Or maybe not. Maybe, play up the differences. Opposite sides of the same, sharp blade …
With a final glance at my cheval mirror, I headed into the bathroom to put on my makeup.
A short time later, Cary poked his head in. He whistled. “Lookin’ good, babe.”
“Thanks.” I dropped my lipstick brush back into its stand. “Can I talk you into helping me with a chignon?”
He sauntered in wearing nothing but Grey Isles boxer briefs, looking not so different from the billboards of him presently gracing phone kiosks and buses around the city. “Translation: Do it for you. Of course.”
My best friend got to work, expertly brushing and twisting my hair into a sleek, elegant bun.
“That was pretty intense last night,” he said, after pulling the last hairpin out of his mouth. “Having a living room full of black suits like that.”
My eyes met his in the mirror. “Three suits.”
“Two suits and Gideon,” he shot back, “who can fill a room by his damn self.”
I couldn’t argue with that.
He flashed his megawatt smile. “If anyone gets wind that I’ve got a private security detail, they’ll think either I’m bigger shit than they knew or I’ve got an inflated sense of my own importance. Both of which are true.”
Standing, I lifted onto my tiptoes and kissed his chin. “You won’t even know they’re around. They’ll be in super stealth mode.”
“Betcha I can spot ’em.”
“Five bucks,” I said, skirting around him to get a pair of heels from the bedroom.
“What? How about five big ones, Mrs. Cross?”
“Ha!” I snatched my phone off the bed when it chimed with an incoming text. “Gideon’s on his way up.”
“Why didn’t he spend the night?”
I answered over my shoulder as I rushed toward the hallway, “We’re abstaining until the wedding.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Cary’s long strides easily overtook mine, even with him strolling and me scrambling. He swiped my heels right out of my grasp, freeing me to grab my travel mug of coffee off the breakfast bar. “I figured the honeymoon period lasted longer than that. Don’t most husbands get laid at least a few years before they get cut off ?”
“Shut up, Cary!” I grabbed my bag and yanked the front door open.
Gideon stood on the other side, his hand lifted with key at the ready. “Angel.”
Cary reached around me and pulled the door open wider. “I feel for you, man. Put a ring on it and bam, the legs slam shut.”
“Cary!” I glared. “I’m going to punch you.”
“Who’s going to pack your overnight bag if you do that?”
He knew me too well.
“Don’t worry, baby girl, I’ll be ready with your bag and mine.” He looked at Gideon. “Can’t help you, I’m afraid. Wait ’til you see her in that blue La Perla bikini I’m packing. You’ll have the balls to match.”
“I’m going to punch you, too,” Gideon drawled. “You’ll have bruises to match.”
Cary gave me a soft push out the door and slammed it shut.
It was nearing noon when Mark leaned over the top of my cubicle and gifted me with his crooked smile. “Ready for our last workday lunch?”
I clasped a hand over my heart. “You’re killing me.”
“Happy to give your resignation letter back.”
Shaking my head, I stood, my gaze sliding over my workstation. I hadn’t packed my few personal items yet. When five o’clock rolled around, I expected to feel closure. But for now, I wasn’t quite ready to give up my claim to my desk and the dream it had once represented.
“We’ll have other lunches.” I grabbed my purse out of the drawer and walked with him to the elevators. “I’m not letting you off the hook that easily.”
I had a wave ready for Megumi when we hit reception, but she’d already taken off for lunch and her relief was busy manning the phones.
I was going to miss seeing her, Will, and Mark every weekday. They were my own little piece of New York, a part of my life that belonged to me alone. That was something else I’d feared giving up by leaving my job—my personal social circle.
I would work hard to keep my friends, of course. I’d make time to call and plan things for us to do together, but I knew how it was—already I’d gone months without touching base with my San Diego pals. And my life would no longer resemble those of my friends. Our goals, dreams, and challenges would be worlds apart.
The elevator car that picked up Mark and me held only a few people, but the space filled quickly as it made more stops. I made a mental note to ask Gideon for one of his magic elevator keys that allowed him to glide straight up or down with no interruptions. After all, I’d still be coming to the Crossfire, just heading up to a different floor.
“What about you?” I asked, as we shuffled closer together to make room for more passengers. “Have you decided whether you’re staying or going?”
He nodded and shoved his hands in his pants pockets. “I’m taking your cue.”
I could tell from the set of his jaw that he was firm in his decision. “That’s awesome, Mark. Congratulations.”
We exited on the ground floor and made our way through the security turnstiles.
“Steven and I talked it out,” he went on, as we crossed the gold-veined marble of the Crossfire lobby. “Hiring you was a big step up for me. It was a sign that my career was moving in the right direction.”
“There’s no doubt about that.”
He smiled. “Losing you is another sign—it’s time to move on.”
Mark gestured me through the revolving door first. I felt the heat of the sun before I finished the rotation that ushered me outside. Fall weather couldn’t come quick enough. I was looking forward to the change of seasons. It felt appropriate for there to be some outward shift to match the one happening within me.
My gaze slid over Gideon’s sleek black limousine parked at the curb, and then I turned to face my boss when he joined me on the sidewalk. “Where are we headed?”
Mark gave me an amused glance before he began scouting for an available taxi amid the surging sea of cars. “It’s a surprise.”
I rubbed my hands together. “Yay.”
I turned at the sound of my name and found Angus standing beside the limo. Dressed in his usual black suit and traditional chauffeur’s hat, he looked dapper and expensive yet blended in so easily that only a trained observer might suspect his MI6 background.
It always tripped me out to think about his history. It was so James Bond. I’m sure I romanticized it way too much, but I was comforted by the knowledge, too. Gideon was in the best of hands.
“Hey, you,” I greeted Angus, allowing affection to color my voice.
I couldn’t help but feel special gratitude for him. His past with Gideon spanned years and I would never know the whole of it, but I knew he’d been the one support in Gideon’s life after Hugh. And Angus had been the only person from our daily lives who’d witnessed our elopement. The look on his face when he talked to Gideon afterward … the tears that had shined in both of their eyes … There was an unbreakable bond there.
His pale blue eyes sparkled at me as he pulled open the limo door. “Where would you both like to go?”
Mark’s brows shot up. “This is what you left me for? Hell. I can’t compete.”
“You never had to.” I paused before I slid into the back and looked at Angus. “Mark doesn’t want me to know where we’re headed, so I’ll just climb in and try not to eavesdrop.”
Angus tapped the brim of his hat in acknowledgment.
A few minutes later we were on our way.
Mark sat on the bench seat opposite me, taking in the interior. “Whoa. I’ve rented limos before, but they never looked like this.”
“Gideon has great taste.” It didn’t matter what the style was—modern and contemporary like his office or classic and old world like his penthouse—my husband knew how to present his wealth with class.
Looking at me, Mark grinned. “You’re a lucky lady, my friend.”
“I am,” I agreed. “All of this”—I waved my hand—“is amazing, of course. But he’s the catch all by himself. He’s just genuinely a really great guy.”
“I know what it’s like to have one of those.”
“Yes. You sure do. How’s the wedding planning coming along?”
Mark groaned. “Steven’s killing me. Do I want blue or periwinkle? Roses or lilies? Satin or silk? Morning or evening? I tried to tell him that he can do what he wants, I just want him, but he chewed me out. Said I damned well better care because I didn’t have a chance of ever getting married again. All I can say is thank God for that.”
“How about you?” he asked.