Shaking her head, she walked over to the spice cabinet. It was time to change the subject. “What are you doing this weekend?”

“Working. Don’t change the subject. I want to know more about Granddad Gerald.”

“Oh my God,” she laughed, turning around completely. “I’m pretty sure Gerald is my age, so knock it off, Pappy.”

Those stunning eyes were sharp as they focused on her, and she realized in that very second, something had changed. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but her senses were firing off left and right. “Didn’t realize you were looking to be in a relationship.”

“I didn’t say I was.”

He straightened. “Then why are you going out on a date?”

She stared at him, sort of struck speechless for a good half a minute. “Why do people go out on dates, Gabe?”

“To fuck?” he answered.

Whoa. That was not exactly where she was going with that train of thought, but hearing that come out of his mouth made her feel warm in areas that did not need to feel warm. At all. “I was going to say to meet new people, but I mean, I guess if that’s what happens, it happens.”

She had no idea if that would happen, but she knew she’d need to be into Gerald for that to go down, and she hoped she was.

His head tilted to the side. “So, you’re looking for a hookup?”

“I’m not saying that I am actively seeking a hookup—”

“But you’d be down for it if Gerald is?”

“I thought we agreed on not having this conversation,” she reminded him.

“I don’t know what you think we agreed on. I want to talk about you and Gerald.” He rose from the stool and crossed the kitchen, coming straight for her. “Do you even know what he looks like?”

“Um, yeah, Rosie showed me a picture.” Her hand tightened on the bottle of cumin. “He’s cute.”

“Cute?” He stopped in front of her.

Nikki tilted her head back. “Yeah.”

“Interesting.” He stepped forward and his bare feet brushed her flats.

She pressed against the counter, still holding on to the stupid bottle of spice “I am not sure why you find any of this interesting.”

Placing his hands on either side of her hips, he dipped his chin and suddenly their mouths were lined up. She sucked in a soft breath as her heart threatened to slam its way out of her chest.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

“About to have an awkward conversation with you again.”

“And that requires you to be all up in my personal space?”

“Yes.” A small grin tipped his lips.

“I do not think that’s the case.”

He tilted his head slightly, and when he spoke, his breath danced over her lips, sending shivers down her spine. Did he realize how close their mouths were?

Better yet, was he out of his mind?

“You know what I can’t picture?” he asked.

“I guess you’re going to tell me.”

Thick lashes lowered, shielding his eyes. “I am. Ready for it? I can’t picture you hooking up with some guy named Gerald.”

How mad would he get if she threw the cumin on him? “Is it because you think I’m still little Nikki?”

“Pretty sure I stopped seeing you as little Nikki about four years ago.”

Her eyes widened. What did he just say?

“Back to my point. Do you know why I can’t picture you hooking up with some guy named Gerald?”

“Why?” she whispered.

Gabe leaned in, brushing his nose against hers. Her chest rose sharply as she sucked in air. “That right there,” he said. “That little inhale you just made. That’s why.”

A sweet and heady flush coursed down the front of her body. All she could think about was those brief moments at his workshop. Him pressed against her, his hand clenching her hip.

That had not been her imagination.

“I don’t . . . I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, swallowing hard.

“Yeah, you do.” His nose brushed hers again, sending another tight wave of shivers throughout her body, and then he pulled back. “You sure you want to go out on that date?”

What date?

Breathing heavy, she watched him step away and then turn. He picked up her smoothie and took a long drink. She was about to ask him exactly what the hell he was up to, but the sound of heels drew her attention.

Freaking Sabrina entered the kitchen.

There were few stronger wake-up calls than seeing Sabrina Harrington. Her slim figure looked absolutely elegant in a pale-blue dress that complemented her skin tone. The icy-blonde hair was coifed back behind her ears, showing off glittering diamond earrings.

Parker’s threat surfaced, and Nikki turned back to the lamb. Looking down at the spice in her hand, she wondered what the hell she planned on doing with it.

“I was looking for Devlin,” Sabrina said.

“I don’t know why you’d think Dev would be in the kitchen.” Gabe placed the smoothie on the counter.

Out of the corners of her eyes, she could see him crossing his arms as he leaned against the counter.

“Well, you’re in the kitchen, aren’t you?” Sabrina’s tone was thick and sweet like molasses.

“I live here.”

Sabrina laughed, but Nikki wasn’t sure what was so funny. “Devlin lives here, too. He could be in the kitchen.”

“You obviously don’t know the man if you think he’s in here.” Gabe’s tone was flat, like it had been when he was pestering her about the date. “Did you need help with something?”

Nikki stepped around Gabe and opened the fridge, grabbing the fresh thyme she needed to cut up.

“That’s sweet of you to offer.” Sabrina’s voice sounded closer.

Rolling her eyes as she picked up the cutting board, Nikki glanced over at Gabe. He arched a brow. Biting down on her lip to keep from smiling, she pulled the packaging off the herb. It was like she didn’t even exist in the room and that was fine by her.

“I was hoping you could help me, actually,” Sabrina said. “I brought this painting over that I wanted Devlin to hang in his office. Since I can’t find him, could you help me?”

“Did you try looking for him in his office?”

“Of course.” She laughed again, the sound grating. “I even looked for Mr. Besson, but I believe he must be on break.”

Nikki picked up the knife.

“Richard has the afternoon off.” He pushed away from the counter. “I’ll help you.”

“That’s so kind of you.”

Gabe’s arm brushed hers. “We’ll finish our conversation later.”

Nikki said nothing as she nodded, because as far as she was concerned their conversation was already over.

Because her date was something she wasn’t discussing with Gabe.

Gabe was barely listening to Sabrina prattle on about whatever painting she had in her car as they walked out the front door, to where her red BMW was parked.

“It’s in the backseat,” she was saying. “It’s a surprise for Devlin. Do you think you can hang it up for me?”

“I’ll let Dev do the hanging. It’s his office.” He was careful to keep a good foot’s worth of distance between them.

Sabrina opened the back door, and Gabe peered in. Was she for real? The painting was maybe a foot long and a foot wide. “You couldn’t carry this?”

“It’s heavier than it looks.”

He bent in, easily picking up the wrapped painting with one hand. Without saying a word, he turned and started back to the house.

Sabrina hurried to catch up to him. “Please be careful.”

“It’s fine. I’ll carry it to his office. You can wait for him in one of the sitting rooms.”

“Wait for him like I’m a guest?” She placed a hand on Gabe’s upper arm. “Darling, I’m going to be your sister-in-law soon. I don’t need to wait in the sitting room like I’m a guest.”

Shaking off her touch, he opened the front door. “Until you’re married to him, you’re a guest in this house.”


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