“You should go,” she whispered. Go, so I don’t have to see the disappointment in your eyes. She could never stomach his disappointment, one of the reasons why she always left Holland Springs after staying a while. Gabriel would get to her, with only a look.
“Will you be here when I get home?” he asked, and she wanted to cry, because he knew her that well.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Not until it’s decided about Ivy.” He sounded so defeated that her heart began to ache for him.
She nodded, biting her lower lip. There was nothing she could say, and what she wanted to say would do nothing to help.
Gabriel nursed his beer while waiting for his turn at the dartboard.
Noah sat down beside him, after scoring three bulls-eyes in a row. “It feels like we haven’t talked in forever.”
Gabriel gave him a side-eyed glance. “We talk every day at work.”
“Yeah, but only about work stuff.”
“What would you like to talk about, Noah?”
“Nothing.” Noah grinned over the rim of his glass.
Carlos stepped up to the table and tossed the dart on it. “Your turn, angel.”
“Angel Edwards, huh?” Noah made a noise. “Stripper or ninja name?”
“Neither.” Though Summer tended to call him by the nickname when he was nude, or inside her. He swallowed.
Carlos looked at Noah. Together they said, “Stripper name.”
“You guys really need to stay off Facebook.”
“But how else will I find out what people I haven’t talked to in ten years are up to nowadays?” Noah quipped.
“If you haven’t talked to them in ten years, why would you start now?” Gabriel asked, scooping up the darts.
“Because they accepted my friend request.”
“Says the guy who posted over a hundred pictures of his wedding.”
Gabriel’s mouth flattened. Who cares how many pictures he had posted of his and Summer’s wedding? She certainly didn’t. Her not-so-little reminder tonight was loud and clear. She might give him her body, might even laugh with him, and confide some of the things that had bothered her for years, but never would she be his completely.
Yet, he’d given her his word, knowing exactly why she wanted his help, all the while thinking he could change her mind. God, he’d been such an arrogant fool, thinking he could change her anything.
“Sore subject?” Carlos asked.
There was no way he’d talk to them about Summer’s plans. Carlos was half a beer away from saying, I told you so as it was.
Noah didn’t have a clue about Summer at all, his view of the opposite sex was generally positive, no matter their reputation. Besides, there were only two people in his and Summer’s relationship, and neither of them were Noah or Carlos.
“I’m strategizing on how best to win,” Gabriel said instead, and it wasn’t a lie. He really did want to kick Carlos and Noah’s butts. Usually they won. He was horrible at darts in college, and he was just as horrible now, but he didn’t hang out with them to improve his game—obviously.
“If you strategize any longer, they’ll kick us out and start cleaning up.”
Noah snorted. “If the bar starts closing at nine at night, then I need to move to another town.”
Gabriel looked around him, not for the first time noticing how young the bar crowd was—legal yes, but at least seven years younger.
“Have you guys noticed the crowd lately?” Noah suddenly asked, and both he and Carlos leveled their buddy with a look. “I feel old.”
A waitress walked by, wearing low-slung jeans and a halter-top that left nothing to the imagination, but Gabriel pretended he hadn’t seen anything.
“Try thirty, and then talk to me about feeling old,” Carlos said with a grin.
“I will in February,” Noah said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Maybe we should find another place to hang out.”
“Or start playing this in my garage,” Gabriel offered. “Beer’s better and cheaper.”
“I’ll toast to that,” Carlos said, holding up his glass. “Shelia would be much happier with that arrangement.”
“It has begun,” Noah said in a deep, booming voice. “One wedding ring to rule us all.”
“Shut up, Noah.” Carlos threw a pretzel at him. “Shelia is very secure in our relationship, but bars like this… It seems kind of juvenile to hang out here and do the same thing we’ve been doing since we were in college.”
Gabriel threw his dart and hit the number three. “Are we calling it a night, gentleman?”
“With that score, you better hope we want to call it a night.”
“That’s just sad, Gabriel. We’ve been playing for ten years, and you’re still just as bad.”
“So’s your face.”
“Classic.” Noah emptied his bottle and set it down, leaving some cash for the tip. “Ready?”
“How about we continue our game another night?” Gabriel asked.
“Fine with me,” Carlos said.
Noah shrugged. “I can catch up on Honey Boo Boo re-runs ”
Gabriel struggled not to make a face and failed. “Sounds interesting.”
“If you say so.”
Gabriel paid for his drinks, left a tip, and headed outside. The night was humid, so much so that it felt like he was drinking air instead of breathing it in. As he drove home, he thought of Summer, and whether or not she’d be there.
Despite not arguing, his heart felt heavy. He wasn’t sure how to proceed once he did get home. Assuming, once again, that Summer was actually there.
The outside lights were on when he pulled into the drive. He parked beside the truck he’d given her four years ago. She’d been so desperate, so frightened, and for once had looked to him to help her, really help her.
He’d seen the need to be her hero and had taken the opportunity to play the part. So, he couldn’t blame her for resenting and needing him at the same time.
But now. Now she was his wife.
He exhaled, parking his truck and heading inside.
“I’m still here,” Summer said by way of greeting.
Gabriel hung up his truck keys and continued to the bedroom, but not before dropping a kiss on her cheek along the way. “Wasn’t worried.”