We never would have gotten the space we needed otherwise. Scott never said so, but I had to think someone else’s event had gotten bumped at the last minute. And the number of rooms we’d reserved to accommodate my dad’s side of the family … I hadn’t considered any of that when I picked Gideon’s birthday as the date.
“Yes, it’s great.” My mom smiled at me, but it was a tight smile. She was stressed to the max and I felt bad about that, too.
“It’s going to be wonderful, Mom. Totally amazing. And we’re all going to be so happy, we won’t care if something goes wrong.” She flinched and I rushed on. “Which it won’t. All of the staff are going to make sure they do everything right. This is their boss’s big day.”
“Yes.” She nodded, looking relieved. “You’re right. They’ll want everything to be perfect.”
“And it will be.” How could it not? Gideon and I were already married, but celebrating his birthday was something we hadn’t done together yet. I couldn’t wait.
My smartphone chimed with a text message. I picked it up and read it, frowning. I reached for the TV remote.
“What is it?” my mom asked.
“I don’t know. Gideon wants me to turn the TV on.” My stomach tightened, worry crowding out the anticipation I’d just felt. How much more would we have to take?
I clicked on the channel he’d specified and recognized the set of a popular talk show. To my shock, Gideon was just settling into a chair at a table circled by the five female hosts—to applause, catcalls, and whistles. Think what they would about his fidelity, women couldn’t resist him. His charisma and sheer sexiness were a million times more potent in person.
“My God,” my mother breathed. “What is he doing?”
I turned up the volume.
As was to be expected, after congratulating him on our engagement, the hosts launched right into the topic of Rio and the infamous ménage à trois club photo. Of course, they made sure to point out that it couldn’t be shown on air because it was too risqué. But they directed viewers to the show’s website, which was highlighted on a banner that ran continuously along the bottom of the screen.
“Well, that’s subtle,” my mom snapped. “Why is he giving this any more attention?”
I hushed her. “He’s got a plan.” At least I hoped he did.
Holding a coffee mug branded with the show’s logo between both hands, Gideon looked thoughtful as the hosts all chimed in before letting him speak.
“Should we even be having bachelor and bachelorette parties anymore?” one of the hosts asked.
“Well, that’s one of the things I can clear up,” Gideon interjected, before they started debating that point. “Since Eva and I married last month and I’m no longer a bachelor, it couldn’t be a bachelor party.”
Behind them, on a massive video screen, the show’s logo gave way to a photo of Gideon kissing me after we’d said our vows.
My breath caught right along with the live audience’s gasps. “Wow,” I murmured. “He outed us.”
I barely caught the rush of conversation that followed the reveal, too stunned by what he was doing to process everything. Gideon was such a private man. He never gave personal interviews, only ones focused on Cross Industries.
The photo of us changed to a series of shots taken inside the same nightclub where the leggy brunettes had climbed all over him. When he glanced at the audience and suggested that some of them might be familiar with the location, there were a few shouted affirmatives.
“Obviously,” he went on, looking back at the hosts. “I couldn’t be in New York and Brazil at the same time. The photo that went viral was digitally altered to remove the club’s logo. You can see that it’s embroidered into the curtains of the VIP lounge. All it took was the right software and a couple of clicks to make it disappear.”
“But the girls were there,” one of the hosts countered, “and what was happening with them was real.”
“True. I had a life before my wife came along,” he said evenly and unapologetically. “I can’t change that, unfortunately.”
“She had a life before you, too. She’s the Eva mentioned in, um, a Six-Ninths song.” She squinted slightly. “ ‘Golden Girl.’ ”
The host was obviously reading the information from a teleprompter.
“Yes, that’s her,” he confirmed.
His tone was neutral. He seemed unruffled. While I knew the show was never as spontaneous as it seemed, it was still surreal to see our lives used to boost the morning ratings.
A photo of Brett and me at the “Golden Girl” video launch in Times Square popped up and a portion of the song played for a moment. “How do you feel about that?”
Gideon gave them one of his rare smiles. “If I were a songwriter, I’d compose ballads about her, too.”
The photo of Gideon and me in Brazil appeared on the screen. It was quickly followed by the photo of us in Westport, and a series of shots taken while we’d walked the red carpet at various charity events. In all of them, his eyes were on me.
“Ooh, he’s good at this,” I said, mostly to myself. My mom was busy shutting down her laptop. “He’s sincere, but still aloof and confident enough to seem like the legendary Gideon Cross. And he gave them a ton of photos to work with.”
It was also a good choice to go with the talk show format of multiple female hosts exploring female-focused topics. They weren’t going to give him a free pass for alleged infidelity or even tiptoe around the subject. It was going to clear the air in a way an interview with a male anchor might not have.
One of the hosts leaned forward. “There’s a book coming out about you, too, isn’t there? Written by your former fiancée?”
A photo of Gideon and Corinne at the Kingsman Vodka party came up on the screen. A collective murmur arose from the audience. My teeth ground together. She looked stunningly beautiful, as always, and complemented Gideon’s dark handsomeness so well.
I chose to believe the show had dug that image up on their own.
“Ghostwritten, actually,” he answered. “By someone with an ax to grind. I’m afraid Mrs. Giroux is being taken advantage of and can’t see it.”
“I didn’t realize that. Who’s the ghostwriter?” She looked at the audience and quickly explained what a ghostwriter was.
“I’m not at liberty to say who’s actually writing the book.”
The host pressed the point. “But you know him? Or her? And they don’t like you.”
“That’s correct—on both counts.”
“Is it an ex-girlfriend? A former business partner?”
The one host who’d been mostly listening switched gears. “About Corinne … Why don’t you tell us what the story is there, Gideon?”
My husband set down the mug he’d just taken a sip out of. “Mrs. Giroux and I dated in college. We were engaged for a time, but even then, the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. We were immature and, truthfully, too ignorant to know what we wanted.”
“Being young and confused isn’t very interesting or salacious, is it? We remained friends after she married. I’m sorry she feels the need to commercialize that particular time in our lives now that I’m married. I’m sure this is as awkward for Jean-François as it is for me.”
“That’s her husband, right? Jean-François Giroux. Do you know him?”
Corinne and Jean-François in evening wear at some event appeared on the screen. They were an attractive couple, although the contrast between the two men wasn’t flattering for the Frenchman. He couldn’t compete with Gideon, but then, who could?
Gideon nodded. “We’re in business together.”
“Have you talked about this with him?”
“No. I don’t discuss it all, usually.” That faint smile touched his mouth again. “I’m a newlywed. I have other things on my mind.”
I clapped my hands together. “Yay! That was my idea. I told him to keep reminding people she’s married and that he knows her husband.” And he got a dig in about Deanna, too. Well played all around.
“You knew he was going to do this?” my mom asked, sounding horrified.
I looked at her, frowning when I saw how pale she was. Considering the tan she’d gotten over the last two weekends, that was worrying. “No. I had no idea. We talked about the Giroux thing a while ago. Are you okay?”
She pressed her fingertips into her temples. “I’ve got a headache.”
“Hang on till this is over and I’ll get you something for that.” I looked back at the TV, but they broke for a commercial. I ran to the bathroom medicine cabinet and came back out rattling a little bottle of pills, surprised to find my mother packing up her stuff. “You’re leaving? What about lunch?”
“I’m tired, Eva. I’m going home to lie down.”