Caroline awoke out of a fitful sleep. The moon was streaming through the curtains. She tried to pinpoint what had woken her up this time. There was a scraping of a chair from below and footsteps. Frank must be home. She got out of bed, pulled on her silk robe and tiptoed to her door. She peered into the dark hallway and saw soft light coming up from downstairs. Voices murmured below. He wasn’t alone. Caroline slowly went down the hall and crouched by the stairs to listen.
“You should stop by my office in a week or so and I’ll remove the stitches. In the meantime, keep it clean and dry,” a man’s voice said.
Stitches? Caroline wondered. How could Frank have gotten hurt? He always has bodyguards…unless that man was talking to someone else. Her throat tightened and she rushed down the stairs silently. She paused outside the ajar study door. Frank didn’t like her meddling with his business. But was this business? She took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Frank looked up as she entered. The doctor was wrapping gauze around his arm.
“What happened?” she gasped.
“It’s just a scratch,” Frank said. He picked up his tumbler of whiskey and took a swig.
“I’d prefer if you’d refrain from alcohol, Mr. Sicero,” the doctor said as he tied the bandage.
“That’ll be all, doctor,” Frank said sternly, “Jack, will you see the good doctor out? I won’t be needing you until tomorrow.” Jack stepped out from behind the door and waited for the doctor to quickly gather his things. They pushed past Caroline as she still stood open mouthed by the door. Jack tipped his hat to her as he left. The front door closed behind them and latched.
“What is going on? What happened to you?” Caroline swept across the room, her eyes moved away from his bandages and studied his face for answers. Then she smelled it. The cloves burned her nostrils. It was her perfume. Frank saw the recognition flash on her face as she pulled away abruptly.
“I told you to fix this.” Her voice was deep and even, the venom almost visibly dripped from her words as they floated across the divide between them.
“Believe me, baby, it’s over. I went to put an end to it and she fucking shot me! I’m lucky to still be alive!” Frank was passionate. It was a lie, but he needed it to be true. There was no chance of reconciling with Bea now. The whole relationship had been tempestuous. The only way it could end was by going down in flames. Caroline stood unmoved in front of him. Level headed, Caroline with the steady trigger finger even in the midst of a chaotic bank robbery. If she had shot Frank, she wouldn’t have missed. Straight through the heart and he’d be a goner. He probably wouldn’t even know he’d been shot.
“It…is…over,” he repeated. Frank took another drink and set the glass on the desk. Caroline’s lips pursed as she considered what he said. She reached over and picked up his glass. She crossed the room to the decanter and refilled it. She took a solid drink herself before turning around and staring at him.
“So she really shot you, huh?”
Frank slowly nodded. Caroline let out a small cough, then another. Frank suddenly realized she was laughing at him. Her lips parted to reveal her white teeth as her chuckle grew to outrageous laughter. She was so delighted that she stamped her foot and bent over double with laughter. She clutched the back of a chair as she tried to catch her breath. Her belly ached, but she could barely contain herself. A glance over at the shaken and gloomy Frank was enough to set her off again. She finally made it across the room with the whiskey glass and plunked it down in front of him. She snorted as she tried to stifle herself. Frank stared at her in disbelief.
“Caroline…get ahold of yourself,” he said. Frank snatched up the whiskey and drained the glass. Caroline managed to restrain herself.
“How can I? You outdid yourself, Frank. You really did,” she folded her arms. “You just had to go fuck a complete whack job.”
“Well I fucked you, didn’t I?” Frank jabbed back. Caroline shot him a look. The grin had fallen off her face.
“So I suppose you think you can stay here?” she asked.
“Can’t I? I paid for the damn house and all the furniture in it,” he pointed out.
“Fine, sleep where ever you’d like in the house.” Caroline went to the door and glared back at him. Frank stared back at her, his shoulders slumped. Circles under his eyes. A broken man. He didn’t like to see that hatred and scorn in her eyes, even though he deserved it. He wanted her to look at him like she used to.
“Don’t be like that, Caroline,” Frank said softly. Her head tilted slightly at the tone of his voice. He looked helpless and hopeless. “I know I fucked up. Believe me, I know.” She looked down at the carpet. Deep inside, she still loved him, but it was wrapped up in the pain and heartbreak he caused. She had survived years with a broken heart before. Cylus had crushed her. Frank glued it back together, but he grew careless with it and now they were stuck. Staring at each other across a dim study in the middle of the night. Both wounded.
“Are you coming to bed?” she asked. Frank’s heart quickened with hope.
“Yes, I’ll be along in a minute,” he replied. Caroline nodded. She left and climbed the stairs. She pulled the blankets around her and stared at the moonlight as it settled on the bureau. The door creaked behind her and Frank shuffled around undressing. She felt the mattress depress as he climbed in. She closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep. She felt him moving trying to get comfortable.
She shushed him softly and he froze. Caroline turned over and looked at him. She reached out and combed his hair behind his ear with her fingers. He rolled closer and rested his head on her chest. She wrapped her arm around his neck and kept playing with his hair as she shushed him again. With a long sigh he fell asleep listening to her heartbeat. Caroline laid awake and wondered whether two wrongs could ever make a right.