“Well, baby girl, you’ve got your hands full with him. I forgot how it was with you two.”
“Was being the operative word,” I pointed out.
“He’s different from before,” he went on. “More … settled.”
“That’s great for him. Especially with all that’s going on in his life right now.”
He scoped me out. “Aren’t you even the slightest bit interested in seeing if he can still bang you brainless?”
I shot him a look. “Chemistry is chemistry. And I’m sure he’s had plenty of chances to bone up on his already fabulous skills.”
“Bone up, ha! That’s punny.” He waggled his brows at me. “You seem solid.”
“Ah, now that would be an illusion.”
“Well, look who’s here,” he murmured, turning my attention to Gideon, who was approaching with Ireland at his side. “And heading straight toward us. If there’s a brawl over you, I’m watching from the bleachers.”
I shoved at him. “Thanks.”
It amazed me that Gideon could look so cool in his suit when it was still so hot. Ireland looked fantastic in a low-rise flared skirt and tummy-baring fitted tank top.
“Eva!” she shouted, running over and leaving her brother behind. She met me with a hug, then pulled back to check me out. “Awesome! He’s got to be kicking himself.”
I looked around her at Gideon, searching his face for any signs that he was pissed about Brett. Ireland turned and hugged Cary, too, surprising him. In the meantime, Gideon walked straight up to me, grabbed me gently by the upper arms, and kissed both of my cheeks French style.
“Hello, Eva.” His voice was flavored with a soft rasp that had my toes curling. “It’s good to see you.”
I blinked up at him, not having to fake my astonishment at all. “Uh, hi. Gideon.”
“Doesn’t she look delish?” Ireland asked, making no attempt at subtlety.
Gideon’s eyes never left my face. “She always does. I need a minute of your time, Eva.”
“Sure.” I shot a what-the-fuck look at Cary and let Gideon lead me to a corner of the tent. We’d taken a few steps when I said, “Are you mad? Please don’t be.”
“Of course I am,” he said evenly. “But not at you or him.”
“O-kay.” I had no idea what that meant.
He stopped and faced me, raking a hand through his gorgeous hair. “This situation is intolerable. I could stand it when there was no other choice, but now …” His gaze was fierce on my face. “You’re mine. I need the world to know that.”
“I’ve told Brett that I’m in love with you. Cary, too. My dad. Megumi. I’ve never lied about how I feel about you.”
“Eva!” Christopher came up to me and pulled me into him for a kiss on the cheek. “I’m so glad Brett brought you. You know, I had no idea you two used to be an item.”
I managed a smile, hyperaware of Gideon’s gaze. “It was a long time ago.”
“Not that long.” He grinned. “You’re here, aren’t you?”
“Christopher,” Gideon said, by way of greeting.
“Gideon.” Christopher’s smile didn’t waver, but he noticeably cooled. “You didn’t have to come. I’ve got this covered.”
They were half brothers but had so little in common physically. Gideon was taller, bigger, and undeniably dark in both coloring and demeanor. Christopher was a handsome man with a sexy smile, but he had none of Gideon’s sizzling magnetism.
“I’m here for Eva,” Gideon said smoothly, “not the show.”
“Really?” Christopher looked at me. “I thought you and Brett were working things out.”
“Brett’s a friend,” I replied.
“Eva’s personal life is none of your business,” Gideon said.
“It shouldn’t be yours, either.” Christopher looked at him with such hostility it made me uncomfortable. “The fact that ‘Golden’ is a true story, and that Brett and Eva are here together, is a great marketing angle for Vidal and the band.”
“The song is the end of that story.”
Christopher frowned and reached into his pocket, pulling out his smartphone. He read the screen, then scowled at his brother. “Call Corinne, will you? She’s going nuts trying to reach you.”
“I talked to her an hour ago,” Gideon said.
“Stop giving her mixed signals,” Christopher snapped. “If you didn’t want to talk to her, you shouldn’t have gone over to her place last night.”
I tensed, my pulse leaping. I looked at Gideon, saw his jaw tighten, and remembered how I’d waited for a reply text from him. He’d been at my place when I got home, but he’d never explained why he hadn’t texted me back. He certainly hadn’t said anything about going to Corinne’s apartment.
And hadn’t he said he wasn’t taking her calls?
I backed away with my stomach in knots. I’d felt off all day, and facing the simmering dislike between Gideon and Christopher was too much on top of it. “Excuse me.”
“Eva,” Gideon said sharply.
“It was good seeing you both,” I murmured, playing my scripted part before turning away and heading the few feet over to Cary.
Gideon caught up with me after only two steps, gripping me by the elbow and whispering in my ear. “She’s calling my phone and work all the time. I had to talk with her.”
“You should’ve told me.”
“We had more important things to talk about.”
Brett glanced over at us. He was too far away for me to see his expression, but his posture looked tight. People, all of them pushing to get closer, surrounded him and he was focused on me instead.
Damn it. He’d seen me with Gideon and it was spoiling what should be a wonderful experience for him. As I’d feared, the whole outing was a mess.
“Gideon,” Christopher said tightly from behind us. “I wasn’t finished talking to you.”
Gideon glanced at him. “I’ll get to you in a minute.”
“You’ll talk to me now.”
“Walk away, Christopher.” Gideon stared at his brother so coldly I shivered despite the heat. “Before you make a scene that takes all the attention away from Six-Ninths.”
Christopher seethed for a long minute, then seemed to realize his brother wasn’t kidding. He cursed under his breath and turned, only to be confronted by Ireland.
“Leave them alone,” she said, with her hands on her hips. “I want them to get back together.”
“You stay out of this.”
“Whatever.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “Come show me around.”
He paused, his gaze narrowed. Then he sighed and took her by the elbow, leading her away. I realized they were close.
It made me sad that Gideon didn’t have that kind of bond with them.
Gideon brought my attention back to him with a brush of fingertips to my cheek, a soft caress that conveyed so much love … and possession. No one looking at us could mistake the claim. “Tell me you know nothing happened with Corinne.”
I sighed. “I know you didn’t do anything with her.”
“Good. She’s not acting like herself. I’ve never seen her so … Damn it. I don’t know. Needy. Irrational.”
“Maybe. Yes.” His face softened. “She wasn’t like this when she broke our engagement.”
I felt bad for both of them. Ugly good-byes weren’t fun for anyone. “She walked away that time. This time, it’s you. It’s always harder being the one left behind.”
“I’m trying to settle her down, but I need you to promise me that she’s not going to get in between us.”
“I won’t let her. And you’re not going to worry about Brett.”
It took him a few seconds, but he finally said, “I’ll worry, but I’ll handle it.”
I could tell it wasn’t an easy concession for him to make.
His lips thinned. “I have to go deal with Christopher. Are we okay?”
Nodding, I said, “I’m good. You?”
“As long as Kline doesn’t kiss you.” The warning was clear in his voice.
“If he kisses me, he’s getting decked.”
I laughed. “You know what I meant.”
He caught my hand and rubbed his thumb over my ring. “Crossfire.”
My heart hurt in the best way. “Love you, too, ace.”
BRETT disengaged from his fans and headed over to the tent, looking grim.
“Having fun yet?” I asked him, hoping to keep him feeling positive.
“He wants you back,” he said bluntly.
I didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”
“If you’re going to give him a second chance, I should get one, too.”
“I know it’s tough with me being on the road—”
“And based in San Diego,” I pointed out.
“—but I can make it out here often enough and you can always meet up with me, see some new places. Plus, the tour ends in November. I can come stay out here for the holidays.” He looked at me with those green eyes of his, and the attraction hummed between us. “Your dad’s still in SoCal, so you’ve got more than one reason to come out.”
“You’d be reason enough. But, Brett … I don’t know what to say. I’m in love with him.”
He crossed his arms and looked exactly like the wickedly delicious bad boy he was. “I don’t care. It’s not going to work out for you with him, and I’ll be around, Eva.”
Staring at him, I realized nothing would convince him but time.
Brett stepped closer, then reached out to run his hand down my arm. He stood over me, his body curved into mine. I remembered other times we’d stood like this, the moments right before he pressed me back against something and fucked me hard.
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