“Oh God,” he breathed. “Oh my God, Gabe, are you out of your ever-loving mind?” Gabe swallowed and felt his face flush with heat.
“It’s not what you think,” he said lamely.
“You’re not having sex with Bobbi?” his brother asked, his voice absolutely crawling with disbelief. “With Bobbi, for Christ’s sake! What the hell are you thinking? Who else knows about this?”
“Nobody,” Gabe admitted. “It’s nobody’s damned business.”
“And how long has this been going on?”
“Not long.” He couldn’t believe it had been only three nights and the more he had of her the more he craved. This need he had for her seemed to grow with every touch.
“And what are your . . .” Chase shook his head and then snorted. “I can’t believe I’m asking this, but what are your intentions?”
“My intentions?” Gabe asked, meeting his brother’s disapproving stare head on. “My intentions are to have breakfast and go to work.”
“You know that’s not what I meant,” Chase growled.
“That’s the only answer you’re getting though,” Gabe retorted, shoveling a forkful of eggs into his mouth and glaring at his brother defiantly.
“This won’t end well,” Chase predicted. “How the hell could you allow this to happen?”
“It’s none of your business.” Gabe hated how his brother automatically assumed that whatever was going on between Bobbi and Gabe would end, even though he knew it would as well.
“I’m making it my business,” Chase responded. “You’re going to hurt her.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gabe said heatedly. “You’re making assumptions based on what? You don’t know what the paradigms of my relationship with Bobbi are.”
“Yeah? So what are they? You guys are involved in some secret romance that will eventually lead to marriage and kids? Is that it? Because if that’s not it, then I’m going to have to kick your dumb arse!”
“Look, we’re attracted to each other. That’s it. We’re working it out of our systems. It’s between us and nobody else needs to know about it.”
“Bobbi isn’t the type of woman you work out of your system, Gabe.”
“Why not? Because I happen to have known her longer than the women I’ve dated and slept with before? They were all daughters, sisters, and friends too, you know? It’s hypocritical of you to insist I treat Bobbi differently. We have a mutual respect for each other and we’re indulging in an adult relationship with clear-cut boundaries that we’ve both agreed to.”
“You’re so full of shit,” Chase lambasted him. “You never hid your relationships with those other women like they were dirty little secrets. If Bobbi is no different than any of them, why are you hiding this from everybody? Have you been out with her in public?”
“We’re always out in public,” Gabe replied, knowing that it wasn’t what Chase had meant.
“Oh cut the crap, Gabriel,” Chase derided. “You know that’s not what I meant. Bobbi doesn’t deserve to be treated like some second-class citizen, good enough for warming your bed but nothing else. You’re embarrassed to be seen with her, that’s what this is about.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Gabe said, feeling guilty as hell. Bobbi wasn’t the type of woman he was usually seen with. She didn’t have the dress sense, the gloss, or the elegance he enjoyed in a woman. Where would he take her for Christ’s sake? When she didn’t seem to own more than that one ugly dress?
“You’re going to hurt her,” Chase repeated.
“I’m not a cruel man, Chase,” Gabe said, annoyed by his brother’s self-righteous attitude.
“No, you’re not,” Chase agreed, leaving Gabe waiting for the “but” to come. “You’re not cruel, you’re merely indifferent. Your previous lovers knew the score, when you got bored or they got bored, you both walked away. No ill feelings on either side. You were okay and they were okay. Everything was just . . . okay. So what happens when you grow bored with this relationship? When the novelty wears off and you feel the need to move on to the next woman? How do you cut Bobbi out of your life? Because that’s what you do, Gabe. It’s almost surgical—once you call it quits, you never mention them again. No pictures, no fond recollections—it’s as if they were never a part of your life. You’re a good guy, Gabe. The bloody best man I know and you treat women with the utmost respect when you’re with them, but you’ve never been in a relationship that lasted longer than a month or two. And this thing with Bobbi can’t really even qualify as a relationship, can it? Not when you’re skulking around pretending that it doesn’t even exist.”
“That’s rich, coming from you, Chase! You’re not exactly Mr. Reliable when it comes to women,” Gabe retorted, feeling his temper bubbling to the surface.
“I’m not the one who’s shagging my best friend, you idiot!” Chase’s own temper was always quicker to rise than Gabe’s, and Gabe could see it sparking in his eyes. “You’re going to hurt her but you’re too blinded by your own lust to see it.”
“Bobbi knows the score.” He felt driven to make his brother understand that this wasn’t as bad as he seemed to think it was. “And one of the main reasons we decided to keep this quiet was because we feared reactions like yours. The less people who know, the less external pressure from family and friends, and when it ends, there’ll be no awkwardness from people who would feel compelled to take sides.”