Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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29. Exit Stage Left

Paul groaned when his alarm went off at five-thirty that morning. He never moved out of bed before nine unless he had to and five-thirty was ungodly as far as he was concerned, but he opted for the early morning instead of returning to their suite at the Four Seasons the night before.

“Babe,” said Paul, shutting off the alarm as Joey’s went off on his own night table. “Babe, shut off your alarm and wake up.”

Joey groaned and picked up the phone and dropped it on the floor between the bed and the table.

“Fuck,” said Joey as Paul pressed his cock against Joey’s ass.

“Thought you’d never ask.”

“I dropped my phone.”

"Don’t move.”

“We have to get to Queens and you had more than enough of that the last two days.”

“C’mon, a quicky,” said Paul, stroking Joey's taut chest.

“Babe, there’s no such thing as a quicky with you,” said Joey, moving to sit up.

“Let’s multitask in the shower.”

“No, Paulie, we don’t have time for that,” he said as Paul pushed Joey down on the bed and covered his body with his own. Paul pressed Joey’s arms about his head and kissed his neck fiercely until Joey acquiesced.

“Fine, fine,” said Joey. “If we are late, I don’t want any stress or frustration out of you,” he said as Paul climbed off him and reached for the condom and lube.

The phone rang before he could even open the wrapper. Joey laughed. “Put it away, you know it's game over now.”

Paul tossed the condom and lube back into the drawer and shut it, reaching for his phone.

“Hey Elly,” he said, answering it. With the roads iced over, she wouldn’t arrive before nine that morning. Paul said for her not to worry about it and they would grab a Starbucks down the road. He thanked her for doing their laundry and repacking them on her day off.

Joey called Mack before Paul was off the phone, relaying Elly's message about the road conditions. “Right, let’s take the Landrover. It’s much better on the roads. Right, thanks.”

“No Black Lung?” asked Paul, hearing him.

“Not on the ice. I prefer Landrover.”

“Okay, okay,” said Paul coming behind Joey and nibbling on his neck. He reached around the front of Joey and grabbed his cock and started stroking it.

"Besides you’re patched now,” replied Joey with a sigh as Paul’s ministrations were arousing him.

“Don’t remind me,” said Paul. “All I want is sex and food now.”

"I’m enjoying every bit of it.”

“This has been like a honeymoon.”

“It’s our baby-moon.”

Paul groaned. “Little Sister Moon you mean. She’s not a baby, Joey.”

“I don’t care, I get a girl to spoil.”

"You could spoil me instead.”

“We need to get going. Mack will be here in a half-hour. I think you’ve had your fill in two days and I’m sore.”

“Aww, poor baby,” said Paul, patting his bottom until Joey swatted his hand away and walked over to the closet to get dressed.

Mack loaded the keyboard and suitcases into the back of the Landrover as Joey made coffee for the three of them. He cut fresh bagels and slices of cream cheese from the block and wrapped them up for them to eat on the road in case a Starbucks became out of the question due to time and traffic.

“Got everything?” asked Paul.

“Almost,” said Joey, rushing over to his reading chair and picking up a book he was reading. He had set out a couple more for Maia and followed Paul outside.

“You good?”

“Yes, I turned off the coffeepot,” he said aloud to them, making Mack laugh as Paul locked the door behind them.

“Thank you, Mama,” said Paul.

“The next time through the door, Maia will be with us,” said Joey as they walked out to the rear driveway where Mack had already warmed up the Land Rover. The driveway was black and matte with salty glitter of ice melt on it, and Paul climbed into the passenger seat and Joey into the back seat behind Mack, who’s legs were shorter than Paul’s and gave him more legroom.

“You’re giving up comfort back there,” said Paul. “It’s not too late to grab your rig or mine.”

“No, I’m fine,” said Joey. “The Landrover is fine.”

"I'll get the Stretch when she’s discharged, Mr. Lenci. It will be an easier ride home for her.”

“It’s only two hours, Mack, I’m sure she’d be fine in the Landrover,” said Joey.

“Yeah but paparazzi,” said Paul. “These windows aren’t smoked.”

“You wanted it that way, remember?” asked Joey.

“I just wanted one rig without dark windows.”

“You got it,” said Joey, sipping his coffee. Joey unwrapped a bagel sandwich for Mack who took half and ate it once they were on the interstate.


Jimmy sat in the recliner drinking his coffee. His bag was packed and by the door. He watched his text messages for an update from Xavier. Jonny’s blood pressure had been unstable again and even with his meds, it was not well controlled right now. He knew that he had to get home this morning. He should have left last night when Xavier called him but there was no flight out until this morning’s flight anyway. If Paul and Joey didn’t arrive in the next half hour, he would have to call a cab because he had to get through TSA and not chance it. Jimmy hated spending money on a taxi when public transit was cheaper, but the time frame for public transportation still would not have made the plane in time if he left now.

He put his phone charger in his briefcase and looked at the Pendaflex on the table in front of him. He pulled out the notebook and paged through the work of the last forty-eight hours. All of the evidence that Maia brought with her, she had explained what each was, and wrote it out in great detail. He had even photocopied pages of the books for her so she could write out on the page exactly what the notation was about and how she cracked his code. The little notebooks all housed in baseball cardholders. Jimmy had copies of everything to show to Jonny and Bert. They had to find an attorney who could manage a case like this against the state.

“She’s so damn smart,” he thought, looking at it again. Jimmy had to find a way to compartmentalize what happened to her on the street and his own guilt for not being home in time to protect her from it. His only solution was to do what Ruby said, empower Maia by letting her tell her truth. He was glad he got to meet her. Her frank and candid nature were both relieving and offputting at the same time. How he wished he had a Ruby in his life right now. The comfort she gave him with her empathy made the difference to him right now. He felt blamed by so many. Maia wouldn’t say she blamed Jimmy’s decision for staying in France. He didn’t have much of a choice but had he thought it through further, he might have been able to get help for them beyond a couple of monks and an artistic director that needed bailing out of a tight spot when his lead quit days before the tour started.

Maia coughed herself awake and Jimmy went to her side and put the bed upright and handed her paper towels to spit the phlegm into.

“Spewing chunks,” she said, “So gross.”

“Good morning to you too.”

Maia frowned and coughed again.

“Get it out so you can go home, " said Jimmy.

“It won’t be home.”

“Don’t be like that. Just think of it this way, you are a typical kid now, you got two homes as if your parents are divorced.”

“Stop joking about that. It’s not even funny. I liked being an anomaly. The only kid with gay dads and a mom.”

“Now you got two dads and a brother and –”

“When are they getting here?”

“Within the next half hour, I hope. Joey texted that there was a traffic pile-up on the interstate.”

“Great. What if they don’t get here in time?”

“I’ll take a taxi.”

Maia shook her head and blew her nose and wheezed. Jimmy handed her the inhaler and she shook it and used it.

“Shh, breathe easy,” he reminded her. “You’re okay.”

“Can’t help it when I get that way,” she said, taking another paper towel from the stack and wiping her face once more before dropping the mucous filled wads into the trashcan beside her bed.

“You need real tissues, these paper towels are ripping up your skin,” he said, unscrewing the lid from the tube of lotion as she squirted hand sanitizer into her hands and wiped it around. Once they were dry, she put lotion on her face and especially her sore nose.

“You look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“I feel like him.”

“Poor baby.”

"I want to go home with you.”

“You know the answer to that.”

"Why are you okay with that?”

“With what?”

“My living with Paul?”

"Because we have to be okay with it, Maia. It’s how it got to be right now baby. You know that. Jonny and Bert told you so. Go home with your brother and go to school and get the best grades.”

“I have to wear a uniform.”

“Just like the rest. You will be in good company.”

“I don’t know.”

“Father Tim said—”

“Stop quoting the priest.”

“It was very nice of him to speak with us and Jonny yesterday and on a Sunday, no less.”

“He seems nice.”

“You could start in late February like he said, after Winter Break when you’re better.”

“And send me to work to do for my Bible classes since I have a lot of those to do.”

“He was really impressed that you had already read the Bible once.”

“Jonny’s just glad its an IB school.”

“Thrilled is more like it. They had a good talk, is what Xavier said.”

“I need honey and lemon.”

“I’ll go to make your tea. This is your last lemon. I will text Joey to get you lemons and some good tissues.”

“Okay, thanks,” she said, getting up from the bed and pulling her IV into the bathroom. Maia sighed and brushed her teeth and her hair before Jimmy returned.

A knock came to her door and it was the dietary aide who put her tray down on the table for her.

“Hi Maia,” she said.

“Hi Patty,” she said, peering out at the redhead in scrubs. “Paul should be here around lunchtime today. Will you be around?”

“I’ll deliver your lunch for sure!”

“Cool, what’s good today?”

“You got eggs. I slipped you a salt packet under your plate.”

"You rock, thanks.”

“No worries, I’ll see you later.”


Maia picked up the plate and pulled out the contraband and opened a small corner of it and sprinkled it on the eggs and carefully hid it under her plate again before Jimmy came back and caught her. Doctor’s orders would always be doctor’s orders even if she didn’t like them.

She ate the eggs while they were still hot, loving the savory flavor the salt added to them. Jimmy entered seeing her clean plate.

“Someone was hungry. That’s good, you’re getting your appetite back.”

“I know,” she said, opening up the yogurt and mixing it up. “What did you get?” she asked, about his dietary tray on the table that Wanda had left.

“Pancakes,” he said, “there’s no way I’m eating all of these. Want some?”

“Oh yes!” she said, excited for butter and syrup. Jimmy brought his plate over to hers and put two pancakes on it and gave her the pat of butter and most of the syrup. Maia ate up the pancakes in no time then went back to her yogurt.

“You seem like you’re doing better.”

“I hope they let me out of here soon.”

“Probably not for another week, you heard the doctor.”

“At least get me out of quarantine. My impetigo is gone.”

“I agree. I hope so too.”

Jimmy’s phone rang. “Hey Babe,” said Jimmy. “Oh, hi Xavier, what’s going on?”

A concerned Maia watched Jimmy as he sat down in the recliner near him as if his legs couldn’t hold him up.

“What would you do? I mean, you’re a nurse…” Maia’s eyes connected with Jimmy, wanting to know what was happening with Jonny.

“Okay then, have the squad take him to Mercy. I’ll meet you guys there. No, I think you’re right. It’s too high and he needs to be seen. I’ll take the Blue Line there. Right. I’m leaving here in five minutes to go to LaGuardia. Take his wallet and his phone and his medical notebook. Right, can I talk to him? Thanks, Xavier.”

“Babe, I’m leaving in a few minutes to come home, all right? I want you to go to Mercy’s emergency department to get checked out. Your blood pressure is too high. I land at one and I should be there around one-thirty, okay?”

Maia started to cry and Jimmy snapped his fingers at her. “Don’t start,” he mouthed to her.

“My…ahh,” said Jonny.

“Just a moment, I will get her for you.”

Jimmy put the phone to his chest. “You be happy and cheerful and tell him you love him.”

“Okay, I will,” she said, offended.

“Jonny,” she said, taking the phone from Jimmy.

“My…ahh,” said Jonny.

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you too, My…ahh.”

Joey walked into the room as tears dripped down Maia’s cheek. “I love you, Daddy,” she said to him. “Get well soon, and be nice to the nurses so they give you red jello.”

Jimmy smirked and took the phone from her. “Babe, take your wallet, phone, and notebook and have Xavier call me when you see the triage nurse. Love you, I’ll see you when I get there. Bye.”

Joey went to Jimmy and hugged him as Paul entered. “Mack is out front in a black Landrover waiting for you. I’m going to walk you down in case you can’t find him.”


“Are you okay?” asked Paul.

“Jonny’s on his way to the emergency room. His blood pressure is too high again.”

“Oh boy, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I’m going to go straight there from the airport.”

“I’ll stay with Maia.” Paul hugged Jimmy. “I don’t want you to stress about Maia. You go take care of Doc and call me if you need anything. I mean it, Jimmy. Call me. Maia needs us four. All of us. Okay?”

“Okay, thanks, Paul. You take care of my girl, okay?”

“I will. I promise. As soon as Doc’s well enough to travel, I want you guys to come to stay with us. All right?”

“Thank you,” said Jimmy. “I’ll call when I get to the hospital.”

Jimmy hugged and kissed Maia once more.

“I want to go home,” she sobbed. “Please, please, Jimmy. I want my daddy,” she sobbed.

“Shh, I know, and he wants you too,” said Jimmy holding her. “But you both have got to get well.”

Maia clutched onto Jimmy and sobbed. “I love you so much, Jimmy.”

“I love you too, baby,” he said as tears fell down his cheeks. “Every evening at seven o'clock you call us.”

“I will, I will,” she said, choking back tears.

“You got to be happy when you talk to Daddy. Being upset only stresses him out,” said Jimmy. “Okay? I need you to calm down now. No asthma attacks, Maia. Be calm. Breathe easy. Recalibrate.”

“Okay,” she said, “I love you so much, Jimmy.”

"I love you too, baby. I’ll see you soon.”

Paul reached for her and she sobbed as Jimmy left with Joey.

“Hey,” said Paul, picking her up from the bed. He hugged her and let her cry on his shoulder. “It’s really going to be okay, kiddo.”

He sat in the recliner and pulled her IV stand with him and held her as she hid her face in his neck, wetting his broadcloth button-down over his vintage Rolling Stones shirt.

“I got you,” he said, holding onto her as Joey returned.

“How is she?”

Paul shook his head. “Do you think they could get her out of this room today?”

“Maybe. Shahere is on at noon.”

Maia’s sobs softened and Paul kept rocking her as Joey brought a blanket and wrapped her up in it.

“You’re okay, Maia,” said Joey, who bent over and kissed the top of her head.


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