She flushed as she glanced down at herself. She’d taken time getting ready for tonight. The dress was a sexy one—a simple LBD. A little black dress that hugged her breasts and stomach before flaring out slightly at the hips. The skirt of the dress was loose around her thighs. She’d done her hair, using a wand until the strands fell in loose waves around her face. And she knew her makeup was on point, because she took the time to perfect the smoky eye look and the red pout.

She cleared her throat. “Um, thanks. What happened—?”

“I want you to know that,” he interrupted her. “You look beautiful, Nikki. Too beautiful for Ross, even if he weren’t who he was.”

She didn’t know what to say to that, so she decided it was time to change the subject. “How did you know it was him?”

“I didn’t. Not until I saw him.”

“But why did you come to the restaurant?” she asked.

“I’d tried to call you.”

That was his number? How did he get her phone—wait. He would have her number from her employment papers for tax purposes and all that jazz.

Gabe started walking. “So, you’re probably going to be mad at first but then you’ll thank me later.”

“What?” She caught up to him, which was a feat in the heels she was wearing.

“I had no idea that Gerald was Ross. I was going to interrupt your date and tell you there was an emergency,” he said, glancing down at her. A half grin appeared. “Thought I’d do you a solid and swoop in and save you.”

For the umpteenth time, her mouth dropped open. “You’re joking, right?”

“Nope.”

“You’re telling me you would’ve interrupted my date for no good reason?”

“Well, it turned out to be a damn good reason.”

“But you didn’t know who he was. What if he wasn’t a reporter—”

“What-ifs are stupid, Nic.”

“No they’re not, you asshole.” Someone passing them by shot them a look, but Nikki was beyond caring. “You have got to be kidding me.”

He was grinning—actually grinning at her. “I’m not kidding. Let’s pretend that wasn’t Ross, the dirtbag reporter who just wanted to use you. What if he was just Gerald? He’s lame as fuck and you look way too hot to be sitting in there with him.”

Nikki stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, spun, and smacked his arm—smacked it hard.

“Ouch.” He laughed, and he really laughed. Tipping his head back and letting loose. “Told you. Said you were going to be angry at first.”

“I’m pissed,” she seethed. “What is wrong with you?”

“Did you drive yourself?” he asked, not even fazed.

“No. I took an Uber. I hate driving anywhere in the city on a Saturday night.”

“Awesome.” He started walking again, leading her toward Toulouse Street. “I’ll take you home.”

“You’re not taking me anywhere.” She reached for her purse. “I can’t believe you. I honestly—”

“What are you doing?”

“Ordering a car.” She stopped.

“No, you’re not.”

“Oh, yes I am,” she snapped, digging around in her purse. It didn’t matter that her date was a front for a damn reporter. Gabe had come there to ruin her date, not save her.

“If you don’t start walking, I will throw you over my shoulder and carry you to where I’m parked in a garage.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

He stared down at her. “Do I look like I’m joking?”

As much as it annoyed her, he didn’t. “No.”

“That’s what I thought.” He sounded so, so smug. “If you behave and don’t try to hit me, I’ll stop and get you a smoothie.”

“If I behave?” She glared daggers at him. “I’m not a child, Gabe.”

“I know you’re not a child.” He slowed his steps to match hers. “And telling you to behave does not mean what you think it does.”

She didn’t even know what he meant by that. “I’m going to ninja kick you in the back of the head.”

He laughed as they came to an intersection. “You couldn’t even reach the back of my head.”

Ugh.

That was true.

But that didn’t mean she didn’t want to try.

Nikki was torn between being beyond confused by his appearance and furious as they crossed the road. “Why did you do this?” she asked, glancing up at him. “If you didn’t know who Gerald really was, then why did you do this?”

The street lamps cast a soft glow along his cheekbones. He was quiet for a moment. “I was at the workshop and I was sitting there, thinking about what you said on Friday about why you wanted to go out on a date. About how you weren’t looking for a relationship, but you’d be interested in a hookup if that was what happened.”

Nikki’s brows pulled together as she frowned. “I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly what I said.”

“But that’s what you meant.”

Her hand tightened on the strap of her purse. “And?”

“And I didn’t like it.”

She was absolutely dumbfounded. So much so that she didn’t speak as they walked into the silent, shadowy parking garage. Because Gabe must’ve made a deal with the devil, somehow he’d gotten a parking space on the first level.

Her heels clicked on the cement, echoing around them. “I don’t understand this—understand you at all.”

His steps slowed. “I think you do. You just don’t want to acknowledge it.”

“No,” she said. “I honestly do not understand this.”

He didn’t speak until they reached his car at the very back of the parking garage. “Are we going to pretend that nothing happened between us at the workshop? Is that what we’re going to do?”

She stopped as he opened up the passenger door for her. “I . . . I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re lying.” He took her purse from her and placed it on the seat.

Nikki was, because she was comfortable with pretending like that didn’t happen. It was safe.

He turned to her. “I know you felt how into you I was standing behind you.”

Her cheeks flushed, and she thanked God that it was too dark in there for him to see her blush. “You’re a guy. You all get turned on if the wind hits you the right way.”

Gabe laughed. “I wish that was true, but it isn’t. And you know that—you knew exactly what I was feeling, because you were feeling the same.”

Her heart stuttered in her chest. There was no way she could admit that. It didn’t matter what they mutually had been feeling. “I’m not interested in you anymore.”

“Bullshit.”

Nikki gasped. “Your arrogance really has no limit.”

“It’s not arrogance.” He stepped into her, forcing her to step back until she bumped into the side of his car. “And it has nothing to do with what happened between us before you left for college.”

“Everything has to do with that,” she snapped. “Everything.”

He stared down at her. “Okay. Let’s say it does. Even so, it doesn’t change one fact.”

“And what is that?”

“You went out with that guy when you’d rather have been with me.”

Her eyes just about popped out of her head. A thousand denials rose to the tip of her tongue, but Gabe moved so fast that it wasn’t until he had her turned around, her back pressed to his front, that she realized what he was up to.

“What are you doing?” she asked as he curled an arm around her waist.

“Proving what I just said.”

Her wild gaze darted around the parking garage. “You do not need to prove anything.”

“Oh, I think I do.” His hips brushed her rear, and yep, she felt him. No denying that. “You still want me. You probably never stopped wanting me.”

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