“You should probably go,” was all she said, and he tried not to let his disappointment show.
“I should be home before ten, but I’ll call you before I get back.” He let go of her, grabbing his cell phone from the nightstand and pocketing it. “I’ll text you.”
She nodded, and he felt his heart pinch a little. Time, he told himself. They couldn’t erase years of history in only a month. But a selfish part of him wanted her to at least go ahead and try.
“I love you.”
Her brown-eyed, desolate stare nearly ripped him in two. “I know you do, angel.”
As he left the house, he prayed for guidance and strength. He prayed that Summer would see herself the way he saw her, and he prayed for her to receive the forgiveness she didn’t think she deserved. They needed help in the coming days, months, and years.
This he knew, because there was no way either of them could do it on their own.
By the end of July, Rose, Ivy, and Alexander still hadn’t returned from their travels, and Summer was getting restless. Each day she was growing closer to Gabriel, to his family, and to abandoning her plan of getting custody of Ivy back from her sister.
She couldn’t allow that to happen. It was bad enough that she went to church and ate dinner at Gabriel’s parents’ house every Sunday. It was bad enough that she’d gone on couples dates with Jemma Leigh and her husband, Jeremy. It was bad enough that the bells on Carolina Dreams’ door never seemed to quit ringing, and people never stopped smiling. At her.
What was worse though, what was almost unpardonable, was the way she allowed herself to become vulnerable and surrender to Gabriel, like last night.
“Come sit with me and watch the sunset. It’s almost as pretty as you to look at,” he said when she joined him on the patio.
Next thing she knew, he had her in his arms, kissing her hard, and sliding his fingers deep inside of her. “So wet, sweetheart. So wet for me,” he whispered while she’d trembled in his embrace. “Let me take care of you.”
“Yes. Please,” she moaned.
She trusted him to keep his word, because he always did, right down to the littlest of things, like picking up toothpaste for her. Something she could have done it herself, but it was like she was testing him.
Pick me up at five, she would tell him, and he would show up at 4:59.
He brought her flowers every Tuesday. On Thursdays, he would take her to lunch and share the latest software his company had in development, which had led to her point blank asking him how much money he had, if only to make him think she was interested in that and nothing else.
“Not that it’s my business, or that I need it,” she said. “But you never ask me to contribute to paying the bills, and I’m living with you.”
He pulled out his phone, ran his fingers over it, and then handed it to her. She almost dropped the phone. “My money is your money. No secrets. The house is paid for, so our bills are minimal.”
She’d merely nodded and handed it back. “You want to see mine? I don’t have that many numbers in front of the decimal point.”
“Whenever you want,” he said. “If you need help investing it, let me know. I have a buddy down in Charlotte that’s brilliant with numbers. But pretty soon, we need to sit down and go over finances for our future plans.”
The thought of the future scared Summer to death, mostly because her future had been more about them, and less about her and Ivy. He never brought up her plan to get her daughter back, and she wasn’t sure if he hoped she would forget about it, or would abandon her plan.
Tonight, however, she would put him to the test, instead of making love after dinner, like they usually did. She still couldn’t believe he’d talked her into becoming his dessert after one meal. Since then, she’d made it a point to be his dessert and to make him hers. She was very inventive when she wanted to be, which was all the time with Gabriel.
She couldn’t blame him though. He was making up for twenty-nine years of abstinence.
“That’s the last dish,” Gabriel said, placing it on the drying rack. “Ready for dessert?” He wriggled his brows suggestively.
“I thought we could talk finances tonight.” His face fell, and she almost said forget it, but she had to do this. She had to remind him of why they’d gotten married in the first place. It was only fair. It was the right thing to do, even if it hurt like hell to do it.
“You want to do that right now?”
“I thought it would be a good time to talk about the future.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “About our future plans.”
His face lit up and the sight of it made that lump return, bigger than before. “We can go in my office, and you can borrow my laptop.” He took her by the hand. “Maybe we can include that in our future purchases, if you want one—but I do have a confession to make.”
“Oh,” she said, heart pounding as they entered his office. She sat down at the table by the windows, and he sat across from her.
Booting up his laptop, he turned the screen to face her and said, “I might have bought you another wedding present. It’ll be delivered tomorrow. So don’t peek at that expense.”
Another present? What could be better than the art kit he’d given her? She grabbed the material of her skirt and twisted. “I don’t want to see your expenses.”
His brows drew together. “Then what do you want to see?”
“I want you to help me pay the legal fees for the lawyer.”
His face grew so dark that she almost ran out of the room. “We’re not getting a divorce.”
“It’s not for that. It’s for Ivy.”
“How much?” His knuckles turned white around the fist he made.
She named the amount left to pay her lawyer. “You can write a check out to Pellum & Foster if you think that would work better.”
“By the first of next month. I’ve paid through this one.”
He shut the laptop and rose to his feet, moving to his desk. He opened a drawer, and took out a checkbook, filled out a check, and then tore it off. “Here,” he said, placing it on the top of his desk. “I was thinking about going out tonight. Noah and Carlos invited me to Poor Boy’s, but I told them no, unless you think differently?”
Why did he have to be like this? Any other man would have stormed out, but her husband… he wanted her to know where he was going and who he would be with, and her opinion on the entire invitation. All that served to remind her that he didn’t deserve her for a wife.