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Chapter 46

"Protecting people from the truth is another way of shutting them out."
~Blaize Clement


Annalise

"Hey, Walt!" I greeted, stepping into the Griffiths' house. They'd given me a key to it after Walt's heart attack, and Mia and I had been going over there whenever we could to help out. Walt still wasn't able to work full-time. Recovery was taking a while, but he was healing, which was all we could ask for.

"Well, hello there, stranger," he replied. "Long time, no see!"

"I know! I'm sorry! I've got a ton of events being planned, and I'm working on Everly's baby shower, which I'm trying to make sure is perfect, and then-"

"Annalise Stark," Walter cut in, amused, "I was messing with you. The heart attack did not affect my sense of humor."

"Oh. I knew that. I totally knew that," I said, setting down the groceries on the counter. "All right, what would you like to eat for dinner tonight? I can make salmon or chicken. We also need a side of vegetables, and I have zucchini or broccoli. You choose. Don't worry, I'll make whatever it is tasty."

"Hmm… I think I'll go with zucchini and salmon. I haven't had fish in a few days, and they say it's good after a heart attack."

"Salmon and zucchini, it is!"

Walt hobbled into the kitchen with his cane, sitting at the bar as I began prepping the meal. We chatted about his cardiac rehabilitation sessions, and how well those were coming along. He asked how Mia was doing, and I informed him how her classes were taking up a lot of her time. Becoming a doctor was hard work, but Mia made it seem easy with her perfect scores. Going through what she had, Mia was determined to find a cure for cancer, or at least some form of treatment less harsh than chemo that provided equal or better results. I wouldn't put it past her to discover it with her determination.

"How have you been, Anna? You seem to be in good spirits," Walt said.

"I am," I replied. "I have a good job that I'm doing really well at, Mia's doing well, you and Patty are doing well, so are the Stewarts and Wallaces, Everly and Mark, I'm not being followed by the paparazzi as much. Life is pretty good."

"May I ask you something?"

"Always."

"Do you miss Will?"

I glanced up at him, momentarily taking my attention off the salmon. "Why do you ask?"

"Old man's curiosity is all."

I returned to cooking as I said, "I miss him every day, but I can't bring myself to allow him back in my life yet. It's one thing when you're not famous, but that entire scandal was world-famous news. It's still hard to wrap my head around that."

"Have you talked to him?"

"Not since the hospital. I can't bring myself to talk to him yet. I don't even know what I'd say to him if I did, but I'm going to have to at some point for Everly's baby shower. Speaking of which," I said, tactfully changing the subject, "do you think you'll be up to coming? There will be plenty of seating, both inside and outside, but I understand if you don't."

"Are you kidding? I'm old, but I'm not dead. You can count on me and Patty to be there." Walt promised.

"Good. I'll add you to the list. I'm just waiting to hear back from a few more people. The Duke of Brietta was one of the first to respond. He's coming early because he insisted on helping set up."

"Ah, yes, Duke Bryan of Brietta. He's very sweet," Walt remarked. "Very flirtatious."

"If I could handle Will, I can handle him if he comes my way."

"I'd like to see that."

I smiled, sliding his plate in front of him and putting Patty's in the microwave for when she got home. She was unusually late, but there were some nights where she was required to stay behind longer than usual. I guess tonight was one of them.

In the meantime, Walt and I sat on the couch watching Jeopardy. He kicked my ass at the science questions, but I returned the favor with history. We were equally matched for literature. Seeing Walt laughing and acting like his old self alleviated my fears about his health. It was no secret that we'd all been worried about him, but Mia and I took it particularly hard, despite how well we hid it. We'd already lost our parents; we didn't want to endure losing a parental figure again so soon after.

"Anna- looks like your phone's going off," Walt observed, nodding at the vibrating device on the coffee table. I reached down and grabbed it.

"Hey, Ev, what's up?" I greeted, pinning the phone between my ear and shoulder while I collected mine and Walt's plates.

"You busy?" She asked immediately, her tone serious.

"No, I'm just having dinner with Walt," I said, entering the kitchen. "Why?"

"Will needs to talk to you, but I need you to promise you won't hang up on him."

I frowned. "… Okay?"

Shuffling could be heard on the other end, along with some hushed, argumentative whispers that I couldn't make out. Then, Will's voice said, "Hi, Annalise."

"Hey," I responded involuntarily softly. Something about his tone set me on edge. It was serious, like Everly's, but I heard an undertone I couldn't quite place, prompting me to ask, "Are you okay?"

"I've… been better, but I'm okay." I could tell he was lying, or at least veiling the true depth of his statement, but before I could point it out, he continued, "I know the last thing you want to do is talk to me, but I needed to warn you. Tonight, some things happened with Lorraine, and because of it, the paparazzi are most likely going to come after you and Mia for information."

Unsure of what shocked me more- the end of his relationship with Lorraine or the paparazzi coming after us for it- I asked the most sensible question I could think of. "What happened?"

"I don't want you knowing right now. I'm hoping that when the paparazzi realize you and Mia don't know what happened, they'll leave you alone. I caused enough shit for you two when this all began. I'm going to try and stop it from happening as much this time around."

I bit my lip, curiosity gnawing at me, but I knew my ability to get things out of him disappeared the day I walked out of Windsor Palace. "Thank you, William. I appreciate you giving me a heads up."

"It's the least I can do. If it gets to be too much, or if you need anything, don't hesitate to call, okay?"

"Still going to answer if I call in the middle of a meeting or press conference?" I joked before realizing that I'd slipped into our old bantering ways. I cringed at myself, hurriedly adding, "Not that I'd do that to you. I-"

"I'd still answer. That promise will always hold," Will interrupted. Unless I was mistaken, I heard the slightest tinge of happiness in his voice. "I'll give you back to Everly."

"Hey," Everly said. "When all this comes out, I'll tell you the full story. I promise. Sorry if we ruined your night."

"You didn't. Thank you for telling me. I'll see you soon?"

"Definitely. I'll talk to you later. I have to warn the others too."

"Be careful."

"Always."

We hung up, and I made my way back to the couch next to Walt, dazed. What the hell happened between Lorraine and Will? And what was so bad about it that the paparazzi were going to hound Mia and me?

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