Thursday, May 8, 2014

Chapter 2 of 'Finding our Forever' Book2 of the Forever Series

Chapter 2

Lillian Ly

With a disheartened expression on his overly tired face, Carson tries his best to be as accommodating to my situation as possible, but it’s still not enough to unscramble my uncertainties. I’ve somehow lost my identity and strength, and I’m inadvertently blaming Carson for all my misfortunes. When I found him nearly dead on the beach about three months ago, I never imagined my life to become this complicated. I lost my virginity, and a pregnancy that I’m struggling to accept. My future to become a physician is now unclear, and I have no control over the direction of my life. He’s cutting me off from the world until who knows when, making me feel completely isolated. I know that my heart will always belong to him, but my tattered mind implores me to flee from this nightmare. How much more can I endure before I let his obstacles defeat me entirely? Clasping my hands together, my fingertips brush against a cool, smooth surface. The sensation draws my eyes from the tinted window down to my ring finger to see Carson’s pink diamond. Instantly, I’m reminded of our promise of forever. Regardless of how difficult my situation is, I can never picture a life without him because I’m hopelessly in love with this man.
“Lil, we’re here, babe,” Carson taps my shoulder to notify me, interrupting my moment of reflection and a little self-pity. I look up to see that we’re parked at some unfamiliar underground garage. It’s dark, empty and intimidating as my eyes skim the perimeter. Eerie shadows of massive metal beams cast across a concrete path, inciting images of a shrouded Grim Reaper with his deadly scythe, ready to harvest our souls. My horrible imagination sends a terrifying chill down my spine. “It’ll just be a few minutes. We’re waiting for the clearance,” Carson leans forward, away from the dark, sinister background, and into a hopeful ray of light to inform me. He grasps my hand lightly, gauging my reaction to his touch. I leave my hand in his as I catch Owen’s eyes studying my response from the shadows via the rear mirror.
Owen’s buzzing phone slices through the muted darkness, disrupting our overflowing tension. “Hello,” he answers while listening with a stern expression. “Was it clean?” Owen inquires as he scurries his eyes to meet Carson’s through the rear mirror. My ears keenly absorb every spoken word, trying to filter what’s happening. “Excellent!” he exclaims with more spirit than I’ve ever seen or heard from him. “We’ll be up there in five. I’ll see you and the others tomorrow morning,” he confirms and then disconnects.
“I take it that we’re cleared to go?” Carson verifies with Owen.
“Yes, sir. Luke is already upstairs waiting for us.” Owen reaches for the handle to swing it open like a freezer door, letting the bitter November chill course in. My body shivers immediately. Noticing my reaction, Carson attentively shields me with his arms. His warmth is inviting, making it difficult for me to resist his comfort as I nestle against him and inhale his irresistible scent.
For a change, I’m actually anxious to see Luke. I owe him so much gratitude for all he’s done for my friends and me. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we could’ve made it out there safely. Just terrific, my eyes well up with tears again as I recall the accident from two days ago. Concern floods my heart, wondering how Amelia is doing. I have to find out soon, and there’s no way Carson can keep me from speaking with them or he’ll have hell to pay. I blame myself for involving them. I should’ve disclosed Luke to them before they trustingly stepped into the SUV with me. Maybe if we all would’ve avoided the SUV, I would still be pregnant with my Peanut. Just flippin great! The fortress that’s been holding back my tears crumbles, making me a drowning disaster as I think about what if. Quickly, I smear the dampness from my eyes and face, hoping the darkness will obscure my breakdown from Carson.
Owen steps out first and then Carson follows. Reaching in for my hand, Carson helps me out of the limo and into his warm, inviting arms again. We proceed down the creepy concrete path that I noticed earlier to enter a confined elevator that could make anyone claustrophobic even if they aren’t. There’s just enough room for three people. My heart is throbbing uncontrollably, facing all kinds of fear. The anxiety radiating from my body is so palpable that it’s impossible to conceal it. Carson gently circles his arms around my waist, allowing me to burrow my head into his chest to control my labored breathing. When the elevator stops, it opens up to a private entrance of a penthouse—Carson’s. Why am I even surprised that he has a personal elevator? Owen steps out first and then signals for us to follow his lead when he sees Luke fixed in the center of an elaborate wine cellar. My grateful heart has this need to run over and give Luke a necessary hug, but I refrain myself. I’m not sure how he would respond to an overly touchy-feely gesture. There’s a hinting smile on his face when he sees us walking towards him.
“Luke, I’m so glad to see you. You disappeared before I could thank you the other day.” I reach for his hand and squeeze it with sincere gratitude. His concealed smile grows wider. “I’m here because of you. Thank you,” I continue.
“Yes Luke, thanks for bringing Miss Ly safely back to me,” Carson chimes in with his right hand splayed at the small of my back.
“No problem, sir,” Luke replies, wiping his indistinguishable grin away. “Before I head out, is there anything else you need?” he inquires while locking his focus on Carson.
“No, not at the moment,” Carson addresses Luke in a business tone and then turns his attention to me. “And you, let’s get you upstairs to find you something to eat,” he commands in a more playful tone.
I wave good-bye to Luke and follow Carson down a hallway with wooden walls filled with hundreds, maybe even thousands of wine bottles to a spiral staircase. This area of the penthouse is all new to me since I wasn’t nosy enough to snoop around the last time I was here. The enormity of his place is unbelievable. We climb to the top of the stairs, and it appears as if we’ve hit a dead-end, facing an extensive wall with a mural of a beautiful Tuscany landscape. Carson presses his thumb against a discrete symbol blended into the painting, and a door-size part of the wall slides clear. He guides me through the opening, and I see that it leads to a stocked pantry adjacent to the kitchen. It feels like I’m in a James Bond movie with all the secretive passageways and security clearances. My mind is now completely overcome. I don’t think I can handle one more unsolicited surprise today. Carson searches for my eyes, possibly assessing my reaction to this surreal part of his life that I was completely unaware of. “Lil, I know this is a lot for you to grasp in one day, but…,”
“You think?” I immediately smart off, trying to hold my sanity together which is slowly loosening at the already delicate seams. After discovering that Carson is wealthy beyond anyone’s imagination, I expect that our relationship would entail some challenges, but never to this extent. I think my reaction is justifiable.
He overlooks my sarcasm to continue where I just cut him off, “I’m not expecting you to be okay with this. I just want you to promise me that you won’t give up on us, on me.” He draws me into his firm chest and tenderly strokes the back of his hand along my face. “I have so much more to offer you than all this complication. Once everything is straightened out, we’ll have the rest of our lives to enjoy forever,” he vows. I offer him a tiny pursed smile and wrap my arms around him. “I love you, Angel.”
“Me, too,” I murmur into his chest. He tilts my chin up to meet his lips, and I’m lost in the depth and sweetness of his kiss.
Carson eventually releases his hold of me to remind me of lunch. “I need to feed you, babe. All you’ve had to eat was a piece of toast from this morning. What can I make for you?” he considerately asks.
“Grilled cheese,” I reply with a faint grin as I fight back my worries. This is the first time in my life that my future is determined by someone else, and I don’t like it one bit.   
“Grilled cheese it is!” he exclaims. “Lil…,” he hesitates. “Um…after lunch…Dr. Laurent will stop by to check on you,” he pauses to give me a collective second. “He’s one of the top gynecologists in Boston. I just want to make sure you’re okay.” He looks warily at me. What can I say? Carson never misses a beat when it comes to details. The last thing I need or want is to have a doctor poke and prod at my vagina, but I’m too beaten to put up a fight. I nod my head submissively in response and then walk over to a glass window facing the pool to dolefully watch rain drops drizzle down, mirroring the sorrow I’m feeling deep inside.
I can’t believe Carson had Dr. Laurent’s staff setup an ultrasound machine in one of the extra bedrooms. Dr. Laurent’s bedside manner is impressive and very personable. My body automatically flinches when he squirts cool gel on my belly before pressing the probe against it. Carson thoughtfully reaches for my hand and holds onto to it. I think we’re both secretly praying for a thriving heartbeat as Dr. Laurent glides the ultrasound probe around, but disappointingly, there is none on the dark-grey screen. I hear a soft sigh escape Carson that sounds almost like defeat. I avoid looking into his eyes because it’ll only stir up more heartache for me. With all the bleeding and cramping I’ve had, I know that I would need a miracle to keep my pregnancy. I already told myself that I wouldn’t cry again, but I can’t help it. I break down as soon as Carson walks Dr. Laurent out. Tears came fiercely while my body shudders from the pain of knowing that Peanut is definitely gone forever.
After regaining my composure, I creep quietly down the hallway to Carson’s bedroom. Though I know it’ll break my heart even more, there’s one room I have to see. My hand trembles slightly as it grips a silver handle. I open the door to find a barren room. My heart sinks painfully into the pit of my core. All the beautiful baby furniture is gone. Carson must’ve thought he could lessen my pain if he erased everything that reminds me of babies. It was a good attempt on his part, but it doesn’t diminish anything. He walks in from behind and circles his arms around my waist. “Please let me in. I’m here for you, Angel. Open up to me,” he pleads. I fail to reply and continue to conceal my sorrow from him. I know I’m hurting Carson by cutting him out, but I just can’t let him in right now. It’s easier to seal my heart than to pour it out. I don’t want him to see my doubts in us. Reaching down for my hand, he convinces me to leave the empty room. “Come with me, let’s get out of here.” I turn to him and agree.
The minute we enter his room, I march over to his bed and wilt my body on top of it. Several of my ribs are still aching, but tolerable. My tender eyes stare blankly up to the ceiling. Carson follows my lead and does the same thing. We lay there silently with our heads next to each other’s until I remind him of my one personal call from his prison. “Carson, I’d like to call my mom now if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, let me get you the burner phone.” He gets up, walks over to a dresser and pulls a black phone out of the top drawer. Dropping it in my hand, he tells me, “This phone can’t be traced, so feel free to talk to your mom as long as you want. Just remind her that she can’t tell anyone she’s talked to you.”
“Okay, I will!” I snap, irritated with all his restrictions. With a sigh, Carson steps away to retrieve his laptop, comes back and casually plops down next to me. How do I tell him I want to speak to my mom in private? We’ve agreed to have no secrets between us. Maybe I won’t have to. I’ll purposely speak to her in Chinese so he can’t understand me.
I tap my mother’s digits in by memory and nervously wait for it to ring twice before she picks up. “Hi, Mom,” I greet her in an apprehensive tone as I prepare for her explosion.
Immediately, she screams, “Lily, where are you? I thought you were dead. I tried to fly to St. Croix yesterday, but there were no flights available. The news implied that you didn’t survive the accident. Do you know what that kind of news does to a mother? Do you?” she continues to yell and cry hysterically.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I wanted to call you sooner, but I couldn’t. Please don’t cry. I’m safe. I promise I’ll come see you as soon as I can.” I feel a tight lump growing larger in my throat as I force my tears back. I purposely avoid looking in Carson’s direction. A single concerned glimpse from him is all I need to rupture into a spurting fountain of sorrow.
“Lily, when will that be? When can I see you? What kind of trouble are you in? Does this have anything to do with that rich man? I thought you told me you wouldn’t see him anymore.” My mother transitions from raging sadness to bitter accusations in seconds. There’s no possible way to explain Carson to her in her frantic state of mind. She’s at least twenty times more stubborn than I am. She won’t hear a word that I’ll say in his defense. I’ll have to embellish the truth a little bit until my mother calms down, and then I’ll tell her about Carson and our engagement. Again, I’m so thankful he can’t understand a word of Chinese.
“Mom, I’m not in any real trouble,” I fib. “I want you to trust me. I’m safe and that’s all you need to know. I’m not involved with that rich man,” I stutter, hating myself for lying to my mother. Coincidentally, Carson raises his brow and looks at me like he understands what I’m saying to her in Chinese, making me more nervous. My guilty mind must be playing tricks on me. It’s impossible.
“I’m your mother. I know when you’re lying to me,” she accuses me. “You’re in love with him, aren’t you?” she interrogates me.
“Mom, I’m not lying,” I reply in a quivering voice. I’ve never been good at being dishonest. My shaky expression and voice are sure giveaways. “I’m not…in love with him,” I grit my pathetic lie like it’s being dragged across coarse sandpaper. “Please believe me!” I exclaim. Again, Carson halts his train of thought. His body is on locked-down. From the corner of my eye, I can see his jaw clench down tightly like something is upsetting him. He’s probably reacting to my tone with my mother. Maybe he’s frustrated that he can’t understand what I’m talking about. I reason to myself while trying to calm my mother down. “I’m sorry I’m failing you. I don’t mean to.”
“Lily, I don’t like this. Whatever you’re involved with, get out of it now! I don’t want anything to happen to you. You’re all that I have.” She sobs again, spilling unnecessary tears because of me. Damn it! I want the tormenting sound of her misery to stop.
“Don’t cry, Mom. It breaks my heart to hear you so sad. Nothing will happen to me. I’m safe,” I assure her as I push back my doubts. Honestly, I have no idea what the hell I’m involved with. All the added security tells me that it’s more dangerous than I want to believe. My ability to keep lying is weakening, so I cut our conversation off. “I have to go for now, but I’ll call you again real soon. I love you. And Mom, don’t tell anyone you’ve talked to me.”
“Why Lily, if you’re not in any trouble?” she demands.
“Mom, please trust me and don’t ask any more questions,” I plead with my trembling voice. I’m seconds from breaking down and exposing my ugly truth to her.
With a resigned sigh she gloomily tells me, “You’re a grown woman now. I’m sure you can handle yourself.”
“I can, Mom. Don’t worry too much about me. I’ll come see you soon. I promise. Love you.” Defeated, I drop my head to my chest and disconnect our call. Setting his laptop aside, Carson soothingly rubs his hand up and down my back. I know how much he wants to hold me in his arms, but my stubbornness keeps me from falling into them.
“Lil, what can I do?” he inquires while his eyes roam nervously at me. “I hate seeing you so upset. It’s killing me.”
“I’ll be fine. I told her that I’m with you,” I reply with a white lie—one of many. My palms begin to sweat as I avoid his concerned eyes.
“She knows you’re with me?” he probes with doubt in his tone. I nod my head quickly. “And she’s okay with that?” he pries as he studies my tenseness.
I nod my head again and hum, “Uh-huh.” I need to divert his inquiries. He’s onto my feeble lie. Any second now and he’ll have me singing like a canary. I’ll have no choice but to confess to him that I’m a coward about telling my mother of our relationship. In a chirpier tone, I ask, “Hey, handsome, would you mind if I call Richard and Ame? I’ve been worried sick about her.”
“No, of course not. I’m worried, too,” he concurs. My diversion worked. I predict that he wouldn’t object to a phone call to Ame. I’m relieved that he doesn’t push me further with questions about what I’ve told my mom. I know I’m not in the clear, but at least I bought myself a little time.
“Can you hand me your phone for a sec? I need Ame’s number?” He reaches into his pocket and hands it to me. I scroll through his contact list to see Ame’s name under M. I’m pretty confident she has her phone with her because she’s one of those people who never leave home without one. I type Ame’s number into my special phone and wait for an answer.
“Hello, who’s this?” Richard guardedly asks after the second ring.
“It’s me, Lil. Don’t hang up. How are you guys doing? Is Ame okay?” My heart stalls for a second as I wait for his response. Oh god, let it be good news, I plead.
“Ame will be fine. They scanned her head yesterday, and there’s no severe internal hemorrhaging. They’re discharging us right now, and then she’ll come home with me, so I can keep an eye on her,” Richard updates.
“Thank god!” I shriek with relief. “And how are you?”
“I’m fine, too. I have some bruising, but nothing major. What about you, Lil? How are you holding up?” Richard considerately asks, not knowing that it’ll make me weep again.
I pause. How do I tell him about Peanut? “I had some cramping and bleeding. I…had a… miscarriage.” My eyes well up with overflowing tears that can’t be contained this time. Placing his hand on my back, Carson strokes it soothingly up and down as he watches me with his soft hazel eyes.
“Fuck! I’m so sorry Lil. I don’t know what to say. Oh god…,” he panics, trying to figure out what to offer to comfort me.
“It’s over. Let’s not talk about it,” I tell him to shut the pain out, pretending to be resilient even though it’s impossible. I’ve never been this fragile in all my life, and it’s making me feel so hopeless.
“Okay, no more…Lil, this is probably the worst time for me to break this to you…but I have to. It’s been eating me up inside since the accident. Please don’t hate me after I tell you this,” he begs desperately.
“What is it Richard? You know I can never hate you,” I assure him. Carson looks into my eyes with apprehension after hearing my fretting.
“Bianca came to see me about two months ago. She confided that she was Carson’s ex-fiancĂ©e and that she was completely heartbroken from the separation. She convinced me to slip a sedative in your beer, so she could have pictures taken of you and me.” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. What kind of a warped and fucked-up world am I in? Isn’t Richard my friend? How can he screw me over with Bianca of all people? “Lil, are you still there?” he asks.
I’m so stunned that I can barely reply. “You…you drugged me? You fucking drugged me?” I stutter. “Did you even know what it was? What the hell were you thinking? Why Richard?” I shout. The hurt and anger in my voice are all that he can hear. Carson’s expression turns cold and furious from my outburst. He wants to add to the conversation, but I place my palm out to stop him and step off the bed to distance myself. I need space to breathe and calm down.
“Lil, believe me when I tell you that I’m really sorry for being an asshole,” he sighs. “I wasn’t thinking with my head. I thought it would give me a chance and that I could prove to you that I was right for you. She was so persuasive and convincing, and I was desperate,” he explains. “I won’t blame you if you hate me for the rest of my life, but please don’t.” He sounds so deplorable and remorseful, but I’m too pissed to care. Truthfully, I can’t hate him. He’s been so good to me even after my pregnancy news. However, that doesn’t mean things won’t change between us. He’ll have to work his way back into my circle of trust which isn’t easy to do since I already have severe trust issues. My stomach is churning with mixed emotions. I don’t know how much more shit I can take. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs. What Richard did is unforgivable, but I can’t hold it against him forever. I cherish our friendship too much to let that happen.
Bianca’s charm, sexual appeal and shrewdness are impossible to resist, especially for a sweet boy like Richard. Even domineering CEO Carson Bradley wasn’t immune to her allure, so how can I expect Richard to be invincible? He didn’t have a fighting chance against her cleverness. After a heavy sigh, I assure him, “I don’t hate you, Richard, but what you did really scarred me. I have to be honest; it’ll be hard for me to forgive you for what you did. Things will probably never be the same between us.”
“I know it won’t be, but thank god you don’t hate me!” He rejoices. “I’ve been regretting this fucked-up decision the second I agreed to it. I’m really sorry, please find it in your heart to forgive me…eventually,” he begs again.
“It’ll take some time,” I clip and then ask, “What were we doing in those pictures?” but then change my mind. “No…don’t tell me. I don’t want to know,” I object to my own question. Sometimes things are better left unknown. Details can be relentless reminders, making forgiveness to be almost impossible. Now I understand why Carson thought I cheated on him. I’m no match for that conniving bitch. She’s out for my blood.
“The pictures Sasha took of us were very misleading. I promise I never touched you inappropriately. I want you to know that,” Richard swears. “In fact, I tried to contact Bianca afterwards to tell her I had changed my mind, but she wasn’t reachable, probably on purpose. After that, I knew I had fucked up and there was no turning back. I was going to have to pay for my mistake,” He continues to repent.
“Everyone has a weak moment I guess,” I sadly point out. “Unfortunately, it came back to haunt you and hurt me. So I take it that you and Sasha aren’t really friends then, right?” I confirm while walking back to the bed to sit by Carson. He silently mouths, “Are you okay?” I reply with an incomplete smile and nod.
“No, we’re not. I’ve never met her until that night at the bar,” he pauses. “There’s more I need to tell you.” Oh my god, there’s more. How can there possibly be more? “I think our accident has something to do with Bianca and Sasha. After replaying it over and over in my head yesterday, I recalled Sasha driving a similar red sports car that night she followed me back to the dorm. I’m so sure about this that I’m willing to put my life on it. Lil, you have to watch out for that deranged woman. Bianca isn’t a force to reckon with. If she discovers that you’ve survived that accident, she’ll probably figure another way to succeed next time.”
Fear spreads through me like wild fire as I take in Richard’s warning of Bianca. How can I hold onto my sanity now? “What? You think she was involved?” I yelp. “She did cross my mind, but I didn’t think she could be evil enough.”
“She is! She’s the fucking devil in Prada, Gucci, Dolce, and whatever else!” Richard exclaims.
“Oh my god, Richard, she must’ve found out about…,” I stop myself before saying the word baby, remembering that Carson is sitting next to me, listening to everything. With his quick temper, I can see him running to confront her before we even have enough evidence to prove her guiltiness. I want to make sure she gets everything she deserves. I decide to change the subject to lighten the conversation even though I’m sure Carson has probably figured out what we’ve been talking about. He’s too smart for me to put anything pass him. “Can I talk to my roomie?” I ask Richard in a calmer tone.
Richard intuitively complies without asking me to complete my thought. He tells me he has to walk back to Amelia’s room to give her the phone. “Hey Lil, how are you, love?” Ame considerately asks me in her Brit accent that I miss dearly.
“I’m making it, but more importantly, how are you doing? How’s that hard head of yours?” I tease her with the little life I have left in me.
“It’s a good thing I’m a stubborn redhead. The doctor said that I’ll be back to normal in no time at all. My blurred vision is much better, and I don’t sound like a drunken Irish/Brit anymore,” she giggles.
“Thank god you’re okay! I could never forgive myself if…”
“Don’t Lil! I already told you not to blame yourself, sweetie,” she interrupts me. “How’s Peanut?” she warily asks.
Richard suddenly snatches the phone from Ame as soon as he hears Peanut’s name. “It’s time for us to go, Lil. I need to get Ame home and comfortable. Take care and keep us informed,” Richard thoughtfully interrupts Ame to save me the pain of revealing my sad news to her. I can hear her griping in the background for cutting her off.
“I will,” I tell him and then sadly disconnect our call. What’s that saying? When it rains, it pours. In my case, it floods and drowns, leaving me hopeless. I’ve been dragged to hell and back, and I’m not sure where I’m at now.
“How’s Amelia?” Carson asks with a concerned expression that’s probably meant more for me than Ame’s status. “Your conversation with Richard sounded heated,” he stresses.
“She’s going to have a full recovery,” I answer his first question and ignore his second comment.
“What were you and Richard talking about? I see that you’re still upset about it,” he pries with hope that I might confirm what he already knows from listening to my conversation.
“I rather not talk about it now. Is that okay?” I retort. I can’t do this tonight. My brain is exhausted.
“It’s not okay, Lil. I fucking hate being shut out!” he answers in a raised tone. “Why won’t you talk to me? I’m here for you!” he shouts in frustration, and it stuns me. I don’t even know how to respond to his outburst, but cry. Realizing that he just lost his temper with me, he reaches for my hand and tells me, “I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to yell at you. I’m at my wit’s end. I just want to help you get to a better place, but you won’t let me.” 
“I know you do…I think I’m going to call it a night. I’ll be fine if you have some work to complete,” I reply without offering him any sentiments to his plea of letting him into my broken world.
Carson looks utterly crushed and dejected when I pull my hand away from his grasp. It breaks my heart to see him in this miserable state, but I’m just not ready to open up to him. I rather hold my pain and doubts in for now. I hand him the burner phone before walking to the bathroom to brush my teeth. He stands there in awe. As I pass the closet, I notice my side of the room that Carson had created for me is now voided of all the maternity clothes that Kat had selected for me. It makes me feel sadly empty and depressed again.

By the time I finished brushing my teeth, Carson is no longer in bed or in the room, waiting for me. He must be working in his office or maybe he’s given up on me out of frustration. Either way, we’re both not going to bed happy tonight. The covers were thoughtfully pulled back for me before he left. I crawl underneath the sateen sheets and lower my tender eyelids to shut this day from hell out.