First Night

By: Anna Antonia

Man's love is of man's life a part; it is a woman's whole existence. In her first passion, a woman loves her lover, in all the others all she loves is love.

– Lord Byron





ONE

An attendant in a scarlet vest stood by, waiting for us to exit.

“Shall we, my dear?”

“Can I just leave my stuff here?”

“Of course.”

“It won’t get stolen?”

“No one steals from me, Emma.” Gabriel’s gaze glittered with dark amusement. A dangerous demon looked at me for a moment before the smiling angel returned.

I’d swear it was my imagination if I hadn’t made the demon’s acquaintance seven years before.

“I’m ready to go, Sir.”

Gabriel’s slow smile did delightful things to my body. “I’m glad I ran into you today, Emma. Fate is wonderful, isn’t she?”

I ducked my head, feeling incredibly shy all of a sudden. He laughed and slid out, all long-legged grace, before holding out his hand for me. I took it and squeezed.

I’d forgotten how wonderful it was to be with you.

Gabriel tucked my arm through his. He kept his pace slow to match my mincing steps. “Are there going to be cameras?”

“Perhaps a few.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry, Emma. Just smile at me as if you can’t live without me and you’ll take a perfect picture.”

“Ha! You wish.”

“I do.”

A rush of conversation hit my ears as soon as we entered the atrium. It was a soaring affair, the kind covered in marble and glass. Lovely, sterile, and packed with people strolling about with vacant smiles.

Check-in was a breeze. We were greeted with effusive cries of “It’s so nice to see you here tonight, Mr. Gordon!”

Gabriel clasped several pairs of hands as he went down the line. His smile never dimmed. He was gregarious and beautiful in slow motion. I wondered how sore his jaw was bound to be after tonight’s pleasantries. Mine already ached. Maybe I didn’t smile enough.

“A picture, Mr. Gordon.”

He maneuvered us into place. Gabriel’s arm looped around my waist. The large camera staring at us made it felt like Picture Day in school—which I never liked. My lips curled into a stretched smile.

Gabriel called out “A moment please.” He leaned down and whispered, “That will never do, my dear.”

“What?”

“I know that fake smile and I refuse to have it in our first official picture.”

“I can’t help how I smile, Gabriel. Take it or leave it.”

“I’m sure I can change that.” He signaled to the photographer. “We’re ready.” To me he said, “Look forward, Emma, and say ‘cheese’.”

I turned my head back to the photographer. Staring at the camera lens, my body tensed as the imaginary countdown began. Just as the shot went off, Gabriel tickled my side. I burst out into laughter.

“Done! Thank you, Mr. Gordon.”

I spun around in his hold. “That was a dirty trick, Gabriel!”

“And an effective one,” he added, smug over getting his way. “I’m going to get a copy and put it on my desk. Every time I think of you in your cubicle-cage, I’ll be able to look up and see your smile.”

“You’re a bad man,” I accused heatedly but with a playful smile.

“Yes, I am, but I try to be sweeter just for you. How’s it working so far?”

I slid him a look from beneath my thick, artificial lashes. “Pretty well I guess.”

“Good enough for me.” Gabriel threaded our fingers together. “Don’t let go, Emma, or you’re liable to get stepped on.”

As we approached the waiting throng, I thanked Fate and second chances. Long before Gabriel was a billionaire and I was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, he was simply the most beautiful, complicated boy I’d ever seen.

One I’d never been able to forget.

Seeing all the women in their jeweled-colored dresses and their glamorous, tuxedo-clad companions reminded me of a similar night. One that had brought me the best and worst romance had to offer in less than twelve hours.

Senior Prom.

My mind was drawn back to that first night, the one that forever changed everything between me and Gabriel…





TWO





Prom Night

Seven Years Earlier





“He’s looking at you again.”

“Who?” I asked, knowing perfectly well the answer.

“Gabriel Gordon.”

I managed a shrug while still keeping my hands loped around my partner’s neck. “I doubt it. He’s probably ogling some cheerleader behind us.”

“Hmm, I don’t think so.” Bryan, a very nice boy who was often my science lab partner, turned us a bit so I could see for myself. “No cheerleaders or skanky chicks behind us. He’s definitely looking at you, girl.”

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