Plausible Deniability

revelations and resolutions

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Aila sits as close to the door as possible. She’d finished breakfast with Harry and Tania, surprised at how civil the woman could be. Tania wasn’t warm by any definition, but Aila never felt like her life was in danger. Win.

Now, Mully sits in the front seat of his car and Zayn is on the opposite end of the backseat. Aila’s asked herself dozens of times why he didn’t just get up front with Mully. The silence—and cold determination to ignore her—has driven her crazy.

“I don’t trust you.”

Well, that’s one way to break a silence. Aila swallows against the sinking in her chest. The leaden weight filling her belly. “You don’t even know me.”

“And that’s the problem. You’ve only been in his life for four months. Most of those were spent with you angry at him. There’s nothing to trust.”

“He trusts me,” she protests; she wants so desperately for her voice to remain steady, but it wavers anyway. “That’s all that matters.”

Zayn snorts, finally looking at her. His dark eyes stare straight through her. Obsidian blades cutting her apart. His lip curls as surely as the swoop of hair falling over his forehead. “Him trusting you will be his downfall.”

“I don’t care what your problem is. I really like him, and he seems to like me just as much.” Aila glowers when he opens his mouth to speak, and he raises his hands in surrender. “Your nose should stay on your own face instead of in my relationship with Niall. It has nothing to do with you.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.”

The words crash over her, ice in a tumbler. Zayn gives her a once-over that leaves her feeling dirty. Exposed. Then he stares out the window again, and Aila gapes at the back of his head. Even in the dim illumination of the car, his black hair shines.

He refuses to look at her. He refuses to answer her demands for an explanation, though she tries. Mully sighs from the front seat, but he doesn’t speak. Aila stares between the two men before flopping back in her seat. What does their opinion matter, anyway? They aren’t Niall. She’s chosen him, and he’s chosen her.

That’s what is important.

The car comes to a stop in front of her house, and Aila meets Mully’s gaze in the rear-view mirror. Thanking him quietly, she grabs her bag off the floorboard, draping the strap over her shoulder. Zayn pointedly turns more fully toward the window. She rolls her eyes before shoving the door open. If he wants to be a dick for no reason, she can certainly treat him the same way.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to vow not to think of someone than it is to actually not think of someone. Zayn’s words echo in her mind as she brushes her teeth and grabs her uniform from the laundry room. Anger flickers to life as she hears the icy snarl again and again. She hadn’t deserved the way he spoke to her.

The way he questioned her relationship with Niall.

The way he insinuated Aila would be the ruination of Niall.

Her dating him isn’t up for anyone’s approval.

Her phone chirps from where she tossed it onto her mattress, and she exhales sharply as she picks it up. If it’s Portia, the woman can wait. Aila won’t be late.

To her surprise, it isn’t her manager. Aila disregards the fact she’s topless as she hurriedly answers the incoming video-call, dropping to sit on her bed. All that’s shown, thankfully, are the straps to her bra.

“You look exhausted,” she says in lieu of ‘hello’, and Niall’s lips twitch. “Still look damn good, though.”

“Thanks, darling. I appreciate that. I don’t have long, but I missed seeing you.” He frowns, eyes narrowing. “Already home?”

“Yeah, have to work today.”

“What happened?”

She shakes her head with a gentle smile. “Nothing. Just sad I woke up without you.”

“Trust me, I wish I could’ve been there,” he laughs, and Aila wonders if she should tell him what Zayn said. She decides against it: It can only ruin Niall’s morning. Zayn isn’t important enough for that.

“You have to go, don’t you?” she murmurs when he checks his watch.

“Yeah. I don’t want to, but...”

“But duty calls. I get it.”

“You’re something else.”

The soft words hover in the air long after he hangs up. He’s said it multiple times since they met, but she’s no closer to understanding why he keeps saying it. She’s just Aila. She works two jobs, drinks far more coffee than advisable. She’s an idiot, falling too quickly for a man who’s been so up and down that her head is still spinning.

The ultimatum she gave him reassures her—as long as he keeps to it, she can accept the lack of information. There is an end-date to being kept in the dark. What scares her the most is how much she misses him when they’re so new. Only one date, and she needs more of him.

Sighing, Aila composes a text in the group chat with her friends: Someone save me, I think I might be in love.

From: Willow (09:31)
>
Oh shut up it’s only been a minute since you started dating him

From: Angel (09:31)
>
Damn! He must be really good in bed!

From: Aila (09:31)
<
He might be.

Aila giggles and tosses her phone aside. She has a shift to get ready for, and thinking about Niall certainly won’t help anything.

Work distracts her from her thoughts. She stays busy running towels and pillows, cleaning rooms, and sorting through the laundry. They aren’t tasks that require much of her attention, but she dives headfirst into them anyway. If she doesn’t give her mind the chance, it won’t latch onto everything she’s thought about and felt for Niall.

He’s a puzzle she can’t quite figure out. She doesn’t need enigmas or mysteries—she’s gotten quite accustomed to the thought of her life being simple. Easy. But something about Niall draws her in, stronger than any desire she might have had to run away.

Aila stumbles to a stop just inside the door, raising a brow at Angel bouncing on her toes. “Did… I miss something?”

“C’mon, c’mon, tell us more!”

“More? About—?” Aila sighs and drops her bag to the floor. “Can’t we just let it rest for now?”

Someone snorts from the living room, and Paisley shouts, “Absolutely not! Now get your ass in here so we can talk.”

Aila caves—she knows none of them will give up, and she is too tired to fight it. And maybe getting their perspective will help settle the unease in her gut. So she follows a still-bouncing Angel to the living room and takes a seat next to Cheyenne.

“Spill.”

Leave it to Willow to demand something so gracelessly. Aila inhales as steadily as possible then tells them he’s turned out to be a sweetheart. Attentive and kind. That it almost makes her doubt if he really was as cold as she thought. Paisley rests her hand on Aila’s knee, frowning.

“What else?”

“I can’t help but wonder if this is all too fast,” Aila admits after a moment. “I mean, we were okay then we weren’t, and now... This.”

Angel tosses a piece of popcorn into the air, catching it in her mouth, and shrugs. “Honestly? I figured it was bound to happen. We all saw the flowers he sent. Who wouldn’t fall for someone so romantic?”

“Aila, I’m glad he’s better than he showed himself to be in the beginning,” Cheyenne begins, exchanging a look with Willow. “But please be careful. We don’t want to see you go through another heartache.”

“As long as you’re happy, we’re happy for you. I do want to say I’ll kill him if he hurts you, though.”

Yeah, if you could get to him, she thinks but doesn’t say in response to Paisley’s statement. Instead, she lets her head fall to rest on the back of the couch before sighing. Looking at her friends, she lets out a soft giggle. “Here’s to my dumb hopes of this working out!”

Willow disappears into the kitchen only to return with bottles of wine tucked in her arms. The women don’t bother with glasses, just pass the bottles around. Cheyenne’s phone starts playing music moments later, and Aila listens as her friends talk about their days.

Even through their reassurances, though, she can’t stop questioning why Niall can’t trust her enough with his secrets. They can’t be that horrible, can they?

Aila doesn’t get the chance to ask. Contact with Niall is nonexistent, and she finds herself staring down at her phone, at each message she starts but ultimately deletes. At the thread that hasn’t changed since she told him she misses him more than she should.

She tries not to take it personally. After all, he’s a busy man, running various business ventures. She can’t be his priority when he is trying to keep the companies afloat. He has far too much on his shoulders for such a young man.

It still hurts.

Angel is the one who notices first that Aila’s phone hasn’t rang since the date. Aila tells her friends he is visiting family, so their free time never coincides.

“We’re stronger than ever,” she lies. “We manage to talk on my walk home.”

She hates how easily the lie comes, and she hates that it’s even a lie.

Days drag on. Work, home, sleep, repeat. Aila breaks up the monotony by phoning her parents only to hang up within ten minutes. Her mother refuses to talk about anything but her disappointment in Aila, in the fact she hasn’t run back to Colton and begged his forgiveness. Her father speaks for less than a minute then passes the phone back to Priscilla.

The worst part, Aila thinks, is that she can’t tell her parents about Niall. They will never know he has become important to her. She can never speak of her hopes the relationship works out. Her father wouldn’t care, and her mother would only invalidate the feelings.

The frustration explodes by the third week of being without him. Aila sits in the break-room of the Northend and listens to the line ringing. His answerphone picks up after two rings. She gapes at the screen—he’s declined the call. A second time, same result. Four attempts, and still he doesn’t answer.

Aila’s breath catches in her throat as she hangs up. Heaviness settles at the bottom of her belly, a burning behind her eyes. Sniffling, she rests her head on the tabletop. He promised. He promised things would be better. He promised to warn her if he couldn’t talk. He promised to tell her the truth.

It’s been over a month since he promised.

This is his way of breaking up with you so he doesn’t have to tell you anything, a voice whispers in her mind, and she sits upright. She should have known he would turn out to be a liar. Colton proved she couldn’t trust anyone she had feelings for. Niall just cemented that belief.

He has made his choice. Aila can only accept it and move on. Her time is better spent focusing on herself. Working through the hurt Colton caused is a longer process than she’s allowed. She jumped too quickly into a new relationship, and this is only proving the point.

As Aila goes back to work, she makes herself a vow to move on from both of the men who have hurt her.