Until The Sunshine Fades

Six

“You know that he can probably feel you staring, right?”

Isabella startled, quickly pulling her stare away from Gerard, before she ducked her head, hoping her mother wouldn’t see the flash of pink that was growing across her cheeks. It wasn’t a first. Since the party had gotten underway, and Isabella and Gerard had been separated, she had found herself frequently looking for him in the crowd, and on a couple of occasions, her mother had caught her, something which never failed to make Isabella blush. She knew that Gerard would be fine. Once the guests had started to arrive, the opportunity to focus on Isabella and Gerard’s relationship had passed, and she knew that he’d have no trouble finding someone in amongst her parents’ guests that he could talk to, but still she kept looking for him, not wanting him to think that she had simply left him to the wolves.

“Why do you keep sneaking up on me?” Isabella mumbled.

Francesca laughed, topping off the half-empty glass of wine in Isabella’s hand. “I am not sneaking up on you” she mused “You’re just a little distracted, not that I blame you. He’s very handsome” she added.

“Mama” Isabella warned.

Francesca held up a hand. “Don’t worry” she mused “I’m not going to press for all of the details, I know that you wouldn’t give them to me, even if I did. I just wanted to say that he seems very nice. You two seem like you’re good together” she added warmly.

Isabella fiddled with the stem of her wine glass, determined to avoid her mother’s eyes. “You think so?” she asked.

“I do” Francesca confirmed “It’s really obvious that you’ve been close for a while, and I always think that is the best way to start of a relationship. You know me and your papa were friends for a long time before we got together, and now we’ve been married for forty years” she added.

“I don’t think that’s exactly how that works, mama” Isabella replied, pushing the best smile she could muster onto her features. It had started to gnaw at her. Despite the relief she felt that her parents and brothers believed that she and Gerard had something real, she had slowly started to feel guilty for lying, and her mother’s happiness at Gerard being there was only making her feel worse.

“You don’t know that” Francesca quipped.

“It’s still really early days” Isabella replied “It’s only been a couple of months and we’re still feelings things out. I don’t think I can quite picture us on our fortieth wedding anniversary yet” she added.

Francesca didn’t say anything for a moment, her stare drifting over Isabella’s shoulder, before she quirked a grin. Isabella frowned at the sight of it until she felt a light touch against her waist, causing her to lift her head slightly, finding Gerard smiling down at her softly. “Am I interrupting?” he asked.

“Not at all” Francesca mused “I’ll leave you to it” she added before she swanned away.

Gerard watched her away before he stepped into the space she’d left, quirking an understanding smile when he watched Isabella’s expression shift. He knew how she felt. After a couple of hours of introducing himself as her boyfriend, and seeing her relatives light up the news, he felt guilty, and he could see it all over Isabella’s face too. “I should have worked harder to talk you out of this, shouldn’t I?” he murmured.

Isabella snorted out a laugh. “You think?” she asked.

“You can’t put it all on me” Gerard retorted “Elena’s got to shoulder a little of the blame, too. She’s your sensible friend” he added.

Isabella laughed again before she shook her head, surveying the room around them. “I think everyone’s inside now” she mused “If we go through the kitchen, we can sneak outside and get some air before we come back through and make our excuses” she added.

Gerard nodded his head. “Sounds like a plan” he said.

Isabella smiled up at him before she held her hand out, causing Gerard to huff out a playful sigh as he placed his hand into it, allowing her to guide him through the house and out of the back door. Dropping Gerard’s hand, Isabella walked out into the middle of the lawn before she turned around, offering him a sincere smile. “Thank you” she mused.

“For letting you go through with this stupid plan?” Gerard quipped, loosening his tie slightly as he walked towards her “I don’t think you should be thanking me for that, Izzy” he added.

“It was stupid” Isabella agreed with a nod “I should have just admitted that I lied, but I still feel like I should thank you for coming with me. I actually kind of enjoyed having you here” she added.

“You like having me around, it’s OK to admit it” Gerard played along “I don’t hate having you around either” he added, wrapping his arms around her waist so that he could hug her.

Isabella didn’t hesitate to wrap her arms around his shoulders, allowing him to playfully rock her from side to side. “You know, I don’t think it’d kill you to say something actually nice to me” she mused “Although, when you tried to compliment me sincerely earlier, you did almost choke” she said impishly.

Gerard pulled out of their hug slightly. “You look beautiful” he mused.

Isabella shook her head, her cheeks turning a soft shade of pink. “You said that before” she mumbled “You effectively rehearsed it” she added.

Gerard dramatically rolled his eyes. “I adore you” he quipped “You’re one of my favourite people, and I like just being able to spend time with you. Is that nice enough for you?” he prodded, his tone bright and playful.

Isabella couldn’t have made a joke, even if she had wanted to. “I’m one of your favourite people?” she asked.

The teasing expression Gerard wore softened slightly, his impish smile growing more sincere. “Obviously” he mused “Why do you think I always answer your calls? Why do you think I followed you to your parents’ anniversary party as your pretend boyfriend? You know I care about you, Izzy, it can’t be a surprise to hear it out loud” he added, letting out a laugh.

Isabella just stared up at him, her eyes searching his features until he looked down at her.

Gerard held her stare for a few beats before he let his gaze drop slightly down her face.

Isabella mimicked him, her gaze dropping slightly before she took a tiny step closer to him, something which caused the ghost of a smile to tug at the corner of Gerard’s mouth as he ducked his head slightly. Isabella leant up, closing the small distance between them slightly before she heard the door behind them slam closed.

“It’s time for the toasts” Unai called “Izzy, put him down and get back inside” he added.

Isabella leapt back from Gerard, but didn’t turn to look at her brother, keeping her gaze on Gerard who had been quick to look away from her. “We’ll be right there, Unai” she called back.

“You’ll have plenty of time to mess around with your boyfriend afterwards” Unai chirped “The sooner these toasts are over with, the sooner we can all leave” he added.

“Unai, we’ll be right there” Isabella wanted to snap, but managed to stop herself.

“We’re coming now” Gerard called as he took a step across the lawn, only to stop and turn around, offering a hand out to Isabella.

Isabella’s stare shifted between the hand and the blank expression on Gerard’s face before she placed her hand into his, allowing him to tug her across the garden towards the house without so much as a glance back at her.
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Thanks to Jayme112234 for the comment :)