Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter forty-three

Today I couldn’t get up in front of everyone to share.

I think the problem is.... I know almost every single fucking person in this room, and it felt weird. But then again, it did take meeting number ten for me to feel remotely comfortable to share in New York. Some people have an easier time sharing, and I, well, I don’t want everyone to know my personal business.

And sharing is very, very personal to me.

I’ve never been one to get nervous in front of a crowd of people. Probably because I could act my way through almost anything, be whoever I wanted to be. People only saw what I wanted them to see, and ninety-nine percent of the time, it was never the real me. And if someone was lucky enough to see the real side of me, it was the dickhead side.

But Ryann is the only person who saw the real me from the start, even with my bullshit acting in full swing. And I’m still trying to figure out how she managed to crack my shell. Hell, I don’t care how Ryann did it because without her, I don’t think I’d be alive.

“You ready, or do you want to stay and talk?” Ryann asks as she leans into me.

Looking around the room, everyone has congregated off into small groups—the room echoes into a soft hum with chatter and laughter.

“Do I have to?” She shakes her head with slight amusement as my tone resembles a toddler being told to go play with the kid who picks their nose. “I know too many of these people. Staying and talking with them......it feels weird. And some of them I’ve done things with I’m not proud of.” The shame and embarrassment are clear in my voice. Ryann knows most of my troubled, drunken past, and I’m sure there are things I’ve left out or have just plain forgotten. But like each and every time I feel at my most vulnerable, there is no judgment, anger, or disappointment in her eyes—only understanding.

Ryann twists her lips off to the side as I watch her eyes scan the room. Taking everyone in. Even giving a subtle wave when she makes eye contact with Lori. And I’m just praying that Lori doesn’t take Ryann’s likability as an invite to wonder over here. Hearing Lori apologized for something.....that I quite honestly forgot about felt a little odd.

But, I guess if the action bothered her, and apologizing will help Lori on her road to recovery, then more power to her. I’m still trying to understand everyone’s unique way of recovery, and........ on second thought, I have a brilliant idea. But I need to talk with Lori first.

“Of course not, baby. Erm, let’s go.” Getting to her feet, I follow Ryann to the front door debating if I want to try and even approach Lori here or try and track her down through her agent.

Coming to a stop near a table, I just need to do this today while it’s fresh in my mind and before I talk myself out of it. “Um.... I’ll meet you outside.” Ryann arches a brow. “Promise, five minutes. I need to do something.”

“Oookay. Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’ll meet you at the car.”

Ryann cocks her head to the side, and I can already tell by the squint of her eyes. She knows I’m up to something. But instead of questioning me like I know she wants to, I watch her walk out the front door. Waiting for the door to close behind her, I easily make my way towards Lori. She’s talking with Cat, another actress who hit rock bottom about five years ago. I think she crashed her Porsche into the side of the bar she frequented.

Luckily, no one was injured.

“Hey, Lori, can I talk to you for a quick second?”

But it’s not only Lori’s attention I’ve got. I also have Cat’s. Her red hair is still that vibrant orange she was once famous for. There was even a trend for about two years of women and young girls dying their hair to match Cat’s color. Needless to say, not many pulled the color off effortlessly as Cat.

“Why, I thought that was Thomas Copeland sitting in the back. And where did your little friend go?” However, her snarky ass tone is still the same. Evidently, that was not due to her beverage of choice.

“My fiancé went out to the car.”

Cat’s eyes go wide before she starts laughing. “You-you’re engaged? Shut up! No, you’re not. Since when? How has that not hit the news sources yet.”

Rolling my eyes, I ignore her. Me and Cat were never friends. Actually, all we did was fight, and at times our fights were violent. I never laid a hand on her; it was Cat who either slapped, hit or threw her drink at me. I was always sane enough to walk away. “Lori, can I talk with you?”

Lori smiles softly, “Sure.” Turning her attention towards Cat, “I’ll be right back.”

Cat throws her arms up in the air with aggravation and walks across the room, joining another group. I don’t know the two people Cat joined, but I know who they are. Amelia is a model who recently found herself on the covers of magazines for passing out in a dumpster and was found by a waiter throwing away trash. And Shane is a well-known television sports announcer. I’m not really sure what his story is. Like me, he didn’t get up and share today. But, unlike me, he seems to enjoy the social aspect that comes after meetings.

“What’s up?” Lori asks with a sweet smile.

Feeling a little anxious even to offer this opportunity to Lori..... I mean, she could laugh outright and say what Andrew and I are doing is stupid and pointless. But we’ve already raised money, and the foundation has helped roughly a hundred people across the country gain help for their addiction or mental health. So I feel like we’re making a difference, and I can’t wait to share this new adventure with Ryann.

“Umm, I have a favor to ask you.” Lori’s finely manicured brow raises. “Andrew and I.....we’ve started a foundation.”

“Oh, that’s really great, Thomas, but I’m not sure what....”

“I was wondering if you’d like to speak at the first charity event. Well...kinda like a Gala type of thing. We’ve already raised enough money to help those who’ve sought it out. We’ve helped individuals find rehabs facilities or sources for mental health. We were even able to give funding to a residential inpatient rehab center in Ohio.” Thanks to Val’s research. “We have coaches, sponsors, life coaches....I mean resources people are looking for who are looking for it.”

“And you want me to speak at this thing?” Lori asks. I can tell by the look in her eyes she’s hesitant. But at the same time, she seems ecstatic. “Thomas, I’ve only been sobered.....well re-sobered for like two years. I’ve relapsed three times, and this is the longest I’ve gone without a drink. I don’t think I’m the best person to speak if you want people to donate. They’ll hear two sentences from my mouth and get up and leave because they’ll think I’m a joke.”

A joke? If Lori agrees to this, no one will think she’s a joke. Actually, I think any potential donors hearing the struggles involved and the challenges and the resources it takes to get just one person the help they need could sway many people. Make them understand when they may not.

I hate to say it, but even I was one of those people. I thought I could always quit and be done when I wanted with no help. That I could do it all by myself, but staying sober, it’s hard. So fucking hard. Harder than I thought imaginable.

“Actually, I think that is exactly what they’ll want to hear. I think people should hear stories. Especially those filled with struggles and tribulations. It will make the experience more relatable.”

I watch Lori tap her chin with her finger, thinking before a wide smile dances across her face. “If you want a relatable story on the struggles of getting clean. I think you guys need someone who doesn’t come from money and isn’t famous. Someone who doesn’t have the same resources as us.”

Well, my circle of friends doesn’t exactly run that route, and I’m not sure how I’d be able to befriend a total stranger and gain their trust to share in front of a room full of wealthy strangers. But, hey, we need to raise as much money as possible because we need that money to help create resources for those who need it. And since you don’t come from money or have the same resources like us, can you please share your story so more money will be donated? Ya, I’m sure I’ll find people wanting to jump at the opportunity.

Lori isn’t wrong, we have the money and maybe even more options and opportunities provided to us to help us succeed, and it helps that we don’t have to worry about money being an issue. However, I’m fully aware that the struggles outside of the rich and famous are very, very different.

“I mean, that would be an idea, but we don’t really know anyone like that.”

“Ryann.”

Shaking my head, “No, she doesn’t know about this. Not yet, at least. And anyway, she was lucky. She had support and help.”

Humming, Lori starts tapping her chin again and looking over my shoulder towards the front windows. Out of instinct, I look over my shoulder, knowing no one can see in. “Hmm, well, she may have had the support, but what about the resources? Has she told you her story?” Frowning, actually, she has told me about her overdosing and going off to rehab but not the in-between or really her time there. I know she learned how to play the guitar while there, and she enjoyed hiking and walking the trails. But that is all I know. “Listen, Thomas, I have an idea, but I need to talk with them first.” Lori suddenly says with a small smile.

“Them?”

Twisting her lips off to the side with thought, “Ya.... two different people. With two different stories. One lives in Maine, and the other lives off in the middle of nowhere in Montana. Do you want me to call them and ask?”

Looking at her flabbergasted, “Ya...erm, ya. That would be great. So, does that mean you’ll do it too?”

“Sure. Just send me all of the information, and I’ll get back to you.”

After exchanging numbers with Lori, I make my way outside feeling surprisingly accomplished, and I find Ryann propped up against the black Benz. And with no Travis insight.

What the hell?

Ryann beams at me as I catch her finger pointing towards the car parked behind the Benz, and I see both Travis and Jonathan in the car. And I can feel the tension in my body easing for just a brief second before annoyance takes over.

“Don’t worry; they didn’t go far.” The singing and triumph in Ryann’s voice causes my brow to shoot up. She’s up to something. “Ready?”

Placing my hands on her hips, I draw her into me. “Babydoll, what are you up to?”

“Nothing,” she smiles. “Come on, and Travis is going back to the house with Jonathan. He’s not coming with. So it’s just you and me.”

Looking to Travis, he gives me a slight nod of the head just as Jonathan starts the car and pulls into traffic. Catching movement from the side of my eye, Ryann waves to both Jonathan and Travis before they disappear down the road.

Okay. Clearly, we’re going to have to go over who’s the boss and controls the pay once again.

“Ready?” Ryann asks again as she climbs into the driver’s seat of the car. Oh, no. She’s not driving. Not when she thinks each time she’s behind the wheel she’s racing for the Indy 500. “Don’t give me that look. Get in, Copeland. Or I’m leaving you on the sidewalk.”

Slamming the door behind her, I’m left staring at Ryann as she buckles herself into the car and starts the SUV. And I can tell, even though she has a straight poker face on, she’s trying her hardest not to laugh.

Chuckling to myself, I jog around the front of the car and hop into the passenger seat. The AC is on full blast with a mix playlist softly playing through the speakers of the vehicle. Ryann is already swaying and singing along to Ed Sheeran. To, I think, Galway Girl.

Her voice is so carefree as I watch her body dance to the beat of the music. And let me tell you, Ryann’s dancing is hypnotic as hell. Ever since the first time I saw her dancing down my hall....I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I still can’t take my eyes off her. It’s like, if this is even possible, her beauty magnifies.

“So, where are you taking me?”

Ryann smiles, “It’s a surprise.”

Oh, babydoll, with your driving, it’s always a surprise.

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