Chapter Seven

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The throbbing tap dance in Jada's brain wouldn't end. She placed her forehead in the palm of her hand, wishing doing so would alleviate the pain. While sitting at the kitchen table, Jada listened as Mikayla read her the latest headlines on the Tristan fiasco.

"Tristan Maxwell's Hot Throb Rampage. Wow. They are really ripping him a new one, aren't they?" Mikayla shook her head in disbelief.

Jada winced. In her other hand, she clutched a cup of some disgusting concoction of herbs, runny eggs, avocados, and way too much paprika, that Mikayla swore would clear up her hangover. Jada reluctantly took another sip as penance for what she'd caused.

"Here's another one. Fiery Celeb Goes Down in Flames."

"Kayla, stop. If you go on, I think I'll vomit. My stomach is queasy with regret."

Mikayla patted her on the back in reassuring circles.

"Yes, what we did was harsh, but come on! He's a big-time movie star. This won't kill him. It'll just knock him down a peg."

"I guess you're right."

"I always am." Mikayla encouraged her to take another swig. Jada decided to chug the rest. It did seem to be helping, so she might as well suck it up—literally.

Abruptly, Jada's phone started its high-pitched ringing. She frowned at the loud noise since she had no desire to speak to anyone. However, her fumbling fingers accidentally pressed the talk button.

"Hello?" a male voice came over the line. Swearing, Jada answered.

"Yes. This is Jada Berklee. Who am I speaking with?" She remained wary. This could be a reporter who'd stolen her number.

"Hey there, Jada! I'm Doug Fineman," the man spoke, sounding nice instead of like he was looking for a scoop.

"Okay. What can I do for you?" Jada tried to stay polite but she felt like hanging up. He wasn't speaking loudly, but the man's voice was vibrating in her ear—amplifying the aching in her head.

"Well, I work for Ren. He feels terrible about what happened, and he'd like to speak with you."

Jada's attention was piqued—and on guard.

"Is he still...um, did he say what he wanted?" 

"Not specifically. But would you be able to meet up at Sophie's Cafe? Around noon."

With no excuse, Jada promised she would go, hung up, and gave Mikayla a look of terror. Her cousin told her the meeting was probably to ease the tension, but Jada had her doubts. Regardless, she arrived at the cafe promptly at noon, composing herself with nerves of steel. If Ren was going to fire her, she didn't want to burst into tears—or end up on her knees begging for him to take her back.

When she got there, Ren was nowhere in sight. After asking a hostess, she was directed to the outside patio. She searched for Ren's lush, dark hair and tall frame among the patrons. Upon her perusal, she had the sense that someone was looking for her too. That tingling feeling you get on your neck. When Jada turned around to investigate her hunch, she spotted someone she least expected. And dreaded. Tristan Maxwell was staring right at her. He'd been boring a hole in the back of her head. He sat at a table in the back corner, with a man Jada didn't recognize. Tristan said something unheard to his companion. The older man lit up and waved her over.

Jada didn't move. She was hesitant in accepting the invitation because it was rapidly becoming clear she had been duped. Ren would not be showing up at the damn cafe. She'd been hoodwinked into facing off with Tristan. Finally, Jada walked over, her body tense with apprehension. The man Jada assumed was Doug Fineman—if that was even his real name—jumped up, pulling out a chair in a gentlemanly gesture. Tristan didn't stand up at all. He merely kept watching her with those hawk eyes.

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