Yeah, if there was one thing he hated in this world, it was hypocrites. Which is probably why he was so determined to prove to Summer that he wasn’t one—at least, not anymore. He wanted to prove to her that, for the most part, people could be counted on to be kind and caring when push came to shove… not everyone, but most.
Dear God, he prayed he was right.
He exhaled and took a right onto Ivy Lane.
A light shone in the second-story windows, and he frowned. It was doubtful that Summer had left the light on. She was too conscientious of stuff like that, and she had the uncanny ability to see in the dark like a cat.
Just then, a black cat jumped up on the window, rubbing its body back and forth on the glass. What in the world was Blackbeard doing there?
Maybe Summer had some inventory to do. Maybe he could check on her, offer his help, or at least his company.
Dashing around the back, he checked for her truck and found it, gleaming under a street lamp. With a smile, he strode to the back door, intent on knocking, when Blackbeard came running out, leaving the door ajar.
The cat was used to roaming where he wanted, and most of the townspeople knew who he was and gave him little treats, so Gabriel didn’t bother to try to catch him. Instead, he slipped through the door, and made his way upstairs, calling Summer’s name.
“Gabriel?” She appeared at the top of the stairs, eating a bowl of something while only wearing a t-shirt.
He almost tripped up the stairs at the sight of her shapely legs. The t-shirt barely covered her, so it left little to the imagination. Immediately, he stopped his ogling and froze on the stairs, staring the wooden steps. “Sorry. I didn’t know you were, uh… What are you doing here so late?”
“Eating a bowl of cereal while Blackbeard goes catting around.”
He frowned at the wood grain. “Do you do this every night?”
Relief flowed through him. Although, he still couldn’t figure out why she was dressed the way she was. It wasn’t his business, not completely, but it was strange.
“Usually I’m entertaining gentleman callers while he roams the streets,” she said in that voice he’d grown to dread. The one that meant he needed to turn around and go back the way he came, if he knew what was good for him.
Only he knew what was good for him—she was. She didn’t believe it, was all.
“Sounds fun. Care to entertain this gentleman?” he asked, silently praying he was going about this the right way.
The clink of the spoon dropping into the bowl made him grin. He risked taking another look at her. Summer’s mouth had dropped open, and then she caught him looking and put on a haughty face.
“Doubtful,” she said, turning away and disappearing from the top.
That wasn’t a no. He jogged the rest of the way up the stairs, catching her at the sink of the studio apartment. She rinsed out the bowl and set it down, then headed to the bathroom.
Guess he’d have to entertain both of them.
He glanced around the room. A lot had changed since he’d last seen it, but to be fair, he’d only been up here once and that was to help Rose unload some heavy boxes.
The open floor plan had remained the same, but the décor had changed. Gone was all the mismatched furniture. In its place were comfortable-looking seating areas, a table for two, and freshly painted cabinets, and granite countertops in the kitchen, as well an antique dresser with a flat-screen television on top. Off to the side was a small room with a very large bed.
Now, that was definitely new.
“Where does Rose keep all the extra inventory?”
“Alexander bought the building across the street, the one he’d originally had up for sale.”
“Guess when you’re that loaded, buying a building from yourself makes sense,” he said to himself, moving to the long couch by the front windows. “I thought you were staying at Strawberry Grove.” He sat down, and waited for her to join him.
She emerged from the bathroom a minute later, still wearing the same t-shirt but she had put on a pair of loose boxer shorts. “It’s better if I live here, until—”
“You move in with me,” he said.
Her eyes widened, just a little. She didn’t move from her spot by the television. “Yes.”
“At first, I thought I’d come up here and see if you wanted any help or maybe just some company.”
“I told you I have lots of company—except tonight,” she said, her gaze skittering away. She crossed her arms and took a deep breath.
He took the opportunity to continue, and ignore her little jab. “But on second thought, I think you were right. We do need a timeframe. In fact, I was thinking of speeding things up.”
“Do you?” she asked, still not looking at him.
“Yes.” He patted the seat beside him. “Why don’t you come sit over here? I’d rather not yell our plans.”
Stiffly, Summer marched to him, and he hid a smile. She sat on the opposite side of the sofa, so far away that she might as well be in the bedroom.
“How much longer?” she asked.
He scooted closer to her. “Maybe next week or two?”
“I don’t want to wait another week.”
“You at least need to meet my family first. Can you wait until after this weekend?”
“Maybe.” She shoved a pillow between them.
Undeterred, he scooted even closer, tossing the pillow on the floor.
“It’s going to get dirty,” she cried, starting for it, but he stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“The pillow is fine, and knowing you the way I do, we could eat off the floor and not get sick.”
“Guess clean freak and town whore doesn’t mash very well, does it?” Summer said, but there was less of a bite to her words. She settled against the couch again, and he unhanded her.
“For a town whore, you do a really crappy job at entertaining men.”
Summer finally turned to look at him. “Excuse me?”
“Honey, you’ve been gone more than you’ve actually lived here, and if you’d really been servicing all the men that you have been accused of sleeping with, or bragged about being with you, for that matter, then you’d still be on your back. It’s not mathematically possible.”
For a moment, she gaped at him, and he knew in his heart she wanted to laugh, or punch him in the throat. Maybe at the same time. He’d welcome either if it meant she would smile, if it meant she could erase today.