Ryan arrived at Gabi’s apartment at 6:30 on the dot. He smiled widely when she opened the door. “I’m here for our date,” he said, thrusting a bouquet of flowers into her hands.
She laughed and opened the door wider for him to come inside. “Thank you for the flowers but isn’t it customary to ask someone to go on a date rather than informing them?”
He shrugged and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her gently with a sigh. “I was right.”
“That you would look absolutely stunning in red.”
Gabi blushed. “Oh stop.” She moved out of his grasp and ran back toward her bedroom. “I’ll be two seconds; I need to put these in water and grab my shoes.”
They headed downstairs to his Mercedes were off.
“So where are we going?” Gabi asked.
Ryan snorted. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
“Uhh yes, I would. That’s why I asked.”
“Well, I’m not telling you.” He stuck his tongue out at her causing her to laugh.
A little while later they pulled up to the valet of a fancy looking restaurant. Ryan came over to Gabi’s side to open her door and help her out of the car. He handed the valet the keys and took Gabi’s hand as they walked inside.
“Welcome to Eddie V’s,” the hostess greeted them with a smile. “Do you have a reservation?”
“Yes,” Ryan replied. “Under Cole.”
The hostess frowned as she looked at the computer. “What’s the first name, Mr. Cole?”
Gabi smiled up at him while the hostess grabbed menus for them. “I’ve always wanted to come to this restaurant.”
He kissed her cheek. “I know.”
Gabi frowned in confusion as the hostess led them to their table. Once they were seated and had ordered wine, Gabi asked Ryan how he had known she wanted to come to Eddie V’s.
He cleared his throat nervously. “I may or may not have talked to Angela.”
Gabi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Angela? How do you have Angela’s number?”
“She’s your emergency contact at work,” he replied taking a sip of his wine.
Gabi burst out laughing. “It’s so cute how lame you are.”
Ryan grinned at her. “I’ll own that.”
They chatted amicably over the course of their meal and were in the process of deciding on dessert when Ryan saw something across the restaurant that displeased him and swore. His expression darkening, eyes alight with frustration.
“Ryan?” Gabi asked concernedly. “What’s wrong?”
“Don’t look, but Luke is here with your friend Lizzie.”
“What?” Gabi asked turning around in shock.
“I said don’t look,” Ryan said grabbing Gabi’s hand. “I don’t want them to see us.”
Gabi snatched her hand out of Ryan’s and folded her arms across her chest. “Are you ashamed to be seen with me or something?”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Of course not Gabriella. But if you haven’t noticed, my relationship with my brother isn’t exactly peachy, so I’d rather not have him interrupt us.”
“Oh,” she said quietly.
Ryan reached across the table and took her hand again, gently rubbing his thumb over the back of it. “Are you ever going to tell me what’s made you so defensive and distrusting of men?” he asked tenderly.
“Experience,” she replied with a mirthless laugh.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I’m not ready to share yet Ryan,” she said, tersely. “Please don’t push me about it.”
“Okay. I’m sorry. I know I keep asking but it’s only because I worry about you. I won’t ask again.”
Gabi didn’t actually believe that he would leave it alone but nodded as he called the waiter for the bill. She tried to split it with him but per usual, he wouldn’t have it.
They almost made it out of the restaurant unseen but Gabi heard Lizzie call out to her as they were walking to the front.
She and Ryan shared a look before turning around and walking over to Luke and Lizzie’s table.
“Gabi!” Lizzie exclaimed, standing up to hug her friend. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” Gabi replied, halfway watching Luke drag Ryan away. “I didn’t even know you were in town! And I talked to you earlier today.”
“Oh, that’s because Luke surprised me and flew me out this afternoon,” Lizzie gushed, smiling at the ever stoic Luke, who was giving Ryan a stern talking to off their right. “He’s just the sweetest.”
“Yup. Sweeter than sugar,” Gabi said through her teeth, still watching as Ryan and Luke’s conversation became even more heated.
“Is everything alright Gabs?” Lizzie asked with a frown. “You look like you might faint.”
“Gabriella. Let’s go,” Ryan said shortly, as he suddenly appeared at her side.
“Oh, you have to leave so soon?” Lizzie pouted. “Will you be at church tomorrow Gabi?”
“I, um. Yeah. Maybe? I’ll text you. We have to go.” She gave Lizzie a quick hug and nodded at Luke. “Have a good evening Mr. Cole.”
She didn’t wait for a response and slipped her hand into Ryan’s, feeling the tension radiating off of his body. He gripped her hand tightly while they waited for the valet to bring the car around.
“Ryan? Babe? You’re hurting my hand.”
“What? Oh shit, I’m sorry Gabriella,” he said, releasing her hand. The car pulled up and he opened her door for her and waited for her to get in.
They rode in silence until Ryan turned the wrong way. “My apartment was back there,” Gabi said, frowning in confusion.
“I know. We’re not going to your apartment.”
“Nope. I thought it time for you to see mine,” he replied looking over at her with a smile. “As long as that’s okay with you,” he added quickly.
“Of course it is! As long as there’s Harry Potter and waffles in the morning, I’ll be happy.”
Ryan continued to smile as he pulled up to the gate and punched in his code.
“Why are you smiling so hard?” Gabi asked with a laugh.
“You called me babe earlier,” he replied, causing Gabi to laugh even harder. “What’s so funny about that?”
“You’ve been calling me pet names all week, why is this a surprise to you?”
Ryan scoffed. “I’m well aware of the fact that I like you more than you like me so I just didn’t expect it.”
“Who says you like me more than I like you?” Gabi asked, climbing out of the car before Ryan could get to her door.
“It’s fairly obvious Gabriella.” He ushered her into the elevator and pressed the button for the penthouse.
“You live in the penthouse?! Why have we been staying at my place? I swear if you have a jacuzzi tub and you’ve been hiding it from me, we will no longer be friends.”
Ryan’s smile faltered at her use of the word 'friend' as he opened the door to his apartment. “Welcome to my humble abode.”
Gabi’s jaw dropped. Everything was pristinely white and clean. The carpet, the wall color, and even the furniture. There was a winding staircase just past the entryway that led upstairs to the bedrooms and just beyond the stairs was a magnificent kitchen and living room.
“You live here?” Gabi asked in disbelief, sliding off her heels and wandering into the kitchen.
“Yeah,” he said with a shrug. “Well, not lately. As you’re aware, I’ve been currently living on your couch.” He stood behind her and slipped his arms around her waist.
She turned around and wrapped her arms around his neck. “You could have been sleeping in my bed with me if you had just asked,” she said seductively.
He frowned. “I don’t want just sex from you, Gabriella. You know you mean more to me than that. And you know I want you to be more than just my friend too.”
Gabi stepped back from him. “I’m not sure that I can give you what you want. I’m not the right girl for you Ryan,” she said quietly.
“Why not? You’re smart, beautiful, independent and kind. You speak your mind and don’t let people walk all over you. You’re perfect for me.”
Gabi felt her heart sink in her chest. If only he knew how she was allowing Michael to treat her.
“You don’t have to give me an answer right now,” he said, pulling her back into his embrace. “Just promise me you’ll think about it.”
“Do you want a tour?” Ryan asked trying to change the subject.
“Only if it leads to your bedroom,” she teased.
Ryan laughed. “I’m definitely hoping it will end there.”
"Ryan are you asleep?”
“Hmm? I’m trying to be. Why?” He sat up on his elbows and looked over at her in the dark. “You can’t possibly want more Gabriella; We went three times already!” he said in disbelief when she didn't answer.
She laughed slid closer to him and pulled his arm around her. “No, I’m definitely sated,” she sighed contently. “I just had a few things on my mind.”
“Like what babe?”
Gabi hesitated. “What was Luke saying to you at the restaurant tonight?”
Gabi felt Ryan tense next to her. “Do we really have to talk about Luke right now? He already ruined my perfectly planned date with you.”
“How was it ruined? I had a wonderful time!”
Ryan slipped his arm from underneath her shoulder and sat up, turning on the lamp by the bed.
“Ryan? What’s wrong?”
He sighed. “My relationship with my brother is...complicated.”
Gabi sat up next to him. “How so?”
“If I’m sharing, you have to share too,” Ryan said with the hint of a smile on his lips.
“About siblings? I can do that all day! You know that Marisol is the heir of el diablo himself.”
“Gabriella. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”
She groaned and climbed out of the bed. “You promised me you would leave it alone!”
“I know I did and I’m sorry! I can’t help it! I want to make you happy and I can’t know how to do that if you won’t open up to me.”
Gabi slipped her dress back on and searched for her underwear on the floor. “You need to give me time Ryan! I don’t know how many times I have to say it. It’s too much too soon.”
“Too much too soon?” Ryan put on his boxers and crossed the room to her. “I have liked you since the day you walked into my office and put me in my place. We’ve been friends ever since then. We eat lunch together almost every day and hell, I’ve been practically living with you for the last two months!”
Gabi stood there staring at him with her arms folded across her chest.
Ryan exhaled deeply and rested his hands on her waist. “I just want to date you, Gabriella. To get to know you better. How can I do that if you won’t talk to me?”
Gabi pushed his hands off of her shaking her head. “I was right to resist this. I knew it would end badly for both of us.”
“End? Gabriella, what are you talking about?”
“You’re not right for me and I’m not right for you. We’re in two different places. We shouldn’t have slept together; It will be awkward at work now.”
Gabi watched as Ryan’s face crumpled in pain. She knew she was hurting him but it had to be done.
She picked up her phone from the nightstand. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Gabriella, don’t do this!” Ryan called after her as she hurried down the stairs and grabbed her shoes. She ordered an uber and held her breath to keep from crying.
She ran out of the apartment as she heard Ryan thundering down the stairs. The doors to the elevator slid closed but not before she saw Ryan standing outside his apartment with a broken expression on his face.