I fucking hate December. And this year is no exception.
It’s been a week since Pearl’s little threat. Ryann has been seeing her therapist almost every day, and I’ve made sure to be home with her before she falls asleep. Her nightmares stay at bay when she’s in my arms, and I want to make sure it stays that way. But we both know, with my schedule and the press tour, I’ll have to do for Behind Closed Door. I won’t be able to do it every single night after the first of the year. Even with Ryann traveling with me, there will be times where we won’t be falling asleep at the same time.
Ryann’s therapist wants her to go on medication for her nightmares. But she’s afraid her dreams will stop completely, and her memories will disappear. She seems to want to rediscover the truth even though she’s petrified about what that could intel. She’s opened up a little more with me regarding what she calls her indiscretions. A term I wouldn’t use. And each new piece of information I didn’t have before fills my veins with a vengeance to rectify how she was wronged.
Then there is the little issue called Pearl. I’m meeting with my lawyers to go over the damn contract both her and Dax drafted. I’m hoping there is some clause they’ve stumbled upon that will allow me to void their agreements without owing them any of the damn stipulations listed. What was I even thinking? Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t. I was fucking drunk.
“Thomas, thanks for meeting with me today,” I watch Tucker Larson sit across from me. His expression forlorn, but he always looks like he’s about to deliver some bad news. In my case, he may be about to give me some bad news. Merry fuckin’ Christmas, but we can’t figure out how to allow you to fire Pearl and Dax without paying them for the remainder of their life. The one-time Pearl seemed to do a fairly decent job at closing up loopholes, that or Dax drafted these agreements up. “How are you doing? I know the 18th is a tough day for you and your family.”
Giving Tucker a tight, thinned smile because we aren’t talking about that. That’s not why I’m here. “Tell me you have good news, and I’ll tell you my mood has lifted.”
I swear if his forlorn look could get anymore forlorn-y, it just did. “Thomas, this contract is practically sealed for another two years.” Great, just fucking great. “We may not be able to terminate anything until it actually expires.” Double fucking great. “There is no way Pearl drafted this either.”
“So, you’re telling me Dax, and his team drafted this?” Tucker nods his head as he shuffles through the papers in front of him. “And there is nothing. No way out?”
“Not unless you want to pay their salary until they die,” he tells me. “Which I seriously doubt you want to do.”
Fuck that shit. They aren’t making any more money off of me. “Great. Just fucking great. I need them out, Tucker. Pearl’s threatened Ryann, and I......”
He holds a hand up, “Wait, she’s threatened, Ryann? In what way?”
Arching a questioning brow, “Claims she knows Ryann’s secrets.”
Tucker hums as he shuffles through the papers again, “And you’re sure this isn’t an empty threat? Pearl is known for her empty threats to get what she wants.”
“I thought the same until Ryann said there is evidence.”
Tucker stops shuffling through the copies of Pearl’s and Dax’s contract and looks up at me with curiosity. A change from the permeant expression of hopelessness. “What type of evidence are we talking about?”
My fingers start to strum across the oak table. “Why?”
“Because it may void not only Dax’s contract but Pearl’s too.”
“And I’m not sure putting Ryann....”
Again, Tucker holds a hand up, “Thomas, it may be the only way. Not to mention, if Pearl does have this evidence, you know it’s only a matter of time she does something with it. Unless she gets her way.”
Shaking my head, “And that’s not happening.” I can’t let that happen. Taking a deep breath, “Ryann stole a USB drive when her and her ex broke it off. She’s a sexual assault survivor, and she said the flash drive has photos and a couple of videos on it.”
Is he seriously expecting me to divulge further into Ryann’s past? He’s a lawyer. I pay him enough in retainer fees to keep him on. He can make a damn conclusion himself. I watch as he starts to tap his pen against the papers, waiting for me to answer. “Compromising photos and videos. She wasn’t sobered at these parties, and she said there is evidence of her being drugged and taken advantage of without her consent.”
Tucker starts scribbling down notes into his leatherback notepad, “And you’re sure she didn’t consent?”
My blood boils. What kind of question is that? “Would you like to ask her that?” I bite out.
“If she’d talk with me, yes.”
“Are you fucking kiddin’ me? Tucker, she was drugged, raped, and pimped out to make money for her ex. I’d say it wasn’t consensual. What’s with the third degree?” I demand.
Tucker places the pen down, “I need to make sure that this isn’t a girl knowing what she was doing and then regretted it because she was busted by her family. She went to a party. Did drugs, got drunk, and had sex. It happens.”
I feel my teeth grinding with each word he’s speaking, “She was given spiked drinks and drugged because she didn’t want to have sex. She wanted out after a time. It may have started out consensual, but it didn’t end that way.” I am fighting tooth and nail to keep my voice from rising and becoming defensive. Or jumping across the table and pinning Tucker against the wall to make him see reason. I know he’s doing his job, but does he have to do it so damn well?
“And why did she continue to go?” He questions. A question I don’t have an answer for, and he knows it. “You never deny the drugs. Did she do them?”
A rushing feeling comes over me. I think I have the answer, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. Ryann is hiding a truth from me, and it would make sense with the path of her past, but I can’t just assume she did drugs, can I? Maybe all of Ryann’s therapy sessions aren’t therapy sessions. Maybe she’s getting high. Maybe it’s with Xayla. I wonder if Xayla would have the answers to the questions I have. To the questions, Ryann is so bent on avoiding.
“I don’t know,” I answer slowly. “Does it matter? If those photos and videos show what she claims, they will show a scared sixteen to seventeen-year-old being violated. It doesn’t matter if she was drunk, high, or drugged. It happened when it shouldn’t have happened. No one believed her. Not even her family. The town ridiculed her when she went to the police, and she felt trapped in an abusive relationship.” My fist slams down to the tabletop with the wrath in my voice. “Ryann isn’t falsifying anything. She isn’t lying about what happened to her. I believe her, and so should you.”
Tucker nods his head slowly as he scribbles into his notepad again. My annoyance with him rising as he just writes and questions Ryann’s character. After what feels like hours, he finally sets his pen down. A small smile on his face.
“Why the hell are you smiling?” I demand feeling insulted on all behalves for whatever amusement he’s seeing.
“Give me until the first of the new year to draft this up and to do some research, but you’ll be able to fire Pearl and Dax.”
I look at him dumbfounded. Maybe I imagined what I just heard. My brain playing tricks on me and giving me what I want to hear. “I’m sor – sorry, but what did you say?”
Tucker slides a sheet of paper across the table. Reaching for it, I draw it closer to me and see the familiar typing and straightforward legal font in front of me. “Look down at the bottom. There is a tiny clause placed in. I’m not sure if it was placed in there by Dax and Pearl or their lawyers. Maybe the lawyers smelled a rat and placed this clause in there as a safe button per se. I don’t know. But it’s in there, and your way out.”
Looking from Tucker, my eyes scan the document to the bottom of the page. And on the final page of the agreement with both mine and Pearl’s signature at the bottom. And right before the final statement stating all parties agree to the terms listed above is a small clause allowing me an out. A clause, I don’t think in a million years, neither Pearl nor Dax would have worried about. I’m sure they thought I’d still be a drunk stumbling my way through life. No one could have predicted Ryann waltzing into my life. Not even me.
If at any time the parties named within this agreement violate the terms or the law that results in felony charges against parties outside of this legally binding agreement, the contract becomes null and void. All parties listed below will be held accountable for the legality that breaches this agreement. Once it’s been determined a violation in law has occurred resulting in any felony charge, this contract will become voided, and releasing all parties listed below from any current and future obligations, responsibilities, employment, and any and all clauses within this agreement will be voided.
I. Meaning parties who are named within this agreement are excluded from this clause. The clause listed above can only terminate the contract if the violation occurs to a party outside of this agreement and not within.
II. Meaning parties who are not listed within this agreement are included in the above clause.
III. No employees outside of this agreement are bound by this agreement. Therefore they are not bound to follow the listed clauses and agreed upon stipulations.
IV. Only the listed parties, Thomas Copeland, Pearl Mead, and Dax Foresight, are bound by this agreement once its signed and dated.
This contract will be null and void if sub-clauses within I-IV are violated.
Pearl’s threat. If she truly has those photos or videos, she voids the contract.
“And the same clause is in Dax’s contract too?” Tucker nods his head as he slides the copy from Dax’s agreement across the table. Taking a look, I notice the same stipulation, and the document is signed and dated by the both of us.
“You said Ryann was sixteen, seventeen, in those photos and videos, right?” I nod my head, “If Pearl knows about them and has them, she violates the clauses listed. The contract is null and void. What I need to do is research to make sure I close all loopholes. And we may need proof that she has them. The threat may not be enough, but this is a steppingstone to ridding not only her but Dax.”
I frown with realization. How the hell does he propose we get the proof Pearl actually has the photos? Because if it’s me searching for them and I find them, I may murder both her and Dax. Because where there is one rat, the other isn’t too far behind.
With the thought of possibly needing to find evidence that Pearl may not have and with tomorrow looming right around the fucking corner, I need a drink.