My mom was a career trophy wife.
She'd given up my father's love for an affluent lifestyle, which I couldn't relate to at all.
I'd prefer love over wealth any day, but I suppose that was easy for me to say because I had money - a sizable investment portfolio - of my own.
Not that I ever touched it.
I'd paid too high a price and couldn't imagine anything worth the cost.Megumi, the receptionist, buzzed me through the glass security door and greeted me with a big smile.
She was a pretty woman, young like me, with a stylish bob of glossy black hair framing stunning Asian features.
"Hey," I said, stopping by her desk.
"Got any plans for lunch?" "I do now."
My grin was wide and genuine.
As much as I loved Cary and enjoyed spending time with him, I needed girlfriends, too.
Cary had already started building a network of acquaintances and friends in our adopted city, but I'd been sucked into the Gideon vortex almost from the outset.
As much as I'd prefer to spend every moment with him, I knew it wasn't healthy.
Female friends would give it to me straight when I needed it, and I was going to have to cultivate those friendships if I wanted them.
Setting off, I headed down the long hallway to my cubicle.
When I reached my desk, I put my bag and purse in the bottom drawer, keeping my smartphone out so I could silence it.
I found a text from Cary: I'm sorry, baby girl.
"Cary Taylor," I sighed.
"I love you .
even when you're pissing me off."
And he'd pissed me off royally.
No woman wanted to come home to a sexual clusterfuck in progress on her living room floor.
Especially not while in the middle of a fight with her new boyfriend.
I texted back, Block off the wknd 4 me if u can.
There was a long pause and I imagined him absorbing my request.
Damn, he texted back finally.
Must be some ass kicking u have planned.
"Maybe a little," I muttered, shuddering as I remembered the .
orgy I'd walked in on.
But mostly I thought Cary and I needed to spend some quality downtime together.
We hadn't been living in Manhattan long.
It was a new town for us, new apartment, new jobs and experiences, new boyfriends for both of us.
We were out of our element and struggling, and since we both had barge loads of baggage from our pasts, we didn't handle struggling well.
Usually we leaned on each other for balance, but we hadn't had much time for that lately.
We really needed to make the time.
Up for a trip to Vegas? Just u and me? Fuck yeah! K .
As I silenced my phone and put it away, my gaze passed briefly over the two collage photo frames next to my monitor - one filled with photos of both of my parents and one of Cary, and the other filled with photos of me and Gideon.
Gideon had put the latter collection together himself, wanting me to have a reminder of him just like the reminder he had of me on his desk.
As if I needed it .
I loved having those images of the people I loved close by: my mom with her golden cap of curls and her bombshell smile, her curvy body scarcely covered by a tiny bikini as she enjoyed the French Riviera on my stepdad's yacht; my stepfather, Richard Stanton, looking regal and distinguished, his silver hair oddly complementing the looks of his much younger wife; and Cary, who was captured in all his photogenic glory, with his lustrous brown hair and sparkling green eyes, his smile wide and mischievous.
That million-dollar face was starting to pop up in magazines everywhere and soon would grace billboards and bus stops advertising Grey Isles clothing.
I looked across the strip of hallway and through the glass wall that encased Mark Garrity's very small office and saw his jacket hung over the back of his Aeron chair, even though the man himself wasn't in sight.
I wasn't surprised to find him in the break room scowling into his coffee mug; he and I shared a java dependency.
"I thought you had the hang of it," I said, referring to his trouble with the one-cup coffee maker.
"I do, thanks to you."
Mark lifted his head and offering a charmingly crooked smile.
He had gleaming dark skin, a trim goatee, and soft brown eyes.
In addition to being easy on the eyes, he was a great boss - very open to educating me about the ad business and quick to trust that he didn't have to show me how to do something twice.
We worked well together, and I hoped that would be the case for a long time to come.
"Try this," he said, reaching for a second steaming cup waiting on the counter.
He handed it to me and I accepted it gratefully, appreciating that he'd been thoughtful about adding cream and sweetener, which was how I liked it.
I took a cautious sip, since it was hot, then coughed over the unexpected - and unwelcome - flavor.
"What is this?" "Blueberry-flavored coffee."
Abruptly, I was the one scowling.
"Who the hell wants to drink that?" "Ah, see .
it's our job to figure out who, then sell this to them."
He lifted his mug in a toast.
"Here's to our latest account!" Wincing, I straightened my spine and took another sip.
* * *
I was pretty sure the sickly sweet taste of artificial blueberries was still coating my tongue two hours later.
Since it was time for my break, I started an Internet search for Dr.
Terrence Lucas, a man who'd clearly rubbed Gideon the wrong way when I'd seen the two men together at dinner the night before.
I hadn't gotten any further than typing the doctor's name in the search box when my desk phone rang."Mark Garrity's office," I answered.
"Eva Tramell speaking."
"Are you serious about Vegas?" Cary asked without preamble.
There was a pause.
"Is this when you tell me you're moving in with your billionaire boyfriend and I've got to go?""What? No.
Are you nuts?" I squeezed my eyes shut, understanding how insecure Cary was but thinking we were too far along in our friendship for those kinds of doubts.
"You're stuck with me for life, you know that."
"And you just up and decided we should go to Vegas?" "Pretty much.
Figured we could sip mojitos by the pool and live off room service for a couple days."
"I'm not sure how much I can pitch in for that."
"Don't worry, it's on Gideon.
His plane, his hotel.
We'll just cover our food and drinks."
A lie, since I planned on covering everything except the airfare, but Cary didn't need to know that."And he's not coming with us?" I leaned back in my chair and stared at one of the photos of Gideon.
I missed him already and it'd been only a couple of hours since we'd been together.
"He's got business in Arizona, so he'll share the flights back and forth, but it'll be just you and me in Vegas.
I think we need it."
He exhaled harshly.
"I could do with a change of scenery and some quality time with my best girl."
He wants to fly out by eight tomorrow night."
"I'll start packing.
Want me to put a bag together for you, too?" "Would you? That'd be great!" Cary could've been a stylist or personal shopper.
He had serious talent when it came to clothes.
"Eva?" "Yeah?" He sighed.
"Thank you for putting up with my shit."
After we hung up, I stared at the phone for a long minute, hating that Cary was so unhappy when everything in his life was going so well.
He was an expert at self-sabotage, never truly believing he was worthy of happiness.
As I returned my attention to work, the Google search on my monitor reminded me of my interest in Dr.
A few articles about him had been posted on the Web, complete with pictures that cemented the verification.
Forty-five years of age.
Married for twenty years.
Nervously, I searched for "Dr.
Terrence Lucas and wife," inwardly cringing at the thought of seeing a golden-skinned, long-haired brunette.
I exhaled my relief when I saw that Mrs.
Lucas was a pale-skinned woman with short, bright red hair.
But that left me with more questions.
I'd figured it would be a woman who'd caused the trouble between the two men.
The fact was, Gideon and I really didn't know that much about each other.
We knew the ugly stuff - at least he knew mine; I'd mostly guessed his from some pretty obvious clues.
We knew some of the basic cohabitation stuff about each other after spending so many nights sleeping over at our respective apartments.
He'd met half of my family and I'd met all of his.
But we hadn't been together long enough to touch on a whole lot of the periphery stuff.
And frankly, I think we weren't as forthcoming or inquisitive as we could've been, as if we were afraid to pile any more crap onto an already struggling relationship.
We were together because we were addicted to each other.
I was never as intoxicated as I was when we were happy together, and I knew it was the same for him.
We were putting ourselves through the wringer for those moments of perfection between us, but they were so tenuous that only our stubbornness, determination, and love kept us fighting for them.
Enough with making yourself crazy.
I checked my e-mail, and found my daily Google alert on "Gideon Cross."
The day's digest of links led mostly to photos of Gideon, in black tie sans tie, and me at the charity dinner at the Waldorf Astoria the night before.
I couldn't help but be reminded of my mother when looking at the pictures of me in a champagne Vera Wang cocktail dress.
Not just because of how closely my looks mirrored my mom's - aside from my hair being long and straight - but also because of the mega-mogul whose arm I graced.
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