My heart felt like it was squeezed inside my chest. This was more than I’d expected, sooner than I had expected it. Gideon had gone straight to something personal, something intimate and essential to who he was. Something that meant a great deal to me, as well, and that I could put my own stamp on.
He had been waging the war to clear the stain on his name all alone, as he’d had to fight all of his battles. That he trusted me to join him in this, of all things, was a declaration of love as wonderful to me as the ring on my finger.
My grip on his hand tightened. I tried to show him, with just a look, how touched I was. He lifted our joined hands to his lips, his gaze saying the same thing back to me. I love you.
Our server came by to clear our plates.
“We’ll talk about it,” he said aloud. Then he looked at the others. “I hate to cut this short, but I have an afternoon meeting coming up. I could be generous and leave Eva with you, but I won’t.”
Smiles and laughter went around the table.
He looked at me. “Ready?”
“Give me a minute,” I murmured, looking forward to the opportunity to kiss him the way I needed to.
From the glimmer in his eyes, I suspected he knew exactly what I was thinking.
Lynn and Cindy both pushed to their feet and came along to the ladies’ room.
As we made our way through the restaurant, I looked for Arnoldo but didn’t see him. That didn’t surprise me, considering his commitments with the Food Network and other appearances. As much as I wanted to try to repair that relationship, I knew time would tell. Eventually, Arnoldo would see how much I loved my husband, that protecting him and being everything to him was the center of my life.
Gideon and I challenged each other. We pushed each other to change and grow. Sometimes, we hurt each other to accomplish something or make a point, which worried Dr. Petersen but somehow was working for us. We could forgive each other for anything except betrayal.
It was inevitable that others, especially those close to us, would look at us from the outside and wonder how and why it worked, and whether it should. They couldn’t understand—and I didn’t blame them because I was only just starting to really grasp it myself—that we pushed ourselves harder than we ever pushed each other. Because we wanted to be the best possible versions of ourselves, to be strong enough to be what the other needed.
I used the restroom, then washed my hands, taking a moment to look in the mirror when I was done and fluff my hair. I wasn’t sure how Mario had done it, but he’d given me a cut that gained more body the more I touched it.
I caught Cindy’s smile in the mirror and felt a little self-conscious. Then she pulled out a tube of bright red lipstick and I relaxed.
“Eva. I almost didn’t recognize you. I love what you’ve done with your hair.”
Through the mirror, I looked for the person speaking to me. For a split second, I thought it was Corinne and my heart rate kicked up. Then I homed in on the face.
“Hello.” Turning, I faced Ryan Landon’s wife. When I’d first met Angela, she had worn her hair in an artful chignon, which disguised the length of her hair. With it down, the long black strands hung in a straight curtain that reached the middle of her back. She was tall and slender, her eyes a muted blue-gray. Her face was longer than Corinne’s and her features a bit less perfect, but she was still a knockout.
Her gaze assessed me so casually from head to toe I couldn’t swear that was what she had done. Nice trick. I hadn’t mastered it. It dawned on me that I would be constantly scrutinized by more than just the media as I took my place in the city’s new elite. I wasn’t ready. My mother’s debutante training and rules weren’t going to help me, that was for damn sure.
Angela smiled and took the sink next to me. “It’s good to see you.”
“You, too.” Now that I was armed with the knowledge of Landon’s vendetta against Gideon, I was on alert. But I wasn’t trying to land her husband’s account anymore. We were equals. Well, almost. My husband was younger, richer, and hotter. And she knew it.
Cindy and Lynn finished up and started moving toward the exit. I fell into step with them.
“I was wondering—” Angela began.
I paused and looked at her inquisitively. Giving us privacy, the other gals left.
“—if you’ll be attending the Grey Isles show this week? Your close friend—the one who’s living with you—he’s the face of their latest campaign, isn’t he?”
It was hard, but I kept my face straight. Why ask me that? What was she getting at? I couldn’t tell because her face was clear and innocent, with no sign of guile. Maybe I was looking for a hidden objective that wasn’t there. Or I just didn’t have the skill set I needed to play her game as well as she did.
Because she was obviously paying attention to me. Not just my relationship with Gideon, but all my relationships. She was following the gossip. Why?
“I don’t have plans to attend any of the Fashion Week shows,” I replied carefully.