“If you’re sure you okay, I’m heading off to bed, okay?” He waited, but she didn’t respond. “I’ll be in the next room. I’ll leave the adjoining door open. If you need anything, just let me know.” God, he hoped she wouldn’t need anything. It would be bad enough getting any sleep with that damned door open between their rooms.

“Okay,” he heard her say, the word soft and uncertain.


“Good night.”

“’Night.” Her response was faint.

He stood there for another few seconds before shaking his head and striding toward her bedroom door, collecting his jacket along the way. He was in his own room a few moments later and went straight to the adjoining door, knocking once before opening it. Her room was still empty and he heard the sound of running water coming from the en suite.

He shed his shirt and jacket hurriedly and took less care putting them away than usual. He wanted to be in bed with the lights out when she returned. He didn’t want to see her or speak to her again tonight. Everything would be back to normal in the bright light of day. It had to be . . .

He had stripped down to his trousers by the time she stepped back into her room, and the shadow her small figure cast on her bedroom wall startled him into pausing while unbuttoning his fly. His hands dropped to hang loosely at his sides. He was facing the adjoining door; his intention had been to keep an eye on her room in case she needed him, but her abrupt reappearance had caught him off guard.

She froze when she saw him and her eyes dropped to his naked chest. He swallowed audibly as her eyes tracked over his body . . . God, he could feel her gaze brushing across his skin like a brand.

“Don’t.” The word jerked from him involuntarily.

“I can’t not . . . ,” she said hoarsely, taking a small step toward him and then another and another still. He was helpless to stop her and watched her approach until she stood right in front of him. A mere handsbreadth away from him, so close he could feel her heat being absorbed into his naked skin.

“Bobbi.” He tried to instill some sense of warning in his voice, but her name on his lips sounded like a plea. His hands clenched into fists as he fought his desire to touch her.

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“You’re gorgeous,” she whispered in a reverent voice. He watched fascinatedly as she lifted a hand, and in that moment felt absolutely powerless to stop her from touching him. His breath sawed from his lungs in an uneven whoosh as the silky pads of her fingertips traced delicately from the outer edge of his left clavicle straight across to the other end of his right clavicle. Her fingers drifted down to his shoulder before scorching their way over his chest, skimming over his flat nipple in the process. He shuddered and the sound that was torn from his throat was halfway between a long groan and a sigh. The noise startled her into jerking her hand away and she peered up at him uncertainly. He almost howled in disappointment, aching to have her hand back on his skin, but not daring to touch her for fear that he’d be unable to stop until he had her naked and writhing beneath him.

Her luminous amber eyes searched his sherry-colored ones for an infinite amount of time while he tried to regulate his uneven breathing. He had no idea what she saw because she seemed to nod to herself before returning to the task at hand. Her fingertips began their agonizing exploration again and his knees nearly buckled in response as her hands fluttered to the center of his chest, exploring the texture of the fine hairs sprinkled there before following the trail down . . . past the taut ripples of his abdomen, tracing the faint circle of hair around his belly button before resuming the path even further down . . .

“No.” Unfortunately, reason reasserted itself when he discerned exactly where she was headed. He caught her hand just before it reached the fly of his trousers. He was so damned hard he was straining against his zipper and eagerly seeking her delicate touch.

“Gabe.” This time she was the one pleading.

“Go to bed, Runt, before we do something . . . ill-advised.” He used the nickname deliberately, wanting to shock them both out of this erotic haze and it worked—too well. He watched her flinch and pale and steeled himself against the pain he had caused her with his deliberate callousness. She yanked her hand from his grasp and reeled away from him.

She turned and fled, slamming the adjoining door shut and leaving a turned-on, frustrated, and confused Gabe standing in the middle of his room with one hand absently rubbing at the dull ache in the center of his chest.

He felt like a man who had just lost his best friend.

After a restless night, Bobbi felt ill-equipped to face Gabe the following morning. She had been up for hours and had listened to the house come alive outside her door. It was the first week of January, so the guests who had opted to stay the night awoke to a bright, beautiful summer morning. The plan was to have a buffet breakfast and a poolside braai for lunch, and as she listened to her friends’ cheerful chatter when they walked by her closed bedroom door all she wanted to do was curl under the nearest rock and die.

She still didn’t know what on earth had possessed her to touch him the way she had. Her only excuse was that there had been just enough alcohol left in her system to lower her inhibitions and give in to the overwhelming temptation to caress him. That was most certainly the flimsy explanation she would offer when she summoned up the guts to talk to him about it.

Bobbi knew that Gabe had vacated his room at seven thirty; she had listened to the quiet rustling coming from the other side of the wall as he had showered and dressed. The tension that had taken up residence in her neck and shoulders had only fled after she’d heard his bedroom door open and then close again. She had held her breath for what seemed like an eternity when his quiet footsteps had halted for a brief moment outside her door before moving on.