5:01 PM; CHESTERWICK, CELESTIAL GARDEN INN, PARKING LOT
“My God, look at this place,” Jensen whispered.
“It looks like a damn manor,” Bo murmured, grabbing Jensen’s hand. “The website does not do this place justice.”
“Why’s it so big?”
“Half of it is for receptions. The other half’s for receptions,” Bo said. “But we’re only looking at the reception part.”
“Because… our ceremony will be in a church?” Bo questioned, looking up at Jensen.
“Why? Churches make you uncomfortable. You don’t believe in God,” Jensen said.
“Well, no, but you do.”
Jensen shook his head, smiling faintly. “Maybe so, but we aren’t getting married in a place that makes you uncomfortable. We’ll look back on our wedding day, and you’ll always remember how uncomfortable you were there. We’re not doing that. Hell, I am not doing that to you.” He squeezed Bo’s hand. “I love you. The last thing I wanna do is make you uncomfortable.”
“So… what? You want to look at everything here?” Bo asked.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Bo let out a short breath before nodding. “Okay. Sure, we can do that. Umm… the woman showing us around should be up by the doors. Ready to head on in and hope for perfection?”
Jensen smiled. “Ready for perfection, Eli.”
5:30 PM; CLINSTONE, THE MASON HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
“Allie?” Jacob questioned as he stepped into the bedroom. He closed the door behind him, his eyes quickly scanning the room before focusing on Alice. “Wh–what’s going on?”
Alice sat on the edge of the bed, her hands in her lap. “Did you talk to Baba?” she asked.
“No. Was I supposed to?”
“I was hoping you would so I wouldn’t have to explain it,” Alice said quietly. “We talked about my control thing again today. You know, how I need to work on getting control of my life?”
“Having a man taking care of me isn’t good for that, Jake.”
“S–so what? Your solution is to leave me?” Jacob asked, throwing a hand out in the direction of the two suitcases on the floor.
“I’m not… leaving you. I’m just going to move in with Mom and Dad for a while,” Alice explained.
“Allie, you can’t do this to me.”
“I’ll come back, Jacob. I just need time to gain control over myself. That’s all.”
“And how long’s that going to take, Al? A couple days? Months? Years?” Jacob asked.
“I don’t know, Jacob.”
“Am I allowed to talk to you?”
A pause. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Oh, my God, Allie. I can’t… I can’t survive like that,” Jacob whispered.
“Do you want me to get better?”
“Then I have to do this,” she interrupted.
“I… Allie, please. We can make this work without you leaving me.”
“I don’t think we can. Me staying in this house with you watching after me? It is exactly what Scott wanted of me. He wanted me locked in the house with all of his children while he went out and took care of us. I can’t do that again. I have to get better, Jacob.”
“Stop calling me that,” he hissed. “It’s Jay, or Jake. But stop doing… this,” he whispered.
Alice pushed herself to her feet. “Baba will get my bags. We decided it was wise to get out before you convinced me to stay,” she said.
“Katie was right,” Jacob murmured.
“You were never planning to say. Once we got married, you weren’t gonna stay long.”
She scoffed. “I would’ve stayed just fine if you—” She cut herself off, holding up a hand. “You know what? I’m too tired for this. I’m not going to fight you. You’ll only feel worse about this if we fight.”
“Do you… want a hug?”
Wordlessly, Jacob pulled her into a tight hug. “Please don’t fucking leave me, Allie,” he whispered.
“It’s not forever,” Alice promised. “Just… you know, until I get better. I need to be stronger. You deserve better than this, Jake.”
“I want you. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for you to get better, Allie. I just want you to do better here. I don’t want you to go somewhere else,” Jacob said.
“It’s not forever,” she repeated.
“What if it is? What if… what if you decide you’re better than me?”
She snorted, smiling faintly. “That’s not ever happening, Jay. You know that. I love you.”
Jacob blinked harshly, squeezing her. “I love you, too.”
“I’m gonna go, but, umm… Mom and Baba can keep you updated on everything. I just think talking to you right now might be…”
“Well, that’s drastic, but yes.”
“Okay,” he said quietly.
“I just…” Alice stepped away from him. “I’m sorry, Jake. Honestly, I am so damn sorry. I’m going to do everything I can to get better as soon as I possibly can, and then I’ll come back.”
Jacob nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Okay.”
“I love you, Jake.”
“I love you, Allie.”
“Bye,” she whispered.
He swallowed roughly, glancing up at the ceiling. “Bye.” He waited until she left the room before sitting down in front of the dresser. He leaned back against it, closing his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Jake,” Adashe said simply once he walked into the room.
“You’re like a goddamn son to me, Jake. When she told me about this… it took everything I had not to talk her out of it,” Adashe said. “But it’s temporary. She’s going to get better. I’m going to make sure of that. I’ll get her back to you soon, Jake. I promise.”
Jacob nodded slightly. “Thanks,” he whispered.
“If you need help with the kids, call. We’ll make it work,” Adashe added. Jacob nodded. He listened to the man leave the room before opening his eyes. He sniffled, clearing his throat as he pulled his phone from his pocket. He unlocked the screen and brought up his contact list, his thumb hovering over Bo’s name. Was calling the blonde wrong? Maybe. Bo had other things to worry about. Planning a wedding, for instance.
Still, the sergeant couldn’t help himself. He clicked Bo’s name and tapped the green phone before pressing it to his ear.
“Jake, what’s up?” Bo asked.
Jacob cleared his throat. “You guys choose the venue?”
“We did. It’s all booked for Valentine’s Day,” Bo said. “You’re going to love it, Jake. It’s amazing.”
Jacob smiled faintly. “That’s good. That’s… important. Umm… when are you gonna be home?”
“Maybe eight-thirty or so? We’re grabbing a quick supper at some point. What’s wrong?” Bo asked.
“I just have something I wanna talk about, if you don’t mind me being selfish. I know you have shit to worry about, but…”
“Hey, hey, Jake, don’t worry about me. We can do wedding and case stuff at any hour. You’re family. My best man, remember? I have always have time for you. That’s not you being selfish.”
“Okay.” Jacob cleared his throat. “Thank you.”
“No problem, Jake. If this is, uh… something that’s really bothering you, bring the kids with. You can all stay at the house tonight,” Bo said.
Jacob knew by the tone of Bo’s voice that the blonde already knew the ‘something’ was about Alice. “Thank you. Again.”
“My pleasure, Jake.”
8:37 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, LIVING ROOM
Bo sat down beside Jacob on the couch, handing the sergeant a beer. “So, what’s going on?” the blonde asked, twisting the cap off the bottle of pop in his hands.
Jacob stared at his beer, tapping a finger against the cap. “Alice moved in with her parents. Being around me is bad for her healing process.”
Bo watched Jacob for a moment, quickly gauging the older man’s mood and opinion on the subject. “That’s stupid,” he finally decided.
“Thank you,” Jacob whispered. “I felt like I was a terrible person for thinking it was dumb as shit.”
“No, not terrible. You’re allowed to have an opinion. She’s your wife,” Bo said.
Jacob nodded. He cleared his throat, twisting the cap off his beer and tossing it onto the coffee table. “She just kept saying that it was temporary and that it wasn’t forever. Adashe promised she’d get better soon and come back home. But it’s still bullshit.”
“It’s going to be hard as hell, but do your best to give it time. In reality, I bet it’s not even being around you that she’s worried about,” Bo said.
“What the hell else would it be?”
“The kids. She knows she loves you. Her inability to take care of the kids makes her feel like a monster toward them. I bet it has to do with them instead, but she was more willing to accept that it was you rather than them,” the blonde explained.
“You think that’s possible?”
“I’m quite open to all possibilities.”
“I hadn’t even thought of that,” Jacob muttered, tilting his head back to take a drink.
“That’s human nature, Jake. You took the first explanation you were given, the one that made you out to be some kind of bad guy. You accepted it because we have a hard time accepting that it isn’t our fault after someone has told us that it is. Especially when the person that told us that is someone we love, someone we care deeply for,” Bo said.
“But either way, I’m sorry, Jake,” the blonde said softly.
Jacob sighed. “Thanks, Blondie. And, uh, you know, thanks for dealing with me.”
“It’s my pleasure, Jake.”
“Yeah, you say that, but I’ve added three children, a dog, and a man child to your house for the night,” Jacob said.
Bo chuckled softly. “Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s a problem of any kind. I love you, I love your kids, and your dog’s… you know, manageable.”
Jacob snorted. “That’s one word for her.”
Lightly, Bo elbowed Jacob in the side. “Want to go make something in the kitchen? Food, brownies, cake… whatever you want.”
“Can we just fry a bunch of shit? You know, eggplant and squash and mushrooms? Do you have things to fry? I’m in the mood for mildly healthy junk food.”
Bo chuckled. “Almost. We can run to WalMart and buy all the healthy junk food you want.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I’ll be back. Let met tell Jensen.”
“I’ll be here,” Jacob said quietly. “And, Bo? Thanks. Again.”
“My pleasure, Jake.” Bo walked back to Amber and Kayla’s bedroom, cracking open the door enough to lean into the room. “Jens?” he asked.
Jensen looked up briefly before going back to hooking the gaming system up to the television on the wall. “What’s up?” he asked.
“Jake and I are running out to WalMart to get some stuff for him to make. Cook, bake, fry, something. Need anything?” Bo asked.
“Uh, a few things, I think. I’ll check the fridge in a few and text you,” Jensen said.
“Mmhmm. I’ll be back soon. Love you.”
Jensen smiled faintly. “Love you, too, Eli.”
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