“Is that the car that broke your foot?” Vaughn grins.
“Not now,” I growl at him. “Can you just call Gil, explain everything to him, and have him call my lawyers? Oh, and we need to get someone to do a sweep for bugs in my apartment as well.”
“I know a guy,” Julian says, reaching for his phone. “I’ll call him now.”
“Thanks,” I say. Then, I yank open the bathroom door and gesture to Charly. “Let’s go.”
Charly’s been gone for ages. Well, it feels like ages. It’s actually only been just over an hour.
She said she’d call me once she talked to Gabe. But I’ve heard nothing so far.
What if he didn’t believe her, and she doesn’t know how to tell me?
Either way, it doesn’t matter if he believes her or not. I have the truth now, and I can do something about it. I won’t have those bastards using and slandering my name like that.
I should call Jayce. He’ll know what I should do. I have no clue what time it is in Japan, but this is an emergency.
I’ve just pulled up his number to call when there’s a knock on the door.
Gucci jumps off the bed and runs to the door. She starts jumping around in excitement in front of it. “Baaahhh! Baaahhh!”
She can probably sense it’s Charly at the door.
It’s bad news. I know it is. If it were good news, she would have called me, like she said she would.
She probably just didn’t want to tell me over the phone.
I put my phone down and pad over to the door. I scoop Gucci up in my arms and then open the door.
“Gabe.” His name comes out in a breathless rush.
The surprise of him being here knocks the air from my lungs.
I only saw him less than a day ago, but it feels like forever, looking at him now.
He looks exhausted. Dark rings under his eyes.
But he’s still beautiful.
“Hey, Speedy,” he says in that husky, deep voice of his.
And my mouth dries.
He’s here, and he called me Speedy. That’s got to be good, right?
Gucci starts wriggling in my arms, so I put her down. She bolts to Gabe and starts jumping around his legs. I’ve never seen her act this way around him before. Normally, she head-butts him.
The one time she should head-butt him, and she’s whoring it up around him.
“Hey, Gucci.” He bends down and picks Gucci up, holding her.
I stare at them, my heart flipping in my chest.
He’s never held her before. But he’s holding her now.
Tears fill my eyes. I don’t know why.
He looks at me. Guilt flashes through his eyes.
“What are you doing here?” I try to make my voice sound strong, but it doesn’t work.
“Can I come in?” he asks.
“Okay.” I stand back, allowing him in the room.
He walks in, and I close the door.
He puts Gucci down on the bed. Then, he turns and walks back to me, stopping a foot away. “I spoke to Charly.”
“Where is she?”
“She just dropped me off and went back to my apartment.” He rubs a hand over his hair. “Charly told me everything. Fuck, Ava, I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you.” His head drops in shame.
My heart breathes a sigh of relief. But my chest tightens in pain at seeing him so beaten down like this. “It’s okay, Gabe. Honestly. I know the evidence was pointing straight in my direction, and I can understand why you were taken in by it. Do I wish that you had believed me when I told you it wasn’t me? Of course I do. But I can understand why you didn’t. I think, if I were in your situation, I would have struggled to believe you with the overwhelming evidence.”
“You would have?”
“I think so.” I nod. “I probably wouldn’t have kicked you out of the apartment, and I probably would have at least let you try to prove your innocence. But, yeah, I’d have struggled with it, too.”
“You’re a better person than I am.”
“It’s true.” I bite back a smile.
“No, you are.” He steps closer. “I’m so sorry for everything I said. Will you forgive me for being weak and stupid and for being an absolute jackass to you?”
“I forgive you for the shitty things you said to me. But, as for the other stuff, there’s nothing to forgive. We are both victims in this whole thing.”
He’s staring at me, confusion in his eyes. “I thought…”
“What? That I’d be angry?”
“Honestly, yeah. I was expecting you to kick my ass hard. I had this whole speech laid out. I was going to tell you how sorry I am for ever doubting you. That I will never doubt you again. That I love you. So much. Like I’ve never loved anyone before. And that I need you to forgive me. And I want you to come home, Speedy. I was ready to beg if necessary.”
“Really?” I lift a brow.
“Really.” He comes close to me, his nearness and the scent and strength of him stealing my breath. He drops to his knees before me.
I stare down at him. Then, I run my fingers through his hair.
His eyes close. Then, he presses his face to my stomach and wraps his arms around me.
I feel his body shudder against mine.
“I’m so fucking sorry, Ava. For everything.” His voice is raw, and it breaks my heart.
I lower down to my knees and take his face in my hands. “It’s okay, Gabe.” I soothe him, brushing my thumb over his cheek. “It’s okay. I love you, and everything is going to be okay. We’re together now, and that’s what matters.”
I kiss his cheek. His forehead. His nose. His lips.
“What those bastards, Digby and Sandy, did to you, putting your past out there for everyone to read about…it’s despicable. And I know you’re worrying about what people might be saying…but it doesn’t matter, Gabe. None of it. What matters is you and what an amazing, kind, generous, and beautiful man you are. A man who stepped up for his kid brother when he needed him most and did what he had to do. Not many people would have been able to handle the situation you found yourself in. Most would have stumbled at the first hurdle. But not you, Gabe. You got on with things, and when the chance to escape was offered to you, you grabbed it with both hands and made something of yourself. I admire you so much. I think you’re the bravest and strongest person I’ve ever met, and I count myself lucky to know you.”
He’s staring at me, his eyes glassy with emotion. “You’re wrong,” he says roughly. “I’m not the strongest person you know, babe. You are. You’re fucking incredible, Ava. And I love you so very much.” Then, he seals his mouth over mine and kisses me deeply as he tightly wraps me in his arms.
And I know that, this time, he will never let me go again.
Gabe and I walk back into his apartment together, my hand in his, Gucci trotting alongside us, and I’m feeling a hell of a lot better than I did the last time I was here.
Charly, Vaughn, and Julian are still here, sitting on the sofa, and there’s some guy I don’t recognize.
When Gucci sees Charly, she goes bounding over to her and jumps into her lap. Charly proceeds to give her the attention she was after.
Charly stops stroking her and looks over at me. Are you okay? she mouths.
I smile and nod in response.
“Gabe, this is Martin. He’s worked security for me in the past. He’s one of the best in the business. I called him to come and sweep the apartment for you.”
“And?” Gabe says.
“I ran a spectrum analyzer over your apartment, and I found a bug in here. It was under the sofa, just tacked to the base. There was one in your office, under the seat of the desk chair. One in the kitchen, in the light fixture. One in the guest bedroom, behind the mirror, and there was one in your bedroom, tacked to the base of a lamp.”
Oh God. They recorded us having sex.
My eyes fly to Gabe. His jaw is working angrily, his eyes lit with rage.
His eyes come to mine, and they soften on me. His hand comes around my cheek. “It’s okay, baby.”