Chapter 11

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Emma

The whole afternoon my stomach gurgled with unease. Anxiety had set in. I needed to talk to Zach, to find out what, if anything, Bianca had said was true. Part of me was scared of the answer. I sat through my afternoon classes without taking any kind of comprehensible notes. My conversation with Bianca kept running through my head like an old movie reel.

I got back to the apartment and found Zach at our dining room table, papers all around him. He looked up and smiled as I grabbed a soda from the fridge. I sat across from him, my hands shaking a bit.

"How was school?" he asked.

"Fine."

"I turned on the slow cooker when I got home. It's been on about three hours," he said.

I stared at him, well, the top of his head, as he leafed through papers. He had a highlighter in hand and a pensive expression on his face. I sipped my soda.

"I ran into Bianca today."

His stopped marking up a paper and looked at me. "What did she want?" he asked in a monotone.

"Nothing from me, but I had a lot of questions for her."

He set down his highlighter and his eyes locked on mine. "Em, don't bother with her."

I bit my lip and shuffled a bit. Nerves were eating at me. "You said you weren't, but are you making her life difficult?"

"Why would I bother?"

"I don't know. But she claims you are."

"What did she say?"

"You can't answer my question with a question. No deflecting."

He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "No, I am not making her life difficult."

"Did you have her thrown out of her sorority?"

His eyes narrowed. "No. Why would I do—" he stopped, realizing he was about to ask a question. "No, I didn't. That's just weird."

"Did you ask people to unfriend her?"

His body tensed. I could see anger brewing. "Is she for real? She told you all this?"

So much for him not asking questions. He couldn't help himself. A lawyer already in training. "Did you do this?"

"No, I didn't do any of this. She must be really desperate," he said, his voice rising.

"You went to her. After she and her friends put me in the hospital?"

His expression changed in an instant, like a child caught holding the last coveted piece of chocolate cake. He let out a long breath and looked down at his hands. "Yes. I wanted to know once and for all that she was going to leave you alone. I was worried that the second you got out of the hospital, she'd start her shit up all over again."

I felt a jab to my heart, like it was done with a dull, rusty knife. "I told you to leave her alone. You said you would."

"Emma, you don't know her."

"Funny, she said the same thing about you."

The comment stung him. He took a second to recover. "Em, the only way I could ensure that this would stop was to go to her. If anything, I negotiated a truce. As for all this other shit, I didn't do it. If her sorority kicked her out it's because she deserved it. If her friends abandoned her, it's because they saw her for who she truly is. I had nothing to do with it. I promise you that."

"You already promised me that you hadn't talked to her. I don't know anymore . . ." My voice trailed off.

He got up and clasped his hands into mine. "I didn't tell you because there wasn't anything to tell. I ran into her at school and we talked. I told her to back off. I certainly didn't waste time on her after that. That's all there is. Nothing more. I would never jeopardize us for her."

I looked into his brown eyes but I couldn't read them. "I want to believe you."

He grimaced. "Emma, you can. I'm done with Bianca Smythe."

I had to believe him. I had no other choice.


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