There are times when promises HAVE to be broken…
I concur! And I think that Brendan may end up making an exception to his usual rule about never breaking a promise!
Those type usually wear a mask well around others. The family didn’t know my sister’s second husband was one of them, until she finally got the courage to call the police and have him locked up.
It’s awful, isn’t it, the ability they have to put on a completely normal face? I hope your sister is doing alright now. Mad props to her for getting help.
"Baby, you have to tell him."
They had talked to Sam for a long time that evening, going over all her options, trying to convince her of all the love and support she had and would continue to have. Finally, as they were all about to fall over from exhaustion, she agreed to think it over.
Brendan had made sure Sam got into bed comfortably, telling her to keep the door open if she wanted furry visitors during the night. As if on cue, the three cats all hopped on the bed with her and went to sleep.
As for Remy and Brendan, they were worn out but still too wired to sleep. “I promised her I wouldn’t.” he replied lamely.
"You’re going to have to break that promise, babe. You know as well as I do that he still loves her as much as she does him."
"I know, but he has more to think about than himself. He’s got Jace, and he might not want to take any risks."
"I’m not saying you demand he ride in on a white horse and rescue her. But I think he needs to be made aware. He doesn’t live too far from her and maybe he can keep an eye out. And maybe, just maybe, if Sam knows he’s in her corner, it will give her the courage to leave."
Brendan stroked a hand through his husband’s thick dark hair. “I feel so helpless.”
Remy grabbed his hand and kissed the palm. “She’ll get through it,” he said out loud, but inside he was afraid her fear would overcome her sense of reason.
Remy leaned his elbow on his knee. He knew Brendan has promised Sam to keep her calm, but he was going to have to make sure that it was the one promise Brendan actually broke. Evan needed to know that he was being used as a pawn in someone’s sick game. But he wasn’t going to press that issue right now.
"Sam, I’m just saying the more people that know, the more of Atlas’s power is stripped away. His ex-wife knows, now we know. The more people you tell, the more safe haven you’ll have. If you don’t want Evan to know, fine, bu at the very least, your brother needs to know."
"But he and Atlas and Odara, his ex, they all grew up together…he’s the one who set us up…what if…"
"Sam, ye really can’t be thinkin’ your brother won’t believe ye." Brendan exclaimed in surprise.
Samantha looked down at her shaking hands. “I don’t know what I believe anymore, Brendan. I just want to feel free again. I barely remember what it’s like.”
When Sam’s hysteria had died down somewhat, they moved her to the sofa. “Sam, ye still love Evan, don’t ye?” Brendan asked as he stroked her hair.
"Uh-huh," she hiccuped out, tears still running down her sweet round face. “And Atlas knows it, too. If I leave, he’ll hurt him, and Jace too. I’ve been talking to his ex-wife…she wants me to leave, she’s tried to help…he caught us the day before I came here.”
Remy shook his head angrily. The boyfriend was a fucking parasite, sucking the life out of an innocent young woman for nothing more than some sadistic kicks. And he’d probably never follow through on hurting Evan or Jace. The sad fact was, that if she didn’t get out, Sam would be the one taking the punishment, not Evan.
But he also knew this guy had obviously scared Sam enough that she thoroughly believed that if she did one thing wrong, this creep would head for Evan Hawthorne’s house with menace on his mind.
"Those are just threats, Sam," Remy began calmly, patting her knee, “And I’m pretty sure idle threats at that. He knows that you don’t love him, that you love Evan, and he’s using it against you. It’s not about love, it’s about having you as a possession.”
"I know, but what I can I do? If something happened to Evan and Jace because of me, I’d…I’d…" She started sobbing all over again.
"You need to call his bluff, Sam." Remy told her. “Tell everyone. Tell your brother, tell Evan…”
"No! No! Evan can’t know! I don’t want to put that on him!" She turned to Brendan, eyes wide with fright. “Please Brendan, please don’t tell Evan!” she begged, her voice growing higher with each word, “Promise me!”
He guided her head back to his shoulder. He wanted to get Evan on the phone right now and have all of them beat the ever-loving crap out of Atlas. But he saw the fear and knew he had to calm her. “I promise, Sam.”
But he didn’t know if it was a promise he should keep.
Sam felt her knees go to jelly underneath her. Remy caught her as she started to go down and gathered her in his arms, holding her tightly, letting her cry. “I’m so sorry, Samantha.”
Brendan came and put his arms around both of them.
"Sam, we’re here. We love you."
"You’re not alone. Not anymore."
The fear and frustration and pain that had plagued her for so many months had finally reached a breaking point. She burst into gasping sobs, her words tumbling out so quickly she was surprised they understood her.
"I hate him! He acts like he’s this great guy to my brother but he’s a fucking monster! He follows me everywhere, he tracks my phone, he sits outside my work to make sure I don’t leave, he won’t even let me go to the grocery store without him. He tries to dictate what I wear and who I talk to…"
The tears streamed down her face in a veritable river and she felt powerless to stop their flow. It was literally as if a dam had burst.
"He…he doesn’t love me. It’s all a sick game to him. He says that if I don’t do what he says he’ll destroy everything I love…"
Brendan was sickened that his worst fear was being confirmed, and furious that it was happening to someone as good as Sam. “Has he hit ye, Sam?” he asked gently.
"N-no. He’s just rough. Manhandles me, pulls my arms, pushes me, gets in my face…"
Remy closed his eyes. It was Luka all over again, and he knew that a slap or a punch would happen eventually. “Sam, it’s only a matter of time before he hits you. You don’t need to live like this…”
"I DO HAVE TO! HE’LL HURT EVAN AND JACE IF I DON’T!!!" she shrieked, trying to get them to understand she wasn’t staying because she wanted to, she was staying to protect the only man she ever had and ever would love.
Brendan and Remy looked at each other, and then to Sam, who looked as if she were about to curl up in a fetal position at any moment. As if she sensed Sam’s upset, Calliope the cat approached and rubbed herself against Sam’s ankle, purring like a motorboat.
Sam bent to give the feline a quick scratch between the ears before she spoke again. “I can’t involve you guys in this…I can’t put anyone else in danger…”
Danger? What kind of person was Samantha involved with?
As if she were reading their mind, she reassured them, “I’m not involved in anything illegal, if that’s what you were thinking.”
Remy studied her a second longer before approaching. “Samantha, look at me,” he ordered, firmly but not nastily. Hesitantly, she raised her eyes.
"Whatever he is telling you is to keep you afraid and keep you under his thumb. This isn’t about love for him, it’s about power. And right now he thinks he’s king of the fucking world because when he says jump you ask him how high to go."
Sam remembered Odara’s words: You’re afraid of him and what he might do if you try to leave…
"Sam, I know what it’s like to be scared of someone, of their outbursts and their threats. And the one thing I wish I’d had when I was going through was support. And I didn’t have it because I didn’t speak up…I didn’t speak up and when my past came back to haunt me my husband and my cousin had to step in and keep me from getting hurt and put the fear of God in him…"
He leaned forward so he was looking her directly in the face. “You don’t deserve this. Brendan loves you so I love you. Please don’t keep giving him this power over you. If you keep quiet, you keep protecting him. You have friends, Sam, but we can’t help if you don’t tell us what’s going on…”
Sam didn’t know whether she wanted to scream or pass out. She felt herself shrinking under their gaze. Oh, it would be such a relief to tell them, to reach out, to get help, to feel safe again.
But terror filled her at the thought of anything happening to the people that were so dear to her. How could she put them at risk?
She just wanted this nightmare to be over for good, but she saw no way out.
"Sam," Brendan said as he poured more Syrah into her glass, “I’ve been noticin’ somethin’ for a while now. and I just want ye to understand that I’m pushin’ this because I love ye, and I’m worried.” He looked towards his husband, who was standing, leaning against the back of his chair, “WE’RE worried about ye.”
Sam bit her lip. “There’s nothing to worry about, Brendan, I told you I’m fine.”
"You’re not fine," Remy said simply.
"Sam, you act like you’re happy, but there’s no sparkle anymore. At first I thought it was because of everythin’ with Evan, but then ye met Atlas and it seemed like it got worse instead of better."
"Everything is FINE, Brendan." she said in what she hoped was a convincing tone, but even she could hear the shakiness in her voice.
"Listen to how you say that," Remy mused, “I’d imagine you aren’t even convincing to yourself.”
Brendan shot his husband a warning glance. “Sam, what I’m tryin’ to say is…I feel like ye lost yourself. You’re coverin’ somethin’ up, somethin’ with this Atlas guy…”
"You’re scared," Remy finished for him. “This guy is scaring you, isn’t he?”
Sam’s eyes moved between the two men like deer in the headlights. Her hands balled into fists, including the one holding the wineglass. Brendan reached over and gently pried it from her grasp so it didn’t break in her hand. “I love ye, Sam. I do. We want to help ye if we can.”
She bit her lip again to keep it from trembling. “You can’t,” she whispered, jumping from the table and moving towards the fireplace where she stood with her arms folded, retreating further inwards.
"So what do you think?" Brendan asked his husband.
It was after dinner, and they had been sitting around the dining room table drinking wine and talking as Remy quickly put the dishes in the dishwasher. Brendan had deliberately brought up Atlas during dinner so Remy could see her reaction. It was as expected. Her eyes widened and she seemed to almost close in on herself, crawling into a shell. Finally she said he was fine before changing the subject to something innocuous.
Brendan came into the kitchen, saying it was for another bottle of wine, but really it was to hear Remy’s take.
Remy sighed and leaned against the counter. “Something’s wrong there. If she’s as happy with the dude as she claims she is, she’d talk about him non-stop. But she acts like he’s a dirty little secret.” He remembered that feeling altogether too well. He’d never excitedly gushed about Luka to anyone, and always internally cringed when anyone mentioned him.
"So ye think what I think, love?"
Sadly, he nodded. “Something’s up there. Something not good. He’s got her good and scared, I just don’t know about what.”
Brendan lifted his blue eyes to Remy’s brown. “I have to pull this out of her, don’t I?” he asked hesitantly.
"We can’t help her otherwise, baby."
Sam gasped audibly when she walked into the guest room. “Oh my God, Brendan it’s a princess room!,” she squealed, clasping her hands together excitedly.
"Well, like Remy said, we have a lot of female relatives,so he wanted them to have a special retreat, ye know? There’s fresh towels over there," he said, gesturing towards the antique white dresser.
Sam could feel herself starting to tear up. It had been so long since anyone made her feel so welcome, seemed so happy to see her, and the room…she never wanted to leave it.
"Ye okay, Sam?" Brendan inquired, touching her shoulder gently.
She kissed his cheek.
"I am now."
Remy Mahelona, now Remy Donnelly, was, quite simply, one of the most beautiful men Sam had ever seen. The pictures and video she’d seen did not do him justice.
"Sam," he said in a low, melodious voice with a hint of Evan’s surfer boy twang, “It’s nice to finally meet you. You’re not going to threaten me with bodily harm again, are you?” His amber brown eyes twinkled as he smiled at her. If he hadn’t been gay and married, she’d probably have melted.
"Nah, just keep being good to my friend and I’ll keep my killer instinct harnessed."
He watched her a moment longer, and it made her feel like he was sizing her up in a way, perhaps figure her out? No, he was just being friendly. She was definitely over-thinking.
"I’m grilling some steaks for dinner, Sam, are you cool with that?" Remy asked her.
Shaking off her thoughts, she nodded. “Totally. I’ll eat pretty much anything. Brendan caught me raiding the BC cupboards more than once.”
"We used to have cookie parties," Brendan informed his husband as he leaned against the banister, seeming pleased that they were getting on well. “Sam, how about I show ye to your room? You’ll be breaking it in just like ye did at the other place.”
"I hope you like how it’s decorated," Remy chimed in, “Brendan and I both have a lot of ladies in our life so it’s got a pretty distinctive feminine touch.”
Sam grinned. “I am nothing if not a girly girl,” she assured him.
"Samantha," Brendan’s adorable face tweaked up in a wide smile as he embraced her, “It’s been too long since I’ve seen ye, love.” Maisie the dog danced merrily around them, excited at the prospect of a new person.
They had been in a house together for months, competing for Evan Hawthorne. While they technically were rivals, they couldn’t help but become friends, spending many nights up talking about everything under the sun. Evan had fallen in love with both of them, but had chosen Samantha to build a life with. Brendan had been devastated at the time but even then couldn’t be angry with Sam.
Now, as he pulled back and looked at her, he could see the circles under her eyes that she’d attempted to cover with makeup. Her lips smiled, but her eyes didn’t. “It has been too long, way too long,” she agreed softly, trying not to look directly into his eyes.
He tilted his head so eye contact was unavoidable. “Sam, are ye alright? Ye look a little worn out.”
Shit, he’s onto me, she thought, cursing herself that she always wore emotion on her sleeve with people she cared about. Atlas was the only one who she wore the poker face with, because she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her pain.
"I was up late packing," she told him, hoping she sounded convincing, but she could tell by his cocked brow that she hadn’t been. Good thing she didn’t decide on an acting career.
Brendan chose not to push it further at that point, instead helping her with her bag and bringing her into the house to introduce to his new husband.
Sam had been terrified she wouldn’t even be able to make the trip.
While Atlas had initially agreed to letting her go when she reassured him that not only were both Brendan and Remy gay, but married to one another, she’d worried that he would rescind that permission when he caught her with his ex-wife Odara in the coffee shop.
Surprisingly, he’d still let her go, but not without warnings about what would happen if she tried to get someone to come to her rescue or otherwise stepped out of line.
The thought made her sick to her stomach.
However, she had to give him one final middle finger before she left, dressing in her tightest jeans and midriff baring top. It was poking the bear behavior at its’ finest, but she couldn’t help herself. She hated the man and even though she’d never wished ill on anyone, wished he would step in front of a speeding bus and relieve her of this misery she lived in.
She reflected on what her life had become as the luxury car wove it’s way through the crazy tangle of Manhattan into calmer Long Island, until they finally arrived at a town that seemed to have stepped back in time, pulling up in front of a two-story house that seemed ablaze with trees and flowers.
Steeling herself, she attempted to put on her best fake smile as the man she now considered her best friend approached her.
Just looking at him, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.
She felt like she was home.
Brendan lounged on the steps of his and Remy’s new home in Port Washington, New York. Even though on clear days Manhattan was still clearly visible, it seemed like a world away in comparison to this house on the Long Island Sound.
His pit bull Maisie stood behind him, enjoying the autumn air. He’d had her since she was a pup, rescued from a Bronx dog fighting ring, where, had she not been rescued, would likely had been used as a breeding dog or worse, a bait dog.
She was a sweet, playful, friendly animal who seemed to never know a stranger. Brendan or Remy often caught her in a snuggle pile with Brendan’s three cats, Calliope, Rosie, and Ted.
Sam was due to arrive any moment. They had hired a car to pick her up from the airport, sparing them Manhattan traffic and Sam dealing with a taxi.
He hadn’t seen her in a long time, although they spoke by phone and Skype frequently. He knew she’d had a rocky road since splitting from Evan Hawthorne, having to find work and basically rebuild her life.
She said she was content, but there was something in her voice, and in her striking eyes that told him she was somehow off in a way. She had a naturally pouty mouth, but her eyes had always sparkled happily, letting anyone in on her mood. Now it seemed that sparkle had died, yet she still claimed things were peachy.
Brendan didn’t believe her.
She had been dating a friend of her brother’s named Atlas, but that was all she would tell him. Whenever he broached the subject of her boyfriend she would give him nervous short answers and attempt to change the subject altogether.
He’d asked Remy to observe her when she was there, see if they were on the same page in terms of Brendan’s suspicions.
He stood as a black Town Car pulled up to the curb, causing Maisie to bark eagerly. Hushing the dog, he smiled as the driver opened the door and his friend stepped out.