chapter 19 - i'll blame it on my teenage hormones

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I sit rigidly in the passenger seat, my eyes straining to pierce the darkness of the road ahead. Ace's grip on the steering wheel was the only indication of his own unease. Maybe it's the tension I'm giving off because he hadn't seemed fazed after that kiss.

As we near my car, parked under the dim glow of a streetlamp, I couldn't hold back any longer. "I told you to warn me before you kissed me!"

He pulls over smoothly next to my car, the engine idling softly. Turning to face me, his expression is unreadable in the dimness. "I did warn you," He says, his voice low. "It was to keep them from thinking otherwise about our relationship."

"That wasn't a warning." I respond, "And since when do you care about rumors?"

Ace sighs, running a hand through his hair. Suddenly, he looks as if he's thinking about what I said. When I think he's going to say he does care about the rumors, he completely avoids the subject. "It won't happen again unless it's absolutely necessary."

"Let's hope it's never necessary." I cross my arms and look away.

I hope he doesn't think he can just freely kiss me. Does he think he can do whatever he wants? Maybe the 'playboy prince' label the tabloids gave him isn't so far off.

"Don't worry," says Ace, his voice softer now. "It wouldn't even cross my mind."

I glance at him, noting the intense sincerity in his blue eyes. "Just... make sure it doesn't."

I leave his car and walk to mine. Ace doesn't leave until I do.

He believes the whole school would get more clarity in our so-called relationship. With Rohan and George, who can't keep their mouths shut, everyone will talk about us until it's old news. According to Jade, Rohan loves dramatic narratives and is always ready to share the latest "Have you heard about this?" tale. On the other hand, George takes gossip a step further, adding his own (likely untrue) insights. If the students talk, it'll most likely reach the public.

I hope he's starting to understand that I'm not crushing on him. If he does, it'll make it easier to keep things platonic. Make it easier to keep him in line. I don't see myself ever falling for him, not even after that kiss.

Except... I let him continue to kiss me. And for a moment, I allowed myself to be swept away.

I'll blame it on my teenage hormones.

I wander the hall, looking at the room number plates above each door. "C20... C21... C22... " I mutter until I finally reach the Harlock Justice Club room, C23.

The mahogany door to the law club room bore a brass plaque engraved with a blindfolded Lady Justice clutching her scales. I push the slightly open door and look around the room. It's not just some plain room with institutional beige walls like it would've been at my old school. No, this is a haven for club members.

A full bookshelf stretches across one wall filled with tomes on the literature of law and history. There are a few desks with computers in a dedicated study area. A lounge area with armchairs and a leather sofa groups around a low wooden coffee table. A medium-blue oriental rug adds a warm touch to the hardwood floor.

In front of the bookshelf, a mock trial space mimics a real courtroom. A raised platform with a desk serves as the judge's bench, complete with a gavel and block. Two desks face the judge's bench, and a simple wooden chair positioned off to the side is the witness stand, completing the illusion. There's a large, round meeting table dominating the other side of the room, with a big-screen TV mounted on the wall above and a whiteboard standing nearby. The walls weren't bare either. Paintings of different legal figures hang proudly in various spots—portraits of stern-faced judges and legal scholars and prominent historical figures who shaped the legal landscape.

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