Escaping too You ~book 3

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Chapter fifty-six

“Thomas, let me give you a little advice. When a woman is crying, you turn and leave. Let them cry out their feelings and the nonsense that’s upset them. It’s not worth wasting your time trying to console them. All they’ll do is redirect their anger to you. Do you understand, son? Leave your mother be, and she’ll come out of her room when she’s done throwing her fit.”

Hearing those words from my father left me speechless as a sixteen-year-old. I heard the argument. I heard the pleading from my mother for him to stop. To let her go. And then I heard the bedroom door slamming shut. My dad stopped me from entering their bedroom to comfort my mom. He was an emotionless prick and didn’t care he upset his wife or his son, who was upset because his mother was crying her damn eyes out.

But I didn’t take Chad’s advice to heart. If anything, I’m doing the complete fucking opposite as Ryann’s head is laying across my lap, my fingers tangle in the soft strands of her hair.

We’re currently on our way to some random hotel off I65. Travis is driving, his knuckles white and nearly lighting the dark SUV up. He’s been like this after we left the abandoned mechanic shop off the side of the highway. It was barely a shell of a building we met Neil on the outskirts of town. The windows were busted out, and nature was starting to overtake what was left of the structure. And I’m sure, even with two police cars in the lot, we looked shady as hell.

The meet-up wasn’t long. Maybe lasting only twenty minutes total before we left, and I think part of that was because Ryann felt embarrassed. She won’t openly admit to it, at least for now. But I’m hoping that Ryann will relax, calm down, and open up more freely once we get to our rooms. I’m really trying to give her the time and space she needs, but it’s hard to do when all you want to do is help.

Feeling the car slow, I look out the window to see we’re pulling into a Hampton, and the parking lot looks packed. I’m not even sure my star status will be able to free up an unavailable room. Not in a……actually, I’m not sure where we’ve ended up, but the area looks small. Fuck…..I really hope we don’t have to keep driving to Indy. I know it’s probably not far, but I’m so over fucking car rides.

“I’ll be right back. I’m going to check to see if they have a room. If not, it’s about another forty minutes to our hotel.” At least it’s only another forty minutes if need be. But I still rather not.

Even with the sound of the car door slamming shut, Ryann doesn’t flinch. She remains motionless. I’m not even sure if she’s awake or asleep. Her hands are curled into her, and I get the feeling she’s holding onto her necklace.

“Babydoll?” My voice is barely audible. I’m not sure if she even heard me. Instead, Ryann remains limp against my hold.

Rocking my head back, my head hits the headrest harder than expected, and I keep my attention locked on the ceiling. Today’s events running over and over and over in my head. Part of me wishing I could have done something…..anything to change the outcomes of what happened.

It doesn’t take Travis long to come back out to the car, and I hope that’s a good sign. That or it’s because it’s nearly one in the morning, so the front lobby is probably dead. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Means the likely hood of me being recognized is slim to none, but I’ll still wear my hat as an added protection.

Opening the front door, Travis reaches into the driver’s side for the keys. “They have two rooms. We’re checked in.”

“Let me give you my credit card,” What a fucking idiot. I didn’t even think to give Travis my credit card for payment.

“Don’t worry about it.”

I don’t have the energy to fight with Travis about this. I’ll repay him back for paying for the rooms later.

“I’ll grab the bags from the back and drop them off in the room. Here is your key.” Taking the small rectangular key card from him, I flip it between my fingers before leaning over Ryann. My fingers brushing along her temple and pulling her hair from her face. Once again, she doesn’t move. Not even to lean into my touch. Ryann hasn’t fully retreated, but I can feel she’s not entirely in the now. “If you need me, I’m three rooms down.”

“Thanks, Travis.” Without another word, he closes the door behind him before popping the hatch of the SUV and takes our overnight bags. With the sound of the hatch latching, I softly stroke along Ryann’s temple. Gently massaging and applying just the tiniest bit of pressure in hopes of providing the same comfort she once offered me in my time of need. It’s was a simple gesture but one that meant so much to me in that moment. That entire day, Ryann’s selfless acts…..I don’t think she realizes how much they’ll always mean to me. “Babydoll, we’ve stopped for the night. Come on, let’s go inside.”

Slowly lifting herself from my lap, she looks around her, taking in her surroundings. I can tell she knows where we are, but she doesn’t voice it. But she seems visibly more relaxed with the distance we’ve put between Colfax and us.

Reaching in the back, I pull my ballcap from the floor and place it on my head. I don’t even care how my hair is tucked in this damn thing. My goal is simple, get into our hotel room and finally get Ryann to open up and talk about what happened.

Taking my hand, we make our way out of the SUV and into the hotel’s front lobby. She’s standing tall, but I can tell she’s not really wanting to deal with the potential of any fans discovering Thomas Copeland is walking through a small hotel lobby. Because I don’t believe this hotel and town…..I don’t think it’s a common occurrence for someone this famous to be here.

“Mr. Copeland…..” At the sound of a woman yelling my name, I have to physically refrain from groaning out. I stop, but Ryann continues walking. “Hi, I’m the night manager, Ashley.” I can feel my brow arching, “I just wanted to say welcome, and if there is anything you and your party need, please let me know. Our kitchen is closed, but we can whip something up or have something delivered.”

Giving her a tight smile, “Thank you, but I think me and my fiancé just want to get to our room for now. But we’ll let you know if we change our minds.”

Turning on my heels, I take off after Ryann and manage to sneak onto the elevator just as the doors are closing. Ryann slumped into the corner of the elevator, her hands gripping onto the railings keeping her standing. Standing in front of her, I urge her to let go and wrap her arms around me. Falling into my chest, we ride the short three-floor trip, and as soon as the elevator dings, I sweep Ryann off her feet and carry her down the hall towards our room.

Sitting her down, I insert the keycard and open the door leading into our room. Ryann is the first to walk in, flipping on the light switch and exposing the small room with a king-size bed. It’s one of the most basic hotel rooms I’ve been in in years.

Not going to lie. I’ve gotten used to the suites and penthouses. But I’ve also never been so glad in my entire fucking life to be in such a simple room with Ryann. Who is currently sitting on the edge of our bed with her head in her hands.

Pulling the small armchair from the corner, I scoot it to the edge of the bed in front of Ryann and sit down. Forcing her hands from her face, I urge her to look at me. “Talk to me.” Shaking her head, she attempts to pull her arms from my hold, but I’m not letting go. “Ryann, you haven’t talked since we met up with Neil. I need to know what you’re feeling. I can’t help you unless you talk to me.”

“I’m embarrassed, okay!” No, not okay. “I had to ask him about an aspect of my fuck up past that I couldn’t remember. I never talked to him in school…….how….why…..I don’t understand. How could I not remember him? He saw me!” She yanks her hands out of my hold, waving them up and down her body like I need a damn diagram or explanation of what she’s talking about. “He gave me his shirt. I don’t even…….it’s all a giant fucking blur. The only piece of memory that is remotely clear is Neil’s damn face.”

Groaning out, she snaps off the bed and begins to pace the small section between the bed and bathroom. Back and forth with her hands clasped on the top of her head. I want to run to her, make her stop her pacing, but I know this argument is hanging in a very delicate balance, so I remain sitting.

“Ryann, you were drugged…….”

“Was I?” She interjects. “Thomas, if what Neil is saying is true, then that blackout was my doing.”

“But not the assault. That was not. You weren’t coherent enough to make a decision for yourself. No one should have abused it.”

Rolling her eyes, she exhales an annoyed laugh. “Riiight. You’re putting a whole lot of faith into teenage boys. And remember, I’m the one who corrupted them. Didn’t matter the circumstances. It was always my fault. Neil and Benji are the exceptions. They saw the truth.”

“And maybe others did too. I mean……you didn’t remember Neil until you saw him. Don’t you think there may be others who tried to help too?” She gives me a hard disbelieving look, “All I’m saying is your memories are still coming back. Maybe there’s more to them than you think.”

Though I’m not really keen on her returning to Colfax anytime soon, to at all. Even if Ryann tells me she wants to walk the small town in hopes of recollecting memories, there will be a long-ass argument before we ever return.

“I’m not returning back to that fucking town to find out. I’m done.” She spits. Well, I’m glad we’re in agreement there, for now, because I think when Ryann cools down, she’s going to reconsider. “Thomas, Neil found me in the grass half-naked with my skirt torn. He said that it was evident I had been assaulted, and he gave me the shirt off his back and helped me to his truck. He took me to Max’s because I asked him to. He told me he told Max that he would contact the police, but Max told him he would handle it. It was never fucking handled. The police weren’t called. Benji even confirmed it. No report was made. How many situations are there of that? Like, I feel like a fucking idiot. Over and over again, looking back on it, I should have fucking known. I should have been able to say no. I should have been able to pull the fuck away, but I couldn’t. Jamie had me where he fucking wanted me and was able to manipulate everyone. I’m a goddamn idiot.”

That’s enough. Getting to my feet, I stop her mid-pace and force her hands into mine. “Babydoll, you’re not an idiot. I’m not sure how many times or what I have to do to prove it.”

“How can you say that? You hear about my past, and you’re standing there like I hold the moon or some shit.”

“Well, that’s impossible because you’ll be crushed.” Hmm….to soon for a smartass response by her death glare. “What I’m saying is you were a teenager. You’ve admitted to your mistakes to your addiction. But the sexual assaults and drugging were in no way your fault. And neither were the street performances you were forced into. Not to mention, Neil and Benjamin have also said the same thing. That they wished they would have done more.”

“Neil was like three grades ahead of me. He graduated and left. There wasn’t anything more he could have done.”

Urging her to look at me, her hazel eyes are wide, and her tears are threatening to spill. “Babydoll, you feel that way, but he doesn’t. Neil said because of you and the guilt he felt, he changed his major to criminal justice. What happened to you is in no way your fault.” I repeat, but I can tell she doesn’t believe me. “You told me once, we own up to our mistakes and move forward. Grow from them and live with the experience you gained.”

She eyes me, “You actually heard me?”

Smiling, “I heard you. I may have been a drunken mess rambling about something stupid, but I heard you.” I actually don’t remember much of that night or what I said to make Ryann get in my face and force me to hear her. That night is all a blur.

Shaking her head, “Are you saying that to make me feel better?”

“No. I really don’t remember much of that night. The only time anything was in focus was when you were in my face.” She frowns and draws her lip between her teeth. “Why? What did I say?” The longer we stand in this silence, the harder I try and force my brain to wake up some unknown memory. But it’s useless because I don’t think there is any reopening my drunken memories. Not that I would really want to, neither.

“Thomas, you came home drunk and pissed off after going out to a nightclub with Xayla. I found you collapsed against the door to the music room in the basement with an empty whiskey bottle.” I try and search my brain, but once again, I come empty-handed. “You were yelling and screaming at Chad. I had no idea Chad and your dad were one and the same, and then you broke down apologizing to your mom. Saying you wished you could change the outcome of your life and hers.”

My heart thumps hard against my chest. Ryann never mentioned this to me when I was even somewhat sobered up. She came to me in a time of need when she didn’t have to. She could have just ignored me and only do the bare minimum of her job. But she didn’t, and what was even more spooky, Ryann seemed to have this wicked sense when I was at my worst.

“I asked you what you were talking about, and you kept saying you couldn’t save her. Then went on to say you fucked up. And that you can’t seem to stop fucking things up. That is when I told you we own up to our mistakes. I honestly didn’t think you were hearing anything I was saying.”

“What happened after that?”

She gives me a small smile, “I put you to bed on one of the movie loungers in the basement. I stayed with you for most of the night to make sure you were alright. Even sang a couple of songs to past the time.”

Now I’m starting to second guess those drunken dreams of Ryann singing because I’m starting to think my dreams were a drunken haze of memories I wanted to keep. Maybe that’s why, when I actually caught Ryann singing in my house, I wasn’t surprised by the beauty of her voice. I’d heard it before and didn’t know it.

“How many times did you do that?”

She shrugs a shoulder, “I don’t know. There were several times I came into the house and found you passed out on the floor or in your own vomit.” Okay, that’s embarrassing as hell. “I was either able to move you, or if Travis was on the property, he helped me. Then I stayed with you each and every time. Until I knew you were safe.”

God, even when I treated her like shit, this woman is fucking amazing. Bringing her into me, I hold onto Ryann tightly. Like my damn life depends on it because it does. She didn’t even know me then, not really, at least, and she took care of me. Looked after me time and time again, even when I didn’t remember.

“Why haven’t you told me any of this?” I whisper. “I wish you would have.”

Sighing, “Thomas, you didn’t remember. The next day you’d act like nothing happened or locked yourself in your office. And I don’t know why I didn’t tell you. I guess I was protecting you.”

Pulling away slightly, I search her out, “From what? My past? The fact I was laying in my own vomit? I was a drunken idiot. You could have told me, babydoll.”

“I’m sorry,” she says softly and instantly, making me feel awful. “I just…..I don’t know. I thought I was protecting you, I guess. But it also never really came up until now.”

Guiding Ryann to the bed, I sit next to her and look down at our conjoined hands before connecting to her sorrowful eyes. “Listen, you don’t have to protect me from the fucked up shit I did. I know I treated you poorly, even when I tried not to. And I know I was a complete and total jackass.”

“Was?” The small giggle that escapes with the word is welcoming and instantly warms the room.

Tickling her sides from the insult, Ryann gasps out in a fit of laughter, throwing herself down to the bed, trying to get away from my grasps. But I’m on her faster than a lion attacking his prey. Hoovering over her, Ryann squirms under my body, her chest arching up in a known anticipation.

“Fine, still am. But the point, babydoll, our pasts are filled with skeletons we’re all ashamed of. But I’m not ashamed of mine. Not anymore.” She cocks her head on the bed with curiosity. “Because I have you. Having you in my life makes up for all the shity memories because now I get to create ones worth keeping with you.”

A small tear trickles down Ryann’s cheek, and I can’t help but close the distance between our lips. And I can feel it. The last twelve hours melting away along with the people attempting to keep any type of hold onto our life. It’s gone. All of it. In this moment and from this point on, our lives are just that. Our lives.

And kissing Ryann, feeling her under my touch, she will only ever be the only thing that matters in my life. I hope I can continue to make her proud.

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