Rush Page 48

“You didn’t give our friendship a whole hell of a lot of consideration when you jumped into bed with my sister,” Jace said icily. “You knew I’d be pissed. Hell, I warned you off that very first day, Gabe, and you fucking lied to me.”

“Mia didn’t want you to know,” Gabe said. “She didn’t want to hurt you, and she didn’t want you to lose your mind. I agreed because I only wanted her, and I didn’t give a shit what I had to do to have her.”

“What is she to you, Gabe? Entertainment? A challenge because she’s untouchable? She’s way out of your league and you damn well know it.”

Gabe slammed his fist down on the desk, glaring Jace down. “I want to goddamn marry her.”

Jace lifted one eyebrow. “You swore you’d never marry again after Lisa.”

Gabe pushed off the desk and turned, pacing a tight line in front of Jace’s desk.

“I said a lot of things. And no other woman has ever made me second-guess my decisions. But Mia…She’s different. I can’t live without her, Jace. With or without your blessing, I’m going after her. I can’t be happy without her. I’ll never be happy without her. I want her in my life. Every goddamn day. I want to take care of her, make sure she never has to worry for anything that I can give her. Fuck me, but I’m even imagining children. At my age. All I can think of are daughters who look just like her. I picture her round with my child and it’s the most mind-blowing feeling in the world. Everything that I’ve sworn off in my life, she has me reevaluating. Because of her. It’s all her. I’ve never felt this way about another woman. I never will.”

“Whoa,” Jace breathed out. “Sit down. You’re making me crazy pacing around my office like that.”

Gabe paused and then finally eased into the chair in front of Jace’s desk, but he was going stir crazy in this confined space. He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to be with Mia. Wanted to go to her and throw himself on her mercy. She’d said he had to crawl. Goddamn it, he’d crawl.

“You’re serious about her,” Jace said, disbelief evident in his voice. “You’re in love with her. She isn’t some passing entertainment you amuse yourself with and then move on.”

“You’re pissing me off now,” Gabe growled.

Jace shook his head. “Holy shit. I never thought I’d see the day. How did this happen? Have I been a complete dumbass for not seeing this?”

“It’s better we not delve into a conversation that’s only going to piss you off,” Gabe said. “It’s not important how long. What’s important is that I love her, and I hope to God she still loves me and that she can forgive me.”

Jace winced. “I don’t know, man. She’s pretty pissed. You hurt her. A lot. You’ve never had to work to have a woman. They’ve always dumped themselves onto your lap. Mia…She’s different. She’s of the mind that she deserves a man who’ll stand up for her and fight for her. You didn’t do any of those things, and she’s not going to so easily forget that.”

“Don’t you think I know all of that?” Gabe said in frustration. “Hell, I wouldn’t blame her if she never wanted to speak to me again. But I have to try. I can’t just let her go.”

Jace cupped a hand to the back of his neck. “Jesus, man, you never like to do anything simple, do you? I’m a damn idiot for not beating the crap out of you and tossing you out of my office. I can’t believe that I actually feel sorry for your ass right now.”

Some of the tension knotting Gabe’s chest eased. He met Jace’s stare. “I’m sorry, man. I handled this all wrong. You have to know that I’d never do anything to intentionally compromise our friendship. And I damn sure wouldn’t ever do anything to hurt Mia. Not again. Never again. I’ve hurt her too many times already. If she’ll forgive me, I’ll spend the rest of my life making sure she never has reason to cry again.”

“That’s all I want for her,” Jace said softly. “I want her to be happy. If you can do that, then you and I are good.”

“I’m damn sure going to try,” Gabe said, determination gripping him by the neck.

“Good luck,” Jace said. “Something tells me you’re going to need it.”

Chapter forty-two

Mia tugged her coat tighter around her as she walked the last block to her apartment. It had been hard to go to work in the brisk chill after spending the last several days on a beach in the Caribbean.

Jace and Ash had worked hard to cheer her up and ensure she had a good time, and she had to admit, it had been a lot of fun. It had been a while since she and Jace had gotten to have an actual vacation together and with Ash there, things had been lighthearted and happy.

That wasn’t to say that she hadn’t spent a fair amount of time brooding over Gabe, but she’d managed to enjoy herself. If anyone had told her that she could have a good time so quickly after she and Gabe had split up, she wouldn’t have believed them.

Still, going in to La Patisserie instead of the HCM building this morning had been hard. It had been a slap in the face and a sharp reminder of Gabe’s betrayal. She liked her job with Gabe. Yeah, it had been a fluff job that had been a cover for their sexual affair, but as time had gone on, she’d taken on more responsibility and she’d made the job her own. She’d proven to herself that she could take on a challenge and nail it.

Now she was back to selling pastries and filling customers’ coffee cups. And while before it had never bothered her, now she was unsettled and she wanted more. More of a challenge. It was time for her to stop being afraid and to go out there and make her future. No one else was going to do that for her. Already she was perusing her career options. Looking at job openings that would fit her level of education and experience—not that she had much.

Maybe she could talk to Jace. Not about working for him. There was no way in hell she’d go back to work at HCM and have to face Gabe on a daily basis. Or God help her, whatever woman he replaced her with. That was asking way too much of her.

But Jace might have ideas or may even know other people that she could reach out to. They owned over a dozen hotels in the U.S. alone, not to mention their resorts overseas. She could work in any one of them and never have to worry about seeing Gabe.

That would require moving, and was she ready to do that?

She was used to living in the city. Being close to Jace. But she’d never made it on her own here. Jace had supported her. He’d bought her apartment. When had she ever become independent?

Maybe it was time to move out on her own and take over her own life. Make it or not make it, but she’d do it on her own merits.

As satisfying as the idea was in theory, it made her sad to think of leaving everything behind. Caroline. Jace. Ash. Her apartment. Her life.

Hell no. She wasn’t going to let Gabe drive her out of the city. She’d damn well find a better job here, and she’d move on and forget his ass.

That also sounded nice in theory, but she wasn’t buying the reality.

When she reached the door of her building, she saw in the reflection of the glass Gabe getting out of a car that was parked at the curb. And he was striding in her direction.

Oh hell no.

Without looking back—no matter how tempting it was to drink the sight of him in—she pushed inside and lunged for the elevator. As it opened, she got in and punched the Close Door button. As she looked up, she saw Gabe brushing by the protesting doorman and hurrying for the elevator, a determined look on his face.

Close, close, close, she silently begged.

The doors began to shut and Gabe lunged forward, but he was too late. Thank God. What the hell was he doing here anyway?

She got off the elevator and unlocked her apartment. It was silent inside, and she dropped her purse by the door. Caroline wouldn’t be home for a while and then she’d likely go to Vibe to see Brandon.

She jumped when a loud knock sounded at her door. Then she sighed. She’d seen the look on Gabe’s face and knew he wouldn’t just walk away because she’d thwarted him at the elevator. What the hell did he want anyway?

She stalked to the door and unlocked it, throwing it open to reveal Gabe standing in the hallway. Relief shone in his eyes and he started to step forward, but she blocked him with the door.

“What do you want?” she said bluntly.

“I need to talk to you, Mia,” he said.

She shook her head. “We have nothing to talk about.”

“You’re wrong, goddamn it. Let me in.”

She stuck her head out the door so he’d see her and know she was dead serious.

“Let me put it this way then. I don’t have anything to say to you,” she said in a quiet tone. “Nothing at all. I said everything I had to say at your apartment. It was your decision to let me walk away—hell, you pushed me away. I deserve better than that, Gabe, and I’m sure as hell not going to settle for less.”

She slammed the door and locked it again. Not wanting to hear if he knocked, she went into her bedroom and closed the door. She was exhausted and all she wanted was a hot bath to warm her from the inside out.

But what she feared was that nothing would ever warm the chill caused by Gabe’s absence. Nothing except him.

• • •

The next day, Mia was serving a regular customer their favorite coffee when Gabe walked in and took a seat at the same table he’d occupied all those weeks ago. She couldn’t believe him. How was she supposed to work when he was right there in her space?

Her jaw clenched, she walked over and stared coldly at him.

“What are you doing here?”

He let his gaze wander over her, his eyes softening as he took in her features. Did he see how tired she was? How miserable? Was she wearing a neon sign advertising how unhappy she was without him?

“I’m not sleeping either, Mia,” he said softly. “I made a mistake. I fucked up. Give me a chance to make it right.”

She closed her eyes and curled her fingers into tight balls at her sides.

“Don’t screw this up for me, Gabe. Please. I have to have this job. Until I decide what I want to do, I have to work and I can’t have you here distracting me.”

He reached for one of those tightly fisted hands, and he pried her fingers loose. Then he drew her hand to his mouth and kissed her open palm.

“You have a job, Mia. It’s waiting for you. It’s not going anywhere.”

She snatched her hand back like she’d been burned.

“Just go, Gabe. Please. I can’t do this. You’re going to get me fired. If you want to make it right, then walk away and stay away.”

She was precariously close to breaking down. Her emotions were so damn unstable. Why couldn’t she be strong? Why did she have to allow him to see what a mess she was?

She turned away, uncaring of whether it looked bad that she’d been rude to a customer. She had others to attend to.

But he sat there, watching her, his gaze steady as she tended to the other people in the shop. They came and went and still he sat there until she felt hunted. Stalked.

Finally she went into the back and asked Louisa for a break. She helped Greg with the orders while Louisa worked the front. An hour later when she ventured back up front, Gabe was gone.

She didn’t know whether she was relieved or disappointed. All she knew was there was a gaping hole in her heart she never had a hope of repairing.

When she trudged home that evening, she found a huge bouquet of flowers at her door. Sighing, she took the card and saw the scribbled note from Gabe.

I’m sorry. Please give me a chance to explain.


She had to bite back the childish urge to trash the flowers. They were beautiful, and she and Caroline would enjoy having them in the apartment. She would just pretend that someone else had given them to her.

She placed them on the counter and wondered why Gabe was making the effort. Why was he doing this? He’d been the one to say that a clean break was better. Why prolong it if he had no intention of making their relationship permanent? Like she wanted to go through this all over again down the road when he did get tired of her?

Talking with Jace and Ash openly about Gabe and his relationships had been eye-opening. She’d guessed or had a very good idea of how he went about them. But during their stay in the Caribbean, the two had opened up and given her details she hadn’t known before.

Gabe always had a contract with the women he was with. She knew that. What she hadn’t known was the frequency of these women and the shortness of his relationships with them.

It had made her realize that she’d been on borrowed time with him.

She was lying facedown on her bed when Caroline came into her bedroom.

“Hey, Mia, who are the flowers from?”

“Gabe,” she muttered.

Caroline bounced onto the bed, her expression a mixture of what the fuck and irritation.

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