Rush Page 49

“Why is he sending you flowers, for God’s sake?”

Mia rolled onto her back. “Oh that’s only part of it. He was here last night. And then he showed up at La Patisserie today.”

“What the hell? Why?”

“I have no idea,” Mia said wearily. “To drive me crazy? Who knows? I slammed the door in his face last night. Today I just ignored him.”

“Good for you,” Caroline said in a savage tone. “Want me to go kick his ass?”

Mia laughed and then leaned up to hug her friend. “I love you, Caro. I’m so glad I have you.”

Caroline squeezed Mia back. “That’s what friends are for. And hey, if you decide to kill him, you know I’ll help you hide the body.”

Mia burst into laughter again, her heart lighter than just a moment before.

“Hey, what do you want to eat tonight? I was thinking about takeout, but if you wanted we could go down the street to the pub and hang out for a while.”

Caroline studied Mia intently. “Are you sure? I don’t mind cooking for us if you want to hang here.”

Mia shook her head. “No, let’s go out. I can’t stay here and mope over Gabe forever.”

As Mia stood up from the bed, Caroline went quiet for a moment and then she turned her serious gaze up to Mia.

“Maybe he wants you back, Mia. Have you considered that? Shouldn’t you at least hear him out?”

Mia’s lips turned down in scorn. “I told him that if he ever wanted me back he was going to have to crawl. He’s not crawling yet and hell will freeze over before I make it easy for him.”

Chapter forty-three

By the week’s end, Mia was at a complete loss as to what to do about Gabe. He was at La Patisserie every single day for coffee and a croissant and he never came in at the same time, so it was impossible for her to avoid him by working the back.

He was a constant presence that was fraying her nerves. And her resistance.

And if that wasn’t enough, he bombarded her constantly with flowers and gifts. At work. At home.

Just yesterday a delivery person had brought in a huge arrangement of flowers to La Patisserie and embarrassed her in front of everyone by reading the note out loud.

Forgive me. I can’t live without you.


Today another delivery person had brought in a box with a pair of fur-lined leather gloves and a note card that read:

To keep your hands warm on the walk home.


Louisa and Greg were amused—thank God they weren’t pissed—and it had become a running joke with the regulars at La Patisserie as to what would be delivered next.

The weather had cleared up, but the cold had remained. The skies were bright blue without a cloud in sight and the wind blew gusty, a knife through her coat. She was grateful for the gloves as she navigated the sidewalks back to her apartment. Dusk was descending, each day growing shorter and shorter.

As she rounded the corner to walk the last block to her apartment, an electronic billboard atop a hotel caught her eye. How could it not?

In big, neon letters, flashing across the screen was:



Tears pricked her eyelids. What was she supposed to do? He’d never said he loved her. Was it emotional manipulation for him to air his feelings to the world? And to put it on this billboard, by her apartment, where she couldn’t possibly miss the meaning? Come home. Not to her apartment. But to him.

It was driving her crazy. He was driving her crazy. And yet he hadn’t attempted to confront her directly again. Not since the last time when she’d told him to leave her alone. But he was still there. In her face. Always reminding her of his presence.

She was utterly baffled by this side of Gabe. It was a side he’d never allowed her to see—anyone to see.

She went into her apartment, exhausted and miserable. She was convinced she was coming down with something, but she wasn’t sure if it was true illness or whether it was merely a product of too many sleepless nights and her emotional devastation.

By the next morning, she couldn’t deny that she was truly ill. She walked to work and went through the motions mechanically. By the afternoon, Louisa and Greg both were eyeing her with concern, and when she dumped an entire pot of coffee onto the floor, Louisa called her into the back.

She took Mia’s arm and then put her hand to her forehead.

“Good God, Mia, you’re burning up with fever. Why didn’t you say anything? You can’t work like this. Go home and go to bed.”

Mia didn’t even offer an argument. Thank God it was Friday and she wasn’t scheduled to work this weekend. An entire weekend in bed sounded next to heaven. And then she wouldn’t be subjected to whatever Gabe had delivered for the day. She could hide from him and the world and try to sort out this whole mess.

She couldn’t take it anymore. It was a gigantic weight pressing down on her.

She had every intention of taking a cab home, unable to bear the walk in her current state. But as she checked her watch, she groaned. Getting a cab at this hour would be next to impossible. They were all going off duty.

Sighing in resignation, she began the long walk home, cold settling into her bones. She was shaking, her teeth chattering, and the sidewalk blurred in her vision.

It took her twice as long as it normally did, and when she rounded the block and saw that damn billboard, she sighed in relief because it wasn’t far now.

Someone bumped into her and she lost her balance. She nearly caught herself, but then she was bumped from the other side, and she slid to her knees, tears welling. She didn’t even have the strength to get up and she was so close to her apartment.

She buried her face in her hands and let the tears escape.

“Mia? What the hell? Are you all right?”

Gabe. God, it was Gabe. His arm came around her, urging her to her feet.

“Good God, baby, what’s wrong?” he demanded. “Why are you crying? Did someone hurt you?”

“Sick,” she croaked out amid another storm of tears.

Her head hurt, her throat was on fire, and she was so cold and tired that she couldn’t bear the thought of walking another step.

Gabe cursed and then he swung her into his arms and strode rapidly toward her apartment building.

“I don’t want to hear one goddamn word, you understand? You’re sick and you need someone to take care of you. Jesus. What if I hadn’t been here? What if you’d collapsed on the damn sidewalk and no one was around to help you?”

She didn’t say anything and instead buried her head against his shoulder, inhaling his scent. His warmth seeped into her skin, soothing all her aches. God, it had been so long. She hadn’t been warm since he’d left her. Or she’d left him. It didn’t matter, because the end result was that she was alone.

He carried her into her apartment and into her bedroom. Then he rummaged through her drawer and pulled out a warm pair of pajamas.

“Here,” he said. “Get changed and comfortable. I’m going to go make you some soup and get some medicine down you. You’re burning up with fever.”

It took all her strength just to manage the task of getting out of her clothes and into the pajamas. Then she sank onto the edge of the bed, spent and wanting only to snuggle underneath the covers.

A moment later, Gabe returned and he promptly did just that. Tucked her in and bunched the covers around her. He kissed her forehead and she closed her eyes, savoring that brief contact. But he didn’t remain. He positioned pillows so she could sit up to eat, and then he disappeared again.

When he came back this time, he was carrying a cup of soup and two medicine bottles. He shook out the pills into his palm after setting the soup on the nightstand, and then he opened the bottle of liquid cold medicine and poured the right dosage into the small measuring cup.

After making her swallow down the liquid and the pills, he handed her the cup of soup and guided it into her hands.

“How long have you been sick?” Gabe asked grimly.

For the first time she looked at him. Really focused on him. And she was shocked by what she saw. He looked as bad as she felt. Deep shadows under his eyes. There were new lines across his forehead and at his temples. He looked…tired. Exhausted. Emotionally spent.

Had she done this to him?

“Since yesterday,” she croaked. “I’m not sure what’s wrong. I’m just so tired. This whole week. It’s just been too much.”

A shadow crossed his face and guilt flared in his eyes.

“Drink your broth. By then the medicine will have taken effect and then you need to rest.”

“Don’t go,” she whispered as he got up from the bed. “Please. Not tonight. Don’t go.”

He turned, regret deep in his eyes. “I’m not leaving you, Mia. Not this time.”

After she finished the soup, Gabe took it from her and went back to the kitchen. She dug deeper into the covers, a shiver overtaking her. Even the soup hadn’t been able to warm her.

Her eyelids were heavy, and she struggled to keep them open. A moment later, the bed dipped and to her surprise, Gabe slid into bed next to her, his arms wrapping tightly around her.

“Rest now, Mia,” he murmured. “I’ll be here if you need anything. I just want you to feel better.”

Forgetting everything else but the fact that she was back in his arms, she pushed herself as tightly against him as she could get, and then she relaxed, allowing his heat to seep into her veins.

He was better than any drug, any remedy for her illness.

With a sigh, she closed her eyes and gave in to the sweet temptation he offered.

• • •

The next morning when Mia awoke, the bed was empty and she wondered if the night before had been just a crazy dream brought on by her fever. Maybe she’d imagined it all. But when she turned on her side, nestling her cheek against the pillow Gabe had slept on, she saw a note propped on the mattress in front of his pillow.

Take your medicine. Jace will be by to check on you later today. Rest this weekend and feel better.

Love, Gabe

Beside the note were several ibuprofen pills, and on the nightstand, already poured into the dosage cup was the liquid cold-reliever medication.

She sat up, frowning. She hadn’t imagined he’d leave. He’d been so…persistent.

A shiver overtook her and she reached for the medicine, gulping it down with the water he’d left for her. She leaned back, resting her head on the pillow where Gabe had lain.

She closed her eyes. She could still smell him. Could still feel his warmth surrounding her. God, she missed him.

Was her pride worth them both being miserable? Did he truly love her, and did he want another chance for them?

All the indicators were there, but she was afraid to trust him. Afraid to give him that chance again when he’d hurt her so badly by not fighting for her in the first place.

• • •

Gabe called Jace in the lobby of Jace’s building and waited for his friend to respond. A moment later, Jace responded and Gabe didn’t give him any time to question anything.

“Jace, it’s me, Gabe. I need to talk to you. It’s about Mia.”

A few moments later, Gabe rode the elevator up to Jace’s penthouse apartment. Jace was there to greet him when he got off the elevator, a slight frown marring his face.

“What’s up?” Jace asked.

Gabe walked inside, not bothering to take off his coat. He wasn’t staying long. There was too much he had to accomplish before the weekend was over.

“Mia is sick,” he said bluntly. “I found her on the sidewalk yesterday when she was walking home from work. She was burning up with fever and some asshole had knocked her over. She didn’t even have the strength to make it back to her apartment.”

“What the fuck? Is she okay?”

Gabe held up his hand. “I stayed with her last night. Got some medicine down her and I left some for her to take when I left this morning. I left her a note telling her you’d be by to check in on her later.”

Jace’s frown deepened. “You didn’t stay with her? Hell, Gabe, you’ve been relentless in your pursuit and you finally get a chance where she isn’t kicking your ass and you left her sick in her apartment?”

Gabe sighed. “I’ve pushed her too hard. I’m part of the reason she’s so rundown and sick. I don’t want to beat her down. That’s not the way I want her to come to me or for us to be together. I need to back off and give her time to get well. I want you to get your ass over there and take care of her this weekend. I need her well by Monday night, because that’s when I’m going to fucking crawl for her.”

Jace lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “What?”

Gabe ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve got a ring to buy this weekend and other arrangements to make. All you have to do is have her at Rockefeller Center Monday night by the Christmas tree. Don’t fuck this up, Jace. I don’t care if you have to carry her. You make damn sure she’s there.”

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