Magdalene stepped into the ladies’ room and paused, assessing the situation. “Ireland. What’s wrong?”

I kept my mouth shut, since it wasn’t my story to share.


Ireland shook her head. “It’s nothing. I’m okay.”

“All right.” Magdalene looked at me. “I won’t pry, but you should know that I’d never share anything with your brothers if you told me not to.”

It took her a moment, and then Ireland spoke through her tears. “This guy I’ve been seeing for a couple months now … he’s out there with someone else. His old girlfriend.”

Personally, I suspected Rick had never broken up with that girlfriend to begin with and had been stringing Ireland along on the side, but then I was cynical about things like that.

“Oh.” Magdalene’s face softened in sympathy. “Men can be such assholes. Look, if you want to slip out without him noticing, I’ll order a car for you.” She snapped open her clutch and took out her smartphone. “On me. How’s that?”

“Hang on,” I interjected. I laid out my plan.

Magdalene’s brows rose. “Devious. Why get mad when you can get even?”

“I don’t know …” Ireland glanced at the mirror and cursed. She grabbed more tissues and worked on fixing her eye makeup. “I look like shit.”

“You look a million times better than that tramp out there,” I told her.

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She gave a watery laugh. “I hate her, too. She’s such a bitch.”

“Bet she’s admired some of Cary’s Grey Isles ads,” Magdalene said. “I know I have.”

That did the trick. While Ireland wasn’t ready yet to completely write off Rick, she was certainly open to making his date envious.

The rest would come in time. Hopefully.

Then again, there were some lessons we women had to learn the hard way.

We made it back to our table just as a gentleman I assumed was Glen headed up the stairs onto the stage and crossed over to the lectern. I knelt by Cary, setting my hand on his arm.

He glanced down at me. “What’s up?”

I explained what I wanted him to do and why.

His grin flashed white in the dimmed lighting. “Sure thing, baby girl.”

“You’re the best, Cary.”

“So they all say.”

Rolling my eyes, I stood and headed back to my chair, which Gideon pulled out for me. My cake was still there and I eyed it eagerly.

“They tried to take that,” Gideon murmured. “I defended it for you.”

“Aww. Thank you, baby. You’re so good to me.”

He put his hand on my thigh beneath the table and gave it a soft squeeze.

I watched my husband while I ate, admiring Gideon’s air of calm relaxation as we both listened to Glen talk about the importance of the work his organization did in the city. Whenever I thought about giving speeches on behalf of Crossroads, I got butterflies in my stomach. But I’d eventually get the hang of it, figure things out. I would learn what I needed to know to be an asset to both my husband and Cross Industries.

We had time and I had Gideon’s love. The rest would fall into place.

“It is our pleasure to honor a man who truly needs no introduction—”

Putting my fork down, I sat back and listened as Glen extolled my husband’s many accomplishments and his generous commitment to causes that benefited victims of sexual abuse. It didn’t escape my notice that Chris was watching Gideon with a new understanding in his gaze. And pride. The look he gave my husband was no different from the one I’d seen him give Ireland.

The room exploded into applause as Gideon rose lithely to his feet. I stood, too, along with Chris, Cary, and Ireland. The rest of the room followed suit, until a full standing ovation welcomed Gideon to the stage. He glanced at me before he walked away, his fingers brushing the ends of my hair.

Seeing him traverse the stage was its own pleasure. His stride was smooth and unhurried, but it commanded attention. Gracefully powerful, he moved so beautifully it was a joy to watch him.

He set the plaque they’d given him atop the lectern, his tanned hands in notable contrast to the white of his cuffs. Then he began speaking, his dynamic baritone smooth and cultured, making each word a separate caress. There was no other sound in the room, everyone riveted by his dark good looks and consummate oration.

It was over too quickly. I was on my feet again the moment he picked up the plaque, my hands clapping so hard my palms hurt. They directed him to the side of the stage, where a photographer waited with Glen. Gideon spoke to them, then looked at me, beckoning me to him with an outstretched hand.

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