Aaliyah never made it to the double date that evening. Instead, she had asked Samantha to take her straight home after work, claiming she wasn’t feeling well. Though it wasn’t completely a lie; terror and anxiety had made her severely nauseous.
Deborah’s threat had played repeatedly in her mind. She knew. She knew everything. If she didn’t follow through, Nathan would find her and everyone she knew and loved would be in great danger.
She walked in briskly to their bedroom and opened the doors to the walk-in closet. She grabbed her black suitcase and ran out of the closet as if someone was chasing her and threw it on the bed.
Suddenly, her phone rang. It was Jason.
“Shit,” she said in a panicked whisper. She clicked the end button and sent it straight to voicemail. Knowing Jason, he would be worried that she wasn’t picking up his calls and haul it home to check on her. She didn’t have much time. She had to move fast.
As she turned to retrieve her clothes, she paused. Sitting on the dresser was the first picture she and Jason had taken together that night at the bar. The very night he came to her rescue. She reached for the frame and ran her finger over the picture. Jason was the kindest, most thoughtful person she had ever met. She couldn’t bear to break his heart. She wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she did.
Aaliyah placed the frame back down gently onto the dresser and sat at the edge of the bed, running her fingers anxiously through her hair.
“What am I doing?” she whispered, caressing her belly. “I can’t do this. Not to him and certainly not to you.”
Jason’s words from the day they found out they were expecting filtered through her mind. In this family, we don’t run. We face everything head on.
She couldn’t help but agree with his words. She was so tired of running, tired of looking over her shoulder, tired of being afraid for her life. The only way to take control was to stop running, face her fears and put her faith in the man who swore to keep her and their unborn safe.
“Okay,” she let out a heavy breath. “No more running, Angeline.”
Just as she was about to put her suitcase away, she heard the front door open and shut downstairs, and the sound made her start, and stop short. She hadn’t expected Jason to be home so soon. Shit!
Her first instinct was to throw the suitcase back into the closet, but she couldn’t move. Instead, she stood frozen in her spot as he bounded up the steps to their room.
“Lia, you up here? I’ve tried calling, but you never answered. Samantha said you weren’t feeling well and—” He stopped when he saw the suitcase laying on their bed and a fresh wave of guilt flooded through her. “What’s going on?”
She stumbled, trying to find the words. “I can explain.”
“Explain what exactly?” Jason shook his head, and his lips twisted into a frown. “I was worried sick about you. Now I come home and find out that you’re packing? What the hell’s going on, Aaliyah?
Aaliyah’s eyes suddenly dropped to the floor as she bit her lower lip. Jason has seen that particular behavior enough to know that she only did it when she was extremely nervous and he had a sinking feeling in his gut that warned that he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear.
She was still refusing to look at him.
“Aaliyah,” he said, his voice a low growl of impatience and anxiety. “What were you doing?”
She said nothing, eyes still fixed to the floor.
“I had a lapse in judgment,” she said softly, her voice barely above a whisper. “I was going to leave.”
For a moment, there was silence in the room, a stillness so dense that they could feel it pressing down on them with suffocating weight until at last Jason spoke, the incredulous tone clearly audible in his voice.
“But...how could you...Aaliyah, I love you. You’re everything to me.”
Aaliyah heard his voice break with emotion and lifted her eyes to meet his blue pair that were filling with moisture. She cupped a hand over her mouth as her heart constricted.
“No,” she stifled a sob. “Don’t…”
“What did I say? What did I do to make you want to leave? Whatever it is that took you away from me, I’ll fix it, I promise.”
She shook her head. “You didn’t say or do anything wrong.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I—”
“Sorry?” He glared at her incredulously. “How could you do this to me? I love you and you were just going to leave me without saying so much as a goodbye?”
She winced at his words, looking absolutely miserable. She was perfectly aware what she did was wrong, but that didn’t make it any easier to listen to Jason berate her.
“I don’t deserve this. I don’t.” he continued. “You’re pregnant with my child, Lia, my child! You can’t just leave me like this. I have a right to be with my kid!”
Aaliyah wrapped her arms around herself as if they would protect her from Jason’s painful words, but she couldn’t stop the tears from forming in her eyes. Jason was furious with her, furious and disappointed, and that knowledge only compounded the pain gripping her chest.
“Please don’t yell at me.”
Jason could see her emerald eyes glistening with unshed tears. Her body posture betrayed how dejected she felt, and for a moment, his heart ached for her. Everyone made mistakes, although it was uncharacteristic for Aaliyah to make one so big, but yelling at her was solving nothing. Her dismal expression evaporated his anger and suddenly, all he wanted to do was hold her close and comfort her.
“Lia,” he said gently, walking towards where she still stood at the foot of their bed. “Shh, don’t cry.”
He opened his arms to embrace her, to comfort her.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “I don’t deserve you after what I’ve done.”
“Talk to me, sweetheart. What happened?”
“I couldn’t do it…” Aaliyah sniffled through her tears. “I couldn’t leave you. I love you so much.”
“Then why baby? Why did you try to leave?”
“Deborah,” she whispered.
She felt him tense against her and he pulled away slightly to look down at her. “What?”
Aaliyah pressed her fingers against her eyelids, trying to stem the tears that simply kept coming.
“She stopped by the diner earlier,” she explained. “She knows, Jason. She knows everything about me.”
“The only people who know about this are my parents, Samantha, Lucas and myself. How does she know?” His brow furrowed slightly.
“Evidently she hired some private investigator to dig up information about me.” she answered.
“So this is why.” His stare was penetrating, piercing her soul.
She swallowed and nodded silently.
“She said if I didn’t leave you she was going to call Nathan and tell him where I was. I didn’t know what else to do. I panicked.”
He shook his head. “You should have told me right then, Aaliyah. This whole mess could have been prevented if you would have just come to me about this sooner.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
Jason exhaled and reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. As he punched some new numbers into his phone he turned to Aaliyah.
“I’m calling Samantha to be here with you.” he told her. “You do not leave this room until I come back, okay?”
“Okay,” Aaliyah said, her voice coming out in a choked whisper. He turned to leave the room. “What are you going to do?”
He paused, then said over his shoulder, not turning to look at her. “I’m going to pay my ex-wife a little visit.”
Jason burst through the double doors of the large firm, slamming them against the wall. The loud sound probably altered everyone in the building to his presence but he didn’t care at the moment.
The receptionist sitting behind the polished mahogany desk abruptly stood. “Mr. Moore?” She said confused. “I wasn’t aware you had an appointment today.”
“I don’t,” he growled as strode hastily past the young woman’s desk.
“Sir, she’s with a client. You can’t go in there.” She called after him.
Jason ignored the woman and continued down the long corridor to Deborah’s office. He didn’t bother knocking. Instead, he simply barged in to see his ex-wife chatting with the client the receptionist had mentioned to him a moment ago.
Deborah’s eyebrow lifted in surprise at seeing him enter the room so suddenly, but other than that, the only change in her expression was a humorless smile that spread slowly over her lips.
Jason turned his focus to the man sitting in the leather seat. “Get. Out.” He snarled.
“But we’re not through discussing—”
“Now!” Jason shouted, pointing at the door.
The man quickly rose from his seat and grabbed his briefcase and hurriedly left the room. Just as he was leaving, the receptionist appeared behind Jason, looking wary.
“I’m sorry Ms. Sparks, I told him you were unavailable. He didn’t listen.” the young woman said, her voice shaking.
Deborah held up her hand in a stop signal. “I’ll handle this, Katie. Leave us and be sure to shut the door on your way out.”
“Yes ma’am.” Katie turned quickly and walked out of the room, closing the door as instructed, leaving the two alone.
Just then, the woman who was attempting to transform his life into a living hell rose from her chair. She stood there demurely, completely unconcerned with all the trouble she had caused for him.
“Jason, what a pleasant surprise to see you here.”
“Cut the shit, you know exactly why I’m here.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
Without sympathy or hesitation, he grabbed her arm and hauled her forward. Her surprised gasp was lost to the sound of her back hitting the wall as Jason pushed her against it. She stared up at him in shock as he leaned in, trapping her body with his and she could immediately tell that the fire in his blue eyes were not burning out of passion.
“J-Jason?” she stammered uncertainty, sine of her confidence draining away at the sight of his anger.
“Shut up and listen to me.” He said harshly. “I think I’ve been quite tolerant of your silly games and fantasies but you threatening my pregnant girlfriend is where I draw the line.”
“Oh for chrissake,” Deborah said, rolling her eyes. “You’ve been with a woman who’s married, Jason. Her name isn’t even Aaliyah. It’s Angeline. She’s been lying to you this entire time. She even went so far as to trap you into a relationship by getting herself knocked up.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but this pregnancy is something that I want, that we both want. This baby is a blessing.” he says, his voice glacial and laced with menace.
She blinked up at him. “She’s not right for you, Jason.” she whispered.
“How the fuck do you know what’s right for me?” he shouted. His whole body was tense, and he radiated animosity. “What we had is over Deborah. It has been over for a long time now and you know that.”
“It doesn’t have to be,” She reached out, cupping his face with her hands. “I’ve changed. Just let me show you. That family you’ve always wanted, I can give that to you now. I’m ready. I need you, Jason. We need each other. Why can’t you see it?”
Jason moved away from her, finding even her touch offensive. “Changed?” he cried incredulously. “You haven’t changed one bit, Deborah. In fact, your immaturity is extremely disappointing.”
Her eyes widened slightly. “What?”
“How could you do that to her? How could you scare her like that? Hiring a private investigator and threatening to call her abusive husband if she didn’t leave our relationship.” He said. “What happened before she arrived here is none of our business. And if she wanted to tell someone, she should be allowed to select the timing and manner of announcing it.”
“I thought you’d be happy. I did this for you.”
He stepped back as if he’s been struck and gaped at her in outraged disbelief. “Happy? You think this makes me happy?” he growled. “Jesus Christ, Deb. If you think this makes me happy then you don’t know me at all.”
“Jason…” she pleaded. “Please, just give me another chance. I still love you.”
“You really have a sick way of showing it, you know that?”
“Don’t do this…”
“I gave you everything, Deborah. Even then it was never enough for you. You went behind my back, broke our wedding vows by sleeping with God knows how many men and still had the audacity to take me to court and leave me with almost nothing.” He seethed angrily. “Where in your twisted logic did you think this would make me like you any more?”
“Jason, you don’t really mean—” the woman began with a smile, trying to charm her way out of the situation and into his pants.
“Yes Deborah, I do. I mean exactly what I said. I hope to the gods above that I never have to look at your face again. Stay away from me and stay the hell away from Aaliyah and my unborn child. Do you understand me?”
His words slowly sunk in and Deborah felt dizzy with the impact of them. How could this happen? How could he say no to her? Even after offering him what he always wanted, he was turning her down without a second thought.
He used to be so predictable, so easy to manipulate. But now Jason seemed inconvincible. The anger in his eyes and voice told her that he was clearly not joking and that he indeed wanted her gone.
Deborah’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Whatever you want, Jason, but don’t think for a second I’ll forget this little encounter.”
“Threaten me again and see what happens.” Jason shot back venomously. “You’re not the only one who knows people Deborah. I will take you down until you are left with absolutely nothing to your name.”
Without another word, Jason stepped back and ran his hands down his face before hastily walked past the shameless woman and out the door.
Deborah let out a shaky breath. She called after the man that had so abruptly left her voice was swallowed up by the loud ringing from her desk phone. He had resisted her, had found her charm to be lacking, and it was all because of that brown haired bitch!
With a growl of frustration, she ripped the phone from her desk and threw it against the wall. As she stomped back to her desk angrily, Deborah almost wanted to cackle with maniacal laughter. Oh, she would make him regret what he had done. By the time she was through with him, he would wish he had never even met her.
“I screwed up,” As Aaliyah uttered this, she laid her head in Samantha’s lap and wept. “I should have just told him. Instead, I tried to run like a coward. And because of that he’s going to hate me.”
Samantha ran her fingers through Aaliyah’s hair and smiled softly down at her. “Do you know what I love the most about my brother?”
Aaliyah stayed silent, waiting for her to continue.
“It’s the amount of compassion he holds for others,” she said. “He’s always putting others before himself. That’s what makes him so special. Jason doesn’t hate you, Lia. He isn’t capable of it. Just give him some time. He’ll come around. You’ll see.”
“I love him, Sam.” she sobbed. “I didn’t think I was even capable of love anymore but I do...I do, so much.”
Aaliyah’s heart clenched as the vision of his smiling face filled her mind. She honestly didn’t know whether to consider her time with Jason a blessing or a curse. The precious time she was able to spend with him reminded her what it was like not just to exist, but to truly live. However, now that he was gone, the world was darker than it had ever been, the trust had been broken, he probably wanted nothing to do with her anymore, and the thought ate away at her.
“It’s going to be alright, Lia.”
“I hate this.”
A soft knock sounded at the bedroom door and she jolted. She didn’t even hear the downstairs door open.
“Thanks for being here, Sam.” he said quietly.
“Of course,” she replied with a faint smile and gave Aaliyah a quick hug before standing up and moving toward him. “Go easy on her, okay? She knows she messed up.”
Jason nodded slightly and Samantha left to give them their privacy.
“Hi,” Her voice was low.
“Hi,” he replied, entering the room quietly. Though there was plenty of room on the bed, he did not sit. A moment of silence passed between them and Aaliyah began to wonder if he would say anything else when he spoke. “Are you okay?”
“Not really, no.” She answered truthfully.
Jason let out a heavy breath and went to her. Aaliyah stood up from the bed, looking tentative. Jason stopped short in front of her. His eyes were soft and almost sad. Her heart thudded. She knew he wouldn’t hurt her, not physically, yet she was afraid.
“Baby, I’m not going to hurt you.”
She swallowed, her lips parting slightly. “Aren’t you angry with me?”
“No. I’m—God, just come here.”
Jason hauled her to him, lifting her off her feet as soon as he could get his arms around her. He nuzzled her neck and breathed her in. Hot, unwelcome tears pricked her eyes as she clung to him.
“I’m so sorry, Jason.”
He pulled away slightly and feathered a finger down her cheek, turning her gaze back to him. “Don’t you ever do that to me again. Promise me.”
“I promise,” she said, tears finally falling.
“Don’t cry,” he whispered, wiping the moisture away with his thumb. “I’m here now, you don’t have to cry.”
Aaliyah sniffled softly and nodded.
“What happened with Deborah?”
“She and I had a very heated discussion.” he replied. “You don’t have to worry about her anymore, Sweetheart. It’s over.”
A faint smile graced Aaliyah’s lips. Jason reached out and pulled her into another hug they both needed. However, as they clung to one another, Aaliyah couldn’t help but wonder if what Jason had said was indeed true. Was it truly over? Would Deborah finally let them live their lives in peace? Or would she go out of her way to make their lives miserable every day from this point on?
A/N: Well, I’m going to go ahead and give you the chapter early. However, don’t expect the next one for a week or two. I’ve hit a block. :( But please let me know what you think of this chapter. When you review, it gives me that spicy motivation to continue!