Novel ✪ Memory Corruption (R-18) (Book 1 Finished) (Book 2 on release)

Discussion in 'Community Fictions' started by GiBro, Jul 2, 2021.

  1. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to it:)
     
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  2. imeren

    imeren Active Member

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    And we have no doubt about it, dear Author. Take as much time as you need. It's always worth it :love: Now I reread the first book, I do it from time to time, and it's amazing to come back from the first chapters to the new ones, in contrast you especially feel how the main characters have changed and how much we learned about their lives. Then I remember a quote about the definition of quality from one of Ray Bradbury's books: "Telling detail. Fresh detail". In your story life is really "streaming past in infinite profusion".
     
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  3. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    I really, really like this one and the next chapter... Hope you'll do, too. ;) Warning: it contains sensible subjects, though I tried not to be graphical. If you feel like it might be a trigger, don't read it, please.

    Ryan took his phone out of his pocket to check his messages and the strange feeling was immediately replaced by anger.

    At the top of his feed, there was a huge sequence of messages from Louise. He decided to finally read then. The older ones just wished him a happy birthday, said that she missed him, that she knew he was gonna think better and come back to her, that he would never find anyone better than her and that she loved him and knew that he loved her too.

    But as he scrolled down, especially after he had sent her the picture with Ju, the messages became hostile. But the darkness reached its peak minutes after she had seen him with the girls. Louise began by threatening to kill herself if he didn't call her back, then said that he was nothing without her, that no one would ever love him like she did, that he was nothing but a sick child, and finally, the last one, that told him that, no matter how much he tried, no matter how many women he met, he would die alone, just like his father, because he wasn't a normal man and would never be.

    It hit him square. Before he read it, he had been determined to just block her number and ignore her existence forever, but after that, he was stuck between depression and rage.

    Ryan caught himself writing and rewriting and erasing answers to her. After a while, he gave up, erasing an immense rant where he described in detail how his week had been, and compared those women to her, pointing out every single detail that made a complete stranger a million times more sexy, interesting, attractive and generally better than her.

    His phone vibrated as soon as he put it inside his pocket and he took it out with a huff, assuming it would be Richard asking him how long he would take to get to the hotel, but it was Louise again. “Out of words? Gave up trying to come up with excuses to leave me? Just accept this: I'm the best you can get, if it's not with me, you're gonna die all alone. We both know that the only thing really perfect in you is your body.”

    He took a deep breath and typed steadily “I couldn't care less if you killed yourself. I don't think anyone would. It would be just one less slut in the world. And a bad one. Not even your body is that good. You say I will die alone, but let me explain something to you: no one gives a shit for you. Even your parents despise you. You said it yourself, they sent you away because you're nothing but trouble. They don't want you anywhere near your sister because they fear they might get another stupid, dumb, worthless, imoral child. No one likes you. You don't even have real friends. People either have to be stoned to want to be near you or have to be in another country, to want to talk to you, neither knowing what a flawed loser you really are.”
    He exhaled hard and took another deep breath, fighting down the lump in his throat, forcing his fingers to go on at a raging speed.
    “I have plenty of love, I never needed yours. I have my family to support me, as long as I live, but you don't even have this. I am brilliant in everything I do, including sex . And I bet that, if I put my heart into it, I'll be an excellent husband. You? You'll be forever just the whore I and a bunch of other guys fucked in Paris.
    So go on, kill yourself. No one will miss you. No one will shed a tear for you. Put an end to this mistake your parents regret so much having committed. Or don't. I'll never know if you did, because I'll never ever hear about you again. I'm free now, I got rid of this burden called Louise Jacqueline Labarre, that no one wants to carry. Breaking up with you was the best birthday gift I could ever give to myself.”
    He pressed send, then completed with a last message.
    “Oh, and since it's the only thing you know how to do, not so well, by the way, and you seem to like it so much, fuck you, you stupid bitch.”

    Ryan waited a bit, curious to read her answer but at the same time wanting to block her immediately. He decided that whatever she had to say, he didn't want to know. The right thing to do was to turn this page for good. She was nothing, she was no one, so he shouldn't want to know how she felt and shouldn't take pleasure from her pain. He was about to press “block”, but his finger froze when her answer popped up, in a single line “I will end this, right now, and you're gonna blame yourself forever, because it's all your fault”.

    Ryan’s arms trembled as goosebumps ran through his whole body. She’s just bluffing… He tried to appease his nerves, but reading it so suddenly, it chilled his bones. He blocked her number and put the phone away, fidgeting a bit as he ruffled his hair.

    He got out of the cab with his heart slamming in his ears. She's just bluffing. There’s no way she’d do something like that just because of that message. He nodded to himself, leaning against the elevator’s door with his arms crossed against his chest, holding so tight that his forearms hurt. She’s just trying to make me feel guilty. She wants me to worry and go there to check on her, so she can try to convince me to come back to her. He tried to assure himself, staggering a bit as he walked through the corridor. He opened the bedroom door with difficulty, because his hands trembled while he held the card, then immediately looked for Richard. He wasn't in the bed.

    -Richard! -He banged on the bathroom's door. -I need to talk to Magda, where's your phone?

    -Why don't you use yours? -His voice was muffled by the door.

    -She'll pick up faster if it's yours. It's an emergency.

    -I'll tell her to pick it up, call her now. -Richard answered. Ryan banged on the door again, urgently. -Stop! I'm not gonna get up to give you my phone. Just call her, she said she'll pick up.

    Ryan was already calling her.

    -Magda, I need your help, please. Can you tell just by reading some messages if someone is gonna try to kill herself? -He didn't even greet her. His voice was strangled, his chest hurt badly. -Please…

    -Ryan, my dear, what is this about? Send me the messages. -She urged him, worried about his tone.

    Richard rushed out of the bathroom after a couple of minutes, drying his hands on his shirt.

    -What's going on? I thought you said your night had been amazing… -He tilted his head as he saw his brother sitting on the corner of the bed with his hands gripping each other and his head down as if praying.

    -Richard, I need you to call the police for me. -He sniffed. -Please, I think I… I think I killed her…

    His voice failed and faded. Richard stared at him.

    -Ryan, what did you do? -Richard crouched in front of him and lifted his chin to force Ryan to look at him. His face didn't betray any emotion, which meant he was somewhere between extremely worried and profoundly angry. -What's going on?

    -I didn't want her to die, I was angry… -Ryan felt desperate. His face was pale and his eyes were brimming. -Shit, if she kills herself… Fuck, and right on my birthday, I won't ever forget this shit, Richard, please, help me. Please, for god sake, make it stop!

    Ryan hid his face in his hands and let out a long heartbreaking groan. Richard took the phone from his hand and read the messages.

    -Ryan… -Richard scoffed, sliding an arm around his little brother's shoulder and resting his chin over his head. -You can't be serious, that's just adolescent’s drama. Don't worry. Jesus, you scared me!

    Ryan sniffed a few times and kept his head down, but after some minutes lifted his head with his eyes full of hope.

    -Are you absolutely sure, man? Magda said she'll examine our messages carefully, but I don't think we have enough time to wait. She's impulsive, Richard, I don't doubt she'll do it… -He moved away and ruffled his hair with trembling hands. -To tell you the truth, something inside me is telling me she's doing it, right now. I wanna go there, but I don't want to go alone… Would you come with me?

    -Ryan, she's fine… Have you eaten today? You look pale. Drink some water, breathe a bit. She's just trying to mess with you. -He smiled, pressing his shoulder firmly. -Ryan, this is just a silly thing.

    -I feel like it's not… -Ryan snorted and sniffed. -Richard, I can't go back to America without making sure she's fine…

    Richard hesitated, but nodded. He had never seen his brother losing control like that. It was an alien sight, Ryan’s face with no sign of his smug smile or fierce eyes. It was a different sight that he wished he never saw. Panic, uneasiness, impotence… Those were words he would never associate with his bold, brilliant and cocky little brother.

    -Let's eat something, then we can go to her apartment and check on her, ok? -He insisted, with worry filling his eyes. -You won't even have to see her, I'll do it for you.

    Ryan nodded and hugged his older brother. Suddenly it all seemed very stupid and he felt ashamed for panicking. He sighed and started to get things ready for their departure, scheduled for the next morning, while Richard showered. His movements were mechanical and he didn’t really pay any attention to what he was doing, shoving things inside his bags, which eventually forced him to use his weight to be able to close them. Suddenly, the sight of her naked body, as he pressed her against the mattress, flashed in front of his eyes and he shook his head, trying to fight the nausea and the ache in his chest. God, please, don’t let this be the last time I saw her alive, please. But his mind kept torturing him, reminding him of her lips around him as she swallowed him, her pitiful smile as she told him he was stupid for being faithful to her.

    When Richard got out of the bathroom, rubbing his hair vigorously with the towel, he paused and watched Ryan with worried eyes. He was kneeling in front of the bed, both hands in fists over his forehead, supporting his weight on his elbows. If he didn’t know better, he would say his little brother was praying, but he knew that if there was anything Ryan would never be capable of, even if he tried really hard, was to develop faith. Not in a god, not in a person. His brother was utterly incapable of blindly believing in something.

    Ryan ate in silence, not really tasting the food. Richard observed him with a worried expression. He was about to prank him to try to lift his mood, when his phone rang.

    The boy lifted his head and observed him, then put the fork down as soon as he saw Richard glancing at him with a startled expression. The older brother explained they would go and check on Louise, then hang up, after telling Magda he loved her.

    -I'll go visit your friend alone, is it ok for you? -He said in a low, calm voice, averting his eyes. -You should rest a bit, I doubt you slept…

    -No. I'll go with you. -Ryan cut him and got up, not minding that his brother wasn't done eating yet. -But she's not my friend. She's just my ex. And I want to see her.

    Richard nodded, trying to come up with an excuse to make Ryan stay. But the boy wouldn’t have any of it.

    -I'm gonna go now. Something tells me that we might get there too late if we take any longer. -Ryan shifted his weight, clearly too afraid to go alone. -Are you coming with me or not?

    Richard nodded, wiping his mouth with a napkin and following him.

    When they got to the building, Louise wouldn't answer the door, no matter how much they knocked or rang the doorbell. Richard tried to call her phone, Ryan tried too, but it would only ring.

    Ryan started to fidget and ruffle his hair repeatedly.

    -I killed her. -He stated after a while. -It's too late, I killed her. I took too long to come here. I’m a fucking murderer.

    -Shut up, Ryan. -Richard started to bang at the door. -Louise! We know you're there, the janitor told us you didn't leave the building! Open the door!

    Some neighbors came to check what was going on, and as Richard explained, more people gathered. Ryan slid his back through the wall on a corner of the hall, until he landed seated, and held his knees, burying his face between his legs.

    After a while, someone called the police. The crowd only grew and, a couple of hours later, the firemen came and opened the door. Ryan cried and hugged himself, immobile, unable to lift his head through all of this.

    When they took her body out of the apartment, though, it was as if his eyes were automatically drawn toward her. He saw her hand hanging from the side of the litter as the paramedics were still trying to reanimate her.

    His hearing always had been praised for being perfect, but this time, it seemed supernatural, because he managed to isolate the paramedics' low voices from the rest of the crowd. They were saying that she was unresponsive, that her heart was barely beating and that, if she managed to survive by some miracle, permanent aftereffects would be unavoidable. One of them remarked that he thought it was too late, that they should hurry to the hospital so the organs could still be useful. Ryan stretched his neck and looked at her face. Her skin was purple, and her lips were cracked and dry. She was dead. He was sure of it.

    The paramedics had to take her down through the stairs, since the elevator was too small. A procession of curious neighbors followed them. Eventually Richard and Ryan were left alone in the hall. The police isolated the apartment. They didn't ask their names, didn't get their contacts. They didn't even tell them not to leave the country. Ryan's body was so numb and unresponsive that Richard tried to take him in his arms, assuming he wouldn't be able to walk, but he shoved his hands away and got up with a blank face.

    Richard had to make a lot of calls and arrangements, but managed to reschedule their flight for that same night. Ryan sat in silence, with an impassive face through all of this.

    When they landed in America, Richard tried to cheer him up, saying she would be fine, that it had been just a scare. But Ryan knew better. She was dead, and it was, indeed, all his fault.
     
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  4. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Poor Ryan, that’s alot to deal with. Magda was right, he does have a habit of choosing crazy, broken bitches, first Louise, then Samantha…..but Belle is a good one. Let’s hope he sees that.
    This kind of explains why Ryan stayed with Samantha when she was threatening to self harm.
     
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  5. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    . What did Louise mean that he would die alone just like his father??? Isn’t Ryan’s father alive? I’m pretty sure he is since he’s referred to him in the present tense in Book 1 and Book 2. Or is this another spoiler?
     
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  6. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    And there's a bit more to that =. But you'll hear about it only in book three.
    Also, I didn't write it, but I imagine Louise doing it by a similar way as Hanna in "13 reason why", with analgesics+bathtub+razor blade so, that would also relate to his reaction about finding Belle inside the bathtub and her self harm scars.
    He couldn't know exactly how it happened but he saw her body: wet hair, naked (probably covered up with something), he saw her arm hanging down from the side of the litter, so he could've seen the cuts... I just didn't want to write it, but that's how I imagined it.
     
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  7. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    I can't tell you about it without giving a spoiler. What I can assure you is that Ryan didn't even try to be honest with her about his family or anything about his personal life until their talk in the kitchen. He never talked about what Louise was referring to to Belle. But I didn't mean to say his father is dead by that line=\ I meant to say he was meant to die alone, or that his state implied he would (it refers to what Ryan had told her, obviously since Louise never met his father).
     
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  8. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    Short but deep, hope you like it ;)
    -Do you want to take a break? -Cecilia asked him, worried, as he fell silent for several minutes. -The session is almost over, but I can extend it a bit, if you need time to recharge...

    -Sign the papers, please. -Ryan sighed, looking down. -Let me go.

    -Ryan… We still have a lot to work with. -She shook her head. -I can't…

    He nodded and stared at the door.

    -In the end, my birthday didn't become her mourning day. I don't feel like celebrating it, but if the reason has anything to do with her, it's buried deep in my subconscious. I never forgot about it, but it didn't screw me up as much as I thought it would. -He nodded to himself and grimaced. -Maybe I'm even a bit glad it happened… I know it sounds selfish, but I think it prepared me to endure a lot of shit I went through after that.

    -So, she really… -Cecilia cleared her throat. -My condolences.

    -She was still just a whore, dead or alive. -He shrugged. -But I don't believe she deserved to die for it.

    -How can you be sure? Did you try to make contact with her later? -She didn't take notes about his statement. -Isn't it possible that she recovered from it?

    -I checked her blog daily, for months. About two months after the fact, I saw a new post. -He closed his eyes and gulped. -I remember every word in it.

    -What did it say? -She pressed him.

    -When I saw it, I thought she was alive. At first I was relieved, then very angry… I thought she had done it on purpose, to make me believe she was dead. To make me feel miserable. -He opened his eyes and stared at her with no emotion in his eyes or voice. -But then I read the post, and I immediately knew it hadn't been written by her. One of her relatives wrote a death announcement, explaining that she had passed away. They didn't reveal the circumstances of her death, but the date fit and they wrote a bunch of beautiful things about her. Her other social media accounts were all deleted or transformed into virtual memorials.

    -Do you want to talk about it? Maybe express your feelings about the guilt you feel? -She tried to approach the subject with caution. -You should know by now that it wasn't really your fault…

    -I literally told her to do it. -He cut her. -It was just the first person I killed. It's one of the few I regret, but it's not like it's gonna weigh so much in my final balance of sins. I killed her. I can't just ignore or diminish my blame. She was a sick person, I know that. Still, she needed help. I should've known this. I shouldn't have said those things.

    -Those are extremely different things, Desmond. -The woman tried to explain. -It was, indeed, a questionable thing for you to send her that message with the intent to hurt her. You were a kid. You didn't know better.

    -Ah, but I knew. -He shook his head. -I knew exactly what I was doing. I didn't believe that she would actually do it, but I knew that I was bullying her. I was conscious of my actions. My age didn't have anything to do with that. And I didn't learn a thing from this. I often say horrible things just to hurt people that threaten or annoy me somehow. And I almost never feel any guilt or regret, I actually enjoy it.

    -If you know it's wrong, why do you do that?

    -Because I can. -He said, simply.

    Cecilia was taken aback, but quickly recovered and wrote some lines, then lifted her head and stared at him.

    -Would you send that message to her again? -She asked him, after some thought.

    -If I knew the outcome? Certainly not. -He shook his head and looked down.

    -What if you could have avoided her death? What if you knew for certain that she wouldn't die?Would you do it, even knowing how much pain it would bring her?

    -Absolutely. -He lifted his head only enough to be able to look into her eyes.

    She sighed. His eyes never seemed so dark. He meant it.

    -Ok… After that, what was it like? When you came back home, did you and Richard travel a lot more?

    -No. - He said, simply.

    She tilted her head, encouraging him to go on.

    -I pushed him away for a while and then we had to part. Magda tried to help me… She did a lot for me, for us, actually, but then… Then I… -Ryan looked away and sighed. He knew this would be bad. She could only interpret it the worst way possible. -I always enjoyed the feeling of getting really drunk. It's not a habit, I'm not addicted to it, really… I don't need it, I just like it, but I can go like literally years without it and not miss it at all.

    He checked her expression but there was nothing there. He silently cursed himself, but went on.

    -I thought the nightmares would be the end of me, I just saw her, everywhere, in the most inconvenient moments, and it was pushing me down in a way nothing had ever before. I had panic attacks every time I laid in my bed. The alcohol numbed my mind enough so I could sleep. -He explained, hoping that would sound reasonable, but quickly noticing it would only make everything look even worse. -It took a lot, it actually still does, take a lot of drinking to really numb me. Magda tried to “help me” with this too, as she was afraid that it would end up harming my relationship with Richard…

    He fell silent again and Cecilia stopped writing to check on him.

    -I guess I kind of did this on purpose, to make him hate me a bit... -He murmured, still looking down.

    Cecilia stared at him for a couple of minutes, as if she expected him to add something.

    -And why do you think you would want that?

    Ryan looked up. He pressed his lips and grimaced.

    -I could lie and say it was to protect him from myself. It wouldn't fullybe a lie, but, let's be honest, I'm not noble enough to push away the most important person of my life for his own good… -He shook his head. -No, the reasons were all selfish bullshits. First of all, I was ashamed. I always knew I wasn't as good as I made people believe I was. But causing someone's death? My brother was willing to die to protect the lives of people that he didn't even know… And I killed her because… Because she cheated on me. Because she cheated on a boy three years younger than her. A boy that wouldn't be able to keep her for another year. A nobody. I killed her for following her brain instead of her heart, do you see how mean and unworthy it is?

    She was silent, staring at him with a stiff face.

    -Secondly, and God knows I wish those thoughts never went through my mind, but I know it's stupid to try to pretend they didn't... I blamed him. I hated him, even if just a bit. Because he doubted me at a very critical moment. He turned his back to me in my most fucking vulnerable moment. He gave me hope when he should have given me strength. -He shook his head, clearly holding back tears. -And I wouldn't mind it, really, if, at least after all that shit happened, he had helped me hold on to the truth instead of trying to cheer me up. I needed punishment and justice, not pity and understanding. It tore me apart every time he looked at me as if I was a child that had lost a toy, does that make sense? It was a fucking person! I couldn't just pretend I haven't done what I did! I literally made her… I killed her!

    Cecilia sighed and removed her glasses, then brushed her eyes with her thumb and index finger before putting them back into place.

    -How do you think he should've behaved, then?

    -He should've blamed me. He should've despised me! -He grunted. -That's so damn broken, to stroke a teenager’s head after they do shit after shit!

    She stared at him with tired eyes.

    -Ryan… Look, I know we already reached the end of our session, but I'll need you to think about it and we'll resume this conversation in the next session, ok? -She took off her glasses again, but this time just put them aside. -Let's say Richard was you and you were him in this situation. Let's say that Magda was Louise, and you don't even have to consider his seven years of relationship… Let's say they were still heading for their second year together. Imagine if this exact thing happened. Imagine seeing your brother going through this…

    Ryan lifted his eyes, then grimaced. He couldn't afford to imagine his brother losing Magda. It was already a huge pain to be watching her mourn him now.

    -Would you blame Richard? And even if you did, would you want to protect him or would you want to add more to his pain?

    Ryan got out of the building with a great weight in his chest. He leaned over the wheel and took a deep breath. As he turned the key on the ignition, he sniffed involuntarily. His chest was hurting so much that he paused to check if it wasn't a heart attack. As the tears were released against his will, he discarded a heart disease.

    He drove to an isolated area, then leaned back and shouted, at the top of his lungs. He did it repeatedly, until the veins on his temples looked like they were about to burst.

    After breathing in and out very deeply, he sighed and decided that he wasn't willing to go through that shit ever again. Healing, my ass!

    -Magda? -He sniffed as she picked up the phone. -Hey, sweetie, how are you doing? No, I'm pretty fine, why do you say that? No, probably just a cold, I've been pushing my limits a bit those days, with the NYPD shit. Look, there are those papers… Nothing important, just, you know, bureaucracy… Do you happen to know someone that could sign them for me, if not you?

    As expected she lectured him about the importance of the therapy sessions. He rolled his eyes.

    -Oh no, don't worry, I'm going to therapy, it's just to rush it, I'm going crazy with the free time. -He forced a chuckle. -I'm not lying to you, Magda, you know damn well I would never do this to you… I really just want to get in quicker. I’ve been to a session today, by the way, with doctor Cecilia Larson, do you know her? Ah, that's a shame, she's pretty good… Will you, really? Ah, thank you, I'll send them to you, thank you, very much. I'll owe you a big one! See you. Sure, let’s do it. Yeah, I love you too. Bye.
     
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  9. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    It looks like Ryan never dealt with Louise’s death, he just pushed that episode far deep and then the guilt and self-loathing just took over. Ryan is convinced that he is a bad person so he feels that there is no need for him to be better, so he continues to say hurtful things without worrying about the effect it has on people.
    Regarding Louise, normally the rule of thumb is to always take suicide threats seriously. Most of the time it’s a person’s cry for help, but you don’t want to take a chance in case the person goes through with it. Ryan was too young and he was angry and hurt when he sent Louise that message, he may have wanted to hurt her with words but he did not intend to kill her. Louise also was sick and used the threat of killing herself as emotional blackmail, not good either. This is so messed up and Ryan is still carrying the trauma today. He needs to heal from this and forgive himself otherwise there is no hope for him to have any meaningful relationship. I wonder if he will start to deal with this in Book 3? Will Belle be the spark that will make him want to face his demons and start to heal?
     
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  10. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    Hello, my dear readers!
    We'll have a new chapter tonight =) then we'll have a a brief (I hope) recess, because I'm stuck on the last two chapters. We'll probably have an epilogue this time too.
     
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  11. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to the new chapter:)
     
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  12. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    Chapter 57


    Ryan was divided between feeling thrilled or gloomy.

    Knowing Belle would be permanently free from the annoyingly inconvenient bond with the goofy boy was a huge relief, and it hadn’t been shaken in the least by the fact that she had replaced him with the troublesome mythomaniac girl, because he knew her father was significantly less dangerous than Anthony. Although he had indeed been involved in the killing of a tax collector, he hadn't been directly responsible for it.

    Still, Belle didn't look fine. He could tell she was making a great effort to keep her usual light mood, and was trying to occupy her time with house chores or Betty, probably to stop thinking about Noah and his brother.

    Ryan could still see the boy's shocked expression when she had called Aaron his brother, completely ignoring his numerous requests to call him his half-brother. His delight had lasted no more than a second, though. He was almost sure the boy had been by a thread of beating her.

    Ryan thanked God he had been there to protect her, or else he didn't think the boy would have any self control. He remembered when Corey sent him her pictures after Trevor had hurt her badly, and his mind could reproduce every single one of the bruises all over her face when she looked at him. To see her looking anything near that again… He would have certainly killed the boy.

    Seeing her pouting from time to time and sighing or huffing every time she stopped to think, though, felt terrible too. He would hug her from behind and kiss her neck and shoulders until she started giggling and squirming, but her smile wouldn't last more than a few minutes. She was sad.

    He had watched her go through the phases of grief, and recognized them in himself too. Her mourning was for losing her friend, that he couldn't even understand how she could value this much. His grief, though, was much more complicated. He loved her, and knew this meant he would lose everything, once more, once they parted.

    They both had gone through denial pretty fast, then through anger, his much lighter than hers. He was still a bit angry at himself and at the situation, but she had become enraged to the point of wanting to follow Noah to try to force him to go to the police. Even while still worried with Betty, she had asked Ryan to take the girl to their house and tried to head for Noah's place. Ryan had to go to the extreme of immobilizing her in order to force her to go back inside the house, with Betty cringing behind them.

    But while he was still stuck in bargaining, she had jumped to depression and was diving deep. He just hoped that when his time came he would manage to jump this phase directly into acceptance. Thinking about it he guessed he was already almost there.

    -Hey… Come here… -He pulled her by her hand when she passed by him with wet eyes on her way out of the laundry room. She just shook her head and tried to avoid him. -Hey.

    Ryan pulled her for a kiss and into his arms, lifting her from the ground. She instinctively wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.

    -I love you. -She whined. At least this hadn't changed. -Are you gonna workout?

    -I can go upstairs with you instead, if you need me to… I might have to attend a meeting in the afternoon, but I still have a couple of hours before I have to go.

    -Can I invite Betty to stay with me while you’re away? -She sighed and looked down.

    He knew she didn’t like to be left alone, even though Betty would provide zero extra protection. If anything, Belle would put herself at risk to ensure the girl would escape, probably causing them both to be taken.

    -Sure. -He grinned when he saw surprise in her face, as she lifted her eyes. -I already told you, I’m not intervening in your decisions anymore. Do as you will.

    Belle bit her lower lip. It was fun to watch her gears turning, while she clearly tried to guess his opinion about her ideas and the reasons behind them, to know if she was making the right decision.

    During the last week he had realized just how much he had been keeping her under control at all times, and had to admit this was completely unhealthy. Although it was still very uncomfortable to constantly keep watch of himself in order to hold his tongue, or hands, in many occasions, not to stop her from doing something he thought was stupid or might bring trouble to them, it was rewarding to realize she was slowly building more self confidence.

    If he were to accept any chance of them having a real relationship when they went back to New York, he would have to be ready to give her all the freedom possible, so it was a great idea to start now, while they were living together and he could still have some control over the consequences.

    -Ok, then, I’ll call her. -She nodded, with resolve written all over her face. It was a cute sight. -Can you stay with me, then, just until you have to leave or, I don’t know, for an hour or so?

    -Of course, ba-Belle. -He almost bit his tongue, remembering at the last moment that she didn't like the nickname.

    -It's ok if you want to call me baby, Ryan. -She murmured and the tip of her nose grew almost as red as her cheeks.

    -I don't. -He shook his head and led her upstairs, to his room. When they stopped in front of the bed, he bent to whisper in her ear, running the side of his index fingers through her arms to her neck, then brushing her hair to one shoulder. -I prefer the sound of your name.

    The goosebumps were everywhere and she giggled. He loved the sound of it and the feeling of the soft skin reacting and changing by his command, with only one touch.

    -Ok, but I don't care if you call me baby, it's cute. -She turned to face him and smiled. Ryan stared at her for a few seconds, trying to understand where she was heading to with this conversation. -As long as you don't call Diana like that too…

    He narrowed his eyes and pushed her toward the bed, by her shoulders, making her fall on her back. Before she could react, he climbed on her, straddling her and holding both her wrists to the side of her head.

    -How dare you bring that name to this bedroom? -He leaned in and bit her lower lip, sucking it as he lifted his head to watch her startled expression turn into excitement. -Just so you know, every single time I called her babe in the past months, in my mind I was actually calling her a bitch.

    Belle held down a smile and he rolled his eyes. She was gonna pretend not to believe him and he was sure the woman's name would make other appearances in future arguments.

    They laid in bed, kissing and fondling each other for almost an hour, then Ryan had to answer a call and came back only to smack a light kiss on her forehead and tell her not to wait for him for dinner.

    Betty texted her a while later to tell her she would be late, so she put her earphones on and laid on Ryan's bed, hugging his pillow and burying her face in it until she fell asleep.

    Belle was awakened by the ring bell. At first she wasn't sure if it had really rang because of the music still playing in her earphones, but as she grew more alert, she heard it clearly. She checked her phone but there were no messages from Betty. It probably hadn't crossed the girl's mind to call her or text her before coming.

    She ran downstairs without washing her face and, maybe because she was still a bit sleepy, maybe because she didn't really think about it, opened the door without checking who it was first.

    -Hello, your majesty. -Aaron's yellowish smile spread and her heart drummed into her ears.

    Belle instinctively pushed the door to shut it, but the guy stopped it with his foot and arm.

    -Where are your manners, lady? Chill out, I just want to talk. I came to chat with my old man and took the opportunity to come talk to you, it'll be quick. -His voice had a bit of amusement and a lot of annoyance. -Don't be such a… Look, I'm doing you a favor, ok?

    Belle tried to push the door again, using her body, her face red, her eyes moistened, but his heavy boots seemed to have iron at the tip, and she knew she wasn't hurting him.

    -Go away, I don't want to talk with you. I'm gonna call Ryan if you don't, he's at his study and…

    -So you're not just snobby as fuck, you're a liar too. My father said your husband is far away from here. -He chuckled and pushed the door slightly, making her have to use all her weight to keep it half shut, but she could tell he wasn't really trying to force it open. -It would take more than an hour for him to come back.

    Her blood froze. There was nothing she could do besides screaming. She quickly fumbled for her phone, but realized she had left it upstairs, over the bed. Her breathing started to get heavy and she knew it was a matter of time before she passed out.

    -Yo, relax, you don't need to cry, I'm not here to harm you, I told you. Open the door and chill out, I'm not even gonna get inside.

    She took a step back, hoping that if she cooperated he wouldn't hurt her and that she might have the opportunity to fight back at the right moment. She thought about running upstairs and getting Ryan's gun, but his legs were a lot longer than hers.

    -Yo, chill, chick. -He murmured, pushing the door open and eyeing her with a sadistic smile. -Don't cry, you're too hysterical. Not that I would do anything to you, but you have like ten badass shooters, outside and inside the condo, ready to turn me into a strainer if I as much as touch you, relax.

    Belle nodded, even though she didn't know if he was telling the truth. She wasn't crying, but she was on the verge of doing it.

    -Ok, now… Good afternoon, snowflake. I just came to tell you I have your bottle ready to be bought, it's at the store. You just have to come by and take it. We accept cash, but my boss is gonna hate me if you take that amount of greens to the store, so, if you could just transfer the money to our account it would make things a lot easier.

    Belle was out of words. He had terrified her over nothing. For a moment she thought he would kill her, or rape her, or take her to Daniel, knowing who she was or not. But no, he wanted to sell her the damned whiskey that she had asked Noah not to tell him she wanted. In that moment she hated Noah, with all her soul.

    -Ahm… No, thank you. -She shook her head.

    -No what? -He frowned and she could swear he was gonna punch the door, but stopped himself.

    They just stared at each other for a few seconds, the silence lingering uncomfortably. She looked away to avoid staring at his scars.

    -It's a very expensive bottle and it took a lot, like a lot, of work to get it, Belinda. -His condescending tone made him sound even more scary. -I already paid for it, are you fucking kidding me? You've ordered it, now you have to buy it, girl!

    -No, I didn't. Talk to your brother, he was the one who…

    -No, he said it was for you. I went out of my way to get it only because it was for you. -He shook his head and leaned on the doorway, lowering his face to her eye level. -The world isn't your toy box, kiddo… You can't do shit like that, I might lose my job!

    -I didn't ask for it! -Her face grew red.

    -Noah said you did!

    -Well, then you go and sort this out with him! I can't go there to get it!

    -I can take you to the store and back, just warn your bodyguards that I'm not kidnapping you or something. -He rolled his eyes and sighed. His breath stank as much as it did at the party. -But don't get used to it, I'm not the delivery guy type, I'm doing this just because Noah told me you peed your pants when we met at the party. I was just gonna offer you weed, you looked like you needed to relax.

    -I'm not going anywhere with or near you, Aaron… Please, go away. I'm really sorry for your trouble, but I'm sure you're gonna sell it fast, it's a rare bottle.

    -Yes, it is! -She flinched when he looked like he wanted to punch her, staring at her with angry eyes and gritted teeth. -It is rare, and not everyone knows about it. It's also ridiculously expensive, I can't just leave it over the balcony, you see? What's wrong with you? Why don't you just come and take it?

    Belle considered just transferring the money right away, just so he would leave her alone. But she didn't know how she would explain it to Ryan when he came back. She had planned to use Betty as an intermediate in the transaction. That couldn't happen if Aaron was involved. She would never put the girl in this position.

    -Goodbye, Aaron. -She murmured. -I'm really sorry for your trouble, but I hope you know it wasn't my fault at all. I never asked your brother to tell you anything about it, in the first place.

    -He loves you, retarded. -He grunted. -You're very ungrateful. But that's not my problem, I really just want to sell you the whiskey, this shit is gonna screw me bad. It's gonna be real quick, we'll be there and back in less than an hour, I can make it all in half an hour, give or take, if you don't mind me riding fast.

    -No, Aaron, I'm sorry, but…

    -Fuck you. -He frowned. -I'm gonna lose my job because of you, supid whore.

    -I'm sorry.

    -If you really are, move your skinny ass and come with me! -He hissed with his dark green eyes sparkling. The sulfur smell hit her nose when he leaned over her, still not stepping inside. -Come, Belinda.

    -No. -She suddenly felt confident. He wasn't coming in, and something told her there was a reason for that. She guessed whoever Ryan had put there to keep an eye on her had orders to kill or take anyone who tried to invade their propriety. It made sense. Instead of simply murdering someone, they would be in their right. -If you don't walk away now, you're gonna get in way more trouble, Aaron. Talk to Noah. If he decides to buy the bottle, it's his problem, not mine. I'm not talking to him anymore.

    -Bitch.

    -Rapist. -She lifted her nose and he scoffed.

    He started to back away, then spit at the floor and looked at her with a murderous glare. She tried to give him her best fierce stare, but knew it wasn't effective.

    -I'll hold the fucking bottle until sixth of October. Noah told me this was the deadline to get it, I know you'll change your mind once your PMS is done, so I'll do it for you, even though you're being a damned twat. -He murmured with an annoyed expression. -After that, I'll get rid of it.

    -Thought you were in trouble for buying it. -She narrowed her eyes. -Thought you'd lose your job because you wouldn't be able to sell it…

    -You're a big slut, Belinda. The bottle is there. You just have to go and buy it. I'll tell my boss you'll go till the sixth of October. -He sighed. -If you don't, Noah will pay a lot more than thirty grand, that I can assure you.

    He saw guilt in her eyes and smiled.

    -Good thing you don't care about him anymore, so you're not gonna miss him. -He smirked and walked away.

    Belle locked the door and leaned on it, feeling her wet back glue to the shirt. Her body was trembling and she let it slide to the floor, then started to cry.

    After several minutes like that, she got upstairs to retrieve her cellphone. There were a lot of missing calls from an unknown caller. She almost called it back, but then remembered Ryan had told her not to answer anyone’s calls except his. She considered calling him, but didn't want him to notice that she had just had a panic attack, knowing he might get worried and get distracted, which could put his life at risk.

    -Sorry for being late. -Betty walked in with a grimace after an hour or so.

    When the doorbell rang, Belle had almost hidden under the bed, afraid it could be Aaron coming back with a gun or something alike. Relief was clear in her face when she saw the blond girl standing in front of the door, curling a strand of her hair with her perfectly polished fingernails.

    Belle told Betty about the encounter with Aaron. The girl didn't really seem disturbed by it, just told her to be careful and not get into his car, especially if she was drunk.

    Even then, the blond girl offered her a hug and made tea for them, then tried to lift her mood with random talks about music.

    When Ryan came in, his face was impassive.

    -Bethany, can you, please, go back to your house right now? -His tone was neutral, without the usual impatience toward the girl. -There's a package for you, by the way. Your maid apparently thought it would be important to warn me when she saw my car.

    Belle grimaced but Betty didn't even blink.

    -It's probably something for the party, she knows I'm working with Belle.

    -Sure. Tell her I have absolutely nothing to do with that. -He shrugged. -I almost ran her over, she literally jumped in front of my car.

    -I'm sorry for that, she's old but my mother likes her…

    -I'm not telling you to fire her, just tell her not to talk with me ever again. -He frowned. -Goodnight, Bethany.

    -Goodnight, Belle, see you tomorrow? -Betty ignored him after Belle nodded, then walked out of the house on her own.

    Ryan moved to lock the door and Belle followed him with gloomy eyes, knowing he would interrogate her about Aaron. She didn't really want to lie to him.

    -I don't think I need to tell you how much you scared me today. -He pressed his lips. -Why the fuck was he here?

    -I… Noah told him we wanted the whiskey. -She said it quickly. -Apparently he works at a liquor store.

    -Why didn't he go to Betty's, then? -He frowned when she creased her eyebrows in response. -And why the fuck did you give him the time of day?

    -He didn't let me shut the door. -She looked down, fidgeting with her feet. -He blocked it with his foot.

    -Why did you even open the door? -He stared at her as it she was demented. -He could've hurt you. And he positioned himself in a way you could get shot by accident, Vincenzo almost blew my cover because of it. He was afraid you'd go with him willingly. He said Aaron already knows about them.

    -He knows, he told me so. But I told him not to come back. He didn't touch me.

    -Good for him. -He huffed. -I know you have your phone with you, I'm proud of you for not answering it, but you should've called me. Next time something bad happens, call me. The only reason I didn't answer the phone right away was because I had no idea it was about you.

    Belle just nodded, unwilling to admit she had left her phone upstairs. He misinterpreted her uneasiness and wrapped one arm around her neck, pulling her to his chest and kissing the top of her head.

    -I'm sorry, Belle. I'm not leaving anymore, ok? I'm sorry. -He sighed in her hair. -Destiny was taken today. She got things on the move with Denovan before she left, though. Soon we'll be rid of him and you'll be safe. If we get lucky, we'll have Daniel pretty soon too, and be back to New York.

    Belle couldn't answer it. He was saying it as if it was all just great news, but to her it was as if he was celebrating their end. He was glad they were about to be over, forever.

    The sting in her chest was so strong she let out a sob, and Ryan took her in his arms, sitting on the sofa. His shirt was a bit sweaty and she wondered if he had gone through some kind of trouble in that meeting, but knew he wouldn't tell her anything about it.

    -Riviera wants you to change your appearance, Belle… -He murmured after a while. She could tell he didn't really believe it would be enough to hide her from his followers, but she was willing to do anything to make sure he wouldn't ever get hurt again because of her. -Would you be ok with dying your hair or something like that?

    Belle thought about it. She didn't really want to change anything in her appearance, but nodded anyway.

    -I'm sorry for that. -He sighed, but she just shrugged.

    If they really believed this would reduce the chances of Daniel getting them, dying her hair didn't sound this bad.

    -Are you gonna change anything too? -She pressed her lips, she didn't want him to, but the fact he had been working undercover with his normal appearance had bothered her since the beginning.

    -No. If Corey really joined Daniel, he didn't tell him yet that I'm alive. If he had, I'd be dead by now. -He said it as if it didn't matter. -Me and Lucas, we've been discussing about his possible reasons for that, but I couldn't really come to a conclusion, so, whatever it was, unless Daniel is playing the long game and giving me enough rope to hang myself, I'm safe for now.

    Belle shivered and he held her more firmly, brushing her arms and back vigorously.

    -Don't worry, Belle. Whatever happens… -He let the phrase die and she had the impression he had cut it midway. -I need to workout.

    -Ok… -She nodded. The last thing she wanted to do now was to be apart from him, but had an idea that she knew she would give up if she didn't put it into action right away. -I love you, I'll get into shower now, dinner will be ready late today, is that ok?

    He nodded and watched her run upstairs.

    Ryan was beyond tired, but knew he had to keep his body ready for whatever would come in the next few days. He trusted Diana's talent to lure the old greasy man, but worried that it would be too late.

    For the first time he had it confirmed that Daniel knew that Belle was in Florida. They were looking for her everywhere. Fortunately, their focus seemed to be still around Gainesville.

    Also, he had been formally invited to the palace. The invitation came with an offer: to be in trial for the opportunity of being part of Daniel's bodyguards team.

    It was fortunate to have Domenico doing all the dirty work for him and adding up to his fame, but now it was time to back away. He was also lucky that Daniel had his focus somewhere else, even though probably on Belle, or else he would have certainly already checked on him, and then he would've been dead.

    Things had run out of control, and it was time to stop. He had to die again. Vincenzo was setting things up for that already. At least with this he didn't really have to worry, it would be perfectly made. The guy had a talent for drama and deceit.

    There was also the love thing. It was impossible to guess how she would react if he told her how he felt now. Ryan was well aware of her power of persuasion, and although he hated to admit it, he most often than not would bend to her will, no matter how illogical her requests were.

    He feared she would resist being sent without him, in case they couldn't go back together to New York, or Diana managed to take down Denovan and they could safely move her to another place through the program.

    And there was also Magda's warning. He hadn't really given it a second thought until he had realized he loved her, but if he died and Agatha reached out to Belle, what was meant to be a solace would shatter her heart, if she knew her feelings had been reciprocated. It would certainly break him if it was the other way around. And right now he had absolutely no way of stopping it. There was no chance of him risking contacting Agatha through this turmoil, he would not endanger her again just to call out a stupid plan. No, the best thing was to keep it to himself and tell Belle only if they had any chance of making it work when they got back to New York.

    There was always the possibility of her changing her mind about him. Andrews wouldn't lose the opportunity of putting them both on stand to make him look like an abuser that had abducted a naive girl and made her believe she loved him just to get sex from her. He knew the first thing he would face when he got back would be a lawsuit concerning her pathetic claims of abuse and predatory behavior.

    And if Belle was moved to another state, he couldn't hope she would keep him in her mind for more than a month or so. She would find someone and then he would be just a painful memory, a mistake, maybe even a disgrace, since he didn't really expect her to understand why he was sending her away.

    Driven by the tension and adrenaline of the whole situation, he worked out like a madman, being careful only not to get hurt.

    When he heard Belle tiptoeing into the gym, he immediately put the barbell back at the spotter and sat up, bending to adjust the bench so he would be able to face her while resting.

    When his eyes fixed on her, though, he sat back with surprise. Belle blushed.

    -You… You look amazing. -He smiled kindly.

    -Did you like it, then? I might need your help to fix it later, if it's not lined up. -She shook her head, clearly still trying to get used to the lighter feeling.

    He sighed as her hair waved around her face with the motion. It was a beautiful sight, even though he loved her long hair.

    -Yeah… I liked it. -He sighed again, with a passionate smile. -I like both hairs, actually.

    She smiled and bent down to kiss him. He caressed her face while they kissed, then moved his hand to her nape and ran his fingers through her neck, feeling the strands of hair escape from between his fingers. It still felt good. He took his hand back to her nape and grabbed a fist of her hair. She gasped and closed her eyes with the unexpected exciting sensation.

    -Just checking if I still can do it… -He smiled provocatively.

    -Good thing you still can… -She smiled back. -Don't tease me if you're not willing to go all the way, Ryan.

    -I'm always willing to go all the way, Belle. -He gave her a naughty look. Her eyes squinted and he added. -With you. Stop being jealous, that's ridiculous.

    Ryan tugged at a strand of her hair. He liked the long hair better, but there was no point in telling her that. If she liked the hair this short, he liked it too. At least she hadn't changed its color. Not yet.

    -I wanted to learn that. -She pointed at the bench and at the barbell resting on the spotter.

    He creased his eyebrows as he followed her gaze to the barbell, dumbfounded.

    -What? Why?

    -I want to get my arms and legs stronger, so I won't ever be in that position again, of someone taking advantage of my size. -She half pouted as she said it and he had to make a great effort not to laugh.

    -Not gonna happen. First you need to learn to sustain your own weight, then we can talk about you lifting weights. -He shook his head.

    Her eyes dropped to the ground and her pout turned into a thin line. Ryan just watched her, not knowing what to say. “Don't worry, I'll be there to protect you” was what he wanted to say, but it was far from the truth, now more than ever. He hadn't been there to protect her and even though he knew Vincenzo wouldn't allow Aaron to hurt her, he couldn't prevent her from being terrified in the process. But even worse than that, the plan was to get her separated from him as soon as possible. If anything, he would just bring danger her way now.

    When Belle shifted her weight on her legs, he realized his eyes too had dropped to her feet. He started to move to give her space to sit beside him on the bench but she put a hand to his chest to stop him. Even though he started to protest about her touching his sweat, she sat in his lap with her legs to one side and rested her head on his shoulder, clearly disappointed in herself.

    -Do you even know how to do push ups?

    -We learn at school. -She nodded.

    -Do you? -He truly didn't know. He wondered if Agatha had ever had a class about it, since she had never talked about it back in the days he went to drive her home after class or to check on her during her breaks. -And how well did you do?

    -Not much. -She shrugged.

    -How many? I mean, your record, with no time limit, rests allowed, do you know how many?

    -Not really. Ten? I think I got twenty during a PE test, I don't really remember when… -She looked down when he scoffed. -What about you? Bet you are like Superman… One thousand.

    Her laugh cut when his face grew somber but she didn't know what exactly she had said that had shifted his mood. He huffed, but answered.

    -One thousand is actually not a big deal if there's no time limit and rests are allowed, just so you know. -He ran his fingers through her hair, from her forehead to her nape, watching it cascade as it escaped from his fingertips. He liked the new hair. -A bit more than thirty two hundred.

    He smirked at her awed expression, then grimaced.

    -It was the stupidest thing I've ever done… I was under a one hundred degrees sun for the most part of it and I didn't get to five thousand, which was my goal, because I passed out. -He explained. -It wasn't glamorous or heroic, just stupid and absolutely not worth it.

    Belle gasped, surprised.

    -Why would you do that? -She said after some hesitation.

    -Because I was too proud to admit I couldn't do it. -He bit his upper lip. -And because I was dumb enough not to think about what would happen to my body afterwards, even if I had managed to fulfill my goal. It was a lose-lose situation.

    -Still, why did you do it? Where did the idea of doing it come from?

    He thought about it. Explaining the whole thing would be bad for them both. He remembered her reaction when he told her about the little boy he killed and didn't think this time it would go any better. Besides, Diana was already sparking a lot of tension between them because of jealousy, so he didn't think adding another name to her list of potential opponents would be wise.

    -Someone dared me to. -He said simply.

    -Ah. -She frowned. -Did you get hurt?

    -My palms had blisters from getting burned a bit, because of the heat of the ground. I was diagnosed with insulation, heat exhaustion, mild dehydration and triceps tendonitis. -His tone was so calm and distant that it sounded like he was reading it. -That last bit was a big shit, I think I would have threatened my way out of the infirmary if I didn't know I wouldn't be able to shoot without my arm.

    -You were in the army already, or at the NYPD…? -She opened her eyes wide when he nodded, pointing out her first guess was right. -You were an adult! Why would you do that?

    -It's complicated… -He looked away, feeling ashamed. -Let's not talk about it, please?

    Belle creased her eyebrows. She wouldn't let go. Ryan sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted.

    -The story ends with me having my neck under Destiny's foot, which sounds fantastically accurate, by the way, and with my brother dead. -He explained and she gasped again. -Yeah, I've fucked up my life permanently because of my pride.

    Belle was out of words. She just moved to straddle him and hugged him tight. He responded to her grip and buried his face on her neck.

    -You said you wouldn't leave anymore… -She murmured in his ear after a while.

    -I'm gonna stay here, with you, until we can take you somewhere safe. -He nodded slightly. -Domenico will have someone bring us groceries and other stuff till then, but that doesn't really mean we can't go somewhere now and then, I'm just trying to avoid exposure, just for safety.

    Belle nodded and he wondered why she seemed so aggitated. She didn't like it when he left her alone, that was evident, still, her face told him she was anxious.

    Ryan wondered if it had anything to do with his birthday. He had heard Betty say something about an anniversary and on another occasion had seen the date written among the notes over the dinner table while the girls were discussing ideas for the said party. For a moment he had thought the party would happen on 6th of October, but Belle never gave any signs of wanting to attend it, and when he reminded her it was a bad idea, she said it would happen during thanksgiving week and that she didn't even know if she would still be in Florida.

    He was almost sure she was planning a surprise party of sorts and, although he hated the idea of celebrating his birthday, he felt bad about blowing it for her. Watching her plan countless surprise parties for her friends, in the videos he had watched for the case, it was sad to think that she had never had one planned for herself.

    Maybe it won't be bad. The last times he had celebrated his birthday were all a mess. Since fifteen, he couldn't remember that date or the whole week being anything near nice. In fact some of them had been the definition of madness and tragedy.

    Still, it could be the first and last one he would spend beside her, that if they didn't have to part before it, so he was willing to swallow down any bad feeling he had toward the date and let her have her fun.

    In fact he himself had thought about doing something for her. Of course now it would be virtually impossible to do anything grand, but he had thought a lot about it during the last month. Right in the beginning of the bargaining phase of grief he had told himself that if they didn't part until his birthday, he would tell her how he felt.

    I love you, I don't want to be apart from you and I want to try to make it work, for real. It sounded weird, even in thought, but there was more to it. And the fact that there was more, had been the exact reason why he had called it off. He wanted her to wait for him. That thought alone was a red flag. He couldn't ask that from her, it was stupid to expect her to commit to him with close to no guarantee that it would work.

    -What's on your mind, Ryan? -Belle murmured when she moved to look at his face.

    -You're so beautiful with that hair… -He sighed, hoping she wouldn't insist.

    -Thank you, but you looked like you wanted to tell me something… What was it about?

    -I need to take a shower. Don't worry about my face, Belle, I'm very tired… -He took a deep breath when she nodded. -Are you coming with me?

    -Sure. -She nodded again, but he knew she wasn't satisfied with him keeping her in the dark about his thoughts.

    I should tell her. She has the right to know. Besides, if it was the other way around, I'd feel betrayed if she kept it from me…

    With those thoughts and a lump in his throat, he showered, enjoying her touch and kisses while doing so, then they laid in the bed, cuddling in silence. As he surrendered to slumber, his thoughts took him to a passage of the book Belle loved so much and now he too cherished much: “Things are too full of life in the spring months. In the summer, they're too strong and won't let go. Autumn's the time. In autumn everything is tired and ready to die”.

    Summer was gone. Now was the right time to let go.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2022
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  13. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Ok so some progress being made here, Ryan is actually thinking about them possibly having a relationship when they get back to New York. Somehow I get an awful feeling that this won’t happen anytime soon.


    So Ryan is going to have to “die” again. This will totally devastate Belle.I don’t think that she will survive losing him a second time.


    This is some heartbreaking foreshadowing going on here. Why do I feel a tsunami of tears coming? :cry::cry::cry:

    i know that our dear author @GiBro will be taking a break (hopefully not a long one) so this really leaves us on edge:( But on the bright side, there will be a Book 3 to look forward to!:blobparty:
     
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  14. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    He'll have to die for Daniel's followers, so they don't take him to meet him. Vincenzo will take care of everything and Ryan won't even have to worry about it, so she probably wont even know.:p

    I really hope you like the last chapters, even though I expect strong reactions and long rants :coffee: :LOL:
     
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  15. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    @GiBro, while we are patiently waiting for the next chapters, I was wondering if our dear author would share some trivia about the characters and whether she would answer some questions from the readers? Just to break the abstinence since we can’t get enough of Belle and Ryan:p

    I’ll start with a couple of questions:
    1. In chapter 47 Belle tried to trick Ryan into telling her how many women he had sex with. Ryan refused to say, but I’m curious, how many were there before Belle? We know for sure that there was Louise, Ju and Samantha. Since everything he said pointed to the fact that he could easily get sex, how many women were there? And with how many of these women did he actually have a relationship?

    2. When Belle went through Ryan’s desk to retrieve her phone, she found a small velvet-like box that she assumed was a ring box. We don’t know who is the intended recipient of that box, but can the author confirm that there is a ring in it?

    3. Will we find out in Book 3 or Ryan’s POV why he and Richard stopped talking?

    4. Ryan seems to have a number of videos of Belle with her group of friends from school (Daniel’s group) and I assume that these were recorded while she and her friends were under surveillance. How long had she been under surveillance and at what point did Ryan start to have a crush on her? I recall in Book 1 that at some point he wished that he hadn’t saved her as a child just to have her turn out to be Daniel’s partner in crime, when did he start to change his opinion of her?

    5. Is Corey really the mole in the NYPD that is working with Daniel? He seems to have disappeared and everything seems to point that he is the traitor but if this is the case has he still not told Daniel that Ryan is alive?

    6. Now that Destiny has been taken to the palace, how will Anthony respond now that she will be missing? Will Noah tell his father that he saw Destiny sneak away with Ryan on several occasions? Will Noah use this as vengeance against Ryan? I just have a feeling that the whole situation with Belle-Noah is not resolved yet.
     
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  16. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    What a pleasant surprise to see your message =) I'm almost done with the book (I'm in the last chapter already \o/)

    So... To the answers... A lot of it will be answered either on the next book or in Ryan's POV and some of them are key info for the plot, so I can't really answer them without spoiling the story. But I'll do my best:

    I didn't count xD (even because I hadn't wrote a lot of his story yet), but I can tell you that he had sex with 8 women in six days that week he spent in France. He got into school a bit after that and probably had a brief romance with every girl he felt like having there. After that, in the army, he probably didn't have much time for that, but at the same time we know a lot of women fancy the uniform. Then there was the war, and he had at least two romances there (no more info about that =P). When he got back to NY, he was broken and under drug effects, so I'd expect him to either not have any contact with women or get into a thunderstorm of reckless behavior (which fits better with PTSD), so lots of sex wouldn't be surprising. Then there was Samantha, and he got stuck with her for 2 years, and after her death, he had more important things to think about than sex or relationship.

    PS: I don't know, though, if a man that had this strong bond to sex and flirting in general would be ok with spending two years with no sex at all, don't know if it's plausible, but that's how I envisioned it.

    Book 3. An important part of the plot is based on that box.

    Ryan's POV pictures the whole story about it, but yes, Ryan will tell Belle about it. (it will take long, though =. sorry)

    PS: Ryan kind of summarizes it here, although the details of the things that happened are very important, those things he tells Cecilia give a general scenery about it.

    A lot of the videos were "homemade", like Belle and her friends recording their moments. But yes, there are surveillance videos, videos Ryan himself or other agents recorded etc. But Ryan talks about it on chapter 44, book 1 ("I've been watching you both for almost six months now.") They were stuck in the case, because Ryan kind of turned the investigation into something exclusively to get revenge against Daniel (zero professionalism, that without mentioning Riviera and the other cops, who knew about it and didn't take him from the case, basically because they believed he would solve it quicker than anyone else). When Daniel proves to be an important part of the organization behind the attacks, the whole operation joins Ryan in his obsession and Daniel's posts are revealed. That's when Lucas sends him those messages. Ryan at first is sad / pissed, then tries to understand her (the first thing they do is try to find out if she's sponsoring him, but there's no evidence at all). He then observes her and tries to understand how she got to be Daniel's friend, and that's when his obsession turns a bit more toward her than toward Daniel. (I'd say five months, give or take, before they really meet)

    He hated her instantly when Lucas sent the messages for about a month. Then he hated her again because he saw her with Daniel right before she got into class (Daniel used to touch her at any opportunity, so we can say it was some kind of "jealousy", but considering he had noticed she hates when people touch her and he saw her hugging and even saw Daniel kissing her a few times, it wasn't irrational for him to think they were a couple)

    Book 3... That's something I can't talk about. In chapter 57, book 2, Ryan talks briefly about it ("If Corey really joined Daniel, he didn't tell him yet that I'm alive. If he had, I'd be dead by now. -He said it as if it didn't matter. -Me and Lucas, we've been discussing about his possible reasons for that, but I couldn't really come to a conclusion, so, whatever it was, unless Daniel is playing the long game and giving me enough rope to hang myself, I'm safe for now.")

    I think Anthony has a lot in his mind right now =P But it will be addressed in the next chapters. About Destiny, something I think I'll only mention in his POV, one of the risks for her is that Daniel might meet her in the Palace. Although they have some info about the place (that it's huge, and looks more like a small city) and that Daniel keeps away from newcomers for safety, there is the risk of him finding out about Destiny getting in and abandoning her mission and everything falling apart. Ryan just hopes they can track her and find the location before that happens.

    Although Noah is not a bad person in essence, he is quite unstable... So, that's the question: when the time comes, what will weight more in his heart? And how will his decision affect Ryan and Belle?
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2022
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  17. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the answers:)


    Now you really have me intrigued:rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:
     
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  18. GiBro

    GiBro Well-Known Member

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    Good morning, dearest readers :love:
    I'm missing you terribly, and bring good news. I believe I'll manage to resume the posts next week ;)
    I'm still revising, but I believe it's good to post. I'll come back on Tuesday with a post or an explanation. Thank you for waiting :love:
     
  19. TZia

    TZia Well-Known Member

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    Patiently waiting:):):)

    I keep checking daily for any updates so this is great news. Thank you:love::love::love:
     
  20. imeren

    imeren Active Member

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    So do I.
    We'll be waiting for your return!:love:
     
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