“You . . . you told Sabrina about this—about your son?” Her voice pitched in a way that was humiliating to her.

His head swung in her direction as he finally looked at her. “I never told Sabrina shit. The only people who know are my brothers and maybe your parents. They probably overheard something, but no way in hell did I tell that woman. Neither would Dev.”

Nikki wasn’t sure what she believed anymore. “Then how did she know when I . . . ?”

“The woman has been stalking me.” A strangled-sounding laugh escaped him. “It’s the only thing that makes sense. Dear God, she actually has to be doing that.”

That did make sense. Nikki had seen the crazy firsthand, but that didn’t explain why he wouldn’t have told her. “You never told me about him.”

A muscle flexed along Gabe’s jaw as he looked away again.

“How . . . how could he have never come up in conversation? You talked to me about Emma—about what was done to her and what happened to her. You could’ve told me then.” Her heart was pounding so fast she thought she might be sick. “I mean, that’s a big deal. Having a kid is a huge deal.”

“Yeah, it is.” His features were carved out of stone.

“Then why haven’t you told me? I mean, we’ve talked a lot. We’ve shared a lot—”

“We’ve hung out. We’ve had sex. We’re passing time. That’s what we’ve done,” Gabe snapped. “Why would I’ve told you about him? I won’t even be living here full-time soon.”

He hadn’t just said all of that.

Oh God, he really hadn’t just said that to her.

Nikki stumbled back a step from what felt like an actual slap in the face. Her throat threatened to seal closed as she stared into the face of a man who had become a virtual stranger to her.

Sabrina had been right.

He’s only fucking you. He’s not sharing his life with you.

Nikki’s chest cracked wide open. The truth of those words was right in front of her face. They probably always had been, but she’d been too damn naive to see them.

“Shit.” Gabe dragged his hand through his hand. “I—”

“There has only been one other time in my life that I’ve felt this stupid, this naive, and that was four years ago when I woke up and you called me Emma.”

His eyes widened slightly.

“You don’t remember that? You called me Emma.” Her lower lip trembled as the edges of the medallion pressed into her palm. “That’s when I knew that you were still in love with her.”

“No.” His voice was rough. “I don’t remember that.”

“Of course not.” She laughed, and it sounded bitter and frail. “You’d think that would’ve been the thing that would’ve stuck with me. That would’ve stopped me from falling in love with you again.”

Gabe paled. Blood drained from his face as he stared back at her.

“But how could I fall in love with you when I’ve been in love with you since I was sixteen and you pulled me out of the pool,” she said, dragging in a deep breath, but it got stuck in her throat. “That’s why I came to find you today. I needed to tell you because I thought—” She cut herself off, because she was such an idiot. “It doesn’t matter now. I don’t know what you’ve felt for me. If you’ve felt anything at all, but you sure as hell don’t feel the way I do.” Her voice cracked, right along with her heart. “I made a fool out of myself four years ago. And now you’ve made a fool out of me. There’s not going to be a third opportunity.”

She opened her hand, letting the necklace she’d given him four years ago fall to the coffee table. She started for the door, desperately trying to keep it together before she lost it.

“Nic—”

“Stay away from me,” Nikki warned, throwing up her hand. “If you care about me at all, you’ll stay away from me.”

Chapter 29

Gabe climbed the stairs to his apartment in a daze, the necklace held tight in his hand.

He’d fucked up.

He knew that to his core. He’d fucked up.

Pushing open the porch doors, he came to a complete stop when he saw Sabrina sitting at the bar. At least she had clothes on, but it was obvious she had just gotten out of the shower. Her wet hair was slicked back and for once, there wasn’t an ounce of makeup on her face. Shock gave way to fury.

“Are you fucking serious?” he demanded, stalking toward her.

She held up a hand. “I know you’re mad—”

“Get the fuck out of my apartment and this house or I swear to God—”

“Or what?” Her lips parted. “You’re going to drag me out of here? You’re going to tell Devlin? I don’t think so.”

“You are out of your fucking mind.”

“No. No, I am not.” Her cheeks flushed red. “You’re only saying that because I’m a woman going after what she wants—what she deserves. If I were a man, you’d be applauding me.”

“If you were a man, I’d physically kick your ass out of here.” He struggled to not lose it. “How in the hell did you know about my son?”

She smirked. “I have my ways.”

“Don’t give me any of that vague bullshit, Sabrina. Have you been stalking me?”

Sabrina snorted. “You call it stalking, I call it keeping tabs. I mean, really, Gabe, it wasn’t hard to find out that Emma had a child. Not when you started going to Baton Rouge nearly every week. All I needed was to look into what you were doing—”

“Did you have someone follow me?”

She lifted a shoulder. “I saw a picture of him and I knew he was your kid. He looks like a de Vincent.”

Holy shit, Gabe knew Sabrina was just about capable of anything, but this was fucking surreal. “You better not even think about going near my son.”

“I don’t care about your son, but you know who probably would? Nikki. She probably would’ve cared, but it didn’t seem like she knew about him.”

Gabe flinched.

Smiling, she crossed one slender leg over the other. “I did you a favor. You should be thanking me.”

“What?”

“I got rid of Nikki for you. Come on, you couldn’t have been serious about her. I did your dirty work again.”

All he could do was stare at her. “You told Nikki so she’d stop seeing me?”

“Not like you two were really seeing each other, let’s be honest. You were fucking her. That’s all. Not like you told your brothers about her or were calling her your girlfriend,” she said. “She wasn’t perfect Emma.”

As much as he hated to admit it, her words struck home. Was that how Nic felt about this—about how he handled things with her? Well, no shit. She did.

Jesus.

Gabe shook his head, focusing. “Did you push Nic that day? Did you push her down the stairs?”

Sabrina tilted her head to the side. “That would be so trashy. I have more class than that.”

He didn’t believe her for one second. “This all stops now. You stay away from Nic. You stay away from—”

“Or what? I know you’re not going to say anything. I mean, you tell your brother, then I’ll make sure Nikki has the worst run of luck known to man. You say one word to Devlin, you know I’ll do it.”

Gabe’s hands closed into fists. He knew she would try.

“I’ll ruin her life. I’ll make it my life mission, and I have—”

Gabe moved so quickly he didn’t even give himself time to really think about what he was doing. His hand went around her throat and he put just enough pressure on her so that she knew he wasn’t playing around with her. “You so much as look at Nic the wrong way, I won’t just stop at destroying you. Do you understand me, Sabrina? I am tired of your shit. I am tired of you messing around in my life. I am tired of you involving yourself where you don’t belong. I am beyond fucking tired of it.”

Her lip curled. “Oh, do you like it rough, too, like Devlin?” She slipped off the stool. “I bet you fuck just as hard—”

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