Taking Rose's hand, Gabe led them up the porch and knocked on the front door. It swung open immediately, and a butler in a neat suit bowed them inside.
"If you'll wait here, please, I'll fetch Miss Angela for you." They waited in the entrance hall for Angela to arrive. Rose and Liam, Gabe could see, were itching to run off and explore. Knowing they would probably break something, he kept a close eye on them both. Jordan retreated moodily to one corner, his arms folded, while Phoebe looked around at large tapestries and animal skin rugs with interest.
Angela eventually came down the huge staircase, wearing a park of dark jeans and a white blouse. Bailey followed close behind her, wearing all black, his superior scowl already on his face. Angela greeted Gabe with a peck on the cheek, before turning to the rest of his family, beaming. Gabriel quickly pointed out who was who, willing each of his siblings to behave themselves and be nice. Liam and Rose immediately commandeered Angela's attention, dragging her all over the entrance hall and asking about the intricate vases and paintings. Rose was particularly interested in an oil painting of a palomino mare, which Gabe recognised as Angela's horse, Starlight.
"Would you like to meet her?" Angela asked, taking Rose's hand. The kids all eagerly trooped out to the stables with Angela. Gabe was about to follow them, when he felt Bailey's hand close around his wrist and pull him back.
"Did you talk to her?" He asked, almost desperately. Gabe nodded.
"She wouldn't let me quit." He rubbed his ear slowly. "I think you should tell her. It's the only way to let her know why you're not interested. She might give it up, once she knows." Bailey let go of Gabriel's wrist, looking disappointed.
"I thought she'd listen to you." He muttered. "I thought she'd drop this…" Gabe patted his shoulder awkwardly. Bailey shook his head firmly. "I can't tell her." He whispered.
"Why not?" Gabriel asked. "If it gets her off your back…"
"She can't keep a secret… If my parents found out…" Bailey shivered. "My older cousin's bisexual. My aunt told my mum, hoping to have someone to talk to about it. Instead, my mother refused to talk to any of my aunt's family again. Mum used to love my little cousin, Sophia. When I was born, there were a few complications, and she had to undergo a hysterectomy. She'd always wanted a daughter, so she used to dote on Sophia. After Matthew came out, she acted as if she hated all of them… My uncle lost his job a few months ago, and my aunt was demoted at work after budget cuts. They had to move to a smaller house because they couldn't afford to pay the mortgage. Mum refused to even talk to them about their problems, never mind giving them a bit of financial help."
"Isn't your entire family rich, then?" Gabriel asked. Bailey shook his head.
"My mum married my father for his money. His business was just taking off, and doing really well, and she thought it would do better in the future so she married him. The rest of her family and most of my father's are doing fine, but they're not rich like us." Gabe opened his mouth to answer, when sharp footsteps on the marble floor made them both look over. The butler was heading towards them.
"Dinner is ready, Master Bailey. If you'd like to go to the dining room..." Bailey nodded.
"Angela and the others have gone to the stables. Shall I fetch them?" Gabe asked.
"No bother, sir." The butler pressed a small button on the wall beside the light switch. "Follow me, please." The butler led them to the dining room, made sure they were seated and had drinks, before leaving to fetch the dinner. Angela and the kids came in a few minutes later, chattering happily.
"Can we get a horse, Gabe?" Rose asked eagerly.
"No." Gabe said firmly. Angela laughed. The butler came back into the room, pushing a large hostess trolley. He slid open the side panel and quickly placed plates in front of them all. Gabriel felt his mouth begin to water as he looked at a three rolls of smoked salmon, stuffed with cream cheese and watercress. Waiting until everyone had their own plate, Gabe tucked in hungrily. None of them had ever had salmon before, smoked or otherwise. He was pleased to see Phoebe in particular was eating hungrily, instead of nibbling.
Liam and Rose were still happily chattering to Angela as the main course arrived. Even Jordan looked faintly interested as plates piled high with tender strips of roasted lamb, roast potatoes, carrots, peas, gravy and Yorkshire puddings were placed in front of them. Gabe was listening to Phoebe and Bailey talking quietly while he ate, wishing Jordan would try a little more to interact, when he felt something brush against his leg. He stilled for a moment, but when he didn't feel it again, he shrugged it off and kept working his way steadily through his dinner.
However, as the desserts were served, homemade brandy snap baskets, filled with homemade strawberry ice cream and drizzled lightly with chocolate sauce and blackberries, he felt the thing brush against his leg again, a little harder. Gabe realised it was Bailey's leg. Moving his own leg away, he felt Bailey's move with it, so that their knees were still touching. Keeping his face straight, Gabe firmly kicked Bailey's ankle. The leg was quickly removed. Thinking he'd won, Gabriel started on his dessert again. A moment later, he felt a sharp pinch on his hip, and yelped softly.
"I bit my tongue." He said quickly, when Jordan and Angela looked at him. When they looked away again, he glowered at Bailey, and discretely shifted his chair a few inches away. The butler cleared the empty plates away and Phoebe flopped back in her chair with a sigh.
"I'm so full." She groaned. "I don't think I can get up, ever." Bailey smirked, and hauled her to her feet.
"What do you guys want to do next?" Angela asked, also rising. "Do you want to see the games room?"
"Yeah!" Rose and Liam exclaimed. Jordan sat a moment longer, before he beckoned Phoebe and followed Angela. Gabe and Bailey trailed behind in an awkward silence.
"You didn't have to kick me, you know." Bailey said finally, in a slightly whiny voice. Gabe shot him a look.
"Well, keep your leg to yourself next time." He said firmly. Gabriel saw Angela led the twins into a room down at the end of a long corridor that led off the entrance hall. He lengthened his stride a little, hoping to outpace Bailey, but the other boy's hand gripped his wrist firmly and dragged him into another, smaller room off the main corridor. Gabe was about to protest loudly, when Bailey's lips smothered his own. Gabe stood in complete shock for a moment, feeling Bailey's hands move slowly to cup his face, before he regained his senses, and pushed Bailey firmly away. "What are you doing?" He growled, wiping his mouth firmly. Bailey stared at him for a moment, before he flushed bright red and turned away.
"Sorry." He whispered. "I just… want to see what it was like." Gabe stared after him as he ran from the room and disappeared into one of the house's many, many rooms. Gabriel stood for a moment, before he hurried down the corridor and joined Angela and the others in the game room. Phoebe and Jordan were playing snooker on a full sized table that was situated in the middle of the room. Angela, Liam and Rose were playing some sort of kids driving game on an Xbox. Gabe watched them for a moment, before he went over and started scoring for Phoebe and Jordan, who were arguing over the values of the coloured balls. He went over to umpire their game.
"You have to pot all the reds, then the colours, then the black." Phoebe said firmly, flicking Jordan's ear. He scowled.
"It's the colours, then the reds." Jordan said adamantly, chalking his cue. Gabriel snorted, and pulled the triangle from the hook on the wall. He set up the balls properly and grabbed a cue from the rack.
"You pot one red, then one colour. Any colour. After all the reds are gone, you do the colours in the order of their value. Yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black, worth two, three, four, five, six and seven point respectively."
"How do you know?" Phoebe asked.
"I watch the snooker world championships every year." Gabe replied.
"Sad act." Jordan muttered. Gabriel stuck his tongue out and moved behind Phoebe.
"Right. Put the white ball here, between the brown and the green ball, inside the 'D' section, and hit it towards the red balls." Phoebe nodded and aimed her cue at the cue ball. The red balls separated neatly as the white ball collided with them. "Now its Jordan's turn and he has to try and pot one of the reds. If he does, he can pot any of the colours he likes, then another red, and so on, until he misses. Then it's your turn again." He watched them play, keeping score on a little chalkboard.
Eventually, after Phoebe won by a narrow margin, Gabe quietly suggested that they should get home. The twins reluctantly put down the controllers for the Xbox and stood up. Angela ruffled Liam's hair affectionately, and fetched their coats with them. Phoebe and Jordan followed Gabe back down the corridor to the entrance hall, where Angela had already phoned the chauffeur.
"Where did Bailey go?" Angela asked as Gabe helped Rose put her shoes back on. He shrugged.
"He went upstairs, somewhere." Jordan herded the kids out to the car when it arrived, leaving Gabe on the doorstep with Angela. She handed him an envelope, which he pocketed with a small smile.
"I'm going away with my dad for a couple of weeks this Saturday, so I won't be in touch for a while." Gabe nodded.
"Call me when you get back, and we can go out sometime." Angela nodded. Gabriel hesitated, before leaning forward and kissing her gently. He let his lips linger on hers for a moment, before he drew back with a smile, and clambered into the car beside Jordan. Rose and Liam were both making icky faces. Phoebe giggled and patted Gabe's hand.
"She's really nice, Gabe." She shifted closer and rested her head on his shoulder. Gabriel stroked her hair, and smiled when she fell asleep a few moments later.