فصل 23

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فصل 23

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Auburn

I didn’t do what Trey asked me to do. In fact, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t answer a single question.

Every question that was fired at me, I pressed my lips together tighter and tighter.

Owen may not want me to tell them the truth, but if Trey thinks for a second that I’m going to lie for him, he’s more delusional than I even imagined.

When they told me I was free to leave, Trey said he would drive me home. I told him no thank you, and I walked right past him. I’m now standing outside of the police station, waiting for the cab I just called to arrive. Trey walks up beside me and stands next to me. His mere presence causes me to rub my hands up my arms to wipe away the chills.

“I’ll give you a couple of days to cool off,” he says. “But then I’m coming over. We need to talk about this.”

I don’t respond to him. I don’t know how he thinks I would ever be willing to forgive him after tonight.

“I know you’re upset, but you have to see things from my perspective. Owen has a criminal record. I don’t know what kind of hold he has over you, but you can’t blame me for thinking about the safety of your son, Auburn. You can’t be upset that I’m trying to do what’s best by getting him out of your life, so that you can focus on AJ.”

It takes everything in me not to respond. I continue to stare straight ahead until he sighs heavily and makes his way back inside the police station.

When the cab pulls up, I climb inside. The driver asks for the address just as I’m pulling my phone out of my pocket. I type “Callahan Gentry home address” into the search engine, and I wait for the results to return.

I don’t know what I expected to find when I appeared at Callahan Gentry’s front door last night, but the man who stood in front of me certainly wasn’t it. He looked so much like Owen. His eyes were kind like Owen’s, but they looked tired. That very well could have been because it was the middle of the night, but I felt like it was something more than that. It reminded me of when Owen said he watched the life seep out of his father’s eyes, and I truly understood what he meant when I saw it firsthand.

“Can I help you?” his father said.

I shook my head. “No. But you can help your son.”

At first, he appeared somewhat defensive after my comment. But then it was as if something clicked, and he said, “You’re the girl he talked about. The one who has the same middle name?”

I nodded, and he invited me inside his home. When I sat on the couch across from him and began to tell him what had transpired, I grew more and more nervous, thinking my plan might not work out. But the second he agreed to help me, I instantly relaxed. I knew I couldn’t fight this alone.

My hands are shaking right now, despite the fact that Owen’s father is sitting right next to me. I don’t think anything could calm me down in this moment, because if it doesn’t work out in my and Owen’s favor, I’ll have just made things a whole lot worse. My heart is in my throat as we wait for her to arrive.

I’ve been awake for more than twenty-four hours now, but adrenaline is pumping through me, keeping me alert. I wasn’t even sure if his phone call would convince her to show up today, but his secretary just buzzed through the speaker to let him know she’s here.

In a matter of seconds, I’ll be face-to-face with Lydia.

I expect she’ll be angry. I expect she’ll argue. What I don’t expect to see when she finally walks through the door is the man standing behind her. When Trey’s eyes meet mine, I can see the curiosity cloud his face. There isn’t any curiosity on Lydia’s face. Just a world of annoyance when she witnesses me sitting here.

She gives her head a shake as she pauses across the boardroom table from us. “This was the emergency?” she asks, waving her hand in my direction. She gives a huge roll of her eyes, and she turns and looks at Trey. “I’m sorry I dragged you into this,” she says to him. “I didn’t realize it had to do with Auburn.”

Trey’s expression is tight, and he glances from me to Owen’s father. “What’s this about?” he says.

Owen’s father, who insisted I call him Cal the second he found out how I knew Owen, stands and motions for them to take two seats across from us. Trey chooses to remain standing, but Lydia sits directly in front of me. I can see her glance at the cut on my lip, but she doesn’t ask about it. She darts her eyes to Cal as she folds her arms over the table. “I have to leave in half an hour to pick up my grandson from preschool. Why am I here?”

Cal shifts his eyes to mine briefly. I warned him about her, but I think he may have thought I was exaggerating. He straightens out the papers that are in front of him, and then he leans back against his chair.

“These are custody papers,” he says, pointing at the papers laid out in front of him. “Auburn is requesting custody of her son.”

Lydia laughs. She literally laughs and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. She begins to stand up. “Well, that was fast,” she says. “I think we’re done here.”

I hate that she so easily dismisses the notion. She turns to walk out the door, and I look at Trey, who is still eyeing me. He knows I’m up to something, and my confidence is scaring him.

“Trey,” I say to him, just as Lydia reaches the door. “Tell your mother we aren’t finished yet.”

Trey’s jaw grows tight, and his eyes narrow in my direction. He says nothing to Lydia, but he doesn’t have to. Lydia turns and faces me, and then moves her focus to Trey. Trey won’t look at her because he’s too busy trying to threaten me with his glare, so she looks back at me. “What’s going on, Auburn? Why are you doing this?”

I choose not to respond to her. Instead, I place my phone on the table. I open up the file, and I press play.

“You think I’m just going to forget the fact that you attacked me? That you destroyed Owen’s studio? That you’re framing him?”

I pause the recording and watch as all the color drains from Trey’s face. I can almost hear his thoughts, they’re written so clearly across his face. He’s trying to think back on last night and what he might have said to Owen or me on the way to the police station. Because he knows whatever was spoken inside that vehicle, I now have it on my phone as evidence.

He doesn’t move a muscle, other than tensing his arms and shoulders. “Should I play the rest of our conversation from last night, Trey?”

He closes his eyes and looks down at the floor. He lifts his leg and kicks the chair in front of him. “Fuck!” he yells.

Lydia flinches. She’s looking back and forth between Trey and me, but he doesn’t look at anything other than the floor. He’s pacing back and forth.

He knows his entire career is in my hands now.

And the fact that Lydia is sitting down again proves that she realizes it, too. She’s staring at my phone with a look of defeat, and as much as I want to say her expression pleases me, it doesn’t. I never wanted it to come to this.

“I’ll stay in Dallas,” I tell her. “I won’t move back to Portland. You can still see him. As long as you aren’t living in the same house as Trey, I’ll even give you weekend visitation. But he’s my son, Lydia. He needs to be with me. And if I have to use your son against you in order to get my son back, then so help me God, I will.”

Cal pushes the paperwork toward her. I lean forward across the table, and for the first time in my life, I’m not scared of the woman sitting across from me.

“If you sign the custody papers and Trey drops the charges against Owen, I won’t forward the e-mail that contains this conversation to every single officer in Trey’s precinct.”

Before Lydia picks up the pen, she turns and looks at Trey. “If that happens and someone gets hold of whatever she has on that recording . . . will it affect your career? Is she telling the truth, Trey?”

Trey pauses his frantic pacing, and he looks directly at me. He nods a slow nod but can’t even verbalize a response to her. Lydia’s eyes close, and she exhales.

The choice is in her hands. Either she can allow me to be a mother to my son, or I’ll make sure her son pays for what he’s done to Owen. For what he almost did to me.

“You realize this is blackmail,” Trey says.

I look up at him and nod calmly. “I learned from the best.”

The room grows quiet, and I can almost hear him trying to come up with a way out of this. When Trey doesn’t offer up an alternative, and Lydia realizes they have no choice, she picks up the pen. She signs each form and then pushes them across the table toward me.

I try to remain calm, but my hands are shaking as I hand the paperwork to Cal. Lydia stands up and walks to the door. Before she exits the room, she looks back at me. I can tell she’s on the verge of tears, but her tears are nothing compared to the tears I’ve shed because of her. “I’ll pick him up from preschool on my way home. You can stop by in a few hours. It’ll give me time to get some of his things together.”

I nod, unable to speak due to the sob I’m keeping lodged in my throat. As soon as the door closes behind Lydia and Trey, I burst into tears.

Cal puts an arm around me and pulls me to him. “Thank you,” I say. “Oh my God, thank you so much.”

I feel him shake his head. “No, Auburn. I’m the one who should be thanking you.”

He doesn’t elaborate on why he’s thanking me, but I can’t help but hope that somehow, seeing the sacrifices his son has made for both of us will give him the strength to do what he needs to do.

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