Now That You're Here


Chapter 45


Chris walked the last of the police officers out and made a quick phone call, then went back inside to find Zander standing in the middle of their bedroom, lost in thought. He walked up and put his arms around him from behind, not at all surprised to feel the younger man jump.

“I’m so sorry,” Chris offered lamely.

“Please stop apologizing for him,” Zan replied softly. “We’ve already moved beyond what happened all those months ago. What he’s doing now has nothing to do with you.”


“It’s not your fault,” Zan insisted.

“Are you okay?” Chris knew when to change the subject.

“No, I’m not. He was in here, Chris. He was in here going through our things. He trashed our home and destroyed our bed. No, I’m not alright.”

Chris looked over Zan’s shoulder to the mess before them. Ryan had taken a knife or some other sharp object and shredded their bed, torn sheets and stuffing were everywhere. “I called the Holiday Inn across town. They’re expecting us. Why don’t you throw some things in a bag so we can get out of here? We’ll deal with all of this tomorrow.”

Zander didn’t argue. Instead he did as he was told, packing them a few things to take to the hotel. He felt numb; like everything that was happening was really happening to someone else and he was just watching it unfold. It wasn’t his house that was trashed. It wasn’t his bed that was shredded. He wasn’t the one living with a stalker disrupting their lives. He didn’t remember much about the ride to the hotel or the check in. He didn’t remember much about the shower he took. When he climbed in bed and went into Chris’s arms, the only thing that he could think about was the fear that was coursing through him. The fear that Ryan was never going to leave them alone. He silently cried himself to sleep, noticing that for the first time in his years with Chris, the older man didn’t make him feel safe. Not anymore.

Chris was pulled out of a deep sleep by the sound of his cell phone ringing. As he reached for it, he glanced at the clock, surprised to see that it was after nine.

“Hello,” he answered sleepily.

“Chris? Were you sleeping? I’m sorry; I figured you’d be up by now. You’re always up before nine,” Brian said.

“Yeah, it was a long night. What’s up? How are you guys doing?”

“We’re good. How are you two? Enjoying the peace and quiet? It’s almost over, you know,” Brian teased.

Chris felt Zander stir and jumped up, trying not to wake the sleeping man. “Hang on a second. Let me go into the bathroom so I don’t wake Zan.”

“Zan’s still sleeping, too? Wow, you guys did have a long night,” Brian laughed and then sobered. “Wait a minute. Is everything okay?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?” Chris chuckled weakly.

“You tell me. You guys are still sleeping at 9:30 in the morning and you’re going to go into the bathroom so you don’t wake Zan up? That seems a little strange to me,” Brian replied. “Now, do you want to tell me what’s really going on?”

“Really Brian…everything is fine. You and Justin just go enjoy the day and we’ll see you when you get home tonight.” Chris hoped Brian didn’t hear the hesitation in his voice. He hated lying to his brother, especially after all the lying and sneaking around he’d done while he was with Ryan.

“Alright look, you’ve got two choices. You can either tell me what’s going on and I’ll decide if Justin and I jump into the car and head back right now, or you can keep telling me that everything is fine, when I know that it’s not, and we’ll jump into the car and head back right now. It’s your choice.”

Chris sighed in frustration, but knew he was beat. “Fine, there was a bit of an incident last night, but Zan and I are both fine.”

“An incident?”

“Someone…broke into the house.”


“Yeah, we think it was Ryan. The whole downstairs was trashed and our bed…our bed was pretty much shredded. The cops are thinking someone took a sharp knife to it. Zan and I are at the Holiday Inn right now.”

“We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

“Brian, you don’t have to…” It was too late. The line had already gone dead.

Chris walked out of the bathroom and found Zan standing by the window, staring out into the city. “Hey.”

“I’m assuming that they’re on their way back,” Zan said, having heard the conversation.

“Yeah. I tried not to tell them, but Brian’s too good at reading people.”

“Well, it’s not like we could’ve kept it from them. They’d find out when they got home and be pissed that we didn’t tell them,” Zander pointed out.

“I know, I just didn’t want to ruin their day by making them come home early. How are you feeling?”

“Fine. We should probably get going. We have a lot to do today.” Zander walked away from the window, going to their overnight bag. “Can I shower first?”

“Slow down. The mess isn’t going anywhere,” Chris replied. “How are you really feeling?”

“I know the mess isn’t going anywhere, but I’d still like to get it cleaned up as soon as possible. I’d like to have most of it done before the boys get home.”

“Zan, please talk to me.”

Zan sighed. “What do you want me to say?”

“You could tell me how you’re feeling.”


“Babe, didn’t we learn a lesson on what happens when we keep our feelings inside? You need to tell me what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours,” Chris insisted.

“You really want to know? Fine, I hate this. I more than hate this. Don’t you get it? What you did…what happened between you and Ryan hurt me more than anything else I’ve ever had to go though. It hurt so bad that for awhile I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to forgive you. It wasn’t until I really thought about living my life without you that I realized I needed to find a way to forgive you and move on. And I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard to put it all behind us, but how can I do that with him around every corner? The phone calls, the visit to the bookstore, and now this? Chris, he walked into our home and destroyed it. He went into my personal space and damaged everything I held dear. Don’t you see? He’ll stop at nothing to come between us and ruin what we have.” Zander was close to tears by the time he was finished.

Chris wasn’t sure what to say. Zan was absolutely right. How were either of them supposed to move on with a constant reminder in their lives? Yet he had to say something. He walked over and took Zan in his arms, holding him tight until he felt the younger man sink into him.

“I am so sorry. I know that I’ve been apologizing a lot over this, but I really am sorry. I would give anything to be able to go back in time and have a do-over, but I can’t.”

“I know you can’t. That’s the thing. Nothing you do is going to make this any better as long as he’s still in our lives. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even safe to leave the house. And what about Brian and Justin? He hasn’t done anything to them yet, but is he going to? He’s obviously not stable. What if he tries to get to you through them? This whole thing is a nightmare, and I can’t help but wonder if…”

“Please don’t say it,” Chris pleaded.

“Maybe it would be better if I moved back out for awhile.”


“Chris, I think…”

“No! Absolutely not! You’re not going anywhere. We agreed to work this out between us. You said that you forgave me and that you wanted to be with me. Please don’t walk away from me again. I don’t think I could take it.”

“I don’t want to walk away again, but I don’t know what else to do. I can’t keep doing this. I thought I could be strong through it all. I held my tongue when the man put me in the hospital, pretending that it was all okay; like his attack was nothing more than a childish prank, but it wasn’t. He wants me out of your life so that he can have you,” Zan cried. “All I’m doing is angering him even more by being with you.”

“No, you’re still not moving out. Not unless you can look me in the eyes and tell me that you don’t love me anymore. Can you do that? Is that what this is all about? Do you want out of the relationship?” Chris held his breath, hoping that he wasn’t pushing too far, because if Zan said yes…well, he just couldn’t say yes.

“No, of course not,” Zan replied immediately. “I love you, Chris. You know that.”

Chris sighed in relief. “Then don’t do this. Don’t even think about it. We’ll find a way to deal with Ryan. Who knows, maybe he confessed when they went to question him. Or maybe they found his fingerprints in the house. And if not, we’ll find some other way of getting him out of our lives. I’m not letting you go, not for a minute. We lost enough time together because of him. I won’t lose anymore.”

Chris watched for Zan’s nod of agreement and then took his mouth in a passionate kiss. Zander responded tentatively at first, but grew bolder as time passed and all thoughts of Ryan flew from his mind. He pulled back and smiled wickedly at Chris. “I believe something was mentioned about you with your ankles in the air?”

“Well, what are you waiting for, Blondie?”

Neither one of them minded that their late checkout caused them to have to pay for another day. Their morning in bed was well worth the money.



They were about an hour away from home when Justin finally spoke his thoughts out loud. “Do you think we’re in real danger from Ryan?”

Brian sighed. “I don’t know. I know he claimed that he didn’t mean to hurt Zan that day in the bookstore, and he might have destroyed the house, but he did it when no one was home. Then again, he seems to get crazier every day so who knows? From now on though, I don’t want you to be alone until he’s out of the picture.”

“Brian, I really don’t think that’s necessary.”

“I do. You’re Zan’s cousin and he hates Zan. What if he goes after you to hurt Zan? No way. You’re not to be alone until this is all worked out,” Brian insisted.

Justin shivered thinking about it. Brian was right. Ryan was obviously crazy. Who’s to say what he’d do next. “Well, with any luck they’ll have put him away by the time we get home.”

“I hope so,” Brian replied softly. He really hoped so.



Chris had just finished piling another garbage bag up on the back porch when the doorbell rang. He went to it quickly, refusing to give Zan a chance to get there first. He wasn’t taking any chances. His police buddy had warned him that Ryan had disappeared before he could be questioned and until he was found, Chris was going to keep a close eye on those he loved. He was a little surprised to find Ed Baker at the door. He hadn’t spoken to his boss from the newspaper since Christmas.

“Ed, this is a surprise.”

“A pleasant one, I hope,” Ed chuckled as he shook Chris’ hand. “Are you going to invite an old man in?”

“Of course. Come on in.” Chris led Ed into the living room, turning to offer him a drink when he was thrown by a smack to the back to the head. “Oww, what the hell was that for?”

“That was for being a stupid ass,” Ed growled. “What the hell were you thinking, messing around with Ryan like that?”

“What? How did you…?”

“How did I know? You should know by now that I know everything that goes on in this town eventually. That, and I had the boy crying on my shoulder last night. Turns out that his guilty conscience is getting the better of him.”

“He was with you last night? Where is he now?”

“He’s at the police station turning himself in. I just dropped him off. He’s pretty screwed up right now,” Ed said.

“You think?” Chris replied angrily.

“Don’t take that tone with me, boy,” Ed said, just as angry. “Look, I’m not blaming you necessarily, but you never should’ve gotten involved with him. What happened between the two of you has him in a bad way. He’s what my wife would call head over heels for you. Knows it’s stupid, but can’t seem to stop himself.”

“He knew going in that I wasn’t going to leave Zan.”

“Then why the hell did you do it in the first place? Chris, I may not completely understand why two men would want to be together like that, but I know that you and Zander are made for each other. You should be down on your knees thanking the man upstairs that Zander forgave you and took your sorry ass back.”

“Trust me, I’ve thanked the man upstairs plenty and I’m going to spend the rest of my life making sure that Zan doesn’t regret taking me back. I don’t ever want him to think he made the wrong decision,” Chris said.

“I won’t,” Zan said from the doorway. He smiled at Chris and then walked towards Ed with his hand extended. “Hello Ed, it’s good to see you.”

“You too, Zander. How are things going? How’s business at the shop?”

“Very good, thanks. How’s Estelle? I’ve been meaning to call her about that chocolate cake recipe. She promised she’d give it to me,” Zan replied.

“Well why don’t you two come over for dinner on Saturday?” Ed offered. “A few of the guys from the paper will be there and I’m sure they’d love to see you both.”

Zander smiled. He always enjoyed the Baker’s dinner parties. “Thanks Ed. We’d love to.”

“Babe,” Chris interrupted. “Ed was with Ryan after he left here last night. He’s at the police station right now turning himself in.”

“Really?” Zan asked incredulously.

“The boy was pretty wrecked when he showed up at my house. I think he suddenly realized what he had done and freaked out. I’m not going to say what he’s done to your family was right, but I don’t think he meant any harm. He’s kind of screwed up in the head.”

“Yeah, we all have our issues,” Chris replied bitterly. “But we don’t go around knocking people out and breaking and entering.”

“True, but we don’t all have the kind of life he’s had, either. He’s looking to get some help now. Maybe if you dropped the charges, then he could get his life together.”

“Hey Ed, I get that people do some crazy things when they're messed up, but…”

“Okay look, maybe I shouldn’t tell you guys this, but I think you need to know about Ryan’s past. Why don’t we sit down?”

Chris and Zan looked at each other and then sat down, waiting for Ed to continue.

“Ryan had a normal start. He was born into a loving family. He had two parents and an older brother that adored him up until he was nine years old. He was sleeping at a friend’s house one night when a fire broke out at his home. Both his parents and his brother were killed.”

“Oh my God,” Zan gasped in horror. “How awful!”

“I imagine it was. The state stepped in and sent him to live with an aunt and uncle he’d never met. Almost from the beginning his uncle used to pay him secret, late night visits.”

“You mean he…” Chris couldn’t even finish the thought.

“Yeah, Ryan was molested by his uncle from the time he was nine and grieving the loss of his family up until he was fifteen, when one of the neighbors realized what was going on and called the authorities.”

“What happened to him then?” Zan asked softly.

“The concerned neighbor took him in, but by then it was really too late. He was already angry and withdrawn. For three years, he lived with his new ‘family’ and followed the basic rules, but he never really connected with them. He never trusted that they only wanted to help him,” Ed sighed in sadness.

“You were the neighbor, weren’t you?” Chris asked.

Ed nodded. “Yeah, we used to live across the street from that bastard. I knew something was going on over there, but I had no idea it was as bad as it was until the night I called the police. I was determined to figure out what was going on so I waited until late one night and then went over to do some snooping. I’m a reporter. I thought that I might have been able to find some kind of evidence of wrong doing. It was extremely hot that night and Ryan had his window open. I heard what was going on and almost threw up on my shoes. Ryan was pleading with his uncle to leave him alone. I’ll never forget that sick son of a bitch’s reply. He said, ‘Sorry kid, but you have to pay your way somehow. You think we’re just going to let you live here free of charge because your momma and your aunt have the same blood?’ Poor Ryan, who always walked around town like a tough guy, was crying and pleading but it wasn’t doing any good. I think the sick fuck was getting off on his tears. We didn’t have cell phones back then so I raced back to my house and called the police. I met them there, waiting for them to bring Ryan out of the house. He was so upset that we had to take him to the ER. Social Services met us there and agreed to let Estelle and I take him home, but unfortunately the damage had already been done.”

“Wow,” Zan whispered. “That’s just unimaginable.”

“I wish I could say that was the end of it all for him, but it wasn’t. At eighteen, he took off to New York. Estelle and I tried to get him to stay with us and go to college, but he refused. Said he didn’t want to be a burden to us any longer. We managed to get him to promise to keep in touch, but just barely. He used to call about once a month, but he was still so indifferent. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that was selling himself to pay the rent. At eighteen years old, there weren’t many things he could do to earn enough money to live in the city, so he became a hustler. Who knows, maybe he’d still be doing it if he hadn’t gone home with the wrong guy. Scumbag beat him up pretty bad and then stabbed him for good measure.”

“The scar on his chest,” Chris mumbled, almost to himself.

“Yeah. The bastard just missed puncturing a lung. Thank God Ryan had my name and number in his wallet. The hospital called me, and Estelle and I jumped on the first plane we could find. It took some doing, but he finally agreed to come back home with us. It hasn’t been easy, I’ll tell you that, but we thought he was better. A little bit of therapy opened him up to becoming a real part of our family. He finally went to college and got a Journalism degree, and then came to work for me. We didn’t tell anyone that I was his foster dad. He didn’t want anyone to know, but he’s talented and able to hold his own. I wouldn’t have hired him if I thought otherwise. You’ve seen his work. Stupid me, I really thought he’d been able to put his past behind him. He’s still a little reserved, but he really has been doing well. I guess this mess between the two of you really shook him up. You’re the first guy he’s been with that wasn’t either molesting him or paying him.”

“Poor Ryan,” Zan said. “It’s not surprising that he became emotionally attached to the first person to show him gentleness and kindness.”

Chris stood up and reached into his pocket, pulling out his cell phone. He ignored the stares he was receiving as he made the call. “Hey buddy, are you at the station?...Yeah, I know. I need you to get the charges dropped…no, really…I know exactly what I’m doing…trust me, he’s not going to be bothering us anymore….thanks. Yeah, I’ll talk to you soon.”

Ed waited until Chris had put the phone back in his pocket before responding. “Thank you, Chris. I owe you one.”

Chris could see the relief in Ed’s face. “No, you don’t. Ryan’s a good guy who’s just dealing with some bad stuff right now. If anyone deserves a second chance, it’s him.”

“I agree,” Zan added. “I’d much rather have the charges dropped so that he can get the help he needs. Do you have something in mind?”

“I made some calls this morning and as long as he’s not going to be charged, there’s a facility a few towns over that has a room waiting for him. He doesn’t trust himself to do outpatient right now. Not after last night.”

“I’m really sorry for my part in this, Ed. I had no idea that he was …I don’t know…dealing with all this, I guess? I mean, he seemed stable enough and when I told him upfront that I had no intention of leaving Zan, he appeared to understand and be okay with it. I never would’ve intentionally hurt anyone, especially him. He was a friend, you know?”

“I know that. I don’t blame you one bit for what he’s going through right now. As for what you did to Zan, risking your family like you did, that has me more pissed off at you than I ever thought possible. You best get your act together boy, otherwise I’m gonna kick your ass. Ya got it?”

“I got it, boss,” Chris replied with a smile.

“Speaking of that, when’s your sorry ass going to come back to the paper? Now that I know why you bailed on me, I expect you back at your desk pronto.”

“I don’t know if…”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” Ed replied, interrupting Chris before he could refuse. “Zan, I’ll see you Saturday night at six. Estelle will be thrilled to see you both. Now I’ll show myself out. Have a good afternoon, boys.”

Zan waited until they were alone before walking over and taking Chris in his arms. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s just a lot to take in, you know? I mean, you obviously don’t know Ryan, but he really was a good guy before all of this. If the situation was different, you would’ve liked him.” Chris sighed as his mind replayed all Ed had told them.

“I’m sure I would have. It’s not easy for me to have sympathy under the circumstances, but I do. It had to have been so horrible for him. Losing his family in the blink of an eye and then having to endure all those terrible things his uncle did to him. And where was his aunt? How could she sit back and allow it all to happen? Stories like that make me thankful for the screwed up family I have.”

“I know. Jack and Joan weren’t anywhere near as fucked up as those two. I just wish there was something I could do for him. I know Ed said that he doesn’t blame me, yet I can’t help but feel responsible for some of this.”

“I know Babe, but it really isn’t your fault. With his past, it was only a matter of time before something set him off. If it wasn’t you, then it would’ve been someone else and that person might not have been as understanding as you are. We just need to put it all behind us. Ed will get him the help he needs and Ryan will find his way in life,” Zan said.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Chris replied. “I’m glad it’s all over now. I hated always having to wonder what he was going to do next. All last night I kept thinking about how I wasn’t going to let any of you out of my sight until Ryan was gone from our lives. Probably a little unrealistic, huh?”

Zan laughed. “Yeah, just a little. Come on; let’s get back to cleaning this mess up. The boys will be home soon and I thought we could take them out to dinner. I’m definitely not in the mood to cook.”

“Works for me,” Chris readily agreed.

Chris and Zan had most of the house cleaned up before Brian and Justin made it back. Chris decided to keep most of Ryan’s past from the boys, instead just assuring them that he wasn’t going to be an issue anymore. They were a little skeptical, but didn’t really have any choice but to trust what Chris was saying. The four of them went to dinner and Chris and Zan listened as the boys told them all about their trip. With the threat of Ryan off their shoulders, it turned out to be a pleasant night. The next morning, Chris got up and sent everyone off on their day before going out to run some errands. He went to the bank, stopped for gas, and then went to the mattress place across town and ordered a new bed. Sleeping on an air mattress wasn’t too bad, but he was desperate to replace the bed that Ryan had destroyed. After being promised that the bed would arrive the next day, courtesy of their 24 hour delivery plan, he headed off to the newspaper. He was a little surprised to see Ed’s car in the lot. He’d assumed that the man would be with Ryan.

He walked inside and was immediately greeted by a few of the guys that were hanging around the office. Apparently they had been told in a morning meeting of his return. After taking a few minutes to catch up with everyone, Chris walked to Ed’s office. He knocked lightly before walking in and taking a seat. Ed was just finishing up with a call.

“Okay then. You have my number if you need it. I’ll talk to you in a week. Thanks again, Stan.” Ed hung up the phone and got up from his desk, walking over to close the door. Once they had some privacy, he sat back down and looked over at Chris. “That was my buddy at the facility. Ryan is all settled in. You have nothing to worry about anymore.”

“Thanks, Ed. How’s he doing?”

“He’s hurting right now. It breaks my heart to see him so distraught, but there’s nothing I can do for him at the moment.” Ed opened a drawer and pulled out an envelope, turning it over and over again in his hands. “He spent a big part of last night writing this letter to you. He felt he had to try to apologize for all the pain he’s caused you and your family. It’s up to you whether or not you read it.”

Chris reached out and took the envelope, looking down at Ryan’s familiar handwriting. “I’ll read it, but not here. I’ll wait until I get home.”

“Fair enough. Now, I have the perfect assignment for you.”

And just like that, Chris was back in the news business. He hung around the office for a few hours, making phone calls and following leads on his story, but the letter from Ryan was burning a hole in his pocket. His curiosity was getting the better of him and he needed to go home and see what the man had to say. Once he was sure he had what he needed to work from home, he said goodbye to Ed and the others and headed out. He made a quick stop at the supermarket, but still made it home before Justin got home from school. He knew he wanted to be alone while he read Ryan’s letter. He put away his purchases and then took the letter into the living room. He sat down and looked at the envelope for a moment before opening it up and pulling out the piece of paper inside. He began to read.

Dear Chris,

I don’t even know what to say to you right now. I just know that I need to try and apologize for everything that I put you and your family through. Ed told me he talked to you and Zander. That you know of my past. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, but I’m glad that you know the truth. Maybe it can help you to forgive me. I don’t want to hide behind my past; use that as an excuse for my horrendous behavior, but the truth is that what I’ve been through has a lot to do with my reaction to our, dare I say, relationship? You were so kind to me; so gentle and caring. I’ve never had that before. I’ve never had someone look at me with true desire. Not like you did. I’ve never had someone who enjoyed being with me because of the person I am. Not like you did. It felt good to have those moments with you. So good that I forced myself to block out the fact that you’re in love with someone else. I refused to think about Zander waiting at home for you. I told myself that I was all that mattered. That for once in my life, someone was actually going to love me, not just use me. Pretty stupid of me, huh?

I don’t know what happened to me after the day you broke it off. It was like I suddenly became another person. Up to that point, you had been on my mind a lot, but all of a sudden you were always there. You were all I could think about and I just felt like I had to get you back. What you wanted didn’t matter because I had told myself that you really wanted me, but you just didn’t know how to get rid of Zander. I honestly believed that I was the one that you truly wanted. For the record, I really never meant to hurt Zander that day in the bookstore. I went there to tell him that you wanted me. I convinced myself that if I told him how much you loved me, he would just walk away from you and then we’d be together. I knew it was foolish, especially once I saw him. I could definitely see what the attraction was. He’s very beautiful. I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I just wanted him to tell me that he was going to leave you. I think I envisioned him saying something like, “If you want him, take him. I’m done.” When he threatened to call the police, I panicked. I was arrested once back when I was hustling. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. So when he mentioned calling them, all I wanted to do was stop him. I didn’t expect him to go down like that. Please tell him that I never meant to harm him.

And then there was Saturday night. I went to your house, once again thinking that if I just talked to you, you would realize how much you wanted me and you'd leave Zander. All I wanted to do was talk, but I got there just as you and Zander were leaving. I was down the street and saw you two coming out of the house together. I saw the way he looked at you, but more importantly I saw the way you looked at him. Even from a distance, I saw how much you love him. It broke my heart to know that you’ll never look at me like that. Chances are that no one will ever look at me like that. Not once they learn how screwed up I am. I’m only good for one thing. My uncle knew that from the get go. All those men who paid for my services knew that, and you knew that. It’s why you were able to be with me even though you never had any plans to leave Zander. I’m not blaming you. It’s not your fault. You were honest with me up front. It was my fault that I let my imagination get the better of me. Anyway, seeing you two like that set off a rage inside me that I never felt before. All at once I was angry at the world, and you were at the top of my list. I wanted you to love me and you couldn’t. I wanted to be the person who made your heart skip a beat, and I wasn’t. I wanted to be where Zander was, and I never will be. I don’t remember much after that. Just bits and pieces of being in your house and feeling so enraged. I don’t even remember going to Ed and Estelle’s house. The rage must have made me black out.

I’m so ashamed of my behavior; I can’t even look at myself in the mirror right now. All I can do is apologize to you and Zander both; to all of you. I promise that you’ll never hear another word from me again. I wish you both nothing but happiness. You deserve it.


Chris wiped the dampness from his eyes as he folded the paper back up and put it back in the envelope. He knew it was time to say goodbye to that chapter of his life, but it was hard to do when he knew that Ryan’s world was crashing in on him. The pain the man was feeling radiated from the page, making Chris feel horrible for the added hurt he might have caused. Without thinking, he went into his office and found his writing paper. It was going to be brief and to the point, hopefully giving them both the closure they needed. Once he was done, he’d give the letter to Ed and move on. It was time.

Dear Ryan,

I forgive you. Get well and find your own happiness. You deserve it, too.


End of part 45


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