Claire had been pretending to sleep for the past ten minutes -ever since Cupcake had woken her up by plopping her stumpy little body on top of her. Claire was determined to keep her eyes shut, not wanting Gabe to know she was awake until she'd decided what she was going to say to him.
Everything between them the night before had felt so good; what Claire hadn't counted on was how awkward she'd feel as soon as the sun came up. How was she supposed to keep it casual with someone whom she'd allowed to claim her so entirely only hours before? After a night like that one, it was becoming too difficult simply dismiss the depth of her connection with Gabe.
"You up babe?" asked a groggy voice from beside her.
Shit. He was awake. Claire wasn't ready to face the day and she definitely wasn't ready to face Gabe.
"Hmmmmmph." Claire said in response, hoping to avoid having a real conversation for a little while longer.
"It sounds like you need some coffee." Gabe said tossing the covers aside. Once his feet were planted on the floor, Gabe slowly stretched, giving Claire an eyeful of his glorious body.
"I want some desperately." Claire answered, referring to more than the coffee.
"Sure thing." Gabe said with a teasing wink, obviously aware that Claire had enjoyed the view.
When Gabe and Cupcake went off to get her some java, Claire took in the room. She had been too distracted the night before to really take in her surroubdings.
Gabe's bedroom was as impressive as the rest of his house. Its modern, charcoal coloured walls offset the old hardwood floors perfectly and the white bedding and accents prevented it from being too gloomy. The decor really was impeccable - Claire couldn't help but wonder if Gabe had gotten some help from a female "friend" when putting it together.
Gabe and Cupcake didn't leave Claire to wonder about Gabe's apparent knack for interior design for very long. They were soon back with two steaming cups of coffee.
Ahhh this is the life. Claire thought to herself - She couldn't think of a better way to start a morning than with a naked hunk bringing her coffee in bed.
Gabe eased himself back into bed beside her, being careful not to tilt the mugs and accidentally spill the steaming liquid.
"Here you go princess." He said as he handed Claire a mug. "I wasn't sure if you took milk or cream so I hedged my bets and figured alcohol would be the safest - There's a shot of RumChata in there."
"I do feel like a princess being spoiled like this." said Claire.
The lightness left Gabe's face at her comment. "Sweetheart, if you call this being spoiled then you haven't been dating the right men."
Claire let the words sink in as she sat against a fluffy pillow sipping her creamy cinnamon laced drink. She knew he was right. When she thought back to the men she'd dated she could only remember the countless times when she went out of her way to care for them but was hard pressed to come up with examples of when any of them had ever bothered to return the favor. It seemed that she was always so focused on making sure that they liked her that she hadn't stopped to ask herself they even deserved her.
"Now, you know that there's nothing more than I'd like than to spend all day in bed with you," Gabe said pulling Claire from her thoughts, "But I've got an appointment in an hour or so, so I've got to get going."
"Oh... OK." Claire said surprised at how sharp the pang of disappointment she felt was at leaving his company so soon. "Where's the appointment?"
"It's with my mortgage broker. The mortgage on this place is coming up for renewal. I have to go and sign some paperwork." Gabe answered, obviously unaware that words like 'mortgage renewal' were catnip for bankers.
"Want company?" Claire asked, hopeful of spending more time together.
Gabe gave a low chuckle at the offer. "I should have figured talking money to you would be all it took for you to want to spend some clothing-on time with me." He teased. "But, not this time babe."
"Why not? I can be your secret low-mortgage-rate-negotiating-weapon!" Claire said enthusiastically.
Gabe paused for a moment seemingly deciding how to word his reply. "Honestly? I don't think we're there yet sweetheart. Going to the bank together is a really couple-y thing to do, ya know? You've made it clear that's not what this is..." The regret in his voice was palpable.
"Ya, I get it. Just do two things for me." Claire said not wanting to hear the end of his sentence.
"Only get a one year mortgage term and negotiate them down from their first rate offer."
Gabe laughed at the instructions. "Did anyone ever tell you that you're SUCH a dork?" And then with more seriousness, "And really freaking brilliant."
Claire couldn't help but beam at the compliment.
"I like making you smile like that. Actually nothing would make me happier then making you smile like that more often."
Claire didn't know what to say to Gabe's earnest statement; she gave him a light kiss on the lips instead of saying anything at all.
Gabe looked back at Claire with his deep brown eyes for a few moments and then took a deep breath before starting to speak.
"Babe, I'm sure you know how much I like you." He started warily. "But I have to say I'm not going to be able to go on like this for too long. I can't be your personal yo-yo. If you keep pushing me away, I eventually won't come back."
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Love Like a Man - CHECK OUT THE REVISED VERSIONRomance
**This story was a top 55 SYTYCW15 Finalist!** Claire Warren felt like she had her life under control; she kicked ass at her job as an investment banker, had her own condo overlooking the City and spent her personal time knocking back G&T's at some...