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My nerves are getting the best of me as I stretch out in bed before heading to the shower. Ryan was already getting undressed when I walked in. It only takes one look for him to see what a wreck I am. He pulls me under the water without a word, using his embrace to soothe me. His hands rub the shampoo in my hair before rinsing it away and repeating the steps for the conditioner. Normally I would try to protest telling him I can do it but I don’t have the strength right now. I’m grateful for him. My body is next, lovingly touching every inch of it. I return the favor by washing his body while he takes care of his hair which is out of reach for me. As soon as I step foot out of the shower, he wraps me in a towel before picking me up. Again I can’t seem to find the words to tell him he doesn’t have to carry me, instead, I snuggle him when he sits on the bed with me on his lap. A few minutes later, I force myself to move to get started on my hair and outfit. I’m going with very minimal makeup knowing today will be painful and I will most likely shed a few tears.

I’m putting on my top when he walks into the room asking if I’m ready to go. Suddenly, my brain wants to shut down and my body gives out on me making me slip to the floor before he has time to cross the space between us. “Ella! Ella, are you okay?” he pulls me to sit with him in the chair next to the bed. Unable to find my voice still, I nod. “You’re going to eat something quickly, come,” he leads me to the kitchen where he hands me a granola bar. Guilt takes over knowing he’s probably nervous about today but he’s focused on my well-being. I point to a chair silently asking him to sit for me to straddle him, wrapping my arms around him after eating the bar.

“Promise me you’ll tell me if you need me today. I know I’m weak right now but I’m still your wife, your rock. I love you, baby,” I tell him while staring into his green eyes. “I kept on having dreams where I was punching him in the courthouse last night. If he tries to make you even more uncomfortable somehow, I’m going to lose it. I’ll protect you at all costs!” his nostrils are flaring in anger. My lips brush his tenderly, my hand runs in his hair pulling at the end of it. His hands reach to cup my butt as he deepens the kiss by poking his tongue into my mouth. I pull away out of breath. “We’re not supposed to be doing this as per our therapists,” he laughs. “Shut up!” I kiss him to silence whatever argument he might try to use, I need this, we need this moment. Our session only comes to a stop when Max knocks at the door announcing the time has come for us to go.

Too soon the SUV stops by a door on the side of the courthouse. A lump forms in my throat threatening to choke me and my hold on his arm gets tighter. Everyone is silent for a minute. “Ella… Ryan, Cooper, and I are all here to protect you. I promise you’ll be okay,” Max says as he turns around to look at us in the backseat. Cooper and Ryan agree with him. “Him too! Ryan tries to act as if he doesn’t need protection but you better keep his ass safe! Otherwise, I’ll be fucking pissed!” I threaten them in a bossy voice that I usually don’t like to use on them. Ryan pulls me out of the car. Fans, gathered here in hopes of seeing him, yell for him from a few feet away. He waves but keeps his other hand in mine as we walk in. I can’t help feeling bad for them but selfishly, I’m glad he didn’t leave my side.

Sitting on a bench by the door of the courtroom, our lawyer reminds us how things will go today. Neither of us has to testify yet, we’ll only be hearing them present the facts. Before I can understand what’s going on, Ryan stands in front of me with Cooper and Max on either side of him. The look on their faces tells me Jake is walking into the room behind them. Though excessive, their action is helping me not break down in the middle of the hallway. Mr. Hale then leads us inside where we take a seat, Ryan on my right, Max to my left, and Cooper on the other side of Ryan. Jake is sitting farther away with his back to us. As if he knows I’m here, he turns to stare and chuckle. With a poker face on, I stare him down not willing to let him scare me again. Ryan, on the other hand, is ready to pounce, I have to grip his arm reminding him to stay with me.

Mr. Hale talks about the events, Jake’s obsession with me, his abusive behavior up until the kidnapping. Then Jake’s lawyer starts talking, my heart stops when he says Jake and I had an affair. My husband’s arm wraps around my shoulder and he whispers in my ear. “We will expose his lies, don’t worry.” I nod trying not flea the place as the voices in my head are begging me to do. His hand squeezes my shoulder holding me closer I know that he can read my mind.

The day seems to drag before the judge finally says we will resume tomorrow. It’s almost dinner time when we get back to the beach house. My head is spinning thinking Jake is trying to convince people we had something going on. “Who the fuck does he think he is?” I’m fuming inside. The bodyguards inquire on whether or not we need their service tonight. “Please stay, let me make dinner for my men,” I insist. Cooking gives me an excuse to be in the kitchen where I keep on replaying today’s events.

I prepared chicken fajitas and invited them to eat. Once everything is on the table, I turn to walk away when Ryan captures my arm. “Where are you going?” his eyes are burning into mine. “I’m not that hungry,” I try to free my arm but his strong hand brings me closer to him. “Sit down and eat! You’ve only had a granola bar today. Don’t try to argue!” he says just as I open my mouth to protest. Although he didn’t raise his voice, the tone and his eyes are telling me I better not talk back. I’m sure today was as challenging for him as it was for me. I pull the chair next to his to eat. The realization that I was actually hungry comes after the first two bites. My hand squeezes his leg under the table. Everybody enjoys the food in comfortable silence before thanking me once they’re done.
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