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Chapter 7

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Will tries to snatch the vodka bottle off the table, but Harper knocks him away and pulls Will's arm over his shoulder. 'Seriously, mate,' Harper says. 'It's like nine o'clock.'

I awkwardly get under Will's other arm, and Harper and I lead Will out the door of the bar and up the wrought iron staircase to street level, which is way harder than it should be.

It's still raining outside and the three of us are soaked in the time it takes to walk the few paces from the bar stairwell to the front door. Harper unlocks it, while Will leans on me, and then the three of us fall into the hallway.

'Sorry about this, Jane,' Harper murmurs to me.

'Don't apologise to her,' Will says. 'She's taking Matt's room. She's going to be the new Matt!' He laughs at this, and I feel uncomfortable. I don't like the way he says it.

Harper leads us upstairs, into the flat on the left, and to the bedroom next to Matt's. Will falls out of our arms, onto the bed.

I cross my arms over my chest, feeling wracked with anxiety at the uncomfortable situation I've been forced into. I glance around Will's bedroom. He has stacks of books, everywhere, and about six empty mugs on his bedside table. Even his bed is covered in books, clothes, and unmade sheets.

'Hey, I am really sorry you had to see this,' Harper says quietly to me. 'Will's going through some stuff, recently.'

'With his ex-boyfriend?' I ask, remembering Will mentioning his cheating boyfriend.

'Uh, yeah,' Harper says. 'Do you mind just waiting for a second while I grab him some water?'

'Sure,' I say. Harper ducks out of the bedroom and down the hall to the kitchen. I lean against the doorframe, watching Will, who is now lying on top of his pile of clothes in his bed, looking like he's on the verge of falling asleep.

I decide to move some of the novels off his bed so he can sleep more comfortably. Will kicks at me as I'm grabbing book after book. I leave them in a neat pile on the floor, waiting for Harper to return.

Harper comes back with a glass of water, but he can't put it on Will's bedside table because it's already covered in mugs.

I grab the mugs off the table and find my way to the kitchen, which is next to the living room full of plants. I leave the mugs on the kitchen surface. Then I decide that I need to get out of here, but I realise I've left my handbag downstairs, in the bar.

Harper and I meet in the hallway. 'Hey,' Harper says. He grins sheepishly. 'I'm really sorry you had to see that. I promise Will's usually not like that. He's usually the best of all of us.'

'Uh, okay,' I say. In my head all I'm thinking is that I need to get out of here.

'Honestly, I don't really want to drink more tonight,' Harper admits to me. 'Charlotte and Sylvie can handle the bar without me. Actually, you know what I want? A good coffee.'

'Yeah, coffee would be good,' I say absent-mindedly, thinking that I just want to go and get my bag and leave.

Harper grins at me. 'Come on,' he says. He takes my hand, and it seems I don't really have a choice in the matter, so I follow him out of the flat, back down the stairs, and out into the rain. Instead of going down the wrought iron stairs to the bar, Harper unlocks the door to the Brew Books café. He turns on the lights, and the whole store is lit up in a soft golden glow.

The sofa and chairs are all empty, the floors mopped clean. There are no pastries on the counter, and the bookshelves at the back look more like a private library than a bookstore. It looks like a quiet, peaceful paradise.

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by elle kirkpatrick
London. A café and bookstore, run by 7 young bibliophiles. Until one...
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