“No, I’m fine. I’m coming to you. In Rio.”
“What? No. I don’t want to be here. I need to be home to sort this shit out.”
“It’s out in the wild, Gideon. Nothing you can do will change that.” I pulled myself up off the floor. “You can hunt him—or her—down later. I’m not letting this ruin our memories of the weekend.”
“If they want pictures of you in Brazil, ace, I’m going to be in them.”
He took that in. “All right. I’ll be waiting for you.”
“Maybe it’s Photoshopped,” Megumi said.
“Or that guy is a lookalike,” Shawna suggested, leaning close to Megumi to look at her tablet. “You can’t really see that much of him, Eva.”
“No.” I shook my head. It was what it was. “That’s definitely Gideon.”
Cary, who sat beside me in the limo, took my hand in his and linked our fingers. My mom sat on the bench seat directly behind the driver, looking at fabric swatches. Her sleek legs were crossed, her foot tapping restlessly.
Both Megumi and Shawna shot me pitying looks.
Their sympathy chafed my pride. I’d made the mistake of looking at social media. It amazed me how cruel people could be. According to some, I was a woman scorned. Or I was just too stupid not to realize I was marrying a man who would give me his name while giving his body and attention to anyone he chose. I was a gold digger willing to put up with the humiliation for the money. I was a woman who could be a champion for all women … if I turned my back on Gideon and found someone else.
“It’s an old photo,” I reiterated.
In reality, May wasn’t all that long ago, but no one needed to know exactly when, aside from the fact that the photo hadn’t been taken while he was in a relationship with me.
He’d changed so much since then. For me. For us. And I was no longer the woman he’d met that fateful day in June.
“It’s ancient,” Shawna said decisively. “Totally.”
Megumi nodded but still looked dubious.
“Why would he lie?” I asked flatly. “It wouldn’t take much work to find the club in the background. It has to be one of Gideon’s, and I bet you it’s in Manhattan. He couldn’t be in New York and have a passport stamped in Brazil on the same day.”
It had taken me a couple of hours to figure that out and I was kind of glad about that. I didn’t need proof my husband was telling me the truth. But if we could somehow prove the photo was taken in a specific, identifiable location, it would be nice to set the public record straight.
“Oh, right.” Megumi gave me a big smile. “And he’s crazy about you, Eva. He wouldn’t mess around.”
I nodded my agreement, then pushed the subject aside. We would be at the airport soon and I didn’t want us to leave each other thinking about stupid gossip instead of the amazing trip we’d had. “Thank you for coming. I had a great time.”
I would’ve loved to take them to Rio, too, but they didn’t have the required visas to enter the country. Plus, they both had to work on Monday. So we’d part ways, with the girls heading home with Clancy’s security team, while Cary, my mom, and Clancy flew with me to Brazil on a jet Gideon had secured for us.
It was going to be a quick trip. We’d arrive on Monday morning and leave Monday night. What sleep we managed to catch would be on the jet. But by the time I was done, Gideon would leave Brazil with a smile. I didn’t want him looking back on the weekend with regret. He had enough bad memories. Moving forward, I wanted him to store up nothing but good ones.
“We should be thanking you.” Shawna grinned. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”
“I’m with Shawna,” Megumi said. “This was a trip of a lifetime.”
Closing her eyes, Shawna leaned her head back against the seat. “Say hi to Arnoldo for me.”
I knew Shawna and Arnoldo had become friends since they had been introduced the night we’d gone to the Six-Ninths concert. I think they felt safe with one another. Shawna was waiting for her boyfriend, Doug, to come home from Sicily, where he was attending an exclusive course for chefs. Arnoldo was nursing a broken heart, but he was a man who loved women and likely appreciated being able to enjoy the companionship of one who expected nothing more.
Cary was dealing with something similar. He missed Trey and wasn’t interested in screwing around, which was huge for him. Usually, when he was hurting, he fucked to forget. Instead, he’d spent the weekend sticking close to Megumi, who looked like a deer in headlights when men approached her. Cary had been her shield, keeping things light and fun for both of them.
Gideon wasn’t the only one who’d come a long way.
As for me, I was dying to be with my husband. Stress brought on nightmares for him, so I pulled out my phone and texted him. Dream of me.
His response was so perfectly Gideon, it brought a smile to my face. Fly faster.
And just that quick, I knew he was back on his game.
“Wow.” I stared out the window of the jet as it taxied to a halt at a private airport on the outskirts of Rio. “Now, that’s a view.”
Standing on the tarmac were Gideon, Arnoldo, Manuel, and Arash. All dressed casually in long shorts and T-shirts. All dark-haired and tall. Beautifully muscular. Tanned.
They were lined up like a row of exotic, outrageously expensive sports cars. Powerful, sexy, dangerously fast.
I had no doubts about my husband’s fidelity, but if there had been any, looking at him would’ve settled them. His friends were loose-limbed and relaxed, their engines cooled by long, hard rides. That they’d enjoyed Rio—and its women—was stamped all over them. Gideon, however, was taut. Watchful. His motor was running, purring with the need to roar from zero to sixty in the space of a pounding heartbeat. No one had given my man a test drive.
I had come to him with the intent to soothe, to strategize, to take a bit of my wounded pride back. Instead, I was going to be the driver who burned his fuel.
I felt a slight bump as the rolling staircase was positioned against the jet. Clancy exited first. My mom followed. I went after her, pausing at the top of the stairs to snap a picture with my phone. The image of Gideon and his friends was going to give the Internet something else to talk about.
I took the first step down and Gideon moved, his arms unfolding as he closed the distance between us. I couldn’t see his eyes, only myself in the reflection of his lenses, but I felt the intensity with which he had me in his sights. It made my knees weak, forcing me to hold on to the handrail for balance.
He shook Clancy’s hand. He endured and even managed to reciprocate a brief hug from my mother. But he never took his eyes off me or slowed more than a few seconds.
I’d put on red fuck-me heels for him. Tight, white shorts barely covered my ass and fastened well below my navel. My top was red lace, with thin straps. A red satin ribbon secured the corsetlike back. I had clipped my hair in a messy updo. Gideon made it messier when he caught me up on the last step and shoved his hand into it.
His mouth sealed over mine, as if he hadn’t noticed the red gloss I’d slicked on my lips. I was held suspended in his embrace, my feet off the ground, his arm banded tightly around my waist. Wrapping myself around him, I locked my ankles together at the small of his back, pushing up so that his head tilted back and I curved around him, my tongue licking deep into his mouth. The hand he’d had in my hair slid down to cup and support me, his grip kneading my ass in the demanding, possessive way I loved.
“That’s fucking hot,” Cary said from somewhere behind me.
Manuel gave a piercing whistle.
I couldn’t care less what kind of spectacle we made. Gideon’s hard body felt delicious and the taste of him was intoxicating. My thoughts scattered. I wanted to ride him, rub up against him. I wanted him naked and sweaty, covered in my scent. On his face, his hands, his cock.
My husband wasn’t the only one who wanted to mark his territory.
“Eva Lauren,” my mother scolded. “Get ahold of yourself.”
The sound of my mom’s voice cooled us both off instantly. I unwound my legs from his hips and let him ease me down until I was standing again. I pulled away reluctantly, my hands briefly lifting Gideon’s sunglasses so I could look into his eyes. Fury … lust …
I wiped the traces of my lip gloss off his mouth with my fingers. His lips were swollen from the passion of our kiss, the sensual curves softened.
He cupped my face in his hands, his thumbs brushing over my lips. Urging my head back, he kissed the tip of my nose. He was tender now, his ferocious joy at seeing me tempered by having touched me.
“Eva,” Arnoldo said, coming up beside me with a small smile on his handsome face. “So good to see you.”
I turned to greet him, feeling nervous. I wanted us to be friends. I wanted him to forgive me for hurting Gideon. I wanted—
He kissed me full on the mouth. Stunned, I didn’t react.
“Off!” Gideon snapped.