"This isn't working."
There they were. To Gabrielle Pearson the phrase stood second
only to "it's not you, it's me" as the most lame
male excuse on the planet for cutting out of a date before
the dessert menus hit the table.
Gabby glanced around the upscale restaurant looking for reinforcements.
If anyone heard Reed Larkin's big kiss off over the rumble
of conversation and clanking of silverware, they were not letting
on. No one held up a roll ready to lob it at Reed's fat head.
A shame, really, since his over-inflated ego made it the perfect
"Gabby? Did you hear me?" Reed asked with his suddenly
not-so-kissable mouth turned down in concern.
"I'm not deaf. I was thinking." Thinking that a
woman never had a vial of strychnine when she needed one.
He frowned. "I was-"
"It's interesting, don't you agree?"
He switched to squinting. "You lost me.
She lowered her fork to the white tablecloth, but not before
toying with the idea of stabbing Reed smack in the center of
his perfectly angled chin. One hit of the sharp prongs and
no woman would ever be lured in by his inviting sexy smile
"I'm talking about your timing, Reed. You waited until
you were done with your meal to make this announcement. You
skipped the appetizer course and choked back your undercooked
steak without taking a breath." Now she knew why.
Reed was a man on the run.
The big weasel.
Here she thought tonight, formal date number nine, might
be the date. The one to capture all the heat pulsing between
them with a bedroom ending. Hell, she'd be lucky to get cab
fare out of him now.
Reed took a long swallow of water.
When he didn't choke, Gabby cursed life's unfairness. "I'm
assuming I'm the part of the relationship that's not working."
"Look, it's not you. It's-"
Oh, no, no, no. "Don't finish that sentence."
If he continued down that road the half of the salmon filet
she did manage to swallow would make a repeat performance all
over his expensive navy suit. Tempting but not going to happen.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked as if he actually
did not know.
"Just don't." She pointed a finger in the general
direction of Reed's heart to back up her threat.
Those ice blue eyes that were so attractive up until five
minutes ago blinked several times. "Gabby, we should-"
"Stop talking before someone loses a body part." Her
gaze dropped to her fork. "Preferably you."
The sexy sparkle behind his eyes faded as the grin on his
full mouth fell flat. For the first time since they sat down
to eat, Reed's usual assurance slipped. Nice of him to show
She learned long ago to control her emotions. To keep her
reactions neutral and her anger at bay. No matter how fast
that ball of anxiety started to spin around in her gut she
held it all in. Forced her outside to defy her insides.
She had been through far worse than a broken relationship,
weathered much and never broke. But something about the silliness
of the scene, of Reed cutting her off at the same time she
mentally planned his seduction, broke open the dam inside her
and sent anger spewing in every direction.
Her chest clenched as her cheeks grew hot. Her jaw pulled
tight enough to make her back teeth ache.
Pissed. She was down-to-her-bones pissed. A new sensation
and one she chalked up to a build-up of stress without any
release. One that refused to go away quietly.
If Reed intended to hand her a relationship pink slip, then
she planned to give him an ending to remember. "Tell me
He smiled at the older couple sitting at the table next to
"Where did it go wrong for you?"
Their relationship didn’t take any wrong turns for
her. They cruised along just fine with her getting more interested
and attracted every single day. Then the waiter put the entrees
on the table and everything went to hell.
"The 'it' is...?" he asked.
"For a smart guy, you seem to be experiencing some trouble
with small words."
He stopped glancing around the restaurant and focused on
her instead. "Talk slow and I'll try to keep up."
"Fine." Actually, the scene was anything but fine,
but she clearly did not get a vote. "Us. You and me. The
relationship. Since we never even had sex, I mean."
He clamped his lips together. "Is this really
Definitely. "Maybe there's something you forgot to tell
me? You know, about your preferences and such."
Color rushed back into his cheeks. "Wait a damn second."
"We've gone out. Had a good time. It's called dating,
in case you didn’t know." This anger thing felt
good. Freeing. Rather than fight it, Gabby let it flood through
"The next step between normal, healthy adults would
have been sex." The step she'd been imagining ever since
he walked into her favorite morning coffee shop about a month
before, forgot his wallet and borrowed money and a seat at
As if she needed another reason to give up caffeine.
"So?" She balanced both elbows on the table, blocking
out the low rumble of conversation from the other diners. Dropping
her voice down to a conspiratorial whisper, she asked, "What
Reed tugged on his ear in the nervous gesture she might have
found endearing on another night, in another situation. Not
on this one.
She leaned in until only her fury separated them. "Not
the kissing, because that was good."
Okay, the lip action had been great. Score one for the tech
nerd with the linebacker shoulders, pouty mouth and irresistible
She kept all the positives to herself. Now was not the time
for an ego stroke. In fact, she did not plan on stroking any
part of Reed Larkin ever again.