“Yes, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have broken up with you like I did, because then you wouldn’t be in this mess.” She blew her nose. “Everyone is talking about it.”
His stomach dropped. “Everyone?” Oh crap. He had to warn Summer.
A familiar flash of pale hair had him reeling. Summer’s brown-eyed gaze met his. She looked heartbroken while he felt like his heart was breaking. She must have heard the rumor, and now she thought he believed it, when that was the furthest thing from the truth.
Summer spun away, dashing in the opposite direction. He shouted her name and went after her.
“Why are you going to her?”
“Because she needs me,” he tossed over his shoulder, and that’s when he almost stopped in his tracks. He really did have a need to save people, to be needed, and save the day. Hadn’t he automatically comforted Elise, ready to help her in whatever she needed?
Summer crossed the street, and a large moving van went by, obscuring his view of her for only a minute, but it was enough time for her to disappear.
Gritting his teeth, he kept himself from roaring her name. She didn’t need any more attention drawn to her, and if he acted like some jealous husband (though he wasn’t), shouting at her in the middle of town, then it would only serve to make the gossips happy.
As cars passed, more than a few drivers waved at him. He waved back, heading to the parking lot where his truck and Summer’s bright green VW Bug was parked, arriving in record time.
It wasn’t there.
He smacked the roof of his truck and then dug into his pocket for his keys. He unlocked the door and started to get inside when another woman yelled his name.
“Bella,” he groaned. “I have to get to Summer.”
“It’ll only take a minute,” Isabella pleaded.
He didn’t have a minute, but this was his sister. “You have one minute.”
Isabella nodded, her normally tan skin pale. “I’m asking you to wait until I’m done before you get upset.”
“Good grief, Bella. I don’t want to hear about Summer and Jeremy.”
Isabella wrinkled her nose. “They’re planning a birthday party for Jemma Leigh. It’s supposed to be a surprise.”
Oh God. His wife was actually trying to do a good deed, and this was how she was paid back. “Fine. I’ll be sure not to spill the beans.”
Gabriel blinked, his grip loosening on his truck. He actually felt light-headed. “What did you say?”
“I’m pregnant, and I don’t know what to do.”
Gabriel saw red. “I’ll kill Peter, that rat bast—”
“You don’t know the rat bastard,” Isabella said, her cheeks flushing. “The father isn’t from around here.”
Learning that the father wasn’t Peter made him feel marginally better. However, the isn’t from around here descriptor didn’t exactly make him all excited.
“Are you disappointed in me?” his sister asked in a small voice.
“Soon as I become the most perfect person on the planet, then I’ll be disappointed with you. Or if the baby’s father is a Romanov,” he joked, unsure of what else to say.
“He’s not a Romanov, but he is the best friend of one.”
Gabriel ran a hand through his hair, wishing he didn’t have to deal with this right now. Selfish, maybe, but he needed to get to Summer before she did something dumb—like skip town, without him.
“When did you meet the best friend of a Romanov?”
“It’s not important, but Gabriel…” Isabella’s voice shook. “I’m scared.”
He pulled his little sister into his arms, kissing the top of her head. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”
“Summer said I should at least give the guy a chance to have a choice in the matter.”
“My wife is very smart.” He could only imagine how Summer felt when she learned she was pregnant, and the baby’s father had been killed.
“Can you promise not to tell Mom and Dad?”
Gabriel leaned back. “It’s not my place to tell. It’s yours, but what I can do is support you, in whatever way is best for you and the baby.”
Isabella hugged him tighter. “Thank you. You’re the best big brother a girl could ever have.”
Gabriel smiled. Now all he had to be was the best husband a girl could ever have and convince his wife to stay.
Summer finished packing the last of her belongings as Gabriel walked into their bedroom.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t home sooner, but Isabella needed me.”
“Don’t apologize for helping you sister. She’s family.”
He exhaled and then saw her bags. “Don’t do this. Please don’t do this. ”
“I have to.” She smoothed her faded red t-shirt down over her jeans shorts, and then shoved her hands into pockets that peeked out from beneath the frayed hem. Leaving the clothes Jemma Leigh had let her borrow for an indefinite amount of time was the right thing to do. “I’m leaving you, Gabriel, and it’s for the best.”
“But we belong together.”
“Wish I could say the same.” Coming back home made her entire life muddy. It made her question who she was, where she was headed, and where she’d been.
He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up in places. Making her want to smooth it back down. “Tell me why you’re in such a hurry? Is it because you saw me comforting Elise?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to be flippant about the whole thing. To be the old Summer who always came back home with a mountain on her shoulder. “You belong with her, not me.”
Taking a step closer, his indigo eyes seemed to see right through her. “Don’t you think that’s for me to decide?”
“No—I mean, yes.” She pulled her hands out of her pocket and held them up. “Look, I don’t expect you to understand, but there’s nothing here for me.”
“Not even me?”
Pain ricocheted inside of her. She lowered her gaze to stare at his shoes. “I don’t deserve you.” Glancing back up at him, she found his gorgeous eyes full of compassion. “Ivy doesn’t need me in her life.”
His hand came up to cup her jaw, his thumb tenderly rubbing her skin. “Maybe you need her in yours, and I sure as hell need you in mine.”
It would be so easy to lean on him, to draw in his strength when she had none of her own. “No, you don’t .You need someone to love you, to be able to go to church with you, and fit in with your friends. Right now, I can’t do all of those things.” Brutal honesty was the only way to make him let go of her.