Willow swivelled her chair toward the window. Her eyes rested on the parking area where she’d lost her bet with Christian. She exhaled and felt the tension ease up on her neck and shoulders.

A shark cage dive. Who woulda thought fancy-food Christian could do extreme activities? She smiled. He’s not so bad after all. I’m actually looking forward to finding out more about him.

She remained holed up in her office, a myriad of logistics details needing her attention. When the hunger pains triumphed, she trudged to the kitchen, disappointed that Christian wasn’t there. “Hey, Bongani. What fabulous feasts are you serving today? I’m starving.”

Bongani peered through the service pass. “For you I’ve got medallions of mushroom and feta stuffed chicken breast, ratatouille mash and sundried tomato relish.”

Willow’s stomach growled in response. “That sounds fantastic. I’ll have two separate portions, for me and Lucy please.”

Willow pressed down the handle with her elbow, turned and pushed the door open with her back. Her hands laden with a tray, she backed into Lucy’s office. She nudged the door shut with her foot and turned around. “I bring foo–”

Christian and Lucy jumped away from each other as though they’d been electrocuted.

Willow’s eyes contracted, her face contorted in a strangled expression. The plates rattled on the plastic tray, and the metal dome covers clinked against the plates as her hands shook. The aromatic wafts that had her licking her lips in anticipation, now pummelled her stomach with a nauseating force. It wasn’t until she sucked in a mouthful of air, that she realised she’d been holding her breath.

“Oh, hey there, Willow, I didn’t hear you come in.” Lucy lifted her hand in greeting, “I was just telling Chris–”

Willow slammed the tray on the conference table to her right, the clatter of crockery and cutlery ringing through an impenetrable air of awkwardness. “I brought lunch, but I see you’re already having dessert.”

“No!” Lucy took a step toward Willow. “It’s not what you think.”

“Doesn’t matter what I think. You’re both adults. You can do what you want, as long as it’s consensual, right?”

“Willow.” Christian rubbed a hand over his face. “I was just con–”

“You’re a con for sure, making me think one thing,” said Willow, shaking her head in disbelief, “while you’re putting the moves on someone else.”

“I will not defend my character against your obvious anger over what you think you saw.”

His infuriating, reasoned, calm stoked the flames of Willow’s fury. “What I think I saw?” Willow’s eyes bulged from their sockets. “What I saw were two people hopping away from each other because they were caught in a compromising position.”

“I would never …” Lucy stared at Willow, tears forming in her eyes. “Never–”

Willow glared at Lucy. “You knew! You knew we’re sorta kinda dating.”

“And I’m happy for you, but this,” said Lucy, waving a hand between her and Christian, “is not what it looks like. We’re innocent.”

“Sure you are.” Willow smiled, but her eyes didn’t play along. “Just like the majority of prison inmates. Enjoy your lunch.”

Before Lucy could respond, Willow marched to the door and yanked it open. With a last backward glance, she stepped out and slammed it shut behind her, her ribcage in danger of being shattered by her pounding heart.

In her office, she grabbed her bag and fled the building.

The keys dropped to the ground as her hands fumbled with the car door; her teeth clenched in response to the persistent pinging and ringing of her cellphone.


Tell us: Could Willow be right? That Christian is playing them both?