MIXED SIGNALS- SECOND INSTALLMENT

CHAPTER 4

 

Damian awoke the next morning to a dull pounding in the back of his head. Stretching languidly on the king sized bed in his gracious Long Island home, he wished his mind felt as rested as his body. Remembering the events of the previous evening, he realized it was time to answer some questions he had long avoided.

Having Gabriella in his arms was like Heaven. It took all his will to break away from her. As he kissed and caressed her beautiful body, he decided he wanted more than sex from her. A lot more. No woman had ever intrigued him quite like she had. He had known many women, so the thought both exalted and frightened him. It scares the hell out of me,  he admitted and smoothed one hand across his tightly muscled torso.

He wanted Gabby with him always and that was something he thought he’d never feel for any woman. She was beautiful, courageous, self-confident. Moreover, she stood up to him. She wasn’t out to stroke his massive ego. All this made him want to know her that much more. Unfortunately, he had a way of bulldozing his way over everyone in his life. He knew that if he pulled that with Gabby, he would lose her. There was no way he could let that happen. He knew he would have to play his hand very carefully. Still, this was a new game and he wasn’t quite familiar with all the rules.

***

In Brooklyn, Gabby was still questioning Damian’s strange behavior. She’d made no secret that she wanted him to continue doing the marvelous things he was doing.

“Men.” Was her only explanation, as she stared at her reflection in the mirror above her oak dresser. As she applied her makeup, she decided she wasn’t as upset that Damian didn’t make love to her as she was over the fact that he just… left. Her feelings were running in so many directions and it didn’t help to know that he was only physically attracted to her.

“Which still doesn’t explain why he left,” She announced to her empty bedroom. The telephone’s insistent ringing broke her thoughts a moment later.

“Hello? …Hello?”

The opposite end of the line carried silence, then a dial tone when the unknown caller hung up. Shaking her head, Gabby caught a glimpse of her bedside clock. Spotting the time, she rushed from the house.

She arrived at the restaurant just before noon, but Joe seemed to have everything under control. In fact, things seemed to be going smoother than usual. There were no problems. No one spilled anything, they weren’t overbooked, no one had to wait. Things were frighteningly… perfect. The only thing she could complain about was Doc’s mood. At first, she thought he might still be brooding about last night. It didn’t take long to realize it was more than that.

“D?” She called, placing her chin on his shoulder as he sat at the bar frowning over some figures.

“Hmmm?”

“Since it looks like Joe’s got everything under control, how about a late lunch? I know a nice place. Let’s check out the competition. Please? Things are goin’ so good around here, it’s driving me crazy.”

“Alright, alright you sold me.” Doc said, laughing.

“Great.”

 

Fifteen minutes later, they were seated in a new cafe off 42nd Street which specialized in African and Caribbean cuisine. They had just ordered and were waiting on their meal.

“This was a good idea girl. I think I needed to get outta there myself.” Doc said, winking at Gabby.

“I’m glad you approve.” She replied, looking down at the multi-colored table cloth. “D? Is something wrong? You seem to be in some sort of mood. I can’t put my finger on it. Do you want to talk?” She asked, slowly raising her eyes.

“There is something, but it’s got nothing to do with you, so don’t worry. I’ll tell you about it, but not now, okay?” He asked, his brown eyes pleading.

“Okay, as long as you know I’m here.” She reminded him. Her eyes left his to drift across the beautifully decorated dining room. Regal tribal masks, exotic plants and murals gave the restaurant an atmosphere that was nothing short of breathtaking. Still, the decor of the room did not overshadow the sudden feeling which washed over Gabby. She felt as though she was being watched and her eyes immediately scanned the crowded room. Her vibrant gaze suddenly connected with a familiar dark one which held her captive.

Damian was seated only a few tables away from she and Doc. Gabby found it impossible to escape his onyx stare. She realized that Doc was speaking to her and with some effort she broke eye contact with Damian. However, each time she looked up, he was watching her.

The food finally arrived, but Gabriella’s appetite for the delicious looking curried chicken had vanished. She let her gaze shift from Damian’s to the woman he dined with. Assuming it was yet another acquaintance she shook her head and chose to concentrate on her meal.

After eating, Gabby and Doc shared a light conversation with one of the chefs. For Gabby, it was almost impossible to pay attention to the words, when Damian continued to stare at her as though she had done something wrong. Damn him! She kicked Doc under the table to let him know she was ready to leave. The chef they were speaking with decided to show them to the restaurant’s lobby. When Gabby and Doc said their goodbyes, Damian and his lunch date were out front as well.

“Brella. Riley.” Damian greeted them both, only glancing briefly in Gabby’s direction. “This is my assistant Francis Dubose,” he continued. His dark gaze returned to Gabby several times, but his look was always guarded and pensive.

At least, that was the way Gabby perceived it. He’s acting like nothing happened last night, she told herself as she stood there listening to his words. Suddenly, feeling both confused and hurt, she grabbed Doc’s arm and pulled him towards the door.

“It was very nice to meet you Ms. Dubose, but if you’ll excuse us we need to head back to work. Damian.” Gabby added, as she whisked through the door.

 

 

CHAPTER 5

 

The trip back to GJs was a quiet one. Doc thought it best to leave Gabby alone. Unfortunately, Joe had other ideas. He felt that it was time for Gabriella to face up to who was really keeping the restaurant together and who should be running it.

“Gabby, we need to talk.”

“Joe please, not now.” Gabby breathed, as she and Doc entered the restaurant through the kitchen entrance.

“Yes now, Gabby I-”

“Joe, this time I think you better listen to her.” Doc cautioned, as he headed out to the dining room.

“Look Gabby, this restaurant doesn’t run itself and, excuse me for saying it, but you and Doc seem to think it does. Since the party, actually before the party, I’ve been running this place and I think it’s time I got some recognition for it. At least a thank you.”

Gabby’s anger was replaced by disbelief. However, the events of the day had drained her spirit. “Thanks Joe.” She conceded, having no desire to argue with the man. Then, she headed towards the dining room.

“Gabby, I want to become a partner.”

“I already have a partner, Joe.” She said, turning around to face him again, “and even if I wanted another one, it wouldn’t be someone who thinks I’m not pulling my weight around here.” She snapped, hating to lose her temper before the staff who all watched the scene with increasing interest.

Of course, Joe was undaunted. “Face it, Gabby. This place has been running like clockwork since I took over-”

“Took over?!”

“Deny it if you like, but you know I’m right. Gabby think how much easier things’ll be if you at least bring me in as a partner-able to make quick decisions without having to consult with you or Doc first. Will you just think about it?”

“You know, Joe, you’ve been a tremendous help around here and I would’ve thought about it if you’d used some vestige of professionalism in presenting your request. Unfortunately, you chose to have a showdown with me in my own kitchen. Since you decided not to handle it that way, I’ll decide not to consider you for partner. I guess that’ll make us even.” her voice was soft, yet oozed with confidence. When she left the kitchen, Joe stared after her murderously.

Out in the dining room, Doc was nowhere to be found. Feeling completely drained, Gabby leaned against the bar. She placed her elbows against its polished cherry wood surface and held her head in her hands. A few minutes later, as though she were being controlled by some overpowering force, she raised her head and herself staring right into Damian’s pitch gaze.

“What now?” She sighed, shaking her head as she closed her eyes. When she opened them, Damian was right in front of her, his wide shoulders blocking everything in sight. “What do you want, Damian?” She asked, taking a seat on one of the barstools.

“What was that at the restaurant?” He whispered, though it was impossible to miss the anger in his voice.

Gabby started to move off the stool. “I don’t have time for this-”

“Answer me.” He ordered, placing his hands on either side of her against the bar.

Effectively trapped, Gabby had no choice but to respond. “I don’t know, you tell me. I’m as confused as you are.” She admitted, her light eyes searching his darker ones. “Unless I was mistaken,” she continued, “I thought we were both enjoying what was happening last night, then the next thing I know, you’re leaving. Then today, you’re looking at me like I’ve done something wrong. What was that? You wanted to see how far I’d let things go last night, so you could put me on hold and come back for it later?” She stopped herself and turned her head to blink away unwanted tears. “Just go away.” She softly requested.

“Have dinner with me tonight.” Damian asked, his thumb brushing an escaped tear from her cheek.

“Damian leave me alone. I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing but-”

“It’s no game. We should talk. I won’t take no-”

“For an answer,” she finished, “yes, I know…okay then, whatever you want.” She told him, too tired to argue.

“Don’t say that unless you mean it.” Damian warned, his sexy midnight gaze narrowing sharply.

Gabby’s lovely hazel eyes studied the sinfully handsome dark face before her. Damian Frinks had a wild, untamed persona that made her ache in the most intimate way. Never had she been so captivated simply by the way a man looked-or looked at her for that matter. She told herself that Damian was far too domineering and demanding for her tastes. After all, she was an independent, self confident, intelligent woman with no time to be controlled. Still, she found herself unable to resist the sensual spell he had cast. Clearing her throat softly, she managed a tiny smile. “I’d love to go out with you tonight, Damian. Is that better?” She asked.

“Good. I made reservations for eight, but I’ll pick you up at six-thirty.” He quickly informed her. He cupped her neck in his large hand and kissed her. His tongue probed the inside of her soft lips, before delving inside to taste the sweetness of her mouth. A low chuckle rose in his throat, when she moaned in response. A moment later, he was gone.

***

“…who is this, dammit?!” Gabby asked a second time. It was twenty minutes to six and she had just received a third phone call. She slammed the receiver down and stared at the phone. This call had ended just like the others. The entire thing was really beginning to get to her. At first, she cast the calls off as wrong numbers, but now she was starting to believe that there was a lot more to it than that. A moment later, she heard the noisy clamoring of the doorbell. As she rushed to the door, she stopped before the full length mirror. The long, spaghetti-strapped cream-colored gown hugged every curve and the side split complimented her legs perfectly. Still, she was slightly worried over the call and the smile she managed didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“What’s wrong with you?” Damian bellowed, a deep frown clouding his face.

“Well, you look wonderful too.” Gabby sighed, angry that he’d seen through her facade.

“You’re beautiful and you know it, but I can see you’re upset. What’s the matter?” He asked, more softly that time.

“I-” Gabby tried to think of some excuse, but the phone rang again. Closing her eyes, she willed the caller to give up, but the ringing continued.

“Brella?” Damian called, taking her hand in a gentle hold. “Baby, you’re phone’s ringing.”

“Could you get it, please?” Gabby asked. She hated to feel so helpless, but was thankful to have him there.

Damian was already headed to the phone. “Hello?” He repeated the greeting and then frowned and slammed down the receiver. “Must’ve been a wrong number.” He concluded, focusing his attention on Gabby once again. “Now what’s the matter?” He probed, concerned by the look in her eyes.

“Nothing Damian, it’s just business worries. Nothing for you to be upset about.” Moving away from him, she waved her hands in the air. “So, why are we leaving at six-thirty when you said the reservation wasn’t until eight?”

Realizing her attempt to change the subject, Damian decided to let it go. “It’s a surprise.” He said, using a mysterious tone as he escorted her out of the brownstone and into a sleek, black Bentley that waited out front.

***

They rode along in comfortable silence for almost twenty minutes. Gabby finally realized they were heading to the executive airport.

“Alright Damian, enough is enough. I demand that you tell me where we’re going?”

“You demand?” Damian’s heavy dark brows rose in amusement. “Sorry Brella, you’ll just have to wait and find out.”

Gabby punched her fist against her thigh, but said nothing more as she looked out the window. Fifteen minutes later, they were arriving at a private airstrip where a gorgeous jet waited.

“I take it this is yours?” Gabby asked, nodding as she stepped out of the car to admire the magnificent machine.

“You take it right.” Damian softly confirmed, grabbing his tuxedo jacket from the seat.

Gabriella watched him as he headed over to speak with his pilot. She loved the way the black and white checkered vest fist over the fine white silk shirt, the contours of his massive chest were clearly emphasized. She also took in the authority in his stance as he stood with one hand thrust into the pocket of his trousers while the other held the jacket slung across his shoulder. Admit it, you’re falling in love with the man. A voice demanded, as she stood there watching him. Gabby looked away and shook her head to deny the words. “No!” She finally whispered.

“No what, Brella?” Damian asked, as he strolled up behind her.

“Just thinking out loud.” She replied with a smile.

“Well, come on. Time to take off.” He said, placing one hand against her small waist.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going now?” Gabby asked, when Damian set her into the sofa seat of the jet and strapped her in.

“Would you just be patient and quiet?” Damian pleaded as he leaned back against the cushioned seat next to Gabby. He stretched out his long legs and crossed them at the ankles.

Gabriella decided to give up her inquisition and follow suit.

***

Less than an hour later, the jet was landing. Gabby was still uncertain about their destination. Damian was being quite vague, as he guided her to the edge of the deserted strip where a chauffeured Limo waited. Gabby simply watched Damian in amazement as he assisted her into the cushiony dark interior of the car. A short while later, their surroundings were revealed.

“I don’t believe this!” Gabby cried, when she caught sight of the Washington Monument. “Isn’t this a bit much for dinner?” She asked, taking great interest in the sights beyond the window.

“I thought it would be a good idea to get away from New York for a little while and I know a good restaurant here.”

“If it gets you to come this far, it had better be outrageous.” Gabby decided.

As they drove through the city’s streets, Gabriella resembled a kid at the zoo. Her face gleamed with awe when she caught sight of something outside Damian’s window. Leaning across him, she rested her hand on his thigh.

“I take it, this is your first visit to DC?” He asked, hoping to take his mind off the location of Gabby’s hand.

“Oh no,” she assured him, “I’ve visited quite often, but I haven’t been in a while and I love the town. I see something new every time.” She sighed, reclaiming her seat. “Damian, thank you. This is a real treat.”

“We haven’t done anything yet, Brella.” He laughed, his onyx eyes twinkling. Gabby’s excitement was becoming very contagious.

In a matter of minutes, the Limo was approaching the front of a stylish building with a huge, black canopy bearing the letters GG’s on the front. They were stuffed after feasting on a meal of Southern fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, macaroni casserole, collard greens and lemonade.

“I haven’t had a meal like that since I visited my Grandma in Georgia.” Gabby declared, placing a hand across her full stomach as they strolled back to the car.

“I know. My Granny used to make meals like that all the time before she died.”

“I’m sorry.” Gabby whispered once they’d reentered the Limo. When she placed her hand across his arm, Damian smiled.

Over the next hour, the two of them rode in the chauffeured car talking and learning more about one another. Unused to this side of Damian, Gabby listened with genuine interest, greedy to learn more about him. Damian told her stories of summers spent in Jamaica with his maternal grandmother after his family moved to The States. He told her of how rough life was after his parents relocated, in hopes of having a better life for their children. Damian’s father drove for the city’s bus line, while his mother did housekeeping work to support he and his four brothers. The boys all vowed that one day neither of their parents would have to work. Today, Miles and Ladine Frinks lived very well in Jamaica courtesy of their sons.

Gabby found herself understanding Damian a bit more. She supposed being so close to the youngest in a family of so many men, made him very determined and in need of control.

***

“Dance with me?”

“Alright.”

Damian had taken Gabby to a new, upscale nightclub just outside the city in Maryland. The club was packed and a long line of people waited outside the door. Gabby eyed the curving line in despair, but Damian headed right for the front door and was granted instant entrance.

Inside, the music was wonderful-a mixture of reggae and soft R&B tunes filled the spacious, posh facility. The atmosphere set the stage for romance. Small glass tables skirted the polished hardwood dance floor. Brick walls were decorated by sensual paintings of lovers in the most erotic positions. Upstairs, the club’s patrons could take time out from dancing to relax in the lounge. Overstuffed loveseats filled the candlelit area which was complete with a long, fully-stocked bar.

“Oh.” Gabby gasped, when Damian’s arms encircled her and held her snuggly.

“So, tell me about your family.” He growled, his perfect teeth tugging on her earlobe.

Breathless, Gabby’s long lashes fluttered. “What?” She asked, her hands slipping beneath his jacket.

Damian dropped soft kisses along the side of her neck, as his hands massaged her hips. “I told you about mine, it’s only fair.”

“Yes, but my story isn’t half as extraordinary as yours.” Gabby argued.

“Hey,” Damian whispered, looking down into her lovely, oval face then. “I want to know.”

“Why?”

“Just start talkin’.” He ordered, resuming his inspection of the sensitive area below her ear.

“Well,” Gabby said, clearing her throat softly. “I grew up in New York-an only child.”

“Were you lonely?” Damian asked, his deep voice muffled in the side of her neck.

Gabby shook her head, toying with one of his dreads. “No, I had plenty of friends and cousins who were like substitute siblings. My parents are teachers, so they really pushed me to get a good education. After I got my business degree and told them I wanted to open a restaurant, they tried to talk me out of it. ‘Go into something more stable’, they said. Now that I’m a success, they couldn’t be happier.”

Damian’s soft kisses grew more insistent. “They should be happy. They’ve raised a real beauty inside and out.”

“You think?” Gabby asked, pulling away to look up into his face.

Damian cupped her neck in his large hands. “I know.” He said, propping her chin on his thumbs. Slowly, he tortured her with gentle sweeps of his lips against hers. His tongue outlined the pout of her mouth before thrusting deeply inside. The kiss was long, probing and shockingly possessive. It was as though they were the only two people in the room. Gabby’s fingers disappeared in Damian’s long, thick locks and she returned his kiss with equal passion.

Once they made it back to the jet, the mood was rather subdued. They processed the wealth of knowledge they had gained about one another.

“I gotta hand it to you. You do know how to show a woman a nice time.” Gabby complimented, settling once again into the cushioned seat.

Damian acknowledged the comment, bowing his head.” Are you saying it’s the best date you’ve ever had?” He asked, a devilish look in his dark eyes.

“It ranks right up there with the best.” She coolly replied.

Damian looked as though he were about to say something. Thinking better of it, he rested his head against the seat and folded his arms over his chest.

Gabby had to admit she was surprised and very impressed by Damian’s behavior that evening. He abruptly ended the kiss they shared at the nightclub and suggested they resume the conversation about their respective families. Gabby didn’t mind. It was a treat listening to Damian discuss his life and she felt that his interest in hers was genuine. Gabby wished they could have talked forever. Sighing contentedly, she kicked off her shoes and propped them on the small coffee table that sat before the seat. Closing her eyes, she drifted off.

Damian, on the other hand, was not so relaxed. He wanted to be with Gabby more than ever before. Not only sexually, but being alone with her that evening had been murder on him. He wanted nothing more than to make love to her all night.

Gabby’s eyes drifted open and she looked over at Damian. Her eyes leisurely assessed him, beginning with the tips of his leather wingtips. Her gaze trailed the devastatingly long length of his legs and powerful thighs hidden beneath the black trousers. She admired the lean waist and wide expanse of his chest before coming to his handsome dark face. Damian’s own eyes were open and the obsidian depths mirrored her need.

“Don’t Brella.” He warned. Impossibly, his eyes darkened even more.

Gabby ignored the warning as her gaze grew more intense. Damian lost his ability to resist and grabbed her arm. He hauled her tiny frame against his much larger one. Bringing one hand around the nape of her slim neck, he searched her eyes briefly before his mouth crushed her own. Her full lips parted instantly as his tongue explored the inner recesses of her mouth. He teased her mercilessly before kissing the smooth line of her jaw. His hands began a leisurely caress of her back while his lips tugged at her earlobe.

“Damian…” Gabby moaned, grasping his suspenders. She ached to feel him next to her and pulled him down onto the seat. The effect on Damian was instant and a low growl passed his lips.

“I knew I’d have you before long. I knew it…I knew sooner or later you would give in to me.” He spoke with the utmost confidence, his touch growing more heated.

Gabby, however, felt as though she had been doused with ice cold water. Damian’s confidence turned her stiff in his arms. He sensed her mood change and slowly raised his head.

“What is it?” He asked, his accent growing more evident in the wake of passion.

The sound of his voice brought Gabby back to reality and her lovely eyes widened. With a strength she didn’t know she carried, she struggled from beneath Damian. Moving too quickly, she landed on her bottom and sank into the cushioned floor of the jet. Of course, she was too angry to pay attention to her predicament.

“Is that what tonight was about? Was this all you were after?” She asked, her eyes clouding with mistrust and anger over her own lack of common sense.

“All I was after, Brella?” Damian softly asked, a small smirk coming to his face.

“Stop it. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about! Just stop.” She snapped, eyeing the arrogance she saw in his dark stare.

“Brella, what the hell are you talking about?” Damian asked, completely bewildered. His amusement quickly turned to anger. Until a moment ago, she wanted him, now she was accusing him!

Gabby continued her tirade. “What I don’t understand is why you went through all this?”

“All of what?” He asked, slowly beginning to understand.

“The jet, the dinner, the club. Pretending to want to get to know me. I just don’t-”

“Wait a minute! You think I did all this just to get you into bed?” He asked, watching her fiercely.

“Isn’t it?”

“Brella, the only thing I have to do to get a woman into bed, is ask. Don’t flatter yourself.” He slowly informed her, pure contempt in his black eyes.

“You conceited bastard.”

“Overconfident wench.” He returned, glaring down at her. They sat that way for the longest time.

Finally, Gabby looked away. She said nothing further. She pushed herself from the floor and took a seat in the cushioned chair across from Damian. Propping her fist beneath her chin, she turned her face towards one of the jet’s small windows.

The flight and ride back to New York, was a silent one. In the leather interior of the Bentley, Gabby thought of how the car reminded her of Damian. It was sleek, powerful and darkly sensual. She was so deep in thought, she didn’t notice the car stopping before her home and the man himself assisting her out. She snapped back to reality when she felt his strong grip on her arm.

“Damian, it’s not necessary for…” She trailed off, taking in the clouded look in his pitch black stare. If she hadn’t known better, she could have sworn she saw hurt in his gaze. She quickly dismissed the notion.

“Goodnight Brella.”

“Goodbye Damian.” She replied, her voice monotone as she entered her home.

It was a slow walk for Damian back to his car. Instead of settling into the plush interior, he remained outside. Then, frustrated, he crashed a huge fist against the top of the roof. The fierce action produced a miniscule dent in the shiny black surface.

“Damn.” He muttered. His thoughts were wholly centered on the woman-the only woman he wanted, locked away in her home. For the first time, Damian found himself feeling uncertain and uneasy.

CHAPTER 6

 

“Hello?…Hello? I know somebody’s there and if you don’t speak up or hang up, I’m going to trace this call!”

The line went dead and Gabby fell back to her bed, cradling the receiver against her chest. The cold, distant silence on the other end of the line was really getting to her. She almost wished the caller would be more vocal. Anything was better than that silence, she thought. She decided to go to the police later that morning. She had a friend who could probably make some sense out of the nonsense.

Hauling herself out of bed, she headed for the shower. A glimpse of creamy silk material on the floor caught her eye. It peeked out from the foot of the bed. It was the dress she had worn the night before. After reaching the sanctuary of her home, she headed right for bed. In her haste, she let the dress fall where it now lay.

When morning arrived, she cursed herself for being so foolish to believe Damian. After the great time they had, Gabby thought their feelings might have been moving in the same direction. She discovered, instead, that his interest had not been genuine, but all coolly calculated. Feeling the sting of tears, she banished all thoughts of Damian and went to the bathroom.

***

Gabriella called the restaurant and informed Joe that she wouldn’t be in. She tensed at his cool response, but put it out of her mind. She headed to the police precinct where she caught up with her friend.

“How’s my favorite restaurateur?” A dark giant man asked as he grabbed Gabby’s tiny frame in a warm bear hug.

“How’s my favorite policeman?” She said, smiling brightly. Detective Louis Davidson had been a good friend since they were children. It was amazing that their early friendship had ever survived since they’d always fought over LD’s wanting to play cops and robbers. Therefore, it was no surprise when he entered the police academy instead of college.

“Now what’s this about some hang ups?” LD asked, referring to the conversation they had earlier that morning.

For the next half hour, they talked. It didn’t take LD long to convince Gabby to put a tracer on her phone after she refused to change her number. They spent the remainder of the day at her home and Gabby learned how the machine worked. By the time LD left, she was surprisingly exhausted. Her hopes for sleep were dashed though, when she opened her door to Doc fifteen minutes after LD left.

“Are you alright? Joe said you weren’t coming into the restaurant today.” Doc said, a worried frown clouding his face.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. I just had some stuff to do today and I’m sort of tired.” She sighed, not wanting Doc to be worried. She judged by his ruffled clothing and weary look, that he’d had a rough night. His face held a tight, drawn look and his eyes appeared hollow and glazed.

“Doc? Are you alright?” She now asked, her brows drawing close.

“Yeah, why do you ask?” He grunted, running a hand across the back of his head.

“Well you-” She began, then stopped herself. Thinking better of it, she slapped his back. “How about some dinner?” She asked instead.

“Thanks G.”

Gabby knew he wasn’t just talking about dinner.

***

The calls continued, but they were so brief, the tracer didn’t help much. The toll on Gabby was a bit much and she spent the next week and a half at home. Doc had taken another trip, but he called every other night and he still had no idea anything was wrong.

Meanwhile, Joe seemed to be reveling in his boss’s absences. The few times Gabby spoke with him, his voice held the unmistakable tone of happiness and power. Louis Davidson was who she saw most of. He arrived every day to check on her, bring her dinner or just to talk. One day he arrived just after she’d taken in the mail.

“LD! Isn’t this a little early?” She asked, laughing as they hugged.

“Yeah, but I had some time. Everything okay?”

“Uh-huh.” She said, motioning him inside as her attention returned to her mail. Coming across a small envelope, she tore into it and scanned the contents. “Damn.”

“What? What is it?” Louis asked, instantly alert.

“Nothing. It’s just a dinner party tomorrow night. I don’t want to go, but Warren is a friend and I’d hate to disappoint him.”

“Well, I think you should go. You’ve been cooped up in this house for over a week.” Louis advised, moving to take a seat on the sofa. Stretching his long legs, he took interest in one of the numerous magazines on the coffee table.

“Yeah…you may be right. Okay, I’ll go. If you go with me.” She quickly finished, her brows rising. “Please…”

***

At the same time, Damian was scowling over the same envelope. Gabriella entered his mind the moment he read the invitation. He wondered if she’d be there. In truth, she was all he had been able to think of for over a week. He tried going into the office, but gave up after he snapped at everyone so terribly, they were afraid to approach him. He still couldn’t believe Gabriella had misunderstood his intentions and he had behaved just as badly.

Things had gotten way out of hand and he didn’t know how to correct the situation. Courage was something he never lacked, but he could not get himself to knock on Gabby’s door after he arrived. On several occasions, he noticed a tall man visiting her. Gabby always seemed so happy to see him. A murderous jealousy tore at him and he wondered if he had lost her. Going to that party would be the perfect way to find out.

***

Gabby applied a small amount of oil spray to her short, sleek cut. Standing away from the mirror, she gave herself the once over. The burgundy dress complimented her cocoa complexion, long sleeves flared widely at her wrists and the gorgeous material smoothed across her body-emphasizing her full breasts and small waist to reach her mid-thigh.

As she stared into the mirror, her thoughts turned to Damian. She remembered how persuasive his hands felt covering her body. Her legs weakened beneath her just then as heated thoughts filled her mind. She had tried so hard not to think of the man, but being home for a while had given her the chance to do just that. Unfortunately, knowing that his feelings weren’t as intense only increased the hurt. Gabby wondered if he would be at the party. She vowed that if she saw him, she would not let him get to her. Then again, what was she concerned about? It had been almost two weeks since she’d heard anything from him. He had not tried to see her or even call. Then again, what could she expect? She had exposed him for what he was and that was the end of things. Shaking herself back to reality, she turned off her bedside lamp and went downstairs to wait on her date.

***

Warren lived with his wife Renee, in a gracious home in Long Island. Renee had been with Warren since he’d been a bartender in a Brooklyn nightclub over fifteen years ago. They had been through a lot but Renee was confident of her importance in her husband’s life.

Gabby had loved the couple for years. In some ways, they were her inspiration. She hoped to find the type of love they shared…someday. Gabby’s smile widened as the couple came forward to greet their new guests.

“We’re so glad you could make it!” Renee cried, her ebony eyes sparkling as darkly as the sleek evening gown she wore.

“LD! Man it’s been a while. Hell, I don’t believe you broke out of the station long enough to mingle with us civilians.” Warren teased, slapping Louis’s shoulder.

“Yeah, well we have to check on you rich folks from time to time, you know.” Louis replied. The uproar of laughter between the long time friends, made everyone look forward to the rest of the evening.

The doorbell sounded again, breaking up the foursome. Warren answered, wiping tears of laughter from his face.

“Damian, Lois glad you could make it!” He called.

Even though Gabby and Louis had already moved from the door, Gabby could still hear Warren’s deep voice as he welcomed the two new guests. Her heart dropped to her stomach and she forced herself to calm as someone called she and Louis.

Gabby didn’t have to speak a word to Damian to know his temper was thoroughly heated. Everyone gathered around a long table in the massive dining hall. There were over twenty people there. Of course, Gabby felt it was just her luck that Damian was seated diagonally across from her. Each time she looked up to answer a question or respond to something LD had said to her, she found Damian staring at her. His onyx gaze was expressionless. As dinner progressed, he seemed to grow increasingly agitated. So did Gabby. Soon, Damian’s unnerving stare became accusing as he shifted his dark gaze from her to Louis.

Gabby clenched her fists and ordered herself to remain calm. Her anger clearly showed in her eyes as she pinned Damian with an accusing glare of her own. She moved her gaze from him to DeLois. In response, Damian raised his glass in a mocking toast and Gabby nodded.

Of course, she knew Damian would not let it go at that. She felt like a coward, but she could not handle the man’s staring whenever she looked up. If she shared a dance with LD or any other man at the party, his gaze would turn absolutely murderous. Finally, she retreated to the sanctuary of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She wet a cloth and pressed it to the back of her neck, hoping to ease the tension there. She heard the bedroom door open and the lock click into place. Tossing the cloth to the counter, she rushed from the connecting bathroom thinking it was Renee. It was Damian.

“What do you want?” She snapped.

“Who is he, Brella?” He softly inquired.

“A friend.” Gabby retorted and turned her back on him. She dismissed the gorgeous image he made in a pair of cream trousers, cream and brown striped shirt and coordinating jacket.

Damian closed his eyes briefly, before bounding across the room. “I said, who is he?” He whispered, towering over her.

Gabby fixed him with a scathing look. “Listen, I know it may be difficult for you to comprehend this, but it is possible for a man and woman to be just friends without either of them being after…anything.” She whispered, making her meaning clear. She noticed Damian’s wince and could have sworn the painful look was clouding his eyes again.

Damian gnawed the inside of his jaw and drew his mask back into place. He turned as though he were about to leave, then changed his mind. Gabby retreated when she saw him heading back towards her. He reached out and caught her forearm in an iron grip. Gabby pressed her palms against his chest. Her intention was to push him away, but when she touched the hard width of his chest, she decided against that. Heat practically radiated through his clothes and she felt completely aroused. Her lips parted slightly and she tilted her head back in anticipation of his kiss.

Suddenly, Damian released her and walked out of the room. Gabby wanted to call out to him, but her pride got in the way of that. For a while, she stared at the closed bedroom door. Then, she ambled over to peer out the window overlooking the curving driveway. Five minutes passed, before she saw Damian settle into a black Mercedes and speed away. Alone.

 

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Shantal says:

    AlTonya, AlTonya, AlTonya! Just when it was getting good. You need to be a Director of a sitcom because you know exactly when to cut off the story and make a reader want more….NOW! I’m loving the progression of the storyline and can’t wait for the next installment.

    Thank you!

    1. altonyasblog says:

      Shantal you can’t hear me right now but I’m rubbing my hands together and giving you my evil laugh! Ha! 🙂

  2. sympli says:

    GREAT!!! But you’re killing me…lol

  3. sympli says:

    You’re killing me…I need more.

    1. altonyasblog says:

      More to come soon!!! You can make it 😉

      1. Debbie says:

        I just stumbled across this story and must say….Altonya you have done it again! I find myself searching for anything by you. It’s late, I have to go to work tomorrow and you left me hanging! That’s wrong on so many levels. I can’t wait for the next installment.

      2. altonyasblog says:

        Hi Debbie,

        My sincere apologies!! Somehow this got lost amidst the warzone that is my inbox. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my first short story and don’t worry- the conclusion will post soon. Thank you so very much and again my apologies for this terribly late response!
        Best,
        Al 🙂

  4. Toni Williams says:

    Hi Altonya,

    Once again you have given me something wonderful to read. However, I can’t wait for the continuation of this story. It is so good and always I one of your most devoted readers. Thanks again for this wonderful and amazing story.

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