“I needed that,” he said, and she smiled at him.

“I did too. Thank you.”

“You, Roberta Richmond, are so very welcome.” He spontaneously wrapped his arms around her and gathered her up in a tight hug. She returned the hug fiercely, so happy to have him back in her arms and in her life. They still had a list of problems a mile long, but she refused to worry about them right now. She just wanted to enjoy the perfection of this moment.

Advertisement

“Have dinner with me tonight?” he asked, and she lifted her head from his chest to meet his hopeful eyes.

“Okay.” He smiled, looking relieved, and dropped another sweet kiss on her lips.

“I’ll pick you up at five thirty,” he informed before reluctantly releasing her. He turned to leave and Bobbi studied his broad back dreamily for a moment before remembering something.

“Wait!”

His wide shoulders tensed, and he slowly turned back to face her. His expression was filled with anxiety, and she wondered if he expected her to change her mind. “You need a replacement car.”

“Oh, of course.” The naked relief on his face was telling and Bobbi felt a pang in her chest at his uncertainty. They were each going to feel unsure around the other for a while yet. She hoped it was something they could overcome soon.

-- Advertisement --

“You can drive mine until yours is ready to be picked up. Sean can drop me off at home tonight.” She tugged the keys from her baggy overall pockets and tossed them at him. He caught them with a grimace of distaste. “Oh come on, she’s not that bad.”

“Bobbi, you’ve had that thing since you were eighteen,” he protested.

“And she still runs like a dream,” Bobbi lifted a challenging eyebrow and Gabe sighed. “I’ve kept her in perfect condition.”

“Fine.”

“Stop being such a snob.” She grinned. “She may not be as pretty as your Lamborghini but she’s got quirk and character.”

“I admit to finding quirk and character a lot more interesting that mere good looks these days,” he said with a warmth that left no doubt as to his sincerity.

Advertisement

Gabe’s heart melted when Bobbi’s entire face lit up like a beacon in response to his last comment. He hadn’t meant the words to be a metaphor for his changing attitude toward superficial good looks but that was certainly how she had taken it, and he found himself thinking of ways to keep that radiant smile on her face forever if he could.

After Gabe rang the doorbell at the Richmond house later that evening, he nervously smoothed down his hair, adjusted his tie, and did a breath check while waiting for someone to open the door. It wasn’t long before the door was yanked open by Billy. Gabe tried not to look too dismayed to see his friend; he hadn’t expected Billy to be visiting his family. He usually only visited Constantia on weekends. For him to be there on a Thursday night was unusual.

Billy stared at Gabe for an arrested moment before stepping aside to let him in. Gabe hadn’t seen him since that football night nearly a month ago, and he soon discovered why. Billy slammed the door shut and turned to face Gabe with a furious expression on his handsome face.

“I don’t exactly know what the hell went on between you and Bobbi that night, Gabe,” he hissed without any preliminaries. “But you hurt her and it was only because Chase asked me to back off and give you both space that I haven’t pushed the issue or kicked your arse before now! I’m warning you . . . hurt her again and, years of friendship aside, I will rearrange your face in the most painful way possible.” Billy had always had such a colorful way with words.

“I know I hurt her . . . It was never my intention to do so. You know how much she means to me,” Gabe murmured. “But I’m trying to figure this out, we both are, and I’d like to ask you to give us the opportunity to do so without any interference from you.”

“Figure what out? What exactly is going on between you?” Billy asked, and Gabe inhaled unsteadily, acknowledging that this was it—the point of no return.

“Bobbi and I are . . . um.” He coughed. “We’re dating.” Billy’s jaw dropped and he shook his head as if to clear it before gaping at Gabe in disbelief.

“You’re what?”

-- Advertisement --

“Dating.”

“What the . . . Gabe, she’s like a sister to you, man!” Billy looked horrified, repulsed, and frankly disbelieving.

“No, she’s not,” Gabe responded succinctly. “She’s not like a sister to me. At all. I don’t feel anything remotely brotherly toward her, and you’d better resign yourself to that fact before she comes down those stairs. I won’t have you making her feel uncomfortable about our relationship.”

“But I am uncomfortable with it,” Billy admitted. “It’s weird as hell. Where did this come from?”

“Damned if I know,” Gabe confessed. “But that’s how it is, so get over it and don’t even think about showing that appalled face to Bobbi.”

“Does my dad know about this?”

“Not yet.”

“How do you think he’ll feel about it?” Billy asked pointedly, and Gabe fixed a grim look on him.

“I don’t really give a damn how he feels about it or how you feel about it. This is between Bobbi and me.”

“I don’t like it,” Billy growled.

“I don’t care,” Gabe responded. “But Bobbi does . . . so try not to put unfair pressure on her, will you?”

“I’ll keep my own counsel, for Bobbi’s sake,” Billy said after a pause. “But what I said before? About rearranging your face? Forget that. You break my sister’s heart and I’ll destroy you, Gabe.”

-- Advertisement --