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(CH2) Chapter 21: Getting Married

Upon returning to Ivy’s apartment, she was sitting on the couch watching the local news. Julian didn’t say anything to her and simply headed for the bathroom, while Riane sat down on the couch next to her.

“Did everything go alright?” Ivy asked thinking Julian was angry about something that happened.

Riane was quiet for a moment before speaking, “I don’t know.” She replied honestly as she could. “I am not sure I have let it all sink in yet.”

“Did she really abandon you?”

Swallowing, Riane looked her friend in the eyes and tried her best to remain calm. “Yes, she did. She had her reasons, but it was abandonment even if my father was threatening her.”

Ivy reached out and grabbed her friend’s hand. “I’m sorry, Riane. I was really hoping it was a misunderstanding.”

She scoffed and looked disgusted, “She went on to get married to the man she cheated on my father with and they had two sons together.”

Ivy covered her mouth in surprise. “Oh no, I… you had brothers you didn’t even know about? And she cheated on him?”

“She cheated because she wanted to get pregnant and she thought I was this other guy’s kid. Turns out Simon is my biological father after all.” Riane inhaled deeply trying to prevent herself from crying. “The thing which upsets me the most is she gave me hope for a moment that Simon wasn’t actually my father. For just a split second, I felt relieved of him only to have him thrust back at me.”

She continued to hold her hand, “So what now?”

Riane licked her lips as she thought for a moment, “I don’t know. We can’t stay here forever, and I don’t think we can actually run away with nothing to our name. All I know is I am not going back to my father and letting him control my life.”

“Maybe Dalen can get you work at a different store far away from here. Your father couldn’t possible find you among all the employees.”

Riane slowly nodded, “Yeah, maybe you are right, but I don’t know if I want to put Dalen in danger of my father’s wrath.”

“It doesn’t hurt to ask, and let him decide what he is willing to do for his friends or not.”

Julian walked out of the bathroom and stood at the end of the hall. “Riane, let’s talk in the bedroom, please.”

With those words spoken, he turned around and headed down the hall. Riane looked at Ivy in confusion, but stood up and followed him.

Once they were in the room, Julian shut the door and sat down on the bed. “I told myself I wasn’t going to tell you about this, but I think the only solution makes it where you now have to know.”

Riane walked over to the bed and sat down beside him. “What is it?”

He sighed, “My father called earlier today when you were talking to Joe, and your father was with him.”

Her heart sank immediately.

“My father has apparently spoken to Adonia’s parents and they was us to get engaged. Of course, Adonia has completely gone bat shit crazy so I know she will agree to this.” He turned to face her and grabbed her hand. “So, if you go back to your father, that will be my fate.”

“Is your family safe?”

He nodded, “Yeah, my dad didn’t know where we were nor did he have any part of us running away. So, I think your father will leave them alone.”

Riane held his hands with her fingers weaved between his own. “I am not going back, so don’t worry.”

“I know, and I have been thinking about how we can fix this. I know we want to run away and start elsewhere, but I am concerned about how we will be able to do any of it.”

“Ivy and I were just talking about that, and she thinks Dalen might get us jobs at his store away from here. I know it’ll be a different life, but we can figure it out from there.” She squeezed his hands tighter, as if she was begging him to agree.

“I was thinking more along the lines of just getting married.” He spoke sheepishly.


He cleared his throat and sat up straight, “Hear me out. We can make an appointment at the court house, sign some papers, do the ceremony, and we would be married.”

“I don’t know about this, Julian.”

This time he was the one who grabbed her hands tightly. “All this is about getting married. Well, they can’t make us marry anyone if we are already married to each other, plus we can’t be forced to sign a divorce against our wills. We officially take all the power away from our parents, and give it to ourselves.”

She thought about it for a few moments, “I have never been a girl who dreamed about her wedding, but I don’t think getting married as teenagers still is the best idea for us.”

“I know, but it is the only solution we have. Later, after college, we can have a bigger ceremony and all that, but we have to take the power away some how. If your father knows the fight is over, he might give up and we can go back home.” His eyes pleaded with her.

“What if he doesn’t? What if he makes things impossible for us or your family?” Riane couldn’t see a situation where her father would just give up.

“Then we will deal with it as it comes. For now, let’s just get married so all of this arrangement shit ends, alright?”

She thought for several seconds, before answering him. Her heart was pounding in her chest. “Alright.”

Julian smiled at her before kissing her briefly on the lips, “I know this is terrifying. I’m scared too, but it’s the best thing we can do now.”

“I know. I believe you.”

He kissed her one more time in hopes of giving her strength, but to give himself some confidence as well. He loved Riane and this was what they had to do in order to stay together. In order to prevent her from running back to her father ever again.
Joe dropped Matilda off at a hotel before heading over to Neil’s apartment. She wasn’t thrilled with how the meeting went, and had hoped to earn more good vibes from Riane than she got. In fact, Riane didn’t seem thankful towards her in the least. She barely even spoke to her and left the cafe without so much as a see you later.

In her entire life, Riane had never been angry with her for more than a couple hours. This was going into the months and she knew she had screwed up, but she didn’t think Riane knew she was the reason Simon came to take her away. Though, it wouldn’t be a huge leap of logic to consider it.

After all, their relationship had been falling apart since Julian came into Riane’s life, then Joe mistreated Dalen which was followed by her dating someone Riane couldn’t particularly stand.

She had no idea what she was doing with her life anymore. Before all this started, there as an order to everything. It was Joe and Riane to the end with the occasional moments of Blake.

Joe always thought eventually Blake and Riane would get married, because it was the only logical way this could have gone. Riane had a crush on him for years, and she knew Blake wanted Riane, he just wasn’t certain of his feelings. He did think of Riane as a male for a long while, so that probably played a part in his confusion.

However, Joe always knew they would get married and then she would find someone after college. He would be someone who fit into the group and they would have double date nights, and Joe and Riane would raise their children together like they had been raised.

She had hoped they could time their pregnancies so they could have children of similar ages. Maybe even one day they could fall in love, and then Joe and Riane would be actual family.

With Julian’s entry into Riane’s world those dreams changed dramatically. Riane no longer needed Joe and Blake to hold her hand everywhere. She was becoming a different person, someone Joe didn’t recognize.

She realized now she was becoming a healthier version of herself. It was Joe that wanted to keep her friend sick and isolated. Julian was the one who was pulling her away from all that. He was making her stronger even if it wasn’t his intentions.

Joe wished she had seen that instead of her own selfish desires. It was too late now. She had betrayed her best friend, and the consequences were now hers to bare. She feared there would be no friendship what so ever in the future.

As she thought of this, she had entered Neil’s apartment and he was sitting on his couch watching a baseball game. When she entered, he muted it and smiled towards her. It was a strange feeling to be welcomed now a days.

“How’d it go?” He stood up from the couch and walked over towards her, because he could see on her face things had not gone well.

“As good as Riane meeting her mother could go, I guess.” Joe sighed audibly and put her hands on her hips. “I guess we will just have to wait and see, because I don’t think she was ready just yet.”

Neil nodded his head. “Well, then let’s not dwell on it. Do you want to make dinner with me? I was thinking of making pasta of some sort.”

“Sure with chicken?”

He nodded his head as they walked towards the small kitchen. He put the pot on to bowl the water for pasta, while Joe checked the fridge for ingredients.

Once he was done, he watched her pull out some items and place them on the counter, when the fridge door closed he spoke. “My parents are coming to visit me from out of town next week.”

“Oh, yeah? Are they staying here?” Joe grabbed from garlic off the counter and began to peel some of the cloves.

“Probably at a hotel or something, it’s a bit small so you can continue staying here if you want.” He cleared his throat.

“I don’t want to interfere with your parents visit. I’ll head home for the week.” She told him as she concentrated on the garlic.

Neil’s head was pounding in his chest even though he knew this was a perfectly reasonable request. “I have told them about you, and they would like to meet you. It’s one of the reasons they are coming out here.”

Joe slowly stopped peeling the more he talked, before setting the cloves down on the chopping board and looking towards him. She leaned against the counter with one hand and sucked on her inner cheek while looking perturbed. “Why would you tell your parents about me?”

“Because you are my girlfriend, and I wanted them to know about the woman in my life.”

A moment of deja vu hit Joe in that moment as she remembered Dalen telling her about his family finding out about her. She remembered how pissed she had been because she thought he was getting approval from his family, but now she was pissed at Neil for a very similar act.

“Um, I don’t think we have defined our relationship yet.” The words spilled from her lips and her own mind realized she might have commitment issues.

Neil snorted, “Uh, we haven’t defined our relationship? You practically live here, Joe. So, what are you if not my girlfriend? A bum who sleeps in my bed and pays for everything with sex?”

“Are you calling me a whore?” She crossed her arms.

He took a deep breath, “No, I heard it the moment I said it. I’m sorry that wasn’t how I meant it.”

“How did you mean it?”

He slowly shook his head, “Like I said, I didn’t hear it until I said it. Just think of it as my mouth moving faster than my brain, alright? I’m sorry.”

“I… I’m going to head home.” She picked up her keys from the counter where she had deposited them upon entering the apartment.

“Come on, Joe. You don’t have to go. Let’s talk about this.”

“I am not meeting your parents and I am going home.” She headed towards the door and opened it.

Neil grabbed it before she slammed it shut, “What is bringing all of this on? You have to help me to understand it.”

Joe said nothing to him as she hurried down the stairs to her car to get away from this situation as fast as possible.
Blake had gotten several messages from Simon over the course of the past week. He was hesitant to call the man as he feared the wrath he might place upon him for letting Riane get away.

Get away? Like she was some prisoner and he was her warden. He hated this arrangement from the beginning but he had no other way to keep Riane with him. Part of him had hoped this miserable situation would somehow sprout into love. It was a ridiculous wish but something he kept in the back of his mind.

Getting out of his car, he headed to the apartment he once shared with Riane. Even though Simon had purchased it, he had put it in his and Riane’s name. So, he felt like he had the right to stay in the apartment, after all Simon had made him get rid of his old one.

Holding a large paper grocery bag, he walked up the steps and noticed too late the tall figure standing in front of his door.

“I have a key, but I thought it would be rude.” Simon told him as he held up his keys. “Since you have your hands full though, I suppose I’ll open it up anyway.”

“Thanks.” Blake didn’t like that the man was here and he had waited outside his apartment for him. His calm and friendly voice made things even more haunting, and he couldn’t figure out why Simon had approached him in this fashion.

Walking into the apartment, he headed for the kitchen with Simon shutting the door and following behind him.

He wore a black suit and tie which he always seemed to wear, while Blake was in jeans and a t-shirt. The clothing itself made Blake feel a little inferior.

Simon sat down at a stool next to the counter and watched as Blake unloaded his groceries.

“I haven’t been in a grocery store in over a decade.” He smirked as he watched him closely. “I probably couldn’t even make cereal at this point.” He chuckled.

Blake politely smiled back, but he was still very confused about this whole ordeal. The man wanted something and he was afraid to find out what it was.

When he finally put the milk in the fridge, Blake folded up the paper bag and put it with the others under the sink.

“Why save them?”

He cleared his throat, “I use them as my trash bags.”

Simon nodded his head slowly, “In a trash can?”

“No, they are the trash bag and the trash can.” He responded nervously and then opened up the cabinet door to show him a slightly filled paper bag under the sink.

Simon was now the one who looked confused.

“My mom always did it this way. She says it keeps a stinky trash can out of the house and makes you take the trash out more.” He explained.

“I see.” Simon cleared his throat and stood from the stool. “Come sit with me, we have something to discuss.”

“If this is about Riane’s whereabouts, then I promise you I have no idea where she is right now.” He was nearly pleading with the man to not have a conversation with him.

“Yeah, I know. She is at a friend’s apartment. Ivy, I believe.” He motioned towards the couch, “Come, sit.”

Blake made his way over to the couch and sat down while Simon sat in the recliner. “How do you know?”

“Private investigator. She was pretty smart turning off her phone, but we got it all figured out.” Simon was resting one elbow on his knee.


“However, she is what I have come to talk to you about. Now that I know where she is, I want you to go over there and get her to come home.”

Blake’s confusion was not cured by this command. “What? She left. She doesn’t want to be with me.”

“She doesn’t know what she wants, and in time she will be grateful to both of us. Now, I’ll allow this one mistake but she must be brought back here and your engagement must continue. Do you understand?” Simon’s voice was slowly shifting from the friendly demeanor to a more demanding one.

He swallowed, “I can’t make Riane do anything. She had made her choice, and I am not going to drag her away.”

Simon pressed his lips together. “Is that so?”

“She is my best friend, and I am not going to be another figure in her life who stands in the way of her happiness. She has you for that.” Blake snapped.

He chuckled, “Stands in the way of her happiness? I am ensuring her future happiness. Right now, she is a confused, love sick child, who thinks she knows what best for her. She does not. Tell me how great of a man Julian is?”

“Aren’t you the one who set up their arrangement? Why don’t you tell me his merits instead? Or did you just feed your daughter to whatever family would take her?” Blake folded his arms.

“Mrs. Swithin actually began the process, and had I known she would install nonsense in Riane’s mind, I never would have gone through with it. They gave me all the assurances I asked for and delivered no results.” Simon was still calm even though Blake was getting more agitated.

Blake was trying to hide his very real fear of this man with his anger, but somehow he felt like Simon could see through him. “She made her decision, and I am happy she made the right one.”

“You will regret this choice, son.” Simon stood up from the recliner. “You and Julian’s family will come to regret allowing this to grow out of proportion.”

Blake stood up as Simon began to move towards the door so he could look him directly in the eyes. “Mister Nairne?”

Simon turned his attention back to the boy but didn’t speak.

“Have you ever taken a moment to reflect on what you have done to your daughter?”

“Excuse me?”

He continued, “You claim to do all of this for her future and her benefit, but to me and everyone else all we see is a man treating his daughter like she is an enemy, or worse than that; an animal.”

Simon didn’t reply and simply glared at him.

“If this what love is to you then I would suggest seeking professional help from a mental health… uh, um… professional.” He swallowed.

Simon continued to stare him down for a few moments, before he turned to head out the door. When the door was finally closed, Blake quickly sunk into the couch and sighed loudly. The beast was gone and he could breath again.
Emma had been dreading this day since Seth invited her to the dinner. She had tried to come up with a thousand different reasons she shouldn’t go, but each one just ended with Seth being disappointed in her mind. She didn’t want to upset him and he seemed eager to put the first bad impression behind them.

She could tell he did love his mother, and Emma wanted to give Mrs. Barras another chance. After all, Seth couldn’t love a woman who treated him the way she had treated his girlfriend.

After being scoffed at for wearing pajamas for movie night, Emma tried to dress up a bit. She wore a red sleeveless dress with matching heels. It wasn’t anything expensive, but it was the best thing she owned.

Seth had offered to buy her an outfit, but she had refused him. She didn’t want to be wearing anything that might cause his mother to think of her as a gold digger… again. Not that she had done anything before to make the woman think such rude thoughts towards her, or more importantly speak them.

Upon entering into the house, they were led by a woman to the dinning room where Mr. and Mrs. Barras were already seated.

Richard smiled at his son and Emma. “Ah, good you have arrived.” He motioned for them to sit down across from him and his wife. “We are ready to begin.” He told the woman who had answered the door and brought them into the room.

Emma didn’t know why it was necessary after all Seth lived here and it made no sense for him to knock as he had done. She supposed this was some sort of game. Acting as if Seth wasn’t a member of the household and they were having a dinner party together.

Mrs. Barras was immaculate as always. She wore a red dress as well which was far higher quality, and she was obviously unimpressed with the fact Emma was wearing a similar outfit. “Early is on time, Seth.” She scolded as she looked Emma up and down as the younger woman sat down.

“Yes, sorry, mother.”

The dark wood table was set with a fine china and crystal glasses. There was an unopened bottle of champagne in the middle with a wreath of flowers surrounding it. It was strange to not see it in an ice bucket.

“I suppose it took Emma a great deal of time to look adequate.” Mrs. Barras cleared her throat and looked the girl up and down once more.

“Gwen.” Richard growled her name and held her hand which was on the table, before giving Emma an apology grin.

His wife frowned at the scolding but this seemed to be obviously something they had discussed before Emma’s arrival.

“Look at how beautiful you both are in red.” Richard chuckled, “We are two very lucky men, son.”

Seth trying to help his father ease the tension laughed, “Two of the most beautiful red roses in the world.”

This compliment seemed to mean something to Gwen as she smiled and her stare was removed from his girlfriend. “Oh, you two.”

Emma was less than impressed with the compliment. It was an obvious attempt at changing their moods which did not work in any way for her. Perhaps, it was not meant for her at all considering how Gwen had reacted.

“I understand you are the charity case this year.” Gwen turned her attention back to her. “One must maintain a rather high grade in order to keep it. Most students can’t handle it and drop out.”

“Most students are bullied into leaving. It has nothing to do with academic performance.” Emma corrected.

Seth and his father were looking between each other and their partner as if trying to silently make a game plan if this conversation went south.

Gwen raised an eyebrow, “You don’t say? Were you a victim of this perceived bullying?”

“Yes. I was punched, kicked, and had items stolen from my person, but reporting it got me no where. When someone’s rich parents can handle the bad behavior by throwing money at the school to get me to shut up about it.” Emma explained.

Seth’s mother raised her beautifully red painted index finger up to her bright red lips. “I abhor bullying.”

It took all the will power she had not to scoff at the bully in front of her. “Do you now?”

“Oh, yes. I help to run a charity which is trying to stop cyberbullying. We will stop the internet from being a haven for those who think they can hide away forever behind their screens.” Gwen spoke the words as if she had mesmerized them for another event.

“I see.” Emma now wanted to laugh at the woman.

Gwen sighed, “When I was working in the modeling industry, you have no idea the amount of bullying which went on. I mean you would expect it from the designers and agents, but it was the other models who were particularly mean. It took me years to get over my bulimia and find a healthier alternative to staying thin.”

Suddenly, the woman in front of her was far less humorous. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Barras. One would have hoped they would have banned together to help each other through their careers.”

“Yes, but even those you thought were friends whispered behind your back. It was very competitive and you were always told to be thinner and to be prettier. If I could do it over again, I would have never got into that career. I have a master’s degree in sociology. I should have done something with that instead.” Gwen sighed. “But speaking of diets, I told the staff to prepare you all a meat dish.”

Seth and Richard looked surprised.

“You did?” Her husband was shocked as when they usually ate with his wife, she demanded they all eat vegan so she didn’t have to look at the meat.

She nodded, “Yes, I figured Emma wouldn’t appreciate it if I forced my food choices on her. I believe they are making a roast of some sort.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Barras.” Emma partially smiled at her.

“It was nothing, and call me Gwen.” She stood from the table, “Now, I am a pinot grigio type lady. What are you, Emma?”

“Underage.” She joked.

Gwen chuckled, “I won’t tell if you don’t. Here you can share a bottle with me, and we will figure your tastes buds out over time. Come, dear.”

Emma got up and followed her out of the room.

“We really do look like two roses.” Gwen could be heard saying as they went to the wine cellar.

Seth looked towards his father, “What the hell just happened?” He asked after holding his breath for the entire conversation.

“I think they might have found something in common. Who knew?”
Julian kept looking at his phone while he sat on the couch with Riane. Every time it vibrated, he knew exactly who it would be. The name Adonia kept appearing on his screen, and he kept ignoring the call.

“Why aren’t you answering your phone?” Riane finally asked with annoyance in her voice.

He sighed, “It’s someone I don’t want to talk to.” He informed her as it began to vibrate again. He didn’t want to tell her exactly who it was, as he didn’t want to worry her about this other woman calling him.

“Either answer it and tell them to stop or turn your phone off. It’s hard to concentrate with that thing going off like a buzz saw every other minute.” Riane barked as Julian got up and went into the bathroom so he could speak to her alone.

Standing in the bathroom, he waited for her name to appear on the screen again and when it did he answered. “What the fuck do you want? This is some fucking stalking bullshit, you know that?”

“I am your betrothed! You should answer when I call you.” Adonia snapped, her voice sounded labored as if she had been having a tantrum whenever he didn’t answer the phone.

Snorting and rolling his eyes, Julian couldn’t even form words as he was both shocked into silence by her forwardness and angry beyond belief.

“Anyway, I think today would be a nice day for a date, don’t you think?” She giggled as if that would sway him towards her.

“I am not going on a date with you, Adonia.” He growled and tried to keep his voice low as he didn’t want Riane to overhear him.

She seemed to laugh it off as if he was making some sort of joke. “Of course you are, silly. You don’t have a choice.”

“Uh, I do have a choice and that choice is go to fucking hell, you psycho bitch.” Julian spoke the words through his clenched teeth. “Stop calling me. I am with Riane and I am going to stay with her.”

“Without me, you have no fortune. Remember when Riane was in that position? I know you hated her just as much as you do me now, but you learned to love her and in time you will learn to love me.” Her voice remained cheerful.

Julian couldn’t believe what this woman was actually trying to say to him. “Are you suggesting the only reason I fell in love with Riane is because she was tied to my inheritance?”


He balled his fist up and went to punch the wall, but remembered this wasn’t his home so his fist barely tapped it. He was more frustrated that what had just been said was true. Had it not been for their arrangement, he may have never learned Riane was a female and he certainly wouldn’t have gained romantic feelings for her.

“Listen, you shit bitch, I don’t want anything to do with you. Stop calling me, stop thinking about me, and leave me alone.” He growled.

“Oh, you mean like how you left me alone when I turned you down? How you left me alone when I was dating Blake? Remember when you took Riane away from him and forced him to realize his feelings for her and it fucked my relationship up?”

Now he was getting it and his frustration calmed immediately.

“You are only doing this to get back at me?” He asked but he was given nothing but silence in return. “Did you think whatever weird relationship there was between them was going to last forever? Blake was going to eventually realize what he felt. Would you have liked it to be now or later when you are married with kids?”

Adonia was a little shocked by Julian’s logical approach to this, and it only angered her more. “Come take me out on a date.” She said trying to ignore his words.

“What happened to you, Adonia? I barely recognize the woman I tried to get to know. Were you always this small? Always this vindictive?” He waited for another response, but received silence again. “I am sorry for any perceived slight I may have made against you.”

Adonia snorted. “Come take me out.”

“I just befriended a guy named Ryan who I used to push around. I didn’t know any of this would happen. I’m just a fucking idiot who stumbled my way into finding a best friend and the woman I want to marry.”

She cleared her throat as her voice became less confident. “I am the key to your inheritance now, Julian. Let’s go on a date.”

Julian’s spoke with compassion towards her. “I am not going to take you out, Adonia. I’m sorry for everything that happened. I am so sorry your heart was broken. It was never my intention nor would Riane do something so callous on purpose. So, I apologize on her behalf too.”

Adonia didn’t want her rage to let up and she wanted this vengeance, but it was getting harder to hold on to. “Shut up, Julian. You know you’ll regret being with her in the future when you see your brothers running around in sports cars, and you are driving an old beat up used car. Just come take me out.”

He decided to ignore her taunts. “Maybe instead of being angry with us, you should have turned your anger to the person really at fault in all this.”

“And who is that?”


Adonia once again fell silent.

“He asked you out, didn’t he? He asked you to be his girlfriend? He did this to countless women throughout his friendship with Riane, and every single one of them told him the truth which he refused to listen to. He can’t feign ignorance with this. He knew full well what each and every girl was for.” Julian didn’t understand why he was being kind to this woman, but he knew it would be what Riane wanted.

“What is that?”

“The intimacy he wasn’t getting from Riane, right?” He was hoping saying it like that wouldn’t upset her.

Adonia was quiet for several seconds before finally replying. “I’ve got to go. We can go on a date later.”

She hung up before Julian could say anything more and he inhaled deeply as he realized his fear and frustrations. He had no idea if he had gotten to her permanently, but he felt like he had done some damage to her crusade.

After chatting with Adonia, Julian left the bathroom and felt some relief from his situation with Adonia. However, he feared what her next move would be and knew things had to get moving with Riane to prevent anything further.

He was in constant fear something would happen which would make Riane run back to her father. If something happened to his family or to her own, she might not be able to live with herself.

Marriage wouldn’t necessarily prevent her from doing just that, but he felt it would be a bigger wall to keep her from scaling it when things went wrong. Knowing her father things would be going very wrong, very soon.

They needed to make an appointment at the courthouse as soon as possible in order to get things moving. The only problem they had was Riane’s father had her documents which were needed to get married.

He thought of having Riane ask Deidre for them and he thought of sneaking into the house himself to find them. Riane seemed content to just get a new copy, but it would take weeks if not months to attain them.

Walking down the hallway, he found Riane sitting on the couch and watching the television.

She looked over at him and gave a slight grin, “You were in there for a long time. Having trouble?”

She had no idea but he merely grabbed his stomach. “You were right about eating that hole burrito with hot sauce.”

Riane chuckled and turned her attention back to the news program. “I think Ivy has some pink stuff in the kitchen.”

“I’ll be alright.” He said as he leaned against the hallway wall.

The news was reporting on a political debate which had happened the day before, and as boring as he found it, he was mesmerized by how interested Riane looked. She was paying close attention but there was no indication on her face whether she agreed with what was being said or not.

She was just listening instead of forming any immediate opinion or at least that is what she appeared to be doing to him. It was something he loved about her. She seemed to really hear people and just prepare to speak back.

His heart fluttered at the thought of the woman who was sitting right before him. He remembered being her bully and he cringed at the many horrible things he had said to her. He couldn’t even remember why he had started picking on her.

No, that was a lie. He remembered having a bad day and she looked like an easy target, and after finding out she was, she was a good source to relieve his frustration on. It wasn’t fair but it was definitely why he did it.

He remembered his mindset then and what he thought about her or rather at the time ‘him.’ It was nothing good. Then he remembered the crying boy and how in that moment he felt compassion. Ryan was a real person who had it tough enough without him picking on him everyday. He never understood why he had reached out to him that day, but he never really thought his actions through to begin with.

He couldn’t have imagined that one little chat would have him end up as a friend, and then the treason of finding out Ryan was Riane.

His pathetic attempt to get her to leave which ultimately backfired and made him fall in love with her instead. He snickered at the hate he felt for her when she first moved in and how he misunderstood his feelings later on when they had that stupid pact to get Adonia and Blake to break up.

They barely even tried, but Julian realized it was on that first double date he didn’t want to give Riane to Blake. He didn’t understand it himself then and he tried to rationalize it any other way, but he didn’t want to let go of the only woman who couldn’t be scared away.

“Are you just going to stand over there and stare at me?” Riane stood up from the couch and started to walk into the kitchen.

As she passed him by, he grabbed her hand. Holding both of her hands in each of his own, he looked at her and smiled. “Let’s call Deidre to get what we need, so we can get married next week.”

When she looked away from him and sighed, he could feel his heart drop. He squeezed her hands tightly.

Riane finally looked back up at him. “I know I agreed before, but this isn’t how I am going to get married.”

“I told you we can have a bigger wedding later. The courthouse...”

She cut him off. “It’s not about the courthouse, Julian. In fact, I don’t want a big, giant wedding. A courthouse sounds perfect.”

“What do you mean then?” He swallowed.

“I mean, I am not getting married at eighteen. I am not getting married before I finish college, but most of all, I mean I am not going to let my father force me into marriage whether he wanted me to or not.” She sighed and squeezed his hands back. “I have to deal with my father.”

“You can’t ‘deal’ with your father, Riane?” He scoffed, “What do you think you are going to do? Walk in there and demand he leave you alone?”


Julian stared at her in disbelief for several seconds. “Are… you kidding? Are you on something?”

Riane smirked at his reaction. “I have a plan, but I am going to need you to trust me.”

“Uh, trusting you, fine, but if you go anywhere near that man, I’ll never see you again.”

“I’ll be fine. I am just going to talk to him and put an end to all of this.” She removed her hands from his own and placed them on his shoulders. “I promise, I’ll come back.”

“Please, don’t do this.” He grabbed her hands on his shoulders. If she went to that man, he knew she would disappear and he would never see her again.

“I have to. Living in hiding like this has made me realize how much it doesn’t suit us. We have to finish school and get jobs. We can’t continue on like this, we have no plan.”

“We do! We get married and then we...”

Riane shook her head and stepped back. “Julian, if we followed your plan, we won’t be together by the end of the month let alone the year. You and I are not used to living like that and we shouldn’t have to. I won’t allow it. I’m doing this.”

“I’ll come with you.”

She shook her head, “No, you will just be a distraction.”
Zachary watched his mother sitting at the table while she sipped on a cup of tea. His father sat across from her as they discussed what had happened with Simon, and how adamant he was about getting Riane back. He blamed Julian for her running away, and there were thinly veiled threats to their livelihood if her return did not happen.

Colin explained how he arranged an engagement with the girl he had a previous crush on after asking Bryce who might be the best way to pull him back home. Of course, it did nothing as Colin fully expected.

Nanette’s brows seemed to be permanently together as she listened to her husband speak. She didn’t even notice her youngest son standing in the doorway with worry in his heart.

“If he doesn’t come back and Simon makes good on his threats… well, we might want to start liquidating some of our properties so we have cash in hand.” Colin planned but his wife was completely disinterested in any financial stress.

Nanette looked into her husband’s eyes and frowned. “I can’t believe you would arrange something like that, especially without speaking to me first. I’m glad he didn’t accept.”

“I don’t think you understand what dire straits we are in right now, Nan.” He tried to reach across the table to touch her hands, but she pulled them into her lap.

“Our son, that idiot who slept with more women than I would like to imagine, completely unable to keep a healthy relationship with anyone, who did drugs, spent all night partying, and who we thought would be dead before his thirties… that son is clean and refuses to leave the woman he loves for any reason.” Nanette inhaled as she tried to fight back her tears, “I barely recognize him anymore, and for that I am so happy, but you would seek to undo everything because Simon Nairne made some threats?”

Colin opened his mouth to speak but closed it as he tried to think through what he would say next.

Zachary had a large hand cover his face and pull him away from the door. He glared at Bryce as they both stood in front of the stairs. His older brother motioned for him to go upstairs, and Zachary did so but instead of heading into his room, he went into Julian’s.

Bryce followed him in and watched his younger brother throw himself on the bed like he had seen Julian do so many times before. “You shouldn’t eavesdrop.”

“It wasn’t like I was hiding. They could clearly see me if they wanted to look.” He talked with his face in the pillow.

Sitting down on the bed, he sighed. “Are you worried?”

Zachary sat up and immediately folded his legs under him before speaking. “Julian is being a selfish ass. He is going to ruin our lives for that girl.”

“Mom and Dad will take care of it, and her name is Riane. Don’t act now as if you didn’t spend hours listening to her play instruments. I know you had a little crush on her, Zack.”

“I did not.” He barked.

Bryce chuckled, “Oh yeah, how about how you would give her quick glimpses during meals?”

“I can’t look at a person?”

“Or how about the reason you never wanted to hang around her long was because your cheeks turned bright red?”

Zack’s cheeks were growing red at that very moment from embarrassment, and he eyed the door as if planning his escape route.

Bryce ruffled his brother’s hair, and gave him a big smile. “Don’t worry. I did too for a minute.”

This admission seemed to calm Zachary down a little, “You did?”

He inhaled before he nodded, “Yeah, but you know what I realized?” He looked towards his brother, who had pulled his feet from under him.


He grinned at the earnest way his brother spoke one simple word. “She is meant for Julian, but I still get a really great sister out of it.”


Bryce chuckled at the disappointed reply. “Yes, really. Look, Zack, our brother has always been a problem, but with Riane, he slowed himself down to her pace. He always concerned for her and he bends over backwards to make her happy. Does that sound like the brother we had last year?”

Zachary shook his head.

“Julian never was one for forming attachments to people, but when he does they are unbreakable even when he says they are broken. He has made probably his strongest one with Riane, and he is willing to lose everything he has, everything he got engaged to her to begin with, in order for her to be in his life.”

His little brother didn’t know what to say and so he stared down at his hands with a sigh.

“It is not something you should understand, and honestly I barely comprehend what could drive that kind of sacrifice, but he is willing to make it.”

“I don’t understand why you are telling me this.”

Bryce nodded his head and took a deep breath, “I think I am trying to make us both see things from his point of view.”

“Us both?” Zachary inquired.

“Yeah, I was starting to feel a little angered by his actions too, but the more I thought about it the more I realized his intention was not to harm us. The whole reason they ran away was in order to prevent Simon from harassing us. Granted it didn’t work, but they were trying to protect us while attempting to be together.”

“So, what then? We just sit here and let Simon make good on his threats? We have to lose everything so they can hold hands?”

Bryce thought for a moment, “I think we need to take things as they come and see where this road leads, before we decide it goes to utter ruin.”

Zachary frowned at that response.

“Our brother deserves to be happy, and we can give up a little in order for that to happen for him, can’t we?”

The young brother thought for several moments. “Fine, but only if it’s just a little.”

Bryce laughed, “That’s the spirit.”
Riane left the apartment and headed for a little coffee shop nearby. She left a note telling Julian she was leaving to see her mother, but did not give him the details of where she would go. She didn’t want him coming to her rescue or involving himself in any of this going forward.

Getting to the coffee shop, she saw Matilda in the window. She looked a little uncomfortable being in this part of town and she took off her diamond ring and slipped it into her purse.

Riane was surprised her mother didn’t wait in her car, but it appeared she had already ordered for the both of them.

The coffee shop was a little hole in the wall which served mostly donuts and coffee. It only had seating for about six people, but most of its business was take out anyway.

The floors looked to be dirty, but Riane had witnessed the workers mopping it every morning. She assumed it was just permanently dirty from so much use.

The counter had donuts behind it but it was slim pickings at this time of the day. The coffee was always delicious though, and though they didn’t do a lot of the drinks like other coffee shops, they provided a vast assortment of things to put in your coffee. There was even a whole wall with ideas made by customers of what to mix. Riane had enjoyed milk, cayenne, and cinnamon the last time she was here.

Matilda had her back to the door which was strange for someone waiting for another, but the door’s bell ringed when she stepped through. This caused her mother to turn around to view her and she smiled as Riane walked over to sit across from her.

“Hi.” Matilda gave a large sincere smile, “They don’t have much in the way of coffee here, so I just ordered black. I hope adding cream and sugar was alright.”

“It’s fine, thank you.” Riane sat down. “You should have tried one of the combinations on the wall. Some are pretty damn good, and if you don’t like it, they will dump it out and give you a fresh cup.”

“Oh, that’s interesting.” The way she spoke told Riane she was less than impressed with the idea. “I’m not one for experimenting.”

“Alright.” Riane smiled trying not to be offended by her mother’s refusal of her suggestion.

“I am surprised you contacted me so soon.  I was considering heading home and maybe waiting for you to contact me. I’m glad I waited, however.” There was genuine glee in her voice as she spoke.

“I wanted to ask you some questions.”

She nodded, “Of course, please do.”

Riane cleared her throat and then took a sip of her coffee as she decided how she wanted to start this conversation. The coffee had so much sugar and cream in it that she felt like she was drinking sweet milk instead, but not wanting to offend her mother she drank it down.

“Why now?”

Matilda raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, why did you come out here to see me now?” Riane held her coffee cup in both hands as if it would shield her from any of her mother’s response.

She took a deep breath, “Oh, well. Joe contacted me and she told me what was going on, and… well, I felt like I should have been here to protect you from him. You are eighteen now and I figured he can’t control you forever, right?” She lowered her eyes down to the cup of coffee in front of her which she hadn’t yet touched. “You know, that is all a lie. Well, I mean the part about protecting you was true, but I guess with Joe’s call, I felt an invitation. I felt as if walking into your life wouldn’t be seen as a hostile action. I truly didn’t know if you wanted me here or not.”

Riane slowly nodded her head, “I guess I can understand that, but all those times we talked during holidays and birthdays, you never mentioned marriage or sons. You made it seem like you were all alone.”

Matilda swallowed hard and cleared her throat. “I… I felt guilty. I knew what you were going through, and I didn’t want you to be upset that I had moved on. I didn’t want you to think my new family meant I didn’t care for you.”

“So, you just lied?”

She nodded, “Yes, I just lied.”

Riane didn’t like that response but it was better than not knowing at all. “Why did you stop calling me? After a while, you just disappeared from my life entirely.”

“I could blame your father for it and he did threaten me from time to time. Mostly about things I said to you during the chats like saying you could come visit me.” She took a deep breath and exhaled, “The truth is, I don’t know. Maybe I thought it was too painful for both of us and I was too selfish to realize how much it would hurt you. Every time we talked, you cried when the conversation was coming to an end. I thought maybe I was abusing you in someway and I should let you be.”

“That is a pretty cruel thing to do to a child.” Riane sipped from her coffee mug and tried not to cringe at the horrible taste of it. “You were the only person who truly loved me and you just disappeared.”

“I know. I apologize.” Matilda was holding back tears.

“That’s it? You apologize?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Riane, if I could go back in time and change everything I did, I would except for having you. I was a foolish stupid twenty three year old when I gave birth to you and I remained naive for many years. Maybe that is what your father liked about me, I don’t know. What I do know is I am incapable of time travel, and I can only tell you I am at fault for what has befallen you. If you don’t want me in your life, I will leave and never bother you again.”

Riane’s lip quivered.

“However, I plead with you to give me a chance. Let me prove I am not the foolish woman I once was, and I promise I won’t let Simon do this to you anymore. I will find a way to make him stop. I will help you and Julian. I don’t know how, but I will do whatever it takes.”

Riane took a deep breath to hide the tears which were forming, before she looked up into her mother’s eyes. “I was hoping you would say that. I have a plan.”

“Name it.” Matilda said hopeful.

“Can you look Simon in the eye tonight?” Riane almost held her breath after she asked the question.

“And say what?”

“I’ll explain on the way, but I need you to be strong and fierce when you face him. Do you think you can do it?” Riane squeezed the cup in her hand due to the tension in the air.

Matilda smiled softly before speaking. “Love, I will rip him a new asshole if that’s what you need.”
The car ride home was rather silent. Seth kept looking over to Emma to ask her how she felt about the dinner, but he could see on her face she wasn’t happy about the entire affair.

While his mother had warmed to her initially, she eventually started making plans for Emma and her. No matter what Emma said, his mother completely ignored her. She also went on rants about bullying and eventually started telling Emma her own experiences weren’t as bad as hers.

Emma barely drank one glass of wine while his mother had downed three bottles by the end of the evening. She accused Emma of being drunk and eventually his dad had to escort her to the bedroom.

While his father was trying to strip his wife down and she was fighting it with every fiber of her being, Seth realized how frustrated Emma actually was with all of this. He had suggested they leave without saying a goodbye, and he would give her compliments to her father later.

He hadn’t expected his well mannered girlfriend to actually agree, but she rushed to the front door as if she had been set on fire and only the outside hose could stop it.

Clearing his throat several times, he tried to say something but he couldn’t find the words. He knew the silence was deafening and he wondered if Emma felt just as uncomfortable with it.

Finally, he said the only thing he could come up with, even though he hadn’t making excuses for his mother. “I’m sorry about tonight, when my mom drinks too much she gets a victim mentality. At least, you didn’t have to see her laying on the ground, eating cake, and crying about how unfair life has been for her.”

Emma stopped looking out the window and turned her attention to him. “I’ve never heard someone so adamant about how wrong bullying is while in the process of bullying another person.”

“Yeah, and I am certain the irony is lost on her.” He jested and was somewhat relieved to hear Emma’s voice hold more of a playful tone.

She sighed, “I can’t imagine how she managed to raise someone like you. I guess you are more of your father than your mother.”

“She wasn’t around a lot. My parents, while they love each other, like to spend time apart. Since I was in school, my father stayed while my mother traveled the world on his dime.” He frowned, “I think it really hurts my father’s feelings when she acts like that. He provides a very comfortable life for her, and she acts like she is a bag lady on main street.”

“I could understand how that would be upsetting.” Emma took a deep breath, “Anyway, I doubt she’ll remember half of what she wanted us to do together, so hopefully I am off the hook.”

“Don’t worry, if she tries to pull anything I’ll put a stop to it.” He told her with a smile and a sense of relief in his heart.

Seth thought for certain this would put a wedge between him and Emma, but it seemed she placed no blame on him at all. He imagined they would get into a huge fight on the car ride home and perhaps not speak for a few days. He feared she might realize their status didn’t match and she would end things with him like Joe had done with Dalen.

He chuckled to himself at how ridiculous his thoughts had all been, and he told himself he should trust in Emma more.

Emma allowed the conversation to die down and she sighed to herself as she thought of her horrible evening. She didn’t want Seth to know, but his mother rants had really gotten to her.

She no longer seemed to care Emma wasn’t from what she considered a good family, but she couldn’t imagine too many meals with that woman. She feared if she continued a relationship with Seth, she would be forced to endure more such events and her heart couldn’t take it.

Looking over to Seth, he drove her home carefully and kept his eyes on the road. Her heart swelled with love when she looked at him, but she wondered if this was something she could really do.

Internally she sighed, and reminded herself she was just a freshmen in college. Dating Seth didn’t mean they would make it through college together and get married or anything. It was Riane and Julian who had to worry about marriage right now, and not her.

Her phone beeped alerting her to a text message. She pulled it out of her purse and looked at her.

“Oh my god!” She shouted and startled Seth.


Emma screamed and laughed at the same time, and he couldn’t tell if she was pleased or terrified.

“What?” He asked again.

“I just got a message from Riane!” She squealed in bliss while she bounced  up and down in her seat.

Seth watched her as she hugged her phone and continued to smile. “What did she say?” He asked ignoring her obvious happiness to receive word from her best friend once more.

“She says she has met with her mother and they are going to confront her dad tonight.” Emma looked like as if she was fighting back tears.

He remained confused. “What? Why? What good will that do?”

She shrugged and sent a text back to Riane, who answered quickly back. “She says they are going to set him straight so Julian and she can returned to his family’s house. She hopes she’ll be back at school on Monday.”

Seth didn’t want to ruin Emma’s excitement, but he had no idea how the two women could just march into the house and demand Simon back off. However, this was the happiest he had seen her all night, and decided he would just let her have this moment even if it made no sense.

“That’s good. I hope everything goes well.”

Emma wrote a text back to Riane and smiled when she got a reply. “She is going to tell me how everything goes.” She sighed loudly, “Ugh, I won’t be able to sleep until I find out. Stay with me? Maybe watch a movie or something?”

“Anything you want, you earned it.”
Matilda drove her daughter to the large estate and memories flooded back of the last time she was there. Standing in the foyer with all that white marble surrounding her, and Riane dressed up like a boy staring up at her.

Simon stood there as her luggage was being loaded into her car, his arms crossed as he glared at his soon to be ex-wife. Baby Russell cried in the next room and she could hear Deidra trying to sooth him.

She didn’t even have the courage to call her daughter by her real name in that moment, and instead said goodbye to Ryan. She remembered Riane looked uncertain but she didn’t seem to be bothered by what was happening in that moment. Almost as if she was too in shock to react.

“I love you, and we will be together again soon.” Matilda had told her not knowing those words would be a terrible lie.

Riane opening her car door pulled her out of the memory, and she followed her out of the car and up to the front door.

Her little wisp of a child didn’t even ring the doorbell and simply walked into the house in defiance of her father. This act alone gave Matilda more courage than she would have ever expected.

Deidra heard the door open and walked out of the living room, which is exactly where Matilda had left her all those years ago. She remembered how Deidra looked scared of her when she had arrived as if she didn’t realize Matilda would still be there. As soon as Deidra recognized her the same looked returned to her, as if she still didn’t feel like she belonged here.

“Deidra, where is he?” Riane asked firmly.

Russell came running out of the living room and rushed to his sister who quickly gave him a hug. “I missed you!” He cried then looked towards Matilda with a questioning look.

“Hello, Russell.” Matilda spoke gently, “I’m Riane’s mom.”

He smiled at her and politely shook her hand when she offered it to him. “Nice to meet you.”

Riane took a deep breath, “There will be time for this later. Where is my father, Deidra?”

“What’s going on?” She asked looking between mother and daughter.

“I’m telling him off once and for all. His reign of terror ends today!” Riane spoke loudly, and it seemed like she was trying to keep her courage up.

“In his study.”

With those words, Riane hurried to the study with Matilda barely keeping up with her. She shoved the door open and Simon grinned as she walked into the room.

“Couldn’t stay away from your luxuries long, could you?” He chuckled but the laugh died quickly when Matilda entered the room.

In fact, he swallowed almost in fear of the women as he sat back down as the two women approached his desk.

“Simon.” Matilda greeted, but he said nothing in return. He simply stared at her unable to form any sentences.

“I am not one of your possessions.” Riane began and although Simon looked at her briefly, his eyes remained on his former wife. “If you think you can control me then you should think again. I will not tolerate you hurting other people in order to keep me confined and living the life you want me to have.”

Matilda felt uncomfortable with his gaze but stared back at him in hopes to help her daughter. She too had lost words due to his reaction of seeing her. It was not what she was expecting. She thought he would yell and demand she leave his house, and not offer her a look that was nearly heartbreaking.

“And since you don’t know how to live life without threats, here is one for you.” Riane continued. “If you threaten my friends or any one else, I’ll tell the world about how you treated me. I’ll tell them how cruel and vile of a human being you actually are.”

Matilda looked towards her daughter and then back to Simon after finally finding some words to speak. “I will back her claims and tell them how you kept my daughter from me for all these years.”

Simon looked between the two women and cleared his throat. “I don’t think you two understand how small of a threat this is to me. A cheating wife who married the man she cheated with and had two children with him is calling me the bad guy. You are the one who didn’t call anymore after a time.” He turned his attention to Riane, “A little rich girl who was provided for and given strict parenting in order to keep her from becoming a vile rich brat. These are the two complainants. Do you understand how easily I can spin anything you say about me?”

“What about me?” Deidra entered the room. “What about if I added to the complaints? Tell them how cruel you are to not only Riane, but me as well. Not to mention how little you seem to care for Russell?”

“Deidra, this has nothing to do with you. Go tend to your son.” Simon snapped and looked confused when she walked towards the desk.

He finally noticed the folder in her hand as she laid it on the table. “I’ve been too afraid to give this to you, but I think I am safe with these two here as witnesses.” She looked between Riane and Matilda for acknowledgment she was safe, and both gave her a firm nod. “They are divorce papers.”

Simon pushed the envelope away and stood from his desk before addressing Riane. “Do you see the chaos you cause when you are not in your place?”

“She caused nothing! This has always been your doing!” Deidra barked which stunned Simon slightly as she had never raised her voice to him. “The truth has always been, you were cheating on your wife too.” She turned towards Matilda. “He started sleeping with me when Riane was four years old.”

Matilda’s mouth fell slightly ajar as she thought of all the pain and suffering she had endured alone thinking she was the one who destroyed their marriage.

“He purposely brought me and Russell over the day you were gathering up the last of your things. He wanted to parade us around in front of you.”

Simon slammed his hand on the desk, “It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“You judge my mother for being a cheat, but you were cheating too?” Riane asked. “You act like you were the only victim of deceit but all along you were just as vile.”

Deidra cleared her throat, “I have proof I locked away too. Pictures, keepsakes, and video I recorded of him in secret that can prove what I am saying. So, Simon, how will your spin handle you telling your daughter to starve because she was two minutes late for breakfast?”

Simon looked as if he was going to blow but then a grin came over his lips. “Go all of you. My time is too valuable to waste on the three of you.”

They didn’t know if he was giving up, but Riane decided it was good enough however Matilda wasn’t fulfilled.

“You will leave us alone then?” She asked.

Simon looked up from his laptop, “I will spare no more thoughts for any of you. Go.”

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