First Place First

Hunter stayed curled up in my lap, Rider ate his ice-cream he was an immovable object wrapped around me, so when the other kids left he stayed right there holding on to me. I’ll take him when I go to join them. Alex reassured me.

I gave him a happy smile and wrapped my arm tighter around my son. I had a soft spot for him, more so than the other children – maybe because he was having such a rough time growing up. But I wanted to give them all what I didn’t have growing up.

Quinn came around the corner with her phone in her hand. She looked bashful like she was interrupting something but we were just sitting here, I was sketching the last image Alex had given me. “Dad.” She said softly and when Alex didn’t turn I cleared my throat and he looked at me and then realized he hadn’t responded.

“Sorry, Quinn, not used to you calling me Dad.”

She blushed. “Sorry. Mom’s on the phone.”

Alex got up off the stool and walked towards Quinn – he left the room taking the phone from her. I could listen until he was out even my range, but I didn’t. It wasn’t any of my business.

Ryan sighed, “Except it is. Nox.”

“You can read my fucking mind too?”

Ryan laughed, “No. I know that look. You can’t keep expecting Alex to tell you the important things. Things he doesn’t know are important. He’s not used to talking like you are.”

“All the more reason not to ask.” I said.

“No,” Ryan shook his head, “It’s not. I get he gets angry at you, but you can’t shut down because it makes you worse. And don’t start with the self sacrifice. It’s a two way street – communication is.”

I had nothing else to say. Except I did. “Having a full time therapist fucking sucks.” I teased.

Ryan grinned. “At least it’s free.”

“Free advice isn’t always good to take.” I poked back.

“You would only take that which you deemed worthy anyway Nox. I love that about you. You always listen, might not do what is suggested but you never tell someone that’s a bad idea.”

“Yes I do.”

“Well you never tell anyone they can’t talk before telling them it’s a bad idea.”

I would go with that.

“Daddy?” Hunter interrupted.

“Yeah baby?” I looked down at the boy in my lap with a fond smile.

“I think Alex and Quinn are going to leave us.”

“Forever?” I asked.

Hunter shrugged. “Did you see this?” I asked.

But he didn’t get a chance to respond as Alex cleared his throat, “Nox.”

I turned on the bar stool to look at Alex, Hunter clutched at my shirt and I was feeling that very same apprehension. “Quinn’s mom is going to call the cops on us if I don’t get Quinn home in the next 24 hours.”

“She’s not going back to that bastard.” I stood up. Quinn looked down at the ground and Alex looked shocked. “He will not lay another fucking finger on her.”

I pulled on my bond to Ant. Quinn spoke softly, “I don’t want you to go to jail because of me.”

“No one here is going to jail because of you sweetheart.” I said. I looked at Alex, “Are you going to fix this?” I was pissed.

“How? I’m not her legal guardian. Fuck Nox, I’m not even on the birth certificate.”

My phone dinged and I looked at it quickly before thrusting it angrily back in my pocket.

“Then you better turn into whoever the fuck is her father. We have ten minutes before Ant gets here.” I looked at Quinn and smiled, “Do you want to stay here with your father and the rest of us?” She nodded, “Then I want you to go with Mr. Tony back to Sanctuary while we deal with your mother and step-father, okay.”

Alex and Quinn both protested but I just glared and they stopped. Hunter squirmed out of my grasp and took Hunter’s hand with a happy smile, “Come on Quinn, I’ll help you.”

Alex turned and watched his daughter walk away with my son and then he turned to glare at me. “I can fucking handle this.” He said.

“How?” I asked. “I’ll fucking back off if you tell me how you are going to make your ex stay way from your daughter.”

“I don’t know.” Alex said. “But I’ll figure it out.”

“She is not going back to that house.” I spoke out loud, “Sage you around?”

“Why do you do that?” Alex said. “He doesn’t live here.”

My phone beeped and I smiled at my husband. He was my love my life but right now he was a pain in my ass and not in a good way. “Are there any cameras that could have caught what the dip shit step father was doing to Quinn?”

My phone dinged again and this time I pulled it out of my pocket to look at the folder Sage had sent me. It was linked to a cloud storage that was clearly marked for Alex’s psuedonym. “You’ve been watching them? Did you know?”

A quick “no” flashed on my phone and I nodded. “Find me something to show the cops.”

I looked at Alex. “You better get into whatever guise you need to be whoever it is you were.” I said and walked away from Alex. I told him I would let him fix this, but he didn’t do anything. Not one fucking thing.

I heard Alex’s footsteps behind me. I sighed, “I’m sorry.”

Alex caught up to me and took my hand. “I can do this Nox.”

“Too late Alex. I tried to stay out of it but you were willing to take her back there. I won’t let her go back to get abused.” I sighed, “I won’t.”

My phone dinged again and Sage had a video playing and I handed it to Alex. “The plan is to show them this. Tell them if they come here her again it goes to the police.”

“How did you know there was dirt on him?”

“I didn’t, but cocky sons of bitches who prey on young kids screw up. And Sage has been tracking your kid since he’s known about her. I’m sure there are things on there no father wants to see.” I said.

“You are okay with that? Knowing your best friend is stalking your kids?”

I looked at Alex, “Aren’t you?”

Alex looked at the images playing on the screen. “I guess…”

In our room I found my bag and pulled a gun from the bottom of the bag. This was a mundane job and I wasn’t going in unarmed.

“There is no need for a gun.” Alex said.

“You never know.”

Ant showed up in our room with a frown, “I know you don’t use it often so what’s the emergency.”

“I need you to shadow walk us to where Quinn’s former family lives. A few blocks away so we can walk the rest. And I need you to come with us.”

“You don’t need to get Ant involved.”

“He’s not there to protect me Alex. He’s there to keep me from killing the bastard.”

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