“Oh, so you’re doing it for all of us?” Chase asked sarcastically. “How big of you! What a relief to hear that you’re not just covering your own butt so that you don’t look like a complete dick when you dump Bobbi and move on to your next conquest.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Gabe pushed his plate aside and shook his head in disgust. He was pissed off and hurt by his brother’s low opinion of him. “None. This thing between Bobbi and me sprang up out of nowhere; it’s not something I went looking for. It just happened and I’m trying to deal with it as best I can. So, I’d appreciate it if you’d butt out. This is between Bobbi and me.”


Chase looked like he was about to respond but he clamped his lips together and said nothing. His eyes were stormy and he still looked royally pissed off, but he thankfully said nothing further. Gabe knew better than to think that his brother would let it go though and he already dreaded the next confrontation.

Gabe’s day didn’t improve. Mike was being difficult and insisted on knowing every single detail about the Valentine’s Day Ball. Since Gabe didn’t know a single damned thing about the ball, trusting their assistants to get it done, his replies to the older man’s questions hadn’t satisfied Mike and had led to a heated debate about what each man believed leadership roles entailed. Accusing Mike of micromanaging hadn’t helped the escalating argument and the man had hung up in a huff, leaving Gabe frustrated and bad-tempered. He and Mike often disagreed, but this was a petty argument, which had escalated because of Mike’s misgivings about retiring and Gabe’s already foul temper after that morning’s argument with Chase.

An hour later, while he was instructing Stephanie to set up a meeting with one of the GNT accounting executives about restructuring the company’s pricing packages, his cell phone rang. He glanced down and grimaced when he saw his mother’s photo on the screen.

“I have to take this,” he told his assistant and the woman politely excused herself. Gabe watched her leave before picking up the call.

“Hi, Mum,” he greeted.

“Hello, darling,” his mother greeted warmly. “How are you?”

“All good here, Mum.”

“Wonderful.” His mother wasn’t one to waste time before getting to the point and that was the case now. “I’ve been concerned about your brother. When will he be back in town?”

Great. Gabe winced. He didn’t want to lie to his mother, but Chase had put him in an impossible situation. If he came clean now, they’d both be in the crapper.

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“You might want to talk to Chase about that, Mum,” he said carefully and there was a long pause before his mother replied.

“I asked you a straightforward question, Gabriel. Why can’t you give me a straightforward answer?” Full name. Fabulous. This wasn’t going to end well. Their mother knew that something was up.

“I thought I did give you a straightforward answer,” he said.

“No, you tried to divert me back to your brother.”

“Mum . . .”

“Where’s your brother, Gabriel?” she asked bluntly.

“Mum . . .”

“Don’t you ‘mum’ me, young man. Just answer the question.” Lucy Templeton-Braddock Colbert could be downright terrifying when she wanted to be.

“At home,” he confessed miserably.

“And why did neither of you see fit to inform me before now?” She sounded unsurprised, which meant that she had known beforehand but had decided to put him in the hot seat for the sheer hell of it.

“You knew,” he accused.

“Roberta told me.” Their mother had never called her Bobbi. “I called her earlier to ask her about her new boyfriend and she tried to distract me too, by saying that I must be happy to have Chase back in town. This time the distraction worked because I wasn’t aware that my own son was home.”

“Mum, you should talk to Chase about . . .” He paused as his mother’s words sank in. “What new boyfriend?”

“Don’t change the subject, Gabriel,” she said, but he barely heard her.

“Mum, what boyfriend are you talking about?” he asked urgently, wondering if there were any rumors floating around about Bobbi and him.

“The landscape architect she’s seeing, Kyle something. I heard about him from Suzie Claiborne,” his mother said dismissively before continuing on her original course of chastisement, but Gabe wasn’t listening anymore. He was wondering why the hell Jason’s mother seemed to think that Bobbi was seeing that Kyle guy.

“Gabe, are you listening to me?” His mother’s voice had elevated shrilly and he shook himself and refocused on her tirade.

“Sorry mum, I was distracted by . . . stuff.” He grimaced at the lame excuse but his mother wasn’t paying attention.

“I said we’re coming around for dinner,” she said.

“Mum, look . . .” He sighed. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you that Chase is home but you have to prepare yourself. He looks . . . he doesn’t look great. He’s lost a lot of weight and he just seems exhausted. I think he knew that it would worry you, so try to lay off the guilt tripping, okay? I can take it but I don’t think he’s in a great place at the moment.” He and Chase may be at odds, but that didn’t mean that Gabe was going to hang his brother out to dry.

His mother was quiet for a long while after he had spoken and a shuddering sigh on the other end of the line told him that she was crying.

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