Unlawful Trust

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Now twenty-four hours since my confrontation with Ryder, I still felt the weight of the conversation circling my head constantly despite burying myself in work. It had been twenty-four hours since learning the lengths he would go through to be with me, protect me, love me.

Even though it was a Saturday afternoon I hid away in my office trying to do anything but think about it. My company had been up and operational for one full week now and it should have been the best week of my life but I couldn’t enjoy it under the stress plaguing me. It felt as if I achieved an empty accomplishment without having someone to share it with. Ryder was there from the beginning. He treated me like a fellow business associate exuding his faith in me from the start. So much faith in fact he went behind my back to invest his own money into it. Not to help but to make money for himself as he believed my company would be a sure-fire success.

If the last two weeks were hard on me, the last twenty-four hours nearly killed me. I couldn’t sleep at all last night and food had no flavor. My mind kept going back to Ryder opening himself to me. And as hard as it was to admit it, I kept thinking of the possibility of something further between us.

My cell phone rang and I wanted to ignore it. Chelsea left several messages about being in town and wanting to see me, even going as far as begging me to come to Brandt’s show tonight at Ryder’s club. The way she asked led me to believe she didn’t know about us yet and it made me glad. If I couldn’t admit my feelings towards Ryder, how the hell could I talk about them with her? Besides, she never wanted the two of us together anyway.

It made me wonder why. Chelsea was a little old-fashioned in her thinking. She didn’t like the way Ryder came off as a supposed ladies’ man, using prostitutes or frequenting strip clubs, but I knew things Chelsea didn’t. I left men for far more petty, superficial reasons. Was the fact she didn’t want us together because she thought I really was too good for him or was it the other way around?

My past relationships were never supposed to haunt me. What happened between Marius and myself, and Phillip and myself for that matter, was in the past. I had moved on but I knew the bond Ryder and Chelsea shared and it made me feel like just maybe she kept us apart to protect him as well.

Turning over my phone, I saw Mael’s name. Looking at the time, I realized he called on a Saturday night in Paris and I hoped nothing was wrong. Quickly I answered, “Mael? Is everything all right?”

“Aimer, I am calling to cancel next weekend. I am leaving on holiday with Ibrahim and can’t do your hair.”

Relieved nothing was wrong, I countered, “You called me on a Saturday night just to tell me this? Surely you’ve got better plans than to check up on me?”

He laughed and it raised my spirits slightly. Only Mael could make me feel better right now. The issues he dealt with in his life were far more than what I currently sniveled over at this point and I felt almost embarrassed to be in such low spirits.

“Ibrahim is coming to take me out. We are going to the Roxy.”

With the mention of the Roxy, I sucked in my breath sharply. “Are you sure?”

Mael heard the hesitation in my voice. The Roxy was a place we considered special between the two of us. It held fond memories of a man we both loved, and I was surprised at how Mael was willing to return to our place. It appeared he had someone else to share his memories with now and I should be happy for him.

“I am sure. Ibrahim knows about the significance of the place and will be with me should old ghosts threaten to reappear.” Ibrahim turned out to be the right person for Mael. They have been dating since the night I discovered the back room of the Roxy with Ryder. Ibrahim celebrated Mael’s outlandish personality for the incredible person he was, and when I saw them together the last time in Paris it made me feel glad he could find someone to love.

“Ibrahim is a good man. He loves you and Marius would have loved him for it.”

“Aimer, I never thought I could find a man like him. I didn’t know how lonely I was until he came into my life and opened my eyes. He loves me for the person I am and it doesn’t hurt he has a body like a Greek god” A Geek god. The phrase jolted something deep inside me. What he said about not realizing he was lonely until he had someone who would be there for him made me think of Ryder.

“Ah, Mael? I, ah, I need to go. I’ll call to reschedule when I have time.” Without waiting for his reply, I hung up. Mael was moving on and I didn’t know how to feel about it. Five years was a long time to mourn the death of someone close. I was proud of how he felt he could move on now and not hide behind his pain as a reason to not live. Marius would not have liked how long it took, and had he been alive, he would have admonished him for using him as an excuse.

Ryder feeling jealous of Mael bordered on ridiculous with Mael being attracted to men but I never told Ryder about Mael. Maybe I let him think Mael could be a lover to protect myself. Maybe having him think there was a Russell or Mael in my life just made it easier for him not to fall in love with me. Although it seemed to have backfired.

And then it hit me. I had been acting the same way as Mael. Marius would have scolded me as well for using his ghost to cower behind. Mael and I were two different people though. Our circumstances were different, right?

Mael finding someone to love him for who he was had to be the best part of love. Ryder accepted me too. For all the strong-willed, stubborn times I flew into a rage he never tried to change me. Never even thought of holding me back. He only wanted to protect me. He loved me and I...

Could I love him? The days spent talking to him after satisfying each other’s basic primal needs were one of the best times in my life. In a world full of good ole boys he never made me feel insignificant. He put me on a pedestal going as far as to make sure no one followed me home or tried to hurt me in any way. He was even willing to give up his life’s work to guarantee my safety all in the hopes I would join him as his equal. If that wasn’t love, I didn’t know what was.

Grabbing my purse, I headed for the door telling myself I was only going for a walk to clear my head, but when I rounded the corner of my office building and walked down the strip in the direction of his nightclub I knew I needed everything out in the open for once. For the full three blocks I deliberated what to say thinking this might not be the best decision I ever made, but when did I ever let it stop me in the past?

The three blocks seemed like a million miles. I walked slowly trying to come to a conclusion in my mind before going in there and acting like a fool in front of him. Social Offender was playing tonight but I didn’t know if he would be out with the guys or rehearsing. It didn’t matter. If he wasn’t there, I would go find him. I suddenly knew now what really mattered.

I had wanted my own company for years. As a lifelong goal of mine, I felt it was bittersweet knowing I had no one to share it with. Only one person ever took the time to get to know me, support me in a way few others, and encouraged me to go for my dreams and I wanted to share it with Ryder. I just hoped it wasn’t too late.

Social Sector’s sign loomed above me up ahead and my heart sped up just hearing the noise coming from it and knowing who produced it. He was still inside practicing for tonight’s performance and I hesitated slightly when I got to the door. If I went in there, he would know I loved him, and how I wanted us together. He might not know how fucking scared I became with the thought of another relationship, but he would know how much I wanted this and it would need to suffice.

Now for the moment of truth.

My hand rested on the door for an eternity. Stuck in a state of panic I felt sweat gather at the valley of my breasts and heat rise in my face and it astonished me. How could I be this scared? I had fought my way up the corporate ladder, negotiated large deals with chief executives in some of the most powerful companies in the world, started a business from a dream and a prayer, and saw it become a reality impressing the likes of Maximiliano all on my own terms, but walking in that door scared the shit out of me. It somehow seemed a more important step than any other in my life.

I didn’t immediately see the person on the other side of the door until I felt it start to open. Looking up at the club manager I noticed her staring at me. “Can I help you?”

She smiled sweetly waiting for my response thinking I must be nuts. The last two times I stormed in here I was ready to set the place on fire with my anger and now I looked as though I lost my mind.

“He is inside,” she said as she smirked and opened the door. Either she knew why I came to see him or couldn’t wait to see what havoc I would cause this time.

The music grew louder now the door had opened. It stopped abruptly and laughter filled the space, a cacophony of voices sounded jovial in nature. I willed my feet to move wondering what type of outcome could manifest from my being here. Would he reject me? Would he look at me as too much trouble? It wasn’t as if I was easy to deal with.

When I made it out to the open floor, I saw him surrounded by his band while talking to them on stage. He stood next to JJ as Brandt and Quade dropped off their guitars on a stand. My whole attention focused on him. He didn’t notice me yet and it gave me a small chance to search my feelings but I already knew. All of my indecision fell away and I couldn’t believe how stupid I had been to ever let him go. This man loved me for me. He would do anything for me. He was my friend and my lover, and if the offer still stood, I would try to be his everything.

“Ami! You did come!” Chelsea’s voice froze me to the spot. All eyes on stage turned to me, including Ryders.

His face transformed just then and the sight warmed my heart. The worried lines in his forehead straightened and his whole posture softened. I smiled at him and he smiled back.

Chelsea came to me from the tables on the other side of the room but I couldn’t tear myself away from Ryder’s gaze. “Oh, I was so hoping you would come. The kids will be happy to see you too. They didn’t want to leave the hotel since they got to hang out with Lamar and Jaeger, but they would have come if they knew you would be here. We got one on the strip...” She kept on talking, oblivious to my mental breakdown.

Ryder jumped down from the low stage and started to walk over to me. He looked like home. I never thought of anyone looking like home before. My life had consisted of hopping from one place to another. Living out of a suitcase and not having a place I could call my own. I had the occasional house or apartment but nothing where I felt I belonged. The way Ryder looked at me right now told me I had a place in his life. The feeling he created in my heart gave me a sense of peace I never felt before and I knew I chose the right path. Ryder was my home.

“Ah, Chelsea? I hope she isn’t here to see you. Actually, I hope she is here to see me.” I noticed some vulnerability in his statement. When he finally made it to standing in front of me, I could see the hunger in his eyes. He still wanted this. Thank god, he still wanted this. I let out a breath of air held hostage inside me and felt the stinging of tears in the back of my eyes.

A quick side glance showed a very confused Chelsea as she sputtered, “Why would she be here to see you?”

Unable to remove his eyes from me, Ryder addressed me, “Is this what I think it means?” It wasn’t until he reached out and touched my face I realized I had been crying. Tears streamed down my face slowly as I felt years of pain and frustration at finding the right someone melt off me.

Nodding and unable to talk, Ryder seemed comically captivated at my inability to converse. Never at a loss for words before, I realized he seemed to do it to me more than anyone ever before.

Chelsea grew silent as she watched the display of affection in front of her. Brandt came into my peripheral field just behind her, but I never took my eyes off Ryder. His face lit up with the knowledge of my return to his club and what it meant for us.

“Oh Hell NO!” Chelsea suddenly understood the sentiment between us and didn’t feel as happy for the two of us.

“Ah, Chelsea--” Brandt tried to intervene but was cut off.

“No, no, no. This is not happening!” Chelsea very much understood what was not being said between Ryder and myself and Brandt stood helpless watching his wife freak out.

Ryder kept his hands on my face caressing it tenderly. He cleared his throat before asking his question, “I get you all to myself. No more Mael?”

With the mention of Mael, I let out a little chuckle, “If you could see Mael you would realize how wrong that statement feels. Besides, Mael is Marius’ brother.”

Confusion spread over his face, “Villeneuve?”

“Villeneuve was Marius’ maiden name. He took on Ian’s last name when they married. I never took on Marius’ last name knowing the marriage wasn’t meant to last.” The relief poured over his face and it touched me to think how he only wanted me.

“And the others? Chuck? Russell?”

Brandt tried to pull Chelsea away but hearing the name of a familiar sex toy confused her as she popped back into our conversation, “Russell? Why is Ryder talking about your vibrator?” She sucked in her breath and clamped her hands over her mouth realizing what she just said.

Ryder’s look went from mild curiosity to a full-on smirk. “You mean to tell me I have been jealous of a vibrator?” I couldn’t help but grin back at him knowing my secret boyfriend had been found out. He saw my grin and laughed, “Fuck yeah, I am jealous of your vibrator. I want to be the one between your legs. Do you name all your sex toys?”

His question was good-humored and it loosened my tongue, freeing it from its imprisonment. “Ah, I kind of have a thing for Russell Wyman, so I named the toy Russell Vibeman.”

“And Chuck?”

“You mean Mr. Stick?” He laughed again and his whole body shook as relief covered his face. “Like a Chick Stick?” He got me. He understood my unusual sense of humor and wasn’t even put off by my fascination with battery-enhanced self-love.

Actually, he understood my sexual pleasures so much it was almost as if he was put on this earth for me. He fucked me thoroughly and without abandon, never treating me like I couldn’t handle the hard stuff. Why did I ever doubt he wouldn’t be good for me? To think of all the time I put him out of my thoughts, reasoning I had been just another notch in his belt and nothing special when we were falling in love together.

It did make me wonder one thing.

“No more women for you either,” I said as I placed a well-manicured fingernail on his chest. He grabbed the back of my head and drew me in.

Before he leaned in for a kiss, he slowly explained in his deep voice, “There hasn’t been anyone since Miami. Not one single person.” He took that moment to bring me to his lips and kissed me. I tasted the salt of my tears but more importantly, I tasted Ryder, and he even tasted like home.

“Oh My God! How long has this been going on?” Brandt, unable to hold Chelsea back any longer, gave up as she looked at us from the side with a frown on her face. She had a hard time with the recent show of affection in front of her but it only caused Ryder and I to grin at each other.

Ryder broke away first and gave Chelsea the same famous panty-dropping smile he used on her in Wisconsin. I saw the humor behind it and I started to worry as he turned to Chelsea all the while tucking me to his side and making it feel as if I belonged in his arms. “We had a couple of adventurous days in May - Miami, and Wisconsin - but in all practical terms our first time together was at your wedding.”

Oh shit.

“My wedding!” Chelsea’s face changed to multiple hues of red and her blond hair flew around her as she swung her head from me to him to find out if it was true. The alarm on her face was replaced by an accusatory stature as she pointed a finger at Ryder, “Even after I told you to leave her alone!” I could tell by the way Ryder egged her on he thought it hysterical. Only he could incense Chelsea on purpose and come out smelling like a rose, but he noticed my discomfort at what he said.

“Ah, Ryder?”

He smiled as he looked my way, “Yeah?”

“To be totally honest, we didn’t have sex on their wedding night?” He looked at me confused, so I continued, “Ah, yeah well, you sort of passed out on me.” Quade and JJ burst into laughter while Brandt still kept a guarded look on his wife wondering how she would take the news.

Ryder just shook his head and laughed. “Fuck. I knew if I tapped that ass I wouldn’t want to give it up!”

Chelsea’s look turned back to mortified. “YOU didn’t just say that about my best friend!” I tried to hide the giggle that rocked my body. Ryder was a wonderful businessman but away from the company side he let down his guard and I loved it. No need to be politically correct for my benefit.

Chelsea didn’t seem as if she agreed though.

Ryder gave me a little hug and winked at me as he turned to address her. Keeping his voice soft he leaned in, “Chelsea you can’t blame me for falling in love with her. Look at her. She is just the most beautiful, amazing person.”

I sucked in my breath. He said he loved me again and each time he mentioned it now I knew it would bring butterflies to my stomach. There wasn’t any playfulness in what he said. It sounded like it came from the heart and it had the same effect on me it apparently did for Chelsea. Her face went from angry to soft and in tears in the same amount of time it took for her to realize what he said. “You love her?”

He nodded as she turned to look at me, “And I love him.”

“Awe, guys. Really?” We both nodded our heads, and she visibly melted in front of us. Tears flooded her eyes, and she looked ready to burst from happiness. “Oh my God! This is... Well, strange but great. I am so happy for the both of you.” She jumped up and gave us both a hug as I turned to look at Ryder. Impressed with his ability to play my best friend, I knew it wasn’t in malice. I felt less of a need to chastise him for egging her on and if I didn’t know how much he truly did love Chelsea, I would kick his ass for this, but he didn’t mean any harm.

Chelsea pulled back still squealing her pleasure, “Does this mean you will be staying in Vegas?”

I hadn’t thought of it. Once my company got off the ground, it would mean I could essentially run it from anywhere. Anywhere but here with Ryder didn’t seem right though. I turned and looked at him, and he saw my hesitation. “I would love for you to stay with me. I don’t care where. My house or another house but what I really want to do is wake up with you for once.”

It made me laugh. I guess I had been running out on him a lot lately. Shaking my head I smirked, “You know I can’t be domesticated.”

His voice went low as he brought his mouth to my ears, “Nor should you ever. You are a goddess among women.”

Chelsea chimed in, “Ami is the least domesticated person I know.”

Ryder turned to her and smiled before turning back to me, “I insist on weekly spa treatments for you.” I hiked my eyebrows, enjoying where this headed as I took over the negotiations.

“I don’t clean.”

“I have Carmen, she is a fantastic housekeeper.”

“I don’t cook.”

“I will throw large amounts of money at Pierre so he can be at your beck and call.”

The smile on my face grew wider, “Is that all?” His hair seemed set in his usual coiffed appearance, so I took the time to run my fingers through it giving him the little boy look I loved on him.

“I will get it all for you. The groundskeeper, the pool boy, even the chauffeur.”

“Oh, I don’t need a chauffeur.” Chelsea and Ryder looked doubtful at me.

“The hell you don’t,” Chelsea cut in and it made Ryder laugh all the more.

“Sorry, but I need to agree with Chelsea on that one.” The look of mock mortification fueled him to grab me and put his arms around me laughing. He lifted me to him as his mouth crashed down on mine. The kiss was genuine and not to incite Chelsea and it made me melt knowing I would be linked to him and it felt good, right.

Chelsea gave an audible ‘awe’ and turned to Brandt, “They do make a cute couple, don’t they?” It must have been something in his face to give him away because I heard her accusation through the melting of my heart. “You knew!”

Brandt sputtered, “Chelsea, ah...” Knowing he couldn’t lie to his wife I saw this causing a rift at least for a little while. He must notice this also as he groaned, “Oh shit.”

“You did know! When did you find out? When?” He finally dragged her to a nearby table as she continued reprimanding him. The other guys in the band were all laughing at his obvious scolding and it afforded us a little quiet time to gather our thoughts.

One important question had been bothering me and I took the chance we wouldn’t be overheard from the rising issue our friends were heatedly discussing at this moment.

“You can’t give up your business.”

Ryder looked at me questioningly although he didn’t ask which one, “But it could be dangerous for you.”

I shook my head, “Ryder those women need you. Those children need you. I can’t let you give it up. You’ve been careful all this time and I trust you to continue making sure we are safe, but I can’t let you give it up.”

His face softened as he planted a tender kiss on my lips. “Anything for you.”

“Well, if that is true then I need you to do me a favor since you were the instigator.” I motioned over my shoulder where a visibly guilt-ridden Brandt tried apologizing to his wife for not telling her about our relationship. JJ and Quade were still snickering in the background and even Chelsea herself seemed to be coming around, but it was still something I didn’t want between them since they recently returned to wedded bliss.

He laughed and pulled away from me, “Yeah, I got this.” His confidence should be off-putting but I did always love a confident man.

Ryder took Chelsea to the side as Brandt shook his head and made his way over to me. “You couldn’t have just told her?”

Unable to keep a straight face knowing Ryder could easily smooth it over with her, I gave a little smirk before declaring, “I couldn’t admit it to myself, how the hell could I admit it to Chelsea?”

He brought me in for a hug and I let him. Brandt and I always shared an understanding almost like the bond Ryder and Chelsea had. We both loved Chelsea and wanted nothing but the best for her. Brandt might be her superman, but I thought there just might be another superhero in this town, and this one was all mine.

Looking me square in the face he quipped, “As long as you are happy.”

I smiled and pulled away. “I will be.”

Shaking his head, a smile bloomed on his ruggedly handsome face, “Fuck, I’ve known Ryder since we were little and I’ve never seen him so head over heels for someone.” He put his forehead to mine, “And I am glad it is you.”

Chelsea’s laugh broke up our little session, and we watched as she hit Ryder playfully on the shoulder. Once again he worked his magic. Brandt separated himself from me to cautiously offer a hug to his wife as Chelsea and Ryder walked over to us.

Chelsea had those little hearts in her eyes once again as she asked, “Did you really want to tell me, but they made you promise not to?”

Brandt sighed and the relief on his face was comical. “Yeah, I told them to tell you the minute I found out. Really, I did.” She smiled and they kissed. With the crisis averted, I looked up at him with his cocky grin on his face, and couldn’t help but smile.

Winking again he leaned into Chelsea once their kiss ended, “This will make it so much easier to give me that Ryder sandwich.”

“Ryder!” Chelsea groaned and I couldn’t help laughing.

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