The Rise

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Chapter Twenty

“Can I set up a meeting?” I said to the secretary on the phone.

“Are you a patient?”

Valerio walked into my office and sat on the couch, throwing down some papers on the coffee table.

“No, I already told you the reason I need to talk to him,” I said, tapping my shoe.

The man sighed. “Miss, I cannot let you use equipment if you’re not associated with the hospital.”

Valerio raised a brow, listening in. I pressed my lips together, trying to stay calm at this man who couldn’t even set up an appointment for me. “Just set up a meeting.”

He sighed. “He’s not taking appointments right now.”

I clenched the pen in my hand until it nearly broke. “Tell him that this is Mae.”

“One moment, please.” Music blasted through the phone, nearly deafening me. I placed the phone on my desk and put it on speaker.

Valerio gave me a half-smile. “Lovely music.”

“This man, I swear, doesn’t know how to set up an appointment. I’ve been on the phone for an hour.”

Valerio chuckled. “And they call us stupid.”

The music stopped. “Miss Mae,” the man said. “As I told you before, we can only set up an appointment if you’re a patient. He’s is very busy right now and will only take appointments if you are a patient or if you’re in serious trouble.”

I cleared my throat. I was done with this. “I will be coming in next week. Monday, 11am.”

“But you’re not—”

“No, I’m not. But he owes me more than one hour of his time.” His son had taken more than just an hour of my life away from me.

“But—”

“I will see you on Monday at 11. Goodbye.” I clicked the phone off, not waiting for a response, and marked the meeting time in my calendar.

Valerio stood and walked over to my desk. “Well, that’s one way to handle it.” He began shuffling through some papers. “Do you have any work I can help you with?”

I pushed out my chair and leaned back into it, watching him look through the hundreds of papers that I needed to sort through. “One…” I held up my finger and snatched the papers away from him. “It’s your day off.”

“I just want to help.”

“Or, do you want to distract yourself?”

Valerio pressed his lips together and rubbed his hand across his face. That was it. He wanted a distraction. I motioned to the couch and we both walked over and sat. “What’s bothering you?” When he didn’t answer me, I placed my hand on his, squeezing it tightly. “You can tell me Valerio.”

“Nakida,” he said quietly.

I took a cautious breath. “What about her?”

“Why didn’t you tell me that she had a mate?”

Now, I paused. Mates problems were an all too common thing for me, but I hadn’t helped many people with theirs. I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything, but Valerio was probably my closest friend right now.

Promptly, I retrieved my journal from my desk and opened it to the page which had a list of rejected mates. Nakida’s name was on the list, close to the top. I hadn’t gotten the chance to give her a new mate yet. “Vihaan rejected her years ago.”

Valerio took the journal. “They are out together today.” His hand formed a fist as he gazed at her name. “She told me that she was going out with Aaisha. She lied to me Mae.”

“Valerio,” I whispered, hugging him close.

“She told me she loved me.”

I took the book away from him and placed it on the coffee table in front of us. I turned and placed a hand on his knee. “Valerio...” I said, unsure of how to approach this situation.

We both knew that I sucked at the whole mate thing. It had been clear from the beginning that I had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I followed my heart and other times I followed my head and they both screwed me over in the end.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I knew how much it hurt to get rejected. Although they weren’t mates, he still had loved her, and love hurts so fucking bad sometimes.

“It’s not your fault.” He shook his head. “I’m more upset that she lied to me. If she could lie so damn easily about this, who knows what else she’s been lying about.”

“What are you going to do?”

He shrugged. “There is nothing that I can do about it. I want her to be happy, and he makes her happy. We’ve been fighting for the past couple of days about him. I think… I think it’s time to end whatever we had.”

My heart broke for him. I wished to take his pain away. “Valerio, you’re a great man – honestly, one of the best men I have ever met.” I remembered when Damon told me he’d been lying to me. Luca didn’t hold back with how it would feel, and I wouldn’t hold back with Valerio. “This is going to be hard at first, but you’re going to get through it. We will get through it.”

We sat in silence for a while with him squeezing my hand tightly and holding it close to him. I laid my head on his shoulder and leaned into him.

“Thank you,” he said, suddenly.

“Don’t thank me,” I said, intertwining our fingers and smiling at him. “I will always be here for you.”

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