“He’s going to be hobbled by his blue balls by the time the wedding comes around,” he called after me. “You can only prime a pump so many times before it has to blow.”
“Gross, Cary.” I opened the front door. “I’ll text you the numbers of the designer and wedding planner. And I’ll be back in a couple hours.”
I was lucky to catch the elevator without a wait. When I stepped out onto the sidewalk outside the lobby and Raúl climbed out from behind the wheel of the Benz, I knew I was on the right track when he gave me the once-over. He kept it professional, but I could tell he liked what he saw.
“Sorry I lagged,” I told him as he opened the rear door for me. “I wasn’t quite ready when you texted.”
There was almost a hint of a smile on his stern face. “I don’t think he’ll mind.”
During the ride, I texted Cary the phone numbers of Blaire Ash, the interior designer working on the penthouse renovations, and Kristin Washington, the wedding planner, and asked him to arrange meetings with them. By the time I was done and glanced out the window, I realized we weren’t headed to the Crossfire.
When we arrived at Tableau One, I wasn’t totally surprised. The popular restaurant was a co-venture between Gideon and his friend Arnoldo Ricci. Arnoldo had been unknown when Gideon discovered him in Italy. Now, he was a celebrity chef.
As Raúl pulled into the valet area, I scooted forward in the seat. “Could you do me a favor while we’re having lunch?”
He turned his head to look at me.
“Can you find out where Anne Lucas is right now? Today’s as good a day as any for me to rattle her.” I was dressed to impress. Might as well get as much mileage out of that as possible.
“It’s possible,” he said carefully. “I’ll have to discuss it with Mr. Cross.”
I almost backed off. Then I remembered that Raúl technically worked for me, too. If I wanted to step up my game, wasn’t it best to start at home? “No, I have to. And I will. Just find her for me. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“All right.” He still sounded reluctant. “You ready? They’re going to take your picture as soon as they see you.” He jerked his chin forward and I followed the gesture to where a half-dozen paparazzi stood outside the entrance.
“Oh boy.” I took a deep breath. “Got it.”
Raúl got out and rounded the car to open my door. The moment I straightened, camera flashes lit up the already bright day. I kept my face straight and walked briskly into the restaurant.
The place was packed and buzzing with the multitude of loud conversations taking place. Still, I found Gideon almost immediately. He spotted me, too. Whatever he’d been saying before I arrived died on his lips.
The hostess said something to me, but I didn’t hear her. I was too focused on Gideon, whose stunning face took my breath away—as it always did—but gave me no clue to his thoughts.
Pushing his chair back, Gideon stood with powerful grace. The four men seated with him glanced my way, then stood as well. There were two women with them, both of whom swiveled in their seats to look at me.
I remembered to smile and started toward their large round table situated near the center of the room, making my way carefully over the hardwood floors, trying to ignore the stares I garnered as the focus of Gideon’s dark gaze.
My hand shook a little as reached for his arm. “I apologize for being late.”
He slid his arm around me and brushed his lips over my temple. His fingers flexed into my waist with near-painful pressure and I pulled back.
He looked at me with such heated intensity and ferocious love that my pulse skipped. Pleasure rushed through me. I knew that look, understood I’d given him a little buzz he was struggling to process. It was nice to know I could still do that. It made me want to try my hardest to find just the right dress to walk down the aisle in.
I looked at everyone at the table. “Hello.”
Gideon pulled his gaze away from my face. “It’s my pleasure to introduce you to my wife, Eva.”
Startled, I turned wide eyes toward him. The world thought we were only engaged. I hadn’t realized he was making the fact that we were married known.
The heat in his gaze softened to warm amusement. “These are the board members of the Crossroads Foundation.”
Shock turned into love and gratitude so fast, I swayed with it. He held me up, as he always did, in all ways. At a time when I was likely to feel a little adrift, he was giving me something else.
He introduced everyone to me, then pulled out my seat for me. Lunch passed in a whirl of excellent food and intense conversation. I was happy to hear that my idea for adding Crossroads to Gideon’s bio on his website had ramped up traffic to the foundation’s site, and that my suggested overhauls to the Crossroads site—now in place—had increased applications for assistance.