Chapter 13

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November 2014

The ride over to the country club goes quickly with me using the time to berate Caroline for her little stunt of pushing me into the men's locker room and then the rest of the time is spent with her bugging me for details about what I saw inside. I ignore her and look out my window. The estate of the country club is breathtaking. Large, green and wet on this rainy fall day, I still can't help marvel at its beauty. It reminds me so much of the home the Akenbrand's lived in. Perfectly manicured green lawns dotted with trees in spectacular fall colors; it's as if everything was staged by a set designer like a playground for the rich.

Caroline parks the car and leads me through the enormous main building. If I wasn't following her there is no doubt I'd have no idea which direction to go in. She walks up a set of stairs and saunters over to a large desk in the corner of the room, smiling flirtatiously at the young man behind it. He goes all pink and gets flustered while scanning her card. She signs me into the guest book and leads me up another staircase. When we reach the third level, she veers to the left and down a beautifully decorated hallway. The wallpaper alone looks like artwork! But the actual artwork! Rows of oil paintings perfectly capturing the scenes around Connecticut are hung majestically along the walls. They look so familiar to me but I know I've never seen them before. I want to stop and study them further but I have to hurry to catch up to Caroline as she enters a huge game room where a bunch of kids are hanging out,

"This is the Country Club in the winter." Caroline's obvious displeasure with the scene here reveals why we've only visited in the summer to lie out by the pool. Some kids are playing video games around a massive television, others are playing pool, and some are just lounging on the couches. The average age is probably thirteen. Most of them look bored out of their minds and more than half of them are on their phones.

"Will he know to find me here?" I ask nervously as I join Caroline on a high bench at a bar where she orders us two iced teas.

"The gym is just down that hall so he'll have to come through here." I follow Caroline's words and look over towards a big entrance at unfortunately exactly the wrong time. Max is strolling through the doors, sweaty and shirtless with a towel around his neck. I hunch down and duck, praying he didn't see me. I give it a few minutes and then look up, relieved not to see him lurking anywhere near me.

"That was Max." I whisper to Caroline.

"I know," she giggles. "You should really work on your evasive tactics because he totally saw you."

"You're kidding me?" She shakes her head in mock horror. I look over my shoulder and frown.

"I'm surprised he didn't come over here and harass you. What did you say to him last night?"

"Nothing I haven't said a million times before. Is he really gone?" I almost can't believe it. Did something I say finally work? Will he finally get the hint and stop pursuing me? I let out a sigh of relief and turn back to her.

"He left but he definitely saw you."

"Who cares! He's gone! Something's finally looking up today." We drink in silence for a bit until Caroline decides to bring up the elephant in the room.

"Ellie how do you plan on asking Jared to be fine with all this? He's only known you for a month. Now you expect him to be okay with you pretending to be some other guy's girlfriend. I just don't see that happening. I think it's dangerous to even ask." I look at her and grow frustrated. Everything she's saying is true but I still don't want to hear it.

"I'm not asking Jared to go along with it. I'm simply telling him what's going on. There is no way that he'll be okay with it, but I owe it to Derrick to at least ask."

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