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Ryan’s POV
2 days later

An unusual text from Charlotte informed me she needed to take time off and therefore another agent, Simon would now help me find a house. Ella should be happy with the news, she never liked Charlotte. I’m almost home when Simon requests a meeting so we can talk.

I meet Ella at her desk to see if she’d like to come with me to meet the new realtor. As predicted, her eyes light up at the news. We set up an appointment for tomorrow morning. Ella is in a hurry to go back to her homework. She’s been studying nonstop, barely taking breaks to eat and exercise. I know her well enough, she’s trying to ignore her feelings about the upcoming trial. Her classes are important to her, and she has exams in a few days, but once she’ll be done with them, I plan on forcing her out of this room. At least she agreed to come with me tomorrow.

Cooper, Max, and I are playing video games when a loud banging is heard at our door. Cooper stops me from going there before he does. I’m surprised to hear my friend Alex’s voice begging to be let in. Running to the door, I see a distressed Alex, out of breath crying for help. “What happened to you?” I ask as I motion for him to follow me to the bathroom. “I didn’t know where to go. I got into a fight with some guy... He was asking about… You have to help me! I can’t go home,” he rambles on. Ella, who heard the chaos, enters the bathroom. Her eyes go wide looking at his face that’s covered in blood, his hands are also damaged. “Ella, I didn’t know you were here, I’m sorry! Fuck I shouldn’t have come here. I’m going to go,” Alex tries to walk past her but she puts her hand on his chest. “Stay, we’ll help. Have a shower and then I’ll try to clean your cuts, apply some bandages. Ryan, get him some clothes please,” she says in a tone that’s soft yet bossy. Of course, my kind loving wife would take care of someone in need.

“He should call the cops, he said he got into a fight but he never said what information the guy was after,” she whispers even though Alex can’t hear us from the shower. “She’s right, we need more details. We can’t ignore it especially when Jake is out there,” Cooper agrees with her. Ella doesn’t know that Alex came to me confessing his addiction but I have to tell her now. I’ve known him all my life I trust him but his story sounds strange, I wonder if he’s on drugs still. Obviously, someone did beat him up but he hasn’t explained the motive yet. My wife understands and feels sorry for his struggles when I tell her about the conversation I had with him before. Just like me she never expected him to be in that kind of trouble but she’s not judging.

Ignoring Alex’s protests, Ella cleans his wounds as soon as he’s out of the shower. He seems calmer now that she’s taking care of him. I’m afraid to set him off but I know I must talk to him. Sitting next to them on the couch, I ease into it asking what happened exactly. Alex tells us this random guy asked where I live and if Ella was here right now before beating him up. Fear is visible on my wife’s face. He’s vague about the details. Cooper and Max urge him to call the cops without telling him about Jake.

“I can’t! They’ll arrest me!” Alex gets agitated again. “Arrest you for what? Are you still using?” I’m getting angry, I love my friend but Ella’s protection is always my priority. “Fuck! There’s more…” Alex avoids looking at me but I press him to keep going. “I met him soon after I came here last time. He asked me to sell for him, and I did, but I used the money to get high, and… then he said I owed him, so I needed to give him the information about you. But I refused because you’re my friend! That’s when he decided to start throwing punches,” Alex’s face is tormented. “What the fuck? You were supposed to get help! That shit is crazy! If Ella is in danger because of you, I swear… I’m going to...” I yell at him, Ella stands up moving closer to Max. I know she hates when I scream, but Alex really fucked up, and he needs to understand I won’t forgive him if something bad happens. He and I get into it, screaming at each other until Cooper stops me by reminding me we need to call the cops now.

Alex finally agreed to talk to the officers that came to our flat most likely because he knew our friendship was on the line. Alex described someone as tall, with brown eyes, brown hair and he drives a fancy car. Cooper pulled me to the side to voice his concern about our current location, thinking whoever did this could have followed Alex here. Ella and I exchanged a look, she saw the distress in my eyes but she stayed silent while sitting in the kitchen with Max. Not wanting to risk it, I told Cooper to book 2 rooms at a hotel for us until we fly to California.

A few hours later, Alex is done talking to the officers and they’re taking him to a rehab center at his request. He told me he fucked up and needs to get help in fear of losing our friendship but also fearing for his own life. Ella hugs him telling him we will stay in touch. She’s stronger than me. Anger is still boiling inside of me. I trusted him but he might have put us in danger just for his fix. Maybe I shouldn’t judge considering my behavior in the past but I’m very protective of her.

“Baby, we’ll spend time at a hotel for now, at least, until they catch him,” I hug her tightly. She nods and quietly packs a suitcase for both of us. I know she’s fearful. I hate seeing her in that state of mind, she was doing so well during our vacation.

Once we’re settled into our room, the bodyguards in the one next to ours, she seems to be at ease taking a seat on the couch. But then she turns to me when I join her. “Will we be able to go back to the flat after California?” She looks down at her hands. “Why are you asking?” I bring her closer. “Well if you think he might have followed Alex… I’m not making sense. I’m sorry I just didn’t know he was having issues. Part of me feels bad but I’m also angry he’s putting your life in danger,” Her voice is shaking. I burst into laughter under her surprised expression. “We have to stop doing that! I’m fucking gutted he’s putting YOUR life in danger, babe!” She finally understands why I laughed at our habit of wanting to protect the other. “What can I do to help you relax, sexy lioness?” I know she thinks the nickname is silly but after seeing the real lion version of her, I thought it was fitting. “Hmm, you could give me a massage?” Tilting her head to the side, looking adorable, she gives me a sweet smile. How could I refuse her? My strong hands glide on her smooth skin kneading her shoulders and neck. It only takes a few minutes for her body to unwind.
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