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There was a brief moment before I entered the law office of John and Mackey where I debated on whether I should tell the rest of these people about the weird and random phone call I received from none other than Gabriel Montez, the first one out of the group to kick the bucket. Would it do any good to tell them now? Probably not. But I would have to tell them eventually. Especially since they're going to find it odd seeing me here at his will and testament hearing. I only knew the guy through Daniel and Marley. And after all the shit he had put both of them through, I sort of steered clear and took myself out of the picture. Habits of being the last to enter the group of misfits I guess.
I had slowly migrated towards Pasadena after high school, since the relationship between me and Daniel had gotten more serious than I anticipated. Had I known that I would grow to hate his guts, I would've stayed in New York, my home. But nonetheless, I stayed for Marley. She was my backbone and I was hers. There wasn't much that could break this crazy duo apart. Except maybe that phone call from Gabe...
"I...uh...sorry I'm late," I announced as I hurried over to the only empty seat left with my caramel iced coffee in hand. Unfortunately for me, I was conveniently sitting next to fireworks boy. He sent a confused glance my way, I ignored it and gave the lawyer my full attention. John Willis of John and Mackey Law Associates was the first to break the tension in the room and began to read out Gabe's last wishes. As far as I knew, Rita's portion had already been read out loud this morning and she refused to stick around for the rest. Sounds like the Barbie hadn't gotten everything she had wanted from her angelic husband. Not that she needed the money. Her family was loaded.
I didn't care for town gossip. It wasn't something that was done where I was from. People in New York minded their own business and kept it moving. The south was a completely different territory. Rumors about Gabe's late night visits to the Magnolia Hotel weeks before his death became just one more thing for the town of Pasadena to pass around and distort. The only person who knew the truth was the person he was visiting at that hotel, if the rumors were even true. I had learned the hard way that all rumors had at least some truth to them.
I almost fell asleep in my chair twenty minutes into this will reading until I felt a warm hand at my knee, stirring me awake. I ignored the flashbacks of what happened between Daniel and I the last time his hand touched me and opened my eyes quickly, clearing my throat as I sat up straight.
"I'm awake. What's going on?" I asked, because my attention span had decreased drastically in the past few years and will hearings were a complete snooze fest. Until you inherited something that is.
"Late night?" the question came from Michael, whose disapproving glance made me roll my eyes. He never approved of the relationship Daniel and I had, and I still had no idea why to this day. Not that I cared. We both had moved on. There was nothing left to salvage after the last fight we had five years ago.
"My bad. Continue," I said, ignoring Michael's intentional jab and looked towards John.
"Well ladies and gentleman, it seems Mr. Montez thinks he was murdered and wants all of you to find the culprit," John stated, and the room fell quiet, all of us in shock at his words. According to the police report, it had been an accident. Looks like Gabe's weird phone call was about to come in handy.
"Why not let the police get involved?" Freddy, the fit firefighter and businessman asked first and we all waited for John to answer.
"Looks like he trusted his friends more than the police. And he's awarding a million dollars to all of you in exchange for your help. You'll get to collect the money once you turn the suspect into custody. With hard evidence of course," the burly and balding lawyer claimed and each of us looked at each other in contempt. None of us wanted to come back. Much less be forced back together to solve a murder. But we owed it to Gabe. Despite our differences, he would've done the same for us. Or at least, I think he would've.
"Does his wife know about this?" Marley inquired next and John shook his head. Well, it looks like Gabe didn't trust his wife either.
"But they said it was an accident. And judging from the photos they took, I think it was too," Michael, the town's most prized EMT claimed, and I bet he was regretting not being one of the first responders called at the scene that night.
"I knew it. I knew it wasn't an accident," Daniel spoke, bringing all the attention to him as he rubbed his scruffy chin and I tried not to lick my lips. I'd dated a lot after we broke up, trying to forget the imprint he had left on me but damn him for only getting more handsome and rugged with age. His jawline was still as sharp and as sexy as I remembered. His dark and broody eyes seemed no less full of mischief and sadness and his hair grooming habits had only gotten better. He was okay without me and I needed to hate him. Severely. Now that I was single again, it was the only thing keeping me from jumping back into his bed.
"He also wanted all of you to know how sorry he was for playing a part in your dissolving friendship. And that he hopes you'll all find the closure you need at the end of this journey," John added and we all glanced at each other briefly before looking away. There was a slim chance of that happening considering it took Gabe's death to get us in the same room again.
John continued reading Gabe's last wishes and informed us of a cabin he advised us to go to, in order to find out who had killed him. A place to start this long and infuriating situation. I was tempted to opt out of this mess when I felt Daniel's hand on my knee again. It was as if he knew I was seconds away from fleeing the room and he was the only one who could talk me into staying. And he did just that the moment his gaze met mine. Gabe's death tore him to shreds and it was evident he was going to do whatever it took to ease his conscious and make this right.
"Thank you for bailing me out last night," he whispered into my ear and I kept myself together long enough to respond in the iciest way possible. Despite how hot I was feeling at the moment.
"We don't have to do this," I countered and removed his hand away from my thigh, sitting up straight in my chair, ignoring those damn eyes of his.
"I'm just thanking you."
"No. You're not just thanking me. And you know that," I shot back and since I had gotten glances from everyone else in the room, I realized my statement might've been a little louder than I intended. I winced and stood up quickly, eyeing Marley from across the table.
"Are we done here? I have a business to run," I informed John and he nodded, claiming we needed to sign some documents which would state we all agreed to help find out who killed Gabe. I wanted to get the hell out of here, so I was the first to sign and waited for Marley at the front of the law office.
"What the hell was that all about?" Marley started her interrogation and I sighed heavily as I reached for my phone to check my emails. Anything to keep me from talking about anything that had to do with Daniel.
"Gabe was one sneaky bastard. Thinking we'd all just be friends again because he got himself nuked. That's not how this works," I answered and Marley raised an eyebrow at my sharp tone. I looked away and tried not to think about the reason why I was the one Daniel had called last night to bail him out of jail for bar fighting instead of Freddy or Michael. Or Marley for that matter. Or why I even bothered to help him at all. I instantly regretted my decision to help him the moment I saw his stupid, handsome face full of cuts and bruises at the jailhouse. I had no idea how he even knew my new number. All I knew was that nothing good would come of us being in the same room together and I was always right.
"Stupid Gabe," Marley added, crossing her arms as she watched Freddy walk passed us as he glanced back towards Marley. Those two were in a different ballpark of complicated and this entire trip was giving me a migraine.
"Yeah, stupid Gabe."