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Chapter 30

“The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.”
~Unknown


James

A year into Will and Lorraine’s relationship, and I worried about how serious they were getting. While I was glad to see him happy, something nagged me in the back of my mind, telling me something was wrong. I couldn’t help but believe they weren’t meant to be together, that this relationship was merely a passing phase, something to keep Will occupied from his feelings for Annalise. But how could I ever tell him that? What gave me that right to ruin his happiness?

I kept my mouth shut and found myself doing the same thing Annalise: busying myself so I wouldn’t have to participate in conversations with Lorraine whenever she was around. Anna had an incredible penchant for finding any excuse to avoid Lorraine, but the latter didn’t seem to pay much mind to her anyway.

For the longest time, I could never place why Lorraine bothered me so much until Annalise finally nailed it on the head as we ate breakfast in her office. “I feel like I can’t talk to him anymore, and I don’t like it. I know they’re dating, and she’s his girlfriend and all, but it’s like he has no time for either of us anymore, and we’ve been here for him much longer than she has.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been trying to verbalize that for the past year, but couldn’t?”

Annalise snorted. “I only just figured it out myself. I also worry that if I tell him something, he’ll tell her, and I don’t want her knowing anything about me. I don’t know why, but I just don’t trust her.”

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with you having feelings for him, would it?”

Annalise bit her lip. “That might be part of it…”

“Wow,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “Didn’t actually expect you to admit that.”

“I didn’t either, and that’s the only time I’ll ever say it.” She stood up and motioned at my plate. “I’m going to go run this back to the kitchen. Want me to take yours too?”

“Nah, I’ll come with you. I need to move around.” Grabbing my plate, the two of us headed towards the kitchen. As we passed the grand staircase, I heard Will demand, “Why did you tell them?”

Annalise and I both looked up at him. He stood at the top of the staircase, visibly livid. Lorraine stood behind him, her eyes flicking worriedly between him and Annalise.

Confused, I asked, “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not talking to you,” he retorted.

“Me?” Annalise said.

“Yes, you. Why did you tell them?” Will demanded again.

“Why did I tell who what?”

“The media about my dad!” he snapped. “It’s all over the news about his condition!”

“What?!” Annalise exclaimed, genuinely alarmed, although still unaware of what she was being accused of. I, on the other hand, did, and I wasn’t going to let it slide.

Will cut me off before I could say anything. “It’s all over the news. TV, magazines, newspapers, you name it, and they’re saying you called it in. Why would you do that?”

“You… you think I called it in?” She stammered. Her grip tightened on her plate, turning her knuckles white.

“Yes! That’s what I just said!”

“I did no such thing,” Annalise growled, finding her voice. “Nor would I ever do such a thing.”

“Only a select few people know the extent of my dad’s condition, you, James, and Lorraine included. Plus, it’s not exactly like we’ve been close recently. It’s highly suspicious that you’ve distanced yourself from me this past year, and then all of a sudden, this happens!”

“You’ve known me for almost four years, and I’ve given you no reason to ever distrust me. Why would I do this?”

“I don’t know! Maybe it was for some extra money or maybe-”

“If I needed extra money, I know I could ask you for an advance or raise. But considering you gave me a Christmas bonus, all of Mia’s debts are paid off, I have no reason to need more money than what I’m making now. So why don’t you tell me what’s really going on?” Annalise’s eyes rested on Lorraine. “Did you have anything to do with this?”

“Don’t drag her into this,” Will warned.

“Oh no, you said it yourself. Lorraine’s one of the select people who know about your dad’s condition. I have no doubt James would ever do such a thing, and I haven’t done it, so the only person that could’ve ousted it is her.”

“I’d never do such a thing. And I’m sorry, Annalise, but you know Will adores you and worships the ground you walk on,” Lorraine said shyly. “If you said anything, you’d be the last person he’d suspect because you’ve had his trust for three years. But then I come into the picture, and you can’t tell me you like me. You barely speak to me. I’m sorry, but it seems like you’re trying to frame me. I don’t know if it’s jealousy, or-”

“Frame you? Jealous of you?” Annalise sputtered. “Honey, you’re not worth the effort of taking down or being jealous of, so don’t flatter yourself. All I had to tell Will was that I didn’t like you, and your relationship would’ve been over with him, but I didn’t because I had too much respect for him.”

Annalise zeroed in on Will, anger radiating off of her in waves. “You’re really going to believe the press and this girl?”

“Her name is Lorraine, and yes, I am,” Will said. “There’s too much evidence against you right now, so unless you can prove your innocence right now...”

I doubted Will could see it, but Annalise shook violently. I wasn’t sure if it was from anger, shock, or a mixture of the two. I did know Will was going to be in for the verbal equivalent of a bitch slap to the face.

“My word should be enough. If you believe the media and Lorraine, then you’re a fool,” Annalise said, her voice deceptively calm and steady. “I trusted you with so much, and this is how you repay me. You- you have a lot of nerve, William. A lot of nerve pulling this shit with me. I quit.”

Annalise turned on her heel, heading back in the direction of her office.

“You shouldn’t turn your back on the King!” Lorraine shouted.

Annalise whirled on her. “He’s not King yet.”

“He’s the future King.”

“God help us all when that happens,” Annalise snarled.

There’s the verbal bitch slap.

Will blanched at her words, his face ashen. It was enough confirmation to me that despite how angry he was with her, Annalise’s words still had an effect on him.

Not giving either Will or Lorraine a chance to speak, Anna continued, “I want nothing to do with you. I’ll return all the gifts and clothes you gave me.”

“Don’t forget the suit you’re wearing right now,” Lorraine blurted.

This girl obviously did not have a filter on her mouth because if she knew any better, she wouldn’t be talking.

Annalise stopped and tilted her head back. I saw her take a deep breath. “You know what? You can have it now.”

Placing her plate on the ground, she proceeded to take off the suit jacket and skirt. She tossed them at the foot of the stairs, saying, “The camisole and spanks are mine. You should consider getting some because I’m sure the world is getting tired of seeing your pale ass in the news.”

Annalise left her plate and marched down the hallway. Will tried to hurry after her, but I threw my arm out, effectively stopping him. “Unless you want her to be imprisoned for assaulting you, I suggest you leave her be.”

Will nodded, staring after her. I moved away, racing after my friend. I found her in her office, throwing on her coat and shoving her belongings into her bag.

Her face, even underneath her makeup, was red with rage.

“Let me give you a lift home,” I offered.

All she could do was nod.

I waited patiently for her to get ready when her phone rang. Sobering up in an instant, she said, “Hey Mia, what’s up?”

All I heard was panicked garble over the phone. Judging by the outraged expression on Annalise’s face, Will was about to be in even more hot water. When Annalise hung up, she braced herself against the desk and said, “Mia’s trapped in a bathroom in the coffee shop near our flat by the paparazzi. We need to get to her.”

“Let’s get going,” I encouraged. We took two steps outside the office when Patty and Walt accosted us.

“Annalise, are you okay?” Patty inquired worriedly. “We just saw the news. We don’t believe it for a second.”

Anna nodded. “I’m fine. I just need to get to Mia.”

“You’re leaving?” Walt asked sadly.

“I can’t work for someone who thinks I’d stoop so low for something like money. I’ll find a new job somewhere else.”

“We’ll put in a good word for you with some friends of ours. We’ll send you their contact information. Go get your sister. Walt and I will drop by soon to come see you.”

After hugging them goodbye, we hastily made our way to my car.

Upon leaving the palace, we were hounded by the paparazzi. I didn’t want to hit anyone, although I thought it might make a statement to get them out of our way at the same time. However, I didn’t want to be charged for a felony, and getting Mia took top priority.

Finally, after an hour of frenzied media and traffic, we pulled up in front of the coffee shop where Mia was trapped. Annalise shoved her way to the front, with me gripping her hand to avoid losing her in the chaos. Reporters shouted at her, asking Anna why she’d done what she did, but she ignored them.

The minute we were inside, Annalise dashed to the bathroom, but Mia was already out. The sisters met halfway.

“Are you okay?” Annalise asked anxiously.

“I’m fine,” Mia assured. “What about you? What’s this thing about Will’s dad?”

“I’ll tell you on the car ride home. Let’s get out of there.” With her arm wrapped around Mia’s shoulders, Annalise led her outside. I threw my arm around Mia’s shoulders too to further protect her from the onslaught of cameras and reporters.

The reporters continued asking Annalise why she did this. Just as we were about to get in the car, she turned around and said, “I did not call anyone regarding the King’s condition. I don’t know who it was, but it was not me. I would never do such a horrific thing to someone I considered a dear friend.”

“You’re not friends anymore?” a reporter asked, shoving the microphone in Anna’s face.

She scoffed. “Not anymore. I don’t think we ever will be again.”

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