Ben and I arrived at the shop. The whole place was engulfed in flames and the Mayor was standing next the Sheriff. A smug look decorated his features and at that point, I wanted nothing more than to break his nose. I’ve never broken anyone’s nose before. I stood there, shaking with anger at him when the Sheriff came up to me. I didn’t hear him talking to me until Ben pulled me around so I couldn’t see the Mayor anymore. It turns out I was making every car in the parking lot shake and the metal groan. If Ben hadn’t pulled me around, I might have totally lost my temper. I owe him for that.
“Marlowe, I’m sorry.” The Sheriff said.
I shook my head at him. “Not your fault.”
“It kind of is. We released Steve this morning on bail. His father put up the money.”
I sighed and leaned in to Ben, laying my head on his chest.
“Did he do this?”
The Sheriff nodded. “There was a note in spray paint in the office before it went up. The firefighters who went in saw it on the wall.”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was so upset, angry, distraught that I couldn’t find the words. So I nodded.
“Was he still here when you arrived?” Ben asked.
The Sheriff shook his head. “I’ve got patrol officers looking for him, but we haven’t found him yet.”
I finally spoke up and looked the Sheriff in the eye. “Eric, I want to take out a restraining order on him and his entire family. I don’t want them near my place of business, my home or within one hundred and fifty yards of me.”
The Sheriff sighed. “I thought that’s what you’d want. I’ll have the paperwork for you in the morning.”
I nodded at him. “That family picked the wrong person to bully. I will not be cowed.”
Ben ran his hand over my back and I could feel it through my coat. I buried my face in to his chest to steady myself.
“I’m going to talk with the lawyers after the holiday about all of this, see what they have to say.” I said to Ben.
Ben sighed. “Okay. I’m with you, whatever comes our way.”
I nodded. “I want out of here. Eric, do you need us here?”
The Sheriff shook his head. “No. You can go. I’ll send the Mayor away, make sure that he doesn’t come near you or the house.”
“Miles, Mark, Miss Maggie and Murphy are on that list as well. They will not be harmed because they’re family.” Ben said before I could.
“You’re still coming for Thanksgiving, right?” I asked the Sheriff. He nodded. “Good. We’ll save you a place. The Twins and your sister-in-law too.”
“She’s going back home. The Twins are too much for her.” The Sheriff said with a small smile.
I smiled back at him. There were four of us in the house and they wore us all out. Ben tugged on my shoulders and we walked together back to his car. We got inside and with one last look at my shop, left the yard and headed home.
“Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.” Ben said as he picked up my hand.
I was embarrassed that it was shaking. “I wanted to kill him tonight. drive a hunk of metal straight through his black heart and leave him there.”
Ben jolted at my tone and sighed. “Vengeance gets you no where, habibi.”
“I know that. I didn’t do it, did I? But I wanted to.” I gripped his hand tight and looked up at him. “Will you marry me?”
Ben nearly ran off the road. He brought the car back under control and looked at me. “You couldn’t wait four more days?”
I laughed. “No.”
Ben huffed. “I had it all planned for Thursday and you go and do this while you’re all keyed up and angry.”
I smiled up at him. “I’m angry, yes. I no longer want to kill him though. I want to marry you and give him a the finger by living happily together.”
Ben tapped his fingers on the wheel as he looked at me. “No.”
My face fell and I looked down at my seat. “Oh. Okay.”
“You’re not understanding me. No, I’m not living happily with you just to give him the finger. I want to live happily with you because you want to live with me. You’re it, Marlowe. There’s been no one else I love as much as I love you.”
I was shocked. I looked up at him.
“So my answer is no. Not until its me you want. I won’t put up with being someone’s revenge goal.”
He started the car and we headed for home. I sat in the seat looking at him, heart hurting. I’d fucked up.
“I love you.” I said to him as we pulled in to the driveway.
“I love you, Marlowe. I always will.” Ben said as he pulled in to the garage and got out.
I sat in my seat a while longer, thinking. Ben opened up my door for me and grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the car. I made frustrated noises because I’d forgotten to take the seat belt off. While I fiddled with getting the belt off, Ben knelt next to the car. When I’d gotten it undone and swung my legs out of the car, Ben moved between them and cupped my face in his hands.
“I need to know, right now, why you’re in this relationship, because if it’s just for giving that man the finger, I want out.”
It hurt to hear him say it, but I understood why. I’d been so infuriated by that man I’d made a stupid mistake. I looked him in the eye and there were tears in my eyes. My own soon filled. I leaned forward and laid my forehead against his.
“I love you.” My voice was raw and heavy with the tears that I wanted to let out, but I couldn’t just yet. “Just you. No one else. I was angry earlier and I let it fuel my words. I’m sorry.”
Ben kissed me, but stayed silent.
“There won’t be anyone but you. I can’t promise eternity, but I can promise my life. As long as I’m with you, there will be no one else.” I opened my eyes and looked in to his again.
Ben’s eyes were closed. The tears I didn’t want to let come were over flowing and I couldn’t stop them. When he finally opened his eyes and then spoke, his voice was very raw and he croaked out the words to me.
“I’m not going to ask you yet. We need to put some time in between tonight and what happened, but I’m not going anywhere. You’re stuck with me.” With that Ben kissed me and dragged me up and out of the car. He closed and locked it, reached for my hand and linked my fingers with his. Together we walked in to the house to face the questions that would be coming from all members of the house. Even the dogs.
It didn’t really matter if their question was “Hey, you gonna feed me?”