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—”
“And you’ve been violating the law lately,” I shot back.
“—Gideon was wearing a ring, too, so I thought maybe it was some kind of promise thing or something—”
“—and then I read about your engagement online! I mean, really, Eva. No mother should find out on the Internet that her daughter is getting married!”
I stared at my monitor blankly, my heart rate kicking up. “What? Where on the Internet?”
“Take your pick! Page Six, HuffPost . . . And let me tell you again, there is no way I can pull together a proper wedding before the end of the year!”
My daily Google alert hadn’t hit my inbox yet, so I did a quick search, typing so quickly I spelled my own name wrong. It didn’t matter.
Socialite Eva Tramell has nabbed the brass ring. Not literally, of course. Multibillionaire entrepreneur Gideon Cross, whose name is synonymous with excess and luxury, wouldn’t slide anything less than platinum onto the finger of the woman who’ll bear his name. (see photo at left) A source at Cross Industries confirmed the significance of the giant rock on Tramell’s left hand. No comment was made regarding the ring Cross has been seen wearing. (see photo at right) A wedding is planned before year’s end. We have to wonder what the rush is. Operation Gideva Baby Bump Watch has commenced.
“Oh my God,” I breathed, horrified. “I have to go. I have to call Dad.”
“Eva! You need to come over after work. We have to talk about the wedding.”
Thankfully my dad was on the West Coast, which bought me at least three hours, depending on his work schedule. “I can’t. I’m going to San Diego this weekend with Cary.”
“I think you need to put off any travel for a while. You need to—”
“Start without me, Mom,” I said desperately, glancing at the clock. “I don’t have anything specific in mind.”
“You can’t be seri—”
“Gotta go. Have to work.” I hung up, then pulled open the desk drawer that held my smartphone.
“Hey.” Mark Garrity leaned over the top of my cubicle and offered me one of his charming crooked smiles. “Ready to roll?”
“Uh . . .” My finger hovered over the home button on my phone. I was torn between doing what I was paid to do—work—and making sure my dad heard about the engagement from me. Usually, it wouldn’t be a dilemma at all to choose. I loved my job too much to risk it by slacking off. But my dad had been in a funk since he’d messed around with my mom and I was worried about him. He wasn’t the kind of guy to take sleeping with a married woman lightly, even one he was in love with.
I put the phone back in the drawer. “Absolutely,” I replied, pushing back from my desk and grabbing my tablet.
When I settled into my usual seat in front of Mark’s desk, I sent my dad a quick text from my tablet saying I had something important to share with him and that I’d call at noon.
It was the best I could do. I could only hope it was enough.
“MAN, YOU ARE smooth.”
I looked up at Arash after setting the receiver back in its cradle. “Are you still here?”
The attorney laughed and settled back in his seat on my office sofa. The view wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the one my wife had given me not too long ago.
“Schmoozing the father-in-law,” he said. “I’m impressed. I expect Eva will be impressed, too. Bet you’re counting on that heading into the weekend.”
Damn right. I would need all the points I could earn when I met up with Eva in San Diego. “She’s about to go out of town. And you have to head into the conference room before they get too restless in there. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”
He stood. “Yes, I heard. Your mother’s here. Let the wedding insanity begin. Since you’re free this weekend, how about we round up some of the usual suspects at my place tonight? It’s been a while, and your bachelor days are numbered. Well, technically they’re over, but no one else knows that.”
And he was bound by attorney-client privilege.
It took me a beat to decide. “All right. What time?”
I nodded, then caught Scott’s eye. He got the message and rounded his desk to head up to reception.
“Great.” Arash grinned. “See you at the meeting.”
During the two minutes I had alone, I texted Angus about getting to California. I still had unfinished business there, and taking care of it while Eva was visiting her dad gave me a legitimate excuse to be where she was. Not that I absolutely needed one.
As my mother entered, my fingers curled into my palms.
Scott followed and asked, “Are you sure I can’t get you something, Mrs. Vidal? Coffee, maybe? Or water?”
She shook her head. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“All right.” He smiled and left, pulling the door closed behind him.
I hit the remote on my desk that controlled the opacity of the glass wall, blocking the view from everyone on the main floor. My mother approached, looking slim and elegant in dark blue slacks and white blouse. She’d pulled her hair back into a sleek ebony bun, showing off the flawless face that my father had adored. Once, I’d adored it, too. Now, I had trouble looking at her.
And since we looked so much alike, I sometimes had trouble looking at myself.
“Hello, Mother. What brings you into the city?”
She set her purse on the edge of my desk. “Why is Eva wearing my ring?”
The small pleasure I’d felt at seeing her dissipated instantly. “It’s my ring. And the answer to your question is obvious: She’s wearing the ring because I gave it to her when I proposed.”
“Gideon.” She pulled her shoulders back. “You don’t know what you’re getting into with her.”
I forced myself to remain facing her. I hated when she looked at me with hurt in her eyes. Blue eyes that were so like mine. “I don’t have time for this. I’ve put an important meeting on hold to see you.”
“I wouldn’t have to come to your office if you’d answer my calls or come home once in a while!” Her pretty pink mouth tightened with disapproval.
“That is not my home.”
“She’s using you, Gideon.”
I retrieved my coat. “We’ve had this discussion.”
She folded her arms across her chest like a shield. I knew my mother; she was just getting started. “She’s involved with that singer, Brett Kline. Did you know that? And she’s got an ugly side you’ve never seen. She was downright vicious to me last night.”
“I’ll speak with her.” Straightening my coat with a brisk tug on the lapels, I headed toward the door. “She shouldn’t be wasting her time.”
My mother’s breath caught. “I’m trying to help you.”
“It’s a little too late for that, don’t you think?”
She took a shaky step back from the look I gave her. “I know Geoffrey’s death was hard on you. It was a difficult time for all of us. I tried to give you—”
“I’m not doing this here!” I snapped, furious that she would bring up something as personal as my father’s suicide while I was working. That she would bring it up at all. “You’ve hijacked my morning and pissed me off. Let me make it clear to you. There is no scenario pitting you against Eva where you come out on top.”
“You’re not listening to me!”
“There’s nothing you could say that would affect anything. If she wanted my money, I’d give her every cent. If she wanted another man, I’d make her forget him.”
She lifted an unsteady hand to her hair, smoothing it although not a single glossy strand was out of place. “I only want the best for you, and she’s stirring up crap that has been put away a long time. It can’t be a healthy relationship for you. She’s creating a rift with your family that—”
“We’ve been estranged, Mother. Eva has nothing to do with that.”
“I don’t want it to be like this!” Stepping closer, she held out her hand. A strand of black pearls peeked out from between the lapels of her blouse, and a sapphire-faced Patek Philippe adorned her wrist. She hadn’t rebooted her life after my father’s death; she’d done a complete wipe and restart. And never looked back. “I miss you. I love you.”