The movie had been on for less than half an hour when the doorbell rang. Gabe tensed, knowing instantly who it was. He had forgotten to tell her that Chase would be staying with him.
“It’s nearly twelve.” Chase sat up with a frown and paused the movie. “Who would be visiting at this time of night?”
“I have an inkling,” Gabe replied. “I’ll get it.”
He left the room before Chase could question him any further and hurried to the front door. The sight of Bobbi standing there in nothing but a pair of skimpy Snoopy pyjama shorts and a matching pink tank top made him groan. She looked good enough to eat and that had been his plan for the night before Chase had come to stay. She smiled at him and took his breath away.
“Hi,” she whispered, and stepped into his arms. She reached up and entangled her hands in his hair before tugging his head down for a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her slender body and captured her lips in a tender embrace that was filled with longing and desire. Her soft moan as she wound her arms around his neck undid him and he deepened the kiss, stroking his tongue into her mouth for a brief instant before reason reasserted itself and he dragged his head back. She made a disappointed sound and tried to capture his lips again but he brought his hands up to her arms and moved her firmly away, turning his head to avoid her kiss. He winced at the hurt confusion that clouded her eyes.
“Chase is here,” he muttered, and the pain deepened for an instant before she stepped back.
“Bobbi,” he whispered, uncomfortable with the brief flash of rejection that he had seen in her eyes and despising himself for putting it there. “I’m . . .”
“Oh please don’t . . .” She held up a hand in entreaty. “Just don’t say you’re sorry. It’s okay. It’s just part of the agreement.”
“But . . .”
“Gabe,” she warned, and he sighed deeply.
“This isn’t easy for me either, Bobbi.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s not.” But she sounded bitter and unconvinced and it was killing Gabe not to reach for her and drag her back into his arms. “Can I say hello to Chase? It would look weird if I didn’t. I won’t stay too long.”
“You can stay as long as you want,” he said, ill at ease. He hated how badly he was mishandling the situation and hated the awful certainty that in his quest to keep her from getting hurt, he was not only wounding her but irreparably damaging their friendship in the process.
She brushed past him and padded into the den, the soles of her trainers squeaking on the tiled floor. He absently rubbed at the gnawing ache in his chest as he followed her in. Chase looked up when they entered the room and his face lit up when he saw her.
“Well, look who it is.” He sounded delighted and leapt to his feet to envelop Bobbi in a tight hug. She laughed and returned the embrace, squealing when Chase lifted her off her feet and swung her around.
“Put me down, you giant oaf.” She giggled and he complied, smacking a big kiss on her mouth.
“I’ve missed you, sweetie,” he told her and she stood on her toes to ruffle his hair.
“I’ve missed you too, you sexy beast,” she said affectionately, cuddling up to his chest again. Gabe could feel his brow settling into a scowl as he watched the excessive kissing and cuddling between the two. Had they always been this physical? He found himself wanting to wade between them and push them apart. This was ridiculous. When Chase planted yet another kiss on Bobbi’s cheek, Gabe felt a growl building in his chest. Enough, for God’s sake!
“Bobbi’s not staying long,” he said loudly enough to interrupt the snuggle fest. Chase looked into Bobbi’s upturned face with a mock frown.
“Ridiculous, you’re watching the movie with us, aren’t you?” he asked Bobbi, who darted a tentative glance at Gabe.
“I’m not sure.”
Gabe winced at the small waver in her voice, knowing that he had put it there. God, he was being a total dick. He just didn’t like seeing Chase’s hands all over her. And that thought was shocking in its own right. It was as if he was jealous . . . of Chase.
“It’s Talladega Nights,” Gabe informed her, gentling his tone. “Stay, I’ll get you a beer.”
“If you’re sure you don’t mind,” she said hesitantly.
“Of course we don’t mind,” Chase scoffed, dragging her to the sofa and planting her next to him. “Why would we mind? You sit with me, I’ve missed the hell out of you and I’m keeping you close.”
Gabe tried to keep another frown from settling on his face and turned away from the cozy pair, heading for the kitchen. When he returned, Bobbi had her shoes off and her feet curled under her butt on the sofa. Chase had an arm around her shoulders while she had her head on his chest and was absently playing with his free hand as she told him about the Corvette she was renovating for Jason. Chase was giving her his full attention and neither of them noticed Gabe’s return until he slammed the beer bottle onto the coffee table in front of them. Chase looked up in surprise, and Bobbi eyed him with that awful look of uncertainty on her face again.
“Sorry,” Gabe muttered. “It slipped.”
Chase seemed to accept that and rested his cheek on Bobbi’s head, but she still kept a wary eye on Gabe as he slumped down on the recliner next to the sofa.
Bobbi felt incredibly awkward, it was clear that Gabe didn’t want her here. Maybe he didn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut about their sexual arrangement, maybe he wanted to spend time with his brother and resented Bobbi’s presence, or maybe he just plain didn’t want to be in her company right now. Whatever it was, it made her feel uncomfortable and for the first time ever, she felt unsure of her welcome in this house. She could sense the waves of disapproval wafting off him even after he’d put the movie back on and she couldn’t relax, despite Chase’s solid and reassuring presence beside her.