“Don’t stop me, Travis,” I warn as I stomp my way back through the restaurant.
Max is going to die today.
“Never said I was going to stop you,” Travis says, but I’m waiting for the but. “But,” and there it is. “if the police get called, and there is a bleeding Max on the floor, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep you out of jail.
“If he’s smart, he’ll make sure charges are dropped.”
Before we step back into the small dining area we were seated in, the manager of the establishment stops me. And she looks irate and ready to throw us out. Her hair is twisted into a high bun as she’s dressed in black slacks and a black blazer with a white undershirt. “I’m going to have to ask your party to leave.”
“And I’m going to ask for five more minutes.”
The manager eyes me, “We do not condone fighting in this family establishment.”
Fine, I’ll fight Max on the sidewalks of New York. I don’t care. “If any damages are done, I’ll personally pay for it. Just....let me finish up with what’s going on in there, and we will leave.”
“Fine. Twenty minutes.” I watch the manager walk away before deciding to make our entrance again.
Stepping back into the room, Travis closes the door behind us, turning the space into a private dining room and hopefully keeping the noise isolated into this area. Not that there is much privacy to be had because Jen yelling could be heard across the restaurant.
Max is pleading with his wife and mother-in-law. Trying to explain the situation and Raymond is pacing the room, ignoring the arguing going on. I’m not sure who to blindside first. Max or Raymond.
But I don’t have to make that decision as Max takes notice of me and barrels his way towards me. Samuel attempts to stop him, but Travis gives him a subtle sign telling him to back the fuck off. Before Max can get a fucking word out, I swing. Making contact with his jaw before I deliver another blow to his sternum. He doubles over, coughing and spitting blood to the floor below.
Shaking my hand out, I turn my head up at the ceiling as I try and regain some control over my breathing. Because I’m amped the fuck up.
Hearing laughter, I turn my attention back to Max, who is wiping the blood from his face, “Are you happy? Ryann doesn’t want anything to do with me now.”
God, this guy is so fucking self-absorbed it makes Jamie look like a saint.
Max takes a running start to tackle me, and I’m waiting for him like a fucking kid at Christmas. Because within a flash of a second, I manage to flip him onto his back, and I descend onto him. Fists are flying in every direction as I make contact with some part of Max. At times, the sound of bone breaking, and I’m not sure if it’s mine or his, as he sneaks in a punch or two.
“Thomas, that is enough,” Travis and Samuel are pulling me off of Max. But not before I deliver several kicks to his stomach, causing Max to roll onto his side and into a fetal position. “Thomas, stop. He’s had enough.”
Pulling out of Travis’s and Samuel’s hold, “Nothing will ever be enough for that coward. He deserves more. So, much more.” I spite through my teeth as I wipe away the blood from my nose. Fucker got a nose shot in.
Max is on the ground rolling around in pain. Finally, I’m able to take in my surroundings and realize that I’m going to have to pay for the carpet to get clean and for the broken chairs on the floor. The thing about adrenaline, had no idea I threw Max into chairs. I also had no idea I landed on said chairs, and I can feel pieces of wood in my sheens.
“He’s gonna need an ambulance,” Samuel says as I catch him checking Max over.
“Fuck you,” Max spits as he attempts to get back to his feet, only to crash back down to the floor. “I don’t......need your help.” Sure about that, buddy? Sounds like you’re struggling a little bit. “I’m pressing charges.”
I take a couple of steps closer to Max, with Travis right beside me. He’s ready to stop me if I decide to attack Max again, which could easily happen. Max quickly stumbles back until he’s pressed himself to the side of a booth, squatting down in front of him. I watch him as he attempts to raise a fist, only to have me swat it away.
“Maxwell, you press charges. I’ll be forced to talk.” Why not just talk now. I don’t see any reason to help this fucker out. “Wanna tell Jennifer about the bank account in her name?” If his face weren’t covered in blood and swelling, I’m sure he’d be panicking.
“Wha...what bank account? What is he talking about, Max?”
Max starts coughing, “Jamie had money transferred to an account for my services from an offshore account.” Max shifts as he groans out in pain. He knows he’s lost. The battle is over for him, and there is no amount of lying that could save him or his marriage. “I had the money transferred into a bank account under your name not to raise any suspicions.”
“I...I don’t understand.”
“My....urgh, my family was going to lose the farm.”
Jen nearly shoves me out of the way as she hoovers over Max, “You sold my sister out and betrayed her for some fucking land?”
“It’s been in my family for generations. You...you should understand.” He stutters as he spits blood to the ground besides him.
Jen punches Max straight in the face, causing his nose to shatter, and Jen cries out in pain. “Fucking hell!” Jen shakes her hand frantically while hissing out in agony. “I don’t. I don’t understand. I’ve been trying to understand, and I don’t. And now you’ve implicated me in your fucking crime? I could go to jail for fraud or tax evasion or some shit.”
Stuttering, “I...I,” Max starts to cough again as he wipes away the blood from his nose, “I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”
Jen snorts out before stomping away from him and towards her purse, where she pulls out forms. Marching back over, she throws the papers to Max. “Sign them. Now. I want a divorce. I want you out of my life, and I don’t want to be associated as a Johnson any longer.”
Max snorts, “You hold my last name.”
I watch Jen squat down and pats Max’s knee...well...more like punch it, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? It must have slipped my mind. I never changed my last name. I’ve always been an Anderson. Now, sign the fucking papers.”
Getting to my feet, I wipe the blood on my hands down the front of my pants, “Oh, and that ten grand you got from Jamie, you’ll be paying that back.”
Again, Max snorts in an effort to stay conscious, “I don’t have ten grand. It’s gone.”
“What ten grand?” Jen demands.
Feeling very vindictive, “Didn’t he tell you? Jamie gave him another big payout of ten grand after tracking Ryann down.”
“WHAT!” Jen immediately takes her shoes off and starts chucking them. One shoe nails Max in the head, and the other hits his leg.
Max has completely lost any hope of defending himself as he raises his hands, only to have them crash back down to the floor, “He owed me for keeping tabs.”
“WHAT!?” I immediately wrap my arms around Jen and spin her away from a nearly unconscious Max. “Fucker!”
Releasing Jen, I squat back down in front of Max, “Well, I guess land will work too.” Looking to a very stun Raymond and Betty, “Are you guys in the market for more land?”
“That belongs to my family.”
Slamming my hands on either side of Max, he flinches at impact. “And you ruined Ryann’s life and relationships. You knew exactly what the hell was going on, and you watched and allowed it to happen. You...you’re worse than Jamie.”
“I don’t want the Johnson’s land,” Betty suddenly says. “Let him go back home looking like that. He’ll have more questions to answer. But you’ll leave my daughters and my family alone. You’re no longer welcome in our family. Do you understand?”
Max meekly nods his head, “Yes, ma’am.”
Betty suddenly turns to her husband, “I mean it, Raymond or I’ll feed you to the hogs.”
Getting back to my feet, I make my way towards the door, knowing that I’ll kill Max if I stay any longer. Plus, now I need to pay for the damages I’ve caused.
I also need to call Cam. I need to meet with him. Hell, I’m even up for going to a meeting before if I need to. My body is starting to shake with a need, and this restaurant has a bar. I’m afraid I won’t make it out of here sober.
“Thomas, can I have a word with you, son?” Turning, I see Raymond reaching for me, and I immediately move away from his touch.
“I’m not your son, and no, you cannot.”
“Dad now is not the time.” Jen pleads.
Raymond turns on his daughter, “Yes, now is the time. We were kept in the dark about Ryann’s condition.”
Jen shakes her head, her blonde hair flying vigorously with her shake. “No, we,” Jen says, waving her hand between her and Betty. “We knew about Ryann’s condition. The miscarriage,” she swallows the word hard, “That is not a condition but a loss of life. Dad, she lost her child. Thomas lost his child. It’s not a condition. Stop referring to it as one.” Jen turns towards me, “I’m really, really sorry for your loss.”
I’m not even sure what to say. What do you say after someone gives their condolences, thank you?
Instead, I do what I did at my parents’ funeral. I don’t say anything at all. Not until I feel Travis at my side, “Sir, the ambulance is here. I’ve already settled everything up with the restaurant. If you don’t want the police to be called, we need to leave.”
“Did he know?” Raymond demands, pointing at Travis, which is a mistake he immediately registers.
“Do I know what?” Travis challenges. “What a pompous ass you are to Ryann? I’m not sure what’s worse. Hearing words a father should never say to a daughter, or the fact Ryann feels like she doesn’t have her father’s love. So, I highly suggest you tread lightly in my presence because you’ll look ten times worse than Mr. Johnson.”
“Are you threatening me?”
Travis towers over Raymond, getting inches from his face. I should hold Travis back, but I’m not going to. Instead, Samuel rushes over to pull Travis away from Raymond. Travis immediately shrugs out of Samuel’s hold. “I just told you your daughter doesn’t think you love her, and you’re worried if I threatened you?” Travis lets out an indignant laugh, “You do not deserve to have Ryann as a daughter. You’ll be lucky if she ever welcomes you back into her life.”
“Do not lecture me about my daughter.......”
I’ve never seen Travis so unhinged before. He is how a father should look after learning the horrific truths of his daughter’s past. Travis is how a father should look after learning a man they’ve trusted for so long has actually been a wolf this entire time. Travis is how a father should look after seeing the utter hurt and betrayal on his daughter’s face. And Travis is the one who followed Ryann out as a father should.
Travis is more a father than Ryann’s actual father.
“I’ll lecture you because I know your daughter better than you do,” Travis bellows. “Ryann is an amazing and courageous woman. She’s over four years sober, and she’s fighting for not only her sobriety but his as well.” Travis points towards me but never breaks eye contact with Raymond. “She’s always putting others before her when she shouldn’t. She is the most selfless person I’ve met.”
I watch Raymond stand tall once again, “If she were so selfless, then none of this would have happened if she just said no.”
Oh, that fucker. Samuel registers what I’m about to do and stops me. But in his haste to stop me, he is no longer restraining Travis, who clocks Raymond right in the jaw and sends him stumbling backwards. Betty and Jen scream out as I watch his wife run to his side, taking hold of his elbow.
“You are no father,” Travis yells before throwing open the door and storming out of the room. And just as soon as he leaves, the paramedics walk in. Samuel shows them to Max, who is now passed out on the floor.
Maybe the fucker keeled over. But I watch him startle as soon as the paramedics touch him, jumping away from their touch. Good, it’s now his turn to live his life in fear. I want him to be afraid that around every corner, I could be lurking. Waiting for him.
Looking at Raymond, “And for your information, Ryann did say no. Several times. Just ask him.” I say through clenched teeth, pointing a finger at Max. “And she even asked you for help, but you turned a blind eye. Instead, you kept Ryann isolated by keeping her on a damn tractor in the middle of a field. To what? Hide her? To keep the rumors that she told you over and over again weren’t true from ruining some family name? So you wouldn’t have to look at her?”
Raymond has lost all ability to speak, and Betty even seems lost for words. The whole Anderson clan does. And I’m not sure if it’s because I’m calling them out on their bullshit or because Ryann actually confided her entire past with me.
“You and Jen helped inflict the conflict onto Ryann by feeding off each other. The only difference between you and Jennifer. She’s owned up for the shit she’s done wrong. But you......you won’t. And I don’t ever want to see your face again.” I warn.
Storming out of the room, I walk past another set of paramedics rushing into the restaurant, one of them attempting to stop me, but I push past them. I’m not interested in having any of my wounds looked after. With Samuel behind me, I’m immediately bombarded by flashes as the vultures attack. Some asshole got a nice fee informing the parasites of the altercation and location.
Thomas, is this a sign of you falling off the wagon?
Who was the fight with?
Thomas, show us your injuries.
I’ll show you my fucking injuries. But as I’m about to deviate from my path, Travis magically appears, throwing a jacket over my head and ushering me into the waiting SUV.
Falling into the SUV, I slide over, allowing Travis to sit in the seat next to me. And before I know it, the car is lurching forward. I removed the jacket from around me and realize it’s Ryann’s. Taking a deep breath in, I inhale her scent and sit back against the car seat.
Realizing what I need to do, I pull up Cam’s number and dial him, and he picks up on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Hi, Cam? This is Thomas Copeland. Andrew gave me your number.”
“Ah, Mr. Copeland. I’ve been waiting for your call.”
Well, that makes one of us.