“He owns the whole building. Even the lease,” she admits. “I can’t stop him from coming in.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m leaving.”

“Goddamn it, Paige.” Oz hits the door so hard the whole thing shudders, and I’m surprised it doesn’t buckle.

“She knows, Miles.” Paige’s words are quiet, but he must hear them because he stops banging on the door. The silence thickens.

“You said you’d let me explain.” The hardness has gone from his voice, and now he’s speaking with the softness with which he always talks to me. “That if anything ever happened, you’d let me explain. You promised.”

He says my words as if they’re his loophole.

“Guess that makes us both liars then,” I throw back at him.

“I never lied to you, baby. Never.” His voice sounds pained, and it pulls at my heart. Even if this whole thing was a lie; him, school, my job, all of it. Even if this wasn’t real, I’d still want to fall head over heels in love with him. Hell, maybe I am in love with him, because it feels like my heart is being ripped from my chest. Part of me wishes I’d never found out.

“You broke my heart. I broke my promise,” I say, before turning and heading down the hallway to my room to pack a bag.

When I turn, I expect to see Paige behind me, but she isn’t.

I hear yelling down the hall but can’t make out any of the words. Ignoring them, I rush around the room. I need to get out of here. I’m barely holding it together, and I don’t want to crack here in front of them. The people who did this to me.

“I got him to leave,” Paige says, standing in my doorway. “Okay, maybe not leave, but he isn’t coming in.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want to be here with you either.”

She makes a sound as if I actually hit her with more than a verbal blow. It makes me want to reach out and grab her and pull her toward me in a tight hug. I have to clench my hands to stop myself. But she lied to me, and she isn’t really my friend. I won’t let them make a fool of me again.

“You’re pissed. I get that.”

“You get that?” I say mockingly, turning to look at her, and she lifts her hands, making it clear she doesn’t want to argue with me.

“Be smart here, Mal—”

I cut her off. “Be smart here?” I throw the clothes I have in my hands onto the bed. “It’s clear I’m fucking dumb as shit.”

“What I’m saying is I don’t know if anyone got wind of what happened last night. If they did, your face is about to be everywhere. And Miles has enemies. You don’t get to be where he is and not have them. Hell, even his own dad is one.”

“Not my problem.” I turn, going back to pulling clothes from my closet. I have no idea where I’m going. I don’t have a ton of money, and I don’t even want to think about how fast hotel bills are going to add up. Oh God, my job. I work for him. I curse myself for spending all that money on stupid clothes for the job I’m going to have to quit.

“It will very much become your problem. Not only that, but where are you going to go? I know you. You’re probably planning to quit your job now, too. Be smart,” she says, making me turn to look at her. “He won’t let you go, Mallory. Like I said, he’s obsessed with you. I have a very strong feeling he’ll pull every string he has to, to make sure you don’t get hired anywhere, and it won’t help that you quit an internship a week after starting. That never looks good.”

I drop down on my bed, defeated because everything she said is true. I’ll burn through my savings faster than I can find a job. I also wonder if this was part of his plan. To give me no options.

“You’re mad. Use it. I’ll leave. I know you want me to go, and I’ll give you that because I do love you. Keep your ass here, go to work and save some money. Then leave if you want to, but make a plan, Mal. Don’t put yourself on the streets.”

I hate how much truth is in her words. I can’t be stupid, but I have no idea what I’m going to do.

“Get out,” I tell her. She stands there for a second, then turns to leave. Before she can walk out, there’s something I need to know. I hate myself for the question, but I have to ask it.

“Why is he obsessed with me?”

She turns to look at me, a sympathetic expression on her face. “I don’t know. But I don’t think he’ll ever let you go.”

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