Hackett joined Alice in her room that night, and sat on her bed with his arms wrapped around her as she chatted about her baby. The newborn slept through her mother’s cooing, but it didn’t make any difference to Alice, who gushed over everything she could think of.
“I’m so glad I kept her,” she whispered, turning somber. “I knew that Damon would want an abortion, and if I hadn’t met you that day, I would have done it.”
“Hm.” Hackett murmured, stroking the baby’s head with a deeply thoughtful expression.
Alice continued, “You inspired me to start thinking about what I wanted, instead of being so stupidly obedient. Really, Alicia is alive right now because of you, and I’m so grateful for it.” She closed her eyes as a tear slipped down her cheek, but this time she didn’t blame hormones for it – this time, they were tears of happiness.
Hackett’s lips touched her cheek, and she turned her mouth towards his. She could feel his breath against her and quivered, but the baby gave a sudden jerk and let out a squall.
“Shh, shh, it’s okay. Mommy’s here,” Alice whispered, nuzzling the infant’s head. Then her eyes met his, and she giggled. “Sorry, but that’s how it is with us moms. Get used to it.”
Hackett pulled them both into an embrace, and kissed the top of Alice’s head. “Bless you,” he whispered, his voice cracked and shaky. She wondered why, but she relaxed against him with her eyes closed and silently thanked Fate for bringing him into her life and freeing her from Damon’s control.
Alice fell asleep shortly after feeding and diapering the baby. Hackett carefully slipped off the bed and ensured that both mother and infant were safe and secure, then pulled out his phone and snapped a picture of the pair slumbering peacefully. Smiling, he let himself out of the room.
Three days later, Alice stood before a judge and pleaded guilty to the charge of Obstruction of Justice, and received the sentence of time already served in prison. A half an hour later, in the privacy of his chambers, the same judge married her and Hackett. It was surreal, but Alice reminded herself that as a warden, Hackett likely had a number of friends inside the justice system, and as his bride she was going to see a lot more of the casual side that was normally kept hidden from the public. As his wife, she secretly vowed that she wasn’t going to act silly and embarrass them both in front of powerful individuals. She graciously signed all the paperwork, and said ‘I do’ when the time came.
It wasn’t a romantic ceremony full of splendor or tradition, but it was real and binding. They were husband and wife.
They returned to the prison where they filled out more paperwork, and Alice was officially discharged. Her personal belongings were retrieved from storage, and her face turned red when she saw her old pleather top with the zipper front.
“Let’s just throw this away,” she said.
Hackett laughed and winked as he replied, “We should keep it … for the memories.”
She blushed even more. “Absolutely no way! I’m a woman of dignity now, and I want to dress like one too.” She stuck out her tongue at Hackett.
He caught hold of her chin, and brought his face down close to hers. “You’re no longer an inmate,” he whispered, “and you’re legally my wife. I don’t have to hold back anymore, so don’t tempt me.”
Chills shot down Alice’s spine, and she closed the distance between them to press her mouth against his. As they kissed, she could strongly feel that his previous restraint hadn’t been out of a lack of desire, but out of a sense of professional duty; his touch made her feel wanted in a way that she couldn’t describe and had never experienced before.
Alicia stayed soundly asleep this time.
The morning’s drizzle had turned into a cold Autumn downpour after nightfall, so when it came time to leave, Hackett parked his car by the front entrance then escorted them out under the protection of an umbrella. He held it over Alice as she buckled her baby into the carseat, then helped her into the front. When he opened the driver’s side door, a guard jogged over to him and said something.
“Alice,” he said, leaning down to poke his head inside the car. “I’m sorry, but I forgot to finish up some paperwork. I’ll be five minutes tops, I promise.”
“That’s all right, I don’t mind waiting,” Alice replied. Hackett closed the door and jogged off.
The baby was sleeping, so she settled in to watch the way the electric lights shined through the rain that ran down the windshield. The enormity of the future that was awaiting her felt overwhelming, and she wasn’t certain how she was going to fare in the real world as a mother, but now Hackett was guaranteed to be at her side supporting her. Thinking about him made her smile, and she touched her lips as she remember the way he had kissed her.
Was that the difference between feeling loved and feeling used? she wondered.
A minute later a prison van pulled up and parked some yards away from the car. Alice watched curiously as a prisoner in handcuffs was escorted out, his head bent down against the battering rain. When he looked up, his face was clearly illuminated.
Her heart stopped in her throat.
It was Damon.
Something drew his gaze towards the car, and she sat frozen as their eyes met, knowing that it was too late to try to hide. He swiftly dug his elbow into the guard’s solar plexus to knock him down, then sprinted over to Hackett’s car and kicked the door, hard enough to dent the metal.
“You bitch!” he yelled, kicking the door again. Alice curled up and pressed herself against the opposite side, helplessly looking to the backseat when the baby woke with a scream.
Damon stopped, his face changing to a strange expression as he moved to look through the back window.
Hackett suddenly appeared and jammed a taser into Damon’s side, and he dropped to the ground where he was swarmed by guards and hauled away. Hackett was yelling at the men, but Alice’s head was swimming too much to understand any of the words, and the world was growing darker …
“Alice!” Hackett was in the car with her, holding her shoulders with a terrified look on his face. “Alice! Please answer me!” he repeated.
Her ears were buzzing and she felt nauseated.
“Basil,” she said slowly. “I think I blacked out.”
“Oh god, Alice.” He hugged her close despite the fact that he was freezing and wet. Alicia squalled from the backseat, and her mothering instincts drew her back into herself.
“My baby!” she exclaimed.
Hackett jumped quickly and had Alicia out of her carseat and into Alice’s arms within a heartbeat. She cuddled and soothed her infant, kissing her head before cradling Alicia to suckle at her breast.
“Basil,” Alice said, still too numb to think of what she was trying to say.
“I’m so sorry, Alice,” he whispered. “I had no idea until I saw the name on the paperwork, and I came running out as fast as I could. It was a grievous mistake that should have never happened.”
The words she wanted came to her then. Alice grabbed onto Hackett’s sopping coat and buried her face against the side of his neck as she cried, “He saw her. He knows about Alicia!”