Gideon and Chris pushed back from the table and pulled out our chairs. Since I’d lost all my lip gloss while eating and drinking, I pressed a kiss to my husband’s jaw.
“I can’t wait to hear you talk,” I told him, my smile wide with anticipation.
He shook his head. “The things that turn you on.”
“You love me.”
“I do. Madly.”
Following Ireland, I weaved through the tables, passing directly by the Lucases. They watched us, looking cozy, with Dr. Terrence Lucas’s arm slung around his wife’s shoulders. Anne caught my gaze and flashed a sharp smile that made my skin crawl.
I reached up and smoothed my middle finger over my brow in a subtle but obvious fuck you.
Ireland and I had moved a few tables farther when she abruptly stopped in front of me.
I bumped into her back. “Sorry.”
When she didn’t continue forward, I angled around her to see what was blocking our way. “What’s going on?”
She turned to look at me. Her eyes were bright with tears. “It’s Rick,” she said, her voice wavering.
“Who?” My brain scrambled to catch up. She looked so hurt. And lost. The connection suddenly clicked. “Your boyfriend?”
She turned her head forward again and I tried to track her attention, searching the packed tables for … someone. “Where? What does he look like?”
“Right there.” She gave a hard jerk of her chin and I spotted tears running down her face. “With the blonde in the red dress.”
Where? I found a few possibilities, then zeroed in on the youngest couple. One look at him and I knew the type. I used to fall for them, too. Confident, sexually experienced, all the right lines. I felt a bit sick thinking about how many guys like that I’d once let use me.
Then I got pissed. Rick was giving the girl plastered to his side a cocky, sexy smile. They certainly weren’t just friends. Not when they were both eye-fucking each other.
I caught Ireland by the elbow and guided her forward. “Keep walking.”
We got to the ladies’ room. The sudden quiet when we stepped inside made it possible to hear her sobbing. I pulled her aside in the vanity area, thankful we were the only ones there, and handed her some tissues I pulled out of the box on the counter.
“He told me he had to work tonight,” she said. “That’s why I said yes when Dad asked me if I wanted to come.”
“This is the guy who won’t tell his parents about you because of Gideon’s father?”
She nodded. “They’re out there. Sitting with him.”
It was coming back to me, that conversation we’d had during the launch of the Six-Ninths music video. Rick’s grandparents had lost a chunk of their wealth to Geoffrey Cross’s Ponzi scheme. They thought it was “convenient” that Gideon was one of the wealthiest men in the world now, even though it was evident to anyone who looked that he’d built his empire with his own hard work and capital.
But then, Rick was probably just making excuses to juggle multiple dates. After all, his parents were here and Gideon was the star attraction. Made me question whether the animosity he’d told her about was bullshit.
“He told me he’d broken up with her months ago!” she cried.
Sniffling, she nodded again. “I just saw him last night. He didn’t say anything about getting the night off and coming here.”
“Did you mention that you would be here?”
“No. I don’t talk about Gideon. Not with him, anyway.”
Was Rick just a young, dumb kid getting his rocks off with every pretty girl who’d let him? Or was he screwing with Gideon’s sister as some sort of twisted payback? In any case, the guy was a douche.
“Don’t cry over that loser, Ireland.” I got her more tissue. “Don’t give him the satisfaction.”
“I just want to go home.”
I shook my head. “That’s not going to help. Honestly, nothing’s going to help. It’s going to hurt for a while. But you can get back at him if you want to. That might feel good.”
She looked at me, tears still streaming. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve got one of the hottest male models in New York sitting by you. Just say the word and Cary will become your very attentive, very crazy-about-you date.” The more I thought of it, the more I liked it. “Together you can run into Rick and oops … well, hellooo. Fancy seeing you here. But what can he say? He’s got the blonde. And you get to walk away with an even score.”
Ireland started shaking. “Maybe I should just talk to him …”