Gabi got lost on her way to the dining room and ended up having to call Ryan to come find her.
“You really must have gone out of your way to get lost,” he commented when he found her. “The dining room isn’t that far from Alicia’s room.”
“Whatever,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
They headed toward the dining room and Ryan glanced over at Gabi with a slight smile. “Red really is your color, Gabriella. You look beautiful.”
She blushed. “You like this dress?”
“Perhaps I should go change then.” She left him confused at the door of the dining room and walked in with a bright smile.
“Miss Perez!” Jack stood up to greet her. “I’m so glad you could make it,” he said pulling out a chair for her.
“Thank you for having me,” she replied. “You have a lovely home.”
Ryan slid into the seat next to her, staring at her with a puzzled expression. A few minutes later, Luke and Suzette walked in followed by Alicia.
“Daddy!” Alicia flew into her father’s open arms.
“Hello princess! I’m so glad you’re here but I thought I wouldn’t see you until tomorrow. Shouldn’t you be getting ready for your show?”
She waved her hand dismissively and sat down on the other side of Ryan. “Soundcheck isn’t for another hour and a half. It’ll be fine as long as I leave by 6:30.”
Jack took his seat at the head of the table and blessed the food before they began to eat. “I’m actually glad all three of you are here because I have really exciting news.”
“What is it, daddy?” Alicia asked, setting down her glass of wine.
“Is it really wise to share personal business while there are outsiders present?” Luke said with a nod in Gabi’s direction.
“I was thinking the same thing,” Alicia said solemnly. “I think Suzette should leave.”
Luke glared at Alicia and she stuck her tongue out at him.
Jack just laughed. “It’s hard to believe you two are adults sometimes with the way you bicker. In any event, this news will be made public next week so it’s fine.”
He stood up and walked out of the room leaving them all confused. He returned a minute later with a beautiful dark-skinned woman with an effortlessly gorgeous, thick afro and bright brown eyes. She couldn’t have been more than five or six years older than Gabi. She was wearing a black dress and towering heels but Gabi couldn’t keep her eyes off of the giant rock she was sporting on the first finger of her left hand.
“I would like for you all to meet Camila. We’ve been dating for two years now and she and I are to be married at the end of the year.”
It was deadly silent for a heartbeat. All of a sudden Luke stood up and stormed out of the room. Suzette quickly followed, calling after him. Gabi found it odd that Ryan’s fiance would be the one to console his brother, especially when his brother was dating her best friend.
Gabi didn’t have time to ponder this further as Alicia smiled tightly and excused herself, saying that she needed to get back to the concert venue. There was the sound of glass smashing and screaming as she walked down the hallway.
Jack looked so sad until Ryan stood up and walked over to him and Camila. “Welcome to the family,” he said giving her a hug. “Now that you see how dysfunctional we are, are you sure you want to join us?” he asked with a smile.
Jack and Camila laughed and sat down at the table to finish the abandoned meal with Gabi and Ryan.
Despite her anger with Ryan, she was actually impressed with how he handled his father’s announcement. Darn him for being level-headed and sweet.
“So how did you two meet?” Ryan inquired.
“Camila is the CEO of one of the companies we acquired a few years ago,” Jack said with a smile. “Throughout the process of negotiations, we got to know each other and started dating.”
“Your father is quite the charmer,” Camila chimed in with an accent Gabi found eerily familiar.
“Pardon me for asking, but your accent sounds really familiar to me. Where are you from?”
Camila smiled. “It’s no problem. I’m was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. I moved to New York only a few years ago.”
“Oh my gosh! I’m Dominican too!” Gabi exclaimed. “Well, my parents are. I was born in Texas.”
“Really? That’s amazing! What a small world. Do you speak Spanish?”
Camila clasped her hands together. “Ay, que bueno! Ryan, I’m so glad your girlfriend speaks Spanish; I will always have someone to talk to.”
Gabi’s smile fell. “I’m not his girlfriend. Just his employee.”
“That’s okay,” Camila said with a wink. “We can still be friends.”
Before the conversation could get any more awkward, Ryan announced that he and Gabi had to leave if they wanted to get to the concert on time.
Gabi was surprised to see a stretch limousine waiting for them outside. She turned to Ryan for an explanation and he shrugged. “I’m sure this was Alicia’s doing.”
They climbed in and rode in silence. Eventually, Gabi’s curiosity outweighed her present disdain for Ryan. “Are you okay? With your dad’s announcement and everything?”
“Oh so you’re talking to me now?” he snorted.
“I was just trying to be nice--”
“I know, but you’ve just been so hot and cold I don’t know what to expect anymore,” he said, running his hands through his already disheveled curls.
Gabi bit back a retort to allow him to continue. “I mean I guess I’m okay with it. Our mom died over ten years ago and I’ve never really thought about it but dad probably wasn’t alone all this time.”
He sighed and rubbed his chin. “I expected Alicia’s reaction; She and I were very close to our mom. But Luke surprised me. He’s not normally one to show emotion if you haven’t noticed.”
Gabi hesitated before she asked her next question. “Did it bother you that Suzette went after him?”
Ryan turned to her with a frown. “Why would that bother me? Or rather, why would it bother me any more than her presence already does?”
“Because she’s your fiancé?” Gabi said confusedly.
“She’s my what?! You think she’s my fiancé?” Realization washed over him. “Oh my God. That’s why you’ve been acting so strangely isn’t it?”
“She’s not your fiancé?”
“No! Hell no!”
“She told me she was!” Gabi said angrily.
“When did she tell you that?”
“Sunday night. I came by your room to, um, uh. Well, I came by your room and she answered the door. She said you were in the shower and introduced herself to me as your fiancé. She even showed me her engagement ring.”
Ryan shook his head. “She wishes she was my fiancé, the crazy bitch.”
“What?! She is!”
“Why would she lie and say she was your fiancé? And if she isn’t, why was she in your hotel room?” Gabi asked, folding her arms across her chest.
Ryan hesitated. “Remember how I said my relationship with my brother was complicated?”
“Luke has always been envious of Alicia and I. He’s always said that we got to live carefree lives while he had to take on responsibilities that we didn’t have. He’s right to some extent because he was a lot older when our mother passed but he chose to do that; No one forced him. He resents me for it though. Every time I’ve had something that was important to me he’s tried to take it away. Like he has with the new responsibilities father has given me within the company.
“Anyway, Suzette and I dated in college and I proposed to her at graduation. She happily said yes and then later the same night, Alicia caught her in bed with Luke.”
Gabi gasped and Ryan looked over at her with a sad smile. “Yeah, I know. It sucked. Alicia told me and I called off the engagement, obviously.” He laughed mirthlessly. “She had been sleeping with Luke for over six months when I proposed. I haven’t dated anyone seriously since then.”
“This is some novella level shit,” Gabi commented.
“Yeah, and what’s more, Alicia had a baby when she was sixteen. Suzette obviously knew because she had been around the family for so long. When Luke broke up with Suzette, she threatened to tell the press about Alicia’s baby and Luke did nothing to defend her; I had to. That’s why Alicia hates Luke and Suzette so much.”
Gabi’s jaw dropped even more. “What?! Alicia has a child!? I’ve never read about that on her fan sites!”
Ryan smirked at her. “You’re that big of a fan of my sister?”
Gabi blushed. “I’m the president of her Houston fan club and I’ve seen her perform every time she’s come to Houston and have all of her albums so yeah, maybe just a little bit.”
Ryan burst out laughing. “I saw your collection of CDs and DVDs of her concerts in your apartment. I was wise not to tell you I was related to her. Although I don’t know how you didn’t make the connection. We’ve been in several magazine shoots together.”
“Oh shut up.”
Ryan’s expression turned serious again. “But anyway, I wasn’t in my hotel room on Sunday night; I stayed at my father’s house. I’m not sure why she was in my hotel room other than the fact that she owns the hotel and can do as she pleases. As for the ring, I never got it back from her so I’m guessing she still wears it. Which is weird as hell if you ask me.”
“Oh,” Gabi said quietly. “Why was she at the company today?”
He shrugged. “Beats me. I haven’t talked to her since the last time I was home. She had just shown up when we ran into you. Literally.”
Gabi nodded as she took in all that he had just shared with her.
“So are you done being angry with me?”
She nodded again slightly. “I just don’t understand why you never told me you were engaged before.”
“And I don’t understand why you won’t open up to me about your past either,” he countered.
“That’s fair I guess,” she said fidgeting with her hands in her lap. “I think I’m ready to tell you now though if you still want to know. If you even still want anything to do with me. I wanted to talk to you on Sunday but then--”
She was cut off by a deep kiss from Ryan. She wound her arms around his neck and kissed him back with equal fervor.
“Of course I still want you. I just know you’re a little crazy now. Have lunch with me tomorrow and tell me all about it,” he murmured into her hair. “We don’t have a lot of time right now because we’ve just arrived at the concert--”
Gabi squealed and leaped toward the door. Ryan grabbed her hand and pulled her back with a laugh. “Hold on Gabriella. Let me go first. I’m pretty sure there’s paparazzi out there.”
The driver opened the door and Gabi heard screams and saw the flashes from the paparazzi’s cameras. Ryan climbed out and waved at a group of screaming girls with a smile. He reached back and took Gabi’s hand to help her out of the limo. She immediately covered her face and hid behind Ryan as he led them inside. A man dressed in all black led them through the venue to Alicia’s dressing room.
Alicia saw them walk in and smiled at them through the mirror. “Hey, guys! I’m so glad you could make it! Give me a minute; Janice is almost done with my makeup. Help yourselves to some snacks.”
Ryan looked down at Gabi in amusement. She was clutching his hand tightly and her eyes were wide with excitement as she trembled nervously.
“You alright there?” he whispered to her as they sat down on one of the couches.
“Trying to keep it together and not act like the crazy fan that I am,” she replied quietly. “But yeah I’m totally alright.”
Ryan laughed. “Hey Alicia, you don’t mind if Gabi takes some pictures, do you? She’s the president of your fan club in Houston and is mildly obsessed with you. She’s barely holding it together over here.”
Gabi smacked his arm. “Ryan! Alicia, please ignore him. I’m not obsessed.”
Alicia laughed. “Go right ahead!” Her eyes were slight with amusement. “Although you’re going to have to get used to being around me if you’re dating my brother.”
Gabi blushed and opened her mouth to deny Alicia’s assumption but Ryan squeezed her hand and smiled at her. “Yeah, she will.”