“It’s okay,” he replied. “Totally fine.”

Smiling, she reached inside her bag and tugged her phone out of its little pocket. Turning it over, she saw that it was a local number, but she didn’t recognize it.

“Is it your family?”

She shook her head as she placed her phone back in her bag, draping the strap over the back of the chair. “No. I actually don’t recognize the number. Must be a wrong number. So back to the ghost girl. What did she want?”

He smiled as he picked up his glass of water. “She was apparently looking for someone to play with.”

“That’s kind of sad.” Nikki heard her phone beep like it received a text or voicemail, but she ignored it.

“It is, but then things got really weird when Silvermoon went upstairs. She claimed that the back office, the one where my boss works, was haunted by a ‘woman of the night.’”

Her lips twitched. “A prostitute?”

“Yep. And apparently, she was a vengeful spirit, having been murdered by one of her customers.”

As Gerald talked, Nikki finished off her steak and found herself looking for the waiter. She could really use another glass of wine. Maybe that would help find the missing spark.

At least temporarily.

Nikki sat back, folding an arm in her lap as she toyed with the stem of her glass. He was really cute. Had a nice smile.

“. . . Then Rosie decided that we just had to do a séance. I don’t even know why I agreed to it. I really shouldn’t have, because my boss walked in about fifteen minutes—”

A shadow fell over their table, and Gerald trailed off. Thinking it was their waiter, she twisted in her seat. The first thing she caught was the fresh, crisp scent of cologne. Warning bells went off as she lifted her chin.

“What in the hell?”

Her jaw hit the floor as she looked up, seeing Gabe standing there. She had to be hallucinating, so she blinked once and then twice. Nope, he was still there.

He was staring—no, glaring at Gerald like he was five seconds from yanking him out of his chair.

“Gabe?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Gabe demanded.

Nikki jolted as her gaze swung toward Gerald. She didn’t understand his reaction. “What are you doing here, Gabe?”

“Is this the guy you said you were going out on a date with?” he asked instead of answering her question. “Gerald?”

“Gabe, what are—?”

Gerald leaned back in his chair. “Wasn’t expecting to see you tonight, Gabriel.”

Nikki turned to Gerald, her stomach twisting with unease. “You know Gabe?” There was no way. When he talked about the de Vincents, he didn’t speak of them as if he was on a first-name basis.

“His name isn’t Gerald,” snapped Gabe, his eyes burning. People at nearby tables were starting to pay attention.

“What?” she whispered, beyond confused. “That’s not your name?”

“It’s my middle name,” Gerald replied, plucking his napkin out of his lap and tossing it on the table. “I’m not lying about my name.”

“Oh, so it’s convenient that you forgot to mention your name is Ross Haid?”

That name meant nothing to Nikki, but she had a really bad feeling about this. “Ross?”

“Ross Gerald Haid.” Gerald slash Ross smiled faintly.

“And you forgot to mention you’re a journalist for the Advocate?”

Everything in Nikki stilled. “A journalist? You told me you were a writer. That’s what Rosie said.”

“A journalist is a writer,” Ross said.

Gabe placed a hand on the back of her chair. “Yeah, a writer for the Advocate, who’s been working on a story about my family.”

Shock splashed through her. “You’re doing a story on them?”

“I am.” His gaze flicked to Gabe. “But that’s not why I wanted to go out with you, Nikki.”

“Bullshit,” Gabe said, voice low. “You’ve been slithering around like a snake these last couple of months. You found out that Nikki was working for us and then you went after her.”

Oh my God.

Nikki sat back in her seat, dumbfounded. There was no way Rosie would’ve known this. No way. She hadn’t been set up on a date. She’d been set up. That was why he started talking about the de Vincents. It wasn’t the normal curiosity one would expect. He’d gone through Rosie to get to her to get to the de Vincents. . . .

Embarrassment washed over her as everything clicked into place. This date—her first get-out-there-and-be-a-normal-woman date—was a freaking disaster in the most unbelievable way.

“You son of a bitch.” Gabe leaned forward, placing his other hand on the table. “You go near Nikki again . . .”

“And what?” There was no mistaking the eagerness in Ross’s tone. “You’re afraid that Nikki might tell me something I can use?”

Something I can use?

Oh hell no.

“You don’t even want to know what will happen,” Gabe warned.

“Are you threatening me?” Ross asked.

“Use that imagination of yours to figure out what it is.”

In the back of her mind, she realized she’d never heard Gabe speak like that, but she was too far beyond pissed for that to truly register.

“Hold up.” Her shoulders squared as she stared across the table. “You asked me out so that you could hopefully glean information out of me on the de Vincents?”

“I wouldn’t say that was the only reason.” His gaze shifted to her.

Gabe made a sound that reminded her an awful lot of an actual growl. She gripped his arm as she rose from her chair. She snatched up her purse and then she extended her middle finger right in Ross’s face. “Fuck you, dude.”

“Hey.” The smile slipped from Ross’s face. “I was being serious. I wasn’t asking you out just because—”

“Shut up,” Gabe growled.

He wasn’t budging, so Nikki tugged on his arm. “Let it go,” she said. “It’s not worth it. He’s not worth it.”

“Oh, I think it would be worth it.” Gabe stared down at Ross. “Way worth it.”

While Nikki sort of wanted to see Ross knocked the hell out, if he really was a reporter, this wouldn’t end well for Gabe. She needed to get him out of here before he did something stupid. “Let’s go,” she whispered. “Please.”

Gabe’s gaze swung to hers and then he pushed off the table, rattling the glasses. “I mean it, Ross. You can have a hard-on for my family, but you stay the fuck away from Nikki. Do you understand me?”

Her heart skipped over itself as Ross bit out, “Oh, I understand perfectly.”

She really had no idea if he did, but Gabe turned and took her hand. Wholly aware of the stares, she kept her gaze glued to Gabe’s back and her mouth shut as he led her around the packed tables and out into the cooler night air.

Once they were outside, Nikki pulled her hand free. She didn’t even know what to say as she turned to look up at Gabe. “That was so embarrassing.”

“Nic—”

“He was using me to get gossip on your family!” She turned, staring back at the entrance, half tempted to storm back in there and smack Ross or whatever his name was across the face. Then she gasped and she whirled back to Gabe. “I didn’t tell him anything. Nothing about—”

“I know.” His jaw softened. “I know you wouldn’t. I didn’t think that for one second, and don’t feel embarrassed. You didn’t know who he was. You did nothing wrong.”

Some of the tension crept out of her shoulders, but she still felt like a flaming idiot. “And there’s no way Rosie knew what he really intended. She would’ve never fixed me up with him if she knew.”

“I believe you.”

Nikki exhaled roughly. That was . . . that was a relief.

“You look absolutely beautiful, by the way.” Gabe faced her, and even in the low light from the restaurant, she could see his gaze sweeping over her. “That dress . . . the hair. Those shoes. Jesus. He really didn’t fucking deserve all of that.”

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