Building up your wall from everything you wanted
Fit the pieces into holes we used to crawl away
Finding out the truth when nothing really matters
Chase the light that's blinding even as you crawl away
Giving in or leaving too slow
Now we have what we have become
What Have We Become ~ Daughtry
Millwood - North Lake Drive 7 am
Leaving Gemma's house without bothering to wake her, increasingly uneasy, anxious to get out of the place, Cooper paused beside his bike and took a deep breath of the cool air blowing off the lake. Now what?
He checked his cell while he tried to order his thoughts, decide what the hell he was going to do, and saw three calls from Beth. One of them included frantic voice mail. She was crying, telling him she could explain, that he'd gotten it wrong, was he all right, would he at least let her know he wasn't hurt. Staring at it, he fought a wave of pain so damned strong, pain raking through him, snapped the cell shut, shoved it into his pocket and got on the bike. Fuck her. He'd go anywhere but back there now.
East Metro Area - Chameleon
Dawn broke violet and deep blue as Melinda unlocked the door to her office. She set down her bag, glanced idly at the stack of mail from yesterday, and then sighing, leaned against it. She gripped the edge of the desk as she remembered yesterday's events. Ryan and Cooper Stanfield brawling in the alley, a very one-sided fight; Melinda shuddered and closed her eyes. She knew what Ryan was capable of, that he could have easily killed Cooper. If it hadn't been for Beth and that pipe, the horror on her face, Mel didn't think he would have stopped.
Ryan hadn't said a word the entire drive back. Although she tried to reason with him, all Mel got was a murderous glare and silence. There wasn't much she could do for him anyway. Knowing that Ryan would sink further into oblivion, she partly blamed herself for dragging him into her mess. Cooper and Beth, on the other hand, that was something she might be able to fix, she had to try.
A light tapping at the door just before it opened startled Mel. Tensing, she gasped and turned her head toward the sound. Lyra walked in something clearly bothering her as she chewed her lower lip. "You're here," Lyra's wispy voice vaguely annoyed Mel.
"So I am. What is it?" She hadn't meant to snap at her but Melinda was tired and still unnerved.
"There is something you need to know." The pretty blonde leaned in as if someone might overhear her and spoke quietly in Mel's ear. She rose slowly as the words sank in. Cooper was here leaving Melinda apprehensive over what had gone on. Her girls wouldn't approach him, they knew better, but Cooper had the power to change that at any time. It was always his call.
"Tell me where he is and who is with him."
Stepping off the elevator to the private bar, she saw Cooper sitting his longs legs stretched out and nursing a drink in his hand while two of her girls entertained him, one on either side. He looked terrible and Mel wondered if he had eaten or slept at all. Slowly she approached them while struggling with what she could say that might somehow make things right.
Looking up at her through hooded eyes Cooper rasped, "Come to join the party?"
The two girls waited expectantly until Melinda gave them a meaningful glance. They stood murmuring vague apologies and sauntered off while Cooper smiled irreverently. "You want me all to yourself then."
"What are you doing here Cooper?"
"This is still a whorehouse isn't it? What do you think I'm doing here?" Cooper stood and moved languidly toward her. "It's been a long, long time Melinda. I imagine you've just gotten better."
Cooper's words stung, probably more than they should have. "Let's go somewhere more private so we can talk." Melinda turned as she spoke, moving toward one of the adjacent rooms and gesturing for Cooper to follow.
"I know where you're taking me; which one of us has been naughty? I hope it was you." Cooper chuckled deeply as he caught Melinda by the waist drawing her toward him while his other hand skimmed along her thigh. Startled by the action Mel glared at him over her shoulder before pushing his hand away. Leading him into the room, she turned on her heel and let him have it.
"In case you forgot, I don't do that anymore. What's wrong with you?" Shoving him toward the bed, the only place where you could sit in this particular room, Melinda drew a breath and tried to gather her thoughts.
"Come on Mel, I've got more than enough to make it worth your while - money's no object either." Cooper grinned as he settled against the headboard and scanned the room noticing handcuffs, ticklers, crops, chains suspended from the ceiling and some kind of padded bench that he knew was for discipline before sliding his eyes back on Melinda.
"You arrogant jerk you should be at home with your wife. Ryan would have killed you right there in front of her Cooper! He...he's not the man you knew, not by a long shot. He wouldn't have thought twice about it and he wouldn't have lost a moment's sleep either. Beth bashed him with a pipe, for heaven's sake!"
Melinda began to tremble. She knew that gut wrenching agony of loving someone so desperately and seeing them walk away without a backwards glance. It was way too late for her, but she would not stand by and let Cooper's ego get in the way of the truth. "You were way off base Cooper. Ryan was with me yesterday, waiting for me, he works for me. It was an unfortunate coincidence that Beth was there but that was all it was. And you've got some nerve jumping to conclusions about what went on."
Cooper threw his long legs over the side of the bed and stood. He seemed weary and his expression, that smoldering fire in his eyes, made it clear that talking about Ryan and Beth or anything for that matter was the last thing he wanted. "Mel..."
"No, you don't get to talk, I'm talking and you're listening damn it! Beth loves you Cooper! She was devastated and scared and you walked away and left her in that alley! No one deserves that, especially not someone you love. You should be crawling back on your knees and begging her to forgive you!"
"She was clinging to him Melinda, I needed her but she held onto him instead! If she'd stood by me, come to me..."
"Stood by you...you're insane! That is all she does Cooper, through all your shit, all your antics on the road. You think she doesn't know about that? You don't deserve her if that is what you think." Melinda's expression softened with emotion as she stared at him. "She saved your ass Cooper! Ryan would have ripped you apart! You made a tremendous mistake and jumped to the wrong conclusions. For your sake, go fix this, make it right, at least try." Placing her hand on his arm, she murmured, "A woman in love will forgive almost anything."
Cooper's legs would no longer support him as Beth's frantic voice mail came flooding back, her pleas to him in between uncontrollable sobs ripping a new hole in his heart. He sunk to the bed horrified. "What have I done..." He looked up at Melinda, his voice shaken, hoarse, "And coming here isn't the worst of it."
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 31