As soon as the door swung open, his face showed sincere surprise. Not necessarily in a good way.
“How did you find this place?” he breathed, his voice raspy as Stryker pulled Briar Rose inside fast and roughly, looking around outside to check if anybody might have seen her, before slamming the door shut.
“Long story. And not one you are going to hear from me.”
They measured each other up quietly for a moment.
“Do you want something to drink?” he growled, still visibly perplex and not pleased.
“I didn’t come here to have jolly afternoon tea and knit lovely sweaters together, Stryker. We need to talk. Without you doing what you always do when others are around, become someone else, some asshole. I always hated that about you, but even more so now. Maybe I should have told you about the baby alone, without Chase there and your entourage at the bar, but then again, I think I would have lost my mind all alone, exposed to the way you treated me. You hurt me, Stryker. Very much. More than I ever thought anyone could.”
He swallowed hard, but said nothing.
“Did you not hear me?”
“I heard ya. I just don’t know what you want from me.”
“What I want? You are too much. Why did I not know about this place? We have been dating – or whatever you want to call what we were doing – for over 8 months. You never invited me here, never even mentioned you have your own apartment. I know I asked your address and never got a straight answer. Pretty nice place, if I may say. Do you live here alone?” she spoke as she walked through the living area and kitchen of his home, he followed her wordlessly.
“What if I don’t.” his tone was defiant.
“So there is someone else?” Briar Rose tried to hide the pain the mere consideration caused her.
“Maybe. Maybe not. What’s it to you?”
“Goddamn it, knock it off! Is all this a joke to you? Am I a joke to you? Were we a joke to you?”
“What do you want from me, Bri?!” he now looked upset, his voice sounded deep, dangerous, angry.
“I want the truth. I loved you. So very much. Maybe I still do … despite of it all …”
“You shouldn’t. I thought we were clear on what this was, and what it wasn’t. I don’t love. Nobody. Not even myself. Especially not myself. You shouldn’t either. I always told you that.”
“Maybe you did say that, but I thought it was a cry for help, or maybe if you felt love, it would change your mind. Stryker, what we had was something real and unlike you, I cannot control my heart. I thought, despite of your rough edges we had something good, something of substance, something that can outlast everything. I thought I saw something in you, maybe something that was never there, something imaginary. But now it is serious. I am serious. A pregnancy changes everything. And I need to know for certain where I stand with you.”
“I thought I made my stance perfectly clear that night when you did your preggo drive-by with little Timmy. Don’t tell me you still haven’t gone to get it taken care of. Tic toc, Bri, tic toc. You here for money? Is that it?”
Briar Rose just barely kept her composure now. He had hurt her, and right now he was trampling every little gleam of hope she had after she found out this address from one of her great-uncle Nick’s investigators as a favor to her.
“You’re not gonna stand there and cry now, are ya?” he mocked, dismissing her feelings.
“You are such an asshole. I don’t know how I could think for so long that there was more, that the Stryker I saw, what you showed me whenever we were alone, was the real one, and the mean, cold and nasty one was only some show to look cool. I hate you!” she cried.
“Good! You should! I give you something more to hate, you bitch! You need to get your pregnant ass out of my place, forget this address and lose my number! For good this time or I will beat it out of your thick skull along with that bastard from your stomach!” he appeared angry, puffing himself up in a threatening manner, but halted when Briar Rose ducked as if he was going to hit her, turned around, tore open the door and ran as if for her life.
Stunned and looking back and forth between the gaping open doorway and the now vacant spot where Bri had just stared at him from, Stryker seemed paralyzed by the fact that her usual strong and defiant ways which had always impressed him so much, were suddenly replaced by a look that made her look so young, delicate and vulnerable like a scared bunny. Scared of him.
She had never feared him before.
Then she was gone, his angry and dangerous facial expression change to something resembling regret and fear, his full lips trembled forming a word, when it finally had sound it sounded more like a yelp.
Days later. San Myshuno campus.
“Bri, someone here for you. A guy. A delish one! RRRAWR!” one of the girls from Briar Rose’s campus floor stuck their head in, then left to give her privacy, leaving the door cracked.
When Briar Rose got up to see who it was, she stiffened, when she saw the guy entering.
“What do you want?” her tone and posture became hostile.
For the flash of a moment regret seemed to reflect in Stryker’s eyes, but now it was all back to his usual cold self. Probably just her dang imagination.
“Give you this.” he handed her an envelope he pulled from his leather vest.
“What is that?” she stared at it, but didn’t take it.
“A letter. Obviously.”
“What’s in it?”
“Words” he said as he tossed it onto her nightstand when realizing she wasn’t going to take it from him.
“You are standing right there. This is stupid. If you have something to say, say it.”
“If I wanted to tell you in person, I wouldn’t have written it down. Read it after I leave.”
“Why would I?”
“So you can ask me stupid ass questions right now, that’s why. Look, I just wanted to give you the letter and see how you are doing after … you know … how you are recovering and all.” he seemed uncomfortable.
“Recovering from what? You and your shittiness? Your lies?”
“No, the … procedure.” he seemed even more uncomfortable.
“Don’t play dumb, Bri. The sucky sucky no more baby one.”
“You are such an asshole! Get the heck out! Never come back here. Take that shitty letter, with your shitty words and go on your shitty ways and shove it up where the sun don’t shine! I am so glad I didn’t let you pressure me into going through with the abortion, I would never forgiven myself, thank God I have my family … oh…” Bri didn’t realize her rant disclosed something she didn’t want him to know.
“Wait, what?! You still have the bastard?! You are keeping it!?!?! You cannot have that baby! You have to get rid of it!” he ranted, going from dangerously calm to an explosive temper.
Briar Rose had carefully kept a healthy distance between them, which he quickly negated by grabbing her hard, slamming her against the wall, blocking her from leaving, his eyes looking upset and mad, gleaming, glaring, scaring her.
“Get out, or I will call campus security! I’ll scream for help! You are hurting me! Get off me, or I will break your face! Daddy taught me how!” she threatened, lacking other options.
“You will have to! I am not letting go until you swear to me you are getting rid of that parasite growing inside of you! You cannot have that child!” he seemed possessed.
“Let go! Final warning!” Briar Rose’s eyes glistened angry.
“Bri, you cannot have that child!” he seemed possessed, Bri shoved him, drove her raised elbow into his face, with a painful groan he let go to hold on to himself as she pushed him away far enough to get away from his grip.
In the middle of the room she halted.
“Sorry Stryker, I never wanted to hurt you, no matter how much you have hurt me, but I was taught better than to let someone bully me. Never come here again or you will regret it!” her words were strong, but her trembling voice belied her courage. Bri was scared!
Briar Rose ran out down the hallway, just away from him.
Finally she found refuge in one of the bathrooms, trying to be as quiet as a mouse.
When she realized, he wasn’t following her, she snuck out. Her next stop was the campus security office to get Stryker put on a blacklist, so he could not ever come here again.
When she got back to her dorm room, after campus security went ahead to make sure he was gone, the room was empty, save that envelope, which was still on her nightstand.
She stared at it for a very long time, considering what to do.
She was more than curious what it would say, hope budding up again, but then flashes of his cruel words came back. No, there was no hope that the Stryker she once thought she knew really existed. He had only been wishful thinking, a figment of her imagination, something she wanted to see.
She was nothing but the clichee good girl who had fallen for the bad boy, the rebel, the tall dark handsome stranger thinking she could make him see the light, turn him into a good guy, her Mr. Right. Like an idiot. Now she was going to be a single mother, the clichee girl who got pregnant in college.
She dreaded the time she was not going to be able to hide that fact and have to waddle about campus hoping to make her classes in time.
Luckily she already had a job forthcoming at her grandpa’s and dad’s company, so having a child would not be a problem and she had family who could babysit, knowing the child would be in good hands.
She picked up the letter and tore it into a million tiny pieces, then tossed it in her trash can. Whatever it would have said, there was no use knowing. If it was something good, she knew it wasn’t real. And she had all the cruelty and mean words from him she could take.
“That chapter is closed for good. Fool me once … and you have done enough damage to last two lifetimes.”
-to be continued-