The next day, Bella and I set out for our shopping trip. I could sense her nervousness as we walked to the mall, and I tried to keep the conversation light and easy, hoping to distract her from whatever was bothering her. When we arrived, we headed toward the department store that had everything we needed for the wedding.

As we approached the elevators, Bella hesitated, her steps faltering. “I, uh, have a thing about old elevators,” she admitted her voice barely above a whisper. “They make me really anxious.”

I glanced at the old, creaky elevator doors and immediately understood her fear. The metal doors looked like they had seen better days, and the elevator itself emitted a low, unsettling hum. “It’s okay,” I said, trying to sound reassuring. “We can take the stairs if you prefer.”

She shook her head, trying to muster a brave smile. “No, let’s just get it over with.”

We stepped into the elevator, and I could feel her anxiety heighten as the doors clanged shut. To distract her, I started talking about anything that came to mind. “You know, I used to have a fear of heights,” I said, hoping to take her mind off the situation. “It was pretty bad when I was a kid. I couldn’t even look out the window of a two-story building without feeling dizzy.”

Bella looked at me, her curiosity piqued despite her fear. “Really? How did you get over it?”

“It was a slow process,” I admitted. “One particular moment stands out. I was about twelve, and my family went to an amusement park. There was this giant Ferris wheel, and my dad insisted that I go on it with him. I was terrified, but he promised he’d be there with me every step of the way.”

The elevator jolted slightly as it began its ascent, and Bella gripped the railing tightly. I continued, trying to keep her focus on my story. “As we went higher, I closed my eyes and held onto my dad’s hand. He kept talking to me, telling me about the view, about how beautiful the city looked from up there. Eventually, I opened my eyes and saw it for myself. It was still scary, but having him there, keeping me distracted, made it bearable.”

Bella managed a small smile. “That sounds nice. Did it help?”

“Yeah, it did,” I said. “It didn’t cure my fear overnight, but it was a start. Sometimes, having someone there to talk to, to keep you grounded, makes all the difference.”

The elevator dinged, and the doors creaked open. Bella let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “Thanks, Jay,” she said, her voice steadier. “I guess it does help to talk about other things.”

We stepped out into the store, and Bella seemed a bit more relaxed. We made our way through the aisles, picking out dresses and accessories for the wedding.

After she tried on a couple of dresses, Bella went back into the fitting room to try on a black one. I waited outside, idly flipping through my phone. But as the minutes ticked by, I started to sense something was wrong. It was taking her too long to get out. Concerned, I moved closer to the fitting room door.

“Bella, you okay in there?” I called out, trying to sound casual.

Her response was muffled and sounded strained. “Uh, Jay, I think I need some help…”

Without thinking twice, I stepped inside the fitting room. The view that greeted me was both amusing and…intriguing. Bella stood there, her hands in the air, the black dress tangled around her shoulders. The fabric was twisted awkwardly, exposing her bra and underwear.

As I moved closer to her, the small space of the fitting room seemed to shrink even further. I carefully untangled the dress from her shoulders, my fingers brushing against her skin. The contact sent a jolt through me, and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she looked, even in such a vulnerable and awkward position.

The dress wouldn’t fit, and Bella tried to take it off, which only made the situation more intense. She struggled to pull the dress over her head, and as she did, it slipped down further, leaving her almost naked in front of me. The sight of her, so close and exposed, made the small fitting room feel unbearably hot.

Bella’s eyes met mine, and for a moment, the air between us seemed to crackle with tension. I was so tempted to kiss her right then and there. Her lips were so close, and the way she looked at me made my heart race. But I knew I couldn’t. Not here, not now.

I suddenly felt like I needed to get out of there. A few more seconds, and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. The temptation was overwhelming, and I could feel my self-control slipping away.

“Bella,” I said, my voice strained. “I think you’ve got it from here.”

She looked at me, her cheeks flushed, and nodded. “Yeah, thanks, Jay. I think I can manage now.”

I took a step back, giving her some space, and quickly exited the fitting room, my heart pounding. The cool air of the store was a welcome relief, but I couldn’t shake the image of Bella from my mind. That had been too close, and the feelings she stirred in me were stronger than ever.

As I waited outside the fitting room, trying to calm myself, I realized that this shopping trip had become much more than a simple errand. Bella was becoming more important to me with each passing day, and while I wanted to be there for her, I also needed to navigate these growing feelings carefully.

When Bella finally emerged, fully dressed and looking more composed, I smiled at her. “Ready to go?”

She nodded, a small smile playing on her lips. “Yeah, let’s go.”

We headed over to the men’s section next. As we browsed through the racks, Bella seemed more relaxed, occasionally making playful comments about the clothes I picked out. I found a suit that fit perfectly, and she gave me an approving nod. “You look great in that,” she said, her eyes sparkling.

“Thanks,” I replied, feeling a sense of satisfaction. “I think this will work.”

Afterward, we returned to the women’s section, determined to find a dress that would work for Bella. She went into the fitting room once more, and I waited outside, hoping this time it would be different.

A few minutes later, Bella emerged wearing a dress that made her look like a princess. It was a soft, flowing fabric that accentuated her figure perfectly. The dress was elegant yet simple, with a hint of sparkle that caught the light beautifully.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely taken aback. “You look amazing.”

Bella blushed, her eyes meeting mine. “You think so? It’s not too much?”

“It’s perfect,” I assured her. “You look like a princess.”

She twirled in front of the mirror, a wide smile spreading across her face. “I think this is the one,” she said, her earlier frustration completely forgotten.

As we headed towards the elevator to go back downstairs, I suddenly stopped, realizing that the alarm tag was still attached to my shirt. “I need to go back and get this removed,” I said, handing her the bags. “Go ahead and take the elevator. I’ll meet you downstairs by the perfume section next to the entrance.”

Bella nodded, her face showing a mix of relief and anxiety. I completely forgot about her fear of old elevators. Only when I saw the elevator doors opening downstairs and found her collapsing into my arms, crying, did I realize how scared she had been.

“Oh, Bella,” I murmured, wrapping my arms around her. She was trembling, tears streaming down her cheeks. I gently rubbed her back, trying to comfort her. “I’m so sorry. I forgot about the elevator. You’re okay now.”

She clung to me, her sobs gradually subsiding as I held her. If I could have stopped time right there, I would have, because I didn’t want to let her go. She felt perfect in my arms, and even though she was crying and looked like a mess, I adored her even more. Her vulnerability made me realize how much she trusted me, and being there for her in that moment was all that mattered.

“It’s okay, Bella,” I whispered, my voice soothing. “You’re safe now. I’ve got you.”

She pulled back slightly, looking up at me with tear-filled eyes. “I was so scared, Jay,” she admitted, her voice trembling. “I didn’t think I’d make it down.”

“You did great,” I said, wiping a tear from her cheek. “And I’m here now. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

We stood there for a few more moments, holding each other as the world around us continued to move. In that instant, everything else seemed insignificant. Bella’s safety and comfort were my only concerns, and I was determined to be there for her in every way possible.

Eventually, she calmed down, and we made our way out after we took a moment to regroup. “Thank you, Jay,” she said softly, her voice filled with gratitude. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

“Anytime, Bella,” I replied, giving her a reassuring smile. “I’m always here for you.”

As we walked out of the store and headed to the subway, I couldn’t help but feel a deeper connection with her. Bella was more than just a colleague or a friend—she was someone I genuinely cared about, and I was committed to being there for her, no matter what challenges came our way.

That night, as I reflected on the day’s events, I realized how much Bella had come to mean to me. Her trust and vulnerability had created a bond that I was determined to nurture and protect. In that moment, I knew that being there for Bella was more important than anything else, and I was ready to face whatever the future held, as long as we were together.

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