Meeting Gabriel Hunter-Law turned Emily Black’s quiet life into a rollercoaster. Living a fairy-tale with the man she loves was perfect. Is perfect too good to be true? Enemies they’d made begin to circle, looking for revenge. Circumstances cruelly forced them apart, leaving Emily to doubt if she really knows Gabriel at all. Will the demons in Gabriel’s head win? Can either Emily or Gabriel dream of a happy ending?
“So how long have you known Gabriel?”
Well now, there is a question. In my heart, I’ve known Gabriel forever. It’s like someone else’s life in the time before him that I remember. I’ve actually only known him for a little over six weeks. Six weeks, not counting the months before of silently obsessing and quiet attempts at flirting with him at his coffee shop when I wandered in to buy the occasional hot chocolate and a sticky bun for my mother. I had not even had the courage to ask him his name at that point. Everything changed in some crazy, crash collision when I met him by chance at his nightclub, Incubus, and discovered who he was. One lunch date later he invited me to stay for a week to avoid my brother’s visit and get to know me better.
I still can’t fathom why I agreed to go. I’ve always been so cautious in life and never reckless, but I have no regrets. My life will never be the same again. It‘s a million miles from the life I had. The life where I’d given up everything—my flat, my post graduate studies, and my cat—and returned to Devon as a live-in carer for my terminally ill, difficult mother.
I’m far away from the inexperienced, unconfident woman I was such a short time ago. I already almost don’t recognize myself.
After he refused to fulfil his family’s arrangements that committed him to marry a woman he didn’t love, Gabriel arranged for us to get away for a while. Following a quick trip back to Devon, we left Plymouth, but only after an impromptu meal with my lifelong friend Lucy and her fiancé, Rob. I had insisted on it, if for nothing else to explain. Gabriel was inevitably charming, warm, and kind, everything he is to me, but the side he often keeps quite hidden from the rest of the world.
The next day we flew to Barcelona for a long weekend, followed by a three-night stopover in Singapore. Then a blissful fortnight in the Maldives on what I imagined to be our own private island in a beach house on stilts over the water. Two weeks of Gabriel in little more than shorts, tanned, and smouldering. When not wrapped around each other, we had talked about everything and anything. He is everything I knew he was, but even more. I’m happy. Genuinely happy and completely in love. All consuming, overwhelming, bewildering love to a point I may actually burst.
We are in New York now, which is a completely different pace, and Gabriel is working beyond the previous discreet sessions on his laptop. I’m spending time with his best friend Toby’s long-term girlfriend, Katie. She reminds me of Lucy.
“Earth to Emily? Didn’t realise it was such a difficult question.”
Katie is grinning at me over her Cosmopolitan, expectantly.
“Not long.” I’m embarrassed for the first time in her company.
She rolls her eyes in frustration, and I blush as her grin widens.
“How long is not long?”
I concede. What does it matter? I’ve no doubt Gabriel will have told Toby anyway. “About six weeks.”
Katie chokes on her drink, so I continue.
“I’d been going to his coffee shop for a few months before. I didn’t know who he was until I went to his club for my best friend’s hen party.”
She smiles, composure restored. “What does it matter? It’s funny. I told him it would happen like that. He never believed me.”
“Would happen like that?” I relax again.
She shrugs. “Love—that he’d fall in love like that and fast when he least expected it. And he has. Toby agrees. We’ve never seen him loved up like this with anyone, like ever. Bet Serena was thrilled. You must have met her, I imagine. Can’t believe his father thought he could make Gabriel marry her.”
I frown, not wanting to think about Serena, then cringe when Katie continues, bringing up the one person I want to think about even less than Serena.
“We knew Sam, too. They came over a few times. Gabriel didn’t have to hide her as much here as he did at home. From what Toby’s told me, she’d been sniffing around for a while until he took the bait. He couldn’t see her for what she was. Damn fool. He was quite innocent back then, and she was good. Hooked him, then reeled him in until it was too late for him to see how toxic and poisonous, she was. Older, experienced woman. She got him exactly where she wanted him. Never did she bring out the giddy, lovesick boy you have brought before us. Though looking at you, I can tell you’re completely besotted as well. He’s relaxed with you. He was always edgy with Sam. Tense. She wound him up and made him worry constantly. He told Toby she’s been trying to contact him, which you already know. Take it from me, nothing good will come from that for either of you, so keep her well away. She married his father, for fuck’s sake. I still can’t believe she did that to him and expects him to speak to her, but she always was a bolshy, demanding bitch.”
“He knows what she’s like. I don’t think he’d fall for it now.”
I’m defensive for Gabriel’s sake even though she means nothing by it. Samantha, like Serena, continues to haunt my subconscious. The beautiful ex-fiancée still on the edges of his life as his stepmother and the wealthy high society woman he had known all his life who his father attempted to force him to marry.
She sighs loudly. “Don’t underestimate her, Emily, seriously. She knows exactly which buttons to press. He loved her. Not like he loves you, but he loved her all the same, and he fell completely under her spell.”