She knew he was glaring at her without even having to turn around. Gabriel’s car had already disappeared from sight, but she wasn’t ready to face him. A part of her was hoping he’d just disappear altogether.
“I’ve been sitting here for two hours. Are you really going to just stand there and pretend I’m not here? That I didn’t just watch you flirt with another man before my very eyes? Like he didn’t just kiss you like he’s your lover? Like he wasn’t Gabriel Jankovic of all people?”
She turned, surprised to find him fuming right behind her. “It’s not what you think and I didn’t flirt with him.”
“And you clearly take me for an idiot! You said you’d trade me in for him just yesterday. How long has this been going on for?” he asked.
“I met him last night. I headed to the bakery from your place and he happened to come in and asked for chocolate cake. We got to talking and that’s it,” she replied.
“Where did you spend the night because you clearly weren’t in your apartment?” he questioned.
“I haven’t actually slept, so you can tone down your suspicion. He took me to see something at one of his exhibits. We left the bakery late,” she fluidly lied.
He narrowed his eyes at her. “And I’m supposed to believe that nothing happened?”
“Believe it or not, Gabriel is a man who’s all about humour and sarcasm. Him kissing my cheek was to goad you. He knew you’d react this way and that I’d be left behind to deal with this,” she replied.
“So this is all some sick game to him?” he asked, to which she shrugged.
“I don’t want you seeing him again,” he instructed.
She raised an eyebrow. “Are you really telling me who I can and can’t be friends with?”
“I have no problem with all your other male friends. None of them have pulled the stunt that he has, and they all know their boundaries. I don’t like him,” he argued.
She couldn’t help but think of Gabriel’s observation of him.
“How is that my problem? He’s done nothing wrong to me. Why should I not be friends with him when you’re the one who has a problem with him? Where’s the trust there?” she asked.
He sighed. “I trust you babe. It’s him that I don’t trust.”
“If you trust me, then you should trust that I won’t let him disrespect you or our relationship. What he did was just for fun, but I’ll draw the line for him. You have to trust that much,” she told him.
Miguel knew that it wouldn’t work, but he also knew just how stubborn his girlfriend could be. “Just for the record, I do not like him.”
“I know you don’t. You’ve already said so,” she teased, nudging him.
“Why are you so stubborn?” he asked dramatically.
She hugged his waist, looking up at him. “You love me the way I am.”
“Unfortunately,” he responded, making her pinch him.
“Ow!” he said as he laughed.
“Go away,” she said as she went up to unlock the door.
“Gee, I came all this way to let you out of the dog box, and I somehow ended up in it. How does that even work?” he asked.
“Figure it out buddy,” she said, laughing, before locking him outside.
“This isn’t fair,” he shouted on the other side of the door.
Xaria smiled as she thought about Gabriel’s words. “Life isn’t fair Mr Palmer.”
Gabriel parked his car in his designated spot, and he was feeling somewhat happy. Everyone he passed by couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the smile on his face. Meanwhile, he was lost in thought, thinking about a certain red head.
“Sir, are you ok?” Leith asked him once he was in his office.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been better Leith. Close the door,” he instructed. His assistant did as requested before walking back to the desk.
“If I may ask, what has you in such a good mood?” Leith asked.
“Do you remember everything I’ve told you about my kind?” Gabriel asked him. He nodded.
“Well, I’ve found my mate, except she’s human. I met her last night and I took her to Trachba. She fainted when we arrived there, and she fainted when we came back. She has no recollection of her time there, and I’m yet to figure out what it is she did to my sister, because my sister is currently healing our father. She seemed to have the answer, so we’re trying to figure out what she is. Zortan thinks she’s a supernatural too, but we’re not sure which one since vampyres cannot mate with humans,” Gabriel explained.
“Zortan is your best friend right?” Leith asked, to which Gabriel nodded in confirmation.
“Well, she may be a hybrid, or a witch. She’d have to be something that allowed her to shield herself for so long,” Leith offered.
“Or someone else has shielded her from the supernatural world for a reason,” Gabriel argued.
“Maybe the answers are with her family. Things like this are normally the doing of the parents,” Leith added.
Gabriel scowled. “I didn’t think about it like that. How will I get close enough to find out? As it is, she has an annoying human for a boyfriend.”
“If I may ask, who is she?” Leith asked.
“Her name’s Xaria McLeod,” Gabriel informed.
Leith’s eyes widened. “The owner of Xaria’s Treats?”
Gabriel tilted his head to the side. “Why does that surprise you?”
“Uh, she’s my best friend,” Leith informed.
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. “You have friends? I’ve barely heard you talk about them.”
“Xaria, Cara, Angela and Jaime are my only friends. I wasn’t exactly the popular kid in high school or college for that matter. I grew up with Xaria and Cara, so they’re my best friends actually. I don’t talk about them because I generally don’t talk about my life. They don’t even know that I work for you,” Leith explained.
Gabriel was confused. “Where do they think you are right now?”
“Work – they just don’t know what I do,” Leith clarified.
“They sound like terrible friends,” Gabriel commented.
“No, they’re not. They don’t know because I refused to tell them and they respect my decision,” Leith defended.
That stoked Gabriel’s curiosity. “And why don’t you tell them?”
“No offense Sir, but even you know the effect you have on people. I didn’t want them making a big deal of the fact that I work for you. It’s just better this way,” Leith replied.
“Fair enough. Who are Cara, Angela and Jaime?” Gabriel asked.
“Cara is Xaria’s best friend and Miguel’s little sister, Angela is Xaria’s older sister, and Jaime is Angela’s husband,” Leith informed.
Gabriel was learning new things.
He got comfortable in his chair. “So Xaria’s dating her best friend’s brother? How did that happen?”
“It was persistence on Miguel’s part really. Cara was against it for the longest time, but he didn’t care. He just wanted Xaria, and eventually he succeeded in getting her. Cara just learnt to deal with it as time went,” Leith explained.
Gabriel listened to his assistant’s heartbeat. “You’re not particularly fond of Miguel.”
“No, I’m not. I’ve never liked him. He and Cara are half siblings, and he came into our lives when we were Seniors in high school. He was in his second year at college. He was an asshole to Cara and I didn’t like that. They eventually found their sibling connection, but he’s never given me any reason to like him. I avoid him as much as I can for Xaria’s sake because it never goes well whenever we’re in each other’s presence,” Leith further informed.
Gabriel was puzzled. “So why’d you ask me to look at his system?”
He doesn’t normally take meetings like the one he had with Miguel, but his assistant had asked him for the favour.
Leith shrugged. “To be honest, I did it for Xaria. He doesn’t shut up about what a genius he thinks he is, so she was worried that no one of value would give him the time of day. Getting him a meeting with you gave him that boost he needed, and it calmed her worries. Getting a meeting with thee Gabriel Jankovic means something. You rejecting him was just a little entertainment for me since I saw it coming.”
Gabriel was amused, seeing his assistant in a new light. He didn’t think Leith could be capable of such a devious act, despite the good intention involved. He was slightly bothered by his assistant’s opinion of his mate’s boyfriend.
“So I’m right to assume that he’s a prick?” he asked.
Leith nodded. “I’m not sure whether or not it will be easy to take her from him, but I’m guessing the mate bond will work in your favour.”
“I have no intentions of taking her away from him. She’s going to come to me willingly, and now that I know he’s a prick, I think I might just enjoy watching him suffer,” Gabriel countered.
Leith laughed. “I thought you might say that. Did you tell her what you are?”
“I did, though she technically guessed it. She’s very calm about the whole thing. She took it better than you did,” Gabriel responded.
“It makes sense. She, Cara, and I have always been curious about the supernatural side of life. I’m the one who believed in it the most, but she and Cara definitely believe in the possibilities, so it makes sense that she’s calm about it,” Leith replied.
“Well, this has just created problems for me. In Trachba, I’m expected to get married to Olga soon, yet I’ve found my mate,” Gabriel noted.
“Can’t you tell them that you’ve found your mate?” Leith asked.
Gabriel shook his head. “I need to find out about my father’s health first. Secondly, we need to find out what Xaria is before I say anything because she has the scent of a human, and you know how my kind feels about humans. I will be putting her in danger if I announce her as my mate.”
Leith got hit by a wave of worry. “Wait! Doesn’t that mean you have to watch her now? I mean, she’s vulnerable to your enemies right?”
“For now she’s safe since the only people who know that she’s my mate are you and Zortan, but I do want to keep watch on her. Just because she’s safe from my enemies, doesn’t mean she can’t be killed for fun by another vampyre or supernatural creature for that matter,” Gabriel replied.
“Are we talking surveillance, or are you going to get a security team on her?” Leith questioned.
Gabriel sighed. “I’ll have to talk to Zortan about that and find out what he thinks is the best way forward.”
“You’ve got this Sir. I’m glad that sincere congratulations are now in order,” Leith said, smiling.
Gabriel laughed. “Thank you.”
“Your first meeting is in thirty minutes and you have a full day from that point onwards,” Leith informed.
“Will I have time to go and see her? I left my car there last night,” Gabriel queried.
“You can pop in and greet her on the way from your meeting with Devlin, but you can’t stay long either. I can have your car fetched, and then you won’t have to worry about it,” Leith offered.
“Alright. I’ll take what I can get,” Gabriel agreed.
“I’ll go and make the arrangements,” Leith said, excusing himself.
Once Gabriel was alone, he turned his chair to view the city. He’d gained some valuable information on his mate, and he was grateful for the connection his assistant has with her. He wasn’t planning on exploiting it though. He didn’t want to use his assistant in that way.
He thought about Xaria, wondering what she was doing. He tried to reach into their link, but again he could only pick up bits and pieces. He picked up the worry and he was curious about it, until he remembered her mentioning the high tea that was happening at the bakery.
“I highly doubt a high tea is worth so much worry,” he said, sending the thought out to her.
Xaria jumped at the sound of his voice in her head. She had a cup of coffee in her hand and she ended up spilling the hot liquid onto her thighs. She was waiting for her cab to arrive since much like Gabriel, she’d left her car at the bakery.
“Holy crap! You’re in my head!” she shouted.
He chuckled. “It’s called a mind link. I send out my thoughts to you, and you send yours back to me. We’re basically communicating telepathically.”
“Jesus Gabriel! Don’t do that to a person. I just spilled coffee onto myself,” she shouted, returning the thought.
“My sincerest apologies, though to be fair, there’s no way to introduce a mind link. You would’ve reacted in the same way no matter what I said,” he pointed out.
“The problem isn’t that you mind linked me. It’s the concept of mind linking altogether. It’s just strange. I mean, here I am having a conversation with you, but to anyone who would see me now, I’d just be wiping coffee off of the floor in silence,” she replied.
“Ah, I get what you’re saying. I know it’s strange, but you will get used to it,” he said.
“Maybe, but I’m curious about how it’s possible to begin with. I’m not a vampire. Shouldn’t it only be possible with other vampires?” she asked.
Gabriel had to think fast. “It’s one of my powers as a royal.”
“Oh, that’s cool then. You got me into trouble by the way,” she informed.
He laughed. “I highly doubt it was anything you couldn’t get yourself out of. How long did it take before he told you not to be friends with me?”
“Two minutes, and I’m ashamed at myself for counting. I blame you,” she said, laughing.
“Wow, two minutes. I was sure he’d start with that first,” he joked.
“Nah, he had to ask a million questions first,” she replied while she changed into another pair of jeans.
“And how did you defend my honour?” he asked.
“How do you know that I did?” she countered.
“Have you met me? How could anyone believe that I’ve got malicious intent?” he said innocently.
She snorted. “Hah! How could they not?”
He laughed. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him that nothing happened. I said that you came to the bakery and we talked, and then you took me to see one of your exhibits, but that’s it. Then I added that the stunt you pulled was just to goad him,” she informed.
“And now he thinks I’m some sick man with a twisted sense of humour, and you’re stubborn for not wanting to stop being friends with me. He trusts you, but he doesn’t trust me,” he said knowingly.
“Is that like one of your other powers or something, because that’s more or less how it went,” she replied.
“No. I just know an insecure man when I see one,” he teased.
“I’m not going to say anything to that statement,” she said.
He chuckled. “You don’t have to. Deep down I know you believe me.”
“I plead the fifth Gabriel,” she said, fighting off a smile in her apartment.
“Have you left yet?” he asked.
“Nope! I’m waiting for a cab since I left my car at the bakery. Speaking of which, are you coming to get your car?” she asked.
“Miss me already?” he taunted.
“Pssh, no! Your car is taking up the spot of a potential customer,” she argued.
“I’ll take your word for it. I’ve made arrangements to have it fetched, so don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about the high tea either,” he added.
“I wasn’t worried about the high tea,” she lied.
“I don’t even have to see you to know that you’re lying,” he countered.
“Don’t you have some meeting you have to get to?” she asked.
He chuckled. “You mean don’t I have someone else to bother?”
“Yes, exactly that!” she huffed.
Leith opened the door. “Sir, they’ve arrived.”
“Thank you. Give me a minute,” Gabriel told him. He nodded and closed the door.
“Are you still there? Wait, why am I asking like we’re on the phone?” Xaria linked.
“I’m still here. You’re just lucky that my assistant just told me that my first meeting is about to start,” he said.
“Does that mean I’m free from you?” she said in mock glee.
“Well, I have one of those busy days you were asking me about, so yes, I will not have time to bother you. Enjoy your day Miss McLeod,” he replied.
“You too Mr Jankovic. Behave yourself,” she added.
He laughed. “Me? Always!”
She scoffed but didn’t say anything, making him laugh as he left his office. Leith smiled at him, while his other employees were still shocked to see him smiling, let alone laughing as he walked to the boardroom.
“Your best friend is a piece of work,” he commented, Leith walking beside him.
“You were speaking to her?” Leith asked.
“I tapped into her mind and linked her. It’s possible between my kind, but in such cases, it’s only possible between mates,” Gabriel explained.
Leith frowned. “So you communicated telepathically?”
“Precisely,” Gabriel confirmed before their conversation ended as they reached the boardroom.
The cab arrived and Xaria headed out. She had a bounce in her step and a stupid smile on her face. The whole way to the bakery, she was thinking about Gabriel. She wanted to fight the thoughts of him, but she just couldn’t.
Talking to him made her feel uneasily comfortable. The more she spoke to him, the more comfortable she became, and it worried her that she felt that way about a man that isn’t her lover. She was even more anxious about the fact that a big part of her truly didn’t care.
She wanted to talk to Gabriel.
She wanted to think about him. She wanted to be around him. She couldn’t even deny it because something in her just agreed. She was starting to feel like he was a piece of her life she didn’t realize was missing.
“Hey you,” Cara greeted when she finally arrived.
She hugged her best friend. “Hey.”
“So, should I ask about why I had to open up but your car is in the parking lot?” Cara asked.
Xaria giggled. “You just did anyway.”
“I guess I did. So?” she poked.
“Gabriel took me straight to my apartment from his,” Xaria informed as she headed to the kitchen.
“Gabriel who?” Cara asked, following behind her.
“Jankovic,” Xaria replied, switching on the ovens.
“Gabriel Jankovic took you to his apartment? When was this? Why? When did you even meet Gabriel Jankovic? What the hell is going on?” Cara questioned.
“Calm down and I might think about telling you,” Xaria said.
“Oh, you’re telling me alright,” Cara replied.
“No, not really. I think it’s up to me whether or not you find out,” Xaria pointed out.
Cara narrowed her eyes. “If you want to live, you will tell me.”
“I think I’ll take my chances,” Xaria taunted.
“Xaria,” Cara whined.
“Cara,” Xaria mocked.
Cara pouted. “Please tell me.”
“Would you look at that? It’s time to open up,” Xaria said, leaving the kitchen.
For the better part of the next two hours, Cara glared at her best friend, while Xaria went about baking the goods for the day. Cara didn’t have class for the day, so she was helping out. She managed to get through the morning rush alone.
By mid morning, things had calmed down, so Cara was able to help Xaria in the kitchen, even though she was pouting. Xaria silently laughed at her, but she was planning on telling her once they closed up for the day.
“Xar really needs to get more people working in here,” Leith commented as he walked up to the till.
Cara beamed at the sight of her best friend and went over to hug him. “Leilei!”
“Why do I still allow you to call me by that stupid name?” he mumbled.
“Because you love me,” Cara replied.
Xaria came out from the kitchen and was shocked to see him there. “Leith? You’re out? During the day?”
“You make me sound like a vampire,” he commented, well aware of his play of words.
Xaria scowled. “I didn’t even think about it that way. What are you doing here?”
“I’m so glad you’re happy to see me Xar. Besides her stupid name for me, Cara was more excited to see me,” he pointed out.
She laughed, hugging him. “I’m sorry. It’s just really random seeing you here at this time especially. Isn’t your boss like a slave driver or something?”
“He’d love to know you think that about him. Speaking of which, these are for you,” he said, handing over a bouquet of yellow tulips.
“Why would your boss care about what Xaria thinks of him?” Cara asked.
Xaria was thinking the same thing until she read the note that came with the flowers:
Smile. The high tea will go great. They’ll be just as crazy as I am about your chocolate cake, and I don’t even entertain food all that much.
“She knows,” Leith commented as Xaria smiled to herself.
“How did you get this?” Xaria asked him.
“He requested that I give it to you. I’m here to fetch his car,” Leith replied.
“You work for Gabriel?” Xaria asked incredulously.
Leith nodded. “I have now for the past five years. I’m his PA.”
Which reminded Xaria of something.
“So you know?” she asked him.
Leith nodded once again. “I know.”
“He enjoyed himself,” she told him.
Leith laughed. “He’s sick like that, but I got over it.”
“What are the two of you on about?” Cara asked.
“It’s not nice to exclude people out of conversations. Poor Cara has no idea what the two of you are talking about.”