“Awesome.”


“I’ve got to run. I’m just getting to work.”


“Text me your address, so I know where to pick you up.”


“Will do.” I spun through the revolving door and headed toward the turnstiles. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”


“I’m looking forward to it. See you around five.”


Tucking my phone away, I entered the nearest open elevator. When I got upstairs and was buzzed through the glass security doors, I was greeted by Megumi’s phone thrust in my face.


“Can you believe this?” she asked.


I pulled back enough to bring the screen into focus. “Three missed calls from Michael.”


“I hate guys like him,” she complained. “Hot and cold and all over the place. They want you until they have you, then they want something else.”


“So tell him that.”


“Really?”


“Straight up. You could just avoid his calls, but that’ll drive you crazy. Don’t agree to meet with him, though. Having sex with him again would be bad.”


“Right.” Megumi nodded. “Sex is bad, even when it’s really good.”


Laughing, I headed back to my cubicle. I had other things to do besides referee someone else’s love life. Mark was juggling several accounts at once, with three campaigns rolling into the final stages. Creatives were at work and mock-ups were slowly making their way across his desk. That was my favorite part—seeing all the strategizing come together.


By ten o’clock, Mark and I were deep into debating the various approaches to a divorce attorney’s ad campaign. We were trying to find the right mix of sympathy for a difficult time in a person’s life and the most prized qualities of a lawyer—the ability to be cunning and ruthless.


“I’m never going to need one of these,” he said, somewhat out of the blue.


“No,” I replied, once my brain caught up to the fact that he was talking about divorce attorneys. “You never will. I’m dying to congratulate Steven at lunch. I’m really so thrilled for you two.”


Mark’s grin exposed his slightly crooked teeth, which I thought were cute. “I’ve never been happier.”


It was nearing eleven and we’d switched to a guitar manufacturer’s campaign when my desk phone rang. I ran out to my cubicle to grab it and had my usual greeting cut off by a squeal.


“Oh my God, Eva! I just found out we’re both going to be at that Six-Ninths thing tomorrow!”


“Ireland?”


“Who else?” Gideon’s sister was so excited, she sounded younger than her seventeen years. “I love Six-Ninths. Brett Kline is so freakin’ hot. So is Darrin Rumsfeld. He’s the drummer. He’s fine as hell.”


I laughed. “Do you happen to like their music, too?”


“Pfft. That’s a given. Listen”—her voice turned serious—“I think you should try talking to Gideon tomorrow. You know, just kinda walk by and say hi. If you open the door, he’ll totally barge through it, I swear. He misses you like crazy.”


Leaning back in my chair, I played along. “You think so?”


“It’s so obvious.”


“Really? How?”


“I don’t know. Like how his voice changes when he talks about you. I can’t explain it, but I’m telling you, he’s dying to get you back. You’re the one who told him to bring me along tomorrow, didn’t you?”


“Not precisely—”


“Ha! I knew it. He always does what you tell him.” She laughed. “Thanks, by the way.”


“Thank him. I’m just looking forward to seeing you again.”


Ireland was the one person in Gideon’s family for whom he felt untarnished affection, although he tried hard not to show it. I thought maybe he was afraid to be disappointed or afraid he might ruin it somehow. I wasn’t sure what the deal was, but Ireland hero-worshipped her brother and he’d kept his distance, even though he needed love terribly.


“Promise me you’ll try to talk to him,” she pressed. “You still love him, right?”


“More than ever,” I said fervently.


She was quiet for a minute, then said, “He’s changed since he met you.”


“I think so. I’ve changed, too.” I straightened when Mark stepped out of his office. “I have to get back to work, but we’ll catch up tomorrow. And make plans for that girls’ day we talked about.”


“Sweet. Catch you later!”


I hung up, pleased that Gideon had followed through and made plans with Ireland. We were making progress, both together and on our own.


“Baby steps,” I whispered. Then I got back to work.


AT noon, Mark and I headed out to meet Steven at a French bistro. Once we entered the restaurant, it was easy to spot Mark’s partner, even with the size of the place and the number of diners.


Steven Ellison was a big guy—tall, broad shouldered, and heavily muscled. He owned his own construction business and preferred to be working the job sites with his crew. But it was his gloriously red hair that really drew the eye. His sister Shawna had the same hair—and the same fun-loving nature.


“Hey, you!” I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek, able to be more familiar with him than I was with my boss. “Congratulations.”


“Thank you, darlin’. Mark is finally going to make an honest man out of me.”


“It’d take more than marriage to do that,” Mark shot back, pulling out my chair for me.


“When haven’t I been honest with you?” Steven protested.


“Um, let’s see.” Mark got me settled in my seat, then took the one beside me. “How about when you swore marriage wasn’t for you.”


“Ah, I never said it wasn’t for me.” Steven winked at me, his blue eyes full of mischief. “Just that it wasn’t for most people.”


“He was really twisted up over asking you,” I told him. “I felt bad for the guy.”


“Yeah.” Mark flipped through the menu. “She’s my witness to your cruel and unusual punishment.”


“Feel bad for me,” Steven retorted. “I wooed him with wine, roses, and violin players. I spent days practicing my proposal. I still got shot down.”


He rolled his eyes, but I could tell there was a wound there that hadn’t quite healed. When Mark placed his hand over his partner’s and squeezed, I knew I was right.


“So how’d he do it?” I asked, even though Mark had told me.


The waitress, asking if we wanted water, interrupted us. We held her back a minute and ordered our food, too, and then Steven started relaying their anniversary night out.


“He was sweating like mad,” he went on. “Wiping at his face every other minute.”


“It’s summer,” Mark muttered.


“And restaurants and theaters are climate controlled,” Steven shot back. “We went through the whole night with him like that and finally headed home. I got to thinking he wasn’t going to do it. That the night was gonna end and he still wasn’t going to get the damn words out. And there I am wondering if I’ll have to ask him again, just to get it over with. And if he says no again—”


“I didn’t say no the first time,” Mark interjected.


“—I’m going to deck him. Just knock his ass out, toss him on a plane, and head to Vegas, because I’m not getting any younger here.”


“Definitely not mellowing with age, either,” Mark grumbled.


Steven gave him a look. “So we’re climbing out of the limo, and I’m trying to remember that fan-fucking-tastic proposal I came up with before, and he grabs my elbow and blurts out, ‘Steve, damn it. You have to marry me.’ ”


I laughed, leaning back as the waitress put my side salad in front of me. “Just like that.”


“Just like that,” Steven said, with an emphatic nod.


“Very heartfelt.” I gave Mark a thumbs-up. “You rocked it.”


“See?” Mark said. “I got it done.”


“Are you writing your own vows?” I asked. “Because that’ll be really interesting.”


Steven guffawed, snagging the attention of everyone nearby.


I swallowed the cherry tomato I was munching on and said, “You know I’m dying to see your wedding binder, right?”


“Well, it just so happens …”


“You didn’t.” Mark shook his head as Steven reached down and pulled a bulging binder out of a messenger bag on the floor by his chair.


It was so packed that papers were sticking out of the top, bottom, and side.


“Wait ’til you see this cake I found.” Steven pushed the breadbasket aside to make room to open the binder.


I bit back a grin when I saw the dividers and table of contents.


“We are not having a wedding cake in the shape of a skyscraper with cranes and billboards,” Mark said firmly.


“Really?” I asked, intrigued. “Let me see.”


WHEN I got home that night, I dropped my purse and bag off in their usual place, kicked off my shoes, and went straight to the couch. I sprawled across it, staring up the ceiling. Megumi was going to meet me at CrossTrainer at six thirty, so I didn’t have a lot of time, but I felt like I just needed a breather. Starting my period the afternoon before had me riding the edge of irritation and grumpiness, with a dash of exhaustion tossed in for shits and giggles.


I sighed, knowing I was going to have to deal with my mom at some point. We had a ton of crap to work through, and putting it off was starting to bug me. I wished it were as easy to work things out with her as it was with my dad, but that wasn’t an excuse to avoid addressing our issues. She was my mother and I loved her. It was hard on me when we weren’t getting along.


Then my thoughts drifted to Corinne. I guess I should have figured that a woman who would leave her husband and move from Paris to New York for a man wasn’t going to give up on him easily, but still. She had to know Gideon well enough to realize hounding him wasn’t going to work.

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