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Dani slid the plate of pancakes in front of Noah and scoffed. “I’m not calling him in the middle of a crowded restaurant with my mom listening in.”

“Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and I need to know how many people to plan for.”

Giving up on actually getting to eat her own stack of pancakes, Dani climbed out of the booth. “I’m going outside to call him.” When her mom started to protest, Dani held her hand up. “One argument from you, and I will sit back down and never let you get your claws into him.”

“You’re not very nice to your mother,” she said.

“I’m too nice to you, which is why I allow you to still boss me around.”

Dani escaped before her mom could respond and walked outside, standing on the sidewalk as she dug her phone out of her purse. She scrolled through, wishing she hadn’t been such a pushover as she pressed the little green phone next to Tyler’s name.

When he picked up, the smile in his voice was obvious.

“Hey, beautiful, I was just thinking of you.”

God, would the sappy things he said always make her grin like an idiot?

“Hi, funny, I was thinking of you, too. And so was my mom.”

“Um, that’s a little weird,” he said.

“Well, we were having lunch, and she started asking about you and whether we are serious or not, and well, one thing led to another, and she . . . She wants you to come to our house for Thanksgiving dinner.”

“Huh, a family holiday? Turkey? Mashed potatoes? Awkwardly watching football with your dad?”

“That’s the one. I told her you probably had plans with your family, so I completely understand if you can’t—”

“Actually, I was going to say yes, unless you don’t want me to come.”

Stuttering with surprise, she said, “No, that’s great. I just . . . I . . . great!”

“Say it one more time, and I’ll really believe you,” he said.

“Shut your face.” Listening to his deep chuckle for a few seconds, she finally added, “Okay, well I better get back inside and tell Mom. She’s going to be over the moon that she can interrogate you all she wants.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Okay, love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Chapter Twenty-Eight

AS SOON AS he got back to work, Tyler had called Virginia into his office, armed with options for Jeremiah once he left Alpha Dog. The only thing to do now was get Jeremiah’s mother to understand where her son was coming from.

Someone knocked on his door.

“Come in.”

Sparks led Virginia inside and came around to stand at the side of Tyler’s desk.

“Please have a seat, Mrs. Walton.”

She did, her wide face a mask of suspicion. “Why am I here? I thought that my son had already decided to finish his sentence here.”

“He has, ma’am, but we wanted to talk to you, to prepare you for some of the concerns Jeremiah has expressed to me,” Tyler said.

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. You assaulted my husband.”