Home > Kian(12)

Author: Tijan

“Listen to me, Jo.” He had his hand back up, pointing right at me, as he spoke with urgency, “Whether the kid helps them or not, he’s got an entire team behind him. His father wants him back in the family and back to being groomed to take over that entire empire they run. They don’t have another son for that global enterprise. If they could blame all of this on you, his old man will die a happy man. Maston’s team wants your head. They have another chance at a future for Kian, and they’re going to do everything to make that happen. You got it? They don’t give a shit about you. Who are you?” He almost spit at me from across the table.

“You’re no one. Literally. You’ve got no father, no mother, no siblings. You’ve got no one. You took a new name and a new life. They’re going to use that and say, Why is she hiding? They don’t care that your life was turned upside down or that you’re hiding because you’d like to live normally, like they do every day.

“Their son was worshiped and declared a hero. People want to say he didn’t know what he was doing. They want someone to blame as the villain, and you—a girl who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in poverty—are the perfect scapegoat. If they can find you, they will do everything in their power to serve you up on a silver platter.”

“Well…” I had nothing to say to him. My God. I was already strung tight, and now, hearing that, I was close to losing it. A shrill laugh started to bubble up my throat. “A week ago, my biggest problems were my final exams.”

“Yeah.” He grew quiet.

Hiding from a media storm was one thing, but being blamed for what Kian had done for me was a whole other thing. “Could they convict me somehow?”

He shook his head, but his eyes were sad. Those dead eyes—I had only seen one other emotion in them, and that was a flicker of approval—just now looked depleted as he said to me, “I don’t think a DA would charge you, but I won’t lie to you. If Maston’s legal team is successful with spinning everything on you, however they might do that, your life could be utter hell.” He waited for one second and then added, “And that’s the best-case scenario if they do what they want to do.”

I was screwed. That was what he was saying. “I should’ve gone to college in Panama.”

He looked around. “I don’t know why you picked this school. This was where he wanted to go, right?”

Because I wanted to go here. It wasn’t just because Kian wanted to go here or because the media wouldn’t think to look in the most obvious place, but now, I realized how stupid it was for me to come here.

I didn’t say any of that to Snark. All I did was ask, “Will you give me a ride back to my place? I took the bus here.”

And he answered with, “I can’t, kid. The less we talk, the better it is for you.”

There was that then.

I nodded, hearing myself thank him for half a cup of coffee, before I walked out of that diner.

Kian was going to find me and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt it in my gut.

“Being optimistic is the worst attitude in the world to have.”

Escape was an exclusive restaurant that I’d been working at every summer since becoming Joslyn Keen. This morning was the first time I was being trained at the same job I always had as a hostess. The trainer, who looked two years younger, decided to bestow his infinite wisdom onto me.

I scratched behind my ear and leaned in, making a show of reading his nametag. “Really, Henry?”

He clipped his head in a nod. “Yes. Be realistic. Don’t be optimistic. That way, you’ll always exceed everyone’s expectations.”

That made no sense to me, but I wasn’t going to argue. Henry looked ready to bite my head off if I dared to smile. With a fierce expression, he towered over me at six feet two. His hair was brushed to the side, and he was a gangly guy.

He was also new to Escape.

Even though I’d picked up hours during college breaks, today was the first day I started back full-time again, and I didn’t recognize any of the staff. I called Paul last week to double check that I could still work for the summer, and my manager assured me that it was fine.

When I came in and found that I would be training for my usual job, I couldn’t find anyone who remembered me to make sure it was correct. Paul was out for a few days, and the assistant manager was new. When I dared to broach the topic, thinking maybe I should be training the new guy instead, the assistant manager braced herself for a battle. Recognizing the signs, I held up my hands and backed away from that fight. I would train. That was fine. So, here I was, being told where the menus went, the layout for the tables, and how to roll silverware during downtime.

Not that we would get a lot of downtime.

Escape was a popular high-end restaurant. If people dropped in to get a seat, they usually couldn’t. It was one of those restaurants where a customer needed to make a reservation a day ahead, and that was one of the reasons I was surprised by all the new employees. Escape was good to their employees. There wasn’t a big turnover rate. As Henry snapped his fingers to get my attention, I didn’t think I could ask him about that question.

Oh well. Time to go with the flow and learn my old job again.

“Okay.” My host trainer touched the Bluetooth in his ear, nodding, and then said, “On it. It’s ready in the back?” A pause. “Got it. Thank you, Tamara.” He said to me, “I know we’re slammed right now.”

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