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Chapter 40

"We are two strangers who know every shameful secret, every hidden freckle, every fatal flaw in each other."
~Jodi Picoult

“None of us are allowed to visit,” Everly said, forcing Will to look at her. “Won’t be able to for a while. Might as well sit down and wait with the rest of us.”

Will nodded, his gaze briefly returning to me before sitting across from us. His bodyguards did a check of the room and then stood outside.

The room’s tension could be cut with a knife, and Patty must’ve sensed it because she asked, “Where were you going before I called?”

“Dinner,” Everly said. “We were going to celebrate my pregnancy.”

“Congratulations!” Patty exclaimed. “How far?”

“Just over a month. I broke the news to my parents yesterday. Let’s just say there’s a reason I’m not home right now. They didn’t take it well.”

“I know the feeling,” Will muttered.

“Congratulations to you too, Will,” Mia said. “You ready to be a dad?”

“Thank you, and not in the least, but I don’t know if anyone’s ever ready to be a parent.”

“Where’s Lorraine?”

“Asleep. I didn’t want to bother her.”

The conversation died down again, slightly less tense than before. I ignored my grumbling stomach, but the growling’s volume steadily increased until it garnered everyone’s attention.

“Hungry?” Mark queried, amused.

“A little…” I admitted.

“Probably because you haven’t eaten today,” Mia said.

Will’s brow furrowed in concern. “Why haven’t you eaten today?”

“I was preoccupied with other things and forgot,” I said, refusing to look at him.

Patty stood. “We’re not going to hear about Walt anytime soon. Anna, would you help me get food for us all? I could use a bite too.”

I nodded and stood up, a wave of dizziness crashing over me. I tried to hide it, but Mark noticed. “You okay, Anna?”

“Yeah, just woozy. I need food, that’s all. We’ll be back.”

Leaving the room, Patty and I walked in silence to a sandwich shop a couple blocks away. While waiting in line, Patty asked, “How are you holding up?”

“I’m fine.”

“Honey, don’t lie because you’re worried about me.” She stared at me expectantly, challenging me to say anything other than the truth. Unable to resist, I spilled everything going on in my head. I told her how I stared at my phone for hours after hearing Will’s voicemail, debating whether or not to call him back. How I felt numb watching the news about his and Lorraine’s announcement. How seeing him in the waiting room took my breath away. How I hated how he still affected me despite everything that happened.

Patty patted me affectionately on the back. “Will made a grievous mistake. I know it, you know it, and he certainly does.”

“How’s he been? I know he’s putting an act on for the cameras.”

“Stressed. He’s throwing himself into his work and keeps himself occupied at all times. Knowing Lorraine is pregnant threw him for a curve. If you were still around, he’d be less stressed about it. You were always his rock.”

“He started to turn into mine,” I mumbled. “What do you think I should do? Should I talk to him?”

“That’s up to you and what you’re ready for.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready to talk to him about it.”

“He’ll be waiting for you when you are.”

Our conversation halted when we approached the counter. I knew everyone’s orders, even Will’s, by heart. We carried the sandwiches back to the hospital, where we handed out the sandwiches. Everyone chowed down. I finished first, practically inhaling the thing. Mia, who’d been pigging out on snacks all day, couldn’t finish hers, so I ate it, too.

Time passed slowly. The monotony was broken for me when I received a call from my boss. Scared that she was reaching out to me on a Sunday evening, I excused myself from the roo to answer.

“Hi, Annalise,” Ms. Frasier greeted, sounding normal. “Am I interrupting anything?”

“No. I’m at the hospital waiting to hear news about a friend. What can I do for you?”

“I have a new event, and the person requested you do it.”

“I’m listening.”

“It’s a wedding, extremely high-profile, and you’d have to help coordinate basically everything from the time the guests arrive, to the music starting when the bride arrives, to the dinner, to the after-party. If you take it, I’m going to distribute all the rest of your events to other planners. This will take up all your time. However, I don’t know if you’re going to want to take it.”

“Why? It’s not a royal wedding, is it?” Ms. Frasier’s hesitation was all I needed to get my answer. “You’re not telling me it’s-”

“For Prince William’s wedding to Lorraine? Yes. It is. Windsor Palace called, specifically requesting you.”

I bit my lip to fight back the rage boiling within me. How dare Will approve this? What made him think, after everything, I’d want to help him plan his wedding to a girl I loathed? The nerve…

“Annalise? Are you there?” Ms. Frasier prodded.

“I’m here. Do I have a choice in the matter on whether or not I say yes?”

“You do. While I can’t deny it’d be great press for our company, I also understand why you’d want to say no.”

“I’m sorry to do this to the company, but I won’t do the wedding. If they argue with you about it, send them my way. I have no problem talking to them about it.” Noticing movement out of the corner of my eye, I turned to see who was approaching.

I thought my rage couldn’t get any worse, but I was horribly wrong. Upon seeing Will, I barely refrained from yelling at him. He must’ve seen me seething because he stopped a fair distance away from me, watching me warily. Putting my attention back to my boss, I said, “Actually, Ms. Frasier, I’ll tell them directly.”

“Are you sure? I don’t-”

“I’m sure. After all, the groom is standing in front of me as I speak.”

“Prince William is there?” she squeaked.

“Yes, and I’ll give him my answer. Thank you for calling me. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.” Hanging up, I approached Will with clenched fists.

“What the hell are you playing at?” I demanded.

Will took a step back. “I’ve done a lot of stupid things in regards to you recently, so I’m not sure which one you’re referring to.”

“Were you so desperate to see me again that you thought asking me to plan your wedding was a good idea?”

His face scrunched up in genuine confusion. “What?”

“My boss just informed me that Windsor Palace requested me specifically to plan your wedding.”

“I swear on my life, Annie-”

“Don’t call me that,” I snapped. “You lost that privilege.”

Will gulped. “I swear on my life, I didn’t know about this. If I had, I would’ve stopped it. Let me make a few calls to find out who suggested this.” Will pulled out his phone while I waited expectantly and impatiently.

A voice picked up on the other end, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Will squeezed his eyes at whatever they said, though, grimacing. He let out a long sigh, said ‘thank you,’ hung up, and dialed another number, putting his phone on speaker.

“Hey, sweetie,” Lorraine’s overly-perky voice greeted. It was my turn to grimace, an expression that did not go unnoticed by Will. He gave me an I’m sorry about this look.

“Hey, what’s this I’m hearing about you requesting Annalise to plan our wedding?”

“Oh! I wasn’t expecting you to find out about that unless she agreed… I wanted to surprise you since I know how much you miss her. I can’t imagine she’ll say no. I’m sure she’ll help us. After all, it might get her back in the good graces of the public.”

Murder wrote itself across my face, and Will hurriedly took the phone off speaker. “There are so many ways you could’ve helped me see her again. Having her plan our wedding isn’t one of them. It’s the last thing she’d want to do considering what I did to her.”

“You mean what she did to you?” Lorraine countered.

He scowled. “I told you she didn’t do it. We proved that with phone records.”

“Only from phone records in the palace and the news outlet it was reported to. For all we know, she could’ve used a payphone.”

“She sure seems to have thought about this a lot,” I remarked, giving Will a death glare.

“Did I just hear her voice?” Lorraine squeaked. “Are you with her?”

“Yes. We’re at the hospital. Walt had a heart attack. A few others are here, too.”

“Do you want me to come down?”

“No, stay there. I’ll see you later. Love you.”

“I love you, too.” Will hung up and pinched the bridge of his nose, mortified.

“Smartest thing you said was telling her not to come down here.”

Will gave me a small smile. “You’d murder her. I don’t want you going to prison.”

We fell quiet, the tension slowly dissipating. I broke it by saying, “I’m still furious Lorraine thought asking me was a good idea; I’m even more insulted she thinks I want to get in the ‘good graces’ of the media. I already am in case she hasn’t noticed. But I’m sorry for accusing you of being behind this.”

“It’s okay. I’m sorry my fiancée did this. If I’d known, I would’ve stopped it.” Will took a step closer to me now that I’d calmed down. “I’m sorry for everything.”

“I know. I’ve heard the voicemails.”

“You’ve listened to them?”

“Hard not to when you’ve been blowing up my phone the last few months.”

Will rubbed the back of his neck. “I never understood the saying ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ until I lost you.”

“Your mistake.”

“Don’t I know it… Saying sorry will never suffice for what I did, and I hope you know that whatever you need me to do to make it up to you, I will.”

“I don’t know if you can.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Will admitted, his blue eyes strikingly vulnerable.

Don’t give him the chance, Annalise. Don’t fall for it.

“Anna! The doctor’s said we can go see Walt!” Mia exclaimed, interrupting our conversation. Saved from making a decision I may regret, I followed Mia without another word.

Walt was awake when we arrived but wasn’t speaking, unsurprising considering what he’d just went through. I made my way to his side and rested my hand on his arm.

“You gave us quite the scare,” I said. “We’re so glad you’re all right.”

Walt smiled.

“What’s the verdict?” Will inquired, looking at Patty.

“It’s going to take a while to recover, but he should make almost a full recovery,” she replied.

“It’s Walt, of course he will!” Mia declared.

“Do you need us to get you anything?” James asked.

“No. I want all of you to go home. You have work tomorrow, and I won’t be the reason you oversleep. If I need anything, I’ll call.”

“We’re holding you to that,” I said. Kissing Walt on the cheek and hugging Patty, I left with the others. Will lagged behind, and Everly dropped back to join him. I guess she felt bad for him. I hated that she was split between her cousin and best friend…

“What do you say we go home and binge Buzzfeed Unsolved while we get ready for bed?” Mia suggested, interrupting my thoughts.

“That,” I said, “Sounds great. James, want to join?”

“Sure. I nearly live at your place as it is,” he joked.

“If you ever want two roommates, you’re always welcome to live with us.”

“With how my current rent situation is going, I may just take you up on that offer. But we’ll come to that if it happens. For now, I hear YouTube calling our names.”

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