Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter forty-seven

I can still hear sobbing coming from the living room.

It’s been two days since the premiere, and Ryann and I are set to fly out to Tennessee later today. She’s already changed our flight to a later time, and I’ve been in touch with Alex to let him know what’s going on. Because at seven this morning, Ryann got a call from Val crying hysterically into the phone. And before I wiped the hazy blur of sleep from my eyes, Ryann was already dressed and running out of the bedroom.

I caught up with her in the garage just as she was getting into the BENZ.

Jonathan really dropped the goddamn fucking ball and waited until the last fucking minute to tell Val he was leaving the damn country. If it wasn’t for him already in the air and somewhere over Kansas, I’d be tracking him down and kicking his ass. Fuck it, Ryann is already planning a trip to England to go nuclear on his ass. And quite honestly, she’s a little scary when she’s this level of pissed off.

Hearing a knock on my office door, “Come in.”

I hear the door open and close as the sound of hard footsteps stops at the front of my desk. Looking up from my laptop, I see Travis standing at attention. Almost like he’s waiting for instructions. “How was the premiere?” I get the feeling he’s trying to divert from what I really want to know.

“It was good. Seems like everyone had fun. We did have a party crasher.” Travis arches a brow. Clearly, he’s unaware of Jonathan’s surprising arrival. “Jonathan made an appearance. Dressed in a suit and all.”

Travis’s lips fall into a deeper, stern frown, “I see. He was supposed to be in North Carolina.”

“So, you knew about him and Heather being assigned to a new job sooner than expected?”

Travis sighs before taking a seat, “I knew, yes. But as far as I know, it’s only Jonathan who has been called away. Heather is on leave.”

“Leave?” This is news to me. “Leave for what?”

Travis shifts awkwardly in his seat. “Umm…well, she’s expecting.” I don’t think I knew she had a significant other. “She wanted to wait to tell you and Ryann. She had planned on coming back, but with Jonathan being sent overseas, I told her I’d break the news.”

“I didn’t know she was seeing someone.”

Travis shrugs, “They were on a break when she came to work for you. But I guess they reconnected at some point.”

Shifting in my chair, I stare out of my office window, my fingers begin to strum against the top of my desk. “And when were you planning on telling me about Jonathan’s departure?”

“Today,” Travis states evenly. “After he left.”

“Well, in case you didn’t notice on your way in, that plan worked out great.” The disdain in my tone isn’t lost. And I swear for a split second, it looked as if Travis was preparing to fire back, but he quickly regains his professional composure, and we’re back to boss and employee.

Travis typically has things thought the fuck through. He has plans with plans with backup plans. Everything is to go according to the protocols he lays out. I’m not sure what the hell happened here. Because if I’m being honest, this is a giant ass slip up. I mean, Val crying, I don’t think it could have been avoided. But getting a call early in the morning from Val begging Ryann to come get her from Jonathan’s could have been avoided.

Fucking hell, I could easily be to blame too. I should have intercepted Jonathan at the damn premiere and had a friendly long fucking chat with him. Or maybe I should have just kicked his ass to the damn curb before Val got into the car with him. But I also know Val, any warning I would have given would have gone through one ear and out the other.

“I warned Valerie not to get involved with Jonathan. And I gave strict orders to Jonathan. I tried to prevent what I was seeing. The last I wanted was for Val to get hurt.”

He may want to go and have that heart-to-heart with her because Val is very much under the impression that Travis does not like her. “You may want to talk to her because Val thinks you hate her.”

“Why? I’ve never…..” Travis pauses for a moment before recomposing, “I’ll talk to her before we leave.”

Erm….Maybe when we get back. That may be the better option here. But before I can get another word in, there is a soft knock on the office door. A distinguished knock and I know who is on the other side. Ryann walks into the office, and she looks exhausted. Doesn’t help that we only got three hours of sleep before Val called.

Late night shenanigans.

Flopping down in the armchair next to Travis, Ryann manages to pull her knees up to her chest as she looks Travis head-on, “I told Valerie she can stay here while we’re away. Apparently, home reminds her too much of Jonathan.”

Brunching my brows, “What does that even mean?”

“Really?” Well, okay. Apparently, I just asked a stupid ass question from her; you’re a moron, tone. I knew there was chemistry between Jonathan and Val, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been dating. “They pulled a us.” My jaw ticks with annoyance. “They’ve been dating before New York. So maybe four months now.”

“Dating?” I thought they were hiding their feelings. Not actually dating. Val doesn’t date. Like date, date. She’ll go on dates for a free meal, and if it leads to sex, it leads to sex. But the last time she was actually with someone exclusively was High School. “Val doesn’t date.”

Ryann rolls her eyes, “They were dating. I was the only one who knew. Did you know Jonathan was taking a job in England?” Her question directed towards me.

“No. Well, found out Saturday.” Ryann’s eyes narrow, “Don’t give me that look. Xayla overheard those two talking.” I have no regrets throwing Travis under the bus. I will not be the only one getting into trouble today.

Shifting in her seat slightly, “How long did you know?”

Travis sighs, “About the possible job change, for about a month. That he got the orders to go to England, last week.”

“And you what? Decided to not tell us?”

“Ryann, I didn’t say anything because I may be old, but I’m not blind. I knew what was going on from the beginning, and no matter what I did to try and prevent it from happening…..” He trails off, looking at me, “My suggestions were overridden.”

Pointing at Travis, “Don’t you dare blame me. I didn’t know they were already seeing each other.”

“Would it have changed anything?” The dad voice can go away. I’m not being blamed for this.

“Okay, seriously, you two. Knock it off. Thomas isn’t to blame for this, and neither are you. We all know Valerie would have found some way to see him.” Ryann clicks her tongue to the roof of her mouth, something she does when she’s annoyed but doesn’t really want to take her frustrations out on the people around her. Or it’s a sound she does to let others know she’s annoyed. And I have no clue which version we’re dealing with currently. “Jonathan is to blame. He’s the one who told her he loved her and then just took the fuck off. Valerie doesn’t want to stay in California anymore.”

Running a hand through my hair, I’m not sure Val is in any place to make decisions right now. “Where is she?”

Ryann gives me a sad smile, “By the pool.”

Getting to my feet, I leave Travis and Ryann in the office just as Ryann starts to interrogate him about what he knows regarding Jonathan. Ryann’s protectiveness is tenfold, and seeing her friend hurt, her sister, it’s amplifying that need the longer Val stays in this heartbreak anthem.

The sliding glass door is still open as I step outside and find Val sitting on the edge of the pool. Her feet submerged in the water as I watch her stare blankly at the smooth crystal blue surface. Sensing my presence, Val turns towards me. Her blues hollowed and dull with the redness from her tears.

Taking a deep breath, I pull my socks off my feet, throwing them onto the lounger before taking a seat next to her. Val immediately breaks down. Her hands cover her face, and out of a brotherly instinct, I wrap an arm around her, pulling her into my side. Val collapses into me, her shattered heart a familiar feeling because this is where I sat after returning from Georgia without Ryann. It was the second time I had my heartbroken.

And what sucked about the second time, it wasn’t expected. I was in denial for so long about my true feelings that I felt everything inside me die again when Ryann ran. The sensation magnified because I allowed Ryann in and exposed a piece of myself I had kept safe and sheltered. She was and still remains the only person who can see through me. And I feel Val gave a piece of herself to Jonathan, not only physically but emotionally.

Jonathan dropped the I love you bomb and left her. I can feel her heartbreak. I just hope when Jonathan realizes the mistake he’s made and eventually comes crawling back, Val is willing to give him the time of day. Because right now, if Jonathan flew back, Val would slam the damn door in his face. Hell, he’d be on the ground withering in pain with a shoe wedged someplace unpleasant.

“Is…is this how you felt?” Val’s words are broken around her sobs. “When you came back from Geor….Georgia.”

“It gets better.” Words I hope are more reassuring than I feel because I don’t know if it will get better. It has to with time, right? But I never waited for time. As soon as I knew where Ryann was, I went after Ryann. But I know Val, she won’t follow Jonathan to England. It’s not in her nature to follow a guy. Val is independent; if anything, this heartbreak will make her swear guys off altogether.

“I don’t want to fall in love ever again,” Val sniffles, “It’s not worth the heartache.” Shifting out of my hold, Val sits up and takes a deep breath in. “Mom is moving to New York. She wants to be closer to her sister and brother. I’ve known for a while. I just……” Her sobs break again before she quickly regains composure. “I want to come out to Tennessee with you guys.”

Making a rash decision after a heartbreak will either make or break you. But considering it sounds like Val was only staying in Cali for Jonathan, I know her decision is made, and there will be no swaying her otherwise.

“I don’t want to be alone. If I stay….”

Wrapping Val into an embrace, “The offer still stands. Do you want to come out with us to look at places to live?” What I really want to say is to tell Val not to give up hope. But I also know she’s not in any place to hear the hope speech from me. Plus, I’m sure Ryann has already given it to her and then some.

“No, I just want to drown my sorrows in ice cream and cry fest movies.”

I can’t help but let out a soft chuckle, “Is your favorite still mint chocolate chip?” I gag out. Because mint and ice cream do not go together.

“Hey, it’s good.”

“I’ll call Alice to see if she can pick some things up from the grocery store for you. Make a list, and she can drop it off at the front door. Xayla is back in Canada. So, you don’t need to worry about her doing something crazy.”

Val laughs with her silent tears, “Maybe crazy isn’t such a bad thing right now. Jonathan deserves a high heel or ten thrown at him.”

Fuck, what he deserves is a round with me. I don’t care if he’s military-trained or not; he won’t come out of the fight looking pretty.

“Did you know?” Val suddenly asks me. “About Jonathan leaving. Did you know?”

“I did. Xayla told me Saturday.” By the sudden tension in her body, I can tell that this was not the answer she wanted to hear.

“And you didn’t tell me?” The angry crack in her voice registers the shift of her rage towards me. I’ll take it. I can take it, but I also know Val. She’ll release her anger and then feel bad.

“Would you have listened if I did?”

Watching the tension ease from Val’s eyes, she turns her attention back to the still water of the pool. I know I have my answer without a word spoken. “So, you’re okay if I crash here while you guys are away.”

“Val, you can stay in the guest bedroom or the guest house as long as you want.”

If there is one important lesson I’ve learned from Ryann, the friends who become family, they will always bend backwards in your time of need. You just have to remember that in their time of need, repay the deed.

But with Val, Xayla, Andrew, and Travis, it’s not repaying but helping a family member in need. We may not be related by blood, but in a sense, we’re a small happy dysfunctional family that even my grandparents have openly accepted. And one day, Jonathan will learn what happens when you piss off family.

Fists and heels will fly.

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