Adonis in the Flesh Ch. 02byelle137©
*Thank you all for your amazing comments and feedback on the first chapter. Big thanks to Pennlady for schooling my ass on punctuation; I was getting a little lazy. This story is building on its own and at its own pace, so it may be a bit slow and I apologize! Lots of characters are walking around in my head! This definitely isn't a "quickie" so if that's what you're hoping for I'm sorry. I promise more answers in the third! Enjoy*
Elle had just set her sandy feet through her apartment door, when the phone rang. She jumped, so deep into her thoughts; she hadn't expected the sudden assault on her ears. Flopping onto the sofa, she answered the phone with a sigh.
"Hello," she said as calmly as she could.
Without stopping for one breathe, a loud, excited voice rang into her ear, "Good! You're there! You know I seriously think it's time you got a cell phone. Elle honey you won't believe what just happened!"
Jenna, she thought. She smiled at her friend's enthusiastic tone. She could just picture her jumping up and down on the other side of the line. She and Jenna had instantly become friends when Elle had moved to Toronto, seeking a place to stay. Jenna had been her first roommate in the city. Everyone said they were sisters for all intensive purposes, although they couldn't look more different. Where Elle was curvy and full, Jenna was thin and toned. Where Elle was bronze, Jenna was light, and blonde. Yet despite all their differences physically and otherwise, Jenna had been a rock she had so desperately needed. She was the only person who fully knew about Elle's past. It spoke volumes of Jenna's character that she had weeded out the details and loyally kept them a secret from everyone they knew. Much to Elle's disappointment, Jenna had moved out of their apartment to move in with her boyfriend Eric a year ago. It didn't change much though, they practically saw each other every day, and if not, it was almost certain one would call the other. Today, however, Elle wasn't much in the talking mood.
"Hellooo? Elle, you still there?"
"Yeah sorry hun, just spent a little too long in the sun I guess. So what's this amazing news you have for me?" forcing some excitement into her voice.
"Eric. Just. Proposed!" she squealed, punctuating each word.
"What?!" Both women began screaming into their phones like school girls. Elle unexpectedly began tearing up for her friend. She was beyond happy for her. Jenna and Eric were made for each other; they weren't complete until they met -- peas in a pod as they say.
"So, will you be my maid of honour?" she asked when they both calmed down.
"I -- ofcourse! Jen! I'm so happy for you! This is going to be the wedding of the century!" she said, truly excited now. If there was anything Elle loved, it was a happy ending, or in this case a beginning.
They spoke of wedding details until Elle's ear almost fell off, before they planned a lunch date for later in the week. Although Jenna had distracted her for a few minutes, Elle found her mind refused to forget about Gabe. The minute she had hung up with Jenna, her thoughts were drawn back to him. He had a way of demanding her attention, but also that of his friends. He was a natural leader. She thought of what she had felt when he touched her. It was nothing short of electric. And that kiss. She would be lying if she said she didn't enjoy it. She'd met men over the years, but none had the effect he had on her. It didn't make sense, she didn't know a thing about the man other than he played soccer, yet she couldn't get him out of her mind.
"Augh!" she blew out exasperated, plopping her head into the cushions. "He was perfection," she mumbled into the pillows, her voice muffled.
"Great. I'm talking to pillows now. Perfect." Too bad they don't talk back, she thought.
Sitting up and making her way to the shower, she thought about the past, how she came to be where she was now, the upcoming wedding, and most of all Gabe.
"There you are! You know, I wasn't kidding when I said you should get a cell phone! You're twenty minutes late!"
Elle did have a cell phone, but hadn't given out the number except to two people she would probably never see again. It hadn't rung in 7 years, thankfully, she thought. It was meant for strictly life or death circumstances.
"Jenna, I'm so sorry," she huffed, brushing her hair out of her face "I was in a meeting and I really couldn't get out any sooner, you know how it is -"
"Yeah yeah, big architect, big projects, got it. Let's eat, I'm starved!"
They made their way into Centro, one of the city's best Italian places. The line ups usually wrapped around the corner, and they didn't take reservations. It was lunch, however, so it was not as crowded as it would have been with the dinner crowd. The owner, Toni, was always making his way around the tables, getting to know his customers. Elle had been no exception. They both became good friends over the years despite the 20 year age gap; he even brought her to the back of the kitchen a few times to cook for her personally and never anything off the menu. He constantly said, a beautiful woman always inspired him to create a beautiful meal. Of course, who better to cook it than the owner himself? Elle spotted him speaking to a couple in the back. She smiled at how naturally he could make people feel like they had known him forever. He had had the same effect on her when they met, his easy personality had been one of the reasons she confided in him her deepest secrets. Despite being in his late forties, he was a handsome man, and still single. Like a young Andy Garcia or Alec Baldwin. Of course he's sexy, he's Italian and has more charm than a hundred men combined, Elle thought. He looked up, as if feeling her gaze, smiling he winked at her.
"Ellena, dear, so good to see you again! Ah and you've brought the lovely Jenna," he said with a hint of an accent, as he made his way over to their table.
She smiled at his use of their full names. As much as she told him to call her Elle, he refused, saying it was almost blasphemous to shorten names so beautiful. Everything was bloody "beautiful" to Toni.
"Toni, it's been too long!" she said as they kissed each other's cheeks.
"It has, but no matter, I shall prepare something special for the occasion, yes?"
"Even if I refused, I know there's no changing your mind. Plus, it truly is a special occasion, Jenna's engaged!"
"Wonderful," he said clapping his hands together, "and about time! Jenna darling, congratulations! I expect an invitation you know." He flashed a dazzling smile, to which no woman could possibly refuse a request from. After all, it was Toni who introduced his best friend Eric to Jenna.
Jenna laughed "Of course Toni, I could never leave you out of such an important day."
"Bene, I shall start your lunch ladies, only the best for my two favourite women," he winked again and made his way to the kitchen.
As they sat, waiting for Toni to return with something that would most definitely be heaven in a dish, they chatted about how Eric had proposed, in every minute detail. They had been on their daily jog, through the beautiful trails surrounding their suburban home. The trails lead to steep cliffs that had the most breathtaking views of Lake Ontario. Elle had been on these trails several times, and they never failed to amaze her every time. Eric had feigned a sprain at the specific spot where the trail opened and you could see for miles in every direction. The hundreds of tall trees surrounding them, before the trail took a dip into the shore below, where the beach was laid out for miles. The sun hitting the water, reflecting millions of little crystals back up at the world. He pulled the ring from his pocket and proposed to Jenna right there, all sweaty in their shorts and tank tops, but it was absolutely perfect. Elle sat across from her friend and smiled so wide while the story was being recounted. Jenna's eyes were distant reliving the moment; Elle trying to imagine it.
They were broken out of their reverie when Toni returned with two servers at his side holding large plates in each hand. Elle caught different smells as they set down each plate. Basil, rosemary, thyme all floated into the air. It looked as good as it smelled. For starters he created a phyllo pastry filled with goat cheese, eggplant, sun dried tomatoes and red peppers on top of an arugula salad. Toni had prepared two pizzas, each with only the best ingredients. Next to those was a plate of gnocchi, which he no doubt knew Elle loved. There was also fresh pasta that was rolled in layers of mushrooms and ricotta and herbs with the most heavenly tomato cream sauce.
"Shall we ladies? Don't want it to get too cold!"
"Toni, this looks absolutely delicious! You really do spoil us!" Elle practically squealed.
If she loved anything, it was a well cooked meal. They began eating all together, pausing at times to make small talk. Elle or Jenna would occasionally sigh contentedly and look at each other with a "is this the best thing you've ever had or what" look on their face.
"So, Elle darling, when are we going to hear wedding bells chiming for you hmm?" Toni winked at her.
Elle choked a little on the rose wine she was sipping. Setting down the glass, she let out a nervous laugh. Jenna and Toni had been on her ass for as long as she could remember. The subject of men was not one she enjoyed talking about often. It led to other questions, which she most definitely did not want to answer. She hadn't even mentioned Gabe to Jenna yet.
"Whenever I meet someone as amazing as Eric. Or you," she added quickly as she caught the mock hurt expression on his face. He laughed, nudging her with his shoulder.
"Well you have a problem there dear, there is no one as amazing as I," he announced in all grandeur, laughing as he dodged Ellena's hand as she made to smack the back of his head. "Really Ellena," he continued ducking his head again, "don't wait too long! You don't want to end up a wrinkly old maid with 10 cats and a vibrator to keep you company."
"Why you old charmer, you. It's a miracle you can get women in bed, the way you speak to them!" she replied her hand finally finding its target.
"Who are you calling old?" he asked rubbing his head where she had playfully hit him. She simply rolled her eyes.
Jenna caught her eye, and she knew what Elle was thinking, despite all the joking. It was difficult for Elle to trust people, with good reason. It would take her so much longer to get involved with someone than most people. That was IF she ever did. Jenna felt sad for her friend. It was unfair the life she was dealt. The constant looking over your shoulder, the fear she hid so well. She wished she could see her truly relax, and enjoy life without worrying about consequences. As well as Ellena hid it from other people, Jenna noticed how she would glance around her all the time, searching faces. She noticed how she stiffened lightly when people touched her; she noticed how sometimes her smile never reached her eyes. There was too much sadness in them. Jenna had to give it to her though, Elle hid it pretty well. The only reason Jenna could see these things was because she knew about what happened, and she had lived with her for years. She had seen what that bastard Jared had done to her, mentally and physically.
Jenna thought back to the first time she had met Ellena. She had shown up on her doorstep after putting out an ad for a roommate; Elle had looked so tired to Jenna, that some sort of instinct made her want to help out. After a brief conversation, Jenna had decided Elle was normal enough for a roommate; she hadn't realized how wrong she was -- at least about being normal. There was nothing normal about Ellena's life and Jenna had learned that by accidentally walking into the bathroom the girls both shared and seeing the scars on Ellena's body. Jenna had a feeling if that hadn't happened, she still wouldn't know Ellena's story.
Jenna walked into her apartment, rushing to the bathroom to relieve herself after waiting on the insufferably long subway ride home. She didn't really think to stop and check if anyone was in the bathroom -- the draw backs of living alone for so long. She burst through the door her hands struggling to undo her zipper while hopping from one foot to the other, before she stopped at the sight in front of her.
Elle had just stepped out of the shower and let out a small shriek as she saw Jenna standing there. Both women stood shocked before regaining some composure, as Ellena grabbed a towel and Jenna zipped her pants back up. It would have been hilarious if Jenna hadn't noticed something strange.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry, I just got home I didn't realize --" Jenna's voice caught and her eyes widened as she caught a glimpse of the scars along Elle's ribs and stomach, before she could cover up with her towel.
"Its -- Its ok, I just finished my shower. The bathroom is all yours!" Elle replied brightly, not quite looking Jenna in the eyes as she brushed past her, towards her room.
What the hell she thought. Those scars, they looked painful, and somewhat new. What happened to her? Would it be too pushy of her to ask Ellena this early in their friendship? She had to admit she was curious about her new roommate. She didn't know much about her, she never spoke of her family or her life before moving here. She had only been living with her for a few weeks now. What the hell, Jenna thought, I'm never one to be so shy.
She turned from the bathroom and knocked on Elle's door. No answer. She opened the door and peeked in regardless. Elle didn't have much, just a suit case with some clothes, her new bed, a dresser and mirror someone had left on the sidewalk that she managed to refurbish. Jenna found her sitting on her bed, facing away from her. As she came around she realized Elle had tears running down her face.
Shit. This can't be good, Jenna thought. What did this poor girl go through?
"Elle, honey, are you ok?"
"I'm fine," she glanced up finally with a watery smile.
"Bullshit. Why are you crying in here, and what the hell did I see in there? What happened to you?"
"Jenna...there's so much you don't know. You've been so nice to me and I feel so horrible for keeping something like this from you. It's not fair to you."
"Elle, what are you on about?"
"'I've been meaning to tell you, but it can't leave this room. Jenna I'm serious, no one can know."
"Okay, I promise. No one will hear it from me." What the hell is going on, she thought. How serious is this? Jenna had figured an accident had been the reason for the scars and her obvious distress. She didn't know how wrong she was.
"A few months ago, before I moved here, my fiancé and sister...I- I killed them. "
Jenna's head snapped up, and she was brought back to the present. Toni and Elle were staring at her with bemused looks on their faces.
"Where have you been the past 5 minutes? Dreaming of Eric?" Toni teased.
"Sorry guys, just a trip down memory lane," she said smiling quickly.
"You've barely touched your food lady, want to share?" Elle wiggled her eyebrows and speared gnocchi with her fork without waiting for a reply. Jenna noticed Elle's plate was empty. She was always surprised by how Elle practically inhaled her food. The girl had to have a hollow leg or something.
Sighing, she pushed her plate towards Elle so they could share.
"So, how was the beach last week? You got a pretty good tan for this early in the year," Jenna asked, trying to steer the conversation away from her thoughts
"That might have to do with the few hours under the sun I spent playing soccer with six other guys," she said casually.
She regretted saying anything almost instantly as both Jenna and Toni bombarded her with questions. She couldn't blame them though; for Elle, any interaction with men was a big deal, they all knew why. She gave them a quick summary of what happened, leaving out the kiss between her and Gabriel. There was no way she was heading down that memory with these two right now. They would never let her rest until she somehow contacted him.
"Please tell me you got one of their numbers Elle! You need to get out there, meet people again."
"I didn't, and I don't plan on going back to find them either. You both know how it is and nothing's going to change, that's that, so drop it."
Jenna glared at her friend. She could be so stubborn sometimes. If only she could get Elle to see that she didn't have to put her life on pause forever. Jenna's wish was about to come true.
Gabe was walking down his favourite street. It was lined with the cities best restaurants and boutiques. Ever since last week, he couldn't seem to get Ellena off his mind. She was in his dreams (and not the PG kind) and thoughts constantly. He was hoping he would run into her at the beach again, but she was nowhere to be seen. Maybe this weekend, he thought with a smile on his face. He wanted a chance to talk to her, and if he was being honest with himself, to kiss her again...even if the cost was another slap in the face.
He just couldn't help himself. Usually he was more careful with girls, especially after the fiasco with Keira. But there was something about Ellena he had instantly found intriguing. He'd noticed her even before Josh began taking horrible shots at her. Actually, a lot of men noticed her, there was an obvious line of them turning their heads as she walked past, but she seemed oblivious to it all. At first, it was simply her looks that caught his attention, but he'd been surprised when she kicked the ball back at Josh -- a woman who can play, that's my kind of girl! It made him wonder what other surprises she was hiding. He'd been glancing over every now and then, wondering how to approach her. Josh had provided the perfect opportunity. I'll have to thank him, he thought. She had looked so cute when she was angry, that he'd wanted to laugh. She was a feisty little thing. He puffed out a sigh, I need to stop this. She's just another girl I met.
Despite himself, he was thinking about their brief kiss when he finally reached his destination. As he glanced up at the windows of Centro he couldn't quite believe his eyes. Sitting at one of the restaurants window tables was Ellena, and another blonde woman. In between them was his brother Toni laughing as Ellena smacked him upside the head. This has to be some cosmic joke right? He thought. How the hell does Toni know her and why haven't I seen her here before? He wondered if Toni had any past with her. His brother was popular with women; it seemed he was destined to be an eternal bachelor. The thought of him with Ellena sent a surge of jealousy through Gabriel. What is it about this woman that's gotten under my skin?
Her long dark auburn hair was flowing down her back in loose waves. She was dressed in black pants that seemed to hug her body and a royal blue blazer fitted in all the right places. His breath caught as he continued staring at her, still unable to believe his eyes. As if sensing his gaze, she looked out the window and froze. Their eyes locked on each other and he flashed a smile and walked in, with a new bounce to his step.
What the hell? What's he doing here?! Keep calm. He's probably meeting his friends for lunch, maybe he won't come over here. Oh please, please don't let him come over here! Her thoughts tumbled in her head one after the other. Next to her Toni jumped out of his seat and practically yelled, "Gabe! You're early!" while clapping him on the back.