“Do you have to do it yourself?”
“I always have before.”
“We’re here now. How about if we help you? After supper, you can show Anton and me how we should correct Gracie if she veers from her training. That way we’ll all know the right way to keep her in line.”
“Why would you do that?” He frowned. “You don’t like dogs.”
“I’ll admit Gracie’s grown on me.” She sent Gracie a fond look, but her face was serious when she looked back at him. “We need to figure out a way to make this work for all of us.”
Cam knew Domini wasn’t just talking about the dog.
“Domini, it’s Ginger. I have good news! Anton DeMarco has officially been released into the foster care of Deputy Cameron McKay and Domini McKay, by Wyoming Department of Social Services.”
Domini sagged against the counter. “That is good news, Ginger, thank you. Now what?”
“Now you adjust to parenting a child full-time. Social Services will check in periodically. That’s about it.”
“No, I mean when can I start the paperwork for adopting him?”
Ginger’s hesitation was apparent even through the phone line.
A strange feeling of foreboding flowed through Domini. “What?”
“There are a couple of things to do before you take that permanent step.”
“First, I recommend you hire a private detective to track down Rex’s remaining family.”
Domini frowned. “That’s necessary?”
“Covering all our bases from the start is very necessary.”
“But I don’t know anything about hiring private detectives.”
“If you’re interested, I can handle it out of my office at my standard rate.”
“Yes. Please. Whatever I need to do, I’ll do it. I don’t care how much it costs.”
Ginger chuckled. “Darlin’, don’t ever say that to an attorney.”
Domini smiled. “So say the detective tracks these relatives down, what happens after that?”
“Then the private detective gives the family official notification of Rex’s death, of financial windfalls of said death, of which I’m going to assume none, and financial responsibilities of said death.”
“Which would be…?”
“Funeral costs. Payment of any outstanding debts. The recipient cannot have the gains without the bearing the losses, understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes. Then what?”
“Once that’s done, we see if there’s any interest in adoption from his relatives.”
Her stomach clenched. “What are the odds that will happen?”
“Slim. However, it is a possibility. You and Cam have a minimum of six months of Anton living with you as a foster kid before you can even think of applying for adoption. And it’ll take the detective at least that long to do the first stage of the legwork on a case like this. Especially if you don’t want to pay through the nose for it.”
“So we should get started right away?”
“Yes. Would you like me to get it set up?”
“Please. And one other thing.” Domini hesitated. “Can you call me with updates? And send your bills to me at the restaurant?”
“Not to your home address?”
Ginger was quiet a minute and then she sighed. “You’re keeping Cam out of this?”
“For now. He’s already done so much and this isn’t something he needs to think about until we are actually closer to the adoption process, is it?”
“No. You are the client and I can set it up however you want, but I strongly recommend you include Cam in every step.”
“Because he’s your husband. Because he will be Anton’s adoptive father. Because keeping secrets is never a good thing, Domini.”
How well Domini knew that. “I appreciate the advice, Ginger. Keep me updated.”
Cam dragged ass. Talk about a colossally shitty day. He wanted to tear off his uniform, ditch his prosthesis, stand under a scalding shower, drink an icy cold beer and fuck his wife for an hour.
In that exact order.
He opened the door and chaos whacked him in the face.
His house—his haven—was utterly trashed. Blankets and sheets were draped across every surface. Hell, he couldn’t even see his furniture. The stereo blasted some classical crap with a billion weeping violins. Neither Domini nor Anton were in sight. His blood boiled when he noticed the small bronze statue his brother Carter had sculpted tipped on its side on the floor.
“Domini?” he shouted over the music, picking up the statue.
Her head popped up from beneath a yellow sheet. “Hey! Hang on.” She disappeared beneath the blankets. The music stopped. She reappeared holding the stereo remote. “How come you’re home so late?”
Cam clenched his teeth at her accusation. “I was busy.”
“Anyway, Anton and I were just playing—”
“Pigs in a blanket?”
“No. That’s food, not a game…” Domini frowned. “Not nice, Cam.”
I’m not feeling very nice.
“What’s the matter?”
“I’m tired, I’ve had a shit day, and I just want to get out of these clothes and have some peace and quiet.”
“You’re at the wrong place for that.”
She’d meant it to be funny, but it struck a sour chord in him.
“Are you hungry? I saved a plate for you in the kitchen.”
He scowled. “How am I supposed to get to the kitchen? I can’t even get across the damn living room.” Of my own damn house, he silently tacked on. Be just his luck if he tried to ford his way through the maze only to land in a big heap on the floor. Perfect capper to his awesome day.
Domini kept her tone cool. “Anton? Playtime is over. We need to get this stuff picked up. Now.”
Due to static from the blankets, Anton’s hair stuck up every which way. “Aw, do we have to? It took forever to set up.”
“I know, sweetling. We should’ve asked Cam first before we created such a mess in his house.”
His house. That barb crossed the room, sharp as an arrow, and hit him dead center. “For Christsake, Domini, that’s not fair and you know that’s not what I meant.”
She scalded him with an “Oh really?” look and vanished beneath the blankets.
He exited through the front door, grumbling as he trekked to the backside of the house and scaled the rear deck steps. He paused at the sliding glass door to rub the section of skin where the sock was chafing his stump. He couldn’t wait to get the goddamn thing off. He snagged two beers from the fridge, ignoring the piles of dishes stacked everywhere and headed down the hallway, which was blessedly free of blankets. And dishes. And people.
Cam shucked his clothes, removed his leg and used his crutches to propel himself to the bathroom. He froze in the doorway.
Whoa. Looked like a Revlon factory exploded in here. Lotion, powders and creams were strewn across the countertop. Did Domini really need all that crap? And would it have killed her to put it away when she was done with it? Especially when it seemed she stashed his shaving stuff in a completely new drawer every damn time he turned around?
He ground his teeth. He was not a neat freak, not any more than any other guy who’d spent a dozen years in the army. But he hated shit piled everywhere. He’d learned the hard way not to leave wet towels, empty soda bottles and magazines scattered around after he’d tripped and fallen on his ass a few times.
A shower didn’t calm him.
He slipped on a pair of frayed sweat pant shorts and cast a look of loathing at his prosthesis. No way was he putting it back on tonight. No fucking way.
Now what? He was in a pissy mood. He wanted to be alone. The living room wasn’t an option, neither was the kitchen. With no other recourse, he flopped on the bed.
Cam reached for his beer on the nightstand. His knuckle clipped the edge of the fan attached to the headboard, nearly knocking it off. That’d be great, if he’d have to crawl underneath the bed on one goddamn knee to plug in Domini’s pacifier.
Okay, maybe it was mean to call it that, but Domini couldn’t sleep without the damn thing on. The white noise from an oscillating fan calmed her. Which wouldn’t have bothered him, except she had to have the air blowing directly on her. Which meant it blew on him. All night. He’d woken up freezing on more than one occasion.
When he’d tried to joke, “Luke. I am your father,” into the fan in his best Darth Vader imitation, Domini hadn’t laughed. Maybe their senses of humor didn’t mesh.
Maybe nothing about this situation meshed.
Cam expected adjustments. He expected changes. He thought he’d done fairly well, considering the double whammy of a taking on a wife and a young kid all at once.
Honestly, his relationship with Domini wasn’t causing friction. When they were locked in their bedroom, locked body to body, everything was perfect.
But that’s not realistic. Your lives can’t revolve around the few hours you spend in bed.
Yeah? Her life shouldn’t revolve around Anton, either.
Talk about a stalemate.
He finished the first beer. Maybe he should’ve crashed in Anton’s room. At least he could’ve watched TV. That was just another thing he and Domini disagreed on. Cam didn’t think the kid needed a damn TV in his room. Domini claimed Anton needed his own space, his own things, and not a bunch more drastic changes in his life right away.
So Cam had given in. Sucked up his resentment. How did people do this parenting shit without going bonkers?
Most parents started out with a baby, not a surly seven-year-old. Maybe things would be different when he and Domini started having kids of their own. Right. If she stuck around that long. She’d already been making contingency plans to adopt Anton on her own and that sucked ass.