Bonus Scene: Fathers and Families, a bonus Kelly PoV for Defiance and Dedication
Bonus scene for Defiance and Dedication. This one is brought to you by special request. *winks* Thanks for loving these characters and this story as much as I do.
“Dad,” Alec said, staring at Hank across the table. For his part, Hank had been doing a fantastic impression of a professor reading through papers though he hadn’t turned a page in twenty minutes nor made a single mark with his pen.
“What if I don’t like her?” The question was delivered in Alec’s very sober and serious manner, concern radiated off of him. This wasn’t a flip attempt at being funny or a taunt in order to get his father’s attention. The genuine reflection in the words made my heart ache for our altogether far too grave son.
The question pulled his father away from worrying so I focused my attention on dinner and let Hank and Alec discuss this. Alec often went to one of us when he needed to figure something out, and in this case, Hank was the better one to answer. In fact, I was fairly certain the man I loved so much needed to answer this for himself as much as for Alec.
“Well, that’s a possibility,” Hank said slowly, not dismissing Alec’s concerns in the slightest. I had to keep my back to them to not betray my smile. “I suppose, she may not like you either. That would be challenging.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Alec admitted. “Chloe and Craig are way more annoying.”
It took everything I possessed to not laugh. He didn’t even mean it in a cruel way, just that they tended to be loud and playful to his far quieter demeanor.
“You know,” Hank said, the chair creaked as though he stretched. He had an office that was way more comfortable for grading, but instead, he sat at the tall table in our kitchen that we used more for homework and food prep than eating. He did it because he wanted to keep me company in the evenings. “The only thing we can do is keep our fingers crossed. She doesn’t seem the type to dislike someone just on principle.”
“That seems reasonable,” Alec said. “And if she’s taking over as the eldest, she will have to be patient.”
I waited for it, because there was no mistaking where this was going.
“That means I don’t have to be…” The barest suggestion of slyness echoed in that trailing sentence.
“True,” Hank agreed. “But it doesn’t mean you should be impatient or try to push her to see how much you can get away with. Unlike you, she hasn’t had younger siblings—or any siblings for that matter—she’s been alone. Far too alone.”
The last three words were a hushed exhale like he hadn’t meant to say them.
“You did say that before,” Alec admitted. “That’s kind of sad even if the twins are a pain in the—”
“Alec,” I said in the exact same breath as Hank. I turned away from the spaghetti boiling on the stove.
“I was gonna say butt,” he informed us, but the gleam in his eyes betrayed his amusement.
“Uh huh,” Hank clucked and then pointed his pen at him. “I’m wise to you, Mister. Is your homework done?”
“Yes, sir,” Alec said. “May I go play the X-Box while you finish getting dinner ready?” That question included me.
“I don’t mind, but don’t taunt your brother.”
“I won’t,” Alec said, pivoting on his heel. “I won’t have to. I’m breathing. That’s taunting enough.”
I barely survived not laughing until the door closed behind him leaving Hank and I in the kitchen. When my gaze met his, he chuckled softly and I had to press a hand to my mouth.
“I blame you for that,” Hank said with a smile. “That dry, dry sense of humor is all you.”
“Bullshit,” I murmured. “That’s all you. You forget, I have met your mother.”
He gripped his chest as if my verbal arrow had lodged a hit. “And here I was thinking you’d liked Mom.”
“I adored her, but I also know where your sense of humor comes from.”
“I can accept that charge,” he admitted, then glanced back at the paper. For a moment, bewilderment creased his expression as if he didn’t even remember reading to where he was. With an exasperated sigh, he raked a hand through his hair before he flipped back to the beginning.
“She wouldn’t be coming if she didn’t want to meet us,” I reminded him gently.
“She’s put it off all summer,” he said, worry rustling with each word and his gaze fixed on the paper.
“Yes, but what did you tell me?”
“Her mother is a raging narcissist with delusional issues. She’s been through an emotional ringer. She and the boys she is dating—boys—”
He groaned and I bit back another smile as I went through the motions of draining the spaghetti. The sauce and meatballs were all ready, but I still needed to get the garlic bread into the oven.
“I can’t believe I wasn’t there for the first date or the first dance or the first—” Anger decorated the deep sadness present in his regrets. “I should have pushed that—bitch when she called me the first time.”
“You didn’t know,” I reminded him. “You told me then that if her child was yours…”
Hank turned in his seat and I paused mid-butter on the french loaves I’d separated.
“You didn’t,” I repeated. “You told me when she called. You offered her everything she needed to do the DNA test and then you sat by the phone and waited for a week.”
“And she still didn’t tell me the truth.”
“No, but your daughter did. Granted, she reached out via her attorney.” I offered him that opening and Hank smiled in a way that told me he knew exactly what I was doing.
“She had every reason to be cautious of a complete stranger she’d never even heard of,” he said, his defense immediate and absolute. “Of course, then said stranger just showed up on her doorstep.”
“And as uneasy and nervous as she was, what did you tell me?”
“She’s so damn smart, Kelly. There’s so much intelligence in her eyes and more, so much compassion. She’s—she reminds me of my mother and my grandmother. There’s a kindness in her, but also a wit. The hurt is there, you can see it, lurking below the surface. The expectation of pain and disappointment. If I’d been there…”
“If you’d known,” I said, leaving the bread for the moment and wiping my hands on a towel. Crossing over to him, I tapped his nose. “You, Mr. Jackson, are one of the most dedicated and conscientious men I’ve ever known and you are an amazing father who makes me fall in love with him every single day for how much you love our children. Frankie is going to be no different. You love her, you’ll be patient, and she’s coming. Give her time, give yourself time…”
“What if she doesn’t like all of us?” There it was, so much like Alec. That heart of his so damn ready to just embrace everyone but at the same time, worried he might smother or chase her away.
“Impossible,” I reminded him. “We’re amazing. We have to be, to keep up with you.”
His snort made me smile for real. When he tugged me to him, I hugged him. The comfort he needed right now just made me love him more
“Families adapt,” I reminded him. “When we had Alec, we had to adapt to not just being the two of us and then the twins.”
He chuckled against me. “They were a surprise.”
“Yes, they were.” No one had realized it was even twins—somehow—so Chloe or Craig, we’d never figured out which had covered for the other. Sneaky little darlings. “But we adapted. Even Alec, who worries so much.”
Hank had worried too, his light squeeze reminded me of how he’d not slept for a week. The twins had been smaller because there had been two and had needed time in the NICU. Hank was there every single night, looking after them, spending time with them, and me. Then with Alec, he’d been a gift, involving him in everything—including the planning to prep for two when we’d only readied for one.
Pressing a kiss to the top of his head, I said, “That’s why you and the kids have spent the whole summer, bit by bit, trying to put a room together for her.”
“You gave up your sewing room for her,” Hank said with a sigh.
“I gave up nothing. I can sew just as well downstairs in the basement as I can upstairs. This just means Frankie has her own space here and that’s important. All of our kids need that.”
Tilting his head back, Hank smiled. “Mrs. Jackson, I do believe I am not the only one burdened with a huge heart.”
“Oh, darling, it’s not a burden except that you haven’t let me go down there and just hug that child and drag her back here where I can look after her properly.”
He laughed. Truly laughed. “Baby steps, Kel. You’re way more mom than she’s used to.”
I sniffed. “I’ll fix it.”
“I believe you.”
But some of the worry had drained from his face and I dropped another kiss on his lips. “Good. Now, try to grade at least one paper, dinner will be ready in ten.”
He sat a little straighter in the chair, focused a bit more, and the cloud of concern hovering over him had lightened. Like Hank, I wished we’d known about Frankie a lot sooner. I couldn’t wait to meet that young lady. She’d utterly charmed Hank, I had zero doubts she’d charm the kids. Chloe was already her biggest fan.
The fact she was as worried as her father about how they would all do told me it would all be fine.
Ours already had. Frankie would figure that out soon enough.