Ransom Bonus

Cassie and baker’s story

Cassie

“She’s safe,” I say as I hang up the phone.

Baker comes for me, his arms outstretched. “Thank God,” he says, and right before I fall into his arms, I step back.  It would be so easy to fall into the comfort of his arms. He’s my rock, the one that’s always by my side, cheering me on and holding me up. Since I found out that she was missing, Baker was the first person I called. He’s my husband, and he’s also Brooklyn and my stepbrother. It’s a long story, but we’re past it now. That’s not the reason I’m not running into his arms.

“You should probably go, huh? Get back to work?”

Surprised, he shakes his head. “I’m not leaving you, Cass. Did they catch the guys?”

I shake my head, and he throws his hands up. “Brooklyn was kidnapped tonight, and you think I’m just going to leave you here by yourself?”

I shrug my shoulders. I don’t know what to think anymore. “I don’t know, Baker. You’re at work all the time. Even when you’re here, you’re not here. You haven’t touched me…” I sob and turn to go. He can stay if he wants, but I’m not going to stand here in the same room with him, not thinking what I’m thinking.

“Cassie, wait, I don’t understand.”

I throw my hand up. “You’re different, Baker. You. Are. Different. I’ve tried to figure it out and pinpoint when it happened.” I cross my arms over my chest. “It was when you got your new partner. Ever since then… I don’t know… you’re different.”

He comes to me and doesn’t touch me. That in itself is weird and different. He’s always touching me. If we’re in the same room together, he has his hands on me. But not lately. Sometimes I feel like he’s avoiding me.

He runs his hands through his hair. “She’s not my partner anymore.”

I don’t understand. He never said anything. “Since when?”

He clears his throat. “A few weeks ago.”

I put my hands on my hips and look at him. Really look at him. He’s tired-looking and stressed out. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

He shrugs, and then I know. The words taste rancid just saying them. “Did something happen with you and her?”

He shakes his head, coming for me again. “It’s not what you think, Cass.”

I point at him. He’s always been charming, but he’s an honest man. Up until now, I would have said the best man. Now I don’t know what to think. “Did something happen between you and your partner?”

Pain is burrowed on his face. “Yes.”

I fall forward, my hands on my knees. The room starts to spin, and I know that my life will never be the same again. My husband, the love of my life, the man who has promised to love me forever, has cheated on me. I point to the front door. “Go.”

“I’m not leaving you. We have to talk about this, Cassie.”

Disgusted, I can’t even raise my head to look at him. “I can’t talk to you right now. Please go.”

I start to sob, and I can’t stop. I see his feet as he comes close, but I get up and run from the room, slamming the bedroom door behind me. How could he do this to me? How could he do this to us?

Brooklyn

“Thanks for coming out with me today,” I say, unable to hide the worry from my face. My well-put-together sister has seemingly fallen apart.

She just grunts at me, tugging at the long-sleeved shirt she has on. “I’m not really in the mood for a manicure and pedicure today, sis.”

I just shake my head. I swear she’s the most stubborn woman on the planet. “Tough. You’re here now, and you’re stuck with me.”

“So you and the boss man, huh?”

I nod, looking at the engagement ring on my finger. It was quick, and I was a little surprised to find out that he’d had the ring since the day he hired me. “Yep, it looks like it.” I know I shouldn’t be this happy, but I can’t seem to wipe the smile off my face.

She scrunches up her nose. “Can you tone it down a little? Your chipperness is a little too loud.”

I laugh because even though she’s in a bad mood, she’s still going to use words that aren’t even words. “Chipperness is not a word.”

She shrugs, holding her hands and feet out, laying her head back on the chair. “Prove it.”

The techs work between us, and I try to figure out where to start.

Cassie breaks the silence. “I’m happy for you, ya know? I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

I nod. “I know, Cass. You’re just having a rough time right now. It’s going to work out. I know it is.”

“Baker put you up to this, didn’t he?”

I shrug. I didn’t want to get in the middle of it, but I sort of had to. “He said you refused to talk to him.”

She sits up and leans over the arm of her chair. She’s so hurt that it breaks my heart for her. It makes me feel guilty for being so happy right now. “Did he tell you that he cheated on me?”

I purse my lips. “He didn’t cheat on you.”

She sits back, her mouth wide open. “I was there, Brook. He said something happened.”

I nod. “Yep, and something did happen.”

She’s staring at me with a fierce look on her face. I know Cassie, and I know she’s not going to hear anything until she’s good and ready.

“What are you saying, sis?”

I shake my head as the techs look at me. No doubt they’re just as involved and curious about this conversation as Cassie is. “I’m saying your husband loves you. Talk to him.”

Baker

I get the call at three-thirty. “She’s at home, ready to talk.”

I choke back a sob. Fuck! “Thank you, Brook. Really.”

“Don’t hurt her, Baker. If I thought for a minute that…”

“I promise you. I’m going to prove it to her.”

Brooklyn sighs over the phone. “Fine. Make sure you fix this. I hate seeing two people that I love hurting like this.”

“I know. I’ll fix it.” I hang up with Brooklyn and drive over the speed limit through Whiskey Run to get home. I barely get the car parked and I’m up the front steps, tripping over my own feet to get into the door.

Cassie is sitting calmly, her hands resting on her lap. She’s looking at me, but the warmth is gone. Fuck, I want it back. I should have come clean in the beginning of all this.

I squat down in front of her and grab onto her hand. “Just hear me out.”

She nods but still doesn’t say a word.

I look at her, wishing that she would just believe me without going through all this. But I know I’ve seemed guilty the last few weeks. It’s probably because I know I should have told her before now.

I grab the TV remote and turn on the television and then go to my phone to open the recording.

“I’m not going to sit here and watch TV with you, Baker. Talk to me.”

I cover her knee with my hand. “Now listen. I’m going to play you something, but I need you to promise me that you’ll watch it until the end.”

Her eyes are fearful, and she shakes her head. Her hand clutches her heart. “I’m not watching you with another woman. I can’t do it, Baker. I won’t.”

“I know I haven’t given you a reason lately, but please trust me.”

She bites her lower lip and turns to the television.

I hit the screenshare button and then hit play.

My body cam video starts to play. I move to sit on the couch next to Cassie, only so if she tries to run, I can stop her.

The video plays, and it shows my ex-partner, Charlotte, and me standing in downtown Whiskey Run, leaning against a car. We were outside the department in the alley where the extra parking is, waiting on the next shift to show up.

Charlotte moves to stand in front of me, and even though she’s not close, it’s obvious that I try to put some distance between us.

“So how long have you been married anyway?”

“Seven years,” I reply. I look at my watch, and I remember that I was thinking I was ready to get home. I was missing Cassie because she had already left for her job as a teacher when I got up for work this morning.

Charlotte’s eyes get big. Watching her on the big screen and knowing what I know now, I wish I had paid attention to the clues. It would have saved a lot of time and heartache. “Seven years! Wow that’s a long time to be with one woman, isn’t it?”

Cassie gasps and looks at me. I reach for her hand and point back to the television, not wanting her to miss a thing.

I can hear my chuckle. “Seventy years won’t be enough with my Cassie.”

Charlotte’s nose curls up. “Is she the only woman you’ve been with? Was there anyone before her?”

I cross my arms over my chest, but thank God I didn’t cover the camera. “Charlotte, I’m not comfortable talking to you about this.”

She starts to laugh. “Oh my God, she is the only one. Have you ever kissed anyone else?”

At this point I was ignoring her, ready to get away, looking up and down the street, hoping the guys would get here soon.  I wasn’t ready at all for what was coming.

Charlotte gets a look on her face, gets on her tiptoes, and puts her lips to mine. I grab her by the shoulders and push her away, but the damage is done.

The video shows me walking away. I fast forward it, and it shows me sitting at my desk with Sheriff Cooper. “I had to get his permission to show you this, but after he watched it and knew what was going on, he knew I had to show you.”

I push play, and it’s me sitting across from the sheriff, telling him I needed a new partner. The sheriff argued with me about it, but when I threatened to quit, he agreed.

When it’s over, I stop the recording and look at Cassie.

Her eyes are wide staring at me, and she busts into tears. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I put my hands on her shoulders. “Cassie, another woman kissed me. I was ashamed, and even though I never meant to, I betrayed you. I was so scared… of losing you, of losing what we have. But I should have told you because the guilt has been eating away at me.”

I get down on my knees and lean on her legs. My hands are on her hips. “Please, Cassie. I love you.  I would never betray you. I love you too much.”

She’s crying, and she slides down onto my lap. “I’m so sorry, Baker. I can’t believe I did this. I should have listened to you.”

“It’s okay,” I tell her, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I wouldn’t have given up on us, sweetie. One way or another, I would have found a way…” I shake my head, hating the thought of losing her. “You’re mine, do you understand now? You were my first, and you’ll be my last.”

She wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes me tight, her curves pressed against me. She rubs against me. “You were my first, and you’ll be my last.”

I stand up, pulling her up to her feet and then picking her up in my arms. “How about being mine right now?”

She nods. “Always. I’ll be yours always. I’m sorry I doubted you.”

I stride across the room toward our bedroom with Cassie in my arms. “It’s okay. I know I was acting guilty…. I felt guilty. I don’t ever want to kiss anyone but you.”

Her eyes widen. “I’m good with that… and maybe our daughter’s. She’s okay for you to kiss too.”

Her hand is covering her flat belly. She’s smiling, and I almost trip on my feet. I sit down on the edge of the bed. “Are you—? Are we—?” I ask.

She nods, resting her head against mine. “Yes. We’re having a baby.”

I kiss her, putting everything I have into that kiss. She’s my wife, my love, my everything. “Fuck, I love you,” I whisper against her lips.

She pulls back, her eyebrows raised. “Prove it.”

And I do just that. I show her over and over, all night long, what she means to me.