He didn’t know what was going on with him. He had never felt more lost and confused than he did at this moment. He was still standing in the middle of the football field and staring off in the direction Bobbi had taken. Kyle Foster had gone with her. He felt irrationally angry about that. Who did that guy think he was? He blindly moved to follow them, but Chase moved into his path. His brother’s stance was nonconfrontational but immovable, nonetheless, with arms crossed over his chest and legs braced shoulder length apart.
“I have to . . .”
“No, Gabe. You’re not thinking rationally and whatever it is you’re planning to do right now will most likely be ill-advised. Let her go for now.”
“I hurt her,” Gabe confessed helplessly. “I tried so hard not to hurt her but I did anyway.”
“I know,” Chase said, and his body language changed, softened. His hands dropped to his sides and his chest heaved.
“What the hell do I do now?” Gabe asked, and Chase hooked a hand around the back of Gabe’s neck and tugged him closer until his mouth was next to his brother’s ear.
“You leave her alone until you figure that out,” Chase advised—his voice a low growl. “And if you can’t figure it out, then you let her go.”
The Corvette looked amazing and she handled like a dream. Bobbi stood back and examined the grand old dame with misty eyes. Jason would be picking her up in half an hour, and Bobbi felt like a parent sending her child off to school for the first time. Her proud sense of accomplishment was accompanied by a bittersweet pang of loss. She had put so much into this project, both financially and emotionally.
It had helped keep her mind off Gabe, who hadn’t called, e-mailed, or SMS’d since that awful night nearly two weeks before. Bobbi couldn’t believe that she hadn’t seen or spoken to him in so long. She felt so empty, like she was missing a piece of her soul. The longest they had gone without speaking before had been a week and that had been because Gabe had been in a part of Africa that had little to no cell-phone reception and dodgy Internet connections.
She saw Chase quite often, but even that was starting to get painful because he was looking healthier by the day, which meant that he and Gabe were starting to look identical again. Even though Bobbi hadn’t ever confused one for the other, the physical resemblance was still hard to deal with. She tried her best not to let Chase see how much it hurt her sometimes to look at him.
She wiped away a smudge on the car’s gleaming red bonnet, talking to it all the while.
“He has promised to take really good care of you this time. He’ll take you out on lovely scenic drives, and he’ll have you washed and serviced regularly. I know you’re scared that he’ll just leave you to gather more rust and dust, but when he sees you he’s going to fall in love with you. I promise.”
“Boss?” She turned around to see Pieter, fully recovered from his unfortunate case of measles. He was slouching as usual with his hands shoved into his overall pockets.
“You have a phone call.” He jerked his head toward her office, and Bobbi gave the Corvette one last polish before retreating to her office. She had managed to clear some of the paperwork off her desk over the past few weeks—one of the very few perks of having a broken heart.
“Bobbi Richmond,” she greeted absently, preoccupied as she remembered that she had wanted to check the radiator hose on the Corvette one final time. She was sure that it was fine but even new hoses could be flawed and Bobbi was a perfectionist when it came to her work.
“Hello, Bobbi.” She was so busy hunting for a pen to write down a reminder to check the hose that the voice didn’t register at first. When it did, she forgot all else and sank down into her ancient office chair, her legs suddenly losing their ability to support her.
“Gabe,” she murmured. She wasn’t sure how else to respond.
“How are you?” he asked, his voice revealing absolutely nothing of what he was feeling.
“I’m good. Busy.” There was a long pause.
“I wanted to ask you something,” he said, only after the silence had stretched past the point of painfully awkward. There was more excruciating silence as he waited for a response from her. She swallowed and refused to make this any easier for him than it had to be.
“Uh . . . anyway. I was wondering if you would do me the honor . . . I mean, if you would grace me . . .” His voice faded away and her eyebrows leapt up into her hairline, she was so stunned by his uncharacteristic lack of eloquence. He cleared his throat. “I was hoping you’d go to the Valentine’s Day event . . . with me.” The words emerged on one breath and practically merged together he said them so swiftly.
Bobbi’s jaw had dropped and she wasn’t quite sure she had heard him correctly.
“What?” she asked unsteadily.
“Will you go the Valentine’s Day Ball with me?” he repeated, his voice more measured now but still with a slight wobble. Bobbi’s fingers tightened around the receiver uncertainly.
“Why are you doing this?” she whispered, her throat tight with tears.
“I . . . miss you. I want you back in my life. I want us to, you know, do it right this time and . . .”
“No.” She interrupted whatever he’d been about to say, her voice vehement. “I don’t want to hear any more about what you want, Gabe. I can’t go to the ball with you. I have a date. And even if I didn’t have a date . . . I wouldn’t have gone with you.” She paused for a moment to allow that to sink in. “I have to go. I’m busy right now.”