12 Days of Gabriel–A series of vignettes told from Gabriel’s POV:
Mad for You #9
“Did you ever, even for a moment, love me?”
It would’ve been kinder to lie. But I couldn’t. “No.”
Devastation rolled across Embry’s expression, never-ending and growing stronger as the truth of my words could no longer be denied. She reached out. Her cool hand cupped my cheek.
“I would’ve given you everything I had, Gabriel. All of me. I would’ve never left you. Ever.”
I may not have loved Embry, but it saddened me to see her suffer. I deserved her hatred, not her love. Even now, especially now, I simply wished to be with Emma. To hear her laugh, to feel her small hand in mine. It was Heaven.
Everything else was either Purgatory or Hell.
I just had to tie up this last bit and then I’d be free. I’d be free to explain to Emma exactly how I’d been living my life away from her. I’d confess about my past, about my family, all of it.
I’d be taking a chance, for sure, but in my heart of hearts I knew I could trust Emma with all of me. The good and the bad.
Just a little bit more…
“Well, isn’t this cozy. Tucked away like this in your own dining room with complete privacy. Oh, and look! Red roses. Ah, and a ribboned box. I wonder what’s in there? Something expensive, I’m sure.”
Mind gone blank I shot up on my feet, violently dislodging Embry’s hand from me. “Emma!”
She was here.
My stomach dropped. Emma had taken it all in and instantly judged me guilty. I couldn’t blame her. I would’ve thought the same if it were the other way around. Even so, I wanted to scream when I saw her shutting down, already getting ready to dismiss me as another bad memory.
“Hello, baby,” Emma purred, mocking me by using my pet name for her. “You brought her flowers too? And here I thought my flowers were special! Too bad. When I get back to the office, guess what the first thing that’s going in the trash is?”
No. No. NO!
There was nothing I could say that wouldn’t be able to erase her doubts. The flowers were a social nicety because of the circumstances I’d last seen Embry in—ill from ingesting too many pills. The ribboned box was a final peace offering. I wasn’t wooing my ex and I damned sure didn’t have any intention of ever stepping out on Emma.
Still, I looked guilty beyond redemption. The manic disappointment in her gaze undid me. I lost all feeling in my legs. I had never passed out before, but it felt like I was seconds away from hitting the ground.
I couldn’t look at her when hatred had replaced the affection of before. It became harder to breathe, to know the love of my life was slipping through my fingers. Again.
“Emma, I swear this isn’t what you think it is,” I gasped, trying to overcome the radiating pain in my chest.
“My eyesight is pretty good, Gabriel. I know what I’m seeing.” Emma looked away from me to address Embry. Instantly, I felt bereft. “You’re set up quite nicely for a romantic lunch. No wonder you wanted me to see this for myself.”
“It was one of our favorites. This table, I mean. Gabriel always reserved this room so he could kiss my neck in private…among other things.”
I glared at Embry, finally seeing her for the dangerous opponent she’d become. I didn’t want to have to destroy her, but I would. I would in a heartbeat if it meant keeping Emma by my side. I sank down into my chair.
“I’m sure.” I felt Emma’s vicious stare as she pulled up a chair and sat down at the table. She studied us both, assessing us with uncanny clarity I’m sure.
What could I say to prove to Emma that the only reason I was here was to convince Embry once and for all it was over between us? I didn’t want her to continue interfering in my life and, by extension, Emma’s.
Now I realized what a mortal error I’d committed.
“Well, well. Isn’t it funny how plans can change on a dime? Last I heard, Gabriel, you were neck-deep in a ton of paperwork. I don’t see any paperwork. Your definition of a ton and mine must be different for you to get through it all so fast.”
Emma’s mockery nearly undid me. “How did you know?” I wanted to slam my fist against the table. I wasn’t helping my position. “I mean, how did you know I was having lunch out today?”
I suddenly needed to touch her. My hand reached for hers but then Emma froze me out. I reached for my Scotch instead.
“Didn’t you hear what I just said? Or do you need to hear from her? Would you care to tell him, Embry, or should I?”
“I could but I much prefer to hear your version,” Embry replied, smugness barely contained.
Emma’s broken smile made me want to yell. She looked beyond devastated. To think I had caused her despair. I wished I hadn’t emptied my glass.
“Oh, you’re good. I like how neatly you deflected that. I might have to borrow your technique.”
Embry raised her glass in salute. “You could do worse.”
The final pieces slid neatly into place. All of it had been planned for Emma to catch me here with her, to steal the love of my life so I’d have no choice but to return to my old life.
“Embry, you bitch.”
I had to make this right with Emma. God help me if I couldn’t convince her.