“What the hell are you doing here?” I order or slightly ask in surprise. “You’re not supposed to be here. Your daughter is sick.”
Samuel looks from Travis and back to me, “She’s feeling much better.” He offers up. “When I saw what happened, I tried to contact Travis, but when I wasn’t able to, I called Jonathan, and when he didn’t answer, I called Heather.” He pauses a moment, realizing he’s starting to veer off-topic. “Anyway, she told me what happened. And when I got the word of Max being in town and the fights, I bought a plane ticket to New York.”
I look to Travis, slightly bewildered, “Ya, trust me. I wasn’t expecting to see him sitting in my hotel room waiting for me. I don’t like surprises, and I do not like my employees keeping secrets from me.”
Hmm...does he know the secret between Jonathan and Val?
“I promised Ryann that when the time came to tell you about Pearl’s email, I would be there with you. To make sure that I get you back home to her, and that is what I am doing.” Travis tells me evenly.
My brow shoots into my hairline, “So, you’re taking orders from Ryann now when I’m the one paying you?” The fact that he’s willing to break all the rules that he and I have laid out is piercing loud. Travis has always been one to follow orders down to the last fucking T. But with Ryann, I know that changed the moment he threatened to kick my ass.
“I’m making a decision that I know is in the best interest for you and Ryann.” A very diplomatic answer. “Samuel doesn’t know Pearl’s way or her office. Can he prevent you from going to jail? Absolutely. But he doesn’t know the way Pearl or Dax ticks. Their tricks. And if I do not go with you, you better believe that when Ryann finds out, she’ll either be on the next plane out despite doctor’s orders. Or we’ll both be in the doghouse when we get back.”
Groaning out, “But he doesn’t know Ryann either. She trusts....”
“She trusts Valerie, who will be with her. Valerie trusts Jonathan and Heather, who will be with her, and Ryann trusts Samuel, who will also be with her. Thomas, you leave in less than a week. The doctors seem optimistic that Ryann will be able to leave earlier than expected, and you and I both know that her family doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.” Travis says with a grind of his teeth.
Which means Max will be here when I am not. Fuck. “He cannot be alone with her. I fucking mean it, Travis.” I fucking roar.
“And she won’t,” Samuel says before Travis can even answer. “And it’s why I’m here—additional security for when you have to fly back. Max will not be left alone with Ryann, nor will Val. Her family will strictly have access to the living room and kitchen only. No bedroom excess and they will have to check-in at the front desk before being let up. All guests are on an approved list. Her family are on a confirm first list before being let up.”
“And,” Travis continues, “Valerie is made fully aware of the new security changes. While we are in California, Heather will be staying in the room next to the girls, and Jonathan and Samuel will stand guard in the man part of the house. They have the authority to use force if it’s deemed necessary.”
This is not putting my mind at ease at all. If anything, it’s causing the black fog hovering in the deepest part of my brain to escape from its hold and take over. I can feel myself wanting to break. To seek out an old friend. Just for one night. One sip, it won’t hurt anything. I can stop after one.
Shaking my head, “I can’t...I can’t hear anymore.” I say, throwing my hands up in defeat. “I need a minute.” Grabbing my phone, I make my way towards the door, ready to get the hell out of here and to find a comfort I sought in long before Ryann.
But before I’m even able to step out of the room, it’s suddenly slam shut by a furious Travis. “What the fuck?” I demand. But he’s done listening to my authority as he slams me against the hotel door sending any remaining aches in my body to alight on fucking fire. “Get off of me. Now or....”
“Or what,” he disputes. “You’ll fire me? Please do it. But once those words leave your damn mouth, I will swing.” I stop breathing for a second at his threat. One that is all too real.
But like the defiant asshole I am, I feel my mouth twerk into a spiteful smile. “Just do it. I know you’ve wanted to swing since the day I poured the fucking whiskey over Ryann’s head.”
Travis’s palm pounds against the door with a force that I’m sure he’s busted through it. “You’re right. You still deserve an ass-kicking for that. But if you go down to that god damn bar for a fucking drink, you do not deserve Ryann.”
My teeth start to grind, jaw setting in hard lines, and before I can even process what I’m doing, I’m shoving Travis back and away from me. My fists clench and ready to swing before Samuel is suddenly between the two of you. “Both of you need to calm the fuck down.” He booms.
“Fuck you,” I yell in a sad attempt to get past him. I don’t have any interest in laying a hand on Travis, but my blood is hot, and right now, Travis is in my sight.
I’m ready for this fight, but Travis shrugs away from Samuel, seemingly able to compose himself faster than me. “Ryann has fought for your sobriety longer than you have. Fuck this up; she’ll never forgive herself. And you’ll never forgive yourself.” Travis tells me evenly. A tone matching of a father’s. “If you go down there for a drink, you will not stop at just one. You and I both know that.”
The room falls into a tension-filled silence that could ignite with a drop of a pin.
“Alright,” Samuel suddenly says. “Travis, go cool off in your room, and Thomas, come with me.” He says, moving from between us and towards the hotel door. Unless it’s back to the hospital, I don’t plan on going anywhere. “Let’s go.” Samuel orders with the door wide open.
Again, groaning out in pure frustration, I follow Samuel down the hall and into the elevator. A random floor number is lit up on the control panel as I feel the lift move down three floors before coming to a sudden stop.
As the doors open, I’m greeted with the exact same maroon and navy carpet and light tan walls and with a plaque that points to a gym.
I feel a tug at my elbow, “Let’s go.” Seriously? I send home for a week because his daughter is sick, and he comes back ready to give me demands. Ha, I don’t think so. “Thomas, come on. This will help. It’s just the gym. I’m not going to bite. Unless you’re afraid.”
I arch an irritated brow, “And what in the hell do I have to be afraid of?”
“That you won’t last in the ring with me.”
I snort out a highly amused laugh as I start to follow him down the hall. “The hotel does not have a boxing ring in their gym, and I’m not afraid to take you on.”
Samuel hums, “No, they don’t have a ring. But they do have boxing mitts and some gloves.” He says as he scans his key card to gain entry into the gym. I hear the door click unlock just as Samuel pulls it open. “Whatever emotions you are feeling, you’re going to release them tonight. With me, and for however long you need to.”
Looking around the small weight room, the walls are lined with mirrors from every angle, so no matter where you’re standing, you can see yourself. There are four treadmills, an elliptical, weights, and weight benches. And then tucked into a corner out of the way is a makeshift square made up of foam mats for boxing or whatever your little heart desires. Even a punching bag is anchored from the ceiling down to the floor.
Samuel suddenly chucks a set of lightweight boxing gloves at me, and with my reflexes, I barely have time to register what’s flying my way to catch them.
“Well, I can see how this boxing session is going to go.”
Ignoring his smartass remark, I pick up the gloves from the floor before placing them on my hands. Punching my fists together because I’m ready to go, I step onto the mat, ready to go toe to toe with Samuel, ready to get everything out. My hatred, my sorrows, I just want to go back to the hospital tomorrow with a positive outlook and to be a stronger boyfriend.
As soon as I deliver my first punch, I can’t stop, even with Samuel swinging back at me. I duck and doge the boxing mitt with ease and redirect my punches when needed. My footwork is sloppy, but it’s always been sloppy. I’m not one for clean footwork, and I also haven’t attended many boxing classes to improve my footwork. Only two or three. The rest I’ve taken upon myself to do in my garage and with Travis when he’s found me grunting out my frustrations.
I’m dripping in sweat. My shirt is covered in my precipitation, and I know the doctors will probably kill me for overexerting myself. I know when I wake tomorrow, I’m going to be sore, and every muscle and joint inside my body will be screaming at me. But my attention is immediately snatched by the sound of my phone ringing on the floor, winning me a smack to the head.
A hard whack to the head. I didn’t have a concussion from the accident, but I may have one now. “Nice hit.” I groan out as I throw the boxing gloves to the ground and stumble to my phone before plopping a seat to the floor. My back leans against the mirror as I see a text message from Xayla with a picture of Val and Ryann fast asleep. I’m not really sure how Val was able to contort her body to fit awkwardly on the bed, but she did. And like the amazing friend she is, she’s comforting Ryann in a way I don’t think Ryann has ever had with a best friend before. I can tell by this photo that Ryann was starting to feel some pain, and Val did the one thing that she knew would help. She laid next to Ryann to comfort her, and I’m sure she also made Ryann laugh too.
“Everything okay?” Samuel asks, taking a seat next to me.
I can feel him leaning over my shoulder to steal a glance at my phone screen and reading Xayla’s text.
Everything good here. We’re all out for the night. Get some rest, Copeland, and we will see you bright and early tomorrow.
Smiling at my phone, I type a quick response.
I’ll be there before the sun rises. Take care of her.
Ryann is like a prized possession that I cannot lose. Her value is incomparable. Not even the world’s richest can claim her.
“How is she doing?” Samuel finally asks after a few moments of silence.
Placing my phone back to the ground, I manage to smack my head softly against the glass as I look up at the ceiling. “All things considering, her spirits are getting better and better by the day.”
“That’s good. I had a cousin who was hit by a drunk driver.” I manage to side-eye Samuel without bringing my head down from the mirror, “Nothing serious. He was lucky. Only minor scrapes and bruises, but it’s scary. Your life is taken in the hands of others because of a selfish decision.”
I was that selfish prick who could have made the same decision as the drunk who hit us did. Unfortunately, not all of us drunks are lucky enough to see what is right in front of us. I’m fortunate that I have an amazing woman who kept reminding me of what I have going for me in my life. Fuck that. She submerged herself into my life and the lives of those closest to me. The bond between her and Val as friends is unbreakable. They act more like sisters than they do friends.
And I’ve never seen Xayla so taken with one of my assistants before, then to only become friends with Ryann.
And my grandparents. God, my grandparents, absolutely love and adore her. They treat Ryann like she is a daughter, a granddaughter. Ryann has never known anything but love from them.
“Since when did you start wearing jewelry?” Samuel suddenly asks as he points down to my bracelet. Looking down at the piece on my wrist, I feel a small, sad smile creep onto my lips as I look down at the name and the lone emerald beside it. “Sloane? Who is Sloane?”
Taking a deep breath, I’m not really sure why I’m sharing with him. Maybe because the rest of the security detail knows, and he’s going to have to know sooner than later. I dive into the story of the accident from start to finish. My eyes never leaving the bracelet as I find a solace comfort in the grief that I’m feeling.
But after tonight, the next time Ryann and I will have to speak of what happened to our unborn child will be to her family. But that will be on Ryann’s time. Not mine. And I know with my family, and with our friends, they won’t utter a word.