“Reagan,” said the deep voice behind her. “You look beautiful tonight.”
She inhaled sharply and dropped the packages back on the table as cold chills rolled down her spine.
She spun around to face the intruder. “What are you doing here?” she asked, as her heart began to pound out of her chest.
“I needed to see you. Can we go somewhere and talk?” asked Archer.
“No. I’m busy. Please leave.” She tried not to sound nervous, and turned away from him to pick up a small box. Please go, please go, she thought over and over.
“I can wait. I’ll help. Tell me what to do – Reagan.” His voice was rough, like he was working hard to control himself.
“I think she already did,” said a new growly voice, making her jump. Evan?
She dropped the box with a soft thunk that sounded loud in the deserted hall. She turned back around. “Oh shit,” mumbled Reagan as Evan stepped out of the shadows into the reception hall. He had come back. She saw him leave with everyone else, had even watched as he drove off. And he came back.
Archer turned and glared at the intrusion. “I’ll just wait until she’s not busy, and you can just get the fuck out of here,” instructed Archer.
Reagan was terrified of another fight. Adrenaline kicked in and she ran between them. “Both of you. Stop it now! Archer – I don’t want to see you anymore. Leave. Me. Alone. I don’t need, nor do I want your help.”
“Your only saying that because that weasel is here,” said Archer with obvious disgust for Evan.
“Shut the fuck up Kendall,” ground out Evan, “you heard her. She doesn’t want you here. So leave.”
“Shut. Up. Evan!” screamed Reagan, terrified Archer would attack him. “This is my fight. You have nothing to do with it. You can stay, or you can go. I don’t care.”
Then she turned her anger towards Archer. “But you, Archer, you need to leave now. I might owe you an apology for knocking you out and a thank you for helping me when Mother …. I led you on, and for that I’m sorry. But, I am NOT in love with you and I don’t want to be with you. Stop calling me. Don’t text me. Just leave and let me live my life.” Reagan had started to cry in the middle of her tirade. “Everything was perfect until you showed up. Now I’ll probably have nightmares again. Fuck!”
“Reagan …” began Archer.
“No!” she cried, cutting him off. “I don’t want you!” She was shaking violently and put her arms around herself to try and stop.
“Do you know what your boyfriend did?” asked Archer, completely ignoring her requests to leave.
“He’s not my boyfriend and why does it even matter? Just leave.” She had run out of steam and was begging through her tears.
“He tried to kill your mother Reagan,” continued Archer, as he slowly moved closer to her. “He couldn’t even do it. He let her rape him too. Such a goddamned pussy. And that’s what you want? Instead of me? A real man that can protect you and stand up for himself?”
“You son-of-a-bitch!” growled Evan, and started towards Archer once again.
“Evan! Don’t! He’s not worth it,” said Reagan frantically. Evan stopped in his tracks glaring at Archer and she inhaled a grateful breath. Please keep away, she prayed silently.
She turned to Archer and slapped him as hard as she could. “Get out,” she ground out, “I never want to see you again. You disgust me. Come on Evan. Take me home. Please.”
“You heard her Kendall,” growled Evan, to a stunned and speechless Archer. “I suggest …”
“EVAN!” screamed Reagan, “NOW!”
Evan turned to follow her out without another word. Just when she thought she was going to be okay, her world was turned upside down again. She had to get out of there. And if what Archer said was true? Oh god, oh god, oh god. She had to talk to Evan, but she needed out of there first.
Reagan held her composure until they were sitting in Evan’s car. She was afraid to look. “Did he follow us?”
“No,” he barked out.
Her relief was immediate. The adrenaline fled her body and Reagan broke down and began to sob.
Evan didn’t say anything until she stopped crying. “Are you ready to go?” he asked emotionless.
She swiped at her face. “Yes, but … can we go to your place. I can’t …”
“Fine,” he said and put the car in reverse. The only sound was her occasional shuddering breaths from crying so hard. She looked over at him. He was fuming. His jaw was clenched and he was working it hard, no doubt worrying about the ensuing conversation when they got to his apartment.
When they finally arrived, he simply said, “We’re here,” and got out. She followed him into the building. When they got to his door he turned to her. “It’s a fucking crawl space, but it’s all I’ve got.”
“I don’t mind really,” she squeaked, sounding like a frightened mouse.
He opened the door and they walked in. He was right. It was a tiny efficiency shotgun apartment. But she really didn’t care. She just needed a place to go. She immediately knew why he never asked her to come to his place. He was embarrassed.
“I guess we need to talk,” he said sounding resigned to his fate, “Let’s sit down in the living room. It’s eight steps towards the back.” His voice was full of self loathing, and she felt awful for him.
“Okay,” she said and followed him. She wished he would’ve shared this part of his life with her sooner. The couch was a makeshift fold up couch, just like the bed she noticed coming in. She almost laughed to herself when she saw the expensive TV sitting on an old stand. Men and their electronics.
Once they were both seated, instead of waiting on him, she started first. “It’s true isn’t it,” she said softly. “I can tell by your reaction. No wonder you couldn’t tell me.” She had to stop for a second as she fought a fresh round of tears, “I’m sorry Evan.”
“I don’t need sympathy Reagan,” he snapped, “It’s over. Why the hell did you make me back off? I wanted to hit him so goddamn bad.” He looked at her and a tiny bit of admiration seeped into his expression. “At least you slapped him. Tell me … did it feel good?”
Reagan couldn’t stop the laugh that slipped out in spite of the seriousness of the situation and quickly covered it with her hands. “Oh god, it’s not funny. No, it hurt my hand. But seriously,” she said softening her tone, “Evan, he could’ve killed you. Didn’t you see what he did to Ryan? I had to hit him on the head with a wine bottle to make him stop. I thought he was dead. I figured Ryan told you. And Evan, I would’ve done it again tonight, and maybe this time I might’ve tried to kill him. I wouldn’t been able to forgive myself if anything happened to you.”
Evan looked at Reagan and his face softened. “No, Ryan didn’t tell me you hit him. Just that they got into a fight.” Evan chuckled. “You’re a badass Reagan Murdock. A Mama Bear protecting what’s hers. Remind me not to get on your bad side.”
“Truth? I was scared shitless,” she said and grinned.
“But you still did it Reagan. Then, and tonight. A fierce as hell Mama Bear, you got right in his fucking face. He was the one scared shitless.”
“I don’t feel like it,” replied Reagan, “if you’d left when I yelled at you, I might’ve lost my nerve. So thank you for staying. But, why were you even there? I thought you’d gone home.”
He looked at her and she knew before he said it. “I came back for you. And there is no way I was leaving you with him.” His eyes were full of affection, and she swore her heart skipped a beat. “I’ve missed you Reagan,” he added softly.
Reagan smiled. “Weddings …” she said and shook her head slowly. “I’ve missed you too.”
Evan looked like she just poured a bucket of ice water on him, his expression changed quickly to one of despair. “Listen, there’s more I need to tell you. Then, if you want to go back to Ben’s, I’ll take you. No questions asked.”
Reagan swallowed hard. “Okay,” she said, the earlier mood gone. This was the part of the conversation they were both avoiding.
“Archer wasn’t lying Reagan. But you deserve to know all of the details,” he said and looked away. His voice was a hoarse whisper as if he could barely get the words out. “The day before I lied to you, Avery threatened to tell you about Mari. She asked me to meet her and talk. When I got there she drugged me. She and the gun lady – Viv – did it together. Then she raped me and made it look like I raped her, with pictures … I don’t remember any of it. They dumped me back here and sent me the pics of her alleged rape. They were disgusting. She said she would file charges if I didn’t tell you I was going back with my ex-wife. I don’t know what really happened after the drugs hit me, but I assure you, I did NOT rape her.” His last words were not whispered.
“Is that why you tried to kill her?” asked Reagan in a small voice, assuming that was true as well.
“No,” he said without hesitation. He pulled off his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt like he needed air. It was more distracting than it should of been, given the circumstances.
He finally looked at her and continued. “The night I left you at the hospital with him, I was an emotional wreck. Kendall was taking advantage of you, but I’d lost the right to be with you because of her. I’ve never hated anyone as much as I hated that woman, but Archer fucking Kendall’s right up there. And it’s not just for what she did to me, but because she did it to hurt you. You were nothing but kind to her and she did that shit. I’m glad she’s dead. I’m sorry.”
Reagan’s tears began again. She wanted to reach out and hold him, but he seemed to have more to say so she waited.
“When I was leaving the hospital, I saw them take her into her room, and something just snapped inside of me. I went to her room after the security left. She was handcuffed to the bed and her other arm was in a cast. I saw a pillow and just … picked it up. Reagan, it was like I wasn’t in control of my body. I was hurt, tired, hungry, and very, very worried about you and I couldn’t do anything to help.”
“You don’t have to …” she said in a whisper.
“I need to finish Reagan. I’m sorry. You need to understand everything. I almost succeeded. But Archer walked in. He didn’t know I was there. Reagan, he was there to kill her. He stopped me because he said you couldn’t deal with me getting caught and he sent me home. I didn’t understand that meant he was going to do it himself when I left.”
Reagan’s heart was beating hard and she was breathing too fast. “He went to finish the job …” she said, almost to herself, as the pieces began to fall into place. “He told me he wanted to kill her in the game room but couldn’t. Oh my god, oh my god …” She began to see black spots and breathed faster trying to catch her breath.
Evan quickly pulled her into his arms. “Reagan! Slow down your breathing. Baby, breathe slow,” she heard Evan say as he rubbed her back. “Just breathe, it’s okay.”
Finally the spots went away as she concentrated on Evan’s voice and relaxed. She sat there a minute, relishing his arms around her, making sure she was okay before eventually speaking. “I’m okay now … but I’m confused. The doctors said she had a blood clot. They would know if she was murdered – right? So he couldn’t have done it.”
Evan sighed. “After I got home, I got a visit by the little shit himself. He told me he did it. He was afraid I would blow his cover and wanted to tell me to keep quiet, or else.”
“Evan,” she said, taking his hands in hers, now comforting him, “I can’t believe we’re sitting here talking about rape and murder. Why haven’t you gone to the police?”
“Reagan, it wouldn’t do any good. It’s become painfully obvious that Kendall is not just the head of a security company. He has his hands in organized crime. Maybe even serious mob level shit. They most certainly have people in all the right places to cover it up. BASE is a legitimate company and a great cover for that. No, the best thing to do is let it go and get far away from him. He didn’t follow us tonight. Surely, if you’re with me, he won’t chase you anymore. He knows I know his secret. And the son-of-bitch probably knows, since he you told my secrets, that I would tell you his.”
Reagan looked at her hands, her mind was racing. “She would’ve gone back to jail. There would’ve been a trial. She would’ve blamed you. Oh my god. I’m sorry I brought you into all of this horrible family drama.”
Evan looked at her, searching her face before he continued. “Reagan, sweet Mama Bear, you’re worth it. Now you know everything, all of my secrets, except one … I love you. I never stopped loving you.”
Her heart soared. “I love you too Evan…”
“God Reagan … I thought I’d lost you …” he said hoarsely as he leaned in and kissed her. Reagan couldn’t think about anything except how good it felt to be in Evan’s arms again. She never dreamed this night would end with kisses and professions of love, but it did. Thank goodness for Weddings.