Laila smiled at the two people sitting across from her. They had planned on going to dinner with Luanne and Christian but something had come up at the last minute and Luanne's new boyfriend couldn't make it. Her old friend, Gavin, had been invited in his place. It had been over a year since Laila had seen Gavin, well over a year since she had seen how Luanne and her editor friend interacted with each other. Their conversation was effortless and upbeat, they would debate and argue with smiles on their faces, a seamless flow of ideas between them.
"What are you smiling about?" Sterling whispered to her.
She turned to him and grinned. "Do you see how happy Luanne is right now?"
Sterling glanced across the table and had to agree. Luanne was a completely different person when Gavin was around. Her guard was down, she was personable, she was actually likeable. Christian didn't bring out this side of her, he wasn't exactly sure who Luanne was around Christian, but it certainly wasn't this bubbly person sitting across from him.
"I like her better this way," Sterling whispered to his girlfriend and she released a small giggle.
"Me too," she whispered back.
The couple stared at each other for a moment and didn't say anything. They both had the same thing on their mind but had yet to talk about it. Sterling was going to be an uncle. Laila was nervous for her friend but she knew that, out of anyone, Piper could handle the stress of a baby. Sterling didn't quite know how to feel about it. His brother had never been in a situation quite this extreme before. Before Piper came along he hadn't been a big fan of commitment and now he was being thrown into a lifetime commitment whether he liked it or not.
"Are you thinking about the baby?" Laila asked him in a hushed voice, the two on the other side of the table not paying them any attention as they chatted about Gavin's job.
"Is Alistair okay?"
"I don't know," he answered honestly. "He didn't want to talk about it much this morning."
"Piper won't stop talking about it now," Laila said. "It's like she needs to talk about it or she doesn't believe that it's really happening."
"Is she going to keep it, do you think?"
Laila shook her head. "I don't know. She's not going to get an abortion but she's debating giving it up for adoption."
"Shit," Sterling swore, not sure if he and Laila would be ready to make a decision like that. "You're taking your birth control, right?"
Laila shot him a cautioning look. "Of course."
"I'm sorry, this is just so crazy."
"I know," she said with calming eyes. "But you're going to make a really great uncle."
"That sounds weird."
"It does, doesn't it?" Laila laughed.
"You know," Sterling gave her a guilty look, "if you marry me, you could be an aunt."
Laila smiled but shot him down. "Don't start that tonight."
"That's all I'm going to say about it," Sterling raised his hands in surrender. "Are you ready to go back to my place?"
"Sure," Laila said, setting her napkin on the table then leaning over to kiss him.
"We're going to head out, you two," Sterling said to Luanne and Gavin who were still deep in conversation.
"Already?" Luanne looked up from Gavin as Laila and Sterling stood to leave. They had been sitting in the restaurant for over three hours.
"I'll call you next week," Laila smiled and walked around to hug her friend goodbye. "Gavin, it was really great to see you again."
"You too, Laila," Gavin said, then stood up to shake hands with Sterling.
Luanne watched as her best friend took her boyfriend's hand and walked to the door. Sterling helped her with her coat and wrapped her scarf around her neck. Christian would do those things for her as well, the only difference was that Sterling looked like he enjoyed the task. Luanne's boyfriend just seemed to go through the motions.
"You ready to go or you want another drink?" She heard Gavin ask.
Luanne turned and smiled at him. "I could go for another drink. But let's go somewhere else. I feel like we've been at this table for too long."
"I know just the place," Gavin said and stood up, offering his hand to Luanne. She smiled and took it as she stood, her touch lingering a moment before leaving to find her coat.
The air outside was frigid, the clouds low and a light mist of rain had started falling. But Luanne didn't mind. She had grown used to the London weather faster than she had anticipated. Scarves, hats, and wool jackets seemed to suit her quite well.
"So, I've been avoiding this question all night, but I have to ask," Gavin said once they had reached the sidewalk. "What's really going on between you and Christian?"
Luanne glanced at him. His hands were shoved deep in the pockets of his coat, his grey scarf was covering his entire neck and his nose was already slightly red from the cold. But his eyes were inquisitive, their brown depths searching for an answer.
"What do you mean?" She wanted to give him the right answer, an honest answer.
"Are you serious about him?"
"Very," Luanne answered without having to think about it.
"How long have you known him?"
"I met him the first day of school," she told him. "So about two months I guess."
Gavin nodded but didn't ask any further questions.
"What about you?" Luanne broke the silence. "Have you found anyone?"
"No one serious," Gavin said after a short pause, his voice betraying a slight loneliness. "Or, at least no one who wanted to be serious about me."
"It's weird how it happens sometimes," Luanne wanted to comfort her friend. "Christian is my first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first everything. And my feelings for him happened so fast and I never dreamed he would ever like me back. It all just seems a little too perfect."
"Maybe that's how it's supposed to feel," Gavin looked at her. Luanne was beaming as she talked about her boyfriend. He wanted to tell her that she was too good for the guy, he wanted to tell her that she could do so much better. But he didn't know that. He had met Christian only once and knew that his negative feelings toward the guy were a direct result of his affection for Luanne. But he couldn't help it. Luanne had always held a special place in his heart and now that she was grown up his feelings for her were starting overwhelm him. He knew he needed to keep them in check, he knew that he shouldn't interfere with her relationship. But a few more questions wouldn't hurt anybody.
"Does he know that you asked me out tonight?" Gavin teased her.
"No!" Luanne answered with a laugh. "He's not your biggest fan."
"Really? Why not?" Gavin laughed along with her, knowing that Christian must have seen his attraction for his girlfriend.
"I don't know," Luanne said, looking at the ground.
"Oh, come on. You can tell me," Gavin pushed. "If you are hiding our date from him, it must be something pretty significant."
"This isn't a date," Luanne sounded defensive. "And the reason I didn't tell him is because he thinks that you have feelings for me. Or, at least he had a suspicion."
Gavin smiled but didn't deny what Luanne had said. The girl should know that she has options or at least start to think that she has some options. They walked in silence, the redhead next to him clearly deep in thought, until Gavin changed the subject to give her mind a break.
"Are you going home for the holidays?"
"Not for Thanksgiving," Luanne said quietly. "But I'll go home for Christmas and maybe stay through New Year's."
"Would you like to spend Thanksgiving with me, then? I don't think your Brit would the most appropriate company on that day."
Luanne laughed, much to Gavin's relief. "That would be great. Can you cook?"
"Not at all. You?"
Gavin gasped. "And here I thought you could do anything and everything."
Luanne laughed again. "I have a very wide skill set but cooking is not included. I'm always willing to learn and experiment, though."
"We'll make a day of it then. You and me, Thanksgiving, experimental cooking."
"I'm not responsible for any fires I start in your kitchen," Luanne said pointedly and Gavin laughed.
"Fair enough. And I'm not responsible for any case of food poisoning you may contact."
"Fair enough," Luanne answered and Gavin glanced down at her. She was smiling, not a wide, brilliant smile like the one he saw when she was talking about Christian, but a happy and content smile, like she was perfectly comfortable with him. It wasn't exactly what he wanted, but he would take it. He linked arms with her and smiled as she looked down, startled at his touch. She wouldn't meet his gaze, but didn't pull away. She leaned into him just slightly and sighed.
"I'm really glad I ran in to you, Gavin. I've missed you."
"I've missed you too," he said softly and picked up the pace, ready to get his friend out of the cold London night.
A/N: Sorry I'm taking so long between updates! I've been rather preoccupied lately but hopefully by the end of this week I can find some focus again :) Since I don't have inspiration to write at the moment, I've been posting chapters of a book I've already finished. It's called Not My Reality and is quite different from any of the Harper's series. Hope you can check it out :) Much love to all of you! ~ Pink