“Dad’s paying for the wedding, Mom,” I told her, my voice strengthening now that the moment I’d dreaded had passed.
She blinked at me, her blue eyes revealing—just for an instant—a sweet softening. Then her jaw tightened. “Your dress alone will cost more than that. The flowers, the venue . . .”
“We’re getting married on the beach,” I said, the idea just coming to me. “North Carolina. The Outer Banks. At the house Gideon and I just bought. We’ll only need enough flowers for the members of the wedding party.”
“You don’t understand.” My mom glanced at Kristin for support. “There’s no way that would work. You’d have no control.”
Meaning she wouldn’t.
“Unpredictable weather,” she went on, “sand everywhere . . . Plus, asking everyone to travel that far out of the city will make it likely some won’t be able to attend. And where would everyone stay?”
“Who’s everyone? I told you, the ceremony is going to be small, for friends and family only. Gideon’s taking care of travel. I’m sure he’d be happy to take care of lodging arrangements, too.”
“I can help with that,” Kristin said.
“Don’t encourage her!” my mother snapped.
“Don’t be rude!” I shot back. “I think you’re forgetting that it’s my wedding. Not a publicity op.”
My mom took a deep, steadying breath. “Eva, I think it’s very sweet that you want to accommodate your father this way, but he doesn’t understand what a burden he’s placing on you by asking this. Even if I matched him dollar for dollar, it wouldn’t be enough—”
“It’s plenty.” My hands linked tightly together in my lap, pressing the rings on my fingers uncomfortably against the bone. “And it’s not a burden.”
“You’re going to offend people. You have to understand that a man in Gideon’s position needs to take every opportunity to solidify his network. He’s going to want—”
“—to elope,” I bit out, frustrated by the too-familiar clash of our viewpoints. “If he had his way, we’d run off somewhere and get married on a remote beach with a couple of witnesses and a great view.”
“He may say that—”
“No, Mother. Trust me. That’s exactly what he would do.”
“Um, if I may.” Kristin leaned forward. “We can make this work, Monica. Many celebrity weddings are private affairs. A limited budget will keep us focused on the details. And, if Gideon and Eva are open to it, we can arrange to have select photographs sold to the celebrity lifestyle magazines, with the profits going to charity.”
“Oh, I like that!” I said, even as I wondered how that could work with the forty-eight-hour exclusive deal Gideon had offered Deanna Johnson.
My mom looked distraught. “I’ve dreamed of your wedding since the day you were born,” she said quietly. “I always wanted you to have something fit for a princess.”
“Mom.” I reached over and took her hand in mine. “You can go wild with the reception, okay? Do whatever you want. Skip the red, invite the world, whatever. As for the wedding, isn’t it enough that I found my prince?”
Her hand tightened on mine and she looked at me with tears in her blue eyes. “I guess it’ll have to be.”
I’D just slid into the back of the Benz when my smartphone started ringing. Pulling it out of my purse, I looked at the screen and saw it was Trey. My stomach twisted a little.
I couldn’t get the shattered look on his face last night out of my mind. I’d stayed tucked away in the kitchen while Cary sat with Trey in the living room and told him about Tatiana and the baby. I had put a pot roast in the oven and sat at the breakfast bar with my tablet, reading a book while staying in Cary’s line of sight. Even in profile, I could see how hard Trey had taken the news.
Still, he’d stayed for dinner and then overnight, so I hoped things would work out in the end. At least he hadn’t just walked out.
“Hi, Trey,” I answered. “How are you?”
“Hey, Eva.” He sighed heavily. “I have no idea how I am. How are you doing?”
“Well, I’m just leaving my mother’s place after spending hours talking about the wedding. It didn’t go as badly as it could have, but it could’ve been smoother. But that’s pretty usual when dealing with my mom.”
“Ah . . . well, you’ve got a lot on your plate. I’m sorry to bother you.”
“Trey. It’s fine. I’m glad you called. If you want to talk, I’m here.”
“Could we get together, maybe? Whenever it’s convenient for you?”
“Really? I’m at a street fair on the west side. My sister dragged me out and I was miserable company. She ditched me a few minutes ago and now I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing here.”
“I can meet you.”
“I’m between Eighty-second and Eighty-third, close to Amsterdam. It’s packed here, just FYI.”
“Okay, hang tight. I’ll see you in a few.”
We hung up and I caught Raúl’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “Amsterdam and Eighty-second. Close as you can get.”
“Thanks.” I looked out the window as we turned a corner, taking in the city on a sunny Saturday afternoon.