His Unlikely Lover (Unwanted #3)(10)

By: Natasha Anders

He was her complete opposite in every way, and she knew that he would never belong to her. They were friends who came from similar backgrounds but occupied totally different worlds. As she joined Theresa and Lily at the patio table, she knew that it was time to let the fantasy of any kind of romantic involvement with Gabriel Braddock go—and it broke her heart.

“Are you okay?” Theresa whispered, and knowing that Theresa was asking about more than her physical condition, Bobbi shook her head. She reached for Lily’s chubby little hand and lifted it to her mouth for a kiss, disguising the flash of tears in her eyes.

“Oh Bobbi . . . ,” Theresa murmured, trying to hide the distress on her face. “I’m so sorry.”

Lisa ambled over to the table and grinned at them, but the smile faded immediately when she discerned something was wrong.

“What’s up?” she asked in concern, as she sat down next to Bobbi.

“We can talk about it later. Tomorrow maybe, at our girls’ night?” Theresa said, the mere suggestion telling Bobbi that the other woman was aware of how close to the proverbial edge Bobbi was. They usually had their girls’ nights on a Saturday but rescheduled to Sunday because of the party. Lisa nodded but remained by Bobbi’s side, seeming to sense how much her friend needed the emotional bolstering. She started chatting about the party and her wry observations about some of the guests soon had Theresa in stitches and even coaxed a smile or two from Bobbi.

She tried not to notice that Rosalie De Lucci was in the lounger next to Gabe’s, tried to ignore the way he’d occasionally lean over to say something to the bikini-clad woman, and tried not to cringe when he laughed at something the woman had said. But all the not noticing was taking an emotional toll on her and she excused herself with a bright, completely fake smile about an hour later—saying she needed another nap before lunch. It was obvious that neither Theresa nor her cousin believed her, but they let her go.

Gabe surreptitiously watched Bobbi leave. She hadn’t so much as glanced at him this morning, while it had been all he could do not to openly study her. She had been wearing the tiniest black bikini he’d ever seen. Nothing fancy, just a simple string bikini that sent his blood pressure soaring and made him infinitely grateful that his board shorts were baggy. It clung to her perfect body in all the right places, and he had found himself fantasizing about untying the bows at her shoulders to reveal those sweet, pert breasts to his gaze.

God, so much for hoping things would be back to normal this morning.

She had spent an hour talking to Theresa and Lisa as if everything was perfect in her world, while he felt like his own life had just taken the turn into crazy town. It bothered him that she hadn’t touched the buffet laid out in the chafing dishes on the other side of the pool. She needed to eat and stay hydrated. She hadn’t even had a glass of juice.

His conflicting desires to take care of her or throw her on the nearest flat surface and bury himself in her were confusing to say the least, and he felt like he had lost his mind somewhere between last night and this morning. He slowly became aware of Rosalie De Lucci leaning toward him and recognized that the high note, which had entered her melodic voice, signified a question. He had been so absorbed by his thoughts that he hadn’t heard a word of what she’d been saying.

“Pardon me?” he prompted, focusing his attention back on the lovely woman lounging beside him.

“I asked if you were okay? You seemed preoccupied.”

“I’m fine . . .” He nodded, glad that the sunglasses hid the lie in his eyes. He was so far from fine it was ridiculous. He wasn’t sure if he should talk to Bobbi about what had happened the night before or if he should leave it alone. This situation didn’t lend itself to any of the usual precedents. Any other woman and he would have known how to deal with the situation—acknowledge the attraction and do something about it. Despite knowing Bobbi better than most other people, he didn’t know her as a sexual being and it terrified him that he was suddenly so acutely aware of everything that made her female and desirable.

Sandro and Rick had headed toward the grill and were getting the fire started for the braai. Bryce and Max drifted over to the fire, as men tended to do at barbecues the world over, and a lively conversation about cricket started up before Sandro deftly diverted the conversation to his favorite sport and the men began to argue about the day’s forthcoming Italian Premier League football matches. Gabe made his excuses to Rosalie, who had flipped over onto her stomach and seemed to be snoozing beneath the warm sun, and pushed himself off the lounger to join the men—thinking that the distraction would be exactly what he needed. But after standing there for a few minutes, watching Sandro stoke the fire while Rick, his deaf brother, Bryce, and Max were engaged in a half-spoken, half-signed conversation about exactly how hot the coals should be before the meat went on the grill, Gabe found himself wandering away from the intense huddle of nouveau cavemen and toward the table where the women—who had been joined by Bronwyn—were sitting. They all looked up at the same time at his approach, making him wonder uncomfortably if they’d been talking about him. He briefly considered the notion that Bobbi may have confided in them about the night before but dismissed it almost immediately. Bobbi wasn’t the type of female who had girly chats with other women about man-related problems.

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