“Uh, hey yourself,” she replied.
“You ready for lunch? I’m starving. My good friend here, the mechanical genius Sean, tells me that my car is all fixed and ready to go.” He completely ignored the flabbergasted Ms. Simms, whose jaw was gaping unbecomingly.
“Nearly ready, I just need to finish up with my client,” she said, and he grinned before releasing her reluctantly.
“I apologize for the lack of professionalism, Ms. Simms,” Bobbi told the woman smoothly. “I assure you, we at Richmond’s Auto Repair Shop usually maintain the highest standards of professionalism. My . . .”
“Boyfriend,” Gabe supplied helpfully, and Bobbi blushed, trying not to smile.
“He doesn’t work here.” Jeez, like that wasn’t obvious. “So please allow me to show you to your replacement vehicle.”
After Bobbi had waved the woman off, she turned to Gabe and put her hands on her hips.
“That was completely . . . ,” she began sternly but sighed when he kept smiling sweetly at her. “Just forget it. But don’t do it again.”
“Don’t do what again? Kiss you? I’m afraid I can’t make that promise, sweetheart,” he teased, and the other guys chuckled.
“What are you three laughing at? Get back to work.”
“Yes, boss.” Sean, the smart arse, snapped to attention and actually saluted. Pieter and Craig just grinned and went back to their respective tasks.
Gabe followed Bobbi into her office, where she peeled off her overalls and cleaned her face, arms, and hands. When she looked back at Gabe, it was to find him staring at her with some pretty intense heat in his eyes.
“I love watching you strip off those overalls,” he groaned. “It’s always so damned sexy seeing you reveal more and more skin—it’s like witnessing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon.” It was such an absurdly flattering thing for him to say that Bobbi was completely taken aback for a moment.
“One day,” he continued huskily. “You’re gonna do a private striptease just for me. You’re going to peel away that outer layer to ever-so-slowly reveal your soft, naked skin beneath it.”
“Naked skin?” she repeated, her voice embarrassingly husky as she fought to control her arousal.
“Naked, or maybe in some hot lingerie—God even those plain cotton boy shorts you fancy will do. I’m not picky. It’s the execution and what I plan to do to you afterward that count.” His breath was coming just a bit faster and he shifted his stance in a way that told her he was as physically affected by his words as she was. His eyes dropped to her chest and she resisted the urge to cross her arms over her hard nipples. A smug smile flirted with his lips.
“Told you to start wearing bras,” he murmured, and she scowled at him before shaking her head and tossing his car keys at him.
“Let’s go,” she said bossily, and led the way out. She could feel his eyes on her butt all the way to his car and put a deliberate wiggle in her walk. She grinned when she heard him groan. Two could play this game.
Just before they walked into Manny’s, Gabe deliberately took Bobbi’s hand in his.
“I want them to know that you’re with me,” he said in response to her questioning look. He couldn’t quite decipher her expression, but she squeezed his hand, took a deep breath, and walked into the pub with him close behind.
Because it was a weekday, most of the usual crowd wasn’t there—which disappointed Gabe slightly. Still, there were enough recognizable faces around to ensure that word about him and Bobbi would get out. At first nobody seemed to pay any attention to the hand-holding, and figuring that a more drastic course of action was required, he looped an arm around her shoulders as they made their way to an empty table and dropped a kiss onto the curve of her neck. That caused a few speculative glances to be cast their way, but nobody seemed to think too much about it.
“Unless you plan to throw me down on the floor and ravish me in full view of everybody here, nobody’s really going to figure it out for a while yet,” Bobbi said dryly, her tone alive with amusement. Gabe heaved a frustrated sigh and acknowledged the truth in her words with a nod.
They sat down and he unconsciously started rearranging the condiments. He caught himself in the middle of moving the pepper to the spot he preferred and stopped, after their conversation the night before he was suddenly self-conscious about the habit.
Bobbi’s smile was gentle and filled with understanding. She reached over and pushed the pepper grinder toward its spot next to the salt grinder with her finger.
“That’s where it goes, right?” she asked softly after she had inched it into place, and he nodded jerkily in reply. He slowly lined up the sugar and toothpicks as well before sitting back and watching her. She had her elbows on the table and her chin resting in her palms and was staring down at the menu like it was the first time she’d ever seen it.
When their server came over, she ordered a beer and pork chops with mashed potatoes.
“I’ll have the fish and chips,” Gabe said, and Bobbi’s head snapped up.
“What did you just order?” she asked after the server had left.
“Fish and chips,” he muttered, feeling embarrassed again. Even the server had given him a shocked look before leaving their table.
“But . . . why?”
“I can change, you know?” he said defensively. “I do like trying new things that are out of my comfort zone.”
“Oh, Gabe,” she breathed. “I know that. You don’t have to prove anything to me.”