Twenty Eight

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Madeline veers the car left, headed to the Human Bean

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Madeline veers the car left, headed to the Human Bean.

"Maybe this was a mistake," I say. "Maybe we should forget the coffee. I need to get back."

She ignores me and turns the car anyway. "I know," she says, "but listen to me, please. Take a few minutes. Process all of this before you go into your dorm room demanding answers from the cupcake god."

Damn it.

She's right.

I say nothing which Madeline takes as me conceding. I suppose that I am.

Any other day, the insane line up at the coffee shop would be tolerable but because I'm in a rush, today is not that day. The line up looks as though it's a mile long and I find myself bouncing on my feet, my nerves sparking with every passing second.

Madeline's hand darts to my shoulder and presses down firmly. "Jesus. You're gonna give yourself a stroke. Deep breaths, Lola. Just relax."

"He's hiding something."

"We've established that much. And trust that you'll find out what that is, but first you need to be able to control yourself."

Who the hell knew Madeline Mason possessed such wisdom? Not me.

I follow her advice and begin to draw long, deep breaths while the line up moves at a snails pace. I'm not sure how much time passes before she turns to me. "What's your order?"

"A mocha for me. Coffee with cream, no sugar for Jax."

She turns to the barista. I see her mouth moving. I know she's ordering but a million thoughts are racing through my head and I cannot focus on a single thing she says.

Zena's dark, foreboding words are ricocheting around my brain like a defective pinball machine.

The way in which he came is the way in which you leave.

My stomach lurches and it's impossible to tell if it's caused by distance with Jackson or my fried nerves, which feel as if they are cauterizing themselves together in a solid mass of unease.

She grabs a brown paper bag—evidently having ordered pastries. As soon as the recycled take out tray is in her grasp, I'm spinning on my heels and headed back to her ridiculous compact car. I wedge myself into the front and grab the tray from her, eager for her to drive. A fire is burning inside me to get home as quickly as possible, to Jackson and hopefully to answers.

We pull up to my dorm and Madeline puts the car into park, removing her coffee from the tray while it's still in my hands.

"I'm heading back to my apartment," she says. "I'm a phone call away." She sets her coffee in the drink holder and puts her hand on my shoulder. "You can do this, Lola. Just be calm and assertive."

"Thank you," I say. "Truly. You've been a great friend." I mean it. I'm not sure what I'd do right now if not for Madeline.

"Of course. Remember if you need anything, anything at all, just call."

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