Across town, Max and Lacy plotted against Keeley over quinoa salad. The food was tasty but the conversation left much to be desired. Just once, could he spend time with Lacy without her wanting something unpleasant from him?
"I checked, she's not a scholarship student, otherwise I would get my father to rescind her financial aid," she grumbled. "I don't know enough about her to know her weaknesses."
"You act like you're going to war."
"Haven't you ever heard that love is a battlefield?"
Yeah, one he was living in. Max sighed. "Lacy, is this even necessary? There are plenty of reasons they could have been in that closet. Honestly, I got the impression Aaron was threatening her. She seemed afraid of something."
"Tons of people fear him," she said dismissively. "I want to know why he keeps approaching her anyway. Someone like that should be beneath his notice."
"They're classmates! Maybe they had a group project together. You can't help who you get assigned with."
Lacy shook her head vehemently. "Project partners don't discuss things in closets! Don't you know anything? People go into closets to make out!"
How did her mind jump straight to making out? She claimed that Aaron kissed that Keeley girl at the Valentine's dance but Max would have to see it to believe it. He was such a dead fish; there's no way he would do something as passionate as kissing a girl, much less in public.
Although he couldn't deny it was strange that he had seen Aaron trying to approach a girl so often. Girls flocked to him, not the other way around.
Max wouldn't exactly call him a friend considering he thought of Aaron as a rival for Lacy's affections but he had known him since middle school. Aaron never had to go to anybody for anything. They always came to him. It was even stranger that he was pursuing this girl than it was that the girl was avoiding him.
What made her so special? She was from the middle class! Hardly a step up from a scholarship student! Aaron towered far above her in both status and wealth so why did he bother?
"I don't think they were making out. Why would she cry?" Max reasoned.
"How am I supposed to fathom the minds of the lower class? Either way, she's too close to Aaron. She needs to learn her place."
"How exactly do you intend to do that?"
Lacy pouted. "I'm not sure yet. She's hard to track down at school so it would probably be better to do something from the shadows. I could start a rumor about how she's a gold-digging slut…"
That was fairly tame…and it would be almost impossible to trace back to the source. Nobody would get in trouble for that. "That's a good idea. Can we enjoy our date now?"
"This isn't a real date," she sniffed haughtily. "I'm only returning a favor."
"So you've said," he muttered through gritted teeth.
His father was just as influential as Alistair Hale. Why wouldn't she take him seriously as an option? They were supposed to get engaged in a few years but she only wanted Aaron, who looked down on her!
"I hope you realize that Aaron Hale doesn't like you."
Lacy shot him a dangerous look. "He'll come to his senses once that commoner is out of the way. I'm the best choice to help expand his network and social standing."
She did have a lot to offer in the way of networking. Her father had his fingers in many pies throughout the city. Brann Knighton had a contact for anything someone could want to do. Plus Lacy had been trained for many years to be the perfect socialite wife.
She was a great catch but she was supposed to be Max's great catch. He didn't want her connections, he wanted her love.
"What if he doesn't?" Max asked bluntly. "Will you abandon your dumb schemes then and marry me like you're supposed to?"
The disbelief in her laughter cut him to the core. "Dear Max, if I don't become the next Mrs. Hale, no one will. Don't get your hopes up."
He silently cursed Aaron's very existence. He wasn't right for Lacy. There had to be a way to convince her of that. That girl Keeley…if she was what Aaron really wanted, it would be in Max's best interest to make sure they ended up together.
However, that posed a problem because he had no idea how to make it happen without Lacy finding out. She would never speak to him again if he opposed her plans.
"You're getting ahead of yourself," he scoffed. "Shouldn't you be focused on trying to become his prom date first?"
Prom…that could work in his favor. Max had heard stories of students that got expelled after drug or alcohol scandals on prom night even though graduation was so close. If he convinced Lacy to drug Keeley and take scandalous pictures but delivered the unconscious girl to Aaron afterwards …no interested man would be able to resist. If he was tipped off, Aaron could get rid of the pictures easily.
Lacy would think her plan worked, Aaron would get his girl, and Max wouldn't be in trouble with his woman. This would be a win for everyone involved except Keeley, but who cared about her? She wasn't anybody important. She was a pawn in this game no matter who was playing it.
Lacy's eyes lit up. "You have an idea. That's your idea face."
He almost panicked but managed to keep his cool. She knew him too well. "Yeah, I might have a way to get that girl off of Aaron's radar permanently. If she got expelled because of him, she would hate him forever. And his father would never let him be with someone with a record."
Max explained half of his plan to her and her expression grew wickedly happy as he went. Sometimes Lacy terrified him. That didn't change anything though. He had been with her too long to love anybody else.
"You're terrible! I love it," she said with a smirk. "Leave everything to me. I have some connections to pharmaceutical labs in the city. I'll find the perfect drug to make her embarrass herself publicly. But what do we do if she doesn't go to prom?"
"Simple. Snatch her earlier in the day, knock her out, and stick her in a prom dress."
"I like the way you think. But kidnapping would be difficult to get away with in broad daylight. We'd be too recognizable. Do you know anybody who could do it for us?" Lacy asked as she inspected her manicure.
Max's extended family had ties to private security forces, better known as mercenaries. It would be easy enough to get a few guys involved. "Not a problem."
"You're the best, Max."
Sure he was. If he was really the best, she would like him rather than that boring pretty boy. Still, it was nice to be appreciated.