Ok people here is my starter for the ZAAngels Write Off competition! Hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you! Get writing your own stories :D
Theme: It Never Rains but it Pours…
"Great!" Gabriella sucked her teeth in annoyance as her nail gave way while she tried to rip the lid off her microwave porridge- something that shouldn't really be this hard, but by the look of things, her day wasn't about to get any better.
Her nails were meant to be perfect- her best friend Taylor McKessie was having her wedding rehearsal this morning and it was Gabriella's job as chief bridesmaid to be perfect and help make things go as smoothly as possible.
She really hoped this wasn't a sign of things to come.
"Are you freaking kidding me?" She roared to herself as the lid popped off her porridge pot and spurted some of the goo onto her delicate blouse.
She took a deep breath in and counted to ten.
That would teach her to get dressed before eating, she mused. So much for looking beautiful…
She dropped the pot on the side and gave up on a hot breakfast, deciding she would grab a pastry at the patisserie on the corner of the street where the church was that Taylor was getting married at. Pastry made everything better, she conceded. Meanwhile, she stormed to her room and quickly shunted her hangers across the bar to search for an alternative top.
She held up a white cotton vest that had iridescent ribbon striped across the deep frills that wrapped around the body of the top. It was pretty and feminine, perfect for the day and it would also go with the tiered white skirt she was wearing.
She quickly pulled it on and grabbed her bag after slipping on her sandals, now needing more time to get breakfast before she made her way to the church.
Gabriella might have known that her bad luck wasn't done for the day. Bad things always happened in threes. She counted colliding with a stranger in the doorway of the patisserie as mark 2.
"I'm so so-"
"Jeez, I'm sorry…"
She and her victim spoke simultaneously and she looked up, into smiling blue eyes.
"No, I'm sorry," he repeated, with a crooked smile.
She found herself unable to look away so she just stared, with a frown.
"Are you okay?" He checked, still holding her elbow with a gentle hand.
"I wasn't looking," she finally spoke, breaking her gaze away from his handsome face. She felt a cold, wet sensation against her chest and looked down.
Pink milkshake was seeping into her top.
"Oh god," she groaned, noticing the contents of the stranger's cup were now down the front of her top- seemingly forced there upon their fierce contact.
"Oh, god," he repeated, his eyes widening in mortification. "I am really, really sorry…"
She smirked. "This is just my luck…second top of the day-ruined," she mused to herself.
"Second top?" The guy picked up on her murmuring and she forgot he was still there.
"Never mind," she smiled. "I expect you have somewhere to be…let me buy you a replacement shake…"
"It was a smoothie actually…strawberry and banana," he commented off-handedly and she gave him a dead stare before walking toward the counter.
"Great that's gonna stain," she muttered under her breath as she went, ordering his drink and her breakfast in one go.
"…and the only place I have to be is right around the corner," he was still talking to her, she noted bemusedly. "At my best mate's wedding practice."
"What?" She squinted, intrigued.
The stranger lifted his brows. "My best friend…he's getting married." He explained.
"Mine too," she handed him his new smoothie. "At St. Lawrence's church."
"Hey, me too!" He marveled. "You're Taylor's friend?" He guessed.
She nodded, sipping her coffee and wincing as it burnt her tongue.
"You must be Chad's friend Troy from Chicago," she posed.
He smiled that crooked smile again. "I see you've heard about me."
"I'm Gabriella," she stuck out her hand. "Taylor's best friend and chief bridesmaid."
"You're Gabriella?" Troy looked surprised.
Gabriella made a face. "Yeah…why?"
He quickly recovered. "No…nothing," he assured.
She rolled her eyes. "What did they say about me?"
Troy lifted one shoulder awkwardly. "Nothing bad."
"Tell me," she insisted. "I can take it."
He flicked his eyes over her face, down to her stained top.
"Just that you were single, that's all," he 'fessed up. "Which I can't believe…" He added of his surprise.
She smirked. "Well believe it, because it's true."
"We should probably walk and talk," he suggested.
She gasped. "Oh my god, am I late, too?"
He chuckled. "No, but we will be…at least you can blame me for your tardiness," he joked.
"Unluckily for me, Taylor knows exactly what I'm like," Gabriella mused.
"Hey…is your top ok? Don't you want to dry it off a bit?" He asked as they walked and she hungrily tucked into her croissant- plain for fear of dropping anything else down herself on this dreaded morning.
"I smell like strawberries and my bra is wet," she complained lightly. "But if I even think about fixing this ahead of making Taylor's practice perfect, I will regret it," she assured him.
"Maybe I can lick it off for you," he joked as he walked beside her, finding her downbeat outlook amusing.
The long stare she gave him told him she didn't share his humour.
"Are you a weirdo?" She asked. "Because they didn't tell me that, they just told me you were in Chicago and that's why we never met…"
He laughed at her suggestion. "Yeah, I'm a weirdo, definitely," he grinned.
She sliced him another look, appreciating his boyish handsomeness and the touchable messiness of his semi-spiked hair.
"You don't seem so weird," she commented softly as they came up the church path.
He smiled across at her by return. "That's because I'm not…"
"There you are!" An exasperated voice cut in on their moment.
"Tay, look, it was my fault okay," Gabriella started off before Troy could even speak.
"What's that on your top? Did you trip again?" Taylor chided, then without waiting for an answer or checking on Gabriella's well being, she spoke again. "Come on, you two, we're starting…"
"Hi Taylor," Troy greeted jovially as he followed the women inside.
"Don't talk to me, Bolton," she warned and he raised his brows, sucker-punched by her animosity, but shrugging it away in usual guy fashion.
"Hey, where have you been man?" Chad whispered across to Troy as they mock-waited for the bride's procession to start down the centre aisle.
"I bumped into Gabriella," Troy whispered back. "Literally…"
"Oh yeah, I should have warned you she's accident prone…"
"Explains the single status," Troy offered, thinking there was nothing else that did.
Chad downturned his lips. "Nah, guys find it cute, but she got hurt pretty bad before so she doesn't look at guys now."
"Not at all?" Troy was surprised.
"Excuse me," Taylor's demonstrative voice pierced the air. "Can you two please concentrate on getting married and not whatever boy-gossip you're catching up on…?"
Troy hid a giggle and Chad swallowed sheepishly.
"Yes ma'am," he murmured, making Troy spurt out some air in amusement.
"I heard that!" Taylor added from the back of the church.
"Oh buddy, you aint getting any tonight," Troy ribbed his friend and Chad nodded.
"I know…" He sighed.
Troy checked behind him to make sure Taylor was gone before he spoke again and the music started up again to signal the bride's arrival.
"So you don't think Gabriella would be interested, if I asked her out?" Troy checked with his friend.
Chad also checked the back of the church for his future wife-to-be.
"Probably not man, but if you want to try then be my guest…"
Troy nodded thoughtfully, startling as he felt the full force of a smack around the back of his head, something that his friend also suffered in succession.
"Ow!" Troy quickly clutched his stinging skin.
"Chad Malachi Danforth, if you don't even respect me enough not to talk through the wedding practice then how on earth do you expect me to marry you?" Taylor fumed.
"Baby, come on…I haven't seen Troy for months, we're just catching up…" Chad appealed.
"Well, perhaps you'd like to marry him then," Taylor huffed and strode down the aisle in a storm; leaving Gabriella stranded as she passed by her and disappeared into the back wing of the church.
She frowned in confusion and looked up to find Chad and Troy coming down toward her.
"What did you do?" Gabriella posed, accusingly.
Troy swallowed. Chad blushed.
"We were just talking…" Chad explained feebly.
Gabriella arched a brow. "Talking? During her walk down the aisle? What could possibly be so important to come above watching your wife-to-be practice her wedding march?"
Chad looked to Troy. Troy smirked. Neither of them was about to tell the Latina that she was the topic of their conversation.
"Guy stuff," Troy offered.
"Guy stuff?" Gabriella repeated. "Is that all you have?"
Troy bit into his lower lip. Chad hung his head in shame.
Gabriella sighed. "Okay, look, let me talk to her. You talk to the Reverend and ask for more time to go again. I'll try and get Tay to come out," she turned to complete her part of the plan, leaving the boys to accomplish theirs.
"Tay, come on…" Gabriella coaxed. "You know what guys are like…just come out and get through the practice and you can be mad at Chad all night if you want to…"
Taylor ripped open the toilet stall door.
"The wedding is off," she stated emphatically.
Gabriella 'o'd her mouth. "No," she begged. "You don't mean that…"
"Don't I?" Taylor arched a brow as she headed out of the restroom and toward the church exit.
"Taylor, wait," Gabriella called. "We can fix this…"
"No, Gabriella, Chad can fix this," her friend bit as she ran down the steps of the church and into the busy street beyond, leaving Gabriella to deliver the bad news to the boys.
"Well?" Chad asked as Gabriella ventured down the aisle.
She bit her lip. "She's gone, Chad…"
"What?" He frowned.
"She's really mad…I tried to talk to her…"
"We were only talking," Chad defended. "What's so wrong with that?"
"It is her wedding rehearsal," Gabriella gently reminded. "I guess she just thought you could have waited until later…"
"I'm sorry, man," Troy offered heavily, taking his blame in Taylor's anger.
"No, it's not you," Chad sighed and cupped his shoulder. "It's me she's mad at. Look, I'm sorry to leave you fending for yourself on your first night in town, but I have to go after her," he explained of his fiancée.
Troy nodded. "Absolutely…you should go," he encouraged.
"Gabs?" Chad appealed. "Can you keep Troy company for a while?"
Gabriella looked miffed. "Sure," she said through gritted teeth to appease her friend.
"I'll call you later," Chad told Troy.
"Okay man, good luck," Troy called as Chad rushed down the aisle.
"Are you two ready to be married?" The Reverend appeared behind them, prompting action from the abandoned couple.
Gabriella actually laughed. "No! Gosh no…we have to leave I'm afraid," she explained to the Reverend, then turned to go.
"You don't have to babysit me you know," Troy remarked as he followed her out.
She paused in the street and looked at him.
"I only live ten minutes away…I really have to change my top…but we can do something after of you like?" She offered.
He swallowed, studying her beautiful face. And she really was beautiful, he still couldn't quite get over how much so. Surely she couldn't be single?
"If you're sure," he checked.
She nodded. "I was all booked up to rehearse weddings so I have nothing else planned."
"Okay…" He agreed to their spontaneous date. "Lead the way…"
"Owww!" Gabriella pressed the heel of her hand into her temple as she caught herself awkwardly mid-slip and straightened, her head having made hard contact with the tiles of her bathroom wall.
"Why me?" She whined as tears came to her eyes and she clutched her towel as it threatened to fall. That would be all she needed. She could just see it now- passing out on the bathroom floor, naked and with no modesty as the ambulance crew came to rescue her…the way her day was going, she wouldn't bet on it not happening.
Still, that was her third incident so she relaxed a little that her dose of un-luck was over for one day.
"Jeez, are you okay?" Troy quickly stood from her couch as she came down the stairs and she stared at him with a confused frown.
"Your face…" He came toward her and turned her cheek with tender fingers. "Ouch," he hissed, remarking on the red welt on the side of her face and the evident bruise that was going to follow.
"I don't have a black eye do I?" She asked worriedly, seemingly accepting her injury a lot more easily than he had.
"Not yet…what happened?" He wondered.
"I slipped," she dismissed. "And what do you mean not yet? Am I going to have a black eye for the wedding?"
He smirked. "If there's a wedding…"
"There will be," Gabriella assured. "They'll work it out."
"This happens a lot huh?" Troy squinted, letting go of her face but not stepping away.
She nodded. "Daily."
"Hm," he tipped his head with a sigh. "Should they be getting married?"
She smiled. "They love each other. I don't see why not."
He nodded. "You should get some ice on this," he said of her injury.
She went through to the kitchen to get some, but he came up behind her and shadowed her at the freezer door, reaching past her to collect a bag of peas which he wrapped in a tea towel and lifted for application.
She gave him a wary frown. "What are you doing?"
"First aid," he replied simply.
"I think I can ice my own head," she mused. "I managed to smack it so…"
"Humour me," he pursed his lips and directed her to a stool, sitting her down before he very gently pressed the cool aid against her sore skin.
"Ow, ow, ow," she whimpered in pain.
"I know," he cupped her upper arm with his free hand. "It's gonna hurt till it's frozen…"
She cast sulky eyes up at him. "How come you never fall over?"
He shrugged. "Good balance."
"What's that?" She joked wryly.
"Were you always this accident-prone?" He wondered.
She smirked. "I have some interesting scars."
His brow lifted, just slightly and a light went on in his eyes. "I'd like to see those one day…"
"Ha-ha," she dead-panned.
"No, I mean it," he insisted gently, smiling at her in a way that would leave no doubt as to his intention.
Suddenly, her face fell and her warm brown eyes cooled. She leaned back from his attentive stance as he cooled her bruise.
"I'm not interested," she stated.
Troy swallowed, and then cleared his throat. "Okay…I'm sorry," he added afterwards.
She looked at him for another moment. "Well, what do you want to do?" She asked changing topic. "We have an afternoon to fill…"
"Aren't you going to give me the guided tour of Albuquerque?" He asked.
She pursed her lips. "Sure, if you like…"
"I'd like," he assured and she stood to go, wincing as her head throbbed painfully.
"Gabriella," Troy followed her to the door. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather rest?"
She turned and lifted one shoulder, closing her eye as her bruise stung.
"Nope, I'm used to working with injuries, believe me…"
"What is it you do for a living?" Troy wondered, not thinking easily of a profession that could be undertaken with her apparent level of unco-ordination.
Gabriella turned and smirked at him. "Zoo-keeper."
She was a zoo-keeper? Who the hell did that for a job, he mused? Well, Gabriella obviously, he hadn't met anyone else with that job title and then he had a second thought- of the welfare of the animals.
"Do you…I mean…how do you get by working with animals?" He posed gently.
She all-out grinned at him. "You're the first person to fully address my attraction to accidents," she commented. "Brave man."
"Oh, you'd rather not talk about it?" He wondered. "Because I am a terrible cook and you know, I'm not afraid to tell you how bad…"
"How bad?" She wondered, sidetracked.
"I gave a girl food-poisoning once when I undercooked the chicken…" He posed.
She gave him a worried look. "Did she live?"
He chuckled. "Yeah she lived! I'm not that bad…"
"Well you said it…"
He nodded. "I was trying to make you feel better."
She knew that and it made her warm and tingly inside but she decided not to share that piece of information, instead she changed topic again.
"So, this is County Hall," she began her tour at the old prison. "The Sheriff of Albuquerque back in the day brought all the criminals here and trialled them…"
He gave her a look. "Is there anything exciting to look at?"
She blinked flatly. "You wanted the tour…"
"Can we do it by shot bars or something?" He posed.
"Your best friend is having a crisis over his wedding- which is in 24 hours by the way- and all you can do is think about partying?" She accused.
"It's not all I'm thinking about…" He considered as he flicked his eyes down her new top- a fairly transparent black vest that showcased her red-rose print bra beneath it perfectly.
She gave him that unimpressed look again.
"I see," she folded her arms, clueing him off to the fact she had noticed his perusal.
"Perhaps you'd rather I drop you at the lap-dancing club and let them babysit you?" She arched, turning to stride down the street.
"Actually I'd rather have you!" He called as he dodged people to catch her up.
She glared at him and he realized his unfortunate turn of phrase.
"I mean…not have you…" He corrected embarrassedly. "I just meant, as in have you as a babysitter not have you like-"
"Yes, thank you," she forced through her teeth. "I think I get what you meant…"
He smiled, relaxing. "Good."
She gave him another disbelieving look. "So what now, genius?" She challenged.
He looked around, his eyes lighting up as he saw the perfect activity.
"Let's go on the Ferris Wheel!" He pointed to the huge wheel that gave panoramic views of the busy town centre and the hills that rolled beyond into red sand and rock.
"I'm sorry?" She stopped, making him stumble into her a little.
"Sorry," he apologized, then, "…a ride on the Ferris Wheel is perfect," he added by way of explanation.
"If we get on that thing and anything happens to me, I'll hold you personally responsible," she stated, crossing the street with her arms still folded.
"Alright then!" He yelled after her. "On my head be it!"
"I've never hurt any animals by the way," Gabriella arched as they sat side by side, the seat rocking in the breeze as the wheel slowly turned upwards.
"I didn't say you had," Troy remarked.
"You were suggesting that my accident prone-ness made it unlikely for me to be good with animals," she reminded.
"No, I was asking how you found it to work with them," he corrected.
"Well, I'm fine with them," she answered, emphasizing that she wasn't fine with him.
"Look, I'm sorry if I said anything to upset you," he offered. "We both have a part in tomorrow's wedding so; you know…I don't want you to be mad at me."
"I'm not mad," she said, although she sounded narked when she said it. She frowned, relaxing back in the bucket seat. "I'm not mad," she said again, more softly.
Troy ventured a look at her, and then out beyond.
"It's really beautiful here," he commented.
"I know," she let a smile curve her lips. "The view is amazing…"
"I mean, there's beautiful girls, too," he added with a hidden smile as he continued looking out, pretending he wasn't really talking about her, even though they both knew he was.
"Well, take your pick," she offered, ignoring his compliment.
"I have," he turned his smiley eyes upon her then.
"And I have said no thank you," she reminded. "Let's not revisit that, shall we?"
"Why not?" He wondered. "Afraid I might wear down your defenses?"
"No…" She smirked. "No, I'm more worried about your safety."
He chuckled, shaking his head. "I wish there were women like you in my town, Gabriella," he commended.
"Why?" She looked at him like he was crazy for wishing such a thing.
He leaned back, looking over.
"There's nothing sexier than a woman who puts you in your place," he admitted. "And you have a real knack for it…"
Great…she was sexy. For being rude and turning down Troy twice on the trot. If that's what turned him on then so be it, but it didn't sit well with her. She was off men. For good.
"Are you okay?"
The concerned question startled her and Gabriella quickly snapped her gaze to Troy's.
"Hm? Yes, I'm fine."
"You don't seem so fine," he commented.
"Thanks," she derided.
He frowned. "No, I mean, you have your eye closed and your bruise looks sore…"
"Yeah, it's hurting a bit now," she conceded, too tired to fight.
"Okay, I'm taking you home," he decided as their ride came to an end and he helped her off the seat to ensure no accidents.
"I can manage," she assured, taking his hands anyway as they disembarked and came out into the street again.
"So…which way is home?" He checked.
"Isn't your hotel in town?" She returned.
"Yeah, but I'm taking you home first…" He reminded.
"I'll get a cab, don't worry," she insisted.
"I'd rather make sure I see you home safely," he opposed.
She looked at him for a long moment. "Fine." She sighed, seeing he wasn't going to back down.
He nodded and went back the way they came, glancing at her several times to check on her. She rolled her eyes but decided not to antagonize him by speaking.
"Okay, I'm home," she put the key in the lock and turned.
"I'll go once you're inside…" He insisted.
"Right…" She murmured. "Goodbye Troy, see you tomorrow," she added as she went to close her front door, then let out an almighty scream before she could get the door shut.
"Gabriella?" Troy stepped forward and pushed at the front door to see what had caused her horror.
A rat sat in the hallway, nibbling on a piece of food.
"Is he yours?" Troy asked.
Gabriella's stern look told him the answer was no.
"Aren't you going to kill it?" She asked back.
"No way…" Troy moved to capture the creature, stroking his fur. "He's a pet, you can tell…"
Gabriella watched as Troy coochy-cooed the biggest, scariest looking rodent she had ever seen.
"If you aren't going to kill it, can you put it outside?" She posed.
"Can you think of anyone who has a rat?" He wondered. "We can't just let him go…"
"Him?" She repeated, sighing. "Maybe next door…they have a bunch of kids…"
"Okay, I'll go ask," he quickly exited her house and she let out a relieved breath, heading to her sofa where she crashed tiredly.
"Gabriella? Gabriella…" Troy pushed open the front door she had left unlatched and came in to find her asleep awkwardly on the sofa, her neck bent uncomfortably as her chin hit her chest.
He smiled at the picture she posed, though.
"You'd be more comfortable in bed," Troy murmured as he crouched, wondering if he should move her.
"Not with you," he heard her murmur and he couldn't help the grin that split his face.
"No, I get that," he mused. "But you should at least lie straight so your neck won't hurt later…"
She wriggled long ways on the couch. "Troy?" She called as he stood to go.
"What are you doing for dinner?"
He lifted his brows at her question.
"Uh…probably get some sushi take out and have it back at the hotel…" He considered.
"I'll meet you at Yo Sushi…" She told him with a sleepy voice. "7pm."
"Alright," he nodded, "See you later."
"Have you forgiven him yet?" Gabriella asked her best friend as she walked into town to meet Troy, dressed in black skinny jeans, a crop jumper and heels. Her cell phone was glued to her ear so she could hear Taylor above the traffic.
"We're talking…" Taylor admitted.
"Good," Gabriella said. "I was worried tomorrow was going to be ruined…"
"No, we're getting married," Taylor assured. "But are you okay? I'm sorry I ran out on you like that…"
"I'm okay," Gabriella assured. "I might have a black eye for the wedding photos, but I'm okay…"
"What happened? Did Troy do something?" Taylor asked, seemingly knowing he had been left under her care.
Gabriella snickered. "Tay, what kind of guy do you think Troy is?" She mused. "Of course he didn't do anything…"
"You fell again huh?" Her friend guessed sympathetically.
"I promise I won't fall over on your wedding day," Gabriella assured her friend.
"Okay, well play nice with Troy, Chad has kind of left him alone in a strange town all day and night," Taylor worried.
"It's okay, we're hanging out," Gabriella assured. "I'm meeting him now so I have to go…"
"Okay, behave!" Taylor teased as the two women hung up on their call.
"Ouch," Gabriella hissed in pain as she realized she had been holding her phone to her sore side; a stupid thing to do she conceded in hindsight.
"Nice shiner," a warm, familiar voice teased as she approached the sushi bar.
She met blue eyes begrudgingly.
"Don't mess with me," she teased right back, softening her words with a smile.
"Wow, she smiles…" He remarked. "Sleep likes you?" He guessed.
She nodded. "Thank you, for earlier," she added. "The rat and making sure I wouldn't wake up with a bad neck…."
He shrugged boyishly. "All in a day's work."
"Shall we?" She gestured for them to go inside.
"So, are we eating this back at the hotel?" He asked lightly and she hadn't thought about where they would eat, only that she had agreed to his idea of having take out in his hotel room.
There was a restaurant here so they could pick their food off a conveyor belt; but somehow she wanted to be alone with him. She didn't fully understand it; the feeling was strange and new, but she decided not to fight it this time, she decided to go with it.
"That was the plan," she replied to affirm his question and referring back to his earlier words.
"I was just…making sure…" He frowned, surprised by her agreement. "In case you didn't want to…you know…come back to my room with me or something…in case you thought I was weird…"
His babbling was really quite cute, she mused as she cast warm eyes upon him.
"Well you are weird," she agreed. "But I don't consider my safety impaired by that fact."
"No," his lips twitched with a smile. "With your track record I expect company is only a good thing…"
She swiped him, just playfully seeing as they still barely knew one another.
"Don't tempt fate," she warned as they picked up their ordered items in three paper bags and turned to walk. "It has been known for my bad luck to rub off on others…"
"Injury by association?" He checked, dead-pan.
She found it hard not to laugh, so she gave in to it. "You could say that…"
"Any examples?" He asked.
She pursed her lips.
"One time Chad pulled me away from a pipe hole in the pavement so that I wouldn't trip on it, then he tripped on a manhole cover…"
"Oh wow," Troy lifted his brows. "Impressive."
She swallowed vulnerably. "I promised Tay I wouldn't fall over tomorrow."
"You won't," he assured quickly. "And if you even look like you might, I'll take the curse," he assured quickly.
"Really, you'd do that?" She looked at him unsurely.
"Absolutely. I'm the best man, consider it my duty…"
"You do realize we have to dance together when Tay and Chad have their first dance…" she posed then.
He looked at her, a pleased smile crossing his lips. "What song did they choose?"
"'I want to know what love is' by Foreigner," she shared.
"Great song," Troy nodded.
"Great tripping risk," she replied sourly.
"Do you think if, for one moment, you stopped worrying about tripping that you just might not trip as much?" He posed thoughtfully.
She considered his question with a silent frown.
"Gabriella?" He prompted. "Did I say something wrong?"
"When I'm with the animals, I don't have any wobbles…no trips or falls…" She recognized. "They calm me down."
"I can pretend to be a bear if it helps," Troy offered, making her giggle as he held the door to the hotel lobby open for her to pass through.
"You can't!" She protested, sucking in air.
"I can too….roarrrrr," he added his own sound effects.
"Troy, bears don't roar," Gabriella remarked as they got in the lift.
"Grrrrr…." He re-phrased, making claws and a scary face to match, melting her into giggles once more.
"People might wonder what was wrong with you," she smiled.
"Who cares," he shrugged. "As long as you weren't falling over, it wouldn't matter…"
"I have to learn from my own, clumsy mistakes," she commented, turning as the lift doors pinged open and without properly looking; crashing into the person stepping into the lift who hadn't seen her behind the door.
They collided and she dropped her sushi bag to the floor.
"Oh god, I'm sorry…" She apologized, bending to get her bag only to find Troy already scooping it up, his hand cupping her elbow to guide her away from the other person.
"My wrong ma'am," a good-looking cowboy drawled, grinning at her in a predatory way.
She tensed and drifted closer to Troy.
"Well, goodnight," Gabriella parted with the man as she came away unscathed.
"You need warning lights," Troy joked as he swiped his key card and pushed open his door.
"Don't I just," she sighed as she came inside and sat; quiet and pensive.
"Okay…was the salmon yours?" Troy checked as he tossed their purchases onto the bed.
"I think so…" Gabriella perched on the sofa in the room.
"Soy?" He offered.
She was blindly looking into thin air as he came over with a stack of her food.
"Gabriella?" He prompted.
She came-to. "Yes, thank you," she forced a smile.
"Look that guy wasn't looking you know," Troy said as he sat beside her, leaning back to enjoy his food with chopsticks.
"No, I guess not," she relaxed back to enjoy her food with him.
"I'm looking forward to this wedding," he admitted. "Chad told me they sorted things out…"
"Yeah, Taylor rang me and said the same…" Gabriella shared.
"I feel kinda bad for being part of the reason why she was angry," Troy posed.
Gabriella shrugged. "She didn't mention you," she assured.
"Yeah, but still…"
"What were you talking about anyway?" She asked again. "And don't say 'guy stuff'," she warned.
He pursed his lips, venturing a look her way. "Actually…we were talking about you."
"Me?" She repeated, shocked. "I'm the reason my best friends wedding rehearsal was ruined? Can this day get any worse?"
"No, I mean it's not your fault that we were talking," Troy conceded. "Plus she told us once to stop and we didn't so…"
"Why were you talking about me?" She asked, feeling a little conscious about that.
"Well…" Troy cleared his throat. "I was asking Chad if you were really single," he admitted.
"That's a one word answer," Gabriella argued.
"Well, maybe we talked a little more about it…" Troy conceded.
"What did he tell you?" She darted him a suspicious look.
"Nothing," he lied, lifting surrendered hands. "He told me you were really single and that's all…"
"He told you not to ask me out," she guessed.
"He might have mentioned it," Troy downturned his lips.
"But you didn't listen," she stated.
"I'm a guy," he excused charmingly. "But I listen to girls," he added quickly to add to his plusses.
"But you didn't listen to me either…"
"You didn't actually say 'no'," he countered.
"I told you I wasn't interested," she arched.
"That's not no," he pointed out.
"That is no," she argued.
"No, no is 'I would never go out with you'," he posed. "Or, 'I don't find you attractive'."
"Then what the heck is 'I'm not interested' in your book?" She challenged.
He met her gaze, holding it. "It means, 'I like you but I'm not going out with you because I'm protecting myself from getting hurt'," he translated.
"He did tell you," she realized.
"Is that so bad?" He wondered with a swallow, hoping she wouldn't go.
"Yes," she looked at him. "I know nothing about you and you know not only that I had my heart broken but that I am the world's clumsiest person ever…"
"Well, what do you want to know?" He asked back. "Ask me something…"
She frowned, realizing she hadn't asked him anything about himself yet. She'd been too wrapped up in herself.
"Are you single?" she ventured, shyly.
"Have you ever been hurt?" She wondered.
His blue eyes clouded. "Yep."
"And you got over it? You can sit there and say you learned to trust again?" She was sounding hopeful now, like the girl he expected to find under that hair and those eyes.
He blinked. "I'm giving it a go," he offered and it took a moment for her to decipher his words. He was giving it a go with her. He had been hurt. And she was his first interest since it happened.
She sucked her lower lip.
"I should too," she accepted to herself.
"Gabriella…you do know your clumsiness isn't a bad thing, right?" He checked.
"Yeah, right," she rolled her eyes. "So attractive…Hi I'm Gabriella, I'm so sexy…until you see me fall," she mocked herself.
"But you are sexy," he said, bemused.
She looked at him. "Until you see me fall," she repeated the end of her previous sentence.
He tilted his head and ran his eyes over her face, taking in her bruise.
"Even when you fall," he decided.
She dropped her gaze, not willing to believe him, but his words had an effect on her and she didn't discount it. No, it was about time she took Troy's advice and gave romance a go.
"Are you eating all your salmon rolls?" She asked, eyeing the last one in his packet.
Troy smiled. "No, you have it," he lifted it toward her mouth with his chopsticks and she met his gaze fearfully, then went for the plunge and took the roll of rice and salmon whole into her mouth and proceeded to eat it with full cheeks which he watched with an affected grin.
"Nice?" He checked and she nodded.
"Glad I stopped by," she agreed.
"Well, feed the girl and let her sleep and you tame the-" He paused, looking for an alternative word to 'beast', "…Not sure where I was going with that," he muttered as he couldn't think of anything.
She gave him a knowing smile. "We have a big day tomorrow. I have to get up early so I can help lace Taylor's dress up…"
"You're leaving, already?" Troy stood up as she did.
She shrugged. "Don't you have an early start too?"
"Yeah but…" He didn't finish his sentence but she could almost hear the missing words.
…but I'd stay up for you.
She paused awkwardly. She'd like to stay, too, but Taylor would kill her if she was late tomorrow and she couldn't risk any more bad luck.
"Maybe we can spend more time together tomorrow?" She suggested, for the first time showing a willingness to get to know him better. He saw that giving in to her now would pay dividends tomorrow.
"I'd like that," he said simply.
She nodded. "Goodnight, Troy. Thank you for dinner…"
"Thank you for being my babysitter today," he returned, opening his door to set her free. "See you in church…"
Her smile back was bordering on naughty and he turned and chuckled to himself as he went back inside.
Meanwhile, Gabriella stepped out onto the sidewalk and breathed in the fresh air. It was a good night for walking she decided. She definitely needed time to think. She frowned as droplets fell from the air onto her face.
"You have got to be kidding me," she mused as she looked up and saw lightening flash the sky seconds before thunder rumbled around the town. Suddenly large plops of rain tumbled around her and bounced off her face.
"If it doesn't rain, it pours," she derided, the old saying a perfect sum-up of her day.
"Nervous?" Troy asked, coming over to the side of the dance floor to take her hand and lead her onto the empty space filled only with Chad and Taylor so far.
Their wedding had gone beautifully, passed in a dream almost, but Gabriella did feel the slight dull of tiredness as she watched Troy cross the floor is his well-fitting suit, and she was surprised to find him taking her in a formal dance pose.
"Ready?" He checked.
She nodded, easily falling into step with him which made her smile; glad to see none of her previous calamities had so far spoiled the day.
He leaned forward to murmur into her ear and Gabriella tensed in anticipation as he did so.
"Grr," he softly growled, reminding her of the conversation they'd had in the lift and his plan to pretend to be a bear to help with her nerves. She chided herself for being a little turned on by it, too.
"Is my bear impression working?" He wondered. "Do I need more fur?"
She drew back and gave him a look. "I'm not even going to ask…"
He grinned. "Probably best not to…"
She smiled delightedly as he showed her off; spinning her out and then back towards him; capturing her against his body as they swayed; their eyes locking as they gazed at each other.
"That's a great dress, by the way," he complimented the bridesmaids dress design Taylor had chosen- an ivory silk sheath very simple but that skimmed her curves perfectly. Gabriella had been worried that her friend would regret putting the bridesmaids in ivory while she wore white; but Taylor hadn't had any qualms about her choice and her day had sailed well with no emergencies or meltdowns.
"That's a great suit, too," she replied, feeling daring.
"Really?" He drew back, pursing his lips. "Great how?"
He was clinging onto her almost singular expression at finding him attractive and she couldn't help but humour him. She hadn't given the poor guy much of a chance yet so she should really try and do that.
"It…fits in all the right places," she shared lightly.
"And where are all the right places?" He wondered.
She smirked, drawing back to look him in the eye. "Mostly the backside…the thighs a little…and of course the shoulders and chest area," she recounted expertly.
"All those?" his brows went up. "I'm surprised you noticed…"
She tilted her head, eyeing his lips.
"Oh, I noticed," she assured, flummoxing him with her flirty words.
"Have you had wine?" He checked.
"A lot?" He asked next.
She shook her head.
"Are you admitting you like me?" He squinted, wanting to know for sure if he could really kiss her without repercussions.
She nodded again, leaving him dumbfounded.
Luckily for him, she took the lead and cupped his neck, tiptoeing to reach his mouth which she kissed, with sweet gentleness.
He barely registered the reaction from the crowd; all watching the best man and chief bridesmaid kiss on the dance floor.
"Wow," he blinked, not needing any more invitation to kiss her back.
When he pulled away, it was with an almighty grin on his face.
"If you're bad luck then I hereby renounce my good luck shares," he joked, kissing her once more tenderly.
"You will get injured if you date me," she warned.
"I can cope," he replied.
"I will deny you at every chance I have…"
"You know what, after that kiss I'm not even buying that," he gave her that crooked smile.
"Then you can't say you haven't been warned," she finished.
"I totally can't," he agreed.
She gave him a look. "I guess the rain has to stop sometime," she mused.
"Huh?" He frowned.
"Gabriella, look out!" Taylor's shrill call brought her gaze up quickly, but not fast enough.
The next thing she knew, the bouquet was hitting her right in the face.
Okay, maybe not, she corrected. But if her clumsy life meant having Troy in it, she'd happily take a faceful of flowers every day.
"I caught it!" She composed herself expertly, drawing a laugh from the crowd.
And Troy's arms around her proved she had caught him too.