He got as far as the parking lot and then stood there, feeling lost when he realized that he had no car. He looked around at the sea of cars gleaming in the parking lot and caught a glimpse of his reflection in one of the windows. He was covered in blood. His face, his chest, his hands . . . Oh God! He leaned over, bracing his hand on one of the cars, and brought up his breakfast, and even after he had emptied his stomach completely, he just couldn’t stop heaving.

“Gabe?” It was Chase.


“I’m covered in blood,” he said, hearing a faint edge of panic in his voice. “Th-there was so much blood, Chase. I thought she would die right there in front of me. And do you know the only thing I could think about? Do you?”

“What was it?” Chase asked quietly.

“Me,” Gabe said, his voice rife with self-disgust. “All I could think of was how empty my life would be without her. How much I’d miss her. How I hadn’t even told her . . .” A despairing sob escaped from his lips and he fought for control. “I hadn’t even told her I loved her for God’s sake! What kind of man am I?”

“You’re a man in love,” Chase said simply, and another sob hitched from Gabe’s throat. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. And Bobbi is going to be fine. You still have the opportunity to tell her how you feel.”

“Do you think she’ll marry me?” Gabe asked uncertainly, and Chase studied him intently before dragging him into a warm hug.

“I’m not the one you should be asking that question, baby brother,” Chase told him.

Bobbi opened her eyes and blinked for a confused instant, not sure where she was. She had gotten used to waking up in Gabe’s bed and this certainly wasn’t his room. It was bright and clinical and smelled vaguely antiseptic. There were balloons everywhere and flowers. If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was in a hospital. But why would she be in a hospital?

“Hey, you’re awake.” She turned her head to see Billy sitting in an uncomfortable-looking chair beside the bed. He got up and shocked the heck out of her by dropping a kiss on her forehead.

“What’s going on?”

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He frowned. “You don’t remember?”

She shook her head.

“You had an accident in your shop and stabbed yourself . . . dumbo.” His words were teasing but his eyes were serious.

“Oh yes, I remember the blood. I felt so dizzy at the sight of it, there was just so much of it and you know how I feel about my own blood. Surely they didn’t rush me to hospital because I fainted? Was this Gabe’s doing? He tends to overreact when I get hurt.”

“You nearly died, Runt,” Billy said somberly, and then stunned her by bursting into tears. It was that macho crying of a strong man, where every sob capitulated looked like an epic internal struggle of good versus evil and every tear shed was very reluctantly surrendered. It was all the more powerful because of how short-lived it was—the macho always won out in the end.

“I don’t understand,” she confessed. “What do you mean I nearly died?”

“The damned chisel thing nicked a vein and nearly sliced your femoral artery. If that had happened you would have bled out on your shop floor. As it was you merely bled like a stuck pig on your shop floor,” he elaborated.

Bobbi was stunned. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “Gabe?” He hated it so much when she got minor scrapes and bruises that he must have lost it completely to have her nearly die right in front of him.

“He was a wreck.” Billy confirmed her worst fears. “Fast thinking enough to tie a tourniquet around your leg though. He and Craig probably saved, if not your life, then a large quantity of your blood for sure.”

“How long have I been here?” she asked.

“About eight hours. Now I can’t hog all your time. Dad will want to see you, and Ed and Clyde have been waiting their turns as well.”

What about Gabe? Surely he wanted to see her too?

In the end just about everybody she knew had come to visit her, but by the time she was released the following day, Gabe still hadn’t been to see her. Chase had told her to give his brother some time to get over the horrifying experience, but that had pissed her off, since she had been the victim of the so-called “horrifying experience.”

She was none the worse for wear after her short stint in the hospital, and Clyde, who was really her nicest brother, carried her up to her room. Edward was so self-righteous sometimes and Billy could often be intolerable, but Clyde, despite the terrible things often said about lawyers, was sweet and rarely got on her nerves. He stayed with her for a while after depositing her on her bed and then left her to her moody thoughts.

Why hadn’t Gabe come to see her? Was he angry with her after what had happened? He could be so weird about stuff like this sometimes, like when he’d been furious with her for being injured during that football game.

She sighed and picked up her cell phone to check for messages. Nothing.

She missed him, the idiot. She just hoped that he didn’t let this incident scare him off again.

She was staring broodingly at her wall a couple of hours later. She was sick of TV, which had nothing much to offer in the form of entertainment and had already called the shop a half dozen times to make sure the guys weren’t slacking off. Of course they weren’t. She trusted her guys to do their jobs and knew that Craig would keep an eye on things. So that left her with nothing to do but brood about Gabe and all the possible reasons he could have not to call.

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