Chapter 25

After a trying day of interviews, both press and production were treated to a "reception" in one of the many banquet halls fostered within the hotel that had hosted the press lineup—and by "reception" they meant munchies and drinks in a crowded room full of appallingly boring people. I stood amidst a group of blasé looking reporters clutching an untouched plate of cookies and a bottle of water, hoping to blend it. I did not want to be sought out by anyone (cough-Gabriel-cough) and forced into any awkward situations, especially in such a public setting. Unfortunately, my crimson suit stood out a bit against a backdrop of grey suits and grey personalities; just as my luck would have it, no sooner did I begin to relax and let my guard down than did a familiar hand cup my elbow and lead me away from the crowds.

Gabriel led me down the corridor and into an empty elevator where we could talk without the prying eyes and ears of the media. It was also a very effective way to trap me into a conversation. Not that we talked right away. He held me close and kissed me passionately. The pleasure of it sent a shiver down my spine all the way to my fingertips.

"Are you avoiding me?" he asked, still gripping my elbow, his intense eyes burning into mine.

"What, me? No!" I scoffed, trying to free myself from his grasp, even though the elevator doors were now closed.

"I'm serious. Are you?"

"Boy, nothing gets past you."

"Why are you avoiding me?" He sounded exasperated and stressed.

"You've been avoiding me just as much,"

"Yes, but I already know why I am avoiding you. What I am asking is why are you avoiding me?"

I sighed and rubbed my forehead, searching desperately for a way out of this moving elevator. Damn it. He was blocking all the buttons. This, plus the constant whirring of machinery overlaid with cheesy "smooth jazz" crooning from the speakers, the constant up and down motion was enough to drive even the soundest mind certifiably sane. And I wasn't exactly of sound mind, as my actions leading up to this moment could prove. There was no escape. "Well…why do you think, huh Gabriel? What could possibly be my motivation!" It was more a sarcastic statement than a question, and he knew that, but he answered all the same.

"I have no idea, or I wouldn't have asked. You are a true enigma to me, Lillian Chandler."

"Oh, just shut up. You know exactly why I'm avoiding you! It's just so awkward looking at you now that we've…"

"…Seen each other naked?" he offered.

"…Had sex."

"Well, why is that? Does it have to be this way? I mean, when normal couples have sex—"

"—Are we a normal couple?"

"No…no, I guess you're right…but we can be."

"I did a double-take. It had finally happened. He was offering me everything I had been hoping and praying for these past couple of weeks. But no, no, it was too good to be true, and he was Gabriel Thomas…he surely meant something different and misleading by his last statement. Nothing was simple with Gabriel. There was always a catch. So I merely tiptoes around the pool of the subject, trying to test the waters of its meaning before diving in head first and realizing there was no water in it.

"Wha…" I cleared my throat to find my voice, "what do you mean?

It was his turn to sigh. "What do I mean? I mean, right now, we're in a purely platonic relationship, and while it's fun and all, I'll admit, it's just not working right."

"Hah! Platonic? What we have is far from platonic…it's the opposite! All sex and no communication isn't exactly how you'd treat your best friend, nor is it the best way to go about things between us."

"I agree. Listen, Lilly, over the past few weeks, I've come to realize something. I have feelings for you besides complete dislike." My breath caught in my chest. He was being far from romantic, but I could see where he was going with this…"I tried to ignore if for a while, blame it on lust…but when you went out with Guy, I was just so pissed off, and I realized it was jealousy. And…when you kiss me…and after that night on the stage…ah, God, Lil, you're the best I've ever had."

As lewd as that last comment was, I could not subdue the excitement welling from my stomach any longer. I loved him, and he had just admitted to at the very least liking me…middle school all over again..."So, now what?"

The elevator had reached the lobby again, and Gabriel mashed a series of buttons to bring us up again and give us more time. His hand, which had still been clutching my elbow, slid down to hold my hand instead.

"I guess…I mean…only if you really wanted to of course…I mean, I don't want you to think that I'm using you just for sex or anything…so, uh, maybe…" I was ready to smack him if he didn't spit it out soon, and he knew it. He inhaled sharply before blurting, "Do you want to date in real life without Rod us we have to?"

Ignoring all the possibilities of things that could go wrong in this relationship that were now screaming in my head, ignoring our past, the present, and our future careers and reputations, ignoring every sensible fiber within me, I nodded. "Yes."

"Dinner tonight? My treat? Your place after?" I nodded again, as he pressed his quivering lips to mine in excitement. "I'll pick you up at six."

"What do I wear?"

"Wear that. Wear sweat pants. Wear nothing. I don't care, you're pretty no matter how you dress—but you already knew that, didn't you?" He then got off the elevator on the twelfth floor, after explaining that he'd wait ten minutes before coming down the elevator himself, so as not to give the media, or anyone else for that matter, reason to believe anything more than they'd been told.

I was elated. My heart pounded and my stomach fluttered, and unable to hold in my exhilaration and longer, I jumped up and down and cried out in triumphant ecstasy the moment the elevator doors had whooshed shut. I didn't care if Gabriel could probably still hear me, or that what I was doing was vain and childish, or that a security guard had just gotten on the speakers, interrupting the elevator music, to call me "ma'am" and ask me to please not jump in the elevator again as it was dangerous to my safety and the safety of others. I was happy, I was in love, and I have every right in to world to endanger lives and be as giddy as a thirteen-year-old girl who just got her "I like you, do you like me?" note back with the "yes" option circled. I liked Gabriel, and Gabriel liked me.

A/N:

Short chapter, but the last one was really long. That, and I have a math project due Tuesday, and don't have time to type more than one chapter. As usual, hit me with your insightful opinions. 'Tis greatly appreciated.

number41- Thanks. Argggg, matey. Haha. A pirate's life for me.

Shawna- Yay, you read my story! Thanks! Here's a new chapter for you!

GT- Thanks for reading again…thought you're quite far behind, and may never read this note to you. Thanks anyway though.

The rest of you- It's late, I'm tired, forgive the sparse acknowledgement, but thank you for your reviews, please keep them up!

Oh, and to the ignorant masses of the world- The story you are reading/have read is entirely from fiction, save for brief moments that connect to the author's life. Seeing as there have been great misconstruencies lately over what is fact and what is fiction, I thought I'd set restless minds at ease by reassuring the moronic population that I only write fiction, and for myself, first and foremost. That is, not you.

For those of you to whom the previous statement is inapplicable, forgive the tangent. Thank you, keep R&Ring!