I followed his direction as he closed in on where my mom stood beside her husband, her smile bright and beautiful as they talked with another couple. Stanton was elegantly handsome in his tuxedo, while my mother gleamed like a pearl in an off-white silk column dress.
I turned at the sound of Ireland’s voice, my eyes widening as I found her rounding the nearest table. For a moment, my brain stopped processing anything but the sight of her. She was tall and willowy, her long black hair artfully arranged in a chic updo. The side slit in her sophisticated black velvet gown showed off mile-long legs, while the single-shoulder bodice cupped breasts that were the perfect size for her slender frame.
Ireland Vidal was a stunningly beautiful girl, her thickly lashed eyes the same striking blue as her mother’s and Gideon’s. And she was only seventeen. Picturing her as the woman she would become was breathtaking. Cary wasn’t the only one who was going to set the world on fire.
She walked right into me, hugging me tight. “We’re sisters now!”
I smiled and hugged her back, careful not to spill my champagne on her. I glanced at Chris, who stood behind her, and he gave me a grin in return. The look in his eyes when they returned to his daughter was both tender and proud. God help the guys who set their sights on Ireland. With Chris, Christopher, and Gideon watching out for her, they would have some formidable men to get through first.
Ireland pulled back and checked me out. “Wow. That necklace is amazing! And your boobs! I want a pair of those.”
I laughed. “You’re perfect just the way you are. You’re the most beautiful woman here.”
“No way. But thanks.” Her face lit up as Gideon excused himself from the conversation and turned to face her. “Hey, bro.”
She was in his arms in an instant, hugging him as tightly as she’d hugged me. Gideon stood statue-still for a moment. Then he hugged her back, his face softening in a way that made my heart skip a beat.
I’d spoken to Ireland briefly on the phone after Gideon’s interview, apologizing for keeping the secret of our wedding and explaining why. I wanted us to be closer than we were, but I was holding off on making too many overtures. It would be so easy to become the bridge between her and Gideon, and I didn’t want it that way. They needed to have their own connection, independent of anyone else.
My sister-in-law would be attending Columbia University soon, like her brothers before her. She’d be close and we’d see each other more often. Until then, I would continue to encourage Gideon to foster their budding relationship.
“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.”