Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter twenty-six

“Are you ready?”

Snapping my attention from the window, I catch Travis looking at me from the front seat. “About as ready as I’ll ever be.” With my hand on the car door handle, “We’ll be out shortly.” I tell the driver. I’m not sure why I’m telling him this. I know he’s not going to drive off with our belongings. Plus, he’s an old friend of Travis and offered to drive us when Travis asked.

“Thanks again, Bill,” Travis says before climbing out of the car, “We shouldn’t be long. If the police show up, don’t leave.”

“And miss the fun? Never.” Bill smirks. Clearly, Travis’s friends have the same sense of humor as he. Dry and sarcastic. A winning combo.

Getting out of the car, I follow Travis into the building. The lobby is dead. No one in sight, and it’s honestly giving me the creeps. Each step I take, my footsteps echo back. Making me realize, I’ve always hated this building. The perfection that is falsified the moment you walk into it is sickening. From the marbling white flooring all the way to the fake aesthetic limestone columns. If I were to take the time and knock on one of them, it would be a hollowed sound that would reverberate back.

Following Travis to the elevator, it immediately dings as soon as he presses the button. An eerie feeling my brain has rationalized that this car has been waiting for us the moment we’ve arrived. Which leads my brain down a further path of Pearl knows we’re coming. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is not the case because she still believes that she and Dax are still meeting Val. The text messages confirm it.

Taking one deep breath, I step into the elevator, followed by Travis as he hits the floor number for Pearl’s office. The journey itself is quick, and before I know it, I’m standing inside the lobby of Pearl’s company. But, once again, it’s empty, and I find the façade of the entire office as fake as the person who runs it.

Marching my way through the halls, I quickly navigate the maze with ease for one last time. One side of the hall is filled with tiny cubicles, and the other is offices.

Pearl’s, of course, is the biggest office tucked away in the corner of the building. It gives her two walls with window views of the city, with two walls that provide her with enough space to store her useless shit on how to BS her way through any career she represents.

Stopping outside of her door, I debate if I want to even knock or just barge right in. I feel like the eliminate of surprise will be the best course of action. Taking Pearl by surprise will give me the upper hand. That and I want to see the panicked look on her face too.

With my hand on the door handle, I can hear Pearl and Dax laughing on the other side. Well, more like cackling over the pain I’m sure they feel like they’re about to inflict. But Travis’s hand is on my arm, stopping me, “Thomas, you do not have to do this. Tucker can handle all of this. We can turn back and go back to the car. Get you back to New York, to Ryann.”

He’s right. I don’t have to do this.

But I do.

So long I’ve allowed Pearl to take control when she should have none. And the worst part, I allowed her to bully and treat Ryann like shit. I need to make this right. Not only for me but for Ryann too. And with Ryann in mind, “I do.” I tell him before slamming the office door open.

The crackling in the room immediately ceases when the door bangs into the door jam, and I find a wide eye, and for the first time, a scared Pearl. Dax looks as if he just shit himself, and the moment I step into the office, I watch Pearl attempt to slide a flash drive from her desk and into a drawer.

“Thom....Thomas, what are you doing here?” Pearl asks with a shaky breath.

Walking over to the vacant armchair, I flop my angry ass down as Dax subtly, unsubtly scooches his chair further away from me. Ha, fucker, I can still reach over and punch you in your tea kettle face.

Resting my arms on the armrest, I watch Pearl’s eyes go straight to my bracelet as she tries to make out the name and the meaning. She will not know about Sloane. Not because I’m ashamed and want to hide what Ryann and I should have had. But because she’s not worthy of that piece of information or aspect of my life. Not anymore. “Well, you said you wanted a meeting before I retire. So I’m here to hear you two out. Figured this would be perfect timing before heading back to New York.”

Pearl frowns slightly before feigning a smile, “Oh, well, unfortunately, right now is not a good time. We have a meeting....”

“With who?” I interrupt. Both her and Dax stare at me like I’ve asked a million-dollar question. Crossing a leg, “Well, whoever it is, they can reschedule.” I say evenly with a wave of my hand.

Pearl and Dax look at each other. Each one wanting help from the other as to what to do next. “Thomas, this meeting cannot be rescheduled.” Dax attempts. “She’s only going to be in town today, and we’ve had this.....”

Snapping my fingers, I bring out my phone and cause Dax to suck in his remaining words. I immediately fake confusion as I stare down at my black screen, and I know I’m making both Dax and Pearl curious as they try to figure out what breaking news I could possibly be reading.

Breaking News, I’m not reading anything, assholes. Just fucking with you for my entertainment.

“What is it?” Pearl suddenly asks.

Twisting my lips off to the side, “Well.... Val sends her regards. But unfortunately, she won’t be able to attend today’s meeting.” Pearl’s face falls as Dax erupts into a nervous cough. “So,” I say with an eerie calmness to my voice as I sit forward in the armchair and pocketing my phone, “You thought it was possible for you to blackmail not only one of my employees but two of them?” Now I can’t help but let a sardonic laugh escape from my lips, “Did you seriously think I wouldn’t find out about this?”

Pearl’s lips thinned, “That little bitch ratted us out. I knew she would.”

My jaw ticks with the insult. I don’t care who she’s calling a bitch, but it sure as hell won’t be Ryann or Val.

“Actually,” Travis steps in. His voice growling how a father would when a daughter requires defending, “I’m the one who ratted you out because I’m the one who intercepted the emails.”

Pearl sinks into her chair before sitting up straight, clasping her hands on her desk in front of her. Trying to muster up some form of courage. “You cannot intercept emails. Those are private.”

“He can, under my authorization,” I warn with authority. “Those emails are from your work account under my name. Therefore they’re under my control. Just like your cellphone.” I state evenly. Pearl sucks her lips in further like she’s eaten a sour warhead. “I have all your emails, Pearl. Your text messages. Every single fucking communication between Jamie Maddox and Shelia Dawson. I’m only going to ask this once, now hand it over.”

“I....I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Playing dumb, not a good look for her.

Standing from the chair, I slam my fists onto her desk. Rattling everything on top and sending pictures on the edge of her desk, crashing to the ground. “Give me the fucking flash drive,” I demand. “I know it was you who gave Jamie Maddox Ryann’s location. I know it was you who gave Shelia the information she needed to get onto my property. Too bad she’s dumber than a box of rocks and cut the wrong wire. We have her on camera, and she’s singing to the police as we speak.”

“I told you we couldn’t trust her,” Dax hisses before suddenly turning towards me. “It was all her idea.” He says frantically as he points his stubby finger at Pearl. “Paying Jamie to take care of Ryann and getting Shelia to snap the photo of the two of you. I never wanted to go along with any of it. So now I’m out ten grand.”

Forget punching this asshole. I’m going to pummel him with the armchair until he can’t speak.

“Bastard!” Pearl screams. “You wanted her gone just as much as I did. You agreed to that payout, and you agreed to this one. So don’t you fucking dare play the victim game, buster.”

Dax starts to shake his tea kettle head, “No, no, you wanted her out of the way and gone. I heard you woman on the phone. You wanted Jamie to take care of her. And for what? Some stupid ass ring. But that backfired on you, Pearl.” Pearl’s eyes are widely enraged as Dax continues to throw her under the bus. Building an even more iron-clad case against her for my lawyers. “Because I saw Ryann before they left for Vancouver.” When did he see her? She’s been locked away in my house or with security. There is no way Dax would have been able to see her without me close by. “She was coming out of a building with Travis, and you’ll never guess what I saw.” He states smugly.

“What?” Pearl questions dryly, no longer amused with this conversation. “A drug addict coming from a meeting?” Scratch that. I’m going to throw the fucking chair at Pearl.

Dax chuckles, “No, no. I saw something that you’ve been seeking for decades now. The one thing you wanted that you’ll never get.” Pearl frowns slightly, and I can see the red snaking up her neck as her rage builds. The tea kettle is doing one hell of a job firing her up. I could honestly leave these two in a room, and they would take care of each other for me. “She’s wearing Helena’s ring.”

Pearl’s face falls entirely, and it’s like any hope she did have. It’s gone now. Welcome to what has been the last fourteen years of my life.

“Wha...she’s wearing Helena’s ring? The one that belonged to your father’s mom.” Oh, wow, dad really did a number on her if she continued to believe that fucking lie. “That ring was supposed to be mine.”

Leaning across her desk slightly, “That ring belonged to my mother, and now it belongs to Ryann. It belongs on her finger.” I state evenly. “My mother’s rings never belonged to you. They never belonged to my dad. Those pieces of jewelry always belonged to my mom and her family. But since you feel privy in owning things that don’t belong to you.” Reaching into my pocket, I toss her my father’s wedding band and watch it bounce on her desk before rolling to a stop in front of Pearl. “You can have that. It’s really the only thing I’d be willing to part with. It holds no sentimental value to me.” I watch Pearl pick up the ring, twirling it between her fingers. Her face softening before becoming icy cold. “Figured if you wanted to be close to Chad, you can have that.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Her tone is voided of any emotion as she stares at the golden round band with tears welling in her eyes.

I can’t help but laugh, “Oh, but I do. I’m not an idiot, Pearl. I know you slept with my father, and I know my mom wanted a divorce. The reason he crashed the car.....”

“Stop,” Pearl demands.

“Is because mom wanted the divorce and had the papers ready to be signed, and he couldn’t live with the thought of a failed marriage. So why not take out the entire family.” I spit. “If he can’t have the family he lost, no one would. So he made sure that we were to die a family.”

Pearl’s eyes narrow, “Do not spread lies about your father. He loved you and wouldn’t do anything....”

Ha, he loved himself and played the field well. “My father was a pig and knew how to get what he wanted. That,” I say, pointing to the dumb gold band, “is his greatest con. Acting as if he was a family man and in love with my mom while he slept with you. That is the ring you deserve. You wanted a piece of my family. Well, now you have the only piece I’m willing to part with, my dad.”

Pearl shakes her head, “Why does Ryann get the ring? She is a nobody. Some meaningless town hick. Why does she get what belongs to me.”

“Because it doesn’t BELONG to you!” I roar. “Whatever Chad told you was a fucking lie. He what?” I wait impatiently for her to be the one to answer, but she doesn’t. “Let me guess. Chad told you he bought it or that it was a family heirloom and wanted you to have it. Am I in the right ballpark?” Pearl looks at me like I’ve stabbed her with a stake straight to the heart. “Hate to break it to you. Both rings belonged to my mother and her family. My father didn’t buy either one of them.”

Pearl closes her hand around my father’s ring and holds it in her palm like she is cherishing some long-lost memory. One I don’t care to know.

“Noted.” She states evenly. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” I know what she’s doing. She’s trying to distract me and get me out of her office. But all that is doing is causing my blood to boil.

“Give me the fucking flash drive,” I demand, holding out my hand. Giving Pearl one last chance to hand it over before I take it by force.

“I don’t know what flash drive you’re.......”

Growling out, I violently sweep my hands across her desk. Knocking every fucking thing from desk to the floor. Her monitor crashing to the ground, a crack spiders across the screen on impact as a glass orb paperweight shatters....no it fucking explodes across the office causing Pearl to shriek out. “Don’t lie to me. I know you have it. I have the fucking emails. I have the fucking CCTV footage of the goddamn trade-off. Now hand it over.”

Pearl shakes her head frantically, “I don’t....I don’t....”

I’m about to overturn her fucking desk, “Hand it over, NOW!”

Pearl makes it to her desk with shaky legs, withdraws the flash drive from the desk drawer, and slides it across her desk. I quickly intercept the drive before it falls to the floor, and I have to restrain from crushing it in my grasp. Instead, I turn towards Travis and toss it to him.

And out of the corner of my eye, I see Dax’s red face. Like he’s trying to conform to his chair in an attempt to become invisible. Telling me, he has a copy too. That fucker has a god damn copy too. A cold chill runs down my spine at the thought of him seeing Ryann exposed like that.

“Hand it over,” I demand.

“Wha....what? Hand what over?”

“The fucking flash drive. I won’t ask again.”

He starts to shake his head frantically. So much so I’m slightly hoping his head will snap off his shoulders. Taking a step closer, I watch the panic rise in Dax’s eyes before his chair is suddenly flipped backwards, causing him to spill from the seat in an attempt to roll away. But Travis is quicker as he places a foot on his chest and pushes his weight onto Dax’s chest, causing him to groan out.

“I think you have something that belongs to Mr. Copeland,” Travis warns.

Dax shakes his head, causing Travis to put more of his weight onto his chest. Dax immediately starts to cough out dramatically, “Okay, okay, fine. It’s in my pocket.” He rasps out.

Squatting down beside Dax as he fishes into his pants pocket, his fingers fumbling as he hands me the drive. Flipping it over in my hand, I toss it to Travis, who immediately pockets it. “Did you make copies?”

Dax shakes his violet-red face. Looking up to Travis, he puts the rest of his weight onto Dax’s chest. Dax begins to cough again, violently. “No, no, that is the only copy.”

Travis lets up, and I pat Dax’s chest with force....well, more like punch him in his solar plexus, causing him to gasp out and cough for air. “For your sake, I sure as hell hope so. Or I’ll be back.”

Getting to my feet, I make my way towards the office door to get the hell out of here. I’ve done what I came here to do. I have the drives, and now the rest is up to Tucker. But before I make it to the door, I stop at a bookcase with two framed photos on it. One is of my dad and Pearl, and the second one is of Pearl and me. I remembered this photo, and I remembered what was said to be before this photo was snapped, and it’s causing a potent bitter taste in my mouth.

Taking the photo of Dad and Pearl, I shatter the frame to the ground, watching the glass fly in every direction and causing Pearl to cry out in anguish, but the cruel side of me doesn’t care because I want her to feel my pain. I want her to feel the almost twenty years of pain she inflicted on my mom and me, on my family. Taking the photo of Pearl and me, I whack the frame against the case before removing the picture.

“Do you remember this photo?” I ask her. She bites her lip as she takes about ten steps back. Her back pressed against the glass window, almost like she wants it to give way, so she no longer has to be in the room. “No? You should. You and dad told me that if I told mom about the auditions, I would cause their divorce. That I would make Mom so unhappy. You then asked me if I wanted to be the cause of my mom’s unhappiness.” Taking the photo, I shred it toss it up like confetti. “You and dad were the cause of her unhappiness. NOT ME.”

Heading for the door, I suddenly hear Pearl’s frantic steps behind me. Somehow, she managed to scramble up some courage. Too bad, because I don’t want her anywhere near me. “Thom...Thomas, wait. Please let’s discuss this.”

Turning on her, I watch her cower to the spot she’s standing like the coward she is. “You’re fired. Both of you are.” I grind out. I watch Dax slowly pull himself into a sitting position as he props himself against Pearl’s desk.

“You...you can’t. You’re breaking.....”

“The contract is null and void. Our relationship, working, and personal is over with. Done.” I spit out. “Come after Ryann again. I will make sure you never see the light of day again. Do not come near my family or me again. You are done. Both of you.”

Turning on my heels, Travis opens the door, but once again, I’m stopped as I feel a tug on my arm, and I immediately pull out of Pearl’s hold. “Wait....you can’t throw away your life for a woman you don’t even know and is manipulative. She only with you because of who you are.” Pearl is frantic and trying to hold onto any control she can by spouting off empty tidbits of information to try and draw me back. But it’s not working. All she’s managing to do is add fuel to the fire. “You’re all I have left of Chad.”

My jaw tenses at the implications behind Pearl’s statement. One that says Ryann is only using me for my money, that she doesn’t know me, and that she’ll never have my best interest at heart. Her statement screams for me to revert to terrible old habits to keep me complacent and, in a way, obedient.

Travis sensing what I’m about to do takes hold of my arms as I attempt to charge Pearl. “I know her better than you think. And she knows me better than anyone.” I bark as Pearl scrambles away. “I’m warning you, Pearl, if you do anything to Ryann, it will be the last thing you do.”

“Is that a threat?”

Laughing derisively, “It’s a fucking promise, one that will ride you out of mine and my family’s life. Because in case you haven’t noticed, I’m nothing like my father, and I will not subject the ones I love to your cruel, manipulative treatment any longer. Today, you and Dax will obey the outlines that I’ve laid out. If you don’t, you’ll regret your decision.”

“And what is that supposed to mean?”

Tucker catches my eye as he makes his way into the room. Pearl’s eyes narrow when she realizes the game is over, and there is nothing she can say to sway my mind. And Dax surrendered the moment he was pinned to the floor. Her game and control are officially over. “Well, Miss. Mead, would you like your lawyer before we begin. If you call, I will be obligated to call the authorities and turn all evidence over to them.”

Pearl stumbles back until she manages to fall into the armchair left standing. Shrugging out of Travis’s hold, Tucker walks further into the office, followed by one of his associates, “We got this Thomas, I’ll call you once everything is signed.”

Nodding my head, he closes the door behind him, and I feel this weight finally leave my shoulders. I did it.

Pearl is gone.

Dax is gone.

They no longer have any type of hold on my life or my career.

And once I get the final confirmation that the documents are signed, these flash drives will be gone too.

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