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“Just be proud of yourself for taking some time to figure out where you’re going. I’m proud of you.”

“Aww, thanks, Mom.” He leaned his head on my knee. “You know … I could be lying to you.”

“Nope. If you were fucking around, you’d want me to know about it, because then I’d kick your ass, which is part of the fun.” Not. But it was a way he used me to punish himself.

“What’s going to be fun is Ibiza.”

“Ibiza?” It took me a second to put it together. “For my bachelorette party?”

“Yep.”

Spain. Half a world away. I hadn’t been expecting that. “How long is this party supposed to last?”

Cary flashed his million-dollar smile. “The weekend.”

“Not that he gets a say, but Gideon’s not going to like it.”

“I smoothed him out. He’s antsy about security, but he’s going to be busy himself, in Brazil.”

I sat up. “Brazil?”

“You’re like a parrot tonight, repeating everything.”

I loved Brazil. Loved the music, the weather, the passion of the people. There was a sensuality to the culture of Brazil that was unmatched in the world.

And thinking of Gideon there, with that pack of hot, rich men he called friends, celebrating the last days of a bachelorhood he’d already given up …

My best friend twisted to face me. “I know that look. You’re getting twitchy just thinking about him surrounded by Brazilian bikinis and the hot-blooded women wearing them.”

“Shut up, Cary.”

“He’s got the right crew to hit it hard, too. Especially that Manuel character. He’s a major player.”

I remembered watching Manuel Alcoa make a conquest when we’d all gone out together to a karaoke bar. Like Arnoldo, Gideon, and Arash, Manuel didn’t even have to try. He just had to pick from the wide selection of women throwing themselves at him.

What would my husband do when his friends paired off with beautiful babes? Sit by himself and nurse a caipirinha? I didn’t think so.

Gideon wouldn’t cheat. He wouldn’t even flirt; it wasn’t his style. He hadn’t even flirted with me in the beginning and I was the love of his life. No, he would dominate the room, looking dark and dangerous and untouchable, while an endless tide of gorgeous women frothed around him.

How could he possibly be unaffected by that?

Cary laughed. “You look ready to murder someone.”

“You’re closest,” I warned him.

“You can’t kill me. Who else will pack just the right outfits for you to make Gideon as jealous as you are?”

“Sounds like I came home at just the right time.”

Cary and I both looked over at the front door and found Gideon coming in with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a pet carrier dangling from his hand.

My scowl was chased away by the delight that ran through me at the sight of him. I couldn’t say how he did it, but Gideon made even sweats and a T-shirt look insanely hot.

He set his stuff down on the floor.

“What have you got there?” Cary climbed to his feet and walked over to the carrier.

I stood and went to my husband, thrilled with the simple joy of welcoming him home. He met me halfway, his arms coming around me. I pushed my hands up beneath the back of his shirt, caressing the warm, hard muscle. As he bent to kiss me, I tilted my head back. His lips brushed mine, then settled in for a soft, wordless hello.

As he straightened, he licked his lips. “You taste like wine.”

“Would you like some?”

“Absolutely.”

I headed into the kitchen to grab another glass. Behind me, I heard the guys greet each other, and then Gideon introduced Lucky to Cary. Happy barking and Cary’s rich laugh filtered through the air.

I hadn’t moved in yet, but it felt like home.

Cary had been gone an hour before I worked up the nerve to ask Gideon the burning question on my mind.

We were sitting on the couch. He slouched comfortably, knees wide, one arm slung over my shoulder, one hand lying casually on his thigh. I was curled against his side, my legs pulled up, my head on his shoulder, my fingers toying with the hem of his T-shirt. Lucky slept in the playpen by the unlighted fireplace, occasionally whimpering as he dreamed about whatever it was that dogs dreamed about.

Gideon had been quiet for the last thirty minutes, almost contemplative, as I discussed the merits of the wedding dress sketch he’d picked up from the coffee table.

“Anyway,” I said, finishing, “I feel like I’ll know it when I see it, but I’m running out of time. I’m trying not to panic about it. I just don’t want to settle.”

His hand lifted from my shoulder and cupped the back of my head. His lips pressed against my forehead. “You could wear jeans, angel, and be the most beautiful bride ever.”

Touched, I snuggled closer. I inhaled deeply, then asked, “Where in Brazil are you going?”

Gideon’s fingers sifted through my hair. “Rio.”

“Oh.” I could picture him lazing on the white sand shore of Copacabana, his magnificent sun-bronzed body on display, the brilliant blue of his eyes shielded behind dark sunglasses.

The lovely women on the beach wouldn’t be able to tell if he was watching them or not. That would excite them, make them bold.

At night, he and the guys would take in the nightlife in Ipanema or maybe they’d be true hedonists and head to Lapa. Anywhere they went, stunning, passionate, scantily clad women would follow. It was inevitable.

“I heard Cary say you’re jealous,” he murmured, nuzzling the crown of my head. There was a smug note of satisfaction in his voice.

“Is that why you picked Brazil? So I’d suffer?”

“Angel.” His grip on my hair tightened, gently urging my head back to look at him. “I had nothing to do with the selection of the destination.” His lips tilted up in a sexy smile. “But I’m glad you’ll suffer.”

“Sadist.” I pulled away from him.

Gideon wouldn’t let me get far, tugging me back. “After your suggestion about Deanna, I was beginning to think you were getting bored with me.”

“That’s hysterical.”

“Not to me,” he said evenly. His gaze searched my face.

Realizing he was at least partly serious, I stopped trying to get away. “I told you I didn’t like the idea of you hiring her.”

“Not right away you didn’t. You recommended I seduce her like you’d tell me to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home from work. At least when I mentioned Rio, you tensed up and sulked about it.”

“There’s a difference—”

“Between actively seducing a woman I’ve fucked before and agreeing to a bachelor party I didn’t plan? Absolutely. And it makes no sense why you’d be okay with the first one and have a problem with the second one.”

I glared. “Because one is a business transaction in a controlled environment. The other is a last hurrah for sport fucking in the one of the sexiest cities in the world!”

“You know better.” His voice was low and smooth, easy. Which meant it was dangerous.

“I’m not worried about you,” I stressed. “It’s the women who’ll want you. And your friends, who’ll get drunk and horny and want you to play, too.”

His face was impassive, his gaze cool. “And you think I’m not strong enough to handle the peer pressure?”

“I didn’t say that. Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“I’m just trying to clarify your convoluted thinking.”

“Look. Let’s get back to the Deanna scenario.” I wriggled away and stood. Facing the coffee table, I stretched out my hands, directing. “This is how I pictured it before I made the suggestion. You in your office, leaning back against your desk in that way you do that’s sexy as hell. Jacket on the coatrack, maybe a scotch on the rocks next to your hand for an informal touch.”

I faced the couch. “Deanna’s in the chair farthest from you, so she can get the full picture. You give her a slow once-over, say a few double entendres about getting things done together. She gets ideas and seals the deal with a signature on the dotted line. That’s it. You never get closer than a few feet from her and you never sit down. The glass wall stays clear, so she won’t make a move.”

“You imagined all this in a split second?”

“Well”—I tapped my temple—“I have some memories rattling around up here that fueled the fire.”

“My memories of seduction in my office don’t include anyone else,” he said dryly.

“Listen, ace.” I sat on the coffee table. “It was a spontaneous thought that came to me because I was worried about you.”

Gideon’s face softened. “Angels rush in. I get it.”

“Do you?” Leaning forward, I put my hands on his knees. “I’m always going to be possessive, Gideon. You’re mine. I wish I could put a sign on you that says it.”

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