Focus (Page 11)

“I’m not too worried. As long as she keeps her mess to her side, we’re fine.”

“Mess? Hailey—” The mortification on her mother’s face had me jumping in immediately.

“I’m joking.”

“Oh, good.” Her mom’s shoulders relaxed. “Oh wait, we never introduced ourselves. I’m Jan and this is Timothy.”

“Great, it’s nice to have names other than Hailey’s mom and dad.”

It could have gotten awkward, but Owen joined us.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” I smiled. I hadn’t seen Owen since French.

“Levi was looking for you, Allie.”

“Oh? Where is he?” I started scanning the room.

“He was heading toward the dining room when I saw him.”

“I should find him. I’ll catch up with you in a few, Hailey.”

I felt my phone vibrating but didn’t want to check to see who it was in the middle of the room. I turned down a corridor. It was a text from Jess checking in. I’d have to call back. It had taken weeks for things to feel normal between us again after she left New Orleans suddenly. Even though she told me not to, I still blamed Jared for making her leave. Maybe it was for the best in the end though. She was head over heels for Emmett, and from what I knew, she was loving NYU.

I was about to look for Levi again when I heard a few voices. “You better not screw anything up. I know you’re Levi’s favorite pet but if you upset his girl, you’re going to be in a world of trouble.” I peeked over and saw Jared and Bryant talking to an older man who shared their black hair. I assumed he was their father, Jett. Had he seriously called Jared Levi’s pet?

“You should talk? You—” Jared started.

Jett Florence spoke and it gave me chills. “You can’t rely on Levi’s friendship. He can change his mind and pick someone else. Don’t mess this up, as usual, for the family.”

I quietly slipped back out into the room. I noticed Levi talking to a man and went right over. I put a hand on his arm to get his attention.

Levi wrapped his arm around my waist. “Hey, sweetie, I was just looking for you.”

“Owen told me.”

“Allie, I don’t believe you’ve met Mark yet. He’s one of Dad’s advisors.”

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine.” He shook my hand.

“You ready to find our seats?” Levi asked.

“Sure.”

He led us into the dining room we were using.

Unsurprisingly, Levi was seated at the head of one of the tables. He pulled out the chair directly next to his, and I took a seat. Robert was already seated at the other end with Helen at his side. I watched as others filed in, taking seats around us.

I leaned over to whisper in Levi’s ear. “We eat before the meeting?”

“Yes. We used to do it the other way around, but somehow it goes smoother when people are already fed.”

I laughed. “I think that’s the case with most things.”

“Hello again, Allie.” I turned away from Levi and saw Bryant sitting next to me.

“Hi.”

I heard laughter and looked across from me in time to catch Jared’s eye. Owen was seated next to him with Hailey a few seats further down. I wished Hailey were sitting closer to me, but I assumed it was a hierarchy thing.

“Is something funny, Jared?” Bryant said snidely.

I really didn’t like Bryant.

A waiter came over and poured me a glass of red wine. I noticed no one was drinking it, so I waited for the toast that had to be coming.

Robert stood up. “Welcome to the Autumn meeting. It’s nice to see you all here tonight. We have a lot to discuss, but first let us enjoy our meal.”

He sat down and immediately a bowl of soup was placed in front of me. It smelled good, but I had no idea what it was.

“It’s turtle soup,” Levi explained.

“Turtle? Oh.” It smelled good, but it was definitely a first for me.

“It’s good, trust me.”

I nodded. Levi definitely had good taste when it came to food.

I took a small spoonful, and Levi was right. It was fantastic.

“Like it?” he asked.

“Yeah.” The soup was rich and warm.

“Good.”

I knew that proper dinner party etiquette demanded I talk to Bryant, but I resisted until he spoke to me again. “What do you think of college so far? Is it what you expected?”

“It’s been interesting.”

“A good interesting?”

“Mostly.” I savored the final spoonful of the soup.

“I heard you are living on campus. I’m sure Levi doesn’t like that.” He moved, and his leg brushed against mine. I scooted over in my seat just a little.

Was he seriously talking about this with Levi sitting next to me?

“I’m sure a few more nights of dorm life will have you moving in with him. It makes more sense that way.”

He had to know that Levi could hear, so he must have thought this would somehow make him look good in Levi’s eyes.

“I’m happy on campus. I miss Levi, but it’s important to me. Luckily, Levi is really understanding and doesn’t mind.” I turned toward Levi with a smile.

“I never said I didn’t mind. But as long as you keep spending nights with me, I’m fine with it until the wedding.”

I swallowed down the response I wanted to give, and played along. “You know I’ll keep spending nights with you. How could I resist?”

Levi put a hand on my leg. “I’m just glad I get to take you home tonight.” His hand slid up my leg, right below my thigh.

“I can’t wait.” I looked across the table and was met with Jared’s smirk.

I was saved from more embarrassing conversation, or Levi’s hand doing anything else, when our steak arrived. Thankfully, Levi needed both hands to cut it.

I glanced at Hailey. She looked at me sympathetically.

I finished my first glass of wine but declined a refill. With all of Levi’s talk, I couldn’t afford to get drunk around him.

I thought I was too stuffed to eat anything else until dessert came out. I jumped a little in surprise when the waiter set it on fire.

Levi touched my hand to get my attention. “Bananas foster.”

I turned back to the cart with the dessert. “Nice presentation.”

It was delicious—bananas, caramel and vanilla ice cream. I literally ate every bite.