"I haven't seen Brady that angry in ages," Mack said as she and Troy trailed after Brady and Gabriella.
"Well, I've never seen Gabriella that mad," Troy said, picking up his pace as Brady and Gabriella exited the building. "Man, they sure are moving fast!"
"Yeah, they are," Mack replied, almost having to jog to keep up. "Brady! Wait up!" she called, her voice echoing down the hallway.
Hearing Mack call his name, Brady stopped in his tracks, not realizing how fast he had been walking.
It took Gabriella a moment to realize he had stopped, as she had been stomping along on her silent warpath as well. She gradually came to a stop and gave the ground a long, hard stare before reluctantly looking back over her shoulder.
"Brady!" Mack yelled as she came through the door, followed by Troy. She caught up to Brady and then stood directly in front of him, searching his eyes. She knew how much he was affected by conflict. "That girl really got you worked up, didn't she?" she asked quietly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he told her, calming down as he focused on her face. "She was just being really rude to Gabriella, and it… it wasn't right. I had to say something."
Mack nodded and patted his arm. There was only a small umbrella of circumstances that got Brady fired up, and Mack understood that this situation fell under that.
"Well, it sounds like you were right to defend her," she assured him with a little smile. "Good man."
Recognizing the borrowed phrase, Brady cracked a smile. Mack always knew how to make him smile.
That was something that her grandpa would say to Brady once in a while when he was proud of him. It was his little way of letting Brady know that he was growing up to be a good man, one who could be entrusted with the thing he loved most.
Good man! You know, one day far, far in the future, I'm going to get old, and when I do, maybe I'll pass on my pride and joy to you. Just keep being a good man, Brady.
Mack always assumed that her grandfather was referring to his surf shop, saying that he would hand it over to Brady when he got too old to run the place anymore. She almost wished the familiar little surf shop would be hers, but she and her grandpa both knew that her fate lay in a different direction, on a different coast. In that case, Mack was happy to know that the shop would go to Brady, who would always be her best friend, even if he was going to be mad at her for a while for leaving.
Well, he won't be mad at me for leaving if we can't figure out where we are and then find a way back home, Mack thought bitterly.
Troy took the opportunity while Mack and Brady were distracted to catch up to Gabriella and pull her aside.
"We need to talk," he said quietly, not letting go of her arm and staring intensely into her eyes.
"Not now, Troy," Gabriella replied, sounding genuinely exhausted. "I've had a really long day, and I just want to go home."
"Then let me drive you!" he offered eagerly, nearly begging.
"I'm not on the clock anymore, Troy. You are," she said, pulling her phone out of her purse. "I'm just gonna call my mom and ask her to come get me."
Before Troy could protest, Gabriella's phone started vibrating in her hand. Taylor's picture appeared on the screen, and Gabriella hastily answered the call.
"Taylor! What's happening? Is Mr. Fulton okay?"
Troy, Mack, and Brady watched as Gabriella waited for Taylor's answer. Gabriella listened patiently as Taylor updated her on everything that had happened since they had last seen each other, talking at a million miles a minute. Suddenly, Gabriella shot a worried glance at Brady, causing Brady's heart to leap nervously.
"Okay, we'll figure something out…" Gabriella said distractedly, obviously wanting to end the conversation. "Yeah, no, I'm fine… I'll call you when I get home, okay? Bye."
"What's wrong?" Troy asked, frowning at Gabriella's troubled expression.
"Mr. Fulton is going to be fine, but he just borrowed Ryan's phone so he could call Lava Springs security," she said, turning to look seriously at Brady. "I think you need to get out of here."
"We need to get out of here," Brady repeated slowly, partially to himself and partially to Mack, who was already looking around anxiously for security officers.
"Where are we gonna go?" Mack half-whispered at Brady.
"Do you guys live near here? I can drop you off," Troy quickly offered, knowing Gabriella would come with him if he was driving those two.
"Not… exactly?" Mack said tentatively, not knowing what to tell him when she still wasn't even sure of where she was.
"Why is Fulton after you?" Gabriella finally asked Brady, concern etched on her face. "What did you do?"
"Uh, it's kind of a long story," Brady said, scratching his head.
A long story that I couldn't begin to explain even if I wanted to, he thought.
"Hey, you there!" a man with a walkie-talkie called from a distance.
"And it's a story we can tell you on the way out of here!" Mack exclaimed, grabbing Brady's elbow and pulling him in the opposite direction of the approaching man.
Troy made a snap decision, yanking his keys out of his pocket and tossing them to Gabriella, whose hand shot out reflexively to snatch the keys out of the air.
"Take Mack and Brady to my truck and wait there," he instructed gently, with his characteristic intent stare that pleaded with her to trust him. "I'll distract him."
Keys in hand, Gabriella nodded, wanting to question Troy but knowing it wasn't the time to do so.
"Let's go," she decidedly told Mack and Brady, taking off toward the parking lot.