“Theresa just escorted Roberta to her room. She’s feeling the effects of too much champagne.” Gabe grimaced at that information; she could go from tipsy to violently ill in pretty short order. He should have known it would only be a matter of time before she got sick.

“I’ll take care of her and send your wife back down to you,” he offered, and Sandro nodded.


“That would be appreciated.”

They had put her in the room next to his, Gabe remembered. What had seemed perfectly acceptable just a few short hours ago now seemed . . . inappropriate.

He rapped on the door before opening it after the briefest of hesitations. Theresa De Lucci, looking stunning in her evening wear—probably by one high-end designer or the other, he wasn’t sure which, he never really paid attention to women’s wear unless he was in the process of removing it—was stroking a damp cloth over Bobbi’s face. She looked up in surprise when Gabe walked in.

“How is she?” he asked, shrugging out of his tux jacket and draping it carefully over the back of a chair so as not to wrinkle it.

“Somewhat under the weather,” Theresa said with a slight smile. “I think she got most of it out of her system though.”

“She doesn’t handle alcohol very well,” he stated unnecessarily.

“I noticed.” Her smile widened.

“She’s usually better at managing her alcohol intake. I don’t know what came over her tonight.” Theresa said nothing in response to that and merely continued to stroke Bobbi’s face gently.

“I’m sorry about this. Why don’t you head back to the party? I’ll take care of her.”

-- Advertisement --

Theresa slanted her head questioningly. “Are you sure about that? I don’t mind staying with her.”

“Sandro’s already looking restless without you.”

She laughed with an indulgent shake of her head. “He has no patience with parties that serve no function other than an excuse for people to gather in a festive social setting.”

“All business all the time, huh?” Gabe rejoined, and she rolled her eyes.

“I’ve been attempting to change that, and he does try, but he tends to get short-tempered if I’m not around to make sure he maintains his civility.”

“You’d better get down there before he tosses everybody out then.” He ushered her out, and after one last look back at Bobbi, she left the room.

Gabe shut the door behind her. He stood there for a while with his hands braced on the door and his head bent as he steeled himself to turn around and walk back to that bed.

“Gut up, Braddock,” he whispered, thumping his forehead against the wood before pushing himself away from the door and turning back toward the large bed.

She was so small that she barely made a dent beneath the covers. He removed his diamond and gold cufflinks, slipping them into one of his trouser pockets, and folded his sleeves meticulously up to his elbows. He sat down on the chair so recently vacated by Theresa and forced himself to look down into her unconscious face.

It was just Bobbi. He nearly laughed his relief out loud. He didn’t know what he had expected, but this short-haired, golden-skinned, sleeping urchin stirred no desire in him—no crazy, ill-advised lust. Nothing close to it. He felt fondness, affection, even love. Every insipid emotion associated with platonic friendship one could hope for. No desire. None at all.

He shook his head, unable to keep the grin from his face.

“Thank Christ for that,” he whispered. He could only conclude that he’d been more affected by his dance with the stunning Rosalie De Lucci than he’d known. It was past time for him to form a new relationship. His last one had ended months ago and he’d been celibate ever since. The lack of sex seemed to be manifesting itself in seriously weird and unanticipated ways.

He linked his fingers and rested them on his torso before dropping his head back on the cushioned chair. He mentally inventoried all the single women he knew, with the intention of calling one or two of them up soon for some sexy times, and fell asleep in the middle of his strategizing.


Something—some small, rodent-type creature—had died in her mouth. Why else would the latter taste so putrid and feel so furry? And some cruel prankster had glued her eyelids together, because she couldn’t seem to open her eyes.

She groaned and the small sound set a tsunami of pain into motion in her head. Even with her eyes closed it felt like the room was spinning, and the vertiginous sensation made her feel sick to her stomach. She was almost certain she was going to vomit. She gritted her teeth and breathed through her nose, trying to quell the nausea.

Was she ill?

“Bobbi?” Even though the word was whispered, it sounded like a gunshot in the silence and she winced.

“Gabe?” she whimpered, managing to unstick her eyelids at last and peer at him. The room was dim, with only one wall lamp spilling the barest amount of light across half of his face. “I’m sick.”

“Have a sip of this water,” he instructed, and his neutral tone set her mind at ease. He slid a hand beneath her neck and gently helped her sit up. She tensed, and shut her eyes again, trying to keep her breathing deep and steady.

“You need to puke?” he asked gruffly. She shook her head and clamped a hand over her mouth.

“Give me a second,” she groaned from behind her hand. “I’m okay.”

“Come on, drink the water.” He held a glass up and she took it in both of her trembling hands. He closed his own hand over hers to keep the glass steady and guided it to her lips. She took a sip, then another, and then realized that she had a raging thirst and gulped the rest down eagerly.

-- Advertisement --