"Frankie, we have to talk."

Turning to him then, Frankie asked the question, even though she already knew the answer. "Did you sleep with Cecile?"

Seeing the pain in her eyes, Cass could only stare at her. His voice wouldn't function, his mind could only generate one thought: "I'm going to lose her."

Taking his silence and stricken face as confirmation, Frankie turned from him and grabbed her purse and coat. "I have to get out of here. I can't let him see me cry," she thought.

His voice still lost to him, Cass stood in her way, hoping against hope he could keep her there. He tried to grab her arm, but she spun away in anger and frustration.

"Let me go, Cass," she said, pain and anger lacing her tone.

Finding his voice, he replied firmly, "I'm not going to let you leave. Not until you know the truth."

"The truth. The TRUTH! You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you on the butt, Winthrop!" she yelled.

"No, Frankie, you don't want to know the truth because then you couldn't have an excuse for leaving."

"You're putting this on me! I never lied to you, Cass!"

"Oh, you didn't? What about Trevor?"

"What about him?" she replied immediately, though she looked away when a pang of guilt washed over her.

"Do you know what it did to me to see you with another man, to see you KISSING another man the way you kissed me?"

"Hey, Winthrop, you had broken up with me, remember! What business is it of yours who I kiss?"

"So you weren't trying to make me jealous?"

"I was, Cass, okay," she admitted, turning away.

"Frankie…," he began, reaching out to her.

Jerking away from his touch, she replied. "Look, I was stupid and childish for trying that little ploy, but it obviously didn't work."

"Oh, it worked, all right. I was devastated by seeing you with that other guy. I don't think I really knew how I felt about you until that moment I saw you kissing him."

"So why did you…?"

"Why did I sleep with Cecile?"

She nodded.

"Because I was hurt, and it was comforting to know that someone wanted me."

"So it's my fault?"

"Of course not. I'm the one responsible for my choices. Sleeping with Cecile was the easy way out, and I was foolish for running away from my feelings for you."

"But the fact remains that you did sleep with her, and you didn't care if you hurt me."

"I did care, Frankie. Why do you think that I tried to call you after I missed the wedding? Why do you think that I told you I needed to explore my feelings for Cecile? I was confused, and I didn't want to lie to you."

"And yet you lied anyway."

"I didn't tell you about sleeping with Cecile because I knew that you'd be hurt, and I also knew that you'd misjudge my actions."

"I haven't misjudged anything."

"Frankie, I wasn't cheating on you. Why does it matter to you so much that I slept with Cecile?"

"Because if you almost made love to me and then slept with her…," she trailed off, unable to say the words.

"Then that would mean that the night of your reunion meant nothing to me."

"Yes," she managed.

"Frankie, look at me. I slept with Cecile, but I wanted to make love with you."

"I don't see the difference."

"That's because there's not a difference with you. When you give yourself, you give all of you. We're not alike in that way. I've slept with lots of women, but I've only made love with two."

"So, you're saying…."

"I'm saying that I'm in love with you Frankie. I have been for a long time, but I let my fears get in the way."

"Cass, I want to believe you, but I don't know if I can."

"I know I have to earn your trust again, but please don't make the same mistake I did."

"I don't think you have to worry about me sleeping with Cecile."

"Cute, Frankie, but that's not what I meant. You said that you tried to convince yourself that nothing had happened between us at your reunion. You didn't have to leave that night, you know. I wanted you to stay, and I would have gone with you if you'd asked me."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"The truth is that, deep down, you don't think that Mary Frances Ordway the nerd is deserving of love. You're running away."

"I am not running away!" she said defiantly. Seeing the look in his eyes, however, her anger cooled and she amended her statement. "I'm protecting myself."

"You don't need to do that any more," he said gently, taking her face in his hands and wiping away her tears with his thumbs. "You deserve to be loved, Mary Frances, and I'm the man who wants to love you."

He kissed her then, lightly caressing her lips with his own. After a few moments, Frankie pulled away, searching his eyes. Holding her gaze, Cass gently stroked her cheek with his thumb. Words had failed them so often he was hesitant to say anything.

To his surprise, Frankie leaned in and kissed him with a passion that shocked them both. As his heart hammered in his chest, he felt her hands twining themselves through his hair. Struggling to keep up, he began stroking her back and pulling her closer. Through the haze of emotions she was stirring in him, he suddenly realized that she was wearing nothing but his shirt. His hands traveled lower, his fingertips brushing the bare skin of her thigh. The jolt of electricity generated from the contact caused them pull away from each other abruptly.

Searching her eyes, Cass gathered his faculties enough to speak. "Frankie, you were right earlier."

Breathless, she replied, "About what?"

"This shouldn't happen if you can't trust me."

"But, Cass…."

"It's not what you think, Frankie. I want to make things special for you, and I can't do that until I've earned your trust."

"What if I told you that I trust you?"

"I wouldn't believe you. I saw the pain in your eyes today."

"It doesn't matter, Cass."

"It matters to me, Frankie."

"So what do you propose we do then?"

"Well, I'd like to take you out."

"Now? I'm a little underdressed."

Smiling at her lighthearted response, he replied, "Maybe not right this moment, although I do think you look lovely."

"Cass…," she admonished lightly.

"What I'm trying to say is that I want to date you, Frankie."

"I see. And what if the menu includes macaroni and cheese?"

"You know I just love processed cheese spread."

"Oh, really. And what if I drag you off to the sticks?"

"I've come to appreciate neo-Greco, rinky dink architecture."


"Smoky the Bear and I are like brothers."

With a wicked gleam in her eye, she moved closer to him and asked, "Started many fires, have you?"

"Just one, and I plan on keeping this one burning for a long time," he said suggestively, leaning in to give her a quick kiss on the mouth. "Now, go get dressed before I throw all my good intentions out the window."

"Yes, boss," she said with a smile before turning away from him and heading up the stairs.


"Yes, Cass."

"I love you."

"I love you, too, Cass."