Chapter 28

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He could feel the sweat rolling down his temple. “It’s nothing,” he stammered.

Julianne’s eyes narrowed at him. “It doesn’t look like nothing, Zach.”

“It’s just a bet that Liam and I had before the show.”

“Can you tell me what it’s about?”

She was acting too cool he cringed. Should he tell her? What would she do if she learned about it? Maybe it would be better if he made up some crazy story and let Julianne believe it. He could tell Liam about it and that his friend better keep his mouth shut.

But he knew Julianne.

She would understand.

Or would she?

She thinks different than the others, she’s more mature and she would think this matter thoroughly, he thought. “You wouldn’t like it, I guess…” he finally said.

 *****

Julianne’s heart was hammering despite her composure. Her wild imagination was running way ahead of her.

Could it be that the bet was about me? Did he and Liam betted he can make someone like me stay in the show?

Julianne, you’re thinking like an author. This is no television. Hear him out. Calm down.

Slowly, she took a deep breath and sighed.

“Let’s hear it,” she said, walking to the chair and sat down.

He looked stricken. He paced around, raking his fingers through his hair.

“Zach,” she called out when he did not look at her.

“It’s not about you,” he blurted out, his chest heaving. “I just want you to know that.”

That was a relief. “Okay…”

 *****

Zach didn’t know where to begin so he started where he could remember. “One night, while Liam and I were talking about love—more like arguing about it, really—we made a bet that I will ditch twenty-five women. I will not look back at them. Just ditch them and go on with my life. That’s why I joined this stupid show in the first place.” He couldn’t look at her. She was really, really silent. “But I lost it.”

“How?”

“Don’t you get it? I can’t let you go, Jules,” he almost exclaimed. “Just the thought of it is impossible.”

She just sat there looking at him.

 *****

She didn’t know what to think. A big part of her was jumping with joy after hearing it. But another part of her was telling her to back off.

What if he got tired of her? What if he would jump into another stupid bet and lost her? Or she lost him? 

“And you’re afraid to tell me about this bet because…?”

“I don’t want you to think whatever you’re thinking right now.”

Julianne snorted. “I don’t think bad of anything if that’s what you mean,” she lied—just a bit, of course.

Hope ignited in his eyes. “So you’re staying? I don’t mind doing the consequence, Jules. Just stay. For me, you’re already the winner.”

Julianne was blank for a few moments. She didn’t want to give him an answer she would have given earlier. After what she had learned, she thought that it would be best if they stick to what they had first agreed on. So, she shook her head. “No, Zach, I have to leave. We had a deal.”

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