TWENTY-TWO

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Sloane met me in a small study room toward the back of the library, her backpack in the chair next to her and her phone in front of her on the table. It looked more like an interrogation scene, which wasn't an inaccurate comparison to what it felt like I was about to do.

     Despite her offering, I knew this was the last thing she wanted to do. Sloane Mayer was not born to be a martyr; she did not want to go to the stake for this.

     I opened the glass door and stepped into the room, trying to keep the shaking in my hands to a minimum. The ten days message had put everyone on edge and suddenly refocused the entire situation. Suddenly, people were actively paying attention. Nudegate was a well-planned act, albeit more secretive than a countdown, that had most likely achieved what Eros had hoped for.

     Either that or it hadn't, and that was why he was coming back for more.

     "Hey," I said, letting the door close behind me as I took the three steps required to be in front of the table. I put my backpack down, feeling the need to move as quietly as possible. The act of unzipping my jacket and pulling out my phone were all too loud for the room.

     She just looked at me, her blue eyes focused on each action that I took, each slight tremble of my hand. I felt like an animal being preyed on, locked away in the tiger's cage with nowhere to run.

     "Where do you want to start?" I asked, placing my phone in plain-sight and pressing the record button. It seemed counterproductive to start recording before I asked her, but I needed her confirmation on record. "Is it okay if I record?"

     "Yes," Sloane said, her voice smooth and almost tranquil. "Let's talk about how things at this school have been royally fucked up lately."

     I looked down at the notepad in my hand and then glanced back at her. "You know we can't print that."

     "Shame," she responded and took her time constructing the next words out of her mouth. "I do not know what Eros' plan is, but let it be known that we're going to sit back and take it silently. Whoever this dickhead is deserves to know what he's done." I tried to keep my voice level as I told her that profanity couldn't be printed in the paper, but she didn't give me a second thought. "Slut Squad is here to stay."

     "Can you talk about what your plan is?"

     "As if Eros ever did," she said the name with a spiteful indignation I had never heard from anyone before. Her lips turned up with each word she said. "We're here to stay. That's all that matters."

     "Is that all you had to say?" I asked, the words slipping out of my mouth before I could stop them.

     To my surprise, Sloane's mouth tilted into a small smile and she raised an eyebrow slightly. "Fiery. And yes, that's my statement. Slut squad has a plan and we won't take this sitting down. We're here as long as we need to be."

     "You don't want to talk about what it's been like to be a victim of Nudegate? How your friends have been impacted? What slut squad is like?" I asked, irritation bubbling within me. "You told me you were ready for an interview."

     "And I never specified what kind of interview," Sloane said. "That's my statement."

     "Well, it's a bummer we can't print it," I told her and shook my head, closing my notebook. "We can't print anything related to Nudegate right now, anyway."

     "You couldn't have told me before you agreed to the interview?"

     "I was hoping you'd have something that actually made this worth it," I said, my hands suddenly moving as I spoke. "I was counting on you giving me real substance, a real reason to go back to Yanick and let us print."

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