Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter nineteen

Fucking hell, when I got home last night, Ryann was practically in tears from pain. Xayla had just returned from the store with a heating pad, but I think Ryann was so too far gone in agony that nothing would have helped. I mean, not even holding her seemed to be easing the discomfort. After another thirty minutes, I finally convinced her to take her pain meds, which is essentially extra strength Tylenol or Aleve. No opioids or anything.

I’m not sure what she’s afraid of with these medications. And each time I ask, Ryann manages to dodge the question like I’m asking something offensive or personal.

The rest of the night was spent with Ryann curled up in my arms, crying until she finally fell asleep. And asleep is where she stayed until noonish today. I think that was the first sound sleep she’s had since waking from the coma. I’ve never heard a girl snore so much in my life.

But it was honestly adorable.

Now, Ryann is visiting with her mom and sister out in the living room with Val. I guess Jen was able to talk some sense into her mom after our little meeting. And as far as I can hear coming from the living room, Ryann has not been hounded about the new security measures. If anything, the conversation is light and filled with tons of laughter.

Ryann and Jen are poking fun at one another while Betty is reminiscing about their childhood and the fun adventures that they used to take. Like going out to the pond with their grandma, to getting lost out in the country, or finding a field to stop in and having a picnic. Memories that should never be forgotten and memories that we should always cherish.

Lord knows I try and cherish the happy memories with my mom now. Did I try and drown them out at first? Absolutely, but that was because I was afraid to face them on my own, without my mom to enjoy them with me, to reminisce. Watching my mom die, my soul died with her. It physically felt like the moment my mom left me, she took any life worth living with her.

Until Ryann came along.

Ryann is like the bright ray of sunlight that snuffed out the darkness in my life and forced me to remember the happiness that was once inside of me. Happiness in memories, with my family that I once loved. And every day, it’s like a new memory resurfaces that I once loved, and I find myself reliving it again.

But not today.

Today, I don’t get to relive old fond memories of my mother and grandparents. No, today I get to get on a conference call with my lawyer, Tucker, and figure out what the fuck is going on. I knew Pearl had the damn flash drive, but I never thought she’d have the balls to actually release a photo before meeting Val with the big payout.

Maybe it wasn’t Pearl. Lord knows it wasn’t Dax. He’s lucky if he can figure out how to tie his shoes. Don’t get me wrong, Dax may be a little dim-witted, but he can book you any freakin’ gigs you want. Just say the word, and it’s yours.

The pinging ringing from my laptop prompts Travis to close the office door before taking a seat in one of the armchairs opposite the desk. His phone is out, ready to get this meeting started and over with so he can do his job. And in this case, stacking an undeniable amount of evidence against Pearl to finally bring her down. Lucky for me, Dax will be in the crosshairs and will regret the day he agreed to work with Miss. Mead.

Answering the video chat call, “Tucker, tell me you have some fucking good news.”

“Thomas, always one to forget the formalities, straight to business,” Tucker states.

“Formalities have never been my strong suit. Now tell me you have some good news.”

I watch his face fall into a further frown, which doesn’t mean anything, as he opens up his notepad. I don’t think in all my years of me employing him have I seen him smile. “Got some good news. Was able to recover the supposed photo that was sold.” He pauses. A little too long for my liking.

“And?”

“Thomas, this photo was not one of Ryann from her days in high school.”

Looking over the screen, Travis is mirroring my confusion. Ryann has never mentioned if this happened after High School. I thought.....did she lie to me?

“This photo was snapped outside of your home. It’s of you and Ryann.” I’m pretty sure my face looks dumbfounded and extremely confused. There is no way in hell someone would be able to sneak onto the property and snap a photo of us without setting off the security cameras or system.

“A photo of what?” I bark.

“There is no way someone could have snuck onto that property without being detected,” Travis states loud enough for Tucker to hear. With this revelation, I know Travis will take this news personally and won’t rest until he finds out how or who. Like me, he’ll protect Ryann at all costs. The only difference, I know Travis looks after Ryann like she’s a daughter, and he’ll bring anyone down who harms her. Me included.

Tucker pulls out a piece of photo paper from his notepad, “Well, someone did. Is this not you and Ryann?”

Looking at the grainy black and white photo, it is of Ryann and me, and we are asleep in our bed. My arm is draped over her as I hold her tightly to my front. Her hand is resting atop my hand that is resting against her stomach. Everything about this photo shows the peace and serenity between the two of us.

But this is a private fucking moment. Our home is our sanctuary. It’s supposed to be impenetrable. No one should be able to gain access without our permission.

How in the fuck was this taken? Apparently, our house isn’t safe from these assholes now?

“Who the fuck took this?” I growl.

Travis is up from his chair beside me, his eyes homing in on the photo of Ryann asleep in my arms. “What is the time stamp?” He commands.

“There is no time stamp. Not one that we can find.” Tucker states.

“Send it to me. The original photo.” Travis demands. “I’ll find the damn time stamp. It’s engrained in that photo. If it’s there, I will find it.”

Tucker lets out a gruff cough, “You don’t think my team....”

“No offense,” Travis comes across as authoritative and meaning all offense to what he’s about to say, “But my team is the best you’ll ever find. Send me the original upload of the photo, now.”

“I’ll have it sent after the call,” Tucker says and winning himself a permanent scowl from Travis. “As for who sold it, does a Shelia Dawson sound familiar.”

My teeth immediately start to grind. “You’re telling me that Shelia Dawson snuck onto my property and managed to snap this photo through my bedroom window? You’re lucky if she knows how to use a cranked window.”

“No, I’m saying she sold it. I have no clue if she actually took the photo. That is where Travis will need to come in. If she was on the property, your security cameras should have picked her up.” Tucker states as he shuffles through papers.

If someone was on the property, those cameras should have alerted Travis. There is no way Shelia would have been able to navigate the property without setting at least one of them off. If she did, she had help then.

“God damn’t!” Travis barks before he’s on his phone and marching out of the office. The door slamming shut behind him.

That’s great. Just fucking great. What a way to alert Ryann to the shit show number......fuck I don’t even know.

“What now?” I ask as my fingers strum across the desk. “Are there any other photos circulating?”

Tucker shakes his round head, “Not that we’ve found. But get proof of Shelia on the property. We can get her for trespassing. Though, I don’t think she was alone in this quest.”

You don’t say. Shelia is dumber than a box of rocks and dumber than dirt when she’s high. “Who’d you have in mind?” Like I need an answer to that question.

“Have you talked with Pearl or Dax lately?”

Nope, and I don’t plan on talking to either one of them until this weekend. “No. I’m flying under the radar while my team arranges the meeting. I’m assuming Travis and Jonathan are keeping you updated?”

Tucker pulls another file folder from his briefcase sitting on the floor and out of view from the camera, “We’re all set on our end. Now, are you wanting to involve the authorities?”

Shaking my head, the last thing we need is to catapult Ryann into the limelight again. “No. But if they refuse to sign the documents, involve the authorities.” Tucker nods his head in understanding. “And I want to make sure that neither one of them works in this industry again.”

“Noted,” Tucker says as he scribbles something down on his notepad. “I’ll have the authorities on standby. I’m sure we can come up with a way or two to get them to disappear.”

Laughing, “As long as I don’t know about it, I don’t care how it’s handled. Keep me updated on anything new you come across.”

“Of course, take care of yourself, Thomas. And give Ryann my best.”

Slamming my laptop close, I end the call. My fingers strumming against the grain of the desk as I think of every fucking possible way Shelia can get onto the property. Pearl didn’t have her keys. We had the locks and codes changed. We....

God damn’t motherfucking hell.

She knows. Pearl knows about Ryann and me.

Then it hits me like a ton of bricks. I know when that photo was taken. It was taken the first night we arrived back home from New York.

I stare at the picture, trying to figure out where in the hell it was taken because of how our bedroom is laid out. Two windows face the front of the house. You wouldn’t be able to snap this photo from that angle because the bed’s headboard rests between them. This window, the one that would allow this position, is on the side of the house, and the only way to access it is with a code to the gate that will lead into the side yard and the backyard. There is a camera at that entrance. Whoever entered would and should have been seen.

Fuck, this is all starting to become too much again. The overwhelmingness is beginning to take over, and I can slowly feel myself starting to drown.

My mouth is running dry, and my body is craving a substance that I need to curb in one way or another.

Getting to my feet, I swipe my phone from the top of the desk and shove it in my back pocket. Making my way out of the office and down the hall, I hear Betty and Val talking about her hobby of painting and how much Betty loved the one she has hanging up at her home. Jen is rambling on to Ryann about her job back home and how she’s thinking of switching careers to something new and more exciting. Stopping for a second, I watch the women in the living room carry on, oblivious that I’m nearby before dunking into the kitchen.

I know what I’m hoping to find. I’m hoping to find a bottle that Alex left behind. That the cleaning crew didn’t find. Reaching for the cabinet high above the refrigerator, I easily find what I’m looking for tucked away into the corner of the cabinet. A small bottle of whisky. The amber liquid cheering me on as it slushes from side to side in the bottle.

Leaning against the countertop, I force myself to remain hidden from anyone who may wander down the hall as I unscrew the top of the bottle. Bringing it up to my nose, I inhale the welcoming bitter taste as the scent courses through my body, my mouth watering for the missed taste.

Just one taste. That is all I need. Just enough to take the edge off, to relax me. To help me think.

“Thomas, what are you doing?” Ryann’s voice snaps me out of one of the biggest mistakes I could possibly make. I watch her hazel eyes go wide as she sees what’s in my hand. I’m waiting for her anger, for her rath. But it never comes. Instead, I see what Travis and Val both warned. I see guilt. And my heart immediately shatters because I caused this. She’s blaming herself for what would have been my relapsed, and I could easily place the blame on her too. But it’s mine. Everything that has happened is all my fault.

“I’m.....” What do I tell her? That I wanted a drink to drown out the stresses coming in from Max, from Pearl and Dax, and now dealing with someone who broke onto the property. Not to mention the accident and the loss of our child. Every time I dream of what our life would have been had things been different, I wake up wanting to drink that sadness away.

But I don’t.

Instead, I go down to the gym with Samuel and beat the shit out of the punching bag or run until I can’t breathe. Something I should have done instead of scrounging for a forgotten bottle.

Ryann walks up to me, holding her hand out for me to hand over the small bottle, “Did you drink it?”

I shake my head, “No.”

“Give me the bottle, Thomas,” She demands softly. Handing her the bottle, I watch her walk over to the sink and dump it.

“I’m....I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, what I was thinking. One moment I felt like I needed it and the next....” I trail off, not really sure how to explain myself. But I know, I don’t have to. I can tell by the understanding in Ryann’s eyes that she knows exactly how I’m feeling. I’m not supposed to be this weak. I should have been able to fight off this craving, not succumb to an unwanted old friend.

She takes my hand with hers and walks into my chest. “Do you want to talk about what is bothering you?”

Yes, but I don’t want to add any unnecessary weight onto her shoulders. “I uh, I got a call from my lawyer today. He informed me that someone had taken photos of us together in our home.” Ryann pulls away from my chest slightly, her hazels now slightly worried and scared that someone penetrated someplace that was supposed to be safe for us. “Tucker managed to get the photo back and sent a cease-and-desist order to keep the magazine from publishing the photo. It’s nothing scandalous, but it was one of us asleep together.”

Running my hand through her hair, I feel slightly mesmerized as my fingers easily glide through the soft strands. I also feel the tightness in my chest slightly ease, and my footing is back where I want it to be in this world and with Ryann.

“But how did they get onto the property? Do we know who?”

Trailing a finger along the outline of her jaw, “Travis is working on finding out who and how.”

Ryann bites her lower lip with worry before releasing it, “I want you to take Samuel with you to the gym, and then I want you to call Andrew or go to an actual meeting.” I run a hand through my hair at the suggestion of a meeting and physically leaving the condo and Ryann. “Please, Thomas, for me. Think about it. If you’re not able to talk to Andrew, please go. I have places....”

“Wait, what do you mean you have places?” I ask curiously, “When did you have time to do that?”

Ryann gives me a shy smile, “I mean, what else was I going to do while laying in a hospital bed? I texted Andrew from Val’s phone and had him looked into meetings that would fit you. I have the list in our bedroom.”

I’m not sure if I should be in complete awe of this amazing woman or slightly annoyed that she and Andrew went behind my back. Both of them know how I feel about attending meetings. But what astonishes me is the fact that Ryann is looking out for me when she should be solely focusing on herself. It’s like she could predict something of this magnitude was going to occur. She truly knows me better than I know myself.

“You didn’t have to do that. Babydoll, you should be focusing....”

Placing a finger to my lips, “On you. You’re focusing and looking after me. You need someone to look after you too. And who better than me?”

Kissing the tip of her finger at my lips, “God, I fucking love you. You know you’re amazing, right?”

Ryann smiles, “Tell me something I don’t know!”

That one real day soon, I’m going to ask her to be mine, forever.

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