“Then let’s do it.”

And that’s what they did.

He drove to the closest one, which turned out to be Smoothie King. He went in and grabbed her a strawberry one while he ordered a blueberry one that she would most definitely turn her nose up at.

“Thank you,” she said, taking it from him when he slid into the driver’s seat.

“No problem.” He reached to turn the car on, but stopped. Depending on the traffic, it wouldn’t take more than twenty minutes to get her home. “Mind if I finish this before we get back on the road?”

“Of course not.” She took a sip of her smoothie.

He suddenly remembered her plans last night. “What happened with that apartment you were looking at?”

“Oh! It’s perfect. I filled out the paperwork and I’m just waiting to hear back from the property management. If I’m approved, it’s mine.”

“That’s awesome.”

“Thanks. I should know something this week.”

“Then you need to get a dog or something.”

She laughed softly. “Maybe a cat.”

“Or an armadillo.”

“An armadillo? What?”

Grinning, he lifted a shoulder. “I remember you trying to save an armadillo when you were like thirteen.”

She was quiet for a moment. “Oh my God, I can’t believe I forgot that. Mom flipped out because I was trying to pick it up—”

“An understandable reaction to seeing your child trying to pick up an armadillo.”

“It wouldn’t have hurt me. It liked me.”

Gabe shook his head.

“I still think armadillos are the cutest things ever.” A moment passed and then she peeked over at him. “You’re staring at me.”

“No, I’m not.” He totally was.

She turned her head to him. “You’re not? You’re doing it right now.”

“Okay.” Grinning around the straw, he looked up at the front of the smoothie joint. “I’m not staring at you now.”

“But you were.”

“Maybe.”

She laughed, but it faded all too quickly. “Gabe?”

“Yeah?” Tipping his head back against the seat, he looked over at her. God, she was . . . There really weren’t words.

“What . . . what are we doing?” she asked quietly.

He didn’t know how to answer that. While he’d been at his shop, sitting there staring at the damn rack, all he could think about was her on that date. Before he knew what he was doing, he was in his car, calling her and driving to Crescent City Steaks. Irritation of a primitive nature had overcome him, and if he was being honest with himself, so did another emotion. One that fueled his decision to basically bust up her date, which he was glad about for multiple reasons, because God knows Ross would’ve tried to get between her legs, investigating his family or not. Look at her. She was fucking gorgeous.

“I don’t know,” he answered, meeting her gaze. “Honest to God, I really don’t. I just . . . I didn’t like the idea of you being on that date.”

Her brows rose as she took a nice, long drink of her smoothie. “So, you didn’t like the idea of me being on a date and you decided giving me an orgasm in a parking garage was the way to go?”

Unable to help himself, Gabe laughed. “You weren’t the only one who got off.”

“Oh. I know,” she replied dryly.

“I didn’t plan that.” And that was the truth. “It . . . just happened.”

She lowered her smoothie as she stared at him. “It’s kind of hard for something like that to just happen.”

“You have a point.” He scratched his fingers through his hair. “I guess I felt the need to prove that you’re into me as much as I’m into you.”

“You’re into me?”

“You sound surprised.” Gabe laughed. “What just happened—me coming like that? Pretty sure that hasn’t happened since high school.”

“Oh.” She shoved the straw in her mouth.

He watched her for a moment, amused by her, and there was something else going on inside him, an odd feeling he hadn’t experienced in a while. Tenderness? Of course, he’d feel tenderness for Nic. “Anyway, when you said you weren’t into me anymore, I guess I rose to the challenge.”

Nic seemed to consider that for a moment. “Was that what it was? To prove something or a challenge?”

“Shit. No. That’s not what I meant.” He took a drink of his smoothie, trying to make sense of what he was thinking, but that was no fucking use, because he had no idea. “Not at all.”

She exhaled raggedly, drawing his gaze. Hers flitted away. “Do you regret it?”

Her question was barely above a whisper and at first he couldn’t believe she’d ask that since he hadn’t given any indication that he did. But then he got it. Their history was like a damn viper between them.

“No.” Reaching over, he cupped his fingers around her chin and turned her gaze to his. What he felt about what just happened and how he felt for her was one hell of a confusing ball of emotion settling in his chest. “I don’t know what that was. Or what it means tomorrow, but know one thing, Nic, not one fucking piece of me regrets it.”

The jarring ring of Nikki’s phone was what woke her finally. She had the distinct impression that it had been ringing for a while.

Groaning, she rolled over and slapped around on the nightstand until she found the stupid phone. One eye opened.

Rosie.

Hitting the Answer button, she brought the phone to her ear and croaked, “What time is it?”

“Time for you to tell what the hell happened last night!”

Last night felt like a dream, not at all real to her in the early morning hours. “I’m guessing you talked to Gerald. Oh wait, what’s his real name? Ross Haid, a reporter—”

“I knew he wrote for the Advocate every once in a while, but I didn’t think that was going to be an issue. He texted me last night, but I didn’t see his messages until this morning. The first text was, and I quote, ‘Gabriel de Vincent just kidnapped my date.’ At first I thought he had to be joking,” Rosie said. “But then there was another text where he explains that he’s doing a story on the de Vincents. He swears that’s not why he wanted to go out with you, but I’m going to murder him for real. What the hell happened, Nikki?”

How in the world could she explain this when she wasn’t even quite sure she knew what happened herself? “Well, you got the brief version of what happened.”

“So Gabe figured out it was Ross?” Rosie’s voice rose, causing Nikki to wince.

Groaning, Nikki rolled onto her back. “No. He had no idea until he got there. He said he was coming to save me from what was probably an awful date.”

“Really?” Her tone was dry.

“Yeah.” Nikki tossed an arm over her eyes. “I was caught off guard by him showing up and finding out who Gerald was. It was crazy.”

“And then what happened?” Rosie demanded. “Did he take you home and tuck you in?”

Nikki’s lips pursed. “No.”

“So, he just came out and whisked you away and that was it?”

“Not really,” Nikki muttered as she dropped her arm to the bed.

“I feel like this conversation needs to happen in person,” Rosie decided. “You need to get up—”

“I’m not getting up.”

“Then you need to tell me what happened last night.”

There was a part of her that didn’t want to tell Rosie, because it felt like it would tarnish what happened. But she also knew Rosie. She wouldn’t put it past the woman to show up at the house, demanding to know answers.

“Something did happen between us,” she said, glancing at the closed bedroom door. Having this conversation in her parents’ house was weird. “I don’t even know how it happened.”

“How what happened?” Rosie’s voice was calmer, which meant instead of being at a level ten, she was now at a level seven. That was progress.

***

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