Fairytales Are Lies




It was midnight and the full moon was the only light on the road. Tall oak trees lined either side of the long stretch of pavement, breaking for a small lane that most people would have missed if they didn’t know it was there.


A woman flew from this hidden drive into the road; forcing the car to stop. She stared into the windshield, momentarily blinded by the headlights even though they were set on dim. Her large almond hazel eyes were wide with panic. Light brown hair was falling out of what had once been an elegant updo. The deep blue cocktail dress she wore was badly torn, her bare left shoulder bruised.


In her arms she was carrying a screaming child, a little girl no more than six.


The woman started to speak only for something to attract her attention, her head snapping towards the drive; a diamond earring on her lobe catching the light for a moment. She began shaking her head as a black car appeared.


Two men in black suits emerged from the back seat, both ignoring the car parked in the middle of the road.


The woman looked back into the windshield once before being dragged off, crying as the child screamed. Gates closed behind them as the car disappeared back down the lane, leaving the night quiet once more and John Cena wondering if he had fallen asleep at the wheel.


“What the hell?” John blinked, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles; just in case he HAD fallen asleep. After pinching himself to reassure himself that he was quite awake, he opened the car door; sliding from his seat.


Slowly, he walked around the hood of the car; glancing towards the dark gap between the trees; taking in the heavy iron gate that sealed the lane from the rest of the world. He had seen it, he hadn’t been dreaming.


A woman with a child had come from that small road, and they had been taken back by… guards?


Groaning, he whipped out his cell phone and dialed 911. That woman and kid were in trouble, obviously and he felt like he had to do something. “Hello, my name is John Cena…”


The dispatched listened to everything he said before finally saying, “Help is on the way, sir. Please wait there for the officers.”


When ‘help’ arrived, the policemen approached John’s car, one of them knocking on the window.


Sighing, John rolled it down. He had gotten back inside to fend off the night chill, though considering how fast they had gotten there, he needn’t have really bothered.


“Sir, could you get out of the car, please.”


Nodding, John did; arching an eyebrow when he seen two more police cars pulling up alongside the road. Hesitantly, he gave his statement, explaining in detail everything he had seen; gesturing back to the iron gate.


“Sir, we’re going to have to ask you to leave. This is McMahon property and they don’t take kindly to trespassers.”


“Wait, what?” John shook his head. “I don’t think you heard me, sir-“ He trailed off when he realized he was being surrounded by the cops.


“Either leave sir, or we’ll have to arrest you. What’ll it be?”


His blue eyes took in how every cop there had a hand on a gun or a taser. “Alright, okay.” He held his hands up, showing them he didn’t want any trouble and slowly got back in his car.


It was unnerving how they all watched as he pulled away, glancing in the rearview mirror; half expecting them to follow him or something. This was straight out of the Twilight Zone. It was obvious the ‘authorities’ weren’t going to do anything about this.


John knew what he had seen, he hadn’t been drinking; he didn’t do drugs and he wasn’t sleepy.


That poor woman, that precious kid… Gritting his teeth, he clenched his cell in his hand before punching in a number he had memorized. “Hey Irvine, got anything lined up tomorrow?”




“I think I found something that’s right up your alley. You in?”


“I’m always in, Cena.”




Noel McMahon sat in the parlor with her mother-in-law, listening as Linda chatted about idle things; aware the older woman was trying to comfort her but couldn’t bring herself to meet those pitying blue eyes. She could hear her daughter –Cadence- playing in her toy room, the terror of the previous night all but forgotten.


“Noel, dear, are you listening?”


“Hmm? I’m sorry, Linda, I was off in LaLa-Land, what was that?” She asked tiredly, reminding herself to straighten her back, mimicking Linda’s flawless posture.


“I said-“ Linda hesitated when her son, Noel’s husband, Shane, walked into the room.


Smiling, Shane bent down to brush his lips against Noel’s rouge covered cheek; carrying a tumbler of brandy in his hand. The night before had been ugly, but all was now forgotten and forgiven. He perched himself on the edge of the settee beside her, his arm moving around her slender waist; splaying his hand on her side. “Dinner is almost ready.” He announced, nodding to his mother.


“Alright.” Noel forced a smile onto her painted lips, returning his kiss when he inclined his head towards her. “Cadence, time to go wash for supper.” She called, feeling him let her go and stood up; heading towards the playroom.


“Shane,” Linda stood up as Noel disappeared from sight, placing a hand on her son’s shoulder. “Forgive me for interfering but you simply cannot keep hitting her. Your father would not allow it if he were still alive and you know this.”


Dear Lord she wished her beloved husband was still alive, he would be able to reign in their son’s irrational anger so much better than she.


Shane’s brown eyes narrowed ever so slightly before giving his mother a charming smile. “Don’t worry, Mother.”


Linda shook her head helplessly, unable to do anything but watch as Shane followed Noel out of the parlor. Sighing quietly, she joined them in the dining room; watching as Noel helped Cadence into a chair and seated herself in her customary spot at the head of the table, opposite her son.


Shane waited until the women were seated before dropping down as well, winking when the maid –Maria- began bringing out the dishes.


Noel forced herself to eat, smiling and encouraging Cadence; aware Shane was watching her intently. Noel glanced at Linda, seeing the worried frown on the older woman’s face and felt her heart go out to her mother-in-law. Linda was a godsend.


Cadence went pale when her tiny hands fumbled with the adult glass she was supposed to drink out of fell, milk staining the table linen. She held her breath, looking down at her plate.


“Cadence and I will take supper in my rooms.” Linda announced before anything could be said, quickly ushering her grandchild out of the room.


“That damn kid…” Shane cursed angrily, throwing his napkin on the table before standing up; the chair flying backwards. “What are you just sitting there for?” He growled at his wife who mutely shook her head; standing as well. Snorting, he snatched her napkin from her when she began mopping up the milk. “Worthless! I’m surrounded by worthless women!”


“Cadence is a child, Shane.” Noel said emotionlessly; lowering her hazel eyes when he rounded on her again. “It was an accident.”


Maria came bustling out of the kitchen carrying a towel and took over cleaning up the mess before anything else could get ruined, keeping her head down so as not to attract the wrath of her employer. When she finished,  she carried trays to Linda; shaking her head when Linda arched a questioning eyebrow.


Linda kept the door shut after Maria had left, turning on some music and distracted Cadence the best she could.


“I know what she is, you stupid bitch.” Shane snarled, slapping Noel and watched as her head snapped to the side; admiring the red handprint that now lividly stood out on her cheek. “You find it amusing, don’t you? Pointing things out o me that I already know? How about I take you upstairs and teach you another lesson, hmm?”


Noel was already backing away, a hand on her throbbing cheek.


“Would you like a repeat of last night, my DARLING wife?”


Linda had placed a headset over Cadence’s ears shortly after Maria had left, her own ears very open to the sounds of Noel’s screaming. Trembling, she stood up and walked over to open the door a crack. Her heart broke inside her chest when she seen her only son dragging his wife up the stairs by her long hair, Noel screaming and trying to break loose.


Hearing Cadence behind her, she quickly shut the door; plastering a smile on her face. “Eat.” She pointed to the plate, watching as Cadence did, humming along to her song.


Shane bodily tossed Noel into their bedroom, slamming the door shut behind him as he watched her scramble to her feet; ignoring the tears streaking her face. “Let me show you what happens when you disrespect me.” He snarled, backhanding her again; impassively watching as she stumbled backwards; the back of her knees hitting the bed before dropping onto the mattress. “Bend over.”


Noel shook her head, standing up only to be knocked right back down; gasping for air. She heard the familiar sound of his leather belt coming through his dress slacks belt loops, already cringing in pain.




She let out a strangled plea for mercy as her husband gripped her hair and jerked her up and then forced her to bend over the bed; burying her face in the mattress; her body already tensing against the pain it knew was coming.


Twenty minutes later she was laying face down on the bedroom floor; watching as the last vestiges of light played on the cream colored carpet before sinking behind the treetops. She didn’t dare move, afraid of splitting open the welts that crisscrossed her back and bottom; faint trails on her face from the tears she had cried.


She felt hollow.




“John, did you hit your head or something? There’s nothing.”


“Chris, I’m not making this up, man!” John was frustrated to put it mildly. He had arrived at Chris Irvine’s office only a few hours ago and immediately informed his mentor of what had happened. Chris was a private eye, a profession he had gotten into years ago; after what he had said had been a ‘short lived teaching career’. John was working for Chris, learning the ropes so to speak.


Chris folded his arms over his chest, arching a pale eyebrow.


“Why would I see a woman and a kid?” John challenged, getting a bit hot under the collar at this point. Whatever had happened, the authorities had covered it up or something. “I don’t just dream that shit up, Chris!”


Phil –who was more often referred to as Punk simply because he looked like one- watched this from his place behind his desk and shook his head before returning his attention to the computer screen. “John, I think Chris is right on this one.” He said, scrolling down; arching an eyebrow of his own. “Shane and Noel McMahon, married eleven years ago. Had a kid, who’s six, a girl by the way. Says here they’re socialites and he’s one of the country’s wealthiest men. They pay their taxes, donate to charities and are often seen in public, together and separate.”


Chris gave John another ‘you’re a moron’ look.


“No history of violence, no marital disputes, not even a blow-up over credit cards,” Punk finished, looking mildly disgusted. Talk about the perfect couple, how nauseating. “You sure the police said McMahon and not something else?”


John was about to smack Punk upside his greasy head, bending over his shoulder to read the computer screen. He groaned when the screen mockingly validated what he was just told. “I’m positive they said McMahon.”


“While you obsess over your dreams, I’m going to go work on a REAL case.” Chris said with a roll of his blue eyes before walking into his office; slamming the door shut behind him.


That told John he was on his own unless he had something to back up his story. Chris was not a man who played games or wanted his time wasted; in fact, he could be a real bastard about it. John always had a sneaking suspicion something had happened in Chris’ past –which Chris refused to discuss in detail- that turned him into the cold man he was today.


“Are you SURE there’s nothing else?” He asked, knowing he was grasping straws but for the life of him, he knew there was something wrong. He hadn’t imagined that. This woman, Noel, she had been in trouble, he simply knew it. “I wasn’t making it up, I know what I saw, Phil.”


“Look, the most you can do is talk to people around the city and HOPE you come up with something, other than that…” Punk trailed off, frowning as his attention returned to the PC screen and clicked a link; reading it. Shaking his head, he bookmarked the page for later, clearing his throat. “Um, where was I?”


“Maybe I will, even though nobody is even INVESTIGATING this!” John was officially pissed off, storming out of the building. He could not get Noel’s panicked hazel eyes out of his mind, or the little girl’s screams. Swallowing hard, he dropped down onto the stoop and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket; toying with it for a moment.


Finally, he dialed the number.




“Hey, Matt… It’s John Cena.”


Matt Hardy listened as John filled him in on what was going on. “And just what in the blue hell are you wanting me to do about it, Cena?” He demanded gruffly. “Have Chris-“ He then got the pleasure of hearing John cuss Chris out; rolling his eyes. “That’s Irvine for you, won’t do shit without concrete evidence.”


John sighed his agreement.


“The way I see it, you’re going to have to wait until something happens again and THEN handle business. But you can’t go back there, you’d be recognized.” There was a lengthy pause. “Which is why I’m guessing you’re calling me.”


“I need you to check things out, see what’s up.” John said instantly, pressing whatever advantage he might have. “I’d do it but you like you said, I’d be caught and recognized.” He knew Chris was going to have his balls but he couldn’t drop this; he refused too. “Matt, I’d owe you big bro, if you could do this for me.”


Matt didn’t say anything.


“I’ll buy you a year’s worth of Starbucks…”


“Two.” Matt said finally before hanging up. Sighing, he got up from his very comfortable recliner and snatched his corvette keys off the table.


Time to go to work.




“We’ll need three dozen.” Noel said two days later, standing inside a china store; tapping one perfectly manicured fingernail on a pattern in a catalog. “By next week.”


“Of course, Mrs. McMahon. Throwing another party?” The clerk asked, already keying in the order.


“Yes.” She smiled, the smile not reaching her eyes which were currently hidden behind designer sunglasses.


Cadence was at school and she had come to the city on errands while Shane was at work. Slipping the receipt into her purse after paying, Noel walked out of the shop and out onto the busy city street. She mentally scratched that chore off the list.


Wearing a black linen suit that was tailored to hug her curves, she stood out among the casually dressed people passing her by but… She was a McMahon; she always had to look above and beyond the rest.


Across the street Chris watched the tall, well dressed woman walking down the sidewalk and folded his arms over his chest. She was busy on a cell phone, wishing for a moment that she would turn around so he could see more than just her profile. The only reason he knew she was Noel McMahon was by how some women had greeted her; rich bitches who were in need of new fashion consultants.


He kept thinking about that crazy shit John had told him about, shaking his head. Cena always had been a bit of a fruitcake and now it seemed the kid was losing it big time. Pushing it all out of mind, he paid for his hot dog and walked towards his Suzuki Hayabusa.


He roared right on by Noel without looking back.


Noel held the phone away from her for a moment until the wailing of that God awful motorcycle had dissipated. “I’m sorry, Linda, what was that?”


“I asked if you could pick up my medication while you’re out, dear?”


“Of course.” She smiled, shaking her head. Linda already knew Noel would do anything for her. After saying goodbye, she hung up and blinked when a man with long brown hair stepped into her path. “Excuse me…”


“Sorry.” He murmured, moving out of her way and frowned.




For some unearthly reason, Chris couldn’t get the woman who had been dressed to the nines out of his mind. He blamed this on John, the man was finally getting to him. Groaning, he knew he was going to wind up taking John’s… case.




Punk was not amused when Chris, John AND Matt Hardy are appeared at his base of operations. Which was coincidentally, his basement apartment. “Guys, I’m busy with an actual… you know, job.” He said, frowning and sized Chris up. “Thought you weren’t interested in this?”


“He changed his mind. Now pull up that info moron before I bust your head open.” Matt said evenly.


Rolling his eyes, Punk did, swiveling the monitor around to show a picture of Shane and Noel McMahon, both of them smiling as they looked at something past the camera.


Matt nodded. “That’s the woman I seen.”


John could only stare at the screen for a few minutes, finally nodding as well. “It’s her.”


“What?” Chris looked up from the discs he was sorting through. “Uh, Phil, this one says-“


“Just stop going through my shit!”


Making a face, Chris put them down.


“That’s the woman I saw that night, when I thought I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. She had a kid with her.” John said, tapping the monitor when Chris joined them.


“Noel.” Chris had to turn away, seeing the woman’s face for the first time. Up close; not from across a busy street; not just a side view, but actually saw her. “We have to call Shawn…” He said, pain lacing his tone.


“Dude, are you high? That man hates you.” Matt snorted.


“Hardy, take another goddamn look!”


Matt did, arching an eyebrow. “She’s a model?”


Chris cross his eyes and exhaled slowly through his nose. “That is NIM.”


John and Phil exchanged confused looks.


Comprehension dawned slowly on Matt’s face as he stared unblinkingly at the screen. “Wait one goddamn second… that fox is… Nim?” He demanded. “No way… Nim wasn’t that…”


“Hot?” Phil suggested wryly, tonguing his lip ring.


“Yeah, that.” Matt ducked a blow from Chris. “Hey don’t be hitting me! I knew her when she had knobby knees and tits smaller than a quarter!”


“Somebody mind filling me in?” Phil demanded. “Who is Nim, who’s Shawn, why does he hate Chris and WHAT does all this have to do with Noel McMahon?”




Punk wasn’t the only one curious about… Nim, Noel; whatever her name was. John was too and he looked at Chris and Matt questioningly as they apparently knew her. He was rather surprised to see Matt staring at Chris apprehensively, while Chris wore a heartbroken expression on his rugged face. “Chris?”


“I was a teacher, where she lived.” Chris said slowly. “For the community college, and she was a senior at the local high school.”


“You DATED a high school student?” Phil interrupted with wide eyes.


“She was eighteen, moron.” Chris snorted. “When she graduated, she enrolled for fall courses at the college. We were going to move in together, probably get married. I wanted… I wanted a family with her; the white picket fence, all of it.”


When Chris trailed off, Matt picked up. “Nim, Noel Ivy Michaels. She hated her name so everyone called her Nim instead. Her much older brother, Shawn, did NOT like Chris at all. When he found out Nim was dating a teacher, he blew his roof and tried having Chris arrested. But since she was-“


“Legal.” Phil supplied.


“Legal, there wasn’t anything they could do. It was pretty much the talk of the town. College teacher dating a student and getting away with it because technically, she was an adult. Shawn was all for tarring and feathering Chris, thinking Chris was basically out to use Nim.” Matt shook his head, frowning as memories danced before him. “They lived together for maybe a year-“


“One year, two months, fifteen days…” Chris whispered.


Everyone coughed, looking uncomfortable.


“Anyways,” Matt hastened on. “They uh, lived together, and then during the summer break; she went on the ‘Grand Tour’ thing with some friends.”


“Two weeks into her vacation, I get a letter saying she wanted nothing more to do with me and I never heard from her again.” Chris sighed, sinking down into a chair. “I never saw her until now, Shawn never heard from her either.”


“And Shawn thinks Chris is the reason Noel vanished off the face of the planet.”


“So… let’s see if I have this straight,” Phil cleared his throat after digesting all of that. “You’re going to go see her brother, who hates you and might possibly kill you, and all for a woman who wants nothing to do with you? Setting aside the fact that it is now like…  what, twelve years later?”


“Something like that.” Chris nodded grimly.


“You know, he’s never forgiven you for getting her locked up when you two morons decided to go joyriding on a stolen Harley.” Matt snickered.


“They what?”


“Chris and Nim were both kind of… wild. And Chris has a bit of an obsession for motorcycles.”


John and Phil both nodded, knowing the cardinal sin was even BREATHING on the Hayabusa.


“So they went and ‘borrowed’ one from Shawn’s neighbor. They got busted and spent a night in jail. Shawn bailed her out and left him to rot.” Matt was trying not to grin. “At least until she went and bailed him out herself.”


“I was the outsider from a big city far away and she was the sweet country girl I changed. “Chris sighed, remembering the knock down drag out fight he and Shawn had gotten into after Nim’s letter. Whether she hated him or not –and he still to this day had no idea WHY she hated him- he was going to help her. Noel was in trouble. “I’ve got to talk to Shawn.”


“So you believe me now?” John demanded.


“I don’t know what I believe, but that’s Noel and I’ll be damned if I’m leaving it to chance.”




“Mommy, can’t I come down and see the party?” Cadence begged, already in her pale pink nightgown; her brown hair pulled back in a matching ribbon. She was tucked snugly in her bed; her large brown eyes pleading. “Please?”


“No, you may not. It’s your bedtime.” Noel said, leaning down to kiss her daughter’s forehead. “Your Grandmother is coming up to sit with you until you fall asleep, understand?” She smiled when Cadence nodded, standing up and smoothed out her deep burgundy party dress. When Linda appeared, she nodded and headed downstairs to mingle.


She spotted her husband laughing at something their brother-in-law Paul Levesque was saying, Shane’s sister, Stephanie, standing with them. Paul and Stephanie had two little girls of their own, it was like the McMahon family was destined to never have another male in it.


Which would be fine with Shane, that meant he was king.


“There she is!” Shane crowed when he spotted her, walking over to drop a kiss on her cheek while entwining their fingers together; guiding Noel into the fray. He wanted to show her off, she was one of his most prized trophies, and he liked flaunting her.


It helped that she still had the body of a super model, even at thirty one, with gorgeous light brown hair that she always kept soft and silky; always styled. Her face was a bit unconventional in the sense of traditional beauty, her mouth a bit too wide; her eyes too large, but she was still very attractive.


A very easy on the eyes trophy.


His eyes swept her quickly, adoring her dress. It was definitely the odd one out in a room filled with backless dresses; but he knew exactly why his lovely wife couldn’t showcase her back. Because she had a tendency to disobey and he would have to remind her of her place. “Cadence sleeping?” He asked quietly, handing her a flute of champagne.


“Linda is reading her a story right now.” Noel murmured, sipping the champagne and kissed him; smiling when he brushed his hand down her back and over her rear. She felt almost overly dressed in her floor length, squared neckline chiffon dress. But it was a beautiful, classy dress and the way her husband was ogling her told her she had picked out a winner.


Now if she could only bring herself to care.


Where had the fairytale marriage gone wrong?


“Why Noel, that dress is… lovely!”


“Thank you.”


“I think I heard an accent,” One of their guests commented, joining the circle. “Do you have one?”


“No.” She said firmly, not believing her Texas drawl had actually seeped into her words; usually she forgot she used to speak… funny.


“Of course she doesn’t, my wife is not a hick.” Shane said with a good natured smirk, pulling Noel into him; feeling her free hand moving to rest against his chest. “Well, Mr. Layfield, how nice to see you.”


“The pleasure is all mine, son.” John Bradshaw Layfield replied, a man who easily towered over most in the room who was dressed… interestingly. He wore a blue suit with polished white cowboy boots and a white Stetson, his voice just as loud as the white against his blue. He was guiding his current girlfriend by her hand, a petite woman wearing a sparkling blue tank dress that barely covered her, assets.


John Layfield was a man Noel had no patience with. He had money, a snobbish attitude along with a loud mouth and a roving eye, his poor taste in women notwithstanding. But… he was a business associate of Shane’s so she smiled sweetly and sucked it up.


“Mr. Layfield.” She let him take her hand, trying not to look disgusted when he kissed the top of it. “I’m going to go check on the kitchens.” She murmured in Shane’s ear, feeling his nod and slipped through the crowd. She went to the kitchen not to see if the staff were doing their jobs but to wash her hands.


“That’s quite the peach you have, Shane.” John said bluntly, smirking when his date squeezed his arm and rolled his eyes. “Honey, we might be together but that don’t mean I can’t browse the menu and sometimes take a little bite.”


Shane appreciated his business associate’s attitude, raising a slow eyebrow when one of the maids slipped past him. “I couldn’t agree more, John.” He murmured, excusing himself to follow her.


When she returned, Noel didn’t see Shane anywhere and frankly, she didn’t care where he had gone off too. Accepting another glass of champagne, she downed it in one swallow and took another. When John nodded at her from across the room, she flashed an automatic smile all the while turning and slipping outside onto the patio, hoping to dissuade him from attempting to talk to her.


What was it with wealthy men thinking they could have anything and anyone they wanted? Snorting, she drained her third and set the flute down on the ledge.


She didn’t know how long she had stood out there, only coming out of her thoughts when she felt arms wrapping around her; knowing it was Shane.


“You’re not enjoying yourself.” He murmured softly, kissing the side of her throat. When she cringed, he sighed. “That was my way of apologizing, cupcake.”


Noel turned in his arms, pulling his white handkerchief from his lapel and wiped lipstick off his face; smiling coldly. “Apology not accepted, cupcake.” She said icily, brushing past him to rejoin the party; all smiles again.


“Christine, how good to see you!” She linked her arm through another woman’s, chattering politely before moving onto another guest; playing the perfect hostess.


Shane watched her out of narrowed eyes, hardly believing she had just thrown all that back at him.


How would he like it if she decided to have an affair of her own? Noel smiled at the thought, just envisioning her husband’s facial expression. She made her rounds and had spoken to everyone in the room, on yet another glass of champagne; knowing as soon as everyone had left; she could hit the hard stuff.


She never drank until Cadence was in bed sound asleep and come the morning, she was all smiles again for her daughter; even with a hangover. “John, you really must tell me where your friend shops at.” She murmured, watching as the woman in question danced; arching an eyebrow when the women’s backside flashed the room at large.


“That’s Chanel right there, baby! The finest in New York!” John crowed, slapping Noel on her own ass. “You should get out there and join her!”


“John, if you want to keep your hands, don’t put them on my wife.” Shane said, appearing out of nowhere; a scowl on his face.


“Maybe I like his hands ON me.” She suggested with a sexy smile for John, knowing she would pay for that later with Shane but right now, she didn’t care. No doubt he would have beaten her for something anyway, his temper was so unpredictable.


Winking at John, she pulled away from her husband and disappeared through the people; wondering if she had lost her mind.




When the party winded down and the guests were leaving, Noel switched to liquor; watching as they filed out the door. When the door closed and Shane turned around, she toasted him; knowing she was going to suffer very soon.


“Shane…” Linda pleaded, glancing between the pair. “Please remember your daughter is upstairs.” She moved to stand by Noel. “I’m sure you two can work out whatever happened tonight without violence.”


“Mother, go stay with Cadence.” Shane ordered, pointing a finger towards the stairs; his eyes never leaving Noel’s. “March.”




Ignoring Linda, he grabbed Noel by her arm and slapped the tumbler from her hand before shoving her towards the stairs.


Noel FLEW up the stairs, running from him and let out a scream when he threw a vase that barely missed her. She kicked off her heels; hurling them at him even as she was scrambling into their bedroom. Slamming the door shut, she locked it even though in the end he would break it down as he had before and darted into the bathroom; locking that door as well.


Downstairs, Maria and Cynthia –two of the full time staff members- exchanged looks when they heard the first of Noel’s ear piercing screams of pain. “Dear Lord…”


Cynthia nodded, knowing she was going to start looking for a new job in the morning.




Maria found Mrs. McMahon lying in the bathroom the next morning; having gone upstairs when the woman didn’t come down for breakfast with Linda and Cadence as was her ritual. She knew Mr. McMahon was at work, thank God.


“Oh no…” She whispered, kneeling down, not sure what to do. She could only stare at the welts on her employer’s back, some very new some old. “Come on, get up.” She murmured finally, gently pulling Noel to her feet. “Your daughter is waiting on you.”


“I’m up.” Noel groaned, shock registering on her face when she realized it was Maria aiding her.


“Just so you know, today is my last day, Mrs. McMahon.”




Chris was trying to focus on his cases, on actual cases with actual evidence and not John’s insistence that he had seen Noel being mistreated, or signs of it anyway. After all this time… He wanted to know why she had sent him that letter; knowing there had to be more to the story then a simple “I don’t love you anymore, please leave me alone” and felt she owed him at least an explanation.


“Any luck?”


He wasn’t surprised to look up and find John leaning in the doorway. “None. Matt is looking for Shawn but he’s just… disappeared.”


“I was on my way to see Phil, want to tag along?”


Chris shot his younger partner a dark look, standing up.




“Hey.” Phil was busy at his computer –as always. “Looks like they recently lost two of their staff. A Maria Consuelo and Cynthia Havern, both women put out advertisements on the local job employment sites. With, get this, recommendations by Mrs. Noel McMahon.” He smirked; leaning back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. “Now WHY would anyone quit a gig like that, it has to pay well, doesn’t it?”


“You’d think it would.” Chris agreed, dropping down onto the couch that sat against the basement wall only to hop back up; looking down to see what he had sat on. He held up a bag of now crunched potato chips.


“I was looking for those.” Phil held up a hand. “Toss them here.”


John and Chris exchanged looks as Phil began munching obliviously.




Cynthia hesitantly opened her door and then frowned; staring at a man in a knee length black trench coat with spiked blond hair. “What do you want?” She demanded anxiously, keeping behind the door; clutching a baseball bat in her hidden hand. She had been squirreling away her paychecks and now she was going to use them, to get the hell out of town before Shane decided she was a liability to his reputation, even though Noel had cut her a pretty sweet check in return for silence. “Look, tell McMahon I’m leaving town, okay?”


“Ma’am, I’m not working for him.” Chris said evenly, his blue eyes narrowing. That alone told him all he needed to know. Noel was living in some kind of Hell and John had been right. Of course, now this meant he would have to give John a raise in order to avoid the harassment and ‘told you so’ he knew was coming. “I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.”


Cynthia’s own eyes narrowed as she studied the badge he held out. He was a private investigator. Reluctantly, she let him inside, letting him see the bat she carried.


Nodding at the implied threat, Chris stepped inside and closed the door behind him; noticing instantly the boxes scattered about the living room. She was packing. “Leaving?”


She frowned, resuming her task. “I figured a change of scene would be good for me.” She said, quickly pulling books down from a shelf, tossing them into a box. “Look, whatever you’re wanting to know, ask someone else, okay?” She straightened up, folding her arms over her chest. “Why do you care about the McMahon’s anyway?”


Chris already knew this was a dead end and hoped John was having better luck.




Maria had taken quite a shine to this smooth talking detective, smiling sweetly at him as she refilled his coffee cup. “Mrs. McMahon is such a beautiful woman.” She sighed, not quite sure why he was so interested in Noel but… She was moving anyway so what the hell? “I mean that both inside and out, I can’t for the life of me understand why she ever married that prick.” Her brown eyes narrowed, sipping from her own mug and shook her head. “He’s a real loser, you know?”


“I’ll take your word for it, Miss Conseulo.”


“Oh, call me Maria.”


John smiled at her over the rim of his cup. “Maria.” He echoed with a nod. “I don’t know Mrs. McMahon personally, or her husband. I just found it odd that a person would quit that job, the benefits must be pretty good.”


“I thought you were a detective?”


“Business gets slow, I was browsing for a second job.” He said with a good natured shrug. “I was thinking about applying a position with them for security and seen a recommendation for you… I was hoping you could maybe help me.”


“You do NOT want to work there, trust me. You’re too nice for that job. McMahon only hires thugs.” Maria sniffed decisively, giving him a once over.


John ducked his head almost shyly, though in reality he was hiding a frown.


Maria was staring down into her coffee cup. “I quit because I found Noel –Mrs. McMahon- in her bathroom, unconscious.” She whispered, shivering at the memory. “Her back… was so…” She rolled her eyes towards the ceiling. “Disfigured? He must have been taking his belt to her for years…” She blanched, realizing she had just told a perfect stranger some pretty heavy information.


John was hiding his shock and revulsion, along with anger, though he couldn’t hide the fact that he had gone a little pale as well.


“I think quitting was the only thing I could do in that situation.” She said quickly, remembering the night Noel had tried taking Cadence and running, only to be dragged back.


John was quiet for a moment, unable to work his mouth; trying not to envision that poor woman being beaten. With a belt, no less. “My partner,” He cleared his throat, not about to tell her it had been him. “He was out that way a few weeks ago and said he saw a woman carrying a little girl; running away from someone it seemed.”


Maria bit her lower lip hesitantly.


“Would you know anything about that?” He asked softly.


“Yes,” She whispered, shaking her head and cleared her throat. Instinctively she knew this man was somehow going to help Noel and Cadence. “Cadence –who is only six- was laughing, just LAUGHING and that pig BLEW up. Noel stopped him from punishing the child but wound up taking it instead. She took the baby and ran for it the next night. Twenty minutes later, security was dragging her back inside.”


As John had personally witnessed the part where she had been dragged off, he knew Maria wasn’t lying and nodded at her. “Thank you, you’ve been a great help.” He said sincerely.


Maria just shook her head, hoping she had done the right thing in telling him all of this.




“I know it seems like a long time, Noel, but I do believe it would be best for Cadence.” Linda said during their afternoon tea, Cadence down for her nap. “Vince and I used to go to that cottage every summer when Shane and Stephanie were children. A summer on the beach, it would be perfect for her; especially now that school is out.”


Noel nodded her agreement. It would do Cadence good to get out of this house, where she wouldn’t be subject to her father’s abuse, even though so far he had yet to lay a hand on her. Then again, the one time he had tried, Noel had stopped him. “Leave in the morning, but her nanny has to go.”


“Oh course dear, though I think we’ll leave after Cadence’s nap.” Linda finished her tea. “I’ve already sent everything on ahead and a car is waiting. I figured before Shane finds out would be best.”


Sometimes Linda shocked the hell out of her but Noel smiled and nodded; hugging her mother-in-law. Cadence would adore the time alone with her Grandma in a safe environment.


When Cadence woke up, Noel kissed her daughter goodbye and watched them leave, the smile never leaving her face until the car was out of sight.






Noel winced at her husband’s bellow, pouring herself a fresh shot of scotch and tossed it back before setting down the bottle and turned to look at him.


Shane halted, staring at her; for a moment distracted by the firelight glinting off her pearl earrings. Shaking his head, he took a deep breath, anger radiating from his brown eyes. “My mother just called me.” He said flatly. “It seems you consented –WITHOUT MY PERMISSION- for her to take our daughter away for the SUMMER!”


She just arched an eyebrow.




“I believe our neighbors head you.” She said quietly. “I thought you might enjoy some one on one time.” Noel held her breath while he considered that. “I’m sorry, Shane. Your mother presented the idea and said she was ready to leave. It was split decision.”


Given that they had yet to replace the house-keeping, she wasn’t too keen on being alone with him. The only other people on ground were security and a chef who was currently out shopping. Shane now had free reign to beat her anywhere he wished.


“Do you think I CARE about-“ Shane stopped mid rant and took in the tears in her hazel orbs along with the truth and softened a little. “A house to ourselves…” He murmured, rubbing his chin. “This is perfect darling, we could start for a second child.”


Noel sincerely wished she could have slammed another round of scotch right then.


“Perhaps we’ll have a son. Can’t have all women running the McMahon family, now can we?”


“No, of course not.” She whispered, managing a smile for him.




Out went the birth control pills, in came ‘love making’ over every inch of the house. Which she didn’t mind as Shane was a very considerate lover when he wanted to be and during these moments she could almost pretend they were in love all over again.


Of course that all went out the window the night they went out to dinner with John Layfield…


Noel wished they were at home the minute they set down to dinner. It was a private table, secluded; obviously. She sat opposite John’s girlfriend –Susanna or Susie as she preferred- while Shane sat opposite her.


Her dilemma was: Shane had his hand on her right thigh, John had his hand on her left. No matter how many times she discreetly moved it, he would put it right back without interrupting his conversation about stocks with Shane.


She didn’t want to draw attention to this because she knew she would be the one taking the blame for it, managing to smile as she sipped her wine; trying to make conversation with Susie. She almost screamed when she felt John’s hand actually creep higher, followed by Shane’s fingers inching towards her panties.


Shane tensed when his fingers brushed… fingers; looking across the table at John who was complimenting Susanna on her attire; and then to Noel who was staring down at the table, mortified.


John shrugged when Shane excused him and his wife, deciding this dinner could be a romantic meal for two.




Trish Stratus was a divorce lawyer. She also happened to be Noel’s only friend.


She smiled when she seen Noel enter the diner, waving her over. They were lunching here because it was a small, modest place that was out of their normal area of the city; a place Noel wouldn’t have to worry about being seen. “Honey… take off the shades.” She said gently when Noel sat down opposite her; leaning across the table to pull away the sunglasses from Noel’s face, followed by tugging at the silk scarf that Noel wore wrapped around her head and face. “Oh my God…”


From Noel’s upper right temple to halfway down her cheek there was an ugly bruise.


Trish had met Noel seven years ago, before Cadence had been thought of, when Noel tried to seek legal help. However, that had all been thrown out no sooner than Trish had filed the paperwork, thanks to Shane’s money.


“You can’t let him do this anymore.” She whispered. “You have to leave him, Noel.”


Before Noel could say anything, a man sitting in the booth behind them turned and looked over Trish’ shoulder; smiling broadly, revealing two lip rings. “Could I borrow your ketchup?” He asked politely, showcasing his tongue ring as well.


Trish glanced at him, quickly passing him the bottle. “Here you are.”






“Thank you.”


“You’re welcome.” Trish waited until he was back in his seat before looking at Noel; bending forward and keeping her voice down. “You have to leave him.”


“I can’t Trish,” Noel said flatly, nodding when a mug of coffee was set in front of her and ran her finger around the rim; staring down at the large diamond and shining gold band that made up her wedding ring. “I’ve tried and tried. Cadence went to the beach for the summer with Linda four weeks ago, she’s due back in two.”


“So take her and run! You can’t keep ignoring the fact that your husband is slowly killing you, Noel.” Trish said in a hushed whisper. “Or the fact that you’ve become an alcoholic because of it.”


Noel wasn’t bothered by the alcohol shot because it was true. But she could claim she never let her baby see her drink and never would. “I can’t leave. I just can’t.”


“He’s going to kill you one of these days, you know that, don’t you?”


“Maybe I don’t care anymore.”




Phil had been popping a fry in his mouth when he heard that, having been somewhat listening in on the women’s conversation when he realized the woman behind him was none other than Noel McMahon, talk about a lucky break. He almost choked.


After paying his tab, he walked out of the diner; quickly pulling out his cell phone and called Matt. “You will NOT believe who I just seen…”


“The Pope.”


“No… why, is he in town?”


Matt groaned. “Moron, who did you see?”




“You seen her? Where?”


“Moody’s, where I have my lunch every Thursday. You know, cause they have that special and-“




“Oh yeah, but you won’t BELIEVE what she looks like. She has a bruise on her face, it’s horrible man, seriously twisted. Where are you?”


“Two blocks away actually, hold on… I’m coming.”


Phil hung up and waited patiently, waving when he seen Matt. “She’s in-“ He groaned when Matt drug him backwards until they were standing in a pawn shop doorway, watching as Noel and her friend emerged from the diner.


Matt’s brown eyes narrowed as he took them in. One woman had brunette hair and a body that usually would have made him drool. The other was covered with a scarf; sunglasses and a long trench coat. “Nim…”


Phil nodded.


“Chris is going to have a field day with this…”






Noel lay in bed, the balcony doors open to let in the light breeze; her arm draped over her eyes. She couldn’t believe she was pregnant.


Of course, she had yet to tell Shane, she would put that off as long as possible.


When Beethoven’s 5th played, she groaned; the ring tone to her cell was her favorite but at the moment she didn’t want to talk to anyone. However… she rolled over to pick it up. “Hello?”


“I know we just seen each other yesterday but… want to go to the movies with me?” Came Trish’ warm voice.


“Don’t you have marriages to ruin?”


“I prefer to think of it as saving lives.”


Noel began giggling at that. “I knew I loved you for a reason.”




“I can’t even find an obituary on this guy!” John groaned, rubbing his temples as he used his feet to push himself away from the computer. Before he smashed it.


Phil arched an eyebrow, taking a slow swallow of his Monster as he studied John. “That’s a bit… morbid. What if he’s not dead?”


“You got a better idea on where he could be?”


“Chris said to check San Antonio.”




Phil shut up and hunched back over the magazine he had been reading.


Sighing, Matt shoved John out of the damn chair and took over. Several minutes later, he snorted derisively. “Morons… he’s alive and kicking.” He grunted, pulling up an address. “Hondo, Texas.”


“Never heard of it.”


“Me either. But there it is.” He waited patiently on the printer to catch up. “So… who’s going to go talk to brother dearest?” He frowned when John and Punk both stared pointedly at him. “What the hell…”


“I’m going.” Chris said from the doorway, his blue eyes holding no room for argument.


John, Matt and Phil all exchanged uneasy looks.


“Now Chris…” John said patiently. “We all know how… personal this is for you.”


“Considering you were the one running around here like those men had done you a personal injustice yourself…” Chris shot back.


“We’ll all go.” Matt broke in before a fight could erupt.




Which is how the four of them wound up in Shawn’s driveway, with a damn shotgun being pointed at them by a very pissed off Texan.


“Shawn, put it down. We just want to talk to you about Noel.” Matt said calmly, holding out his arms in a peaceful gesture.


“I ain’t seen her in over a decade thanks to that sonbitch.” Shawn snarled, aiming the barrel at Chris. “So why don’t YOU do the talkin’?”


“For the final damn time, I don’t know why Nim sent me that damn letter!” Chris growled, sighing when Shawn simply cocked the gun. “Look, we found her.”


John was not comfortable at all, especially when Shawn fired a round off at their feet.


Chris wasn’t surprised at all by that reaction.


Punk –who had no idea who Shawn was besides Nim’s big brother- was oblivious to the fact that Shawn was counting him scum of the earth along with Matt and Chris, same as John. So figuring he was safe, he stepped forward and began recounting everything they knew about Noel’s situation.


Shawn’s stony countenance wavered.


“Look, Shawn… Noel is in a world of trouble. She has a daughter, your NIECE.” Matt felt a little bad about using that card against the already broken older man but… “None of us know her well enough to talk to her…”


Chris flinched at that but he supposed it was true. While he and Matt actually knew her, they hadn’t spoken with her in over ten years, that didn’t exactly warrant them the right to just show up at her door. Providing they made it past security.


“Well, Chris does.” Matt amended thoughtfully. “But I suppose she don’t want to see him-“ He ducked when Chris took a swing at him.


Rolling his eyes, Shawn fired another shot in the air; watching both men freeze.


Looking more than a little agitated, Chris turned to face Shawn. “I don’t know what I did to her, Shawn. But I loved Noel, with everything I am.” He still loved her truth be told. “She’s been married for eleven years, ELEVEN years, Shawn. She’s been gone for twelve.”


“You think I don’t know that, boy?” Shawn growled.


“Mr. Michaels, sir, I saw her.” John raised his hand, looking a bit like a kid trying to attract his teacher’s attention but he didn’t want to piss this man off anymore than he already was. “She was running from someone, carrying her daughter.” He groaned inwardly when the gun was suddenly swung in his direction. “Two men dragged her off, that’s how we got involved. I wanted to help her.”


Matt was getting annoyed. “This is your SISTER! Get your head out of your ass and help us!”


Shawn sighed, knowing he was going to get his own ass whooped for this but… “I sent Noel a letter.” He admitted, watching as Chris’ face drained of all color. “I wanted you outta her life, Chris. Ever since she met you, she’d been in and outta trouble. I figured when she went to Europe, that’d be the perfect time for you two to break things off. I sent her a letter with your name on it…”


Matt and John intercepted Chris before he could lunge. “Whoa- don’t kill him yet! We need him for now.”


Tears of pain and heartache stung Chris’ eyes as he swallowed down his rage; trying to focus on calming down but it just wasn’t happening. “YOU SON OF A BITCH!” He finally erupted; not even feeling it when John wrapped an arm around his throat; applying a headlock. “You had NO right!”


“That explains why she got married…” Phil commented casually.




“If you would of left her alone like I repeatedly asked, then NONE OF THIS WOULDA HAPPENED! Christ Chris! You got her locked up for stealing a MOTORCYCLE! Not to mention underage drinking and who even KNOWS what else! You were draggin’ her down, boy!” Shawn bellowed, just as angry as Chris; his cheeks blotched with red. “She’d never been in any trouble, always a perfect kid until YOU!”


“I LOVED her and I still do! And she loved me!” Chris snarled in reply, elbowing John until the larger man let him go; stepping away. “You can say what you want about me, Shawn, but Noel made the decisions to get in trouble alongside of me herself, I never forced her into anything. She loved me and YOU’RE the reason she thinks… whatever it is she thinks about me. YOU are the reason she’s in an ABUSIVE marriage!”


“Well, apparently since she has a mind of her own, she can take her damnself out of it anytime she wants. If Noel wanted anything to do with any of us, she knows how to get a hold of me. She always has.”


“You don’t understand Shawn, she doesn’t run her life; her husband does.” Matt said coldly, not believing the cruelty of this man, to do that to Nim and Chris. “That is your SISTER, you can’t stand there and tell us you’re not going to do anything about this.”


“Watch me. Get the hell out of here before I start shooting.”


Chris looked like he wanted to say something but simply shook his head, snorting. Pathetic.


The minute they were gone, Shawn began packing a duffel bag and a lot of shells. If what those four morons said was true, this Shane McMahon was dead meat.




“We do NOT take matters into our own hands.” Matt said the next day, back in Chris’s office thanks to the wonderfully expensive flight they had caught. Chris was pacing like a madman, his hair spiked out all over the place. “You haven’t seen Nim in a decade, don’t be a damn fool. You think she’ll appreciate you just popping into her life?”


Phil nodded his agreement. “You need to play this one safe, Chris.”


“Then what the hell do you suggest I do?” Chris snapped, not appreciating them ganging up on him like this.


Frowning, Matt looked around the room for inspiration, finally staring at John.


John arched an eyebrow.






“You can ‘accidentally’ meet her or something. You’re the nicest out of all of us and the least likely to scare her.” Matt said slowly. “We can have John worm his way into her life and start there.”


John rolled his blue eyes.


“Actually, that’s not a bad idea.” Phil said thoughtfully, shrugging when Chris growled. “She’d eventually remember Matt and I don’t have the patience for this kind of gig, you know that. I’m getting bored already.”


John couldn’t believe they were actually considering this, looking alarmed when three sets of eyes landed on him. “The guards have already seen me though.”


“For like… two seconds, through a windshield, at night…” Punk said slowly, as if talking to a child. “Seriously, man.”


Chris was quiet for a long time, considering all his options. Finally he just nodded. “Fine. Three months, Cena, you have three months and if it doesn’t work… We do it MY way.”




Cadence would be home in a week and Noel was both happy at the impending return of her daughter and dreading it. She had yet to tell Shane about her pregnancy, but so far he hadn’t given her a reason to play it as a ‘don’t beat me’ card and she wanted to keep it that way.


Idly, she wandered the mall, a bag from Tommy in hand. Her face had healed enough for her to cover the bruises with make-up; which meant she looked… normal. She felt almost good too. Good enough to care about her clothes again. A black pencil skirt and a silk lilac tank top with black stilettos, maybe if things kept on the way they were, she’d possibly get to feel sexy again.


One nice thing she could honestly say about her husband was he didn’t mind her spending his money, he somewhat encouraged it. Simply because he could then have bragging rights to what a good, generous husband he was.


She browsed the display counters at Zale’s, a diamond necklace catching her eye. Then she became aware she wasn’t the only one looking at it, stepping back.


“I’m sorry.”


She looked up into a pair of the bluest eyes she had ever seen. “For?”


“Taking up so much space.” He chuckled ruefully, gesturing to his size and then looked back down at the necklace. “Could I ask you something? I need a woman’s perspective.”


Noel sized him up quickly, finally clearing her throat. “Certainly.” She said, unable to refuse. It would have been rude and Linda had fine turned her manners.


“It’s for my girlfriend.” He explained.


“What kind of jewelry does she like?” She asked, turning back to look at the necklaces. “Do you know her favorite stone?” Noel glanced back at him, arching an eyebrow delicately.


“Emerald.” John said instantly, smiling down at her. When she turned her attention back to the display, a frown flickered over his face. He could see an odd tint to her make-up, on her cheek, knowing that must have been the bruise Phil had seen her sporting. He almost felt underdressed beside her, in nothing but a pair of old brown dress shoes, his ‘nice’ blue jeans and a white button up shirt that he hadn’t buttoned at the top. “I was thinking about a pair of earrings or maybe a bracelet?”


“Did you ask the associates for help?”


Now what the hell was he supposed to say to that? “Well to be honest, they don’t look… like they’d be much help at all.” He said finally, knowing he sounded both lame and like a jackass.


“Ah.” Noel turned a bit too quickly, catching the side of her back on the edge of the counter and winced; that hadn’t felt good on her healing welts but smiled up at him. “They’re not bad, they’re just not properly trained.” She said quietly. “Emerald…” Noel gestured a salesgirl over.


“Yes, Mrs. McMahon?”


“Would you please bring out your emerald jewelry? I’m sure you have more than this selection.”


“Right away, ma’am.”


This woman knew how to get the job done, John would give her that. But he hadn’t missed the spasm of pain that had crossed her face either; never letting the smile slide off his own. “Thank you so much for your help, ma’am.” He said, watching as the young lady brought out trays… trays, of emerald jewelry. He had never seen anything quite like this and knew he was in some trouble.


He was going to have to buy something.


He was also going to have to charge it.


He was also going to have to return it as soon as possible in order to not screw up his credit.


Noel watched with an amused smile as he browsed the jewelry, helpfully offering her own opinions even as she wondered how long he was going to keep this charade up. When the salesgirl casually mentioned the price of a bracelet he was looking at, she had seen the man’s face pale somewhat.


She was mildly curious if he really had a girlfriend or had just wanted an excuse to talk to her.


Leaning against the counter, Noel propped her chin on her hand, just watching him. He was rather handsome in an overly large sort of way.


Knowing this was a bad move, John bought the bracelet; watching with apprehensive eyes as his credit card was swiped through the machine and almost sighed in relief when it went through. He was DEFINTELY  returning this thing today.


“Thank you for your help.” He said as they wrapped it for him, turning to Noel and extended his hand. “I’m John by the way, John Cena.” He smiled when she slid her hand into his. “My girlfriend will love this.”


“I’m sure she will, Mr. Cena.” Noel replied, glancing at the salesgirl who was shaking her head no, apparently trying not to giggle, smiling in spite of herself. “I’m Noel McMahon, pleasure to meet you.”


“If he doesn’t return that the minute she’s gone, then I’ll forfeit my bonus.” Kimberly muttered to her coworker, watching the two.


“If he’s trying to score, wrong tactic.” Julie whispered back, clearing her throat to let the man in question know she was finished.


After a moment, John let go of her hand and cleared his throat; needing to remind himself that this was his partner’s –and questionably his best friend’s- girl. She was definitely off limits. “Well, I suppose I should be going. It was nice to meet you.”


Noel watched him go, shaking her head and headed off in the other way.


As soon as she was out of sight, he instantly returned; not liking the knowing looks he was getting from the girls. “I’m wasn’t trying to score…” He muttered.


“That’s what they all say.” Kimberly said, trying not to smirk at his exasperated look as she began the return. “If you wanted to ask her out, you should’ve. Though she is MARRIED.”


“She also goes to the theater here.” Julie added helpfully, trying not to giggle when he blushed. “She should be getting there now. It’s down thataway if you’re interested.”


“Uh, married?” Kimberly looked at her friend.




“Thank you ladies.” John said, both smiling and blushing. He had been way too obvious, talk about embarrassing. But… he was going to the movies. Mindless action flick or the romantic comedy… He was going to go with romantic comedy.




She was sitting a few seats from the back and he dropped down in the back row; groaning softly. This was definitely going to be a chick flick.


Chris owed him.


Halfway through the movie, Noel had to leave; unable to watch this fake romance bullshit anymore. Wiping tears from her eyes, she quickly headed up the aisle only to wind up tripping over an outstretched foot.


She was caught before she hit the floor, thankfully.


“Thank you.” She said, letting out a sigh of relief as she stared at the wad of gum that had been about to adorn her face. She felt herself being set upright, looking at her rescuer. “Mr. Cena… how nice.” She could not hide the smile this time. “You frequent romantic films by yourself often?”




John had not counted on her catching him here.


“I thought it was the action flick, wrong theater.” He lied, helping her out of the theater since that’s what he was assuming she had been trying to do anyway. Once out into the light, he seen the tears swimming in her eyes. “Are you alright?” He asked softly, reaching into his back pocket to pull out a navy blue bandana and held it out to her.


“Yeah, I’m fine.” She took the bandana and quickly daubed her eyes before passing it back. “Thank you, it must be my allergies.” She lied.


John started to say something only to note she wasn’t looking at him but behind him. Before he could look, she had grabbed his arms and was shifting him so she was blocked from view.


“Please, don’t move.” Noel said, staring up at him, her hazel eyes pleading. She had no right in using a stranger like this but… When she had seen Layfield and Susanna browsing the Victoria Secret’s window, she panicked. Layfield would tell Shane if he seen her talking to another man.


She did not want that.


John didn’t move, he just stared down at her. “Relax.” He murmured, reaching out to gently squeeze her hand.


Noel only relaxed when Susanna dragged Layfield into the store.


“Hiding from someone?”


She didn’t answer him.


“Come on, let’s go outside and get you some fresh air.” He said gently.


Nodding, Noel let him guide her from the mall into the open air and inhaled deeply. “I’m sorry about that.” She gestured back towards the mall, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I just didn’t feel like them deciding to monopolize my afternoon.” She lied, again. “They’re… friends of my husband and I’m just not interested in talking business. I appreciate what you did, Mr. Cena.”


“John, call me John.” He corrected with a smile, letting her think she had him fooled. He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t blind. He knew exactly why she was scared. She didn’t want her husband finding out she had been around another guy.


“John. I’m sorry for ruining your movie.”


“You didn’t ruin it. Maybe we could go catch something… less, romantic, more action?” He suggested; inwardly cringing when her eyes narrowed.


“I have to get home.” Noel murmured; glancing down at her delicate gold wristwatch. “Maybe…” She bit her lower lip, knowing she was pushing her luck but… what the hell? As long as no one seen them, a movie wouldn’t hurt, right? “Maybe tomorrow afternoon? I hear there’s a new zombie movie out.”


John smiled down at her, marveling when she returned it and wondered if she knew that when she genuinely smiled; her entire face lit up.


No wonder Chris had fallen for her.


“That sounds great.” He wrote down his personal cell number on the back of an old receipt, passing it to her. Phil and Matt had wanted to try passing him off as some rich guy but he wasn’t having that. He knew he wouldn’t have been able to play the part and from what he had already gathered about Noel, she probably would have seen right through him. “Text me or something, where you want to meet at.”


She slipped the paper into her purse. “I will.”




“So you basically got a date with her after ONE day?” Matt asked, shaking his head while whistling; completely oblivious to the fact that Chris had gone completely red in the face. “Bro, you are smooth.”


“You know, you should get her to like… start seeing you and then,” Phil began eagerly, looking excited. “No wait for it- and then you can turn into a dick so Chris can take your place and make everything better again!”


They all stared at him.


Matt could not believe how someone as smart as Punk was could yet be such a retard. “Philip, if you’re going to check out those trashy romance novels, I’m cutting up your library card.” He reprimanded.


John just shrugged, feeling a bit guilty; not too keen on lying to Noel this way. Well, he wasn’t actually lying to her, but he wasn’t telling her the truth either. Like… he knew who she was. He knew what she was going through and most importantly, he was going to try to help her.


Instead… he had let these morons talk him into… well, whatever it was he was doing.


“She seen someone there that scared her.” He said after a moment when he realized Punk’s moment of lameness had passed and they all were staring at him again. “She said it was a business associate of her husband’s she didn’t feel like talking too.”


Chris’ blue eyes narrowed, glancing at Phil who sighed and rolled his eyes.


“Sure, I’ll just start compiling lists of everyone and anyone McMahon has done business with in the past ten years.” Phil said sarcastically as he turned back towards the PC. “Because God only knows it’s not time consuming, a lot of backtracking and HELL, we all know I don’t have a life.”


“Who’s Tina?” Matt asked.




“Tina.” He leaned over Phil’s shoulder to point at a chat box flashing. “Who’s she?”


“Oh, this really hot chick from L.A., she does this thing on webcam that-“ Phil winced when Matt smacked him upside the back of his head. “What the hell, man?”


“You’re right, you don’t have a life. Get to work and sign off on the hoochies.”


Ignoring Phil’s grumbling, Chris turned his attention back to John. “So she was scared to be caught talking to you, is that it?”




“Which means it would’ve gotten back to her hubby and he’d beat the shit out of her.” Matt said wisely, looking disgusted at the thought. When Chris made a low noise, he frowned. “You said three months. He still has three months, minus a day so don’t even think about it, Irvine. If this doesn’t work, then we’ll go the completely desperate route.”


Phil snorted, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “I thought this WAS the desperate route?”


“Fine, the INSANE route then.”


“And hopefully, in three months, Johnny boy can convince her to leave her dipshit hubby for him.” Punk said, sounding almost cheerful. A second later he was pushing away from the desk and turning around; cradling his left arm. “What was THAT for?” He demanded, staring at Chris who had apparently just punched him.


“For him, to leave her hubby for him!” John said exasperatedly, pointing at Chris who was now giving him a dirty look and held up his hands. “Hey, I’m just doing my job.”


Chris nodded.


“Though I do understand why you fell in love with her so quickly.”


Chris growled again, ready to beat the hell out of his partner if he even THOUGHT about Noel in any way except a friendly, professional manner.


Phil and Matt exchanged smirks.


“Mmm… all things considered, she is pretty hot.” Phil said innocently, still rubbing his sore arm.


Matt nodded his agreement. “Fine, firm ass…”


“Legs that won’t quit. Makes a guy wanna…”


Matt was laughing his ass off when Chris lunged for Phil. “I do believe he was going to say-“ He stopped laughing when it was his turn.




Noel was in the garden tub when Shane got home from work. She had washed, shaved, drained the tub and refilled it; now just enjoying a good soak. “In here, honey.” She called when she heard him calling for her, smiling when he walked in. “How was work?”


Shane grunted, loosening his tie as he studied her.


She sincerely hoped he wasn’t about to jump in with her. Deciding to stem that before it happened, Noel stood up and reached for her towel; water running down her scarred body. She let him have a good look before wrapping the towel around herself; stepping out of the tub.


“God…” Shane groaned, rolling his eyes. “Cover the hell up.” He refused to feel any remorse for the scars, walking right back out into the bedroom. He had been about to join her but then she had to stand up and let him see just how ugly she was.


In his opinion, his wife was a gorgeous woman, providing the lights were off.


He did not need to be reminded of what his temper had done to her.


Rolling her own eyes, Noel dried off and then examined herself in the mirror. She knew damn well without clothes she was hideous. From rear end on up; her back and sides were totally disfigured, scars on top of scars. Fresh welts slowly healing into newer scars.


She supposed it was a good thing she would probably never sleep with anyone besides her husband because any would be lover would probably be repulsed by her.


Sighing, she pulled on her night gown; her long hair hiding what the back of the gown didn’t and walked out into the bedroom to join him.


Shane watched her walk out; already lying in bed in nothing but a pair of blue flannel pajama bottoms; his arms folded behind his head. “You look beautiful.” He murmured, patting the space beside him.


Noel hid her reluctance as she joined him; sliding under the covers instantly.


“Mmm…” Shane slid beneath them as well; pulling her against him and began kissing the side of her throat. “Ready to continue our baby making?”


“Oh!” Noel sat up, staring down at him. “I’m pregnant.” She blurted out, not sure how to say it any other way and cringed when Shane sat up. For a moment she wondered if he would actually harm her while she carried his baby.


“How far along are you?”


“A month.”


“How long have you known?”


“Two weeks.”


“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked, his voice carefully calm; knowing he couldn’t lash out at her while she was pregnant. He had made a vow that he would never lay a hand on Noel while she was carrying his child, because he had pushed her down the stairs when she was pregnant with Cadence and almost lost the baby.


Noel lowered her head.


“You didn’t trust me?” He demanded, gripping her chin and forcing her to look at him.


“Would you if you were in my shoes?” She whispered back, seeing the restrained anger in his eyes and swallowed hard. “Honestly, Shane, look at everything you’ve done to me. You don’t think I have the right to be afraid for myself and my unborn child?”


Oh she was pushing him, she could see his jaw muscle clenching; her hazel eyes widening as his hold on her jaw tightened.


Shane had to take a few deep breaths to calm down, wondering if she truly enjoyed pushing him off the deep end. “Enough.” He said roughly, letting go of her. “Go to sleep, Noel.”


She sighed in relief when he laid back down and presented her with his back.


Shane smirked as he reached for the light, flicking it off.


Noel was pregnant again, after only a month of trying.


He was good.






John groaned, wondering why Matt was waking him up. In fact, he was wondering just what Matt was doing in his apartment. “How’d you get in, Hardy?” He growled sleepily, pulling the pillow over his head.


Matt strolled into the bedroom, arching an eyebrow when he seen that John firstly slept on a futon. Then it was the fact that the room was… empty. “Don’t you own anything?”


“No. Get out.” John grunted from under the pillow, sighing when he heard Matt opening his closet. “Get out of my clothes.”


“I think Chris is going to have to start paying you more man, you live like a monk.”


“Is there a reason you’re here?” John demanded, finally sitting up since it was obvious Matt wasn’t going to leave him alone.


Matt waved John’s cell phone. “You forgot this at the office, moron.”




“So… you have a text.” Matt smirked, clearing his throat. “From a Noel…”


“Give me it!”


Matt laughed when John rolled out of the bed; his brown eyes widening when he got tackled into the wall. “Take it, damn!”


“You didn’t read it?”


“Nope. I didn’t even let Chris read it.” Matt leaned over John’s shoulder to read the text. “Gilroy’s Theater @ 2. Looks like your date is still on, pretty boy.”




Noel was PISSED.


She had been woken up to the sounds of her husband groaning and presumably their new maid moaning, in the hallway. When he had left for work; she’d gotten out of bed and dressed for the day, wondering not for the first time why she had married a man who had so little regard for her that he obviously didn’t care if she heard him screwing around on her?


She had also texted John, which had taken her a full five minutes to do, for such a short text. She had almost canceled it but hit send at the last moment. When she didn’t get a reply, she wasn’t surprised. Men were like that.


She had been sipping her morning tea and reading the paper when she had received a reply. He was going to meet her.


Which meant she had to change again.


It would have been nice if she owned jeans or something, Noel reflected a half hour later; studying her reflection in a full length mirror. Usually, she dressed formally; it was almost like a house rule. She had gotten so used to everyone around her dressing like they were going to a party that it had become second nature for her to do so.


But she had immediately noticed John did not dress like a Hollywood star. He dressed… casually, simply. She wanted to do the same. That and she did not want to look like some rich; snobbish bitch.


In the end, she was probably going to anyway.


The most casual garment she had was a pale green tank dress that cut a few inches above her knees that she coupled with a pair of heeled sandals. She knew she was still overdressed for a movie –which wasn’t a date, she kept reminding herself- but it was the least dressy thing she owned.


She left her hair hanging down, skimped on her usual make-up in favor of foundation; gloss and a quick sweep of mascara and did a check to make sure she looked alright, and that nothing ugly could be seen when it came to her back.


If Shane wanted to do his thing, and cheat on her, then she would do her own. At least until he could start beating her again. Then she’d obviously have to stop.




John was waiting for her outside the theater, walking back and forth with his hands in the pockets of his faded blue jeans; casually dressed himself with a white beater and a pair of tennis shoes, a gold chain around his neck. When he seen her approaching, he froze; smiling warmly. “You look beautiful.” He greeted, reaching out to take her hand.


Noel returned the smile. “You don’t look so bad yourself.”


“Shall we?” He gestured to the theater, guiding the way in when she nodded.




“I can’t believe you bugged his chain.” Matt muttered, listening as Noel and John made small talk as they waited through the previews.


Phil smirked. “Didn’t have time for the mini-cam.”




This was fun. She had almost forgotten what fun was. The movie was actually pretty lame and they wound up making jokes about it in hushed whispers.


“That was so fake.” She murmured in his ear when he bent down to hear her, her eyes on the screen as a zombie exploded.


“You can tell this was a low budget film with a shitty director.” He whispered back, both of them cracking up all over again as the rest of the theater began to scream; shaking his head. This was… nice. In a weird way. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, accepting the popcorn she held out to him. “Nice blood spray though.”


“I thought it was a bit much.”




“Damn, she must be on his lap or something. I can hear her perfectly.”


Chris was about to explode and made a mental note to kill his partner when he got back from his… date. When Phil obviously was going to continue on how well Noel could be heard path, he shot the kid a warning look.


Clearing his throat, Phil shut up.




This was technically wrong but Noel didn’t really care. She was just enjoying the feel of being… normal. She was giggling again as the end credits of the movie rolled, shaking her head at the horrible music. “That was so lame, sorry I picked out such a terrible movie.” She said, slowly getting to her feet and stretched.


John had to look away as the material of her dress tightened over her chest when her arms went over his head; groaning softly. “Chris… this is killing me.” He muttered.




Matt snorted. “The movie can’t have been that damn bad.”


Chris rolled his eyes.


Phil was quiet, for once, listening to John and Noel talk and had a feeling Cena was crossing the line as far as Chris was concerned. It sounded like John genuinely liked Noel.


Well that wasn’t good.




“Are you hungry?”


“Yeah. There’s a quiet place across the street.” Noel said, wrapping her arms around herself as they walked out of the theater. She smiled when John draped his arm back around her, leaning into him for a moment. It was so casual, so easy between them.


It was almost frightening.


John was thinking along the same lines, knowing if Chris could see this; he’d probably blow up and take John with him. He pushed his friend out of his mind as they crossed the street and ducked into the small restaurant, his hand automatically moving to the small of her back as they made their way to vacant booth.


Noel obviously wasn’t a stranger here because a waitress popped up almost immediately. “The usual, Noel?”




John arched an eyebrow, looking down at the menu the waitress placed in front of him. “What do you recommend, Noel?”


“Anything, this place is delicious.”


John looked up and met her musing stare, finally realizing the waitress was waiting on him to order with an amused look on her face no less and cleared his throat. “I’ll have what she’s having.” He said finally.


“I’ll be back with your drinks.” She said, trying not to laugh as she walked away.


“So…” John cast about for a safe subject, avoiding look at her as he mentally reminded himself this was Chris’ past love and his friend would KILL him for even thinking what he was thinking. “Your husband doesn’t mind that you’re out with another guy?”


He regretted saying it as soon as it came out of his mouth.




“Ouch!” Phil shrieked, not believing John had just said that. “What a jackass!”


Matt was shaking his head while Chris looked like he was trying not to snigger. “Foul on Cena.”




“You know,” Noel said after a moment, the awkward moment passing. “That was a low blow considering you don’t have a girlfriend.”


John began squirming uncomfortably.


Her lips curved into an amused smirk, knowing she was right just by the look in his eyes and his sudden change in body posture. She could read people, that was how she knew when to duck a blow.




“God, she nailed his ass.”


Phil nodded his agreement, openly snickering and switched the mic on so John could hear them. “Not so slick, are you jackass?”






John really wanted to tell Punk to shove it up his ass but that’d be drawing attention to himself, finally shrugging. “Okay, so I don’t have a girlfriend.” He admitted softly. “I saw you, thought you were attractive and wanted to get your attention.”




Matt and Phil both cringed when Chris let out a string of cuss words.




John knew Chris was probably going apeshit by now if he was listening to the conversation but what was he supposed to do? The more time he spent in Noel’s company, the more he began to like her. She was funny, smart, sweet, attractive. But probably her best trait was the fact that she was married to one of the wealthiest guys in the country, used to being treated like royalty wherever she went but she didn’t expect it or ACT like one would have thought.


He supposed… that was the humble, country girl roots still shining through. If he hadn’t known she came from a small town in Texas, he never would have guessed it.


“Your husband is a very lucky man.” He said quietly.


“Hmmm.” She agreed without agreeing, her brows furrowing for a moment at the thought of Shane before shoving him out of mind. He was not a part of her day. “I’m sure he’d agree.” She said dryly, trying not to be rude but not up to lying about how great her husband was either.


Sensing the sudden change in her mood, John cracked a grin at her. “If you were my woman, you’d never be out of bed.” He teased, pleased to see her blush as well as smile slightly. “You would have breakfast, lunch and dinner in bed; including dessert.”


Her blush deepened when his voice went husky, looking down at the table.


John cleared his throat, frowning when she began shredding a napkin. “He doesn’t romance you, does he.” It wasn’t a question.


“I’ve been married for over ten years, romance fades after five.” Noel murmured, quickly getting to her feet. She pulled out several bills from her purse and dropped them on the table. “I need to go.” She said, not looking at him.


One part of her couldn’t believe he had gathered that from her. The other part was awed at his boldness in so bluntly stating it.


John blinked, having not been expecting that and got up to follow her; finally catching her on the sidewalk. “Noel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way.” He said softly, knowing he had probably just royally pissed her. “And you’re wrong, about romance fading, it doesn’t have too.”


She inhaled sharply.


“Marriage lasts when two people make it work and keep the passion going.”


Noel’s hazel eyes narrowed, turning and walked away from him.




“That was brilliant, when two people make it work?” Matt mocked the minute John was back. “You asshole! She’s a battered woman, are you TRYING to scare her away with your Dr. Phil bullshit?”


“I’m not a doctor…” Punk said, then smacked his forehead when Matt shot him a look. “Oh yeah, that bald guy, right, sorry. But Matt has a point, Cena,” He said, taking the heat off of himself as he raided Chris’ fridge, snorting when he found bottled water and… whiskey.  “You don’t just tell a woman that, they need to be romanced; not counseled.”


“I’m sorry!” John knew he probably had blown it with Noel and ran a hand over his face; regretting saying that. Whatever had made him blurt it out was beyond him. “I panicked. I’m a moron, I admit it. Get off my ass.”


Chris came out of his office, whistling.


“Oh fuck you, Irvine.”




“It’s been almost a week and she hasn’t called or texted your ass.” Matt said, watching as Chris and John made themselves comfortable in his basement. So comfortable they were shooting pool at his pool table, ignoring his rule about purposely jumping the balls. “Text her man, you got her number.”


John scowled, ignoring Chris’ snort.


“Or… you could go to this club she and her husband will be at tonight.” Phil said, coming down the wooden steps; a newspaper in hand.


“Don’t you knock?” Matt demanded.


“Um…” Phil rapped his knuckles against the wall. “Can I come in?”


Rolling his eyes, Matt turned his attention back to the game.


“Look.” Phil laid the paper out on the pool table, ignoring the protests he got and pointed at the picture of Shane and Noel that headed the social page. “New place, grand opening and they’ll be there. Invitation only but I can fix that. You interested, John?”


“She doesn’t want to see me.” John murmured, setting down his pool stick; grunting when the paper was thrown at his face.


“You’re doing it.” Chris said flatly, his tone leaving no room for argument.


“And if I don’t?”


“I’ll shove this pool stick so far up your ass you’ll have splinters on your tongue for weeks. Now what’s it going to be?”


John studied his partner, taking in the way Chris tapped the stick against the palm of his hand. “When and where?” He sighed.


“Tonight, party starts at seven, you’ll be arriving at eight. Downtown, rich side. I’ll give you the address and make sure you’re semi-formal.”


Matt smirked when John groaned. “Let’s hook him up with a mini-cam.”


“Not a bad idea…”




Noel was all smiles as her husband helped her from the limo, taking his hand and nodded to the news crews who were on location trying to get a story. While they weren’t celebrities, their money entitled them to the same attention as stars on occasions such as these. Not to mention they were well known for donating to charities and various causes, which made them a favorite couple for the press.


She wrapped an arm around Shane, leaning into him as he stopped to pose for a quick picture. A black skirt, stilettos and a black tank top with her hair down and her ‘face’ on; she looked and felt airbrushed.


She could hear the music thumping inside and knew this was going to be one long, long night.


Once inside, she accepted the glass of wine she was handed by Shane; both of them aware a few glasses wouldn’t harm the baby. Sipping it, she stood by his side as he made small talk with several people; including the club owner, smiling and nodding when she was addressed.


After thirty minutes of it, she was bored.


Spotting Trish, Noel excused herself to go mingle, knowing Shane wouldn’t mind since they were there to be seen anyway. “Why am I not surprised to see you here?” She demanded over the music, standing away from the crowded dance floor.


“You know me, I love grand openings.” Trish replied with a cheerful smile, raising her glass to toast her friend. “How are you?” She asked in a quieter voice, not wanting to be overheard as she pulled Noel aside. Her warm brown eyes were filled with worry as she took Noel in, inwardly sighing in relief when she didn’t spot any obvious signs of abuse.


“I’m fine.” Noel said, changing the subject instantly. “Jay with you tonight?”


Trish nodded across the room.


Noel followed her gaze to Jay Resno, Trish’ longtime boyfriend who was chatting with another guy. When he caught them looking at him, he smiled and waved.


She listened as Trish started chatting again, though her attention was pulled away by the man who had just walked through the huge; arched doorways. “Oh my God…” She groaned, blushing.


“What? Who is it?”


“Shut up, Trish.”


“Come on, tell me.” Trish demanded, looking around to see who had gotten Noel’s attention.




John could not believe he was doing this. His blue eyes gave the crowded room a cursory glance before snatching a glass of liquid courage from a passing server; downing it quickly. He knew he looked the part, but damn if he didn’t feel awkward in the black suit, wearing a crisp white undershirt beneath it; glad he hadn’t let Phil talk him into a tie.


“You three ready for this?” He asked softly, a mic once more attached to the gold chain he wore around his neck. The real kicker was that Phil had even put a mini cam on him.


The oddity was: it was on his belt.


Chris had smacked the shit out of Phil for that one.


“Get going Cena, you’re wasting time.” Chris ordered, knowing John could hear him because he was wearing a tiny ear piece.


“Blow me, Irvine.”




Trish stared at the man who had just walked in, glancing back at Noel who was trying to not look at him. “Oh my god, who IS that?” She demanded, beginning to smirk when Noel blushed. Was her friend having an affair?


“Just a guy I met at the mall a few weeks ago.” Noel murmured, shooting Trish a ‘don’t even’ look. “We went to a movie, that was IT.” She growled in frustration when Trish’ smirk got even wider; trying not to laugh at the irony of the situation. She had decided she wasn’t going to see him again but here he was, right out of her mind and in the flesh. Her eyes widened when his heard turned in their direction. “Oh shit.”




John didn’t go that way however, he began making rounds of the club; getting a feel for the place. “Her husband’s here.” He murmured, catching sight of Shane laughing it up with a few other men.


“There you go, he didn’t even see you.” Trish said, lightly slapping Noel on the shoulder. “You need to chill out, woman. Have fun, this is a party. I’m going to go dance with Jay, maybe you should consider it.”


“I’m not dancing with Jay.”


“I meant dancing in general!” Trish laughed when Noel flashed her a smile. “And here I thought you’d forgotten how to crack a joke.” Shaking her head, she walked away.


Noel breathed a sigh of mixed relief and disappointment when it appeared John was heading for a familiar face that wasn’t her. She drained the rest of her wine and set the glass down on a cluttered table; wishing for another but knew better.


She idly watched as Trish and Jay sizzled on the dance floor; shaking her head when someone whistled, that was an interesting couple to say the least.


She glanced towards Shane when she heard his laugh, watching as he headed upstairs to the VIP lounge with a few of his own friends; rolling her eyes.


“Hello, Noel.”


She jumped, feeling herself brushing against a hard; muscular body and inhaled sharply. “John.”


He had come up behind her, nestled between the wall and a large; ugly as sin statue. If by chance her husband looked at her, he wouldn’t see John.


“Nice seeing you here.”


“What a coincidence.” She murmured, her back pressed to his chest from jumping when he had spooked her. She inhaled deeply, regretting it instantly. Did he have to smell so damn good?




Matt cocked his head to the side, frowning because all he could see was black. “Punk, that camera on the belt buckle wasn’t one of your more brilliant ideas. I can’t see shit.”


“Yeah well… I was improvising.” Phil said defensively.


“Will you two just shut the hell up already?” Chris snapped, his blue eyes on the screen. Thanks to the mini cam they knew John had approached her from behind… and that she was wearing a skirt.




“I got an invitation, thought I’d check the place out.” John said casually, resting one hand lightly on her hip. “Seeing you is an unexpected pleasure.”


“I see.” After deciding they were fairly well hidden, she turned around to look up at him. “And you thought you’d just come say hello?” She arched a brown eyebrow at him; hazel eyes raking over his attire and stepped back to continue her appraisal.




“Damn she has some fine legs, see those thighs? I bet she works out.”


“Chris, put the bat down, Phil’s head is fine the shape it is.”




“You look different.”


“How so?” John asked amusedly, looking down at himself. “I thought I cleaned up pretty nice.”


“You do.”


“You look beautiful, Noel.” He murmured, looking her over as well. The skirt was modest compared to the other’s in the room, coming maybe an inch over her knees; but he had noticed while approaching her that it also clung quite well to her shapely ass and inwardly groaned.


“Now that we’ve finished ogling one another.” Noel said, amusement in her tone. “Why are you standing here with me when you could be out there breaking some poor woman’s heart?” She teased, trying to keep things light; remembering their last overly awkward moment.


“You think I could break a woman’s heart?” He laughed softly and shook his head; slowly reaching out to brush the back of his hand against her cheek. “You are the only woman I’m interested in, Noel. I don’t want to break your heart.” He frowned when he felt her tremble, knowing he was overstepping himself.


Noel let out a shaky breath.


“Why haven’t you called me?” He asked suddenly, trying to keep the hurt from his voice. “I wanted to apologize for what I said the last time we saw each other, it was wrong.”


“I’ve been busy.” She murmured, gently pulling his hand away from her face though she didn’t let go as she lowered their hands between their bodies. “And… I didn’t know if I wanted to see you again.” She admitted.




“Oh shit…”


Matt was now sitting on Chris, moving over so Phil could as well, both of them knowing if this moment progressed, the shit was going to hit the fan.




“I’m glad that you’re here though.” She whispered, squeezing his hand.


“I am too, Noel.” He whispered huskily, intertwining their fingers together and wished he could take away the pain he saw swirling in her eyes. She was a beautiful woman, intelligent and had a sense of humor as well as class. He knew Chris loved her, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t feel something for her as well.


Even if it did make him feel guilty as hell.


“I missed you.” His mouth was now against her ear.


Noel didn’t even bother trying to suppress the shiver that coursed through her, knowing he would feel it regardless since they were almost pressed together. She raised her head, their lips brushing against each others just as he was pulling away. The electricity that flowed between them took her breath away.




Phil heard a sharp intake of breath, followed by John’s low curse and wished he wasn’t holding Chris down. “I want to see what’s happening.” He whined, ignoring the incredulous look Matt shot him.


“I’ll tell you what’s happening!” Chris grunted, his face red with exertion. “That son of a bitch is going to die is what’s happening!”


“Calm down Chris, or we’re going to knock you out.” Matt cautioned, hoping John enjoyed his night because he was likely to die when it was over.




That spark was what made John wrap one strong arm around Noel’s waist and pull her against him; filling the gap between their bodies as he kissed her. Ignoring the sound of music and other people; he gently guided her back behind the statue; turning her so she was leaning against the wall; his body shielding hers from sight.


Noel wrapped her arms around his neck, parting her mouth for him when his tongue swiped her bottom lip; her body igniting in seconds as she pressed herself against him.


“Noel…” He whispered against her lips; groaning softly when she kissed him again. He couldn’t stop and he couldn’t pull away, he didn’t have the strength too.


This was wrong, this was so wrong.


She was married, she was a well respected public figure; she was going to die if her husband ever found out. But even with all that knowledge, Noel couldn’t pull away. it had been so long since she had been kissed like this; like she was wanted, needed and she responded to it with a passion she hadn’t felt in years.


He wanted her, and he was going to burn in Hell for it. Tearing his lips from hers, he pressed his forehead to hers; staring into her dark; almost brown eyes. “Noel, I want you…” He admitted huskily; closing his eyes as he trailed the tip of his nose along her hairline and then down to her neck; burying his face in the crook of her throat.


“I want you too.” Her own voice was fairly husky.


Whatever happened after she would deal with, so long as she could have this one moment.


Noel knew they were out of sight and probably wouldn’t be heard over the music that was rocking the building, but she didn’t want to take of the chance of being spotted anyway. Taking John by the hand, she led him between the wall and curtain; disappearing into a room that had yet to be finished. Once inside, she locked the door behind them.




While Noel was locking the door, John was removing the earpiece; taking advantage of her back being turned to him. Next to go was his belt, tossing both away from him; not about to have a live audience during this.


When she turned around, his darkened blue eyes took her in; watching with a slightly amused smile as she stared at his hands; which were now unfastening his dress shirt. That soon joined the belt on the floor; effectively killing off the mini-cam’s feed.


Covering the short space between them, he rested his hands on her hips; sliding one to the back of her skirt and gently tugged down the zipper. “This has to go.” He murmured huskily.


Noel watched with baited breath as he slid her skirt down her legs; pleased that his eyes never left hers. When John stood up and reached for her shirt, she stopped him with a shake of her head. “Leave it on.” She whispered, fumbling for the light switch and flicked it off; darkness encasing them.


He did not need to see her scars, and hopefully he wouldn’t notice them when he touched her. Which he just did, one hand caressing her ass; causing Noel to inhale sharply. She relaxed when he didn’t appear to notice, letting out a small yelp of surprise when John lifted her against the wall, her legs automatically wrapping around his waist.


Why on earth Shane McMahon beat his wife, his very luscious wife, was beyond John. He pushed those thoughts out of mind, wanting to make Noel feel beautiful and desired, if only for this brief time. Nothing else mattered but her, not even Chris killing him.


His large hands ran down her back to grip her thighs; fingertips brushing against the scars; noticing the instant change from smooth; flawless skin to the slight indent; the odd texture. It honestly didn’t bother him in the least, she was still gorgeous to him.


Noel felt him positioning himself between her legs and knew this was it, the point of no return. Crossing that line, she dug her fingernails lightly into his shoulders and nodded her head against his to let him know to continue. “John…” She moaned softly, kissing his shoulder; sucking and nipping his skin as he slid into her.


Just the sound of her sweet voice moaning his name was almost John’s undoing as he pushed past her wet folds; feeling her engulfing him completely. The feeling was exquisite, a rush of heat flooding his own body as they leaned into each other; adjusting to the feel of one another.


Knowing they didn’t have that much time, Noel felt a wave of regret; knowing she would have immensely enjoyed a night just to explore with this man. They had barely gotten started and she was already aware that he was a much better love than her husband.


She rolled her hips against his, encouraging him. God, she needed him; she wanted him and she didn’t hide it, turning her face up to meet his when he kissed her.




“I can’t believe he destroyed audio and cut video.” Phil whined, staring down at his corn chips morosely.


Matt shook his head, glad Chris wasn’t there anymore, the older man having excused himself to either go destroy something or hit a bar. “I am, I don’t want to hear them…”


“Bumping uglies?”


Matt rolled his eyes.


“Hey! We have video again!”




John finished fastening his dress pants, watching as Noel tugged her skirt back up; the light on again. He smiled when she glanced at him, loving the flush in her cheeks and the slight damp on her brow, knowing he was the one to put it there.


“I have to go.” She murmured, crossing the room to wrap her arms around his neck, smiling when he bent down to kiss her.


“When will I see you again?” He asked softly, loving the feel of her hand sliding down to rest right over his heart, knowing she could feel how fast it was going. “Noel, I want to see you again.”


She hesitated, chewing on her bottom lip.


“Just… think about it, alright?”


She nodded, kissing him again. “I’ll call.” She whispered before slipping out the door.


John remained there for a few more minutes just to calm down. Chris was going to maim him, he already knew that. He slowly finished dressing; only reluctantly sliding the ear piece back in place. “I don’t want to hear it.”


“You FUCKED her?!”


“Dude, you’re so DEAD.”


John groaned.




Noel hadn’t gone very far before she was intercepted by Trish. “What?” She demanded as she was dragged into the women’s restroom; groaning when she caught sight of herself in the mirror. “Hell…”


“Here.” Trish pulled a brush out of her purse, passing it to Noel then wetted a towel. “We’ll have you looking unscrewed in no time.”


After her hair was brushed and her face clean, Noel was ready to go back out; knowing there was nothing to be done for her swollen lips. Trish had masked the scent of sex with body spray so hopefully that mixed with all the other smells in the club covered her. “Is he still up there?”


Trish glanced up towards the VIP lounge, frowning when she seen Shane in the window; looking down intently at the crowd. “Yeah.” She nabbed two glasses of wine, passing one to Noel. “Just be cool.” She said, sipping her drink and began an idle conversation about absolutely nothing.




There she was. Shane had wondered where his wife had gotten off too. He raised his glass up through the window, watching as she reciprocated the gesture.


She was beautiful, in her own way; perhaps a little plain for his taste but that hadn’t stopped him from pursuing her all those years ago in England. Nor had it diminished his… passion, for her either. He had wined and dined her, right after some sort of nasty break up with her small town boyfriend.


Noel had been altogether way too easy to seduce and then marrying her, well; he had figured it was time to settle down. Why not with her? She was eager to please him, or had been.




Trish studied Shane thoughtfully, frowning at the look on his face as he stared down at his wife; finally glancing at Noel. It was almost like… he thought Noel wasn’t even in his league. Snorting, she turned away, hair flying. Shane wasn’t anywhere near Noel’s class, not the other way around.


How in the hell Noel had fallen for that weak chinned, stuck up bastard was beyond her.


“So… was it that guy?”


“Mmhmm.” Noel couldn’t keep the dreamy smile off her face, giggling when Trish started fanning herself. “Knock it off.”


“Hello, ladies.” Shane smiled as he interrupted their conversation. “Come along sweetheart, we have other more important people to see.” He was already guiding her away, not giving her a choice.


Trish returned the disdainful look he shot her over his shoulder with one of her own.


“I wasn’t aware you liked hanging out with whores.” He said in a low, conversational tone.


“Just as much as you do, darling.” Noel replied, smiling when a local columnist for the gossip section of one of the city’s newspapers waved at them. She toasted the woman before sipping her drink; turning to look up at her husband, the smile still intact. “You realize Trish is the finest divorce lawyer in the state?” She asked casually. “Odd profession for a whore, don’t you think?”


She was feisty tonight, probably one too many glasses of wine. Shane raised a slow eyebrow at her, the charming smile never leaving his face. “You do remember who you’re speaking too, now don’t you?” His tone was laced with a hint of danger; their arms firmly linked together.


“Of course I remember.” Noel murmured, wrapping her arm around his neck and looked over his shoulder before meeting his gaze again. The smile never faltered from her face, they played the perfect so well. “I’m talking to my abusive husband who will LOSE his male heir if he so much as lays a finger on me. But you wouldn’t do that, would you Shane?” She brushed her lips against his. “You’d use the belt.”


“Noel! Please, come give us your opinion on the new club!”


“Socializing calls, enjoy your night, darling.” She pulled away from him in order to link arms with the columnist, heading towards the bar.


Shane stood there, anger radiating from his every pore. The little impertinent bitch! Apparently she did need a reminder of who was the dominant partner in their relationship.


Snorting, he drowned the rest of his wine before going to mingle.




“If I were you John, I’d go rent a room at a motel far, far away.” Matt cautioned when John walked through the door. He was sitting on Phil’s couch, which in reality was an overstuffed futon on a hard as hell metal frame, drinking a beer.


They had pretty much taken over Punk’s place.


“Chris is in Phil’s room, very drunk and very mean.”


“You fucked her, didn’tcha?” Phil asked, walking out from the hallway, smirking as he shook his head. “Moron, hope it was good cause it was probably your last.”


John rolled his eyes, wondering why he hadn’t just gone straight home. His blue eyes narrowed as Chris came all but storming out, shoving Phil aside. “Yes, I had sex with her.” He said before Chris could say anything, a bit surprised when Chris stopped dead in his tracks.


Chris had been thrown for a loop, not quite as buzzed as Matt had implied. He hadn’t been expecting John to just come outright and say it. He had been expecting to have to beat the truth out of the bastard. “I know you did.” He growled, literally trembling with anger. “Why?”


“Because… she wanted me and I wanted her.” John said truthfully.


Neither Matt or Phil were surprised when Chris knuckled up and sent John reeling backwards with a hook to the jaw.


“Every time you TOUCH her, expect a punch.” Chris snarled. “And if she ends up falling in love with you…. You’ll die.”


Matt didn’t say a word, looking up at the ceiling and flinched when the door slammed; signaling Chris had left.


“So…” Phil whistled, looking down at the stunned John. “Should I make funeral arrangements, then?”




“Bye, call me and we’ll set up that lunch!” Noel laughed, hugging Judy as they walked out of the club; among the very last to leave. She listened as Shane said his own goodbyes, the smile fading from her face and he guided her to the waiting limousine.


She slid away from him as far as she could and stared out the window, it was past two A.M. and she was ready to literally pass out, sparing Shane a glance when he grunted. “You drank too much.” She commented dryly, watching his head sway.


“Shut up!” He growled, reaching over to bury his fist in her hair and yank her back across the leather seat until she was against him. He might’ve had one too many glasses of the wine, but his anger at how she had spoken to him had stayed off complete drunkenness. He nodded to the driver, hearing the soft buzz as the black glass pane rose; leaving them to their privacy.




“You’re going to make tonight up to me so I don’t beat the shit out of you!” He hissed, watching her face as he unfastened his slacks; ignoring her widening eyes. “You’re going to learn what happens when you disrespect me and hang out with whores!”


She choked the minute he pushed her down on him, gagging around his dick. Tears streamed down her face, her hands on his thighs; trying to push herself away. When he refused to let her up and planted the palm of his hand between her shoulder blades, Noel did the only thing she could.


She bit him.


As soon as he let her go, she was up and away, taking deep breaths.


A second later Shane backhanded her so hard her head cracked against the window. Ignoring her squeals of pain, he pulled her right back down. “Suck me off you fucking whore!” He screamed, his face red with fury, slapping her back as hard as he could.


Noel let out a cry of pure pain. He had just struck her welts.


“Bite me again and so help me God, you will be unconscious for days!”


Noel sucked him like a pro.


When they got home, she stumbled into the house ahead of him; wiping her face off with both hand and tried not to throw up. She heard Shane leaving orders with security and looked up, freezing when she seen Linda standing at the foot of the steps.


Thank God Cadence was in bed was all Linda could think as she stared at her daughter-in-law with wide eyes.


Noel knew she looked like a slut; red infusing her face, which was heavily bruised on one side; make-up smeared and there was cum on her face and in her hair. She lowered her head.


Forcing herself to swallow down bile, Linda managed a shaky smile, pretending that she wasn’t seeing what she knew she was. “Noel, why don’t you go use my rooms to straighten yourself up?” She suggested, narrowing her eyes at her son.


“No mother, she’s going straight to our rooms.” Shane contradicted, skipping the usual charming tone he generally used with Linda, too pissed off to care.


“Shane-“ Linda was cut off when he ignored her, his attention solely on his terrified wife.


“You take care of Cadence.” He spat her way as he dragged Noel up the stairs.


Linda could only stand there, shaking like a leaf as Noel’s screams resonated throughout the house, tears spilling from her eyes. She had watched Noel try to leave time and time again only to be dragged back. Shane would never let her go and Linda knew it. She also knew if Cadence somehow didn’t get out of this house, eventually Shane would turn his anger onto his daughter.


Nodding once to brace herself, she summoned Cadence’s nanny. Within the hour, Cadence was out of the house, being snuck out as security did their shift change.


In the morning she would inform Shane that Cadence had been enrolled in a private, all girl’s charm school, where she could learn early on how to become a little lady.


That would stoke his ego.




At first, Shane was livid with his mother when he had heard what she had done. He had actually started to raise his hand to her but he stopped himself. He loved his mother, truly loved her. Unlike his wife, who was just a trophy as far as he was concerned.


Though that trophy was becoming uglier by the beating.


Linda sat opposite her son at the table; sipping her morning tea, unable to eat. She would have suggested a divorce because it was all too obvious Shane no longer loved his wife but he refused to let her go either. Linda knew Noel was nothing more than… some sort of accessory.


How Shane could abuse and damage that beautiful woman was beyond her, though she supposed Shane didn’t realize how beautiful Noel was both inside and out. “I’ve arranged for Noel to spend tomorrow at the spa.” She said evenly. “Providing she can walk, of course.”


“Sure, whatever.” He waved her off dismissively, refilling his mug of coffee. “Yes?” He sighed when he caught the new maid hovering at his side.


She bit her lower lip nervously, finally clearing her throat. “Mrs. McMahon is… well, she miscarried.” She said quietly, having just returned from checking on Noel.


“Oh dear Lord…” Linda pushed away from the table, her face pale. “Is she-“


“Dressing now actually.” Kristin assured the older woman quickly. “The pregnancy wasn’t advanced enough to harm her system when she aborted.”


Linda threw her tea in her son’s face before sweeping out of the room.




Noel took it stoically that Cadence had been sent away before she could even see her, hiding her anguish behind a blank smile. She allowed Linda to summon a private physician to the house to find out what she already knew.


She was fine. She just needed some rest.


Which she didn’t want.


She wanted a stiff drink and poured herself one as soon as the doctor had left, downing it before having another.


“Noel… I’m leaving.” Linda said softly, wincing at the pain that momentarily filled Noel’s eyes before they went blank. “Cadence isn’t here, she’s safe and away from Shane. I cannot watch this go on any longer, my darling, I simply cannot.” She hugged her daughter-in-law tightly. “Find a way to get out.” She whispered, kissing Noel’s temple.




Shane was all smiles when he returned home that night, business was good. He was mildly surprised to see Noel sitting on the couch in the ‘family’ room, a blazing fire going even though it was rather warm. He walked up from behind, bending down to kiss the top of her head; not missing the tumbler in her hand.


That was fine, she could go ahead and liquor herself up all she wanted.


Without Cadence and Linda here, Noel had no reason to stay sober and could indulge her alcoholic tendencies. She wasn’t even drunk yet, buzzed, not drunk. She had slowed down for awhile in order to have a good cry. Though she was fairly certain she could fix the not being drunk soon, rolling the tumbler between her fingers as she stared into the fire.


“This could have all been avoided Noel, you know that, right?” Shane asked, lowering himself onto the couch beside her, reaching out to trace her bare shoulder with his thumb. She was wearing nothing more than an old shirt that hung off her left shoulder. The bruise on her face was all too visible as she wasn’t wearing make-up, looking abnormally pale.


She didn’t answer him.


“If you hadn’t shot off at the mouth last night, none of this would have happened.” He continued, frowning when he didn’t get any response. Finally, he stood up. “You sicken me.”


She began laughing as he walked from the room.




John was pacing like a caged animal a week later. He was in his apartment since he figured Chris needed some space and he wasn’t staying at Phil’s anymore; not when he found what had looked like a mutated box of Krispy Kreme’s under a chair.


He hadn’t heard from Noel since that night at the club, and he was running out of time. Three months, they had to somehow get her free from her marriage before then, she could be dead by then for all they knew.


“Here you go, coffee.” Phil greeted, walking through the door without even knocking and set a styrofoam cup on what could have been a coffee table; as it was covered in articles and pictures of the McMahon family; it was a bit hard to tell. He watched John keep on pacing with raised brows. “She hasn’t called?”


John shook his head no.


“So call her dumbass. You can’t always expect a woman to do what’s best for them.” He was supposed to relay the message to John from Chris that he was a ‘filthy cocksucker who needed his balls stomped to mush’ but decided now might not be the best time for that.


“I’ve called and texted her so many times I probably blew her cell up. She’s not returning anything.” John said flatly, finally snatching the coffee and downed it; not caring that it burnt his throat. “Chris hates me, I know that’s why you’re here and I’m telling you right now, Punk, I don’t give a flying FUCK what he thinks. I fucked her, he needs to get over it and look at the bigger picture here.”


It was sex. It wasn’t like he was marrying her or anything, and she hadn’t said no either.


“Um, hell, that’s the woman he’s loved for most of his life and you’re supposed to be his best buddy. Of course he’s pissed.” Phil said, busy going through John’s measly DVD collection. He sighed when his cell rang, checking the ID before answering. “Yo Mattie, what’s up?”


John rolled his eyes.


“Well, what’s she wearing?”


Then he frowned.


“Sounds hot. I don’t think he cares if Noel is down at the diner they had dinner at, nope… So… is this silk top see through or…?” Phil started laughing as John all but ran out of the apartment.




Noel crossed one leg over the other; drumming her fingertips on the tabletop as she stared down at the book in front of her. But she wasn’t reading it, the words were nothing more than a blur; her mind drifting. She had finally gotten out of the house after taking a week to ‘recover’.


Honestly, she felt much better physically. Her face was no longer bruised and she had healed from the miscarriage, not there had been any real damage done to begin with. Of course her back was another story entirely but then again, when wasn’t her back in pain?


Her black slacks and gray silk button up shirt attracted a few curious looks, along with the atrociously gaudy rock on her finger; but she was ignoring them.


“Mm, thanks.” She murmured when her mug of coffee was set before her.


“Is this seat taken?”


Noel jumped.


“Sorry,” John chuckled softly, sliding into the empty seat across from her. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”


“Dear Lord, you should try wearing bells or something.” She muttered, rubbing her chest where her heart was currently trying to escape. Noel watched as he made himself comfortable and glanced down at her book before closing it with a quiet sigh. “What can I do for you, John?” She asked softly, aware he had called and texted several times but she had been too busy wallowing in her mild depression to answer them.


“How are you?” He asked, just as quiet. It wasn’t hard to see the pain in her eyes; which made him want to rip Shane McMahon limb from limb. That was an unusual feeling for John; wanting to inflict physical harm on someone, brutally. Reaching across the table, he took Noel’s hand in his; stroking his thumb over her knuckles. “Do you want to go somewhere?”


“Let’s just… walk.” She suggested, not up for a drive and not entirely sure going somewhere with him would be such a good idea right now.


Nodding, John stood up and pulled her with him.


It was a beautiful summer day, though a hint of autumn was teasing. John smiled as he walked with Noel hand in hand down the street, knowing this was a side of town she wasn’t likely to be recognized; no doubt the reason she came to it.


“Tell me more about yourself.” He urged after minutes of silence, wanting to genuinely know everything he could about this woman. Realization that he had missed her was beginning to sink in, not caring what the repercussions of his budding feelings for her were.


The woman was a dream and Chris didn’t have the balls to come sweep her off her feet away from Shane.


So he was going to do it.


“You can read all about me in the society column of the Sunday paper.” She teased, sidestepping a fire hydrant and squeezed his hand when he rolled his eyes. “Seriously, that’s all there is to me. My social commitments and my… family.”


Of course, her daughter was now currently across seas apparently at a boarding school and her mother-in-law had left so her family was now her husband, which was laughable. But John didn’t need to know that. “You know more about me than I do you. So, you can talk and I’ll listen.”


Now that was awkward.


He obviously couldn’t tell her what he did for a living, that would just be asking for trouble and he would get his ass handed to him for nothing.


“Well,” John began slowly, smiling a bit. “What do you want to know?”


Noel arched an eyebrow, knowing she was being evaded and allowed a smile to flit across her pink lips. “What do you do for a living for one.” She tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I don’t know, just stuff. What do you do for fun, besides hit on married women? Your hobbies, things like that.” She halted, seeing the hurt expression on his face. “I’m sorry, John.” She whispered, reaching up to cup his face with her small hands. “I didn’t mean for it to come out like that.”


“It’s alright.” John cleared his throat, placing a hand on her shoulder. After a short moment of silence, they resumed walking. “I own my own business.” He said, deciding that wasn’t too far from the truth. He was a partner in a business, tentatively. His mind was racing, trying to think up what kind of business in case she asked and then groaned inwardly when she did. “Importing documents, pointless shit.”


Noel personally thought that’s what he was feeding her, shit but didn’t say anything, trying not to look amused. “Hobbies?”


“Hobbies? I really don’t have any to be honest with you.” The only hobby he could think of was his job, and her of course. But she was much more than a hobby.


“You don’t read, or listen to music?” She asked, grinning when he rolled his eyes exasperatedly. “Well, they do count as hobbies.” Noel realized they had walked into one of the many city parks and dropped down onto a stone bench, patting the seat beside her.


Smiling, John sat down; wrapping his arm around her and felt her leaning into him.


“So that’s really it then? I find that hard to believe.” She mused. “You seem like a very interesting person yet you’re passing yourself off as boring.”


John was laughing as he rested his cheek against the top of her head; running his fingers up and down her arm in a soothing caress. “That’s pretty much it, Noel. My job. Though… I do like to read, when I have the time.” He admitted.


Finally, some progress! Noel smiled somewhat, content just sitting like this with him. “Author? Books?”


“Koontz… King, some Barker.”


“I adore Koontz.”


“Anything in particular?”


She considered that. “The Face, probably.”


“Hmm… why?”


“I like Fric.”


“The kid?”


She nodded.


“I like Corky.”


Noel slapped his chest. “He’s the villain!”


“But he has a sense of humor.” John caught her hand before she could slap him again, bringing her hand to his mouth to kiss her fingertips.


The moment was ruined when her cell phone rang, both of them jumping like guilty teenagers having been caught necking or something.


Noel glanced down at the annoying little gizmo before sighing, reluctantly answering it. “Hello, Shane.” She gave John an apologetic look before standing up, walking away from him a bit. “No, I didn’t realize what time it is.”


John sighed, knowing she was probably going to get her ass literally handed to her and felt guilt gnawing his insides; for more than one reason.


“I’ll be home shortly, alright?”


John could actually hear Shane screaming at her to return right now, and she was a fair few feet away. He wanted nothing more than to take that cell and smash it, but he couldn’t. That would be grounds for never seeing Noel again, something he couldn’t let happen.


Noel groaned, rubbing her temples as she hung up. When she turned to face John, she was smiling. “I have to go, there’s a problem with one of our new staff members.” She lied, backing away when he reached for her. “Please…”


John’s heart broke when she actually gestured for him to stay away.


If he touched her now, she’d never leave. “See you around, John.” She whispered.


He could only watch as she jogged away from him, heading back in the direction they had come.




Phil sat across from Shane McMahon, drumming his fingers on the expensive desk as he tried not to look around Shane’s private den. He had to admit, this place was posh; it almost made him feel like itching or something.


He felt a tad bit guilty about what he was doing but shoved it aside, watching as Shane stared at the numerous photos spread across the desk. Photographs of Noel and John together. At the mall, the theater and diner; a few of them walking around the park.


He had even included discs of their conversations; including their sex session before John had cut the mic.


In a very curt manner, Shane wrote out a check; sliding it over the desk.


Phil stood up, pocketing it and excused himself quickly.


Nothing against Noel but he had bills to pay and Shane McMahon had paid him very, very well.




Noel walked into the house, hesitating at how quiet it was. Frowning, she looked up and gasped; her hazel eyes widening in shock when she realized what she was looking at.


Her and John!


Spinning in a slow circle, Noel felt tears beginning to run down her face. Picture upon picture met her at every turn; poster sized images of John smiling down at her taunting her. She jumped when she heard his voice echoing around her.


“Noel, I want you…”


“I want you too.”


He knew. Shane knew.


Noel turned to run right back out the door only to be greeted by security; whirling around to stare at the stairs; knowing Shane was waiting for her. She literally began quaking when she seen her husband descending the stairs; wearing nothing but black pajama pants and a cold smile.


“Hello, Noel.” He said in a deceivingly calm voice, gesturing around at the papered walls. “Like the new décor?” His upper lip curled into a sneer when she covered her face with her hands. “Did you HONESTLY think you could get away with it?”


Noel shook her head, not knowing what to think at the moment.


“You’re going to pay, my darling wife. Now get upstairs.”


Knowing better than to fight, she resignedly followed him; willing herself to go numb, to slip into a state of oblivion. Anything but this stark reality.


“On your knees, whore.” He said when they reached the bedroom.


Crying still, she dropped to her knees before him; gathering her hair in her hands and pulled it over her shoulder. Her body assumed the position he wanted when he nudged her, hunched over the carpet; her back completely exposed.


Noel inhaled raggedly, waiting for it.




She bit back a scream, exhaling shakily; the pain burning straight through to her spine.




She bit her lower lip so hard it bled, the tears never ceasing.




“You’re going to regret ever even SEEING him, Noel!” Shane raged, halting long enough to peel off his dress shirt; which was already soaked with sweat. “You want to be a whore? You want to fuck other men?”


Noel shook her head no, the pain in her head when he grabbed a handful of hair barely registering compared to the pain in back. She felt herself being jerked upwards; her legs somewhat working to push herself off the floor.


Shane snorted when she was bent over the bed, bringing the belt down on her ass. “Let me show you what it means to make your husband look like a fool, whore.”


Despite efforts not too, she began screaming in agony; trying to crawl away from him only to find the belt lashing at her legs. Soon Noel’s slacks were nothing but rags hanging on her, blood standing the comforter beneath her.


She rolled out of the way before another lash could land; instantly arching her back when her freshly opened welts came in contact with the bed; sheer burning pain coursing through her. Noel tossed her hands up in time to avoid getting lashed in the face; feeling the leather bite into her fingers and cradled her hands to her chest.


She rolled onto her side and curled into the fetal position.


Shane didn’t stop. He was in a complete rage. He wanted her to bleed; to show her that he was the dominant partner in this marriage. Her cheating on him… it had been the unthinkable. Each time he thought of that Cena guy touching her, it pissed Shane off even more.


“You’ll never leave this house again, you filthy whore!” He shouted, enunciating each word with a lash; even hitting her right across her face; which he normally would have avoided.


Noel couldn’t even move; her body one giant ball of pain. She could feel a thin cut from the right side of her face by her ear that spread across her cheekbone to almost the bridge of her nose, bleeding. He had scarred her face; something he had never done, something he had vowed to never do; which is how she knew Shane was on the verge of killing her.


Welts and cuts from the belt adorned her upper torso and abdomen, a few on her arms. He would never have to worry about her cheating again, who the hell would want a disfigured woman except for the psycho who did it.




Shane’s eyes were cold as he took in the man hunched over the desk; recognizing John Cena quite well. Nostrils flaring angrily, he remembered this was the bastard who had fucked his whore of a wife. Nodding at the two men flanking him, he cleared his throat.


John’s head whipped up; anger flaring.


Shane flashed a charming smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “We haven’t formally met though I’m sure you’ve heard as much about me as I have you.” He said in a conversational tone. “I’m Shane McMahon, Noel’s husband.”


“What the hell do you want?” John demanded, pushing himself up; easily towering over the other man. “You have three seconds and then I’m throwing you out of here.” He said dangerously, aware Chris; Phil and Matt were now behind him.


Chris clenched his fists tightly, his blue eyes flashing.


Shane next took in the other three; knowing his men outside had probably spotted them and adjusted his shirt cuffs; the charming smile never leaving his face. “Now, John, don’t do anything hasty because it’ll be Noel who pays for it. I’m aware you four morons have been following her and that you’ve even gone as far as trying to get her dear brother back into the picture.”


Matt and Chris exchanged looks.


Punk was staring at the floor.


“I’m here to tell you to stop.” Shane’s voice changed midsentence, going from friendly to the eerily calm voice Noel was all too familiar with –sending shivers through all four though none of them would ever admit it. “Stay away from my wife, Cena. Noel is my life and well, to be honest with you, when it comes to her I tend to get a little crazy.”


John looked thoroughly disgusted; his jaw set grimly.


Shane studied his hands for a moment, hands that had been coated in his wife’s blood. “When I get crazy, I tend to do things to my wife that I feel bad for afterwards. Like when I found out she decided to fuck you.” He stared into John’s blue eyes, his own filled with a calm sort of insanity. “I’m a possessive man and I’m sure you don’t blame me, she is quite the catch. Or… was. Before I had to remind her who her husband was.”


The man was sick in the head.


How did he find out about them, John wondered. He didn’t say a single word, just pointed towards the door.


He felt like throwing up.


Smirking, Shane turned to Phil. “Oh… by the way, Philip; your services are no longer required. Your check is in the mail.”


Phil watched as Shane disappeared out the door; his face devoid of all color.


John and Chris reached Phil at the same time, working in unison as they began wailing on their ‘friend’.


Matt wasn’t getting in on the action, he was staring out the door with wide brown eyes; jumping when a shot fired off. “Brooks, today isn’t your lucky day,” He said coldly, with a hint of satisfaction in his tone as he watched Shawn Michaels preparing to fire another round at McMahon’s now speeding away limo. “Noel’s brother has decided to join the party.”




John was not a vicious person by any means, but at the moment; he was feeling pretty vindictive. So the sight of Phil squirming on the floor; was a gratifying. He didn’t look away from the rat when he heard Shawn’s boots on the hard wood floors. “Nice you decided to finally join us.” He snarled angrily.


“You’re a bit late.” Chris added just as angrily, throwing another punch at Phil; watching blood trickle from the other man’s mouth. “I swear to GOD, Punk, if that psycho kills her… it’s on YOUR head and you’ll fucking JOIN her.”


“Kills her?” Shawn echoed, not entirely sure what was going on here though he had recognized that sonbitch McMahon from a newspaper clipping; which is why he tried shooting his spoilt; rich ass.


“Whoa Shawn, we’re not killing him JUST yet!” Matt said, mildly alarmed when the barrel of the gun was lined up with Phil’s mouth; safety off. “But if we do…”


John snorted. “He sold us out, shoot his ass!”


Phil’s eyes were crossed as he stared down at the barrel.


“Wait…” Chris held up a hand, pinching the bridge of his nose with a sigh. “Shane beats Noel and then she… fucked John,”


Now the gun was trained on John.


“But it was consensual and she…” He was going to be sick.


John scowled.


Shawn listened as the three men went back and forth while Phil sobbed like a bitch; his eyes narrowing when he seen a picture of a woman who sort of resembled his sister tacked on the wall. Walking over to it, he ripped the photo down; staring at it.


He remembered Noel as a fresh faced teenager who hadn’t quite finished growing. If it weren’t for the hazel, almond shaped eyes that stared out at him, he would have said this wasn’t his sister. His sister had never been one to let anyone put their hands on her.


“How bad is her husband?” He demanded, staring down at the picture.


“He beats her.” John said bluntly, watching the tears spring to Shawn’s eyes but he didn’t care. This son of a bitch had taken his own sweet time in getting here and John wasn’t letting him feel sorry for himself. “He beats her with a belt, Shawn. And if what he just said is any indication, she’s probably in a world of trouble right now.”


“I’d of been here sooner but Noel’s mother-in-law, Linda I think she said it was, brought Cadie to me.” Shawn admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. “Supposedly, they were s’posed to be at the beach earlier in the summer accordin’ to what Shane and Noel were told but…”


“Linda brought Cadence to you?” Matt asked with wide eyes.


Shawn nodded. “The first time was just to introduce us, she said something was going to happen and wanted to know if I’d be able to take Cadie permanently if need be. They came back two weeks ago, Linda snuck her out or somethin’.”


“Where’s Cadence now?” Chris demanded.


“She’s stayin’ with my neighbor, Steve.”


“You left Noel’s daughter with STEVE?”


Shawn arched an eyebrow at Chris.


“There has to be a way to get Noel out of there…” John said after a long silence, glad Cadence was safe and away from her psychotic father. “She has the strength to walk away, if someone will help her.”


Chris wasn’t so sure about that anymore.


“Chris, for fuck sakes, say something.”


“I want to know what Shawn has in mind.”


Shawn ran a hand down his face, sighing. “Well first off, I agree with John. If Noel can… sleep with a total stranger, KNOWIN’ if her husband catches her she’s probably dead, then she’s go spirit left.”


“Or nothing left to lose.” Matt interjected.


“That ain’t helping, son. Let’s go shoot the bastard. He can’t be surrounded by people all the time.”


Matt snorted, shaking his head. “You really don’t know how powerful this man is, do you?’


“Can he stop a bullet?”


Matt grinned at that. “Once.”


“I say we do it my way and kidnap her ass.” Chris grunted, ignoring the looks he got from the two men; Phil’s prostrate ass didn’t count.


“That place is swarming with security, Chris. We’d be shot on sight. Especially since this fuckwad,” John emphasized fuckwad with a well aimed kick to Phil’s robs. “Sold us out!”


“Can’t kidnap her.” Shawn said. “This is probably gonna have to be the legal way if we want him to let her and the baby alone. Or we could just kill him, I’m personally for the killin’.”


“You serious?”


Shawn eyed Matt intently. “When I have a six year old girl on my knee cryin’ over things no child should ever see, then yeah, I am.”


“The legal way isn’t going to work, Shawn.” Chris said rationally, everyone already knew what he was going to say but since they were morons he’d repeat it. “This prick has money and money talks. There are no legal ways around this.”


“Or maybe there is.”


All eyes turned to the door.


Shawn quickly lowered the gun when he seen the beautiful blond walking in, a file tucked under her arm. His eyes followed that file when she tossed it down on a desk.


“Trish Stratus,” She said by way of greeting. “Divorce lawyer and a personal friend of Noel’s.”




Hell was her home.


Though Hell also had one very well stocked bar.


Noel had tried leaving the house ONCE, just to step outside and get some fresh air only to be literally dragged up into her bedroom and locked in by security.


She had stopped trying.


She had no phone, no access to one and the computers had been pulled from the office and library. Thankfully Shane had left the books or she would have gone completely crazy.


Noel knew they would be attending a party at John Layfield’s penthouse in a few days, she knew because Shane had told her she better make her new scar go away for that night or she’d have a matching one on the other side.




But the legal way didn’t work out to well. Trish was both exhausted and exasperated after only one day, which she spent at the courthouse. She had run into so much legal tape she was considering retiring from law out of principal and becoming a waitress. At least that was honest work.


So they were back to square one. How to get to Noel.


And then, as she was browsing the newspaper at Chris and John’s office, it hit her. “Do any of you know John Layfield?” She asked, looking up from her perch on the edge of John’s desk, the newspaper spread across his desk.


Chris growled angrily.


“I’m going to take that as a yes.”


“If you’re referring to the motherfucker who happens to be Shane’s buddy…”


“Well, he’s throwing a party next week and I’m sure I’ll be invited.” She said thoughtfully, tapping the paper thoughtfully, staring down at the picture of Layfield with a disgusted expression on her face. “I was his divorce attorney, twice.”


“Does he have you on retainer?” Matt teased, then shut the hell up at the dirty look she shot him; clearing his throat.


“Anyways,” Rolling her eyes, she looked back to John and Chris. “Shane and Noel will probably be there. This could be our chance. Shawn, do you think they saw you the other day?” She asked, turning her attention to Noel’s brother,


“Not likely, the gun was block my face, why?” He smirked when she batted her eyelashes. “Needin’ a date, honey?”


“She has a boyfriend.” Matt said, confused.


“Age has experience.” Shawn joked, his eyes filling with pain when he looked down at the paper. “I’m guessin’ this is a formal event?”


“I’ll take care of it.” Trish said softly, standing up and kissed his cheek. “It’ll work, you’ll see.”




Noel stared at the outfit Shane had bought for her, knowing it was for the party. “Thank you.” She murmured, running her fingertips over the black silk.


It was a calf length black gown with wide tank sleeves and a pair of black gloves that would cover her scarred arms. She knew the gown would cling to her every curve just by the cinch in the waist; glancing at him.


She couldn’t stop herself from flinching when Shane reached out to touch the scar on her face. God she was so glad Cadence wasn’t here anymore, though she missed her daughter so badly.


“You’re welcome.” He murmured before walking away from her, unable to look at her disfigured face. “You better figure a way to cover that up since you elected to ignore my suggestion to have it surgically dealt with.” He said bluntly.


The facial thing was already covered. Noel had her own store full of make-up in their bathroom and she knew she could cover the scar.


While Shane went to dress in the other room, Noel slipped into the bathroom. She was actually eager to go to this party simply because it meant she would be getting out of the house.


Humming as she curled her hair, she refused to wallow in pity right now. She had put the dress on before doing her hair, loving it even if it did come from her bastard husband.


When she was finally finished with hair and make-up, she looked at herself critically. She almost looked airbrushed which was perfection. “Well?” She asked, turning for Shane to see when he appeared in the mirror behind her.


“You look stunning.” Shane said, truly meaning it and took her hand; twirling her around before pulling her against him. “If you’re a good girl tonight, I might reward you.” He chuckled when she flashed him a smile, bending down to lightly brush his lips against hers.




Shawn could not believe he was wearing a black suit with a black undershirt, staring at himself in disgust. He had point blank refused to give up his cowboy boots, though he had polished them. He had shaved and slicked his hair back into a pony tail; standing under Trish’ scrutiny. “This gonna do or what? I want to see Noel.” He was getting very impatient, knowing the party had started by now.


Trish was wearing a shimmery gold dress that cut just above her knees, accented with black accessories; her blond hair teased and piled on top of her head. She smiled when she had finished her examination of him, nodding. “You look handsome, Shawn. Now relax and take a deep breath. Remember, you can’t just rush over to her and say hello. We have to do this just right or it’s going to blow up in our faces.”


“Right.” He inhaled deeply as she pressed the floor number, taking her arm in his with a smile. He could do this, he could play this role and it helped that Trish was oh so easy on the eyes. Shawn winced when the elevator doors slid open to reveal a party in full swing, laughter and talking bouncing at him. “Damn.”


“Remember, just act naturally.” Trish murmured, guiding him into the busy room, a smile on her face. She took a glass of champagne from a passing serving, handing it to him before grabbing one for herself; sipping it. She somehow was not surprised when he poured his out in a plant, trying not to giggle. “Relax.” She murmured, leaning into him.


“Keep up that flirtin’ and I’ll be putty in your hands, darlin’.” He murmured, looking around the room. Shawn had to stop himself from rushing forward when he seen his sister, hardly believing that porcelain doll was Noel. “Trish… has she always looked like some damn model?” He asked, trying to picture the knobby kneed girl he remembered.


“Yes?” Trish sounded confused, trying to understand what he was getting too. “She’s always looked that way, Shawn.”


“No…” He shook his head.


“Come on,” Trish watched as Noel smiled and nodded to the woman she was chatting with, guiding Shawn’s arms around her. “We’re going to dance while I think what to do.”


Noel had to get away from Sue before she took a pin and deflated those fake tits. Passing over her empty goblet to a passing waiter, she went to head for the balcony only to find Shane stopping her. “I just wanted some fresh air.” She whispered, plastering her usual smile on her face, fighting not to flinch when he wrapped an arm around her.


“Just remember what I said, darling.” He kissed her cheek lightly, a smile on his own face though it didn’t quite reach his eyes before releasing her.


“That’s her husband.” Shawn snarled, squeezing Trish so hard she gasped. “Sorry, darlin’.”


“Yes, that’s the monster.” Trish murmured quietly, glaring at Shane’s back before turning her attention to Noel who was disappearing onto the veranda. “Come on, it’s now or never.”


“Trish, do you… could you… maybe let me have a minute with her.” Shawn said, swallowing hard; watching as his only family slumped over the railing; seeing the defeat in her posture. He didn’t even wait for an answer just slowly made his way out onto the balcony as well. “Nim?”


Noel tensed, slowly straightening up. “Shawn?” She murmured, turning around; her hazel eyes widening. She hadn’t seen her brother since going to England. When she and Shane had announced their engagement, Shane had told her Shawn had called to say he wanted nothing to do with them or their ‘fast’ marriage.




Trish could only watch the scene unfold before her, brown eyes filled with pain. She decided to give the siblings some privacy, rejoining the party though remaining close enough just in case; scanning the room for Shane.


Noel listened to what Shawn had to say, frowning when he finally admitted to never receiving a wedding invite and that he had never even heard of Shane McMahon until recently. Finally, Noel collapsed in his arms when he hugged her; feeling like maybe the world would be alright again.


“I’m going to get you outta this mess you’re in, Noel.” He assured her, reaching down to wipe a tear off her face. Shawn frowned when he took a bit of her foundation with it, seeing a nasty looking fresh scar on her cheek. “What the hell has that man done to you, Nim?” He whispered.


“He’s… busy, let’s go.” Came Trish’s voice. She managed a guilty smile when Noel’s shocked eyes landed on her, knowing she was going to be in trouble for her part in this but if it got her friend away from her sadistic husband, so be it. “Noel, please, don’t be mad at me.” She muttered, grunting when she was hugged and sighed inwardly with relief. “We have to get out of here.”


Shawn was surprised to say the least when he seen Noel beginning to shake her head no. “What do you mean no?”


“Trish, remember in 2006 when I told you Shane and I went on vacation?” She whispered, sighing when Trish nodded. “I was in the hospital, not in Aruba. I left him once, really left him and he found me. I can’t…”


He whipped the handkerchief out of his pocket and began wiping the make-up off Noel’s face, revealing the entire scar. His eyes narrowed when he seen it covered half her face. “I’m gonna kill him.” He announced.


This Shane thought he was a bad ass apparently, beating a woman to the point she was afraid to leave an abusive marriage in order to avoid death.


“Shawn no, you can’t!” Trish whispered harshly, shaking her head. “Sweetheart, we’re not going to let anything happen to you.” She said to Noel, her eyes imploring her friend to believe her. “Trust me, come on.”


Without giving Noel time to say another word, she grabbed the other woman by the hand and began pulling her through the crowd, knowing Shawn was right behind them.


They had just gotten into the elevator when Shane appeared in the crowd; his eyes obviously scanning for his wife. Trish wrapped her arms around Noel, feeling hot tears wetting her skin.


Shawn started to say something as the doors closed, only to hesitate when they opened again. He groaned when he was punched in the stomach, hearing Noel beginning to scream as well as the sounds of scuffling feet.


“Oh my God, they’re trying to kidnap Noel McMahon!” Sue screamed, watching as John –who had been the one to halt the elevator- punched the strange man again.


Noel looked at the now panicking Trish, feeling herself being pulled against Shane. Looking up, she seen his face was riddled with anger, a hand moving to cover the side of her face automatically. “Please, Shane.” She pleaded. “That’s my brother, don’t.”


“What do we do with them?” John demanded as security began escorting people into the other room.


“That’s your brother?” Shane gaped, not believing Shawn was actually here; his grip tightening on her even more.


Then the lights went out, causing everyone to start screaming.


Noel almost clung to Shane when she was ripped away, not recognizing the person who was now carting her off.




Shawn inhaled sharply when they were out of the building, waiting anxiously on John and Phil; knowing Chris was prowling around here somewhere. “You got her?” He demanded when he seen Matt coming.


“Yeah, she’s in the car, she fainted.” Matt called back, gesturing for Shawn and Trish to follow him. “We have to get the hell outta here.”


“I’m with that.” Shawn muttered, hearing sirens already. “Time to go.”


Phil was sitting in the front seat with John, looking pale and smelling like gasoline. He didn’t look back when an orange light bathed the car; hearing Trish’ gasp of surprise.


His debt was repaid.




Noel rolled over in bed, pulling the pillow to her even tighter. She didn’t want to wake up. She had had a beautiful dream that she had seen her brother.


Knowing she wasn’t going to get anymore sleep; she inhaled raggedly and rolled out of bed; biting back a cry of pain when she brushed her back against the mattress.


When she opened her eyes, she did scream.


“Nim, it’s me baby girl, it’s me.” Shawn whispered, pulling his little sister into his arms; his heart breaking as she clung to him.




“Sounds like Noel’s awake.” Matt said, glancing up at the ceiling.


Chris was leaning against the wall, standing between the refrigerator and counter of Shawn’s kitchen; his blue eyes closed as he listened to Noel’s cries of pain and fear. He couldn’t take this anymore and escaped outside to the front porch; gripping the weathered railing tightly as he took a deep breath.




“Go away Cena, I need a minute.”


Trish was sitting across from Matt, still in her now ruined party dress; her own eyes rimmed red from crying. She had been the one to change Noel into a tee shirt and she would never get that sight out of her mind.


The screams weren’t helping either. Though when they finally subsided, she breathed a sigh of relief.


Shawn came downstairs ten minutes later, tears running down his face as he got a bottle of water for Noel. She had just screamed herself hoarse. “She’s panickin’.” He managed to choke out.


John sighed, taking the bottle from Shawn. “I’ll go.” He whispered, patting the other man on the shoulder before heading up the stairs. He could hear Noel’s crying getting louder with each step he took; his heart breaking and knew she was terrified right now.


Honestly, he didn’t blame her. He had to take a deep breath before tapping on the door; hesitantly opening it. “Noel?”


She froze at the sound of his voice.


Noel stared at him from wide, confused eyes. “John?” She whispered, frowning. “What are-“ Comprehension slowly began dawning on her face, pain taking over the confusion. “How could you?” She asked softly, drawing the blankets tighter around her; closing her eyes to keep from crying even more.


Shawn had explained that with the help of some ‘friends who had been keeping an eye on her’, they’d manage to get her and Cadence to safety. Now she knew what he had meant by friends.


“Noel, I didn’t tell him. Someone sold me out.” John sighed heavily. “Noel… I’m so sorry.” He murmured, getting down on his knees in front of her, pressing a hand on the bed. “I saw you that night outside the mansion. You and Cadence.” He looked up at her when she inhaled sharply, knowing she knew what night he meant. “I was the driver.”


“The driver…” She echoed, raking her hands through her now tousled hair; eyes wide. Suddenly she was hitting him with her fists, crying. “You bastard! All this time and you KNEW who I was and YOU LIED TO ME!”


“Noel, Noel calm down…” John grabbed her hands to stop her from hitting him, even though he knew he deserved it. “Listen to me, listen.” He cupped her face in his hands, anguish in his blue eyes. “Please, listen to me…”


Noel was on the verge of hyperventilating.


“The minute I saw what happened, I immediately began investigating. There is so much more to this story, you have no idea.” He thought about Chris and knew she was going to have a field day with that, shoving it aside for the moment. “Everything I did, everything I’ve done, and everything I’m going to do is for you, to protect you. Please, you have to believe me.”


All Noel could do was stare at him, finally getting off the bed. The fresh marks adorning her legs were now quite visible and she didn’t miss the way his eyes widened as he took them in. When his attention was back on her face, she pulled the shirt over her head; turning slowly to show what she had used to be able to call a back, catching the revulsion on his face when she turned back around.


“You KNEW and you let me go back to him. If you knew anything about Shane then you’d of known what he’d do to me if he ever found out I’d so much as looked at you.” She whispered, not believing this.


If he had cared for her at all, he would have either taken her away when they first met or walked away from her.


John could feel tears stinging his eyes, she was right. “Noel… I… we…”


How did he explain to her without mentioning Chris’ name? He couldn’t.


“There were complications and would… would you have honestly willingly gone with me?” He seen the doubt in her hazel eyes and knew they should have done what Chris had wanted too. Kidnap her.


Which now that John thought about it, that’s kind of what had happened anyway.


“Noel… I’m so sorry…” He whispered regretfully, still on his knees; staring up at her. The revulsion was no longer in his eyes, just pure misery and pain for what she had had to endure because of their –his- stupidity.


Noel could only stare at him, the pain in her own eyes matching his. She perched on the edge of the bed, burying her face in her hands; not knowing what to do right now. Finally she reached out for him, pressing her face into his shoulder; trying to stop crying –God she cried so much- but unable to stop herself.


John just held her.




“Noel,” John said after several long moments of just holding her. “There’s something I need to tell you.” He sighed when she slowly raised her head from his shoulder; knowing he was probably going to hurt her all over again.


He was hurting too, knowing he was about to lose her to Chris. But he could live with it, so long as she was safe and happy.


“There’s someone else here, sweetheart…” He began softly, running a finger down her scarred cheek. “Someone you haven’t seen in years…”


Noel shook her head in confusion, not knowing what the Hell he was talking about. She didn’t have any friends besides Trish. “John, I don’t understand.” She whispered, wondering why he looked ready to break down and reached out to cup his face with her palm.  She closed her eyes as he traced the scar, wondering how he could bare to touch it.


“Stay here.” He murmured, slowly getting to his feet; smiling when she tried to stop him. “Trust me.”


Noel could only watch as he walked out of the room.


John grimly made his way downstairs, finally coming a halt in the living room where Shawn and Trish were anxiously waiting. “Go tell her right now.” He ordered.


“Tell her what?” Trish blinked.


“Go tell your sister why she lost the love of her life who is OUTSIDE right now, Shawn. Tell her why she wound up marrying a monster. TELL HER!”


“I-“ Shawn looked past John, spotting Noel standing there in her shirt and a pair of sweat pants Trish had laid out for her. “Nim…”


“What’s going on, Shawn?” She whispered, glancing at Matt and frowned, not recognizing him.


Matt rubbed his head awkwardly. “Hey Nim. Long time, sweetheart.”


“Matt?” She blinked away her confusion, her eyes suddenly widening as her gaze turned on John. Someone she hadn’t seen in a long time.


Matt caught her when she swayed. “John, whatever you just did to her, fix it!”


“Tell her Shawn or so help me God I will.” John said again.


“Shawn, what’s going on?” Trish was really confused at this point, looking up as Chris walked into the room.


“Look, I’m-“ Chris stopped dead in his tracks, his gaze on the woman in Matt’s arms. Even though she looked a mess, she was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Her gorgeous hair and beautiful almond shaped eyes. “Noel…”


Noel just stared at him, obvious confusion on her face. “Shawn?”


Shawn cottoned on instantly. She didn’t recognize him. The last time she had seen Chris, Chris had had long blond hair and been… more muscular. He had also had a baby smooth face unlike now, time had worn Chris into a hard looking man. “Honey, that’s Chris.” He said softly, knowing he was in some shit now.




Slowly Chris took a step forward, his eyes never leaving hers. “Nim, it’s me.” He said quietly, catching her when she slumped forward from Matt’s slack hold and pulled her against him. When Shawn took a step forward, he let out a warning growl; hefting her into his arms and buried his nose in her hair; inhaling raggedly.


Not caring what anyone thought, he set down in a chair; cradling Noel on his lap; tears slipping from his eyes. “My beautiful Noel…” He murmured huskily, unaware everyone was vacating to give them some privacy.


Matt began explaining Shawn’s serious booboo to Trish when she asked AGAIN what the hell was going on, well aware Shawn was kicking himself in the ass now. “Noel and Chris were sweethearts. She went off to England, Shawn screwed ‘em both over and they haven’t seen each other since. She never told you any of this?”


Trish shook her head no, glancing into the living room and bit her lower lip. “No… she didn’t.”


Just seeing the way Chris held Noel was enough to make John realize he had to step aside. Now it was him needing some air.


“Noel, I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” Chris whispered in her ear, refusing to ever leave her side again unless she asked him too. “I should’ve known something was up. Damn it…” He began crying in earnest now, more than aware she had suffered severe abuse at the hands of her husband; spotting the scar on her cheek and pressed a soft kiss to it.


“Don’t cry, please.” She murmured, reaching up to wipe away his tears. Noel slowly sat up on his lap; her hazel eyes opening and studied Chris intently, apparently trying to find her old love in this man she didn’t know. Hesitantly, she reached out to run her finger down his nose and lips.


Her brow furrowed for a moment, then relaxed as if satisfied and hugged him. “God, you look so different.” She whispered, her face hidden in his neck.


Trish leaned in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, watching this then glanced back at John; already seeing the potential problem. Noel and Chris hadn’t seen each other in ten years and it was very obvious Noel was nowhere near being the girl Chris knew while John did know her somewhat.


Lord have mercy, she needed a drink.


Chris knew Noel could never love him like she used too and John had probably captured her heart. Still, he was going to be there for her. Reluctantly, he pulled away from her, managing a smile. “You’re beautiful.”


“Dear God, don’t lie to me.” She muttered, pulling her hair over her face with a frown. “Shawn, I think you have some explaining to do.”


Coughing, Shawn emerged from the kitchen and slowly recounted the entire story; pain coursing through him when he seen the hurt on Noel’s face.


“How could you do that to us?” She demanded from her place on Chris’ lap. “You knew how much I loved him and yet you intentionally destroyed us?”


“At the time I thought it was for the best. Noel, honey, you have no idea how sorry I am.” He pleaded.


“Nim,” Chris murmured. “He is sorry. Without him, we wouldn’t have been able to get you out of there.”


Shawn looked at Chris gratefully, if not confused.


“Don’t hate him. I don’t, not anymore.”


Though if Shawn ever pulled something like that again, Chris would kill the man.


“I don’t hate him, I just don’t understand.” Noel whispered, running her hands across Chris’ shoulders soothingly. “I could have died when I read that letter, thinking you didn’t love me anymore.” Her voice was low, her words just for him.


Shawn pulled Trish out of the room again to give the two some privacy, glancing at John. “You going to be alright?”


Matt snorted. “Personally, I think you and Chris should let that woman alone, she needs time to heal.”


“Not to mention she has a daughter to take care of and a divorce to start.” Trish added.


“Noel, look at me…” Chris gently lifted her chin with the palm of his hand, sighing as he pressed his forehead to hers. “I know what’s going on with you and John.” He wasn’t surprised in the least when she cringed and shook his head. “Listen, you’ll always have my heart, you know that. But I know that I don’t have yours, not anymore.”


Noel could only stare at him.


“And I’m not going to pressure you into anything, you need to do what you have too for you and your daughter. That’s number one, alright?”


She nodded.


Chris smiled, kissing the top of her head. “I’m here for you, whatever you need, Noel.”




After some more, Noel was up in the morning. She had fallen asleep in her old bedroom, sharing the bed with Trish. When she woke up, Trish was gone. Yawning, Noel rolled out of bed and looked around, smiling when she seen all her old things from before she had moved in with Chris.


She walked over to the vanity, staring at the pictures taped to the mirror and made a face. Had she really looked that dorky? Laughing softly, she rifled through her old clothes; a tad bit shocked to find she was skinnier now than she had been in high school.


She had to loop a belt through the waist of a pair of jeans. She hadn’t worn jeans in years, they felt almost sinful. She then pulled out a jersey, smiling as she slid it on. After a moment, she realized it was one of Chris’ hockey shirts.


But it was probably the only thing shirt wise in the closet she could wear without busting the chest out, in that department she was definitely a bit bigger.


When she had finished with her morning routine, she headed downstairs; smiling when Shawn passed her a cup of coffee. When he went to add sugar and milk however, she shook her head; wrinkling her nose.


“Since when do you-“ He trailed off, realizing there was a lot about her he didn’t know, a lot that had changed. He had also noticed she had an East coast accent, her words crisply spoken instead of the soft drawl he remembered. “Cadie will be arrivin’ tomorrow.”


She nodded again, sipping her coffee as she moved to stare out the window.


“Morning, sweetie.” Trish greeted softly, carrying her own mug and wearing one of Shawn’s old shirts. She and Jay had broke up awhile ago by mutual agreement and somehow, she and Shawn had gotten together. Odder things had happened. “How are you?”


“Fine.” Noel murmured, glancing down at her wedding ring; fiddling with it. She could hear Chris and John out on the porch, frowning slightly. “He’s going to come looking for me Trish, you know that.”


“And we’ll be ready when he does.” Shawn said firmly.


“Jay is giving me updates every few hours on my phone.”


Noel blinked, knowing Jay was an FBI agent, glancing at Trish. “How is-“


“We broke up. Anyways, if Shane is headed this way, we’ll be the first to know and we can move you before he arrives.” Trish said briskly, waving a hand dismissively at Noel’s concerned look and knew it was about Jay. “Don’t worry about it. Look, we need to talk about your divorce, sweetie.” She cringed when Noel tensed. “You know you have to do this.”


Noel sidestepped the hand that reached out to pat her. “Please, don’t touch my back.” She murmured; running a hand through her hair and finished her coffee to give herself more time to think. “He tied it up in the courts last time I tried, Trish. What makes you think he won’t this time?”


“Nim, honey, your entire body is evidence…” Shawn began, sighing when she instantly shook her head. “Darlin’, it ain’t nothing to be ashamed of, he-“


“Shawn, have you SEEN me? Honestly, LOOK at me. You really think I feel like letting other people see me? NO.”


Trish knew Noel was scared right now and she didn’t blame the woman. “Just… think about it, okay Noel? You won’t get your life back until you stand up to him.”




Matt watched as Noel walked around the yard, figuring she must have gone out the back because she sure as hell hadn’t passed him, John or Chris. “She won’t sign them papers.” He said, sipping his morning cup of joe. “Unless she feels safe and I don’t think we’re getting the job done.”


“It hasn’t even been a day Matt, give it some time.” Shawn snapped, leaning in the doorway. “Time is all she needs.”


“Yeah and most likely, we don’t HAVE time.”


“We’ll make time then.” Chris said flatly, still not turning to face the others. “I love that woman and nothing is going to happen to her again. Even if I have to kill her husband.”


“There’ll be no killing partner,” John said quietly. “That’s not the way to handle this.”


“I’m with Chris.”


“You just want to kill McMahon.” Matt snorted, though he could understand why. That was Shawn’s sister, his only family. He watched as Noel slowly approached them, offering her a smile. “You ready to admit I’m still the most gorgeous man ever, honey?” He teased, pleased to see a brief smile cross her face.


“You’re still ugly as sin, Matthew.”


“That was COLD.”


Chris was laughing softly, shaking his head.


“Sorry?” Noel offered.


“Nim, you’re breaking my heart here, honey.”


She shrugged, her hazel eyes somewhat amused; glancing at Chris then to John.


Shawn inwardly sighed. “You excited about seein’ Cadie?”


“You nicknamed my daughter Cadie?”


“Well who the hell names a kid Cadence?”


She arched an eyebrow.


Matt shrugged. “It’s a stuck-up name.”


Noel rolled her eyes.


John did too. “And you wonder why you can’t keep a woman?”


Trish cringed when Matt hurled his coffee mug at John, clocking him in the face.


Noel had almost screamed but managed to stop herself, unable to keep from trembling though. Her eyes left Matt quickly, moving to John and seen a trail of blood on his face from a cut on his forehead and what promised to be a spectacular bruise already forming. “Come on.” She murmured, helping him off the porch floor where he had fallen.


Shawn shook his head as Noel guided John into the house, waiting until they were inside before smacking Matt upside his head. “Boy, that ain’t the way to make her feel safe OR keep your friends.”


Snarling, Chris decked Matt for scaring the daylights out of Noel. “Learn to think before you act, jackass.”




Noel frowned as she cleaned the cut on John’s forehead. They were in the downstairs bathroom, him sitting on the edge of the bathtub while she played doctor. “That is going to look horrible for a few days.” She murmured, carefully putting a bandage over the spot. “I can’t believe he threw that. How’s your head?”


“It’s felt better.” John grunted, watching her. “Thank you.” He murmured when she was done, plotting on possibly fatally harming Matt later, when she wasn’t around to witness.


Nodding, Noel began putting things away.


Before she could leave however, John stopped her by gently pushing her against the door; his hands moving to cup her face and bent down; brushing his lips softly against hers. “Nobody will hurt you again.” He murmured, rolling his forehead against hers.




“Nim,” Matt mumbled when she came out of the bathroom a few minutes after John had. “I’m sorry honey, I didn’t mean to scare you.”


“Hm?” She shook her head, trying to clear out the fog John had left from his kiss and managed an awkward smile. “I wasn’t expecting you to… hurl something.” She glanced at Trish, arching an eyebrow when she seen her best friend and her brother holding hands, mentally slapping herself but didn’t say a word.


She needed a drink.


A lot of drinks.


Chris had seen the dazed look on Noel’s face and the way she had licked her lips, closing his eyes. For a brief moment, when he had seen her in his jersey, it had caused hope to flare. But then he had seen the way her eyes sparkled when she had glanced at John.


He had to let her go.


Sighing, he headed outside for some peace.


Noel had gone upstairs, back to her bedroom. She wasn’t comfortable around Matt even though they had grown up together, same with Chris.




She watched him out her window, pressing her head against the pane. A part of her loved him and always would, he was her first lover and first love, but… He loved a memory, a girl Noel hardly remembered anymore. Too much time and too much had happened over the years.


All too soon he would realize she was nothing like the young woman he had loved and that would be that.




“Mommy!” Cadence squealed, rushing towards the porch just as Noel appeared in the doorway. She hesitated, reaching out to touch her mother’s face when she crouched down. “What happened?”


Noel closed her eyes, feeling a tiny finger tracing from her nose to the side of her to the hairline. “An accident.” She whispered, pulling Cadence in her arms.


“Is… is daddy here?”


“No baby.” She murmured, her heart breaking at the fear in Cadence’s eyes which soon changed to relief.


How sad was it that a six year old was terrified of her own father?


“Look who it is!” Trish was grinning as she walked out of the house. Cadence was the spitting image of her mother for the most part; though she did have Shane’s dark hair and nose. “Hey kiddo, look what I have for you.” She held out a bag.


Curiously, Cadence took in; peering into the sack and began laughing excitedly; her tiny face lighting up.


John was standing on the porch, studying Cadence. He was so tempted to pick her up and hold but knew better.


“Barbies!” Cadence squealed, then hesitated. “Mom?”


“You can play with ANYTHING you want.”


“Even crayons?”


“Especially crayons.”


Shawn laughed, drawing Cadie’s attention and scooped her up when she flew to him. “Hey Cadie Bug, miss me?’


“Yes.” Cadence giggled, watching as he made funny faces. “You’re silly, Uncle Shawn.”


Trish was trying not to frown at the exchange between mother and daughter, gathering Shane hadn’t allowed Cadence to have certain things. What kind of monster was he? “I picked up some new clothes, too.” She added softly. “Why don’t we go see if they fit?” She extended her hand to Cadence.


Cadence took Trish’ hand after Shawn had set her down. “Mommy, you coming?”


“I’ll be in shortly.” Noel said, needing a moment to adjust. She swallowed hard, waving her brother off when he tried hugging her. She needed a quick minute alone, walking around the house to drop down onto a wooden bench.


She was such a horrible mother. Her daughter had to ask if it was okay to play with a goddamn Barbie doll for chrissakes.


She didn’t get that minute though because Chris dropped down next to her, frowning at the expression on her face. “What’s wrong, Nim?” He asked softly. He had heard child’s laughter and gathered Cadence was here, shouldn’t Noel be happy? “Did he touch her?” He growled angrily. “I’ll kill him if he did.”


“What? No, NO!” Noel shook her head and stood up, eyes wide. “Shane NEVER touched Cadence, Chris, ever. I might not be the best mother but I would never let him harm one hair on her precious head.”


Dear God what did these people think of her? Shane had tried to slap Cadence ONCE and Noel had intercepted and took the beating instead. Other than that, he’d never so much as raised a finger to Cadence. He didn’t have too, she was scared of him simply from seeing what he did to her mother.


“You’re a good mother.” Chris said gently, having a feeling he knew what she was thinking. “Don’t ever think anything less. Nobody here thinks any less of you.”


Noel didn’t answer him, not that it had been a question. She just didn’t have anything to say. What could she say? How good of a mother was she honestly? She raised her daughter in an abusive home. The only credit she could claim was that she had tried her best to shield Cadence from Shane as much as possible, other than that she had been worthless.


Swallowing hard, she managed a nod. “Thank you.”




A month away from Shane had done wonders for both Noel and Cadence. Cadence, with a child’s innocence, had all but put him out of her mind; spending her days running wild like a normal six year old. She laughed frequently and had no problems voicing herself now that there was no one around to stop her.


Noel was all smiles as well, going about the property in jeans and usually a long sleeved cotton shirt, regardless of how hot it was. Nobody mentioned Shane and she didn’t offer anything. Only at night when she was alone did she cry and wonder if the tranquility could last.




“You going to push the divorce issue, honey?” Shawn asked after Cadie and Noel had gone to bed, sitting on the couch with Trish on his lap; lightly threading his fingers through her hair.


Sighing quietly, Trish made a noncommittal gesture. “I don’t want to pressure her, Shawn.” She murmured, snuggling into him. “If you want me to talk to her about it again, I will.”


Shawn pressed his forehead to hers, wondering for definitely not the first time how on earth he had gotten so lucky, or if Trish was mentally damaged. “I don’t know… I’m afraid to mention it, with her and Cadie doin’ so well.” He said hesitantly. “I’d feel like a thief in the night if saying somethin’ to her destroyed how far she’s come and don’t you be laughin’ at me, Trish.” He watched as she giggled.


“Say it again!”


“Thief in the night.” He repeated, an eyebrow raising in amusement as she giggled even harder.\


He was so cute, she couldn’t stop and kissed him. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow about it.” She said finally, settling down. “If I can get her to sign those papers, you know things are going to get rough, right?”


“They ain’t now?” He retorted. They were all suffering a pinch in their wallets, none of them having been working the entire month, staying around to watch out for  Noel and Cadence. Lord knew she couldn’t touch any of her credit cards or bank accounts because Shane would sure as Hell trace her. “Trish, regardless of whether she divorces him or not, you and I both know he ain’t ever gonna stop. So we’ll weather it out.” He kissed her when she opened her mouth to speak, standing up and pulled her with him. “Now… let’s get on up to bed and we’ll finish this conversation later.”




“I NEVER thought those two would end up together.” John said from the kitchen, listening with a grin as Shawn and Trish went upstairs.


“Hell,” Chris snorted. “He’s a good looking guy and she’s a bombshell, I saw it coming from a mile away.”


Matt rolled his eyes and finished his beer before cracking open another one. They were sitting around the kitchen table playing cards. With pennies since they were all just about broke. “Hell, he ever figures he can’t handle her, he can pass Miss Stratus my way, I like a long legged girl.” He joked, squinting down at his cards and frowned. “Um… raise two.” He tossed two cents into the pot. “Speakin’ of long legs… anyone but me noticed Noel’s getting curvier now that she’s eating three squares?”


Why did Matt always have to be an instigator?


“Yeah, I’ve noticed, Hardy.” Chris grunted, tossing two pennies onto the table. “I’ll triple that…”


“I love her curves.” John said quietly, then folded, not trusting his partner.


“Mmm, so do I.” Matt agreed, studying Chris thoughtfully before calling. “Ain’t nothing sexier than a woman with some junk in her trunk and that ass has perked right up.” He groaned when Chris laid down his hand, throwing his cards down. “You ass.” He watched as John shuffled for the next deal, brown eyes sparkling with mischief. “Course she ain’t got shit on Trish’ chest but… not too shabby considering she had a kid.” He seen Chris’ nostrils flare and smirked.


Chris wanted to ring Matt’s neck, but refrained simply because he didn’t want to explain to anyone WHY he had killed the bastard. “Trish’ tits are fake.” He snorted, leaning back into his chair. “Noel’s are all natural.”


John nodded his agreement.


“You’d know.” Matt smirked.


John coughed, rubbing the back of his neck and avoided Chris’ eyes.


Matt was laughing –on the inside, he wasn’t suicidal. “Wow…” He coughed, looking innocent when Chris glared at him. “Hey, I’m not the one who felt her up and all that.”




“What’re you boys talking about?” Noel yawned, walking into the kitchen in flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top; her light brown hair tousled about her face as she opened the fridge. “Matt, can I have one?”


“Have two, honey.” He grinned, watching her pop the top of a beer. “Cheers.”


“What’re you doing up?” Chris asked, smiling at her, avoiding the question.


John rolled his eyes, snorting when she repeated herself. “We were talking about how hot you are now.” He said bluntly, dodging the smack Chris threw at him.




“You saying I wasn’t hot before?” She demanded with a smile, watching John make a so-so gesture. “Didn’t stop you now did it?”


“He’s blushing!” Matt crowed, smacking his knee. “Damn… though you were pretty hot in leather…” He trailed off when they all looked at him. “Oops?”


“You filmed that?” Noel stared at John with wide eyes.


“No, no, he cut it before it got that far.”


“Oh thank God…” She downed the beer.


Chris didn’t comment, deciding she didn’t need to know how unbelievably PISSED OFF he had been over that. No, she didn’t need to know any of that.


“Chris, you’re turning red, man.” John commented curiously. “You alright?”


The look Chris gave him was answer enough.


“Redder than red, damn.”


Noel popped her second beer open and leaned back in the chair she had seated herself in, watching with an amused grin on her face. “You alright?”


“He’s suffering a case of the blues.” Matt snorted.




“Blue balls, honey.”


Now she was red.


“Matt, if you don’t shut it, I’m going to shove these cards up your ass.”


John was trying not to laugh. “Don’t you think that would be a bit hard to do considering there’s 52 of them?”


“It would be the most painful game of 52 card pick-up ever.”


“That’s too kinky even for me.” Matt shook his head, watching as Noel made a face. “Honey, that’s your second beer, a bit late to find it gross.”


“Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I drank a beer?”


“Uh, no.”


“The night before I left for England.” She shook her head. “In England it was wines, then bourbon and scotch. Beer is…” She coughed. “Different.”


“We could find something else for you to drink.” Matt suggested.


John snorted into his own beer, knowing all there was around here beer. “I don’t think you’ll find anything else besides milk and water.”


“Actually… there’s that jug of moonshine Shawn has…”


“Panther’s Piss.” Noel said with a nod, smirking somewhat.


“But I don’t think it’d be appropriate for three men and one lady to get drunk on that shit.”


“Matt, when it comes to hard liquor, I can drink all of you under the table.”


The sad thing was, he believed her.


“You can do what you want, sweetheart.” Chris said, though he was frowning; reaching out to gently grab her arm when she went to walk by him. “Though… there is Cadence to think about.”


“Way to be subtle, Chris.” John snorted.


“Hey, I’m just saying is all.”


Noel arched an eyebrow. “I was going to bed, Chris, not for the jug.” She said evenly, pulling her arm away from him. “Goodnight guys.” She walked out of the kitchen and upstairs. One sip when she was thirteen from her brother’s jug had been enough to last her a lifetime.


Matt waited until Noel was upstairs before saying: “Which is her subtle way of telling you to stop bein’ an assuming prick.”


Chris had had enough and threw down his cards, taking the pot he won –which was a whole whopping fifty cents- and headed outside. He needed fresh air and a moment.


Matt and John walked out onto the porch, both men watching as Chris peeled out of the driveway. “I kinda feel bad for him.” He sighed, glancing up at the house, seeing Noel’s  bedroom light was on. Going to bed… more like hiding her crying by pretending she was in the shower, everyone knew better. “He keeps seeing her as that young kid when she’s a woman who’s completely different now and he don’t know how to handle it.” He said wisely.


“I know.” John replied softly, cracking his knuckles as he stared up at the bedroom window. His heart was telling him to go up there, but his mind was reminding him of the betrayal he was committing when it came to Chris. “She’s not his Nim anymore.” He finally said, squaring his shoulders and walked past Matt into the house.


When he reached her door, he could hear the shower going and soft crying. Sighing, he entered the room and walked over to the closed bathroom door, gently pushing it open. Noel was sitting in the bathtub with her knees drawn to her chest; the hot water beating down on her; crying. “Come here…” He murmured sadly, bending down to lift her up and held her close to him, not minding the wetness at all. “Shh, I’m here now, Noel.”


Noel wrapped her arms around his neck, crying into his chest. After a few minutes, she stopped and wiped her hands across her eyes. “Why are you here, John?” She asked softly. “You have a life outside of this, why waste it looking after me?” She didn’t understand that at all. He had done what he set out to do, she was away from Shane. “Don’t you have people who care for you, that miss you?”


“No, I’m right where I should be. Here with you.” He said just as quietly, pressing his forehead against hers. “Noel…”


She stared at him.


“Let me take the pain away, let me show you love.”


“You already have.” She whispered, leaning forward to kiss him.




Matt looked up from his bed on the couch when he heard footsteps across the floor followed by an old bed creaking, shaking his head. “Goddamn.” He muttered, flicking on the TV for some background noise.




John was trying to be quiet as he undressed Noel, the wet clothes hindering him but not deterring; taking his time. He had laid her down on the bed and was kneeling over her, in nothing but a pair of jean shorts, his chest bare thanks to the Texas heat.


God this was wrong, so wrong, but damned if it wasn’t right at the same time.


Noel instantly reached for the light when he tugged off her tank top; frowning when he caught her wrist. “John…” She trailed off, watching with wide eyes as he leaned down to kiss a scar that ran across her torso, blinking back a few tears.


He had to be too good to be true, there was no way he was for real. On the other hand…


Reaching down for him, Noel pulled John’s face back to hers so she could kiss him; arching her body against his. She knew this time it wouldn’t be some hurried quickie and smiled against his lips.


The scars didn’t bother him, she was a beautiful woman who had gone through a horrible ordeal. John knew he was falling hard for Noel, Chris was going to kill him.


Fuck Chris.


An image of pictures of them tacked to the walls flashed through her mind, remembering Shane’s anger when he had found out she had cheated on him, causing Noel to hesitate. When John raised his head from her throat –which he had been sucking and kissing on- she smiled, shoving Shane right back into his box and kicked it down her mental well. “Don’t stop.” She murmured.




“Okay, stop.” Noel literally pushed him over the bed and out of sight just as Cadence walked in.


John bit back a loud groan but kept still, having hit his shoulder on the wooden floor. He watched from beneath the bed as two little feet approached and sighed inwardly.


Noel managed to dress under the blankets while she soothed her daughter, finally getting up and scooping Cadence into her arms. “C’mon, let’s go sit outside and I’ll tell you a story.” She murmured, shooting a longing glance back into her bedroom.


“Really? Like Grandma Linda’s fairytales?”


“I’ll tell you a story about a beautiful princess.” She promised, seeing the night terror was being forgotten and smiled.




John took the opportunity to vacate the room, knowing Noel would be with Cadence for the rest of the night and rightfully so, though that didn’t stop him from adjusting himself with a groan. He headed downstairs to grab a beer, groaning when he heard the bed in Shawn’s room creaking. “What the fuck?”


“Oh Shawn…”


He clamped his hands over his ears.




“She signed them!” Trish said gleefully the next morning after having spent hours tucked away with Noel upstairs. She came pounding down the stairs and waved the papers around. “And she came to ME! What the hell has gotten into her?”


Noel came following. “Cadie, you going to get up or what?” She called over her shoulder, having tucked Cadence back to bed in her own room after she had fallen back asleep. She grinned when Shawn picked her up, laughing. “Shawn!”


“Okay, okay.” He set her down and picked Trish up instead.


Trish giggled, wrapping her legs around his waist and held on tight. “Mmm, later. Right now, I have to file these.” She purred. “You did the right thing, Noel.”


Noel grinned.


John had overheard everything and wrapped his arms around her from behind, smiling when she automatically leaned back into him.


“Okay guys, no more hugs.” Noel laughed when Matt tried to get one, needing to crack her back from Shawn’s still. “Congratulate me when it goes through, I’ve filed before.”


Shawn watched as Trish’ eyes narrowed. “That ain’t going to be a problem this time is it?”


Noel shrugged, walking over to the banister. “Cadence, come on!” Sighing, she headed up the stairs.


Trish started explaining why she believed this time Shane wouldn’t be able to tie the divorce up, including a little slice of information she had received from Jay only that very morning. Shane had been dipping into other side ventures that weren’t quite as legal as his actual business.




Shawn tripped in his haste to get up the stairs, a loud curse echoing throughout the house. “Noel, calm down, honey. Noel. NIM!”


Noel came flying down the stairs with him right behind her, eyes wild; holding a note in her shaking hand. “He was here, in the house and he took Cadence!”


Matt spat out coffee. “WHAT?”


Chris was out the door in a matter of seconds.


Fighting back tears, Trish got on her cell, phoning Jay.


John stared at Noel who was clinging to Shawn desperately. “Son of a bitch…”


“How in the hell was in the house without any of us knowin’?” Shawn whispered, frowning when Chris began cursing loudly from outside.




“There’s a white limo out there.” Matt said with a scowl.


“Layfield.” Noel whispered, pulling away from Shawn and followed John out the door. She flew down the porch steps, straight to Layfield and slapped him. “Where is she?!”


“Good to see you too, honey.” Layfield laughed, looking at the people filing out of the house; his eyes narrowing. “You sons of bitches set fire to my home, do you know how expensive penthouses are?”


“You got two seconds to tell us where Cadie is or-“ John was interrupted by Chris pulling a gun on Layfield, his blue eyes widening at the look on his partner’s face.


He looked deranged.


“You’ve got ONE second or I’m pulling the trigger, prick.” Chris snarled.


“Go ahead and shoot, then you’ll never find out, will you?” Layfield started laughing; shaking his head and glanced at Noel. “C’mon honey, your husband is willing to forgive and forget.”


Noel wrapped her arms around herself, looking down at the ground.


“Well… we ain’t got all day, girl. Son, you aim that thing at me again and I’m going to knock you silly.” Layfield threatened, staring daggers at Chris. “Beating me isn’t going to get Cadence back to her momma now is it?”


“She’s not going with you.” Chris said coldly.


“Layfield, why don’t we cut a deal?” Trish walked forward, hands out in a supplicating manner. “The FBI knows about Shane and the drug deals he’s been making.”


Layfield looked nonplussed.


“And we know you’ve been involved in those deals. An agent is on his way…” She trailed off when Layfield pulled out a cell phone.


He held it up to Trish. “That guy?” He asked innocently, showing a video of Jay being flown to a hospital in a helicopter. “Damn honey, you sure are pretty but not very bright.” He shook his head. He had investments in Shane’s little drug business and he wasn’t losing all that damn money because of these morons. “It was breaking news, a car came out of nowhere and smashed into him, terrible accident.” He shook his head. “Noel, NOW.”


Trish could only stand there, shock and pain all over her face. How could these monsters get away with this?


Everyone let out a scream when Chris actually pulled the trigger.


Chris just watched coldly as Layfield’s body dropped.




“Now then…” Chuckling darkly, he turned to face Noel. “Let’s go if you want to see Cadence again.”


Noel and Trish were both screaming now, while Shawn could only stand there with a slack jaw and Matt for once had nothing to say.


“Are you fucking insane?” Noel shrieked at him, knowing THAT image was going to haunt her for the rest of her life.


“Oh my God, you just killed him.” Trish was going to hyperventilate. Her job was to up HOLD the law, not break it. “Oh my God, oh my fucking God…”


“Shawn, shut her up before I shoot her next.” Chris threatened, watching as Shawn instantly clamped a hand over Trish’ mouth; moving his gaze back to Noel. “I don’t have all day sweetheart, get on the bike and nobody else will get hurt.” He raised a slow eyebrow when she hesitated and pulled the trigger again, shooting John right in the shoulder.


With just a smidge of satisfaction.


“Fuck!” John reeled backwards, clutching his arm though he moved protectively in front of Noel.


“I can always shoot again, Nim.”


Noel could only stare at him like he was out of his mind, which he was. “Please…” She whispered, looking at john. When Chris went to shoot again, she stepped forward. “Okay! Just stop!”


“Chris, think about what you’re doin’, son.” Shawn said quietly, wanting to reach out for his sister but didn’t fancy losing his own limbs.


“I know exactly what I’m doing.” Chris said bitterly, automatically answering his own cell when it rang; keeping the gun trained on John. “Yeah? Oh I have her right here. Would you like to say hi?” He smirked, handing the cell to Noel. “It’s for you.”


Timidly, she took it.


“Hello sweetheart.”




John cursed loudly.


“Are you giving Chris a hard time, angel?”


She hung up.


Gesturing to his Hayabusa, Chris stared at her; no emotion in his icy blue orbs. “Get on the bike.”


Noel was deathly white as she moved to straddle the Suzuki. She could hear Shawn pleading with Chris to not do this, Trish’ crying and John’s own pleas alongside of Matt’s; tears falling from her eyes.


“Chris, c’mon, you know what he’s gonna do to her, damn it!” John pleaded desperately, his hand pressed against his shoulder; blood seeping from between his fingers.


“I know.”




Noel kept her face buried in Chris’ back the entire ride, hating him but that eventually faded away into a feeling of nothing. The tears dried up as a quiet acceptance stole over her. She knew Shane would probably kill her and that she would never see Cadence again.


She wouldn’t have the chance to get to know her brother all over again, none of it. If Shane didn’t by chance kill her, then she knew things would go back to how they were before; only this time there would be no rescue, no hope.


When they came to a stop, she finally looked around; not recognizing the house they were at but it didn’t really matter. Chris dismounted, helped her off and nudged her forward. Reluctantly, her feet carried her towards the door; the gun pressed firmly between her shoulder blades reminding her that Chris had shot two people, murdered one.


Shane was waiting in the open doorway, a sick smile on his face as he watched his renegade wife walk towards him. “Well done, Irvine.” He snorted, grabbing Noel when she was within reach and hurled her through the door. “Thought you could leave me, did you?” He snarled.


“Where’s Cadence?” Noel demanded, life sparking in her eyes as she whirled to stare at him.


His answer was a backhand across the face. “Come in for a drink, Chris.”


Groaning, she fell to the floor; a hand on her throbbing cheek. Breathing heavily, Noel watched through her hair as Shane led Chris in for that drink; trying to stop the tears.


How could he?


She had no right to expect anything from Chris but… how in the Hell could he do this to her?


“Where’s Cadence?” She repeated, knowing she would regret it but needed to know her daughter was alright.


“DON’T YOU DARE TALK BACK TO ME YOU STUPID WHORE!” Shane exploded, the gentlemanly expression on his face being replaced with something almost bestial as he began kicking her in the stomach.


After a few moments, he calmed down and stepped away from his wife; who was now curled in the fetal position, sobbing with pain. Smoothing down his hair, he turned to Chris. “How about that drink?”


“Don’t mind if I do.” Chris said flatly, no emotion in his tone. “I’d also like to give the little cunt an explanation, let her know exactly what she’s done to deserve this.”




Shane had dragged Noel over to the couch; forcing her to lay with her head in his lap. “Listen up now, sweetheart.”


Noel whimpered, feeling him stroking her hair; her terrified eyes on Chris who was pouring himself a drink. Her face was already bruising, from hairline to jaw. She didn’t want an explanation, she didn’t care!


She hadn’t broken his heart, her brother had and he was going to hold a grudge over something that had been out of her control? Noel tried to sit up from this demeaning position, shrieking when she got slapped on her back.


“Shut up and stop moving then.”


“Noel, honey, too make a long story short, I’m involved in your husband’s business and I want my cut. Not to mention revenge is very sweet.” Chris snorted, his arctic eyes freezing her to the bone. “Now where’s my money, Shane?”


“In the desk.” Shane gestured across the room, his attention firmly focused on his wife. “A month Noel, that’s how long you’ve been gone.” He said conversationally, stroking her hair as he listened to her silent sobs. “Do you remember what I told you if you ran again?”


Noel really started crying now. “Shane, please, d-don’t.” She stuttered through her tears.


Chris walked over to the desk, rifling around in the drawers; listening to the pair. He knew there was no security as Shane hadn’t wanted to draw attention to himself with a large staff, rolling his eyes when he heard a shriek of pain. He finally found the envelope he was searching for and tucked it inside his jacket; turning to stare at them. “Shane…”


“What?” Shane all but snarled, busy. He now had Noel bent over the couch unfastening his belt.


Noel buried her face in the couch cushion, feeling his knee digging into her back; knowing what was coming.


She screamed at the first lash.




“WHAT, CHRIS?” Shane snapped when he felt his shoulder tapped, turning around angrily.


Chris shot him between the eyes. “Good riddance.” He muttered; sparing a glance at Noel before bending down to grab Shane by the arm, dragging the body out of the house.


Noel lay curled on the couch, knees tucked under her chin; her back in sheer agony. She had heard the shot and knew Shane was dead. She trembled at the thought of Chris pulling the trigger, still trying to reconcile her sweet Chris with this new killer.


God, was she next? Was he doing to make it a clean killing, with no witnesses? “Cadie…” She whispered.


Soon Chris was standing over her, staring down at her. “Come on sweetie, I’m going to hurt you.” He said quietly. “I promised that I’d take care of you, and I’ve fulfilled it.”


Slowly, Noel looked up at him.


Chris just nodded.


One Year Later…


Noel frowned, holding two swatches of fabric before her. “This one.” She said finally, setting it aside before glancing at the clock. “Maria, please reschedule my meeting with Judy for next week, I’m not in the mood today.”


“Okay, Ms. McMahon.” Maria –now happily employed by the window- hurried out of the office. “Oh… should I let the decorator know you decided?”


“Please.” Noel sat down behind the desk, looking at a picture on the desk of Cadie, on her first horse.


After all the dust had settled and the red tape finally cleared, she had found herself an extremely wealthy widow. She knew the FBI had been involved and that Trish had been the one to fight for the McMahon assets to not be seized due to Shane’s drug trafficking.


She’d stepped up and filled her dead husband’s shoes, the story of her marriage now public knowledge. Along with Linda’s help she had started a foundation for battered woman –one among the countless already out there- but she didn’t have to rely on public charity to make it run, she had her own money to finance it.


For the first time in over a decade, she felt truly safe and happy.


“There’s my favorite woman in the world.” Trish grinned as she walked into the office, looking gorgeous as usual. Though the roses in her cheeks and the beautiful diamond ring on her left finger might have had a hand in that.


After the whole ordeal was over, Shawn had proposed and she had accepted.


Of course she had had to talk Shawn out of killing Chris, at least until they found out Chris hadn’t been on Shane’s side. Shawn hadn’t liked Chris’ methods but he didn’t hate the man either.


While Shawn may have forgiven Chris, Noel had cut ties with him. Every time she thought of him, she remembered him sitting there so casually while Shane abused her.


“Feel like having an early dinner?”


“I don’t know, sis.” Noel teased, standing up. She let her hair down from the bun she had pinned it in, letting it cascade down her back. “Yes, because I have a business proposition for you. Is Shawn going?” At Trish’ nod, she smiled. “How about we make it a double date? I did promise John I’d see him tonight.”


She quickly texted him to let him know the change in plans. Cadence was spending the weekend with her grandmother so she didn’t need to worry about that. Noel walked around the desk, smiling as she read John’s reply.




Noel sipped her wine as Shawn and John when back and forth over the ‘when you making my sister an honest woman’ bit. She just shook her head when Trish sighed. Marriage was not in her near future, not yet and John knew it. “Shawn, you’re making a scene.”


Shawn sighed, wondering if he was ever going to get used to his wife to be and sister’s world. He had expected Noel to return to her country girl roots but that was not to be, she was a woman of the world and it showed. “I’ll behave.”


“When the time is right, Shawn.” John quietly assured him with a smile, leaning over to kiss Noel’s temple.


“Oh! I almost forgot to tell you!” Trish eyes lit up, somewhat changing the topic. “The caterers called today and I picked out the PERFECT wedding cake!”


“Did you really?” Noel asked politely, smiling at her friend’s enthusiasm.


Shawn couldn’t even follow the conversation as they went back and forth about cakes, wedding dresses, flowers. His head really started spinning when Noel mentioned a boutique that specialized in silverware. “Wait… you mean you know a place that sells forks and spoons? Nothin’ else?”


She giggled, trying not too but couldn’t help herself. “Welcome to the big city, Shawn.”


John was downright amused by all this, knowing what the girls were talking about even if they were both way out of league, Noel especially. “There’s a place where they sell strictly underwear too.” He teased.


Trish was giggling too hard to do much else.


“On a change of topic…” Noel said, finishing her wine and waved off the waiter when he tried to refill her glass. “I find myself in need of a lawyer.” She smiled sweetly when Trish’ eyebrow raised. “I have a legal team assembled but I need a chief of staff. Of course the pay and benefits would be triple what the usual divorce attorney makes.”


Shawn’s jaw dropped.


Trish’ brown eyes widened, her mind quickly doing the math and swallowed hard; feeling Shawn squeezing her hand. “Well… I, I don’t know what to say.”


“You’ll find a dossier on your desk first thing in the morning.” Noel promised with a smile. “Look it over and get back to me. There isn’t a rush.”


“You just offered her a job?”




“And you pay how much?” Shawn snorted into his wine when Noel casually rattled off a figure. “Lord woman, how much money do you have?”


“Aw Shawn, don’t worry, I’ll make sure you go to best nursing home.”


John tried not to laugh.


“Noel! Trish! Our favorite golden girls!”


Shawn blinked as a camera went off on the four of them.


Noel exchanged looks with Trish. “We’re trying to enjoy a meal if you don’t mind.”


“Oh just give us a little comment for the paper, what’s your opinion on our new mayor?”


“Buzz off.” Trish rolled her eyes, never having had a problem being rude to the press; especially since this was supposed to be a peaceful evening.


Not to mention Noel had been harassed plenty since the untimely murder of her drug dealing husband.\


When the reporter didn’t budge however, John stood up; looking dangerous even in his casual suit. “You heard her.” He growled, smirking when the reporter took off and dropped back down; glancing at Noel. “Now where were we?”


“Considering I’m getting ready to do a talk show circuit next month to promote my foundation, that probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation.” Noel said, though she was also smiling amusement; leaning over to kiss him. “Dessert?”


“Oh dear Christ…” Shawn groaned, laughing when Trish perked up. “Darlin’, you can have ‘dessert’ later, let’s finish our meal, hmm?”


Noel was ready for the check.


She leaned back in her chair and watched as the trio conversed, catching John’s eyes and flashed him a slow; private smile that made his blue eyes twinkle with wicked intentions.


How beautiful was life? A year ago Noel would have gladly gone to her death if not for her daughter. Now she was a wealthy widow, her daughter was happy as a lark and life had moved on. She was even in love with a man who respected her and treated her and Cadence like gold.


She was reunited with her brother even though he was fixing to marry her best friend which was still odd. It was surreal how things had finally worked out.


After years of living in hell, it was like she had been granted a second chance and she wasn’t going to waste a precious second of it.