WARNING: THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS SEVERAL ADULT THEMES THAT MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES.
“Gabriella,” Ryan said gasping for air. “We’re at the hotel.”
“I don’t care,” she moaned in reply. “Keep going!”
The driver knocked on the door of the limo again.
“Go away!” Gabi shrieked. “Ryan please don’t stop!”
Ryan laughed, hovering above her as she lay on the floor of the limo. “Babe let’s just finish this upstairs in my room.” He brushed her sweaty hair away from her face.
She groaned. “But makeup sex in the back of a limo after being backstage at my favorite singer’s concert is so hot!”
Ryan sat up and pulled himself together as Gabi did the same. He peered out of the window and groaned.
“What is it?” Gabi asked, trying to rezip her dress.
“There’s paparazzi outside. I guess they found out Alicia’s staying here tonight. Here let me help you.” He zipped her dress for her.
“She is?” Gabi squealed. “Oh my gosh, can we hang out with her?!”
Ryan smirked at her. “I thought there were other things you wanted to do.”
She waved her hand. “We can do that later. How often does one get to hang out with Alicia Cole!”
“Uhh, anytime they want if they’re dating her brother.”
Gabi looked up at him sharply. “Dating? Are we dating now?”
Ryan looked away from her. “That’s what I would like. Do you want to be my girlfriend?”
“Yes,” she said quietly leaning over to kiss him again. “I would like that very much.”
He handed Gabi his suit jacket with a wide grin. “Here. Use this to cover your face.”
They ducked out of the limo and ran into the hotel. Luckily the hotel had security guards stationed at the doors so they weren’t followed inside. They tried to walk quickly to avoid being seen by their co-workers who were having drinks by the bar but Heidi saw them and called them over.
“Have a drink with us!” Heidi slurred with a lopsided smile.
Brittany and Jonathan, who worked in the tech department, both burst out laughing.
“Heidi here hasn’t had a night out in a long time so she’s having some trouble holding her alcohol,” Brittany informed them.
“Well, then we should take her out on the town!”
They all turned around and saw Alicia standing there with a wide smile and her hands on her hips. She was flanked by two seriously huge bodyguards.
Heidi and Brittany both screamed in excitement. “You’re Alicia Cole!” The exclaimed in unison.
“In the flesh,” she grinned. “So where are we going Ry-Ry?”
Gabi snorted. “Yeah, where are we going Ry-Ry?” she teased.
He slid his hand down her back discreetly and firmly grasped her butt causing her to gasp aloud. “If you call me that again, the only place we’ll be going is upstairs so I can properly punish you,” he whispered in her ear.
Gabi flushed deeply and felt a wave of desire course through her, quickly being reminded of their earlier activities that had yet to be completed. She looked over to see if the others had noticed but they were too busy chatting with Alicia. Ryan smirked down at her and she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Hey lovebirds!” Alicia’s voice brought them back to the group. “I’m scheduled to make an appearance with Cardi B at this club in about an hour. These guys are coming, are you in?”
Ryan started to say no but saw the pleading look on Gabi’s face and nodded. “I’m sure we’ll all regret this in the morning but what the hell.”
Gabi woke the next morning with a massive headache. She peeled her eyes open and groaned as the sunlight streamed in through the open curtain.
“Good morning!” Ryan came out of the bathroom with a towel slung low on his hips and water glistening on his chest from his shower.
Despite how miserable she felt, Gabi still found herself licking her lips as she gazed with desire at her new boyfriend.
“Coffee?” Ryan asked her as she moved to sit up.
She nodded and pushed her tangled curls out of her face. “Did we have sex last night?”
He shook his head, fighting a grin. “One does not have sex with women who are unconscious.”
“Unconscious?!” Gabi groaned. “Oh God that must have been really attractive. What happened last night?”
Ryan laughed. “You, Heidi and Brittany tried to keep up with Alicia that’s what happened,” he said handing her a cup of coffee.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that my sister is a champion drinker and she drank you guys under the table. You want to see?” he asked, picking his phone up off of the nightstand.
Gabi groaned again and buried her face in her hands. “There’s video?!”
“Oh yeah,” he laughed. “You’re all over the internet.”
She looked up sharply. “The internet?!” She lunged for his phone. “Let me see!”
Sure enough, there was a video of her, Heidi and Brittany dancing on stage with Alicia and Cardi B on worldstar hip hop.
“Oh no! I’m going to lose my job! And my mother is going to murder me! Where’s my phone?”
She looked around frantically for her phone but Ryan grabbed her shoulders. “Gabriella. Look at me. You’re not going to lose your job.”
“How do you know?” she asked with her lip quivering.
“Because I’m your boss?” He replied.
“Oh. Yeah. Okay.”
He laughed and kissed her forehead. “I can’t save you from your mother though. She’s called you twelve times in the last hour alone. You have about six missed calls from Angela too.”
As he spoke, her phone rang again. He handed it to her and she grimaced when she saw her mother’s name flash across the screen.
She took a deep breath and answered. “Mami?”
“Gabriella Marie Perez de Leon! What are you thinking?! Your sister shows me you on the internet dancing on a stage like a stripper! I thought you were in New York for a business trip!”
Her mother was screaming at her through the phone so loudly, Gabi had to pull it away from her ear a bit.
“Mami I am here for work! I went out with some coworkers and Ryan’s sister last night. His sister is a singer; That’s why they were taking videos.”
“Ryan was there? He allowed you to behave that way!?”
"Allowed me, mami? Are you serious right now? You always raised me to be independent and not to take crap from any man and you’re seriously asking me that?”
“Mija that’s not what I meant--”
“I am a grown ass woman and I can do as I please and if that means shaking mi culo on stage with Cardi B and Alicia freaking Cole, then so be it!”
She ended the call and chucked her phone across the bed angrily. All of a sudden she felt a strong urge to vomit. She bolted from the bed and into the restroom barely making it before she emptied the contents of her stomach. Ryan was right behind her, holding her hair and rubbing her back.
When she was finished, she sank down onto the cold tile and closed her eyes. “Remind me never to drink again.”
He laughed. “Can do. Why don’t you take a shower? It might help you feel better. And then we can grab some lunch.” He offered her his hand and helped her up from the floor.
“My clothes are back in my room,” Gabi said as she climbed into the shower.
“We’re in your room babe.”
She poked her head out and frowned. “What? Where’s Heidi?”
“You and Alicia insisted that Heidi and Brittany deserved to have my suite since we didn’t bring them along to the concert,” he said, obviously trying very hard not to laugh. “Alicia cried until I agreed.”
“I remember that!” Gabi laughed. “I’m sure we were a handful.”
He shrugged. “Nothing I couldn’t handle...along with Alicia’s security detail. Hurry up and shower though it’s already noon and we have the gala this evening so Alicia is demanding you spend the afternoon with her. She’ll be here to pick you up at 3:00 pm.”
Ryan heard her squeal excitedly as he walked out of the restroom and he smiled to himself, happy that his new girlfriend and his sister got along.
“Ryan this place is way too fancy; I’m not dressed properly!” Gabi protested as Ryan practically dragged her into the restaurant so they could have lunch.
“No one will care what you’re wearing here I promise.” He walked up to the hostess whose eyes went wide when she saw him.
“Mr. Cole! Welcome!” she stuttered. “I’ll escort you and Miss Perez to your private room right away. Please follow me.”
Gabi frowned as they followed the young lady toward the back of the restaurant into an intimate room with a table set for two. When they were seated and the hostess left Gabi questioned Ryan. “How did she know my name? Is it because of last night? Because of the videos online?”
Ryan laughed. “No, or at least I don’t think so. I own this restaurant and I called earlier to tell them we were coming.”
Gabi’s jaw dropped. “You own this restaurant? Geez, Ryan, I knew you were rich but damn.”
“Yeah, this was the first project that father let me take on after I graduated from college. It was a failing restaurant before I came in with my team and overhauled everything once father bought it. I was so proud of it, that I bought it from father a year or so after our reopening. It’s called Bellissima for my mother; She was Italian.”
He was pensive for a moment before shaking his head and smiling at her. “But we’re not here to talk about me. I bared my soul to you last night. It’s your turn.”
Gabi frowned. “I don’t even know where to begin to be honest.”
He reached across the table and took her hand. “Why don’t you start by explaining something you said to me last night.”
“What did I say?”
“We had just gotten back to the hotel room and you were trying your hardest to get me to have sex with you but you were so drunk and I was pretty much sober. So I washed your face and put you in the bed. You pulled me to lay down with you and whispered something along the lines of ‘Thank you for not taking advantage of me. It’s nice to be able to go to sleep knowing that I’m safe. You’re not going to rape me right?’”
“Before I could formulate a coherent response you were asleep.”
Gabi felt the tears well up in her eyes. “I’ve never told anyone about any of this outside of therapy so forgive me as I try to find the words.”
Ryan rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand. “Take your time baby. If it’s too much we can do this another time. I don’t care about your past anymore; As long as you and I have a future.”
She smiled softly and took a breath. “No. I want to tell you. I need to tell you. When I was five years old, my father molested me. I guess that began my distrusting of men. My mother found out and he was deported and is never allowed to reenter the U.S. Apparently he was wanted for crimes back in the Dominican Republic anyway. That’s part of the reason Marisol hates me so much; She blames me for our dad having to leave. Of course, she doesn't know the entire story, but she knows it had something to do with me.”
Gabi paused her story when the waitress brought in their food. She looked at Ryan, confused because they had never actually placed an order.
“I had them set a menu for us so we’d have limited interruption,” he explained. “You can go ahead and eat. We can finish talking afterward.”
She shook her head. “I’d rather get it out in one go.”
He nodded. “Okay. I’m listening.”
“I dated Michael Wilkerson all through college. At first he was sweet and attentive but we got into a huge fight after about six months of dating and he hit me. The rest of the time we were together he continuously beat me. He abused me both physically and emotionally. But I was blindly in love with him so I made excuses for him, blamed myself, and even distanced myself from my friends.
“Well, junior year we applied for the same internship and he submitted several projects of mine under his name and told the internship committee that I had slept with a professor to get my letter of recommendation.
“Obviously, he got the internship and my name was tarnished. The night we found out he got it we were staying overnight in the city to celebrate. He got drunk and admitted everything, including the fact that he had been cheating on me. I guess he thought I would just continue to take his bullshit but that was the last straw. I told him it was over.”
Gabi looked up when she felt Ryan’s hand tighten around her own. She could see him visibly trying to restrain himself as he nodded for her to continue.
“He didn’t like that so he beat me close to unconsciousness and raped me three times that night. I screamed for help until my voice was hoarse but no one came to help me. I woke the next morning bruised and sore all over. That night I decided that no man would ever be able to have any power over me ever again; That I would work hard until I answered to no one male or female,” she ended quietly.
“Gabriella, baby can I please hold you?” Ryan asked, his voice thick with emotion.
She nodded and dissolved into a sobbing mess when she felt Ryan’s arms encircle her. When her tears subsided, she pulled back from him. “The worst part is, he got me pregnant that night. But I was so traumatized and stressed afterward that I lost the baby.”
“Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry that all of this happened to you.” Ryan pulled her closer to him. “I would never, ever do anything to hurt you, you know that right?”
She gave him a watery smile and kiss on the cheek. “I know.”
It was silent for a few moments while Ryan held Gabi and tried to process everything she had told him.
“I’m assuming you didn’t report it if that scumbag was able to be hired. I may not like my brother, but Luke checks records thoroughly and we have a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy so he wouldn’t have hired him if it was on his record.”
“I tried to report it but according to the police department, I didn’t have enough evidence to prove he was the one who raped me.”
“Did they not check the cctv at the hotel you were at?”
“We were at his parents’ house while they were out of town so there was no video proof that I was with him.”
Ryan tightened his hold on her and kissed her forehead.
“Can I ask you something and you answer me one hundred percent honestly?”
Gabi looked skeptical but nodded her head.
“Has he tried anything since he’s been at the company?”
She shook her head. “Not really. Nothing more than a few inappropriate comments and threats--”
“Threats?! What kind of threats? I’ll kill him,” Ryan said viciously.
“It’s nothing, babe, I promise. Calm down.”
He opened his mouth to retort but she placed her hand on his chest to calm him. “I’m fine. Trust me, if I was really worried I would have said something to HR.”
“Has he been submitting your work as his own?”
She shrugged. “Probably. Based on the praise he received from Luke for the spring campaign yes. Because I know for a fact that he didn’t come up with a single idea when we met as a department.”
Ryan sighed. “I understand now why this was so hard to share with me and let me just apologize again for pushing you on it. I feel really bad.”
Gabi smiled sadly and looked down at her hands. “You couldn’t have known how bad it was. Even Angela and Lizzie don’t know the whole story.”
“Still. I should have trusted you to tell me when you were ready. Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me now.”
“If we’re going to be in a relationship we should have everything out in the open right?” she replied with a shrug.
When Ryan didn’t respond she looked up and saw him grinning at her. “Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked with a laugh.
“You said ‘relationship’,” he replied, smiling even wider.
Gabi stared at him for a moment before she burst out laughing. “Coño Ryan, you’re lame.”