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.When my taxi pulled up in front of the Armstrong building, I was feeling a little on edge; the adrenaline coursing through my veins had set my heart racing.I loved a good confrontation, especially with someone who had it coming to them like Carter did.I pushed the door open before the cabbie even came to a stop, slipping him enough bills to cover my fare before I slid out of the car and ran up the steps, yanking the large glass door open and stepping through.I handed my ID to the security guard manning the desk, then angrily attached the visitor’s badge he gave me to the collar of my new pink top, hoping the little claw-like clasp didn’t leave too much of a mark.I stomped my way to the elevator, then pressed the up button repeatedly with fervor.“You know, pushing’ that thing fifty times isn’t going to make it come any faster,” the security guard hollered, his voice echoing through the lobby.He had a friendly smile that soothed my frazzled nerves, and made me smile too, for what seemed like the first time all night.“I know,” I replied, smoothing my hands down the front of my skirt.“But it makes me feel better; helps channel the rage.”The guard let out a low, rumbling laugh.“I’ve been there.I hope your night gets better, but seeing as you’re going to the thirty-fifth floor, I doubt it.” He gave me a conspiratorial wink, and there was something nice about knowing that this guy wasn’t a fan of good ‘ol Mr.Armstrong, either.After an elevator ride that seemed to last for an eternity, I stepped foot into the offices of Anderson Technologies.I had only been in here once, and I wasn’t surprised to see that the sterile, impersonal feel that I remembered was still in full-effect.It was the kind of office you’d expect for a tech giant’s headquarters, all sleek lines and minimalist furniture.There was a hideous egg-shaped statue in the middle of the lobby for crying out loud, and I was reasonably sure that the ugly thing cost more than my first semester’s tuition at NYU.The fact that someone would spend money on something so visually displeasing only added more fuel to my rage.The entire office was dark, save for the soft light emanating from Paige’s desk in the far corner, and just past that I could see Carter’s large, cherry wood door slightly open.I kept moving forward, and the further I ventured, the warmer it seemed - much less clinical.Carter Armstrong hired designers who knew how to appropriately light an office, I’d give him that.After I cleared a row of low-walled cubicles and finally saw Paige all hunched over her desk, stress just rolling off of her, my heart broke.Obviously tired, she looked completely uncomfortable and just…completely done.Not at all the way a twenty-three year-old woman should look on her birthday.“Paige,” I said quietly.Her head snapped up, and for the faintest second I saw a flicker of happiness flash across her face, but it didn’t take long for the worry to settle in.“You shouldn’t have come, Chlo.”“And you shouldn’t be here at nine-thirty on your birthday.Work is important, but so is your life,” I told her as I sat down in one of the chairs on the opposite side of her desk.Once I was settled, I handed over the sparkly purple gift bag I’d been clutching since I left the club, hoping it would serve as a peace offering for doing what I was about to do.“What’s this?” Paige asked, and I was relieved to see that she was starting to smile.“It’s the first of many presents.This is a little one, for sentimental reasons.”Paige pushed aside the tissue paper and peered inside the bag, her smile growing into a full-blown one.She laughed as she pulled out a small bottle of white zinfandel.“Awww,” she cooed.“It’s our drink of choice!”Years ago, when she and I had finally settled into our dorm room and unpacked the last of our boxes, we huddled together on Paige’s bed on our first night away from our families, and we shared a tiny bottle of white zin that we’d found tucked away in the bottom drawer of the otherwise empty dresser in our room.We shared that bottle of wine as we got to know each other, our budding friendship erasing the loneliness of being in a new city.We’ve been nearly inseparable ever since, and I hadn’t let her down yet.I wasn’t about to start doing it tonight.Paige tore through the rest of the tissue paper in the bag and squealed with laughter.“What’s this? A tiara!”“Put it on,” I told her.“I’m busting you out of here.”“Chloe, no!” Paige whispered, but it was too late; I was already pushing my way into Carter’s office.The following didn’t happen exactly the way I had planned [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]