There's no light, and there's no sound,
Bet you wanna drag the sunrise down
You tell me it feels like you're running in circles
And all the time they keep raising the hurdles
Out of sight, and under ground
You're dreaming you're gonna drag the sunrise down
"He's outside." Melinda shut the door and looked at her warily. It had been a long drive from South Beach, raining all the way, and Beth had that dinner date tonight looming. She hadn't slept. She was nervous. She was irritable. She was scared. She was going somewhere she should not go to open something she should keep closed. And the door was open and it was too late to run away.
"Thank you," Beth said, trying to sound rational and calm. She hadn't considered Melinda and Ryan. Maybe Melinda and Ryan were together now. She didn't know. She didn't know anything about Ryan now. But she'd called her, she'd asked if Melinda would set it up, and she had, so here she was, and she was going to go through with it, making apologies, spreading them out there. "I appreciate this. I just want to talk to him, I shouldn't be more than a few minutes, I won't get in your way, whatever you're doing here."
Melinda looked at her for a long, uncomfortable moment before replying. "You're not in my way, and he's expecting you."
That had not come out the way she meant it. Whatever you're doing here, why had she said that? Embarrassed, wondering how she was supposed to talk to this woman, wondering how many times she'd done Coop, what she'd seen him do, off balance, Beth mumbled something apologetic and inane and gratefully escaped in the direction Melinda kindly pointed, down a hall she barely noticed in her haste to get away. The last thing she wanted right now, apart from what she intended to do, was to face the truth about Cooper and Melinda's whores all doing the deal together with maybe Melinda in the middle of it.
She pushed open the door, pushing it too hard, and walked out fast onto a low deck facing a rocky shore and heavy surf. Ryan stood about 10 feet away, his back to a pine twisted by the wind, his arms folded across his chest, watching her. She crossed the distance through rough wet sand, heels sinking into the sand, walking and walking toward him.
"Beth," he said, taking her name, giving it back to her. "Are you all right?"
The wind whipped her hair across her mouth. Beth swept it back from her face, more uncertain now than ever about her motives, stepped into the lee Ryan himself created. "You almost killed my husband. I'm definitely not all right."
He raised one eyebrow, snorted in derision. "He'll hurt for a couple of days, but I didn't come close to killing him and you know it. Come on, Beth, you're not here to complain about his damned headache."
No she wasn't. "Is there someplace we can sit?"
Ryan jerked his head toward a pile of boulders. "You've got a choice: a wet rock or a wet chair. I recommend the chair."
The rock might be the better choice. Lawn chairs carried memories, Ryan landing hard in the sand when a deck chair collapsed under his weight, laughing, blaming her for sabotaging the chair, abandoning the chair, both of them sitting on the beach watching thunderheads sail across the horizon into the sunset, a long time ago. She followed him toward the chairs. Ryan picked up one of them, shook it free of sand, set it back down, and said, "Have a seat."
He pulled the other chair around to face her, eased his weight down onto it, clasped his hands loosely between long legs and studied her. The wind blew his red hair across his face, the freckled nose, long honey brown eyes. It suddenly became difficult to sit so close to him. She crossed her legs and tried to steady her breathing. "It's all right," Ryan assured her, quiet, gentle. "I'm not coming any closer. Tell me why you're here."
"Coop and I separated." It wasn't why she was here, but it was a start, put out something easy first.
He looked down, then directly back at her. "I know, I heard about it. You know my opinion; I'm not offering condolences. The last time I saw you, you said you never wanted to see me again and kissed me goodbye with a steel pipe across the back of my head. What's going on, what do you want?"
"I...Ryan, there are some things, well there is one thing, there's something I have to tell you."
She shifted on the uneven slats, uncomfortable, dug her heels into the sand, clenched her hands together in her lap, all while Ryan continued to study her from a distance of only a few inches. This was going to hurt him, and she had already hurt him enough, and the necessity was one she couldn't quite justify as anything but selfish. One of those quixotic decisions made in the middle of the night: they seem reasonable in the dark, get rid of all the secrets, scrape them out, scour everything clean. Scouring someone else down to the bleeding core did not seem like such a great idea now that she was looking at this man. She was here, scour she would do.
"I know about Rayne. I know what she did to you, what you both did. You and Rayne, you and my daughter." One long hard push and there it was. "You slept with my daughter."
He jerked back as if stung, got to his feet, shoved past the chair, the chair toppled over into the grit and the water coming up into the sand. Beth leaped after him, banging her hip on the other chair, put one hand on his back, bad move such a stupid bad total messed up thing to do, "Ryan, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have told you, I thought it would be better if you knew. Ryan, I'm sorry."
He kept his back turned to her, gazing at the water, at the bridge, something anything except her. She felt him draw a long breath, felt it through her hand. Still not looking at her, his voice thick and unsteady, Ryan said, "Don't apologize, you don't have a damned thing to apologize for. Beth, I didn't know it was Rayne...I was stinking blind drunk, I thought it was you. I don't know what to say to you, I don't know what harm I did to Rainie, I should have said something to you when I found out, but I swear I didn't know it was her."
"I know. Ryan, I know. It doesn't matter anymore. Not to me."
They stood there in silence, only the wind and the rasp of surf dragging pebbles out into the water and drowning them. "Tell me something," Ryan finally said, looking down at her, "what are you doing? You forced him out? Strategy to force his ass back into line, or are you moving on?"
Cooper's voice, the message he'd left last night, the aching empty hole in her life without him. Beth swallowed hard and, as honestly as she could, said, "I don't know yet. He wasn't happy, I don't know if I can make him happy."
Ryan shook his head, a short derisive bark of harsh laughter, "Let me guess, rock star says he's going to change all that."
"He's a good man -"
He abruptly grabbed her arms, his expression fierce and cut in hard. "Bullshit! He's an arrogant son of a bitch and you know it!"
"And I'm his wife, and I cheated on him! He has a right to be angry!"
"Beth, do you love me?"
This was not why she was here. Not that question. Beth pulled hard, trying to break free of his grip, he held on, tightening it. "I'm not waiting for you," so close she could feel his breath against her skin, remembering the taste of his skin, remembering his mouth, remembering everything, "I love you, but I'm not waiting. You came here, you know why you came here, tell me Beth tell me."
"Ryan, don't make me do that to you - "
He interrupted her again, demanding, ordering, "Tell me!"
What was she waiting for? For clarity? For honesty? Wasn't that why she was here? Why was she here? Emotion sunk sharp teeth into her and shook her until she gasped and cried out, "You know I loved you! Why do you think I kept quiet? Why do you think I came to your house the morning after Rayne? Why do you think I couldn't go in? Why do you think I never said anything to anybody? Why do you think I'm here? Oh Ryan, everything is so messed up!"
Ryan didn't let go. He pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her, holding on, giving his warmth strength heartbeat, the ocean of pain and tears pounding through her against that massive strength. It would tear him down. In time it would tear down a mountain. For now, the mountain still stood, resting his chin against her forehead, taking her pain, silent, wet, windblown, shaking, but still standing. Still there, this time, this one last time.
NEXT CHAPTER: Sessions Chapter 34