I breathe in my nose, out my mouth, wash my hands, repeat the breathing. Once I’m more calm, I dry my hands on a towel.
I’ll just go back out there and tell Ryle I’m not feeling well. We’ll leave and we’ll never come back. They all think the chef is an asshole, so that can be my excuse.
I unlock the door, but I don’t pull it open. It starts pushing open from the other side, so I step back. Atlas steps inside the bathroom with me and locks the door. His back rests against the door as he stares at me, focused on the cut near my eye.
“What happened?” he asks.
I shake my head. “Nothing.”
His eyes are narrow, still ice blue but somehow burning with fire. “You’re lying, Lily.”
I muster enough of a smile to get me by. “It was an accident.”
Atlas laughs, but then his face falls flat. “Leave him.”
Jesus, he thinks this is something else entirely. I take a step forward and shake my head. “He’s not like that, Atlas. It wasn’t like that. Ryle is a good person.”
He tilts his head and leans it forward a little bit. “Funny. You sound just like your mother.”
His words sting. I immediately try to reach around him for the door, but he grabs my wrist. “Leave him, Lily.”
I yank my hand away. I turn my back to him and inhale a deep breath. I release it slowly as I face him again. “If it’s any comparison at all, I’m more scared of you right now than I’ve ever been of him.”
My words make Atlas pause for a moment. His nod starts out slowly, and then gets more prominent as he steps away from the door. “I certainly didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.” He motions toward the door. “Just trying to repay the concern you’ve always shown me.”
I stare at him for a moment, unsure how to take his words. He’s still raging on the inside, I can see it. But on the outside, he’s calm—collected. Allowing me to leave. I reach forward and unlock the door, then pull it open.
I gasp when my eyes meet Ryle’s. I quickly glance over my shoulder to see Atlas filing out of the bathroom with me.
Ryle’s eyes fill with confusion as he looks from me to Atlas. “What the fuck, Lily?”
“Ryle.” My voice shakes. God, this looks so much worse than it is.
Atlas steps around me and turns toward the doors to the kitchen, as if Ryle doesn’t even exist to him. Ryle’s eyes are glued to Atlas’s back. Keep walking, Atlas.
Right when Atlas reaches the kitchen doors, he pauses.
No, no, no. Keep walking.
In what becomes one of the most dreadful moments I can imagine, he spins around and strides toward Ryle, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt. Almost as soon as it happens, Ryle forces Atlas back and slams him against the opposite wall. Atlas lunges for Ryle again, this time shoving his forearm against Ryle’s throat, pinning him against the wall.
“You touch her again and I’ll cut your fucking hand off and shove it down your throat, you worthless piece of shit!”
“Atlas, stop!” I yell.
Atlas releases Ryle forcefully, taking a huge step back. Ryle is breathing heavily, staring at Atlas long and hard. Then his focus moves directly to me. “Atlas?” He says his name with familiarity.
Why is Ryle saying Atlas’s name like that? Like he’s heard me say it before? I’ve never told him about Atlas.
That first night on the roof. It was one of my naked truths.
Ryle lets out a disbelieving laugh and points at Atlas, but he’s still looking at me. “This is Atlas? The homeless boy you pity-fucked?”
The hallway instantly becomes a blur of fists and elbows and my screams for them to stop. Two waiters push through the door behind me and shove past me, separating them just as quickly as it started.
They’re pushed apart against opposite walls, staring each other down, breathing heavily. I can’t even look at either of them.
I can’t look at Atlas. Not after what Ryle just said to him. I also can’t look at Ryle because he’s probably thinking the absolute worst possible thing right now.
“Out!” Atlas yells, pointing at the door, but looking at Ryle. “Get the hell out of my restaurant!”
I meet Ryle’s eyes as he begins to walk past me, scared of what I’ll see in them. But there isn’t any anger there.
Lots of hurt.
He pauses as if he’s about to say something to me. But his face just twists into disappointment and he walks back out into the restaurant.
I finally glance up at Atlas and can see disappointment all across his face. Before I can explain away Ryle’s words to him, he turns and walks away, pushing through the kitchen doors.
I immediately turn and run after Ryle. He grabs his jacket from the booth and walks toward the exit without even looking at Allysa and Marshall.
Allysa looks up at me and holds her hands up in question. I shake my head, grab my purse and say, “It’s a long story. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
I follow Ryle outside and he’s walking toward the parking lot. I run to catch up to him and he just stops and punches at the air.
“I didn’t bring my fucking car!” he yells, frustrated.
I pull my keys out of my purse and he walks up to me and snatches them from my hand. Again, I follow him, this time to my car.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if he even wants to speak to me right now. He just saw me locked in a bathroom with a guy I used to be in love with. Then, out of nowhere, that guy attacks him.