He smiled sheepishly. Dressed in a pair of Cary’s sweats and his own shirt from last night, he looked right at home. “Good morning.”
“Back atcha.” I put the mug in the dishwasher and faced him. “I’m glad you came to dinner.”
“Me, too. I had fun.”
“Coffee?” I asked him.
“Please. I have to get ready for work, but I’m dragging.”
“I’ve had those days.” I fixed him a cup and slid it over.
He took the mug and lifted it in a salute of thanks. “Can I ask you something?”
“Do you like Tatiana, too? Is it weird for you, having us both around?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really know Tatiana, to be honest. She doesn’t hang with Cary and me the way you do.”
I started heading out and squeezed his shoulder before I passed him. “Have a good one.”
I checked my phone while taking a cab to work. I almost wished I’d walked, since the cabbie kept the front windows down and was apparently averse to wearing deodorant. The only saving grace was that it was faster than walking.
There was a text from Brett sent around six in the morning: On the ground. Can’t wait to c u 2nite!
I sent him back a smiley face.
Megumi looked good when I met up with her at work, which made me happy, but Will was looking glum. As I was putting my purse in a drawer, he stopped by my cubicle and rested his crossed arms along the low wall.
“What’s the matter?” I asked him, looking up at him from my chair.
“Help. Need carbs.”
Laughing, I shook my head. “I think it’s sweet that you’re suffering through this diet for your girl.”
“I shouldn’t complain,” he said. “She’s lost like five pounds—that I didn’t think she had to lose, mind you—and she looks amazing and has all this energy. But God … I feel like a slug. My body’s not built for this.”
“Are you asking me out to lunch?”
“Please.” He clasped his hands together like he was praying. “You’re one of the few women I know who actually enjoys eating.”
“I’ve got the butt to show for it, too,” I said ruefully. “But sure. I’m game.”
“You’re the best, Eva.” He backed up and bumped into Mark. “Oops. Sorry.”
Mark grinned. “No problem.”
Will headed back to his cubicle and Mark turned his smile to me.
“We’ve got the Drysdel team coming in at nine thirty,” I reminded him.
“Right. And I’ve got an idea I’d like to run past strategy before they get here.”
I grabbed my tablet and stood, thinking we’d be running down to the wire. “You’re living on the edge, boss.”
“Only way to do it. Come on.”
The day flew by and I rushed full-bore all through it, filled with restless energy. Getting up so early, then eating a plate of pierogi for lunch, didn’t slow me down.
I wrapped up exactly at five and did a quick change in the bathroom, switching from my skirt and blouse into a more casual jersey dress in pale blue. I slipped on a pair of wedge sandals, swapped out my diamond studs for silver hoops, and turned my ponytail into a messy bun. Then I headed down to the lobby.
As I moved toward the revolving entrance door, I saw Cary standing outside on the sidewalk talking to Brett. I slowed, giving myself a minute to absorb the sight of my old flame.
Brett’s short-cropped hair was naturally dark blond, but he’d had the tips dyed platinum and the look was a good one for him, with his tanned skin and irises of a beautiful emerald green. On stage he was usually shirtless, but today he was dressed in black cargo pants and bloodred T-shirt, his arms covered in sleeves of tattoos that writhed over his muscles.
He turned his head then, looking inside the lobby, and I started walking again, my stomach fluttering a little when he caught sight of me, and his ruggedly handsome face was softened by a smile that revealed a killer dimple.
Jesus, he was sexy as hell.
Feeling a little too exposed, I pulled out my sunglasses and slipped them on. Then I took a deep breath as I spun through the revolving doors, my gaze shifting to the Bentley parked just behind Brett’s limo.
Brett whistled. “Damn, Eva. You’re more gorgeous every time I see you.”
I shot a strained smile at Cary, my pulse racing madly. “Hey.”
“You look great, baby girl,” he said, reaching for my hand.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Angus step out of the Bentley. In that moment of distraction, I totally missed Brett reaching for me. A split second after I registered his hands at my waist, I realized he was going to kiss me and barely turned my head in time. His lips touched the corner of my mouth, feeling warm and familiar. I stumbled back, tripping over Cary, who caught me by the shoulders.
Flushed with embarrassment and disoriented, I looked anywhere but at Brett.
And found myself looking into the icy blue eyes of Gideon.
STANDING FROZEN JUST outside the revolving doors of the Crossfire, Gideon stared at me with such intensity I squirmed.
Sorry, I mouthed, feeling awful, knowing how I would’ve felt if Corinne had gotten her lips on him the other day.
“Hi,” Brett greeted me, too focused on me to pay attention to the dark figure standing with his fists and jaw clenched just a few feet away.
“Hey.” I could feel Gideon watching me, and it was painful not to go to him. “Ready?”
Without waiting for the guys, I yanked the limo door open and crawled in. I’d barely gotten my ass on the seat when I pulled the burner phone out of my purse and sent a quick text to Gideon: I love you.
Brett settled on the bench seat beside me, and then Cary slid in.
“I’ve been seeing your pretty mug everywhere, man,” Brett said, talking to Cary.
“Yeah.” Cary shot me a crooked smile. He looked great in distressed jeans and designer T-shirt, with leather cuffs on his wrists that matched his boots.
“Did the rest of the band fly in with you?” I asked.
“Yep, they’re all here.” Brett flashed that dimple at me again. “Darrin crashed the minute we got to the hotel.”
“I don’t know how he drums for hours. It’s exhausting just watching.”
“When you’re high off the rush of being on stage, energy isn’t a problem.”
“How’s Erik?” Cary asked with more than casual interest, making me wonder—not for the first time—if he and the band’s bassist had ever hooked up. As far as I knew, Erik was straight, but there had been little signs here and there that made me think he might have experimented a little with my best friend.
“Erik’s dealing with some issues that have come up on the tour,” Brett replied. “And Lance hooked up with a girl he met when we were in New York the last time. You’ll be seeing them all in a few minutes.”
“The life of a rock star,” I teased.
Brett shrugged and smiled.
I looked away, regretting my decision to bring Cary along. Because having him there meant I couldn’t say what I needed to say to Brett—that I was in love with someone else and there was no hope for us.
A relationship with Brett would be entirely different from what I had with Gideon. I’d have had a lot of time on my own while he was on tour. I could do all the things I thought I should do before settling down—living by my own means and spending time unattached with friends and by myself. Kind of the best of both worlds: having a boyfriend but enjoying plenty of individuality.
But although I was worried about jumping from college into a lifetime commitment, I had no doubts that Gideon was the man I wanted. We were just out of sync with our timing—I thought there was no reason to rush, while he thought there was no reason to wait.
“We’re here,” Brett said, looking out the window at the crowd.
Despite the muggy heat of the day, Times Square was packed as usual. The ruby-red glass stairs in Duffy Square were full of people taking pictures of each other, and pedestrian traffic clogged the overflowing sidewalks. Police officers dotted the corners, keeping a sharp eye out for trouble. Street performers outshouted each other, and the smells emanating from food carts competed with the much less savory smell of the street itself.
Massive electronic billboards plastered on the sides of buildings fought for attention, including one of Cary with a female model wrapped around him from behind. Cameramen and boom operators loitered around a mobile video screen, which was attached to a traveling platform and positioned in front of the bleacherlike stair seating.
Brett climbed out of the limo first and was immediately bombarded by the excited screams of avid fans—most were female. He flashed that killer smile and waved, then reached in a hand to help me out. My reception was much less warm, especially after Brett put his arm around my waist. Cary’s appearance, however, started a hum of murmurs. When he slipped on a pair of shades, he elicited his own swell of excited yells and catcalls.
I was overwhelmed by the sensory input but quickly focused when I spotted Christopher Vidal Jr. talking with the host of an entertainment gossip show. Gideon’s brother was dressed for business in shirt, tie, and navy slacks. His dark auburn hair caught the eye even in the early evening shade cast by the towering buildings surrounding us. He waved when he caught sight of me, which turned the host’s gaze to me as well. I waved back.
The rest of Six-Ninths stood in front of the bleachers signing autographs, clearly enjoying the attention. I looked at Brett. “Go do your thing.”
“Yeah?” He studied me, trying to make sure I was okay with him abandoning me.
“Yeah.” I waved him off. “This is for you. Enjoy it. I’ll be here when it’s time for the show.”
“Okay.” He smiled. “Don’t go anywhere.”
He bounded off. Cary and I walked over to the tent bearing the Vidal Records logo. Protected from the crowds by private security, it was a tiny oasis in the madness of Times Square.
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