“So, sevenish?” he asked, and she played with the seat belt clasp, keeping her eyes down. “Bobbi? Don’t do this. Come on, look at me.” The plaintive note in his voice compelled her to obey and she reluctantly lifted her eyes to meet his. He smiled warmly at her when she looked at him.
“Are you coming over?” he asked again and she nodded, feeling like an idiot for being unable to stick to her resolution to take a break but unable to deny him.
“What movie?” she asked.
“Let’s go for a classic, what about Aliens?” he suggested, naming one of her favorites, and she sighed before nodding. “Great! I’ll see you then. You’re fixing the popcorn.”
“We’ll toss a coin for the honor,” she responded casually, taking her cues from him.
“Nope. I called it already,” he said smugly, and she punched his shoulder affectionately.
“Stop changing the rules,” she protested, lining up to take another shot at his shoulder, but he caught her fist in his, preventing her from making contact. It was something he had done countless times and he usually released her hand immediately, but this time his head was bent and his eyes were fixed on the sight of her small fist held captive in his. He turned their hands over and used his other to unfurl her fingers one by one—taking the time to stroke each one as he uncurled it—until he held her open hand palm up. He traced the lines on her pink palm slowly and thoroughly, not missing a single one. His gentle touch made her skin burn, and Bobbi was vaguely aware of the fact that her breath was coming in ragged gasps.
“Gabe?” Her voice was embarrassingly shaky but it seemed to snap him out of whatever daze he was in; his head jerked up and his eyes met hers in alarm. There was a dull red streak running across his cheekbones and his eyes still looked unfocused.
“What the hell is going on here?” His voice was low and rough and shaking almost as much as hers had been. He looked genuinely unsettled, but he still hadn’t released her hand and his thumb was absently stroking back and forth across the callused pads beneath her fingers. He held on for a moment longer before dropping her hand rather abruptly and turning to face front again. Bobbi looked at his profile, aching to reach out and stroke that clenched jaw and smooth out the tense lines that bracketed his mouth. She curbed the impulse and instead held her hands tightly clutched in her lap.
“I’ll see you later,” he said curtly. Hurt by the dismissal, Bobbi turned to open the door. She was in the process of shutting it behind her when his words halted her movements. “Bobbi . . .”
She turned back expectantly but he seemed at a loss and she watched his throat work as he swallowed down whatever words might have emerged.
“Later,” she said, putting him out of his misery. She walked away without looking back.
As usual the house was as silent as a tomb when Gabe got home. His mother, Lucy Templeton-Braddock Colbert, the sole heiress to one of the most profitable vineyards in the country, had moved out nearly ten years ago after her marriage to Francis Colbert—wealthy entrepreneur and all-round good guy. The same couldn’t be said for the loser who had fathered Gabe and Chase and who had run off to “find” himself in Southeast Asia when the twins were eight years old. As far as Gabe knew, Leighton Braddock was still blowing his seemingly endless trust fund while emulating Leo Di Caprio’s character from The Beach somewhere in Thailand. Gabe felt nothing but a distant bitterness on the rare occasions that he actually thought of the man whom he had worshipped as a boy.
Gabe had been mildly shocked when his mother and Francis had produced a baby girl less than nine months after their marriage. He and Chase doted on their ten-year-old half sister, Kim, but saw her very rarely. Gabe was too busy with GNT—Global Network Television—a subsidiary of Bobbi’s father’s multimedia conglomerate, Richcorp, and Chase was usually off working in some far-flung place.
Gabe headed straight for the den, poured himself a scotch, and downed it in a single gulp. He shuddered as the liquor burned its way down his gullet. He couldn’t think straight and the alcohol hadn’t helped at all, instead he found himself recalling how small and delicate Bobbi’s hand had felt in his and how erotic he had found the contrast between the calluses just below her fingers and the softness of her palm. Naturally that thought was immediately followed by how that same hand had felt trailing across his naked flesh the night before and . . . yeah, he was hard as a rock again. He glared down at his crotch irritated, confused, and aroused all at the same time.
He didn’t even know why he had insisted she come round for movies later. Part of him wanted them to get back into their usual routine and another part of him, the one he was staring at right now, was hoping that they would be anything but normal tonight. That part of him was completely okay with more kissing, caressing, and tasting. Yes, a little more and then some of what they’d shared last night, thank you very much.
He dug into his back pocket for his mobile phone—thinking of cancelling—but the thing started vibrating even as he reached for it. Hoping it was Bobbi wanting to cry off and thus saving him from doing it, he didn’t bother to glance at the caller ID before connecting and lifting it to his ear.
“Yes?” His eager greeting was met with a long, crackling silence. It was a bad line and he immediately knew who it was. His stomach sank as he imagined the worst. “Chase?” There was more static before he heard his brother’s faint voice at the other end of the line.
“Yeah, it’s me.”