Her eyes finally land on Charlie, and she gives me a ‘what the hell’ look before offering him a smile. “Hi there.”

“Hi,” Charlie says shyly and sinks back into his chair.

“Charlie, this is my best friend Sophia,” I explain. “You can trust her. She’s practically my sister.”

Sophia nods her head up and down and her smile widens. “Hi Charlie, it’s nice to meet you. And you can totally trust me.”

“Okay…” Charlie says, and I can tell even with our reassurance he still seems uneasy. After all the poor guy has been through, it’s probably going to take him a bit to warm up to her, but I’m hoping one day he feels just as safe with her as he does with me.

“Are you thirsty?” I ask Sophia and look pointedly towards the kitchen.

She gets the hint and nods. “Yeah, I could use a drink.”

She continues to look around curiously. I try to see everything through her eyes, and can only imagine what she’s thinking.

As soon as we step into the kitchen, Sophia grabs me by the arm and whisper hisses, “Oh my god, you have to tell me everything. Is Charlie Johnathan’s kid?”

“Not exactly…” I whisper back. “He is and he isn’t. Johnathan kind of… bought him when he bought me.”

“What?!” she gasps.

“It’s not like that,” I immediately say in Johnathan’s defense so she doesn’t get the wrong idea.

She shakes her head in disbelief and asks, “What is it like then?”

In a rush, I quickly explain everything that went down that night Johnathan bought us and finish with, “He couldn’t just leave him there with those monsters. I thought the worst at first too, but he’s serious about taking care of Charlie and protecting him.”

Sophia rocks back on her heels and gives a soft, surprised, “Wow.”

I nod my head and smile at her. “So, like I said, things have been kind of crazy for me…”

“Yeah, no shit,” she agrees and grins. “So, you and Johnathan are kind of like a thing now, yeah?”

My cheeks warm and I can’t stop my own grin when I say, “Something like that.”

“Okay.” Her eyes sparkle with amusement. I know she just loves to watch me squirm. “Now you really gotta spill it. What’s going on with you and him?”

I shake my head slowly, and honest to god, “I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Not backing down, she leans close and says eagerly, “You can start after he bought you. Why didn’t he take you home? Did you ask to stay with him?”

Shit. I’m afraid if I tell her exactly what went down, she might hate Johnathan. And I really don’t want her to hate him, it’s important to me that she likes him.

He’s quickly becoming one of the, if not the most, important person in my life. I don’t know what I’ll do if the two of them hate each other.

“Not exactly…” I say tentatively and bite my lip.

“You really got to stop saying that,” she says with a huff. “Come on, you can tell me, Beth. I’m your best friend!”

And that’s exactly why I can’t tell her. If I tell her that Johnathan has kept me here against my will, she’ll flip her shit. And then I’ll have to explain how I want to stay with him now while trying not to sound like an idiot.

“We’re still figuring it—” I start to say, but then I’m cut off by a very sharp, “Elizabeth!”

What the fuck? Did I really just hear that?

I look towards the living room, and then I look back to Sophia.

All the color has drained from her face and I know she heard it too.

“Beth!” Charlie calls out in distress, and I don’t even think about it, I just book it.

I run for the living room and then come to a screeching halt when I see my father, of all people, standing in the middle of it.

“Oh my god, Beth. I swear I didn’t tell him anything,” Sophia rushes out behind me as my heart races a mile a minute and my brain tries to figure out how the hell this happened. “He must have tapped my phone, or had someone following me.”

Fuck. I totally believe her. She’d never rat me out, and having someone tail her sounds just like my father.

“Elizabeth,” my father repeats coldly as his gaze falls on me.

He’s dressed in his usual ready-for-live-TV way. Dark suit, polished black shoes, hair brushed to the back in an artful wave that he has done by his own personal stylist.

He looks so out of place here in Johnathan’s living room, yet I can’t help but think if we were back at that office he’d fit right in.

“Father,” I say cautiously, steeling my features. “What are you doing here?”

“Beth!” Charlie calls out and runs up to me. He grabs me by the waist and hides behind me, clearly terrified.

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