Chapter 10: Boston Meets California

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"Boston?" Lani's voice was deathly calm, and I glanced at her. She was most definitely upset about this new information if her grip on my biceps and the look of fear in her eyes said anything.

"Oh don't play dumb with me Lani Heling." Natalie said angrily, stepping closer to us. I pulled Lani slightly closer to me, and she let me, seemed to want to be closer.

"Those were sealed." She snapped, anger seeping through her fear and shock.

"Not from someone with the right resources." She laughed—almost evilly—as she said this. She'd gotten her fathers' P.I. to look into Lani.

"Why?" I spoke up, anger tinged in my own voice.

"Xavier, baby, don't you want to know who you think you're dating?" Natalie's voice changed, becoming sickeningly sweet as she spoke to me. No wonder Lani didn't like her. She'd told me about her pranks and while I hadn't understood the reason behind them, they had been pretty hilarious.

"I know Lani." I told her, all but admitting all the information Natalie supposedly had I already knew.

"Xavier, I'm protecting you from someone who will just use you for your money. Have you ever heard of Marie Heling?" Natalie asked me her voice growing louder and ignoring Lani's glare. Some of the party guests had started to notice our argument and a slow hush fell across the ballroom. Not here. I glanced at Lani again who was starting to look panicked on top of everything else. I rubbed my one hand in small ovals along her arm, hoping she realized she wasn't in this alone.

"Not here Natalie." I told her and she sneered at me.

"So, what? Lani can pretend to be someone she's not?" she snapped.

"I'm not pretending. I'm here because it wasn't safe there, Natalie!" Lani retorted.

"You were running away because you're just like your mother. The mother that destroyed and conned families out of their money, privacy and secrets all across the Eastern Seaboard." I heard gasps ring out across the room as Natalie said this in a loud, clear voice. Lani winced, and I saw Willow pushing through the crowd that had formed around us, Liam right beside her.

"Who invited you?" Willow cried, trying to pull Natalie away.

"Let go of me! You can't stop me from telling the world the truth about Lani." She smiled again, and I wondered when she'd become such a cruel person.

"Anything you say isn't even close to the truth," Lani spoke up, her voice loud, firm and clear. "You don't know anything, Natalie. You want me to be the bad guy because Xavier and I are together, but being cruel and mean to people won't get you what you want." I heard a series of 'oohs' flow through the crowd and Liam grinned at Lani, only further encouraging her. "I'm sorry if you think I stole Xavier. I tried to stay away, actually. Far, far, far away from him, but I couldn't. Yes, Xavier and I are together, and anything you say won't break us up Natalie." She took a deep breath and then turned to face me, looking directly into my eyes. "I love him, and he loves me. There's nothing that you can say to change that." I heard Natalie gasp again, but I didn't care. I smiled brilliantly at her, and a beautiful grin splayed across her face. I felt my heart lift at the knowledge that she loved me too. Lani Ballan was as much in love with me as I was in love with her.

"Well," Natalie said, suddenly looking quite smug, "then this should have an impact. Marie is here." I felt Lani's entire body tense. Her smile quickly became a deep frown; her eyes grew large and held a terror in them I'd only seen once before. When she'd told me about her mother.

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