“Sorry,” I whisper, then wink at Sam. I move to the other side of the bed, plop down in the chair, and open the bag.

I pass Sam a box of chicken McNuggets along with some barbeque sauce, even though he’ll probably bypass it since his mouth is still a little tender from the sores. Regardless, I’m so happy the kid has a fucking appetite. McDonald’s is not something I’d ordinarily indulge in because the food is crap, but it’s such a blessing that Sam wants to eat, so I wasn’t about to say “no”.

I reach into the bag, grab the Quarter Pounder for Leighton, and hand it across the bed to where she sits on the other side. She takes it, blinking in surprise. “How did you know what I like?”

Shrugging, I say, “It’s what you liked in high school. Figured it was the same now.”

Honestly, I hadn’t thought twice about it. Just unconsciously ordered it. It’s such an odd thing to remember about someone from years ago.

I pull out a Big Mac, which was my go-to when I was young, dumb, and didn’t give a shit about my health. My mouth waters at the smell, and I realize it’s been years since I’ve eaten one. Not back to the days when I dated Leighton, but still… a long damn time.

All three of us chow down on our heart-clogging food with relish, because Sam is doing well and that means it’s a celebration of sorts. I’ll bring the kid McDonald’s every day as long as he continues to improve like he has been.

After the food is gone, Leighton cleans up. She bends over to kiss Sam’s forehead through her paper mask. “Okay… you two have fun tonight. Don’t stay up too late because rest is important.”

Oh, she has no clue. The nights I stay, Sam and I talk well into the night. We talk about sports, movies, and video games. I regale him with some of my more adventurous cases and missions both as a cop and a member of Jameson while I make him recount the most mundane of things from his first nine years.

“We’ll go to bed early,” I promise, glancing at the reclining chair that’s torture to sleep in.

“Scout’s honor,” Sam says earnestly, and only I notice his fingers crossed beneath the table.

Leighton rolls her eyes, knowing with a mother’s intuition he’s not telling the truth. I can tell by the way her eyes crinkle that she’s not bothered by it in the slightest.

“Well, I’m out of here. Guess I’ll go see what your grandpa is up to tonight.”

“He’s actually out,” I say. Her eyes flare with surprise. “He wanted to hit up a casino, and well… you know… when in Vegas.”

“Huh,” she says with contemplation. “I didn’t know gambling was his thing.”

I can’t help but chuckle. “I don’t think it is. He doesn’t play much more than quarter slots.”

“He’s been before?” she asks curiously.

I glance at Sam, waggling my eyebrows above my mask, then return to Leighton. “Truth be told… I think there’s a pretty waitress he’s flirting with there.”

Leighton’s jaw drops. “My dad? Flirting?”

Sam snickers. “Go Grandpa.”

Sighing, Leighton just shakes her head. “So much for being afraid to venture out.”

Sam and I shoot each other an amused look.

“Whatever,” she says breezily, leaning down for one more kiss to Sam’s forehead. “I’m going to go home and relax. I’ll see you tomorrow, baby.”

“Okay, Mom,” he replies, not in the least bit grossed out by his mother’s affection. Instead, he closes his eyes briefly to cherish it.

Leighton ruffles his hair, shoots me a wave, and turns to leave.

“Oh,” I call just as she steps outside the door, her mask already pulled off. Leighton turns, eyebrows raised, and stays outside in the hall “I finished your laundry.”

Even from across the room, I can see her cheeks turn pink. Turns out, she’d ran a small cycle of silky delicates and left them in the washing machine. I’d needed to do my laundry today.

“I went ahead and dried them on the lowest cycle,” I continue. “Folded them, too.”

Leighton has some nice lingerie. I wonder what type of men she dates since she buys such pretty, sexy things. The stuff’s not expensive—definitely not real silk—but it’s very lacy and see through.

“Um… thank you,” Leighton mutters before whipping around and fleeing the room. I can’t help but smirk.

“What’s so funny?” Sam asks.

I try to smooth out my face. “Nothing. Why?”

“I feel like I just missed an inside joke or something. I don’t get what’s so funny about you doing Mom’s laundry.”

Reaching over, I ruffle Sam’s hair and chuckle. “Nothing funny, bud. I was just helping your mom out a bit.”

“That’s good,” he replies solemnly. “She does so much for me, so it’s nice she has someone doing something for her.”

I just stare at my kid for a moment, completely flummoxed over his maturity and grace. Over his awareness. How many nine-year-old children are that cognizant of the effort a parent puts in? I sure as shit wasn’t at that age.

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