“Morning, Gabe. Glad you decided to go the old-fashioned route with this call. I hate those face-to-face calls, you know? Having my every expression analyzed can be a bit disconcerting,” the older man greeted jovially.

“You just don’t want people to see the gleam in your eyes when you go in for the kill,” Gabe scoffed, and the other man laughed appreciatively.

“I wanted to know if everything was still on course for next month.”

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Gabe rolled his eyes.

“Why don’t you ask Violet or Stephanie?” he asked, referring to their assistants.

“Well, you’re in charge of the event, and I want to be sure that you’re keeping an eye on those two—no need for the whole thing to get too frou-frou.”

“They know what they’re doing; it’s not their first major event,” Gabe pointed out.

“It’s the first time I’ll be handing my company over to someone else.” Mike Richmond would officially hand over the reigns to Gabe at the company’s annual Valentine’s Day Ball. Gabe knew that the older man felt ambivalent about retiring, even though his eldest son, Edward—who also happened to be his physician—insisted on it.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Stephanie reminds Violet to keep it elegant.”

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“No hearts and flowers everywhere,” Mike stipulated.

“Not a single one,” Gabe assured.

“Okay, I suppose we can’t have a party without some flowers,” Mike conceded. “But they don’t have to overdo it. It’s not a funeral. I’m not dying, just retiring.” Gabe grinned, happy that the cantankerous old man couldn’t see him.

“Understood.”

“Right then. Anything else I need to know?” Gabe had a moment of blind panic and cold sweat as he imagined Mike Richmond looking out of his bedroom window last night and seeing Bobbi leading Gabe across the lawn toward the fence. Or worse, had he come back down to the den last night? Gabe and Bobbi had been so wrapped up in each other they wouldn’t have noticed a herd of stampeding elephants passing through the room. Logic reasserted itself as he figured that this conversation wouldn’t be quite so amicable if Mike Richmond had seen them last night.

“Gabriel?” the older man prompted, and Gabe cleared his throat.

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“Nothing. Everything’s fine,” he said.

“Okay, well, I have yet another meeting with Clyde and his crew of bloodsuckers in a couple of minutes.” Clyde was Mike’s second son, a corporate attorney whose firm handled all their contracts. “I’ll get back to you later.” He disconnected the call abruptly.

“Right,” Gabe muttered, and replaced the handset carefully. He glanced at his desktop monitor—the spreadsheet was still there, looking even more boring than before. A quick look at the clock told him that it was barely after ten. He wondered what Bobbi was doing. How did she feel after last night?

He might not have wanted things to change, but there had been a fundamental shift in their relationship last night and he should have known it would happen. He had been an idiot to expect things to remain the same. There was an emotional element that he hadn’t considered and he was concerned about her. It wasn’t something that he had ever felt for any of his former lovers—he had never wondered if they were okay physically, mentally, and emotionally. They had known the stakes and had remained detached, but this was Bobbi, and despite everything he had said last night, separating emotion from sex when it came to someone he knew so well wasn’t easy.

He glanced at the clock again: barely two minutes had passed since he’d last checked the time. Was it too early to call her? Or perhaps he should have called earlier? Maybe he looked like an insensitive jerk for not contacting her first thing this morning? He didn’t know what to do and that was a weird sensation for him. He was always so sure of what to do. Maybe he should go to the shop and take her out to brunch?

He cracked his knuckles as he considered his options. He had to call her, not knowing what was going on in her head was driving him crazy. He reached for his cell and speed-dialed her number. It rang for ages before going to voice mail. He peered at the phone’s screen contemplatively before trying again.

This time it went straight to voice mail.

Was she avoiding his calls? Why would she do that? Was she angry? Sad? Hurt? The possibilities were endless, and he decided to find out for himself. He grabbed his jacket and headed out of the office.

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“Postpone my afternoon appointments, Stephanie,” he told his assistant on his way out.

“Oh, but . . .”

“And don’t call my cell, I’ll be busy.” He interrupted what he knew would be a protest. “And remind Violet to keep things classy at that damned Valentine’s Day Ball. She knows what the Old Man likes.” The last was yelled over his shoulder as he exited her office and all but ran to the elevator before she could stop him.

He felt strangely exhilarated as he climbed into his car and headed for Bobbi’s shop. He told himself that it was because he was skiving off work, but a larger part of him admitted that he was excited about seeing Bobbi again.

Bobbi felt a tad out of sorts. Her morning had gone from bad to worse. She had slept through her alarm and then rushed into the shop forty minutes late. Pieter was off with measles of all things, leaving her shorthanded. The parts that she had ordered for the Corvette had arrived but they were all wrong and she had been on the phone for half an hour trying to reach the supplier to sort the mess out. Added to all that her entire body was buzzing with sensation after her encounter with Gabe last night. Her nipples were so sensitive that even the brush of cotton against them was uncomfortable, her muscles ached, and her hips and inner thighs were bruised from the friction of his hips and the clutch of his fingers. But none of those things compared to the extreme discomfort she felt . . . down there. She had had one really terrible sexual encounter before Gabe—during her first year of university—and the miserable experience hadn’t really prepared her for the full effect of a man as large as Gabe.

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