TWENTY-SIX

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The next day, Jade and I were waiting in the coffee shop where Asher said Brielle would be... but she was late.

Or maybe, she just wasn't coming.

Either way, my nerves were going through the roof, and that was only one of the reasons.

Despite Jade's positive attitude and usual friendliness (which—side note, I didn't know how she was pulling off with the media attention right now), I was about to fall to pieces beside her because I still felt so damn guilty for lying to her and sneaking around behind her back. I knew it wasn't a big deal... in fact, she probably wouldn't even care if Wesley and I were together. But it was still intimidating, because... well, Jade was intimidating by principal.

I fiddled with my coffee cup and tried to ignore the stares around me. My popularity had gone through the roof since those viral videos and the court case blowing up in the media. Jade wore a blank expression, and I tried to adopt the same look—but I don't think I was pulling it off the way she was.

I needed to distract myself.

"So..." I trailed off. "How was... Nathan... yesterday?"

Jade jolted a little.

"Oh—it was fine," she said quickly, flicking her black hair over her shoulder. "I mean, it didn't go badly. He said what he needed to say... we talked a little... that was about it."

I frowned.

"Really? That's it?" I asked. I was slightly disappointed that nothing more had come out of it—not that I was expecting or hoping for anything, but Nathan was the father of Jade's child, and you'd think that if he were going out of his way to apologise, he might have more to say to her. But at the end of the day, regardless of how his actions may have changed of recent, he was still Nathan Gilmore.

The tinkering of a bell made my head turn, and Brielle strode quickly into the shop, typing furiously on her phone. She located us with a swift glance up, proceeded towards us, an sat down just as she hit send on a text message.

"Sorry I'm late—I had a client whose meeting ran overtime."

She flashed us her perfect teeth, leaned back in her seat, and rested an arm on the back of her chair. "So, what can I help you with?"

I exchanged a nervous glance with Jade, but she gave me an encouraging look. I let out a deep breath.

"Well... you may have heard that I've been called to trial with Audrey and Lana," I said. She nodded slowly, and I continued. "In order to prove their claims false... I need a testimonial. A good one, with proof. At the moment, it's my word against hers, and Nathan helps... but he's not going to offer enough conviction in the case."

Brielle frowned. "What are you saying?"

"Well... if we had your testimonial... with Audrey and what she did to you... it would change everything. It would take her down for good."

Brielle pursed her lips and placed both hands in her lap.

"I don't know... look, I want to help you and I want to take Audrey down as much as you do... but I'm not prepared to get involved with her directly again. I can't do that after what's happened to me. I swore I'd never go through something like that again..."

"I know," I said quickly. "And I understand—I do. But you would save me, and save all the future girls who could get messed up by her company. You could make a big difference."

Brielle paused, thinking it over.

"I... can't make a decision right now," she said. "I need time."

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