She knew she had to stop crying. She just didn’t know how. Her heart was breaking with the knowledge that from tomorrow Zach would be forever lost to her. He was marrying her sister!
Hannah hiccupped into her pillow at the thought of the two of them together. Jealousy was an ugly emotion that had her firmly in its grip. She had never experienced such misery. Not even on the evening eight months ago when Hunter and Chloe had announced their engagement at a family gathering. Even the she had hoped that by some miracle Zack would look at her one day and realize that he was marrying the wrong sister. However now her time had run out and he had made no miraculous discovery. Sobbing loudly, she nearly didn’t hear her door bell ring. Complaining about ill timing, she made her way to her front door, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands. Sniffing to control her running nose, she peered into the mirror which hung at her door entrance and winced at the sight she made. Red blotches marred her pale cheeks and her eyes were almost swollen closed from her crying. The doorbell rang again, this time followed by the hammering of an impatient hand on the other side.
“Hannah, you better open this door! I know that you’re in there. I saw you car parked outside.”
Wincing, she threw open the door.
“Will you stop shouting and come in” she sniffed. Mia Connor looked her over on the way in.
“You look like hell, honey” she sympathized. Assertively she made her way in to Hannah’s kitchen, opening the fridge and helping herself to a soda. It was a running joke between them that aside from keeping soda’s cold, Hannah had no use for a fridge. Taking a long sip, Mia watched as Hannah shuffled in after her also helping herself to a soda.
“What are you doing here? I thought you had a big date with what’s name” Hannah asked. It was almost impossible to keep track of all Mia’s conquests. She fell in and out of love so often that it left Hanna’s head reeling trying to keep the names to the faces of all the guys that passed through Mia’s life. Mia was stunningly beautiful in a wild gypsy kind of way and men literally fell over themselves for her company.
“His name is Hunter, and he’s coming to fetch us in two hours, so you had better get dressed otherwise he’s going to be miffed if we’re late. He’s a very impatient man. So come along” and so said she took hold of Hannah’s arm and pulled her into her room.
“I’m not coming with and ruining your big night.” Hannah protested loudly as Mia shoved her into the bathroom and started running a bath for her.
“If you think that I’m going to leave you on your own tonight with the wedding tomorrow, you’re sadly mistaken. And you know how long I’ve been waiting for Hunter to ask me on a date, so there is no way I’ canceling. So, the only other option is that you come with. And you can’t go looking like this.” She ended her lecture by turning Hannah to face her. “You’ve got to get a grip on yourself” She demanded, her beautiful face worried for the first time since she arrived. “I’ve never seen you like this, Han.”
Feeling the tears well up in her eyes once again, Hannah sniffed loudly as she turned away from Mia, making her way back into her room. Sinking onto her bed, she pushed her face into her pillow before moaning loudly and flopping over onto her back, taking the pillows with.
She dearly loved Mia, but at the moment she really wanted to be alone.
Having grown up next door to each other they were best friends.
And since Mia’s parents had moved in next door to them when they had both been nine years old they had been inseparable. Mia was an only child whereas Hannah came from a house full of brothers and sister. First there was 29 year old Logan, the eldest of them who was the only one married and living in the country with his wife Haley. As yet they had no kids. Then there was Gabriel. At 27 he was the wild one of them all. At present he was touring Europe, doing a documentary for the film company he worked for. Chloe was next in line, at 24 she was two years older than Hannah(22). Luke was last but certainly not least. He was the proverbial hand full. At 19 he was into motor bikes and rock bands and generally made it his job to keep his parents on the go.
Four years ago when they had graduated high school, Mia and Hannah had left home together to move into a dungy flat close to University. They had finished their secretarial studies last year and Mia was currently a PA to the MD of an affluent International Company, while Hannah was employed at a modest general practitioner’s office not too far from where she stayed.
As soon as she could, Mia had moved closer to her work and into a better area, pleading with Hannah to come with. But Mia’s flat was too far from Hanna’s office. They still saw each other a couple of times a week, unless Mia was in a serious relationship, which was frequently.
“Hannah! I’m talking to you” Mia yelled as she jerked the pillow off her face.
“You get up and into the bath this instant while I get you something to wear.”
“Mia, I don’t want to go. I’m not fit company right now and I’ll only mess up your evening.”
She begged. Vaguely she could recall Mia telling her about Hunter Chase. At the time she had made a wise crack about his name and Mia had almost floored her with a look.
“Well, you’re not staying either. I’ve called Hunter and explained that you’re all alone for the evening and he insisted that you come with. Now move!” She ordered her.
Two hours later, Hannah mutinously looked at herself in the mirror.
She looked stunning, even if she had to admit it herself. The heartbreak that she was currently going through making her appear more fragile than normally. Mia had gone to so much trouble that she didn’t have the heart at this point to insist on staying. There was no trace of the tears that she had cried earlier apart from a bruised look that she had to her. Her green eyes had a wild, haunted look to them that had Mia nervously re-thinking her decision to drag Hannah with tonight. Jaded eyes, Hannah’s father always joked. Tonight Mia had done her waste length hair in to intricately plaited chiffon. She was dressed in a off the shoulder dress that accentuated her delicate body, bringing out the dramatic color of her eyes.
Mia turned away from the mirror and ran a hand through her wild black shoulder length hair.
Tonight was a defiant move on her side due to apprehension.
Gabriel had returned yesterday for his sisters wedding and the prospect of seeing him again was almost too much to take. She had been in love with Gabriel since she could remember. His wild, untamed way had always drawn her to him. Not even Hannah knew how deep her feelings for Gabriel were. Once she had hoped that he might feel the same about her, had even imagined that they could one day build a future together. But one unforgettable occasion Gabriel had made his opinion of her very clear. It had been on her and Hannah’s combined 18th birthday party, just after they had graduated. Because she had been trying to hide her feelings for him, it had become second nature to contradict everything he did or said. At some point during the celebrations she had gone next door to her house to get the gift she had bought for Hannah. Only when she opened the back door had she noticed that some one had followed her. Annoyed when she saw that it was Trevor, one of her previous school mates who had always been over familiar towards her, she had been even more exasperated when she realized that he had been drinking. Demanding that he leave immediately, not wanting her parents to find her alone with a drunken boy she had been stunned when he had grabbed her and what followed was enough to leave her shaking even now. He had violently kissed her forcing her against the wall, bruising the soft skin in her mouth, crying out in terror when he started tearing her top off when suddenly he had been pulled off her. Gabriel had been standing over the youth as he lay sprawled on the back porch. Stupidly Trevor had stood up and started lying that she had invited him here, that she had been leading him on for months. It was at that time that Gabriel had lost it and started to beat Trevor. Still numb from shock she had hardly heard what else he said. But the violence that she saw emanating from Gabriel had scared her almost as much as Trevor’s physical attack on her. Only when Trevor had lay crumpled on the ground, not daring to get up, had Gabriel turned to her and started to lay into her with brutal disdain. Calling her a blind, stupid child with no sense at all, and that she deserved a good spanking for the way she recklessly went through life.
Blindly she had started running into the night, away from him. It was only when Gabriel had caught hold of her that she had come to her senses and started sobbing. Cradling her in his arms he had held her as she cried softly. At some point the way he held her changed from comfort to a new awareness. The next thing she knew he had been kissing her. Running his hands down her back, he had aroused her. Moaning she had stood on tip toe and put her arms around him, almost not believing that he was really kissing her. Just as suddenly he pushed her way from him, cursing. Without saying a word he had led her back to her house, through to the bathroom leading from her room. Carefully he had cleaned her face with a wet cloth, still not saying anything. Only when she had stopped had he asked her if she was ok. She had nodded once, not able to meet his eyes. Calmly he had told her to go and put on a new top. For the next four years they had never discussed that night.
Hanna was still standing desolately in front of the mirror. Even now she couldn’t bring herself to look forward to this night. The sound of Hanna’s doorbell sent Mia scrambling to get all her clothing packed.
“That must be Hunter. I gave him your address, seeing that I got dressed here. He’s looking forward to meeting you. Go answer and let him in while I quickly get my things together.”
Obediently Hannah moved through her flat to open the door. Only it wasn’t the unknown Hunter, but Gabriel that stood on her doorstep.
“Gabe! Where did you come from? Come in” Hannah moved aside as her brother came in. Stopping next to her, he hugged her fondly. “I’ve come to see my struggling student sister and entice her to come out for meal, but I see you’ve already got a date” he joked as he let her go. Smiling at him she closed the door, leading him in to the living room.
“It’s good to see you. You look stunning” she said, hugging him again.
Blushing, Gabriel pulled a face at her. Holding her away from him, he looked carefully at her.
“And you look as if you’re going to break at any moment.” He bluntly told her as he frowned down at her. “Who’s responsible for this?” he demanded straight away. Clumsily Hannah turned away from her brothers probing eyes.
“Nothing’s wrong. You worry too much. Tell me how you’ve been. I haven’t seen you for months!”
Giving her a piercing look, Gabriel let the matter drop for the moment.
“Two months to be exact. But it’s going very well. I’m finishing up next month. It feels as if this damn documentary has been lagging for years. The final product should merit the effort that has gone into the filming”
Suddenly he broke off. A muffled curse came from Hannah’s bedroom. Gabriel raised his eyebrows questioningly at his sister and before she could explain, Mia came trotting from the room.
“Han, did you see what I did with my…Gabriel.” She came to an abrupt halt. Hannah had turned around at the sound of her voice and saw the blood leave her face at the sight of Gabriel standing next to Hannah. Bewildered at Mia’s reaction she turned frowningly to Gabriel and was taken aback to see open dislike mar his face.
“Gabriel” Mia greeted him stiffly.
”If it’s not our own Princess, how are you?” Gabriel came back smoothly.
If possible, Mia turned even paler. Rounding on Gabriel, Hannah saw no trace of his earlier emotion. Frowning, she moved over towards him, troubled by their exchange.
In the past she had never been aware of any discomfort between her brother and best friend.
“I was going to go with Mia and a friend for the evening, but I’m glad you’re here. Now I can go with you instead.” Hannah said.
“No! You promised to come with me!” Mia exclaimed loudly, apparently upset.
At a loss, Hannah frowned at Mia. What was wrong with her?
This really was not like her cool and calm friend to overreact like this.
"Well, then we'll double date, shall we?" Gabriel drawled.
"No, I ..." Mia started
"Great!" Hannah piped up
"Can't wait to meet your date, Princess"
Before someone could say anything else, oncue the doorbell rang. Rushing to the foyer, Hannah could hear Mia welcoming the unknown Hunter.
Shrugging curiously to Gabriel on behalf of Mi'as strangeness, they waited for Mia to bring her caller inside.
After what seemed like a prolonged time, Mia came into the room. A man was following behind her, and Hannah felt the world sway at her first sight of him. He walked into the room, took one look around and took ownership of it, herself included. Their eyes met and merged and she was swept up in a searing wave of need. Heat spread throughout her, consumed by his burning gaze. Distantly she was conscious of Mia making introductions between her self and Hunter and then turning to Gabriel and introducing him to her date. Alarmed, she watched as Hunter finished shaking hands with Gabriel and then turning those steel grey eyes on her again, moving towards her with a purpose that set her heart beating with apprehension. Coming to a stop before her, he took hold of bare shoulders with both of his hands and bent down to kiss her on both her cheeks. His touch blistering her skin.
‘I’ve heard a great deal about you from Mia. I’ve waited a long time for this day.” he whispered, his voice had a rasping characteristic to it, sending ripples down her spine in reaction. Trapped, a feeling of unreality Hannah was powerless to stop him when bending down, he looked deeply into her eyes before trailing his mouth up to her temple where he inhaled deeply. Taking hold of her hand, he brought it up between them and lightly kissed her knuckles, his caress affecting her profoundly. Dazed, Hannah could only stare at him in silence. Never in her life had she experienced such a response to another person. The whole experience left her dazed. This was utterly unwelcome, the way this man made her feel.
”Well, seeing that you are all obviously dressed to go out, I’ll consider it my treat to have you and your brother accompany us.” Hunter said, Mia having propbaly explaining the situation to Hunter in the time they had been alone, Without a further word, he swept them all out her flat, taking charge of the locking up.
An hour later as they were seated in one of the more exclusive restaurants, Hannah was still not quite over the way that Hunter affected her. They had traveled here in separate cars. Mia with Hunter and she with her brother. Gabriel had been quite in the car, hardly saying anything, apart from for asking how long Mia had been dating Hunter. Absent mindedly she had said this was supposed to have been their first date, at which point he just gave a grunt. He had changed the subject to Chloe’s wedding. Seeing that that was one subject that she did not want to talk about, she had not paid any attention to what he had said.
Now seated in front of Mia and her escort, which at this point in time was looking so intensely into her friends eyes that Hannah felt excessive. Watching the two of them for some reason distressed her in an shocking way. At the sight of Hunters hand moving up to Mia’s face and familiarly sweep her hair from her cheek had her clenching her teeth. Displeasure coursed through her. When Gabriel abruptly shoved back his chair and efficiently ordered Mia to dance with him, she couldn’t stop herself from feeling some relief. She shied away from thinking about her feelings. Turning to watch Mia and Gabriel dancing, she saw that they seemed to be arguing. Hunter’s gaze followed hers and he started chuckling softly to himself. A sound which made Hannah shiver with yearning. Anger at herself was a defense and she used it gratefully.
“You find it’s amusing that Gabriel and Hannah appear to be fighting?” she asked with a snap in her voice.
“No. I don’t think it’s amusing. But what is amusing is that they seem to go to great lengths to hide the fact they are completely in love with each other” he drawled sardonically.
“That’s absurd!’’ Hannah cried out. Hunter raised his eyebrow mockingly. “Look at them” he advised as if speaking to a child.
Turning, Hannah was stunned to see Mia embraced tenderly in Gabriel’s arms. Mia had her forehead lightly resting on Gabriel’s shoulder as he slowly moved round the small crowded dance floor with her.
Was it true?
“Mia and I’ve known each other forever, she would have told me! We tell each other everything…” she trailed off. Maybe Mia hadn’t told her about Gabriel. For some reason that only she would know about. The apparent evidence of her friend’s feelings for her brother was difficult to miss at this point. Hunter shrugged, the movement catching Hannah’s eyes.
“Does that bother you to see them together?” she asked before she could stop herself.
Turning to look at her, Hannah felt disconcerted to be the sudden focus of his gaze. It was as if he was only noticing her for the first time.
“Why would it bother me?” he asked
“I don’t know, because she’s your date for the evening?”
“She is a free woman. I have no claim on her.” He stated, as if that was all that mattered.
“Although you would like to?” she asked before thinking, blushing to her roots when she realized what she had asked.
She knew almost nothing about this man and yet for some reason he had the most disturbing effect on her.
”Which normal red blooded male wouldn’t dream of having a stunning beautiful woman like Mia as a companion? He questioned
Nettled for some reason, Hannah couldn't think of an answer.