His abrupt question caught her by surprise. “What made you change your mind about dating colleagues?” she asked.
Gabe nodded. “You’re right, you deserve an explanation.” He paused for a minute. “I dated Rebecca, one of the nurses I worked with in Madison. I quickly figured out that we didn’t have anything in common; in fact, she made it clear the best thing she liked about me was my title.”
“Your title?” She frowned, not quite following.
“Doctor.” He lifted a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “You must know the type, the ones who only want to marry a doctor because they think we rake in the big bucks. Rebecca didn’t even like being a nurse; she complained about it all the time. I broke things off, and that’s when everything turned ugly.”
“Oh, Gabe,” she murmured. Unfortunately, she did know there were nurses out there who were only interested in marrying a doctor.
“She alleged I sexually harassed her, that I made unwanted advances toward her. There was a huge investigation, and I thought for sure I’d be vindicated, but a few of her friends lied for her, and pretty soon it was her word against mine. So I left and came here, to Hope County Hospital.”
“I don’t blame you for keeping your distance,” she assured him. “That’s a terrible thing for her to do to you.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ve had it easy compared to others.” Gabe held out his hand, and she couldn’t resist taking it and moving closer to him. “I understand now that the reason you related so well to Annie is because you went through something similar, didn’t you?”
She shouldn’t have been surprised that he’d figured it out. “My mother was married to an abusive man,” she admitted in a low voice. “I saw the vicious cycle first-hand, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to stop it.”
His hand tightened on hers, and when she met his gaze, his concern was obvious. “How did you escape?”
“My mother only cared about the abuse when George started hitting me. The night he broke my arm, she took me to the hospital, and from there, we went to a women’s shelter.”
Gabe groaned and pulled her close, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry you had to go through that again last night. Thankfully, God was watching over you. Over both of us.”
Her eyes pricked with tears. He was being too nice; she didn’t deserve his kindness. Here she’d convinced Gabe to go to church, and she was the one who was at a crossroad in her faith. “I can’t seem to find a way to forgive him,” she whispered. “I thought I had, but last night after Kurt was shot, I immediately thought he deserved to die.”
“A perfectly natural reaction,” Gabe pointed out. He leaned back, put his finger beneath her chin, and forced her to meet his gaze. “I thought the same thing.”
“But Gabe, don’t you see? God expects us to forgive our enemies.”
“Yes, He does.” Gabe’s gaze was intense. “But He also promises to help us learn how to forgive our enemies. He doesn’t necessarily make us figure it out on our own.”
She wanted to believe him, but really, there was no way of knowing if she’d ever be able to forgive George for what he did to her mother, or forgive Kurt for what he did to Annie. And how could she find peace and love if she didn’t?
“Larissa, I’m falling in love with you.”
Gabe’s declaration stole her breath, and she instinctively shook her head. “I don’t know that I’m ready for that.”
“I’ll give you all the time you need, as long as you give me a chance. Don’t shut me out, Larissa.”
She pulled away and rose to her feet, threading her fingers through her hair. “I’ll try, but I can’t make any promises,” she said finally.
“That’s all I can ask,” he said. “So will you have dinner with me tonight? I’ll pick you up at six.”
A reluctant smile tugged at her mouth. “All right, dinner at six.”
“Great. See you soon.” Gabe left, and within minutes, she was second-guessing her decision.