Cary had no problem whatsoever accustoming himself to the luxurious conveniences of Gideon’s immense wealth. He’d settled immediately and comfortably into the elegant appointments of the ultra-modern cabin. And somehow, even casually dressed, he looked perfectly at home amid the brushed steel and gray oak.
“I’m trying to set up some social media accounts,” I answered.
“Whoa.” He sat up with effortless grace, his posture surprisingly and instantly alert. “Big step.”
“Yeah.” Nathan had kept me hiding, afraid to put myself out there and risk making it easy for him to find me. “But it’s time. I feel like . . . Never mind. It’s just time.”
“All right.” He set his elbows on his knees and tapped his fingertips together. “Then why is your face all scrunched up like that?”
“Well, there’s a lot to consider. I mean, how much do I share out there? I don’t have to worry about Nathan anymore, but Gideon is under constant scrutiny.”
With my thoughts on Gideon, I ran a search for his profile. It popped up with the little blue check mark that told me it was verified as belonging to him. The sight of his picture, a shot of him in a black three-piece suit and the blue tie I loved, sent a pang of longing through me. He’d been photographed on a rooftop with the skyline of Manhattan fuzzily out of focus behind him, while he was sharply and vividly captured by the camera’s lens.
He was even sharper and more vibrant in reality. I stared into Gideon’s eyes, getting lost in that impossible blue. His black hair framed that perfect fallen-angel face in strands of glossy, inky silk.
Poetic? Yes. But then his looks could inspire sonnets. To say nothing of spur-of-the-moment marriage.
When had the photo been taken? Before we’d met? He had the implacable, remote look that made him seem like such an impossible dream.
“I’m married,” I blurted out, tearing my gaze away from the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. “To Gideon, of course. Who else would I be married to?”
Cary froze while I rambled. “Come again?”
I rubbed my palms on my yoga pants. It was a cop-out telling him the news while motion sickness drugs lulled his brain, but I’d take any advantage I could get. “When we went away last weekend. We eloped.”
He was quiet for a long, weighted minute. Then he exploded to his feet. “Are you shitting me?”
Raúl’s head turned in our direction. The movement was casual and unhurried, but his gaze was vigilant and watchful. He sat in the far corner, being eerily unobtrusive for such a hard-to-miss guy.
“What’s the damned rush?” Cary snapped.
“It just . . . happened.” I couldn’t explain it. I’d thought it was too soon. Still did. But Gideon was the only man I would ever love so completely. When I considered that, I knew Gideon had been right; we’d only be postponing the inevitable. And Gideon needed my promise that I was his forever. My amazing husband who found it so hard to believe he could be loved. “I’m not sorry.”
“Not yet.” Cary shoved both hands into his hair. “Jesus, Eva. You don’t up and marry the first guy you have a serious relationship with.”
“It’s not like that,” I protested, awkwardly avoiding looking at Raúl. “You know how we feel about each other.”
“Sure. You two are whack jobs separately. Together, you’re a goddamn nut house.”
I flipped him the bird. “We’ll work on it. Wearing a ring doesn’t mean we stop figuring things out.”
He dropped into the chair across from me. “What incentive has he got to fix anything? He’s bagged and tagged the prize. You’re stuck with his psychotic dreams and Grand Canyon–sized mood swings.”
“Wait a minute,” I said tightly, feeling the sting of truth in his words. “You didn’t get upset when I told you we were engaged.”
“Because I figured it’d be a year, at the very least, before Monica got the wedding worked out. Maybe a year and a half. At least some time for you two to try living together.”
I let him rant. Better that he did it at thirty thousand feet than in some public venue where the whole world could hear.
He leaned closer, his green eyes fierce. “I’m having a baby and I’m not getting married. You know why? Because I’m too f**ked up and I know it. I’ve got no business hitching a passenger on this wild ride. If he loved you, he’d be thinking about you and what’s best for you.”
“I’m so glad you’re happy for me, Cary. That means a lot.”
The words dripped with sarcasm, but they were honest in their own way. There were girlfriends I could call who would tell me what an amazingly lucky bitch I was. Cary was my closest friend because he always gave it to me straight, even when I desperately wanted sugarcoating.
But Cary was thinking only about the darkness. He didn’t understand the light Gideon brought into my life. The acceptance and the love. The safety. Gideon had given me my freedom back, a life without terror. Giving him vows in return was too simple a repayment for that.
I turned my attention back to Gideon’s profile, scrolling down to see that the most recent post was a link to an article about our engagement. I doubted he’d posted it himself; he was too busy to bother with something like that. But I figured he’d approved it. If not, he had somehow already made it clear that I was important enough to become the one bit of personal news that was okay to be shared on an otherwise business-focused profile.
Gideon was proud of me. Proud to be marrying me, a hot mess with a history of bad choices. Whatever anyone else thought, I knew I was the one who’d bagged and tagged the prize.
“Fuck.” Cary slouched into the chair. “Make me feel like an ass.”
“If the shoe fits . . .” I muttered, clicking on the link to view other photos of Gideon.
It was a mistake.
All the pictures posted by his social media admin were business-related, but the unofficial pictures he’d been tagged in weren’t. There, in living color, were images of him with beautiful women. And they hit me hard. Jealousy clawed and twisted my stomach.
God, he looked amazing in a tuxedo. Dark and dangerous. His face savagely beautiful, his cheekbones and mouth chiseled perfection, his posture confident and more than a little arrogant. An alpha male in his prime.
I knew the photos weren’t recent. I knew the women in them didn’t have firsthand knowledge of his insanely mad skills in bed; he had a rule about that. Neither of which stopped the images from making me twitchy.
“Am I the last to know?” Cary asked.
“You’re the only one.” I glanced at Raúl. “At least on my side. Gideon wants to tell the world, but we’re going to keep it under wraps.”
He studied me. “For how long?”
“Forever. The next wedding we have will be our first as far as anyone else is concerned.”
“You having second thoughts?”
It killed me that Cary didn’t care that we had an audience. I was hyperaware that every move I made, every word I said was being witnessed.
Not that Raúl’s presence had any effect on my answer. “No. I’m glad we’re married. I love him, Cary.”
I was glad Gideon was mine. And I missed him. Worse after seeing those pictures.
“I know you do,” Cary said with a sigh.
Unable to help myself, I opened the messaging app on my laptop and sent Gideon a text. I miss you.
He texted back almost instantly. Turn the plane around.
That made me smile. It was so like him. And so unlike me. Wasting the pilots’ time, the fuel . . . it seemed so frivolous to me. More than that, though, would be the proof of how dependent on Gideon I’d become. That would be the kiss of death in our relationship. He could have anything, any woman, at any time. If I ever became too easy for him, we’d both lose respect for me. Losing his love wouldn’t be far behind.
I returned to my new profile and uploaded a selfie I’d taken with Gideon that I synced from my smartphone. I made it the masthead image. Then I tagged him and gave it a description: The love of my life.
After all, if his photos were going to include him with women, I wanted at least one of them to be me. And the one I’d chosen was undeniably intimate. We lay on our backs, our temples touching, my face bare of makeup and his relaxed with a smile in his eyes. I dared anyone to look at it and not see that I had a private bond with him the world would never know.
I suddenly wanted to call him. So badly that I could almost hear that amazingly sexy voice, as intoxicating as top-shelf liquor, smooth with just a hint of bite. I wanted to be with him, my hand in his, my lips against his throat where the smell of his skin called to something hungry and primitive inside me.
It scared me sometimes, how much I needed him. To the exclusion of everything else. There was no one I wanted to be with more, including my best friend, who was at that moment needing me almost as fiercely.
“It’s all good, Cary,” I assured him. “Don’t worry.”
“I’d be more worried if I thought you actually believed that.” He shoved the bangs off his forehead with an impatient hand. “It’s too soon, Eva.”
I nodded. “But it’ll work out.”
It had to. I couldn’t imagine my life without Gideon in it.
Cary’s head dropped back and his eyes closed. I might have thought he was succumbing to the motion sickness pills, except his knuckles were white from gripping the armrests too tightly. He was taking the news hard. I didn’t know what I could say to reassure him.
You’re still heading in the wrong direction, Gideon texted.
I almost asked him how he knew that, but caught myself. Are you having a good time with the guys?
I’d have more fun with you.
I grinned. I would hope so. My fingers paused, then: I told Cary.
The answer wasn’t instantaneous. Still friends?
He hasn’t disowned me yet.
He didn’t say anything to that, and I told myself not to read too much into his silence. He was out with his guys. It had been asking a lot to even hear from him at all.
Still, I was super happy to get a text from him ten minutes later.
Don’t stop missing me.
I looked over at Cary and found him watching me. Was Gideon facing similar disapproval from his friends?
Don’t stop loving me, I texted back.
His answer was simple and very much Gideon. Deal.
“SOCAL, baby, I missed you.” Cary descended the steps from the plane to the tarmac, tilting his head back to look up at the night sky. “God, it’s good to leave that East Coast humidity behind.”
I scrambled down after him, eager to get to the tall, dark figure waiting by a shiny black Suburban. Victor Reyes was the kind of male who commanded attention. Part of that was due to his being a cop. The rest was all him.
“Dad!” I ran full bore toward him and he unfolded from where he’d been leaning against the SUV and opened his arms to me.
He absorbed the crash of my body into his and lifted me off my feet, squeezing me so tightly I couldn’t breathe. “It’s good to see you, baby,” he said gruffly.
Cary sauntered up to us. My dad put me down.
“Cary.” My dad clasped Cary’s hand, then pulled him in for a quick hug and a hearty slap on the back. “Looking good, kid.”
“Got everything?” my dad asked. He eyed Raúl, who’d exited the plane first and now stood silently near a black Benz that had been parked and waiting close by.
Gideon had told me to forget that Raúl was there. That wasn’t easy for me to do.
“Yep,” Cary answered, adjusting the weight of his duffel strap on his shoulder. He carried my bag, which was lighter than his, in his hand. Even with all my makeup and three pairs of shoes, Cary had packed more than me.