Author’s Note: This chapter contains descriptions of violence and adult themes. Reader discretion advised.
“I have some awesome news!” Danae chirped. “Are you free tonight, love?”
“Always, my sweet. I’m guessing it’s a surprise?” Andy loved it when Danae sounded happy.
“Naturally! I’ll bring the champagne. You just be your charming self,” she flirted.
“Dad won’t be home until late tonight. He spent his day in Dragon Valley, and he has a late flight home. We have the house all to ourselves.”
“I’ll see you in a little while, then,” she replied.
She stopped home to shower and changed her clothes. She grabbed a change for the next day just in case she fell asleep there. “Mama, I’m going to Andy’s for the evening. If I’m not home by eleven, I fell asleep there, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Behave yourself, Danae,” Charlotte warned her. She held up her left hand and pointed at her rings.
“Yes, Mama,” she said, rolling her eyes. “If we were going to, we would have done it a long time ago.” Danae pulled her keys off the peg and skipped to her car.
Danae parked in the driveway next to Andy’s car and grabbed the champagne from the front seat. Even though she didn’t need to, she knocked softly on the front door. Andy answered it, wearing a pair of flannel pants and no shirt. “Hey, my sweet,” he greeted her, pulling her to him for a kiss.
“Hey babe,” she said, breathless. “I brought the champagne, already chilled!”
He took the bottle from her and set it on the table in the living room, where two champagne flutes awaited them. “Let me just look at you,” he said. He held her hands and admired her beauty. He caressed her cheek and kissed her tenderly. “Shall we?” He pointed toward the couch, where the bottle of bubbly sat.
“Of course,” she replied. “I’ll never turn down champagne with my fiancé.” That sounded funny to her. Fiancé. She was engaged to be married to a sexy sports PR man. Eat your heart out, ladies! She thought.
He poured two glasses of champagne and handed her one. “To us, my sweet. Forever and always.”
“To us!” she said in agreement. She drank from it and set the glass down on the table. “So, you’re probably wondering what my big news is!” Her excitement was contagious.
“I have thought of little else, my love. It must be big if you brought out the good stuff, though,” he quipped and sipped from his glass.
“Okay, I bet you can’t guess!” Her playfulness was sweet, and he tried his best to guess.
“You booked the Binder Clips Center?
“Not quite that big,” she giggled.
“Okay, I give up,” he surrendered.
“I have a gig at Verde Park!”
“Oh, my sweet Danae! I am SO proud of you!” He scooted closer to her and hugged her tightly. “Tell me all about it!” He loved this part of talking with Danae. When she was excited about something, she became animated. Her whole demeanor fascinated him.
“Well, the proprietor approached me at first, and told me he had been watching me work the crowd as I played my guitar and sang for tips.” She took a large sip of champagne and giggled as the bubbles tickled her nose. “He offered to buy me hot cocoa at the fair, so we sat down to talk.”
She noticed Andy’s expression change, but she continued. “There was something about him that seemed so familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. All the while we spoke, he just stared at me, smiling some goofy smile. After a few minutes, I asked him if I could do my audition because I was starting to feel uncomfortable. It got a little weird after that.”
Andy shifted uncomfortably, his temper beginning to flare up. “How exactly did it get weird?” His tone was not the warm, loving voice she was used to, and it surprised her.
“What’s wrong, Andy?”
“He bought you a drink, and he sat and stared at you? Do you not see anything wrong with this, Danae?”
“What? Nothing happened, Andy.”
“Finish your story,” he said sharply.
“Well, I did my audition, and I nailed it. The prop was so impressed! So I went to shake his hand, and when I did, he tried to kiss me.”
Andy’s temper flared hot, filled with jealousy. “He did what?! You said nothing happened! That isn’t nothing, Danae! No one should be touching you but me!” he screamed at her, shaking with rage.
“Nothing happened, Andy! I pushed him away!” She yelled back, not standing down. But the sudden change in him frightened her.
“Don’t lie to me, Danae!” He yelled, swinging his hand to strike her. He connected with her forcefully, and his backhand knocked her down. It happened so quickly, he didn’t realize what he had done, or the gravity of the situation he had created.
She sat on the floor, stunned, and looked up at him, “Andy?” she whispered, her heart completely broken. She tasted something metallic, touched her face, and winced in pain. Her fingers came away sticky with blood that came from a busted lip. She looked at him again, weeping. “Andy?”
Immediately, he saw the blood and developing bruises on her face and realized he was the one who had done it. “Oh, Danae, I’m so sorry.” His eyes immediately filled with tears, and he choked on his sobs. “Oh, my sweet, I didn’t mean to hurt you, honey.”
“Why?” Danae cried.
“I don’t know, honey. I-I don’t know!” Andy felt sick and stifled the urge to throw up.
“Is this why—” she couldn’t bring herself to say the words, “she broke up with you?”
“Danae, no, baby. Oh my sweet, I am so sorry. I can’t believe I did this to you!” He swallowed back the bile that rose in his throat, and he reached to touch her, to comfort her.
“Get away from me,” she groaned. “Don’t touch me!” She jerked her body from him, afraid. “My daddy is going to kill you,” she cried.
“I deserve it.” He handed her his phone, with Travis’ phone number already dialed in. “Call him. I deserve it. My father wouldn’t even press charges. I’m sick over what I’ve done to you.”
She took the phone and looked at the display. Travis Jones. She knew if she hit send, her engagement was over. She also knew Travis would go to jail for the rest of his life because he would kill Andy. Instead, she dropped the phone and cried.
“I knew it. I knew this was all too good to be true. I deserve this. I DESERVE THIS!” Danae yelled, crying.
Andy’s heart shattered into shards that cut him like a knife. “No, my sweet, you didn’t deserve any of this. I’ll save your daddy the trouble.” He got dressed and put on his shoes and socks. The night was freezing, but he intended to go to the beach and allow the bitter cold to take his life.
“Where are you going?” she asked him, still sniffling.
“I don’t deserve you. I don’t even deserve to live. I love you so much, Danae, but I can’t—I can’t do this to you.” He kissed her for what he’d planned on being the last time and walked to his car.
“Wait! Andy!” she cried, throwing her coat on, and running after him in bare feet. “Wait!”
“What, Danae? You can’t talk me out of this. I hit you for no good reason when you had such happy news. What else am I capable of, if I did this? I am total garbage.” He started his car and drove away, and he left her at the house. She ran back inside and grabbed her phone, and called the number Andy had dialed.
“Daddy!” her voice was panicked. “It’s Andy!”
“What’s wrong, Punkin?” Travis asked, alarmed by her frantic tone.
“He left me at his house. I’m afraid, Daddy.”
“I’m on my way,” he stated.
Less than five minutes later, he was at the house, Danae was sitting outside. “What the—?” He saw his daughter’s bloody lip and a bruise forming on her cheek, and he was furious. “Where is he?”
“I don’t know! He left in his car, and I called you.”
“He’d better hope I don’t find him because I’m going to kill him,” Travis said, enraged. “Come on, honey,” he said, encouraging Danae to get into his car. He drove around the city until he spotted Andy’s car on the beach. “Stay here, sweetheart, until I know it’s safe.
Travis got out of his car and walked as fast as he could on his bad leg to a silhouette sitting on the beach. Not knowing if Andy was armed, he approached him cautiously. “Anduin,” Travis called to him.
“You will want to kill me when you hear what I did, Travis. Please, don’t come closer. I’m saving your life by ending mine.” Andy was wet and shivered fiercely, wearing a shirt and flannel pants. Snow flurries were starting to fall, and the breeze off the water was biting.
“You are not ending yours. I will not allow my daughter to grieve for you, you coward.” Travis did his best to lift Andy off the sand and coaxed him back to the parking lot. Danae wept quietly in the back seat of Travis’ car, looking sadly through the window at Andy and her father.
“Andy, I don’t know what went down between you and Danae, but whatever it was, you should have NEVER laid a hand on her!” Travis was NOT happy to have been called from his warm home, away from his Charlotte.
“I know, Travis. I already told her I don’t deserve her.”
“You are lucky you are still breathing, boy. The only reason I haven’t beat the snot out of you is that you’re my best friend’s son. But let this be a warning to you. If you hurt her again, I will hurt you. Badly. Do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal clear,” Andy answered.
Travis opened the car door. “Danae, come here, sweetheart.” She ran to his open arms, and he held her as she cried.
“The three of us are going to sit here and talk about what happened tonight. And I want every excruciating detail. Understood, Anduin?”
“Yes sir,” he sighed, wiping tears from his eyes.
“Danae, what happened, Punkin?”
“I was telling Andy that I got my first gig at Verde Park, and about how odd the proprietor was acting. The guy came onto me, but nothing happened. I pushed him away. But when I told Andy, he went mad, and he hit me, and he knocked me to the ground.” Danae began to cry again.
“Andy, I’m going to give you one shot to explain yourself. Make it count.”
“She brought some champagne to celebrate her good news. She mentioned that the proprietor kissed her, and I got so jealous. But Travis, I swear I never meant to hurt her. We didn’t even drink the champagne. I don’t remember raising my hand to her, never mind hitting her. I love her so much. This is destroying me inside.”
“Why are you on the beach? Why did you come here?”
“She threatened to call you. She said you’d kill me. So I told her I’d save you the trouble. I don’t want to live knowing I’ve done this to her.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “I’m taking her home, Anduin, and you should go home, too,” Travis announced. “She will not be abused by anyone, especially not you.”
“Can I have a moment with her, alone? Please, Travis.”
“Five minutes. That is all you get unless Danae says otherwise.” Travis looked at Danae. “Are you okay to be alone with him for five minutes, honey?”
“Yes, Daddy, I think so.” Andy held his hand out for her, and she took it. Together, they walked out of Travis’ earshot. He was so ashamed of himself. He couldn’t look her in the eyes.
“Andy, why did you do this? I don’t understand.” She sniffled, trying not to cry.
“My sweet, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I just lost my cool, envisioning you with that guy, him kissing you. I know I should have never raised my hand to you. I never meant to hurt you, and it kills me that I did. Honey, I don’t want us to be over. We’re just getting started.”
“I trusted you. I loved you, and this is what it got me.” She touched her face gingerly and grimaced in pain.
“What do you mean, you loved me? Past tense? Don’t you love me anymore?”
“Andy, I don’t know. I don’t know what I feel, except betrayed. I feel hurt. I need some time.”
“Danae, if you walk away from me tonight, I won’t make it until the morning. Please, don’t go.”
“Stop being so dramatic.” She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m sorry, Andy, I can’t stay.” She turned from him and met Travis in the car. “Take me home, Daddy,” she said sadly.
Danae didn’t say a word on the way back to the house, and Travis was upset. There was no going back on this. He pulled into the driveway, and Danae got out of the car. She ran back toward the house, up the stairs, and into the bedroom. She looked around, overwhelmed, and began to sob.
Travis had the awful task of telling Charlotte what had gone on. He couldn’t keep anything from her. Not telling her was not an option.
“What happened?” she asked, noticing his pale expression. “This can’t be good, can it?”
Travis looked into her blue eyes and began to sob. “He hit our baby girl and split her lip. It’s going to bruise,” he finally got out in between sobs. And Charlotte couldn’t believe her ears.
“He did what?”
He shook his head. Racked in sobs, she held him close. “My sweet little Danae,” he cried.
Andy called Emmitt’s cell phone, but only got voice mail. Dad must be in the air, Andy thought. He didn’t want to leave a message, but he needed to clear the air.
Dad, Danae and I broke up tonight, and I am going away. I need to find some peace for my broken heart. I screwed things up, and I need to make it right. I want you to know that I love you, Dad.
With that, he hung up the phone. Andy had his head on straight for the first time in an hour, and he knew what needed to do. He checked his phone for the weather. The temperature was 15 degrees, and weathermen predicted snow. Wearing a tee-shirt and flannel pants, he walked back out onto the beach and sat in the surf, the icy water splashed on his body. In minutes, he began to shiver again. While he could still move, he picked himself out of the water and laid on a frost-covered lounge chair. His breath was steamy, coming from his mouth as he sat still, not moving except for shivering. He remembered closing his eyes, and he felt sleepy. It was the last time he would fall asleep.
A few hours later, Travis’ phone rang. Emmitt had gotten home to an empty house, and the door left wide open, with a small drift of snow in the doorway. He didn’t know where Andy was and figured Travis would.
“Travis, this is Emmitt. What happened last night? I came home, and the door was open, I mean literally open. There was snow inside the house, and Andy is gone. Have you seen him?”
Travis sat up straight in bed. “He didn’t go home last night?”
“He’s not here, no, and I’m worried about him.” As Emmitt spoke to Travis, a police car pulled up in front of the house. “Let me call you back…” He hung up the phone.
An hour later, Emmitt was at the call box outside the gate, ringing Travis’ phone.
“Let me in, Travis. It’s Emmitt.” He entered the code, and the gate swung open.
“Emmitt, what’s wrong,” Travis asked. He saw the look of anguish on his best friend’s face.
“He’s dead, Travis. Andy is gone. They found him on the beach a couple of hours ago. They tried to revive him…” Emmitt’s voice cracked, and a heavy sob echoed through the living room.
“Oh my…” Travis couldn’t finish his sentence. “I need to get Danae.” He walked upstairs, tears in his eyes. “Sweetheart. Danae. Wake up, honey.”
“Daddy?” she squinted at him. The eye on the bruised side was nearly swollen shut, and she could barely see.
“Honey, I have some terrible news. It’s Andy, Punkin. He’s dead.”
“Andy?” she cried. “My Andy? Dead?”
“Emmitt is downstairs. He’d like to know what happened.” He kissed her forehead as she began to cry.
“Andy?” she repeated. “No! No no no no—we were just together last night. This can’t be happening. Tell me it’s someone who just looks like him. Please, Daddy, please say it’s not my Andy!”
Charlotte was awake and on her way down the stairs when she heard the commotion in the bedroom. “What happened, Travis? Why is —”
“He’s dead, honey.”
“Who? Who is dead, Travis?”
“Andy. They found him on the beach. He froze to death.”
“No…” And Charlotte screamed.
Travis walked back downstairs where he’d left Emmitt, but he was gone. Thinking quickly, he called his friend’s cell phone.
“Hey, Travis,” Emmitt said, “I’m sorry I left. Police needed me on the beach.” Travis didn’t get a chance to answer.
He walked back up the stairs, where he found Danae wrapped in Charlotte’s arms, both of them crying. “I am going to the beach. This can’t be happening,” he said. “I’ll be back in a while, love.”
Charlotte stayed with Danae and held her.
Travis drove to the beach as fast as he could get there safely, police had the beach cordoned off, and paramedics were still on the scene. Emmitt stood by the water near a form in a lounge chair. They hadn’t taken Andy’s body away yet. Travis tried to get to his friend, but the police stopped him. “That was my daughter’s fiancé,” he said. “I need to go to him.” Reluctantly, they let Travis through the blockade.
Emmitt saw Travis approaching, and he was furious. “Did you know about this?” He screamed at his best friend. “Did you know he was planning this? He called me last night and left a message and said he was going away. What the hell happened, Travis?!” Emmitt collapsed in the cold sand, sobbing, his only son lay dead on a lounge chair.
Travis walked past him to where Andy’s body rested. He had never seen a dead person before, and it made him feel sick. Travis walked quickly to the building that was close by and vomited in the sand. Throwing up only made him feel marginally better, but he walked back to where Emmitt sat.
“Emmitt, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know when I brought Danae home last night that he had anything like this planned.”
“Emmitt, he hit my daughter. He bruised her face and busted open her lip.”
“No,” he shook his head. “Andy wasn’t capable of such a thing.”
“It’s true, Emmitt.” Travis showed him a photo of Danae’s face, dried blood, and all. It looked nothing like his sweet little Danae.
“No! SHE killed my boy. It’s HER fault.” Emmitt spat at Travis. He could never have imagined anything would ever end their friendship, but this was it. “You’re fired, Travis. Off the team. You’re finished. I will make sure you never play again for any team. I never want to see you again.”
“Emmitt! Wait now. Don’t be hasty.”
“I’m not. Your daughter killed my son. He was my whole life! He was all I had left of his mother! You are dead to me.” Emmitt walked away, back to where Andy’s body rested. Travis was broken and called Charlotte.
“Baby, I—I can’t drive home. Call my limo for me.” Travis cried. “I can’t remember the number.”
“What happened? Is it true?” Charlotte was distraught.
“It’s worse than that, honey. I can’t drive. I don’t trust myself to come straight home.”
“Don’t hang up!” she cried. Charlotte put down the phone and dialed the limo service on the house phone. He heard her arguing with someone on the other line and then heard her slam the phone down.
“Your limo has been canceled. Travis, what is going on?”
“I’ll explain when I get there. Just pray for me.”
He hung the phone up and got into his car. A police officer knocked on his window. “Mr. Jones, you do realize there is a boot on your tire, don’t you?”
“No, I didn’t see that. Thank you, officer.” That son of a— he thought. Emmitt sure didn’t waste any time. In desperation, he called a cab, which arrived ten minutes later. By that time, Emmitt and the coroner had left for the hospital, and the investigation was wrapping up. In the meantime, Travis grabbed his items from the car and left the keys on the front seat.
Travis got into the cab with his things and rode back to the house in silence. He was not prepared for the chaos at home when he arrived. Devin, Darcey, Clint, and Charlotte were sitting around Danae, trying to calm her. Darcey wanted to give her a sedative, but Charlotte wouldn’t allow it. Devin sat and held his sister in his arms, and Charlotte was trying to find out from the police what had happened.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re home,” Charlotte ran to him, sobbing. “This is a nightmare.” She dabbed her eyes. “None of us can break through to her. She is inconsolable.”
“Let me try,” he said and hoped that she would come around for him. “Devin, let me in, son.” He sat on the floor, and picked Danae up, cradling her in his arms. He kissed her cheek and talked to her softly. She gently put her arms around Travis’ neck and heaved a long, heavy sigh.
“I want to go to Andy,” she repeated. “I want Andy.”
He sat on the floor, holding her, rocking with her. “Nae, Andy is gone.” The words leaving his lips didn’t sound right.
“But he’ll be right back, right? Right, Daddy?” Her tears were hot, and she seemed disconnected from reality.
“No, sweetie. Andy is gone. He’s gone to be with Nana and Pop-Pop.”
“No, he can’t be. We were together. He loves me, he said so himself.”
“Oh, honey,” Travis rocked her. “I’m so sorry.” He kissed her cheek. “I’m so sorry.”
The funeral for Anduin Rowan Murphy was three days later, and the Jones family, in its entirety, was forbidden from being anywhere near the cemetery, chapel, or procession. In the course of overnight, Travis had gone from being a beloved sports legend to a pariah, his fame and star quickly extinguished, his legacy forever tarnished. Instead of people gathering around him for photo ops and autographs, people walked away from him in disgust, or worse, spat upon him. The news reported the suicide as a suspicious death, with Danae as the perpetrator, as Emmitt had claimed. The police department had tried to correct the record several times, but the news had a narrative to push, and the truth did not interest them. Danae Jones was already tried and convicted in the court of public opinion and became a social outcast.
The day after the funeral, Danae was served papers from the court, demanding the return of the engagement ring that Andy had given her. She had twenty-four hours to sign and file the paperwork, or she would have a wrongful death lawsuit filed against her. Even her compliance wasn’t guaranteed to avoid it. Danae wasn’t allowed any voice, any closure, or any explanation.
Charlotte lost her job at the hospital because of the scandal. Both she and Travis were unemployed with a teenage son at home. She was thankful they had considerable amounts of holdings and investments because their savings wouldn’t last long with the house and legal expenses. Devin had to enroll in a private school because of the negative attention he received from the Paparazzi. Charlotte and Travis feared for their son’s safety. Her bosses at the talent agency and her Sing-A-Gram fired Danae. The public around the country labeled her a murderer.
Luckily, the press somehow failed to tie Darcey and Clint to the Jones family, leaving them alone, but Darcey was demoted at the hospital back down to resident. Hospital administration slashed her pay, and she had the most undesirable hours—a fourteen-hour’ shift from seven at night to nine in the morning the next day. Even with increased hours, she was not able to make up the difference in her wages, and they worried about losing their home in foreclosure. Clint was the only family member who was left unscathed, but he figured penalties and fines were coming his way soon, too.
The worst part of the whole thing, other than the fact that Danae had been traumatized in every possible way, was when Lionel O’Reilly came knocking on the door and demanded to have the trophy back for Travis’ only career championship.
“It’s a shame what you allowed your daughter to do to your family, Travis. You had everything. I hope her mess was worth your life.” Lionel looked down his nose at Travis with contempt. “I need your trophy. It belongs to the franchise, not you.”
Travis walked to the shelf and plucked the trophy from it. For a split second, he considered whacking Lionel in the head with it but thought the better of it. “Here, Lionel. I loved playing on your team. Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Lionel sneered and said nothing as he snatched the trophy from Travis’ hands, and walked from the house.
Danae was tired of sitting around the house, wanting to do something, anything to get away from the living hell that had become her life. As she had done so many times, in much happier days, she took a small tackle box and fishing pole to the lake way off to the west in the hills, not far from the Jones house. I need to reconnect with nature, she thought.
As she cast her line into the lake, she thought of Andy. Her wedding date had come and gone, and she remained single, her fiancé died eight months prior. It didn’t seem possible to her that she had ever loved him, as he seemed such a distant memory.
While reeling in the lure, she felt something hit the line, and it pulled her, nearly throwing her off balance. She knew her line couldn’t withstand the weight of whatever it was she had hooked, but she was going to give it her best attempt until it snapped. After ten minutes of constant fighting, she was tired, but the beast on the other end of the line had not grown weary at all. The more she fought it, the stronger it seemed. Finally, she yanked the pole and tried to break the filament, but it didn’t budge. She reeled in the slack on the line, but the beast moved quickly from the bank and pulled Danae. Her instinct was to hang onto the pole, but it proved too strong for her to handle alone. The quick jerk knocked her off balance, and she stumbled into the lake, making a splash.
She looked around for the rod and watched as the beast she had been fighting dragged it underwater. That figures, she thought to herself. Suddenly, she felt a strong nudge on her leg, before the beast gripped her calf and pulled her.
“Help me!” She screamed, desperation in her voice. The beast pulled her under again, and she struggled to surface to catch a breath. “Help me!” came another scream as she saw the color of the water… bright blood red.
“Help me…” a weakened scream left her lips.
“Help me…” Danae cried, and she woke with a start. Cuddled up next to her was the man she loved, breathing on her neck, sleeping soundly. Startled, she looked around the room and saw living room furniture and a dim light shining through from the street. She had to touch Andy to make sure he was there, and when she did, he awakened.
“Hey, my sweet,” he purred at her and noticed the odd look on her face. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, my love.”
“Wait,” she said, confused. She got up off the sofa and walked to the window. There was frost on the pane of glass and a dusting of snow on the ground. The bottle of champagne was empty, and two glasses sat, their contents gone. “What happened?”
“Well, you were telling me about your new gig at Verde Park. But the champagne went to your head very quickly last night, and you fell asleep, my love. You never really did finish your story. Don’t you remember?” Andy smiled sweetly at her.
“You… you’re okay.” Her hand went to her mouth, and there was no evidence of injury. She walked to the mirror and saw the same freckled face with messy hair she saw every morning. She noticed her diamond ring on her left hand. “I don’t understand,” she remarked, confused.
“Honey, you don’t hold your liquor very well,” he chuckled. “You drank almost the whole bottle yourself. I didn’t care for it. It’s too sweet for me. But you loved it. I didn’t figure it would hurt for you to drink it since you weren’t going to drive home but seeing the look on your face, I think maybe I should have cut you off after one glass.”
“If you’re alive, and we’re here together, I must have had a doozy of a dream.” She shook her head and felt the headache that accompanied overindulgence.
Andy laughed. “You dreamed I was dead?”
“Yes, and it was horrible.” She breathed a sigh of great relief.
“Tell me about this dream, my sweet. It seems to have done a number on you.” She sat beside him on the couch, and he caressed her shoulders and kissed her.
“I’m not sure I should. It’s pretty awful.” Her head was pounding seven ways to Sunday. “I’m sorry I got a little drunk last night. I never do that.”
“Haha!” he laughed. “I would have loved a little drunk. You were so far beyond that point, I just cuddled here with you and let you sleep it off. I spent the night watching movies.”
“Well, I’ll tell you about my dream. I guess, when I auditioned for my gig, the proprietor got a little affectionate and made a pass at me. That didn’t happen, by the way.” She winked at him, and he squeezed her tightly. “You got jealous and backhanded me, probably because I got obstinate with you, bruised my face and busted my lip open. My eye swelled shut for days.” He looked horrified as she explained it. “Then you left me here at the house, and I called my dad. You went to the beach and let yourself die of exposure after I left you when we broke up. Then your dad blamed me for your death. He fired my dad from the team and had him blacklisted. He took everything he could from us. My mom lost her job. My sister got demoted, my brother-in-law got fined. Paparazzi harassed Devin, and he had to go to private school. My life was in ruins. Your father took everything from us. I couldn’t even go to your funeral—he had me banned from that, too.”
“That doesn’t sound like my dad, honey.” He hugged her close. “He isn’t a vindictive person at all.”
“And then, I decided to get out of the house and go fishing like I had done up at Sim State, to just reconnect with nature. And I hooked something big. From my best guess, though I never saw what it was, it had to be a gator or something big like it.”
Andy laughed. “Isn’t it too cold here for gators in that lake?”
“Yes, which is why I couldn’t understand why it was on my line, and why my line didn’t break. I fought this thing for almost twenty minutes, and I was tired. And the more I tugged, the stronger it got. It finally knocked me off my feet, and I fell in. It grabbed me by the leg, and I knew it would kill me. There wasn’t a soul around, but I was yelling for someone to help me. That’s when I woke up.”
“That was quite the dream. But none of it was real. I’m still here, and I still love you with all my heart.” He held her close and felt her snuggle into his embrace, and he smiled.
“Let me look at you,” she said, “I mean, really look at you. You are still real, right?”
“Let me show you how real I am, Miss Jones-soon-to-be-Murphy.” He took her into his arms and kissed her so passionately that she melted into him.
“Oh, that’s so much better,” she purred, laying her head on his chest. “But I’m not drinking anymore. That dream was brutal, and my head is pounding.”
He buried his head into her hair and nuzzled her neck. “Danae, I love you so much. Never forget it,” he whispered.
“I love you too, Andy. More than you know.” She looked at her watch. It was four-thirty in the morning. “Let’s go to bed,” she whispered back. “It’s more comfortable upstairs.”
Without a word, Andy scooped her up off the couch and carried her upstairs. “Your wish is my command,” he purred at her, gazing upon her golden purity band, and he smiled.
Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation Five