Both men laugh, their expressions revealing that bringing Sam home from the hospital might just make this their best days, too.

“In fact,” I continue, the tone of my voice turning somber. It causes August to freeze, plate halfway to the cabinet. “He told me today was the best day ever because he got out of the hospital, came to a new home, has a dad, and a whole new life.”

My gaze slides over August, who sets the plate on the counter and moves into the living room, leaning against the entryway that separates it from the kitchen. I turn to my dad. “I’m definitely going to stay in Vegas.”

We’ve been brushing over this issue, more focused on getting Sam better. But decisions have to be made.

It’s subtle, but I don’t miss the expression of dismay on my father’s face. I don’t dare look at August, because I know how happy this will make him. I don’t want to give any acknowledgment to that in deference to my dad’s feelings.

I’m also determined to make my own way. I keep my gaze on my dad. “I’m going to start looking for a job. If it’s okay with August, Sam and I will stay here until I can find a place. I have enough in savings to cover first and last month’s rent. Obviously, Dad… I would love for you to make the permanent move here with us. I’m sure we can find a three-bedroom apartment.”

It’s silent, and I wait with bated breath to see if August pipes in. I half expect him to offer his house up for us to stay longer. Or at least assure us there’s no rush for us to move out.

It’s my dad who speaks, though, his expression sad but thoughtful. “I understand why you want to stay, Leighton. I’m not surprised. But I think I want to return to Denver. I love it there—like my job and the guys who work there. My poker club. I have a life there, and I think I’m better suited there.”

I’m somewhat surprised by this. I know he loves Sam, so this isn’t a light decision. I feel the need to point out, “You can get another job you like here. You’ll make friends here.”

My dad stands, hitching his pants up. “Yeah… I know. But Denver’s my home. I’m sure we’ll visit each other lots, though.”

I open my mouth to argue some more, but he shuts it down. Heads to the door that leads down into the basement. “I’m going to turn in. It’s been a long day for everybody.”

“Okay,” I reply tentatively as he retreats. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” he replies before disappearing down the stairs and closing the door behind him.

I look at August, who has his gaze pinned on the basement door. “Something’s not right,” I say with worry.

August raises an eyebrow in question.

“He’s not tied to those things. His job, friends, and poker. I mean, he enjoys them and we had a good life there, but like me… he didn’t make any close connections. We stayed aloof from forming attachments.”

I push up from the couch to pace. Letting my mind sift through conversations we’ve had over the last few weeks, I try to remember if there’s anything that could clue me in to what’s behind his motivation to return to Denver.

“Surely it’s not actually Denver he’s tied to,” I murmur as I pace. August watches me with his arms folded over his chest. “I mean, it’s a beautiful area. But it’s freaking cold in the winter. Why wouldn’t he like the warmer temperatures here? Makes no sense.”

“Maybe—”

“No wait,” I exclaim, cutting August off and whipping toward him. “It’s probably he just feels safer being closer to his handler, even though he’s not his handler anymore. I know he was scared to come here at first, and he’s just had this feeling of safety and security under the handler’s watch.”

“It’s not that—”

Again, I talk right over August. “Maybe we need to have an intervention with him. Like set him down and make him understand the government isn’t going to help us anymore. And there’s safety in numbers, right? That’s why he needs to relocate here with us. I’m sure—”

“Leighton,” August snaps, his voice laced with frustration.

I jolt with surprise. His expression tells me he knows something about my father that I do not.

Moving around the couch, he comes to stand before me and lowers his voice. “He’s returning to Denver because he thinks that will help protect Sam.”

My eyebrows knit inward. “Come again?”

“Your dad is afraid of putting you and Sam in danger. If someone comes after him, even though we know that possibility is slight right now, then it exposes you two to danger. It’s why he didn’t come to Vegas at first.”

I gape at August. “I don’t understand.”

“Your dad is going back to separate himself from you and Sam. To help protect you.”

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