Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter forty-two

“Jennifer, I don’t care what the hell your reason is. You don’t have the right to go and tell whoever you want that Ryann now remembers. That is not how this works?” I yell into my phone. Once I got off the phone with Benjamin, Val had Jen waiting for me on hers.

My stress level is now a fucking ten. My rage level is a fucking twenty, and my need to find a damn punching bag is a hundred. I’m not sure what the fuck Jen was thinking? I don’t care if Benji was in the memory or not. You don’t go telling anyone what you learned. Not unless you gain permission from Ryann herself.

“Max told him first during the interrogation. In case you forgot, he was still black and blue when he flew back to Indiana, and he was essentially arrested as soon as his feet hit the ground in Colfax. I only confirmed what Benji already knew.” Jen’s voice raises several octaves as she speaks, becoming increasingly defensive. “Benji was there that night. He already knows what happened. Why are you pissed that I told him about Ry remembering?”

“Because it was not your place to tell. It’s not your memory. You saw what that memory did to Ryann. Now Benji wants a statement from her regarding that night.”

“Wha – what? Why? You gave them all the evidence they needed. Max is being charged with multiple counts, from endangerment to tax evasion. I mean, with all those charges......it’s looking like he could spend twenty to forty years behind bars. I don’t understand why Benji needs a statement from Ryann. The DA never mentioned anything to me.”

I can feel my jaw tensing and my teeth grinding together. Someone is lying, and I don’t like being lied to.

“Then why is Benji telling me something different?” I spit through my teeth.

“I...I don’t know. Unless he wants to speak with Ry. I know he’s been trying to reach out to her with no luck. But you’re kinda like her keeper. No one gets to her without passing you. So, maybe he thinks this is his only option.”

Groaning in frustration, I hand the phone back to Val; I’m done with this conversation. I need to blow off some steam before I lose my cool on Jen and before Ryann gets home. I need to gather some reasoning sense of thinking before I go out and do something stupid.

Walking into our bedroom, I change out of my jeans and into pair of workout shorts and discard my shirt to the floor. I can hear Val talking in the office, her voice carrying through the open doors as she instructs Jen what she’s to do. Mainly to call Benji off and to tell him to back the fuck off. As I walk past the office door, I now hear Val scolding Jen about breaking Ryann’s trust with this little stunt.

And I don’t think that was Jen’s intention. I think with Benji coming at her with the truth from Max, she felt she had no choice but to confirm it. When she shouldn’t of. She really needs to think things through before she speaks.

Walking out into the garage, I grab my gloves from the cubie and began to lay into the punching bag. My irritation and annoyance rolling off my shoulders with each blow. The bag starts to swing against its restraint the stronger my punches become. And it feels like I’m seeing nothing but red because I can’t seem to stop.

Sweat is dripping down my face, down my body, and I’m still at it with no stopping in sight. I want to feel better, but I feel so wound the fuck up that I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop. Moving on from punches, I start to deliver kicks to the bag. And with each roundhouse kick, my foot leaves behind an indentation into the bag. I’m waiting for the sand to start trickling from the side of the bag before giving way to the garage floor below it.

It would leave one large fucking hole in the ceiling drywall, but we’re moving soon. So it’s not like I care.

Delivering another roundhouse kick, the chains to the punching bag rattle and jerk up from the force. But my aggravation only grows because I want this fucker to come crashing down. I want to destroy something.... anything. I can feel the tickle of old habits rearing their ugly heads, and I know I’m going to need a meeting sooner rather than later.

Catching the swinging bag, I bang my forehead against the bag before groaning out in aggravation. I’m swopping wet with sweat, and I’ve been going at this bag for over an hour, and I don’t feel any better.

“Feel better?” The sound of Ryann’s voice causes me to jump. I didn’t even hear the car pull up or her come into the garage. But there she is, propped up against the Benz with her arms crossed across her chest with narrow hazel eyes watching me closely.

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to tell that punching and kicking that bag isn’t doing anything to help. So what’s going on?”

Delivering another blow to the bag, I slowly start to peel off my gloves and toss them down to the ground. “Nothing.”

“I see,” she says, pushing herself from the car. Her eyes getting darker as she stands in front of me. Her feet are planted firmly to the ground, almost like she’s sizing me up. Waiting for me to cave to tell her the truth. And when I don’t answer, “So, calling my sister and chewing her a new one has nothing to do with why you’re out here.”

Groaning out in frustration, “Urgh, what did she do? Call you?”

“Why did you call her to begin with? Because Benji wants to talk with me?”

Rolling my neck, “Ryann, I don’t.....”

“Oh, stop with the whole. I don’t wanna talk about it. Talk, now. Because Jen called me crying and apologizing, and I had no clue what the hell she was talking about.” She demands, taking a step closer to me.

Groaning out again, “Fine, Benjamin called, saying he needed a statement from you. I told him no. Then was proceeded to be told the DA needed it for additional charges. Only to have your sister tell that was not the case.”

Ryann twists her lips off to the side; I’m waiting for the yelling the screaming. For her to tell me that I had no right to make that decision for her, but it doesn’t come. Instead, she holds her hands out for me to take. Feeling slightly suspicious, I take her hands as she cups her hands with mine. “Come one.” I follow her lead back into the house.

“What? You’re not going to yell?” I’m slightly confused right now. I thought for sure we’d have some sort of blow-up about how I can’t control aspects of her life or that I need to stop protecting her from people reaching out. And then, maybe angry sex would follow. But instead, Ryann is guiding us to our bedroom.

“No. Get dress. I’ll meet you out in the driveway.” Arching a brow, she bends down and tosses me my shirt, “If you want me to yell, I can. But get dress. You have five minutes.”

Turning on her heels, she leaves me in the bedroom to get dress. Which I do quickly. And at the same time, struggling to figure out what Ryann is up to. Slipping my shoes on, I make my way back down the hall and into the living room, where I see Ryann and Val talking.....hell, they’re whispering and being secretive by the front doors. Both women stop once they see me. Making me feel slightly uneasy and feeling like the conversation was centered around me.

And why wouldn’t it be? I’m sure Ryann is blowing off her frustrations and ranting to Val before taking me to my doom, where she’ll release her aggravation onto me. Urgh....now I’m sounding like a paranoid girl. If Ryann wanted to blow up on me for what I’ve done, she would have already done so.

As I make my way towards the front door, Val passes me and pats my chest, “You have no idea how lucky you are to have Ryann.”

Looking at Ryann with confusion, she holds her hand out for me to take. Walking up to her, I take Ryann’s hand into mine, our fingers lacing together as she leads the way to the waiting car. Travis is standing ready, the backseat door open and ready for us. Sliding in first, I feel slightly anxious, not knowing what is going on. I don’t like not knowing. It’s been giving me a deep uneasy feeling here lately.

With the sound of the car doors shutting, Travis wastes no time getting the car into gear and drives down the driveway. Turning onto the street, it feels like he’s hauling ass because it takes him no time to get onto the interstate. My attention is focused out the window, watching the pavement and yellow and white lines passed by in a blur. Ryann hasn’t said anything since we got into the car, but I can’t feel her anger or discontent. Instead, there is this peaceful tranquility. It almost feels like the calm before the storm, but with no storm.

“My sister told me Max is the one who told Benji about my memory. She only confirmed it. But I also know my sister, she means well, but she doesn’t always think things through.” Ryann suddenly says, breaking the silence and looking out the car window, “I wasn’t happy when she called me and told me what happened.”

“Ryann....”

“Not because you called her out,” she interjects, turning to face me. “But because it seems people want to continue to throw my past back at me. It’s like I can’t decide....” She trails off, taking a deep breath in. “It’s like they’re the ones who get to decide when I’m done. It feels like they’re the ones still trying to control an aspect of my life......like I won’t be allowed a say.” Biting on her lower lip, she pauses. Her mind working and analyzing a thought....a decision. “I will not be testifying if asked.” She tells me evenly. “I will not give a statement to the DA if they want one, and I will not allow you to have to deal with the brunt of this any longer. I understand why you did what you did. Why you kept Benji from being able to reach me. But he has been. He’s left four messages on my phone.”

I can feel every muscle in my jaw tensing, and I have to restrain myself from throwing a punch through the damn window or the back of Travis’s seat. Ryann should have told me the moment he left the first damn message. I would have ended any future attempts from then on. And how in the flying hell did he get her number anyways? Argh.....probably fucking Jen.

“Thomas,” The softness in her voice forces the rage I’m feeling to partially extinguish. That fucker lied to me, and a part of me still wants to show him what happens when you lie to me. “I can see the stress and wear in your eyes. I love that you’re protecting me, but you have to start being open with me. No more secrets. Because these secrets and this stress.....I’m afraid for your sobriety. That’s why you’re going to an AA meeting.”

Watching the cars passed by us, I suddenly feel nervous. I’ve never done one of these things on my own, “Ryann, I’m nervous.” I watch her cock her head off to the side, waiting for me to elaborate. But I know I don’t need to the moment she slides across the seat and leans her head into my shoulder.

I watch her fingers start to trail along the outline of mine, “I can come in with you if you want.”

Flexing my hand against her fingers, I feel the anxiousness I was feeling slowly dissipate. But at the same time, I feel silly wanting to attend a meeting with someone. Ryann can go by herself, why can’t I? What am I afraid will happen? That someone will recognize me? Well, that is going to happen. No matter where I go. I don’t know, it’s like today is a constant internal battle, and I have no confidence within myself. That nothing I do is right.

“I called Andrew to see if he could meet you, but he’s at an interview with Xayla, and he gave me a place you could go. He says the groups are always small, and this place works around high profile....well, celebrities.”

“God, I love you so fucking much.”

Ryann lifts her head from my shoulder and cocks her head off to the side, her long soft hair falling over her shoulders with a small smile across her lips, “And I love you.”

Feeling the car slow, I look around our surroundings. I don’t think I’ve been on this side of town. At least, not sober. Travis pulls to a stop outside a building that looks like it used to be a bar or an old strip club and has been recently converted into a rec center. Even though the front looks friendly and welcoming with fresh paint and a sign that reads: Believe you can, and you’re halfway there. And I can’t help but laugh out because I believe, and I feel like I’m still at the starting line.

But the windows, the windows are blacked out still, not allowing anyone who walks by to be able to peek in. I guess that’s why Andrew recommended this place. No one can see in to sneak a fucking pic to sell-off.

Stepping out of the car, I hold my hand out for Ryann to take, and she looks both slightly astonished and taken aback that I’m asking her to come in with me. I may not have said the words, but I know she’s able to read between the lines. Placing her hand into mine, we lace our fingers together as Ryann leads the way into the building.

“Call me when you guys are ready,” Travis calls.

I feel like I’ve lost my wording as Ryann looks over her shoulder and smiles back at him, “We will. Thanks, Travis!”

Holding the door open for Ryann, we walk into a brightly lit room with five rows of hard metal chairs about four chairs deep. There are maybe ten other people here, and all of them I know. Or at least, have had some sort of run-in with them. Running a hand through my hair, this was a bad idea. Terrible idea. At least in New York, the number of people I knew where a little slimmer. Did I recognize most of the individuals in the room? Sure. But most of them I hadn’t worked with or fucking used as a damn booty call.

Leaning down to Ryann, “This was a bad idea.”

Looking up at me, she studies me for a beat before taking my hand, “This is a safe space. You don’t have to share if you don’t want. At least stay. Listen to others share. We can sit in the back if you’d like.”

Meekly, I nod my head in agreement as I catch movement from my side, Lori Knight is fucking approaching, and I’m not sure if I’m in for a world of hurt or what she has planned behind her hard brown eyes. Because the closer she gets, the tighter Ryann’s hold on my hand gets.

Stopping in front of us, Lori flips her chestnut hair back over her shoulder. She dressed more casual than what I’m used to seeing. Hell, the last time I saw her, she was naked in her hotel room, passed out in her bed. I was at a bar with Alex in New York and ran into Lori. Well, one thing led to another. In other words, lots of booze, and I went back with her to her hotel room. Then snuck out. Not really my finest moment.

Hell, I’ve had a lot of those.

“Thomas, it’s good to see you,” Lori greets with a wide genuine smile, “Hi, I’m Lori Knight. You must be Ryann. It’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re kinda well known in the community.”

“Erm...” Ryann looks at me, slightly confused, but I’m sure my face mirrors her confusion because I have no idea what Lori is referring to. “Thanks? It’s nice to meet you too.”

Lori lets out a nervous giggle, “No, I’m sorry. I just mean you’re known for helping when needed.” Now Lori is looking a little flustered. “I mean....”

“Lori,” I urge, “Just say whatever it is you mean.” And my bluntness wins me an elbow jab from Ryann. Hissing out in discomfort, I rub my side as Lori takes a deep breath in and releases it.

“Right, sorry. I erm....well, you’re known for helping Thomas get clean and for helping Xayla. I mean, Xayla talks highly of you and credits you for one of the reasons she wanted to get clean.” I can feel the awkwardness starting to roll from Ryann for the recognition. She’s never been one to take credit when credit is due. “And umm....Thomas, I’m actually glad you’re here. Umm, I’ve been trying to build up the courage to tell you this for some time, and I’m taking today, with you standing in front of me, as a sign.”

I can feel my brows shooting into my hairline, “Erm...okay?”

“I owe you an apology.....” Lori trails off as she looks over her shoulder towards the other members of the group. And I look to Ryann with confusion. I’m not sure what Lori has to apologize to me for, but I know she’s on step nine. Make direct amends to people you’ve harmed and forgive those who’ve harmed you.

You’d think those would be split into two separate steps, but they aren’t.

“This seems a little private,” Ryann says, trying to pull her hand out of my hold. “I’ll....”

“No,” both Lori and I say in unison.

Clearing my throat, “Please stay.” The underline begging isn’t missed by Ryann as she gives my hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Sorry, this really isn’t bad. But I feel like I owe you an apology for this. But erm...I was the one who put green Jell-O in your pool and threw a massive party while you were out of the country. I was pissed and wanted to get back at you.”

I knew it. That shit was a pain in the ass to clean too. I had the shell out over eight grand to get everything cleaned and fix up. The party she threw, I don’t think I could outdo. I’ve trashed hotel rooms before, but I never had to shell out eight grand to fix the room up.

“Why?” I find myself asking.

Lori shrugs a shoulder as she looks at Ryann, “I wanted more, and you didn’t.”

“Lori.....”

But I’m immediately cut off, “I was bitter towards you for so long. But getting sober, I realize how horrible we would have been together. Soooooo bad and sooooo wrong.” She says with a soft laugh. “But I’m happy, just got married.” She says, showing off her diamond wedding ring. “And I want you to know that I hold no ill will to our past together, and I’m so happy that you’ve found your happiness.” I watch Lori take Ryann’s free hand and examines the engagement ring on her finger with a smile, “Congratulations, you two. Take care of him, Ryann.”

Ryann looks to me with an adorning smile, “Always.”

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