8:03 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
“That was Jamal,” Jensen said, sitting down beside Bo on the bed.
“What’d he say?” Bo asked quietly.
“They found the boy. He was taken to the hospital, and he’s okay,” Jensen said.
“Thank you,” Bo whispered. He turned, wrapping his arms around Jensen. “What about…?”
Jensen shook his head as he hugged the blonde. “They didn’t catch him.”
“He really went all out to replicate the Mammoth,” Bo murmured. “If he’s really like the Mammoth, we’ll never find him, Jens.”
“We’ll find him, Eli,” Jensen said softly. Bo nodded against the taller man’s chest. Jensen threaded his fingers through Bo’s hair, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “It’s gonna be okay,” he promised. Again, Bo only nodded.
9:30 AM; CLINSTONE, UNKNOWN LOCATION
Nicole squinted as she turned her head toward the voice. Jamal sat in a chair beside her, a glass of scotch in his hand. “Where are we?”
“I can’t tell you that,” Jamal said. He glanced down, swirling the liquid in his glass before taking a sip. “You fucked yourself up pretty badly, Nicole.”
“I… I don’t remember…” She closed her eyes. “I don’t remember what happened.”
“Well, I can tell you the aftermath. The boy’s alive, the killer’s gone, and I had to stitch up your wrist, abdomen, and a pretty nice gash on your head. You have a concussion, far as I can tell,” Jamal said, his voice quiet. “You scared me. When I got the woods, you weren’t breathing. I didn’t know what I was going to tell Wayne,” he murmured, his gaze focused on the amber drink in his hand.
“You saved my life,” Nicole whispered.
“Of course I did.” He lifted his gaze to her face. “Just because you hate me doesn’t mean you aren’t family. You married Wayne. You have children together. Like or not, you’re part of this, no matter how much you hate my guts.” His eyes fell back to the drink in his hand. “Katherine hates me, and she’s still family. Unless you hurt Wayne, that doesn’t change.”
“How’d you get me here?”
“How do you think? I carried you.”
“You… I was over four miles into that forest.”
“I’m aware.” Jamal’s gaze shifted to the foot of the bed. The fingers of his left hand were bent, his thumb moving absentmindedly over the pads of his first three fingers. “I couldn’t take you to a hospital. Too many questions, even for me. It’s been a while since I’ve stitched up anything, but I did what I could. You’ll have scars.” A pause. “Sorry for that.”
“Thank you,” Nicole breathed.
Jamal grunted his response. “There’s Tylenol on the nightstand there, a bottle of water. Take it. It’ll help with the headache. I’ll grab you an ice pack,” he said quietly, pushing himself to his feet. Scotch glass in hand, he walked out of her sight. Nicole sat up only enough to take the Tylenol before dropping her head back to the pillow. Jamal back into the room and handed her an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel. “Here.”
“Your hand. What’d you do?” Nicole asked as she grabbed the ice pack.
Jamal glanced down at his busted knuckles before shrugging. “Doesn’t matter.” He crossed the room, lowering himself into the chair again.
“Does it hurt?”
“I’ve had worse,” Jamal said. “This is nothing,” he added quietly. He cleared his throat. “Ice that bump on your head before it manages to swell any more. Go to sleep if you can.”
“You’re just gonna sit there?” Nicole asked.
“Nowhere better to be,” he said. “Besides, gotta make sure you keep breathing. You held up your end of the deal. I’ll hold up mine.”
“Does Wayne know?”
“As far as Wayne is concerned, you’re fine. I’m not letting him worry about you clear back in Los Angeles. It’s unhealthy for him, and it’s unhealthy for your children. You worry about you. I will worry about the both of you,” Jamal said.
“I always thought of you like you were the Devil. But… but you’re not that bad,” Nicole said.
He shook his head, taking a small sip of his scotch. “The Devil didn’t come to earth with a cape around his neck and pointy horn upon his head, Nicole,” he said, his voice just a little darker than before as one corner of his mouth lifted. “He came to earth disguised as everything you could ever ask for. Sometimes, it’s best to always trust your initial gut reaction to a person.” All traces of his smile fell from his face. “Especially when that person is me.”
12:11 PM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, KITCHEN
“So?” Bo questioned as Jensen walked into the room, tossing his car keys onto the counter.
“Kid doesn’t remember much. He’s on a lot of pain meds and anti-anxiety meds. He’s pretty out of it,” Jensen said. “I’ll try again tomorrow.” Bo nodded. “We’re ordering pizza tonight and having Jake and Cecilia over. I think you could benefit from being around other adults.”
“Okay,” Bo said quietly.
Jensen laid a hand on Bo’s cheek and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’m gonna take a shower. Lijah and Charlotte are already glued to the TV if you’d like to join me.”
Bo nodded. “I’ll be there in a second.”
“All right,” Jensen said softly. He tilted Bo’s head back and kissed him. “Stop worrying about this fucker, Eli. We’re gonna catch him. We have the boy. Everything else… it’ll fall into place.
“I know,” Bo whispered. He offered a smile. “Go and get the water running. I’ll be back in a minute. I just… I gotta let Hati and Chloe back in.”
Jensen smiled faintly. “Okay, babe.” He brushed a thumb over Bo’s cheek before turning and walking out of the kitchen. Bo wrapped his arms around himself, letting out a heavy sigh. They were closer to catching the stalker, sure. But if the stalker knew that Bo had contacted Jamal, would there be some kind of deadly backlash?
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