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The heat tore through her skin, it burned from her neck to her cheeks like sap flowing through a tree. It scorched through wherever it passed, scolded her, and boiled. To her terror, Casey Novak sensed her armpits breaking a sweat.

How indignified for the blazing queen of debate club to become speechless not by a worthy opponent, but by a single interaction that had absolutely nothing to do with her.

Standing in the middle of the school corridor, Casey reflected on her mistake. How presumptuous of her to assume she wouldn’t be affected by the sight of the brilliant Alexandra Cabot, that she could survive her unharmed. She had been in love with the older teenager for years and while she was determined to forget all about her childish infatuation, her cheeks still stained red when their fingers brushed at the debate club.

And now this. She could die on the spot.

Her heart pounded in her chest, her ribcage about to burst. Her knuckles white. Not out of jealousy, but out of the effort not to sink to her knees and cry.

Gorgeous Alexandra Cabot, with her amazing sunflower blonde hair, stood with her back to her locker holding hands with none other than Olivia Benson. Benson was the sweetest creature Casey had ever met, with her incredible sense of justice, and looks that would turn the heads of boys and girls. She was a dream, and she was locking lips with Casey’s dream.

The worst of it? It was impossible to hate Olivia. Not even sass-king Rafael Barba from the debate club who had started on the wrong foot with Benson had been able to resist her charms for long. Not that Casey expected him to, she called it as soon as he saw how agitated Olivia made it, claiming he’d be wrapped around her finger in a week. He resisted a good three weeks for the sake of his pride. On the fourth, they were seeing discussing law and order like two old friends.

And now Alex. Oh, Alex.

Cabot had always been close to Benson. They could have big disagreements, still, their chemistry was undeniable and Casey should have seen this pair coming.

“I’m so sorry,” a voice spoke. Novak faced the person beside her and found Rafael as red as she was, watching the new couple.

“Sorry for you too,” she scoffed, lowering her eyes to her feet.

“Me?” he questioned, words coming out high pitched. He shook his head, resigned. “Thank you.” He shot her a sideways glance. “I guess since there’s no chance of this becoming a love square, the two of us would be better eating ice cream until we burst, right?”

“Count me in,” sighed Casey.

“Rafa!” Olivia’s voice snapped them out, she smiled at the boy.

“I’m going to die,” he muttered.

Novak caught the moment Alex glanced over her shoulder and smiled at her. A small, soft smile. Her lips grew dry.

“Save me a seat in hell,” she whispered to Rafael before he stepped away to join his friends.

The younger teen exhaled, glued her pieces back together, and strode her way to class.