“You can’t let that bitch, Sabrina, rattle you,” Vicky insisted, letting go of my arm and leaning against the nearby lockers with her arms crossed over her chest. “Let me stomp her face a few times. You’ll feel better.”

“No, I won’t.”

“I will. Let me do it at least. This night has been kind of boring so far.”

She rolled her eyes.

A fight was the last thing I needed right now. It would just draw more attention my way, and with each passing moment, I felt like my plan with Leo was more and more vulnerable. Something would slip and I would be the laughingstock of the school again.

“Please, Vicky,” I begged. “I just… I don’t want any more attention from these people. I’m self-conscious enough as it is. I just feel small and pathetic compared to them.”

Vicky leaned forward and grabbed my shoulder. She looked me right in the eye.

“That’s crazy. You’re awesome, Carina! Why would I be friends with someone who wasn’t completely awesome?”

The way she said that made me laugh. Vicky was always so upbeat. It was one of the things I cherished about her.

“Thanks,” I said, matching her grin even though I didn’t want to.

Vicky nodded and let go of me.

“I’m not just saying that. You are your own worst critic, ya know that? Even back in high school, you always said you were never pretty enough, never smart enough, but now, you work in Manhattan teaching kids in a private school! That’s an important job! I just work at my husband’s law firm as a secretary. It’s so lame.”

She dropped her shoulders slightly.

“You have a kid and you have a husband,” I pointed out. “I’m just going to be an old school marm with too many cats one day.”

Vicky grunted in disgust.

“I can’t believe how down in the dumps you are about yourself,” she countered, shaking her head. “What happened to that confident Carina that got off the plane yesterday?”

I let out a sigh and leaned back into the wall feeling like the world was falling apart around me.

“I don’t know. I never should have hir — I mean, I never should’ve brought Leo.”

“Why? He seems great. Definitely handsome.” Comically, she quickly raised her eyebrows twice. “I can’t believe you kept him to yourself this entire time. Why didn’t you tell me you were engaged?”

My heart started beating a mile a minute. This was why the whole plan was stupid. I was so bad at lying.

I couldn’t admit to my best friend that I hired an escort. I had to come up with a way to get out of this so she would never suspect that I did something so desperate.

“I don’t think it’s going to last,” I said pessimistically. “I wanted to have someone come with me and he ends up just hanging out with Jim and ignoring me.”

There was a little bit of whine in my voice that bothered me. Being ignored by another man sucked, but it shouldn’t have hurt this bad.

Plus, this was a financial deal between Leo and I, if anything, I should be arguing that I shouldn’t have to pay. It wasn’t like he was doing his job of being an attentive fiancé.

Vicky looked at me quizzically.

“So, what if he’s not at your side all night? You’ve been with Leo for a while, right? I mean, you need to give each other space,” she advised. “Jim and I would kill each other if we were constantly on top of each other. We work together and I have to avoid him there.”

“Really?” I asked curious.

We hadn’t really talked much about her work life at the firm.

“Oh, yeah. I hang with the secretaries, not him and the partners. That would be… Well, it would just look bad. At home, we’re together, but at work, we’re in two different worlds,” she explained. “That’s what keeps us from getting sick of one another.”

“Huh,” I said. “Guess I didn’t really think of it like that.”

“Relationships are work, babe,” said my mentor. “They don’t just work. I mean, sure, Jim and I have romantic dinners, but romance is just a tiny part of it. You have to put in time and effort. You have to compromise a lot. Just like tonight. So, don’t get too upset at Leo, okay?”

“Okay. I get it. I get it,” I lied.

There was no relationship to work on, but Vicky didn’t need to know that.

We finally started to head back into the gym after nearly blocking the entrance for several minutes. Right on cue, Sabrina and her minions were headed our way. My heart started pounding again. I did not want to have another run in with my least favorite bullies.

I should’ve just come here as myself. This ridiculous scheme I concocted wasn’t real. It wasn’t me, and I think, at some level, Sabrina and everyone around me sensed that. This was karma catching up to me for lying.

Tags: Jamie Knight Romance
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