Monday, August 9, 2010
Sessions Chapter 33
"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 Elise 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," Elise said, trying to sound rational and calm. She hadn't considered Melinda and Ryan as a couple of any kind and it no longer mattered. She'd called her, she'd asked if Melinda would set it up, and she had, so here she was. "I appreciate this. I shouldn't be more than a few minutes, I won't get in your way."
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. 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. Elise mumbled something apologetic and escaped in the direction Melinda pointed. The last thing she wanted right now, apart from what she intended to do, was to think about Cooper and Melinda.
She pushed open the door and walked out onto a low deck facing a rocky shore and heavy surf. Ryan stood with his back to a pine twisted by the wind, his arms folded across his chest, watching her as she walked to him through deep sand.
"Elise," he said, taking her name, giving it back to her. "Are you all right?"
The wind whipped her hair across her mouth. Elise 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, Elise, 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. It was just a chair after all. 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.
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. It had seemed like a good idea in the middle of the night, 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, 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, and put one hand on his back. "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. Elise, 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. I don't think it caused her any harm other than regret. She's very headstrong, and I know it sounds strange, but she's looking for someone. You're not him. It's bad, it was a bad thing, you should not have...you should have made sure, but no one is irreparably harmed."
"God I hope not. I apologized to her, I asked her if she needed anything, if there was anything I could do. She turned me down."
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?"
She still heard Cooper's voice, the message he'd left last night, the aching empty hole in her life without him.. moving on felt like dying. "He wasn't happy, isn't happy. I don't know if I can make him happy again. I destroyed it, the trust, I destroyed all of it."
Ryan shook his head, a short derisive bark of harsh laughter. "You're always taking the blame. He didn't deserve your trust."
"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!"
He tried to yank her around and threw one hard demanding question directly at her like a knife strike aimed right at her heart. "Elise, do you love me?"
This was not why she was here, not to answer that question. Elise 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. I won't let you come around me again after this, it's the end. You came here, you know why you came here. Be honest with me and yourself for one damned last fucking time!"
She shook her head, refusing, and he tightened his hold on her, 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, "I love Cooper more, I always have, I always will. It ends here and that's my choice no matter what you decide. This is the very last time and that's the truth you say you want."
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.