His Unlikely Lover (Unwanted #3)(2)

By: Natasha Anders

“Love often is complicated,” Theresa quipped, and Bobbi sighed as she took a sip of champagne and directed her troubled eyes back to Gabe.

“Isn’t it just?”

Gabriel Braddock reluctantly relinquished his hold on his gorgeous dance partner and let her go with a lingering kiss to the back of her hand. She was totally off-limits, of course, as his good friend’s sister. There wasn’t a chance in hell he’d indulge himself with this exotic beauty. It would create too many complications in his structured life. She wasn’t his type anyway. He preferred blondes—but this was one brunette for whom he would gladly have made an exception. He glanced over at Sandro . . . yep, the guy was staring daggers at him—so that meant Rosalie was still very much forbidden fruit. Too bad. She was charming. He always enjoyed her company and was naturally attracted to her. Still, he had managed to keep their brief interactions over the years limited to harmless flirtations.

He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets—uncaring that it ruined the cut of the garment, which was uncharacteristic for him. He liked neatness. He liked to keep his jaw smoothly shaven, his hair conservatively cut and precisely parted, and his clothes immaculately pressed and tailored to perfection. He preferred to keep things as orderly and controlled as possible. Anything else and he started to feel frayed around the edges.

He glanced around the room and spotted a familiar rumpled figure—the one bit of chaos in his otherwise well-ordered life—and made his way over to where she stood. Their friendship surprised most people who didn’t know them. They were complete opposites—Bobbi’s untidiness against his neatness and her free spirit versus his buttoned-down conservativeness—and their friendship sometimes baffled him too. He’d known her for most of his life and was used to having her around—no, more than that, he enjoyed having her around. Gabe didn’t confide in many people, but Bobbi was someone he trusted with most of his secrets. She listened to him and was his one constant. His mother and brother were preoccupied with their own lives; his father was a completely hopeless case. His other friends were mates, good for a laugh and a drink at the pub but not for sharing his deep and darkest secrets. When he worried about his brother, Chase, he knew that Bobbi would be there to listen patiently and offer words of comfort and advice. She understood him, and he appreciated that about her. He would be the first to acknowledge that he tended to take her for granted, but he couldn’t quite imagine his life without her.

He watched as she tossed back the remaining contents of a champagne flute before substituting the empty glass for a full one from a passing waiter’s tray. She was as dressed up as it was possible for Bobbi to get, wearing a shapeless navy-blue slip dress, one he had seen her in a million times before. It was her go-to party dress. It kind of skimmed her slender body, falling from thick straps on her shoulders, which seemed to have been designed to hide bra straps, to somewhere between her knees and her calves.

The dress was accompanied by clunky ankle boots that added absolutely no height to her five foot nothing frame, and the entire ensemble was topped off with some ugly plastic tribal jewelry—chunky bracelets that looked horribly out of place on her delicate wrists, a pendant that appeared to weigh heavily on her neck, and truly awful hoop earrings that seemed to tug painfully at her earlobes.

Bobbi was a tiny waif of a girl, so her ghastly outfit seemed to be wearing her. The top of her head barely came up to his chest. She had slender arms and legs, a flat chest, and no curves to speak of at all. He supposed she was okay-looking as such things went, with luminous, thickly lashed amber eyes that shone like dark gold in the sunlight, a snub nose that was crooked as a result of a childhood fall, and a perfect cupid’s bow of a mouth, which—in addition to her eyelashes—was one of the few feminine things about her. She had beautiful skin though, clear and golden, and her short, silky, straight black hair molded the elegant shape of her head.

“Hey, Runt,” he said by way of greeting, knowing that it aggravated her to be addressed as such. “You having a good time?”

“No,” she groused. “You’re supposed to dance with me.”

“I am?” He was?

“You brought me here,” she pointed out, enunciating her words carefully, the way inebriated people tended to do when they were trying to convince others of their sobriety. “You’re my date. You should dance with me.”

“I’m your date, am I?”

“Stop talking to me like I’m a child.” Her words threw him. He did tend to speak to her in the indulgent, paternal tone her dad or older brothers used on her. It was easy for all of them to lose sight of the fact that she was a woman of twenty-six with her own business.

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