“Chris.” I went to him and gave him a hug, pleased with the enthusiasm with which he hugged me back. He’d cleaned up since coming over to dinner, his hair freshly trimmed and his jaw clean-shaven.
Christopher Vidal Sr. was a quietly handsome man with a gentle gaze. There was an innate kindness in him that radiated in his voice and the way he looked at people. I’d thought so the first time I met him, and he’d done nothing to alter that first impression.
“Gideon. Eva.” Magdalene Perez joined us, looking seductively beautiful in a sleek, emerald green gown, her arm linked with her boyfriend’s.
It was good to see that Magdalene had moved on from her unrequited interest in Gideon, which had caused problems for Gideon and me when our relationship was just getting started. She’d been a bitter, nasty bitch then, spurred on by Gideon’s brother’s manipulations. Now that she was happy with her artist, she was serene and lovely and was slowly becoming a close acquaintance.
Greeting them both warmly, I shook Gage Flynn’s hand as Gideon kissed Magdalene’s proffered cheek. I didn’t know Gage all that well yet, but he was obviously head over heels for Magdalene. And I knew that Gideon would’ve checked him out, making sure the guy was good enough for the woman who’d been a longtime friend of Gideon’s family.
We were accepting their congratulations when my mother and Stanton joined us, followed by Martin and Lacey, whom we hadn’t seen since the weekend in Westport. I watched with a smile as Cary and Ireland both laughed about something shared between them.
“What a beautiful girl,” my mother said, sipping champagne and eyeing Gideon’s sister.
“And Cary looks good.”
“I said the same thing.”
She looked at me with a smile. “You should know that we’ve offered to let him keep the apartment if he likes or help him find something smaller.”
“Oh.” My gaze went to him, catching him nodding at something Chris told him. “What did he say?”
“That you’d offered him a private apartment adjoining Gideon’s penthouse.” She angled toward me. “You’ll all decide what works best for you, but I wanted to give him the option to stay where he is. It’s always good to have options.”
I sighed, then nodded.
She reached for my hand. “Now, you and Gideon are handling your public image in your own way, but you have to be aware of what those horrible gossip blogs are saying about you and Cary being lovers.”
Suddenly, the frenzy on the red carpet made sense. The three of us, arriving together.
“Gideon denied that he’s ever cheated on you,” she went on quietly, “but he’s now known to have, shall we say … adventurous sexual appetites. Can you imagine how rumors will fly if the three of you are living together?”
“Oh, man.” Yeah, I could. The world had seen in graphic detail that my husband was up for a threesome. Not with another man in the mix, but even so. Those days were behind him, but they didn’t know that—and wouldn’t want to believe it anyway. It was just too salacious.
“Before you say you don’t care, honey, realize that many people do. And if someone Gideon wants to do business with thinks he’s morally corrupt, it could cost him a fortune.”
Really. These days, not likely, but I bit my tongue instead of making a crack about my mom’s concern about the bottom line. It always came down to that, in one way or another. “I hear you,” I muttered.
As the time approached for the start of dinner, everyone began searching for their assigned tables. Gideon and I were at the front, of course, since he was speaking. Ireland and Chris had place cards at our table, as did Cary. My mom, Stanton, Martin, and Lacey were at the table to our right; Magdalene and Gage were further back.
Gideon pulled my chair out for me and I moved to sit, then stopped, startled by the couple I spotted a few tables away. Straightening, I looked at Gideon. “The Lucases are here.”
His head went up, his gaze searching. I knew the moment he spotted them by the way his jaw hardened. “So they are. Sit down, angel.”
I sat and he pushed my chair in, taking a seat beside me. He pulled out his phone and typed out a quick text.
Leaning toward him, I whispered, “I’ve never seen them together before.”
His phone buzzed with a reply as he looked up at me. “They don’t go out as a couple often.”
“Are you texting Arash?”
“Huh? About the Lucases?”
“Fuck ’em.” He slid his phone back into his jacket and leaned toward me, draping one arm along the back of my chair and the other on the table, caging me in. He put his lips next to my ear. “Next time we come to one of these, I’m putting you in a short skirt and you’re going to be naked underneath.”
I was grateful everyone else was looking elsewhere and couldn’t possibly hear—and that the orchestra was playing a little louder to keep all the guests moving toward their seats. “You’re a fiend.”