When they arrived back at the hotel, Gabi took a quick shower and soon Alicia was knocking on her door. Ryan had gone on to meet Luke and their father to make sure everything was in order for the gala later that night. He said he had some other business to take care of as well.
Gabi was surprised when she opened the door and saw Heidi and Brittany with Alicia. “Are you ready to go Gabi?” Alicia asked with a smile.
“Yep!” Gabi grabbed her purse and followed them out into the hallway.
“So where are we going?” Heidi asked when they all got into Alicia’s car and she pulled away from the hotel.
“First stop is Gucci. I have to pick up my shoes and dress for tonight and then we’re headed to the salon for hair, nails, and makeup!”
“How much is all of this going to cost?” Heidi asked worriedly.
Alicia waved her hand. “It’s on me; Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh no Alicia, I can’t let you pay for--” Gabi tried to protest but Alicia interrupted her.
“I will take it as an insult if you don’t let me treat you,” she said with a mock pout.
Gabi looked over at Heidi who was wearing an identical expression of apprehension.
“Please?” Alicia pleaded as they pulled up in front of the Gucci store.
“I suppose it’s alright just this once,” Gabi conceded.
“Oh yay!” Alicia clasped her hands together. “Alright, ladies let’s go!”
She tossed her keys to one of her bodyguards and shielded her face from the paparazzi as another bodyguard escorted the four of them inside the store. Gabi laughed silently at the look of wonder on Heidi’s face as she looked around.
A snooty looking woman in towering heels rushed over to Alicia and greeted her with a creepy smile. “Miss Cole! It’s so good to see you again. How can I help you today?”
“I’m here to pick up my dress and shoes for the Cole Industries Winter Gala tonight. I spoke with Tony on the phone and he said they would be ready.”
“Of course Miss Cole. Why don’t you come right through here and have a seat while I fetch your things.”
Brittany and Gabi shared a look as Ms. Snooty looked down her nose at them once Alicia had passed.
“I may not be dripping in Dolce but I thought I looked somewhat decent,” Brittany whispered to Gabi, causing her to snort.
Ms. Snooty turned around and glared at them. “Please don’t touch anything.”
“I’d appreciate it if you were polite to my friends Alessandra,” Alicia said as she took a seat and another woman handed her a glass of champagne. “Your rudeness is unbecoming.”
“I’m sorry Miss Cole,” Alessandra rushed to apologize. “I didn’t realize they were your friends; I thought you were doing a charity event or something.”
Gabi, Brittany, and Heidi gasped but Alicia’s eye’s just narrowed. She placed the glass of champagne on the side table and stood up, slowly making her way over to Alessandra who gulped loudly.
“Now listen here. These women are high ranking members of Cole Industries and are far more educated and refined than you could ever be. I’d watch who I was talking to if I were you.” Alicia punctuated her sentence with a poke to Alessandra’s chest.
Alessandra was blushed deeply and lowered her head in shame when an impeccably dressed man entered the room and glared at her.
Alicia made her way back to her seat and returned her gaze to Alessandra. “Aside from that, you just insulted my brother’s girlfriend.”
Alessandra looked up, clearly startled. “Your brother?”
Alicia smirked. “Take it from me, Ryan Cole is not someone you want on your bad side. Tony?” she said addressing the man who was clearly steaming mad at Alessandra. “I don’t believe we’ll be needing Alessandra’s services today.”
Tony snapped his fingers and Alessandra fled the room as fast as her high heels could carry her.
Gabi was stunned by how quickly Alicia switched from sweet to vicious. She took the seat next to Alicia as Tony addressed the four of them.
“I apologize for Alessandra’s behavior; It was unacceptable and she will be handled firmly and swiftly,” he said with a polite smile.
“Oh please don’t fire her!” Heidi spoke up timidly. “We accept the apology, right girls?”
Gabi and Brittany nodded but Alicia remained quiet. Tony seemed to be waiting for Alicia’s cue before he decided how to proceed.
“Spare her today,” Alicia said slowly. “But make sure she knows that she should treat everyone who walks in this store the same, regardless of how wealthy they may or may not be or appear to be. Her comments were unacceptable.”
“Absolutely Miss Cole. I will see to it personally.”
“Now,” Alicia started. “My dress, please? We have other places to be.”
“Right away Miss Cole.”
Thirty minutes later, they were back in Alicia’s car and she was driving silently. Gone was her chipper mood from before their trip to the Gucci store. She whipped her car into a parking spot outside of the salon and got out of the car without a word.
The girls followed her inside where she checked them in. Heidi and Brittany were whisked away to have their nails done but Alicia and Gabi were getting their hair and makeup done first.
Gabi told the stylist how she wanted her hair done and sat back studying Alicia. She was chewing on her thumbnail while her stylist started on her hair.
“Are you okay Alicia?” Gabi asked.
Alicia turned to face her and Gabi saw tears in her eyes.
“Alicia? What’s wrong?” Gabi pressed.
“That woman was just so rude! It reminded me of one time my mother and I went to Harrod’s when I was little. We had just come back from one of my friend’s birthday parties so we were dressed very casually and the store clerk didn’t recognize my mother; You know my mother was also a well-known singer.”
She sighed. “We were just browsing while she waited for someone to help us and a man came over to us and told us to buy something or get out. She tried to tell him we were picking up a piece of jewelry but the man didn’t believe her and we were escorted out by security.”
“That’s horrible!” Gabi exclaimed. “Ow!” She winced and glared at her hairstylist who had yanked a little too hard on her hair.
Alicia shrugged. “I hate people who act like that. I get that I grew up with a silver spoon in my mouth and I can pretty much buy whatever I want but that doesn’t mean other people deserve to be treated poorly just because they can’t. No pun intended.”
Gabi nodded seriously. “That’s a great mindset to have.”
Alicia shook her head. “But enough serious talk. When did you start dating my brother?”
Gabi flushed. “Yesterday.”
Alicia threw back her head and laughed, much to the dismay of her stylist. “No way! You guys look like you’ve been together for months.”
“I mean we’ve liked each other for months,” Gabi chuckled.
“Well, I’ve never seen Ryan look at a girl the way he looks at you, Gabi. He’s clearly smitten with you.”
Gabi was saved from having to respond when Alicia’s phone rang. “This is Alicia,” she answered.
“What a coincidence!” she gushed with a smile. “I was just talking about you.” She winked at Gabi. “Yeah, she’s right here, hold on.”
Alicia handed Gabi the phone. “Hello?”
“Hey baby,” came Ryan’s deep voice from the other side of the phone, making Gabi want to shiver with glee. “Why aren’t you answering your phone?”
“I didn’t realize I had any calls,” she replied, digging through her purse for her phone. “Oh, no wonder I didn’t get any calls. My phone isn’t in my purse; I must have left it at the hotel.”
“Oh okay. I’ll grab it when I go get your things.”
Gabi frowned. “Get my things? Why are you getting my things?”
“Alicia didn’t tell you? She wants you to get ready with her at father’s house.”
“Tell me?” Gabi quirked a brow up at Alicia. “You Cole siblings are really demanding.”
Alicia snickered into her palm and Gabi just shook her head.
“Oh and call your mother,” Ryan added. “I’ve talked to her like five times in the last two hours.”
“I don’t want to talk to her--”
“Gabriella call your mother or I’ll get her on the next flight out here.”
Gabi groaned. “Fine! I’ll call her.”
“Good. I’ll see you in a few hours. Have fun with Alicia.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she mumbled before handing the phone back to Alicia.
Gabi and Alicia laughed and chatted while they finished getting their hair and makeup done. They were just about to head to get their nails done on the other side of the salon when a crying little boy with a mop of curls on his head burst into the room followed by a woman who Gabi presumed was his nanny.
“Mommy!” He ran straight into Alicia’s outstretched arms.
“Hey, sweetheart! What are you doing here?” She glanced up at the nanny before returning her attention to the wailing child. “Why are you crying? Tell mommy what’s wrong.”
“That mean lady at grandpa’s house yelled at me. She told me I was a mistake; That you don’t really want me,” he choked out between sobs.
“What mean lady?”
“The blonde one who used to like Uncle Luke.”
“Suzette,” Alicia said venomously. The hatred in her eyes made Gabi shiver.
Hearing her son’s voice snapped Alicia out of her anger for a moment. “Aiden sweetheart, this is Uncle Ryan’s girlfriend, Aunt Gabi. Can you stay with her for a few minutes while mommy talks to nanny?”
Aiden peered up at Gabi with startling blue eyes and nodded. “She’s pretty. I’ll stay with her.”
He took Gabi’s hand and pulled her over to the sofa on the other side of the room. “Will you read me a book Aunt Gabi?” he asked, pulling a book out of his backpack.
Gabi looked up for confirmation from Alicia but she was already out the door screaming at the woman who had come in with Aiden.
By the time Alicia came back, Aiden was asleep on Gabi’s lap.
“Is everything alright?” Gabi asked Alicia.
“It will be,” Alicia said cryptically. “In the meantime though we are so behind schedule. I called a limo to take us to the house. My driver will take Heidi and Brittany back to the hotel. Here let me grab him.”
She picked up her five-year-old son and strode out of the room with Gabi right behind her. The ride to the Cole Estate was quiet reminding Gabi of her last trip there with Ryan.
When they pulled up in front of the house, Aiden’s nanny was already there to take him to bed. Alicia marched into the house with a purpose calling for Suzette. Ryan came around the corner and grabbed his sister by the shoulders in an attempt to calm her down and figure out why she was so angry. She brushed him aside and continued on.
“Gabriella, what’s going on?” Ryan asked.
“Apparently Suzette said something mean to Aiden.”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “Why is she even here?! No one wants her here.”
“Does Luke want her here?” Gabi asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“Why is Suzette trailing him? I thought he was dating Lizzie.”
“He is! She’ll be at the gala tonight; You’d know that if you had your phone,” he replied, placing her phone in her hand. “Anyway, that’s why I’m trying to figure out why Suzette is--”
A loud shriek diverted their attention away from their conversation and they ran toward the screaming voices. They ran up to Luke’s old bedroom where Lizzie and Alicia were fighting with a lingerie-clad Suzette.
“What the hell?!” Gabi ran over and pulled Lizzie off of Suzette while Ryan grabbed Alicia.
Suzette grabbed the blanket from the bed to cover herself just as Luke, Jack, and Camila came rushing into the room.
“Suzette? What the hell are you doing?” Luke questioned with a deep frown.
She had the decency to look ashamed. “I thought that since we’ve been hanging out these past few days you wanted to get back together,” she said sheepishly. “I was trying to surprise you.”
“Oh cut the bullshit!” Alicia shouted, lunging at her again. “You’re just a hateful bitch who won’t stop until all of us are unhappy! You’re lucky my brother is holding onto me or I would slam your stupid face into the wall for what you said to my son.”
“It’s true! He’s a little bastard! I bet you don’t even know who the father is!”
“That’s enough Suzette,” Luke said icily.
“But Luke I--”
“I said enough!” he thundered. “Now, put some clothes on and leave here at once. Your presence is unwanted.”
They all turned to leave the room but paused when Suzette burst out laughing. “You’ll regret this. If Luke won’t take me back I’ll tell the press all about Alicia’s bastard child.”
Luke turned slowly to face her. Gabi shuddered from where she stood next to Lizzie. Luke was a vicious employer so she had seen him angry many times but the look of contempt on his face at that moment was downright terrifying. Suzette must have recognized this as well because the maniacal grin on her face faltered.
“You don’t want to piss me off Suzette,” Luke said coldly. “I have a girlfriend. And even if I didn’t, I’d be a fool to be with someone as pathetic as you. So pick up whatever dignity you have left, and get the fuck out of my father’s house before I have security drag you out.”
Suzette glared at him but picked up her clothes off of the floor and pulled her jeans on over her lingerie. “You’ll be sorry. Little miss perfect popstar’s image is going down the drain as soon as I leak this to the press.”
She pushed past Gabi and Lizzie making sure to bump Lizzie’s shoulder on her way out.
Jack called after her. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Miss Van Herick.”
She turned around. “And why is that Jack?” she asked with a sneer.
Jack’s mouth was set into a grim line. “I hate to resort to this, but your parents’ businesses are on the verge of collapsing so we’ve drawn up paperwork to buy them and be silent owners. I’d hate for anyone to do anything to change my mind. It would be awfully devastating for your parents’ legacy to come crashing down, wouldn’t it?”
Suzette stood there opening and closing her mouth repeatedly but nothing came out. “Fine!” she said finally. “But this isn’t the last you’ll hear from me!” she spun on her heel and fled the room as fast as her feet could carry her.
“God I hate her!” Alicia commented as soon as she was gone. “I’m going to go make sure she actually left.”
“We’ll come with you,” Jack said, taking Camila’s hand.
Alicia frowned at her father and his fiancé but nodded before the three of them left the room.
Gabi was still holding on to Lizzie who was fuming. “You care to explain what the fuck that was about Luke?” Lizzie said as she glowered at him.
Ryan walked over and grabbed Gabi’s free hand. “Maybe we should give the two of them some alone time.”
Gabi released her grip on her best friend and nodded in agreement. “I’ll be down the hall if you need me Lizzie.”
Lizzie waved her hand dismissively at them before crossing her arms over her chest. “Well?”
Ryan and Gabi slipped out of the room, closing the door behind them before they could hear Luke’s response.
“Wow,” Gabi said as they retreated down the hallway. “That was...interesting.”
Ryan snorted. “My family has issues as you can see.”
Gabi pulled Ryan into a hug and gave him a chaste kiss. “You’ve met my family,” she said with a laugh. “This is nothing I can’t handle.”