“Gabriella?” Ryan called as he walked into her apartment. “Baby we’re going to miss our flight!”
“Just a minute!” she yelled back from her bedroom.
Ryan kicked off his shoes with a sigh and made his way into the kitchen to find something to eat. It had been four months since the incident in New York and things could not have been going better for Gabi and Ryan.
For one thing, Luke and Ryan’s relationship was on the mend. Much of the improvement had come when Luke left the Houston branch and acknowledged that Ryan never needed him there in the first place. Luke and Alicia were working on their relationship as well, as they both struggled to come to terms with their father’s upcoming marriage. The three Cole siblings hadn’t been this close since they were children. Alicia did insist on getting married before her father and scheduled her wedding for June.
That’s where Ryan and Gabi were heading that weekend. The wedding was being held in a small village in Italy at an old family castle that now belonged to Ryan’s maternal uncle, a businessman named Francesco Marino. Gabi thought it was all very high brow. Alicia had been kind enough to extend an invitation to Gabi’s mother and Angela and Nico as well. Gabi and Lizzie were going to be bridesmaids.
“Gabriella! I’m going to leave without you!”
“Oh relax Ryan,” Gabi said as she strolled into the kitchen looking deliciously adorable in leggings and an oversized hoodie that belonged to Ryan. She was smiling brightly as she reached up to kiss him hello. “It’s a private plane. It will leave when we tell it to. Besides, do you really think Nico and Angela have made it there yet?”
“Good point,” Ryan conceded. “Still, let’s head to the airport. The car’s waiting downstairs.”
They loaded everything into the car and were off. As they were pulling up, Ryan turned to Gabi. “I meant to ask earlier but why did you leave work early today?”
“Oh, I thought I told you I had a doctor’s appointment.”
“You might have,” he said with a laugh. “Is everything okay? Did the doctor say you’re all healed now?”
Gabi smiled getting out of the car. “Yep! I’ve got a clean bill of health! And I’ve just heard that Michael’s sentencing will be next week.”
“That’s great news!” he said kissing her temple. “Maybe it’ll offset some of your anger toward me.”
“Why should I be angry at you?” she asked skeptically. “What did you do?”
He sighed and took her hand, leading her into the terminal. “You’ll see.”
They walked through the airport in silence until they stepped out onto the tarmac and Gabi froze. “What the hell did you do Ryan?”
“Baby don’t be too mad. She came to me last week--”
“And you didn’t think to talk to me about this before you just made the decision for me? God Ryan, you’re such an asshole sometimes!” Gabi said angrily.
Ryan rolled his eyes and leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Let’s not be hypocritical honey. Remember what you told me about Luke? How you told me I should give him a chance because we’re family?”
Gabi’s cheeks burned in both fury and embarrassment. “Fine. I’ll be civil. But don’t expect to get laid on this trip after pulling this stunt you jerk.”
Ryan scoffed. “Yeah right. You won’t even be able to make it the entire flight; You’ve been insatiable lately. It’s a real insult to my pride,” he said teasingly.
Gabi snorted as Marisol made her way over to them. She stopped in front of Gabi and gave her a slight smile. Gabi just glared back at her younger sister.
“I’m going to go speak to the pilot,” Ryan said. “Don’t be too long; We’ve got to get going soon.”
And with that, the two sisters were left alone.
“What Marisol? You here to insult me some more? Calling me a whore on national television wasn’t good enough for you?” she spat, referencing the interview her sister gave to TMZ about her New York trip. “Or are you here for the free vacation?”
“Gabi I’m sorry!” Marisol cried. “I’m here because I’m sorry.”
Gabi’s jaw dropped. Marisol had never once apologized to her; Even when they were children. “What?”
“Look. I don’t deserve your forgiveness but I am truly sorry. There’s no justification for my behavior but I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m jealous of you Gabi; I always have been.” She wiped a tear away. “I love my kids so much but sometimes I wonder what my life could have been like if I hadn’t married Jason. Could I have been successful like you? Seeing you have it all just magnifies my own miserable life.”
Gabi’s gaze softened and she pulled Marisol into a hug. “You can still be successful Mari. You’ve always been smart. You can go back to school if you want or you could learn a trade. You’re young! You’ve still got your entire life ahead of you.”
“But I have six kids Gabi!” she sobbed into Gabi’s shoulder. “Who would take care of them while I’m out chasing dreams?”
“You remember what Mami used to tell us when we were little? La familia es primera. We would all move mountains for you, Mari. If it’s something you want to do, we’ll make it happen. Te prometo hermanita.”
Marisol pulled back and gave her a watery smile. “How can you be so nice to me after all of the awful things I’ve done to you over the years?”
“You’re my baby sister. I’ll always love you and I’ll always be here for you no matter what. Now let’s go to Italy and have some fun.” She offered Marisol her hand and they boarded the plane together.
“Gabriella, are you going to cry all day?” Ryan asked with a slight groan, handing her his handkerchief. “We haven’t even left the room yet.” It was two days later, the day of Alicia’s wedding.
“Oh shut up. I’m just happy for Alicia,” she answered, dabbing her eyes.
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” he said with a laugh. “Otherwise I’d have to ditch you. The waterworks are cramping my style.”
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” she replied mockingly. “Or I’d have to hit you.”
They both burst out laughing and Ryan pulled her into his arms. “I’m serious though Gabriella. You are by far the most beautiful woman on the planet and I’m so lucky you’re mine. I love you so much.”
Gabi blinked up at him for a moment. “You love me?” she asked, hating how pathetic she sounded as fresh tears rolled down her face.
“Shit babe I didn’t mean to make you cry again,” he laughed, wiping her cheek with his thumb. “But of course I love you. I think I started loving you that first night we watched Harry Potter together; On your birthday, remember? Don’t feel pressured to say it back. I just can’t keep it to myself any longer.” he said with a smile.
Gabi wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in close for a passionate kiss. When they finally came up for air, she smiled against his lips. “You don’t have to worry because I love you too Ryan.”
“You do?” he asked, sounding surprised causing Gabi to laugh this time.
“Why do you seem so shocked?”
“You know I’ve liked you more than you like me since the very beginning so I assumed this would be the same,” he replied, laughing with her.
“I’ve loved you for quite awhile. I was just afraid to tell you. I was afraid you didn’t feel the same way.”
“Say it again Gabriella,” Ryan whispered into her ear causing her to shiver in delight.
“I love you, Ryan,” she whispered back. She felt his hands effortlessly undo the clasp on her dress before he unzipped it. The smooth satin material fell from her body and she pressed herself closer to him, pulling off his tuxedo jacket and reaching for his belt.
Ryan’s shirt was almost off when there was a knock at the door. “Gabi? Are you ready yet? Alicia’s asking for you,” Lizzie called from the other side of the door.
“I’ll be ready in a minute!”
Ryan groaned as Gabi slipped back into her dress and turned around so Ryan could zip her up.
She turned around to face him with a smile. “Don’t worry; We’ll finish this later.”
“You bet your sweet ass we will,” he replied with a laugh. “You can’t walk around looking this beautiful all day and expect me not to want to do anything about it.”
“Oh stop,” she said, reapplying her lipstick in the mirror.
“I’m not kidding! You look great.”
Gabi gazed at herself in the mirror and figured he was right. The bridesmaid dress that Alicia had picked was very flattering. It was a one-shoulder pale pink dress made of the softest satin Gabi had ever felt. It cinched just under her breasts and flowed out into a full skirt of satin and tulle.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” she replied with a wink.
Lizzie knocked on the door again. “You can flirt with your boyfriend later! Come on! The bride needs you!”
Gabi laughed and kissed Ryan once more before heading out with Lizzie.