“I sense a ‘but’ in there somewhere,” he observed, watching her carefully.
“But . . .” But what exactly? But she was in love with her best friend? But she was longing for a guy who was oblivious to her charms? Every thought that popped into her mind seemed stupid and irrational. She was a fool. She wasn’t blind to that truth but she still couldn’t help . . . hoping. She sighed quietly. “But I’m kind of in a really weird place right now.”
He seemed to think that over before nodded thoughtfully.
“I won’t pressure you but I’d like to know if you’d be open to the idea of drinks some time in the future once you manage to find your way out of that weird place?”
“Yes,” she said with a relieved smile. “Definitely.”
“Here’s my card.” His hand brushed against hers when he handed the slip of paper over and Bobbi was disappointed when she felt nothing close to what she felt when Gabe’s skin accidentally touched hers. She really was a lost cause.
“Thank you,” she said, running her fingers over the raised lettering on the no-frills business card. She really didn’t know what else to say to him and he seemed to sense it and ended his visit soon after that.
“I really hope to see you again soon,” he said as she walked him to his car and smiled somewhat uncomfortably. Bobbi had been out of the dating game for more than a year, choosing to focus on her business instead, and even before that she had only dated sporadically because most of the guys she knew were the buddies she had grown up with. The few men who had shown a romantic interest in her had always been on the losing end of an inevitable comparison with Gabe.
So she stood in the parking lot and watched another perfectly fine man drive out of her life and felt like an idiot for yet again closing herself off to other possibilities. It was a cycle she couldn’t seem to break.
“Look at you,” Craig teased softly after Bobbi had changed back into her overalls and joined them on the floor again. “Leaving with one guy and coming back with another.”
“Gabe’s not a ‘guy’ he’s just . . . Gabe,” she muttered, keeping here eyes down and Craig snorted.
“Sure he is.” That sarcastic rejoinder had her head snapping up to meet his regard in alarm.
“What do you mean by that?” she asked, her face hot with embarrassment. Craig darted a quick glance around the room to ensure that Sean and Pieter weren’t listening to their conversation, but both of the other guys were focused on their own tasks.
“You know what I mean,” the older man said seriously. “You like him. I have two teenaged daughters and you’re about as transparent as they are when it comes to affairs of the heart.” How humiliating to be compared to adolescent girls.
“Fantastic,” she said beneath her breath. “This is getting ridiculous.”
“Didn’t mean to embarrass you, boss. I just liked that you came back with the other guy. Time for you to stop mooning over that Gabe with his fancy suits and shiny shoes. This new guy looks like he knows how to get his hands dirty.”
“He’s not the new guy,” she corrected, wondering miserably why she was still talking about this with him. Craig was the last person on earth she would ever consult on matters of the heart. For his anniversary last year he had forgotten to make reservations at the fancy Italian restaurant his wife had been hinting at for weeks before the big day and had made it up to her by microwaving a pizza and serving it with boxed wine. Needless to say he had slept on the couch that night—a fact that he had lamented over for days afterward. He still couldn’t understand his wife’s “unreasonable” reaction when he had gone all out to serve it with paper napkins and a couple of scented candles. He’d even used paper plates so that she wouldn’t have to worry about washing up.
“Anyway there’s no old or current guy either, so let’s just drop this ridiculous subject and get back to work.” He shrugged and did as he was told. Bobbi watched him leave and was tempted to call Kyle and take him up on that drinks date.
Gabe was restless . . .
There was no other word to describe the way he felt. He couldn’t settle down. The house just seemed empty and huge. It was the first time he’d ever felt that way about his home. While he co-owned the house with Chase, his brother also owned an apartment in Camps Bay and often stayed there when he was in the country. Of course, he had a housecleaning staff, but none of them lived on the premises.
Gabe hadn’t shared the house with anybody in years and he was usually content with the peace and quiet. Tonight though, his excess energy was driving him crazy. He had contacted a couple of the women in his so-called “black” book (it was in fact just a folder on his phone) but in the end hadn’t been able to summon up the energy or inclination to arrange a date with any of them. He had ended the calls with vague promises to contact them again “sometime” and now found that he was unable to concentrate on anything.
He glanced at the clock—it was just after eight—and decided to head out to Manny’s for a couple of drinks. A few of games of darts, entertaining company, harmless flirting . . . just what the doctor ordered.
So he was more than a little confused when he found himself ringing the Richmond doorbell less than fifteen minutes later. There was no answer at first so he depressed the button again and listened to the deep bingbong echo through the house. He was about to ring it for a third time when the door was jerked open by a frazzled looking Mike Richmond. The tall man glared at Gabe over the rims of his glasses for a few moments before stepping aside and allowing him in. He didn’t say anything, merely led the way to the den. The room reeked of cigar smoke—it was the only room where he was allowed to indulge in his habit—and there was a movie paused on the big screen smart TV.