Paige’s head pops up from the sofa, and I turn, locking the door behind me. I give her my back and take a few deep breaths. I don’t know what to say or where to start. I’m not even sure I want to hear her explanation. I’m terrified of the reality I’m about to face and what this will mean to the world I’ve built.
When I turn back around, Paige is standing up from the sofa.
“Jesus, Mal, you could have at least—”
She stops talking when she sees my face.
Then her eyes close likes she’s in pain, which only pisses me off more.
“He told you,” she whispers, opening her eyes.
I feel wetness hit my cheeks and a burning in my nose. I’m so angry I’m crying.
Paige comes around the sofa, but I can’t let her get close.
“Don’t come near me.” I drop my purse and shoes, holding my hands out in front of me. The words are ripped from my throat and make her stop in her tracks. I watch as her eyes water, and Paige does something she hardly ever does. Tears flow down her cheeks, matching my own, but I’m indifferent to them. This isn’t about her.
“How do you know Oz?” I shake my head. “Miles,” I correct myself.
God, I’m so fucking stupid. Call me Oz, he’d said. Osbourne Corp. How could I be so dumb?
She looks around the room like there might be an answer for her here. “Paige,” I snap, jolting her, and the words pour from her mouth.
“I’ve worked for Osbourne Corp since the moment I met you. I was assigned to guard you during your freshman year in college. I was hired to report back on what you were doing, keep you out of harm’s way and to make sure you had anything and everything you might need.”
“I don’t understand.” Why? I don’t get any of this. I swipe at the tears on my cheeks. Oz has had a guard on me for over four years? That doesn’t even make any sense. I only met him—Then it hits me. My scholarship to Yale was from Osbourne Corp, too. The man behind the curtain was a bit too real.
“Mal, please. I love you like a sister.”
“Don’t you say that. I was a job to you.” That much is clear in what she said. Everything we shared is a lie. All of it. Here I thought I was getting everything I ever wanted, but it was all fake.
“At first, yes, but listen to me. Over time it wasn’t like that. I love you, and that’s why I’m going to tell you the truth. Fuck Miles. It’s more complicated than you know.”
I shake my head. I can’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth. I don’t even know what’s real anymore. The one person who’s ever meant anything to me isn’t even real. I’m clearly shitty at reading people. I can’t see what’s right in front of my face. I feel like I can’t breathe.
“Miles is obsessed with you.” She lets out a humorless laugh. “Obsessed is putting it mildly.”
A loud pounding comes from the door, making us both jump.
“It’s him,” she says, before Oz calls my name from the other side of the door.
“Mallory, baby, are you okay? Open the door.” The door handle rattles, and we both stand there looking at each other. I thought she’d go over and open the door, but she doesn’t. She keeps staring at me, those stupid tears running down her face. She doesn’t get to be hurt. I was the one who was fooled here. I can’t look at her because even though I’m hurt, it hurts even more seeing her cry.
“I’m leaving.” I turn, heading down the hallway, but Paige grabs my arm.
“Don’t touch me!” I scream louder than I mean to, and a sob follows it. I feel like all my emotions are trying to escape my body at one time and it’s taking everything in me to keep myself together.
“Mallory!” Oz yells from the other side of the door. “Baby, are you okay?” His voice is panicked now and getting louder.
“Miles, it’s fine. Go home,” Paige yells back, letting go of my arm.
He’s quiet for half a second, then the handle begins to rattle again.
“Open the door, Paige.” This time his voice changes. It’s hard, and the order is clear. He isn’t asking.
I cock an eyebrow at her, wondering what she’s going to do.
“I choose you,” she says, answering the silent question. I feel a touch of relief at her words, but they really don’t matter. Our friendship is over. Well, the friendship I thought we had.
“I’ll kick in this door,” Oz says when no one responds to his command. This is a side of him I don’t know. He showed that side last night when he punched Joel.