“Don’t you dare,” Jen warns as she finishes Ryann’s hair. Which I must admit, looks like she’s ready for a red-carpet event. “This jealousy thing you’re doing is beyond stupid. Now, shut up unless you have something nice to say, or you can go back to the hotel. Hell, you can go back to Indiana for all I care.”
Max rolls his eyes as he remains propped into the corner of the room with his arms crossed. “Fine. I can tell when I’m not wanted. I don’t know why I even came out to New York.” Is he trying to pull a guilt trip? Ya, I don’t think so. Not happening.
“Max,” Ryann says softly. “Please, don’t....”
“Don’t what, Ry?” Max interrupts and demands. “Leave? Would you even notice if I did leave? Would you even care?” He retorts.
This argument is over because I feel the rising panic from Ryann, and Val is currently taking her damn shoe off. “Do not throw that,” I warn her as I get to my feet. I signal for Travis to come back into the room. “Stay here with Ryann,” I instruct Travis. “You,” I say, pointing to Max. “With me. Now.”
Max glares at me and essentially refuses to leave the room until Travis stands in front of him. “I suggest you go.”
“You won’t like what I have planned for you, but unfortunately for you, someone has already called dibs. Go with Mr. Copeland, or I’ll make you wish you went willingly.” Travis warns as he takes hold of Max by his elbows and shoves him in the direction of the doorway. “Jonathan, go with them.” Travis orders.
Walking out of the room, I head to the Nurses’ Station, and I’m immediately greeted. “Good afternoon Mr. Copeland. What can I help you with?”
“Is there a private room or waiting area that I can use for a few minutes?”
The nurse smiles at me, “Of course. Down the hall and pass the waiting area, then it will be the first door on your left. It should be unlocked. If it’s not, there is another station nearby, and one of the nurses can unlock the door for you.”
Patting the countertop, “Thank you.” Turning back around, I find Jonathan watching Maxwell like a fucking hawk. “This way.” I led the way down the hall, passed the waiting room on this floor, and quickly find the room the nurse was talking about. Luckily, it’s unlocked, and I flip on the light switch as soon as I step into the room. The door is immediately locked behind both Max and me by Jonathan, who is now standing guard.
“What the hell is going on?” Max demands. “Unlock the fucking door.”
Jonathan looks down at Maxwell like he is an annoying fly that won’t leave him alone. “I don’t take orders from you.”
“Fine,” Max spits as he turns towards me. “Tell him to unlock the door.”
Wanna try that again? “No. We need to talk.”
“I have nothing to say to you.”
Laughing, I storm up to Max and shove him against a wall. I’m uncaged, and I’m breaking the promise I made to Ryann. Technically, I promised no fighting in the hospital room. But we’re not in Ryann’s room, so...I’m technically not breaking a promise.
But he’s crossed one too many lines, and I want him to know what I know. “Oh, but I do. Where to start, Maxwell? Oh, I know, how in the flying fuck did Jamie know where to find Ryann?”
Max looks at me with pure hatred in his eyes. “I don’t know. Ask him.”
Laughing, “See, that’s the thing. He magically forgot when Travis questioned him. I know it wasn’t Jennifer or Betty, and I’m fairly certain her dad doesn’t even know where she lives. So, that leaves you.”
Max pushes me away from him. “I wouldn’t betray Ryann like that, and.....”
“Don’t lie to me,” I growl. “You do NOT have Ryann’s best interest at heart. You don’t care about her fucking safety. I saw the fucking police report that was filed on her behalf. I know you were in that room while she was tied to the god damn bed.”
“NO!” Max yells with protest.
“You helped Jamie pimped her out. You watched her scream for help. You filmed the fucking video and took photos. All for what? An easy buck?” I’m revving myself up and itching to release this built of energy. I want to be the reason he’s admitted into the hospital.
“That police report was dismissed. Benji falsified the report. He was pissed that I wasn’t at the party and....”
“Bullshit,” I interject. “Then let’s talk about Ryann’s dreams. Her repressed memories because you’re in them, Maxwell Johnson, and it’s not as the doting and caring best friend.”
Max’s face falls slightly before he regains his composure. “She was a pill popper. She drank, and she sold herself out. Her memories are broken and....”
I lose it and throw a punch that sends Max flying backwards and onto his fucking ass. Jonathan stands between us, stopping me from continuing my attack. “Don’t ever address Ryann in that manner. EVER. That was a warning shot. The next time, there will be no one to stop me, and I will not stop.”
“Fuck you,” Max spits as blood begins to fall from his lip. “If you broke a tooth, I’ll sue you.”
A crackle escapes my mouth, “Consider it the best lawsuit of my damn life because I would kill for Ryann. You, on the other hand, would sell her out.” I watch Max get to his feet and shake his wrists out as he takes about ten steps back, which only causes me to laugh out again. “What’s the matter? Are you afraid of me now?”
“All of you are crazy from you down to the woman who threw her damn shoe at me. You are barking up the wrong damn tree. I didn’t do anything to hurt Ryann. I would never....”
Pushing against Jonathan, although, he may accidentally let me pass with Max calling Val crazy. I can tell by the murderous look in his eye that Jonathan is ready to attack too. “You may have convinced yourself and others around you that you care for Ryann, but you will never convince me otherwise.”
“Because your only goal is to wash me out of Ryann’s life.”
Again, I push against Jonathan, fighting to get to Max, who, again, scrambles back. “You’re fucking right. I want you out of Ryann’s life because you are a worthless piece of shit. You’ve hindered her for your gain, and that ends. NOW.”
“I was there for Ryann since the beginning. I helped her. I took her to rehab.” Max says in a sad, sad attempt to defend his actions.
Now, I’m ready to take my damn shoe off and chuck it at his fucking head. “No, you used Ryann for your selfish needs. What you needed was money because you were too lazy to get a paying job. Wanted someone who would always lean on you in her time of need and then fucking backstabbed her. Guess what, though?” I brag with an arrogant confidence. “That’s no longer you. It’s me who she comes to in her time of need. Fucking ME!”
“Fuck you!” Max spits as he wipes the blood from his lip. “I was there. Not you. You didn’t see her when she was too high to function. None of you did. It was me. I was there to pick up the pieces. To take her home from parties to hide her out in the basement of my parents’ house until she sobered up. It was me.”
I’m going to kill him, and Jonathan knows it. Before I can even think of my next move, I’m being pushed back to the other side of the room. “Sir, not here.” Jonathan encourages although, I secretly think he wishes he could release me and walk out of the room without being reprimanded.
Tearing my gaze from Max, I know Jonathan is right. I can’t do this here. Max’s lip is already bleeding, and I’m fairly confident that I busted a tooth too. Shrugging out of Jonathan’s hold, I look back at Max and give him one last warning. “Behave yourself, and we won’t have any more issues. But if I find out you had more to do with what happened to Ryann, I will kick your fucking ass and make you wish you were never born.”
“Ryann won’t let that happen,” Max says with all the confidence in the world.
Rolling my eyes, I head towards the door, “Are you sure about that?” I watch his face fall slightly. “Because if Ryann finds out, Benjamin Arnold filed a report on her behalf, who do you think she’s most likely to believe? Him or you?” I watch the rest of the color drain from Max’s face with triumph. I want him to know that I’m not bluffing. I have the report, and I’ve seen most of the report. “And tell me one thing, Max. How does Ryann not know about the report.”
I watch Max chew on the inside of the check for a minute before getting to his feet. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Playing dumb, it suits him.
“Fine, don’t tell. But I will find out. I know money has a way of making people talk.”
I need to get the hell out of this room. I need to put as much space between Max and me, and I’m not sure that’s possible since I know he’ll be following me back to Ryann’s room.
“Ok, wait. Just wait a minute.” Max is now starting to sound desperate. Turning back around, I close the door and notice a sudden shift in the atmosphere of the room. He’s frantic and afraid, and the sad part, I don’t give two shits. “If Ryann finds any of this out, it will ruin what is left of our friendship. She can’t find out. You can’t tell her.”
“You want me to lie, to Ryann, for you?” I can’t help but laugh out at the audacity of his request. “You’re joking, right? Do you have any idea how long she’s been fighting to remember?”
Max holds his hands up, pleading. “Talk to her. I know her therapist wants her to go on meds. Maybe....”
“You’re fucking mental,” I say with disgust. “I’m not betraying Ryann’s trust or questioning her judgment. Those memories are hers to remember, and I will be by her side and supporting her through this journey. Just like she’s done with me. You have three options, Maxwell. You tell her the truth, I tell her the truth, or she’ll remember the truth.” I pause a moment realizing that there is a fourth option. “Or your old pal Benji tells her. He does have the flash drive, after all, with the videos and photos.”
If Max’s face could get any whiter, he’d be a ghost. “How did he get that? Jamie said that he had the only copy....that no one would know.”
Max immediately realizes his fuck up, and there is no turning back for him now. “I see. Well, lucky for you, your wife didn’t watch the videos.” And the pure joy I’m getting out of watching him squirm could be considered boarder line sadistic. “You tell Ryann before I do,” I warn.
“I can’t. She won’t understand.”
My jaw is tensing with a rage that I need to unleash, but I fight against it. “Ryann is one of the most understanding women that I’ve ever met. But you’re right. She won’t understand whatever reason you’ve created in your thick head that what you’ve done was remotely ok. And just so you know. I’m not the only one who knows.”
“WHAT?” Max chokes out, and I swear this asshole is producing tears. That or I actually punched him harder than I realized and broke his fucking nose.
But if he’s looking for sympathy because the truth is finally realized, he’s barking up the wrong fucking tree.
Opening the door, I turn towards Max, “As soon as Ryann knows the truth, I will kick your fucking ass. Consider today the only god damn warning you’ll get.”