Relief flowed through her. He wasn’t back to argue or fight with her. “Did you have fun with your friends?”
“I did, even though I suck at darts.” He paused at the entrance of their bedroom and gave her a self-depreciating grin. “Maybe I’ll win next time. I’m getting in the shower, to wash off the stench of Poor Boy’s, if you’d like to join me.”
Images of him in the shower, water running down his hard body, made her squirm. She crossed her arms. “I already had one.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, and she watched as he disappeared.
She picked up the remote and clicked on the television, channel surfing until he appeared in the doorway again, with only a towel wrapped around his lean hips.
Her mouth went dry.
“I’m going to bed now.”
There was no way she would join him in there either. She had to start distancing herself. The honeymoon was over. After everything was sorted out with Ivy, their marriage would be over.
“I’m not tired,” she said, tearing her gaze away from him.
“Me neither,” he said.
Oh God. Please don’t ask me to come to bed with you. She stared harder at the television.
Gabriel appeared before her. Unfortunately, he had on a pair of pajama bottoms. Though the view of his muscular chest was nice—and bad. Very bad to her determination. “Let’s go outside.”
“To play with my telescope.”
Mulling over his words, Summer clicked off the television. Surely, taking part in an activity that didn’t involving kissing or touching would be okay. After all, she didn’t want to leave him with completely horrible memories of her.
Smiling, he pulled her up from the couch and led her up the stairs to a room in a corner of the house. Since she hadn’t allowed herself to explore his house, because she felt like she didn’t deserve to even live here, she was seeing it for the first time. It was empty.
She frowned. “Where’s your telescope?”
“Right through those doors.”
Opening the French doors, Gabriel waited for her to step outside first. The night sky greeted her, saturated with stars, so many stars that the sight took her breath away.
She reached out to touch one, and then drew her hand back at her foolishness.
“I feel the same way,” he said, running his fingers though her hair. “Did you know that you can buy a star for someone, and have it named for them?”
No touching, she wanted to shout, but she was weak and needy for his touch. And greedy. She wanted to savor all his touches and kisses, before she had to leave him.
“No,” she said shakily. “I didn’t know that.”
“Look through here and you can see a pretty crown,” he said, tapping on the end. “I would have named it for you, but someone beat me to it.”
“Oh.” Unsure of what to think of his statement, Summer leaned down, closing one eye and peering through the lens with the other. “I can’t tell which one is which.”
“Seven stars forming a u-shape. It’s called Corona Borealis.”
She looked up from the telescope and made a face to keep from smiling. “It’s named for a beer?”
He grinned. “You know it’s not.”
Shrugging, she bent to the telescope once more and found the seven stars that formed the u-shape.
“Legend has it that Theseus gave the crown to Ariadne for helping him defeat the Minotaur. She wore it at their wedding.” She heard him move closer to her, running his hands down her back. “They worked together, you see, to defeat something that no one else had before. Alone, neither of them would have survived.”
“So they lived happily ever after?”
He exhaled. “I’d like to think so.”
“But they probably didn’t.” She stood and turned around.
“I still like to think so,” he repeated.
“I’m not trying to change your mind.”
He made a noise. “No, you’re trying to make sure yours doesn’t ever change.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I really am going to bed now.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Okay,” was all he said as he walked inside.
She wanted to go after him, but she made herself remain still and calm. Once she was sure enough time had passed, she headed inside, shutting the doors behind her and hurrying to their bedroom.
The lights were off, but moonlight outlined his form in a soft, blue-white glow. She got into bed with him, curling up in a little ball, careful not to touch him. She didn’t deserve to touch him.
But he had other ideas. Gabriel rolled over, snaked one arm around her middle, and hauled her against him. He sighed. “Much better.”
Against her better judgment, she allowed herself to stay there and be lulled into sleep by the warmth of his body. He relaxed against her.
Her eyes flew open, and she made herself scoot away, but his arm shot out again and pulled her back.
With a little sigh, she gave in again, with the knowledge that come tomorrow, she’d be stronger.
Summer wasn’t stronger the next day, especially after a bright, green convertible VW Bug was delivered to his house. He’d even had it wrapped in a bright pink bow.
It wasn’t the present itself that had made her weak; it was the meaning behind it. Still, she steeled herself, thanked him sweetly, and swore to be stronger the next day. Unfortunately, she failed miserably, and continued to do so, day after day.
She was weak, completely and utterly weak.
Why just yesterday afternoon, Gabriel had stopped by, locked the door to Carolina Dreams, and carried her upstairs, where they spent the rest of the day in bed. He’d been more than a little enthusiastic when she climbed on top of him and rode him backwards. His hands had cupped her br**sts and his hot breath had scalded the skin behind her ear.
Jemma Leigh snapped her fingers at Summer, and she blinked, face heating.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” she asked.
“Newlyweds.” Smiling a little, Jemma Leigh patted her hand. “Have you two even finished opening all the wedding presents? I’ll be happy to help you with all the thank you cards.”
“Oh, I’ll let you know.” Summer hadn’t opened a single present, because she planned to return every single one of them. “Speaking of presents.” Summer reached into her purse and drew out a scroll, with a bright pink bow tied around the middle. “This is for you.”