“He’s inside,” Chase told her, and she rolled her eyes, hating how obvious she was. “He’s waiting for Sandro. Everybody else is here. Except Billy, who called to say he’d be a bit late.”
“Did he say wh—” She stopped mid-word when she caught sight of Gabe exiting the house with Sandro and Theresa in tow. He had his arm wrapped around Rosalie De Lucci’s slender shoulders, and Bobbi felt like she took a blow to her solar plexus. She fought to catch her breath and couldn’t take her eyes off the gorgeous couple.
Bobbi hadn’t given the other woman any further thought after last Saturday. When the stunning woman hadn’t been at the girls’ night out, Bobbi had assumed that Rosalie De Lucci had returned to Italy. But no, here she was, showing up again like the proverbial bad penny. Gabe had his head bent toward hers, giving her his full attention as she said something to him.
“What’s wrong?” Chase asked, following the direction of her gaze. She was vaguely aware of him tensing beside her. “Who the hell is that?”
“Sandro’s sister, Rosalie,” she supplied, her voice sounding hollow even to her own ears. Theresa and Sandro finally reached the gathering beside the stands and everybody shouted out friendly greetings. Sandro was toting their sleeping toddler on his hip, he had his free arm around his wife’s waist, and he drew her in for a hug and a kiss before transferring the baby to her.
“Go on,” Theresa prompted her husband with a laugh. “Run. Be free.” Sandro grinned and jogged onto the field lazily, doing a series of stretches along the way. Like Gabe, he tended to take football more seriously than Bryce and Max did.
Bobbi couldn’t drag her eyes away from Gabe and Rosalie though. They had paused halfway to the field, and he was brushing her hair off her brow with a grin. The wind kept catching the silky strands and blowing it back into her face, so Gabe was fighting a losing battle. They looked like the cover of a romance novel standing there, leaning into each other with the wind in her hair and the backlights from the house delineating their shapes in silver. Bobbi would never look that perfect standing next to him. People would constantly wonder what he was doing with her. With Rosalie De Lucci they’d only nod and think, Of course those two are together.
She felt Chase’s arm creep around her waist and she leaned against his solid frame, needing the support.
“I don’t know what the hell that’s about,” Chase murmured in her ear. “But it’s probably not what it looks like. Turn away, before he sees that look on your face. You look like a woman who’s just had her heart ripped out of her chest.”
How apt. Since that was how she felt. She allowed him to turn her toward the field and watched the men warm up. Some of them, like Sandro, Vuyo, Pierre, and Rafael Dante looked almost professional, while the rest goofed around, kicking the ball to and fro and bantering while they did it.
“Let’s go get warmed up,” Chase suggested, and she nodded, needing to find some way to distract herself from the fact that Gabe still hadn’t joined them on the field. She maintained such total focus on her running and stretching that she barely noticed when someone came up to jog beside her until he spoke.
“I’m glad you’re here.” His voice made her break stride and stumble. She would have fallen if he hadn’t reached out to steady her.
“Gabe, I’m surprised you were able to drag yourself from Rosalie De Lucci’s side,” she said, and then winced at how bitter she sounded. She had promised herself she wouldn’t say anything but there she was putting her foot in her mouth again. She self-consciously wiped her sweaty face on the shoulder of her T-shirt before realizing how completely unsexy that must have looked. Especially in comparison with the ever-fresh, ever-polished Rosalie De Lucci.
“Don’t be childish, Bobbi. Rosalie is a friend and a very nice woman on top of that.” And he obviously found her attractive.
“You think she’s beautiful though.”
“Because she is,” he said impatiently, clearly done with the conversation. “You’ve been warming up for a while, the guys are ready to play.” He nodded toward the group of tall men standing in the middle of the field, and she felt her face flush in embarrassment. “Billy isn’t here yet, so Chase is subbing for whichever team picks him.”
She nodded brusquely and jogged toward the waiting group, leaving him standing there. When he joined them seconds later, the team captains, Sandro and Gabe, flipped a coin to see who would have first pick of the players. Gabe won and immediately picked Bobbi. She didn’t know how she felt about that; he’d never picked her first before. Neither of the men ever had. She wasn’t the strongest player, but she made up for it with speed and agility. Still the guys usually chose the bigger men first and the last choice always came down to Max and Bobbi, and she generally always got picked before poor Max.
They were well into the first half of the game when Billy came jogging out of the house and toward the field. He was followed by Jason, who joined their football game only occasionally and . . . Bobbi stopped so abruptly that she got a ball kicked straight in the face. The impact made her reel for a second, before she actually lost her footing and sank down on her butt. The game came to a halt as everybody gathered around her to check if she was okay. Gabe muscled his way through the huddled men and went down on his haunches in front of her, looking pale and shaken.
“Are you okay?” he asked in an unsteady voice, wincing as he reached out to touch the enflamed skin of her cheek. Bobbi grimaced and shied away from his hand before he could make contact. She didn’t want him touching her in front of an audience because—despite the stinging pain—she knew that she would totally embarrass herself by leaning into his touch.