Dylan stepped back inside his house and closed the door after saying goodbye to Lana. She had received a call a week after the incident that Nathan had been arrested and the judge had set a bail of one million dollars. Dylan felt confident that she would be safe returning home, even if he wished she could stay. He followed the sounds of Natalia playing her keyboard in her bedroom, stopping in the doorway and shoving his hands in his pockets as he watched her with a smile. His kid was smart, talented, and for the most part, well-behaved. He couldn’t ask for more.
“I know you’re watching me, Dad,” she stopped playing and turned to look at him with a smile.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” he smiled as he moved to sit on the end of her bed.
“Dad, if you want to know my opinion about her, you just have to ask.”
“Alright, smarty pants, what do you think? Lay it on me.”
“Well,” Natalia paused with a sigh. “I think she’s perfect.”
“Wow, really?” He smirked, and she smiled. “That’s pretty high praise. Are you sure you’re not just saying what you think I want to hear?”
“You told me to be honest, I’m being honest. She’s good for you, and she isn’t fake.”
“What do you mean fake?” He laughed.
“The one or two others that you let me meet tried too hard to make me like them. She just seemed like she was being herself,” she shrugged. “Mom isn’t happy though. She saw Lana’s car in the driveway when she brought me over again yesterday. She’s probably going to yell at you when she picks me up later.”
“I can deal with your mom, I’m less worried about her opinion and more worried about yours.” He stood and leaned over to kiss her on the top of the head, ruffling her hair before letting her go back to her playing.
Later that evening Dylan sent Natalia up to change out of her bathing suit before her mom got there as he sat out on the patio by the pool and sipped at his beer. He heard the sliding door open and looked up from the book he was reading to see a very annoyed Mari heading towards him. He inwardly groaned as he marked his page and set the book to the side, picking up his beer again. She glared at him as he stared at her and waited for her wrath.
“Well, it must be good if you actually got out of your car to come yell at me,” he stated. She rolled her eyes.
“I think it’s a pretty big deal when you let our daughter around one of your whores without telling me,” she spat. He quickly stood up, towering over her slightly.
“First of all, she’s not a whore, she’s my girlfriend. You know me better than to think that I would ever expose her to anyone who I wasn’t serious about. Secondly, you have no room to talk. She’s watched you bring so many men in and out of your life I lost count. We made a deal a long time ago that I stay out of your personal life and you stay out of mine. The rules don’t suddenly change just because I’m the one in a committed relationship for once instead of you.”
“There’s a difference between getting married and going on a few dates before calling it a serious relationship,” Mari huffed.
“You would know, you’ve been married twice more than me,” he smiled smugly before walking around her and heading for the door. She was right on his tail.
“She better not be some psycho!” She nearly yelled. Dylan couldn’t hold back his laugh.
“Oh, the irony of that statement,” he scoffed as he stepped inside.
“Dylan!” She shouted in annoyance. He kept heading for the front door.
“Mari,” he groaned as Natalia appeared at the bottom of the stairs. “You’re messing with my qi.” He saw Natalia bite back a smirk behind her and he fought not to smile. “Thanks for expressing your concern, but I’ve got it under control,” he opened the front door and Mari stepped out, shaking her head. Natalia followed her out with her bag on her shoulder, and he stopped her on the front step, pulling her into a hug. “Love you, Baby,” he told her softly, kissing her on the cheek.
“Love you too, Dad,” she replied with a squeeze. He watched them get into the car and pull away before heading back inside and pulling out a bottle of scotch.
The following Friday night, Lana was out with Katie at one of the local nightclubs. The girls were close, more like sisters, and she felt like she hadn’t seen her in forever despite it only being a bit longer than a week. The last few days had been quite stressful for Lana and she needed a night out with no worries in the world. Her father had found out about the incident with Nathan through the grapevine, and he was furious that she hadn’t told him that Nathan was still bothering her to the extent that he had been. Furthermore, he was upset that she seemed to be under the impression that the only way she would be safe was by hiding out with this boyfriend that the family had never met. He lectured her until she thought smoke was going to start coming out of his ears and he had said more dios míos than she could count.
The girls went out and danced for a few songs here and there, but they spent most of their time talking over drinks. Lana had shared that she was hoping that now that Nathan was out of the picture that her relationship with Dylan would continue to progress. She told Katie about getting to spend time with Natalia and how she seemed like she was a good kid. She rationalized that because Dylan was so good with her and they had such a strong father-daughter bond, he should be a good partner in a relationship. Katie assured her that Mark had only ever said good things about him, and they had been friends for close to fifteen years.
After a night of drinking, talking, and dancing, the girls shared a ride home. They had gotten a ride to the club through one of the ride apps since they had both planned on drinking and didn’t want to depend on Mark to drive them around. Lana was dropped off first, and she gave Katie a quick hug before getting out of the car and heading into her building, riding up to her floor on the elevator. She had to really jiggle the key in her lock to get her door open, and she made a mental note to call maintenance the next morning to look at it. She stepped inside and locked the door behind her, reaching for the light switch to find that it wasn’t working. Just as she sensed she wasn’t alone, a rag was placed over her face as she felt a stab in her arm and she could only struggle for a few seconds before going limp and being lowered to the floor as she lost consciousness.
When she woke up she was gagged. She forced her heavy eyes open in confusion as she attempted to look around, realizing that she had been stripped down to her undergarments and was in her bedroom, bound to one of her kitchen chairs. She struggled against the hazy heaviness in her body to lift her head as the door opened and Nathan stepped inside carrying a glass of water. He smiled and kneeled down in front of her, pulling the gag out of her mouth and tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Hello, Darling. I’m sorry I had to do this, but I knew it would be the only way to get you to hear me out,” he placed his hand on her thigh and she became nauseated. She tried to talk and started coughing due to her dry throat. “Shh, don’t try to talk. A side effect of the shot I gave you is dry mouth,” he explained as he lifted the glass to her lips and she tried to pull away. “It’s okay, Lan, it’s just water. I wouldn’t poison you, I promise,” he smirked. She quickly gave in and took a few gulps of the water before he sat the glass to the side before standing and starting to pace back and forth in front of her.
“Look, Lan. I know I messed up. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of. The thing is, everything I’ve done is because I love you so much. When you left me, I lost the most important part of my life. I know I should have realized what I had before then, but I’m foolish,” he explained as she tried to process the situation and how to survive it. “When you left, I fell apart. They made me take a leave of absence from work and when I came back they threatened to remove me from the partnership at the firm. I forced myself to pull it together and put on a happy face for everyone. Fake it till you make it, that’s what you always used to say, right?” He stopped and kneeled in front of her again, smiling as he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers forcefully. He tried to push his tongue into her mouth and she clamped her mouth shut so he couldn’t.
“God damn it!” He raised his voice as he slapped her across the face. “Why won’t you just let me love you?! Why can’t you just admit that you still love me?!” He growled. “I’ve just about given up everything for you! I’ve called in all the favors I can, just so I could get close to you and show you how much I care!” He stood and started pacing again, and Lana saw him rest his hand on the handle of the hunting knife he had strapped to his belt. She had to act quickly, she knew for a fact that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her if she didn’t outsmart him.
“I’m sorry, Baby. I love you too,” she got out before going into a coughing spell. Nathan quickly grabbed the glass of water and brought it to her lips again. She took a sip before catching her breath. “I do love you, but things were just so rough in the end that I need some time to trust you again.”
“Really?” Nathan smiled, and she forced herself to nod. “I mean it Lan, I’m so sorry. Tell me what I need to do to make this work.”
“You’ve hurt me a lot, Nate. I need to know that you’re not going to keep hurting me.”
“I know, I know, Baby,” he paused, reaching up to stroke the cheek he had hit. She closed her eyes and fought back the tears. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done this, I’m so stupid!”
“Love makes us do crazy, things, right?” She whispered.
“I’m so glad you understand,” he agreed, leaning forward to lightly brush his lips to her swollen cheek. “We should go away, take a trip somewhere fun and exotic!” He grinned. “I mean, as long as you drop the charges, otherwise I’ll have to stay in country. I’d understand if you want to punish me, just as long as we can be together in the end.”
“Of course. I’ll call and get the charges dropped first thing in the morning.”
“How do I know you’re being honest?” He asked as his face changed, suddenly displaying concern. “What are we going to do with your little fuckboy?”
“I’ll call him right now and tell him I’m breaking it off. He’ll leave us alone, I promise,” she assured him.
“That’s a fantastic idea,” he smiled, grabbing her clutch off of her dresser and pulling out her phone. “It’s Dylan, right?” He asked as he scrolled through her contacts. Lana nodded. Nathan put the phone on speaker as it started ringing.
“Hey,” Dylan answered softly, Lana’s heart breaking as she could hear the smile in his voice.
“Hey Dylan,” she replied, trying to sound as cold as possible, trying to hold back her tears.
“Is everything okay, Babe?” He questioned, and she took a deep breath.
“Actually, there’s something I need to say,” she paused. “I’m really sorry, but this isn’t going to work out,” she managed to get out as a tear slipped down her cheek, forcing a smile for Nathan.
“Lan,” Dylan breathed, clearly in shock. “What do you mean? What happened?”
“It’s me. I’m just not into it,” she told him as another tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m sorry for leading you on the way I did, I was just lonely,” she lied.
“That’s bullshit, and you know it,” he spat in frustration.
“It’s not. I’m sorry, Dylan.”
“Fuck that!” He shouted. “At least let me see you, let’s talk about this,” he tried to reason.
“No, don’t come down here,” she quickly replied. “I’m so sorry. I have to go.”
“Lana, please don’t do this,” his voice cracked, and she couldn’t help but let out a sob, knowing she was destroying him.
“Goodbye, Dylan,” she choked before Nathan hung up the phone. He angrily threw the phone against the wall as he glared at her.
“You care for him!” Nathan yelled, and she jumped as the tears streamed down her face. “You know what happens when you lie!” He quickly punched her in the face and the pain shot through her.
“He was a good friend, but I said goodbye, so we can focus on each other. I love you. I want to be with you,” she cried. “Please, just untie me. I’ll show you how much I love you. Let’s forget about this and focus on each other.”
“How do you plan on showing me,” he barked. She forced her best seductive smile and he sighed, reaching down and brushing her tears from her cheeks.
“Let me go, Baby. It’s been so long. I just want to feel you again,” she told him as she pulled herself together again.
“Only under one condition,” he said as he looked her in the eye and she nodded. “No protection. I want you to have my child. If you marry me and we have a baby people will see me and understand that I’m established, and they’ll start to respect me again.”
“Sure, anything for you,” she smiled again. He placed his hand on her cheek and leaned in for another kiss, this time she made herself kiss him back.
“I love you so much, Lan. I promise, things will be so good for us.”
“I know, Nate. I believe you,” she nodded.
Nathan pulled the knife from it’s sheath and reached around her, cutting the rope that was binding her hands. The rope fell to the floor and she started to rub her wrists as he moved to cut her ankles free. He rubbed the skin on her ankles before taking her hand and pulling her into a standing position, slipping his arm around her waist and helping her to the bed as she swayed from the drugs still being in her system. He helped her sit on the edge of the bed, quickly sitting down next to her. She smiled, reaching up and placing her hand on his cheek, leaning in for a kiss and tangling her hand in his hair. When their lips separated she moved up the bed, resting her head back on her pillows on the side of the bed she normally slept on.
“You’re a little over dressed,” she teased playfully, and he smiled.
“Let me fix that,” he smirked, standing and turning his back to her as he unbuttoned his shirt and jeans. Lana took the opportunity to quietly reach into the drawer on her night stand and pull out her mini can of pepper spray, placing her hand behind her head under her pillow and firmly holding onto the can.
Nathan came back, clad only in his boxers and worked his way between her legs and rested down on her. He kissed her forcefully and she reciprocated, feeling around the can to make sure the nozzle was pointed in the right direction. He kissed down her chest and moved to uncover one of her breasts. Lana quickly grabbed onto his hair as firmly as possible and took a deep breath in and holding it, closing her eyes as she pulled the can out and sprayed directly in his eyes.
He yelled and pulled back enough for her to move out from under him and get off of the bed. He fell to the floor and tried to quickly feel around for his knife. Lana fumbled with the lock on the bedroom door, trying to get it open as he retrieved the knife and stumbled towards her. He managed to grab her arm and he started thrusting the knife towards her. Lana tried her best to dodge him, but even the surge of adrenaline couldn’t take away the pain of the knife sliding into her side. She continued to fight despite the pain, kicking him in between the legs which brought him to the floor once again. He rolled onto his back trying to cup himself, but she picked up the knife he had dropped and swung for his arms. He pulled them away as she sliced the skin, and one good stomp on his family jewels took nearly all the fight out of him. She scrambled into the ensuite bathroom, locking the door behind her and praying that someone heard the commotion and called the police.
Dylan stared at his phone in disbelief. Something wasn’t right. Things had been going so well, not to mention he had just talked to Lana before she went out with Katie and they had discussed him coming down the next day. He quickly called Mark and gave him a quick rundown, asking to talk to Katie. Katie assured him that she had just gotten home, and all Lana had talked about was how great things were going between the two of them. Katie and Mark agreed to go to Lana’s to find out what was going on, but Dylan had a gut feeling that something was terribly wrong. He quickly called 911 and gave them Lana’s address, explaining that he had gotten a phone call from her and he was concerned for her safety. Once he got off the phone with the operator, he pulled a t-shirt on along with his gym shorts, quickly packing a bag and grabbing his keys and wallet and heading for La Jolla.
It was nearly 45 minutes later when he got the phone call from Mark, barely unable to hear him over Katie crying hysterically in the background. Mark told him that Lana had been attacked and he needed to meet them at the University Hospital, they weren’t sure what condition she was in. Nathan had been critically wounded by the responding officers and was taken to a different hospital in police custody. For the first time in many years, Dylan prayed. He prayed for Lana’s health and well-being, and he prayed that he would have a chance to tell her that he was in love with her throughout the remainder of the three-hour drive.
The journey to the hospital was long and exhausting as the skies opened up and it started to rain so hard they forecasted flash flooding by the morning. Traffic was nearly crawling despite there being fewer cars on the road than normal. The ocean which was visible from different areas on his journey was rough and angry. Lightening frequently lit up the sky, and the thunder boomed so loud that the car shook at times. By the time Dylan pulled into the parking lot of the hospital all of the muscles were fatigued with tension from the long drive. He checked the text message he had gotten from Mark a few minutes before that told him what room Lana was in. It was still pouring outside, so Dylan grabbed his hooded sweatshirt out of the back seat and slipped it on before getting out of the car and jogging to the hospital entrance.
He stepped off the elevator on the floor that housed the ICU and Katie met him in the hall. She explained to him that she had just gotten out of surgery, and that she had been stabbed and had a pretty bad concussion. The doctors had told Lana’s parents that the knife wound was clean and didn’t damage any critical organs, but they had to do some extensive surgical repairs of her abdominal muscles and close a small laceration on her liver. Katie explained that she had been in and out since coming out of surgery, and she hadn’t said anything to anyone, just cried while she was awake.
They stepped into Lana’s room and Dylan immediately went to her side. He started to tear up as he looked down at her badly bruised and swollen face. He brushed his fingers over her less swollen cheek ever so gently, and she slowly stirred as her eyes fluttered open. He forced a small smile for her and she sleepily lifted her arm and reached for him as her eyes welled up once again. He leaned down to her, slipping his arms under her shoulders and carefully holding her as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Her body shook as she sobbed and held onto him as tightly as she could, ignoring the pain in her side.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean any of it,” she rasped through her tears. Dylan pulled back to look at her face and she opened her mouth to talk again but he quieted her with a gentle kiss.
“Don’t,” he reached up and stroked his fingers through her hair as his eyes fell onto hers and he forced another smile. “You outsmarted him, and you survived, that’s all I care about,” he assured her, and she gave him a small nod. She tightened her arms around his neck again and he nuzzled against her hair.
“I love you, Dylan,” she whispered. He smiled and kissed her on the forehead before looking into her eyes.
“I love you too, Lan,” he replied, and she smiled through her tears. “I’m so in love with you it hurts,” he added, leaning in to kiss her gently once again.
Katie had stepped out into the hall to give them some privacy as soon as she had heard Lana talking. Lana’s parents saw her standing in the hallway when they returned from grabbing coffee and Katie stopped them and told them to give her a minute with Dylan. Lana’s dad asked Katie what she knew about Dylan, and she assured him that Mark had known him for years and he was a good man. He was still a little skeptical of the situation because Lana had never introduced him to the family, but he decided to play nice given the current state of his daughter’s emotions.
Dylan reassured Lana that everything with them was okay, and he stayed with her as her eyes got heavier again and she quickly fell into a deep sleep. He pressed his lips to her forehead again and gave her hand a gentle squeeze before joining Katie, and Lana’s parents in the hall. He offered his hand out to her father and he politely shook it.
“Mr. Alvarado, I’m Dylan,” he introduced himself. “Sorry we haven’t met before now.”
“You can call me Fernando,” he father greeted. “This is my wife, and Lana’s mother Betsy,” he gestured.
“Lana’s said so many good things about you,” Betsy gave him a weak smile.
“She speaks highly of her family, too. Again, I’m sorry we haven’t met before now.”
The four of them stood outside and talked for a bit, and Fernando shared that he had gotten a call from one of the detectives that Nathan had died from gunshot wounds while they had him on the table in the operating room. Apparently, when the officers got into Lana’s place, he had been in the process of breaking down the bathroom door. The officers told him to stop and he charged at them, taking bullets from both guns. All of them were relieved to hear this news, knowing that Lana was finally safe.
Lana woke up the next morning as the early morning sun shined brightly through the window. Her head throbbed as she looked around the room at everyone who was there. Dylan was fast asleep in the chair to her right side, holding her hand in his, and Katie was curled up sleeping in the chair next to him. On her left side, she saw her parents sleeping side by side, her mom’s head resting on her dad’s shoulder. She didn’t remember much after she had managed to lock herself in her bathroom, only what she thought was a dream that she and Dylan had professed their love for each other. She slipped her hand from Dylan’s and reached for her call bell and pressed the button for the nurse, praying they could give her something for her throbbing head.
Dylan and Katie stirred awake when the nurse stepped into the room and softly asked what she needed. She promised Lana she would return in a few minutes with some IV medications. Both Dylan and Katie asked her how she was feeling, and she said she was in pain and she felt fuzzy, but she was also starving. They all shared a small laugh which caused her parents to wake up. Her father waited until she had received her pain medication and it had started to kick in before sharing the news about Nathan. Tears of relief ran down her cheeks, and she couldn’t help smiling about the fact that she was finally free of him.
The doctor came in to see her, happy with the progress she was making since the night before. He allowed her to order something to eat and told her that if she tolerated food and she continued to improve throughout the day he would consider transferring her to another floor either that night or the next morning. Once her parents knew she was doing as well as she could do at the moment, they headed home to shower and get something to eat, promising to bring Mateo with them when they returned later that afternoon. Katie also left, telling Dylan that he was more than welcome to use their guestroom and have somewhere to shower. Dylan told her he would take her up on her offer, but he was going to stay with Lana a bit longer.
Lana took her time eating her breakfast, not wanting to upset her stomach. Despite the food being a bit bland, she thought it tasted like Heaven because she was so hungry. Dylan had stepped out briefly to use the restroom and grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee before heading back to her room. She smiled up at him as he came back in, and he carefully sat on the edge of the bed, facing her. He smiled back, leaning in to kiss her gently.
“Thanks for staying. I don’t really know how to process any of this just yet and it helps to have people here,” she explained.
“Of course. I’d do anything for you, you’re mi amor,” he smirked, and she grinned.
“So, I guess that part wasn’t a dream,” she said more to herself than him. He smiled and pressed his lips to hers again.
“Not a dream, I’m madly in love with you,” he said just above a whisper. “Once you’re out of this place and feeling better we can go somewhere special, just the two of us. We can forget about everything that happened and spend some time focusing on just us. No work, no kids, no drama.”
“That sounds so perfect,” she agreed, kissing him again. “I love you too, Babe. I’m just glad it’s all finally over. I feel like getting over the physical wounds is going to be nothing compared to the last few years.”
“You’re one of the strongest people I know. I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll come out on the other side of this even stronger.”
Luckily, Lana was out of the hospital after a total of three days. Her family, Katie, and Dylan all doted on her to the point she had gotten annoyed. After assuring them that she didn’t need to be babysat, she got her way and got out of having to stay with her parents. After all, Katie and her mom had gone in and cleaned her place up. She absolutely refused to allow her life to be disrupted any further.
She promised her parents that she and Dylan would come over for dinner in the near future, saying her goodbyes to them at the hospital while she was waiting to be discharged. Once the paperwork was done and she was free to go, one of the nurses took her down to the main entrance in a wheelchair while Dylan pulled the car up out front. She sighed in relief once she climbed into the car with his assistance, glad to finally be out of the hospital. Dylan intertwined his fingers with hers as they pulled out on the street, bringing her hand to his lips and gently kissing it. She looked over at him with a small smile and he smiled back as he kissed her hand again.
She got settled in back home and they indulged in some takeout before lying down for a nap. She was still tired from the entire ordeal and he was exhausted from worrying about her over the past few days. She was laying on her back as he laid on his side with his arm resting over her waist. He shifted a bit and his hand got dangerously close to the stapled wound on her side, causing her inhale sharply.
“Oops, sorry Baby,” he mumbled softly as she relaxed again.
“I’m okay. I’m more worried about the ugly scar I’ll have for the rest of my life,” she sighed.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he slowly lifted her shirt to expose her skin. He carefully leaned over her, gently pressing his lips just below the healing area before leaning back up to her with a smile. “You’re still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he whispered, catching her lips in a gentle kiss.
“Such flattery,” she rolled her eyes as he resumed his previous position next to her.
“I only say it because it’s true,” he smiled, closing his eyes and getting comfortable again. They laid there quietly for about ten minutes as Lana tried to quiet her brain.
“Dylan?” She whispered, unsure if he was still awake.
“Hm?” He gently tightened his arm around her.
“Thank you for giving us a chance. You make me truly happy.”
He responded by lightly kissing her on the cheek and nuzzling into her warmth, whispering the words mi amor before they both drifted off to sleep.