E. J. Lace
“Ross, why wouldn’t you speak to me? What is going on? Where is my husband?” I demand, watching him vomit again.
Aurora rubs his back, placating him, but I can’t be bothered by the theatrics.
“I don’t have time for this. Just tell me what is going on,” I snap, rolling my eyes.
Ross wretches again, gripping my office trash can. Brittany snaps her phone into her pocket and comes closer.
“What the hell is going on?” she asks, and I look from her to Ross.
“Where in the fudge is my husband?” I snap my fingers, and Ross’s eyes meet mine.
“Ben?” Brittany asks, crinkling her brows. “What the hell is happening here?”
I look over Ross’s weeping body, and I feel a slight pain of guilt for being so harsh on him.
Tears well up in his eyes; he looks distraught.
“What happened? What aren’t you telling me?” I cry as I look frantically around the house, waving my hands.
“Mari,” Aurora says for the first time. “I’m so sorry.”
She’s barely spoken to me the entire time she’s dated Ross, but I look her over, waiting for her to give me some answers.
“Sorry for what? I don’t understand.” I stomp my foot.
“Ben is gone,” Ross wails as he wretches, gripping the trash can.
I choke back a sob. “What do you mean he is gone?”
“We went to the gym,” Ross cries, holding back another heave. “I wanted to show Aurora a few moves.”
“And?” I insist, losing all patience.
“And there was something wrong. We found blood stains on the floor mats,” Ross stammers.
“Blood stains?” I shake my head, not understanding.
“Yes, and the sliding glass door was shattered,” Aurora offers sadly.
“What?” I pace. This can’t be right. They are wrong. Something doesn’t make sense.
“I ran out the door, and I saw Ben’s truck. His tires had been slashed. Someone took him, Mari. I’m so sorry.” He weeps as he vomits.
“We couldn’t find him anywhere,” Aurora says softly, patting Ross’s back.
“No, this makes no sense. He was just downstairs, in our home. How can this be?” I cry, grabbing my phone.
I call Ben over and over, and each time, I get his voicemail, but it says his mailbox is full.
“What is it?” Ross asks with a raised brow.
“His phone is off,” I snap, closing my phone.
“Then, he really is gone. Someone took him. Someone came for him,” Ross groans, a soft breath escaping his lips.
“Apparently so,” Aurora sighs, tears in her eyes.
“Apparently so? Who would do this? Why would they? I don’t understand,” I snap, losing all self-control.
“What’s going on?” Erik comes stumbling into my office, looking a little too drunk for noon.
“It’s Ben. Someone has taken him,” Ross gulps, gripping the trash can.
“What’s this now?” Stevie comes trampling in.
“Look.” Ross shoves his hands in the direction of the gym. “I’ll show you if you don’t believe me. See for yourself.”
We follow him.
We see broken glass and blood, and my heart leaps into my throat.
“No, it can’t be.” My lips quiver as my hands go to my mouth.
“What the fuck is going on?” Brittany comes barging into the gym.
“Ben has been taken. Someone abducted him,” Aurora tells her flatly.
“Excuse me?” She looks taken aback as her eyes scan the room.
“All evidence shows that someone came into the house and stole him away,” Ross sobs, and tears spill down his cheeks.
“He was my brother, my friend,” Ross wails.
“What the fuck is wrong with him?” Brittany snaps.
“He’s had too much to drink. We went to brunch and had too many mimosas.” Aurora shrugs, shaking her head.
“We never thought anything so serious would happen on a Sunday. We were just trying to have some fun.” Aurora sniffles.
I shake my head, looking at my family.
“I’m so sorry, you guys. Mari, please forgive me,” Ross weeps, wiping his mouth.
“Between the booze and the blood, he got sick. It’s no wonder. How can this be?” Aurora chokes, looking around the gym.
“That explains all the vomit,” I sigh, shrugging and looking at Ross with mercy in my heart.
“I’m so sorry, Mari,” he whines, and I nod.
I know he means well, but I just don’t have time to deal with drunks.
I look at my family, concern swelling in my chest.
“What are we going to do? Should we call the cops?” I ask them pointedly.
“No, don’t do that. They never help. They only make things worse,” Brittany says, squaring her shoulders.
“I called for him. I yelled his name, but he didn’t answer.” Ross hiccups.
“It’s okay, Ross. It’s not your fault,” Erik says, patting his back.
“Yeah, bro, you did the best you could. You are not to blame,” Stevie says with a shrug, looking thoroughly confused.
“He’s really gone?” Erik asks, looking around at the broken glass and blood.
“He’s not here,” Aurora assures him, gesturing at the mess as proof.
“Oh, fuck.” Erik assesses the broken slider and grips his temples.
“What does this mean?” His eyes scan across mine before they fall on Brittany.
“It means somebody fucked with the wrong person. The wrong family.” Brittany makes fists at her side.
At this moment, I love her dearly. She is always so strong. She always knows what to do.
Even when I don’t.
Even when all hope is lost, she is my salvation.
She is my strength.
As I examine the pieces of broken glass and blood, my heart sinks.
Where is my love? Where is my husband? What on earth is happening?
I want my bear. I want my Benny. How did this happen? I was just upstairs on the phone, and now, he’s gone?
We should be safe here. We don’t even live in the city anymore. We moved here to have a quiet life.
To find peace.
I don’t understand.
I have no idea who would take him or why.
It makes no sense.
I run my hands through my hair, feeling the panic rise up in my chest.
He is a big, strong man. He could kill you with just his fists. How did he get taken?
My body trembles, and helplessness overwhelms me.
I tug at my hair as an ungodly wail escapes my body.
“Mari. Mari, it’s going to be okay,” Erik says, rushing to my side.
“No, it won’t. I cannot live without him. You don’t understand. He is my everything.” I stomp my foot as the tears spill.
I remember what happened when he left me. How I couldn’t eat or sleep. Now, he’s gone by no will of his own.
Someone stole him from me.
I can’t stand it. I growl, and all eyes turn on me.
“Mari, we’ll find him. I promise you on my life, we will get him back,” Brittany swears.
“How did this happen? We live in a safe neighborhood. Look at how far we have come,” I sob.
Stevie moves to rub my back, but I shrug away.
“I don’t need to be placated. I need my fudging husband!” I scream, and everyone falls silent.
“Sweetie, we’ll get him back. Everything will be all right,” Brittany assures me.
But I’m not so sure.
I look at the shattered remains of the sliding glass door and am scared by how easily our life was broken.
Ross stumbles beside me, looking at the bloodstains on the carpet before he wretches once more time into a trash can.
“I’m sorry, Mari. He’s gone. He’s just gone, and it looks like something awful happened down here,” Ross tells me.
I sob, fearing the worst.
Choking back another cry, I look around the ruined gym. “Please, just let him be all right.”
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