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Gabriel's rule

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Gabriel’s RuleSloaneKennedyCopyrights

Gabriel'sRule is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events andincidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitiousmanner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events ispurely coincidental.

 

Copyright© 2015 by Sloane Kennedy

 

Publishedin the United States by Sloane Kennedy

All rights reserved. This book or anyportion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever withoutthe express written permission of the publisher except for the use of briefquotations in a book review.

Cover Image:©Alexsutula|Dreamstime.com

Cover By:Cover to Cover Designs

Trademarks Acknowledgement

The author acknowledges thetrademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned inthis work of fiction:

Ford

http://www.ford.com/

PikePlace Market

www.pikeplacemarket.org

Universityof Washington

http://www.washington.edu/

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Epilogue

 

Chapter 1

 

Not again.Gabe Maddox stared at the door in front of him for a long moment and thenpushed the door open with his foot. He took in a quick view of his apartmentbefore looking at the doorjamb again. Abby hadn’t bothered to find a loser ableto pick the lock this time; the door had been pried open with a crowbar. Itwouldn’t have taken much effort Gabe knew, because everything in his apartmentbuilding was so old and run down that the building probably wasn’t too far frombeing condemned by the city. He may as well have left the door unlocked butAbby would have been too high and too desperate to even have the sense to checkit first.

Steelinghimself against the automatic disappointment that went through him at herlatest betrayal, Gabe took a few steps into the apartment and looked around atthe chaos. The few books he had, had been dumped on the floor and the bookshelfturned over, probably to check for money hidden behind it. The small TV he hadbought at the thrift store after the last time was gone which surprised himbecause he’d only paid fifteen bucks for the thing and couldn’t imagine itwould bring in any kind of cash – it seemed like it would have been more effortto haul the heavy little thing around, but he again figured Abby was wellbeyond common sense at this point. Hewas glad to see his couch was still intact. The cushions had been pulled offbut at least this time there weren’t big slashes in the fabric.

Kickingwhat was left of his tableside lamp out of his way, Gabe made his way to thekitchen. They’d left his weight bar and bench alone, as well as the heavyboxing bag that had hung from the ceiling in the dining room, so at least therewas that. The high quality workout equipment was among the few things he hadsplurged on in recent years, figuring it was more of an investment than anindulgence.

Hiskitchen hadn’t fared as well as the living room. The few dishes he had weremostly in shards and there was food debris everywhere. Damn, he’d just shoppedyesterday too. The morons hadn’t even been considerate enough to close thefreezer after they rifled through it so there was water dripping all over thefloor. His heavy work boots crushed glass and ceramic as he left the kitchenand checked the bathroom, then bedroom.

Shehadn’t found much else; he certainly wasn’t stupid enough to keep any kind ofmedication in the place and the only thing of value was his cell phone chargersitting next to his bed. She’d taken that too. He stepped over mountains ofclothes thrown on the floor and dropped to his knees to look under the bed. Hesighed in relief when he saw the floorboard he had carefully pried up earlierthis year to hide the few valuables he did have was untouched. It was the onlyreason he had invested in the heavy, wood bed frame – it was too cumbersome tomove and Abby was always in a hurry when she made her little visits. Themattress had big slashes in it where someone had taken a knife to it and someof the filling stuck out, but if he flipped it the mattress would be useable,at least until the next time.

Gabestudied the damage for a few more minutes and then turned and left the room.He’d been looking forward to spending the rest of the night sitting on his assand watching the game on his crappy little TV while nursing a couple of beers.She hadn’t even left him the damn beer. As he left the apartment and pulled thebroken door closed behind him, he willed himself to drown out the feeling ofbetrayal that ripped at his insides. Yep, for the third time in a less than a year,his own mother had robbed him.

 

***

RileySinclair loved the rain but moving in it not so much. At least she only had afew boxes and her rolling suitcase to slog through the huge puddles of water thathad collected on the short walkway to the apartment building. It was an uglybuilding, she mused, as she sat in the compact ten year old sedan and studiedthe structure. It was three stories tall with two apartments per floor. The redbrick was faded and a lot of the windows were cracked or covered by newspaperfrom the inside. Stairs for the fire escape snaked down from the roof to theground, but they looked like they were about to fall off the building. At leastwhat little grass there was, was lush and rich in color. That was better thanthe endless dust that seemed to cover all of Texas.

She’dleft Dallas four days ago and headed north. Once she’d gone as far as she couldbefore hitting the Canadian border, she turned her car west and kept going untilshe’d reached the northern suburbs of Seattle. The drive had been long and herlittle car had threatened to die on multiple occasions, but she’d made it andshe’d never felt so free. Sure, the apartment building looked nothing like the“cozy, family friendly” home that had been promised in the ad she’d found lastnight on the library computer, but it was in her price range and it wasavailable now, so she’d have to make do. At least it would be hers, all hers,and that would make it good enough.

Bravingthe rain, Riley grabbed her purse from the passenger seat and climbed out ofthe car. She reached into the backseat to grab her suitcase and then darted upthe walkway, water quickly soaking through her thin sneakers. It only took hera few minutes to find the Super, give him the little cash she had left inreturn for a single key along with a terse warning about following the rulesand not making trouble, and then she was on her way up the stairs, her heavybag in tow.

Findingher door, she crossed her fingers that the view from the back of the apartmentwas a little bit better than the view of the busy street out front, stuck herkey in the lock and turned and…nothing. Twisting and turning did nothing andshe glanced up at the number on the door to make sure she had the rightapartment.

“Itsticks,” came a deep voice from directly behind her. Sucking in a startledgasp, she swung around and slammed her back into the door, the key jabbing herin her spine. He wasn’t directly behind her like she’d thought but the huge manwas only a few feet away.

“What?”she said, trying to catch her breath. He’d been so quiet that she hadn’t evenheard a single footstep. She looked out of the corner of her eye to see ifanyone was around to hear her scream for help.

“Thekey, it sticks. You have to push it in a bit as you’re turning it.”

Shewatched as he searched through the plastic bag he was carrying and pulled outwhat looked to be a deadbolt. She noticed that in his other hand was a smalltoolbox.

“Um,thanks” she mumbled and then swung back around to do as he suggested. Sureenough, the door opened. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed the man wasfixing the doorjamb which had splinters of wood missing. Had someone brokeninto the apartment across from hers? That couldn’t be a good sign. As shefumbled for the knob, she glanced at the guy’s build and clothes. He had to bein his mid to late twenties, at least 6’, and wore faded jeans, a tight blackT-shirt and heavy duty, dark brown work boots. She could see the musclesbulging against the fabric over his upper arms and what appeared to be a tattooseemed to curl around his left bicep because she could see bits of it as hemoved and flexed his arm and the sleeve of his T-shirt rode up.

Hehad a darker skin tone, part Hispanic maybe, and his dark brown hair was thickand curled a tiny bit just above the nape of his neck. She couldn’t see hisface but her body didn’t seem to care because little firecrackers were goingoff inside her. She’d never thought men to be beautiful, but oh was she wrong,because this man was stunning. He must have noticed that she hadn’t yet movedbecause he glanced up from his work and pinned her with his dark eyes.

Shehad guessed he’d have a face to match the body and she wasn’t disappointed. Sharpfeatures with a slightly crooked nose that may have been broken at one point,but somehow just made the perfection of the rest of his face more obvious. Hiseyes looked almost black from where she stood but she couldn’t be sure. Whatshe could be sure of was that there was a hint of amusement in them as hewatched her stare at him. Caught red handed, she swore she heard him chuckle asshe spun around and rushed into her apartment. Her suitcase caught on the doortwice before she managed to drag it into the room and slam the door.

Chapter 2

 

Gabewatched the suitcase finally disappear into the apartment with its owner. He’dfelt bad about scaring her but it hadn’t been his intention to sneak up on her.People always assumed a man of his size would be noisy and lumbering and wouldstand out in a crowd, but childhood had taught him the value of sticking to theshadows, moving in silence and observing rather than participating.

Heguessed her to be in her mid-twenties and though she wasn’t skinny, she hadn’tbeen heavy either. Loose fitting clothes had him guessing she was average sizedwith curves in just the right places so that someone his size wouldn’t have toworry about breaking her every time he settled his weight on her.Jesus, where had that thought comefrom?

Hefrowned and looked back at his lock. He couldn’t help but think the girl wasout of her element – her long blonde hair had been in a loose ponytail thatalmost reached the middle of her back. Her gray eyes had seemed almost hungryas she studied him and her full pink lips had parted slightly when he hadturned to look at her. Her reaction hadn’t been unusual. Women usually tendedto take their time when they looked at him. He wasn’t being arrogant; it hadjust always been that way and he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t takenadvantage of the good looks he’d been graced with. This was the first time in awhile that he had enjoyed it though. It was also the first time he had lookedback and that confused him. He shook his head as if to clear it and then gotback to work on the door.

 

***

Rileylooked at the apartment in dismay. It was a dump, plain and simple. Dirtywalls, stained carpet, and tiny. One of the appeals had been that it camefurnished but when she saw the loveseat in the tiny nook that she guessed wassupposed to be the living room, she cringed. It was ripped in several placesbut she could live with that. It was all the brown and yellow stains on it thatgrossed her out – and those were just the stains that were visible to the nakedeye. She choked back her disgust and turned towards the kitchen.

Itwasn’t much better, but at least she could scrub the surfaces with bleach orsomething and all the appliances she would need were there. And there was asmall kitchen table against the window so maybe it would be a nice place to sitand enjoy the view each morning while drinking her coffee. Unfortunately, theview turned out to be another building on the other side of a dark alley linedwith bags of garbage.

Soit wasn’t what she was used to, but she could make it work. Maybe slap somepaint on the walls and kitchen cabinets, add some plants and a few pictures.Feeling a little more optimistic, she moved to the bedroom. It wasn’t anybetter than any of the other rooms and she made a mental note to find a reallygood mattress cover for the full sized bed…maybe two just to be on the safeside.

Thebathroom was smaller than a closet and there was no tub, but at least the toiletflushed. Small victories, she reminded herself. But when she went to wash herhands, she found that the water didn’t drain. Okay, not a major roadblock, justa tiny pebble on the road to her new life. Maybe if she repeated that over andover to herself a few hundred times she’d actually start to believe it.

 

***

“IfI have a problem do I just come to you?” he heard a small voice ask him. Gabewas about to start installing the very expensive, supposedly nearlyindestructible new deadbolt that the Super wasn’t going to reimburse him forwhen he heard the question behind him. He looked around and saw that the youngwoman was back outside her door and she was actually talking to him.

“What?”

“Thedrain in the bathroom sink isn’t draining. Do I just let you know or do I needto go through the Super?”

“Miss,I don’t work here.” He pointed to the door behind him. “This is my place.”

Shelooked embarrassed. “Sorry, I just thought with the tools and stuff…”

“Yeah,well, the Super is more interested in scratching his own ass than fixinganything around here. You’re better off fixing it yourself. Or call a plumber.”He saw a stunned expression come over her.

“Okay,thanks. And sorry about that,” she stammered as she pulled the door closedbehind her and disappeared downstairs. He shook his head – how had someone likeher ended up in a dump like this? He heard a knock on the floor below and thenthe Super’s raised voice, something about causing trouble already. A doorslammed and a couple minutes later the young woman was trudging up the stairs,a bulky box in her arms.

Heneeded to just finish the lock, go inside and start cleaning up his apartment.He was absolutely not getting involved. That’s what his brain told him but hisbody obviously wasn’t listening because he stood, closed the distance betweenthem and took the box from her.

“I’lltake a look at it.”

She’dbeen startled by his action but quickly shook her head. “No, it’s okay. Butthanks…for the offer I mean.”

“Yougot a snake?”

“Awhat?” she asked, horrified.

“Aplumber’s snake,” he clarified.

“Oh.No-”

“Yougot a couple hundred bucks to waste on a plumber?” When she didn’t answer helooked pointedly at her apartment door. He knew she was reluctant to have astrange man in her apartment and he was glad to see that but it wasn’t like hecould speak some special words to gain her trust. She was either desperateenough to accept his help or she had the money to call a professional. After amoment of indecision she opened the door.

“I’mGabe by the way.”

“Riley,”she said softly before leading him inside.

Rileyleaned back against the door, her hand on the knob so she could still make aquick escape if she needed to. When Gabe had walked passed her into theapartment, it was then that she realized what a big guy he really was. She wasno pixie stick herself but even with the extra pounds she just couldn’t seem toshed from her middle, this man still dwarfed her. He didn’t necessarily towerover her since she was 5’6, but his bulk unnerved her. He wasn’t as thick assome of the muscle builders she’d seen on TV once who did all those weird posesin tiny bikini underwear – those creeped her out actually. No, he just lookedlike he should be on some billboard on the side of a building, at a busy cityintersection where women could properly drool over him as he showed off theoverpriced underwear he was wearing.

“Wheredo you want this?” he asked, lifting the box in his arms slightly.

“Kitchentable please.” If he noticed that she was treating the door like her lifeline,he didn’t say anything. He dropped the box on the table and made his way backtowards her instead of going to the bathroom. She sucked in a breath when hestopped in front of her.

“Ineed to get my tools,” he finally said when she didn’t move. It took a full tenseconds for what he’d said to register. She was in his way. She nodded and thenpulled the door open. Once he was gone she shook her head and laughed. This manboth intimated the hell out of her and made her act like a complete moron allat the same time. Twice now, she’d been caught staring at him like a teenagegirl.

Givingherself a mental shake, she left the door slightly ajar and then went to startunpacking the box he’d carried in for her. He returned within moments, knockedbriefly on the door and let himself in. He ignored her and disappeared into thebathroom. As he worked, she emptied the few contents of the first box and thenwent to her car to get the rest of her stuff.

 

***

Rileyhad managed to get the few kitchen supplies she had unpacked by the time Gabecame out of the bathroom. It hadn’t taken him long to do his thing but she hadheard a few muffled curses here and there.

“You’reall set,” he said as he started for the door.

“Thankyou so much, you don’t know how much I appreciate…oh wow, you’re bleeding.”There was a red stain on his pants where he had clearly once already wipedblood off his hand. A gash on his palm continued to bubble up with blood.

“It’snothing.” Before he could even finish his sentence she had closed the distancebetween them and pulled him by the arm to the table.

“Letme take a look.”

Hecould have easily pulled free of her, but she seemed so focused on the minorwound that he did as she asked and dropped into one of the two small chairs bythe wobbly table. He watched as she pulled a black backpack from by the doorand dropped it next to the table. She sat down and then began rummaging throughit. She pulled out a few medical items including hydrogen peroxide, scissors,gauze, ointment and a hot pink bandage that looked like the kind of materialthat stuck to itself. He glanced down at the contents of the bag and noticedwhat looked like a bag of saline, some syringes, and a couple of vials of sometype of drug.

“It’smy go bag.”

“You’rea nurse?”

Shewas busy examining his wound and dabbing at it with some gauze. “Um, no I’m avet tech…well, used to be any way back in…” Her eyes lifted briefly to meet hisbefore she said “back home” and reached for the hydrogen peroxide.

“Idon’t think you need stitches but I want to clean and wrap it.”

“Whatdo you mean ‘used to be’?”

Rileywas cursing herself for her slip. She used the moment to dump some hydrogenperoxide on his hand. She knew she should have warned him, but she needed thefew seconds to collect herself. He only winced slightly at the pain but hedidn’t pull his hand away like she would have expected.

“Soif you’re not a vet tech anymore, why the go bag?”

Man,he wasn’t going to let it go. “Habit I guess. I used to volunteer for a rescuegroup and a lot of times we’d get calls for emergency rescues – having a go bagsaved time.” She checked the wound to make sure there was no debris. His skinwas rough but warm and she ignored the tingles that shot down to her toes.

“Whatare all these scars from?” she asked, motioning to the superfine lines thatlittered his hand. She had run her fingers over a few of them before sherealized what she’d been doing.

“Iwork construction so this type of thing goes with the territory,” he said,waving his hand over the injury. He didn’t seem concerned at her change insubject. She finished cleaning the injury and then applied some antibioticointment and a gauze pad. Grabbing the pink bandage she started wrapping itaround his hand. He said nothing about the garish color and she smiled slightlywhen she saw her finished effort. Big, scary, tattoo-wearing, gorgeous man witha bright pink hand.

Gabewatched her start cleaning up her supplies. He hadn’t missed her enjoyment ofseeing him trussed up in neon pink. It amused rather than annoyed him. Whenhe’d asked her about her job, she’d gone dark for a moment and he was surprisedhow unsettling that had been for him. At her change of subject, he knew she washiding something but it certainly wasn’t his place to prod. It explained howshe’d ended up in this dump. Being anonymous was safer and doing it in a placethat no one dared come if they valued their health was even better. He pushedback the automatic, protective instinct that kicked in.

“Thanks,”he said, lifting his hand.

“Thanksfor taking care of my drain. You were right about the Super. He wasn’t reallyinterested in helping me out and paying a plumber…” she trailed off.

“Noproblem,” he said as he followed her to the door.Don’t say it Gabe, don’t say it!“If you need anything else let meknow.” Damn it – where had that come from? And why could he not stop noticinghow good she smelled, like fresh peaches. He had to get out of there. Hemumbled “welcome to the neighborhood” as he hurried out the door.

Rileywatched him disappear into his apartment before she returned to the kitchen tofinish cleaning up. His offer had been sweet but there was no way she’d takehim up on it – his effect on her was way too overwhelming and when she hadrealized that all she could think about while she was cleaning his wound wasleaning down to kiss each tiny scar, she’d known she was already too far gonewhen it came to her hunky neighbor. Even if a great looking guy like him evertook notice of her with her plain Jane looks, she wouldn’t know what to do withhim. She sighed and got back to work unpacking.

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