By the time I get back home, the sun is setting.
Samuel dropped me off before heading home for the remainder of the week. I do not regret the decision in the slightest, especially after he got a call from his daughter asking him to come home. Apparently, even at the age of four, she knows how to steal mommy’s phone and call daddy.
I remembered being sick and wanting a certain parent at that age. I wanted my mom. I always wanted my mom, and on the rare occasions she wasn’t home, I called her, begging her to come back home. I guess that part still lives deep inside of me. The emotional connection of the dependency and love that you require still lives on.
Walking into the house, half the lights are on, and the other half are off. I can hear the hum of music coming from outside, making me wonder what Val and Ryann are up to. Though, I’m kind of surprised Val is still here if she’s still here. From the text I got from Ryann about forty minutes ago, they were done with self-defense class. But as I walk up to the large sliding glass doors, I see Travis and Ryann still out in the backyard. He is teaching her additional self-defense moves that were not on the itinerary for today.
I watch him come up behind her and place her into a headlock. A move that has every possessive protective bone in my body wanting to crash through these glass doors and pull Travis off her. But in one swift motion, I watch Ryann get out of the hold before taking off across the yard. Travis is down on the ground and slowly getting back up. Smiling to myself, I feel immense satisfaction knowing that my babydoll will be able to protect herself. God, I hope she’ll never have to put the moves she’s learned to the test, but it does help ease a gnawing worriment that if she were ever in danger again, she’d at least be able to protect herself.
Walking back into the kitchen, I take a water bottle from the refrigerator and take a long gulp of water, and watch Ryann and Travis repeat the chokehold over and over again. Until it seems like second nature to her, I hear her scream out in pure rage with each takedown and watch her take off, running towards the other side of the lawn to get away. A move that was agreed upon. If they can get away, they need to run away. Not stay behind and try and take out their assailant because the chances of that happening are slim to none. I don’t want Ryann or Val to be another statistic. I need them to know how to fight back and how to get away. I need them to understand how to think outside of the box and take down someone ten times stronger than them.
The sudden sound of a phone ringing an unfamiliar ringtone and vibrating against the countertops draws my attention to Ryann’s phone. An unknown number is flashing across her screen, and it’s from Indiana.
Suddenly the need to protect Ryann goes into overdrive as I answer the phone on pure impulse. I’m not sure who I’m expecting to be on the other end. Jamie? One could hope, but a verbal ass-kicking isn’t what he deserves.
“Hello?” My voice is strong and demanding when I answer the phone.
The line stays silent. I can hear what sounds like a male breathing into the line, causing the simmering rage that I’m feeling to intensify with annoyance.
“I know you’re there. I can hear you breathing. Is there something I can help you with?” Again, my voice is strong and demanding.
“I need to speak with Ryann Anderson,” the male voice on the other end says clearly and confidently. A confidence I want to punch down a few pegs.
“She’s busy,” I bite out. “Can I take a message?”
“Busy with what? Can you get her for me?”
Seriously? Who is this fucker? “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, but I’ll repeat myself only once. Ryann is not available.....”
“Who the hell is this?” The male voice barks into the phone, cutting me off. “The last I knew, Ry didn’t have a boyfriend.” I can feel my brows shooting into my hairline at the sheer gall of this guy. But with the nickname that he used, I know exactly who this is, and I have no interest in dealing with this fucking coward. Not after the day, I’ve had today. “Wait, is this Mr. Hollywood?”
“The one and only,” you fucking waste of space. “I’ll tell Ryann you called.” Lie, I’m deleting his fucking number from her recent calls and leaving it at that.
“Or you can go get her.”
I don’t remember Ryann mentioning Max being deaf, but here we are, about to go round and round. “I told you, she’s busy. I’ll let her know you called.”
“Busy? With what? What do you have her doing that she can’t pull away and talk with her best friend? Her brother-in-law?” Brother-in-law maybe. Best friend...ya, now you’re just pushing it. And pushing my fucking buttons.
“Currently taking her security guard down to the ground.”
There is something about watching Ryann taking Travis down, time and time again, that is a fucking turn-on. It’s like he was able to tap into the rage Ryann only reserved to protect the ones she loves. Now it’s released, and she’s finally ready to defend herself.
“Wait, she has a security guard now? Since when?” My attention is snapped back by the stupid ass question that just came through the phone. I know he knows what happened to Ryann. I know he knows because he’s the one who sent Jamie our way.
I can’t help but release a sarcastic laugh, “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like she and her friends were attacked in broad daylight.”
“Well, ya, I know that. But people get attacked....”
My blood boils to a new boiling point. To only be in the same room as this fucker is high on my priority list, and when that day comes, I will not keep it civil. The first word out of his mouth, even if it is a hello, will be a fucking punch to his face.
“You’re fucking kidding me, right?” I nearly scream into the phone. “She was attacked in broad fucking daylight by her ex. And to top that off, she has been dealing with an onslaught from the media. Her past blasted for all the world to see, and you, her supposed best friend, are going to come at me with, but people get attacked all the time? Did you even reach out to her after she was attacked?” My tone is even and commanding as I walk out of the kitchen and into my office. Ryann is going to be pissed once she finds out I answered her phone. She’s going to be furious when she finds out I talked to Max.
“I uh....well, she wouldn’t answer my calls. Betty said she didn’t have her phone. That it was taken off the property and that she could only be reached through your phone. I knew you wouldn’t let me talk with her.” Ha, he’s not wrong. I would not have allowed him to speak with Ryann, especially after what she’s told me.
“You’re fucking right about that,” I spit out.
“And you don’t need to be talking with my wife,” he retorts with venom. I can feel his need to defend and attempt to validate himself. Like he needs to prove to me that he will always protect the Anderson sisters no matter what. Too bad for him. It’s a little too late for that. “I heard her crying the first night you called her. And I know it was you, I’m not stupid....”
“Oh, you could have fooled me.”
“Call my wife again,” he warns, “I’ll....”
A sardonic laugh leaves my lips at his empty, meaningless threat. Not only do I feel bad for Ryann for befriending this coward, but I also feel sorry for her sister for being in what I’m sure is faked loved marriage. “You’ll what?” I spit out. “Put me in my place? Tell me to fuck off? Teach me a god damn lesson?” Again, a malicious laugh comes deep from within. “I will say the same thing to you as I told your wife. Someone on your side of the tracks sent Jamie our way....”
“Are you fucking...” I immediately cut Max off again.
“Does it sound like I’m fucking joking?” I boom into the phone. “Tell me how Jamie was able to find Ryann down to the damn fucking block? He’s been following Ryann until he could strike. Guess what, fucker, he attacked. What the hell were you expecting him to do? To love Ryann, to bring her back home, and then what?” My fist comes slamming down hard against the solid wood of my desktop as a small crack becomes ingrain into the dark wood. A minor fracture representing the curveballs thrown into our lives.
“I didn’t tell Jamie shit,” Max yells into the phone. “Do you really think that I would subject Ry to his wrath? After everything, she’s been through? No! The only person out of the family who talks with Jamie is Raymond.”
He can’t seriously be throwing their father under the god damn bus. “Raymond still believes that Ryann lives on a fucking beach somewhere. I can guarantee he has no clue where she’s living, and I’ll also bet my career that he’d never turn someone like Jamie on her daughter without her knowledge.”
At least Ryann’s father has the gonads to call Ryann up and warn her that he gave Jamie her number or that he talked to him. At least, he, in some form, respected Ryann enough to tell her after the act was done. Unlike the snake slithering around in her life.
“And how do you know that?” Max demands. “Ry doesn’t open up to share her past with anyone. Are you screwing her for information? Maybe you’re the one who’s contacted, Jamie...”
“Watch it,” I growl.
Every muscle in my body tenses, “The day that we’ll meet, you’re gonna wish we hadn’t.”
“Is that a threat?”
It’s not only a threat. It’s a fucking promise. Not only will we meet, but the first time I see his smug fucking face, I’ll throw the first god damn punch. If he even attempts to hug Ryann, I’ll end his fucking life. His dutiful duties of being the best friend are fucking over. It was over the moment Ryann and I met in that alleyway in Indiana.
“It’s a fucking promise. And with that said, you better hope we never meet.”
“Thomas?” The sound of Ryann’s voice coming from the doorway snaps my attention up to a confused beautiful woman standing in my doorway. When she realizes I’m on her phone, her face becomes impassive as her hazel eyes tell me everything I need to know. I’m in a world of trouble. “Who the hell are you talking to?”
Ryann marches into my office and comes to a complete stop in front of me, holding her hand out for me to hand over her phone. I’m reluctant, and even more so with the fucker on the other end now laughing. “This isn’t over,” I seethe into the phone, causing Max’s laughter to cease as I hand the phone over to Ryann.
She eyes me, and by the utter look of betrayal in her eyes, she knows who I was talking to. “Hello?” Her body immediately tenses, causing me to get up from my chair and reach out for her. Her eyes are starting to gloss over as she shoos my hands away. “Sorry, I left my phone on the kitchen counter during class today....No, I didn’t know my boss would answer my phone.” Ryann turns on her heels, heading out of the office as she fights to keep her composure. “Seriously, Maxwell? Why would I do that.....he what!?”
That fucking child of a man just told on me, and with the fierce glare I’m receiving from Ryann, she’s pissed. Just what we need before our trip tomorrow, us fighting.
Slamming the door behind her, I’m left staring at the back of my office door. I can’t hear anything Ryann is saying or yelling. The only thing I can hear is the slam of our bedroom door. She’s raging pissed, and I don’t think all of her anger is towards me, but I will become the outlet if I don’t play my cards right.
But fuck playing my cards right. If Ryann is pissed and feeling vindictive, I want her to take it out on me. I want her to release that anger so she can think clearly after. The last thing I want her to do is to release all of this pent of rage and regret her decision. Ryann doesn’t need to have the relationship with her family more damaged than what it is now.
I want the best for Ryann, and if that means allowing her to yell and scream at me, so be it.