PART TWO - Chapter 24

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ZACH

I couldn't believe what Kennedy was telling me. I wanted to be majorly pissed, but I also couldn't deny the little burst of relief that warmed me up inside. A spot in Professor Buchanan's clinic, even if I didn't legitimately earn it, could change the trajectory of my career—possibly my entire future. It was an incredibly tempting offer.

Although I still hadn't answered her question, I caught Kennedy's eye, and her smile grew. She knew she had me. "Seems like a pretty good plan, huh?" she said.

I shrugged, really wishing she didn't actually have to be part of that plan. "It could blow up on us, you know. If anyone finds out that we didn't actually earn our way in."

She dropped her chin and stared at me like I'd lost my mind. "That doesn't even deserve a response. You know how the world works as well as I do, Zach Walker. And please don't act like these would be the first strings ever pulled on your behalf."

My shoulders sagged. She was right. And also, I really needed this opportunity. Did it really matter how I got it if I vowed to do the best job in the position?

Emma's face popped into my mind. I knew how she'd answer that question, but I'd just have to convince her how important this opportunity was for our future. I'd have to make her understand.

And most of all, I'd have to make sure she never found how Kennedy and I were chosen. She'd be upset enough that Kennedy and I were working together in the clinic, but if she knew that Kennedy's father had pulled strings...she would go apocalyptic.

"Are you sure your dad can make this happen?" I asked.

"Uh, have you met my dad?"

She had a point. Her father was not only a senator, but—according to my dad—one of the most powerful and intimidating in Washington. It was hard to imagine anyone refusing him anything.

"So, are we doing this?" Kennedy still wore a smile, but it looked a little thin.

I leaned forward on the table, my chin in my hands, equally afraid of saying yes and saying no. Nothing would ever be the same after this. Of course, the life I wanted would pretty much be sunk if I screwed up law school. "Yeah," I finally told her. "I'm all in."

***

Without Emma, the apartment felt more like a storage space than a home—a place to keep furniture and clothes, but not really a place to live. My hand kept slipping into my pocket for my phone, like my body knew it would be better for me if I just called her, but I didn't do it. I couldn't. She needed space, and I owed it to her to respect her wishes. Plus she probably wouldn't answer my call anyway.

I kicked off my shoes and checked the refrigerator. Everything in there made me think of Emma: the leftover ham and gruyere quiche she'd just thrown together the other day, half a roast chicken and those little potatoes I loved, the blackcurrant jam she always put on her toast... I shut my eyes and closed the fridge, then leaned my head against it. I didn't know how to be here without her.

At least she was staying in a decent place. She'd texted me that she in Chelsea, somewhere close to the High Line, which meant she was pretty safe. It hurt a little that she wouldn't tell the name of the hotel, but she was probably worried I might show up there. And honestly, a few beers in, that was something that could easily happen.

With a big sigh, I opened the refrigerator again, grabbed the first of those beers, and flopped down on the loveseat to Facetime Brett, pretty much the only person I felt like talking to. I'd given him some of the details the other day, so I wouldn't have to do a lot of explaining. Plus I also kinda missed the guy.

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