The love Hypothesis by ALI HAZELWOOD ,Chapter 19

HYPOTHESIS: People who cross me will come to regret it.
She had to lie. Again. It was becoming a bit of a habit, and while she spun an elaborate tale for the secretary of Harvard’s biology department, one in which she was a grad student of Dr. Carlsen’s who needed to track him down immediately to relay a crucial message in person, she swore to herself that this would be the last time. It was too stressful. Too difficult. Not worth the strain on her cardiovascular and psychophysical health. Plus, she sucked at it. The department secretary didn’t look like she believed a word of what Olive said, but she must have decided that there was no harm in telling her where the biology faculty had taken Adam out for dinner—according to Yelp, a fancy restaurant that was less than a ten-minute Uber ride away. Olive looked down at her ripped jeans and lilac Converse and wondered if they’d let her in. Then she wondered if Adam would be mad. Then she wondered if she was making a mistake and screwing up her own life, Adam’s life, her Uber driver’s life. She was very tempted to change her destination to the conference hotel when the car pulled up to the curb, and the driver—Sarah Helen, according to the app— turned around with a smile. “Here we are.” “Thank you.” Olive started getting out of the passenger seat and found that she couldn’t move her legs.
“Are you okay?” Sarah Helen asked. “Yeah. Just, un . . .” “Are you gonna puke in my car?” Olive shook her head. No. Yes. “Maybe?” “Don’t, or I’ll destroy your rating.” Olive nodded and tried to slide out of the seat. Her limbs were still nonresponsive. Sarah Helen frowned. “Hey, what’s wrong?” “I just . . .” There was a lump in her throat. “I need to do a thing. That I don’t want to do.” Sarah Helen hummed. “Is it a work thing, or a love thing?” “Uh . . . both.” “Yikes.” Sarah Helen scrunched up her nose. “Double threat. Can you put it off?” “No, not really.” “Can you ask someone else to do it for you?” “No.” “Can you change your name, cauterize your fingertips, enter the witness protection program, and disappear?” “Um, not sure. I’m not an American citizen, though.” “Probably no, then. Can you say ‘fuck it’ and deal with the consequences?” Olive closed her eyes and thought about it. What, exactly, would the consequences be if she didn’t do what she was planning to? Tom would be free to keep on being an absolute piece of shit, for one. And Adam would never know that he was being taken advantage of. He would move to Boston. And Olive would never have a chance to talk to him again, and all that he’d meant to her would end . . .
In a lie. A lie, after a lot of lies. So many lies she’d told, so many true things she could have said but never did, all because she’d been too scared of the truth, of driving the people she loved away from her. All because she’d been afraid to lose them. All because she hadn’t wanted to be alone again. Well, the lying hadn’t worked out too well. In fact, it had downright sucked lately. Time for plan B, then. Time for some truth. “No. I don’t want to deal with the consequences.” Sarah Helen smiled. “Then, my friend, you better go do your thing.” She pressed a button, and the passenger door unlocked with a clunk. “And you better give me a perfect rating. For the free psychotherapy.” This time, Olive managed to get out of the car. She tipped Sarah Helen 150 percent, took a deep breath, and made her way into the restaurant. —
SHE FOUND ADAM immediately. He was big, after all, and the restaurant was not, which made for a pretty quick search. Not to mention that he was sitting with about ten people who looked a lot like very serious Harvard professors. And, of course, Tom. Fuck my life, she thought, slipping past the busy hostess and walking toward Adam. She figured that her bright red duffle coat would attract his attention, then she’d gesticulate for him to check his phone, and text him to please, please, please give her five minutes of his time when dinner was over. She figured that telling him tonight was the best option—his interview would be over tomorrow, and he’d be able to make
his decision with the truth at his disposal. She figured her plan might work. She had not figured that Adam would notice her while in conversation with a young, beautiful faculty member. She had not figured that he’d suddenly stop speaking, eyes widening and lips parting; that he’d mutter “Excuse me” while staring at Olive and stand from the table, ignoring the curious looks in his direction; that he’d march to the entrance, where Olive was, with quick, long strides and a concerned expression. “Olive, are you okay?” he asked her, and— Oh. His voice. And his eyes. And the way his hands came up, as if to touch her, to make sure that she was intact and really there—though right before his fingers could close around her biceps he hesitated and let them fall back to his sides. It broke her heart a little. “I’m fine.” She attempted a smile. “I . . . I’m sorry to interrupt this. I know it’s important, that you want to move to Boston, and—this is inappropriate. But it’s now or never, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have the courage to . . .” She was rambling. So she took a deep breath and started again. “I need to tell you something. Something that happened. With—” “Hey, Olive.” Tom. But of course. “Hi, Tom.” Olive held Adam’s gaze and didn’t look at him. He did not deserve to be looked at. “Can you give us a minute of privacy?” She could see his oily, fake smile with the corner of her eye. “Olive, I know you’re young and don’t know how these things work, but Adam’s here to interview for a very important position, and he can’t just—” “Leave,” Adam ordered, voice low and cold.
Olive closed her eyes and nodded, taking a step back. Fine. It was fine. It was Adam’s right not to talk to her. “Okay. I’m sorry, I—” “Not you. Tom, leave us.” Oh. Oh. Well, then. “Dude,” Tom said, sounding amused, “you can’t just get up from the table in the middle of an interview dinner and—” “Leave,” Adam repeated. Tom laughed, brazen. “No. Not unless you’re coming with me. We’re collaborators, and if you act like an asshole during a dinner with my department because of some student you’re screwing, it will reflect poorly on me. You need to come back to the table and—” “A pretty girl like you should know the score by now. Don’t lie to me and say you didn’t pick out a dress that short for my benefit. Nice legs, by the way. I can see why Adam’s wasting his time with you.” Neither Adam nor Tom had seen Olive take out her phone, or press Play. They both struggled for a second, confused— they’d clearly heard the words but were unsure where they came from. Until the recording restarted. “Olive. You don’t think I accepted you into my lab because you are good, do you? A girl like you. Who figured out so early in her academic career that fucking well-known, successful scholars is how to get ahead. You fucked Adam, didn’t you? We both know you’re going to fuck me for the same reason.” “What the—” Tom took a step forward, hand extended to grab the phone from Olive. He didn’t get far, because Adam pushed him away with a palm on his chest, making him stumble several steps back.
He still wasn’t looking at Tom. And not at Olive, either. He was staring down at her phone, something dark and dangerous and frighteningly still in his expression. She should have probably been scared. Maybe she was, a little. “—you’re telling me you thought your pitiful abstract was selected for a talk because of its quality and scientific importance? Someone here has a very high opinion of herself, considering that her research is useless and derivative and that she can barely put together two words without stuttering like an idiot—” “It was him,” Adam whispered. His voice was low, barely a whisper, deceptively calm. His eyes, unreadable. “It was Tom. The reason you were crying.” Olive could only nod. In the background, Tom’s recorded voice droned on and on. Talking about how mediocre she was. How Adam would never believe her. Calling her names. “This is ridiculous.” Tom was coming closer again, reattempting to take the phone away. “I’m not sure what this bitch’s problem is, but she’s clearly—” Adam exploded so fast, she didn’t even see him move. One moment he stood in front of her, and the next he was pinning Tom against the wall. “I’m going to kill you,” he gritted out, little more than a growl. “If you say another word about the woman I love, if you look at her, if you even think about her—I’m going to fucking kill you.” “Adam—” Tom choked out. “Actually, I will kill you anyway.” People were running toward them. The hostess, a waiter, a few faculty members from Adam’s table. They were forming a crowd, yelling in confusion and trying to pull Adam off Tom —with no success. Olive’s mind went to Adam pushing
Cherie’s truck, and she almost laughed in a moment of hysteria. Almost. “Adam,” she called. Her voice was barely audible in the chaos going on around them, but it was what got through to him. He turned to look at her, and there were entire worlds in his eyes. “Adam, don’t,” she whispered. “He’s not worth it.” Just like that, Adam took a step back and let Tom go. An elderly gentleman—probably a Harvard dean—began laying into him, asking for explanations, telling him how unacceptable his behavior was. Adam ignored him, and everyone else. He headed straight for Olive, and— He cradled her head with both hands, fingers sliding through her hair and holding her tight as he lowered his forehead to hers. He was warm, and smelled like himself, like safe and home. His thumbs swept through the mess of tears on her cheeks. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know, and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry—” “It’s not your fault,” she managed to mumble, but he didn’t seem to hear her. “I’m sorry. I’m—” “Dr. Carlsen,” a male voice boomed loudly from behind them, and she felt Adam’s body stiffen against hers. “I demand an explanation.” Adam paid no heed to the man, and kept holding Olive. “Dr. Carlsen,” he repeated, “this is unacceptable—” “Adam,” Olive whispered. “You have to answer him.” Adam exhaled. Then he pressed a long, lingering kiss to Olive’s forehead before reluctantly disentangling himself. When she was finally able to get a good look at him, he seemed more like his usual self. Calm. Angry at the entire world. In charge.
“Send me that recording immediately,” he murmured at her. She nodded, and he turned to the elderly man who’d just approached them. “We need to talk. Privately. Your office?” The other man looked shocked and offended, but he nodded stiffly. Behind him, Tom was making a fuss, and Adam clenched his jaw. “Keep him away from me.” He turned to Olive before leaving, bending closer to her and lowering his voice. His palm was warm against her elbow. “I am going to take care of this,” he told her. There was something determined, earnest in his eyes. Olive had never felt safer, or more loved. “And then I’ll come find you, and I’ll take care of you.”

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