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“Hey, is there room in there for me?” Alana comes up beside us, and I open my arms for her. Christ, do I love this woman. She deserves to hear those words, and I’ll be saying them the second I know Anna is off campus and out of our life for good.

“Always.” Nothing else needs to be said. It’s the three of us together that matters.



“Hey, bud, what do you say you hang with Nana tonight?” We all split up as Mrs. Hart walks in along with Tanner. I watch as the guys do the silent nod thing.

“Something’s wrong. I’m supposed to go with Alana. Now Dad, Uncle Tanner, and you’re here, Nana. What’s wrong?” Jace doesn’t miss a beat.

“Nothing now, but I think your dad and Alana wouldn’t mind an impromptu date night.”

“We all got our wires crossed. Have you seen our group text message lately? It’s wild,” Tanner says, trying to calm some of Jace’s fears.

“Jace, come here a second. I think it’s time we all had a chat,” Keller takes the lead.

“Dad, I’m not a baby. I can take it like a man.” Jace puffs up his chest, and I have to hold back my smile, though I see his Nana having to do the same thing.

“Don’t I know it. Sometimes, though, adults like to shield kids. Remember when we talked about your mom not long ago?” Keller asks. My hand touches his, giving him some strength of my own to get through this.

“Yeah, I remember. Is this what this is about?”

“It is. She came up to the school and, well, quite frankly, she isn’t allowed to. Your Uncle Tanner being the awesome guy he is came for backup, and Nana, well, we all know she’s a worry wart, so she followed him. Everything is okay, and she’s gone now.” I can tell this is hurting Jace’s heart as he stops to take a breath before saying this last piece. “If you want to see her, we can talk about it. Maybe on the phone at first?”

“But, Dad, I don’t want to. You can’t make me. She hasn’t ever been around. Why would I want to see her now?” Jace starts to get upset. We all start to break down in some small way. Keller is sitting on his ass in front of Jace, Tanner’s body is locking up tight, Mrs. Hart has tears streaming down her face, and all I want to do is wrap my arms around him, never letting him go.

“No one says you have to. I was just giving you the option. Jace, son, you don’t have to be upset. I’m not going to make you.” Jace’s shoulders are moving up and down. He’s getting worked up, rightfully so. His poor emotions are in upheaval. God, do I feel his pain to the depths of my soul. I had a mom who would pop back in my life when she felt like it. She and my father are much the same in that respect. It’s why the second I turned eighteen, I moved in with Grams and Gramps.

“Good, because I don’t want to. Alana is the only one I want to be my mom, ever. Dad, make that happen. She loves me, she plays with me, she’s everything I never knew I was missing.” I watch as Tanner grabs his mom’s hand, leading her out of my classroom. There’s no way either of us are going to want to spend a night alone after Jace just poured his heart out to us.

“Come here, Alana. It seems not only do I have something to tell you, but Jace does as well.” I nod, my head I’m sure looking like a bobble head, wanting to get any piece of these two guys they’re willing to give.

“Jace, I love you, and I am so honored to be in your life. I’ll always be here, okay?” I sit beside Keller, his arm going around my shoulders.

“Yep, and if I have my way, Alana won’t ever go anywhere. Because how you feel about Alana, it goes deeper for me, and I’d love nothing more than to start and end my days with her. That’s how much I love her, so don’t worry about seeing your mom, if that’s not what you want. You’ve got us, alright?”

“I love you, Dad, and I love you, Alana.” Jace falls into Keller and me, all of us hugging each other. I kiss the top of his head, then my eyes go to Keller’s.

“I love you, Lana,” he mouths the words, letting Jace have his moment of quietness, and I do the same thing. “I love you, Keller.” What I wouldn’t give to have Keller’s lips on mine. That’ll have to wait because there is no way I’ll have a make-out session in front of Jace or at my school.

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