Where nothing else is true
Here I am
Still tangled up in you
I’m still tangled up in you
soundtrack: Tangled Up In You ~ Staind
South Beach - McDermott Residence, 6:12AM
When she thought about this later, she always wondered if she’d slept at all that night. If she had, it was in little broken pieces all scattered and messed up, but probably not. Probably not at all. Rayne sat up and carefully felt her way off the wide bed.
She could see her own reflection in that strange mirror on the opposite wall. Rayne Stanfield captured in dark glass. And there was Ryan, totally wasted and sleeping and all long legs and heavy muscles and dreaming probably but not about her. Even if she fell over her own feet getting out of here, he wasn’t going to even move much less wake up. This was a mess. This had not worked like she thought, not at all.
She ran the water until it was so hot it hurt and forced her hands into it until she couldn’t stand it anymore, all the while avoiding her own reflection in the mirror above the sink. There were too many mirrors in this house.
Yanking on her underwear, her hands shaking, Rayne sat down hard on the big stone platform around a big sunken tub next to another mirror. She kept her back to it. You’ve done a horrible horrible thing, she silently ranted at herself.
Ryan definitely wasn’t going to fall in love with her. After last night – and she’d almost lost her nerve when she walked into the bedroom and he was there stark naked and a LOT bigger than she’d ever expected – well it hadn’t worked. He was crazy about someone else. Her own mother. He kept calling her by her mother’s name. If he woke up and found her here…that could not happen. He would hate her, and probably get arrested and locked up for life. She had to fix this.
Rayne paused next to the bed and took one more long last look at him. She had been so sure, so certain Ryan was the one for her, that he would know it once he saw her as a woman and not a child. She felt sore, exhausted, sweaty, strange, and sick. Her whole body felt bruised. Her brain and her heart and her stomach, everything felt bruised. He wasn’t the right one. It didn’t matter how much she thought he was; he just wasn’t. She had to keep looking, but first she had to move fast. “Bye Ryan,” she whispered. “I’m sorry if I made it worse. And I think I did…”
The door swung open quietly, a soft click, letting in a flood of cool early morning air. Rayne glanced at the clock on the tower down the street – she had time.
She punched in the number on her cell and waited while the dial tone buzzed and buzzed, four times, five. Nervous, her palms sweating, Rayne backed up against the wall. With enormous relief, she finally heard the voice on the other end. “Hey,” she whispered. “Sorry it’s so early but you have got to help me.”
Bay View - Taylor Beach House, 6:20AM
Sand kicked up behind him as Rafe ran steadily along the deserted beach trail. Muffled and rhythmic footfalls pound in cadence with each labored breath, the only sound in the dark pre-dawn until he was home once more. He had been running for over an hour along the dark beach road trying to clear his head, the images from Probe nagging at him. His heart pounded in his chest, sheen from the salty ocean air covered his arms and chest as he breathed deeply.
Hot, tired from lack of sleep and still angry Rafe pushed open the gate in the front yard. His eyes flashed like the guiding light of the distant lighthouse, warning of impending danger and safe harbor. It was too damned hot, the air heavy and still and his sweats were clinging to his body uncomfortably.
The grit and sand on his shoes left a trail on the worn whitewashed steps as he trudged toward the door of the darkened house. Rafe hesitated before entering; he knew Beth, knew that she didn't act on impulse so there must have been more there with McDermott than she let on or was willing to admit. He hadn't seen it but thinking about it on the long run things shifted like the sand beneath his feet. Maybe she was finally stepping out from under the looming shadow of Cooper Stanfield. Allowing his anger to subside he reached for the door.
Rafe pushed hard to get the thing to open; too much humidity kept it from opening easily, and he quietly walked into the darkened hallway. Although everyone was still asleep alarms were going off from the kids' rooms. All he wanted was a shower and to fall into the cool sheets of his bed but a light from the kitchen drew his attention from the stairs.
Walking along the hallway Rafe passed through an archway and into the kitchen where juice was laid out and Randi's favorite Cheerios floated uneaten in a bowl of milk. She was on the deck in an animated conversation on her cell and from her body language Rafe could tell she was unhappy.
Standing by the window Rafe dragged a hand through his damp hair. She was pacing and almost shouting. Who the hell would she be talking to at this hour and in that tone? Frowning, he caught a few words through the window - careless, dangerous - whatever it was, he didn't like it.
Rafe waited quietly just outside the doorway for a long moment and studied his teenage daughter who was oblivious to his presence. Clearly able to catch snatches of her conversation over the surf crashing against the crags along the beach below he took two long strides closer. When Rafe heard Randi use Rayne's name, he stopped short and listened, wary and disturbed.
Rafe edged quietly closer, his footsteps muffled on the deck boards. His first reaction was not surprise. Rayne – that kid had more body than brain and nobody appeared to be watching her carefully. He suspected Randi had covered for her more than once. Randi was gripping her cell and glaring out at the dark bay, her voice raised and angry.
"You slept with him? Are you completely insane Rainie? How am I going to cover for you for something like that? And you know what? I don’t believe you! You’ve been flashing it at Ryan – yes you have – and he is not into you. He’s never -- no, no I don’t care how drunk he was, Ryan would never do that! He’d be totally disgusted – yeah he would, you heard me DISGUSTED puke disgusted…ok I’m not arguing with you but if you did that, that is just gross!”
Did he hear that right? McDermott and Rayne? Horrified, nauseated, Rafe strode toward his daughter, certain of nothing now except his determination to shut this down.
"All right, but you better hope no one finds out, no one! Did you even bother to think about what would happen to Ryan?"
She must have sensed his presence because she turned suddenly and looked square into his face. Randi's expression quickly changed from surprise to mortification as Rafe ordered in a low and dangerous voice, "Get off the phone now!"
"I have to go...no just...I have to go. I'll talk to you later."
He waited, waited while she hung up, waited while she looked up at him, waited for his own pulse to stop hammering. It didn’t. It wouldn’t. He could already see what he had to do with this and it made him fucking sick to think about it. Rafe swallowed hard, tasting the salt from the surf, his mouth full of it. Forcing himself to speak, he focused on Randi and demanded, "Whatever you got yourself mixed up in, I already heard plenty; but you start talking right now."
South Beach - Starfish Pier, 9AM
Tired and on edge, Rafe strode down the boardwalk toward the pier and tried to ignore the knot in his stomach. The strong smell of fish hung heavily in the damp air. The door to the coffee shop squeaked open on rusty hinges; he wanted coffee.
He considered it, dropped the idea. He already had enough caffeine in his system to power a damned speedboat. It wouldn’t help.
Sliding onto the uncomfortable stool at the edge of the boardwalk, Rafe glanced at the seagulls, at the bird shit on the table, avoided touching the table, and settled down to wait. She was rarely late; it wouldn’t be long.
He turned on the stool and gazed down the length of the boardwalk back toward the street where he’d parked his bike. Since he’d placed the call – about half a red hot minute after the ‘discussion’ with Randi – Rafe had gone over and over what he should say. If it was anybody else, he would have gone directly to Rainie’s father. McDermott’s role in this whole cluster fuck was almost beyond belief. It wasn’t anybody else though, and, if she did intend to move in his direction, this was going to drop a nuclear bomb on her plans.
Swallowing hard against the fish stink and the caffeine overload, Rafe saw her strolling casually toward him, smiling. He was a little surprised she looked as good as she did. Stanfield was volatile; he would have hit the roof when he saw those photos. Make-up sex? Whatever, that smile wasn’t going to be there for long.
“Hi Rafe, what’s going on?”
He got up, stiff, hesitated a second, then leaned in close, eyes hard and direct, and told her, “Come on down to the end of the pier. We have to talk.”
The heavy air opened up on them before he reached the end of the pier. Beth stood quietly in the rain, watching him, while he went over how he wanted to do this. Rafe glanced down, wiped rain off his forehead, and started in on it. “You’ve got a bigger problem than you think.”
She sighed, toyed with her rings. “I doubt it. I think I know what I’m dealing with. Whatever you have to say that’s so urgent, just say it.”
Thunder rolled on the other side of the dark bluffs. Appropriate, Rafe thought unhappily; all he needed now was the rest of the cliché – a bolt of lightning striking the ground in front of him. “I caught Randi trying to cover for Rayne. Beth, she said she’s having sex with Ryan McDermott. She spent last night with him.”
He saw her stumble on those high-heeled sandals. She took a step toward him, clasped her hands around her hips, tilted her chin. "That’s crazy. That is absolutely crazy. That’s not true. That cannot possibly be true. You’re mistaken.”
It was always the same with her; if she didn’t like it, the first thing she did was deny it. “I am not mistaken,” Rafe insisted firmly anger and frustration beginning to bubble to the surface. “Rainie claimed the man was drunk, wasted, but come on, Beth! If it was my daughter, I’d kill the son of a bitch! You think she’s lying? Think about it – why would she make up something like that? Use your damned head for once!”
Beth dropped her arms, took another step closer, bit her lip and then blasted, “You listen to me Rafe Taylor! There is no way Ryan would do that! I don’t know what you think you know or what Randi thinks she knows or what kind of fantasy Rainie is spinning, but that did NOT happen! Don’t you dare go spreading that kind of lie – that would – that would ruin Ryan's whole life!”
“Ryan?” he repeated, stunned and angry. “You’re going to blow this off because you don’t want to hurt Ryan? What about your daughter? She’s a kid! How in hell could she end up in bed with goddamned Ryan?!”
“I’m telling you it never happened! I don’t care what she said, it didn’t happen! I know Ryan – I know him a lot better than you apparently understand – if Rainie said that, she’s lying!”
Rafe folded his arms and glared back at her. The heavy rain had begun to run down the back of his neck, irritating him even more. “I saw the photos, Beth. I do get how well you ‘understand’ Ryan. Me and everybody else. You’ve been playing a real sweet game for a long time, both of you. If he’s messing around with a teenage girl now, it’s going to come out. Get your damned priorities straight!”
She stood there, breathing hard, raindrops beading her hair, staring at him, staring past him at the pounding surf. The purple sail on the boat docked next to the pier flapped in the wind. A man on the boardwalk yelled at a stray dog. Rafe shifted his weight and a loose board under his left foot creaked. He started to wonder how long she was going to just stand there. He had always been able to read her, but he couldn’t now. Something had changed.
And abruptly she exploded, turning her back to him and starting down the pier in the opposite direction. “Leave me the hell alone! Just leave me alone!”
Nonplussed, watching her stride rapidly away, carting her delusions with her, Rafe drew a deep breath and muttered, “Yeah. Tell that to the whole fucking world.”
South Beach - McDermott Residence, 10AM
She slowly eased her car up against the curb, backing up in front of Ryan’s black SUV and then sat there while the watery sunlight burned through the windshield. The evaporating rain wrapped his somewhat ragged foundation plants in a cloudy mist.
A wave of nausea hit her so hard she lowered her head, resting it against the steering wheel as she tried to breathe through it. This could not have happened. Shock and horror and the sick conviction that it might have, that it could have, that somehow her own daughter might have engineered something so horrific she could barely stand to think about it… well she had to think about it.
Swinging open the car door, she got shakily to her feet and walked around to the sidewalk, glanced down the street, then up at the house.
What was she going to say to him? Good morning Ryan, did you screw my daughter? Even if it had happened, even if he realized it had happened, would he tell her? Would he even look at her? She knew Ryan. That would destroy him.
She wiped beads of cold sweat off her forehead and started toward the steps to the front of the house. The monstrous consequences multiplied. A gigantic and poisonous hydra headed dragon of almost unimaginable consequences. And through the haze of fear and pain, the dragon grew yet another head and bit hard. Jealousy. Beth drew a sharp, furious breath. How could that girl do that with Ryan? Anyone but Ryan…
The living room was quiet, the familiar furniture, the worn leather on the sofa – they’d sat on that sofa together and talked and teased each other, laughing about nothing and everything. Ryan’s execrable taste in tv shows; the broken oven he hadn’t bothered to repair since he had a microwave and a grill; her stupid handbag with half her belongings stuffed into it; that pull, always there. She missed him. Too much. Way too much.
Misery so powerful it brought stinging tears to her eyes…she let them come, hot and scalding, and took a step back. She couldn’t do this. If she went in there, she wouldn’t walk back out. And that was a step she was not willing to take.
“I love you Ryan,” she whispered then turned her back to the door and everything behind it.
Images swirled in Ryan's head, Beth smiling at him and Riley laughing, together somewhere, anywhere as long as it was far from South Beach. Slowly it faded, dissolving in a blurry haze distant and dark as Ryan struggled to hold on. "Beth...don't leave..." his voice, dry and rough called out. He willed his body to remain in that dream if that's what it was.
Ryan needed to draw her closer to him, hold her tight against him and never let go. He could feel the heat on his skin; beads of sweat collecting as his arms wrapped tighter around the pillow. He could smell her on the pillow, the sheets, that musky smell of sex and he groaned, as he reached across the bed for her. He felt empty air, nothing, and for a moment tried to dive back into the dream, but couldn’t reach that either.
Slowly his eyes opened against hot light burning through the windowpane. His legs were tangled in the sheets as he rolled on his back and struggled with reality. Raking his hand through his hair he lay there and willed the room to stop spinning. It was a dream; was it a dream? It couldn't have been; it was too real. He could taste her, his body still craving her.
Carefully throwing his legs over the side of the bed, Ryan stood and massaged the back of his head. He inhaled deeply as he fought through the throbbing pain. What time was it; it had to be late morning by the way the sun streamed through the palms behind his bed. He glanced at his reflection in the wall and quickly looked away, wincing at the flash and the broken perspective. He remembered holding her last night even if it was through the haze of considerably more Scotch than he ever remembered drinking. Every inch of his body confirmed it. Or was it smoke and mirrors?
He saw her, she had come to him but Ryan could not escape a nagging doubt. It had been different; but that could have been the alcohol impairing his memory. Where was she? Ryan fought hard to focus, trying to remember exactly what happened. She wouldn't just get up and leave, not after she came to him, made love with him. Where the hell would she go? Stanfield wouldn’t take her back.
Ryan's muscles tightened as his instincts took over and he pushed through the door and headed toward the stairs. He was still disoriented and struggling with the worst hangover he’d ever had.
Ryan shielded his eyes from the splinters of light ripping through his eyes and bombarding his aching head. She might be downstairs. He clung to that hope. Movement from the street drew his attention as he squinted and struggled to focus.
"Beth! Damn it, don't leave!" Ryan shouted as he ignored the lurching in his stomach. She was there, in the street, and he was not about to let her drive away, not again. He had to stop her.
Tearing down the stairs, almost frantic in his need to reach her, he threw open the double doors and ran to the street.
She was gone. Ryan's body began to shake violently as the realization hit him square in the chest. Whether she had been there or not, she wasn't staying, Beth was going back. He buried his face in his massive hands then turned and went back into the house.
He stood in the entry and let his emotions wash over him in wave after wave of agony. Ryan gave in to it briefly and then swallowed it back down hard and fast. He had finally let himself feel too late and let her slip through his grasp. Despite the longing, how much he loved her, how much he knew she loved him, he had to try and let it go, let her go.
Ryan sank to the floor, eyes burning, heart shattering, and sobbed.
South Beach - Stanfield Residence, 11AM
“You little bitch, what have you done?”
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 13