Disclosure - 1


R.E. Hunter

To my “Luke.”

My love, my life, my rock.


This can’t be happening. That thought ran on a constant loop through her head as she sat in the cold, uninviting classroom, the smell of antiseptic invading her nostrils. A shiver crept up her spine, and she couldn’t tell if it was from the temperature or her nerves. Maybe both. She sat on a hard plastic chair, hands gripped in her lap, her foot tapping furiously against the linoleum. The anticipation was killing her. She studied the three people at the front of the room, their heads bent together as they whispered amongst themselves.

Her heart thumped in her chest, the dull thud echoing in her ears as she sat silently, waiting. Her head swam, and she struggled to keep herself afloat instead of drowning in the anxiety that threatened to pull her under. She strained forward, hoping to catch even a small piece of their hushed conversation, but all she could hear was the shallow murmur of their voices. She wanted to get it over with. Like a Band-Aid, it would hurt either way. Might as well make it quick. She’d had to pick up the pieces of her broken life and move on once before. But she couldn’t do it again, not after all of her hard work. She wouldn’t accept it, she couldn’t.

How did this happen? They’d been careful. Hadn’t they been careful? She swallowed the lump in her throat and tried in vain to think of something, anything else.

The older gentleman on the end cleared his throat, pulling her from her thoughts. “Miss Jacobs?”

She looked up at the members of the university’s disciplinary committee, taking them in one at a time. She straightened her back and lifted her chin, hoping the outward display of confidence would give her some semblance of the same feeling on the inside. That was shot to hell as soon as she opened her mouth. “Y-yes, sir?” she answered, her voice trembling.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the other man asked, his eyes kind.

“No, sir.” She shook her head, but she was pretty sure she had an idea.

“Let me tell you,” the older man interjected, opening the folder in front of him. He explained the purpose of the hearing and the university’s policies regarding disciplinary sanctions.

She sat back, rubbing her palms on her pants and trying to calm down. As she listened to his words, she was hit with a rush of emotion so strong it almost bowled her over. Good. Bad. Happy. Sad. Betrayal. Rage. Shock. Relief. Relief? She fought to keep focused on the seriousness of the situation before her as a litany of memories assaulted her consciousness.


Four months earlier …

“Look to your left … now look to your right. One of you won’t be here at the end of the year.”

Those same words were repeated year after year at law school orientations around the country. Embry Jacobs fought to keep her composure as the dean continued his sad attempt to scare her out of the next three years at Whitman Law School. The old theater seats made her itch, and her long, blond hair stuck to the back of her neck, making her antsy.

She leaned over to whisper to her best friend, “Seriously? I thought they stopped giving this speech years ago. Did the dean take this straight from The Paper Chase?”

Morgan chuckled and elbowed Embry’s ribs. “Shhh, this is very important stuff, Bree.”

Embry had read the books and watched the movies. She knew all about the scare tactics used on first-year law students. As cliché as the dean’s speech was, a good number of the students in that auditorium wouldn’t make it through the first semester, let alone all three years.

Failing out wasn’t an option for her. Embry had one chance, and she had to make it count. All she’d ever wanted was to be a lawyer, and the only thing standing in her way was the next three years of school. Already in debt from her undergraduate degree, she was relying on a scholarship to get her through law school. If she didn’t keep her grades high enough to maintain the scholarship, she’d be forced to take out more loans. At least once she graduated, she’d be able to make enough money to pay them off. Embry was startled from her thoughts by a hard poke to her arm.

“Bree, you coming?”

Embry looked up to see Morgan waiting for her. Morgan Maxwell had been her best friend for as long as she could remember. She’d been through everything with Embry, and even though they’d lived far apart for the past five years, their friendship had never suffered. When Embry left home after high school without any warning or explanation, Morgan was the only person who knew why. The real reason. Even though Embry’s leaving put a strain on Morgan’s relationship with her own parents, she stuck by Embry’s side, always supportive and never questioning. When they started applying to law schools at the same time, Morgan convinced Embry to finally come home so they could experience it together. Embry had never believed they would be so lucky to get accepted to Whitman together, so when she got her admission letter, she planned her move immediately.

Morgan’s voice broke through her thoughts again. “Earth to Embry! Did you hear a word I just said?”

“What? No, sorry,” she answered.

“Where were you just now?” Morgan asked, tilting her head and shooting Embry a curious glance.

“I was just thinking about being back home,” she said, shrugging.

Morgan bounced up and down. “Oh my God, I know! Can you believe we’re really doing this? Morgan and Bree back together again! And in law school!” She grabbed Embry’s arm and pulled her up out of the seat. “Come on, I wanna catch the next campus tour.”

Embry gave Morgan a big smile, trying to match her enthusiasm. “Okay, okay, let’s go.”

The girls exited the auditorium into the bright summer sun. Embry rummaged around in her purse for her sunglasses, and her fingers brushed the hard edge of an envelope. She dragged Morgan to a stop.

“Hey, I totally forgot I have to run to student services.” She pulled the envelope from her purse. “Something to do with my tuition. You okay to do the tour yourself?”

Morgan huffed sarcastically then gave Embry a bright smile. “I’ll be fine. You know I make friends wherever I go!”

Embry chuckled. “Okay, I’ll catch you later.”

She made her way to the law school’s building and walked through the rear door. She hadn’t been through that entrance yet and found herself disoriented as she navigated the long, empty hallways. She turned a corner and stopped to take in her surroundings. She realized she had been walking in a circle about the same time something crashed into her, spinning her around. Before she could get her bearings, she felt a large, warm hand on her arm.

“Sorry about that.”

Embry looked up at the owner of the deep, raspy voice and into a pair of the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. He was beautiful—dark, perfectly mussed hair, straight nose, square, chiseled jaw, full lips—and she could have lost herself in those eyes for days. “I–um …” Struck speechless by his good looks and the warmth of his touch, she nodded and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his brow furrowed.

“Yeah. Yes, I’m fine,” she forced out, nodding again. Stop nodding, Embry!

“You sure?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m good, thanks.”

He quirked his head to the side, studying her. His face twisted into something just short of … pain? He looked perplexed and frustrated. Embry watched him shake his head slightly, as if trying to clear the emotions playing across his face. He lightly dragged his thumb across her skin before he removed his hand from her arm, leaving a trail of goose bumps in its wake.

“Sorry again,” he said with a sheepish grin, and just like that he was gone. He turned and walked away as though they hadn’t just collided and had the most intense moment.

Their entire exchange couldn’t have lasted more than a minute, but Embry felt it in every fiber of her being. Shaken by her run-in with the mysterious stranger, she retraced her steps until she found the atrium. The large, open room was filled with sunlight streaming in from the sky-lit ceiling. Tables and chairs, filled with new students laughing and talking, were scattered around the big space. The walls were covered with pictures of Supreme Court justices and esteemed faculty members, and at the end was the student services office. She made her way into the office, and as she waited for her advisor, she couldn’t help but think about those bright blue eyes.

* * *

“I’m sorry to take you away from your orientation activities,” her student affairs advisor said as she flipped through a folder full of papers.

Embry sat with her hands in her lap, glancing around the office as she waited.

“But I’m glad you’re here. There was a problem regarding your tuition that I wanted to resolve as soon as possible.”

Embry had dealt with that more than once in college. Loans and scholarships were paid out late all the time. “Was my scholarship not disbursed yet?”

The woman paused her paper shuffling and glanced at Embry before shifting her attention back to the pile. “No, no, your scholarship came through,” she answered. “Ah, here it is.” She pulled a piece of paper out of the pile and handed it to Embry. “It appears that maybe you were misinformed about the amount that the scholarship would cover.”