He shot her a dark look. “It means we’ll talk later. I hope you’re happy.” Then he stalked away, calling Elise’s name.
Summer watched him go. She wished she could say that she wasn’t happy, but she was. Though she really hadn’t wanted to hurt Elise, she had to get her daughter back. No matter the cost.
Someday, after the divorce, Gabriel and Elise could be together again, and Summer would never bother him again, even if it would permanently break her heart in two.
It was funny, if she thought about, because her heart had stopped working a long time ago.
Gabriel jogged after Elise, calling her name again and again.
Finally, she turned around, her green eyes blazing. “If I had wanted to talk to you, then I would have stopped, before everyone in the entire county heard you shouting my name.”
“Let me explain,” he said.
Elise’s lips smashed together, and then she took a breath. “There’s nothing to explain.”
“I know nothing happened, Gabe. You’re not that kind of guy.” Elise made a little face. “You’re kind, honest, and love saving damsels in distress.”
Affronted, he stepped back. “I enjoy helping people, Elise. It gives me joy to do for others what was done for me.”
“It’s not your job to save everyone,” she snapped.
Hadn’t Carlos said those very words to him? “I know it’s not, but all we were doing was talking, honey. Nothing more. I made no promises to help her.”
She smiled sadly. “You didn’t have to. The look on your face said it all for you.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing this.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve done nothing, but repeat to Summer that you come first, that you are what I have to focus on, not her.”
“Have to focus on?” She tilted her head to one side. “You make it sound like a chore you have to do.”
“I’m not going to win this argument, am I?” he asked. “I’m not going to be able to convince you that no matter what, I’ll keep my promise, am I?”
“Oh, Gabriel. The only woman you’ve ever kept your promise to is standing right where you left her.”
“I’ve never broken my promise to anyone.”
“That’s because you’ve never made one before.” She glanced away. “I talked to your ex-fiancée.”
“And what did Zoe have to say?”
“That you’re everything I know you to be, everything that any woman could want, but only one woman truly holds your heart.”
Zoe had said that to her? Zoe had known that about him, yet continued to be his friend and take him back, over and over again, until she finally met the man that made her happy? Some kind of friend he’d been.
“What would you like for me to do?” he asked.
“I think it’s best if we break up.”
She laid a hand on his arm. “The minute I felt a need to go into Carolina Dreams and warn Summer Holland to stay the hell away from my man was the moment I knew I needed to let you go.”
“Just like that?” Gabriel stood there, stunned. “I can’t—”
“Now you don’t have to. Seriously, Gabe, it’s for the best.” Elise leaned in, brushing a light kiss on his cheek. “I wish you happiness.” It began to rain, and she made a little sound, letting go of him and grabbing her umbrella. “Good-bye, Gabe.”
“Good-bye, Elise.” With the rain beating down on him, he watched her walk away, wondering what it said about him that he only felt the smallest bit of regret.
He wasn’t sure if he wanted the answer to that question.
Whirling around, he searched for Summer, but the park was empty. He thought for sure she would have stuck around to gloat. It was for the best anyway. He really needed time to think.
Helping Summer was possible now, but to what end? He had meant what he said to her about marriage and divorce.
He walked along the wet, tree-lined path and shoved his hands in his pockets. As a child, he never minded the rain, because it meant that he could get a little cleaner, that he and his mother could have a little water to drink.
Maybe Summer was as desperate as the woman who’d raised him on the streets of Bogotá, Columbia. From what he knew, or at least what he thought he knew, of Summer, she and his mother had a lot in common when it came to men.
They didn’t trust them. They used them and were used and abused in turn.
It was a nasty, vicious cycle that he would never know if his mother ever broke, but maybe this was his chance to help Summer break free of her past for good.
It’s not your job to save everyone.
No, it wasn’t, but all he’d been doing for Summer was throwing her life jackets over the years. It was time to pull her out of the ocean—permanently.
But he wasn’t quite sure how to implement that. There was someone he needed to talk to, someone whose judgment he trusted implicitly, even when he hadn’t bothered to listen.
Sunday dinners were anything but quiet at the Edwards’ house, especially with six brothers and sisters. Gabriel’s family hadn’t always been this large. Until the age of eight, there had only been his biological mother and himself living in a house comprised of wood, metal, and pieces of cardboard. It was a period of his life he didn’t care to dwell on, much less looked upon with fond memories.
His adopted father, John, sat at the head of the table, with his wife and Gabriel’s adopted mother, Gloria, on his right. Occasionally, Gabriel would catch the two of them staring at him, and then exchanging knowing glances. It wasn’t a big stretch of the imagination to figure out what they were thinking.
Elise’s mother and Gloria had become the best of friends, since Elise’s parents had moved down here. Both mothers had made it perfectly clear they loved the idea of Gabriel and Elise seriously dating. He wouldn’t put it past either mother to have engaged in a little wedding planning either.
A spoonful of peas sailed through the air, hitting Isabella, the next to the oldest of all the siblings, in the neck. She narrowed her eyes at Hope and Faith. “Stop playing with your food,” she said while signing the words with her hands.
The twins looked at each other and silently giggled, fingers furiously signing their next plan of assault on their big sister to each other.
Gabriel caught their attention and nodded at Paul, who was busy circling his dinner plate with miniature trains. Identical smiles grew to Cheshire proportions.