“Stop thinking about it,” she told herself, her voice muffled behind her hands. Just enjoy it while it lasts.
She picked up her phone again, wanting to touch base with Gabe and genuinely concerned about Chase.
Hey. Chase ok? She tapped out the message swiftly and then put the phone aside to pick up a couple of requisition forms. She hated the paperwork aspect of her job; it kept her away from what she really loved which was being elbow deep in the innards of an automobile. Unfortunately owning a business meant that she had to deal with the boring stuff too and sadly the boring stuff seemed to completely outweigh the fun stuff. Her phone buzzed.
I don’t know. I’m worried. Something wrong. I didn’t talk to him about it yet—had to come to work.
Give him time, she responded.
She watched her phone for a while longer but no other message was forthcoming so she put her head down and went back to her paperwork. The phone buzzed a minute later and she grabbed it eagerly.
So . . . are you wearing a bra today? She was equal parts embarrassed and amused by the question and not sure how to respond to it. She was saved from making that decision when the buzzer went again.
Sorry. Out of line but . . . are you?
She laughed out loud at that bit of nerve, bit her lip and tapped out a quick message, and pushed “Send” before she could change her mind.
YEAH you’re out of line . . . and no. I’m not. His next reply made her breath catch.
SO hard I hurt right now. Thanks!!!
Wish I was there to kiss it better. Her response was more risqué than she’d intended. It was like her fingers had taken on a life of their own.
OMG!! You’re killing me. Can’t concentrate on work now cos that’s all I’ll be thinking about. She grinned. She was still thinking about how to respond when a new message buzzed its way to her screen.
Crap. Gtg—your dad’s on his way to my office!
Bobbi choked back a laugh as she pictured him jumping like a guilty schoolboy just because her father had nearly caught him indulging in a bit of PG-13 sexting. Okay, so maybe Mike Richmond wouldn’t take it too well if he knew that Bobbi was the recipient of the racy messages—but it was still a funny thought. Gabe respected her father so much, Bobbi knew that he would hate to do anything to upset or disappoint the man. She shook her head and put her phone down.
She didn’t know what she was doing here. The lines between the role of friend and lover were becoming less distinct. That morning, the jog, it had started off friendly and then he had ended it with that kiss. The SMSs they’d just exchanged—her initial inquiry had been that of a concerned friend and it had turned into a mild sexting session. How was she supposed to keep these two roles straight when Gabe was the one who kept mixing things up? She was going have to talk to him about it and try to reestablish some of the ground rules.
Gabe had wanted to eat in and have a talk with his brother, but Chase had insisted they head down to the pub for dinner. Gabe knew his brother well enough to recognize the delaying tactic. Chase was aware that Gabe had questions and he didn’t want to answer them. He had even asked Gabe to delay telling their mother that he was back in Cape Town. She knew that he was in the country but thought he was staying in Johannesburg for a couple of days.
When they walked into the pub, the friends they had known all their lives flocked around them to welcome Chase home with back thumps and pints of beer; it took a while before they could make their way to a table and order some food, and even then somebody was always stopping by for a chat.
“God, it’s good to be home,” Chase said during one of the rare moments they were alone at their table.
“You should come home more often,” Gabe told him, trying to keep his tone light.
“I’ve been thinking about it.” Chase’s tired response had Gabe leaning forward intently.
“Thinking about what exactly?” he prompted.
“Staying home and working on that book.” Chase had been thinking of compiling a book of photographs for years. He always tried to capture the beauty hidden beneath the ugliness of the war torn places he found himself in and that was what his book would focus on. A single rose blooming on a battlefield, a glorious sunrise over a minefield. He had once told Gabe that he took those photos to maintain his sanity.
“Won’t you get bored at home?” Gabe asked, taking a sip of beer.
“I can’t see the beauty anymore, Gabe.” His brother’s voice sounded completely desolate and Gabe’s throat tightened. “I look around me and all I see is ugliness, despair, fear, poverty . . . violence. There’s no beauty. Not even here.”
“Ah, man,” Gabe shook his head, blinking away that sting in the back of his eyes again. “I’m glad you’re home, brother.”
“Yeah, me too . . .”
“Movie?” Chase asked when they got home an hour and a half later and Gabe nodded.
“Yeah, lemme get some chips and beer. You pick the movie.” Gabe moved toward the kitchen and then turned back. “Hey!”
Chase paused on his way to the den and looked back at him.
“No chick flicks!” Gabe instructed, and Chase blinked, studied him for a second, and then, for the first time since returning, truly laughed. The sound was deep and spontaneous and just a tad rusty and made Gabe feel rather sentimental.
“Damn,” Chase bantered. “I was so looking forward to watching Pretty Woman again. Or Titanic maybe.”
Chase chose a comedy, one they had seen several times before, but Gabe recognized that his brother was seeking the familiar and that a violent action movie wasn’t what Chase needed.