#77 Big spenders
Time ticks by so slowly…
I feel like we’ve been waiting for hours already. We all went home for a little bit to freshen up, tend to our cuts and put on some clean clothes. Now, were back in the police station’s parking lot. It’s already been three hours, but we refuse to go home before our friends are out.
Francesca and Annabel are sitting in Franny’s car, away from the rest of us, having an intense conservation, by the looks of it. I just hope that Fran will get out of this okay. She didn’t get hurt in the fight, but in the end it’s the blows to your heart that take the longest to heal. I’ve come to respect Annabel for being a badass that sticks up for her man, yet my loyalties lie with Franny. Annabel better not be saying mean shit to her.
“He looks cute when he sleeps, doesn’t he?” I whisper to Caroline.
We’re sitting on the ground next to my car, and Nathan is asleep in the backseat. Poor guy is too old for this shit, as he reminded us a few times already. We all seem fine running on nothing but adrenaline and coffee, but he needs his beauty sleep.
“He always looks cute,” Caroline responds with a fond smile.
“I’m sorry I put the two of you in jeopardy,” I say, looking down at my hands in my lap while I fidget with the hem of my shirt. “Especially him. I know that he can’t afford missteps like this.”
“If you apologize one more time, I will slap you silly,” Caroline threatens, putting her arms around me. “This is not your fault. Nathan is fine, we’re all fine. Soon, this will all be a distant memory.”
Distant? I love her, but none of this will ever feel distant. This is the stuff that will haunt me in my dreams for months to come. Losing Dshawn like this… Especially when I know that he never wants to end up like his father, in prison, a disgrace to his family…
“I’m one thousand percent sure that Dshawn isn’t holding you responsible for this either.” Somehow, Caroline knows what I am truly worried about. Of course my biggest concern is that Annabel and I failed after all, and our guys aren’t going to be released. The other pressing concern on my mind is that yesterday might end up being my last day as Dshawn’s girlfriend. What if he decides I’m not worth all this drama? That being with me will only bring him pain and danger?
A car pulls into the lot, Terryl and Asia jumping out of it and hurrying towards us. I immediately get up, hoping that this means what I think it does. Caroline wakes up Nathan, while Annabel and Francesca hurry out of their car to join us as well.
“We got the call,” Asia says, her eyes bright with tears. “They’ll be out in a few moments.”
“Thank fuck,” Nathan mutters behind me, voicing everyone’s thoughts.
Asia walks over to me, pulling me in for a warm embrace. We hold onto each other for a long time, my heart healing a little now that I know she’s still not mad at me. If Asia can forgive me, maybe Dshawn can too.
“Guys?” Franny’s voice sounds, a high pitch to it.
We break apart to see two broken men walking out of the station. They’re bloody, bruised and exhausted. Their clothes torn and dirty. Even looking like shit, they are unmistakable Dshawn and Aston.
“My baby!” Asia shrieks, running across the lot to get to her son before anyone else can. She jumps him, making him stumble backwards. He holds his mother in a firm grasp, rubbing her back. Terryl is with them a few seconds later, throwing his arms around the both of them. They stand like that for a long time.
I just stay where I am, leaning against my car, wishing I’d know what to do. All through this nightmare I’ve felt relatively calm and collected, knowing that I just didn’t have the luxury to lose it. Now… I am not having a panic attack, thank God, but I sure am feeling frightened.
“Aston!” Annabel isn’t running, she’s just standing there, her eyes raking over him. “Oh, baby!”
His eyes go wide when he gets closer, looking at her like he’s seeing a ghost. His face is swollen from all the cuts and bruises that the cops caused when they arrested him. “Anna?” he croaks out, his voice hoarse. “You came?”
“Of course I came, you stupid asshole!” she shrieks, finally propelling herself forward so she can hug him. Unlike Asia, she is very careful when she touches her man, trying to not hurt him more than he already is.
“You came,” Aston breathes, his arms going around Annabel. “You really came.”
“I told you,” she bites out, on the verge of tears. “I told you that I’m here for you. Do you think I’m a fucking liar?”
He picks her up, squeezing her tightly. Finally, their lips find each other and it’s clear to see that there is love there, even if they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Her legs go around his waist and he holds her up without difficulty, still strong and commanding even in his weakened state.
I tear my gaze from Aston and his girl to face the only man who has ever spoken my name with such utter love. The moment my eyes meet his, I know that I was foolish to worry. A smile breaks across his face and a second later, I’m in his arms. He still smells like oranges, even through all the grime and blood.
“Oh baby,” he murmurs, holding onto me tightly. “Are you okay?”
“Are you okay?” I reply. Why the fuck is he worried about me? I wasn’t tackled, thrown around and locked up like him. “I’m fine – don’t worry about me.”
“If you are, I am too.”
Instead of responding, I just kiss him. The stress leaves our bodies the moment our lips touch. We don’t completely melt into each other, aware of his parents and our friends around us, but the soft short kiss is enough to feel like I’m connected to him again.
Asia tries to get Dshawn to come home with her, but he refuses. He assures her that he’s fine and that he just wants a shower. His eyes are on me while he says that, and I know he’s just as eager as I am for some alone time. We were apart for hours, and fuck me they were some extremely intense hours, so we need to catch up. To make sure that the other is truly okay, not just on the surface.
“Come on, honey,” Terryl says, pulling Asia back to the car. “He already promised us dinner. Give them a moment.”
Grudgingly, Asia leaves with her boyfriend, but not before hugging Dshawn again and pulling me in for an embrace as well. Caroline and Nathan are staying in a hotel nearby, so they take off, promising that they’ll meet up with us tomorrow. Aston and Annabel are still entangled, looking into each other’s eyes like they can’t believe that the other person is truly here. That leaves Franny leaning against her car with a wry smile on her face, all alone.
“Fuck,” I realize, making my way over to her. “Aston and Annabel don’t have a car here. Hers is still at Asia’s place.”
“I know,” Franny replies with a sigh. “I will drive them to it, no worries.”
“No,” I argue. “Dshawn and I will take them.”
“Shaughna…” Francesca sighs and rolls her eyes. “I’m fine. Annabel and I talked, and I have to say that I think I dodged a bullet with Aston. Damn, she is even more messed up over him than I ever was. You need to be with Dshawn right now. I can handle being their driver for fifteen minutes. Trust me.”
She truly looks okay and I can’t deny that I want to be alone with Dshawn right now, so I grudgingly accept her offer. “Call me tonight, okay?” I tell her sternly.
“Tomorrow,” she says, smiling at me. “I’m exhausted, I just want to go to sleep when I get back home. We’ll talk tomorrow, I promise.”
We hug goodbye and she watches me and Dhawn as we get in my car. Dshawn’s hand rests on my upper leg as I drive us home. We don’t talk, not yet, but we do steal glances at each other and smile. It’s great to be with him again, even though it hurts to see him like this. The left side of his face is bruised, he has cuts all over, his shirt is torn, and it looks like someone sunk their teeth into his upper arm. Luckily, it looks like the wounds have already been cleaned, but that’s the only positive thing I can say about his treatment by the cops.
“I’m fine,” he assures me, squeezing my leg. “Keep your eyes on the road, baby.”
When we finally make our way into the apartment, I want nothing more than to just cuddle up to him in bed, but he needs a shower first. I don’t want to be away from him, so I head into the bathroom with him and sit on the floor with my back against the wall while he showers. Now is not the time for a joined shower but being apart just isn’t an option.
“Come here,” I say when he exists, shaking drops of water from his hair. Slowly and carefully, I dry him off with the softest towel I can find. He wants to take over, but I won’t let him. Finally, I feel like I can take care of him, do something to make him feel safe and loved. Normally, I’m not the nurturing one in this relationship, but today I want to be. Just for a moment.
“Hmm…” Dshawn murmurs when I take my time drying his hair, massaging his scalp while I do. “Feels good.”
Once he is dry and I’ve put a bandage on the bite mark that started bleeding again, we head into the bedroom. He pulls on a pair of boxer shorts before joining me, pulling me against him and stroking my hair while I rest my head on his chest.
“I’m sorry,” I mumble against his skin. “So sorry.”
“Don’t say that,” he whispers. “You’ve got something to apologize for. Technically, I was the one to throw the first punch at Melchior. I fucked up. I’m sorry, honey.”
“You were defending me.” As I press a kiss to his skin, I realize that he doesn’t even know what happened the past hours. What we did to get the charges dropped. I prop myself up against the headboard, looking down on him while he’s still sprawled on the bed.
“Hmm?” he mumbles an unspoken question, rolling over to throw an arm over my legs and putting his face against my hipbone, kissing it through my pants.
“I need to show you something,” I saw, already knowing that this is going to hurt him just as much as it will hurt me. “And I need you to promise not to freak out.”
“What?” He sits up and takes my phone from me, frowning when he sees that I want to show him a video.
“Melchior’s uncle is the chief of police,” I tell him. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The only way to make sure you and Aston wouldn’t end up in jail was for me to blackmail his father. Annabel and I went to his office and threatened to release this video. He signed a contract saying that he will make sure neither of you will be prosecuted. In return, I had to promise not to release…” I gesture to the phone. “…this. It’s what got me so upset last weekend.”
“How bad is it?” Dshawn asks, already trembling with rage.
“Horrific,” I confess, looking down at my hands. “And yet it’s not the worst he’s ever done to me, not even close. It’s just the only time it was filmed.”
Dshawn takes a deep breath before he presses play. I’m showing him the whole video, not just the clip that my friends and Melchior’s dad saw. That means that right now, he’s watching me get fucked. Hard. By my ex-boyfriend.
His hand finds mine and he grips it tightly, pulling me to him so he can put an arm around me while he watches the screen of the phone on his lap. I don’t dare look at him, nor at the screen. I don’t want to snap, or cry, or… anything.
“No,” he breathes when Melchior starts yanking me by my hair. “Oh no…”
When Melchior says “Oh Shay, when will you ever learn?” and the screen goes black, Dshawn makes a strangled noise and pulls me in closer, burying his face in my hair.
“I knew it was bad,” he whispers. “You told me how bad it was. Hearing about it and seeing it… Oh God, it feels more real now. What he did to you…”
“Is in the past,” I say, sounding a little stronger than I feel. “I just needed you to know everything.”
“We need to turn this into the cops,” Dshawn grunts, not surprising me at all. It’s what I knew he would say.
“Yeah, because the cops have been so good to us so far,” I reply sarcastically.
“Not all of them are racist, corrupt assholes,” Dshawn argues. “The one who cleaned my cuts and brought me some food was actually really nice. And so were some of the others.”
“Look, even if I wanted to, we can’t,” I explain, looking up into his big brown eyes. “I traded this video for your freedom. And Aston’s. Melchior is never going to be convicted anyway, not with such a rich and influential father. This was the best I could do, given the circumstances, and I stand by it. You’re more important than anything.”
“I wish that you could get your revenge,” Dshawn says, anger flaming up in his eyes. “If I hadn’t been stupid enough to punch Melchior-”
“He was always going to end up trying to hurt me,” I reason with him, not letting him finish his sentence. “Plus… I don’t need revenge. I just need you.”
“You know you got me.” Dshawn tosses the phone further onto the bed and kisses me softly, his hands knotting in my hair. “Always,” he whispers against my lips.
We stay like that for a while, our foreheads touching, gazing into each other’s eyes. He’s so beautiful, inside and out. Even though we’ve been together for a while now, I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world. He could have chosen anyone, but he’s here with me, making me feel safe in a way I never have. Last night, I found a strength deep within me that I thought I lost when I was 18, never to be regained. My love for Dshawn made me push harder than I ever have, and I’m finally the Shaughna I want to be. No longer a broken little girl on the verge of a panic attack just because she smells some goddamn lilies. This version of me is fierce, protective, and capable of love. I like her.
“Oh,” I realize, “I have to tell you something else!”
“No more videos,” he pleads. “Please, no more.”
I smile and press a quick kiss to his lips. “No, this is a good thing, trust me. You’ve got Annabel to thank for this.” I start telling him everything he missed, starting from the moment we both got hauled into police cars, cuffed and bruised. He nods along, listening to every word I say. Finally, I get to the part where it all gets better. The part where Annabel and I kick ass – figuratively, of course.
“So this…” I pull the cheque from my pocket and unfold it before handing it to him. “…is yours.”
He gasps when he sees the insane amount of money that is now his. “What the fuck, Shaughna? You can’t be serious. Why…?”
“It’s basically hush money,” I say with a shrug. “Annabel thought of it. Alaster Havemeyer is rich as fuck, so I’m pretty damn sure the cheque won’t bounce. He’s not going to risk us showing the whole world what a dangerous fucker his only son is. You, Dshawn Davis, are now a wealthy man.”
“Wow,” he breathes. “B-but…”
“I was thinking that you can finally make your dreams come through,” I tell him, gently caressing his face and smiling at the amazement in his eyes. “With this money you can buy the buildings you need for your club and restaurant. You won’t even need a loan for the construction work. I’m pretty sure this will cover all of it. After all, I crunched the numbers over and over again these past months.”
“No,” Dshawn says firmly, shaking his head. “No way.”
“Look, baby, I know that this is dirty money, but we can turn it into a good thing.”
“Yes,” he says immediately, a smile breaking across his face. “Exactly. Now we’re talking. WE can do that. WE. Don’t you ever dare talk about our business plan like it’s just mine. We’re past that, Shaughna. This is our money. Our plan. Our dream coming through.”
“You still…” I hesitate. “I mean, you don’t need me for a loan anymore and this money has your name on it, babe. I won’t be mad if you just hire me as your manager instead of making me your business partner.”
“No fucking way.” He grunts and pulls me onto his lap, his fingers digging the skin of my hips. “It’s you and me in this together or it’s not happening. You decide.”
“You and me.” That’s a no-brainer, of course. “Definitely.”
“Fuck, we’re rich!” Dshawn laughs and shakes his head in wonder. “When should we-”
“We’ve got three more hours before your mom is expecting us for dinner,” I reply, eager to get this going. “Let’s cash this damn cheque and put in a bid for that building we want.”
“We’re really doing this!” Dshawn squeezes me in delight. “This is both the worst and the best day of my life.” He pauses and shakes his head. “No, not the best. That’s just bullshit, sorry. But it’s a little less crappy now that we can at least start the next chapter of our lives.”
“I wonder what Aston and Nathan are going to do with their money,” I murmur while Dshawn keeps pulling me hugs and kisses.
“They got this too?” He waves the cheque in my face. “Oh wow, you and Annabel are my heroes. Although… you’ve always been my hero, of course. Fuck, Aston must be over the moon. He’ll probably buy a nicer motorcycle and some weed, totally clueless what to do with all the money that will be left after that.”
We both laugh at that. I wish I could be there when Annabel gives him the cheque.
“Nate and Car will probably start a college fund for Rose,” Dshawn goes on, rolling his eyes. “No way they are going to do something exciting.”
“True.” I nod, laughing at the idea of either of them splurging on something like Aston probably will, or start a business like we are going to. They are happy with their lives, not needing nor wanting more than each other and little Rose. “It’s nice, though, that they’re so happy that they only want things for Rose and their future kids,” I decided with a smile. “Caroline has been through a lot of crap, and so has Nate. I’m still glad that she found him, even if he is an ancient criminal.”
Dshawn grins. “He sure fought like an ex-convict. Did you see him do that high kick into Hollister’s face? Man, that was epic. And he barely even slowed down when Hollister bit him. Nathan is an animal.”
I shudder. “I don’t want to talk about the fight anymore. Let’s go buy a night club, shall we?”
“Yes!” Dshawn agrees, jumping up and doing an excited little dance on top of the bed, shouting like a little kid. “Let’s go spend a shitload of money!”
Just a head's up... there is only one more chapter after this one. And, of course, there'll be an epilogue, maybe even two. But the story is coming to an end pretty soon.
Luckily, I've got soooooooo many ideas for the next book "Eager Annabel" and a short story about Rose called "Blooming Rose". I'm also working on some ideas for "Feisty Fransesca" which will either be a short story or a short novel, not sure yet. I think there might be a short story about Tiffany in the works as well, although I don't have inspiration for that one yet. I think I will name it "Finally Tiffany" but that is just a working title.
Anyway... stay tuned!