Cady knew she was in trouble.
Unlocking the front door, she found Jameson waiting at the dining room table, his rigid figure an indication of how tightly strung his emotions were. His broad shoulders vibrated with tension. With anger.
Taking a deep breath, Cady dropped her purse on the couch and walked further into the room but kept a healthy distance between Jameson and herself. The waves of fury emanating from him had her nerves on edge, a warning to Cady that something was wrong. Very wrong. With a wary eye locked on her husband, she scanned the room for Montgomery. He normally greeted her at the door, his fluffy tail wagging a happy greeting.
“You’re home early,” she commented quietly, her breath hitching in her throat. She listened anxiously for sounds in the house, some clue to where Montgomery was. She desperately wanted to ask, but Jameson hated the dog with a passion and his mood was already black. Perhaps it was best if she navigated the mess she was in first, searched for Montgomery later.
For a minute, she wasn’t sure he was going to answer, and the silence stretched out between them, increasing the tension. Cady glanced uneasily at her purse, wondering if she should turn tail and run.
His words made her jump. There had been a time, a few years ago, when that same voice had filled her with an overwhelming sense of security. Now it had a much different effect and Cady cringed. “Yes. I’m sorry. I had a cake to finish and it took a little longer than I expected.”
Jameson’s shoulders tensed, and his hands scrunched into fists. “Cakes. It’s always the cakes.” He held up a page torn from the newspaper. “Fucking cakes,” he sneered. “Cady Caldwell. The Queen of Cakes.”
He spat her name as if it was a curse and Cady considered her options. Should she admit to knowledge of the newspaper report, or plead ignorance? Which one would work? Jameson’s angry stare, his brown eyes penetrating, made it hard to decide. “Why don’t we go out for supper?” Cady suggested, deciding avoidance might be best. Perhaps he could be sidetracked – though the whisky bottle and empty glass beside it suggested it was already too late. Jameson had been drinking, and given the nearly empty bottle, he’d been at it for a while. Certainly, long enough to work up into a rage.
He got to his feet, still clutching the newspaper in his fist. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
Cady shook her head, her eyes wide. She’d been so careful. When Mario decided to enter her cake in the prestigious Decorators of America competition, he’d promised to keep her name out of it. She didn’t need the attention, not when Jameson was so incredibly jealous. When Mario showed her the newspaper this morning, his blue eyes filled with regret, Cady knew it had been a terrible mistake. True to Mario’s promise, the newspaper hadn’t used her name, but what she’d assumed would take up a few lines in the back pages turned out to be front-page news. ‘Mario’s Bakery Takes out Prestigious Gold Medal for a Sublime Creation’. It went on to describe the cake and its decoration at length, and the prestige which came from one of San Francisco’s favorite bakeries scooping the gold medal out from under the noses of other, more famous bakeries throughout the States. They hadn’t mentioned her name, but the subtle hint about the creator being ‘the wife of a world-renowned chef’ was enough to cause overwhelming damage.
Jameson stepped towards her, his movements slow, measured, his eyes burning with hatred. “You smart ass bitch. You’re throwing my failure in my face!”
Cady twisted her head rapidly from side to side, backing away. “No Jameson… that’s not true… you aren’t a failure…”
“Offering fake sympathy when those bastards overlooked me for the third Michelin star, pretending to care! I bet you were laughing behind my back, the whole time. You’re nothing without me! You slap a bit of icing on a cake and you win a fucking award for it! Thought you were clever, not giving them your name? You must think I’m a damned fool. It could only be your doing; that idiot you work for is such a dolt, it couldn’t possibly have been his work. You’re going to wish you were dead by the time I’ve finished with you!”
Cady panicked, making a dash for the door even knowing it was a useless endeavor. She shouldn’t have come inside, should have driven straight to Harry’s when she saw Jameson’s car in the driveway. She could have come up with some excuse for visiting, even though she hadn’t seen Harry for nearly six months. Jameson’s jealous rages had isolated her from everyone, using her desperation for his financial help as a counterweight to everything he demanded.
He wrapped one hand around her arm and wrenched Cady backwards. She struggled desperately to escape, but he was stronger. He wrapped his arms around her waist and Cady kicked and struggled when he dragged her through the house, thrusting her down into the basement. She caught her ankle on a step as she fell, and it wrenched painfully. Any hope of escape was gone and when Cady hit the cold concrete floor, she curled into a ball, making herself into as small a target as possible.
The first kick created a wellspring of agony in her lower back, convincing Cady her kidneys had exploded. The second kick cracked a couple of ribs. Jameson resorted to using his fists, punching Cady’s face until she was seeing stars. Her screams were reduced to horrified whimpers, and then little moans as her body became a ball of incessant pain. Jameson clutched her shoulders, lifting her head again and again, slamming her against the unforgiving concrete. He stopped abruptly, using a knife to tear her shirt away, his eyes filled with fury. The knife flicked through her bra, catching her skin when he cut through the fragile lace and Cady whimpered. “You’re an ungrateful little whore. You used me from the beginning,” Jameson muttered, shifting his attention to her jeans.
She tried to see past the stars inhibiting her sight. When Jameson came into focus, she watched anxiously when he lit a cigarette, lowering it from his lips to blow against the smoldering end, to make the ash redden.
He brought the burning cigarette down and pressed the tip of it against her naked breast. Cady screamed and screamed, the lancing pain in her head surpassed by the pain as her skin burned. Her last conscious thought, as the world darkened around her was that Jameson was going to exceed his plan. He’d announced she was going to wish she were dead.
Cady thought she probably was dead.