“I don’t want you,” he said, holding her gaze. “I’ve never wanted you. Dear God, woman, what have I ever done to give you that impression?”

“You never let yourself want me.” She wet her dry lips. “First it was because of Emma and now it’s because of Nikki—”

“It’s never been because of them. It was always because of you,” he shot back. “You may be packaged as pretty as they come, but you’re fucking ugly and rotten to the damn core. There has never been a single thing about you that is redeemable.”

Sabrina flinched.

“You need to get that through your head,” he said, shoving her away from him before he did something he just might not regret. “And if you ever—ever threaten Nic again, I will kill you. Do you understand? You know that’s not a threat.”

Sabrina paled and he thought he saw her eyes start to glimmer before she straightened. “I never wanted Devlin.”

“Then why in the hell are you marrying him?”

“Because I don’t have a choice,” she whispered, and then her eyes widened. The rest of the blood appeared to drain from her face.

“What the hell does that mean?”

Sabrina shook her head as she seemed to pull herself together. “I will marry Devlin. And I will do anything to make sure that happens.”

He stared at her, slowly shaking his head. The woman was unstable. “Get the hell out of here and stay away from me and my son.”

Sabrina had enough common sense to hightail her ass out of his apartment, and it wasn’t until he slammed the door behind her that he realized what she’d said to him.

I did your dirty work again.

Again?

What in the hell had she meant by that?

Sabrina wasn’t the only woman who’d gotten the hell out of the house Monday afternoon.

So had Nic.

She’d left, and Gabe guessed it was a good thing that Dev wasn’t home for that, but she had come back Tuesday. Not that he approached her, but he knew she was there. He’d caught a glimpse of her that morning, carrying a rag into the sitting room.

Their paths only crossed once on Tuesday. Down in the kitchen. He’d just . . . hell, he found himself in there and there she was, putting the groceries away for the week.

But when Nikki realized he was in the kitchen, silently watching her, she’d left the room. Just up and walked away, leaving the groceries on the counter and in the bags. She hadn’t said a word to him and had barely even looked at him.

Gabe had finished putting the groceries away.

Now he was sitting on the foot of his bed, staring at that necklace he held in his hand. He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to try to explain why he hadn’t told her about William.

He wanted to apologize, because what he’d said to her was wrong. She was more than a hookup, more than someone he was just wasting time with. That wasn’t what Nic was to him. He didn’t even know why he’d said that to her. Or maybe he wasn’t being honest with himself.

He said it because he felt guilty—guilty that he’d kept it from her, ashamed that he’d hid William from her. And he’d lashed out at Nic just like his father had lashed out at their mother whenever he’d done something wrong and was cornered.

Gabe was no better.

But damn, he missed her.

He missed the way she smiled. The way her laugh blew all of his concerns and worries out of his mind. He missed the way she could just sit next to him in the shop in silence and be happy. How they could work together and how she made him feel, like he was worthy of her attention and time. He missed how he could just talk to her about everything.

Everything except the most important thing about his life.

Shit.

Why hadn’t he told her?

The reasons he came up with weren’t good enough. Worst of all, his excuses didn’t give Nic enough credit. He knew that she would’ve listened to why he wasn’t raising William. He knew she was young and probably wasn’t even near the point in her life where she’d be thinking about caring for a child, but she’d said . . .

She’d said she loved him.

That she’d been in love with him.

His eyes closed as he pressed his hand—the necklace to his forehead. His chest hurt like someone had taken a dull knife and carved his heart out. Worst part was that he’d wielded that knife.

He knew why it felt that way.

He’d felt that before.

He didn’t know how to fix things with Nic. He wasn’t even sure he could, if he had it in him. The odds were fucking stacked against them. He’d stacked them himself.

But there was something else he needed to do.

He needed to talk to Dev the moment he was home. This kind of conversation wasn’t one you had over the phone. This was a face-to-face discussion and it was long overdue.

This shit with Sabrina had to end.

Nikki waved goodbye as Bev dropped off the dry cleaning. Gathering up the numerous plastic-covered suit jackets that all belonged to Devlin, she made her way to his rooms in the right wing.

Devlin was the only one who seemed to get clothing dry-cleaned on the regular. It was rare for Lucian, and Gabe . . . he never wore anything that required dry cleaning, it seemed.

Her chest ached as she drew in a stuttered breath.

She didn’t want to be here, in the house where every damn thing was a constant reminder of Gabe. She’d rather be in her bed, under heavy blankets, eating beignets and corn chips until she passed out from a food coma.

The hurt she was feeling now made what she experienced four years ago feel like an unrequited crush. She was absolutely destroyed.

Blinking back fresh tears, she unlocked Devlin’s room and quickly hung up his suits. He preferred the plastic to be left on, for whatever reason. She left the room, locking up.

The house was eerily quiet as she made her way back downstairs. Her father was gone and Lucian was with Julia at their house to go over some of the renovations.

She had no idea where Gabe was, but she didn’t think he was here. She hadn’t seen him since yesterday in the kitchen. He’d walked in and just stared at her, like he was going to say something to her, but Nikki couldn’t deal. So she’d left, and thankfully, Gabe had the decency to put away the groceries before they’d gone bad.

There was just nothing Gabe could say to her at this point. He’d said it all, with words and actions.

Grabbing the vacuum, she made her way to the smaller room with the TV, and by small, she meant by de Vincent standards. It was still larger than most living rooms.

Nikki was about to plug in the vacuum when she heard footsteps in the hall. Her stomach dropped as she looked up and stepped back from the outlet, thinking it was Gabe.

She wasn’t ready to see him. No way. She didn’t think she’d ever be ready—

Parker stepped into the doorway, and her stomach dropped for a whole different reason. Muscles all along her neck tensed up. “What are you doing in here?”

His lips thinned. “Wow. I see the last time I told you that you needed to speak to me with respect went in one ear and out the other.”

Nikki hadn’t forgotten his threat, and after her showdown with Sabrina, she was worried about how it could affect her parents. But she couldn’t imagine that after what Sabrina had done, Gabe wouldn’t talk to Devlin.

“I’m not trying to be rude,” she said, and that was only partly true. “But how did you get in the house? My father isn’t here to let anyone in.”

He cocked his head to the side. “If you don’t want people roaming into the house, then perhaps you should lock the doors.”

People shouldn’t be entering homes they didn’t live in randomly, but that wasn’t the point. Nikki was damn sure all the doors were locked, all twelve billion of them.

“I came to see Devlin,” Parker said, stepping into the room.

“He’s not home.” Unease blossomed in the pit of her stomach like a noxious weed. How did he not know Devlin wasn’t home?

He had to.

Nikki didn’t believe him for one second. A shiver coursed down her spine. Why was he here?

“Is that so?” Parker mused, flicking an imaginary piece of lint off his pressed navy-blue dress shirt. “Doesn’t look like anyone is here, actually. Anyone but you.”

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