“Do you know?” Cole asked when I walked into his house. I was beyond pissed about the fake rumors Ashley started, but I’m not going to let her get to me.
I’m going to walk with my head high and show that her stupid antics aren’t going to hurt me. She wants to destroy me, but when I’m done, there will be nothing left of her.
“I do and I’m done, Cole!” I tell him. “I’m done hiding and I’m done playing everyone’s stupid games. Ashley wants war so that’s what she’s going to get.” Cole walks over and pulls me into him and of course, when he puts his arms around me I feel whole and safe.
I do have one question and he won’t be happy about it. “Cole, you don’t believe them do you?” He's hurt by my uncertainty. “I doubt that you believe them but I need to hear it from you.”
He lifts my chin gently with his knuckle, his warm chocolate eyes lock with mine, he leans down and gives me the softest and sweetest kiss. “I wouldn’t do that if I believed them,” he confirms. “I trust you, Willow, and I know Ashley.” The mention of her name turned his face into disgust and malice. “She called about an earlier today.”
“What?” I shrieked. “What did she say? What did you say?” I ask in one breath. I’m furious that she would have the nerve to call my boyfriend after all the crap she spread about me. It was obvious what she was doing and that only makes me more livid.
“The usual stuff. She said what she says is the truth and basically what you said she would say. She said you asked for it and then you told everyone he raped you.” He goes quiet and walks away from me which confuses me.
He balls his hand into a fist. “She said you set up the whole thing last night because you knew I would be there to comfort you, that you did it for attention.”
“You know none of that is true, right?” The way he is behaving has my head spinning in confusion and concern. “Cole, I told you she would do this. Please believe me,” I say through quiet tears because his rejection hurts. He turns around and sees the tears.
“Oh, baby, of course, I don’t believe any of it.” He walks over and pulls me back into his arms but I don’t feel any comfort.
“Why are you acting like you’re mad at me if you don’t believe them then?” I plead through more tears. He pulls me tighter against him.
“I’m sorry, Willow, this whole thing just makes me so angry and I feel so helpless because there is nothing I can do,” he explains. “I don’t want you to see me like this, I’m afraid it would scare you.”
I reach up and rest my hand on his cheek. “Cole, you are not helpless, you’re here with me and not jumping on the let’s destroy Willow bandwagon. You’re by my side and just giving me your strength and love, that is all l I need right now.
"If I give in and let this break me then she has won and I’m not about to let that happen. She asked for war and now she’s got it,” I reassure him. “Also, it’s okay to be angry. I don’t think I have ever been this angry in my life, but I’m using that anger to ignite the fire.”
“Baby, I wish I had your strength and courage,” He declares. His voice is taut with so many emotions. “What are you going to do?”
“Cole, you have more courage and strength than I could ever possess. You were able to stand up to Allen and not shatter.” I pause and wipe the tears. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about Ashley right now but I will think of something."
"As for now, I want to talk to the police. I’m pretty sure I'm being followed. There was a white creeper van following me from about a mile away from here to Erin’s. Then to the mall and they left when I turned down your street. I don’t know for sure who it is but Erin was able to get a picture of the license plate. It also explains how everyone knew I stayed here last night.’
“That might be a good idea.” He looks around. “Where is Josh?”
“He’s at Erin’s. I’m going back there tonight. With the rumor going around I don’t want to add any more fuel to the fire.”
The disappointment was written all over him. He cups my face in his hand and I lean into it. “I won’t lie and say I don’t like that idea. I will admit I’m a little disappointed but I understand. I worry about you driving there by yourself.”
I center my eyes with his and smile. “I’ve already thought about that.” He shifted back and forth; definitely not happy. “I was going to ask your dad if you two can follow me there.”
“I like that idea but what if we can’t help you?”
“I hadn’t thought about that, but we will figure it out.”
“Let’s talk to my dad; he has a background in this kind of thing. It’s kind of his job.”
I don’t know what his dad does for a living but a cop doesn’t fit him. “What does he do?”
Cole smiles and takes my hand. “He’s one of the mayor's personal bodyguards, they served in Afghanistan together. When he was elected into office he asked my Dad if he would take the job and my Dad being my dad said yet. So he has connections Willow,” He brags proudly and I’m stunned.
Isaac is a well-built guy, he stands at six foot six inches and I'd say he weighs a good two hundred plus pounds. He's not fat but his weight comes from muscle. If I didn't know him I would be intimated by him on any given day. Looking between him and Cole and I see the resemblance. I also see where Cole gets the whole bad boy look from.
I stood frozen processing what he just told me until he asked, “Have you had dinner yet?” My stomach rumbles loud enough he was able to hear it.
“I guess that means no.” I was still in shock over his dad’s job, I didn’t see that one coming but it’s good for me.
“No I haven’t had dinner. The only thing I had since breakfast was ice cream at the mall. I came here right after I dropped Erin off.”
At the mention of the mall, he gets a serious look. “Despite all of this, did you have fun today? I wanted to text you the minute I knew, but I wanted you to enjoy your day.” He stops and starts fidgeting. “Um, I need to tell you something.”
“Okay?” That came out more of a question than a response.
“Since we agreed to no secrets, I texted Erin when you were at the mall. I didn’t want to upset you and I had a feeling she knew about the rumors. I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
I have the best boyfriend. He’s honest and he cares enough to let me have a good day. I turn to face him and look right into those pools of chocolate. “I know, Erin told me, but I’m glad you told me too.” I stand as tall as I can and place a kiss to his cheek. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” he says as he pulls me to him again. He looks around and is satisfied with whatever he was looking for and his mouth covers mine.
We stayed that way until we heard his dad clear his throat. I let out a giggle then bury my face into Cole’s chest until the embarrassment subsides. Yeah, fat chance of that ever happening. He takes my hand and leads me into the kitchen.
“Let’s eat and we’ll talk to my dad after, okay?” I nod my head in affirmation.
“Talk to me about what?” Isaac asks as we enter the kitchen. Cole looks to me then looks back to his dad.
“It can wait until after we eat,” he says as he pulls out my chair for me. Always a Gentleman. Sarah places the dish on the table. When she looks up at me she gives the kindest and warmest smile which made my heart swell. My mom has never smiled at me like that.
“Hi, Willow, I wasn’t sure you were going to be back in time for dinner, but I’m glad you’re here,” Sarah says. “Did you have fun and did you find your dress?”
“I did and remind me to show it to you later,” I instruct which got an even bigger smile out of her.
Cole leans forward and whispers in my ear, “Do I get to see it too?” He chuckled and I shake my head no. “How do I know what color of corsage to get you?”
“It’s definitely not me but it’s a gorgeous mint green and silver dress,” I explain to him. “Now you know.”
“This looks delicious Sarah!” Isaac says and I hear my stomach growl from the smell of the lasagna.
“Well, dig in!” Sarah says and she didn’t have to tell the guys twice.
The rest of dinner was just small talk about what everyone did during the day. Minus my day, everyone else’s was pretty boring. Cole said he looked online for tuxes but didn’t find anything he liked. Isaac said he would take him to the shops on Monday since the dance was next Saturday.
My mind was heavy with the rumors and what I was going to do about them. Also, what I was going to do about my father and where I was going to live. It was all just so overwhelming and I wanted to fall apart except I couldn’t. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to stay in control and only work on one thing at a time.
Cole must have noticed the tension in my body because he pulled me close and gently placed his hand on my thigh. When dinner was finished, I offered to help clean up but Sarah pushed me away and told me to go talk to Isaac, who was already in the living room with Cole. I thanked her for dinner and walked into the living room.
“Cole says you want to talk to me about something?” Isaac says.
“Um, yes, Cole says you might be able to help me?”
“Well, that depends on what it is you need help with, but I can do what I can,” he says with a promising tone and a smile. I sit on the couch next to Cole, who takes my hand and slides his fingers through mine. He looks at me and I confirm he’s okay to tell his father my story.
“Willow has given me permission to tell you what truly happened to her,” Cole starts. “Two years ago Willow was basically forced to go to a frat party; while she was there she was raped. We know who the guy was and who all played a part. The guy has started stalking her and has made threats to harm me and anyone else who gets in his way of taking what’s his.” Those words made me shiver.
“We can’t do anything to prove they were involved in the act, but today I found out that one of those people has started spreading rumors saying Willow asked for it. Willow has been hiding this for two years and has only told one person before she told me.”
Isaac looked like he was going to be sick but he composed himself. “Do your parents know?”
“No Sir, they wouldn’t believe me anyway,” I tell him. “Tyler is his boss’s nephew and Ashley is his daughter.”
I saw clarification cross Isaac’s face. “Is this the same Ashley you mentioned when Cole was in the hospital?”
“Yes sir, she is the same one who wants Cole. She’s mad he ignored her and is with me. She’s never been told no before so she is trying to do everything she can to ruin me and make Cole believe I'm a liar. I know most of this is purely juvenile but if we are going to go after her you need to know everything about Ashley Harrison and why she is doing this.” I take a deep breath before I continue.
“Tyler told me my father promised he could have me. Now he believes I belong to him, and he would one way or another get me to accept that. Today while I was out with Erin I was being followed. Erin was able to get the license plate number.”
“Can you text me the number?” he asks. He gives me his number and I sent the picture to him. “I have a few friends at the police department I could call.”
“Thank you, Mr. Knight, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, Willow, and I will do what I can to help you get those people behind bars where they belong. You never should have been put in that position and I’m going to see what I can do about your father. He is just as guilty and should have some form of punishment. I can’t make any promises."
"Willow, but I can promise that I will not stop until I get some kind of justice for you.” He stands up and walks over to me and pulls me in for a hug. It was awkward to hug another dad, but I felt safe and his hug reassured me he would do whatever he could for me. The tears started .
“Where do we start?” I asked wiping the tears away. Isaac pulls out his phone and starts dialing a number.
“Well, for starters, we are going to call my friend and inform her of your situation,” He reassures.