Chapter Fifteen

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For everything there is a reason, and all fruit comes ripe in its right season. If left forgotten, the fruit goes rotten. Food finally worth eating. –Jackson Killian

Chapter Fifteen

I tried to make heart shaped pancakes for Quinn on Valentine's Day. They looked more like regular pancakes with irregular pancake tumors growing on them.

"But they taste good," Bettie said as she ate one dry.

"Good, 'cause I can't eat a fucking thing." I took a deep breath and huffed it out. I checked my watch for the millionth time. I had court at 9 a.m. I hadn't slept a wink.

Bettie leaned against the door frame and talked around her pancake. "Jeez, Kibbs. Chill out."

I shot her a death-glare. She just kept chewing and talking. "What's the worst that could happen? Really?"

I slammed dishes into the sink of soapy water. "The worst thing that could happen would be... would be if the judge decided... I can't even say it. I can't even say it."

My heart actually hurt, a panicky sore throb right under my ribcage. It felt swollen, like it pressed into my lungs and kept them from bringing in enough air.

"Good. Don't waste your breath. Because he's not going to do anything like the horror show in your head right now. Worst-case scenario is that custody gets split. Quinn is still alive; you're still alive. Everyone will be okay."

I put my hand over my heart. "Yeah. Just. Just."

"Bey-eee. Go romper. Smudge." Quinn joined the conversation with his perspective, which was that I should leave, and he and Bettie should go visit the horses.

I grabbed my purse and tried to gather his warm little body into my arms. He did not want to be held. He pushed his palm into my face and scrambled away.

The expression on my face must've been one of complete desolation because Bettie actually came down to her knees in order to wrap me in her hug. "It's going to be okay, Kibbs. Really it is."

She even patted my back. In a comical way with a flat sturdy palm. "There. There," she said in a robotic voice.

"Yeah," I said.

I kept saying it. Out of the house and into the over-warm February morning. The sun sparkled down on everything white and green, and I slid my sunglasses down from my forehead as I climbed into the Bronco.

"Yeah," I said to my steering wheel and sat there staring at it.

I found myself analyzing the dread that gripped me. Really, it was the same feeling I'd had riding in that blasted Caesar's elevator up to meet Jack the night Quinn was conceived. An inevitability permeated the next few hours of my life. There was no running from what was coming.

Either I'd get an unfavorable ruling from the judge and would lose Quinn immediately for half the time, or I would get the decision I really wanted—the one I thought was best—and Jack would melt down. Likely, not in the courtroom, but potentially immediately after.

I could already see it. Either me sobbing in the parking lot or ferocious Jack as my firing squad right out the door.

Something caught my eye and I shifted my gaze to see Bettie and Quinn standing on the stoop, waving. I turned to look at them fully and realized Bettie's wave was of the get out of here already variety. Quinn's was disinterested.

This knight rides out to slay the dragon, baby, and that dragon is your dad.

I turned the engine over and wiggled the stick into reverse. The motor whined as I eased back down the long driveway and out onto the road.

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