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“You okay, Jace?” I ask after a few moments.

“I’m better now. Can we go home, and Alana comes with us?” He looks at Keller with big hopeful eyes.

“You bet. Let’s order some pizza and have a movie night,” Keller offers.

“Really? You mean you don’t have to go back to work?” It’s earlier in the day than when Keller would be off work, which is why he hangs with me or goes home with a family member.

“Of course. There’s no place I’d rather be.” It’s been a slow process of me spending the night, usually only if Jace is with his grandparents or other family members. The sleeping over part was probably the hardest. As much as I told Keller I should go home, he’d insist on me staying. The one time I did, we were totally busted, almost like we were two teenagers sneaking in late from curfew. That’s the only way to describe it. Jace said that we were crazy to think that he wouldn’t know I stayed all night and that he liked waking up to me already being there instead of waiting for me to show up.

“How about you boys head home? I’ll stop and pick up the pizza on the way.” Keller looks at me like what the fuck, so I expand, “Grams texted and asked for me to stop by after work. It seems someone was sneaky and went to the store for a certain little boy. I can’t necessarily tell her no, can I?”

“Dad, do you mind if I go with Alana? It’s only fair I thank Grams and Gramps, too.”

“I see how it is. You’re taking my girl away from me.” Keller grins, going on, “I’ll get the pizza and ice cream. Don’t take too long, or I’ll pick the movie.” That causes both Jace and me to grumble. Keller’s movie selection is nothing to brag about.

“We won’t, promise,” Jace says. We stand up, I grab my bag from my desk, and then we walk out of the school, all of us holding hands and Jace in the middle with the biggest smile on his face. I’ve got a happy smile on my face as well, knowing I’ll do anything I can to keep it there, too.



“He asleep?” I ask Alana as she steps out of the house and onto the back porch, where I’m sitting. My hand moves out, grabbing the inside of her thigh to pull her towards me.

“Out like a light. Between the emotional ups and downs, Grams finding that vintage truck to add to his collection at the estate sale they went to, the food, and sugar, I think it did him in. Are you okay? You’ve been awfully quiet tonight.” I move Alana so she’s sitting on my lap sideways. Thankfully, when I bought the deck furniture, I was looking for size, durability, and comfort, never anticipating I’d be using it with Alana sitting on my lap, enjoying the evening sky.

“Never better. Got a boy who loves you, I love you, and you love me. There’s only one thing missing.” The ring on my pinky finger is impatiently waiting to be slid onto her finger. Alana might have gone to see her grandparents this afternoon, but she had no idea I was there earlier asking them for Alana’s hand in marriage. If she had a dad who was worth his salt, I would have asked him. That isn’t the case, though. In fact, since we’ve been together, the only time she’s mentioned him was her telling me that if it weren’t for her grandparents, she’d have abandonment issues from not just her mother but her father as well.

“Really? I thought we had everything already.” My hand slides to her outer thigh, feeling the smoothness of her skin.

“I think there’s something else that’s needed, something that a man like myself never thought he’d ever find. A woman worth having, someone worth keeping. A woman who would drop anything she’s doing to be by my side or my son’s side. And I want that woman to know just how much I love her and how I want her to have my last name, a name I share with Jace, one I’d love nothing more than to share with our future children. Alana, will you marry me?” I hold my breath. I was going to do this in another few months, but there was no way either of us could wait. I’m tired of her living in two different houses, not waking up with her wrapped around me every day. So, when the opportunity presented itself, there was no time like the present.

“Oh God, Keller, of course I will. I love you so much. And Jace, God do I love that little boy like he’s my own.” Alana wraps her arms around my neck, not caring about a ring. Hell, she didn’t even see it. The only thing she cares about is telling me how she feels.

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