He merely grinned in response to her words before leaping nimbly to his feet. She felt a profound sense of loss when he moved away and ducked her head to disguise her reaction. When she looked up again only after carefully cultivating a blank expression, it was to see him holding out a hand to her. She hesitated before reluctantly taking the outstretched hand. His long, elegant fingers curled around her grubby paw and the muscles in his thighs tensed as he leaned back to tug her up.
He overestimated her weight—using a smidgen too much strength—and Bobbi lost her balance. For a few awkward seconds she found herself plastered against his hard body before—after a seemingly interminable amount of time had passed—he grabbed her upper arms and shifted her away.
Dazed, she peered up at him for a moment while she tried to force herself to forget about the burning imprint of his chest against her cheek, his torso against her breasts, and most startling of all—the firm masculine bulge between his thighs against her stomach. For a brief moment, she allowed herself to speculate about that substantial bulge. She had easily felt it through the fabric of their clothing, even though he wasn’t aroused and it made her—very inappropriately—wonder about the size of him when he was erect. She remembered Friday night, in his room, when she had touched him. He had seemed . . . affected then, but she hadn’t considered how affected he might have been until now. Had be been turned on? Hard? The thought sent her face up in flames.
She lifted the rag and pretended to rub off the grease on her face again in an effort to disguise her inexplicable blush.
“Hey,” his hand reached out to halt hers. “You got it all. You’ll scour the skin off your face if you keep that up.”
“What are you doing here, anyway?” she asked him sullenly, determined to regain her equilibrium.
“Taking you to lunch,” he informed authoritatively, elbowing his jacket aside to shove his hands into his trouser pockets. Naturally her eyes fell to where the expensive fabric strained across his muscled thighs and crotch. She cleared her throat nervously and averted her eyes.
Jesus! Pull yourself together, Richmond, she lectured herself sternly. This was beyond ridiculous. She could get past this; she’d done it before and she’d undoubtedly have to do it again—even though it was becoming increasingly and devastatingly painful for her to deal with Gabe’s affectionate disinterest.
“I’m busy today . . . and I had a big breakfast,” she lied, and he rolled his eyes at her.
“A slice of toast isn’t anybody’s idea of a big breakfast,” he said.
“Faye?” she asked with a resigned sigh. Faye tended to jump at every opportunity to get Bobbi to eat more. The woman often said that Bobbi’s skinny frame served as a very poor testimonial to Faye’s cooking skills.
“Um-hmm,” Gabe confirmed with a sexy hum that immediately had her stupid nipples standing to attention again. God, this was ridiculous . . . why did she have to be so aware of him?
“It doesn’t matter, I snacked throughout the morning.”
Gabe raised a questioning brow at Sean and Craig. The other men had their lunch bags in hand and were obviously getting ready to take a break.
“If you call a half-eaten apple a snack,” Craig said with a jovial shrug, ignoring Bobbi’s glare before he and the other two men waved and traipsed off to enjoy their lunch in the park opposite her shop.
“I guess that settles it,” he said with a charming grin that set her teeth on edge and made her want to slap him and kiss him at the same time. It was the latter impulse that made her snap at him defensively.
“It settles nothing! You’re not my keeper, Gabe, and if I choose to have a working lunch it’s nothing to you.” Okay, she sounded like a total bitch and immediately felt awful about it—especially when she saw the flash of confusion in his eyes.
“You’re angry with me,” he observed. “Why?”
“No. I’m not.” She sighed. It wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t see her as anything other than a surrogate sister, while she wanted so much more than just friendship from him. “I’m sorry, Gabe, I’m just tired. Let me get cleaned up and we can grab something to eat.”
Gabe watched as Bobbi prowled off to the tiny glass cubicle that served as her office. He didn’t know how to deal with her or talk to her anymore.
He’d thought that coming to her shop and seeing her in her element, with grease on her face and hands, would help him get over whatever was going on with him. But when he had dragged her out from beneath that car and she had spread her legs around his thighs, his thoughts had been so X-rated that if anybody had been able to read his mind at that moment, he would have been arrested for obscenity right on the spot. He had quite frantically searched for a way to get himself back under control and had found it in the speck of grease on her cheek. He had imagined her at any of the social events that he was regularly required to go to as the CEO of GNT, and Bobbi was hardly the type of female he’d want gracing his arm. But then he had tugged her up, she had fallen against him, and all rational thought had fled his mind again.
He watched, a reluctant smile tugging at the corners of his lips, as she headed over to a sink in her office and rinsed her hands and face before sticking her entire head under the faucet to wet her short black hair. There was really no artifice about her. What you saw was what you got with Bobbi. She reached for a towel and draped it over her head before tugging at the zipper of her overalls and dragging it down. Gabe found himself riveted and took an inadvertent step closer to the office as she revealed a seemingly endless expanse of pale, naked skin to his eyes. What the hell was she wearing under that damned thing? The heavy material eventually parted enough to reveal a tight blue tank top and she dragged her arms out of the sleeves in quick, practiced movements. The top half of her overalls was now bunched at her waist with the sleeves dangling down the backs of her legs.