9:58 AM; CLINSTONE, CONFECTION CONNECTION
“You gave me too many choices,” Jensen said.
Bo chuckled. “I gave you three choices.”
“Nope. Too many.”
“Daddy, three is a small number,” Amber said, reaching out to swipe a mini cupcake from the table.
“No, I’m pretty sure it’s a big number,” Jensen denied.
Amber stared down at her hand, three fingers extended. “No. Small. See?”
“I dunno. You have five fingers on that hand. Three is more than half. Big number,” Jensen said.
“She has ten fingers altogether. Small number,” Kayla said.
“Yeah!” Amber agreed excitedly.
Jensen laughed, holding up a hand in surrender. “A’ight, you win. You’ve beaten me,” he said. Amber high fived her sister in success. Jensen offered a shrug. “I dunno, Eli. I know you’re gonna say it’s only because I know you like it, but I really do like the marble cake,” he said.
“It’s really not just because I like it?”
“No. It’s got chocolate and vanilla. It’s winning,” Jensen said. He smiled. “Besides, it’s almost an adorable reference to our tuxes. Black and white.”
“What about you two? You’re pickier than Daddy-o over there,” Bo said.
“I’m not picky,” Amber grumbled.
“You kinda are, baby,” Jensen said softly, reaching over to comb his fingers through her blonde hair.
She stuck her tongue out at Jensen before reaching out to poke a cupcake. “This one?”
“Good. What about you, Kay?” Bo questioned.
“I like it,” Kayla said quietly. She tilted her head to the side. “Is it gonna have a pretty design?”
“Mmhmm. Part of it’s going to be purple,” Bo said.
“Awesome. Are we gonna get to be flower girls?” Kayla asked.
“Of course. We can start looking at dresses once we get back to L.A.. We won’t buy one for at least a little bit, but it’ll give us an idea of what you guys are interested in,” Bo said.
“Does it have to be flowers?” Amber asked.
“You’re not allowed to throw anything hard out of a basket at people attending our wedding,” Bo said.
Jensen chuckled. “Sorry, baby. Daddy’s a hater.”
“Mm, Daddy just prefers not injuring anyone at our wedding,” Bo corrected.
“And that’s why you’re no fun,” Jensen said.
Bo rolled his eyes. “We’ve discussed this. Not a fun instigator,” she said.
“Kayla-bear!” Bo lifted his head, his brow furrowed as he turned toward the voice. “I love the little braids in your hair.”
“Uh, excuse me. Do I… know you?” Bo asked, glancing up at the woman. “Because I’m rather uncomfortable with you addressing my daughter like that.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that was a rule.” She held out a hand. “I’m Miss Lincoln, the third grade teacher at the elementary school. Kayla will be the most attentive student in my class next year.”
Almost cautiously, Bo shook her hand. “Right,” he said quietly.
“So, what’re you guys doing here?” Miss Lincoln asked.
“We’re choosing a cake for my dads’ wedding,” Kayla said.
“Oh, congratulations, you two!”
“Thanks,” Jensen said, stretching an arm across the booth, his fingers brushing against Kayla’s shoulder.
“Well, I’m sure you still have a lot to do,” Miss Lincoln said.
“Something like that,” Bo said.
“I’ll let you get back to it, then. Congrats on the upcoming wedding, again.”
Bo watched her leave before his blue eyes shifted to Kayla. “Kayla-bear? That’s…”
“What you call me at tuck-in. I know. She’s been calling me it since the beginning of last school year,” Kayla said. “She doesn’t understand, umm…”
“Boundaries, clearly,” Bo said.
Lightly, Jensen kicked him under the table. “Weird feeling?” he asked silently.
Bo nodded, mouthing, “Understatement.” He cleared his throat. “Let’s, umm, let’s get the cake ordered or… whatever so we can go get flowers.”
Jensen nodded. “Good plan,” he said quietly.
11:49 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, UPSTAIRS
Jacob slid his glasses up the bridge of his nose, clearing his throat as he grabbed his phone. He wasn’t ready to go downstairs and interact with other people. He needed a shower, he needed to brush his teeth, and he definitely needed coffee. He turned on his phone, raising an eyebrow. He had one email, Alice’s name in the header.
He unlocked the screen and opened the email.
date: Sat, Jun 14, 2025 9:00 AM
subject: Day Two
Your best friend came up with a way we could talk without it being detrimental. Email. Then we don’t have to hear each other’s voices. Just like the old days, Jay. Back when I’d disappear and turn off my phone so you couldn’t track me down and stalk me.
Anyway, today’s technically day two of being away from you, and even I’ll admit it’s been hell. I love you, and being away isn’t easy. But… I feel better, Jay, and I thought you needed to know that. I need you to know this is good, and I need you to know I won’t be away forever.
I haven’t left bed today, but I’ve eaten breakfast without too much bribery. I’m still in my pajamas, but I’ve put my hair up so it’s not in my face. I’m going to find what makes me strong. I’m going to find what makes me not have to depend on you to keep me standing. And once I do, I’ll be back and we’ll repair anything I’ve broken between us.
I love you, Jay. Don’t go crazy without me. I’m always just a few words and a click away.
1:03 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, FOYER
“You two go wash up for lunch,” Bo said as he stepped into the house, shutting the door behind him. Amber touched a hand to Kayla’s arm before running out of the room. Bo knew it was their quietest form of tag, and Kayla quickly followed the little blonde out of the room. “I’m going to find out who that woman is. I want to know everything about her,” Bo muttered, kicking off his shoes.
“I think we both overreacted a bit. We can’t let some teacher throw our day off,” Jensen said.
“I’m not overreacting to anything. She’s creepy, and there’s something off about her.”
“You’re mad because she called Kayla ‘Kayla-bear’. So am I, but that doesn’t mean she’s creepy.”
“I’m weirded out because she was off. Her sentences rhymed, Jensen. She spoke in rhymes. You’re going to stand here and tell me it’s accidental?”
“They didn’t rhyme, Eli.”
“Kayla-bear rhymes with ‘braids in your hair’. ‘Rule’ rhymes with ‘school’. ‘Year’ rhymes with ‘here’. ‘Two’ rhymes with ‘do’. ‘Then’ rhymes with ‘again’. Don’t stand here and tell me that’s not creepy. Don’t stand here and tell me I’m overreacting. She’s odd, there’s something off about her, and I certainly don’t want her in charge of my baby girl for an entire year.”
Jensen held up his right hand, the fingers of his left hand tightening around the bag of food he held. “Hey, babe, chill, okay? I’m not trying to start a fight. If she seems off to you, she’s off to me, all right? Find out whatever you wanna find out. I’m on your side.”
Bo sighed. “Thank you,” he said quietly.
“No problem.” Jensen leaned down and kissed the blonde. “I’m gonna go get some plates set out, okay? After we eat, we’re going outside with the girls and Jake’s kids. Tonight, you can do what you want, okay?”
Bo nodded. “Okay.”
“I love you. We’re inside now, so… just relax. Been a long day already,” Jensen said softly. Again, Bo nodded. Bo sighed as Jensen walked into the kitchen. He headed for the family room, barely stepping through the doorway before Jacob’s arm banded around him.
Bo wrapped his arms around the sergeant, chuckling softly. “What’s this for?”
“You got Allie to talk to me. You’re fucking amazing. Thank you,” Jacob said.
Bo smiled. “My pleasure, Jay. I couldn’t just let you suffer upstairs.” He stepped away from the taller man, raising an eyebrow. “Hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“You could always eat,” Bo said. Jacob snorted. “Come on. We brought back Chinese.”
“Oh, you’re amazing.” Jacob slung an arm around Bo’s shoulders. “You’re my favorite brother. You know that, don’t you?”
Bo chuckled. “I know. You’re my favorite, too.”
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