The only good thing about the long drive was getting to hold Dani’s hand the whole way home.
“What did Kent mean?” she asked finally. Tyler was surprised it had taken her so long to bring it up.
“You know how I told you I was shot?” He saw her nod out of the corner of his eye. “Well, it was actually a sniper bullet that went through my dog and my knee. Tore up the cartilage pretty good.”
“Your dog? Oh God, Tyler.”
He chuckled bitterly. “Yeah, I never knew something could hurt so bad, and Rex . . . Well, I couldn’t leave him. I lay there on the ground, holding my dead dog in my arms instead of trying to crawl. Trying to get myself to safety. Luckily, some of the guys from my squad heard my distress call and came for me. They put me on a chopper, and after several surgeries, they sent me here to recover. Physical therapy and group counseling. I guess I was too valuable as a military dog trainer for them to give me a medical discharge, but they’ll never send me back into the field again.”
Her hands covered his and she squeezed. “Do you want to go back?”
“Hell no. Sparks did, until he met Violet, and I get he had his own reasons, but I was done. I still remember the sound and smell and Rex’s blood on my hands . . . ” Dani gave a soft whimper, and he cursed. “I’m sorry, you don’t need to hear this shit.”
“No, I’m just picturing the whole thing, and it makes me ache for you.” She brought his hand up to her cheek, turning to press her lips to his palm.
Needing to lighten the mood a bit, he joked, “If you really want to make me feel better, you should use my hand to cup something else.”
She smacked him in the chest.
“Ow, don’t abuse the driver.”
“Then stop being a pervert.”
Tyler got off the freeway and headed straight for Dani’s place. It was a little after ten, and he was exhausted. He still needed to pick up Duke, and he had switched with Bryce tomorrow so he needed to be at the program at nine in the morning.
He parked the car in her driveway and got to the back door first. “I’ll get him. You get the door.”
She nodded and went to go unlock it. Tyler ducked into the backseat and unbuckled Noah, who snored on softly. He lifted the toddler out and held him with his head against his shoulder. They’d changed him into pajamas before they’d made the drive back, and considering how out the little guy was, Tyler was glad Dani wouldn’t have to wrestle pajamas onto him.
Dani pushed the door open and went first, shooing and shushing her two dogs as they barked excitedly. Shasta stood up on her hind legs and tried to sniff Noah, and Tyler patted her head.
Tyler laid Noah down in his crib and ran a hand over his curls gently.
He pulled the fleece blanket over him and left the room, closing the door with a soft click. Dani was standing in the kitchen, holding her phone to her ear with a frown.
“What’s up?” he whispered.
She held the phone out to him. “Press play.”
Tyler did as she said and listened.
“Hello, Danielle, this is Camila Ramirez, Angel’s mother. I would like to talk to you regarding my grandchild. Please call me at 916-555-0923. Thank you.”
Tyler’s body pulsed with anger. God, Angel was a fucking pussy. “Nothing like sending his mommy to do his dirty work. Are you going to call her?”
“I think I should talk to a lawyer first. See what my options are. I just . . . I only met his mother a few times, but I know she hated me.” With a heavy sigh, she took her phone back and set it on the counter. “I just don’t get why he’s even interested in Noah, you know? He was the one who said he wanted nothing to do with either of us. Now I’ve got not just him, but his mother contacting me.”
“How did they get your number?” he asked.
“I’ve had the same number for years. I’ve never changed it.”
“Might want to think about doing that,” Tyler said.
“Yeah, I might, depending on what the lawyer says, but they already know where I live. Unless I want to move, too, not sure how helpful that will be.”
Suddenly, Tyler wasn’t so sure about going back to his place tonight. Maybe he should get Duke and his uniform and come back. Tyler cupped her face in his hands and peered down at her. “I don’t like you being here alone. What if he’s watching the house?”