“Vanny, you have to open the door, baby. Let us in.”
“What is going on?” Charly demands.
“Van called me,” Declan says. “She was sobbing; I couldn’t understand much, but she said she was home and needed help. I called everyone. But she won’t come out of her bedroom.”
I’m staring into Eli’s scared, angry whiskey eyes. He pulls me hard against him and hugs me close, takes a deep breath, as if he needs this to anchor him, then lets me go and moves to the door.
“Savannah, Charly and Kate are here. Will you open the door for them?”
“Only they can come in,” comes a small voice from the other side.
“Jesus, what the fuck?” Beau asks, pushing his hand through his hair. Ben is silent, but clearly agitated, as he paces back and forth.
The door opens a crack and I lead Charly inside and immediately feel the blood leave my face.
“Christ,” Charly says, as we both rush to her side. Savannah is sitting on the edge of the mattress of her bed. It’s been stripped bare, the sheets and blankets thrown about the room, along with lamps, the alarm clock, anything that could be thrown has been. There is glass shattered. Savannah is wearing her white dress shirt, but no pants. I immediately cover her with a white bed sheet. “What happened, baby?”
Van’s hollow eyes are on mine, and I know. I know exactly what happened. I want to fall apart, but I pull myself together and know that I have to get through this for Van.
“Where did he hit you?”
Tears fill her eyes. “He kicked my ribs.”
I lift her shirt and bite my lips to keep from crying out at the blazing bruises across her ribcage.
She shakes her head, but she’s cradling her right arm against her.
“Is your arm hurt, honey?”
She nods. She’s begun to shake. “Yeah, he pulled it behind my back really hard.”
I look up at Charly, who has tears streaming down her face. “Tell the boys to call an ambulance.”
“No.” Van shakes her head and starts to stand, but I keep her next to me.
“Yes. Savannah, you’re hurt.”
“Can we come in?” Dec asks from the doorway.
“I don’t want them to see this,” Van whispers.
“They need to,” Charly says, and nods at Dec. The four big men fill the room, and all four look like they’re about to kill someone.
“What happened, baby?” Beau asks softly, his voice in direct contrast to his tense body.
“Let’s finish figuring out where she’s hurt,” I interrupt. “He wrenched your arm behind your back?”
Savannah nods, and won’t look any of the men in the eyes.
“Are you afraid of us, bebe?” Eli asks quietly as he squats in front of her.
“No, of course not. I’m embarrassed,” she replies quietly, and watches Eli’s face as her tears spill over. “How could I let this happen?”
“What did happen, Vanny?” Declan asks.
She swallows and looks at me. “My shoulder is dislocated. I’m pretty sure. I think a rib is broken.”
The men all still and watch very carefully as I smooth her tears from her cheeks. “Okay. What else?”
She shows me her wrist, which has bruises in the shape of fingers around it. “Check my other shoulder,” she says.
I pull her shirt away and we all gasp at the sight of more finger-shaped bruises on her opposite shoulder.
“He pulled my arm around my back and held onto my shoulder with the other hand.”
“And kicked you in the ribs,” I confirm, and Van nods.
“Why are you wet, honey?” Charly asks, and I frown as I realize that Van’s hair and clothes are all sopping wet.
She starts to shake her head, but Eli takes her face gently in his hands and says, “Why are you wet, my sweet girl?”
Ben stomps into the bathroom and swears ripely. Beau follows, then both men come back into the room.
“He tried to drown her in the tub,” Beau says, as Declan calls for an ambulance. “He’s a dead man.”
“Why?” Savannah asks, still staring into Eli’s face. “I don’t understand. He called me and said he wanted to tell me something, at home, in private. So, I came home. And he was in here, pacing back and forth. He looked…frustrated. Said that he’d been fucking some young thing that decided that she couldn’t fuck him anymore because he’s married and it’s wrong. So, it’s my fault.
“I told him that was easily fixed. He can fuck whomever he wants, for the rest of his life, and I’ll happily sign papers. But that only made it worse, because Daddy made him sign a prenup, and he won’t leave me just to lose out on all the money after all these years.”
“A fucking dead man,” Beau repeats, and Ben simply leaves, the door downstairs slamming behind him.
“Did he say he was going to kill you?” I ask her.
She nods stiffly, shaking in earnest now, shock setting in. “He kept holding my face in the water, until I thought for sure I was going to die, and then he’d pull me back out. Oh, my God,” she breaks down crying. “And then he dragged me back in here by the hair and…”
“And what?” Declan asks.
“I don’t want you to hear it,” she says to her brothers.
“Vanny, we love you,” Beau says softly. “It’s okay.”
She looks around the room, then settles her gaze on mine and whispers, “He raped me.”
I swallow hard. I want to throw up. I want to run away. I don’t want to hear this, hear how brutalized my best friend was by the man who was supposed to love her more than anything. But, instead, I lean in and kiss Van’s cheek.
“You’re safe. The ambulance is coming. We need to take pictures, Van.”
“What?” she gasps.
“To press charges, we need photos,” I repeat.
“Am I pressing charges?”
“If he lives long enough, yes,” Eli confirms. He and his brothers are scary. Lance should be very afraid.
“Of course you are, honey,” Charly says, and caresses Van’s hair soothingly.
“You’re leaving him,” I say firmly. “This is it. No more.”
“What do you mean, no more?” Declan asks.
Charly sighs and winces in pain. “Not the first time.”
“What?” Beau demands, and Eli stands to pace, unable to keep still any more.