“And what?”

“Did he chuck his jacket over your shoulders in an attempt to hide what you were wearing from everybody else?” Lisa elaborated, and Bobbi laughed.

“Of course not.”

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“Did he look at all embarrassed to be seen with you?” Bobbi thought about Bronwyn’s question for a while before shaking her head slowly.

“So what more do you want from him? He’s clearly not ashamed of you,” Theresa said. “He wants to be seen with you.” Bobbi thought back to that afternoon when he had taken her hand before entering the pub, she’d been wearing frayed shorts and a tank top combined with a baseball cap and ankle-high biker boots. They had been the quintessential odd couple, but he hadn’t seemed to care.

“He has to present a certain image to the world,” Theresa continued. “And when it’s just the two of you, or you’re going out to the pub or hanging out with us, nobody cares about the way you’re dressed. That’s just packaging. But there will be times when your usual getup of jeans and T-shirts, or even that navy-blue dress, just won’t cut it. You’d humiliate both yourself and Gabe. Who would take him seriously in the business world if you appeared on his arm dressed like that?”

“Why should the way I dress reflect badly on him?” Bobbi asked defensively, even though she could see the sense in what Theresa was saying.

“Don’t be obtuse, Bobbi,” Bronwyn said grimly. “And stop being so damned stubborn. Obviously it would reflect badly on him; how could anybody trust a businessman with bad judgment? And that’s what it would look like to everybody else. Bad judgment if he showed up with you on his arm and you were dressed as if you were still back in your workshop.”

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable. I wouldn’t feel like myself,” Bobbi whispered.

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“That’s probably because you haven’t found anything that you like yet.” Theresa reached over to give Bobbi’s hand a supportive squeeze. “You don’t go shopping; you get the easiest things off the rack and you’re done. Wearing a dress won’t change who you are, Bobbi. It couldn’t possibly do that, it’ll merely add a bit of embellishment.”

“Why don’t we turn our girls’ night into a girls’ day tomorrow and do some shopping?” Lisa suggested, and the other women hummed their approval.

“I don’t want some Cinderella makeover,” Bobbi said in a panic and they all laughed.

“Don’t be silly,” Theresa said dismissively. “You don’t need a makeover. Don’t you know that you’re gorgeous? You just need some guidance, that’s all.”

“I’m not sure,” Bobbi said. “I have work and other stuff.”

She was nervous at the thought of a shopping trip. Shopping wasn’t her strong suit, and she had never really had another woman’s guidance when going out to buy clothing. It meant the world to her that these four women, who had become such close friends in so short a time, wanted to guide her through the process, but Bobbi really couldn’t imagine shopping being anything other than an ordeal. Still, the idea was tempting, and if anybody could turn a day of tedious shopping into something fun, it would be these four.

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“Bobbi,” Theresa said. “I promise you we will make it as painless and fun as possible. All we’re doing is finding some clothes that suit your awesome personality. I mean, what do denim shorts and T-shirts say about you, really?”

“I like comfort?” Bobbi ventured.

“Yes, but how about the fact that you have a sense of fun and an adventurous spirit too?” Theresa responded. “Clothes don’t have to be just practical, you know, and evening dresses don’t have to be intimidating, sexy sheaths. They can be fun and flirty and edgy and cool.”

“You need to stop watching Project Runway,” Bronwyn said with an eye roll.

“I just watch it for the accessories.” Theresa went to her stock-in-trade answer.

“Sure you do,” Lisa said.

“Anyway . . . we’re going shopping,” Theresa repeated

“Yes, we are,” Bronwyn confirmed, as did Alice and Lisa.

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Comprehensively outvoted, Bobbi shrugged and bowed to the inevitable.

“I guess we’re going shopping.”

Sandro was the first man, as always, to break free of the hypnotic effect of the grill, and he climbed up the bleachers to slide in behind Theresa and drag her back between his spread thighs.

“You ladies look so serious,” he observed, nuzzling Theresa’s neck in between words. “What are you talking about?”

“Girls’ stuff,” Lisa said enigmatically, smiling at her husband, who had come to join them. Bryce and Pierre soon followed Rick and all three men sat down close to their wives. That was the way it usually went. The men huddled by the grill for a while, and then the married guys would drift over to join their wives in the stands. The single men usually remained trapped by the fire’s enthralling spell. That’s why Bobbi was heartened when Gabe glanced up them, smiled when he caught her eye, and, without a backward glance to the siren song of the flames, made his way over to her. He sat down beside her and wrapped an arm around her waist until she was practically melded against him.

She leaned against him with a contented sigh and rested her hand on his thigh and her head on his shoulder. One of his hands was resting on her leg, just above her knee, and when it went down to cup her kneecap, she twisted her head to meet his eyes.

“What happened here?” he asked gruffly, gently brushing a finger across the grass burn on her knee. She had taken a tumble during the game, which he—fortunately—hadn’t seen, but she had scraped her knee pretty badly.

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