“Yes.” She nodded, looking relieved. “You’re right. They’ll want everything to be perfect.”
“And it will be.” How could it not? Gideon and I were already married, but celebrating his birthday was something we hadn’t done together yet. I couldn’t wait.
My smartphone chimed with a text message. I picked it up and read it, frowning. I reached for the TV remote.
“What is it?” my mom asked.
“I don’t know. Gideon wants me to turn the TV on.” My stomach tightened, worry crowding out the anticipation I’d just felt. How much more would we have to take?
I clicked on the channel he’d specified and recognized the set of a popular talk show. To my shock, Gideon was just settling into a chair at a table circled by the five female hosts—to applause, catcalls, and whistles. Think what they would about his fidelity, women couldn’t resist him. His charisma and sheer sexiness were a million times more potent in person.
“My God,” my mother breathed. “What is he doing?”
I turned up the volume.
As was to be expected, after congratulating him on our engagement, the hosts launched right into the topic of Rio and the infamous ménage à trois club photo. Of course, they made sure to point out that it couldn’t be shown on air because it was too risqué. But they directed viewers to the show’s website, which was highlighted on a banner that ran continuously along the bottom of the screen.
“Well, that’s subtle,” my mom snapped. “Why is he giving this any more attention?”
I hushed her. “He’s got a plan.” At least I hoped he did.
Holding a coffee mug branded with the show’s logo between both hands, Gideon looked thoughtful as the hosts all chimed in before letting him speak.
“Should we even be having bachelor and bachelorette parties anymore?” one of the hosts asked.
“Well, that’s one of the things I can clear up,” Gideon interjected, before they started debating that point. “Since Eva and I married last month and I’m no longer a bachelor, it couldn’t be a bachelor party.”
Behind them, on a massive video screen, the show’s logo gave way to a photo of Gideon kissing me after we’d said our vows.
My breath caught right along with the live audience’s gasps. “Wow,” I murmured. “He outed us.”
I barely caught the rush of conversation that followed the reveal, too stunned by what he was doing to process everything. Gideon was such a private man. He never gave personal interviews, only ones focused on Cross Industries.
The photo of us changed to a series of shots taken inside the same nightclub where the leggy brunettes had climbed all over him. When he glanced at the audience and suggested that some of them might be familiar with the location, there were a few shouted affirmatives.
“Obviously,” he went on, looking back at the hosts. “I couldn’t be in New York and Brazil at the same time. The photo that went viral was digitally altered to remove the club’s logo. You can see that it’s embroidered into the curtains of the VIP lounge. All it took was the right software and a couple of clicks to make it disappear.”
“But the girls were there,” one of the hosts countered, “and what was happening with them was real.”
“True. I had a life before my wife came along,” he said evenly and unapologetically. “I can’t change that, unfortunately.”
“She had a life before you, too. She’s the Eva mentioned in, um, a Six-Ninths song.” She squinted slightly. “ ‘Golden Girl.’ ”
The host was obviously reading the information from a teleprompter.
“Yes, that’s her,” he confirmed.
His tone was neutral. He seemed unruffled. While I knew the show was never as spontaneous as it seemed, it was still surreal to see our lives used to boost the morning ratings.
A photo of Brett and me at the “Golden Girl” video launch in Times Square popped up and a portion of the song played for a moment. “How do you feel about that?”
Gideon gave them one of his rare smiles. “If I were a songwriter, I’d compose ballads about her, too.”
The photo of Gideon and me in Brazil appeared on the screen. It was quickly followed by the photo of us in Westport, and a series of shots taken while we’d walked the red carpet at various charity events. In all of them, his eyes were on me.
“Ooh, he’s good at this,” I said, mostly to myself. My mom was busy shutting down her laptop. “He’s sincere, but still aloof and confident enough to seem like the legendary Gideon Cross. And he gave them a ton of photos to work with.”