“It’s only going to take once,” he murmured in my ear, his voice sinful as always. “One time inside you and you’ll remember how it is between us.”
I swallowed past a dry throat. “That’s not going to happen, Brett.”
His mouth curved in a slow smile, revealing that decadent dimple. “We’ll see about that.”
“I can’t believe they’re so much hotter in person,” Ireland said, looking over at where the guys were doing their prelaunch interview with the TV show host. “You, too, Cary.”
He smiled, his teeth dazzlingly white. “Well, thank you, darlin’.”
“So …” She looked at me with those blue eyes that were so like Gideon’s. “You used to date Brett Kline?”
“Not really. Honestly, we just used to mess around.”
“Did you love him?”
I thought about that for a minute. “I think I was close, maybe. I could have fallen in love with him under different circumstances. He’s a great guy.”
Her lips pursed.
“What about you?” I asked. “Are you seeing anyone?”
“Yes.” Her lips twisted ruefully. “I really like him—a lot—but it’s weird, because he can’t let his parents know he’s dating me.”
“His grandparents lost most of their money to that scheme Gideon’s dad ran.”
My gaze went to Cary, whose brows were lifted above the line of his shades.
“That’s not your fault,” I said, angry on her behalf.
“Rick says his parents think it’s ‘convenient’ that Gideon is so rich now,” she muttered.
“Convenient? They think it’s convenient?”
I turned around at the sound of Gideon’s voice, not having realized he’d come up behind me. “What?”
He just stared at me. I was irritated enough that it took me a minute to note the hint of a smile on his face.
“Don’t start,” I told him, narrowing my gaze in warning. I turned back to Ireland. “Tell Rick’s parents to look up the Crossroads Foundation.”
“If you’re done being offended for my sake,” Gideon said, coming up so close behind me that he brushed up against me, “they’re about five minutes from starting the video.”
My gaze searched out Brett, who’d rejoined the crowd, and found him waving me over.
I looked at Cary.
“Go on,” he said with a jerk of his chin. “I’ll hang here with Ireland and Cross.”
I headed over to the band, smiling when I saw how excited they were. “Big moment, guys,” I said to them.
“Ah, well.” Darrin grinned. “This whole event was set up just to get us on this TV show and Internet simulcast. It was the only way Vidal could get them to give us any coverage. Let’s hope it pays off, because fuckin’ A, it’s hot as hell out here.”
The host announced the exclusive premiere of the video, and then the screen switched from showing the logo of the show to the start of the video and the first chords of the song began.
The black screen suddenly lit up, revealing Brett sitting on a stool in front of a mic in a puddle of light, just as he’d been at the concert. He began to sing, his voice deep and rough. Crazy sexy. The effect his voice had on me was powerful and immediate, just as it’d always been.
The camera slowly backed away from Brett, revealing a dance floor in front of the stage where he sang. There was a crowd dancing, but they were cast in black and white while a lone blonde was strikingly colored.
I stilled as shock spread through me. The camera was careful to film only her backside and profile, but the girl was undeniably meant to be me. She was my height, with the same hair color and style as mine before I’d recently cut it. She had my curvy butt and hips, and her profile was similar enough to mine to understand immediately who she was meant to be.
The next three minutes of my life passed in a horrified daze. “Golden” was a sexually charged song and the actress did all the things Brett sang about—dropping to her knees for a Brett lookalike, making out with him in a bar restroom, and straddling his lap in the back of a classic ’67 Mustang just like the one Brett owned. Those intimate memories were intercut with shots of the real Brett still singing onstage with the rest of the guys in the band.
The fact that actors were playing us helped me deal with it a little better, but one glance at Gideon’s stony face told me it didn’t matter to him. He was seeing one of the wildest times in my life relived before his eyes and it was very real to him.
The video ended with a shot of Brett looking soulful and tormented, a single tear sliding down his cheek.
I pulled away and faced him.
His smile slowly faded when he got a good look at my expression.
I couldn’t believe how personal the video was. I was freaking out that millions of people were going to see it.
“Wow,” the host said, leaning into the band with mic in hand. “Brett, you really put yourself out there with this. Was it the song that brought you and Eva back together?”
“In a roundabout way, yeah.”
“And Eva, did you play yourself in the video?”
I blinked, realizing he was outing me as the Eva on national television. “No, that’s not me.”
“How do you feel about ‘Golden’?”
I licked my dry lips. “It’s an amazing song by an amazing band.”
“About an amazing love story.” The host smiled into the camera and rambled on, but I tuned him out, my gaze searching for Gideon. I couldn’t spot him anywhere.
The host talked to the band a bit more and I wandered away, searching. Cary came up to me with Ireland in tow.
“Some video,” he drawled.
I looked at him miserably before my gaze slid over to Ireland. “Do you know where your brother is?”
“Christopher’s schmoozing. Gideon left.” She winced apologetically. “He asked Christopher to take me home with him.”
“Damn it.” I dug in my purse for the burner phone and typed out a quick text: I love you. Tell me you’ll c me 2nite.
I waited for a reply. When it didn’t come after a few minutes, I just held the phone in my hand, willing it to vibrate.
Brett ambled up to me. “We’re done here. Wanna bail?”
“Sure.” I turned to Ireland. “I’m out of town the next two weekends, but let’s get together after that.”
“I’ll keep my schedule open,” she said, hugging me hard.
Turning to Cary, I caught his hand and squeezed it. “Thanks for coming.”
“Are you kidding? I haven’t been this entertained in a long time.” He and Brett did some complicated handshake. “Good job, man. I’m stoked for you.”
“Thanks for coming. We’ll catch you later.”
Brett set his hand at the small of my back and we took off.
GIDEON DIDN’T SHOW up at Tableau One.
In a way, I was grateful, because I didn’t want Brett thinking I’d planned the interruption. Outside his long-term hopes for our relationship, Brett was someone who’d been important to me in the past and I wanted to be friends with him, if possible.
But I was preoccupied with imagining what Gideon was thinking and feeling.
I picked at my dinner, too unsettled to eat. When Arnoldo Ricci stopped by to say hello, looking very dashing and handsome in his white chef coat, I felt bad that so much of his fine food was still on my plate.
The celebrity chef was a friend of Gideon’s. Gideon was a silent partner in Tableau One, which was the reason I’d chosen the restaurant. If he had any doubts about how the dinner with Brett would go, he’d have people to ask that he trusted.
Of course, I hoped Gideon would trust me enough to believe me, but I knew our relationship had its issues and our mutual possessiveness was just one of them.
“It’s good to see you, Eva,” Arnoldo said with his lovely Italian accent. He pressed a kiss to my cheek, then pulled out one of the empty chairs at our table and sat.
Arnoldo extended his hand to Brett. “Welcome to Tableau One.”
“Arnoldo’s a Six-Ninths fan,” I explained. “He came to the concert with Gideon and me.”
Brett’s lips twisted ruefully as the two men shook hands. “Nice to meet you. Did you see both shows?”
He was referring to the brawl he’d had with Gideon. Arnoldo understood. “I did. Eva is very important to Gideon.”
“She’s important to me, too,” Brett said, grabbing his frosty mug of Nastro Azzurro beer.
“Well, then.” Arnoldo smiled. “Che vinca il migliore. May the best man win.”
“Ugh.” I sat back in my chair. “I’m not a prize. Or I should say: I’m no prize.”
Arnoldo shot me a look. Obviously he didn’t wholly disagree with me. I didn’t blame him; he knew I’d kissed Brett and had seen the effect it’d had on Gideon.
“Is there a problem with your meal, Eva?” Arnoldo asked. “If you liked it, your plate would be empty.”
“You serve big helpings,” Brett pointed out.
“And Eva is a big eater.”
Brett looked at me. “You are?”
I shrugged. Was he catching on to how little we really knew about each other? “One of my many flaws.”
“Not to me,” Arnoldo said. “How did the video show go?”
“I think it went well.” Brett searched my face as he answered.
I nodded, not wanting to spoil what was supposed to be a celebratory time for the band. What was done, was done. I couldn’t fault Brett’s intentions, only his execution. “They are well on the road to megastardom.”
“And I can say I knew you when.” Arnoldo smiled at Brett. “I bought your first single on iTunes when it was still your only single.”
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