The room exploded into applause as Gideon rose lithely to his feet. I stood, too, along with Chris, Cary, and Ireland. The rest of the room followed suit, until a full standing ovation welcomed Gideon to the stage. He glanced at me before he walked away, his fingers brushing the ends of my hair.
Seeing him traverse the stage was its own pleasure. His stride was smooth and unhurried, but it commanded attention. Gracefully powerful, he moved so beautifully it was a joy to watch him.
He set the plaque they’d given him atop the lectern, his tanned hands in notable contrast to the white of his cuffs. Then he began speaking, his dynamic baritone smooth and cultured, making each word a separate caress. There was no other sound in the room, everyone riveted by his dark good looks and consummate oration.
It was over too quickly. I was on my feet again the moment he picked up the plaque, my hands clapping so hard my palms hurt. They directed him to the side of the stage, where a photographer waited with Glen. Gideon spoke to them, then looked at me, beckoning me to him with an outstretched hand.
He met me at the bottom of the stairs, offering his arm to help me navigate the ascent in my dress and heels.
“I am so hot for you right now,” I told him softly.
He laughed. “Fiend.”
We danced for an hour after the dinner was over.
Why didn’t I dance with my husband more often? He was as skilled and sexual on the dance floor as he was in bed, his body moving with fluid strength, his lead confident and expertly assertive.
Gideon was intimately familiar with how we flowed together and used that to his advantage, taking every opportunity to slide his body against mine. I was wildly aroused and he was aware, his gaze on my face both hot and knowing.
When I could tear my attention away from him, I spotted Cary dancing with Ireland. He had scoffed when I first asked him to take dancing lessons with me, but he’d come around and quickly become our instructor’s favorite. He was a natural and he easily led Ireland, despite her inexperience.
A flamboyant dancer, Cary claimed a wide space on the floor, which made him and Ireland the focus of much attention. He, however, only had eyes for his partner, playing the part of a completely spellbound date to perfection. Even heartbroken, Ireland couldn’t help but be charmed by his unwavering, focused attention. I saw her laugh often, her cheeks prettily flushed with exertion.
I’d missed that oops moment with Rick I’d hoped to witness, but I saw the result. He was dancing with his girlfriend, woefully unable to compete with Cary in either skill or looks. There was no more smiling or eye-fucking, since both he and the blonde kept glancing at Cary and Ireland, who were clearly having far more fun.
Terrence and Anne Lucas danced, too, but were wise enough to stay on the other side of the dance floor.
“Let’s go home,” Gideon murmured, as the song ended and we slowed to a halt, “and put some sweat on those diamonds.”
I smiled. “Yes, please.”
We went back to our table to retrieve his plaque and my clutch.
“We’ll head out with you,” Stanton said, joining us with my mother beside him.
“What about Cary?” I asked.
“Martin will take him home,” my mother answered. “They’re all still enjoying themselves.”
It took us just as long to leave as it’d taken us to arrive, with so many people catching Gideon and Stanton for the first time all evening. I could only say thank you to congratulations, but my mother occasionally spoke with authority, adding brief but incisive comments to things Stanton discussed. I envied her that knowledge and was inspired by it. We’d have to talk about that when the time presented itself.
The plus side of being delayed for so long was that it gave time for the cars to be brought around. When we finally made it down to street level, Raúl informed us that the limo was only a block away. Clancy shot me a quick smile before he told my mom and Stanton their car was pulling up now.
Paparazzi waited outside. Not as many as before, but more than a dozen.
“Let’s get together tomorrow,” my mom said, giving me a hug in the lobby.
“Sounds good.” I pulled back. “I could use a day at the spa.”
“What a lovely idea.” Her smile was brilliant. “I’ll make the arrangements.”
I hugged Stanton good-bye; Gideon shook his hand. We stepped outside and the camera flashes burst around us. The city welcomed us outdoors with the sounds of late-evening traffic and the gentle warmth of the evening. The humidity was slowly receding as summer gave way to fall and I looked forward to spending more time outdoors. Autumn in New York was a unique enchantment, something I’d only enjoyed previously during short visits.
The shout barely registered before Gideon tackled me. A loud crack of sound jolted through me, reverberating off the brick and ringing in my ears. Deafeningly close … Jesus. Right beside us.
We hit the carpeted pavement hard. Gideon rolled, covering me with his body. More weight as someone threw themselves over Gideon. Another bark of noise. Then another. Another …