Oz closes the doors behind us, and when I hear the click I snap back to reality. Turning to face him, I get right to the point.

“What’s going on?”

“Mallory, I’d like you to meet Ivy and her husband, Brian. Ivy, this is my Mallory.”

His hand presses against the small of my back again, and it comforts me, even if I’m still confused. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the way he says “my Mallory.” But more questions are filling my head. This is the one woman I’ve ever seen him photographed with, and he’s never mentioned her. Oz leads us forward, and Ivy holds her hand out to shake mine. I automatically take it and feel how soft and delicate it is. A little insecurity runs through me, but Oz’s large palm moves up and down my back as if petting me and reassuring me that everything is going to be okay. Brian doesn’t move to shake my hand, though he greets Oz with a stern nod. He steps possessively next to Ivy and I can’t help but think he’s probably feeling the same way I am right now.

“It’s so nice to finally meet you.” Her voice is as delicate as her touch.

“Let’s have a seat. There are some things I’d like to discuss.” Oz indicates the small couch and chairs over to the side, and we all walk over. Ivy sits on the chair, Brian silently moving next to her. Oz and I sit on the couch opposite them, and he scoots close to me. He takes my hands in his, gently squeezing them and letting me feel his strength. It’s like he knows what I need in this moment and isn’t hesitating to give it to me. I see Brian rest his hand on the top of Ivy’s crossed legs, while he stares at us, not speaking.

“I asked my assistant to set up a meeting with Ivy, and I wanted you to be here for it. Ivy and I went to Yale together and had some of the same classes. We were working on a group project one afternoon, and we happened to walk out of the coffee shop together.”

I glance from Oz to Ivy, and she tucks a lock of blond hair behind her ear nervously and picks up the story.

“My family is from old money in Connecticut and they have political ties to the White House. I was considered an up-and-coming socialite, so I was photographed every now and then when I was in college. Miles was obviously someone to watch because of his father’s business, and Miles’s growing reputation at Yale.” She puts her hand on top of Brian’s and continues. “We were photographed one day after a study group. I couldn’t even remember leaving together, and I never saw the person taking the photos. When my mom called me the next day and asked if I was dating Miles, I brushed it off. Neither of us had any romantic feelings for one another.” She lets out an exhausted laugh, one that indicates she still doesn’t understand. “Miles and I weren’t even friends. We were in a study group together, so we were hardly acquaintances. But knowing the way paparazzi make things out to be, I told my mom there was nothing going on and to brush it off.”

Oz nods, agreeing with Ivy, and he continues the story. “I’d had a couple of run-ins with my father when I was in college because he was disgusted I wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps. I’d started digging into his past and figured out where the dirty money from my trust fund came from, and the truth about some of his black market dealings. I found out that the source of it may have been made from the blood he’d shed. The trafficking, the guns, the drugs. All of it made me sick. I made a mistake then, and tipped my hand too soon. I’d told him that I was going to ruin him and take everything away from him. I didn’t want him dead, because that would have been too easy. I wanted him broke, ruined and worthless.” He shakes his head as if he’s remembering something he doesn’t want to. “I was young and angry and instead of making plans and carrying them out, I told him how I was going to get my revenge. I made a costly mistake that day. I showed my hand too early and I swore it would never happen again.”

Ivy smiles softly, picking up where Oz left off. “I was driving back home for a long weekend, and the only thing I remember is going around a curve and being run off the road by a black SUV. I woke up two months later in a hospital bed, not knowing what had happened. And with Brian at my bedside.” She turns to him and smiles so sweetly, you can see the love in her eyes.

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