Hopelessly Devoted

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Chapter Nineteen: Technically: I’m an Omitter…not a liar

By end of day on that Friday, Generations had proven their commitment to protecting the environment whilst still creating jobs and providing service to the nation. They had won. The story was on national headlines everywhere, and…that’s right, as I had the exclusive it was my report being picked up by the masses. When we arrived back to Saint Caine there was a large celebration held in the building. Everyone came. We had music, food, and lots of toasts.

I was dancing with Ryan when Tex asked to steal me for a moment. Ryan, being the gentleman he is, politely allowed him to do so. He told Tex to handle me with care to which he replied “that’s the plan.” Ryan thought he meant just the dance…I knew better.

Tex moved me around a few times, staring down at me as he did so. I finally grinned and blushed, making myself look away. It was nice to see him this way. I could tell he was feeling happy as he tilted his head and grasped my hand. And then, a split second later, he was furious. My eyes grew to saucers as his fingers snatched my ring finger and the diamond placed on it.

“Why are you still doing this?” he snarled at me.

“Doing what?” I asked, knowing precisely what he meant.

He pulled me right up against him held my back as we swayed in place, whispering fiercely into my ear. “Why are you still pretending with him?”

“I’m not pretending Tex.” I argued.

“Oh really,” he said, looking to find Ryan at the bar talking to Mr. Harmon, “If you aren’t pretending with him…then what was New York?”

I dropped my head a little. “That was…it was a…”

“Mistake?” he asked, stopping our swaying and staring down at me.

I jerked my head up and held his gaze. “No! I wasn’t going to say that at all.”

Tex’s arm relaxed behind me. He unclenched his jaw and we began to sway again. “Then you’ll tell him?”

“Tell him?” I asked, shocked. “You want me to tell him?”

“I want you tell to tell him that you are in love with me. That you’ve always been in love with me and that you can’t marry him.”

“This isn’t fair Texas. You knew before the trip that Ryan and I were together and had been for quite some time.” I looked around and lowered my voice to a fierce whisper as well, “you were also very much aware that he and I were having a tough time when you broke into my suit and…”

“Made love to you.” He finished.

I stiffened this time and bit at my bottom lip. This got a sly smirk out of him. I narrowed my eyes as I said, “you are insufferable.”

“No my dear,” he told me, swaying back and forth to the music, “I’m not insufferable…just impatient. I’m in love with you and I want you to marry me not him.”

Those words actually came out of his mouth. I mean, I knew he wanted me back and had attributed most of that to just jealousy over Ryan, but had he seriously said he wanted to marry me? This, I could not handle. Not right now. “Can we not do this here…now?” I asked pleadingly.

Over at the bar Mr. Harmon was joined by Patty as he was talking with Ryan. She congratulated Ryan on our engagement and he thanked her. Mr. Harmon’s cell rang and he had to excuse himself to hear the call properly. This left the perfect invitation for the high school version of Patricia Kestinger to release her claws. It was like senior year all over again.

“You sure are a trusting man.” She purred at Ryan.

“It’s just a dance Patty, and I can see her perfectly from here.”

Patty laughed, a little too heartily, which caught Ryan’s attention. “What?” he asked her, “Are you saying there’s something I should know?” Cleary my reassurances about the tabloids weren’t as effective as I had hoped.

He put his drink on the bar and turned to face her.

“You mean you don’t already?” she asked him silkily.

He gave her a confused look and shook his head back and forth. Patty laughed again, handed him his drink and said, “here doll…you’re gonna need it.”

The music was winding down. Tex and I had started talking, believe it or not, about things other than us. I told him about dad and his fantasy ball teams which

made him laugh and tell me a story about a time when he and dad had made up a whopper of a tale to Jimmy Langley, dad’s co-worker, about Tom Brady, which secured him the trade. We were both laughing together when I looked over and saw Ryan’s face.

All the sound rushed from the room as I took in the scene before me. Patty was leaned toward him, working her lips like crazy to tell him all that she could in the time she had. I saw Ryan’s face narrow and harden. The next moment he was stalking toward us. Behind him I saw Patty give me an evil grin and wave her fingers at me as if she just handed me a gift.

“Oh no.” I breathed out.

Tex looked at me and turned in time to see Ryan step to the both of us.

“Selena we are leaving.” Ryan demanded to me, and then he turned his attention to Texas. “Get your hands off of my wife.” He snarled.

My eyes shifted downward and I saw Tex’s hands slowly glide up to his waist. Please Lord no, I thought.

“She’s not your wife.” Tex told him, glaring back into Ryan’s eyes as viciously as he was staring into Tex’s. “Last I checked she was still Selena Ayers.”

In a swift movement, Ryan snatched my hand and held the diamond up to his face. “She’s as good as. In case you didn’t notice guy, that’s an engagement ring. I’ll thank you to keep your distance from now on.”

“No need to thank me. I won’t be doing it.” Tex shot back at him, and then his jaw clenched as his eyes narrowed and…I quickly piped up and got between them.

“You’re right Ryan. It is late and I’m ready to go.” I pushed at him a little, making his feet turn as I did.

Tex took his eyes off Ryan to look down at me. “Thank you for the dance,” I said hurriedly, “but we really need to go. I still haven’t been to my parents yet. See you around Tex.”

That was enough to make Ryan turn and stalk off toward the doors. I followed him, stopping only to let Patty know what a despicable, wretched person I thought she was.

“Are you talking about me hon?” she asked, feigning confusion, “or yourself. Because I am pretty sure you could have told him everything I just did, long before now.”

I glared at her. As much as I just wanted to pull a Cassie and sink my fist in her face. I knew she was right. This moment would have never happened if I had just told Ryan everything from the start.

Still, I thought…cocking my head…what business was it of this bictah’s. So, in true childish fashion, I raised my voice to our surrounding audience and said, “You know Pats…you’re right. We should all let everyone know exactly what hidden things we share in our past. Since you shared mine, let me do the same for you.” I turned to the crowd. “In sophomore year Patty Kestinger Harmon here got an STD from one of the football players of our rival school.” I heard a balk of laughter and grinned wider as Patty’s eyes grew to saucers. I continued quickly, seeing Tex making his way towards us. “She doesn’t know that I knew about this…because she went to a clinic outside of town. But,” I added, smiling sweetly at Patty, “My mother’s stepsister was the clerk at that clinic and I spent that evening helping her log files before going out to celebrate my mom’s fortieth.”

I gave her that little finger wave she always gave me then rushed to the doors Ryan had just sped through. I looked behind my shoulders to see that Tex had been caught up by Mr. Van Hoffman. From where he was, that lot wouldn’t have heard anything I had said, but the little group around me and Patty were laughing hysterically. She cast them all malicious looks before slinging back her hair and stomping off to find her husband.

Ryan had already pulled the car around and was waiting for me. I opened the door and got in, trying hard to fasten my seat belt as he just bolted out of the parking lot.

“Would you mind slowing down?” I asked him.

“Would you mind telling me why I had to find out from the building gossip about you and Texas Conrad?” he barked.

I touched his arm. “Ryan please, let’s just go to my place and talk about this.”

“Does he know where you live?” he asked.

Closing my eyes, I reluctantly admitted, “Yes. He knows where I live.”

Ryan snorted, “Then your place is out. We’re going to mine.”

I sat back against the seat and worked at my bottom lip. I had never seen Ryan in this state. He has always been so laid back and fun-loving. I’d never even seen him get worked up over a case he was having trouble with or plans he had been making that fell through. I watched him pityingly as he worked his jaw muscles, grinding his teeth in anger. Realizing this was going to be a long night, I rested my head against the window and scolded myself for being so stupid.

Ryan slammed the door behind me, tore his tie from his neck, and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt as he stomped into the living room. My heels clacked the ceramic tile as I followed.

I got in the room to find him pacing back and forth. His sleeves were now pulled up and his hands were folded together on top of his head. I waited patiently for him to address me.

“Why Selena?” he asked calmly, still not taking his hands from his head, “why didn’t you tell me?”

When I didn’t answer right away, he dropped his hands into his pockets and looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders a shook my head. “I don’t know.” I said, dropping into the large overstuffed chair by the fireplace. “I mean…I know why I didn’t at first, but I don’t really know why I didn’t at all.”

“Then why didn’t you at first?” he asked, sitting across from me in the other chair. “Can you answer me that? Why didn’t you tell me on the beach the night I asked you what you meant by it being ‘such a long time’? That’s what you were talking about wasn’t it? You were referring to your relationship with him.”

The last statement wasn’t a question but a statement. I nodded my head acknowledging that he was right.

“Yes,” I finally said when I could bring myself to speak. “I was talking about it being such a long time since my relationship with Tex. I didn’t tell you then because that would mean having to acknowledge it completely, and I had only managed to keep myself together by continuing to push him and everything about him to the back of my mind. By not dealing with it, I’ve been able to live with it.”

“You should have told me.” He said.

I snorted out mockingly, “Oh yes, I’m sure you would have found that so attractive. This girl you’ve been smitten with seems perfect in every way until you find out she’s been really screwed up by an old flame.” I looked over at him, “No one wants that kind of baggage.”

“I wish you would have trusted me. I knew at that moment you had been hurt, and obviously pretty bad, but I promised to make sure you never felt that again. I asked your parents but they told me it was your story to tell and to just be patient, because you would trust me with it in time.” He slung his hands down and jerked up from the seat, leaning his arm against the fireplace’s mantle. “But you never did.” he spat.

That’s one way to make a girl feel like a heaping pile of cow dung.

“I’m so sorry.” I said.

He slid his eyes to me, watching me for a long moment before looking away and back towards the wall. His eyes squinted as he spoke again. “You know…it’s not even that you never felt like you could trust me either. That didn’t keep me from loving you or wanting to marry you.

What has me so upset…so completely insane with fury right now, is that you spent all this time with him.”

He slammed his fist against the wall. One of the mantle candles fell and broke, making me jump. He grumbled a sorry at me as he sat down again, dropping his head down and clasping his hands behind his neck. He was taking deep breaths.

“I should have told you everything about Texas.” I told him. “I know that Ryan, but this was my job…whether I told you everything or not…I still had to do my job.”

His head shot up. “You could have done your job Selena, but I would have been fully aware of what I was up against here. Did you not hear him tonight?” he asked, then said in a mocking voice of Tex’s, ‘last I checked she was still Selena Ayers’…do you not realize he wants to get you back?”

“Yes.” I admitted, not taking my eyes from his.

He swallowed. “You know…he wants you back?”

“Yes.” I said again, letting a tear slide down my cheek.

He pursed his lips and nodded his head, before asking the next question. It was obvious he was trying any way to avoid asking, but it was inevitable…and he had to know.

“I guess the next question is…” he said, raising his eyes to look at me. I noticed the whites of his eyes were reddening and my heart ached for him. “Do you want him back?”

My lips quivered and my brows furrowed.

“Don’t answer that!” he demanded, rising up from the seat again.

I looked up at him as he paced a couple of times. Finally he paused right in front of me and dropped to his knees. He grabbed my hand and touched the diamond, moving it back and forth on my finger.

“I’m going to say this…and then I’m going up to bed. So please just listen, and afterwards,” he stopped a moment to shake his head before speaking again, “afterwards will be entirely up to you. So, that being said…I’ll say this. If you want him back, then I won’t stand in your way. I love you Selena, I truly do. I will not hurt you in any way and that includes by trying to guilt you into staying with me when you really want to be with him.”

He touched my ring once more, “But I ask you to think about this. He had you. He had everything I want and he treated it as if it didn’t matter. He hurt you for a trophy girl and a piggy bank. Selena, I will never hurt you.”

He stood there for a moment, just looking at me. I swallowed down my tears, watching him as he watched me. Gently he touched a strand of my hair, letting the curl slide around his finger.

“If you go to him Selena, I’ll have to leave. There is no way I could watch that man live my happiness. But if you still want to marry me. If you love me and still want to enjoy this happiness that you and I have, that we will always have together…then I’ll be waiting for you upstairs. If you do choose me though, I need you to put Texas Conrad out of our life for good, and in return…I promise I’ll never bring this up again.”

He reached down and kissed me on the lips, before heading up the stairs.

I sat alone downstairs for a long time. I cried and I fought with myself. I even picked up my phone a couple of times considering calling Cassie and Amber. Goodness, I was such a mess… I almost even called mom. But in the end, as I rubbed my finger over my bottom lip, I thought about the past and what Ryan had said. Tex had me once, and he did treat that as though it were nothing. True, Ryan didn’t know everything…I mean about Tex’s dad and the business and all that, but there was truth at the heart of what he had said. Was it possible that it could happen again? What if a couple of years down the road there is another big business issue?

It was unlikely I guess, and his dad really did seem apologetic…but still…wasn’t having that possibility enough to scare me away from even tempting fate that way again. It was Grandma Pearl I ended up calling. She answered before the first ring even finished.

“Selena Marie, it is time you trusted in your own intuition.” She admonished to me, “My guidance can only get you so far. You are split in two even halves and there is only making a choice that will get you whole again. Just remember, no matter what the outcome…your family loves you and you will always have us.”

“I love you Nina.” I told her.

They were the only words I spoke to her. I hung up the phone, walked over to the door…and turned the lock. Upstairs, Ryan was still wide awake.

I slid under the sheets and snuggled beside him. He wrapped his arm around me and held me tight. He never said a word, and neither did I.

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