I shot him a look as sunlight began pouring into the room. “You must really hate your job.”
“Tell me you wouldn’t be curious if I eloped with a chick I knew only a couple of months.”
“I’d send her my condolences.”
The bedroom door opened and Eva stepped out dressed in her clothes from the night before. Her face was freshly washed, but the dark circles under her eyes and her swollen mouth made her look both well f**ked and extremely f**kable. With her bare feet and barely tamed hair, she was stunning.
Pride swelled my chest. Uncovered by the lack of makeup, the dusting of freckles on her nose made her adorable. Her body told you she was a dream to f**k, the confidence in her posture told you she’d take no shit from anyone, and the mischievous amusement in her eyes told you there would never be a dull moment.
She was every promise, every hope, every fantasy a man could have. And she was mine.
I stared. Arash stared, too.
Eva shifted her stance and smiled shyly. “Hi.”
The sound of her voice snapped him out of it. He pushed to his feet so quickly he spilled his coffee. “Shit. Sorry. Hi.”
He set his mug down and brushed the stray droplets off his pants. He went to her and held out his hand. “I’m Arash.”
She shook it. “Nice to meet you, Arash. I’m Eva.”
I joined them, pushing Arash back with my forearm. “Stop drooling.”
He glanced at me. “Funny, Cross, you ass.”
Eva laughed and leaned into me when I slid my arm around her shoulders.
“It’s good to see he works with people who aren’t afraid of him,” she said.
Arash winked, blatantly flirting. “I know how he operates.”
“Really? I’d love to hear all about it.”
“I think not,” I drawled.
“Don’t be a spoilsport, ace.”
“Yeah, ace,” Arash taunted. “What have you got to hide?”
I smiled. “Your corpse.”
He looked at my wife and sighed. “See what I have to deal with?”
A LATE-AFTERNOON OUTDOOR lunch, in beautiful San Diego, with the three most important men in my life definitely ranked at the top of my best-moments-ever list. I sat between Gideon and my dad, while Cary lounged in the seat directly across the table from me.
If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said I was apathetic about palm trees. I had a new appreciation for them now that I hadn’t seen one in a while. I watched them sway gently in the warm ocean breeze and felt the kind of peace I chased but rarely caught. Seagulls competed with pigeons for the scraps under tables, while the not-too-distant crash of waves against the beach underpinned the bustle of the packed restaurant.
My best friend’s mirrored shades hid his eyes, but his smile came often and easy. My dad wore shorts and a T-shirt and had started out the meal unusually quiet. He’d loosened up after a beer and now looked as comfortable as Cary. My husband wore tan cargo pants and a white T-shirt, the first time I’d ever seen him in light-colored clothing. He looked cool and relaxed in aviators, his fingers linked with mine on the arm of my chair.
“An early-evening wedding,” I thought aloud. “Around sunset. Just family and close friends.” I looked at Cary. “You’ll be the man of honor, of course.”
His mouth curled up on one side in a lazy smile. “I better be.”
I glanced at Gideon. “Do you know who you’ll ask to stand with you?”
The tightening of his lips was nearly imperceptible, but I caught it. “I haven’t decided yet.”
My happy mood dimmed a little. Was he debating whether Arnoldo would be suitable, considering the chef’s feelings toward me? It made me sad to think I might strain that relationship.
Gideon was such a private person. Although I didn’t know for sure, I suspected he was tight with his friends but that there weren’t many of them.
I squeezed his hand. “I’m going to ask Ireland to be a bridesmaid.”
“She’ll like that.”
“What do we do about Christopher?”
“Nothing. With luck, he won’t come.”
My dad frowned. “Who are we talking about?”
“Gideon’s brother and sister,” I answered.
“You don’t get along with your brother, Gideon?”
I explained, not wanting my dad to hold anything against my husband. “Christopher’s not a nice guy.”
Gideon’s head turned toward me. He didn’t say it aloud, but I got the message: He didn’t want me speaking for him.
“He’s a total douche, you mean,” Cary interjected. “No offense, Gideon.”
“None taken.” He shrugged and then elaborated for my father. “Christopher views me as a competitor. I’d have it differently, but it’s not my choice.”
My dad nodded slowly. “That’s too bad.”
“While we’re discussing the wedding,” Gideon segued smoothly, “it would be my pleasure to provide transportation. It would give me a chance to contribute, which I’d appreciate.”
I took a deep breath, understanding—as I knew my father would—that my husband’s directness and tact made him hard to refuse.
“That’s very generous of you, Gideon.”
“It’s a standing offer. With an hour’s notice, we can have you in the air and on your way. It’ll make it easier for you and Eva to work around your schedules and maximize your time together.”