Bobbi folded her arms tightly across her chest and lowered her eyes to her plate, she knew that her cheeks were blazing with color but she couldn’t do much about that at the moment. She wished that the floor would just open up and swallow her—she was so embarrassed. Thankfully he wasn’t staring at her traitorous breasts anymore; instead he was focused intently on his plate, with his jaw clenched and his hands curled into fists on the table. He was concentrating so fiercely on that plate that she half expected it to start levitating.
“I’m sorry . . .” The words were so quiet they were practically swallowed up by the buzzing conversations of the crowd around them, and if not for the fact that he had raised his blazing eyes to meet hers, Bobbi would have dismissed it as imagination. “That was completely out of line.”
“Which part? Your comment about the way I dressed or your reference to my . . .” She nodded down at her breasts which were still shielded by her crossed arms. She watched as his eyes drifted back down to her chest and lingered for a long moment before jerking back up to her face.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“I made it personal—I shouldn’t have brought your . . . your body into it,” he admitted.
“It was already personal when you criticized the way I dressed,” she pointed out.
“Bobbi, we’re surrounded by men, not all of whom know you . . . and those shorts would tempt a saint.” She was riveted by the dull red that stained his cheekbones and narrowed her eyes as an intriguing possibility occurred to her.
“Do they tempt you?” Right—she needed a filter between her brain and her mouth—because she couldn’t keep saying every single thing that popped into her head. Yet . . . the red stain on his cheekbones darkened and spread inexorably.
“No! Of course not . . .” She kept her eyes trained on his face, fascinated to note that he couldn’t quite meet her eyes and for the first time ever felt in control and powerful around this man who so unsettled her at times. She deliberately dropped her arms and braced them on either side of her plate, before leaning toward him. She was rewarded by the brief, panicked glance he directed down at her cleavage before dragging his eyes back up to her face—and even then he couldn’t seem to look higher than her mouth. Deciding to test him even further, she flicked out her tongue to moisten her lower lip and noted the convulsive movement of his throat as he swallowed while his eyes tracked the slow, deliberate movement of her tongue with ferocious concentration.
“I’m not changing the way I dress after all these years, Gabe,” she told him—and his eyes snapped back into focus as they met hers. “It’s never bothered you before, so what’s different now?”
“It doesn’t bother me.” Two blatant lies in as many minutes. Bobbi was starting to enjoy herself.
“Then why mention it?” she pushed.
“Just forget I said anything.” He picked up his knife and fork with hands that were trembling ever so slightly. She didn’t respond and kept staring at him until he put the cutlery down again. “You don’t understand men, Bobbi . . . they’re easily aroused and . . .” Her rich laughter cut him off and the sound halted his awkward lecture mid-sentence.
“Gabe, I’m not naïve. I don’t need you to explain the birds and the bees to me. Trust me, you’re years too late with that particular lecture.”
“What do you mean by that, exactly?” His voice had taken on a dangerous edge and she merely smiled at him.
“That’s nothing you need to concern yourself over,” she said dismissively, with a flick of her hand. She picked up her own utensils and dug into her meal with relish, suddenly feeling inordinately cheerful. “Eat your lunch, it’s getting cold.” He bristled at the dismissal and even though he tried to broach the subject again, she ignored him and raved about the Corvette instead, telling him what she had planned for the car.
“I know you think I’m being foolish by investing so much into this,” she said after running out of steam since Gabe had contributed nothing more to the conversation than grunts and nods, making her sharply aware of the other criticisms that he had leveled at her business sense earlier before he had distracted her by bringing her lack of dress sense into the conversation.
“I would be less concerned if you had a long-term plan for the business,” he admitted. “But I didn’t mean to make it sound like I had no confidence in your ability to make a success out of the shop, Bobbi.” Unfortunately, that was exactly how it sounded and Bobbi was still hurt by his lack of faith in her. Gabe had always made her feel like he had the utmost belief in her ability to achieve everything she set her mind to. That’s why the doubt, the outright cynicism, she had heard from him earlier had cut so deeply. Now, she shrugged and—as she always did when he inadvertently hurt her—brushed it aside in order to make him feel better.
“It’s okay.” It’s not okay. Her subconscious was riled. “I know you’re just concerned.” I don’t need your concern! I need your support. I want you to have faith in me and in what I can do.
She didn’t voice what she was really feeling—as was always the case when it came to Gabe. She remained mute . . . for the sake of their friendship.
Relieved to have things back on an even keel, Gabe smiled at her. He hadn’t even glanced at her breasts in over ten minutes and he’d barely thought about them in well over a minute. Thankfully she’d left her uncomfortable line of questioning behind and they were back in familiar territory. His unfair—if not unfounded—zinger about her plans for Jason’s car had been forgiven. Things were practically back to normal . . . until Jason ambled over to their table with a tall, smiling guy in tow.