“You cheat with my fiancée and I’m the one who goes to jail?” Jason said as Cab hauled him into the detachment.
“You’re going to jail for assaulting an officer of the law,” Cab said, “And to give you some time to cool down before you assault your so-called fiancée.”
“She’s not my so-called fiancée. She is my fiancée.”
“She told me she broke things off.”
“She may have, but I sure didn’t.”
Cab held his tongue through the procedure of booking him and turning him over to the officers who ran the detention facility. Once a row of bars stood between them, he figured it was fair game to ask the man a few questions. “Look, she took off her ring before I made my move. She told me you and she were through.”
Jason swore. “She told me that, too, but she’s wrong. She didn’t even let me have my say.”
“Seems to me she’s given you six years to have your say. Just how long of an engagement were you planning?” Cab pressed. “You’ve had your shot. It’s not my fault you lost her.”
“I was trying to make enough money to do it right,” Jason said.
“Really? You held off because of money? Why not at least invite Rose to North Dakota to live with you?”
“She wouldn’t have liked it.” But the way Jason turned his back and walked away told Cab there was more to it than that.
“Be honest. You had another girl over there.”
Jason whipped around. “No. Never. I was faithful to Rose. I thought she’d be faithful to me.”
“Then why keep away? Why not come home on weekends and holidays?”
“I came when I could.”
“Bullshit!” Cab had just about enough of the man’s paltry excuses. The way he saw, it if you engaged yourself to a woman you did right by her. “You came once every few months. You could have done better than that. If you love Rose, why wouldn’t you be chomping at the bit to get to Chance Creek every chance you could?”
“Because I wasn’t working in the oilfields,” Jason blurted out. “Not full-time, anyway. I didn’t want her to know.”
Cab frowned. “What the hell were you doing?”
“Getting my degree.” Jason shrugged unhappily. “I saw the difference between what those engineers earned and what the roughnecks made and I wanted that paycheck. I enrolled at a local school. Decided to go full time to get it as fast as possible. I graduate this spring.”
Cab squinted at him. “Why wouldn’t you tell anyone about that? That’s something to be proud of, not something to hide.”
“Because it meant I didn’t save any money for our wedding. Not one cent. I’m in debt, Cab. I will be until I finish school and for some years after that. I told Rose I’d buy her a house when we got married. I’m so far from that…” Jason spread his hands.
Cab backed away from the bars, an ugly feeling swirling in his gut. He admitted to himself now that he’d cast Jason as the villain in this story. He’d truly believed the man had a piece on the side in his North Dakota town; that he’d been playing Rose for a year or two. And all the time Jason was working to be a better man for his fiancée?
That made Cab the villain. He didn’t like that much.
“Is she in love with you?” Jason came at him again. He gripped a bar in each hand and peered out between them. “Or was it just a fling? I can forgive her if it was just a fling. Maybe.”
“I don’t know,” Cab said heavily. “It was just the one time.”
“How did it happen?”
“I’m not going to tell you that. It won’t help.”
“Was alcohol involved? Just answer me that. Was it after a night on the town?” The man looked hopeful.
“No,” Cab said quietly. “It was in the middle of the afternoon and we were both sober.”
Jason’s shoulders slumped. “Shit. I lost her. I took her for granted and I lost her.”
Cab had no idea what to say. All his training, all his experience didn’t cover anything remotely like this. “I’m sorry,” he said again.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” Jason said bitterly. “You just need to do her right. Don’t you break her heart.”
Cab met his gaze. “You honestly think I would try? I’ve been waiting for months to see if you’d step away.”
Jason blinked. “You didn’t say nothing.”
“Of course not.”
The other man looked away first. He scratched his neck. “Maybe it’s for the best,” he said slowly. “Maybe it really is.”
“Why?” Cab was cautious. He wasn’t sure where Jason was heading with this.
“I’m not coming back to Chance Creek. There’s too much opportunity out there and I’m just getting started. I’d have to move Rose all over the country if we stayed together, maybe all over the world. There are jobs for guys like me everywhere—South America. The Middle East. She’s never wanted to leave Chance Creek.”
“You think maybe both of you knew a split was coming?” Cab said hopefully. “Maybe that’s why you let yourselves drift apart?”
Jason nodded, still turned away. “Maybe we did. Doesn’t make it easier, though.”
Silence reigned a moment or two. Jason straightened up and Cab could tell he was shouldering his new reality. He wasn’t the type to cry over spilt milk. He wasn’t the type to cry, period.
“What about Fila? Where’d she get to?”
Cab blinked. “Fila? Who’s Fila?”
“The girl in the taxi. I was supposed to get her to the Cruz place. Did Alan take her?”
Cab stared at Jason. What was he talking about? Why would he make up a story like that now? Was this a ruse to get out of jail tonight?
Should he even be in jail?
“I didn’t see any girl in the taxi. Never heard of a Fila, either.”
“You wouldn’t have heard of her. She came in from Billings with me. She was looking for Claire and Morgan. Medium height. Brown hair. Blue eyes?”
Cab shook his head. “There wasn’t anyone else in the taxi when Alan left. You sure she was with you when you got to Carl’s?
“Of course I’m sure she was with me. She was sitting right next to me.” His eyes met Cab’s, concerned. “She was upset on the bus ride from North Dakota. She said she’d come a real long way to see Claire and Morgan. She had an accent I couldn’t place and I had the feeling she was in trouble. That’s why I made sure to put her in a taxi straight to the Cruz spread. Then I saw you and Rose and… I kind of lost it. I hopped in, too.”