I put the spoon back in the cereal bowl. “Yeah, but I thought that was just for you guys.”

“He always brings enough food to feed a small army. There’ll be plenty for you.”


“Oh. Okay. Thank you.” I feel really warm at the idea that he’s including me in breakfast with his brother.

He removes the crutch from under his arm and leans against the counter. “Where’s psycho goat?” he asks, looking around like Gucci’s going to jump out and attack him at any minute.

“Gucci is out on the terrace.”

“Shitting?”

“No. Enjoying the sunshine.”

“Talking of sunshine, why are you dressed like it’s winter?”

I glance down at my sweater and then back up at him. I narrow my gaze at him. The bastard knows why I’m dressed like this. I wanted to cover up well after Nipplegate.

I’m wearing a padded bra. It makes my boobs look bigger, but at least it keeps the nips from showing. And, just to be doubly sure, I put a knit sweater on. And jean shorts because it is warm out there, so I’m staying cool where I can.

“Just keeping the girls covered. Wouldn’t want to have any more showings and give you another reason to be a pervy jackass.”

His mouth spreads into a grin. “Aw, Speedy. I was just playing with you. Don’t cover up on my account. I wouldn’t want you to sweat to death.”

“I won’t.” I sit up and fold my arms over my chest. “I’ll be perfectly fine.”

“If you say so.”

“I do. And here’s your coffee.” I slide over the cup of coffee I made him, and I pick my own up, cradling it in my hands.

He takes a sip and then puts it down. Using his crutch, he leans over and opens a cupboard where he pulls out a bottle of scotch.

I watch as he pours a good measure into the coffee. Then, he puts the bottle back into the cupboard and takes another drink of coffee. A gulp this time.

He sees me staring at him.

“You want to make your coffee Irish?” he asks.

“You used scotch. Wouldn’t that make it Scottish?”

His lips press together in a smile. “Someone’s snarky this morning.”

I raise a disapproving brow. “Don’t you think it’s a little early to be making coffee anything of the European type?”

His eyes darken, not looking impressed. “If I wanted to be nagged on the regular, I’d get married. I’m not, so I’ll make my coffee however the fuck I want.” Taking his coffee with him and leaving behind one of his crutches, he heads out of the kitchen.

He’s right. I shouldn’t be interfering in how he lives his life.

It’s not like I have anything to be singing about.

Lost my job, ran over a movie star with my car, homeless. Yeah, I should keep my opinions to myself.

Grabbing the bottle of scotch, I pick up my coffee and go into the living room. I see Gabe through the window, sitting out on the terrace. He’s smoking a cigarette.

Gucci is lying out by the pool. She looks like she’s sunbathing. All she needs is a towel and a bathing suit, and she’d be good to go.

I wonder if you can get bathing suits for goats.

I go outside and sit on the lounger next to him.

“Sorry,” I say. “I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

He doesn’t look at me. The only response I get is a nod of his head.

I put my coffee down on the lounger and pour some scotch into it. I put the scotch on the floor.

When I look at Gabe, he’s watching me with mild amusement.

“I thought it was too early to be making things Scottish.”

“Clearly, you’re a bad influence. And I figured, if you can’t beat him, join him.”

His lips lift at the corner. “I’m all for kinky, Speedy, but beating’s not my thing. Now, a little light spanking, and I’m your man.”

Gabe spanking me? Yes, please.

I laugh, despite myself. “You’re incorrigible.”

“It’s my best feature.” He grins. Putting his cup to his lips, he takes a drink.

I do the same. And then I start coughing. “God, that’s strong. I think I put too much in.”

Gabe laughs.

I like the sound of his laugh. It’s raspy and deep. Like it comes from somewhere hidden deep inside him. But I like it most when it’s me making him laugh.

I sit back with my coffee and stare out at the view.

It’s lovely up here.

And hot.

The sun is beating down, and I can feel myself starting to sweat. This sweater really was not a good idea. Maybe I should change into a T-shirt.

Gabe sighs lightly and leans back on the lounger, staring up at the sky. He takes a drag of his cigarette. I watch him. I see just how dark the skin surrounding his eyes looks. I didn’t notice before.

“You look tired,” I say gently.

He blows the smoke from his mouth and then turns his head to look at me. “You would, too, if you had been woken up by a head-butt from a goat.”

“I didn’t mean it as a criticism.” I hold my hand up in surrender. “I only mean it as a concerned employee. And I am sorry about Gucci. I’ll make sure she stays out of your room.”

He takes another sip of coffee. “I didn’t sleep well,” he tells me.

“No? Why not?”

He stares at me for a long moment. So long that I start to squirm under his penetrating gaze.

Then, he looks away, over at the skyline, and he takes another pull on his cigarette. “My foot was bothering me.”

“Gabe…I know you said you don’t take painkillers, but maybe you should consider it.”

“No.”

“It would help you sleep.”

He quickly sits up. “For fuck’s sake, Ava! I said no.”

This is only the third time he’s called me Ava. But I don’t get the warm shivers this time.

Hearing him say my name in anger is the slap I needed. I told myself I’d stop interfering in his life, and here I am, doing it again.

“I don’t mean to interfere. My intentions are only ever good. But I am sorry for pushing. I’ll do my best to stop sticking my nose in where it’s not wanted.” I start to chew on my thumbnail.

Leaving his cigarette between his lips, he breathes heavily through his nose and rubs his hand across the back of his neck.

Feeling like I should leave him alone, I pick my coffee up, ready to go.

He takes the cigarette from his mouth. “A good friend of mine…he had an injury a while back. Got hooked on painkillers. I saw what he went through. It wasn’t pretty. That’s why I won’t take them.” He leans forward and flicks the ash from his cigarette into the ashtray by his lounger.

“Shit. I’m sorry. Is your friend okay now?” I lean over, pick up the ashtray, and place it on the lounger in front of him.

He gives me a grateful smile.

“Yeah, he’s fine. But it was hard going there for a while.”

“Well, he’s lucky that he has you as a friend. But, Gabe, just because your friend got addicted doesn’t mean you would though. Millions of people take pain medication every day without getting addicted.”

“I know.” He sighs. “And I have taken pain medication in the past—for headaches, you know.” He glances at me.

There’s a strange sort of vulnerability in his eyes that I haven’t seen before. It makes me want to hold him.

“But I just don’t want to risk it. People in my line of business are well-known for their addictions.” He gives a sardonic look.

“Sure. I understand. And I’m sorry for pushing the subject.”

“It’s fine, Speedy.”

He gives me a soft smile, and our eyes lock.

My skin starts to tingle under the weight of his stare. The breeze blows, kicking up my hair. And I see as his eyes change from dark brown to almost black. An ache starts to form between my legs. My breasts suddenly feel heavy.

And I somehow seem to be closer to Gabe. Like my body moved without informing my brain.

“Gabriel,” I softly say his name.

And those dark eyes rage like fire.

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