Part 7

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Furious knocking game from the front door. Bronte and I jumped in our skins. I swear, even Samwise jumped from the unexpected pounding.

Bronte swirled to look across the living room to the front door. Then she spun back to me, her eyes widening. "What time is it?"

Rose.

My hands flew over my pockets, searching for my phone. "I don't—" I mumbled, shooting past her to the kitchen. To the oven clock.

Nine.

"We're late!" Bronte shouted at my shoulder, her fingers digging into my arm. "Oh my God, we're so late!"

My eyes flew back to the front door. "Oh, we blew way past late, Charlotte. An hour and a half? We straight up blew her off."

Bronte shuddered. "She's going to kill us."

The pounding came again. "I see your light on! Open the door Stella, Bronte!"

Rose didn't sound happy.

Bronte hurried to the door.

I spun around, snatching Samwise from the air and moving to my bedroom door to fling it onto my bed. Then I slammed the door shut, hoping I didn't shut it through one of them. "Cyril, can you and Oliver—"

"Say no more," he interrupted, his voice low. "We'll stay in the book nook, if that's ok?"

"My bedroom," I insisted with a sharp shake of the head. "I don't know if Rose will be able to detect you—can she?"

"I think time and proximity play a role," he said. "So maybe? She's here often enough."

Bronte threw open the front door and stepped aside as Rose barreled into the room. She wore a deep-set frown beneath her Friday-night makeup. And even though she wore a floral dress with soft pink high heels, it did nothing to dampen the fury in her stance and eyes.

"Bedroom," I hissed under my breath and hurried to intercept her. "Rose! I am so sorry. We—"

She held up a hand, her eyes flashing. "I don't want excuses. You aren't even dressed yet! We were supposed to meet for dinner—what happened? No, wait, I don't want to hear it. How could you do this?"

Her eyes began to water. She let out a huff of air and then stormed past me toward the bathroom. "Great," I heard her grumble under her breath, "just freaking great. Now I'm going to smear my make-up."

Bronte stepped closer to me and we watched the bathroom door, huddling together in the living room, waiting for her to return.

When she did step out, her composure had returned. She eyed us coolly. "Noah Walker."

Bronte and I blinked at each other. Then at Rose. "Huh?"

"Noah Walker," she repeated sternly. Her hands rested on her hips. Despite the fact that she was the shortest out of the three of us, at that moment, she towered. "I've been seeing him for the past month."

I turned toward Bronte again. Her confusion mirrored my own—we'd never heard of anyone named Noah Walker before, let alone that he was dating Rose.

Rose wasn't the type to gush nonstop about her dates but she did usually tell us when they were happening. When she'd met someone, when they went out, how it went. Typical female banter but she always told us these things.

We both turned back to Rose. "What?"

"Stop doing that," she waved dismissively. "It's creepy—both of you talking at the same time. And yes, I have been seeing Noah Walker for the past month. And, tonight, I was going to introduce the pair of you to him."

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