Skyheart Ranch

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Katie pulled Cash into the office, leaving Hank and Rocky, who had walked back out to the foyer, to glower at Senator Crawley and his lawyers. Katie shut the door behind her, then turned to face Cash.

“What’s going on, angel? Is it too much, having him here? I’ll go kick them all out.” Cash turned toward the door, but Katie grabbed his arm, trying not to giggle.

“That’s not necessary,” she said. “But thank you. I want to ask you something, but I’d like to preface it by saying I’m not going to get mad.”

“Okay?” Cash frowned, looking confused.

“You’ve already put your lawyers on this, haven't you? They’re already working on my divorce.” Cash’s eyes widened, then he blushed and looked at the floor.

“I...”, Cash trailed off, then cleared his throat. “I didn’t wanna tell you until I was sure we could do it. Get you the divorce and make sure Crawley never found out where you were. I wanted you protected. I’m real sorry I didn’t tell you, I know I should-”.

Katie cut Cash off by kissing him. He gently wrapped his arms around her, careful not to accidentally press on any healing bruises. When Katie pulled back, she smiled sweetly up at Cash.

“Thank you,” Katie said.

“You’re not mad?”

“I’m...”. Katie paused, trying to think of the right word. “I’m slightly irritated you didn’t talk to me about it, but I also know I probably would have tried to talk you out of it if I knew. All I would have been thinking about was Damien finding me, not getting the divorce. But next time we need to make big decisions, you tell me about them. We’re a team and we need to make decisions together.”

“Yes ma’am,” Cash replied, making Katie laugh. She slightly hit his arm. “How’d you know? That, you know, I told my lawyers.”

“Because no matter how good a lawyer is, they’re not going to drop everything and come do battle on a case they know nothing about. Since they agreed to come as soon as you called, that means they already have information they know will help.”

“You’re kind of a genius, you know that?” Cash said, smiling and wrapping his arms around Katie.

“Well, I am a member of Mensa,” Katie retorted.

“Shut up, seriously?” Cash looked very impressed, making Katie laugh.

“It’s really not a big deal. You take a test, they send you a card. You can pay membership dues for extra ‘benefits’ or whatever, but honestly, I only took the test because my brother dared me to.”

“Wait,” Cash said, “you got into Mensa when you were younger than 16?”

“Seriously not a big deal,” Katie said, grabbing Cash’s hand. “Now, c’mon, let’s make sure Rocky hasn’t challenged the Senator to a duel.”

Cash laughed and opened the door, walking Katie back to the front of the house. Senator Crawley and his lawyers were sitting stiffly in the dining room, not touching any of the food Ruby had put out. Rocky and Hank were seated at a different table, both sets of arms crossed, identical scowls on their faces. Katie didn’t see Ruby.

“I’m going to go find Ruby. You go join...whatever the hell that is,” Katie said, waving her hand in Rocky and Hank’s general direction.

“Manly staring contest,” Cash replied with zero irony. Katie laughed and reached down, squeezing his hand, something Senator Crawley took note of and he turned to whisper to one of his lawyers. This just confirmed Katie’s suspicions that the Senator hadn’t spoken to Damien at all or he’d already know about Katie and Cash’s relationship.

She shook her head and left, popping her head into the kitchen and finding Ruby surrounded by flour, sugar, and a tableful of ingredients Katie couldn’t identify. Milk and eggs were out and Ruby was furiously stirring a big bowl of something that looked like batter. Maybe.

“Angry cooking?” Katie asked, walking over to the ingredient-covered kitchen island. Ruby looked up and gave Katie a lopsided smile.

“More like rage cooking. It’s either this or join the glare-off.”

“Mm, you noticed it too,” Katie said, sitting on one of the stools. “It’s probably a good thing no one is armed. At least inside the house.” Katie glanced outside and saw that none of the Skyheart hands had left the porch. It actually looked like there were more of them than before.

“I’m sorry about all of this,” Katie said, looking down at her hands.

“What’re you talking about, sugar?” Ruby asked, confused. “None of this is your fault.”

“If I hadn’t married Damien, then none of this-”.

“No, no, no,” Ruby said, putting down the bowl and joining Katie on her side of the kitchen island. He took her hands in his. “Sugar, I wish with all my heart you could have been spared everything you went through. Your family, Crawley, his family. But remember this: you wouldn’t be here right now if you hadn’t been forced to go through all that pain and sadness and ugliness. You managed to survive it all and come here. Right where you belong.”

“Thank you,” Katie said, hugging Ruby with her good arm. Ruby gave Katie his dazzling smile and returned to his giant bowl of...something.

“Of course, sugar. That’s what I’m here for. To dispense much needed advice and make a ton a baked goods.” Katie laughed. She stayed in the kitchen with Ruby until another set of SUVs, two this time, came down the driveway.

“Friends?” Ruby asked.

“I don’t see any government plates, so hopefully.” Katie and Ruby watched as the car doors opened and four people stepped out, a man in a black suit and three women in tasteful pantsuits, one light grey, one navy blue, and one a light lavender. Cash walked to the front door and motioned to Katie to join him.

“If you’ll excuse us for just one minute,” Cash said, addressing the whole room. Without waiting for a response, Cash led Katie outside, where the hands all glanced at him. He gave them a slight nod and they all lowered their guns, keeping an eye on the Senator’s security team. Cash’s lawyers came up the front porch steps, an elegant woman in her sixties leading the way.

“Mr. Buchanan.” Cash shook her outstretched hand with a smile.

“Ms. Talbot, thank you for coming on such short notice.”

“Of course,” Ms. Talbot said, turning her attention to Katie and offering her hand. “You must be Ms. Beauchamp.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Katie said, shaking her hand. “Thank you so much for coming.”

“Of course,” Ms. Talbot said, her short, silver hair glistening in the sun and highlighting her grey pantsuit. “My firm doesn’t typically deal in divorces, but Mr. Buchanan is a valued member of the firm’s family. When he contacted me about your situation and my team researched the dropped criminal charges in Chicago, well... Let’s just say it was a rather easy decision to take on this case.”

“Please, come in,” Cash said, opening the door. He led the four new lawyers inside, all of whom stopped to shake Katie’s hand and give her a brief smile.

‘Well, I see this ending one of two ways: I get my divorce or an ugly smear campaign against me starts. Or, I suppose Ruby could just poison Senator Crawley. ... He probably shouldn’t, though.’ Katie smiled at the hands on the porch before closing the front door.

‘Here we go...’.

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