Stepping out of the closet in my boxer briefs, I went to the bed and sprawled. God, I was tired. Too tired to even make a pass at my beautiful wife, who looked adorable in a strapless short romper thing. That said, I was certainly able to rise to the occasion if she propositioned me.
Eva sat on her side of the bed, then leaned over the edge to help Lucky, who tried to scramble up and couldn’t quite make it. A moment later, he was on my chest, whining in protest as I held him off from slathering saliva all over my jaw. “Hey, I get it. I like you, too, but I don’t lick your face.”
He barked at that. Eva laughed and lay down on her pillow.
It struck me then that this was it. This was home. In a way it had never been before. Nothing had really felt like home since my dad died. But I had it back, now, better than ever.
Tucking Lucky against my stomach, I rolled toward my wife. “How did things go with your mother?”
“Good, I guess. We’re pretty much ready for Sunday.”
She shrugged. “She got a headache during your interview. Seemed like she freaked out a little.”
I studied her. “About what?”
“That you were talking about our personal stuff on television. I don’t know. I don’t get her sometimes.”
I remembered Eva telling me about how she’d discussed Corinne’s book with Monica and using the media to our advantage. Monica had cautioned her against it, told her to value our privacy. At the time, I agreed with Eva’s mother and—today’s interview aside—I would continue to agree with her. But in light of what little I knew about Monica’s identity, it seemed probable that Eva’s mother was concerned about her own privacy as well. It was one thing to appear in brief mentions in the local society papers. Quite another to gain the attention of the world.
Eva had her mother’s face and some of her mannerisms. She also had the Tramell name, which was a curious error. It would have been better cover to give her Victor’s last name. Someone might be looking for Monica. If they knew at least as much as I did, having Eva’s face on national television would put an X on the map.
My heart began to pound. Was my wife in danger? I had no idea what Monica might be hiding from.
“Oh!” Eva bolted up. “I didn’t tell you … I’ve got a dress!”
“Jesus. You damn near gave me a heart attack.” Lucky took advantage of my startled state and pounced, licking madly.
“Sorry.” Eva caught up the puppy and rescued me, pulling him into her lap as she sat cross-legged beside me. “I called my dad today. My grandmother asked him if I’d want to wear her wedding dress. He sent me a picture of it, but it’s been in storage so long, I couldn’t really make it out. So he scanned a photo of her wearing it on her wedding day and it’s perfect! It’s totally what I didn’t know I wanted!”
I rubbed my chest and smiled wryly. How could I be anything but captivated that she was so excited to marry me again? “I’m glad, angel.”
Her eyes sparkled with excitement. “My great-grandmother made it for her, with the help of her sisters. It’s a family heirloom, how cool is that?”
“Right? And we’re about the same height. I get my butt and boobs from that side of the family. It might not need to be altered at all.”
“I love your butt and boobs.”
“Fiend.” She shook her head. “I feel like it’ll be good for the relatives on that side to see me in it. I’ve been worried that they’ll feel out of place, but now I’ll be wearing the dress, so they have to feel like they’re included in a big way. Don’t you think?”
“Agreed.” I crooked my finger at her. “Come here.”
She eyed me. “You’ve got a look.”
“Are you still thinking about my butt and boobs?”
“Always. But for now, just a kiss will do.”
“Hmm.” Leaning over, she offered her mouth.
I cupped the back of her head and took what I needed.
“It’s impressive, son.”
I’m looking up at the Crossfire from street level, but the sound of my father’s voice turns my head. “Dad.”
He’s dressed like me, in a dark three-piece suit. His tie is burgundy as is the handkerchief tucked into his breast pocket. We’re the same height and that startles me for a moment. Why does that surprise me? The answer hovers in the back of my mind, but I can’t grasp it.
His arm comes around my shoulders. “You’ve built an empire. I’m proud of you.”