Sidequest for Love - Page 89

“It’s a lie,” Annabelle said. “They’re trying to cover for Callum. We’ve been seeing each other behind your back for nearly a year.”

Callum stood. “Who in the what now?”

My head started to pound. “She’s lying,” I said. “She’s obsessed with you. I’m sorry for bringing her here.”

“I am not—” the words died on Annabelle’s tongue when Afric leapt toward her and plucked the USB drive from her grasp. She threw it on the floor and stomped on it with the heel of her shoe. It cracked right down the middle.

“You idiot,” Annabelle droned. “Do you think that’s the only place the screenshots are saved?”

“Nope, I certainly don’t, you absolute madwoman,” Afric said before she came to me, hands gripping my shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Neil. I did this because I care about you so, so much. Callum and Leanne love you. They’ll understand.” Then she crashed her mouth to mine and kissed me as though her life depended on it. Despite being furious at her, my body responded, a tidal wave of pleasure going through me at the sensation of her lips on mine. Too soon, she pulled away, looking to Annabelle one more time before returning her attention to me. “Now, I have to go. There’s not a moment to lose. I’ll explain everything later.”

I stared after her in confusion as she turned tail and ran out of the club. “Where the hell is she going?” Callum asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied before finally bringing my attention to Annabelle. “You should go.”

“I’m not going—”

“Yeah, I second that. Leave,” Callum said, and there was no mistaking the threat in his voice. The words rumbled out of him like a growl. Callum could be an easy-going bloke, but when someone tried to mess with his relationship, he took no prisoners.

Annabelle’s eyes shone with tears as she realised her plan had failed epically. I had no illusions that she wasn’t going to share the dirt she had online, but at least now she couldn’t blackmail me anymore or try to break up Callum and Leanne.

She hitched her handbag over her shoulder and glared at the three of us. “You’ll regret this. All of you will.”

With that, she left, and I stood there feeling worse than I’d ever felt. I wished to be invisible because this entire situation was painfully mortifying.

“I’ll hand over my resignation in the morning,” I said, unable to look either Leanne or Callum in the eyes. “I’ll work as many weeks’ notice as you need, but I completely understand if you don’t want to see me. If that’s the case, I can organise for a temp to replace me in the meantime. I’ll do my best to minimise the damage I’ve caused. There’s no way for me to ever make it up to you, but just know I hate myself for what I did more than anything.”

“Good Christ, Neil. Will you quit falling on your sword for a second and sit down? Explain to me what’s going on because I’m still very, very confused,” Callum ground out.

I didn’t want to explain anything, but I knew it was my duty. I owed him this much. I nodded soberly and went to take a seat, but before I could sit, Leanne was there. She threw her arms around me and hugged me tightly. I froze from the unexpectedness of it. Why on earth was she hugging me?

“I wished you’d talked to me about this. You could’ve told me. We used to talk about everything,” she said. Something about her hug crumpled me. Emotion swelled in my throat, but I refused to cry in this situation. It was already humiliating enough as it was.

Leanne drew back, and I finally sat down. Callum sat across from me, clearly waiting for a full explanation. I cleared my throat and forced myself to meet his gaze.

“A few weeks after you had me start running your social media accounts, there was a message from Annabelle. She was a fan of yours. I replied to her in the usual polite, reserved manner, pretending to be you. I had no intention of a long, drawn-out interaction, but she continued to send messages, and before I knew it, we were having a full-blown conversation. That conversation turned into regular messages, and before long, I’d developed feelings for her, or at least for the person I thought she was.”

“Christ,” Callum said, his thick eyebrows drawing together. “So she’s the woman you told me about? The one from the internet who didn’t know what you look like?”

I nodded, seeing full understanding dawn on him.

“I hated the deception, but I knew a woman like Annabelle would never be interested in the real me. She wanted a bloke like you, with the tattoos and the muscles—”

“Fuck’s sake, Neil, you make me sound like a twat.”

Tags: L.H. Cosway Romance
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