My eyes dart up to the door, and then between Michaela and Peyton.


I arch my brow suspiciously, more so at the former. “You have more stuff planned?”


“Nuh uh,” she shakes her head as she takes another sip. “You expecting someone?”


I promptly set the highly-disconcerting paper aside, groaning as I struggle to my half-asleep feet. “Not even a little bit.”


Another knock follows.


“Just a sec!” I call out, worming my way to the door.


I swing it open…and my mind stops dead in its tracks.


Adam stands in front of our entryway with a soft, endearing grin on his face—and a colorful gift bag in his hand.


A burst of sobriety quickly douses my champagne-fogged brain.


“Adam…hi,” is all I can manage, staring blankly at him.


This day is just full of surprises.


“Hey,” he waves, hints of nervousness lacing his signature, dimpled smile.


My eyes search his, asking the question that seems to evade my lips.


“Sorry for showing up without calling first,” he offers perceptively—and sheepishly—holding the gift bag up to me. “I wanted to offer my congratulations. I heard you landed the Earth Capital internship. That’s major.”


“Oh…thank you,” I breathe, my fingers grazing his as I take it from him, still stunned that he’s shown up here—and more so that he knows about Earth Cap. I never even told him I applied.


Impulsively, I whip my head around, my eyes narrowing at Michaela accusingly, figuring she must be the culprit. She stares back at me unfazed and shrugs, a wide, amused smile plastered across her face.


I grit my teeth, forcing a smile of my own as I turn my attention back to Adam.


“You really didn’t have to. Please come in,” I step back, gesturing for him to enter.


His gaze briefly darts over my head, clearly noticing Michaela and Peyton before meeting mine again.


“Thanks, but I can’t really stay. I just wanted to drop by to tell you in person.”


“Oh…I see,” I mumble, my tone involuntarily betraying the words that carry it, unveiling a tad bit of disappointment. While his presence is completely unexpected, it’s certainly not unwelcome.


Now I’m the one who feels sheepish. “Sorry for not saying anything before,” I offer, suddenly apologetic. “I was going to call you to let you know.”


He smiles warmly, a lick of surprise flashing in his eyes.


I fiddle inconspicuously with the gift bag handle, realizing that I really should have told him about it as soon as I got my acceptance letter.


“But don’t worry,” I assure. “It won’t affect my duties or position as VP. I’ll still be involved in all activities and be present for every organized event, even if most of our day-to-day correspondence will be over the phone and email.”


His countenance seems to fall ever so slightly. “That’s all right. It can’t be helped.”


There’s a brief but noticeable—and slightly uncomfortable—pause and, suddenly, it feels a bit weird, like neither of us knows what to say next. Just as I’m about to open my mouth to ask him if he’s sure he doesn’t want to come in, he beats me to the punch.


“I’m really proud of you, Connie,” he smiles again, and I feel my heart swell when I see the candidness in his eyes. “See you later,” he waves, starting down the hallway.


“Later, Adam,” I whisper after him, unsure if he can even hear me and, soon, he’s completely out of sight, disappearing into an elevator.


In a matter of minutes, he’s come and gone. In and out.


Well…out and out.


It’s so out of the blue. And, even though he seemed fairly mellow, the visit feels….hasty, somehow.




I close the door behind me, and when I turn back to face the other occupants of the apartment, they both have these stupid, knowing smirks on their faces, both their gazes latched onto me.


“What?” I frown, more than a little thrown off by their sudden, intense stares.


Pshhh,” Michaela scoffs. “As if you don’t know.”


My grimace deepens, my forehead creasing in confusion. It’s like it’s the only thing I’m supposed to feel today.


“What?!” I search her eyes, and then Peyton’s, hoping to get clarity on whatever it is they’re alluding to in the more reasonable and logical of the two.


But Pey sighs as though I’m a lost cause, her shoulders physically slouching, seemingly for dramatic effect. Michaela seems to be rubbing off on her quite a bit today. Maybe it’s the champagne.


I certainly hope so.


I can’t even begin to imagine consistently dealing with two Michaelas.


Tell me you didn’t see the way he was looking at you,” Pey raises a flawless brow emphatically, her gaze serious.


I instantly scoff, incredulous beyond belief. “Wh-what? What the hell are you talking about?” I eye my best friend like she just grew another head, and when she stares back like nothing is out of the ordinary, my eyes flick over to Michaela. “And why did you invite him without telling me?”


“I didn’t invite him, I swear,” she insists. “I was just as surprised as you, but at the same time, not really.”


I set Adam’s gift bag on the table, looking inside. “What’s that supposed to mean?”


“He’s obviously into you,” she huffs, like she’s dealing with a difficult child. “Of course he’d show up to support you.”


I shake my head genuinely. “You couldn’t be more wrong.”


I reach inside, pulling out a gorgeously-constructed, biodegradable container of organic, fair-trade coffee.




I recognize the high-end brand instantly, my eyebrows damn near shooting off my face as I regard the extra-large package.


Last I checked, just the sample sizes of this stuff cost damn near thirty bucks a piece.


I can’t believe he went all out and got something so expensive for me. I can already feel my taste buds cheering, my mouth watering in anticipation from the powerful aroma alone. I set it down delicately, reaching inside the gift bag for the other item. I pull out a large box, pleasantly surprised as I read the label.




My eyes drift lower, settling on the highlighted text and imagery. I can’t stop the wide, befitting smile that hijacks my lips.




My favorite


I must have mentioned it in passing at some point, probably years ago.


I can’t believe he remembered.


“Adam’s just a friend.” It’s such a considerate gesture, especially since we’re not particularly close. “A really good friend.”


“I’ll bet,” Michaela drawls with a wicked smirk.


“It’s so not like that,” I sigh, irritated by the insinuation only because I know that, if anything, the opposite is true.


Just when I think I’m totally over you, you go and do something like this…


I exhale again, conflicted over my new presents; simultaneously loving them and hating that I love them so much. Aside from Peyton, I don’t think I’ve ever received such remarkably thoughtful gifts from anyone before.


“Then why did he come over here with a whole bag o’ goodies when he could’ve just called?” she pushes, not leaving it alone.


“Because he’s a kind, generous person,” I gripe defensively. “Seriously, he’s cool like that. He’d do this for anyone in the group.”


I’m certain of the words I tell my cousin, and yet, somehow feel a strange, subtle sense of disappointment knowing that that’s the truth.


Michaela arches her brow, unconvinced. “Are you sure?”


I can’t suppress the exaggerated huff that propels out of me, my head tilting all the way back as I roll my eyes, both tired of and baffled by this line of questioning that I can’t even voice the countering “Are you serious?” tap-dancing on the tip of my tongue.


But clearly, my reaction doesn’t faze Michaela. “Groan all you want, freckles. Did you see how disappointed he was when he saw us?”


“I know!” Peyton chimes in. “Poor guy. He was totally hoping you’d be home alone.”


I can’t stop myself from rolling my eyes yet again, floored by how ridiculous they both sound.


“I really hate to burst your delusional bubbles but I’ll have you know, Adam has a girlfriend.”


There. That should shut them up.


“Uh huh,” Michaela quips. “And I bet Adam’s in the mood for some forbidden fruit.”


Pey inserts a playful whistle. “Dayum. I guess all those years of Sunday school and Bible study paid off, sister!”


I can’t stop myself from getting in on the amusement even though they just blatantly ignored my statement about his relationship status and its clear implication of him being both unavailable and off-limits.


“Did you even hear what I just said?” I choke through punctuated chuckles, almost actually choking on some champagne in the process.


More jokes and sexual puns at Adam’s expense and mine are made and even more laughter erupts as a result. I eventually give up on talking about him altogether, never mind trying to convince these two crazies that our relationship is strictly platonic.


“Whatever,” I wave them off before reaching for the deck of cards, taking another swig from the champagne bottle. I raise it in celebration, getting back to our pre-Adam activities.


“Another round of donkey poker!”


The pair chorus in unison, finally conceding to something I say.


“Hear, hear!”



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