Another Day With Jory by Mary Calmes
© December 2016
I was surprised when I got home and found the tank he drove already parked in our small two car garage. It was tiny, compared to most people’s, as the cars could fit in there but nothing much else besides the kids’ bikes. Sam had put up bike hooks on the far wall, so I was always careful pulling in so I didn’t crush them. They used to be on the sides, with mine, but after Kola and Hannah made a nighttime getaway, Sam had moved them just to be on the safe side. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust them—they were both the kind of people anyone would be happy to claim—it was just that they were both superheroes at heart, so if duty called, they would ditch out to help a friend in need. At least now, they couldn’t get far without transportation.
Him being home was not super great for me—I’d hoped to have a little more time to prepare—but there was no way around it, and I wasn’t going to change my mind. Picking up the sleeping dog from the passenger seat, I tucked him under my arm and got out.
There were cans of wet food in a bag in the trunk, and I collected that, snapped the leash to the collar, and led the sweater-clad Chihuahua toward my home.
I thought he’d have trouble with the stairs, being as small as he was, but he went right up them to the back deck Sam had built, along with his brother and mine, this past summer. I opened the French door and stepped into the kitchen—the door was new also—and was greeted by my cat, Chilly, calling to me from the top of the refrigerator. Both me and Dobby—I’d already named him after the elf from Harry Potter because, hello, with those ears he could get Direct TV, I was sure—looked up at the cat.
“Don’t be an ass,” I ordered Chilly.
He stretched and yawned wide, making a show like he could have cared less, but I knew he was eaten up with excitement and interest as deliberate as he was moving.
There was a hop onto the counter and then another to the floor before he strutted over to me and the tan and black Chihuahua. Pushing out his nose, he was clearly horrified when the dog licked it—the disgust was evident—but he only “talked” to the puppy. There was no hissing. I was counting it as a win.
Taking off the leash, I watched a second as the dog sat and regarded the cat, and the cat did the exact same. Everything Siri had read to me on the way home in the car said that the process of introducing pets should be done slowly and in stages. I had no time for that, so I was glad it worked out. Not that I was all that worried. Chilly was no longer a freaky kitten but a true cat with all the disinterest in anything that wasn’t about food, being brushed, or sleeping in his spot in front of the fireplace. He might need to share that and one of the kids’ beds, but other than that, the dog was two pounds lighter than his eight, so it wasn’t like either of them was taking up a lot of room.
“Hello?” I called out now that the pet introductions were done.
And that was odd because how was I not worth a greeting from my husband?
Walking into the living room from the kitchen, I found the Chief Deputy of the Northern Division of Illinois Marshals Service lying on his back, spread eagle on the floor beside the Christmas tree.
I cleared my throat.
Heavy sigh in return.
Putting everything that I hadn’t left in the kitchen down on the sideboard that ran the length of the back of the couch—keys, phone, wallet, gloves, sunglasses—I then shed my peacoat, scarf and beanie before walking over to stand above the man I loved and adored.
His eyes were closed and I noticed that he had apparently walked straight in and just stretched out in the middle of our living room. The man was still dressed in his overcoat and suit, his scarf was still on, his badge clipped to his belt, and his gun was still in its holster.
His eyes opened slowly, and I noted the defeat as well as the furrowed brows.
“What’s the story here, marshal?”
He cleared his throat. “I was just with Hannah in the principal’s office at school.”
This was news. “Why?”
“They called me because your daughter refused to tell everyone on her different social media accounts that she and Melanie Dudley were friends.”
I squinted at him. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Well,” he sighed. “Apparently, at recess, she was on Snapchat telling everyone, hey I’m at school hanging with my buds, and she names some other kids.”
“She can do that there because it disappears, right?”
“You’re asking me?”
I snickered. “Okay, well, they all have code names, so I’m sure it was faces all clustered around a phone, and now it’s gone.”
“You’re right,” he agreed, “but that’s not the issue.”
“What’s the issue, then?”
“Apparently, this Melanie wanted to be in the picture too.”
“I have never heard of a Melanie only Dhara, Jing-Wei, Kaitlin and Red.”
“Red was Robyn last year but is now transitioning from female to male.”
“He’s the one who tutored Hannah in Algebra.”
“It’s hard to keep up with all Hannah’s friends. Kola’s are easier.”
“That’s because there’s only Jake and Harper and the three of them are inseparable.”
“But since Melanie is new to me, I’m thinking they must not be friends.”
“Right, but Melanie wants to be trending on Snapchat like B is, so she wanted to be in the picture too.”
“And this has what to do with us?”
“Well, Melanie went for B’s phone, and B said no, and first they ran, and then Melanie grabbed B’s hair, and that’s when B put the move on her.”
“She’s a Blue Belt in Tae Kwon Do now Sam, there actually is a move. What do you expect her to do?”
“Use her power for good.”
“Did she hurt Melanie?”
“No, but when the teacher went over and told B to give her her phone––”
“Why would she need that?”
“To see if there was something offensive that B had written about her.”
“Why would the teacher think that B was writing about her?”
“Not the teacher, Melanie.”
“I thought you said the teacher took the phone.”
He groaned. Loudly. “The teacher went over to check B’s phone to see if B had posted anything offensive about Melanie.”
There was a lot of emphasis on B and Melanie there. “Oh.” I said.
“Well, when B refused, the teacher took it, and that’s when B yelled and the phone locked up and zapped Mrs. Fitzpatrick.”
I laughed. I couldn’t help it.
It was loud. He was loud. Always. “You’re yelling,” I reminded him.
“That’s because it’s not funny at all,” he shouted at me, sitting up and rolling to his feet in a one continuous fluid motion.
“Honey,” I began soothingly.
“The phone zapped her,” he reiterated. “How does your daughter have a phone that zaps people?”
“Like the phone vibrated in the teacher’s hand and shocked her?”
My eyebrows lifted. I felt it before I even realized I was even doing it. “What?”
“Hannah has a phone that hears her yell, and zaps people.”
“No. She has an iPhone.”
“No,” he corrected me grumpily, moving close to me, looming over me with his towering height. Anyone else would have been intimidated as all hell, but he was too cute all puffed up and pissed off and starting to pace. I was giving him fits, I could tell. Or, technically, Hannah was and I wasn’t helping.
Sitting down on the couch, watching him as he started to pace, was both fun and pleasurable. Not only did I enjoy watching the clench of his jaw and the furrow of his dark copper colored brows, but taking in the massive shoulders as the muscles in his back shifted under the suit jacket he had on sent a pulse of arousal through me that lit me up like a circuit board.
My head snapped up from his ass to his face at the same time he turned. Thank God.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yes,” I lied.
“I promise you that she does, in fact, have an iPhone.”
“And I can promise you she does not,” he assured me. “There’s no model that I know of that can actually zap people.”
“Oh,” I said, getting it.
“Ah-hah!” He snapped like he’d caught me.
“So, she must have gotten a new phone from Aaron.”
“Don’t be snide, Sam.”
“He gave her a phone that can defend itself; are you processing the ramifications of that?”
He was in marshal mode; I could hear it in his tone. “A phone and taser all in one?”
“There’s no such thing.”
“But how clever would that be?”
“Can you focus, please?”
“So, the phone can zap a would-be attacker?”
“I guess so.”
“That’s cool, right?” I offered. “I mean, as a man who has a daughter, that’s a good thing.”
“Why is it not a good thing?”
“Because she shouldn’t have it.”
“This is your argument?”
“I think she can call him in Hong Kong on it.”
“No,” I said flatly. “I would have seen that on our phone bill.”
“Not if he’s paying for that phone and we’re paying for the iPhone.”
“Possible,” I agreed.
“The one we got her is probably upstairs in her desk.”
“No. She’s carrying it on her because I track both her and Kola using their phones.”
“What if they turn it off?”
I shook my head. “I set them up so they can’t be turned off.”
“Okay, so she’s got a monster phone, and what else?”
“What else? That’s not enough?”
“I still don’t understand why you got a call.”
“I was there. I was speaking to Kola’s class about being a marshal.”
Which explained the really nice Armani suit he had on. Thursday, in and of itself, did not constitute him looking as breathtaking as he was.
“What’s with you?”
I shook my head.
“So, as soon as I was done with Kola’s class, they––”
“How did that go?”
“Talking to Kola’s class; how did that go?”
“You got looks?”
More grimacing and a head tilt.
“I got a standing ovation.”
“From Kola’s class?”
“The guy after me was a tax attorney.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” I said solemnly, because really, ouch. The big, strong, handsome marshal should have gone at the end of the day. It was like following a fighter pilot or a fireman. Who in the hell wanted to do that?”
“He was really nice, up until…he…there’s a Chihuahua in the living room.”
I turned and looked at Dobby, who was sitting right beside Chilly, who was also stationary, for once, there, next to the recliner that I had finally broken down and bought Sam for his birthday. It was a really nice one, all leather, but still, sadly, a recliner. It was terrible but I had a stereotype in my head about recliners, which was probably worse, considering that the sexiest man I’d ever laid eyes on now owned one.
“Don’t yes me,” he grumbled, pointing. “Why is there a Chihuahua in my living room?”
“His name’s Dobby.”
“Like the elf.”
“From Harry Potter.”
“No, I know––” he growled, “––I know where the name’s from. I’d like to know where the Chihuahua with the name came from.”
“It’s because of the ears.”
“Why I named him Dobby.”
“He has big ears, Sam.”
He breathed out through his nose before he moved to the couch and took a seat beside me. I watched as he turned toward me and took my hands in his.
“This is nice,” I sighed.
He cleared his throat. “I will murder you where you sit if you do not explain the dog.”
But there was a knock on the door.
“No,” Sam said.
I got up.
He yanked me back down.
“Sam,” I said plaintively, gesturing as the doorbell rang.
“No,” he repeated. “I wanna know about the dog.”
“Sam,” I whined.
He growled again before he shot up and charged across the room. “Are you expecting someone?” He asked me as he reached for the knob.
“Just Dylan with the kids after school.”
“Why is Dylan picking up your kids?” He paused in mid-action to ask.
“Originally because we’re baking cookies today, her kids, ours, Dane’s, Rick’s––”
“Well yeah, I told her that she might need to have one of the kids use their keys to get in the house if I was still stuck at the police station, since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be.”
He turned to look at me. “When were you at a police station?”
“Couple hours ago.”
“Why?” he asked, his voice dropping.
“Because of the Chihuahua.”
He just stared at me as beats of time passed and the doorbell chimed again.
“You say Chihuahua like that should explain everything.”
I shrugged. “I would have called you, but I wasn’t sure what you had going on today, and I hate to disturb you unless it’s life and death.”
“Was it?” He asked me like he was in pain. “Was it life and death? Did you get shot at?”
“Oh, gimme a break, it’s been years since I’ve been shot at.”
“You were nearly killed the day we got married!” He was indignant.
“Please,” I groaned. “You were all over that guy.”
He threw up his hands, answered the door, and then heaved out a sigh as he pivoted and headed back toward me. Aaron Sutter was hot on his trail, and Aaron’s husband, Duncan Stiel, was bringing up the rear.
“I can explain,” my lifetime ago ex said as he tried to get around in front of Sam.
For his part, Sam yanked off his overcoat, hurled it at his five month old recliner, and then flopped down onto the other end of the couch—it was a sectional, I’d insisted on it—and scrubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.
“Are you going to hear me out or not?” Aaron fumed, arms crossed, scowling down at Sam.
“Ooooh, you’re in trouble,” I teased him.
“Just listen,” he began, focusing on Sam, ignoring me. “I––”
“The hell did you do, Sutter?” Sam leaned back, glaring up at Aaron, his arms crossed as well. “My daughter has a satellite phone that can call Guam.”
“And is there a phone plan that you’re paying for, for that phone?”
“I’m taking care of the long distance since, technically, we’re still in beta testing.”
“And,” Sam said over him, “it can zap people.”
“Shock not zap,” Aaron corrected.
“Oh, that makes it all better,” he told him.
“But it can also call the police if it’s dropped,” Aaron said, sounding like an infomercial. “And even if it gets smashed, it will route a signal to the authorities and continue to ping on GPS.”
Sam waggled his head like maybe that wasn’t horrible.
“I want to develop a phone that people can carry—kids, the elderly, anyone without a black belt in Karate—that will keep them safe.”
“It zaps you.”
“Are we back to that?”
“It’s a big thing.” Sam was adamant.
“I told you,” Duncan threw in.
“You cannot put a taser and phone together.”
Aaron tsked. “Well no, that would be dangerous.”
“But a phone that shocks you is not?”
“Did you test it? It’s a tiny zap, like a nip of electricity.”
“Exactly. Like from a––” he chuckled when he saw the dog, “––oh, yes, a Chihuahua.”
“Since when do you guys have a Chihuahua?”
Sam gestured at me.
“I was just getting to that,” I told Aaron.
“Of course you were.”
“Don’t be snide, Aaron,” I cautioned him just as I had Sam moments before.
“Why did you give Hannah a phone without my permission?”
“Technically, I only upgraded her phone,” Aaron qualified. “She already had one.”
“Why did she need an upgrade?”
“Because she needed to talk to me about her YouTube channel.”
Sam did a slow pan to me.
“It’s a teeny thing,” I explained, “but she’s having a good time with it.”
“It’s not actually teeny,” Aaron apprised me. “She’s trending.”
“I told you,” Aaron said pointedly, “that between her serious talks about having two fathers, and being adopted, about dealing with cyberbullies––”
“When was she dealing with cyberbullies?” Sam interrupted sharply.
“Last month when you were at that conference in DC,” I answered. “And I told you all this, but clearly, you weren’t listening.”
“I always listen to you.”
I arched an eyebrow for him.
“I do! That’s why I’m panicked all the time, and do not roll your eyes at me.” He warned.
I did anyway.
“Now, tell me again about the cyberbullying.”
“But it was a tiny thing and you took care of it.”
“How did I?”
I sighed deeply. “A boy in Kola’s class, who liked B, put her head on some Victoria’s Secret model bodies and posted them online.”
His jaw clenched and his brows furrowed, and I knew I had to talk faster before the man I loved had a meltdown.
“But since the boy didn’t name B outright, and because the school didn’t have any jurisdiction, I went over to talk to the parents of the kid myself.” I continued, smiling at him. “But the mother didn’t think it was cause for concern, and the father told me that boys will be boys and that at least his son used hot women for my daughter.”
“I definitely don’t remember hearing that part before,” Sam said icily.
“You were very tired when you got home,” I reminded him.
“Please, go on.”
“Okay, so at first I wasn’t certain what recourse I had, but before I even had time to bring up my concerns to you seriously, or ask Aaron to have his guys erase this boy from existence on the internet, or write a really scary virus to annihilate anyone who even clicked on B’s picture––”
“Which I would have done,” Aaron chimed in.
“B handled it.”
I nodded. “Yeah. She posted the pictures the boy made of her on Snapchat and Twitter and YouTube, and talked all about the whole thing, without naming any names, just like he hadn’t, and basically took away all this kid’s power and beat him at his own game.”
“And that has what to do with me?”
“Well,” I said, smiling at him. “Your daughter told me that Daddy always tells her to face things head on and figure out a way to turn a problem to your advantage.”
His lip curled just a fragment.
“She’s gotten a lot of good press from this, and has been contacted by several famous people on YouTube who have basically told her, good job.”
“Yes. They were all very impressed with how she stood up to this boy.”
“But? I hear a but?”
“Well, the boy shoved Hannah at school, and Kola saw it.”
I watched Sam’s normally gleaming eyes lose their spark and flatten. “And?”
“Kola gave him a warning, and he told Kola that he’d meet him after school in the park around the corner from the school.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because Hannah texted me, so I went to the school to pick them up so we could avoid any fighting.”
“Well, when I got there, I put them in the car, and the boy’s father—
the same man I’d tried to talk to the first time—came over and expressed what he thought of me and my children and, basically, us as a family.”
“Jesus Christ, Jory, why didn’t you––”
“Because, Sam, before he could walk away from me, I pulled up the US Marshal website and showed him who you were, your picture, your bio, all of it, and then asked him point blank if he really wanted to tangle with my husband.”
I smiled at him. “That, sir, as they say, was the end of that.”
His gaze was locked with mine.
“So you’re saying that even though I wasn’t there, I was, in fact, there.”
“Yes, dear,” I sighed, getting up and moving over to him, sinking down close so that I could lace my fingers with his. “You’re the guardian of our family. You scare away all the monsters.”
His exhale was long before he leaned close and kissed me. It was quick, just a brush of his lips, but I felt the heat rush through me.
“Okay, good,” Duncan announced, “now me.”
“No,” Sam cut him off, pointing at Aaron. “You’re still in trouble.”
“You have to stop giving Hannah gifts.”
“The phone was an upgrade.”
Sam shot him a look.
“How is that phone not good for your daughter?”
“That’s not the point. You’ll never live down the tiara.”
Aaron opened his mouth to rebut.
“And the Fabergé egg.”
“It’s not an egg,” he grumbled. “It’s a pendant.”
Sam shook his head.
“Fine, I’ll do better,” Aaron assured him with a dismissive wave. “But the phone is different. It’s a good phone, a safe phone, and if that teacher tries to sue Hannah, we’ll sue her back because she shouldn’t have taken her phone.”
“I already asked Rick Jenner just to make sure I’m right, and I am, of course.”
“He knows you’re right,” Duncan said tiredly before he took a seat on the other end of the sectional. “Sam knows the law. No one should touch his kid’s personal property.”
Aaron nodded, studying his husband. “What’s wrong? You barely said a word all the way over here?”
He gestured at me. “Oh, I don’t know; ask the man who I had to vouch for when he was in jail earlier today.”
Aaron did a slow turn back to me, and Sam was glowering.
“What?” I asked Duncan.
“Don’t what me,” he groused. “The hell were you thinking with that stunt?”
“It wasn’t a stunt; I saved those dogs.”
“You did, yeah,” he said, squinting at me. “But what were you doing in the middle of a dognapping to begin with?”
Instantly, both Sam and Aaron were looking at me.
“Why do you even know about this?” I asked him.
“Because when you ask one of my officers to, and I quote, please not inform your commander about this,” he said irritably, “of course they’re gonna get me on the phone the second your back is turned.”
“Well crap,” I groused at him. “That’s the last time I––”
“Dognapping?” Sam cut me off.
“Okay, here’s what happened,” I began, turning to look at him, noticing that Aaron was facing me now as well, arms still crossed. “Don’t start lookin’ all smug.”
“I may or may not have given the man’s daughter a weaponized phone, but you were in the middle of an actual crime,” he said, smirking.
“I told you you’re not Batman,” Duncan chided his husband. “You don’t just hand out experimental tech to twelve year olds.”
“It’s not experimental,” Aaron said defensively. “They’re almost ready to go into production.”
“That makes it all okay, then.”
“What is wrong with you,” Aaron snapped.
Duncan gestured sharply at me.
“What did you do?” Sam snarled.
“No,” he stopped himself, looking at Duncan. “You tell me.”
“Okay, so apparently, Jory was coming back from getting your van serviced over in Brookfield, and as he came down Ogden and took the left onto First, he went by that wooded area over there, when he saw a car on the other side of the road toss a bag out the window.”
Sam’s beautiful storm-washed, smoky blue eyes were on me.
“That was like ten-thirty,” I said to be saying something.
“How do you know that?” Aaron wanted to know.
“Because I always note the time if something weird happens,” I answered. “Don’t you do that?”
“No, I don’t do that.”
“You should,” I told him.
“Yeah, you should,” Duncan agreed taking a breath. “So you did what, flipped a U-turn there in the middle of the street and went to see what the guy tossed out?”
“Why?” Aaron wanted to know.
“Because it was so random.”
“No, that’s Jory,” Sam chimed in, looking at Duncan. “Go on.”
“So, Jory pulls over, gets out of the van and walks down the embankment, and that’s when you found the dogs, right?”
“Ohmygod, Sam, someone threw two Chihuahuas out the window of a car. I couldn’t even believe it when I got down there and saw the bag moving, and then, once I got it open, found them all cold and shivering inside.”
He shook his head.
“And the male dog’s leg was broken, poor little thing.”
“Oh God,” Sam groaned.
“Now, this is where it gets weird,” Duncan explained.
“This is where it gets weird?” Aaron sounded surprised.
It really wasn’t that strange.
On my way up the hill, the guy who had thrown the dogs out—or guys, as it turned out—circled back because, I later found out, they were concerned that they had perhaps left DNA or fingerprints on the dogs’ collars. They returned as I reached my van, and they came toward me, fast, tires squealing, and I dived into the driver’s seat, put the dogs in the passenger one, and drove away.
They followed me north until I hit Roosevelt, hung a right there, and then took the left onto Harlem. At that point, because I was speeding, I picked up a police convoy, and so it was me in the lead, followed by the dognappers, with at first two, and then three, squad cars bringing up the rear. I lost the bad guys on Lake, and then, because it was my neighborhood, I went through backlots and side roads until I reached my vet. I was in there maybe ten minutes when police officers came barging in, weapons drawn, calling for whoever had the dogs.
“Okay, so what now?” Sam asked, rubbing his forehead, looking like he was maybe about ready to get a migraine.
“They thought I stole the dogs,” I explained. “It was nuts.”
“He asked them to please call whoever the dogs had been stolen from because they would certainly vouch for his innocence,” Duncan sighed, leaning back as Aaron took a seat beside him. “And in the same breath, once he gave them his ID, asked them to not contact me.”
“So, of course, they immediately contacted you,” Sam supplied.
“And so you had to do what?”
“They took him to the station, to booking, until they could sort it all out.”
“Jesus Christ, baby, you’re supposed to call me.”
“I wasn’t sure what you had on your plate,” I said as he grabbed my hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing my knuckles before clutching me tight. “And you know, these kinds of things happen to me sometimes.”
“Sometimes,” he repeated almost with a moan.
“So, what’s with the dog?” Aaron asked as Dobby jumped up onto the couch, looked everyone over, made his way over to me, and then walked over my legs to reach Sam. He glanced up into the Chief Deputy’s face, and then made a circle before plopping down and curling into a ball in his lap.
“Oh no,” Sam muttered, petting the dog. “I cannot have another tiny animal.”
Poor Sam. He’d always wanted a Rottweiler or a Doberman or a Mastiff, and what he got was an eight pound psychotic cat and, now, a six pound pure bred Chihuahua.
“So, what happened?” Aaron asked, leaning into Duncan, head on his shoulder, taking his hand and touching the hunk of diamond that passed for a wedding band on the man’s ring finger. He had never been possessive before he met Duncan, but was now completely into making sure that everyone knew that the policeman belonged to him.
“I vouched for Jory,” Duncan replied, nuzzling Aaron’s hair, inhaling his scent. “And Bunny Worthington came down to the station.”
“Are you kidding?” Aaron asked, the surprise in his voice as he looked over at me.
“Who’s Bunny whoever?”
“She’s a steel heiress,” he told Sam. “That’s really old money.”
“She was very nice,” I imparted, smiling. “She appreciated me saving her dogs, and she brought me a puppy.”
“Her dogs are worth God knows how much,” Aaron said, glancing around the room. “And she just brought you a puppy. God, Jory, I bet he’s got papers and everything.”
“She gave a stack of them, yeah.”
Sam continued to pet the puppy.
“You know it looks really good in here,” Aaron observed. “You decorate this yourself?”
“Me and the kids, yeah. Sam hangs all the high stuff.”
Aaron snickered as the front door opened and the kids exploded into the house, followed by Dylan and her kids.
Even though Kola and Hannah were excited and happy to see Aaron and Duncan, both of them made a beeline to Sam first. And yes, he had the puppy, and they both wanted to see, but Kola passed me the dog so he could throw himself into his father’s arms. Sam had been working a lot of late nights, and there had been more trips than normal, and we’d all been feeling his absence. As I watched him hug his kids and heard his sigh, I was hoping that maybe we were over the hump and he’d be back home where he belonged.
“Thanks for coming today, Dad,” Kola said, voice cracking; at fourteen, still up for hugs and kisses, not completely a full-blown angsty teenager yet. “You were awesome.”
“Mrs. Fitzpatrick apologized to me after you left, for taking my phone,” Hannah told her father as she eased back to look at his face. “She said that she shouldn’t have taken it on another student’s word, without asking me first.”
“Good,” Sam said, smiling at his daughter.
She turned to look at Aaron then. “She said that a taser phone was a good idea, Uncle Aaron, and she said she’d buy one.”
“There, you see,” he said, pointing at Hannah with an open hand. “My first sale.”
“Are you here to make cookies with us?” she asked him, eyes wide, expectant and hopeful, wearing her heart on her sleeve where he was concerned. She utterly adored the man.
“Of course,” he told her. “Maybe I should call Jean-Marc and have him bring over some cookie dough.”
“The cinnamon kind?”
“No,” Sam put the kibosh on that as I got up and Dylan walked over to give me a hug and a kiss, she and her kids having shed coats and scarves, beanies and boots at the door.
“Why is everybody here?” she asked, picking up Dobby and petting him. “What’d you do and when did you get a new puppy?”
“Today,” I said as she passed him to Kola so he and his sister could pet him. “And what makes you think I did anything?”
“Please, it’s par for the course, just another day with Jory.”
“What’re we gonna name him?” Kola asked.
“I thought Dobby,” I said.
“Oh, because of his ears,” Hannah agreed, chuckling. “That makes sense.”
“Uncle Dane and them are here,” Kola announced, heading toward the door to let them in. “Hey, Dad, do you hafta to go back to work?”
“Awesome,” he sighed and I saw Sam’s smile as Kola opened the door and told his cousin Robert that they could play teams of whatever game it was because Sam was home for the evening. Robert’s answering whoop of joy was nice to hear. It was official, Sam was loved. As though there was ever any doubt.
I gave my brother my attention as I’d been trained to do.
“Why did I get a call from Bunny Worthington today, saying that my brother was charming and how much she appreciated you saving Augustus and Davina?” Dane inquired from the door.
“Who?” Sam asked me.
“Those are the dogs,” I said as Dane passed Aja his wool and cashmere overcoat before crossing the room to me. “I saved her Chihuahuas today.”
“I understand that, yes. I just need to understand how.”
“I’ll tell you,” Duncan offered. “But maybe you should have a drink of something first.”
“Perhaps,” Dane agreed as Aaron stood to receive Aja, who walked over to give him a kiss. They had gotten closer, as Aaron had begun funding more education grants and had put Aja on his board that decided who got said endowments.
“Let me go get everything out for the cookies,” I said, excusing myself, leaving the living room that was Christmas on steroids for the quieter, sparsely decorated kitchen.
Moments later, as I placed items on the island, Sam came in and leaned on the counter.
“Every day with you is an adventure, and you know I’d never have it any other way, right?” he said huskily, his voice low and gravelly and very sexy. “You get that.”
I turned to him. “Yes, Sam, I get that you’re the only one who actually wants to be my safety net.”
“And I hired an assistant today, so things should get back to normal.”
He nodded, motioning for me, wanting me closer. “Yeah. I mean, I love having these days with you and the kids, the holidays, Christmas, New Year’s, but I want the nothing special Tuesday nights too. I want it all.”
I lunged at him and he caught me easily, lifting me off my feet, into his arms, and into the kiss and the hug and the hold that turned quickly into a clutch and breathless wanting just as fast as it had almost two decades ago.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” I sighed.
“So am I, baby,” he said before he kissed me again.
Oh yes, it was so very good to have him home.