"Why not just give him the money?" I wondered.
"Because he's a shrewd businessman?"
With a sharp exhalation, I waved the question away and cleared my mind. I was attending the party for Cary, not Gideon, and I was going to keep that first and foremost in my thoughts.
Once we'd moved outside, we found a large, elaborately decorated marquee erected in the rear garden. Although the day was beautiful enough to stay out in the sun, I found a seat at a circular table covered in white damask instead.
Cary patted my shoulder. "You relax. I'll network."
"Go get 'em."
He moved away, intent on his agenda.
I sipped champagne and chatted with everyone who stopped by to strike up a conversation. There were a lot of recording artists at the party whose work I listened to, and I watched them covertly, a bit starstruck. For all the elegance of the surroundings and the endless number of servants, the overall vibe was casual and relaxed.
I was starting to enjoy myself when someone I'd hoped never to see again stepped out of the house onto the terrace: Magdalene Perez, looking phenomenal in a rose-hued chiffon gown that floated around her knees.
A hand settled on my shoulder and squeezed, setting my heart racing because it reminded me of the night Cary and I had gone to Gideon's club. But the figure that rounded me this time was Christopher.
"Hey, Eva." He took the chair next to mine and set his elbows on his knees, leaning toward me. "Are you having fun? You're not mingling much."
"I'm having a great time." At least I had been. "Thank you for inviting me."
"Thank you for coming. My parents are stoked you're here. Me, too, of course." His grin made me smile, as did his tie, which had cartoon vinyl records all over it. "Are you hungry? The crab cakes are great. Grab one when the tray comes by."
"I'll do that."
"Let me know if you need anything. And save a dance for me." He winked, and then hopped up and away.
Ireland took his seat, arranging herself with the practiced grace of a finishing school graduate. Her hair fell in a single length to her waist and her beautiful eyes were direct in a way I could appreciate. She looked worldlier than her seventeen years. "Hi."
I shrugged at the blunt question. "I'm not sure."
She nodded sagely. "He's good at being a loner."
"Has he always been that way?"
"I guess. He moved out when I was little. Do you love him?"
My breath caught for a second. I released it in a rush and said simply, "Yes."
"I thought so when I saw that video of you two in Bryant Park." She bit her lush lower lip. "Is he fun? You know...to hang around with?"
"Oh. Well..." God. Did anyone know Gideon? "I wouldn't say he's fun, but he's never boring."
The live band began playing "I've Got You Under My Skin" and Cary appeared beside me as if by magic. "Time to make me look good, Ginger."
"I'll try my best, Fred." I smiled at Ireland. "Excuse me a minute."
"Three minutes, forty seconds," she corrected, displaying some of her family's expertise in music.
Cary led me onto the empty dance floor and pulled me into a swift foxtrot. It took me a minute to get into it, because I'd been stiff and tight with misery for days. Then the synergy of longtime partners kicked in and we glided across the floor with sweeping steps.
When the singer's voice faded with the music, we stopped, breathless. We were pleasantly surprised by applause. Cary gave an elegant bow and I held on to his hand for stability as I dipped into a curtsy.
When I lifted my head and straightened, I found Gideon standing in front of me. Startled, I stumbled back a step. He was seriously underdressed in jeans and an untucked white dress shirt that was open at the collar and rolled up at the sleeves, but he was so damn fine he still put every other man in attendance to shame.
The tremendous yearning I felt at the sight of him overwhelmed me. Distantly I was aware of the band's singer pulling Cary away, but I couldn't tear my gaze away from Gideon, whose wildly blue eyes burned into mine.
"What are you doing here?" he snapped, scowling.
I recoiled from his harshness. "Excuse me?"
"You shouldn't be here." He grabbed me by the elbow and started hauling me toward the house. "I don't want you here."
If he'd spit in my face, it couldn't have devastated me more. I yanked my arm free of him and walked briskly toward the house with my head held high, praying I could make it to the privacy of the town car and Clancy's protective watch before the tears started falling.
Behind me, I heard a come-hither female voice call out Gideon's name and I sent up a prayer that the woman would stall him long enough for me to get out without further confrontation.
I thought I just might make it when I passed into the cool interior of the house.
My shoulders hunched at the sound of Gideon's voice and I refused to look at him. "Get lost. I can show myself out."
"I'm not done - "
"I am!" I pivoted to face him. "You don't get to talk to me that way. Who do you think you are? You think I came here for you? That I was hoping I'd see you and you'd throw me a goddamn scrap or bone...some pathetic acknowledgment of my existence? Maybe I'd be able to harass you into a quick, dirty f**k in a corner somewhere in a pitiful effort to win you back?"
"Shut up, Eva." His gaze was scorching hot, his jaw tight and hard. "Listen to me - "
"I'm only here because I was told you wouldn't be. I'm here for Cary and his career. So you can go back to the party and forget about me all over again. I assure you, when I walk out the door, I'll be doing the same to you."