After the bombshell Travis dropped, I locked myself in the office for an hour. Telling both Val and Ryann that I needed to take a work call. I know neither one of them believed me. Not when my energy was coursing with fucking rage and was radiating off me like wildfire. It still is. Not even an hour round with the god damn punching bag eased my mania.
The only thing that did seem to help, somewhat, was holding Ryann while we watched random movies on T.V. I’m not even sure what all we watched. Most of the time, my mind was blanking out as I stroked Ryann’s arm up and down.
Most of the time, we stayed silent. I can’t tell her about the possibility of a photo being leaked. It will devastate and destroy her. And I will not allow some fucking asshole to make a quick buck off of her. I will destroy them.
Sitting in the tiny conference room the hotel has set outside, Samuel is standing behind me as I strum my fingers impatiently against the cheap fake wood of the table. Pulling my phone out of my pocket to check the time, my frustration only grows because Betty and Jen are now five minutes late. Those are five minutes wasted and five minutes I could be home sooner to Ryann.
Who is waiting for me.
When I kissed her goodbye, she and Val were having a horror movie marathon. Val kept joking that she would introduce Ryann to one of my earlier movies, a horror movie called, The Red Balloon, when Xayla arrived. I honestly don’t remember any aspect of filming that movie. I was drunk all the damn time on set and somehow managed to remember my lines and do what was asked of me.
Spoiler, I die in the movie. I think I was killed off in a storm drainage, or maybe that was the one I fell down a flight of stairs, literally, and whacked my head against the floor. Knocking myself out. But the production and director team loved it so much, they kept it and made it my death scene. Also may have been because I was on a lot of the higher-ups’ shit list.
Ya....word to the wise, don’t screw the director’s daughter, then ghost her afterwards. You’ll be treated like the shitbag you are.
“Did they mention being late?” I ask Samuel, annoyed.
“No, sir, I can ask the front desk to page them again.”
Running a hand through my hair, “No. No need. If they aren’t here in ten, we are leaving. I’m not wasting any more of my time....” My words are cut off as the conference room door is swung open and Jen and Betty walk in. Both look incredibly irate, telling me this meeting is going to go well. And before the heavy door is able to shut, it’s kicked back open as Max walks in.
What the flying fuck is he doing here? Clearly, Max didn’t take his wife’s advice to go back home.
My jaw immediately tenses, and I feel Samuel move from behind me. Making sure he places himself between a standing Maxwell and me. Betty and Jen are sitting across from me at the table, but even I’m pissed that they brought him down here with them. But maybe Max is the reason for their tardiness.
I watch Max place a hand on Jen’s shoulder, only to have her dodge away from his touch. Her body tenses as her eyes glare with a warning. One telling him to back the fuck off.
Sitting back in my chair with ease, I clasp my hands in front of me, ready to get this over with. “As you all know, Ryann has been discharged from the hospital today.”
Max immediately coughs out, “I did not know until twenty minutes ago.”
Jen immediately turns in her chair, delivering a blow to his lower abdomen. “Shut the fuck up. You’re not even supposed to be here.” She hisses. Max nearly doubles over from the blow but manages to keep himself standing upright.
Two options, take him out now or just say what I need to say to get back home to Ryann. And honestly, as much as I want to do option one, option two is what I really want.
“How is she doing? We want to see her tomorrow.” Betty says softly. Almost pleading with me.
“Ryann is doing well. She’s currently having a movie night with Val and Xayla.” I say evenly. My eyes locking onto Max to prove a point. To prove that he is no longer needed as a friend, and he is free to exit Ryann’s life permanently. “As for tomorrow, there are new security measures implemented that will need to be followed.”
I watch both Jen and Betty’s eyes go wide before Betty narrows her dark hazel eyes to me. As I predicted, I knew she wouldn’t be a fan of the new implements, even before I say them. And with Max in the room, it’s going to go over great.
“What do you mean, new security?” Betty asks sternly.
Jen places a soft hand on her mom’s forearm, “Mom, we need to listen to what Thomas has to say. He’s only looking out for Ry.” I watch Betty take a deep breath in before finally releasing it.
“I’m sorry, please continue,” Betty instructs with a slight wave of her hands.
“When you two head out,” I say, pointing between Betty and Jen, “You’ll call Travis for the address. I know you already have his number.” I say, looking at Jen. She nods her head. “He will give you the address. When you arrive, you’ll check-in at the front desk, and they will call once you arrive, and a member from my security team will come down to escort you two up.”
“What is this?” Max scoffs. “Some sort of safe house?”
Again Jen turns towards him, “Shut it.” She hisses.
I turn my attention towards him and attempt to keep my face impassive and emotionless. I want everything about my body language to be intimidating. “And if you show up with Maxwell Johnson, he will not be allowed up. Nor will either one of you.” I watch Max’s jaw tense as he starts to grind his teeth. Betty begins to protest, but I immediately cut her off. “He is not to know the whereabouts of our location. If Max is in a ten-block radius, we will know.” That’s a little far-fetched, but they don’t need to know that. “This is indefinite.”
“You are keeping my daughter under lock and key. You cannot do this.” Betty warns. “I will not allow this. Ryann will not allow this.”
If only she knew.
“Mom, calm down.” Jen urges her.
“See....see,” Max seethes, pointing a finger my way. “This is what I’ve been talking about. He’s controlling Ryann, manipulating her. I told you. I told you.” He spits.
I’m about to lose it when Jen suddenly flies out of her chair, slapping Max across the face. “If anything, this is your fucking fault. All of the extra security detail. You’re a real jackass. Leave. NOW.” Jen warns.
“Jennifer Louise,” Betty cries out at her daughter’s sudden act of violence. And oddly, a very satisfying act to witness. “I never raised you to resort to violence. Especially against your spouse. We use our words.” I mean....she’s not wrong. But does Max really count as someone you use your words with? Especially with what he’s done.
Too bad Betty doesn’t know the full extent of the truth. One that I can tell is hard for Jen to keep bottled up right now.
“My decision is final. The staff and security within the building have strict instructions to follow. Break the rules that I’ve laid out. You’ll not be permitted up to the condo.” I repeat.
“And what if we refused to leave?” Max challenges.
I can’t help but laugh. He must not have been listening very well. “You,” I say slowly, “Well, not be permitted onto the property. If you are spotted on the property, you’ll be arrested for trespassing. If you continue to trespass, I’m not opposed to issuing a restraining order. Or kicking your ass. I guess it’s whatever comes first. The choice is....well, I guess it’s mine.” My voice is extremely cocky, and I know I’m just adding fuel to Max’s rage. I’m waiting for him to try and lunge over Samuel so I can have a reason to react.
But I have to keep telling myself, get this over with, and you’ll get home to Ryann.
“Thomas,” Betty’s motherly tone forces me to break my stare down with Max. “I know you love my daughter, but do you think this is all a little much. The beef that you have between Maxwell, do you think you can see past it. He is her original best friend. You can’t keep....”
“I want you to think long and hard, Betty. Do you think it’s really best to have someone around Ryann with the presence of needing to control and manipulate any situation in his favor? While she’s healing?” I pause a moment as I watch Samuel take a step closer to Max as he begins to clench his fists at his side. “And before you answer me, think about what you’re about to say. Agree with me. Show up tomorrow. If you don’t...well, I guess you can let Ryann know the reason for not visiting.”
Betty pushes out of her chair, nearly causing it to flip backwards as she storms towards the room door. A snarky smile graces Max’s lips as he watches his mother-in-law about to storm out of this room.
With her hand poised on the door, Betty turns towards me. Her hazel eyes are wide and filled with anger. Even maybe hatred as she fears her daughter may be dating a psychopath who is bound and determined to keep her daughter locked away from the world. “Max is right. This is not Ryann. She would never ask for this type of security detail.” She hisses.
Clearly, she doesn’t know her daughter as well as she thinks.
“Mom, please. Sit down.” Jen urges. “Listen to Thomas, please.”
Betty shakes her head, “Absolutely not. I will not hear any more of this. I’m going to call Ryann and speak....”
“She’s not taking any calls,” I lie. Well, half lie. She’ll screen her calls or turn her phone off. That or if she is asleep and Val or Xayla hears her phone go off, one of them will shut it off.
Betty lets go of the doorknob handle, causing it to rattle as she descends on the table. “This is ridiculous. I want to speak to my daughter.” She commands.
“Mom, stop!” Jen cries as she jumps up from the table, stopping Betty by the shoulders. “She doesn’t want to speak with us today. If she did, she’d be here telling us all of this.”
“No,” Max attempts to butts in but wins himself a glare from his wife. “Ryann has never cut us off like this.”
“Ha, shows how much you fucking know.” Jen retorts with venom. “Ry does not like to be bothered when she’s in pain or if she’s depressed or isn’t feeling well. I know that, and you know that too, mom. Just do as Thomas asked. Think about why he’s asking for these new measures. There is a reason.”
Max snorts out a smug laugh, “Didn’t know disagreeing with someone was a valid reason.”
“It is when you can’t seem to control your anger and fly off the damn handle.” Jen snaps. “You didn’t even visit Ryann at the hospital after Thomas clocked you.”
Wonder how his tooth is doing? Now I can’t help but stare at his mouth. Waiting for the right moment to see if I can see a chipped tooth or not.
“She didn’t ask for you then. Do you really think she’ll miss you now? I’ve already told her that you may have gone back to Indiana anyway. Which you should have.” Jen screeches.
I’m half tempted to prop my feet up on the table to watch this fight play out, but at the same time, I’m done. Pulling my phone out, I see a text from Val. One that has me up on my feet and ready to leave.
Are you almost done? Ry isn’t feeling too good. She’s in pain and is refusing to take any meds. She’s in bed now but keeps asking for you. Xayla ran to the store to see if she can find a heating pad or something.
That was sent ten minutes ago.
“Samuel, we need to leave,” I state evenly. “Jen, you know the stipulations I’ve laid out. Talk it over. I stand firmly with the new measures. Any problems, take it up with me. Not Ryann.” I warn.
Samuel clears a path before opening the door, and we’re immediately down the hall. I’m practically speed walking to get out of this damn building.
Fuck, how long has Ryann not been feeling well? If Xayla is out getting a heating pad, Ryann must have been feeling pain for a while before it started to become unbearable. Not to mention, her last dose of meds where given while she was at the hospital. Those would have worn off by now.
“Thomas! Thomas! Wait!” Jen calls from behind me. But I don’t bother to stop. I keep my pace up, with Samuel following close behind me as we passed the front desk and exited the lobby. It’s not until we’re outside that Jen finally catches up. “Thomas, wait...”
“What?” I snap, catching Jen off guard.
“Is...is Ryann, okay?” She asks cautiously.
Deflating slightly, Betty is right about one thing. I can’t keep Ryann away from her family. But while we’re in New York and as long as Ryann asks, I can keep danger out of the condo at Ryann’s wishes. But even I know Betty and Jen do not pose a risk to Ryann. “She’s in pain. I’m going home to her. Where I should have been instead of wasting my time here.”
“Of course, I’m sorry.” Jen fumbles out. “I...erm....who really put the order for the new restrictions?”
Eyeing her, “Does it matter who? I’m the one here giving them to you and your family. It’s in your best interest to follow them and not question them.”
“Sir.” Samuel is standing at the ready with the car door wide open.
Sliding into the backseat, “And I meant what I said about your husband. Keep him off the damn property, and do not let him know where we are staying. Make sure Betty understands these rules too.” Samuel slams the car door shut before Jen even has a chance to answer. Rolling down my window, “I know you want to tell your mother about Maxwell. The truth.”
Jen throws her hands up in frustration, “Of course I do. Why don’t you?”
“Because of Ryann,” I tell her evenly. I can’t....we can’t just reveal the truth to everyone who should know before Ryann is ready to remember. If we bombard her with the information, she is still seeking. I’m afraid it will break Ryann. Almost like an electrical overload to the system. “She has to be the one who remembers. Not us telling her the information.”
“And what if she doesn’t?” Jen yells. “What if she refuses to remember?”
Considering I think Ryann remembers more than what she’s admitting to, we’re going to have to wait until she’s ready to face those truths.
“Then that is her choice.”
The car starts to pull away, leaving Jen and the hotel in the background. Running a hand through my hair, I sit back against the seat and crane my neck up. Taking a deep breath in, I count....to fucking ten.