She was already sitting down when he reached the table and took the seat opposite hers, fighting back an irrational surge of anger and frustration when he saw the slight indent and red mark on the bridge of her cute nose. The minute mark marred her pale, smooth skin and seeing it there aggravated him beyond measure. She was watching him warily, but he refrained from commenting and merely called over a waitress and then waited for a long irritating moment while Bobbi perused the familiar menu for ages before placing her order of calamari and chips. He didn’t bother to glance at the menu and instead ordered his usual fare.
Bobbi snorted when she heard his order and he inclined his head in question.
“They do have other stuff here, Gabe,” she elaborated—her voice lightly frosted with scorn. “But you always order the ribs, chips, and salad.”
“I know they have other stuff here,” he countered, his tone measured as he arranged the condiments to his liking. “And I’ve tried them all but I like the ribs the most. I don’t see why I should order anything else when I know that this is what I like best.”
“Some variety wouldn’t kill you, you know?” She groused as she very deliberately rearranged the bottles that he had painstakingly placed in order of preference. “It’s okay to order the steak instead of the ribs. It’s perfectly fine to get a buzz cut or grow your hair down past your collar.” Her eyes went up to his conservatively cut and parted hair, and it took every ounce of his willpower to refrain from self-consciously raking his fingers through said hair. Instead he focused on putting the bottles back into order, ignoring her snort of amusement.
“And while we’re at it, it’s all right to date a dumb brunette once in a while instead of a brainy blonde. I swear to God, that bloodless parade of boring blondes you date has sucked every ounce of life and fun out of you.”
“I suppose I should be more like you?” he murmured scathingly, raking his eyes over her scruffy figure scornfully. It nearly killed him not to linger over her silky smooth legs and pert breasts but he had a point to prove. “More careless and carefree? You live your life without any structure or order, Bobbi. Sure you’ve managed to open that shop but you have no real business plan and you have everything vested in that damned car of Jason’s. What will you do if, or more likely when, that plan fails? It would behoove you to be less carefree and more responsible. You now have employees—people who, unfathomably enough, depend on you for their livelihood. Maybe it’s time to stop being such a child. Stop balancing darts on your nose, racing motorcycles at the track, and dressing like a two-bit little . . .” He stopped himself before he completed the sentence but her wide eyes told him that she knew exactly what he’d been about to say. He swallowed past the lump in his throat and tried to apologize but the words wouldn’t come.
They sat in silence until the waitress brought their food, avoiding eye contact at all costs, and Gabe felt like a complete bastard for the unspoken word that now hovered between them.
“What’s wrong with the way I dress?” She suddenly broke the loaded silence—her voice small and uncertain.
“But you said . . .”
“Look I was being an idiot.” He kept his eyes firmly on his plate.
“You wouldn’t have mentioned it if you didn’t think there was something wrong with my clothing.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your clothing,” he snapped.
“Don’t lie to me!” she snapped right back at him.
“Jesus.” This time he did rake a frustrated hand through his hair. “Look, those shorts are just too . . . short okay? And um . . .” He waved his fork at her chest area, trying not to look and then totally looking. God, she had pretty breasts . . . Focus, Gabe! “Wear a damned bra, for God’s sake! You keep flashing those nipples at me and I won’t be responsible for my actions.” And then, as if the mere word had conjured them into being, there they were again, tightening against the soft material of her tank top, unfurling like perfect little rosebuds right beneath his very eyes. And this time he couldn’t help but focus directly on them; he couldn’t drag his eyes away from them. He lost his train of thought and felt sweat beading on his brow and above his lip, felt it pooling beneath his arms and in the center of his chest.
Want! Need! Now!
The three words blindsided him and rang like a bell in his mind. His throat went dry with the astonishing realization that this wasn’t some bizarre, fleeting aberration. That he really wanted her and would continue wanting her until he had done something about it.
Under him, over him, in front of him—he wanted her any way he could have her . . . He wanted her more than he wanted his next breath and it was insane! He dragged his apologetic eyes up to her embarrassed golden regard. How the hell did you tell your friend that you wanted to sleep with her? But that that’s all you wanted from her. He was honest enough to admit that he desperately wanted to have sex with her—why now, after all these years? He had no clue but that was what he wanted. What he didn’t want was anything more than that. He loved her but she wasn’t a woman he could ever envision spending his life with. They were too different. The woman of his dreams was tall, graceful, refined, and had an immaculate sense of style and design. Bobbi was the complete opposite of that woman.
But how could he propose no-strings sex to this woman who meant so much to him and expect to still retain a friendship after the affair ended? Bobbi would expect more from him and he could very well wind up breaking her heart. That thought was perfectly unbearable.