Authors: A. Zavarelli
Falling into Surrender
Cover Photograph © 2015 Dollar Photo Club/ Coka
The morning sunlight filters through Gabriel’s curtains, bathing my cheek in warmth as I sprawl out across his bed. It’s a warm June morning, and all of New York is coming alive on the streets below. I’m still wrapped up in his blankets and going on very little sleep, but there’s a smile on my face as I rub my swollen eyes.
Last night, I dared to crack myself wide open. To unleash all of my demons and tell Gabriel the raw and unfiltered truth about Victoria Colletti. It feels like a piano has been lifted off my chest, and even if it doesn’t make anything better, I’m glad I told my story.
Before I can go seek him out, the man himself appears in the doorway, holding a phone to his ear. He’s wearing nothing but his black briefs, and when my gaze travels south, he cracks a smile and shakes his head.
“Hang on a minute,” he says into the speaker.
He saunters over to the bed and gives me an all too brief kiss before pulling away again.
“I didn’t expect you to be up,” he says. “It’s still early.”
“I know it’s still early.” I roll my eyes and throw my head back on the pillow dramatically. “So what are YOU doing up?”
“I’m just making a couple calls, and then I promise you’ll have my utmost attention.”
“Okay.” I shoo him off with a pouty face. “Go do whatever you need to do.”
He smirks and goes back to his phone conversation while I shuffle into the master bathroom. I’ve never been inside of it before, and I’m more than a little curious to see what it looks like. One of the perks of being upgraded to girlfriend status, I suppose. I get to sleep in Gabriel’s king size bed
use his bathroom.
I’m not surprised to find more gray tiles and décor, but the open stone shower adds a nice touch to the place. It has double shower heads and one of those sweet water proof stereos built into the wall. After flipping through the stations, I decide on one aptly called
Stepping beneath the hot spray, I let the water sluice over my body and wash away any remaining tension in my muscles.
Wannabe by The Spice Girls
comes on over the speakers and I do a little victory dance, belting it out like it’s 1996.
A moment later I’m wrapped in Gabriel’s arms, his chest vibrating with laughter. “Didn’t know you were a fan.”
“Are you kidding?” I say seriously. “This is my jam.”
He chuckles and pulls me in for a kiss, which I return enthusiastically by gripping his ass and pulling him against me. His erection is digging into my belly, and he’s making those sexy little groaning noises that I like so much. So I’m surprised when he pulls away and holds me at arm’s length.
“Not this morning baby,” he says apologetically. “We have a busy day planned.”
I look up at him curiously. “Doing what?”
“Just wash up quickly and we’ll go.”
“Really?” I frown.
“Believe me it’s taking every ounce of strength I have not to take you right now,” he says. “I promise this has nothing to do with what you told me last night.”
Just as my nagging insecurities rear their ugly heads, he squashes them down with those words. I relax into his touch and allow him to wash me, repeating the same process on him once he’s through.
After our shower, he tosses me another one of his tee shirts and a pair of sweatpants. The tee shirt isn’t a problem, but after I’ve slipped into the pants, I realize I can’t walk without holding them up around my waist like Urkel. Gabriel laughs at my dilemma and helps me roll them down, tying one of my spare rubber bands around the excess.
“It’s just till we get to your apartment,” he says.
“We’re going to my apartment?”
“Yes.” He nods, his expression turning serious. “You should check in with Alanna after last night, and I have something important to tell you both.”
When we get to my apartment, I’m relieved to find Alanna in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.
“Sorry I didn’t check in with you last night,” I say sheepishly.
“It’s okay.” She smiles. “I figured you were probably otherwise preoccupied.”
Gabriel stands back with an odd expression on his face, and I shoot him a questioning glance. He clears his throat, his gaze swinging between Alanna and I.
“Uh, I need to talk to both of you. You might want to sit down for this.”
I take a seat at the kitchen table and drum my fingers across the wood as I wait for him to start. He’s never looked so nervous before and it’s making me a little anxious in response. Especially since he’s been acting strange all morning.
“First of all,” he begins, “Alanna, you should know that Victoria and I had a very long talk last night. She told me everything about her past.”
Alanna’s hand tightens around her mug as she looks at me for assurance.
“Yes, it’s true,” I reply.
“Oh my God.” She lets out a relieved sigh. “That’s good. I was hoping you would.”
“You were? Why?”
“I just think that maybe he can help you somehow. He has more resources than we do, Toto.”
“Well, he can’t,” I snap, crossing my arms in frustration. “I only told him because I think he deserves to know the truth. But I won’t let him get involved…”
“I’m already involved,” Gabriel interjects. “Whether you like it or not, Victoria. And Alanna’s right, I can help you. You just have to trust me. But first, I have something important to tell both of you.”
I turn my attention back to him though I’m far from ready to let this subject drop.
“After you told me everything last night, I couldn’t sleep. This morning I had a friend run some background information. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate Eleanore, because it seems she is pretty good at hiding herself. And she has the means to do so now that her father’s passed away.”
“Of course she has money now too,” I groan. “That’s just icing on the cake.”
“A friend of mine is checking into it,” Gabriel continues, looking so hopeful I can’t say anything to rain on his parade. He’s grossly underestimating how good Eleanore is at this, just like everyone always has.
“But he did find something else this morning,” he says. “Something important.”
Alanna and I glance at each other, holding our breath while we wait.
Gabriel’s eyes dart towards Alanna as he explains. “Your husband Mitchell, well I don’t exactly know how to say this… but you don’t have to worry about him anymore. He was killed in the line of duty two years ago. A routine traffic stop that went badly.”
Wrong or right, his words fill me with relief. But something is off, because Alanna doesn’t look relieved at all. In fact she doesn’t even look surprised. She hangs her head in shame, and my stomach somersaults at the implication of that guilty expression.
“I already knew,” she whispers weakly.
“What do you mean you knew?” I demand.
I don’t want to believe that she would keep something like this from me. That she could lie to me like that.
She looks up at me with pleading eyes, silently begging for my forgiveness. “I couldn’t tell you.”
“But why?” I croak.
She casts an irritated glance in Gabriel’s direction as if this is his fault somehow. “I should have known you would have found out.”
“How could you not tell me this, Alanna? We’ve been running for years and…” Suddenly it hits me. The realization that Alanna doesn’t need to run anymore. All of her problems are solved. That’s why she let herself fall in love with Nathan. Why she’s been trying to convince me to stay.
“Oh, God.” I sink into my chair. “How long did you think you could keep this charade up?”
“I don’t know,” she says weakly. “I wanted to tell you, but I could never find the right time. I owe you my life, Victoria, I couldn’t just walk away from you. And I knew if I told you, there was no way you would let me keep running with you.”
“Well you were right,” I say softly. “I won’t let you run with me anymore. This is good news, and I’m happy for you, really I am. But it changes nothing for me.”
Alanna shoots a desperate glance at Gabriel, panic seeping into her features. He walks up behind me and cups my shoulders in his strong hands, managing to soothe me with even the slightest of touches.
“Victoria, I’m going to help you,” he insists. “And you will let me. We both care about you, and nobody is going to let you leave here by yourself. You don’t have to do this anymore. I can protect you.”
“No, you can’t!” I raise my voice in frustration. “You just don’t get it. She will kill you, Gabriel. She’ll kill Alanna, and anyone else who’s in her way. I cannot involve either of you. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it has to be.”
“I want you and Alanna to come stay with me,” he says softly. “You’ll be safe at my apartment.”
Alanna glances at me, her eyes imploring me to take up his offer.
“I don’t know,” I say, knowing full well that isn’t going to happen. “I need to think about this first. Everything’s moving too fast.”
Gabriel sighs, probably expecting nothing less from me. “Fine. You have two days to wrap your head around it, but you will be coming with me. I won’t give in on this Victoria. But in the meantime, I need you and Alanna to come with me this afternoon because I’m teaching you both how to shoot.”
We spend the afternoon at the shooting range, Gabriel patiently teaching us the ins and outs of handguns. He insists on us keeping a small handgun in the apartment for protection until I agree to stay with him. I don’t shy away from the gun because I’ve grown up around them. I already know how to shoot rifles, but I feel more confident knowing I can protect myself if I need to. Alanna takes a bit more practice considering she’s never shot a gun in her life.
Gabriel drops us both back off at our apartment later that evening. He tries to stay, hovering over me, but I regretfully tell him to go home and catch up on work. I need some time to figure all of this out. I still don’t want him getting involved, but after this morning’s bombshell about Alanna, I don’t know how much choice I have. I’m afraid if I leave Alanna here, Eleanore could still come after her. She knows we’re friends. She knows we’ve been running together for years. And I’m sure Eleanore is certain it would be one of the quickest ways to bring me to my knees.
Going after someone that I love.
The next afternoon, Nathan picks Alanna up for the evening on the assumption that I’ll probably be busy with Gabriel. I haven’t heard from him yet today, and I don’t know if he plans on seeing me tonight or not. The thought of being without him, or Alanna for that matter, fills me with sadness.
This is what my life will be like again if I run. Completely alone. I’ve been mulling over Gabriel’s offer to stay with him though I’m not sure why I’m even considering it. I know he’s trying to be protective, and it’s a really nice offer, but deep down I don’t want it to happen under these circumstances. I love Gabriel, and our relationship has progressed further than I ever thought it could. The idea of having something real with him is torturous because I know it’s just an illusion.
Just as I’m contemplating my options, there’s a knock at the door, followed by the voice of the familiar delivery man.
I open up and he hands over another gold box with a note card tucked carefully on top. When I sit down and take off the lid, I find a dozen red roses tucked inside.
Your favorite color is red, and you look beautiful in it.
My house 7:00 pm tonight.
Please wear the dress I gave you, I’m dying to see you in it.
Bring your camera.
And don’t worry, there will be no paparazzi… just you and me
My heart gallops inside my chest, wondering what he has planned for tonight. I completely forgot about the red dress stashed in my bedroom closet, and suddenly, I can’t wait to wear it for him.
The rest of the day drags on. I toy with the notion of exploring the city and taking some more photos. But Gabriel is still being stubborn about the whole safety issue. He even went as far as suggesting a bodyguard when he’s not around. The idea is absolutely ridiculous, and I told him as much. Eleanore isn’t stupid by any stretch of the imagination, and one man wouldn’t stop her from accomplishing what she sets out to anyway. I managed to convince Gabriel to hold off for just a couple more days while I consider the idea. When I pointed out that I haven’t even been in New York that long, and there’s no way she could have traced me here yet, he reluctantly agreed.
When six o’ clock finally arrives, I shower and carefully slip into the elegant red dress. The fabric feels soft and luxurious against my skin, and I can only imagine what it will feel like once Gabriel gets his hands on it.
I apply some makeup, opting for an old Hollywood glamour look with liquid eyeliner and the perfect shade of crimson lipstick to match my dress. I take the time to straighten my hair so that it falls in a sleek cascade down my back. And when I’m done, I slip into a pair of strappy silver stilettos to match the silver rhinestone detailing around the waist.
As I look at myself in the mirror, I have one of those rare moments where I actually like what I see. The dress is exquisite, with a deep open back and a high slit up the thigh, showing off just the right amount of flesh. It hugs my figure and makes my curves look soft and feminine. But I know as soon as I step onto the street this feeling won’t last. That little voice will be inside my head, questioning all of the things I dislike about myself.
Before I let that feeling take over, I gather strength in the form of several deep breaths and steel my nerves. I will not let those feelings win tonight. With one last twirl in the mirror, I leave my apartment behind, heading straight for the man that I love.
Downstairs, Paul is waiting for me at the curb, and he raises his eyebrows in surprise as he greets me. During the car ride to Gabriel’s apartment, the nerves grow a little bit stronger. I like the color red because it feels bold and powerful, but tonight I need it to serve a different purpose. The purpose of making me feel like the woman Gabriel sees when he looks at me.
Easier said than done.
When I arrive at his door, I smooth out the fabric one last time before I knock. A moment later the door whirs open, and my chest squeezes at the sight before me. Gabriel is draped against the frame, wearing a crisp black tux and shiny black dress shoes. His eyes sweep over me in lazy appraisal as he ambles towards me in a predatory fashion. He pulls me inside for a slow, seductive kiss, effectively disposing me of all of my wits.
“You look exquisite.” He breathes against my ear.
I murmur incoherently as his cologne lingers between us, rich and warm and enticing in every way. He reaches for my hand and leads me down into the living area, and I follow like the puppet I am. I notice that the place has been cleaned up, all the broken furniture and glass replaced, and to my surprise the place feels much homier than before. The new furniture is gray but much softer with touches of blue sprinkled throughout.
Gabriel stops at an open space in front of the floor to ceiling glass windows, the city lights twinkling below us for the perfect backdrop. He retrieves a small remote from his pocket, hitting a couple of buttons to effectively dim the lights and bring the stereo to life around us. I look up at him questioningly, but he just gives me a sly smile as he wraps his hand around my waist like a proper gentleman. The soft beats of a familiar tune come over the speakers before I recognize the song. It’s
Save the Last Dance for Me
by Michael Buble.
“I’m not a good dancer,” I squeak as he begins to move.
“Just follow my lead,” he reassures me with a wink. “Like you always do.”
I close my eyes for a moment, allowing all of my tension to flee as I relax into the guidance of his arms. Our bodies move in easy synergy across the floor, the beat of my pulse quickening when I drink Gabriel in. He dances like he fucks, completely and utterly ruthless in his perfection.
“When I was at the charity event without you,” he says, “enduring Anya’s endless attempts at conversation, all I could think about was you in this dress. Dancing with me, watching your beautiful curves moving against my body. You were all I thought about that night. You’re the only woman I ever think about like that anymore. I wanted to have this moment with you and nobody else.”
Tears spring to my eyes as I nod in agreement. “I love you,” I whisper, squeezing him in my arms. “So much.”
He stoops down to ghost his lips across mine. “I love you too, Victoria. And it scares the hell out of me how much.”
I smile in complete understanding as the music comes to an end, plunging the room into silence once more. Gabriel takes my hand in his and grabs my bag from the entrance, pulling out my camera. He leads me down the hallway to his room, where he proceeds to spin me around in circles until I’m dizzy with laughter.
“What are you doing?” I try to hold back my grin as he sets me down on the bed and lifts the camera in front of me. He snaps a few shots in quick succession, like a complete pro. Figures.
“I love that smile,” he says.
I feel awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera lens, but Gabriel doesn’t miss a beat. He leans down and kisses me hard until I’m breathless and needy with desire. Then he pulls back and snaps away shamelessly.
“I love that you aren’t afraid to show me how much you want me,” he says.
I groan and cross my arms like a petulant child. “Am I that transparent?”
He snaps a couple more shots before I try to swipe for the camera.
“And I love those beautiful red lips when you pout like that.”
“What are you doing?” I ask irritably.
“I want you to see yourself the way that I do.”
I look at him like he’s speaking another language I can’t comprehend. But wasn’t that exactly what I wanted during the ride over here tonight?
“Come,” he instructs me, holding out his hand.
I reach up and take it, and he leads me over to his dressing table, complete with a large mirror in front. He turns me to face the mirror and stands behind me, snapping another photo before I frown and try to turn away. He grips my chin, gently turning me back to face the mirror.
“Look at yourself, Victoria,” he commands. “Look how beautiful you are.”
“I don’t want to,” I croak. “It feels weird.”
He pulls my hair back away from my face and holds it in his hand in a makeshift pony tail, taking a moment to kiss my neck and just hold me.
“It shouldn’t,” he says gently. “I want you to learn how to be comfortable with yourself.”
I stare at my reflection, still feeling awkward, but knowing that he’s right. It occurs to me that I’ve never really felt completely comfortable in my skin, especially around Gabriel.
My eyes trace the lines of my short, curvy figure and I try to dislodge the lump of emotion in my throat. All I can see is pale skin, dark hair, and a heap of imperfections staring back at me. Eleanore’s words haunt me.
Big nose, fat thighs, ugly duckling.
I want to feel pretty, but it feels like an illusion. I try to turn away again.
Gabriel’s hands press my forearms onto the dresser before me, effectively arching my back into him. He skates his fingertips down the sensitive skin of my open back before he bends down and whispers in my ear.
“I’m going to fuck you, right here, like this. And I want you to watch, Victoria. Watch the way your body responds to my touch. Watch the pleasure that I receive from you.”
I swallow and try not to look too eager, but his hooded gaze is setting off all sorts of crazy reactions in my body.
“Do not close your eyes,” he commands. “Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I breathe.
“Good girl,” he purrs.
His hands leisurely stroke the silky fabric of my dress, caressing my waist, my hips, and then my butt. A shiver of delight runs through me as he places his palm on the skin of my lower back, pressing me flat against the dresser. Then he stoops down, gathering the fabric of my dress and inching it slowly up my legs and over my hips. He groans when he sees the black lacey panties I’m wearing, cupping the cheeks of my butt in his hands. He slides the scant material down my legs, lifting me to pull them off and spreading my legs at the same time.
I’m open and exposed as he sinks to his knees, pressing his face into my wet center. Without pretense, he grabs my hips and pulls me against his hot tongue. I watch myself mewling with pleasure as he licks and caresses me with perfect strokes. His head bobbing between my thighs has to be the most erotic thing I’ve ever seen, and it quickly sends me right over the edge.
I’m still gasping for air when he stands up behind me, ripping off his jacket and dress shirt. He unzips his pants and lets them fall to the ground below, revealing his muscular legs and throbbing cock. He takes the engorged flesh into his hand and strokes it twice before positioning himself behind me.
I watch his reflection as he presses against my back, his eyes hooded as he sinks inside of me. He takes his time, allowing me to expand around him as he grips my hips and kisses my neck. The minute I’m comfortable, he starts to move. I watch the transition from man to beast unfold before me, his lips parting, and his eyes flaring with molten heat. He pounds into me with unrestrained hunger, as if he can’t help himself.
I can feel his muscles contracting throughout his body, working against me as he grunts and nips at my ear. I cry out with every thrust, the pressure rising to a powerful crescendo.
“Come, Victoria. Come for me, now!” he orders. And at his simple command, the walls burst around me. I nearly collapse, but Gabriel catches me just as he shudders inside of me.
A moment later, he pulls me into his arms and unzips my dress from behind. It falls to the floor like a soft red cloud beneath me, and he scoops me up in his arms, gingerly placing me into his bed. I let my head fall back on the pillow as he removes my stilettos, massaging each foot with gentle fingers. And then he lays down beside me, staring softly into my eyes. He never takes his fingers off of me, trailing them up and down my waist until my collar catches his attention.
“I love that you wore this for me,” he says. “You have no idea how sexy it is when you do things to please me.”
“I like to please you.” My fingers brush the collar around my neck. “And I love knowing that it means I belong to you. I don’t think there’s anything sexier than that.”
A smile creeps across his beautiful lips, and it’s one of those rare moments I’m certain only I get to see. Gabriel Maddox, relaxed and happy.
“That’s good baby,” he rasps. “It makes me so happy to hear that.”
I take a deep breath, deciding that while we’re on the subject, I’d like to give voice to one of my nagging thoughts. “I like that it’s aesthetically pleasing to you,” I say. “But I want you to use it for its intended purpose too.”
He sits back hesitantly, his brow furrowing in concern. “Victoria, its intended purpose is to serve as a reminder of the fact that you belong to me.”
“Yes.” I roll my eyes. “As if I need reminding of that.”
“Perhaps it’s me who needs reminding,” he says flatly.
His words take me by surprise, and I thread my fingers through his on instinct, holding him closer.
“What do you mean?”
“I just mean that when I look at you sometimes, I still can’t believe how lucky I was to be the guy on the street that you crashed into. It could have been anyone, but it was me.”