Title: Fourteen Minutes

Rating: M for mature themes, mild sexual content, brief drug references, course language.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, names, places, anything from High School Musical or Disney. This story is copyright to the owner and may not be used without permission. I in no way affiliated with any of the High School Musical Cast, Disney, Kenny Ortega or Peter Barsocchini. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summery: She moved to New York with the chance of a lifetime, writing headlines. But when she discovers a mystery lurking behind Troy Bolton's past, Gabriella Montez begins the most important story of her career: his.

A/N: Before I say anything, I just want to let everyone know that for exactly eighty days since I closed the final document of Protecting Fate, I open this document and immediately start humming "fourteen, fourteen, fourteen minutes left better get it done." I blame Zac for being so damn hot while drenched in sweat.

Oh, right… I should talk about the story. For those of you who don't know me, I'm honored that you've opened this up and given this story a chance, and for the veterans of my work, welcome back. I'm hoping I haven't lost too many readers after my hiatus and that I've been forgiven for taking a break. But I know it was worth it. I've worked insanely hard on this, it may not show but I definitely know I have worked my ass off. I'm not sure how people are going to take to this. There aren't any high speed chases by assassins or secret houses to hide from families. It may not be as dramatic or exciting as my previous work, but I really do hope some of you enjoy this. At first I may only update once a week, not like I used to because I don't have as much time as before, but after we get into the story I may update more.

And those pesky nerves never really do go away. Thank you for giving this story a chance, thank you for trusting me and allowing me to post on this site. You guys are incredible, thank you for reading.

All I have to say is… fourteen, fourteen… fourteen more minutes… get ready…

Game on.


His life revolved around the number. Every breath, every step, every blink was surrounded by the double digits. From the day he was born on the fourteenth of October, it consumed everything and anything that brushed him.

The boy was six year old when his father escorted him to his first Laker's game and the players all signed a golden jersey with the number "14" screen printed on the back. He incidentally won the memorabilia and scampered home with a giant grin on his face. At age fourteen, he first entered Albuquerque East High School and was instantaneously labeled "king" of the institution. As the captain and point guard, the basketball team won the state championship by fourteen points his senior year. He was the fourteenth person in his class to receive his diploma and he drank fourteen beers the night of graduation to celebrate his achievements. He also threw up fourteen times.

He had been tied to the University of Los Angeles by fourteen scholarships; mostly little donations for his elite basketball skills with a thousand here, a thousand there. Fourteen excruciating games passed on the bench until the coach finally noticed his talent and placed him into a college level game. Fourteen minutes after the final buzzer of a play one Californian evening, he collided with the most stunning female he had ever laid eyes on. It was fourteen days after the incident that he found the courage to rap on her dorm room and ask her out on a date with fourteen pink roses. Fourteen months later, she barged into the apartment he shared with four other teammates with tears in her eyes. She had sobbed for fourteen minutes before she could finally utter the words that altered this entire future. Fourteen days later, he had entered a jewelry store fourteen blocks away and purchased the 14K white-gold ring. He had twirled her fourteen times around after she had proclaimed yes to his request on one knee.

It was fourteen hundred miles that they would have had to drive that fateful weekend to inform her parents of the news. A midnight thunder rolled through the stars when she suggested that they find refuge at a motel fourteen miles away. And he had stared into her stunning eyes for fourteen long seconds before he agreed to make the stop.

Fourteen firemen rushed to the scene of the crime fourteen minutes later. The bronze skin upon his face was slashed in fourteen inch slice that begun within his sandy hair and ran down his jaw line, though he was completely unconscious by the time of arrival. The ambulance sped him to the hospital fourteen miles away through the illumination of lightning painting the raging sky. A combination of seven EMTs, policemen, and firefighters -that was fourteen hands- struggled to remove the broken body from the mortality position, her cascading hair caked with the same thick blood that drenched her clothes. The liquid of death oozed from her lips as she whimpered fourteen times, the rain washed the residue away like water colored paint. Fourteen eyes lay upon her as she took her last breath in the shadows of the storming night.

Fourteen minutes. All it took was fourteen minutes for her to die.

"Push!" A deep voice commanded before shrieks of excruciating grunts and moans echoed through the narrow stairwell on that steamy Saturday afternoon.

A heated light peaked through the sliver of glass carved into the dusty-grey wind of walls leading up the twelve story building. The tight turns and elongated steps made maneuvering impossibly difficult to anyone carrying any object larger than one's handbag or brief case. Therefore, if any onlooker viewed the sight of the three adults attempting to squeeze the beige sleeper-sofa through the corners of the apartment stairwell, they would have certainly doubled over in amusement and whipped out a video camera to capture the failure.

"We are pushing!" One of the females huffed from the lower segment of the daunting steps. Her black eyes were cat-like slits as she glared at the male with bitterness and disgust. "You need to pull harder!"

"Tay!" The other woman screamed when the pressure of the couch began to rebel against her grip. The midnight bob, belonging to the feminist nicknamed "Tay", flipped towards where the heavy furniture began to tumble. Her eyes engorged frightfully and she shot her toned arms out to rescue the sofa. She caught it skillfully, just before the other woman collapsed and caused total destruction in the crammed space that would make any claustrophobic have a full fledged panic attack.

"Sorry!" Taylor McKessie announced while she struggled to join the other two in carrying the chesterfield up what felt like Mount Everest.

"Next time," the coiled afro pulled into a low ponytail on the man's head bounced when he flashed the two a bright smile, his chocolate skin curled amusedly around his lips. "Instead of yelling at me, just keep on pushing, kay babe?"

Taylor flushed with annoyance when her sharp eyes turned back to her best friend. "I swear to God if we ever have a baby, I'm sending him five miles away from the delivery room."

"I heard that!" Her lover proclaimed which instigated rounds of giggles from the two girls that instantly mutated into groans when they fought to return to the task at hand.

Fifteen minutes ticked away, which actually passed by like fifteen hours, before the couch miraculously leveled on the seventh floor. The threesome had successfully accomplished Mission Impossible: Stairwell Style, and were now lumbering through the constricted hallway with the identical paint that expressed a neutral hue. "Careful!" The male, Chad Danforth, warned as the group stumbled through the wooden floors until they reach an adjacent door labeled "8G" in block letters above the peep hole.

Whatever strength had remained in the tiny fingers of Gabriella Montez suddenly faded when they stepped through the dark threshold of the apartment. Simultaneously, all three sets of hands dropped the sofa carelessly to the light carpet. Chad panted and fell onto the furniture, his muscles throbbed of strain. "Next time you move Gabs, I'm escaping to Australia."

Taylor smacked the back of his fluffy head before she rolled her eyes towards the petite woman coated in an olive skin tone. "He's just being a baby. We're happy to help you out."

"Well it's a good thing you guys are right across the hall. I'll let you know when the piano needs to come up." The slim twenty-three year old tossed her ebony curls, caught tightly into a high cluster at the top of her head, dramatically.

Chad's grin flipped into a frown. "You have a piano?"

Gabriella giggled her famous laugh before she shook her head. "Damn Danforth, you're gullible. I wish I did have one just to make you lift it though."

Two weeks of hustling and bustling had passed since Gabriella received the astonishing announcement at her Boston home on a fateful Tuesday evening. She had been curled up on that very couch of her much-too-small flat with a book after a long day of serving crabby, yet aspiring, poets in the coffee shop where she had been an employee. The novel in her hand tumbled to the floor when she had answered the phone; the voice congratulating her on the accomplishment of conquering over thirty-three other applicants in a prestigious honor of acceptance of an internship miles north, at smaller run news paper called the New York Tribute.

Originally born on the outskirts of Sacramento, California, it was clear to anyone within close proximities of the Gabriella that she was destined for a life in journalism. It may have been the loneliness of an only child that fueled her nosy fire. With a Disney Princess notebook in her clutches and a purple pen in the other, the meddlesome girl used to storm family gatherings to scribble headlines of what was being served with the stuffed turkey, what brawl was fuming between cousins and whether or not Aunt Alexandria was sporting the latest Christmas fashion in her ivory sweater. Usually, these pesters were closed with the relative swatting the inquisitions away with an annoyed hand; yet they never seemed to halt the young detective from her findings.

It had been her father that had planted the seed for her future all those years ago. The three-person family had been camping with out-of-town friends on a sunshine weekend. The five year old took this opportunity to interrogate the male scientist for hours from the topics of the stars to whether or not he believed Spongebob Squarepants could truly inhabit a pineapple under the sea. Jose Montez had pulled her into the comforts of his lap, a small chuckled played on his thin lips. "You'd make quite the reporter someday." He mused before smacking a kiss to the knot of her fuzzy hair; thus flicking the mental light bulb and placed her onto the path of extraordinary achievements. The need to fulfill the unofficial prophecy heightened after a terminal tumor attached to his pulmonary artery one year after. It took twelve months of suffering before he finally succumbed to the cancer. She missed him terribly, but compensated that he had struggled in his final stages and was in a much happier place.

She plopped onto the faux leather arm of the sofa and watched as Chad maneuvered his muscular body so he was sprawled across the cushions and his black stubble snuggled into one of the cracks. "Don't make me move."

"We don't have that much more stuff, right?" Taylor asked with fatigue that fought to surface from her uneven tone. Gabriella's amber eyes cast over the filled boxes scattered around the cozy apartment. The walls were kissed with a pale yellow paint, and a mahogany door led to the single bedroom.

Gabriella shook her head. "Nope. The couch was the last of the furniture. So you can stop complaining Danforth. It's bad for your image."

Taylor had been brought into her life freshman year at a high school located in Sacramento. From the moment their lockers were stationed beside each other due to the alphabet, a friendship had been bonded. They had attended countless football and basketball games with their hips joined and remained inseparable throughout the awkward moments. The first three years had passed by innocently, enjoying the pleasures of the establishment while still remaining loyal to their rules and morals. They were known around the school; even though Taylor was valedictorian and Gabriella was extremely intelligent herself, they were hardly labeled as geek. Both were invited to Christmas and Halloween gatherings, skating around the edges of what was considered popular. As senior year rolled around, Gabriella's beauty caught the eyes of pursuers, therefore shooting her up on the ladder of social hierarchy, yet not forgetting about Taylor. It was then that she experienced the first taste of rebellion in the form of vodka upon her tongue.

But the bliss of a teenager had to end, and it was after graduation that the two separated into their different paths. Taylor was shipped off to New York University for human relations, while Gabriella attended Boston University, earning her undergraduate in Journalism early and minored in psychology. She could still recall the annoyance in Taylor's voice when she had phone her with news of meeting a basketball player from Syracuse who was visiting over the Thanksgiving holiday her freshman year. Chad was an unlikely candidate for Taylor's heart, but somehow his opposite personality seemed to woo her, and before long they were an item. Gabriella had driven up from Boston one summer to meet him. Instantly, they bonded and became unrelated brother and sister. After college, the two love birds moved in together into the apartment across the hallway from the one she was sitting in.

Fate had been in her hands when she called Taylor two weeks previously to inform her of the exciting news. She had been searching unsuccessfully for an internship at various news stations in the Boston area before she expanded her scout to other states. Gabriella had chuckled when she applied for the internship at the Tribute; if she couldn't even scrap a local neighborhood paper, why would a New York gazette want her? Yet the wild goose chase paid off, and it was sheer luck that the apartment opposite to her best friend's was vacant.

"I'm not complaining! I'm just making sure you're not late for your own party." Chad pointed out before grudgingly returned to a seated position

Gabriella raised a thin eyebrow. "Don't you mean your party?"

She should have been thankful that her friends were throwing her a "Welcome to New York" soiree that evening, though she knew the hidden truth of the party was to introduce her to their friends so she would have more of a social circle than two people. Gabriella was not coy; yet did have a hidden insecure side. What woman didn't? She was strong willed, but not out of control.

"It will be good for you after all of this shit." Chad nodded to the heaps of boxes piled upon the cherry wood of the flood.

"It's not shit! It's…" Her dark eyes surveyed the mountains of cardboard. "Stuff. And I'm pretty sure digging through this stuff is going to be impossible to find something to wear. And I'm not coming in sweats." She glanced down at her wife beater and turquoise athletic shorts.

Taylor laughed as her boyfriend stretched into a standing position. "The boxes of your wardrobe are in your room. Dress casual, there's no need to get really dolled up. And be there by seven."

"Or we're coming to kidnap you," Chad chuckled before Gabriella smacked his chest. "Ouch!"

Gabriella sighed before turning towards the vast skyline of New York City from outside her bay window. It was her new home, with a fresh life and career. The city of dreams and disasters, prosperity and slum lay before her.

Aspirations could be reached while walking upon the sidewalks below. Her fantasies could be grasped in the speeding lights. She turned back to her two friends, sending them warm smiles. "Seven," she repeated before taking a defining step towards her future. "So… how about helping me with that piano?"

"Only if you carry me on it." Chad pushed her shoulder playfully before she led them through her apartment to retrieve the rest of the boxes from her car, commencing a life she never dreamed of possessing.

The dimmed lights of the maroon apartment gave off both an intimate and mysterious appeal to the atmosphere. The mellow mood of the music wrapped around the attendees in the Danforth-McKessie home, the small party was in full swing three hours after it began. Gabriella floated from guest to guest, while she branched her entourage to these strangers who all greeted her with warm smiles and waves. But by now she was getting irritated and wanted to slam her own apartment door to get away from the socialization.

The title of "party" was some what flexible in labeling. It resembled much more of an open house, although the closer friends lingered rather than the passing acquaintances of Chad and Taylor. The TV was entertaining the posse surrounding the ongoing Yankee's game. She was practically drowning in descriptions of how the occupants knew her neighbors. Some had met between drills at the dentist; others were long time friends of Chad's parent's dog's owner's sister. She was introduced to a few other tenants in the building, though by the time they had left she would have barely deciphered Billy from Bambi.

Currently, Gabriella stood before a babbling blonde with her sunshine hair pulled into an extravagant bun. She held an air of superiority as she spoke, with diamonds that adorned her ears and neck. "There's nothing quite like the feeling of your first New York show, it's absolutely fabulous." She bragged; her high cheekbones beamed with pride while she swirled the crystal liquid in her drinking glass.

Her exotic name was Sharpay Evans, which should have been Gabriella's first indication that the woman belonged in a glamorous museum from her beauty or a mental institution for her insanity. Within the past ten minutes of speaking with the diva, she had learned Sharpay was raised in an expensive mansion near Beverly Hills with her rich parents. After staring in nineteen school musicals, she was accepted into Julliard for her talent in both vocal and stagecraft. Apparently, she was portraying as Maureen in the musical adaptation of Rent and had a penthouse the size of a queen's uptown.

Taylor took a sip of the red wine while she stared distantly at the baseball game on the television. "That's great Sharpay. So, a lot of people came tonight." She veered the conversation and looked at her best friend.

Gabriella's smoky eyes widened. "What? Oh yeah. You guys have a lot of friends." she murmured and surveyed the scene of the living room and its co-ed occupants.

She knew she had turned heads when she stepped through the door dressed in her dark washed jeans and black gladiator-style wedges. Her curls had been tamed into cascading waves that rested upon the petite mounds of her breasts. The appropriate amount of cleavage peaked through the lace of her loose and ebony tank top that flowed down her slim body.

From what she had gathered, it seemed that Chad and Taylor mostly spent time with the couple standing before them along with two others she had yet to meet, while the rest of the party were distant friends, classmates or co-workers. Sharpay's plucked eyebrows furrowed with irritation as she glanced at something over Gabriella's shoulder. "She's not coming tonight, is she?"

Gabriella's forehead scrunched in confusion at who "she" was, but she didn't care much. Her head throbbed like an early morning hangover, even if she was completely sober. The flight that morning had been long, and it seemed every muscle in her body ached of moving her possessions that day. All she really wanted to do was curl up in front of the Yankees on her own couch with a bottle of Smirnoff and drink away her anxieties of Monday morning.

"No, she's not. She started studying for her Bar exam tonight. And she has a name too, you know." Taylor snapped almost angrily.

"Whatever." Sharpay mouthed and stuck her sharp nose in the air with supremacy.

"So how do you like New York, Gabriella?" The dark male with his arm slipped around Sharpay's boney shoulder, Zeke Baylor, asked curiously. He was a chef who worked at a fancy restaurant seven blocks from where they were. He was also the star's boyfriend of a year and from what Gabriella had guessed by his kind demeanor, he seemed to be the exact opposite of her.

She shrugged and took a careful sip of wine before answering. "It's busy."

Sharpay rolled her light brown eyes. "No shit. It's New York, sweetheart."

Chad chuckled. "Ignore Ice Queen over here. You haven't even been here twenty four hours."

"When do you start working?" Zeke inquired before he took a long drink of his beer.

Gabriella fingered the empty crystal of her glass, remembering the nerves that had begun to settle in her chest of thoughts about what stress the next few days would bring her. It was bad enough her apartment still looked like a junk yard, but actually setting out to do what she came for? That was a nightmare all in its own. "Umm… I go in on Monday to get settled."

"So we're gonna see your name in the Tribute on Tuesday." Chad said with teasing hopes.

Gabriella rolled her eyes. "No. You'll see me in Krispy Kreme fetching some fat cow his custer-filled doughnuts and cheep coffee." The glamorous life of an intern at its best.

"Baby steps," Taylor reminded soothingly, and Gabriella shot a bitter look towards her. "Soon you'll be headlining."

"Sure I will, and right now the only thing that I'm headlining is the damn sign over my head," Gabriella glared ruthlessly at a giant banner that read, "Welcome to the Big Apple Gabriella!" hanging above them. It had been Chad's idea, clearly with the sloppiness of the paint and an apple that looked more like someone sat in the ruby paint. She could have murdered him for it. "Was the banner necessary?"

Chad smiled cheekily before he threw an arm around her. "Only for you, cuz I knew how much you'd love it."

Gabriella pushed him away with an annoyed shove. "Dickface. I'm going to go get something else, anyone want anything?" She wasn't really asking because she wanted to play hostess, but no one made a comment to jump on the offer so she shrugged it off.

Walking to the kitchen was like trudging through a sea of paparazzi. The mood of the party seemed to gravitate towards discovering every life story Gabriella had, though she figured if she ever ran into these people again they wouldn't have given a rat's ass about whether or not she had siblings or if she ever broke her clavicle. So as the questions bombarded her, she responded with polite smiles and mentally flipped every one of them off in her sour mood. They were nice people, but she just wanted isolation.

Once reaching her destination, she gently placed the elegant glass into the sink and frowned at the left over dirty dishes sitting upon the counter. Gabriella sighed, running her thin fingers through her tumbling tendrils, and yanked open the liquor cabinet; she fought with the urge to swipe out the vodka and tonic. It was probably wise not to become sloshed at her own party, so instead she pouted and snatched a bottled water from the chilled refrigerator and scowled at the plastic while her elbows rested on the counter; oblivious to the fact that someone had been watching her since she arrived in the kitchen.

Her mind was swirled in fears of what would come in the next few days. Terror had run through her body like lightning. Sure, she had been an employee at the cutesy coffee shop back in Boston, but this was the real deal. The path to her career was full of mysterious vines and daunting underbrush-in one moment her future could sink into the quicksand of failure. For all of college she had begged for this chance –thousands could read her work, yet she suddenly felt inferior, worthless even…

"I'm pretty sure it's not going to magically turn into tequila if you keep staring at it."

The husky voice pulled her out of the frump she was in and caused her mocha eyes to lift with curiosity at the perpetrator of her interrupted thoughts. Her initial reaction was to lash out upon whoever had brought her back to the aggravation of the atmosphere she did not want to be in, but she was halted when her sunless eyes landed upon the figure who had just spoken. He was leaned against the granite by the hip, the light-wash denim hung deliciously off his body enough to see a hint of his periwinkle boxers. His chestnut bangs were spiked off of his forehead –the rest of his hair was snipped shorter, though nothing like a buzz- in a manor that only the perfect structure of his face could pull off without appearing as though he slaved over gel products. A navy long sleeve was pushed up on his bronze forearms; it was clear by the tight cling of the fabric that his muscles were worked regularly, yet he was by no means excessively bulky.

In hindsight months later, she may have admitted that she had suddenly drowned in the intensity of his sapphire irises the first time her chocolate orbs connected with his. At a later time, she would have created some lie that stated she was startled by the bewitched enchantment of his oceanic shades when she was first exposed to them.

However, at the current date, Gabriella shrugged indifferently before she fixed her gaze back at her water. "I was hoping vodka actually."

The man chuckled, but did not move as she rotated the plastic in her hand as though it was inspected under a microscope. "I don't think the party's that much of a bust. But seeing you polka with a lamp might brighten things up."

Gabriella snorted before she shifted her eyes back onto his and inquisitively tilted her head to the side. She couldn't deny that the cerulean in his eyes were mesmerizing. Like the classic detective would, she was inspecting the way they were speckled with clusters of turquoise flakes surrounding his pupils. "Don't get your hopes up. But coat racks and I tend to get hot and heavy on the dance floor."

He laughed again, a kind of sound that naturally eased her shoulder tensions. Her profession gave her an outlook on certain individuals, along with her psychology minor. There were some people who just had a chuckle that calmed it's listeners like the steady crash of ocean waves. The dazzling smile that played on his lips also heightened the harmonious effect he gave off. It seemed odd that she would be spilling her distaste for the party to one of the party-goers, but the male before her seemed bemused by her frustrations.

"I'll be sure to get my camera for that one," he joked, and Gabriella turned to him again to absorb the pheromones he produced. The way his body curved sent off a mysterious appeal, yet his mockery had been charming. "You know, Gabriella… I could always distract Chad so you could slip out the door without him noticing."

Gabriella blinked with confusion. "How'd you know my name?"

His prickly hair nodded to the parody of the obnoxious ass-stained sign with her name stamped across it. "Wild guess." He replied with a smirk.

The more times she looked at him, the more attractive he seemed. The way his bangs rose to outline the baby soft skin of his face. How his knuckles were wider than the tips of his fingers. Again, in retrospect a year from now, she might have stated that the first encounter was love at first sight. But in reality, she found his jokes slightly amusing and that he was indeed, appealing to the eye. However, that was the extent to her emotions as she finally stood straight up and caught her balance. "How do you know them?"

The man shrugged, shoving his hands into the pockets of his light jeans and adjusted his position on the counter. "Chad and I have been tight since preschool. We grew up together." He admitted while outlining the edge of the granite with his digits. Gabriella couldn't help but be curious and lingered her gaze on the third finger. It was naked.

She suddenly wracked her memory and could recall faint stories with a common character. "I see. I give you props for putting up with the bastard for so long."

He smirked a sparkling smile. "I question why I haven't ditched his ass daily."

She liked this guy, his sharp attitude. He was definitely someone she wanted to get aquatinted with in this crazy city. Yet, there was something about him, a cryptic aura that floated around the air he breathed. It was inviting, and Gabriella's questioning personality propelled her to be intrigued.

"You live around here?" Gabriella watched him nod; the golden face shimmered in and out of the shadowed lighting around the dimmed apartment.

"A few blocks north. Chad and Tay should just quit their jobs and just be real estate agents. He helped me get my apartment too."

Gabriella picked up on the way his skin was bronze, clear from an overdose of UV rays. Even though it was August, it would have been difficult to imitate the sun kissed tone of his flesh. She also noted the way he did not have a New York or Brooklyn accent. It was clear that he grew up out of town somewhere. Again, she was one for detail, which made an excellent journalist. Sometimes she questioned why she was in communications and not a profiler.

They were silent for a brief moment, Gabriella found herself dissecting the multihued of his eyes. It wasn't until he cracked a bright grin before he took a step back and narrowed his brow in closing. "I should probably let you get back to pouting then. Or maybe you should go converse with your guests before they start to think you don't want to be here." He teased lightly, just before he took a long swig of the amber Corona she didn't even noticed he was drinking. Gabriella tried not to frown at the fact that his beverage was stronger than hers was.

"Don't mock me…erm…" The insult faded when she realized that she didn't know his name.

He shot her one more round of a glimmering smile before he held out his hand in introduction. "Troy. Troy Bolton."

Gabriella grinned cheekily back before closing her palm around his. "Gabriella Montez." She informed him, even if it seemed he had already been aware of her name before he even approached her.

Troy pumped her slim arm one more time before he bowed his head in farewell. "Well Gabriella Montez, I hope you enjoy New York," he released his grasp and stole his beer from the counter, trailing his hypnotic eyes over her face one more time. "I'm sure I'll see you around somewhere?" He questioned instead of stated.

Gabriella nodded, her flowing curls hung over her body as she absorbed the abstruseness of this man one more time. "Maybe on the wanted pages for executing Operation: Murder Chad Danforth for His Stupid Parties."

He chuckled. "Don't hurt him too bad," Troy beamed before increasing the distance between them. "Good luck Gabriella." His hand gave a half wave; he parted from the kitchen and disappeared into the cluster of attendees circling the intimate appeal of the room. With a sigh, Gabriella glanced at the faint illumination of the clock on the microwave. Only a few more hours and she'd be able to escape this charade to continue to panic over her new life.

Although it went unknowingly, it was in only fourteen minutes that Troy Bolton first entered her life, and would continue to shake her world for the rest of time.