4:20 PM; CLIFFBURN, MARY’S VINEYARD INDOOR VENUE
“I don’t know,” Bo said, squeezing Jensen’s hand as they walked across the room. “The outdoor venue of this one is… much nicer,” he said.
Jensen nodded his agreement. “Definitely. Jake and Alice are lucky they had an outside wedding at this place.”
“So… I’ll schedule a visit to the one in Chesterwick when we get back home?” Jensen asked.
“Yeah, I think that’d be wise,” Bo said quietly. “What if that one, like, secretly sucks, too?”
Jensen chuckled. “Then we’ll find another one, no big deal. We’ll keep searching until we get one that’s absolutely perfect,” he said, whispering the last word. He leaned down, pressing a kiss to the top of Bo’s head. “Come on. Let’s go tell our organizer that we’re, uh, keeping our options open,” he said.
“Mm, sounds like a plan. What do you say we pick up pizza before we go home?” Bo asked.
“Yes, let’s do that. Then we don’t have to fix anything for all four hundred kids under our roof,” Jensen said. Bo chuckled. He and Jensen had offered to let Katie, Elijah, and Charlotte spend the night at the house so that Alice and Jacob could spend the evening alone. They had all assumed Alice would be even more fragile than usual, and having three children in the house with her wasn’t something Bo or Jensen had seen as a positive. Jacob had agreed.
“You go on and call the house, see what kind of pizza everyone’s interested. I’ll talk to the lady here and then meet you in the car. Okay?” Jensen asked.
“Mmhmm.” Bo leaned up and kissed Jensen before turning and walking out of the building. In the parking lot, he pulled his phone from his pocket and unlocked his screen. Before he could even bring up his contact list, Jamal’s name flashed across the screen. He raised an eyebrow, sliding his thumb across the bottom of his screen. “What can I do for you, Jamal?”
“I’m supposed to ask that,” Jamal said.
Bo chuckled. “Sorry. Is something wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing at all. I was just wondering something.”
“After poker this month, I’d like to have you put into a bit of training with some of my men.”
“What kind of training?” Bo questioned.
“Combat. Hand-to-hand. I’ve seen you shoot. I got you certified for that. But I need to know that you can protect yourself if you aren’t carrying a gun, too,” Jamal explained.
“You made me take Jiu Jitsu. You can kill a man with that, Jamal,” Bo said.
“Yes, but that was four years ago, and you haven’t done it since. No offense to your abilities, kiddo, but you don’t exactly hit the gym like clockwork. You need to be stronger. Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, weight lifting, cardio… We have a lot of work to do,” Jamal said.
Bo frowned, his brow furrowing as he pulled the car keys from his pocket. “Jamal? Are… are you sure everything’s all right?” he asked.
“Everything’s fine, Bo.”
“Then what’s the rush?” Bo asked.
“I just want to make sure you’re trained properly. That’s all,” Jamal said.
“You’re sure?” Bo asked, unlocking the car.
“Hmm.” Bo pulled open the passenger door and slid into the seat. “Jamal… you know you don’t have to lie to me, right?” he asked quietly, closing the car door.
“I’m getting old, kid. I want to know you can keep yourself safe before I’m dead,” Jamal said.
“Okay,” Bo murmured. “We’ll start training after poker, then. After Jake goes back home… all right?” he asked.
“Sure, sure. That works for me.” Jamal cleared his throat. “I think we’ll start with cardio and weightlifting. I don’t want you to look like you’ve been roided out, but I do need to know that you can lift things heavier than yourself. You’re going to come across a lot of situations where things are… a lot heavier than you,” he said.
“Yeah, well, that’s partly because I’m short.”
“And mostly because you don’t eat like you should,” Jamal said. Bo heard papers shuffling on Jamal’s end of the call. “You’ll need to eat better, you know.”
“And Jensen… How much does he know?”
“He knows I’m taking over for you,” Bo said. “And I do believe he knows I’ll be in danger. Jamal, he was scared I wouldn’t come home to him every night,” he said.
“Of course,” Jamal said softly. “It’s good he isn’t against you for this, Bo. Hiding it from him… It wouldn’t be healthy, not for you.”
“But, uh, training. End of June. Okay?” Jamal asked. “It’s important, kiddo. You need it.”
“Sounds like a plan, Jamal.”
4:36 PM; CLINSTONE, THE MASON HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
Alice stiffened momentarily as Jacob wrapped his arms around her waist. She relaxed, inhaling deeply as she closed her eyes. “Hi, Jay,” she said softly.
“Hi,” Jacob whispered. He pressed a kiss to her jaw before bowing his head, resting his forehead against her shoulder. “Was today…? Was it okay?”
“I’ve scheduled another appointment for Wednesday.”
“So you like the guy?”
“He’s not half bad.”
“Do you think he’s gonna be able to help?”
“I… think so,” Alice confirmed.
“Good,” Jacob whispered. “Jensen and Bo have the kids for the night. They offered to help, said that it might benefit you to not have the kids around right after…”
“Yeah. Wise choice, Jay,” she said quietly. She reached back with one hand, gently threading her fingers through his dark hair. “I love you, Jay. You know that?”
“I do,” he murmured. “But I love you more.”
One corner of her mouth lifted. “I know.” She cleared her throat. “Would you, umm, like to join me in the shower?” she asked.
“Are you sure?”
“No sex or… or anything like that. Just a shower.”
“I know.” Jacob lifted his head, kissing her shoulder. “But I don’t want you to feel like you have to include me in your personal space just because we’re on the road to recovery here.”
“It’s not because of that,” Alice said. “It’s because I currently don’t feel like I want to die, and that’s… a nice step. So, join me?”
“Okay,” he whispered. He pressed a soft kiss to her temple before stepping away from her. She turned to face him. “I’m gonna start something for supper, but I’ll be with you in just a few, okay?”
“All right, Jay.” Alice leaned up and kissed the corner of his mouth. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you, too, Allie.”
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