“Yep.” He pushed away from her car. “And I’m driving.”

“What?” She lowered her keys.

“I’m going to go with you.” He stepped in front of her, blocking out the early morning sun. “Quality friend time.”

Nikki’s brows furrowed together. “I know I’ve already asked you this, but I’m going to ask you again. Are you high?”

His laugh startled her again, because it was another real laugh. He moved and before she could figure out what he was doing, he snatched the keys out from between her fingers and took her hand. Stunned, she let him lead her over to his much newer and much nicer car.

A Porsche.

Which kind, she had no idea, but she knew she could probably lease an apartment for several years for the cost of one. A really nice apartment. He only let go of her hand to open the passenger door for her. She didn’t get in. “What are you doing, Gabe?”

“Pretty sure we just had that conversation. You’re going to the shelter, the one out on Jefferson Highway?”

“Yes, but—”

“I’m going to go with you.”

“Why would—”

“They always need volunteers, right?”

“Yes, but you haven’t filled out any of their applications.”

“They would turn me away?” A half grin appeared as he gestured at the front seat. “A de Vincent?”

They most definitely wouldn’t turn away a de Vincent, but that wasn’t the point. “Look, I get you want to prove we’re going to be friends forever, but this isn’t necessary.”

“With the way the sarcasm dripped from your voice, this is necessary,” Gabe replied, and she rolled her eyes. “And I honestly don’t have anything else to do. I’m up. Want to feel helpful and shit, and the longer you stand here and argue with me, the later you’re going to be.”

A thousand retorts rose onto the tip of her tongue, but he was right. The longer she took here, the longer those dogs would have to wait before they got out of their kennels.

She couldn’t help but think he was up to something, but she figured the moment he realized he had to clean up after the dogs, he was probably going to regret this choice.

So, Nikki smiled brightly and then slipped past him, sliding into the front seat of the car. “Fine. Let’s go.”

Honest to God, Gabe had no idea why he was going with her to the shelter. He figured there were easier, less involved ways for him to prove he was serious about wanting to make amends, but he guessed when he really thought about it, it had been the doubt and wariness in her voice and eyes.

Nikki hadn’t believed him, and he really couldn’t blame her for that. So, he was a little surprised that she relented. He half expected her to gut punch him, take her keys, and run off to her car. Something she would’ve done when she was younger.

Her accepting his presence rather easily and her silence left him a little unnerved, but there was something he still wanted to talk to her about.

As he pulled away from the curb, he glanced over at her. She was pulling a pair of sunglasses out of her purse. “Lucian’s home,” he said. “You haven’t had a chance to meet Julia yet.”

“No.” She slipped her sunglasses on.

“You’ll like her.”

Nic glanced over at him. A moment passed. “Have to admit, I was shocked when I heard he was in a serious relationship. I was not expecting that.”

Gabe chuckled as he slowed at the stoplight. “Pretty sure no one was expecting that, but he really lucked out with Julia. She’s a good woman.”

“Nothing like Sabrina?” she asked.

He snorted. “Leagues above her.”

Nic smiled at that. “That’s a relief.”

The light turned green. “So Lucian and I were talking last night and he told me something that happened when you were younger. He said he walked in on you and Parker in the pool house?”

“What?” She drew back, pressing against the leather seat. “He did, but I—”

“I know.” Gabe thought he probably could’ve broached this subject better. “Lucian didn’t insinuate that you were welcoming of anything.” He paused, asking what he knew he needed to even if he wasn’t sure how he’d handle the answer. “Did Parker . . . try something with you?”

Nic was quiet for so long, he glanced over at her. She was staring down at her hands. They were balled into tight fists.

His stomach clenched. “Nic?”

She lifted her chin. “He walked in on me when I was getting changed and he got . . . friendly.”

Muscles locked up along his spine as he focused on the road. Another red light. “Friendly?”

“He grabbed me and tried—” She cut herself off.

“Tried what?” he prodded softly, the steering wheel creaking under his grip.

Nic twisted in the seat toward him. “Is that why you came over this morning? Because Lucian told you about Parker?”

“No.” He didn’t hesitate. “I came over to apologize for being a dick.”


His jaw locked as he stared at the light. They’d only made it about two blocks from her house. “And yeah, I wanted to ask you about Parker. Just so you know, those two things are not mutually exclusive.”

She didn’t respond as she straightened in her seat.

Gabe sighed. “Are you going to tell me what happened, Nic?”

“He was being a creep like usual,” she said finally, her voice tight. “Telling me I was really becoming pretty and hitting on me. It was weird and gross, and . . .”

“And what?”

“Nothing else. Lucian walked in.”

Gabe wasn’t sure if he believed her or not. “I’m sorry that happened. Wish you would’ve said something. I would’ve taken care of it. Made sure he never looked in your direction once. Nic, I—”

It sounded like a gunshot, cutting Gabe off. Nic shrieked as Gabe’s gaze snapped to the passenger window. A crack splintered and then glass exploded.

Chapter 12

Nikki threw her hands up, shielding her face, but she was too late. Tiny shards of glass smacked off her cheeks and sunglasses, raining down on her.

“Christ!” Gabe jerked the steering wheel to the right, and Nikki threw out her hands, pulling them back a half a second before slamming them on the glass-covered dashboard. “What the hell?” he thundered as the car jerked to a halt. “Nic!”

Heart pounding, she slowly opened her eyes. “Holy shit,” she whispered.

The passenger window was gone, like the Hulk got all Hulk-smash and punched his fist through it. Hands shaking, she started to lower her arms, but locked up when she saw her lap was covered in glass. How . . . how was this possible?

“Are you okay?” he demanded again.

“Yeah,” she whispered, pretty sure she was okay even though she had no idea how.

“Don’t move,” Gabe ordered, and he didn’t need to tell her that twice. She was frozen. Having managed to stop the car in the one open spot along the narrow street, he threw open the door and was out.

She had no idea what had happened. They were just driving along and then bam! Glass shooting everywhere! Obviously someone had to have thrown something but she didn’t see anyone running.

Kids throwing rocks at cars happened. Hell, sometimes they stood on overpasses and dropped them, but her parents’ neighborhood was quiet. Things like this didn’t happen.

The passenger door yanked open, and suddenly, there Gabe was, kneeling beside her. The sunglasses were shoved up. Concern was etched into his striking face. “You sure you’re okay?” he repeated himself. “Nic?”

Was she? She swallowed. “Yeah. I think so? I mean, I don’t feel any pain.”

“That’s good—that’s real good.” Relief colored his tone as he gently took ahold of her sunglasses, pulling them off. His gaze crawled over her face as he placed her sunglasses on the ground. “Jesus, Nic.” His voice rough. “I have no idea how you’re not even scratched.”

She didn’t either.


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