Closing my eyes, I pictured him. I remembered that combination. “Pinstripes.”
He’d go with a pinstriped suit to keep the business look with that shirt and tie combination.
“Yes. Eva …” His voice lowered. “I have no idea why this conversation is making me hard, but it is.”
“Because you know I’m seeing you in my head. All dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. You know how much it turns me on to look at you, even if it’s only by memory.”
“Meet me here. Early. Come now.”
I laughed. “Good things come to those who wait, Mr. Cross. I’ll be cutting it close as it is.”
“I love you.” I hung up and faced myself squarely in the mirror. With the picture of Gideon freshly in my mind, I found the sleepy mess looking back at me totally insufficient. I’d changed my look when I’d thought Gideon had left me for Corinne. I had dubbed the result “New Eva.” In the time since, my hair had grown past its former shoulder length and my highlights had grown out with it.
“You decent?” Cary called from the bedroom.
“Yes.” I faced him when he strolled into the bathroom with my coffee in hand. “Change of plan.”
“Oh?” He leaned into the counter and crossed his arms.
“I’m hopping in the shower. You’re going to find me a fabulous hair salon that can fit me in about thirty minutes from now.”
“Then I’m going to lunch and you’re going to make a few calls for me. In return, I’m taking you out to dinner tonight. You pick the place.”
“I know that look you’ve got,” he said. “You’re on a mission.”
I showered quickly, since I didn’t wash my hair. Then I hurried over to my closet, having spent the time in the bathroom thinking about what I wanted to wear. It took a few minutes to locate the right dress. Bright white, with a built-in bra and fitted tulip skirt, it draped beautifully across the bust and thighs. The color and cotton fabric kept it casual, while the fit was both elegant and sexy.
It took a little longer to find the right pair of shoes. I considered nude for a long time. In the end, I went with a pair of strappy heeled sandals in aqua blue that matched Gideon’s eyes. I had a clutch that matched, and a set of opal earrings that had the same bright blue fire.
I laid it all out on the bed to make sure it worked, standing back in my bathrobe to eye the ensemble carefully.
“Nice,” Cary said, as he came up behind me.
“I bought those shoes,” I reminded him. “And the clutch and jewelry.”
He laughed and tossed an arm around my shoulders. “Yeah, yeah. Your hairstylist is here. I told the desk to send him up.”
“I can’t see you going into any old salon without making a scene. You’ll have to find someone you trust to style you in private appointments. In the meantime, Mario can rock a haircut.”
“How about color?”
“Color?” His arm dropped and he faced me. “What are you thinking?”
I caught his hand and started out of the room. “Stick with me, kid.”
Mario was a compact bundle of energy with a stylish flop of purple-tipped curls. Shorter than me and hard with muscle, he set up shop in my bathroom while gossiping with Cary about people they knew, dropping names I sometimes recognized.
“A natural blonde,” he gushed when he first got his hands on my hair. “You, my dear, are a rare breed.”
“Make me blonder,” I told him.
Taking a step back, he stroked his goatee thoughtfully. “How much blonder?”
“What’s the opposite of black?”
Mario sifted my hair through his fingers. “You’ve already got platinum highlights.”
“Let’s take it up a notch. I want to keep the length, but let’s do something edgy. More layers. A little spiky on the tips. Maybe some bangs to frame my eyes.” I sat up straighter. “I’m sassy, sexy, and smart enough to flaunt it.”
He glanced at Cary. “I like her.”
My best friend crossed his arms and nodded. “Me, too.”
Stepping back from the mirror, I took in the full effect. I loved what Mario had done with my hair. It fell in piecey, choppy layers around my shoulders and face. He’d heavily foiled my crown and around my face, creating an overall look of lighter hair without altering the dark gold strands underneath. Then he’d teased the roots just enough to give me some sexy volume.
My weekend tan only made my hair look lighter. I’d gone a little wild with a smoky-eye look, using grays and blacks to play up my gray irises. To balance that, I’d kept the rest of my makeup neutral, including my lips, which were glossed in a nude tint. When I juxtaposed my reflection with the image of Gideon in my mind, I saw just the result I was looking for.
My husband was the definition of tall, dark, and gorgeous. His hair was pure black, as dark as ink and just as lustrous. He wore dark colors more often than not, which focused attention on the chiseled planes of his face and the striking color of his eyes. I’d pulled off being a complementary opposite. The yang to his yin.
Bam. I looked good.
“Whoa. Hotness.” Cary raked me with an appreciative glance as I rushed through the living room. “What kind of lunch is this that you’re going to?”
I glanced at my phone, cursing silently to see that ten minutes had passed since Raúl texted that he was waiting downstairs. “I don’t know. Something to do with business, Gideon said.”
“Well, you’re spectacular arm candy.”
“Thanks.” But I wanted to be more than that. I wanted to be a weapon in Gideon’s arsenal. I’d have to earn it, though, and I relished the challenge. If I could manage to contribute something—anything—to the conversation today, I’d be happy. If I was out of my depth, though, I could at least make him proud to be seen with me.
“He’s going to be hobbled by his blue balls by the time the wedding comes around,” he called after me. “You can only prime a pump so many times before it has to blow.”
“Gross, Cary.” I opened the front door. “I’ll text you the numbers of the designer and wedding planner. And I’ll be back in a couple hours.”
I was lucky to catch the elevator without a wait. When I stepped out onto the sidewalk outside the lobby and Raúl climbed out from behind the wheel of the Benz, I knew I was on the right track when he gave me the once-over. He kept it professional, but I could tell he liked what he saw.
“Sorry I lagged,” I told him as he opened the rear door for me. “I wasn’t quite ready when you texted.”
There was almost a hint of a smile on his stern face. “I don’t think he’ll mind.”
During the ride, I texted Cary the phone numbers of Blaire Ash, the interior designer working on the penthouse renovations, and Kristin Washington, the wedding planner, and asked him to arrange meetings with them. By the time I was done and glanced out the window, I realized we weren’t headed to the Crossfire.
When we arrived at Tableau One, I wasn’t totally surprised. The popular restaurant was a co-venture between Gideon and his friend Arnoldo Ricci. Arnoldo had been unknown when Gideon discovered him in Italy. Now, he was a celebrity chef.
As Raúl pulled into the valet area, I scooted forward in the seat. “Could you do me a favor while we’re having lunch?”
He turned his head to look at me.
“Can you find out where Anne Lucas is right now? Today’s as good a day as any for me to rattle her.” I was dressed to impress. Might as well get as much mileage out of that as possible.
“It’s possible,” he said carefully. “I’ll have to discuss it with Mr. Cross.”
I almost backed off. Then I remembered that Raúl technically worked for me, too. If I wanted to step up my game, wasn’t it best to start at home? “No, I have to. And I will. Just find her for me. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“All right.” He still sounded reluctant. “You ready? They’re going to take your picture as soon as they see you.” He jerked his chin forward and I followed the gesture to where a half-dozen paparazzi stood outside the entrance.
“Oh boy.” I took a deep breath. “Got it.”
Raúl got out and rounded the car to open my door. The moment I straightened, camera flashes lit up the already bright day. I kept my face straight and walked briskly into the restaurant.
The place was packed and buzzing with the multitude of loud conversations taking place. Still, I found Gideon almost immediately. He spotted me, too. Whatever he’d been saying before I arrived died on his lips.
The hostess said something to me, but I didn’t hear her. I was too focused on Gideon, whose stunning face took my breath away—as it always did—but gave me no clue to his thoughts.
Pushing his chair back, Gideon stood with powerful grace. The four men seated with him glanced my way, then stood as well. There were two women with them, both of whom swiveled in their seats to look at me.