10:00 AM; LOS ANGELES, RICHARDSON AND SONS FAMILY LAW, DALE RICHARDSON’S OFFICE
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” Donna Hennick muttered.
A smile tugged at one corner of Jamal’s mouth. “Well, good morning to you, too, Donna.” He cleared his throat, lifting his dark eyes to Dale Richardson’s face. “I don’t have much time today.”
“Custody takes time, Mister Pitman,” Dale said. “Why don’t you come on over and take a seat?”
“Next to Donna? No, thank you. She broke my friend’s heart. I wouldn’t dare,” Jamal said. He leaned his shoulder against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. “Look, with all due respect, a woman as petty as Donna shouldn’t be allowed to raise a child on her own.”
“I’m sorry, was I speaking to you?” Jamal asked, turning to look at the woman in question. She glared at him for a moment before turning away. “She’s willing to take a child away from his father just so she can say that she ended up better off than he is. It’s jealousy. He has a successful job, which she does not have. He has a stable home, which, let’s face it, darling, she does not have. She’s taking away every single right Franklin has as a parent only so that she can prove a point. It’s unhealthy, it’s ridiculous, and it’s childish.”
He cocked his head to the side, lifting his shoulders in a half-hearted shrug. “I’m just looking out for the child, Mister Richardson. Are you?”
Dale cleared his throat. “Mister Pitman, please take a seat.”
“Oh, come now. Dale, we’re closer friends than that, aren’t we? How’s your wife? Still… breathing?” Jamal asked.
Dale shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Donna? Could you please leave the room. I’d like to speak to… to Jamal alone.”
“Dale, you can’t buy into his bullshit,” Donna said.
“Please leave the room, Donna,” Dale said quietly. Donna scoffed, pushing herself to her feet. She grabbed her purse, shoving at Jamal’s chest as she walked past him. “You wouldn’t hurt Carrie.”
“Nope. I’ve already saved her life twice, Dale. I wouldn’t hurt her,” Jamal said. Dale let out a breath of relief. “But I know someone who would like to.”
“Jamal, please. What do you want?”
“Anthony. The child. I’d like Franklin to have full custody of him,” Jamal said.
“I can’t do that. Donna will never agree to it,” Dale said.
“You’re her lawyer, Dale. Figure it out,” Jamal said, leaning away from the wall. “As I said, I’m a bit short on time today. I have to go.”
“You have twenty-four hours, Dale. I’ll be calling at exactly ten hundred hours tomorrow morning. Not a moment later. Have what I want, or I make a separate call to take away what you want. Are we at an understanding?” Jamal asked.
Dale swallowed roughly, offering a nod. “Yeah,” he breathed. “We’re… we’re clear.”
“Oh, good.” Jamal tucked his hands behind his back, a faint smile on his face. “I’m a family man myself, Dale. Don’t make me do something I’ll be forced to regret.”
“Of course, Jamal.”
12:00 PM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LAB
Bo lifted his head, forcing a smile onto his face. “Afternoon, love.”
“Mm.” Jensen stepped into the lab, hands shoved into the pockets of his dress pants. “You wanna go out and grab lunch?”
Bo glanced down at his watch before offering a nod. “We could… we could eat.” He closed the lid of his laptop, closed the case file beside it. He grabbed his phone from the table and crossed the room. “What’s on your mind?” he questioned, flipping off the light.
“I’m worried about you.”
“Why’s that?” Bo questioned, hooking an arm through one of Jensen’s as they walked down the hallway.
“First of all, you let me walk out of the house this morning without reminding me to shave.”
“Did I?” Bo glanced up before nodding. “I suppose I did.”
“Jake came down here earlier. You didn’t even talk to him, didn’t look at him.”
“I had my earbuds in.”
“You almost never have it loud enough to totally ignore a person,” Jensen said. He stopped walking, turning to face the blonde. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
“Mm.” Jensen frowned. “Why won’t you just talk to me? Tell me what’s got the gears turning in that damn head of yours.”
Bo cleared his throat, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Umm, I had a nightmare about this guy getting to our family, to our girls. I took a shower. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. And… then I just spent the rest of the morning with the case file and some coffee.”
“Now, why the hell didn’t you just wake me up?” Jensen asked.
Bo lifted his shoulders. “There’s no reason for us both to suffer an entirely sleepless night,” he said. “If we’re both tired, we’re both useless. We don’t need both of us to be—” He cut himself off.
“Useless?” Jensen hissed. “You aren’t useless. Never are.”
“That’s why I didn’t say it,” Bo offered lamely.
Jensen grunted his response. He reached up, using two fingers to brush Bo’s hair away from his forehead. “What came of the dandruff?”
“Well, it is dandruff, and I was able to pull DNA from it, duplicate it, build a file. It just… doesn’t match anything in the system,” Bo said.
Jensen grabbed Bo’s hand. With a slight tug forward, he and Bo headed up the stairs. “You can take a nap in the car instead.”
Bo shook his head. “I’d rather not sleep right now. I don’t need a repeat of… of that kind of nightmare. Not now. It took me well over an hour in the shower to recover from that,” he said. “Everything felt…”
“So damn real?” Jensen asked. The blonde only nodded. “That’s okay. We can just go out for food. I’d rather you eat at least something today, if nothing else. Couldn’t help but notice you skipped breakfast this morning, too.”
Bo nodded. “I wasn’t hungry. Didn’t think I could eat anything, anyway.”
Out in the parking lot, Jensen pulled open the passenger side door, squeezing Bo’s hand tightly before releasing it. “Go on.”
“Thanks,” Bo murmured, patting Jensen’s cheek as he slid into the seat. Jensen closed the door, and Bo watched him walk around the front of the car. Bo pulled open the glove box, pushing aside the unopened package of cigarettes and grabbing his beanie instead. He tugged it over his head, careful not to get the velcro of his brace stuck to his hair or the beanie. He leaned back in his seat as Jensen climbed into the car. “Do we have to go inside?”
“Nope. Whatever works best for you, Eli.”
“I’d just… like to sit in the car or come back here to the lab, if that’s okay,” Bo said, clicking his seat belt into place.
“Not a problem, babe.” Jensen leaned across the center console and pressed a kiss to the blonde’s temple. “You don’t have to hide this kinda shit from me. When I married you, I married every little problem and bad day and insecurity. I married every single restless night and shitty ass morning. Your problems are my problems. You can always tell me what’s on your mind and I will do everything I can to help you through it and make it better. Okay?”
“Okay,” Bo whispered. He squeezed Jensen’s hand. “Thank you.”
The younger man threw out a smile, patting Bo’s thigh. “My pleasure, Eli.”
6:07 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
Bo leaned back against the counter, his phone pressed to his ear. “How was work?”
“Same old, same old,” Jamal said. “How was your day?”
Bo glanced up briefly before lifting his shoulders. “I haven’t decided.”
“Ah.” Jamal cleared his throat. “Progress on the killer?”
“I found dandruff at the scene. It… it has to belong to him, but once the DNA profile was made up, nothing turned up. He’s not in the system,” Bo said.
“Seems the ones you need to catch the most just never are,” Jamal said.
“Yeah. Sure seems that way,” the blonde agreed. “Do anything stupid today?”
“Who, me? Please, I’d never do anything stupid.”
“No, nothing stupid. I manipulated an old friend, but we know there’s nothing new there,” Jamal said.
Bo couldn’t help but smile as he closed his eyes. “It’s good to know you’re always going to be the old bastard you’ve been since I met you.”
“Always,” Jamal assured. “You okay, kiddo?”
Bo considered lying to Jamal, but he knew the older man typically saw straight through his bullshit. He let out a sigh. “What’s your definition of okay?”
“Of course,” Jamal murmured. “Nightmares?”
“You need to get some sleep, Bo.”
“I know. And I will. I just need a while to… to think,” Bo said. He forced his eyes open, flinching as his gaze landed on Jensen at the other end of the kitchen. “I’ll work on sleep. I just have a few things to worry about first. Besides, you can’t complain about it. You’re notorious for refusing sleep for five to seven days.”
Jamal snorted. “I usually do it for work purposes.”
“You and me both.”
“Hmm.” A pause. “I’ll let you go, then. I’m here all night if you need something.”
“Thank you, Jamal.”
“Always a pleasure, kiddo. Take care of yourself,” Jamal said.
“You, too.” Bo waited a moment before ending the call and setting his phone on the counter.
Jensen offered a smile. “Didn’t mean to scare you.”
“That’s okay. I was just surprised.” Bo pushed himself away from the counter, crossing the room to wrap his arms around the younger man instead. Jensen hugged him back, resting his head against Bo’s. “I don’t think I can sleep tonight, either.”
“That’s okay. I’ll stay up with you,” Jensen said. “Or… as long as I can manage.”
“You don’t have to.”
“Nah, but I’m gonna.”
Bo smiled. “Thank you.”
“That’s what I’m here for, babe.” Jensen pressed a kiss to Bo’s temple, squeezing him tightly before stepping away from the blonde entirely. “You wanna let Hati inside? I’ll finish up supper here.”
Bo nodded. “Thanks.”
“You don’t have to thank me for every single thing I do, Eli. Marriage.”
Bo offered a nearly timid smile. “No, but I know I like to be reminded that people appreciate the things I do, even the little things. I want to make sure you always know I appreciate you, too.”
Jensen smiled softly. “I always know, babe. But… thank you. It’s always good to be reminded.” Bo nodded, squeezing Jensen’s arm before walking out of the kitchen. He headed into the keeping room and slid open the door. Hati leaped back onto the deck and ran inside. Bo patted her head and closed the door again.
In the living room, he sat down in front of Castor and Pollux on the floor, leaning back against the couch.
“Daddy sad?” Castor asked.
“No, Daddy’s not sad.” Bo shook his head, clearing his throat. “Daddy’s just tired.”
Bo chuckled. “Yeah, a nap would be nice. But Daddy has to help take care of you dorks,” he said.
“Dorks?” Castor echoed. “Nuh-uh.”
One corner of Bo’s mouth quirked up. “You don’t even know what that means.”
“Yuh-huh.” Castor looked back at his brother, his brow furrowed.
Pollux seemed to pick up on the unspoken question. “What’s that?” he asked.
Bo snorted. “It means I think you’re both adorable.”
“Oh!” Castor exclaimed. “I know.” He pushed his glasses up with his pointer finger.
Bo reached out and smoothed a hand over the toddler’s dirty blonde hair. The kid was in desperate need of a bath, again, but Bo knew it was best to wait until after supper. There was no need to make sure either twin was squeaky clean for only five or ten minutes before they inevitably spilled food or a drink on themselves.
“Dad?” Kayla asked.
“Number eighteen,” she said, handing a notebook down to him.
Bo’s eyes skimmed the math problem twice before he nodded. “What about it?”
“Is it right?”
“One hundred percent, sweetheart.”
“Awesome,” Kayla whispered, grabbing the notebook. “Thanks.”
“My pleasure.” Bo reached back and scratched the top of Acamas’s head as she loved up against his shoulder. Although he’d spent most of his day feeling miserable, being around his family lessened the deeper feeling of despair.
If nothing else, that was something.
8:01 PM; CLINSTONE, THE WILLIS HOUSEHOLD, BASEMENT
The man stood next to the fuse box, a hand resting on the main breaker. He glanced up at the ceiling before flipping it.
“What the happened?” a man’s voice questioned.
“Probably blew a fuse, sweetheart. I’ll fix it,” a woman replied.
The intruder closed the door of the fuse box and moved to the back of the basement, easily sandwiching himself between the water heater and the wall. He watched a woman come down the stairs, flashlight in hand. She opened the fuse box and flipped the main breaker. She let out a sigh, closing the door again. With a shake of her head, she turned off the flashlight and headed back upstairs, shutting the basement door behind her.
The man sighed, stepping out from behind the water heater. She was older than he would’ve liked, but it didn’t matter. A woman was a woman, something to be used no matter what age she was.
He’d make it work.
Enjoying the story? Consider dropping a comment or a like down below!!
Love what I do and want to help support me? You can ‘buy me a coffee’ on Ko-fi!