She dragged on her usual sleepwear of boy shorts and a tank top and went back downstairs to the library for a book. She was surprised to find her father asleep on one of the comfortable leather sofas, an open book lying facedown on his chest. The sound of the door opening startled him out of his light snooze and he smiled at her sleepily.

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in days,” he said warmly, and she returned his smile, curling up on the sofa next to him.

“You haven’t,” she replied, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “I’ve been busy.”

Advertisement

“Yes, you’ve had quite the active social life lately,” he said, and she flushed guiltily.

“What do you mean?” He looked surprised by her reaction and question and his gaze sharpened.

“What do you think I mean?” he asked pointedly.

“Nothing.” She tried not to look too uncomfortable with his line of questioning.

“Roberta, do you have a male friend you’re not telling me about? Gabe mentioned something about a guy yesterday? Someone you met at the pub?” The sound of Gabe’s name startled her, but her father misinterpreted her reaction and grinned gleefully. “You do have a male friend! I’d like to meet him.”

“It’s uh . . . it’s not that serious yet,” she whispered, aghast by the awful turn the conversation had taken.

-- Advertisement --

“What’s his name?”

“K-Kyle Foster, he’s a landscape architect.” Oh God, what the hell was she doing?

“And you like him? He’s a good man?”

“He’s very nice.” Stop talking, Bobbi! her conscience was shrieking at her. Just shut the hell up!

“You should consider bringing him to the Valentine’s Day Ball,” her father said, and her mind went completely blank as she thought about that horrible annual event. She usually managed to avoid it but her father, who so rarely made any demands on his children, had insisted that Bobbi and her brothers attend this year. Since he planned to announce his retirement, Bobbi knew that she had no option other than to show her support. But she had forgotten that she would probably have to bring a date to the event. That thought was followed by an even worse one . . .

Would Gabe be bringing a date? God, she wouldn’t be able to stand it. Not with everything that had happened—was still happening—between them.

“I’ll consider it,” she said absently—her mind on Gabe and the gorgeous woman he would probably bring to the formal event.

“Good,” her father said. “And bring him to dinner sometime, I’d like to meet him.”

“Sure,” she said, still on autopilot. Her father dropped an arm around her shoulder and planted a swift kiss on the top of her head. The show of affection was so rare that it startled Bobbi out of her reverie.

“I’m off to bed,” he told her. “Good night, baby.”

“Good night, Daddy,” she replied, warmed by the endearment. He left the room in his usual brisk manner. Bobbi sat immersed in her chaotic thoughts for a long time. She had lied to her father, dragged poor Kyle into this mess, and now had to find a date to the damned Valentine’s Day Ball.

Maybe Gabe would ask her. Once the wistful thought had entered her mind it continued to float around in there like a hopeful sprite. She tried to bat it away, knowing that it was ridiculous to even consider the possibility, but the part of her that liked to wish for impossible things couldn’t help but hope.

“Gabe won’t ask you,” she said out loud, and flinched at the inescapable truth in the words.

Gabe stared blankly at the television screen, not really absorbing what he was seeing as he tried to swallow past the lump of bitter disappointment that had lodged in his throat. She wasn’t coming.

It was nearly one in the morning and he had held out hope until about an hour ago when the huge grandfather clock in the foyer had struck twelve. After that he had simply gone numb and continued to sit here unable to summon up the energy to head up to bed. So maybe the night before hadn’t had quite the same impact on her as it had on him? The thought was humbling and hard to accept, but there wasn’t much else he could take away from this resounding rejection.

He buried his face in his hands. This was probably for the best; he already felt like he was in too deep. They would simply forget that it had ever happened and go back to normal.

He winced at that thought. As if it would be that easy. He could never unsee the perfection of her naked body, or untaste the honey of her mouth, or unfeel her clenching heat around him. He was so screwed . . .

He reached for the remote and switched off the television and the sudden echoing silence unsettled him. He sat there for a moment longer, willing himself to get up and go to bed. He had just pushed himself out of the chair when he heard the quiet knock on the front door. His breath caught in his throat and his heart stuttered to a stop before resuming its rhythm erratically.

The knock came again, louder this time, and he leapt into action running to the front door, skidding on the foyer’s polished floor and nearly falling on his butt, in a bid to get there before she changed her mind and left. He was breathless by the time he wrest open the heavy door and barely took in the fact that she was in her nightclothes before dragging her into his arms and planting a hungry kiss on her lips.

She kissed him back, wrapping her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. He staggered back and kicked the front door shut before pinning her to the heavy wooden door and taking his fill of her mouth.

He lifted his head and cupped her face with his hands.

-- Advertisement --