“Um . . . never.”
It had taken a few drinks and Cary’s undivided attention to make Megumi comfortable enough to enjoy herself. My best friend had kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Only the Good Die Young,” and then he’d dragged Megumi up there to sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” She’d come back to the table glowing.
I owed Cary big-time for taking care of her. Even better, he seemed to have no intention of ditching us to cruise the place for conquests like Manuel had. I was really proud of him.
“Come on, Eva,” Steven coaxed. “You picked this place. You have to sing.”
“Your sister picked this place,” I shot back, looking to her. Shawna just shrugged innocently.
“She’s sung twice!” he countered.
I deflected. “Mark hasn’t sung anything.”
My boss shook his head. “I’m doing you all a favor, trust me.”
“You’re telling me. Squealing tires sound more lyrical than I do!”
Arnoldo pushed the tablet with the song choices my way. It was the first time all night he’d made any overture toward me, aside from saying hello at the entrance. He’d spent most of the evening focused on Magdalene and Gage, which I tried not to take as a personal snub.
“No fair,” I complained. “You’re all ganging up on me! Gideon hasn’t sung yet, either.”
I glanced at my husband. He shrugged. “I’ll go up if you will.”
Astonishment widened my eyes. I’d never heard Gideon sing, had never even imagined it. Singers exposed and expressed emotion with their voices. Gideon’s still waters ran very deep.
“Hell, you gotta do it now,” Cary said, reaching over to tap the menu open at a random page.
My stomach twisted a little. I looked helplessly at the songs in front of me. One jumped out and I stared at it.
Taking a deep breath, I stood. “Okay. Just remember, you all asked for this. I don’t want to hear any shit about how bad I suck.”
Gideon, who’d risen to his feet when I had, pulled me close and murmured in my ear, “I think you suck excellently, angel.”
I elbowed him in the ribs. His low laughter followed me as I made my way to the stage. I loved hearing that sound, loved spending time with him when we forgot our troubles and had fun with people who loved us. We were married, but we still had so much dating to catch up on, so many nights with friends yet to experience. Tonight was just the first of many, I hoped.
I regretted threatening the fragile peace with my song choice. But not enough to change my mind.
I high-fived Will as he and Natalie passed me on the way back to our group. I could have input my song choice into the tablet at the table, the same way we placed our food and drink orders, but I didn’t want Gideon seeing the title.
Plus, I’d noticed that every other party in the place had to wait for their turn in the queue, but our selections were fast-tracked. I was hoping that adding my name to the list in person would buy me some time to build up the courage I needed.
I should’ve known better. When I gave the hostess my selection, she typed it into the system and said, “Okay, stay right here. You’re next.”
“You’re kidding.” I glanced back at our table. Gideon winked at me.
Ooh, he was going to pay for that later.
The chick on the stage singing “Diamonds” wrapped it up, and the place exploded into applause. She’d been decent, but really, the live band made up for a lot of faults. They were really good. I had my fingers crossed that they’d be good enough for me, too.
I was shaking when I climbed the short steps to the stage. When the loud whistles and cheers erupted from our table, I couldn’t help but laugh despite my nervousness. I gripped the mic in its stand and the beat kicked in immediately. The familiar song, one I loved, gave me the boost I needed to start.
Looking at Gideon, I warbled my way through the opening lyrics, telling him he was amazing. Even over the music, I could hear the laughter at my horrible voice. My own table erupted with it, but I had expected that.
I’d chosen “Brave.” I had to be it to sing it—that, or crazy.
I stayed focused on my husband, who wasn’t laughing or smiling. He just stared intently at my face as I told him via Sara Bareilles’s lyrics that I wanted to see him speak up and be brave.
The catchy composition plus the skill of the band backing me began to win over the crowd, who started singing along, more or less. My heart strengthened my voice, giving power to the message meant only for Gideon.
He needed to stop holding his silence. He needed to tell his family the truth. Not for me or for them, but for him.
When the song ended, my friends surged to their feet in applause and I grinned, energized. I gave a lavish bow and laughed when the strangers at the tables in front of the stage joined in the unearned praise. I knew my strengths. My singing voice certainly wasn’t one of them.
“That was f**kin’ awesome!” Shawna shouted when I got back to the table, grabbing me in a fierce hug. “You owned that, girl.”
“Remind me to pay you later,” I said dryly, feeling my face heat as the rest of our party kicked in with praise. “You guys are full of it.”
“Ah, baby girl,” Cary drawled, his green eyes bright with laughter, “you can’t be good at everything. It’s a relief to know you’re flawed like the rest of us.”
I stuck my tongue out at him and picked up the fresh vodka cranberry sitting in front of my spot.