“Hey guys, mind if we join you?” He didn’t wait for an affirmative and dragged a couple of chairs over and waved the guy into one before plonking down into the other.
“Gabe, Bobbi, this is Kyle Foster—an old friend of mine.” The man reached over and shook Gabe’s hand firmly before angling his chair toward Bobbi’s and taking her hand in a gentler grasp and bringing it to his lips.
“Charmed.” He grinned and Bobbi laughed—clearly enjoying the guy’s smarmy attentions.
“So Bobbi, huh? That’s an unusual name.” He kept his voice low and intimate and it grated on Gabe’s last nerve.
“Well, it’s Roberta, actually. Roberta Richmond.” Gabe couldn’t believe he’d just heard that. She never told anybody her full name. For her to simply volunteer it was highly unusual.
“So Gabe, I wanted to ask for your advice on a couple of investments I’m interested in making,” Jason was saying, trying to gain his attention but Gabe could barely focus on his friend, far too interested in the low-voiced conversation between Bobbi and Foster.
“Hey, mate,” Jason waved a hand in front of Gabe’s eyes, demanding his attention, and Gabe blinked over at him.
“What?” he snapped, his voice low and frustrated. Jason leaned in toward him.
“Work with me here, bro.” He kept his voice low enough for only Gabe to hear. “Kyle wanted to meet Bobbi. Guy’s smitten—so give him a chance to chat her up. He’s a decent bloke.”
He was setting Bobbi up with this jerk? Gabe practically choked on a sip of beer and had to do everything in his power not to glare at Jason. He focused his attention back on Bobbi and Foster and was alarmed to note that the guy was whispering in her ear and she was listening to whatever he was saying with a delighted smile on her face. That smile was goddamned radiant and it set his teeth completely on edge. Gabe couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled at him like that. In fact, he couldn’t recall her ever smiling at him like that.
“Bobbi,” he growled. “Time to go.”
Jason swore, keeping his voice low so that only Gabe could hear him. “Come on, Gabe . . . they’re hitting it off.”
“I don’t mind driving her back to her shop,” Foster volunteered. Gabe was about to tell him what to do with that unwelcome offer when Bobbi agreed to the guy’s suggestion. He was completely outvoted when Jason enthusiastically agreed that it was a brilliant idea.
“Bobbi?” He kept his voice reasonable and his eyes level but she barely glanced at him.
“I’m fine, Gabe, I’m sure Kyle will make sure that I get back safely.” Her casual dismissal stung like hell, and Gabe felt irrationally betrayed by it. He dug his wallet out of his jacket pocket and left enough cash on the table to cover both of their meals. He strode away without a backward glance, ignoring the chorus of cheerful “see you’s” that followed him out the door.
When he got to his car, he braced his hands on the roof of the car and dragged in a deep breath. He glanced through the pub’s windows and saw Bobbi laughing at something Foster had just said and barely refrained from kicking at his tire.
Okay, so he was attracted to her but he couldn’t possibly be jealous, could he? Bobbi hooking up with some other guy might be just what he needed to get over this ridiculous desire he felt for her.
He shook his head, ran a hand through his hair, and climbed into his car. He was just overtired and horny. He needed rest and a woman in his life. Rest he could take care of immediately, and he had always had a few prospects in the female companionship department. He just wished he could drum up a bit of enthusiasm at the thought of spending time with some other woman when it was Bobbi that he couldn’t stop fantasizing about.
Bobbi genuinely liked Kyle Foster; he was witty and charming and she found herself enjoying his company on the drive back to her shop. When he drew the car to a stop, she invited him in to have a look around.
“I’d love that,” he enthused, climbing out and hurrying around to the passenger side to open the car door for her. It was a charming gesture that very few men had ever performed for the tomboyish Bobbi, and she was completely flattered by it.
“Wow, this is amazing, Roberta.” He sounded suitably impressed as he walked around the shop, running a light hand over the tools before pausing in front of the Corvette where Craig was currently using the overhead hoist to remove the engine. The older man managed a distracted greeting before focusing his attention back on the car.
“Thank you,” she murmured. Kyle turned to her with a warm smile on his attractive face.
“So . . . I was wondering if you’d like to go out sometime? Lunch or dinner, maybe?” She was on the verge of making up some lame excuse when she stopped herself. Why not? Gabe would never return her feelings and she couldn’t keep turning down perfectly nice guys in the hopes that he would someday come to the unlikely realization that she was the one for him. But then she thought about his bizarre reaction to the way she was dressed earlier and found herself indulging in a bout of entirely self-indulgent what if’s . . .
“Roberta?” Kyle’s quiet voice jerked her from her favorite fantasy of Gabe sweeping her up into his arms and she shook herself. It would do her good to go out with a man as something other than just a buddy—but with the way she felt about Gabe, it hardly seemed right to string along a perfectly lovely man like Kyle.
“I’d like that . . . very much actually,” she said uncertainly. His smile widened and his eyes crinkled appealingly at the corners. He wasn’t as gorgeous as Gabe but then few men were, and Bobbi resolved then and there to stop comparing every man she met to Gabe—it wasn’t fair. Kyle was tall, he had shaggy dirty-blond hair, and kind gray eyes and the masculine craggy features of an outdoorsman. He was a landscape architect and all the time he spent outside had darkened his skin attractively. He also seemed to like her—shorts, tank top, unstyled hair and all—and that soothed her ego after her lunchtime conversation with Gabe.