Nate had never really thought much about Ella. Sure they were friends. They'd chatted every now and then. Jason and Shane had talked him into hiring her as their stylist when the stylist they'd had for years retired, and she was brilliant. But that was as far as it went. He'd never seen her as anything more than a casual acquaintance.
She just seemed so…high maintenance. She had been friends with Tess Tyler after all, and she always wore expensive brands and luxurious fabrics. Plus she wore so many things that sparkled. That couldn't be good for anyone's bank account. He'd always assumed she was a spoiled princess with a good heart.
And for years nothing he'd seen had proved him wrong. And then it happened.
He saw Ella in jeans and a t-shirt. It blew his mind.
They'd had a wardrobe emergency on her day off. The seam on the inside of Nate's pants had fallen apart and Ella's assistants had tried to fix it. Whatever they'd tried had puckered the fabric and ruined the pants. So they'd called Ella and she rushed in. She came jogging into the room with a garment bag in hand, but Nate had been distracted by how simply she was dressed.
She was wearing a plain white t-shirt, a pair of dark wash skinny jeans, and navy blue Converses. It had seemed so strange to him. He was sure that he'd stared at her in shock the entire time she was working. She'd pulled four pairs of pants out of the garment bag and hung them up for him to see. He'd told her in a very distracted tone that he'd wear whatever she thought was best. She'd given him a strange look and shoved a pair in his arms and then rushed him toward his dressing room.
"Go, go," She'd said. "You have a show in twenty minutes and I have a date…like now."
He was pretty sure he'd repeated the words. "A date?" And stared at her like she'd grown three heads.
"Yes, a date. I do have a life you know. Now go put on those pants before I have a nervous breakdown."
Once Ella was sure everything had been sorted out she'd left just as quickly as she'd come. It had taken half an hour. In just thirty minutes Ella had turned his entire world upside down. He almost couldn't believe it.
Since then he'd begun to see things about Ella that he'd somehow overlooked before. Anything Connect Three didn't need anymore went to the Salvation Army unless it was tour wardrobe that had been modified for quick changes and things and then it was donated to charity auctions. What had gotten him the most were the charities she picked. They were all children's charities, and a lot of them were about funding medical research.
She'd done an interview and a guest feature in a teen magazine about affordable and fashionable options to "dress like a rockstar". And then on top of that she'd hosted two Camp Rockers who wanted to be stylists simply because Brown had asked her to.
And now that he'd forced himself to notice her he could see that she never once acted as if she just had to have a certain brand of clothing. She wore what she thought looked good no matter what brand it was.
He'd noticed all this in one week, and he'd also begun to wonder how he'd not seen any of this before. He had apparently convinced himself that Ella was incredibly two dimensional.
Basically, he'd been an idiot.
Nate was brought back to the present by the sound of a familiar laugh. Ella. She'd just walked into the coffee house Nate had managed to camp out in. He'd picked a table in the back corner and had worked very hard to keep from being noticed. But at the sound of Ella's laugh he'd nearly jumped up (which would have announced his presence to the entire room).
He smiled softly at the site of her in another pair of skinny jeans. These were ripped and distressed. She had paired them with a long sleeved soft pink cotton shirt and a tan and white striped scarf. He spotted yet another pair of converses on her feet. These were plain white. She was dressed very simply again, and he couldn't help but find her very attractive.
But then…a deep chuckle could be heard from beside of her. He instinctively glared at the source of the chuckle. His glare intensified when he recognized the guy she was with. He was Camp Rock alumni. As a matter of fact he was now his uncle's assistant director. Nate couldn't remember his name but he definitely recognized him.
He watched Ella smile and laugh, and almost stood up to interrupt them when she lightly and casually touched the guy's arm. He huffed and tried to go back to his sheet music. What was up with him? Why did he suddenly care who Ella went out with? He couldn't be jealous, could he?
No way, just a week ago he'd barely known Ella existed. They moved closer to his table as they walked to the other end of the counter to wait on their coffees. He ducked his head and pretended he didn't know they were there. There was a few minutes of soft chatting before Ella paused.
"Nate?" She asked quietly. He gulped and glanced up.
"Ella?" He asked as if he hadn't recognized her.
"What are you doing here?" She asked.
"Just working on a song, you?"
She shrugged. "Getting a coffee."
The guy cleared his throat and gave Ella a pointed glance.
"Oh! Nate, you remember Gabe, right?" She asked as she motioned between the two men.
Nate nodded. "Yeah, it's good to see you again, man."
"You too," Gabe said stiffly. "Are we still going to that movie later?"
"Um, I guess," Ella answered with a furrowed brow. "Why?"
"Because if we want to make it on time we're going to have to leave as soon as we get our coffees," Gabe told her.
"But we've got like two hours," Ella said in a confused tone. "I think we have plenty of time to chat a little bit."
Nate smirked at Gabe. He could feel how uncomfortable the guy was. And Nate would be lying if he said he didn't feel at least a little happy about that. Gabe saw him as a threat which meant he obviously stood a chance with Ella.
Ella sat down next to him and tried to sneak a glance at his music. Nate grinned and slid it out of her sight. She made an offended noise and pouted.
"It's not finished yet. You can't see it until it's finished."
"I can't even see like one word?" She asked.
He chuckled. "Fine." He flashed the music quickly in front of her face. "You saw two. 'the' and 'a'. Good enough?"
She glared playfully at him. "Those don't count."
"They're words. You just said you wanted to see a word."
She laughed and rolled her eyes. "You knew what I meant, jerk."
"No, I think you need to express yourself more clearly, El," Nate smirked.
"Do you want me to call you Natey? Because I totally will," Ella threatened. "I've warned you not to call me El."
He shook his head. "You secretly like it and you know it. Admit it, El."
"I will admit to nothing, Natey."
Gabe sighed loudly and finally sat down on the other side of Ella. That seemed to pull Ella back to the present and she flashed Gabe a guilty glance. The table was suddenly engulfed in awkwardness.
"One Cinnamon Dolce latte and an espresso," The barista announced loudly. Gabe stood up and retrieved his and Ella's drinks. While he was gone Ella cleared her throat.
"Well, I guess I better go. I am on a date after all."
Nate said nothing, but sighed.
"What?" Ella asked.
"Do you really like him?"
"What's wrong with him?" She asked.
"Nothing. He's just so…"
"He's not dull. He's just…"
She sighed. "Dull. But…he's nice, and he's interested."
"Interested or interesting?"
Nate rolled his eyes. "He's not the only guy who's interested. Surely you can find one who's both interested and interesting."
"Well, finding both takes a while. It's easier to find one or the other."
"Because when it comes to finding the one person you're meant to be with the easy path is always the path you should take," Nate said dryly.
"Fine, if you've got such an opinion about it then tell me what I should do, Nate. Go ahead," Ella challenged.
He gulped and took a deep breath. "Dump Gabe."
"That's it? Dump Gabe? That's all you've got? Other than the fact that he's a little boring why should I dump him? I need a better reason than 'Nate says so'."
"You-you should dump him because I'm both interesting and interested," Nate told her honestly.
Her challenging glare disappeared from her face and her mouth fell open. "You…what?"
"Okay, Ella. Here's your latte," Gabe said as he suddenly reappeared. "And I've got mine. So I think we can…is everything all right?"
"I—I, yeah, um, it's fine. We should…we should go," Ella stuttered slowly. "I'll talk to you later, Nate."
"Will you, really?" He asked worriedly. He was afraid he'd scared her away.
She nodded. "I promise. We'll, um, talk later."
"We better," He told her as Ella and Gabe left.
She didn't call him that night or the next morning. He was lucky they had a meeting with her about wardrobe for their upcoming tour. They would have to see each other. He walked into Ella's office to find Shane and Jason waiting patiently.
"Whats-his-face that works with Uncle Brown showed up. She's talking to him about something," Shane told him.
"Where?" Nate repeated.
"In the wardrobe room," Jason answered.
"And neither of you thought to listen in?"
Shane gave Nate a strange glance. "We didn't really think it was any of our business."
"She's our stylist. Of course, it's our business."
"Are you okay, bro?" Jason asked with an amused grin.
"I'm fine," Nate said as he walked over to the wardrobe room door.
"Really?" Jason asked with a chuckle. "Cause we've never known you to spy before…unless you count Dana."
"You don't count Dana?" Shane asked.
"Nah, teenage Romeo and Juliet insanity," Jason said with a dismissive wave.
"Will you two shut up?" Nate asked irritably. "I'm trying to listen."
"I don't feel right about helping you eavesdrop," Shane told him.
Nate quirked an eyebrow at his brother. "This from a guy who insisted on spying on Mitchie while she was in song writing session with Christopher Wilde."
"Okay, Christopher Wilde is way more of a threat than assistant camp director guy," Shane said defensively.
The door swung open and Nate's eyes suddenly met Ella's. He took a step back and gulped nervously. "Good morning."
She grinned at him. "Good morning. Spying, are we?"
He cleared his throat. "No."
"I'll pretend I believe that," Ella told him. She leaned toward him to whisper. "Be warned. Gabe's coming out, and he's not happy."
Nate grinned slyly. "Really?"
"Don't grin in front of him," She told him. "Unless you want to be punched in the face."
Ella stepped through the door and Gabe quickly made his way through once she moved.
Ella sighed and turned to him. "I really am sorry, Gabe."
"Yeah, right," Gabe muttered as he glared at Nate and briskly left the room.
"Well, that wasn't awkward at all," Jason said as he watched Gabe leave.
"Can you guys give us a minute?" Nate asked his brothers.
"What for?" Shane asked with a furrowed brow.
Jason elbowed Shane in the side. "Don't ask stupid questions. Come on."
"Where are we going?" Shane asked.
"For a walk."
"For a walk where?" He asked again.
Jason sighed. "I don't know Shane, where would you like to go?"
"Sure," Jason said with a roll of his eyes. "Let's go to Disneyland."
"Really?" He asked.
Jason smacked him in the back of the head. "No. Just come on."
Nate shook his head as the door closed behind his brothers. "How do you put up with us?"
Ella laughed. "You get used to it."
A silence took over the room and Nate reached out and took Ella's hand. "So, you and Gabe are…"
"Over," She told him happily.
He smiled at her. "So what are you going to do now?"
She grinned. "Well, see I met this guy at this coffee shop yesterday…"
"And?" he asked.
"And I thought he was kind of cute. He said he was interested. Now I'm just waiting for him to ask me out."
"You think you're going to have to wait long?" He asked knowingly.
"I certainly hope not," Ella answered as she stared at their intertwined hands. "But I guess that's up to him."
His other hand traveled up her arm and her shoulders until it landed on her neck and jawline. His thumb caressed the edge of her cheek. "You won't be waiting long. You won't be waiting at all, really."
"I-I won't?" She stuttered nervously as she met his gaze.
His thumb grazed her bottom lip and her breath caught in her throat. "No, you won't."
His lips touched hers lightly at first. It was feather light and tentative. Barely even a kiss. Even so Ella felt every hair on her neck stand up at the contact. She brought her free hand up to rest on his shoulder as she pushed herself up on her tip toes and kissed him a little more forcefully. He sucked in a sharp breath before releasing her hand and wrapping an arm around her waist.
Nate pulled Ella as close to him as possible as he deepened the kiss. Kissing Ella felt right. He'd kissed other girls, but no kiss he'd ever experienced had felt like this. Everything went hot and cold at once and a knot formed in his stomach. The kind of knot that he usually felt when he was on stage. The one that got his adrenaline pumping and his nerves flowing. They'd pulled apart and he rested his forehead against Ella's. They both took a deep breath, and Ella smiled brightly at him.
"I—I," Ella stuttered. She swallowed thickly. "That was amazing."
"Tell me—" Nate cut himself off as his voice cracked. Ella giggled at him and he blushed. "Tell me about it."
"But," Ella started. "You still haven't actually asked me out yet."
Nate chuckled. "I thought that was implied."
"I don't do implications, Nate."
He smiled and cleared his throat. "Right, I apologize. Ella, would you like to go to dinner with me sometime?"
She beamed at him. "I would love to, Nate."