Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to fly? Especially with layovers. I mean, the layover itself wasn’t bad. We had just enough time to get to our gate and for me to grab something to eat before we boarded our flight. Typically, with layovers, we keep a low profile, so Thomas won’t have to deal with the general public and getting recognized. He hates doing selfies and appeasing fans. Because most of the time, they feel like Thomas owes them a favor because they stalk his every move.
I know it’s not easy living a life in the limelight. That much has been loud and clear after the media shit storm Jamie decided to have fun with. Your private life is essentially nonexistent and up for everyone in the damn world to judge you on, based on made-up facts shared by some assholes.
But this time was different. When I left our little lounge area to get some coffee and a sandwich, Thomas followed Travis and me out. He stayed close behind me, his hand always at the small of my back with a possession I absolutely adore. Anytime we can get away with normal PDA in public, it’s easy to forget that our relationship is anything but normal.
But it’s a feeling of normalcy that I bask in, and I know Thomas does too.
I feel the plane bank as it prepares to land at Newark. The adventurous side of me wants to lift the flap covering to the window to peak out, to see the sights as we fly over them. The constant churning that comes with the landing is telling me no fucking way, but I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I want to experience life, things I never thought I would do.
And no, I don’t mean sky diving. That shit will never happen. But the small things, I can start with the small things like opening the cover to the window.
I slowly lift the blind just as Ryan Adam’s New York, New York, song comes blaring through my headphones. And my breath is taken away as we fly over the view blew us. The night sky is lit up by tall skyscrapers that look like a large scale of a Lite Brite with random office lights left on. Even from this high up, the view doesn’t look real. My mind can’t seem to fathom that this is what I’ve been missing out on each time we’ve flown. The beauty that is laid out in front of me takes my breath away.
Pulling the camera up on my phone, I do the most touristy thing imaginable and snap a couple of photos. But, of course, the images I managed to snap don’t do the view any type of justice.
“Hmm, babydoll, whatcha doing?”
I feel Thomas’s breath hot and welcoming at the nape of my neck. Hitting pause, I pull my headphones from my ears and turn to look at him. His eyes are watching me closely before looking out of the window and at the view blew. A small smile dances across his face. His sweet, soft, and handsome face. His features are soft and relaxed, a rare feat for Thomas to accomplish out in a public setting.
Smiling as I lean back towards him, not enough to touch, but enough to satisfy this need for his touch. “Deciding not to live in fear anymore.”
Thomas looks perplexed, “Please tell me you don’t want to bungee jump or some stupid shit.”
Laughing, I look out the window again, just as the plane banks, the view slowly disappearing from my view with each turn the plane takes. “No, not at all. Just the small things.”
“Any ideas for your next conquest?”
“One,” I say with an anxious tone.
Thomas urges me to turn in my seat to look at him. His head cocked off to the side, blocking any onlookers from getting a peek of our intimacy. Still, I know even in the confines of a plane, if someone really wants to eavesdrop, they will. “Please do tell, babydoll.” He whispers.
Biting my lower lip, I lean in closer, “I want to go public.” There, I said it. I fucking said it, and my stomach is in knots as it continues to flips on itself. I watch the rise and fall of Thomas’s chest as I attempt to interpret what he’s thinking. I know he’s nervous about going public, what the media will do, but I’m in a state where I don’t care. “I’m tired of hiding Thomas. I want to be able to put on a proper date with you. I want to be able to kiss you in public, and I want to hold your hand while I sit next to you on this damn plane.”
“Ryann,” Thomas whispers with a slight hesitation sending my heart to sink to my stomach and down to my toes. He doesn’t want the same thing. He wants to keep me hidden. Off to the side and brushed under the damn rug.
One day, we’re going to be found out. Then what? Will he continue to keep me hidden even then?
Pulling away, I slump back into my seat and focus on the view out the window. I wish I never said anything because clearly, it’s an idea not even worth venturing down. Placing my earphones back into my ears, I scroll through my playlist until I can find something that will drown out the rest of the plane ride. I don’t want to hear any more of what I’m sure will be an epic excuse.
Hitting play, ZZ Ward and her bluesy, raspy tones ease their way into my bones. My eyes closing with each note that is played and with each that is sung. Finding my happy place is where I’m going to stay until the wheels hit the tarmac and we’re off this plane.
I’m not sure what lies ahead after we leave the airport because I’m trying to be optimistic, but at the same time, I’m not holding my breath that Thomas will change his mind. I already know what he’s thinking. He’s scared of what coming out to the world with our relationship will do. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared too. I’m fucking terrified.
I’ve been lying to my family. To my mom this whole damn time. I’ve been playing off the media speculations about our secret love affair to only have my heart broken two days later, blowing it off as gossip. I mean, it was gossip. My heart was never broken. Not by Thomas, at least.
The plane dips, almost like a jolt or a drop on a coaster. My heart, like always, goes to the pit of my stomach as my hand grips the armrest like I’m about to snap it in half. Silver lining, we won’t have to get on another plane for four days. It won’t be a relaxing four days, but I won’t be up in the air.
Once the tires hit the tarmac, I let out the breath I’ve been holding in. My hands finally relaxing as I watch the plane taxi to the gate.
I feel Thomas shift beside me, leaning towards me as I keep my gaze focused out the window. I force myself to focus on the words being sung into my ears and attempt to drown out Thomas and his hovering....well, whatever he has to say. I’m no longer interested.
“Babydoll,” Thomas whispers as he pulls out one of my earbuds. “We’ll talk about this in the car.” His tone is even and voided of any of the emotions I want to hear.
I don’t even bother to answer Thomas. Instead, I look over my shoulder and lock eye contact with him. I want him to see that I’m not fazed by his easy dismissal of our relationship when I’m on the brink of breaking down and sobbing in this cabin.
God, I’m being dramatic. I need to get my head on straight, and I need to conquer one thing at a time. Maybe talking about the publicity of our relationship...well, perhaps right now is not the right time.
But if not now, then when? We can’t keep living our lives in secret. Not when we’re trying to build and make two lives into one. I want a relationship, and I know it will be far from ordinary. But my life has never been one for normalcy. It’s overrated. Plus, anytime I attempt to live a life that may resemble any type of normalcy, it goes to shit.
As the plane hits the tarmac and starts to taxi to the gate, I find myself gazing across the aisle to a couple holding hands. The woman laughing at some sort of corny joke, I’m sure the husband or boyfriend just told. I watch her steal glances that I wish I could convey out in public, and I watch him bring their joined hands to his lips and places a soft kiss to the top of her hand. An unknown longy pings in the gut of my stomach, an unfamiliar need but one I’ve felt before with Thomas.
I feel a soft tug on my sweater sleeve. Finally, my attention is forced to Thomas, who is standing in the aisle waiting for me with Travis standing just in front of him and allowing enough space for me to walk between the two.
Reaching for my bag, I sling it over my shoulder and slowly follow Travis off the plane. Thomas at my back, and I can feel the surge of his warmth spreading just from the slight touch of his hand at the small of my back, guiding me.
As soon as our feet hit the ground inside the airport, we are whisked through and immediately to the pickup zone and to our awaiting car. The only upside is that both Thomas and I had carry-on luggage, and we don’t have to deal with the baggage claim. On the negative side, I feel like I’m running a damn marathon with the tall men trying to get from one end of the airport to the next.
Without warning, Travis comes to a sudden stop causing me to nearly run into his back.
“Damn’t,” He growls before turning to look at both Thomas and me. “Keep moving. Don’t stop and don’t answer any questions. Ryann, stay close to Thomas and me.”
Rolling my eyes, “Ya, whatever. Can we just get to the car?” I’m half tempted to push past Travis and just lead the way through what looks like innocent bystanders waiting for their ride, but I catch the sight of several of them holding high-end cameras, and I know we’ve been made before we’ve even left the airport.
Travis glowers, fully capable of reading my mind in this moment. “I mean it, Ryann. Stay close to Thomas and follow closely.”
I want to be defiant and petty. Come up with some sort of dry and sarcastic remark on how Thomas doesn’t want me close. Or maybe I should be picked up in a different location or take a separate car. I mean, that would be keeping our relationship hidden on a whole new level of secrecy.
Instead, I follow Travis out of the airport as I draw my hood over my head and force my gaze down to the ground and keep Travis’s feet within my eyesight. Thomas’s hand never leaves my back as he walks closer beside me. A mob of strobing flashes bombard us with a roar of demanding questions hurled in our direction.
Ryann, can you tell us about Jamie?
Thomas, what is the status of your relationship? Single? Taken?
Are you dating your assistant?
Ryann, can we please get a photo?
My name is yelled out over and over again with probing questions. I feel myself being pushed and tugged, and I’m not sure which way I’m now going. All I know is I’m no longer near Thomas, and a camera is shoved in my face as I turn away and attempt to ram my shoulder into the fucking vulture to push him away. But my attempts seem to only provoke or encourage the fucker to try again.
“Back the fuck off,” Thomas’s voice is primal, low, and growling like a fucking lion. His arm is instantly around me and pulling into his side. I grip the handle of my suitcase only to have it taken from my hand by Travis, allowing me to wrap an arm around Thomas’s back and hold on in fear that I will be torn away from him again.
I fall into the backseat of the waiting town car and quickly scurry into my seat. I quickly tuck my bag down onto the floorboard next to my feet just as Thomas slides into the seat next to me, slamming the door shut behind him.
“Are you okay?” He asks with an annoyed panic to his voice and an alarmed look in his greens. God, his eyes, it doesn’t matter how annoyed I am with him, with just one look into his eyes, I’m lost. Rendered speechless.
“With what?” I ask coldly. “With being bombarded? Yes. I’m fine. With the sudden feeling of being pushed and hidden into a damn closet by you, no.”
I watch Thomas’s chest rise and fall with irritation just as Travis climbs into the front passenger seat and gives strict instructions to the driver before the car is propelled into motion. Thank god, because I need to sneak off to Valerie’s room and get this worrying, nagging, gut-twisting mission out of the way. “I’m not pushing you into some damn closet, Ryann. Did you not see what the hell just happened back there?” He waves his hand widely as he points towards the back window of the car. The airport barely in view as we hit the highway and towards Manhattan.
“That is nothing new,” I have to fight my voice from raising a few pitches and becoming fully irrational. “I’m used to that. What I’m not used to, by you, is feeling pushed aside. I’m tired of hiding, Thomas. I want to be out in public holding hands, going on dates, doing couplie things.” I take a deep breath in before releasing it out and calming the butterflies threatening to spill out. “How are we supposed to build a life together when you’re constantly trying to protect me and keeping me sheltered? I knew what I was signing up for when we slept together in New York. I knew what I was signing up for when I agreed to come back to Cali with you. And I knew what I was signing up for when I agreed to the original guidelines we agreed upon. But I’m all in Thomas. I want to experience everything with you. Even if that means my life is no longer private.”
Thomas runs a hand through his hair before taking my hand, his thumb grazing over the top of my skin as he stars down at the rings on my finger. His mother’s ring is still resting and stacked on top of my grandmother’s ring. I can see the conflict rising in his eyes. The worry and the fear, but I know what I want, and I’m done living in fear.
With each passing moment of words unspoken, my heart sinks further and further into an abyss. I can tell that this may be a fight that I won’t win, and the rejection is starting to tear my heart into two. Pulling my hand from his grip, I force myself towards the door and watch cars passed by us. I’ve said all I can, and I’m not going to be the one to restart this conversation.
“Babydoll,” Thomas’s voice is soft and encouraging me to turn back around. Slowly, I turn from the window and find a pleading Thomas. “I want you to be safe. Us going public will send you further down a path I don’t want for you.”
My lip starts to quiver, and I immediately bite down to keep it hidden in the dark car. “I see. Well, I’m...I’m not sure I can keep doing this, Thomas. Staying hidden and kept in the shadows.” I mean, how can I? How can we? In the next three hours, everything could change. Drastically, and I’m scared shitless, especially with how this conversation is going. “I know what I want in life. Do you?”
“What are you saying, Ryann?”
Thomas’s words become lost and engulfed in a fury of violent noises and blackness as I’m catapulted into the window of the car door. My last memory is the sound of metal scraping across the pavement and what sounds like a distortion of my name being called out. Soon after, everything goes black and silent.
Oof....that’s one way to end the book. I hate to say it, guys, but this is the last chapter for Escaping the Truth. Stay tuned, though...Ryann and Thomas’s story is far from over! And if you're really impatient, head on over to my Wattpad page @ashtenrenee for the third installment, which will be uploaded to Inkitt at a later time!
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