Pre-Series, Claire goes on a school trip to New York
A Chance Meeting
Claire dropped the permission slip on the counter in front of her mother, "Can I go please? It's so cool! The team made it to the finals in New York! Please Mom?" Claire pleaded.
Sandra looked down at the paper, "New York? That's a bit far to be going alone isn't it? You're only 15."
Claire's face brightened with hope, "I won't be alone. The whole team is going and the coach. Plus she's bringing a couple chaperones along. I'll be perfectly safe. And it's only for a few days, right after school ends, so I won't miss any classes. Please?"
Sandra looked into Claire's puppy dog eyes, "Oh, alright. Who could resist that face? But, you have to call everyday and let us know you're okay. Deal?"
Claire nodded, all smiles, "Deal! You're the best!" she said as she threw her arms around her mom.
"Finally! I thought we'd never get here." Jackie said looking over at Claire. Together they said, "New York baby!" Laughing as they unbuckled their seat belts, they grabbed their luggage and made their way into the hotel with everyone else.
Claire was almost through the doors when something caught her eye, she turned to see more clearly, Gray and Son Watch Shop. Claire hurried and caught up to her coach, "Ms. Carson, are we going to have any free time tonight? I want to check out the store across the street; my dad's birthday is coming up."
Ms. Carson looked thoughtful for a moment, "Across the street?"
Claire nodded, "You can see it from the lobby doors."
"Alright Claire. You can go after we check in. make sure you take your cell and we're having dinner at 7 so be back by 6:30." Ms. Carson agreed.
A bell tinkled as she opened the door to the watch shop, the place was well-lit and seemed very clean; there were clocks and watches everywhere and they all ticked in unison. Claire was so lost in the multitude that she jumped when a voice came from behind her, "Can I help you miss?"
Claire spun around so quickly that she almost fell but quick hands reached out and stabilized her. A bolt of heat flashed through them as his hands touched her bare arms. He stepped back and held out his hand, "Gabriel Gray. Owner." Claire smiled and took his hand, "Claire Bennett. Still figuring it out."
She took a slow look around, "This is all yours? That's impressive. You can't be more than a few years older than me. Let me guess, 23?"
Gabriel blinked slowly, "Uh, close. I'm 25 as of yesterday."
"Really? Did you do anything fun? With your girlfriend maybe?" Claire asked him, biting her lip.
Confused, Gabriel looked at her, noting the flushed skin and dilated pupils, "Not really. Mother made a small cake. And I don't have a paramour. Am I wrong in my assumption that you're asking me out of attraction?"
Claire looked startled, "No, you're right."
Gabriel nodded, still confused, "Why?"
"Why am I attracted to you? I don't know Gabriel. You're cute in a dorky way but I have a feeling that you'd be seriously hot if you knew how to dress." Claire explained.
Gabriel cocked his head to the side, "How do you mean?"
Claire sighed, trying to figure out how to avoid insulting him, "Well, you should so something with your hair, use gel or something, give it some style. And the bland khaki color does not work for you. Black would be good, blue too, dark colors are what you need. And you've got to lose the buttoned up look. You should never button your shirt up all the way unless there's a tie involved. Just think about it."
"Mother would have a fit." Gabriel said sadly.
Claire looked at one of the many clocks, "Oh, crap. Is that the time? I'm going to be late, I'm meeting a few friends for dinner. I'll try to come back later, maybe tomorrow. I gotta go. Bye!"
Gabriel stood there, watching as she ran out the door.
Claire stood, feeling her flesh knit itself back together as the man who had attacked her and Jackie stepped out of the shadows, "Gabriel?"