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“I think this calls for a glass of wine.” She doesn’t say anything else when we pull away and her hands cup my cheeks. She’s well into her seventies, and though there are more lines marking her face, nothing else has changed.

“I’m on it. Alana, set the table. Winnie, you’re going to overwhip the potatoes.” Leave it to Gramps to understand what his ladies need.

“Aye, aye, captain,” I tease but also move to the kitchen cabinet that houses the plates we’ll need, doing as he asks.

“Smart aleck. You’re lucky I like you,” he tosses back.

“You said I love you wrong,” Grams pipes in, making me laugh because she’s not watching us banter anymore. Her eyes are locked on the mashed potatoes in the mixer.

“Hmmph,” Gramps harumphs, but there’s a smile on his face when I look over my shoulder at him while setting three plates on their small eat-in kitchen table.

“Alana, honey, since you don’t have to work tomorrow, why don’t you just spend the night? We’ll drink some wine and play cards.” As if I had any plans of going home to my empty apartment tonight anyways. She doesn’t know that, though, and yes, I keep clothes in their spare room that is still decorated in my style from when I lived her.

“Sure, I’d really like that. Think we can kick gramps’ butt in rummy this time?”

“Have you seen our track record?” She bustles over, placing the mashed potatoes in the center of the table. Gramps brings the meat loaf behind her and is laughing. He’s a bit of a card shark. In fact, if they’re not working in the yard, you can find them driving to the casino a state over to gamble.

“Maybe I’ll let you win. Probably not, though,” gramps responds. We all sit down, enjoying the meal, talking about everything and nothing until the food is gone. I take over washing the dishes because it’s only fair. They cooked, I clean, and then we fill our wine glasses and settle in for a few rounds of cards. This is what I needed, even if I didn’t know it, being surrounded by my grandparents. It’s everything.



The four-day weekend Jace had was full of fun and adventure. The same couldn’t be said for myself. I still had to work, which meant he was with my parents on Friday and Monday. It definitely sucked having to wake him up entirely too early to drop him off, only to head into work for twelve hours. On Saturday and Sunday, I made up for my lack of being with him the other two days. Jace loves the zoo, and even though it’s not my favorite, that’s where we went. He walked around talking about which animal was which, what they eat and what country they’re native to. I’m not sure if he learned that at school with Alana as his teacher or all the National Geographic shows he watches anytime we’re at home.

What sucks is now that Leena knows something happened between me and Alana, she’s firmly shut me down on helping in any way possible when it comes to Jace and school. That doesn’t mean I won’t call in reinforcements if there’s a need. Marlie, my brother Tanner’s woman, would never shut down the idea of helping me or hanging out with Jace. Fuck, my brother found the right woman the first time, it seems. The opposite of me.

“Dad, if we don’t get out of the truck, I’m going to be late for school, and that will ruin my perfect attendance.” He has his seatbelt off, backpack on, and is standing in the backseat of my truck telling me this.

“I guess we can’t do that. You ready to rock and roll?” I snap out of my stupor, knowing I’ve got to make sure things with Alana are kosher, to say the least.

“Duh, that’s what I’ve been saying, Dad,” Jace tells me in his voice that means business.

“I hear you, kiddo.” I hop out of the truck, open his door, and give him a once-over. I got lucky with Jace, my easy-going boy who is smarter than smart. So smart they’ve been talking about moving him up a grade level next year. And in the looks, let’s just say he doesn’t have much of his mother in him either. Apparently, my gene pool won. Not that his mom wasn’t pretty in her own way. All I can say is beauty goes only skin deep. What’s inside someone is what matters most.

“You got your lunch box?” I ask.

“Yep, it’s right here.” Jace lifts his arm, nearly knocking me in the face with it.

“Alright, time to go. Though the longer I keep you with me, the better off I am. It makes your uncles work more.” I wink. He throws his head back, laughing in that childlike way, with complete abandon and innocence. If there’s only one thing I do right in this world, I hope it’s being Jace’s father.

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