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  • Writer's pictureElaine Lindsey

Knowing You: Chapter One Sneak Peek

Knowing You is the start to my new, light-hearted, low(ish) angst single dads series. It's full of all the things you love about an EM Lindsey book like found family, small towns, small hurt/big comfort, and swoony happily ever afters.


And Knowing You has a heaping helping of humor, several dashes of hotter than hot spice, a bisexual awakening, a boss/employee romance, friends with benefits, praise kink, a sprinkle of edging, and the most satisfying get together you could ever dream of.


It's coming April 10th, but please feel free to read below for a sneak peek at chapter one of Knowing You.





Knowing You Chapter One


E.M. Lindsey

Copyright © 2024


All rights reserved.


This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This book is a work of fiction.


Any resemblance to persons, places, jobs, or events is purely coincidental.


Cover by: Natasha Snow


This chapter is not intended for distribution. Do not repost without express written permission by the author.


Content is unedited and is subject to change before final publication.


***


“Stop calling me crazy.  No reasonable person takes a vacation for two years.  That’s not a vacation.  That’s moving out!”

 

But the truth was, Lane was starting to feel a little like he was losing his mind.  Logically, he knew that most parents didn’t take eighteen-month vacations to recover from having a child.  And he’d never, ever in his life, ever discount what Sana had gone through to create, carry, and birth their daughter.

 

But…her absence was starting to seem excessive, and her excuses were getting flimsier each time she called to tell him she hadn’t booked a flight home, and that she’d update him as soon as she could.  He might have even found a way to excuse it if she was living somewhere else for work, but she’d been out of work since before Briar was born.

 

The whole reason they were fighting now was because he’d seen her post on social media about being a stay-at-home mom and he’d just…snapped.  “Being a stay-at-home mom means actually being at home with your child.  You haven’t seen your child in person for two years.”

 

It was also in that moment he realized what he was saying, and how absurd it sounded, and that it was over.  His wife had been living in another country for two full years.  His marriage was just for show.

 

“Lane,” Sana sighed.  Her tone was annoyed—but then again, he couldn’t remember when her tone wasn’t annoyed.  “You don’t get to dictate my healing journey.  I need this time away.  I refuse to lose myself to some idea of what society thinks mothers should be.  Parenting a toddler is hard.”

 

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Lane turned around and searched the kitchen for his coffee.  He really needed to cut back—he was pretty sure six cups by noon wasn’t on the spectrum of normal—but it was the only thing keeping him going.

 

“I’m not trying to dictate anything, Sana, but it’s been too long and this is starting to feel like I’m in a goddamn alternate reality.  She doesn’t even know who you are.  You missed her second and third birthdays, and you’re about to miss her fourth.  I know first had that raising a toddler is hard.  I’ve been the only one doing it now for—”

 

“Fuck you,” she spat, interrupting him. “Shut your fucking mouth.  You don’t get to call me a bad mother.”

 

His jaw snapped together almost like it wasn’t voluntary.  Because it sort of wasn’t.  At this point in their marriage, he was used to jumping whenever she gave the order.  But her pull over him was starting to wear thin, creating spiderweb cracks about to shatter.  He was so tired.  So done.

 

Two years was more than enough time to get perspective. 

 

It was also, apparently, the right amount of time for his friends to start feeling brave enough to tell Lane that his marriage was toxic—which was the kindest word they’d used when talking about Sana.  The motivation behind the call apart from her Facebook post was also his best friends staring him dead in the eye and asking, “So, you filing for divorce yet or what?”

 

And when he’d laughed before realizing they were serious, it hit him.  It was time to end this strange nightmare of a marriage and call it a day.

 

He rubbed at his temples.  “Don’t talk to me like that.”

 

“What?” she hissed.

 

“I said,” he repeated, “don’t talk to me like that.  I will not shut the fuck up.  Before you fucked off to the goddamn tropics, you were home ten days out of each month.  You got up maybe six or seven times during Briar’s entire infancy.  You spent the first two months after her birth at some spa in the Rockies.  Now you’ve been away at some resort for almost two years to the day,” he took a breath so he wouldn’t start screaming, “and you’re acting like I’m the unreasonable one.  You have the audacity to call yourself a parent in public when your daughter couldn’t pick you out of a line of strangers, and you still have no plans to come home and be part of this family.  So maybe you should sit with that for a while.” 

 

His heart was racing with adrenaline.  He’d never stood up to her before.  It had been easier to just give in, to let her do whatever she wanted because she knew how to cut to the quick with him.  She knew all his tender spots to dig her nails in.  She knew how to make him feel like he was the problem.

 

But apparently this long was the exact right amount of time for the fog to lift because nothing she said could change his mind.  He was done.

 

“How dare you—”

 

“I dare,” he interrupted, feeling something snap inside of him, “because I’m a single parent, but I don’t have any of the perks of being unattached.”

 

“Like what?  Going out and fucking the town?” she sneered.

 

He laughed, shaking his head.  That wasn’t what he meant, but it wasn’t not what he meant either.  Sex wasn’t the end-all, be-all in a marriage.  But when his wife not only acted disgusted by him, but also left the goddamn country for the better part of two years, he kind of felt like fucking the town.

 

Or drawing up divorce papers.

 

Or maybe both.

 

“Lane,” she snapped, drawing him back to the present.

 

“Listen, I don’t really have time for another argument.  I have to get Briar’s lunch ready, and—”  He froze. It was in that moment he realized the house was quiet.  Way, way too quiet.  A panicked breath attempted to escape his lungs as he hurtled his body through the kitchen arch and into the living room to find…

 

Nothing.

 

Ms. Rachel was on the TV but the little spot he’d set up at the coffee table with Playdough was both messy and missing the presence of his daughter.

 

“Briar?”

 

“Can’t even remember my name now, you goddamn—”

 

He hung up.  The last thing he needed was Sana overhearing that he’d lost their daughter in their own home.

 

Fuck.

 

She’d been turning into a little kleptomaniac Houdini for the last few months, and he had a feeling he’d be explaining her to the cops if he didn’t get it under control.  God help him, he was—

 

“Hi.”

 

Lane’s heart stuttered in his chest as he came to a skidding halt in the foyer.  Briar was standing in front of the closed door clutching an honest to God prosthetic leg to her chest.  And not the kind from a pirate Halloween costume.

 

It looked very expensive, and very much like someone had just been wearing it with the way the socket sleeve was hanging down and the shoelaces were untied.

 

“Briar, sweetheart.  What is that?”

 

“Isssss…um, mine,” she said, clutching it tightly to her chest.  It was almost the size of her.  Lane took a step forward and reached for it, but she screeched and began to run.  His heart hammered in his chest as he went after her, and granted while she was usually very fast, the leg slowed her down.

 

He caught her by the back of her shirt and swept her and the leg into his arms.

 

“Is mine.  Is mine.  I find it.”

 

“Yeah,” he said, prying it out of her terrifyingly strong grip and holding it away from his body.  “I know how you find things, little miss.  Where did you get it.”

 

“Ow-side.”

 

He set her down and held the leg aloft as he pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to control the urge to cry.  Some poor bastard was probably out there hopping around, literally, and wondering where the fuck his leg was at. 

 

And Lane had to be the asshole to go explain that his child was an up and coming organized crime boss who was apparently now targeting disabled people.

 

Fantastic.

 

The only thing in his favor was that Briar was three and she’d been in front of the TV not five minutes ago which meant she couldn’t have gotten very far.  And it definitely didn’t belong to his neighbor on the right because he was pretty sure in the last six days, Mrs. Michaels hadn’t had an amputation.

 

Which left the house to the left. A firefighter named Adele lived there with his teenage son.  Adele was one of the nicest guys Lane had ever met—always inviting him to join his dad group and offering to keep an eye on Briar if he ever needed it.  If Lane hadn’t been a weird recluse trying to deal with his garbage life, he might have taken him up on it. 

 

The man also wasn’t an amputee though, so he was starting to get a little worried because if it wasn’t Adele’s, who the hell did it belong to?

 

“Dis is my present,” she insisted, tugging on the shoe.

 

Lane held it higher.  “It isn’t yours.  It belongs to someone else.  Someone who needs it to walk, Briar.  And you know stealing is bad.”

 

She sniffed.  “No.”

 

“Yes,” Lane said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “And now you’re going to show me where you got this.”

 

She offered him a death glare, but she still marched ahead of him when he opened the door and shooed her outside.  The light immediately made him wince which told him he’d been stuck inside his house for way too long.

 

God, when was the last time he’d gotten out?

 

He shoved that thought away as Briar led him by the prosthetic leg—and fuck if he’d ever expected to have that thought in his life—toward the hot firefighter’s house.  And as they rounded the bushes on their front lawn, he saw the owner of the leg.

 

A tall, broad man with dark hair was leaning against the porch railing watching them with a vague look of amusement on his face.  That at least calmed some of the panic in Lane’s chest as he approached.   He didn’t look like he wanted to commit murder.

 

“So,” Lane said with a sheepish smile, kind of wishing the ground would rise up and swallow him whole so he didn’t have to say all of this,  “I think I have something that belongs to you.” Lane tried to dislodge the leg from his daughter’s grip, but Briar was holding on for dear life.

 

“Isss…my present!” she growled.

 

“Fuck’s sake,” Lane whispered.  He looked up at the guy with panic in his throat.  “I’m so sorry.  I’d say she’s never like this, but…”

 

“Oh, I know,” the guy said.  His smile was wider now—sunny and kind of profoundly beautiful—which was a weird thought, but Lane pushed it aside.  The guy had dimples in both cheeks and a slight cleft in his chin, and even if he wasn’t young, he looked it.  Lane suddenly felt very old, and used, and grey.  “She’s swiped a few things from us before.”

 

Mortification hit Lane like a Mac truck.  He swallowed heavily as he finally unhooked Briar’s fingers from the shoe and took two, stumbling steps toward the guy with the leg in both hands.  “Did she?  Please tell me they weren’t expensive.”

 

“Nah.  Just a couple frog statues.  Nothing we really cared to get back,” the guy said.  He set the leg against the porch banister and used a firm grip on the railings to hop down on one leg before extending a hand.  “Nice to meet you, by the way.  I’m Bowen.”

 

His palm was rough, calloused, and very warm.

 

“Lane,” he said.  “So, are you and Adele partners, or husbands, or—”

 

“Oh, God no.  He’s my brother,” Bowen said very quickly, then laughed and shook his head before his expression sobered.  “I’ve had a rough go of it the last few months.  Bad break up.” He glanced away, and Lane could see genuine pain on his face.  But when he looked back, his sunny smile had returned.  “Anyway, he and Gage are letting me crash in his basement for a bit.”

 

Gage was Adele’s teenage son, if Lane remembered right.  He was pretty sure the firefighter was single.

 

“Well, I’d like to promise this won’t happen again, and that I have my little hell beast under control, but,” he glanced around and realized he couldn’t see her until he spotted her dark curls poking up from the bushes.  “Briar!”

 

Bowen burst into laughter.  “More frogs.  Gage made them in ceramics class last year.  But he doesn’t care if she takes them,” he added in a rush when Lane opened his mouth to yell at her.

 

Rubbing his eyes, Lane let out a deep breath.  “I really am sorry.  I can only hope it’s a phase, but I don’t know what the fuck to do about it.  She got kicked out of the preschool for stealing stuff out of kids’ cubbies, and I caught her shoving Skittles packets down the front of her shirt at the gas station yesterday.  I feel like I’m raising some criminal mastermind.”

 

“Or, you know, a three-year-old,” Bowen said.  He leaned against the railing and swung his leg, and Lane tried to pretend like he wasn’t watching his empty pant leg drag over the ground.  He knew it was none of his business, so he didn’t ask what happened, but God he was weirdly curious.  “I’m pretty sure all kids test boundaries.  I don’t think it’s time to panic quite yet.”

 

Lane let out a short breath, then glanced over at Briar who’s pockets were overflowing with what he now knew were ceramic frogs.  “That’s…reassuring.  I think.”

 

Bowen laughed, and the sound was oddly comforting.  “I’m glad.  And thanks for bringing my leg back.  I do actually need that.”

 

“Yeah, uh,” Lane trailed off.  He had no idea what to say and he felt like a complete tool.  “So, I should, uh…”

 

“Do you wanna come around back?” Bowen said before Lane could make his excuses to leave.  “I made some lavender lemonade from this viral video I saw on Instagram, and I’d like to not be a total loser and drink it by myself.”

 

Lane knew he should say no.  He had way too much going on, and technically he needed to call his wife back so they could finish their useless, pointless argument.  But that was also the very last thing he wanted.  He didn’t want to hear Sana’s voice for a good, long while.  He wanted to take his neighbor up on his offer and have an adult conversation with someone who wasn’t a work client for more than ten minutes.

 

“We have Gage’s old swing set out back.  She can play for a bit,” Bowen added, waggling his eyebrows as though he was trying to sweeten the offer.

 

Lane’s resolve bent.  Then snapped.  “Yeah, okay.” He wanted to kick himself because it was probably obvious he was starved for attention.  “If you’re sure.”

 

Bowen grinned widely and gave him a quick up-and-down stare which made Lane feel all kinds of odd.  “I’m sure.  There’s a bunch of my boxes in the front room, so why don’t you use the side gate and I’ll meet you out there.” Then, without waiting for a reply, he turned and used the railings to hop back up onto the front porch.

 

Not wanting to stare, Lane quickly grabbed Briar out of the bushes, ignored her handful of small ceramic, stolen frogs, then headed along the side of the house.

 

“This is a terrible idea,” Lane muttered to himself.  He really didn’t have the emotional capacity to make a new friend.  Even if the friend was a good distraction from the disaster his life was becoming.

 

“Deese are my present,” Briar said.

 

He glared down at her.  “You don’t get to just take things and call them a present.  That’s not how presents work, little miss.  And we are going to talk about that later.” He swung the gate open.  “For now, you go play while I contemplate the universe.”

 

“Okay!”  She squealed at the sight of the playground, ceramic frogs all hitting the grass as she ran, and Lane shut the gate behind him before gathering them into his hands and heading up the three steps to the raised deck.

 

It was a cute yard, and it made him feel kind of shitty for how he’d treated his own—which was to say, he hadn’t done anything to it after buying the place.  He had big dreams and even blueprints for the things he’d wanted to do after they’d closed on the house.

 

But Sana kept spending their remodel funds on trips to Nordstroms and Luis Vuitton, and by the time he was ready to put his foot down, she was on a plane.  She’d been quietly draining their savings faster than he could replenish it, and being the only one working any steady hours, Lane felt like he was chasing a moving target that was never going to stop.

 

He had his inheritance, but he wanted to use that on Briar—on her future, on things she might need as she grew.  So he just sat quietly, refused Sana every time she asked for extra money, and he suffered her toxic wrath.

 

It took him a moment to shake his melancholy, but he managed it by the time he sat down at the small, shaded table which was only seconds before the sliding glass door opened and Bowen appeared.  He was holding two glasses of lemonade, and he had his leg back on.  It was a relief to see him wearing it, but Lane couldn’t help wonder how Briar had gotten it in the first place.  Had she run over and yanked it off? 

 

Was that even possible?  It looked so…sturdy.

 

Bowen clearly caught Lane staring because he smirked as he handed a glass over, and sank into the second empty chair.  “You want to know how she got it, don’t you?”

 

Lane rubbed a hand down his face, groaning.  “I didn’t want to ask, but please tell me she didn’t rip it off your body and take off running.”

 

Bowen burst into laughter and shook his head.  “No.  Nothing that dramatic or terrifying.  I was doing my PT on the front lawn today.  Adele put down fertilizer back here a few days ago which is why it still smells a little like cow shit—and not what I want in my face while I’m trying to, like, unknot the tension in my body.”

 

Lane laughed very softly as he sipped the lemonade and almost spit it right out.  It was bitter and sour and weirdly perfumy, like the lotion his mom always kept in her guest bathroom.  He managed to swallow and tried not to make his expression too obvious.  “Oh.  This tastes, um…”

 

“Yeah, sorry,” Bowen said with an apologetic smile, pushing his own glass away.  “I thought it was going to be good.”

 

Lane raised a brow at him.  “You didn’t even try it?”

 

“I was afraid to,” Bowen admitted, glancing down.

 

Lane choked on a laugh.  “Weird choice, but okay.  I guess I don’t feel bad for saying it tastes like soap-flavored ass.”

 

Bowen slapped a hand over his face.  “That’s exactly it!  This is the fourth recipe I’ve found online that has been a damn disaster.  I think it’s a conspiracy online to make everyone taste garbage for the sake of views or something.”

 

Lane delicately set the glass down on the table and glanced over to where Briar was playing quietly on the swing.  She had three of the ceramic frogs still, and she was pushing them and talking gently to them the way he talked to her.

 

His heart ached.  He hadn’t realized how much he could love someone until the day she was born, and he didn’t think he’d ever understand how Sana couldn’t.

 

“You okay?” Bowen asked.

 

Lane cleared his throat, then tried for a smile, though he knew it probably looked fake as hell.  “Yeah.  Just…you know.  Life kicking me in the ass a little.”  He reached for his lemonade, then yanked his hand back when he remembered it was awful.  He swiped his hands on the sides of his slacks.  Part of him wanted to spill his guts because his life had been festering in his chest for so long.

 

But the other part of him didn’t want his very kind neighbor to know how much of a disaster he was.

 

“Am I being weird?” Bowen asked in the silence.

 

Lane scoffed.  “No.  That would be me and my little klepto child who apparently robs amputees of their limbs.”

 

Bowen chuckled and leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms behind his head.  A sliver of his stomach showed, and Lane did his best not to stare at his cut abs which were…nice.  And that made him feel weird.  Almost like he was jealous, but not.  Sort of the way he felt every time Henry Cavill took his shirt off.

 

“If it makes you feel better, she just snuck up and snatched it from the grass.  I always take it off when I’m working on my hips.”

 

Lane tried not to picture it, but God help him, the image of Bowen flat on his back with his legs spread seared into his brain.  He cleared his throat.  “She must be getting good at sneaking up on people.”

 

Bowen waved him off.  “I had my iPods blasting.  But she is getting good at being patient and knowing when people aren’t paying attention.  I think that’s pretty advanced for a toddler.”

 

“Yeah, fantastic,” Lane said miserably.  “She’s going to have a goddamn rap sheet two miles long.  She’s stealing from the store, and this is the second time she’s gotten out without me seeing her…”

 

He stopped when Bowen grimaced.

 

Lane blinked at him as realization hit him.  “It’s not her second time getting out?”

 

“Well, second…today?” he offered with a grimace.

 

Lane slapped both hands over his face.  “Please don’t say that.  Please tell me you’re joking.”  Shame crept into his cheeks in the form of a white-hot wave that made him dizzy.

 

“Uh…no.  Sorry,” Bowen said quietly.  “She comes over a lot, actually.  I usually just walk her back to your front door and put her inside.  I promise I didn’t come in, though. I’m not a total creep.”

 

“I didn’t think that.  But apparently I am the world’s worst father.”

 

Bowen snorted and reached over, patting his arm.  “Trust me, you’re not.  The last kid I nannied for ended up having to get his head shaved because he told his dad brushing his hair was annoying so the dad just let him stop.  He had a mat on the back of his head the size of a softball.”

 

Lane’s head snapped up.  “Seriously?”  Then he realized what Bowen said and something struck him.  “Wait.  You’re a nanny?”

 

At that, Bowen looked slightly offended.  “Men can be nannies and not be bad people, you know.  And nannies can have disabilities—”

 

“No,” Lane said in a rush.  “That’s not what I meant at all.  Fuck.  I’m sorry.  I was just…well.  I…it…”  He trailed off, stammering like a moron. 

 

Bowen softened immediately.  “Uh.  You okay?  You know you can just say whatever’s on your mind, right?  I’m not going to judge you.”

 

“It’s not that,” he said from behind a heavy sigh.  And he meant it.  He wasn’t normally this much of a mess.  “My head is swiss cheese.  You said nanny and I was going to ask if you’re looking for work because I’ve been desperate to find someone after Briar got kicked out of her daycare.  My wife is,” he stopped abruptly, the pain in his chest strange and different than it usually was.  He swallowed heavily.

 

“Did she die?” Bowen whispered.  “Adele said she was gone, but I didn’t think that meant she was—”

 

“Christ.  No,” Lane interrupted, “she’s not dead.  She’s on vacation.”  Then he stopped and bit his lip because he knew that was a lie.  Two years wasn’t a fucking vacation.  “I don’t know if she’s coming back.”

 

Bowen sat back, his face a little unsure.  “How long has she been gone?”

 

Every time he had to answer this question, it was humiliating.  “Around two years,” he muttered. He hoped he was speaking so quietly Bowen couldn’t hear him, and then he’d be too polite to ask him to repeat himself.  “She left shortly before Briar’s second birthday and she hasn’t made any plans to come home.”

 

“Fuck, dude.”

 

Lane groaned and closed his eyes in a long blink.  “Can we not talk about it right now?  I’m still trying to figure out what the fuck to do and…yeah.  I’m kind of a mess, as you can see.”

 

Bowen made a zipping-locking motion over his lips, then he set his hands on the table and leaned forward.  “Well, as it happens, I actually am free. I came here to offer my nanny services to Adele, but his kid is literally a teenager and I felt kind of like a jackass for forgetting how time and aging works.”

 

Lane snorted a laugh.  “Yeah.  Sneaks up on you.”

 

“Last time I saw that kid, he was riding around my legs like they were a carnival attraction,” Bowen said, his voice going a little sadder.  “Which was when I had two legs.  Anyway,” he clapped his hands, making Lane jump, “I’m actually looking for a job.  Um…for pay, though?” he added with a slight wince, almost like he was afraid to say he wasn’t going to work for free.

 

Lane’s mouth twitched.  “I mean, paying my nanny does sound at least somewhat reasonable.”

 

Bowen snorted and shrugged.  “You’d be surprised at what people expect.  Adele has this single dad’s group thingie—”

 

“I know it,” Lane said quickly.  He didn’t want to be rude, but his neighbor had been dropping hints for a while now about joining, but Lane wasn’t single.  Not…technically.  And going would have forced him to admit a truth he hadn’t been ready for.  “He keeps inviting me, but I’m not technically single so I feel like I shouldn’t.”

 

Bowen pulled a face like he wanted to say something else, then shook his head.  “Most of the guys are super nice, but a few of them tried to get me to babysit for them for like…I don’t know…fun?  And I like kids, but not that much.”

 

Lane grimaced and glanced over at his hellion child.  “I feel like people with toddlers owe their sitters hazard pay most days.  Or at least, I owe anyone willing to take on my little monster.”

 

Bowen chuckled softly and shook his head.  “I don’t know.  She’s always been sweet with me.  Apart from limb and frog theft.”

 

Lane gestured at the small pile he’d dropped on the table.  “Luckily, I’m here for frog rescue.  But…are you serious about needing work?  Because things have been a real shit-show in my life, and I need someone reliable.  I really don’t want to put her into another daycare, and her mom isn’t coming home anytime soon.  I’ve been working from home most of the time, but I’m trying to run a restaurant and—”

 

“You’re a chef?”

 

Lane winced and glanced away.  He had been a chef, once upon a time.  And he’d loved it with every fiber of his being.  Opening his own restaurant had been his dream, and he had visions of making something big with his life.

 

But when he started socializing with people and realizing that there was a world out there bigger than his marriage, Sana had panicked. She’d said her biological clock was ticking and she was done waiting for him to realize his dreams.  She wanted a family.

 

And then she was pregnant.

 

Lane was more than happy to compromise.  He was happy to do the middle of the night feeds and let her recover.  He hadn’t bat an eye when she said she needed a spa vacation—not even when she was there for two months.  He hadn’t said a word of complaint when she started volunteering for her company’s business trips.  He just adjusted his schedule, turned his kitchen over to his head and sous chefs, and he’d focused more on catering orders.

 

He hadn’t even minded much when Sana quit her job and said she needed to figure out who she was outside of motherhood and work.  When she picked a place in the Bahamas and sent him the bill, he just…paid it.  Like a fool.  But only because he hadn’t expected it to stretch into two years.

 

He hadn’t expected to not realize his marriage was ending in the slowest burn of all time.

 

But it was.  It was over, and now he was just sifting through the ashes and trying to figure out how he was going to make this work without everything going wrong.

 

“Hey,” Bowen said softly.

 

Lane realized he’d drifted off.  “Sorry.  Sorry, I—”

 

“No,” Bowen interrupted, and he reached out, laying his hand over Lane’s.  His grip was rough and soft all at the same time, and Lane realized it had been so fucking long since he’d been touched by anyone.  He swallowed heavily as Bowen met his gaze.  “Please don’t apologize.  You don’t need to tell me your story.  I do need a job, and right now, I can’t go back to what I was doing before.  I have a degree in early childhood education, and I really am good with kids.”

 

Lane let out a soft breath as Bowen finally pulled his hand away, and he dragged his fingers through his hair.  “Let’s do a trial run while I’m at home.  In case you want to bail when my daughter gets the cops called on her.”

 

Bowen smirked.  “I don’t think you realize how far my patience extends, but if it’ll make you feel better,” he extended his hand once more, “we can shake on it.”

 

Lane took it and just let himself feel Bowen’s palm against his own.  It was oddly comforting in ways he didn’t really want to think about right then.  “Let me check my schedule figure out a day we can do a little trial run.  We can try dinner, bath time, and bedtime.”

 

Bowen didn’t let go of him for a long moment.  “Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be there with bells on.”

 

“Don’t,” Lane said absently as he watched Briar hurtle herself down the slide at a speed that should have broken at least one bone.  He sighed.  “If you bring bells, she’ll just steal them.”

 

 

 

 

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