SEVEN

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We spent the evening in the den, eating the leftover pizza and playing video games. I hadn't been game to go home, so they'd offered up the couch for the night. But I'd made sure that Connor could get me to my apartment in the morning so I could get dressed, then get me to LA Beauty Marketing and Management by 8AM. It was a relief to know I could rely on him, for tomorrow at least.

I'd been slowly drifting off to sleep in the den, when the sound of two voices from the kitchen stirred me. A dull light flooded through the doorway a few feet to my right, and I lay there listening on the couch.

"I mean, think about it— that's the worst suburb in LA," the first voice was saying. I think it was Connor's.

"I agree, but it's not exactly ideal for her to stay here, either. She's not a YouTuber. She doesn't even have a secure job yet. And the only spare room we have is currently a makeshift filming room, which Jade uses for her modelling stuff."

"But it's our fault she's even in this situation. Plus, I really like her, Wesley. I think she's cool, and Kurt likes her too. She can't stay in that suburb, man."

Wait... was Connor trying to convince Wesley to let me stay here? Like, live here? In this mini-mansion?

"Connor, I hear you," Wesley replied. "But she's a total stranger!"

A pang of hurt shot through me, and I couldn't fully understand why. I mean, it was true. But I'd also thought I'd been really getting along with them.

Or at least, Connor and Kurt.

"So? We were strangers once too. We met. We got along. You've already met Wren. You seem to get along."

A pause, and I heard the sound of glug, glug, glug, as someone drank something, followed by a long exhale.

"You said it yourself," Connor pressed. "Something like that is going to happen again, for sure. She's not familiar with the city— not enough for her to survive in a place like that."

My stomach twisted nervously at the thought of going through something like that a second time. The last thing I ever wanted was to be held at knifepoint again.

Wesley let out a long sigh, and the squelch of the fridge door opening and closing met my ears.

"Let me think about it."

"Thanks, man," Connor replied. "Also I had this idea. You're probably not going to like it, but Asher's your best friend, so I thought you might be open to it. I thought of a way to reverse the bad publicity on Jade, and completely twist the story so that it backfires on Lana and Nathan. There's no way they can get around it without selling themselves out, and admitting they orchestrated the entire thing."

A pause.

"How?"

"Well, Kurt and I can't do this, because Kurt just broke up with Jennifer, and I'm dating Eileen. So you're the only other person who's been single... or at least, that's what everyone thinks."

"Wait... where are you going with this?" he asked, and there was a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

"You come out publicly and say the baby is yours, not Nathan's. That he lied, that Jade never cheated, and that you two have actually been dating in secret for a while now. If Nathan tries to oppose this, he's only going to look suspicious because he's already openly stated he doesn't care, and that he's back with Lana. So if he shows any opposition to your statement, people are going to wonder why it matters to him, especially after he's ditched the baby. And because he's with Lana, the only plausible explanation he has for caring is because he wanted to publicly ruin Jade's career."

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