Just With You

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“Stella, hey. Jace Miller here. I got your message this morning, but I ended up slammed with calls all day, and you said after five was good.”

“Yes, of course. Sorry, I was just about to start dinner and completely forgot that we hadn’t talked yet.”

“Oh, I can call you later if that’s better.”

“No, it’s okay. We can talk now.” Plopping down on the couch, I cross my legs and lean on the arm. “So, I know you were interested in Peter and Jacob’s case. I can’t tell you much, but what I can tell you is they are both getting the help they need. Both boys are good at heart, but growing up in the system can be hard on children. They don’t know what a real home is or a family, and the group homes sometimes have gangs of kids that beat up on the smaller, more sensitive ones. I’m grateful to you and your partner for getting them as quickly as you did.”

“That’s good to hear. Once my partner and I realized how young they were, I couldn’t stop thinking about how they were doing. Eli, my partner, was also concerned when we found out. The younger one seemed scared out of his mind when Eli brought him around to the squad car.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. A lot of these kids who grow up in the system act out either for attention or to get a new home. That’s the downfall to the group homes. There are so many who don’t get the attention and love they need. Both boys have been in the system since they were very young. This is the only life they know.”

He lets out a deep sigh, and I sympathize with how he’s feeling. “Well, that doesn’t exactly make me feel better, but I’m glad to hear the boys are going to be okay. Thank you, Stella. I really appreciate you talking to me about it. I know it’s probably strange and annoying of me.”

“Oh no, you haven’t bothered me at all. I mean, I would have enjoyed actually sleeping in this morning, but no worries.”

Jace laughs, and it causes me to smile. What the hell?

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I’m an early riser, and when I got back from my morning run, it was on my brain. I’m really sorry, seriously.”

“No problem, Jace. I’m gonna get back to dinner, but you take care.”

“You too, Stella Cole.”

Ending the call, I tuck my phone back into my purse and stand to find Mason in the doorway, a huge shit-eating grin on his face.

“What?” I ask, pushing past him into the kitchen.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“It’s all over your face, Mason. Just spit it out.”

“Who is Jace?”

“No idea. He was the arresting officer in a case I was assigned.”

“Okay, Stell. Whatever you say.”

I smack him on the back of the head and busy myself with making us all dinner. But I don’t miss his snide looks all night, and I can’t help wondering why he’s such a pain in my ass.

Older brothers, am I right?

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