindfolded. It wasn’t about where we’d end up as a couple, because that was never in question. We were obsessed, dependent on each other in the unrelenting way of addicts. Where I would end up, who I’d be at the end, was what I didn’t know.

Gideon’s transformation had been almost violent, happening in a moment of sharp clarity when he’d comprehended that he wouldn’t—couldn’t—live without me. My change was more gradual, so painstakingly measured that I’d believed I wouldn’t have to change at all.

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