“Well, you’d better get going,” Gabe grumbled. “Don’t want to miss your ride.”
Elle took a few steps forward, coming to the side of his hospital bed. “I’m going. But first, I wanted to make one thing very clear to you, Gabe Dawson.”
“Yeah?” he said. “What’s that?”
She narrowed her eyes and leaned over him, caging him with her arms on either side of his head. “Don’t you ever again treat me like I’m some delicate flower who can’t handle the truth.”
Having her that close was tempting as hell. For the first time, he noticed she had tiny flecks of gold in her eyes and a few more freckles on the bridge of her nose than he’d realized. God, she was beautiful—stunning, really. He had to muster all his willpower not to drag her into his arms and kiss the full lips that were currently pursed in irritation. But he forced himself to meet her gaze and lifted a single brow.
“Oh, I know you’re no delicate flower,” he said, his voice going deeper, betraying the effect of her nearness and giving his words a weight he hadn’t intended.
Her cheeks went a little pink, but she didn’t back away. “We’re in this together, whether we like it or not. And I’m not going to be kept in the dark just because I’m not a cop.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said, not bothering to suppress the grin tugging at his mouth. “You might like being in the dark with me, Elle.”
She blinked, her mouth opening and closing as if she wanted to say something more but was clearly speechless. Then she pressed her lips together and gave him a frustrated look. “You know what I meant, Gabe.”
At this, the little devil on his shoulder got the better of him, and he chuckled, letting his gaze drop down to those gorgeous lips. “Yeah, I know what you meant, Elle. Doesn’t change what I meant.”
When she didn’t immediately pull away at his advance, he took a chance and reached up, gently taking hold of her chin and guiding her lips down to his. But before he could make contact, she suddenly broke away from his tender grasp and straightened, staring down at him with a look of confusion and panic in her eyes.
Okay, well, that wasn’t exactly the reaction he’d been hoping for…
“I have to go,” she breathed. But she didn’t take a single step. “I really… I should go.”
He met her gaze, waiting, wondering at her next move. “You sure?”
She licked her lips, looking as if she was truly torn between going and staying. But then she lifted her chin, giving him that defiant look he’d grown so used to seeing from her. “Yes, I’m absolutely positive.”
Without another word, she turned on her heel and strode toward the door without so much as a glance over her shoulder.
But the little exchange was enough to offer Gabe the encouragement he needed. Maybe the brilliant, beautiful, iron-willed woman wasn’t quite as unaffected by him as she wanted him to believe…