It wasn’t visible, but his fingers were inside her. I knew it. It was a sharp, jagged knife in my heart.
The image blurred as I blinked the tears away, feeling them run hotly down my face. I scrolled, swiping the picture out of sight. Then I saw my name and scanned the writer’s crude speculation as to what I would think about my fiancé’s sexcapades as he said farewell to bachelorhood.
I set the tablet on the coffee table, breathing hard. My mother scooted closer and put her arm around me, pulling me into her embrace. The room phone rang loudly, jolting me and abrading my nerves.
“Shh …” she whispered, her hand stroking over my hair. “I’ve got you, honey. I’m right here.”
Clancy went to the handset and answered with a brusque “Yes?” Then his tone took on a chilly bite. “I see you’re having a good time.”
I looked at Clancy and felt the heat rippling off him. He met my gaze. “Yes, she’s here.”
I straightened away from my mother and managed to stand. Fighting off a wave of nausea, I went to him and held out my hand for the phone. He gave the cordless handset to me and stepped back.
I swallowed a sob. “Hello.”
There was a pause. Gideon’s breathing quickened. I’d said one word, but from that, he knew that I knew.
Abruptly sick, I ran to the bathroom and dropped the phone, barely managing to lift the toilet seat before emptying the contents of my stomach in racking, violent heaves.
My mother ran in and I shook my head at her. “Go away,” I gasped, sinking to the floor with my back against the wall.
“I need a minute, Mom. Just … give me a minute.”
She stared at me, then nodded, closing the door behind her.
From the phone on the floor, I heard Gideon yelling. I reached for it, wrapping my hand around it and dragging it over. I lifted it to my ear.
“Eva! For God’s sake, pick up the phone!”
“Stop shouting,” I told him, my head pounding.
“Christ.” He took a ragged breath. “You’re sick. Damn it. I’m too far away …” His voice rose. “Raúl! Where the fuck are you? I want the goddamn jet ready now! Get on the damn phone—”
“No. No, don’t—”
“It happened before I met you.” He spoke too fast, was breathing too fast. “I don’t know when or—What?” Someone spoke in the background. “Cinco de Mayo? For fuck’s sake. Why is this coming out now?”
“Eva, I swear to you that fucking picture wasn’t taken this weekend. I would never do that to you. You know that. You know what you mean to me—”
“Gideon, calm down.” My racing pulse began to slow. He was frantic. Panicked. It broke my heart to hear it. He was so strong, capable of managing and surviving and crushing anything.
I was his weakness, when all I wanted was to be his strength.
“You have to believe me, Eva. I would never do that to us. I would never—”
“I believe you.”
Closing my eyes, I let my head fall back to rest against the wall. My stomach began to settle. “I believe you.”
His shuddered exhale came hard and heavy across the line. “God.”
I knew how much it meant to him that I believed him utterly. About everything. Anything. He couldn’t help but find that nearly impossible to accept, even as he craved my trust more than I think he craved my love. To him, my belief in him was my love.
His explanation was simple, some might say too simple, but knowing him the way I did, it was the one that made the most sense.
“I love you.” His voice was soft. Weary. “I love you so much, Eva. When you didn’t answer your phone—”
“I love you, too.”
“I’m sorry.” He made a small noise filled with pain and regret. “So sorry you saw that. It’s so fucked up. All of this is fucked up.”
“You’ve seen worse.” Gideon had seen me kiss Brett Kline, right in front of him. He’d watched at least some of the sex tape that featured Brett and me. Compared to that, a photo was nothing.
“I hate that you’re there and I’m here.”
“Me, too.” I wanted the solace of his arms around me. More than that, I wanted to comfort him. To show him again that I wasn’t going anywhere and he had no reason to fear.
“We’re not doing this again.”
“No, you’re only getting married twice—both times to me. No more bachelor parties for you.”
He huffed out a laugh. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Tell Clancy to bring you home now. We’re packing up to head to the airport.”
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see. “Take tomorrow off.”
“Tomorrow …? Yes. You’re sick—”
“No, I’m fine. I’m coming to you. In Rio.”
“What? No. I don’t want to be here. I need to be home to sort this shit out.”
“It’s out in the wild, Gideon. Nothing you can do will change that.” I pulled myself up off the floor. “You can hunt him—or her—down later. I’m not letting this ruin our memories of the weekend.”