Struggling Ch. 02byMickeyPink©
Hey guys!!! So sorry for the delays- life happens, I suppose! But I have been working on the stories, slowly but surely.. And here is the second chapter of Struggling. Please keep in mind that I do not want to terribly rush these two- but the sex will come when it's time!!!
My dearest readers:
I promised you, and myself, truths to be told. I promised to find the light at the end of the darkness. But here I am, a week later, utterly noncompliant. Being honest with myself is a difficult thing to do. It means waking up and looking myself in the eye. All my faults, my insecurities, my hopes... If I will be honest I will say that I am nothing without him. I'm tired of fighting him off. And I'm tired of giving myself false hope that anyone else could ever love me. If it means not being alone, is one-sided love really all that bad?
Zoey closed her eyes to stop the tears that almost started to fall. In being so straight-forward with her readers, she had begun to see another side of herself. When she looked in the mirror, she saw a beautiful girl. The shape of her eyes, her full, pouty lips, the way her eyes turned upwards in the corners when she smiled. But she hadn't smiled too much lately. Not since the night she met Gabriel.
He was always on her mind. She must've sat there in that corner all night after he dropped her off. She felt so foolish. How, on one hand, could she have been bold enough to kiss him, but still blush the way she did when the thought of him arose?
She wanted to believe that there was chemistry between them. But how could there be? She was a girl, heartbroken and torn. And he was a beautiful man who took pity on her.
She rolled over to check the time. If she didn't get moving, she would be late. She'd planned to meet Ben at the bar near the arena, to catch a couple of drinks before the fight. It was now or never. She headed to the bathroom to begin the ritual of getting ready.
Gabriel spilled out of the shower, watery footprints marking his path. As he dried his hair, he closed his eyes. Only for a moment; but that was all it took. The sweet smell of her was in his nostrils and he could almost taste her kiss.
'So beautiful,' he thought to himself.
She was, too. There was so much about her to be enjoyed. Sure, her looks were wonderful. He was always the kind of man that fell for brown skinned women. Her particular hue was astonishing. It was as if a light came on under her skin- taking it from light brown to a sunny kind of happy shade that made his heart melt. And then there were her eyes that pierced straight through him. Flecks honey and amber sweetened further by the soul behind them... A sad, but beautiful soul.
When he thought about everything that comprised her, it stirred him, and angered him. It was improper to just appear at a woman's home, but after a week of going to the grocery store and finding her absent, he couldn't wait much longer. He'd give it a couple more days.
A pair of dark washed jeans, t-shirt, and a blazer later he was out the door.
She hated places like this. Ben was a much more social person than her, so of course, he chose the busiest bar near the arena. And to make matters worse, it wasn't until she sat down at the bar and ordered a drink that he sent her a text to say he would be thirty minutes late.
"Just my luck," she said under her breath.
Two sips into her tequila, she felt it. There were eyes on her, putting heat on her back. A heat that was comparable to the one in her chest.
"Well, well, well... If it isn't little Zo. Stand up, girl, and let me look at you."
She hadn't heard that voice since she broke her phone a week ago.
"Briar. Wow, every time I think I'm rid of you, there you are!" She turned and rested her eyes on the beautiful man in behind her.
"Aw, you're breaking my heart, Zo. I call you, you hang up on me. Next thing I know, you've changed your number. How is a guy supposed to take that?" He was moving in closer. Too close. His knee brushed against hers, in a silent effort to part her thighs. She looked down to find a boastful erection shielded behind his, undoubtedly, Italian suit pants. When she looked back up at him, his gaze met hers with a certain amount of lust and anger.
This was the history of their love, all wrapped up in an inconvenient meeting. Him, the ever present, ever wealthy pussy hound; she, the sad fool who thought she could change him. Why? Because of the way he looked at her, maybe. The way he looked through her, more like it. Or maybe because she just wanted to believe in the good that was hidden deep down in the place he had let her see from time to time.
"Briar, I can't do this with you." She took a hard gulp of tequila, its' effects now numbed due to the racing of her mind and the pounding of her heart. She looked around thinking maybe her brother was here already, but she knew better. He was always later than he said he'd be, and it had only been a few minutes since he texted.
Briar lowered his head, ready to convince her, with one little kiss, that she should go with him and let herself go. Unfortunately for him, her angel was right on time to save her.
"Babe, there you are. I was looking for you." Gabriel's voice was the reality check she needed, and when she turned and felt his arm around her back, she felt sure. Sure that she could fight the lust driven fire that had built between her thighs.
Briar didn't make a move. It wasn't that he was afraid; the guy was bigger than he was, for sure, but he could probably take him. He was more trimmed and he fought dirty.
Gabriel just stood observing the man for a moment. This must have been the reason for the sadness in Zoey's eyes. This... coward... must have been why he hadn't been able to get a little closer to Zoey these last few days.
"I'm Gabriel. You must be...?" Gabriel extended his hand.
Briar took a step back from Zoey and had the first of what he figured would be many stare-downs. Had she been that kind of girl, the kind who enjoyed watching men fight for her, Zoey would have been in heaven. They were both tall, Adonis-like men with broad shoulders, well fitting clothes, and razor sharp eyes.
Briar took one good hard look at Zoey. She really did look good tonight. She was wearing a navy colored dress that fit snugly on top, but puffed out at the waist, giving it a tutu effect. With it, she sported a black leather jacket, aviator style, and a cute little red bow in her curled hair. If not for this asshole, he'd have worn her down and taken her to the ladies'.
"I'll see you around, Zo." For a moment, as she watched Briar leave, she started to feel utterly disappointed to see him go. Then she remembered what had saved her the added pain.
"Wow. I'm uhm... Sorry you had to see that." She spun in her chair to face Gabriel, who still had his eyes fixed on the door. When he looked down at her with his jaw clenched, his powerful green eyes beat out Briar's lying blue ones. It made her smile just a little bit.
Gabriel took a breath and calmed his expression. How could he be angry with this beauty in front of him?
Just as the silence grew deafening, Zoey received a text message.
"Nolan broke up with Stacey. Was thinking I should take him to the fight. Don't kill me? Really sorry little sis. I'll make it up."
As it turned out, Gabriel was going to the fight too. In fact, his box seats nearly muted the cheering crowd. And the food wasn't bad either. By the end of the night, she'd had more fun than she had ever expected.
After the fight, they stayed for a bit- talking, laughing, and getting to know one another. Zoey was in awe of the man.
"After a while, I figured I was getting too old to fight. I hung up my gloves and started guiding younger fighters. I just lucked out, I guess, because I've done pretty well for myself." Gabriel smiled a shy smile, making it obvious that he was uncomfortable talking about himself. "So what about you?"
Zoey sighed. "Well... I don't really have a job. I was managing this store before- 5kin5? You know, with fives instead of S's?"
"Yea, I love that shop. Some of the greatest items in my closet are from there. It's got a great global feel. Why'd you stop working there?"
"Well my ex, the guy from earlier tonight... He owns that store. And when I walked in on him in his office with a cashier.."
"Oh. I'm so sorry." Gabriel looked into her eyes and the sadness she held there. It was no wonder the girl behaved as she did. No wonder she had no idea how much value she possessed. His hand closed over hers on the table, and it was as if he sent a jolt through her.
A jolt that resulted in a glass of red wine spilling all over him.
"Oh my gosh! I.. I can't believe I..!!?!" Zoey threw herself across the table, trying to pat him dry with her napkin. "Oh.. I'm so sorry."
Gabriel had nothing to be sorry about now, of course, because the view he got of her cleavage made him forget about the shirt all together. Zoey was so busy cleaning him up, she didn't even notice. When he caught himself, he grabbed her hand to calm her.
"It's ok, really."
Zoey blushed. "I only live a few minutes away.. I could wash your shirt for you? I just feel so badly about this..."
Gabriel smiled. "That won't be necessary. It's late. Did you drive? I can take you home- it's on my way."
"You remember where I live?"
"When a girl kisses you like you kissed me, it's hard to forget where it happened."
They shared the silence and a long gaze before getting up to leave.
"Really, it's not a problem. I can just take care of it at home. This shirt wasn't terribly expensive anyways." Gabriel tried to convince her, but she had her mind set on cleaning his shirt. He doubted that a red wine stain would come out.. He always had trouble with bamboo fabric.
"No? Well then I'll just give you cash for it. How much?" Zoey went to grab her purse, knowing she had a ten dollar bill in there.
Gabriel smiled. "$30."
She stopped in her tracks and turned back, completely in shock. "You paid $30 for a t-shirt?!?! What are you, insane?"
Before he could stop her, she had grabbed the bottom hem of the shirt and was pulling it over his head. She smiled a satisfied smile and headed into her bedroom. "Make yourself comfortable. And please help yourself to anything in the fridge."
She found several methods online, and figured she'd try them all if she had to. After club soda, baking soda, rinsing, and vinegar, she had given up. By the time she made it out of the laundry room and back into the living room, Gabriel was asleep (in SO much glory) on the couch.
She considered waking him, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She turned off the television and grabbed a quilt from the storage ottoman. After covering him up, she headed to bed.
A pounding at the door jostled her awake. She figured Ben was dropping by to make a formal apology. It wasn't Ben.
"What, no good morning? I brought coffee." He said with an evil smile. "And danish."
She had half a mind to slam the door in Briar's face. It was pretty ballsy of him to just show up at her door unannounced- especially given the nature of their lack in relationship.
"Briar, go away." She had one hand on her hip and the other in her messy tresses, trying to look nonchalant.
Before he could try to convince or sway her, Gabriel appeared, with messy hair- sans shirt.
"Oh. You're entertaining." Briar once again locked eyes with the man, who was slowly making his way over to the door. When Gabriel reached the door and stood behind Zoey, arms crossed and straight faced, Briar nearly threw himself at the man. But, as his father always said, a man never started a fight- he only finished them.
"Oh, nice to see you again, Leaving." Gabriel twisted his lips to form something like a smile. But really, smiling was the last thing he wanted to do. This guy was a predator. That creature that goes 'bump' in the night? That was him. And he was causing Zoey pain.
"It's Briar, actually." That smug look came back again, and this time, it was mounted with annoyance. Who was this guy, anyway? How long had they been dating? It had been months before Zoey would let him stay the night. And was she fucking this guy?
Gabriel closed the space between his body and Zoey's, and leaned down to kiss her cheek. "Do you want me to go?" His whisper sent a chill through her body and for a moment she forgot the Briar was even there. She shook her head and pressed her back further into his chest. His arm snaked around her waist before he said "Good."
Briar, fed up with the displays of affection, handed Zoey the coffee in his hand. "Well. I guess I'll catch you around."
As he stormed off to his car, he made sure to crumble the bag containing the two danish and throw it into the trash bin on the sidewalk.
It wasn't that he wanted Zoey back; he just hated competition. And he was not the losing kind.
As Zoey closed and locked the door, her mind raced.
'Does he really like me, or is he just making things hard for Briar?'
'What am I doing?!'
'What is HE doing?!'
The last question was because as he removed the coffee from her hand, he pulled her toward him- they were inches from one another, and Zoey feared another life-altering kiss. "I should go. I've already caused enough trouble, and I don't want to overstay my welcome."
Zoey closed her eyes and the words just fell out of her mouth. "No. Stay."
They went into her bedroom, closed the curtains, and went back to bed. There were no preconceptions. There was no pressure. Just two lonely people; a little less lonely.
Just when I think I've got it all figured out, life throws me a left hook. Good morning, Dennings. Good morning world. I'm going back to bed... With an angel.