Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2265146-Ambivalence
by JD
Rated: 13+ · Novel · Romance/Love · #2265146
Chapter 13: Moral Compass
I twist the sparkly ring on my finger as I wait for the light to turn green. Shifting in the light, the small diamond swirl reminds me of more than just my relationship with Ryan. It’s a reminder of my past. The identical ring, first given to me by mother was meant to bring light, joy and peace, while also symbolizing sincerity and faithfulness. But a part of me wonders if she meant it as a reminder—to one day encompass all of those positive attributes and pass them on. More importantly, to make others feel as loved as she remarkably did. No matter her intentions, my mother’s legacy of grace and warmth will live on in my memories.

As I reflect on her insightful journal, the sound of a horn goes off, urging me to accelerate past the stoplight. A moment later, I’m startled again. This time by my phone ringing from the passenger seat. I set it to speaker and place it in my lap.

“Hey handsome,” I say sweetly. “What are you up to?”

“Not much,” Ryan says. “Just wanted to hear your voice. You on your way to work?”

“Yep, I’m almost there…I thought you had class at this time?”

“I do,” he explains, faint typing sounds thrumming in the background. “My T. A. is teaching for me today.”

Not that long ago, I was Ryan’s T. A. Now he’s over 500 miles away and I’m far from qualified.

“Where are you right now?” I ask, scanning the sky-high building of Peak Towers.

“In my office, trying to keep up with all these emails.”

“Sounds fun,” I reply sarcastic.

He imitates the same tone. “Oh yeah. Riveting fun.”

While turning into the parking lot, I ask, “Have you talked to Kelly today?”

“Yes.” He quickly sighs. “She still hasn’t told Jason she’s pregnant. I’m not sure how to convince her, especially when our conversations mainly consist of her crying.”

“Well if her consistent vomiting doesn’t give it away soon, her growing baby bump certainly will. I’m really worried about her.”

“Me too, sweetie. I wish more than anything I could be there to help.”

“I know it’s only been a little over a week, but we all really miss you.” My voice starts to break. “Especially me.”

“Hey, it’s only four more days until I can hold you in my arms. I promise, from the moment you walk off the plane, we’re going to make the most of every second.”

“I know, and I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. It’s been an adjustment.”

“Trust me. I get it. I’m struggling too. In fact, there’s another reason I called. Kelly isn’t the only one providing me with some high-priority concerns.”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you at work yet?” He asks, off subject.

“Yes, I just got here.”

“Good.” Stalling some more, he clears his throat. “So, uh… Christian called me late last night.”

Annoyed by his divulgence, I groan internally. “Of course he did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about Bryce?”

“I did tell you. I even voiced my concerns about him.”

“Ally, you told me he seemed a bit shady and dishonest. You failed to mention his unsettling legal troubles.”

“I didn’t learn about one of them until recently. Besides, it’s all allegations at this point. He has yet to be convicted of a crime.”

“Is that supposed to be a positive notation?” He asks sharply.

I remain silent, unsure of how to respond.

“What about Sam?” He continues. “What does she think about all of this?” His voice is fueled with frustration, yet his questions remain fair and reasonable.

“I don’t think I should tell her yet. Not until I have more information. Sam’s fairly sensitive right now. If she were to bring up any touchy subjects with Bryce, it could potentially—well, it could, uh...”

“It could potentially hurt her. Is that what you were going to say?”

“Emotionally speaking, yes. Her heart is still fragile from Ayden’s death.”

“I agree, which is why I’m so concerned. I think Bryce is the worst thing for Sam’s vulnerable state.”

“You’ve never even met Bryce. So why are you so sure he’s bad for her.”

“I probably shouldn’t mention this,” Ryan says with hesitation. “But I think you need to hear it. When Christian called me last night, he was irrationally high strung. He insisted I talk him out of storming into Bryce’s office this morning. I convinced him not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation, but more importantly, reminded him how it could negatively affect your well-being. If it weren’t for his deep concern for you, I don’t think much would’ve stopped him. So that’s how I know something is amiss. Christian’s behavior says all I need to know.”

“You make it sound like I’ll be in danger if Bryce knows what we all know about him. I can promise you that is not the case. He’s not a volatile or violent person.”

“You can’t know that,” he argues. “You just met the guy last week.”

I inhale deeply. “Look, we can agree to disagree. I have to go. I’m going to be late for work.”

“Do you really need to go? Or are you just trying to end the conversation.”

“Both,” I answer honest.

“Alright, fine. But please stay out of trouble. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

With a proud smile, I walk through the double glass doors at Peak Towers and into the grand immaculate foyer. It’s unique ornate decor never disappoints. The dragon sculpture remains on the glass table at the center of room; it’s beady eyes with the perfect view of the various shapes of people coming and going. But it’s the many shoes of people grabbing my attention on this lively Monday afternoon. Heels, boots, flats—all echoing on the white marble floors, creating a stimulating experience.

Eventually, I hear my own black heels distinctly patter on the marble as I walk to the elevators. It’s a strange sound from my perspective, for rarely do I wear such painful feminine footwear. Still, a warm pleasant energy radiates from me, bringing me a sense of pride. It’s not just about working in the lavish twelve story building. It’s also about the position I’m fortunate enough to occupy for Probe Research. For Bryce.

On my way into the elevator, I tug at my black pencil skirt. The knee length is awkward and uncomfortable. It reminds me that dressing professional is the only part of the job I despise. Ironically, it’s Sam’s favorite part—well, besides being in close proximity to her boyfriend. I can certainly relate and appreciate that obvious and convenient benefit.

It’s Sam’s absence from school today that has me idling in the elevator, waiting for it to move. My first instinct is to blame Bryce. He’s the easy target, especially with his persuasive influence. But I can’t imagine he would have so little disregard for Sam’s education. He’s better than that. Or so I hope.

The elevator door opens unexpectedly. An elderly women in red enters, her strong floral perfume seizing my absent mindedness. I wait patiently for her to push a number—number 4. Then I reach over and press my button, catching her sweet smile in the process. On the way up, I make it a point to focus my mind, taking a deep breath with every ding of the elevator. I keep my eyes wide and observant as I exit the sixth floor.

At the front desk, Dana types vigorously, her newly highlighted blond hair draped over her shoulders.

“Love the hair extensions,” I say with confidence.

She peers away from her computer, her face delighted by my observation. “Thanks.” She blushes. “You’re the first person to notice.”

“It looks really good,” I say, heading away from her desk, a particular office already in mind.

Playing with the ends of her hair, she quietly warms me, “Bryce is in some sort of mood today. FYI.”

“Thanks for the heads up.” I smile.

Wearing his typical fitted, button-up shirt and slacks, I find my dapper boss standing over his mahogany desk, searching recklessly through a pile of folders. He doesn’t even notice the obnoxious rustling of my skirt as he continues to skim papers and mumble to himself.

“Hey,” I say loudly, grabbing his undivided attention. “Where exactly are you keeping my best friend?”

Unmoved by my spirited question, Bryce responds with a hard glance. “She’s finding a new home for the pesky fur ball.”

“Inky?” I frown. “Why? We literally just agreed on a name for him. We voted and everything.”

“I don’t remember voting,” he points out, opening another file.

“I think we all know why Garret neglected to send you the email. You hated him from the beginning.”

“Well, if he didn’t urinate on everything I might feel differently.”

I set my keys and phone on a chair as I approach his disaster of a desk. “Training takes time. You have to be patient.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be happening.” Bryce holds his gaze, long enough for me see the stress in his eyes. “Jenna called in sick and I can’t find the report I need. I don’t have time to argue about a cat right now.”

“OK, but do you have time to discuss your girlfriend?” I ask, gripping the front of his desk.

He pauses his movements as if he’s amused by my gesture. “She’ll be fine. Keeping the cat was always a long shot. Sam knew that.”

“I’m not talking about the cat,” I explain. “I’m referring to her academic attendance. Do you even care that she missed another day of school?”

Slowly, he takes a seat in his leather chair, his calm exterior on full display. “Of course I care. But Sam’s an adult. She makes her own decisions.”

“But your influence on her life is significant. She listens to you. You should be encouraging her to attend school. Not enabling her poor choices.”

His posture stiffens. “Is that really what you think I’m doing? Convincing Sam that she doesn’t need to prioritize her education?”

“No,” I answer truthfully, “But maybe she isn’t taking you seriously. Or maybe you aren’t as transparent as you think are.”

He raises his brows. “Ally, do you think I have a problem being direct?”

“Well, I can think of a few times you were vague,” I admit, fidgeting with the neckline of my purple top.

“Name one,” he demands, challenging me on the spot.

“OK. The other night at your house. I asked you about your investments, but you never gave me a real answer. Just some lame vague reply.” I wait a second and then add, “Should I go on? Or do you get the point I’m trying to make?”

Leaning back in his chair, he says, “First off, I’m going to need you to change that irreverent tone. This is a work place, and I’d appreciate if you could show me a little more respect.”

My face flushes hard at his reprimand. There’s something about his calm authority that intimidates me.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. I got a little carried away.”

“It’s OK,” he says, relaxing his shoulders. “Listen, I can appreciate your passion. Especially in regards to my girlfriend. But I promise you, I take education seriously. It’s value in my life has led me to great success. Which is why I care about Sam’s schooling and future schooling. But maybe you’re right. Maybe I need to push her harder. However, right now my top priority is to find the stats analysis report for the Lily and Rose company.”

“Let me help you,” I offer. “Where haven’t you looked?”

Peering to his desk, defeatedly, Bryce says, “these are all the files on Jenna’s desk. I’ve checked them multiple times. It’s not here.”

“So call her. Tell her you can’t find it.”

“I tried. She’s not answering.”

Opening his desk drawer, he groans in dejection, while also reaching for his bottle of bourbon. I frown at him, disappointed with his questionable form of de-stressing.

“Relax, kid. I’m not offering you one.” He then grabs a glass from the drawer and sets it on his desk. As he pours the bourbon, it dawns on me that Bryce and I have something in common. Our methods of coping with stress and anxiety are similar. As I quickly reflect on my recent decision to no longer use alcohol as a coping mechanism, an idea circles in my head—an idea to help him.

I maneuver to his side, then boldly slide the glass out of his reach. “You don’t need this.”

“Um, I’m going to need you to uh, put that back.” He stammers, uncharacteristically.

“Hear me out first,” I plea. “I know something that will work far better than that drink.”

“You don’t know the day I’ve had.” His voice strains. “So if you’re about to tell me to breathe or something, I’m not interested.”

“It’s nothing like that. But I need you to trust me. Can you do that?” His unwavering look of skepticism doesn’t satisfy me, but it also doesn’t deter me. “I need you to stand up,” I request with enthusiasm. “Just for a minute.”

“Why?” He asks, suddenly curious.

“Just humor me, OK?” Predictably, he doesn’t budge so I tap my shoe to his. “Please,” I beg.

Slowly standing to his feet, exuding the biggest exaggerated sigh, Bryce hooks his thumbs in his pockets and says, “Now what?”

I break into a smile—because despite Bryce’s impatience, his unexpected compliance brings me a great deal of happiness.

“Lift your arms out,” I say with a quick demonstration. “Yeah, like that. OK, I’m going to hug you for a full minute and you can’t pull away or talk.

He stares at me bewildered, yet embraces me anyway as I wrap my arms gently around his torso. I remain quiet, counting the seconds only in my head.

Unable to fully commit, Bryce barely applies any pressure. “Why a full minute?” He inquires.

I glance up to his smooth clean-shaved face and whisper back, “so my heart can talk to yours.”

To my surprise, his squeeze tightens. I return the favor and let the side of my head press into his shoulder. As I breathe in the subtle notes of his cologne—leather and cedar—I quickly lose count of the seconds. His sensual masculine scent is hard to ignore. I also find his chest warm and pleasant. But it’s his commitment to my request that warms my heart the most.

The hug is meant to lift Bryce’s mood, but in the last few seconds, I realize I too benefit from the embrace. I feel calm. Stable. Nurtured. All the warm and fuzzy effects of a good hug.

“It’s time,” I say, making an estimated guess.

Bryce doesn’t move, so I wait another five seconds and then release my arms from him.

“How do you feel?” I ask.

“Surprisingly better… Where did you learn that?”

“My boyfriend,” I whisper, giving him a brief smile. “Years ago, after my parents passed away, he’d hug me like that. It helped me when I was anxious, among other things.”

“I imagine that helped instill a great amount of trust and empathy.”

I nod slowly. “I think it’s one of the reasons we’re so closely bonded.”

Something stirs in Bryce’s eyes—a vulnerability hidden inside that polished elite persona he tries so hard to maintain.

“Thank you,” he whispers. “That was a… that was unexpected.”

“You’re welcome.” I lean back on his desk and cross my feet. “I was thinking, doesn’t Jenna typically email you important meeting information? Knowing how efficient she is, I wouldn’t be surprised if she already sent you a copy.”

“Yes, you’re right,” he says, his tone optimistic. “I’ll check.”

As Bryce thoroughly examines his email from the convenience of his phone, I contemplate ways to poke fun at his ego.

“Found it,” he says, dipping over his desk in relief. “How did I not think of this earlier?”

My mouth twitches in amusement. “You obviously had a temporary mental lapse. But don’t worry, I won’t say anything. We don’t want anyone thinking less of you.”

As expected, he smiles at my mischievous smirk. But it’s his outright denial that surprises me. “I think it’s funny that you assume I care what anyone thinks of me.”

I roll my eyes as he walks away. “Everyone cares. Even you.”

“Nope,” he says, drifting towards the door. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to have Dana print this for me.”

Shortly after Bryce leaves, I take a seat in his chair and attempt to organize his desk. Garret pops in carrying a Manila folder, his flamingo shirt demanding my attention.

“Nice fit,” I blurt out.

“Thanks,” Garret says, ambling closer to me, a look of confusion on his face. “I didn’t think you were coming in today.”

“Why would you think that?” I ask.

He rubs the back of his neck. “Uh…I don’t know,” he answers strangely. “I usually see you by now.”

“Yeah, I know. Bryce needed help, so…”

I stop twisting back and forth in the chair and gauge Garret’s antsy behavior. Something is off.

“Speaking of my brother—do you know where he is?” He fidgets with the folder, patting it on his leg a few times.

“Yeah, he went to print a report off Dana’s computer. He should be right back. Come sit for a minute. Tell me about your weekend.”

“You know what…I’ll just catch him later.”

“Hey,” I say, halting his steps. “Is everything OK?

“Yeah of course.” He nods. “It’s nothing important. It can wait.”

“OK, well, I’ll probably come help you soon.”

“Sounds good,” he says, tapping the door on his way out.

My leg starts to bounce under the desk as worry and suspicion creep in. Unwanted questions stir in my mind. Did Garret find another monetary discrepancy? Is he keeping them from me now?

The truth is, I’m not sure I can ignore the inkling I have in the pit of my stomach. The allegations against Bryce aren’t going anywhere, and I worry things are only going to get messier. As much as I want to stay out of the investigation, I don’t think it’s possible. I’m too invested in this job. Not to mention Sam’s fragile heart. She deserves an honest, good-natured man.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so relieved,” I say, folding my arms on Bryce’s desk.

“Probably because my client Zoom meeting begins in about thirty minutes,” he says, waving a piece of paper. “I needed this. Urgently I needed this.”

“I’ll let you prepare then.” I stand and finish straightening the last of the folders.

“Thanks for this,” he says, pointing to his desk.

“No problem.”

“The hug was also helpful,” he carries on, taking a seat in his chair. “Your boyfriend knows what he’s doing.”

“Oh,” I mumble, shifting my weight to one side. “That reminds me. I won’t be here on Friday.”

“That’s right. Sam mentioned you were flying to see him this weekend. Are you excited?”

“Yeah. I—uh. I’m really looking forward to it.”

He gives me a questionable glance followed by a sarcastic tone. “Well you certainly sound excited.”

“I swear, I am.” I giggle in embarrassment. “I’m just a little nervous.”

“About flying?”

“No, not about flying.”

“About what then?” He cocks a brow.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate to share. It’s kinda personal.”

Bryce rests his elbows on his desk, propping up his chin with folded hands. “It’s about sex. Isn’t it?” He asks, lowering his voice.

“How did you know?”

“Other than the fact that it’s written all over your face?” He smirks.

I scoff loudly to hide my blush.

“I’m kidding. Relax,” he insists, softening his voice. “Sam might have mentioned it.”

“Jeez. Does she tell you everything?”

“Possibly.” He shrugs. “Listen. Everyone‘s nervous their first time. It’s perfectly normal.”

“It’s not the act itself that’s making me nervous.”

“Hmm… Does it have anything to do with that necklace your wearing or that shiny ring on your finger?”

I glance at my hand and then trace the cross hanging from my neck. “I’m ashamed to admit this,” I begin. “But it has nothing to do with my faith either.”

“Well I don’t wanna pressure you, but I’m here if you need someone to listen.”

I finally sit in one of the chairs, mostly to hide my nerves, but also to give my feet a break. “OK, let me ask you a hypothetical question. Would you be hurt if Sam had feelings for someone else, but decided to sleep with you anyway?”

He chuckles unexpectedly, causing me to frown. “I’m sorry. I know that wasn’t meant to be funny,” he explains, retracting his smile.

“Then why did you find it amusing?” I ask, slumping in my seat.

“Because you and I both know Sam is still in love with Ayden. Her feelings for him didn’t disappear just because he’s suddenly deceased. That kind of pain and affliction takes time to work through. But to answer your question. Anytime Sam wants to be with me, I’m not going to deny her. I want her to know how much she means to me. But I, like most people, enjoy sex. It’s not much of a dilemma for me. I can’t say the same for your boyfriend.”

My gaze lingers to the bookshelf in the corner as I struggle to share my reservations. “I know Ryan really wants to be with me this weekend,” I start off. “And I want to be with him. But if I can’t fully commit to him in my heart, than how can I justify sleeping with him? It doesn’t seem fair to him.”

“Do you want my opinion?” He asks, popping his neck with the palms of his hands and the slight tilt of his jaw.

“Yes,” I say with uncertainty, wincing in anticipation.

“You’re overthinking the whole thing. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. Enjoy sex with your boyfriend if that’s what you want. And if not, talk to him about what that would be like. About your sexual desires. Because honestly, until you embark on that next level of intimacy, you won’t know what’s possible with him.”

Humored by his opinion, I smile and say, “You do realize that’s probably the exact opposite advice anyone else in my life would give me.”

“I guess I’m not one for delaying a good time.” He smiles crookedly. “But on a more serious note. I think you’re wrong about your faith. I think it does have something to do with your indecisiveness. That moral compass you carry around paints a picture of a person who feels deeply and cares deeply. I hope you continue to let it shape you. It’s what I admire most about you.”

“Really?” I say surprised.

“Yes. You inspire me to do better.”

I shake my head in disapproval. “I don’t think you realize how messed up I am. My moral compass rarely points true North.”

He runs a finger over his perfectly shaped mouth. “I find that hard to believe, kid.”

“Look at the mess I’m in right now.” I grumble. “I can’t even commit to one person.”

With a calm, confident face, he says, “You’ll work it out. I know you will.”

On my way to Garret’s office, I try processing my conversation with Bryce. Not necessarily the details of our talk, but the way he made me feel. Without meaning to, I let him in my heart. I shared private feelings. Feelings I haven’t shared with anyone else. It’s clear our bond is growing, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I find Garret on the phone, standing by the jelly fish tank, mumbling a little, but mostly listening. My eyes flicker to the pink jelly’s and then back to him. He finally makes eye contact, but for whatever reason doesn’t smile back.

Soon after, he gestures with his hand, drawing my attention over to my desk, where I find a large pile of folders. As I approach the unexpected mound, I spot a yellow post-it note on top. It reads: Please file. Thanks.

My chest sinks. It’s not that I mind the easy tedious task of filing. It’s the fact that he’s sending me out of his office, as if he wants to avoid my presence. Even though I’d much rather stay put and learn about marketing strategies, I graciously pick up the heavy load of folders and amble towards the door. Garret mouths a thank you as I leave him, his discreet conversation still carrying on. I nod at his appreciation and head to the dreaded filing cabinet.

The disappointment and fear of missing out continues to grow as I hear laughter from the break room. I pop my head in and see Amy, Bonnie and Lana either curled over or stretched back in amusement. A part of me wants to hide the stack of folders in a corner and join them. Instead, I aim my steps to the storage room and get to work.

The musty smell of the room causes me to sneeze multiple times in a row. I try cleaning some of the dust off the filing cabinet with my hand, but it only makes matters worse. But even with my allergies wreaking havoc, I manage to work rather quickly.

With my eyes all red and watery, I finish alphabetizing the last of the files. I then vacate the tight space with a big sigh of relief.

Outside of Bryce’s office, I catch the last part of his conversation with Garret.

“Don’t forget to lock the delivery in my office,” Bryce says. “I probably won’t make it back tonight.”

“Yeah, I know the drill,” Garret says dryly.

“Where are you going?” I ask, pulling my hair back with both hands.

“To help Sam look for that troublesome kitten. Apparently she lost him in a parking lot.”

“Yikes.” I gasp. “I bet she’s freaking out. Do you want my help?”

“No, I can handle it,” he replies on his way to the elevators. “Just make sure you grab your keys and phone from my office.”

“OK,” I shout. “Good luck.”

Once Bryce is gone from my view, I turn to Garret, itching with curiosity. “What’s being delivered?”

“Office supplies,” he answers, placing his hands in the pockets of his khaki pants. “We get a delivery once a week of paper products, ink, coffee, etc..”

“Why do they get locked away in Bryce’s office?”

“Because he’s very particular.” Garret answers vaguely.

I bite my lip to hold back the many questions I have on the abnormal process. It doesn’t feel like the right time to dig for answers. Besides, I have another subject in mind.

“Hey, do you remember Bryce dating anyone about six months ago?” I ask.

“Nope. Like I said last week. I’ve never seen my brother with a steady girlfriend. Sam’s the first.”

“Are you sure you don’t remember him mentioning anyone else?” I press.

“Why the interest?” He furrows his brow.

“Because I was really hoping you could tell me her name.”

He doesn’t look surprised by my statement. It’s as if he expected my directness.

“I don’t know it.” He shrugs. “I’m sorry.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re lying to me? Like you’re trying to protect me or something?”

“Would that be such a bad thing?” he argues weakly. “Do me a favor—drop this inquiry about my brothers personal business. It’s not worth your time.”

“I disagree. You don’t—“ I clip off my words, as the sound of squeaky wheels draws my attention. Garret’s too.

A burly man, wearing a blue and white striped shirt approaches us, his yellow dolly stacked high with boxes. My eyes are immediately drawn to his unique tattoo sleeve. The skull and compass stick out like an X on a treasure map. It’s impossible to miss.

After a quick nod to Garret, the delivery guy backs the dolly into the correct office like clockwork. I follow them both inside and wait for some sort of verbal exchange.

The unloading of boxes is fast, efficient and speechless. Without mumbling a word, Garret signs his name electronically on a tablet. I toss out a “thank you” just to break the awkward silence, but it doesn’t get me much, only half a smile from the man in uniform.

Once Garret and I are alone, I advance towards the boxes in the corner.

“What are you doing?” He asks, a twinge of worry in his voice.

“Just checking the supplies. Is that OK with you?”

“It’s just that Bryce is very particular about these deliveries. He likes to be the one to check everything.”

“And you don’t find that strange?” I ask tracing my hand on one of the white boxes.

“A little, but it’s just office supplies. It’s nothing to fret about.”

“Then why do you look so worried?”

“I’m not,” he mutters in haste.

I quickly pop one of the lids off and peer into the box.

“Stop,” Garret cries, closing the distance between us.

“Relax, it’s just reams of paper. See.” I point.

He exhales in frustration, but it doesn’t discourage my curiosity—it simply adds to it. “I’m going to check the rest. You gonna help me or not?”

“Forget it. You’re not touching any more boxes,” he says, reaching for the lid. “Grab your stuff. I need to lock the door.”

“What’s the big deal?” I ask in confusion. “What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing. I’m trying to respect my brothers wishes.”

There’s a sudden nudge to my heart encouraging me to end my adamant probe, but I brush it off with a suggested compromise. “What if you just leave me the key? I can lock the door when I’m done.”

Whipping out his phone from his pocket, Garret speaks out of character, his voice unnaturally threatening. “I’m giving you ten seconds to leave this office.”

“Are you for real right now?” My voice raises. “I thought we were friends?”

“We are,” he says, typing on his phone as fast as his fingers allow. “But you can’t be involved in any of this.”

“Involved in what?” I yell out, frustrated.

“Ally please don’t make me call him.” His eyes dart up at me, desperate.

“Call who? Bryce?”

He ignores my obvious question and answers a text on his phone.

“Garret,” I address urgently. “Who are you texting?”

My phone starts to buzz loudly from the chair I left it on. With an aggravated sigh, I grab it with the purpose of silencing it. The highlighted name on the screen changes my mind.

“Hey Christian, can I call you right back? I’m kinda in the middle of something.”

“I know,” he sighs deeply. “That’s why I called.”

My brain takes a second to process his words, disbelief and confusion flooding my thoughts. “What do you mean? How would you even—“ I quickly peer to Garret, my eyes wide in shock. “Were you messaging Christian just now?”

Garrets shrugs his shoulders in a defeated manner.

“He didn’t have much of a choice,” Christian explains.

“Seriously?” I choke out, my cheeks flush with heat.

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