She shook her head. Then I noticed she was wringing her hands. Never a good sign.
“Can you come back to the hotel with me?” she asked. “I need to talk to you about something.”
I saw Clancy standing behind her, his jaw tight and hard. My pulse began to race. Standing, I grabbed the sarong I’d worn down to the beach and tied it around my waist.
“Should we come?” Shawna asked, sitting up.
“Stay here with Cary,” my mom replied, offering a reassuring smile.
It amazed me how she did that, acting so cool and unruffled when I knew she was anxious. I was too expressive to hide my reactions, but my mom only showed emotion with her eyes and her hands, often saying that even laughter put lines on a face. Since she was wearing sunglasses, she was effectively camouflaged.
Mutely, I followed her and Clancy back to the hotel. Once we reached the lobby, it seemed like every employee had to greet us with a smile or wave. They all knew who I was. After all, we were staying in one of Gideon’s resorts. The name Vientos Cruzados meant Crosswinds.
Gideon had married me at a Crosswinds resort. I hadn’t realized they were a global chain.
We stepped into an elevator and Clancy slid a key card into the necessary slot, a security measure that limited access to our floor. Since there were other people in the car with us, I still had to wait for answers.
I felt sick to my stomach, my thoughts bouncing all over the place. Had something happened to Gideon? Or my dad? I realized I’d left my phone on the table by my drink and kicked myself. If I could only send a quick text to Gideon, I’d feel like I was doing something besides driving myself crazy.
After three stops, the elevator car was empty except for us as we continued the climb to our floor.
“What’s going on?” I asked, turning to face both my mom and Clancy.
She pulled her shades off with trembling fingers. “There’s a scandal brewing,” she began. “Mostly online.”
Which meant it was out of control. Or about to be. “Mom. Just tell me.”
She took a deep breath. “There are some pictures …” She glanced at Clancy for help.
“Of what?” I thought I might vomit. Had the pictures my stepbrother Nathan had taken gotten out somehow? Or stills from the sex tape with Brett?
“Photos of Gideon Cross in Brazil went viral this morning,” Clancy said. He spoke neutrally, but there was something oddly stiff about his stance. So much tension was unusual for him.
I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. I didn’t say anything more. There was nothing to say until I saw the evidence.
We exited directly into our suite, a massive space with several bedrooms and a large central living area. The maids had opened the doors leading out to the wraparound balcony, and the sheer drapes fluttered in the breeze, escaping the ties meant to contain them. Bright with the color and warmth of Spain, the suite had delighted me the moment we arrived.
I barely registered any of it now.
I walked on shaky legs to the couch and waited for Clancy to key in his code on a tablet and pass it over to me. My mom took the seat beside me, silently offering her support.
Looking down, I sucked in a quick audible breath. My chest felt like it was being crushed in a vise. What I saw freaked me out … it was as if someone had crawled inside my head and captured one of the images in my mind.
My gaze locked on Gideon, so dark and gorgeous dressed entirely in black. The fall of his hair partially hid his face, but it was clearly my husband. I hoped it wouldn’t be, tried to find something that would betray the man in the photo as a fraud. But I knew Gideon’s body as well as I knew my own. Knew how he moved. How he relaxed. How he seduced.
I looked away from that beloved figure in the center of the obscene tableau, unable to bear it.
A U-shaped sectional sofa. Black velvet curtains. A half-dozen bottles of top-shelf liquor on a low table.
A private VIP booth.
A slender brunette reclined on a mound of throw pillows. The low V of her sequined top shoved aside. Gideon’s body was partly over hers. His mouth sucked her nipple.
A second leggy brunette. Draped over his back. One thigh hooked over his. Her legs spread. Her mouth a wide O of pleasure. Gideon’s arm reached behind him. His hand beneath her short skirt.
It wasn’t visible, but his fingers were inside her. I knew it. It was a sharp, jagged knife in my heart.
The image blurred as I blinked the tears away, feeling them run hotly down my face. I scrolled, swiping the picture out of sight. Then I saw my name and scanned the writer’s crude speculation as to what I would think about my fiancé’s sexcapades as he said farewell to bachelorhood.