We used to have this under control, we never thought we used to know
At least there's you and at least there's me
Can we get this back? Can we get this back to how it used to be?
soundtrack: Used To - Daughtry
South Beach - McDermott Residence - 9:00 PM
Night had fallen by the time Wyatt reached South Beach and pulled up to Ryan's house. The long drive did nothing to quell his anger. Leaping from his car Wyatt tore up the stairs and began to pound on the front door.
"Ryan! Open the damned door! Ryan!"
Frustrated and seething, Wyatt stood hands on hips and quickly looked around. Everything was dark, even the lights in the pool were off. Moonlight filtered down and cast long shadows along the concrete. The Suburban was nowhere to be seen. Wyatt wasn't even sure he knew what would have happened if Ryan had been home anyway. Exhaling hard, he debated whether to wait or take off when the sound of a planter tipping over by the stairs startled him.
Adrenaline pumping now he shouted, "Step out where I can see you!" Wyatt clenched his fists and stood ready.
What he wasn't prepared for was his sister, kneeling in a corner between two big planters and staring up at him out of the dark.
"Rainie? What are you doing here?" Wyatt demanded, stunned, his pulse still racing with anger, his voice harsh.
Rayne climbed to her feet, dusted off her jeans and looked defiantly right back at him. Her face was shielded in the darkness but Wyatt recognized the attitude - she was pissed and not backing down. "I could ask you the same thing."
“I have my reasons,” he snapped back at her. “I can’t think of any good reason you’d be here though much less hiding behind a couple of damned pots.”
Rayne stepped toward him purposefully until she was inches away. "You are just like the rest," she snarled. "Everyone gets a pass except for Ryan. Everyone blames Ryan including you, but you don't know anything about it Wyatt!"
Whatever he’d expected, it wasn’t a passionate defense of Ryan. He knew his sister liked the man, but he’d never thought much about it, and it didn’t explain why she was sneaking around his pool. Irritated, he shot back, "And you think you do? What color is the sky in the world you live in Rayne? Do you even know what Ryan did?"
"I know exactly what happened!” she insisted, practically shouting at him. “I've known for a long time! You're the one without a clue! He got used and tossed out like, like well I don’t know what it’s like but it’s not right!” She was almost stammering with anger.
Her intensity momentarily silenced him. What the hell did she intend to do? What had he intended to do? Wyatt took a deep breath and listened to the street noise, concerned now that Ryan might actually show up and find the two of them hanging around outside his house. He’d feel like a fool if that happened.
His own fury draining away, Wyatt studied his sister more carefully. What was she really doing here? Was she meeting Ryan? No, she wouldn’t be waiting for him down in a corner in the dark. It didn’t feel right. "Rainie...come on, use your head,” he cajoled, lowering his voice. “What do you know, I mean really know? You were a kid for most of it. You still are, and you’re imagining things and making it up because Ryan was there when Dad wasn't. He was working for Dad; he had no right to do what he did. Nobody used him. He didn’t end up on that beach because he got used. Maybe you don’t understand but that’s not the way it works. Ryan's not the knight here, he's no hero."
Rayne's expression hardened as she stood on the steps, still obviously infuriated. She looked up at the second floor windows, and then raked her gaze back down and over him. But she didn’t continue to argue.
Taking her silence as agreement, Wyatt visibly relaxed. It was a mess; he even realized that could have been him in those shots when he was at the house with Bailey. It had been a mistake to come tearing out here. He couldn’t get in the middle of this mess and neither could Rayne. Their parents needed to work through this. The last thing they needed to worry about was him or his sister making things more difficult.
"Come on Rainie, I'm going to take you home. Dad and Beth don't need us stirring up more trouble than they already have." Wyatt gently took her arm and urged her toward his car. Remaining stiff under his grasp , Rayne nevertheless quietly followed.
“Rainie,” Wyatt added, trying to sound casual, “you could have run into the razzi here, and they would have found you even hiding behind a pot. That would make it worse for Ryan – you know what they’d make out of that. Does anyone know you’re here? How’d you get here in the first place?”
She tilted her head and considered him, her mouth set and eyes hard. “I’m a kid. That’s what you said, right? Maybe I was looking for my doll. Maybe I got here on my tricycle. And maybe we better go right now before I throw a tantrum.” She turned away from him and yanked open the passenger side door.
An ugly thought marched across the back of his mind and fired at him. Wyatt dismissed it. Ryan was an asshole, but he wasn’t an idiot. Even if Rainie had some kind of crush on him, he wouldn’t go there, no matter how determined she was.
“Yeah,” he said thoughtfully. “Maybe we’d better.”
South Beach - Stanfield Residence - 9:30 PM
An eerie calm greeted Cooper as he strode purposefully up the stone stairs to his home. Images continued to flash before him and fueled his anger. Sucking in a deep, quick breath he tried to erase the vision of those shots from his head.
Unable to shake them loose, unparalleled anger searing through him, eating away at his composure, he slammed through the darkened doorway and listened for any sounds coming from the house. The only response was the echo of his boots, heavy footfalls on the stark white stone floor as he pounded one foot in front of the other toward the living room.
“Where are the kids?” he demanded as soon as he saw her standing there, in the middle of the living room, the lamps all turned down so she waited in half shadow backlit by the light from the pool. Chin raised and defiant, but he hadn’t expected to find her hiding in a closet.
“In their rooms.” She paused, and added in an edged voice, “Rayne knows. The boys don’t, not yet.”
“I’m not discussing this here. Upstairs. Unless you have a better idea - maybe the fucking beach?” He waited for her to react as he hit her with the acid reference, and it made him even angrier when she didn't even flinch.
He threw a copy of Probe down on the chair in his bedroom and the cover shot struck at him again. It wasn't unusual to see his face plastered all over the tabloids amid speculation of a dalliance or affair. They were obviously posed, manufactured, at least from his point of view. Seeing the woman he loved in an obviously intimate and real setting stoked his rage. Beth walked silently out onto the deck without looking at it at all.
Beth turned her back to the pool, leaning against the deck railing as she watched him approach. She tossed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes, hugging her stomach with her left arm in what appeared to be an effort to keep her hands from shaking.
Her hands may have been shaking but her voice was steady and cold. “You want me go first? How do you intend to explain Astro Girl to Rayne and the boys? It’s just fake. Isn’t it? It’s always nothing, just fake. Maybe you weren’t even there at all. That’s a good one. You could use that.”
That’s the way she intended to deal with this? Go on the offensive? He would turn that around in a heartbeat. Enraged, Cooper drew so close he could hear her rapid breathing. “Do not stand there and tell me you didn't know what it was like, who I am! You know damned well I was set up! She came onto me. I turned her down. Come on Beth! You’ve been there when some woman took off her clothes and tried it with me. The only difference is Probe and believe me I’m going to sue the shit out of them!”
She actually took a tentative half step back. His eyes were lit with a fire that reflected both anguish and utter fury. "You," Cooper challenged in a disturbing, quiet rumble, “have a lot more to explain than an encounter in a dressing room. Explain Ryan. Explain what I had shoved in my face when you swore nothing, fucking nothing was going on!”
Beth put one hand up on his shoulder – Cooper stiffened, rigid with anger. “I’ve already explained it,” she insisted, her grip nothing gentle at all. “I told you something happened between Ryan and me. Once, Coop. One time, back before the twins were born. I told you. And you know what you said? Do you even remember what you said? You said, I got rid of that problem, stay the hell away from him. You didn’t even bother to ask for details! Don’t you dare say you didn’t know what happened!”
“You told me? You said 'something' happened,” Cooper growled in a hard, unyielding voice. “Something doesn't begin to fucking describe what you did! Do you have any goddamned idea what it was like seeing it like that in a tabloid? You want to bring the kids into it? Explain that to the kids!"
She turned away from him, took one long stride down the deck then looked back. Lamplight from their bedroom flashed across the left side of her face, cheek, mouth, a parabola of gold on gold. “Of course I can explain it to them. You want to know what I'm going to tell them? It's fake. That's what we always tell them. Isn't it? Every single damned thing is fake. If it's fake for you, it's fake for me."
"That's bullshit Beth! They aren't naive enough to believe that crap! He was the fucking bodyguard!" His chest heaved as he struggled to control his outrage.
She paused and simply looked at him for a long quiet moment. "Then I need to tell them I made a mistake. A very big mistake. And maybe I need to follow up on that Coop and admit that I made an even bigger mistake."
Night wind off the ocean kicked up, branches groaning. It was the only sound as they locked eyes and stood precariously on the edge of a precipice.
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 11