The campus tour we take the following morning with the over bubbly student orientation director isn’t the best for reminiscing over all the things I’ve missed about being a student here. Yes, we hit everything a freshman would need to be able to find, and all of the famous landmarks, but I personally wish we could have spent just a bit more time in the library or trekking through the halls of some of the buildings I used to have classes in. The focus on the needs of the freshman do, however, bring back a lot of memories of my own first year here, and as we step in for a tour of Grays Hall, it’s like I’ve entered into a time warp.
I haven’t been in this building even one time since Christian and I left for New York at the end of our one and only year here together, but nothing has changed. The piano Kate and I found him playing when we came home from a late night bonfire at the beginning of the term still stands proud right in entryway. The moment I lay eyes on the staircase before us, I am able to recall the halls above in perfect clarity, and the faint, familiar smell of must and hot lint from the laundry room that still fills the air around us almost seems to carry me up there.
The tour guide leads us into the sitting room off the side where Kate and I used to come study or watch movies when we had company. While she explains the benefits of having the in-dorm kitchenette, I drag my finger across the fabric on the back of the sofa in front of the TV, remembering one very specific night when Kate and Elliot were camped out on Christian’s floor, so he dragged me down here so we could make love in the dark. It was hot and heavy, and the memory of it makes me smile, until I remember what happened immediately after we’d finished.
The distant sound of gunshots echo through the room and at first, I think it’s just my memories coming back to me too strongly. But the rest of the tour group suddenly erupts in screams and when Luke moves to stand between me and the door, I know it’s not just a memory.
I turn and reach for Mia, throwing her onto the floor and covering her with my body, holding my hands over her head protectively. “Shhh. Don’t scream. Don’t scream.”
Another gunshot sounds and something falls hard and heavy onto the floor next to me. I risk a glance, but wish I didn’t when I see Luke writhing in agony, struggling to breathe.
“No!” I gasp, with tears pooling in my eyes. “Luke, no! Please!”
“Ana,” he moans back. I reach out for him, searching for the source of the blood quickly pooling over the floor beneath him, but before I find his wound, a hand clasps around my wrist and wrenches me up off the floor. There isn’t even enough time for me to react before I’m yanked around and see Andrew Lincoln’s cold familiar eyes staring down into mine.
I scream as I’m pulled from my nightmare and find myself sitting bolt upright in the bed, gulping for air like I’ve been underwater. My entire body shakes, my face is wet and tight from my tears, but the buzzing of my phone on my nightstand quickly reminds me that everything I just saw wasn’t real. Taking a breath, I reach over, read Christian’s name across the screen, and swallow my fear as I answer the call.
“Hello?” Surprisingly, my voice isn’t as weak as I anticipated.
“What happened to ‘call me when you land and leave me a message?’” he demands.
“I asked you to call me when you landed and leave me a message. You didn’t.”
“Oh, shit. I’m sorry. Callie had a rough time on the plane and it took us so long to get the car and get home… I forgot.”
“I know… I’m sorry, Christian. Really.”
He sighs. “You got there, that’s all I care about.”
“We did. How was your flight?”
“Long. We’re at the hotel now but I’ve got about ten minutes before we’re leaving for the preliminary inspection.”
“Oh, so you’re just calling to check on me then?”
“And to find out how your night went. Does it feel good to be back?”
“Yeah. We drove around town to show Mia all the places she’ll need to find once she moves next fall and then ordered Angelos. The house is empty, so we mostly just played board games, but it feels good to be back. Almost like coming home.”
“Well, you’re not here. No place could ever be home without you.”
He lets out a soft, sentimental breath. “I miss you.”
“Me too. I don’t like the way the bed feels when you’re not here. It’s too big. Too cold. And I stayed up far too late tonight looking up at the ceiling, remembering all the pleasant memories you and I have made in this room.”
“Pleasant, huh? I’m not sure that’s the word I would use to describe the things I’ve done to you in that bed.”
“Would you prefer ‘filthy’?”
His breath hisses between his teeth. “Oh, definitely.”
I hum and squirm beneath the covers. “Like the night before we went to Paris? You were out of control that night.”
“Or the night before your graduation.”
“With my vibrator?”
“Mhm. God, you were so fucking hot.”
“You made me come like four times…”
“Yeah.” The word comes out in a whisper, dripping with desire, and it makes my entire body shiver with want.
“Christian…” I breathe.
“We’re leaving in a few minutes and moaning my name through the phone like that is going to get me hard. This trip will be pointless if I spend the entire time we’re at the plant picturing you coming on my… ugh, stop.”
“Fine.” I sigh, and he breathes out a laugh.
“Don’t worry, baby. I’ll be more than happy to reminisce with you the moment we’re home.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
“Good. Kiss Calliope for me when she wakes up and tell Mia I wish her good luck tomorrow..”
“I will. I love you.”
“I love you, too. So much. Bye, baby.”
He hangs up so I reach over to place my phone back on the nightstand, then roll over and stretch my hand across the empty space in the bed next to me. Once again the memories of the night we’d spent together before my graduation begin to flood my mind, but with my baby sleeping soundly three feet away from me and my husband halfway across the world, all I can do is smile, close my eyes, and let the erotic images lull me off into a much more peaceful sleep.
The next morning, I wake up to the small, indignant sounds Calliope makes, and when I open my eyes, I find her standing up inside her pack and play, staring at me. Her face lights up the moment I look at her and she starts reaching for me.
“Hi, baby,” I reply with a smile. I crawl over the top of my bed to lift her into my arms, then carry her around with me as I get ready for the day. It’s not an easy feat, because she’s being much more of a wiggle worm this morning than normal. But she babbles happily after I’ve gotten her changed and dressed and helps me while I put my makeup on. That is, if you consider demanding she be allowed to inspect each and every tube or compact I pick up before I apply it to my face as helping.
When we finally do get downstairs, we find Luke and Mia dressed and ready to go. They’re playing war with a deck of cards on the living room floor together, but Mia practically leaps to her feet the second Calliope and I descend the stairs, then bounces the entire way to the car. She’s too excited to worry about such trivial things as breakfast, but I know that if I don’t stop to feed Calliope before attempting to push her in a stroller around campus all day, we’re going to face at least one epic meltdown, so I ask Luke to pull into a tiny diner off campus. It was a place Kate and I used to go on weekends all the time, and I’m surprised when we enter that the waitress who seats us still remembers Luke and me. She even brings me a mug of hot Twinings before I’ve even ordered.
“Your daughter is a shameless flirt,” Luke says, nodding to the table next to us. I turn to look, and see an elderly couple in the next booth, and the old man seated there smiles and waves at Calliope, who smiles shyly in return.
“Can you say, hi?” I ask, gripping her toes through her shoes and shaking her foot.
“Hi, hi,” she repeats, her eyes wide with excitement.
“Well hello, young lady,” the old man says. “You’re very cute.” She makes a small giggling sound, and the man turns to me. “How old is she?”
“Almost ten months.”
“That’s a good age. Enjoy it. They grow up far too quickly.”
“I will.” I smile back at him and his eyes twinkle. He then pulls his wife’s hand up from under the table and presses his lips into her fingers. She beams and then scoops up a bite of hashbrowns to feed her husband and as he makes a playful show of eating them off her fork, I suddenly feel flushed with warmth. The love between them is so obvious, even in their golden years. And as I force myself to look away, I think to myself, that’s going to be Christian and me in sixty years.
We hurry through breakfast and then make our way to the campus. There’s a giant sign outside the building where we’re supposed to register that says FYRE, First Year Retreat and Experience, and after getting signed in and being assigned to an upperclassman ambassador, we file into an auditorium for a pre-orientation presentation.The student volunteers put on a skit about student life at Harvard and play a few games with the crowd to get all the new students hyped up. It’s corny, but just like Kate and I did before our freshman year, Mia eats it up. It makes me wonder if Christian went through this same program, and if he did, how much he detested every second of it.
“Alright!” the girl, who I think is probably in charge, chirps excitedly from the stage. “I think it’s time you all got out there and got to experience Harvard for yourself. Everyone meet up with your counselors, and lets get this fun filled weekend off to an amazing start!”
I try to hide my judgemental smile as I turn to Luke, who rolls his eyes, but we get out of chairs and follow Mia to the cheerful looking girl wearing the name tag that matches the name of the counselor she was assigned. There are parents present, accompanying the other people in Mia’s group, so Luke and I hang back with them and let Mia play the introduction games with her peers on her own. I think the presentation we just sat through might have been a little over stimulating for Calliope, because she sits quietly on my hip, looking around with mild interest, until eventually she rests her head on my shoulder and falls asleep. It makes following Mia’s group out of the building much easier, because I can lay Callie in her stroller and close the shade to keep the sun off of her, instead of fighting to keep her still and quiet.
The tour itself is actually a lot more fun and interactive than I anticipated. Our tour guide is very knowledgeable about the history of the campus and provides some interesting facts even I hadn’t know. Outside the math building, she tells us that when Harvard first opened its doors to students, Calculus wasn’t a class that was offered because in 1636, it hadn’t been invented yet. I did know that notable Harvard alumni included eight people who signed the Declaration of Independence and eight Presidents, but I didn’t know that the grooves in the sidewalks near the dorms weren’t just from age and decay, but rather from students throwing cannonballs out of their windows during the Revolutionary War. Turns out, the Old Yard is its own kind of war zone, and as our tour guide talks about student life during each of the World Wars, I glance up and see Grays Hall standing tall and proud directly across the lawn.
Suddenly, the talk of memorials for fallen students feels all too familiar and the cold memory of my nightmare from last night washes over me like a phantom. Knowing that I still have some residual feelings over what happened, which may be exacerbated by all that I’m still working through from last summer, I’m suddenly not sure that I want to go in. It had been something I was looking forward to before we arrived, I wanted to be able to relive those early memories I had with Christian. But now I’m realizing, while the gunshots from my dream echo through my mind, that some of those memories might be better left in the past.
“Hey,” Luke whispers, leaning into me so he won’t be overheard by the rest of the group. “It’s nearly noon and it’s not like he works a full day. If we’re going to do this, we need to go.”
Oh, thank god. I hadn’t realized how late in the day it was getting. It looks like I’m going to miss Grays Hall anyway.
“Oh, right. I—um…” In my split second of hesitation, the tour guide turns and begins leading the group into the Holworthy dormitory. But as Mia bounds ahead, my phone rings in my bag, giving me an excuse to lag behind.
“Ana?” she checks, stopping and looking back at me with a raised eyebrow. “You coming?”
“Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you later.” She raises an eyebrow, so I give her a dismissive smile, then step to the side of the wide walkway and begin digging for my phone. The number displayed on the screen is unfamiliar, telling me only that the call is coming from New York. But I still get enough calls regarding Escape from Random House that I don’t hesitate before answering it.
“I do understand the publishing industry in Seattle,” a vaguely familiar voice replies.
“You said I don’t, but I do. I know very well who you are, Anastasia.” There’s half a beat of silence before she begins to speak again, and though she doesn’t stop to introduce herself, I realize very quickly that the voice belongs to Carmen Gallagher from Greenwich Small Press. Though I have no idea why she’s calling me. “I heard all about the infamous college intern Grey hired for the GEH/SIP acquisition and how quickly you turned it around and made it successful. We were chasing Boyce Fox and you swiped him right out from under us. My people tried to stop you and when they couldn’t, I demanded answers as to why someone who had no experience in this industry bested them. I tried so hard to capitalize on all the bad press you and Grey got that summer over those sexual harassment allegations, all to no avail, and I’ve been meeting with tech engineers for almost a year trying to create a prototype for a e-reader tablet to compete with the one you released through Grey Publishing. I’ve read Escape. I’ve seen you speak at conferences and on TV. I know who you are. But when Christian Grey calls your office and says he’ll owe you a personal favor for just not hiring his wife, you take it. And I did. I didn’t give you a fair interview, I didn’t even consider you as a viable option. I chased you out. It was a calculated decision based on what I thought I’d be able to get out of Grey and the likelihood we’d find another suitable candidate to take over at GSP. But I made the wrong choice. I’ve gone through five additional interviews since we met and not one of the candidates I’ve seen can hold a candle to your resume or your track record. You were right, we need you, Anastasia. So, if you’ll accept my most sincere apology for the way I spoke to you in that interview, the way I dismissed you, I’d love it if you and I could start over and you’d come help me run my publishing company.”
The sincerity that drips from every word she says floors me. I feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me and it takes me a few seconds before I can catch my breath enough to respond. “I’m sorry… what did you say?”
“I’m offering you the job, Anastasia. I’d be so grateful to have you on the team at GSP.”
“No, before. About Christian. He told you not to hire me?”
“Yes. And… I don’t want to start anything between a husband and wife, but I don’t want you to think that I dismissed you because I don’t believe in what you’re capable of. I do. I just didn’t realize when I chose to take what Grey was offering how rare of a find you really were.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose and try to shake away the millions of arguments crowding my head. “I-um… I’m sorry. I’m actually in the middle of a campus tour with my little sister, can I call you back on Monday?”
“Absolutely. I know this a big decisions, so take your time. This is my personal cell phone, so you can call me back on this number when you’ve made up your mind, or you can reach out to Wallace. If you still have his business card…”
“I do. Thank you, Ms. Gallagher.”
“Carmen, please. And… Thank you, Anastasia. I really hope you’ll come on board with us.”
“I’ll think about it. Good-bye.” Without waiting for her salutation, I hang up and start looking wildly through the open yard in front of me, trying to make sense of that phone call. I can feel white hot anger rising up inside of me, but I’m also keenly aware that Carmen Gallagher is one of my husband’s biggest competitors and could be saying anything to prevent me from going back to GP. That entire conversation could have been a lie and I trust my husband enough to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
“So…” Luke says. “Are we going or…?”
“Hold on.” I pick up my phone again and search for Christian’s name, hoping that he’s not too busy with whatever he’s doing in Taiwan right now to pick up.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he answers. “Has she been able to pick a dorm yet? Don’t let her pick Stoughton. Ros lived there freshman year and she said there were times they didn’t even have heat.”
“Did you tell Carmen Gallagher not to hire me?”
Good. That seems like genuine surprise. “I just got a phone call from Carmen Gallagher. She offered me the job GSP and told me that the only reason she behaved the way she did in the interview was because you promised to owe her a personal favor if she didn’t hire me.”
Shit, that’s less confident. “Did you?”
“Don’t lie to me, Christian. It’s a yes or no question. Did you ask her not to hire me?” He hesitates for a moment, but eventually, I hear a soft whispered fuck through the phone, and I know Carmen wasn’t lying.
“How dare you!
“Ana, I didn’t think you’d–”
“What? Find out?”
“No. I didn’t think this was really what you wanted. I thought you were pushing yourself into something that was going to make you unhappy because you were trying to prove to me that you were moving on.”
“Now you’re upset that I’m trying to move on? That’s all you’ve been trying to get me to do for six months! This was a good step, Christian. This was healthy. This was my career!.”
“You’re a writer, Anastasia. Not a publishing executive. That is your career.” His tone is cautious, but defensive, and it lights the fuse inside of me, releasing all of the anger I’d previously tried to extinguish.
“You don’t get to decide that for me. I needed this, Christian. This was the first thing that made me feel like I was going to come out the other side of this, that made me feel normal, and you tainted it. I mean, I accepted your less that sympathetic attitude when I didn’t get the job as celebration that you’d got me to come work at Grey Publishing, but now… why did you even make me that offer? If you think I should focus on writing, why ask me to come work for you?”
“You would have gone to another publishing house. At GP, I could have…” He stops, and my teeth clench together in anger.
“You could have what?”
Again, it takes him a second to answer, and when he does, it’s the cold, calculated CEO who responds, not my husband. “You wouldn’t have lasted long.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that… If you were at GP, I could have made you see reason.”
“Reason? You mean, you could have made me see that I would be better off at home, waiting for you to return from work like the perfect doting wife?”
“Don’t turn this into a sexism thing, Anastasia. Me wanting you to be at home has nothing to do with some misogynistic housewife fantasy.”
“Oh, really? Enlighten me then, Christian. Tell me how purposely sabotaging my career was actually really forward thinking.”
“You weren’t being realistic, Anastasia. You’re not ready for what you were about to sign up for. This job you think you want isn’t one Saturday at conference in SeaTac. It’s nine to five, Monday through Friday, every week. And that doesn’t include travel.”
“I’m fully aware of what the job entailed, Christian.”
“Are you? Because three weeks ago, I practically had to drag you onto a plane to get you to come to the Maldives with me for one week because you didn’t want to leave Calliope. GSP is headquartered in New York and you were applying for a corporate executive position. Do you realize how often you’d have to travel back and forth across the country?”
“Probably not as often as I did it when I was in school. You didn’t have a problem with it then and it was just as hard for me to be away from you as it is for me to be away from Calliope.”
“Then consider what’s really at stake here. It’s not just about when you’ll have to fly to New York. You’re going to be obligated to travel for book tours, promotional events, writing conferences… Elizabeth leaves Seattle every two weeks chasing her authors around or trying to draw in new ones. Are you prepared to leave your family that often?”
“What about you? You’re in Taiwan for business right now. You fly to New York all the time. And even when you are in Seattle, there are days when you work twelve, thirteen hours at a time. It’s not all that rare that Calliope will wake up in the morning after you’ve left and go to bed before you get home.”
“And I hate it. I hate it when I go a single day without spending time with her. I hate that she’s in Cambridge right now with you instead of both of you being here with me. If you take this job, you’ll never be here with me.”
“So, once again, it’s all about GEH.”
“No, Christian. You can go ahead and call Elizabeth, tell her I won’t be starting on Monday. I’ve accepted another position, so I’m no longer available.”
“Baby, please don’t… Just wait until we get home and we can talk.”
“Oh believe me, we’re going to talk when we get home.” I hang up the phone, seething. Hot, angry tears pool in my eyes as I have no real way to release the feelings of hurt and betrayal bubbling up inside of me. I want to scream. I want to hit something. But I don’t get to do either of those things.
“So…” Luke says awkwardly. “Is everything alright?”
“Fine,” I snap back.
“Okay. I’m fully convinced that’s true, so what do you want to do? Are we going to do this, or are we going after Mia.”
I turn to look at him, my jaw tight and my grip like a vice around Calliope’s stroller. “Of course we’re going to do this. It’s why we’re here.”
It takes us longer than I expected to get across campus, so when we step through the double doors at the front of the building, we’re a little bit later than I wanted to be. It’s very possible he could be out to lunch, or gone for the day, and if I’ve missed him, I don’t know that I’m going to get another chance at this.
“Can I help you?” the receptionist behind the front desk asks.
“Yes. My name is Anastasia… uh, Steele. I’m here to see Astor Harrington, please.”
Her brow crinkles. “I’m sorry, are you one of Mr. Dennison’s clients?”
“No, I’m just here to see Mr. Harrington.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Steele. Mr. Harrington is still a law student. He’s not a licensed attorney. I can refer you to one our partners…”
“Oh, no. I’m not here for legal advice. I’m a… A friend. An old friend, from school.”
“Right. Well, I do believe Mr. Harrington is currently very busy with trial prep but I’ll see if he’s available.” She gestures to the seats in the tiny waiting room, smiles, then gets out of her seat and disappears down the hall.
“You’re sure he’ll come talk to you?” Luke asks.
I bite my lip. “No. But unless you’ve somehow discovered he’s also in the country on an expired visa, this is really our best shot.”
“And you’re sure it’s a good idea? I mean, we have Calliope with us. I’m already worried that this kind of thing might be exposing you to danger, adding the baby to that…”
“It’s fine.” I glance down at Callie, who’s woken up and is currently enraptured by the toys dangling from the handle of her carrier, like a mobile. She’ll be safe, so long as he agrees to my terms. “Harrington’s not violent,” I explain. “That’s not why we’re here.”
“If he’s not violent, why do we care so much about him?”
“We care because Christian wanted to invite him to our wedding.”
“And… he brings bad gifts?”
“They’re enemies. They’ve hated each other since the day they met. When he was here at Harvard, they were constantly trying to one up each other. To come out on top by getting the best of the other. And Christian wanted to send an invitation to him is a clear indication he’s not over their stupid little feud.”
“But if he’s not violent, that’s all just harmless competition, isn’t it? I mean, this guy wasn’t involved with Lincoln.”
I shake my head. “That doesn’t matter. Astor’s not violent but he’s a schemer. And he has money, just like Lincoln. I don’t think he’s a threat right now, but that doesn’t mean he never will be. Especially if he and Christian ever cross paths again. This is a threat we’re eliminating before it becomes a problem.”
“And how do you plan to do that?”
“Anastasia?” The receptionist has returned and smiles warmly at me. “You’re in luck. Mr. Harrington is available.”
“Thank you.” I get up out of my chair, but stop as Luke does the same and moves to follow after me. “Stay here with Calliope. I’ll only be few minutes.”
“I’ll be back. Five minutes, tops.”
He doesn’t seem to be convinced by my overly cavalier attitude, but I don’t have time to argue with him. If we leave Mia for too long, there will be questions, and I don’t want Astor to think I’m here just to waste his time. So, I turn from Luke and follow after the receptionist, leaving him behind, hovering nervously over my baby’s stroller.
I’m led down a long hallway and into an office at the back of the building. It’s small, and crammed full of boxes, like the kind you’d pack all of your things in if you lost your job, and sitting at the table that takes up most of the space is the man who, the last time I saw him, tried to break Christian and me up by forcefully shoving his tongue down my throat.
“Anastasia?” he asks, getting to his feet.
“Hi. I’m sorry, I hope I’m not interrupting.”
“Not at all. Please, come in.” He nods to the receptionist, who exits the room and closes the door behind her, while I move forward and take a seat at the table.
“You look good,” I offer as a compliment.
“Yeah, so do you. Uh, I read that you and Grey got married last summer. How’s he doing?”
“Oh, great. Yeah, he’s busy and that’s always good for him, and the company is doing well. We’re great.”
“Good.” The pleasant smile he gives me shifts, and he seems to be gnawing on the inside of his cheek in the brief second before he speaks again. “I… also read about what happened to you last year. There was… a break in?”
My throat tightens. “Yeah.”
“I’m sorry. That must have been terrifying.”
“It was, but we’re moving on. I actually came to see you because I wanted to talk about what you planned to do after Harvard.”
“Awh, man. Honestly, I’ve been so buried in legal research for this trial I’m working on that I haven’t even really had time to consider that. I think I might get an offer from Dennison to come work for his firm, but it hasn’t come yet. Why?”
“Well, I don’t know if you know this but I’m a published author now and I’m actually gearing up for my second release. It’s a lot of contracts and negotiations… My father in law was our family lawyer and handled all my legal work, but he was recently elected as the Mayor of Seattle, so he’s kind of retired from lawyering now. I need to hire someone new.”
“And you want me?”
“You come very highly recommended, and we have a history. That makes me more comfortable than hiring a stranger. And I know that publishing contracts probably don’t sound very exciting, but I promise you… it won’t ever be dull. Believe me. I’m actually here with Christian’s little sister right now, she’s going to be a freshman next year, and if he wasn’t already paying for her to go to school, he would have done it through all the legal fees he’s paid to his father over the past few years.”
“You… want me to be your personal legal counsel?”
“Permanently on retainer, yes. And I’ll make it worth your while. Whatever other offers you get, I’ll beat them. I’ll pay moving expenses, living expenses, benefits packages… whatever you need.”
“That’s very generous”
“I can afford to be.”
“And… your husband? He’s okay with you bringing me on board. I mean… he hates me.”
I swallow, fight to control the quiver in my voice that would give away the lie I’m about to tell, and shake my head. “No, he doesn’t. Actually, he was the one who pointed me in your direction. You’ll be working solely for me and I don’t anticipate the two of you will have any interaction with each other, but I think that he gave me your name because he’s ready to bury the hatchet. Move on. Life’s too short to hold a grudge and we’re both ready to build a bridge with you and move on.”
He smiles. “I agree.”
“Good. Then, you’ll come on board?”
“Um…” He stutters and his mouth hangs open like he’s not sure what he should say, but after a long introspective pause, he nods. “Yeah. I mean, I feel like I’d be insane not to, right?”
“Really? That’s great. I’m so glad to hear you say that because I think that we could really work well together.”
“I think so too.”
“Then, I’ll give you this.” I reach into my bag and pull out a business card with Luke’s contact information on it. “Luke Sawyer will be in contact with you once your workload settles down. He kind of takes care of everything for me so unless I’ve got a personal request, he’ll be the one you’re most likely to hear from. You can call him for anything and he can help you get situated after graduation.”
“Good, then I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Yeah. Hey, thanks for coming in today, Anastasia. Or… Mrs. Grey?”
“Ana,” I reply with a smile. “I’m still just Ana.”
“Ana, then. I’ll see you soon.”
“Yes you will.” I turn to leave, but pause at the door and glance back at him. “And Astor?”
“Good luck with your trial.”
I wink and leave the room, feeling the same sense of vindication cross over me that I felt leaving the dry cleaners a week ago. It’s stronger than just relief. It’s power, potent enough to wash away the left over anxiety I’ve been carrying since I remembered my dream and once again felt the loss and pain over what happened to Kate in Grays Hall my freshman year. I feel tranquil. At peace. And most importantly, in control. That feeling carries me back into the reception area, like I’m walking on air.
“Well?” Luke asks, looking nervous. I turn to smile at the receptionist, thank her for her hospitality, and then nod with my head towards the door so Luke follows me outside. He gets the hint, and steers Calliope out after me, but starts demanding answers again the moment we’re back in the courtyard.
“He’s coming on as my person legal counsel once he graduates, and Christian doesn’t need to know about it. At least not until I can smooth that over. I’m going to need you to coordinate this for me. Pay him whatever he asks, give him whatever he wants. Just keep him happy and keep an eye on him.”
“You think that’s going to woo him to your side?”
“I know it will.”
“Alright. Then I’ll…”
“Ana?” We both turn in the direction my name is being called, and curiosity turns to shock when I see a slightly frazzled looking Carter Reed walking towards us. His backpack is weighed down and his arms are full of even more books.
“Carter?” I say in surprise. “What are you doing here?”