Monday: March 19, 2029
5:01 AM; SAN DIEGO, THE PITMAN ESTATE, FOYER
“I love you, but I have to go,” Bo said, pulling up the front door. “I’m sorry.”
Jensen grabbed his wrist, stopping the blonde in his tracks as soon as he stepped outside. “You don’t have to go back to Clinstone, Eli. Wait until the girls go back to school.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t. You guys are safe here,” Bo promised. He turned, leaning up to kiss the younger man. A kiss or a caress was the easiest way to disarm Jensen, and when Jensen’s hand moved to his face instead of wrist, Bo knew it had been the right move. “I love you,” he repeated one last time, turning and running down the drive.
“Eli!” Jensen called, running after him. He watched Bo slide into the passenger side of the car, stopped as Mekhi peeled away before Bo even shut the door all the way. “God,” he said through his teeth.
“Husband’s about as stubborn as he’s always been,” Jamal murmured from behind Jensen. He whirled around to face the older man, eyes narrowed. “Mekhi’s going to be with him the whole time,” Jamal added.
Jensen rolled his eyes. Jamal, quite unlike the gunshot victim he currently was, stood tall, one hand on his holstered gun, the other holding a burning cigar. For the briefest of moments, Jensen considered shoving the man back. Not because Bo’s need to be in Clinstone was Jamal’s fault, but because Jamal was the closest thing to Jensen while he was pissed.
“Best think twice before you lay your hands on me, Taylor,” Jamal said. Jensen’s eyes snapped to Jamal’s. The older man wasn’t even looking at him anymore. “I trained you, kid. I know every thought the second it runs through your fucking mind.”
“If you’re going to be a princess, you can get right in your car and drive on home. Your kids are safe here.”
In a mistake he’d made many times before, Jensen moved to shove Jamal before his brain could catch up to his hands.
Jamal had a gun pressed to Jensen’s forehead before his hand ever made contact. “Best think twice,” he repeated. “Lord knows I won’t pull the trigger because I love my boy, and I love those four little dorks I have running around my house, but I’ll certainly clock you with it.”
“Anyone ever told you what an ass you are?” Jensen asked.
“Yep.” As Jensen stepped away with a growl, Jamal lowered his gun to his side. “What’s in Clinstone?”
“You don’t wanna know. You’ll think he’s insane.”
“Never in my life would I call him crazy.”
Jensen let out a heavy breath, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pajama pants. “A tablet.”
“A tablet,” Jamal echoed.
“Yeah. Fraser’s stupid laptop-tablet thing. He doesn’t need it for anything, just wants to have it.” Jensen shook his head. “And then he says he gonna stay there until you catch the guy responsible for the threat. Says it’s less risk to us if he’s there and we’re here.”
“He isn’t wrong,” Jamal said. “I don’t know much about our guy yet. He’s too low-level too have too much dirt to dig out, but he’d go after the person that means the most to me. It’s Bo. He knows that.”
“You can call him in a few hours, tell him you caught the guy.”
“If you think I’m lying to Bo, you’re insane.” Jamal gestured to the empty driveway with his cigar. “Like I said, Jensen, Mekhi’s with him. He’ll be okay.”
Jensen shook his head. “He won’t be. I’ve lived with him when he’s like this Jamal,” he whispered. “He gets stuck in his head, Jamal. It isn’t good for him, not one damn bit.”
With a heavy sigh, Jamal wrapped an arm around Jensen’s shoulders and pulled the younger man into a hug. “I love you and your kids far too much to let anything happen to Bo,” he said softly. He grunted as Jensen threw his arms around him. Clearing his throat, Jamal buried his fingers in Jensen’s dark hair. “He has Mekhi and Mister Mason on his side. Quinn and Miss Delacroix, as well. They’ll keep him sane, kid. Promise.”
12:39 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, BREAKFAST NOOK
Bo dropped into the chair at the table, resting a hand on Martha Fraser’s laptop. He closed his eyes, the smallest smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. The laptop was there, safe and sound. The kids and Jensen were in San Diego with the animals and Jamal, safe and sound.
For the first time in what felt like forever, Bo sat in silence. No music, no kids running around, no Jensen, no nasty voices telling him he wasn’t any good.
For the first time in what felt like forever, Bo felt nearly at peace, and he was terrified of what would happen the second that peace was shattered again.
He flinched as a harsh ringing reached his ears. “Phone,” he said out loud. He rose his feet, grabbing his cell from his back pocket. Jensen’s name flashed across the screen. Jensen would be angry with him, so very angry. Bo knew that better than anyone.
Still, he accepted the call and pressed the phone to his ear.
Several seconds of silence followed before Jensen asked, “Eli?”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m not mad at you, Eli,” Jensen said.
Bo couldn’t help it; he snorted. “Okay.”
“I know… you’d figure I was. That’s why I called. I just wanted you to know I love you, and I’m not mad. If you think you have to be in Clinstone to protect us… that’s okay. I just want you to keep yourself safe, too.”
“Don’t open any of those emails from the hacker shithead.”
“How close are you to finding them?”
“Very close. My algorithm has an estimated completion time of midnight.”
“That’s good, baby.” A pause. “I’m proud of you, Eli. So damn proud.”
Bo closed his eyes. “Thank you.”
“Of course, baby.”
Bo forced his eyes open, letting out a heavy breath. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, Eli. You’re gonna catch this hacker, we’re gonna find this guy here in Cali, we’re gonna make sure Wilkinson never hurts another human being ever again… We’ll figure it all out. Promise.”
Bo raked his free hand through his hair. “Thank you, Jens.”
“My pleasure, baby. You call me every hour, okay? Or else I’m getting on a plane and flying out there. Got it?”
Bo smiled. “Okay.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Bo waited a moment before ending the call. Lowering his phone, he let out a breath.
It sure didn’t feel peaceful anymore.
11:30 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BATHROOM
Bo gripped the edge of the counter, head bowed, eyes on the razor. It was Jensen’s but it was there, staring at him, beckoning to him. Since they had no plans to be in the house for a week, Jensen had left it on the counter. Ever since Bo had filled him in on the cut on his thigh, Jensen had kept it out of plain sight.
But there it was, watching.
He had gotten off the phone with Jensen nearly ten minutes ago. The younger man had planned on attempting to get some sleep, and Bo had planned to take a shower.
Oh, what a grave mistake that had been. If he had stayed out of this particular bathroom, he wouldn’t have seen the razor. The dark thoughts would be quiet. Or, at least, quieter than they were now.
With a shaky hand, Bo reached back and grabbed his phone. He unlocked his screen after four attempts and opened up his contact list. He selected Alice’s name, tears burning in his eyes. Hers was at the top of his list. It made the most sense to call her. Less scrolling, and she’d send Jacob right over.
Bo pressed his phone to his ear and waited as the ringing of her phone came through the speaker.
Six rings and a voicemail robot later, Bo ended the call. His heart pounded in his chest as he selected Cecilia’s number instead. He held the phone tightly in his hand, staring down at it as it rang. The rings were much quieter, but he could still hear them.
Bo tried David, but his phone was off. It never even rang. He tried Jacob.
Six rings and a voicemail.
Bo could hear his blood rushing in his ears. He clicked Katie’s name, but he knew that was a step too far. Calling a teenager to tell her he needed an adult was crossing a line.
His phone slipped from his shaky, clammy hand and fell into the sink. He could call Mekhi. He could just go get Jacob, no questions asked. Bo knew it would be simple, but the thought of picking up his phone made his stomach turn, as though the effort he’d have to put forth just was far too much for such little outcome.
Instead, he caved to the voice, and he reached out and grabbed the razor as tears rolled down his cheeks.
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