And I loved how close Gideon sat to me, holding my hand beneath the table.
When they asked me for input, I shook my head. “I’m not qualified to offer anything valuable at this point. You’re all doing an amazing job.”
Cindy Bello, the CEO, gave me a big smile. “Thank you, Eva.”
“I would like to sit in on board meetings as an observer and get up to speed. If I can’t contribute ideas, I hope to find another way to lend a hand.”
“Now that you mention it,” Lynn Feng, the VP of operations, began, “many of our recipients want to acknowledge and thank Crossroads for its support. They hold luncheons or dinners, which also act as fund-raisers. They would love to have Gideon accept on behalf of the foundation, but his schedule precludes that most of the time.”
I leaned briefly into Gideon’s shoulder. “You want me to nudge him some more for you.”
“Actually,” she smiled, “Gideon suggested that you might step in and handle those. We’re talking about you representing the foundation in person.”
I blinked at her. “You’re kidding.”
“Not at all.”
My gaze turned to Gideon. He tilted his head in acknowledgment.
I tried to wrap my brain around the idea. “I’m not much of a consolation prize.”
“Eva.” Gideon conveyed a wealth of disapproval in that one word.
“I’m not being modest,” I countered. “Why would anyone want to hear me speak? You’re accomplished, brilliant, and a wonderful orator. I could listen to you give a speech all day. Your name sells tickets. Offering me up instead just creates … an obligation. That’s not helpful.”
“Are you done?” he asked smoothly.
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Look at the people in your life and how you’ve helped them.” Like me. He didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to. “If you put your mind to it, you could deliver a powerful message.”
“If I can add,” Lynn interjected, “when Gideon can’t make it, one of us goes instead.” She gestured at the rest of the board members. “Having a member of the Cross family personally attend would be wonderful. No one would be disappointed.”
The Cross family. That had me sucking in a sharp breath. I didn’t know if Geoffrey Cross had left any other family members behind. What was indisputable was that Gideon was the most visible reminder of his infamous father.
My husband didn’t remember the man who was known as a fraudster and coward. What he remembered was a father who had loved and nurtured him. Gideon worked so hard and had achieved so much, driven by the need to change what people associated with the Cross name.
Now I had the name, too. One day in the future, we would have children who carried it. I had the same responsibility as Gideon to make our surname something our kids would be proud of.
I looked at Gideon.
He held my gaze, unwavering and focused. “Two places at once,” he murmured.
My heart felt like it was squeezed inside my chest. This was more than I’d expected, sooner than I had expected it. Gideon had gone straight to something personal, something intimate and essential to who he was. Something that meant a great deal to me, as well, and that I could put my own stamp on.
He had been waging the war to clear the stain on his name all alone, as he’d had to fight all of his battles. That he trusted me to join him in this, of all things, was a declaration of love as wonderful to me as the ring on my finger.
My grip on his hand tightened. I tried to show him, with just a look, how touched I was. He lifted our joined hands to his lips, his gaze saying the same thing back to me. I love you.
Our server came by to clear our plates.
“We’ll talk about it,” he said aloud. Then he looked at the others. “I hate to cut this short, but I have an afternoon meeting coming up. I could be generous and leave Eva with you, but I won’t.”
Smiles and laughter went around the table.
He looked at me. “Ready?”
“Give me a minute,” I murmured, looking forward to the opportunity to kiss him the way I needed to.
From the glimmer in his eyes, I suspected he knew exactly what I was thinking.
Lynn and Cindy both pushed to their feet and came along to the ladies’ room.
As we made our way through the restaurant, I looked for Arnoldo but didn’t see him. That didn’t surprise me, considering his commitments with the Food Network and other appearances. As much as I wanted to try to repair that relationship, I knew time would tell. Eventually, Arnoldo would see how much I loved my husband, that protecting him and being everything to him was the center of my life.