Gabe and Max were so focused on each other they barely noticed when she shakily made her way to her feet. The other players were all too caught up in the unfolding drama of Gabe and Max squaring off to pay much attention to her. She always felt like a little person in the land of giants when she stood amongst all of them like this. It didn’t help that she found herself practically sandwiched between Gabe and Max. They were the tallest guys there.

The men were both bristling with outrage and an overabundance of testosterone, and Bobbi hissed impatiently before placing a small, restraining hand on each of their chests. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as her hands settled onto equally sweat-soaked T-shirts and tried not to appreciate the well-defined musculature of the chests beneath the revoltingly wet shirts. Especially not Gabe’s; she was trying very hard not to appreciate Gabe’s chest too much. It felt like every time she took one step forward she took about eighty-seven steps back.


“I’m fine,” she asserted firmly, trying very hard not to sound wheezy, knowing that it would set Gabe off again. He looked down at her and his eyes went flat with fury.

“Damn it,” he gritted. “She’s bleeding.”

“I am?” she asked blankly, hesitantly reaching up to touch her face. She blanched when her fingers came away covered in blood. “Oh my God, I am!” Bobbi was tough and could withstand quite a lot of things, but she couldn’t stomach the sight of her own blood. Anybody else’s? Sure! Her own? Not at all.

She swayed woozily and Gabe reached out a hand to steady her. He ducked his head to peer into her eyes intently.

“Take a deep breath,” he advised, and she complied with a shallow gasp.

“Deep breath, Bobbi,” he repeated authoritatively. Nope. She couldn’t get her lungs to work and she swayed again, as black dots swirled in front of her eyes. God, how embarrassing! She felt like she was about to faint. She vaguely wondered how she knew that, when she had never fainted in her life before. Gabe swore beneath his breath and shifted one of his arms to her back and the other to the back of her thighs before hefting her up to his chest like a sack of potatoes. He carried her to the sidelines, where the other women had all anxiously gathered around and lowered her gently to the grass.

“Oh my God, Gabriel, is she okay?” Bobbi blinked up into the worried faces around her, recognizing the voice as Theresa’s. Her friend knelt down on the grass beside her and pressed a towel to the profusely bleeding cut on Bobbi’s eyebrow.

“She’s fine,” Gabe reassured. “The sight of her own blood makes her a bit queasy.” Of course he would know that embarrassing fact about her.

“Take care of her, will you?” Gabe handed her care over with one last grim look down at her before trotting back out onto the field.

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Theresa sucked in a shocked breath, and Bobbi looked up at her in alarm. Was the cut worse than it seemed? Was that why her friend seemed so appalled? But Theresa wasn’t even looking at her; the other woman’s eyes were fixed on something on the field. Bobbi watched as her friend cringed and followed the direction of her stare to whatever was happening out on the field. The guys were all huddled in a tight circle, and Bobbi couldn’t quite make sense of what was going on.

“What’s happening?” she asked, her injury forgotten.

“Gabe and Max just got into a bit of a shoving match.” Theresa, usually so kind and gentle, seemed to find that fact hilarious.

“Oh my God. That idiot,” Bobbi moaned, pushing herself up unsteadily before standing up on wobbly legs. Theresa held on to her arm, obviously afraid Bobbi would lose her balance. She shook off the remnants of her dizziness like a dog shaking off water and marched purposefully back onto the field.

The other guys had managed to separate the two men and Gabe was standing off to the side with Sandro. He was still glaring at an unconcerned Max, who was ignoring him and calmly chatting with Chase. It was clear from the handsome Italian’s stance that Sandro was trying to keep Gabe calm.

“Sandro, would you excuse us please?” Bobbi planted herself between the two men, and Sandro shrugged.

“I’ll get the grill started. I think maybe my Theresa is hungry. I say this match is probably over.”

“Yeah, getting the braai started is a good idea. I doubt any of us are in the mood to finish this game,” Bobbi agreed, and Sandro walked off to where Theresa stood waiting for him.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Bobbi turned on Gabe, who was watching her with a moody expression on his face. His brow lowered at the sight of the blood on her forehead and the rapidly forming bruise on the left side of her face. Bobbi knew she looked awful but wished that fact wasn’t so clearly reflected in his disgusted expression.

“Look at you,” he muttered. “Just look at the state of you! How am I supposed to even consider having a real relationship with a woman who wears overalls to work, hasn’t styled her hair in years, never wears makeup, and has grease under her fingernails? And then there’s this tendency of yours to get into the weirdest bloody situations. You get hurt and bruised and scuffed up. How am I supposed to deal with that, for God’s sake? I can’t keep you insulated against the entire world. I just can’t. How would you fit into my life? Where would I even put you?” The words were despairing and made no sense to Bobbi. She was just so astonished by this meltdown from a man who was used to keeping his cool. “I need someone else, someone who knows how to dress and handle herself in public, someone who won’t show up at events with questionable bruises . . .”

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