“Shit. Was she?”
“Yeah,” he replied with heavy meaning. “For four years, I couldn’t fathom what the hell she was thinking. Damn. Even when I think about it now, I get pissed, because she just left and ignored me and I had no idea if I . . .” He drew in a deep breath. “I know she spent these years not realizing I wasn’t that drunk and I spent these years trying to forget it even happened, grateful that her father hasn’t found out yet and shot me.”
Lucian snickered at that, because he knew it was the truth. “I wouldn’t be worried about that, though. He loves you. It’s her mom who would do it.”
A small smile pulled at Gabe’s mouth. “Yeah, you’re right about that.”
“They’d never think you’d do something like that, though. Me? Hell. They’d probably be surprised I didn’t try something. But you? Nah. They’d never think it. You’re the good one out of us.”
Gabe lifted a brow.
A moment passed before Lucian blinked and rubbed his face. “Wow. Well, shit, man. I don’t know what to say. I mean, that is fucked-up. For both of you. Got to be awkward now.”
“Yeah, doesn’t help that I’ve been nothing but a dick to her since she’s returned. Fucking yelled at her last week when I saw her with Parker. Accused her of throwing herself at him. Then I just . . . yeah, I haven’t been nice to her.”
Lucian’s gaze zeroed in on him. “Do you think you should be nice to her?”
Gabe thought about it, really thought about it. “For the last four years, I wanted to simultaneously strangle her and ask her if she was okay. I’ve hated her for what could’ve come from that night, but I got to take responsibility for it, too. Not like she slipped and fell on my dick. I was drunk, Lucian. But I knew it was her. I knew what I was doing.” He let out a ragged breath. “That makes me a shit person, doesn’t it?”
“No. I don’t think so. It just makes the situation complicated.”
“Complicated” didn’t feel like a strong enough word to describe everything in his head, but he knew one thing. He didn’t hate Nic now. He didn’t know what the hell that meant, but he didn’t hate her.
“Well, you know what I think?” Lucian said.
“I’m afraid to ask.”
“I think you know what you need to do.” And then Lucian surprised the shit out of him, because he grinned in a way that set off about five hundred warning bells in Gabe. “Yeah, I think you do.”
“I would sell my soul to gain access to that house.” Rosie’s chocolate-brown eyes were glassy, but there was no mistaking the seriousness in her voice. “Come on, Nikki. Help a chick out.”
Nikki giggled as she twirled the straw in whatever drink Rosie had convinced her she just needed to have. She had no idea what it was, which wasn’t at all surprising since they were at Cure, a bar on Freret Street known for their unique cocktails. “Not going to happen.”
“Seriously,” Bree chimed in from across the table. She would know exactly how impossible it would be to open the door to Rosie’s unique blend of craziness. She was Bev’s daughter, and while Nikki knew Bev didn’t gossip about things she saw or heard while retrieving the laundry, Bree knew enough to know how the de Vincents were. “No one gets into the de Vincent compound without permission.”
Nikki should never have told Rosie about what happened the last week, the whole glass moving by itself, because now she was more determined than ever to get inside the de Vincent compound.
“You can sneak me in!” Rosie lifted her hands. “I thought you said the cameras inside are for show, because they mysteriously don’t work.”
“They don’t work.” Which was just one of the mysteries at the de Vincent house. No cameras ever recorded in the house beyond a camera on a phone. She knew they had electricians and technicians out there many times over the years, and no one could explain why. “Because of ghosts.”
“Exactly!” Rosie slammed her hands down on the table, jarring it. The people at the table behind them looked over. “That is why I need to get in there with NOPE.”
NOPE stood for New Orleans Paranormal Explorations, the team Rosie worked with. Nikki snort-laughed and it didn’t sound attractive, but she couldn’t help it. “Devlin would have a stroke if I let a paranormal investigative team into his house.”
“Uh-huh.” Bree nodded, sending tight braids over her shoulders. “That he would. I only met that guy once and I know that. Hell, they don’t even let me in the house, and my mom has worked for them for decades.”
“Ugh.” Rosie plopped her chin on her fist. “I would shave my head to get inside the house.”
“You could pull that off,” Nikki said dryly. And it was true. Rosie was Louisiana Creole and she had the most beautiful honey-colored skin Nikki had ever seen. “So that wouldn’t exactly be a sacrifice.”
“Agreed.” Bree finished off her drink.
Nikki rolled her eyes at Bree. “As if you couldn’t do the same. I, on the other hand, would look like a hot mess.”
“You always look one step away from being a hot mess.” Bree grinned when Nikki threw her napkin at her. “Crap.” Bree checked the time on her phone. “I’ve got to go. Gotta work in the morning.” Ignoring their boos, she slid off her stool and gave them a quick kiss on the cheek. “Don’t be hos tonight without me.”
Rosie laughed as she nodded her head at Nikki. “As if this one over here even knows what being a ho is.”
Bree laughed. “Too true. Be safe.”
“I know what being a ho is,” Nikki said after wiggling her fingers goodbye to Bree. “I’ve got my ho on more than once.”
Rosie arched a brow as she knocked an auburn curl out of her face. “Honey, when is the last time you even went out on a date?”
Huh. Scrunching up her nose, she had to really think about that. “Um, I had one . . . in March, I think?”
“That was seven months ago.”
“So? I was busy with finals and then moving back home.” She sipped more of whatever the citrusy stuff was. “What about you?”
“Last night.” Rosie grinned. “It wasn’t a sleepover.” There was a shrug. “But it was nice.”
“Nice.” Nikki laughed, but it came out sounding like a snort once more, which meant it was time to stop the drinking. Sighing, she pushed the drink away.
Rosie was studying her closely. “How are things with Gabe?”
“Ugh,” she groaned. Rosie knew about Gabe—knew everything. Her confession occurred one night a few years ago where nearly an entire bottle of tequila had been consumed between them. Rosie was the only person who knew what happened. “Not good.”
Rosie reached over. Orange and red bangles clanked together as she patted Nikki on the arm. “Talk to me.”
Leaning forward so Rosie could hear her, Nikki told her about the confrontation in the kitchen and then what happened yesterday. When she finished, Rosie let out a low whistle. “Damn, girl, I don’t know what to say.”
“Exactly,” Nikki muttered. “I’m trying to stay away from him. I have been! Except when I don’t have a choice, but . . .”
She raised her shoulders. “I know I messed up, but I . . . I just wish it wasn’t like this. I mean, I’m pissed at him. What he said to me yesterday was not cool.”
“Damn straight it wasn’t.”
She toyed with the edge of the drinks menu as laughter exploded from the bar. “But I wish things could be the way they used to be with us. He’s a good guy. I mean, he could’ve easily ignored me like his brothers did for the most part, but he didn’t. He was kind to me, always made time when I know I was being annoying.”
“You’ve got to understand that the past is the past. There is no going back to that,” she said. “You’ve got to accept that and let it go.”
Nikki knew that.