Chapter Description: With Anna being dragged into the bedroom the situation is dire. There is no way for Paul to try and juggle both sides of his life and he has to take a stad, one way or the other. The repercussions of whatever he does could echo for the rest of his life.
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“Help!” Anna screamed as she lost all her composure, “Ryan! Help!”
Anna struggled but there were just too many men around her. They leered at her as they forced her down the hallway towards the bedrooms, Anna couldn’t regain her footing as she was buffeted this way and that. She was sobbing as they reached the bedroom door.
“No!” Anna cried out as she was pushed inside.
Anna stumbled and hit the bed. She quickly scrambled to her feet and looked around at the drunk men that were filing in. They were circling the bed until there was no way out. They were all in various states of drunkenness but the one thing they all had in common was how they stared at her hungrily. Ryan wasn’t among them. With a sinking feeling Anna imagined Ryan waiting in the living room waiting for the others to finish. Was this how he was going to be welcomed back into the group? Was she the price he had to pay?
“I want the first go.” Paul said as he sauntered forwards, “I’ve had my eyes on this one since the first day…”
As Paul walked up to her Anna backed up as far as she could. The drunken bully was unbuttoning his shirt as he stepped forwards. Anna was pressed against the wall as her neighbor, Jane’s husband, stood so close to her that she could smell the alcohol on his breath. He reached forwards towards her breasts.
Anna acted without a second thought. She brought her knee up as hard and fast as she could. She hit her mark between Paul’s legs causing him to scream out and fall to the ground. She looked down at the man who was now retching on the floor. She would’ve felt wonderful vengeance if she hadn’t been so terrified about what would happen next.
“Bitch!” Paul wheezed out as he grasped his injured genitals.
The other men started coming forwards. With the pack leader down it looked like it was about to be a free-for-all. There was no way Anna was going to be able to fight them all off. She raised her hands, if they were going to take her down she wasn’t going to go without a fight.
“Stop!” Ryan’s voice suddenly came from the doorway and a second later he burst into the room.
Anna turned to see her husband push two men out of the way to reach her. He stood in front of her and Anna gasped as she saw he’d actually armed himself with a knife. She was shocked, completely sure he had abandoned her she had given up hope but like a knight in shining armor Ryan was stood in front of her brandishing his sword.
“Get out of the way Ryan…” Paul gasped from the floor.
“No.” Ryan answered surprisingly calmly considering the situation, “This has gone too far.”
Paul gradually made his way back up to his feet. His face was red and he looked angrier than Anna had ever seen. She felt pretty sure that if Ryan wasn’t there something terrible would happen. She wasn’t sure it wouldn’t happen even with her husband trying to protect her.
“Don’t pussy out on me, Ryan.” Paul growled, “Be a fucking man.”
“A man?” Ryan repeated with a shake of his head, “You’re not men. You’re animals. She is a person just like your sisters, mothers, aunts and cousins. Have some respect.”
Anna heard various men mumbling and none of it sounded good. Anna and Ryan very literally had their backs against the wall and it felt like they were about to make a last stand. She felt fingers against her hand and looked down to see Ryan holding her with his free hand.
“I knew it.” Paul smirked, “We should never have given you a second chance. You’re weak. You’re no one. Do you know what happens next? Because I can tell you what won’t happen. You won’t be working with any of us. You won’t be getting that executive salary and you’re going to be on the government’s blacklist. You’ll be lucky if you can even afford a cardboard box for the two of you.”
“It’s time for you to leave.” Ryan replied with eerie calmness.
There was a tense few moments as no one moved. Anna barely dared to breathe as she looked around. The men were all looking at Paul to see what they would do. If they wanted they could overpower Ryan but it might not be without casualties.
“I bet you don’t have the balls to use that.” Paul sneered as he nodded towards the knife.
“How much are you willing to stake on that?” Ryan asked, “For Anna I’ll take every one of you down.”
Another silence but Anna could see that the mood was shifting. The men were looking at each other nervously, none of them wanted to end up getting hurt for what they saw as a little bit of fun. Paul and Ryan hadn’t broken eye contact for a single solitary second.
“It was nice knowing you, Ryan.” Paul said as he took a step back, “Just let me know when you realise how badly you messed up and maybe I’ll give you a job cleaning my company’s toilets.”
Anna watched as Paul continued to back up until he reached the ring of men. He paused for a second before nodding his head to the side and left the room. One by one the others followed him until Ryan and Anna were alone. As soon as the last one was out of the bedroom Ryan let go of Anna and went to the door himself to make sure they all left.
Anna heard the front door slam closed. Immediately Ryan dropped the knife and hurried across the room to her. They wrapped their arms around each other in the tightest embrace imaginable. Anna was sobbing from the pent up emotions finally getting released as well as the pure relief that she was coming out the other side of the ordeal unscathed.
“I’m so sorry.” Ryan whispered, “I wanted to stop them but they blocked me off.”
“It’s alright.” Anna replied through her tears, “I’m OK.”
“I thought I could control tonight. At least to stop them from doing… this.” Ryan finally pulled back from Anna and she saw that his eyes were shimmering with tears too, “I was a fool.”
Anna raised a hand up until it was touching Ryan’s chin. She leaned in close and kissed her husband with a passion that she had never felt before. When she finally broke it off she smiled. She wiped her eyes a little as she tried to regain a little of her composure. The adrenaline was wearing off.
“What about your career?” Anna asked. She knew how important it was to her husband. It was something he talked about practically every day.
“Fuck my career.” Ryan replied emphatically.
Anna couldn’t help but let out a little laugh before sniffing. Ryan chuckled as well. It felt like a gigantic weight had been lifted off them. Everything was out in the open now, for better or for worse they weren’t going to be able to close Pandora’s Box.
“What happens now?” Anna asked.
“I have no idea.” Ryan shrugged, “It doesn’t matter. With you by my side I can face anything.”
“I love you.” Anna said. It felt like if she didn’t say the words her heart would burst.
“I love you too.” Ryan replied.
Things moved very quickly. Anna and Ryan fell asleep in each other’s arms that night and were woken the next morning by a loud banging on the door. It quickly became apparent that whoever was out there wasn’t going away no matter how much they tried to ignore them. Ryan stood up and left the room, Anna propped herself up on her arms and watched the bedroom exit nervously. After a couple of seconds she walked across and leaned out just enough to see what was happening.
“Mr. Manning?” A gruff male voice asked.
“Yes?” Ryan replied slowly.
“The Dean wants to see both you and your wife.” The voice said.
Anna saw a letter being thrust into Ryan’s hands and before he could say anything the man was walking away. Ryan closed the door slowly as he looked down at the letter. Anna walked out to her husband, she found herself looking over her shoulders a bunch like someone might suddenly jump out at her.
“Well, this should be interesting…” Ryan muttered.
“What does he want?” Anna asked.
“I’m guessing it’s not a social call.” Ryan replied with a sigh, “It’s this afternoon.”
From that point on it was impossible to have a normal day. Everything had changed. Ryan sat on the couch on edge, the television was on but he wasn’t looking at it. Anna tried to keep busy but she was very jumpy, every unexpected noise had her on maximum alert.
As the pair got ready for their meeting Anna asked if she should wear something “appropriate” but Ryan told her to dress how she wanted. Anna smiled and nodded as she dressed in the most grown-up way possible. The one concession she made was wearing a pull-up, after her recent time spent in diapers she didn’t want to risk anything.
The Dean’s office seemed as grand as Anna had imagined it. A whole floor of the administrative building was dedicated to the Dean. Ryan and Anna sat down in the hallway outside the giant oak doors. Along the opposite wall was portraits of a load of stuffy old men, Anna assumed they were previous Deans. Eventually the door opened and a particularly snobby man stepped into the hallway.
“You may go in.” He said as he held the door open.
Anna was nervous. She couldn’t discount the possibility that in the office they would both be dragged away or something, they were known as dissidents now after all. It was a precarious position to be in. Ryan took her hand and they walked into the office together, side-by-side.
The office was huge and yet seemed cluttered by pieces of furniture. It would’ve looked fine as a living room in a stately home but as an office it felt strange. Towards the back of the room was a large desk and behind it sat an old man who was writing something down and didn’t look up once as the married couple walked in.
“Sit.” The Dean said without looking up.
Anna’s heart was racing as they got closer to the desk. There were two chairs opposite the Dean and she slowly lowered herself into one of them almost expecting it to be a trap. The Dean had a very stern expression as he continued to write, still he hadn’t looked up. He didn’t say anything and the silence stretched on for a couple of minutes. It was deeply uncomfortable. Finally he pushed the paper to the side and without looking at Anna or Ryan he picked up the phone on his desk.
“Send them in please.” The Dean’s voice had more power than Anna would’ve thought possible. He looked rather frail but his voice was anything but.
The grandfather clock in the corner ticked. Another minute went by without a word being spoken and Anna was feeling exceptionally self-conscious. Quite suddenly the door opened and Anna jumped as the metal handles moved and the doors creaked. She twisted around in her seat and gasped.
“W-What are you doing here?” Ryan asked as his eyes grew wide.
It was hard for Anna to know who the question was aimed at. She hadn’t expected either of the two men now walking across the office to be there. Paul was still limping slightly and she felt a flash of satisfaction that he was still experiencing the effects of her self-defense the previous evening. Walking in next to Paul was her father-in-law, Harold Manning. His face looked grey and he stared at his son with the utmost seriousness.
“Mr. Manning, Mr. Jupp, good to see you both.” The Dean said.
“Father, I…” Ryan started as Harold and Paul reached the desk.
“Quiet.” Harold hissed.
“Mr. Manning, as you are aware your son is accused of some most serious misdemeanors. As such a valued benefactor of our school I thought you would like to be here when this matter was discussed.” The Dean continued.
“Thank you.” Harold nodded his head towards the Dean in a bow, “I’m grateful you called me. I’m sure we can straighten all this out.”
At the last of those words Anna heard Paul snort with derision. He walked over to an armchair to the side of the desk and sat down, he didn’t hesitate to put his feet up on the table in front of him. It seemed Anna’s attack had bruised his genitals but not his ego.
“Paul, would you like to elaborate on what has been happening?” The Dean asked as he leaned back in his chair.
“It’s like I told your staff last night…” Paul said impatiently, “Ryan’s been acting strangely for a long time. We thought there was something going on so we distanced ourselves from him. When I heard he sent his bitch to-…”
“You watch your mouth.” Ryan quickly interrupted.
“Please, Mr. Jupp, can we try to tell the story without profanity?” The Dean asked wearily.
“Fine.” Paul sighed and rolled his eyes, “We heard Ryan had sent Anna to the on-site nursery. I know now that I was wrong, it wasn’t his decision. Anyway, we decided to give him a second chance thinking he had grown a pair of balls… Sorry, testicles.”
Anna saw Paul smirk. He clearly thought he was very clever.
“Last night we were having a party at Ryan’s place.” Paul continued, “You know how these things go. It got a little wild. We were going to have some fun when Ryan pulled a knife on us.”
“You were going to attack my wife!” Ryan shouted.
“Ryan!” Harold barked, “For god’s sake shut up.”
“We had only the most innocent of intentions.” Paul smirked. He looked at Anna and winked causing a shiver to run down her spine.
“Ryan? Is this true?” The Dean asked.
Anna turned to look at her husband. He had his hands in his lap and was staring down at them. She couldn’t say for sure what he was thinking. In the end he remained silent long enough that his father spoke up.
“It was a party, hmm?” Harold nodded. He looked at Paul, “Was alcohol served?”
“Yes.” Paul confirmed.
“Then surely we can put all this down to drunken hijinks. A lesson to all involved that to drink responsibly.” Harold raised his arms as if daring anyone to say differently.
“They were going to rape Anna.” Ryan finally said quietly. If the room hadn’t been silent his words would’ve been lost.
“You can’t rape property.” Paul said casually.
“How dare-…” Ryan started as he looked up with fire in his eyes.
“He’s right.” Harold said, “Son, I think we all appreciate you’re… protectiveness of Anna. But perhaps the alcohol meant you took it too far. It sounded like they were just going to have some harmless fun.”
“Harmless?” Anna spoke for the first time and all eyes turned to her, “You people are sick!”
“This is what I mean!” Paul exclaimed as he pointed at Anna, “Ryan has been soft on that bitch for too long. She’s getting ideas above her station. Last night confirmed it to me. Ryan is a goddamn women’s sympathizer. He should be sent to the Finishing School right next to his wife.”
“You mean I’m a human being.” Ryan shot back, “With empathy and morals.”
Silence fell again. Anna knew they were fighting a losing battle. Trying to appeal to ethics and good consciousness in Sallas was doomed before it even started. She still didn’t know what was going to happen next, she wouldn’t have been surprised if there were police outside the door waiting to arrest them.
“Yes… Well…” The Dean was the one to break the silence as he looked up at Harold, “There are very serious allegations. There are witnesses backing up everything Paul says. Quite frankly I have a duty to inform the government about what has been happening here.”
“Now hold on a minute…” Harold held out his hands, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Of course, Mr. Manning, these things are never black and white.” The Dean continued barely acknowledging the interruption. He turned to Harold, “Mr. Manning, you are one of our most successful alumni, you’re generous contributions to the school have been very welcome. It would be a shame to jeopardize the connection your family and our school has over something that could be solved quietly.”
Paul shook his head and snorted. It was clear what he thought about this. Anna had no doubt that if Harold didn’t donate money to the school this meeting wouldn’t even be taking place. Things were starting to come into focus and the reason for this meeting was becoming clearer. This was an opportunity to sweep everything under the carpet. A chance for an embarrassing episode to be quietly shelved.
“I’m glad you’re willing to be sensible about this.” Harold smiled, “It’s qualities like that which made me recommend you for your role in the first place.”
“That may be but this is a serious situation and there will need to be consequences.” The Dean said.
Anna didn’t like where this was going. The Dean was now sorting through the papers on his desk until he pulled one out. He scanned it before looking up again. He held the paper out, Ryan went to take it but Harold grabbed it first. Now it was his turn to silently scan the page, the further he went the broader his smile became.
“Does someone want to tell me what’s going on?” Ryan asked.
“What’s going on is the Dean offering you a second chance.” Harold said as he roughly thrust the paper into his son’s hands.
“Ryan, we are prepared to overlook these irregularities and allow you to continue your education.” The Dean said, “All it will require is Anna here being sent to Finishing School and an intensive course for yourself on proper male behaviour.”
Anna had been half-expecting it from the moment she knew there was a meeting happening. She swallowed and looked at Ryan who was still staring at what appeared to be a contract.
“Sign on the dotted line.” The Dean said, “And the slate will be wiped clean.”
Ryan stared at the paper for a long few seconds. Anna could feel every second fraying her grip on Ryan. The longer he looked the more likely it seemed that he might abandon her after all. Ryan finally sighed a deep breath and turned to look at Anna. He smiled.
“No.” Ryan said simply as he placed the contract back on the desk.
“Ryan, your emotions are high but-…” Harold started.
“No.” Ryan said again.
“Ryan!” Harold was shouting now. His face turning red and a vein in his neck bulged alarmingly, “You will sign the contract. Do not make the biggest mistake of your life.”
Ryan stood up and a second later after a little prompting Anna did the same. She was in shock but for once it was because something good seemed to be happening. She took Ryan’s hand again, as long as she was holding her husband’s hand she felt safe.
“I think we’ll be leaving now.” Ryan said as if he was saying goodbye to some relatives at a family gathering.
“Ryan, I will not have you sacrificing your life for this… this whore!” Harold roared.
Ryan moved so quickly Anna almost didn’t see as he swung his free hand and connected with his father’s face. Harold, despite, his size fell to the floor where he started rubbing his cheek in shock. He was staring up at Ryan as if he had never seen his boy before.
“Come on.” Ryan said as he looked at Anna. He was still smiling.
With a cacophony of noise and chaos behind them Anna walked next to Ryan as they left the office. There were no police waiting for them outside the Dean’s room, there were no guards back at their apartment. They remained unmolested as they packed their things and went down to the car.
“Where are we going to go?” Anna asked as Ryan turned on the engine.
“I don’t know.” Ryan replied, “But as long as I’ve got you, I know we’ll be fine.”