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(CH2) Chapter 20: Come Outside

Dalen walked up to Ivy’s apartment and rang the doorbell. It took her a moment to answer, but when she did he stepped inside without a word to her. He looked slightly perturbed to be there and Ivy knew it was because of the secret she had been keeping for the past week.

Sitting on the couch, Riane and Julian looked at him but said nothing as he glared down at them. He disapproved of this tactic greatly, but it was his friends and he didn’t want to rat them out.

Ivy had finally told him the truth after he kept calling and asking to come over. Riane and Julian didn’t know they were dating, so she had to tell him no every time. When he finally asked if this was her way of breaking up with him; she had to admit the truth.

Julian and Riane hadn’t been pleased when they found out she told Dalen, but she said he was calling around trying to find them. Another lie for another friend, but Ivy knew it was better if no one knew about their relationship.

Of course, she wasn’t prepared for the distant way Dalen treated her that day as if they were strangers.

He looked at her in a calm, but cold manner. “I am sorry they brought you into this. They shouldn’t have included someone in this childish stunt.”

Without waiting for a reply from her, he walked around the couch to stand before his two friends and stare down at them like an angry father. “Your parents are freaking out. Shouldn’t you call them and tell them you are alright?”

Julian shrugged his shoulders gently, and folded his hands on his lap. “I don’t want them to be a part of this.”

Dalen snorted, “They are a part of this. They are your parents and you didn’t even have the decency to leave a note for them. It was only when they realized Riane had gone missing to did they put the pieces together.”

“They needed to be just as surprised as Riane’s father in order to protect them from his wrath.” He explained further. “Don’t worry, Riane and I aren’t going to stay here long. We just need to figure out where we are going and find a way to get there. After that, you won’t hear from us until we have settled and are out of Simon’s ability to harm us or others.”

Dalen turned his eyes towards Riane, who was just sitting there with her arms folded across her chest and her head down. “Aren’t you the sensible one in this relationship? Couldn’t you have pretended not to be seeing each other and waited until you finished college? Are you two really going to just drop out and lose everything you have worked for?”

She raised her head to look him in the eyes. “Worked for what? A degree I am forced to get because my father can’t stand to let me be who I actually am?”

Ivy stood in the background and stared at Dalen who seemed to forget she was even there. She knew he was dealing with his friends in that moment, but it still felt uncomfortable as if she were nothing to him.

In her heart, she knew it was embarrassing and it was important she be hidden away from others, but she had never actually had Dalen act as if they weren’t a couple in front of people. It was more painful then she realized it would be.

Dalen didn’t know how to respond to Riane’s words, so he sighed to give himself a moment to think. “You two have never been independent or held down a job, how are you going to survive? You can’t use daddy’s credit card forever.”

“I told you, we will figure it out.” Julian snapped.

“Figure it out? That’s not an answer!” Dalen shouted back.

Standing up, Julian stared his friend in the eyes. “Do you think I would honestly tell you our plans? We want to remain hidden and not have someone able to find him the moment Simon can make his life easier.”

“Are you saying I would betray you?” He stepped closer to Julian as he pointed to his own chest.

“I’m saying we can’t trust any one who belongs to that world.” Julian barked.

Riane stood up and squeezed herself between the two of them with her back to Julian. She could see this was going to come to blows and didn’t want anything like that to happen in Ivy’s apartment.

“Dalen, I appreciate you have concern for us, but believe me when I say this is the only way.” She spoke softly.

“The only way? There are plenty of other ways, Riane.”

“Other ways which can get people hurt. My father is an ego maniac and he will make anyone suffer who gets in the way of his plans. We couldn’t allow it to happen to Julian’s family or his friends.” She was tearing up.

“I just...”

“Plus, I couldn’t live that way anymore. I had a moment where I was out of under my father’s thumb. I could finally breathe and find out who I really was and who I might become. He took it all away from me, and shoved me back into a mold. I can’t live like that.”

Dalen ran his hand through his hair and once again sighed. “Fine, if the two of you want to run away together like Romeo and Juliet be my guest. Just remember they died at the end.”

He walked around the couch and opened the front door himself without giving a glance towards Ivy at all. He felt bad ignoring her, but he didn’t want to give off any vibes that they were closer then what others thought.

As he headed down the stairs, the phone in his pocket began to ring and he picked it up without looking at who was calling.

“What?” He snapped.

“Um, hi, Dalen.” Joe’s voice spoke.

Those words stopped him dead in his tracts. Why would Joe be calling him? “What is it?” He was feeling agitated and getting a call from her would not help.

“I wanted to know if you knew were Riane is?” Her voice was shaky as if she was nervous to have called him.

“Why would you want to know? Trying to break the two love birds up again?” He spoke with such disdain.

“No, um, I just picked up Riane’s mother from the airport and she wants to meet with her. I have no idea so I thought maybe you might know, because Seth doesn’t.” She explained hesitantly.

Dalen thought for a moment, “They are staying at Ivy’s.” He hoped Joe wasn’t lying to him and he hadn’t become a traitor after all.
Joe and Neil went into his bedroom; leaving Matilda in the living room. She had called them the evening before and asked about Riane. When Joe told her Riane had runaway with Julian, she immediately got on a plane.

She had picked up the mother from the airport though Matilda seemed wealthy enough to have purchased a ride into town.

It had been over a decade since Joe had seen her last and she looked just as she did in memory. As if time itself had stopped for the woman. Her long red hair curled around her face and her thin figure with perfectly painted nails.

There was a difference though which Joe couldn’t decide if she cared for or not; Matilda seemed genuinely happy. How could she be so happy after losing her daughter to Simon so long ago?

Before her fall out with Simon, Joe remembered Matilda singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Every room she entered was brighter for her presence. She never made anyone feel lesser than her, and Joe had the same feeling for Simon.

He too had always been kind and friendly. It wasn’t until Matilda left that Simon turned into what he was now. Cold and uncaring, unwilling to show any consideration for others. It was as if she kept his harsh evil at bay.

Whatever happened between them, changed him forever.

“Did you find her?” Neil asked in a low hushed tone. He didn’t want Matilda to over hear.

Joe had no idea why he didn’t want her to hear their conversation, but he seemed nervous around the older woman. She wondered if it had to do with how rich she looked. “Yes, Dalen knew where to find her as suspected.”

“You called Dalen?” A little bit of jealousy could be heard in his voice.

She raised an eyebrow, “Yes, I called Dalen. No one else knew where to find her. He was my last resort.”

“You have his number still then?” He questioned.

She was about to explain why she kept it, but suddenly she realized she was defending herself to him and snorted. “Are you seriously acting jealous over one fucking phone call?”

He cleared his throat and shook his head, “No. I am not. It’s stupid. So, we know where to find her then?”

“Yes, she is at Ivy’s apartment with Julian. I think I should call her and leave a message on her phone telling her Matilda is here and wants to meet with her.” She rubbed the phone in her hand.

“I don’t know. If she’s smart, she has turned her phone off so her father can’t track it… or maybe she ditched it entirely.” He licked his bottom lip while he thought for a moment. “Even if she has it and would listen to it, she might think it’s a trap to get her to come out of hiding.”

She sighed, “Then I have no choice but to go over there and speak to her face to face.”

“Do you know where Ivy lives?”

Joe shook her head, and held her phone tightly in one hand. “No, but I’ll just text Dalen and I’m sure he’ll tell me.”

He looked towards the door over his shoulder and then back to Joe. “Why don’t you just take Matilda with you?”

She looked at him wide eyed, “I know she intimidates you, but I am not just shoving Matilda on Riane after all this time. It should be Riane’s decision whether or not she wants to meet with a mother who abandoned her.”

He gave a slight nod. “Yeah, I guess you are right. It wouldn’t be very friendly thing to do.” He sighed and put his hands in his pocket. “Have you told Riane you are the reason all this happened yet?”

Joe frowned at his question, “No! And I am not going to either. My relationship with her is strained enough, and she finds out it was me… well, I don’t think it would be something we could repair.”

“It’s already in disrepair. Maybe the truth will help with the mending process instead.”

Running her hand through her hair, she took a breath to calm herself before speaking. “Let’s deal with one problem at a time, shall we?”

“Fair enough.”

Though he agreed to drop the subject, Neil was unhappy with the result of the conversation. He had been trying to get her to admit what she had done to Riane for a while now, but Joe flat out refused to do it.

It would be unfair of him to tell Riane directly, and he wondered if she would even believe him. He also knew it would probably mean the end of his relationship with Joe.

Still, he felt like this was something that would eat Joe up for a long time, and the longer she waited to tell it, the harder it would be to admit finally admit it to her friend.

He thought years from now, they might have a good relationship again, but it would be built on a horrible act Joe committed. If Riane ever found out from her father, then it would send the whole thing crumbling down.

Joe could see the concern in Neil’s eyes. She placed her hand on his shoulder gently and offered him a halfhearted smile. “I know you think you know what is best for me and Riane, but things have been difficult between her and I since Julian came into our lives.”

“I know, but...”

Joe interrupted in a more firm tone. “I don’t think piling it on right now will help anything.”

This wasn’t an argument he was going to win tonight. Right now, he needed to help Joe get Riane and Matilda together.

“Do you want me to come with you to Ivy’s?” He asked knowing she wouldn’t want them to leave Matilda all alone.

“No, I don’t think it would be wise. Riane doesn’t exactly like you.”

He chuckled, “I think hate is probably an accurate word for it.”

Joe inhaled, “I doubt Riane hates anyone, but she didn’t like you when we were younger and she certainly doesn’t like you now. I think you just rub her the wrong way.”

He nodded. “So, does Matilda have a hotel she can go to, because this is a one bedroom and I doubt she’ll want to sleep on the couch.”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask her. Let’s get this show on the road.” She walked over to the door and opened it.

“I hope it works out.”

“Me too.”
Ivy was sitting on her couch with Julian and Riane after Dalen had left. They were watching a sitcom, when Ivy’s phone in her hand buzzed. She looked at the screen which turned on when she got the message, and saw it was from Dalen.

“Come outside.” It read.

Standing up, Ivy stretched her legs. “I’m going to run to the store real quick. I’ll be back soon.” It was the only lie she could come up with, but it didn’t seem like Julian and Riane cared much.

Stepping outside, she shut the door behind her and then remembered she didn’t grab her keys. It was unlocked, so she opened it back up as the two looked towards her. She smiled sheepishly, “I forgot my keys.”

Riane chuckled, but Julian seemed uninterested and returned to watch the television.

Grabbing her keys from the kitchen counter, Ivy hurried her way downstairs to the parking lot, where she found Dalen leaning against his car. He stood up straight when she came into sight and pulled his hands out of his jean pockets.

She smiled as she approached him and he held out his arms to give her a hug, which she happily accepted. When she stepped back, she could see the unhappy look upon his face.

“What’s wrong?” She asked with concern.

“I wanted to apologize for treating you like a stranger in there. I felt terrible the entire time. So, I am sorry.” He told her as he held her hands in his own.

She shrugged her shoulders, “We have to keep this quiet for now, and who knows how Julian would react since he and I sort of dated.”

Dalen took a deep breath, “I’m glad you understand. I was worried I hurt your feelings irreparably.”

She didn’t know if she wanted to tell him her feelings had been hurt. After all, she didn’t want to seem like she was incapable of doing this. She was already dating a younger man who was wealthy and she didn’t want to add drama to the mix as well.

“No, I’m fine.” She said with a smile.

Dalen looked down at her as if he didn’t really believe her. “If you weren’t you would tell me, right?”

“Right.” She lied.

“Because I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken.” He kept a hold of her hands and looked over her shoulder a couple times to make sure no one was coming.

It was an act which didn’t go unnoticed by Ivy, and this caused her to feel embarrassed of herself.

“Don’t worry, Dalen. I know I am an embarrassment.” The words slipped out of her mouth before she could even realize what she was really saying.

Dalen quickly looked surprised. “An embarrassment?” He asked with shock and even a little bit of pain in his voice.

“Yeah, the older chick with no money, who used to shoot whatever money she had up her arm or suck it into her lungs.”

Dalen looked surprised by her response.

“I know I am not the type of person who would get introduced to parents, and this is all just a fling until something better comes along. I am not delusional, Dalen.” She tried to keep any emotion out of her voice, but somewhere along the way it broke once or twice.

“That’s not the reason at all. I am just worried about Julian’s reaction. We will tell people when Julian is in a better emotional state… or not in this state at all would be a better solution.” He gently squeezed her hands.

“I see.”

“It has nothing to do with you, Ivy. I swear. I just don’t want to deal with Julian’s childish behavior. Not just yet anyway.” He could see he was not convincing her in the least and he sighed.

Ivy tried her best to smile at him. “Don’t worry. I believe you.”

“Come on.” He grabbed Ivy’s hand and started walking towards her apartment, but Ivy immediately tried to dig her feet into the ground.

She yanked at her hand with all of her might. “What are you doing? Stop!” She finally pulled her hand away.

Dalen spoke in a lowered voice. “Would you mind not screaming like that? People might call the cops on us thinking you are being attacked.”

Ivy looked around the apartment complex a little embarrassed. “What are you doing?”

He took her hand again, “Trust me.”

She walked behind him but still holding his hand as they rushed up the stairs to her front door. She thought he might hesitate a bit, but he opened the door quickly.

Julian and Riane looked up from their positions on the couch. Both looked a little confused to see Dalen had returned.

“I am not going to discuss this with you anymore!” Julian shouted as he leaned forwards looking as if he was going to stand up.

“I am dating Ivy.” Dalen announced ignoring his friend’s unnecessary anger towards him.

“What?” Riane asked.

“Ivy is my girlfriend. I am dating Ivy. I didn’t tell you, because well I thought it would be weird since Julian used to date her.” He explained further.

Julian stared at them for a moment, before leaning back on the couch. “Who the fuck cares?” He said nonchalantly and returned to his show.

“Congratulations.” Riane said with a smile. “How did you two get together? I thought you barely knew each other.”

Dalen realized the reason he and Ivy had become close was because Ivy was spying on Riane for him. “Uh, um.”

“He helped me out with a job, and I paid for coffee afterwards. We just liked each other since then.” Ivy stepped in not wanting her friend to know she had been reporting back to Dalen about her well being, even if there was nothing untoward about it.

“Oh, that’s sweet. Well, good luck.” Riane turned her attention back towards the show.

Dalen and Ivy stepped back outside and headed down the stairs so they wouldn’t be so close to the door.

He smiled when they reached the bottom, “Well, it looks like I had nothing to worry about. I feel quite silly right now.”

Ivy gave a genuine smile, “Am I really your girlfriend?”

“Yes. That’s what I said, isn’t it?”
Emma had been texting Riane ever since she learned she had disappeared, but Riane only ever replied back once. She simply stated she was fine and she would tell her more later.

However, this answer didn’t have the calming effect Riane had hoped. Instead, Emma was in a constant state of worry. She didn’t know much about Riane’s father, but she knew he was a complete asshole.

The stories the guys told about him almost made him seem like a true villain. He was supposed to be ruthless when he didn’t get what he wanted.

He’ll spend his time buying up shares of companies that screw him over in order to destroy them, or take them over completely. He would get people and companies he had power over to shun them if buying shares didn’t work.

Then there was the way he treated his own daughter. It was as if she was some sort of burden he wanted to get rid of, but still remain in control of every single action she made.

Riane told her once she felt his anger at her was towards her mother more than her, but it was still unfair. Whatever had happened between them happened when Riane was a small child, and shouldn’t have been placed upon her.

She wondered if that man even loved his daughter at all. Riane said he treated her brother just as harshly, but it felt more like a fatherly way then the dictatorship she lived under.

When she heard Julian and Riane had run away together, Emma had been somewhat relieved until she thought of what that might mean. Riane’s father might stop at nothing to locate her and force her to do his will.

She wondered how many people she knew would be hurt in the process. Then she loathed herself for doubting her friends and for not wanting their happiness.

Living in her own head, Emma didn’t noticed when Seth entered into the cafe and ordered his coffee. She didn’t even realize he had sat down and had spoken her name a couple times. She finally snapped out of it, when he snapped his fingers in front of her eyes.

“Oh, Seth.” She said with a gentle smile and a light giggle, “I didn’t even noticed you arrived.”

“Yeah, it was like you were living in your own little world. Everything alright?” He leaned back from the table when the server placed the coffee in front of him, and gave a thank you.

Emma sighed, “I am just worried over Julian and Riane right now.”

“Everyone is.” He took a sip of his coffee. “You didn’t order yourself anything?”

“Oh, I already finished my latte before you arrived.” This was her own way of telling him he was late.

“Yeah, sorry. My parents wanted to have a chat with me, and they didn’t seem to care I was late for our date.”

She slowly nodded her head before she sighed before seeming to ignore his comment. “I am afraid Riane’s father might go nuclear and start hurting everyone. I hear he is so controlling and he could easily cause trouble for everyone involved.”

“We can deal with those things as they come. Right now, we just have to make sure we stay out of it as best we can. That way we can’t be implicated in it. This is why they didn’t tell us where they are or anything about their plans.” He reached across the table and took her hand in his own.

“I don’t know. I am just so worried. I even have a hard time sleeping, because I just can’t stop thinking about it and it’s driving me crazy.” She pulled her hand away from him and rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“Ok, how about thinking about something else?”

“Like what?” She looked up at him.

“My mother has invited you to dinner next weekend. She wants to meet you and try giving you a chance.” He watched her face turn from worried to horrified.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She spoke quite loudly.

“This was even her own idea,” He shrugged, “or at least my father presented it to me as her own idea.”

Emma slowly shook her head, “No, I don’t want to put myself through that. She was horrible.”

“I know, I know, but she is just a snob like that. She must have discussed things over with my dad and he probably told her what a good person you are. She is making an effort here, so please don’t reject her.” He put his hands together as if to beg her. “I’ll get down on my knees if I have to.”

“If I say yes, I’ll never sleep until the dinner is over. I’m having enough problems with that right now.”

“Please, Emma, please!”

Emma stared into his begging eyes for several moments, before sighing in defeat. “Fine, but I swear if she comes at me, I’m going to lose it.”

Seth chuckled. “Don’t worry. I am sure she’ll be on her best behavior.” He took another drink of his coffee.

“So, what do you want to do tonight?” Emma asked trying to get her mind off the dinner and her friend’s dilemma.

Seth shrugged, “Since you said yes to dinner with my mom. Why don’t you pick something? Anything at all. I’m paying.”

“You always pay.”

He smirked, “Then do you want to pay. I did say anything at all.”

Emma crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. “Don’t be a dick.” She sighed once more as she thought about what she wanted to do. “Honestly, I don’t really want to do anything.”

“Do you want to go to your place and watch a movie then?” He cocked his head to the side. He was worried about his girlfriend, but he didn’t want their entire date to be dark and dreary.

She shrugged. “I guess.”

“That’s a no if I ever heard one.”

“I just don’t feel like doing anything right now, Seth. I told you I haven’t been sleeping very well lately.”

“Alright, are you hungry? Do you want to get something to eat before heading home?” He watched her look up at him. “Like pizza?”

“Well, if it’s pizza, then maybe.”
It had taken some prodding of Dalen to get him to give Joe the address of Ivy’s new apartment. He had been willing to tell her where it was, but he had been hesitate to believe her story.

Honestly, Joe didn’t think she would have believed herself either. She was rather surprised when he offered it over to her as she thought she might have to dig deeper or even find Ivy working at the store.

Standing in front of the building now, Joe was slightly afraid to face her friend again. They hadn’t spoken in months and she feared Riane might know she was behind this entire mess, but she had to remind herself she was trying to fix things with her. She hunted down Riane’s mom in order to make this up to her.

Walking up the stairs, she stopped half way as her heart started beating quickly in her chest.

“It’s Riane, not a tiger.” Joe mumbled to herself.

Heading up the remainder of the way, she stared at the door for several long moments. What if Ivy denied she was here? What if she wasn’t going to let her in? What if Dalen lied and this was all a way to get her into trouble somehow?

She took a deep breath and reminded herself Dalen wasn’t a vindictive person, and if he said Riane was here then here she was.

Lifting her hand to knock, she saw a doorbell button and hurried to push it before she lost her nerve. She realized there was a peephole and Ivy might not even open the door for her.

Then she heard the movement coming from inside the apartment, and she realized Riane and Julian were probably hiding before Ivy opened the door.

Once the door open, Ivy looked at her with a raised eyebrow as if she didn’t know who she was. “Yes?”

Joe wasn’t going to have any of this and hurried to push herself inside. “Where are they?”

“Get out of my home!” Ivy barked. “You were not invited in!”

“I’m not a vampire! Just because you don’t invite me doesn’t mean I can’t walk in here freely. That’s how breaking and entering is done.” Joe snapped though she had no clue what she was saying. It was as if those strange words just sprung from her imagination and had to be spoken.

Ivy looked shocked by her response, “What?”

Joe spotted the hallway which lead to the bathroom door and bedroom door. While Ivy was stunned, she hurried down the hall and opened one of the doors. The bathroom was first and it was empty, then she opened the bedroom door and found Riane and Julian sitting on the bed.

She stepped inside with Ivy running in behind her.

“I’m so sorry, guys.” Ivy apologized.

“It’s not your fault.” Riane sighed. “We shouldn’t have put you in this position. I’m sorry.”

“No, I am your friend. I wanted to help.” Ivy frowned.

“I’m not here on your father’s behalf! Stop apologizing like you have been caught!” Joe barked.

Julian stood taken aback by the room full of apologizing and yelling women. He decided this was one he wanted to stay out of, and his phone buzzed as this decision was made. There was a voice message from his dad.

“I have to go listen to this.” He announced even though he was sure no one was listening to him.

“Why are you bursting into Ivy’s apartment and searching for us then?” Riane stood from the bed.

“I wouldn’t have to of fucking done it if you would have answered your damn phone! I’ve been your best friend all your life and when you disappear, you don’t think to let me know you are at least alright?” She crossed her arms.

“We didn’t want to involve anyone my father could hurt. Ivy is protected by Dalen, so her job would have been safe.” Riane explained. “And that still doesn’t explain why you are so desperate to find me!”

“I found your mom.” Joe explained and watched Riane’s face go white. “When you went missing, she flew out here to see you. She says she has information she wants you to have, and it might help with your situation.”

“Why would I do anything for her? She abandoned me and has barely looked back.” Riane crossed her arms.

Joe took a deep breath, “There are circumstances you were not made aware of. Like your father wouldn’t let her see you, and every time she tried he would make hell for her and her family.”

Ivy slipped out of the room as she realized this was not a conversation she should be taking part in.

Riane looked upset and slowly sat back down on the bed. She seemed to think for a moment. “So, she left me alone with an abuser because she didn’t want to lose anything other than me?”

Joe walked over to the bed and sat down beside her. “Maybe you should talk to her yourself? I am not capable of defending her. I believe she should do it herself. I have talked to her and she does have a rather remarkable story about what happened, but it’s not my place to tell it to you.”

Looking at Joe, Riane slowly shook her head. “No, I don’t think I want to meet her after all this time.”

“I’ll text you the time and place for later tonight. If you don’t show up, I’m sure she’ll understand.”

Joe stood from the bed and pulled her phone out of her back pocket, before texting out the information and sending it to Riane’s phone. “There.”

“My phone is off in case my dad can track it.” Riane explained, “So, I don’t want to turn it on and have him find me. Send it to Julian.”

“I wish you would have told me that before I wrote the whole thing out.” Joe told her annoyed, but then just copied and pasted it to Julian. “Alright, there.”

“I don’t know, Joe.”

“Please, just think about it. You can bring Julian and it’s a nice quiet park. There shouldn’t be anyone around to spot you and report to your father. I’ve thought this through, I promise you.” Joe begged.

Taking a big breath, Riane thought for a moment. “I’ll talk it over with Julian and see what he thinks.”

“Alright, sounds good.”

After leaving Riane and Joe to argue, Julian went into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He dialed the number for his voicemail and listened to what he knew would be a message from his father.

“Julian, I need you to call me. It’s an emergency.” That was all Colin said before hanging up, but his father’s voice sounded rushed and upset.

A thousand thoughts ran through his mind. Could his mother or brothers be ill or injured? What could his father so desperately need him for?

He knew he promised Riane no contact, but she was already breaking it by talking to Joe. Knowing he couldn’t go on without ensuring the health of his family, he called his father.

Colin picked up quickly, “Are you alright?” He asked before Julian even spoke a single word.

“Yes, I’m fine, dad. Is everything alright?” Julian asked with concern in his voice as he dropped the lid of the toilet down and used it as a chair. “Is Mom, Bryce, and Zack ok?”

“They are fine. Don’t worry about them. Your Mom actually thinks what you have done is very brave, but she is worried about you.” His dad’s voice sounded shaken. “We were trying to devise a way to get you a credit card which couldn’t be linked to us.”

“You were? Did it not pan out?”

Colin took a deep ragged breath, “Riane’s father came over for a visit. He didn’t believe we had no idea about what you two were planning, nor did he believe we didn’t know where you are.”

“Well, you don’t and I am not going to tell you.” Julian felt odd about this conversation and part of him wondered if Simon was listening to them right at that moment.

“Simon doesn’t think it’s true and he has threatened to act against us if Riane isn’t returned to him.” He swallowed.

“She isn’t an object to return to anyone. Riane and I did this together, and I am sorry you are caught in the middle, but we are not coming back.” Julian spoke firmly but calmly.

Colin spend a moment quiet and it felt almost as if he was silently speaking to someone in the room. Finally, he spoke. “I spoke to the Fulkes and they have agreed to a match up between you and Adonia.”

Julian scoffed.

“I thought you liked her. That’s what Bryce said.” His father was sounding more desperate.

“At one point in time I did, but do you not understand I love Riane? You are trying to bribe me with a stalker, when I already have everything I want.” He stood up from the toilet as he prepared to argue.


“Why are you doing this? I thought you said Mom was happy about this.” Julian wanted to hang up the phone, but he suspected his father was in a precarious situation and he didn’t want to do anything to disprove his father’s word to Simon. If Simon was even really listening in.

“Julian,” His father’s voice changed into a firm tone. “if you do not return home, I will revoke all your credit cards and I will not allow you an inheritance. You will be all alone in this world.”

“I will have Riane and we will figure it out.” He said defiantly.

Colin chuckled, “You have got to be kidding me! You haven’t lived a hard day in your life. You have no idea what the real world is like and neither does she.”

“Yeah, well we have friends who do. So don’t you worry about us.” He raised his voice.

Colin’s voice was becoming irritated. “You will lose everything, Julian. I will not have a change of heart down the line.”

“You can keep your fortune, I’ll make my own.”

Another voice spoke which confirmed Julian’s suspicions that Simon had been listening in. “Julian, if you do not return my daughter, I…”

“I don’t give a shit what you do, old man. Riane is finished with you and your abuse. I will never let her go back into your clutches.” Julian tried his best not to scream because he didn’t want to alert anyone else in the apartment.

“That would be unwise.” Simon growled.

“We will find a place you can’t harm us, or perhaps we will just go public with our story and see how well the news articles paint you. No matter what it takes, you are going to leave us alone.” He snapped.

There was a moment of silence before Simon spoke again. “You will regret this decision, and I will ensure your father follows through on his threats today. Do you understand me?”

“I already said to go ahead. Do your worst.” Julian hung up the phone and looked in the mirror.

His body was tense and he made a move to throw his phone, but remembered there would be no replacement so he stopped himself.

Should he tell Riane about the phone call? She would probably just guilt herself into going back so not to hurt him. No, he would have to wait until they were already too far in to go back.

He didn’t like the idea of keeping things from her, but he didn’t need another self sacrificing moment from her. They had made this decision to be together and it would be through whatever Simon decided to throw at them.

He needed to calm down before he could go back out there and see what the conclusion of Joe and Riane’s conversation had been.

Putting his phone down on the counter, he turned on the cold water and splashed his face a couple times. He stared into the mirror again as he watched the water droplets fall from his chin and jaw into the sink below.

Again, he splashed his face as if he was trying to wash away the entirety of the conversation he had just had. The droplets fell once more, before he decided it would have to be enough.

Turning around he grabbed the small towel of the wall rack and rubbed it all over his face until it was dry. The pressure with which he did it left several red marks across his nose and cheeks.

He sighed as he picked up his phone from the counter and swallowed down any feelings he was having in the moment.

Right now, Riane needed him to focus on what was going on with her and not the other way around.
Seth and Emma had arrived at Dalen’s home only to find he wasn’t home. The maid who knew them let them in, even though Seth had his own key to the property. Dalen didn’t mind them coming over when he wasn’t there, so the two could have space to themselves.

Heading for the living room, Seth found a movie for them to watch while Emma made popcorn in the kitchen. Some of the staff eyed them, but for the most part they left them alone.

Once the aroma of popcorn filled the kitchen, Emma added her favorite powdered cheese topping along with some butter. She had forgotten to ask if Seth minded the cheese, so she felt a little guilty when he didn’t seem too thrilled about it. Although, he said nothing and ate it anyway.

Of course, Emma wasn’t too thrilled with the movie he had chosen. She had told him over and over again, she didn’t care for the science fiction theme. Seth seemed hell bent on making her like it, but since he said nothing about the cheese, she decided to bare with the two hour movie.

Seth could see she was not happy when she saw the title screen. “It’s got romance and action… and it’s really funny.” He said trying to sell her on the idea.

Emma sat down next to him on the couch and placed the popcorn bowl on the table. “Have you seen it before?”

“Uh, like eight or nine times. It’s really good. I think you’ll enjoy this with me.” He said with excitement.

“Wouldn’t it be better to watch something neither of us have seen?” She spoke the words and wished she hadn’t, after all she didn’t want to start a fight but she had already said to herself she would watch whatever he picked.

“Every time you watch it you see something new you didn’t notice before.” His enthusiasm was starting to wane.

Emma cleared her throat and decided she was already down the rabbit hole. “I know, but every time you show me a movie you really love, you spend the entire time looking at me. You try to see if I am laughing or enjoying it, and when I don’t you start to pout.”

The lack of enthusiasm on Seth’s face in that moment broke her heart. She could tell she had upset him and wished she could take her words back, no matter how true they had been.

Seth took a deep breath and looked towards the television, “Well then, what do you want to watch?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Emma ignored his question as she wanted to salvage their date.

He shook his head, “No, it’s fine.”

It wasn’t fine anyone could see that.

Emma sucked on her bottom lip briefly, “See I told you that you pout, and I didn’t even have to watch the movie in order for you to do it.” She knew this sentence wouldn’t help, but she could think of nothing else to say.

“I’m not pouting.” Seth spoke quietly.

“Yes, you are. You aren’t looking at me and you have your arms folded over your chest. You are pouting.” Emma tried not to laugh at his denial of the situation as she knew it would only make things worse.

He turned his attention towards her, “I am just trying to share with you the things I love, and you reject them without ever giving them a shot. I just want us to have a hobby or something in common.”

“Fine, I want us to have something in common like this too, but it can’t be science fiction movies. That is entirely your own thing which I would never take away from you, but we don’t have to like everything the other person likes. I mean do you want to eat sushi with me later?” She couldn’t believe they were actually going to have a debate about this as the popcorn grew cold.

Seth’s look of disgust on his face was the only answer she needed. She knew he hated raw fish.

“Exactly, science fiction to me is sushi, so please stop trying to force feed it to me. I don’t like it, and you can’t make me.” She pleaded.

Seth exhaled, “Alright, fine. I get it. If you love someone don’t make them do things they don’t want to do. Then what do you want to watch?”

“I don’t know, maybe we have comedy in common. It would be fun to laugh together.”

He nodded, and began to look through the movie selection on the screen, but his voice had been flat. “Sure, we can try that.”

“Do you not like comedy movies?” She asked starting to feel frustrated with this entire situation.

He lowered the remote and looked towards her. “Eh, I have just never been into comedy without substance. It is why I like science fiction because there is an interesting plot, and not just a jokes centered around a mind numbing plot which had been told over and over again.”

“Ok, fine. Well, you have already said no to romance and drama, and I don’t like action as it’s too violent most of the time.” She sighed, before giggling. “I think we are learning we can’t watch movies with each other.”

Seth chuckled, “Yeah, maybe so.”

The front door slammed shut and Dalen appeared in the living room. He looked at the two of them with an intensity on his face which told them both to be weary of the man.

“Uh, the movie theater was really crowded so we thought we’d watch a movie here.” Seth explained.

After several moments, he blurted out. “Ivy is my girlfriend!” His voice was very loud, but not loud enough to be considered yelling.

“Ok.” Emma spoke the word slowly. “Um, congratulations?”

“Yeah,” Seth took his lead from her. “congratulations.”

Dalen looked between them for a moment, before heading into the kitchen and seemed to have decided to cook dinner. The couple in the living room hoped it would be for everyone.

“I don’t know why he had to be so intense about such an announcement for.” She said with surprise in her voice.

Seth shrugged in agreement with her.
Julian had stepped out of the bathroom right as Joe was walking out of the bedroom and down the hall. She didn’t say anything to him as she passed by nor did she even looking at him.

He hadn’t really given it much thought, but as the moment occurred he realized how little interaction he had had with Joe. The thought that she didn’t like him came to him, but he simply shrugged his shoulders. He did not care.

Instead, he decided to see what Joe had told Riane. So, he made his way down the hall to the bedroom door which was slightly ajar.

Pushing it open gently, he found Riane sitting on the bed. She didn’t look like she had been crying, but she did seem emotionally drained.

“Is everything alright?” He asked as he made his way over to the bed and sat down beside her.

Riane was staring at the white closet door in front of her, and it seemed she hadn’t even realized he had entered the room until he sat down.

“Huh?” She grunted as she looked over towards him.

She had only half heard him and she thought she knew what he had asked but wasn’t certain.

Julian brushed some hair out of her face, “Are you alright?” He asked and understood he had been right about her being in a daze.

She nodded her head slowly, “Yeah, um, Joe found my mom.”

He sat quietly for a moment, “Oh?”

“She is, well, she’s here… in town. I… She wants to see me, but I don’t know if I want to see her.” Riane wrapped her arms around herself as if she was giving herself a hug.

He noticed this and put his arm around her shoulder, and pulled her closer to him so she could lay her head on his shoulder. She cuddled right in without any fight. He kissed the top of her head before laying his cheek on her head then speaking. “You have to do what is right for you.”

“I know, but Joe says my mother has some things to say to me, and I do want to hear what they are. I just wish she just sent a letter instead of making me see her face to face.” Riane’s voice cracked a little as she spoke.

“Would you like me to go instead and find out what she has to say?” He offered even though he knew she would not agree.

Riane shook her head, “No, if I am going to hear her out then I need to be there to ask questions.”

The two sat in comfort for several moments. Julian knew she had to work this out in her mind so she could feel comfortable going into this anxiety filled moment. There was little he could do other than follow her plan to the letter.

He wanted to offer her several different solutions, but he knew if she didn’t come up with the plan herself she might bow out at the last minute. This needed to be something she convinced herself of as it would help her anxiety.

Even though he had pushed her to do better before understanding her predicament, he now understood she had been too polite to tell him no. Although, she had admitted it helped in someways, because he didn’t worry about her anxiety as much as the others.

This memory made him realize he was doing exactly what Joe and Blake had done for most of her life.

“Why don’t you go and if you don’t like what you are hearing, you can signal me and I’ll come snatch you away?”

Riane chuckled, “Snatch me away?”

“Yeah, I’ll be all pretend jealous boyfriend and run in there.” He joked. “Demand you come with me and pull you away.”

“Even if I don’t want my mom in my life, I wouldn’t want her first impression of you to be jealous boyfriend.” She reached out and took his free hand in her own.

He kissed the top of her head once more, and sighed as he laid his cheek back on it.

Riane mimicked his sigh. “I guess my only real option is to sit down and talk to her. I guess I have to be an adult about this, and understand a child’s eyes only sees what it understands. Maybe there was more going on than I knew.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

She nodded her head.

“Then I will.”

Riane pulled away from his embrace and looked at him with a gentle smile, before leaning forward and planting a kiss on his lips. “Thanks, Julian.”

“It’s all part of the boyfriend job list. Emotional support? Check!” He smiled back at her.

“Oh!” She said with a little more enthusiasm in her voice. “Joe sent the information to your phone since mine is off.”

“She did?” He pulled the phone from his back pocket, “I was on the phone when she sent it probably, so I didn’t notice.”

Riane gave a slight nod.

“It’s at the usual coffee spot in a couple of hours.” He told her after looking at the message. “How does Joe have my number?”

“I gave it to her when we first became friends. Just in case something was happening or I got lost or… the usual bullshit of Joe wanting to be able to contact anyone I hang out with is more likely the truth.” Riane spoke half upset and half humored.

He decided not to say anything, because bad mouthing Joe was probably a bad idea. “Are you certain you want to go through with this?”

“Joe says she has something to say to me, and maybe it’s important. I just need to know the truth, and my father will never give it to me.” She rang her hands a couple times.

“Alright, then we should eat first just in case you decide you don’t want to stay. Do you want to change or take a shower?”

“I am not going on a first date with her. This is my mother, we are talking about.” Riane chuckled.

“I’m just trying to help you prevent anxiety over this. If you are doing something to keep your mind off of it, then you might not think about it too much.”

Riane rolled her eyes, “And you think a shower, where most people do most of their thinking is the right place for me?”

Julian thought for a moment, “Ok, fine probably not my finest idea, but still we should be doing something.”

Riane put  her hand on his cheek, “If you are there with me, I’ll be fine. I promise. Stop worrying so much, or you’ll be the one giving me anxiety.”
Kalei and Parker were sitting in a small restaurant waiting on Adonia who had called them together. The place served Mexican food and as soon as they sat down some tortilla chips and house made salsa was placed on the table. Normally, they would wait until the customer had ordered, but the three girls were common patrons which the staff recognized on sight and, therefore, trusted.

The place, itself, only sat six tables and was mostly a take out place. In fact, the one waitress they had worked behind the meat deli where they sold flavored raw meats for grilling and what not. The rest of the place was filled with ingredients for making your own food at home.

“The usual?” Linda, the waitress, asked as she approached the table and placed utensils down wrapped in paper napkins.

Parker nodded, “Yeah, and Adonia’s as well.”

“Coming right up.” Linda smiled at them before heading back into the tiny kitchen.

Parker was the chili relleno and Kalei always got the chicken enchiladas with the chili Colorado sauce.

Adonia was always the pain in the ass with her meals and would order a deconstructed carne asada burrito. They would have to bring all the ingredients for making the burrito out separated on a plate, and not actually in the burrito. She would then pulled the tortilla apart into pieces and pick and choose what each bite would have on it.

The staff didn’t seem to mind, however, and always accommodated Adonia whenever she had a ridiculous request. Within reason, of course.

“The way she talked on the phone made it sound like she was almost here.” Kalei sighed.

Parker nodded, but knew Adonia often got distracted and probably stopped somewhere to buy something or, at the very least, look at it.“Did she sound excited to you?”

“She did. Seems like she has good news, which is nice because I am tired of her sulking around and bringing down the room.” Kalei dipped a tortilla chip in the salsa, but she didn’t scoop up any of the sauce just whatever stuck to the chip.

Watching her friend eat in a way Parker deemed wrong caused a mild annoyance, but she didn’t say anything about it. Right now was the time to focus on Adonia and whatever was going on with her.

“I am really hoping this isn’t another crazy scheme. I can’t believe she followed them to Hawaii. I get embarrassed just thinking about it, and I had nothing to do with it.” Parker grabbed a chip and scooped a large amount of salsa up.

“A little bit of tortilla chip to go with your salsa, huh?” Kalei commented, but Parker was chewing and couldn’t answer, which allowed Kalei to continue the conversation. “I just don’t get it. She hated Julian before, but then she was suddenly obsessed with him. I thought maybe it was because of Blake and she wanted to ruin Julian’s relationship, but they were broken up and she still tries to hang around him.” She sighed and dipped another chip. “I mean is it because he stopped liking her and she liked the attention all along?”

“I don’t pretend to know her mind.” Parker told her with annoyance since Kalei had commented on her eating habits. “You know the salsa is lower calorie and healthier than the tortilla chip? You should fill up on salsa not chips if you want to keep your frame.”

Kalei was about to respond, when Adonia came running through the door and sat down at the four chair table between them.

“I have great news!” She clasped her hands together.

Her two friends looked between each other and then back to her as they waited for her to blurt it out, but it seemed Adonia wanted it coaxed out of her.

“Well?” Parker widened her eyes when she spoke.

“Yes, tell us what it is!” Kalei demanded.

Adonia smiled brightly, “Julian’s dad called and wants to arrange a marriage with me. I mean between Julian and me, not me and him, of course.”

Both of her friend’s hearts dropped the moment she said that man’s name and they exchanged looks which told each other it was time for truth bombs.

“Adonia, he ran away with Riane.” Parker reminded her.

Kalei nodded in agreement, “Yeah, I mean do you really want to force him into something with you when he clearly loves someone else?”

Adonia continued to smile, “He loves one thing more than people. Money. His entire inheritance will only be given to him if he chooses to marry me. Otherwise, he won’t have anything.”

Parker put her elbow on the table and covered her mouth with the hand. She was exhausted by her friend and just didn’t know what to say anymore. She no longer recognized the person in front of her.

“What is going on?” Kalei asked which was something Parker was thinking in her own head.

“What do you mean?” Adonia asked as they brought out their plates of food. The conversation came to a lull while the table was filled with their meals. “Thank you, Linda.”

“My pleasure.” She smiled, “More waters?”

Parker and Kalei both nodded.

Adonia watched her walk away, before turning back to them. “What do you mean?”

“I mean you hated Julian. Now suddenly you want him and obsessively so, we just don’t understand.” Parker explained.

“Yeah, what changed?” Kalei added.

Adonia sat for a moment with an amused look on her lips as their water cups were refilled, when they were finally alone she answered. “I want that bitch to pay.”

“What?” Both girls asked in shock.

“She took my man from me and broke my heart. I want her to know what it feels like to have the man you love be in love with someone else. To watch him follow her around like a little lap dog, and know he won’t ever return to her.” Adonia spoke with glee in her voice.

“Even if that means marrying him?” Kalei could barely comprehend what she was hearing.

“Especially. That would be the ultimate form and never returning, wouldn’t it?” Adonia began to tear her tortilla up into little pieces.

Parker and Kalei looked at each other, unsure of what to say next. So, they decided nothing would be best.
Riane held onto Julian’s hand tightly once they left the car and began to walk towards the coffee shop. He felt her stop walking several times, but she continued after a split second of thought. Had she stopped completely, he would have done so with her, but he knew she was fighting a battle inside her own mind in that moment. She didn’t need his words; only her own.

Inside, Joe popped up from a booth and waved them over. She sat back down next to the older red haired woman.

When Riane and Julian arrived at the table, Matilda smiled at her, and seemed to have wanted to get up to hug Riane even though Joe was in the way. Sensing this, Riane hurried into the booth and Julian sat down beside her.

Riane offered her mother no smile and pulled her hand away when her mother reached for it.

“You look so beautiful, Riane. I have received pictures, but they do not do you justice.” Matilda told her with a look of hurt from her daughter’s rejection.

“I was told you have something to say to me.” Riane replied coldly; she wasn’t going to allow this woman to win her over.

Matilda looked towards Joe, who patted her shoulder in order to give the older woman confidence.

Julian did something similar by holding one of Riane’s hands under the table. She squeezed his hand tightly which somewhat hurt, but Julian didn’t wince at the pain.

“Shall we get some coffee first?” Matilda suggested.

“No, it’s too late for coffee.” Riane replied. “If you have something to say, please say it, or I will take my leave now.”

Joe stood from the booth, “I’ll get us something.” Her eyes turned towards Julian, “Why don’t you come with me and give them some privacy?”

“Fuck off.” He replied.

Joe gave a firm nod as if she had been expecting the reply and walked towards the short line.

Matilda looked towards the young man sitting next to her daughter, “You must be Julian. I hear...”

“Don’t worry about my boyfriend. What did you need to say?” Riane said quickly but firmly.

Taking a deep breath, Matilda began to speak as she knew that was probably Riane’s final warning. “I want to answer all the questions you have about why I left and why your father has turned into such a cold man.”

“I see. Go on.” Riane loosened her hold on Julian’s hand a little.

“When your father and I first met, we were very much in love, but there was one thing he loved more than anything else. His work. I tried desperately to get pregnant but I had a medical condition and your father was gone a great deal, which made it harder to get pregnant. Then one day the test came back positive and I was ecstatic.” Matilda cleared her throat. “When I told your father, he became a completely different person. He changed his work hours so he could spend time with me during the pregnancy, and after you were born well we barely needed the nanny.” She told her with a smile.

“Everything was going so well, but I was keeping a secret from him. My home was finally happy and we were together, however it was built on a lie. You see, fearful that I would never have a child with how your father was always gone, I cheated on him. I don’t suppose you remember your Uncle Mike?”

Riane slowly shook her head as she barely processed what her mother was saying to her.

“Well, Mike was your father’s best friend. He always came over to check on me and I let my weakness get the better of me. After seeing your father and how much he loved you, I couldn’t bare to keep the lie going for eternity. Mike had moved across the country because of the guilt he felt, and I did not tell him I suspected the child was his… that you were his.” Matilda could barely look her daughter in the eyes.

“Are you saying Simon is not my father?” Riane asked in shock.

Julian could barely believe what he was hearing.

Matilda smiled at her briefly, “When I finally couldn’t contain it anymore, I told your father. It was the reason I dressed you like a boy, out of guilt for him. It was not logical, I know. I just lived in complete panic mode all the time that Mike would eventually tell him the truth. To be honest with you, I have no idea what I thought dressing you as a son would do for either of us.”

“What happened when you told Simon?” Riane asked, she didn’t care about the clothing.

“Well, I broke his heart, Riane. I mean I shattered it completely. He looked at me like I was a monster, and he couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with you.” She swallowed, “As the divorce went through, I begged him to keep you at least for a short time until I could manage on my own. He agreed if I took a fraction of what I was owed in the pre-nup. I agreed.”

Matilda had a glass of water in front of her which she picked up and drank from quickly. “I eventually contacted Mike, and I told him what I suspected. He immediately wanted his daughter and he brought me out to live with him. We asked for you to be sent to us, but Simon refused.”

“Why would he? He hates me.”

Once more she swallowed, “Because he had a paternity test done, and you were his daughter not Mike’s. I destroyed my entire family without first finding out if my horrible secret needed to be revealed at all.” She sighed audibly. “The timelines don’t match up in my mind, but Mike had a test done too just in case Simon was lying, and Simon is your father.”

Riane looked towards Julian then back at her mother, while Joe no longer stood in line and just watched the table from a distance.

“I don’t understand. If he was my father then why does he hate me so much still? Why is he like this?”

Matilda frowned, “Because you are my daughter, and I broke his heart into pieces which will never fit back together again. He did not have a good childhood, and I was the only person in the world he felt close to and would open up to. So, when I betrayed him, he turned into his own father. Closed and cold with no desire to care about anything but his reputation and his work.”

“And you just went on with your life and let him keep me?”

She shook her head, “No, Mike and I got married and we have two sons together, but we never stopped fighting to bring you home to us, Riane. Simon is just a powerhouse and he is spiteful, it seemed everything we did he countered without any overexertion at all.”

“I see. I think I’ve heard enough for now, I might talk to you later.” Riane said as she hurried Julian out of the booth.

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