Garrett Dunne looked up from his desk to see his assistant, Robertson, at the office door with a worried expression on his face.
“Don’t tell me,” he said. “Al Qaeda have taken the Senned by storm and declared Cardiff an Islamic Republic.”
“No,” Robertson answered. “There’s a kid at reception who says he’s Jack Harkness’s son.”
“He... what?” Garrett touched a key on his keyboard and the screensaver switched to a CCTV view of the reception. The ‘kid’ looked about sixteen or seventeen years old. He had light brown hair and it was possible he had blue eyes like Jack. The image wasn’t quite sharp enough to be sure. If he used his imagination he could probably see some resemblance to his lover in the boy’s features. Or maybe it WAS just his imagination.
“He’s got no ID of any sort,” Robertson added. “Just a backpack with spare clothes and a pocket full of small change. He’s had a standard pat down and isn’t carrying any obvious weapons.”
He was a teenage boy, Garrett reflected. But he knew that suicide bombers came in all shapes and sizes. The pat down was necessary.
“Put him through the full body scanner, just to be sure, then bring him to interview room three. I’ll talk to him.”
Robertson went to do as he asked. Garrett leaned back in his chair and looked at the group of silver-framed photographs on his desk. There was one of Annie and the girls, of course. But next to it was a picture of Jack and Gray, his other family. Annie had decided she couldn’t take being married to a spy any more, but he had never stopped caring for her. He adored the girls and missed them more than he ever let on to anyone. But Jack was a burning passion he never imagined possible and Gray was the son he always wanted. They were a good family. Whenever Gray called him ‘dad’ something twanged in his heart. They were something good in his life and his one fervent hope was that nothing would ever change that.
But maybe something had just done exactly that.
He waited a few minutes more before reaching into his desk drawer for a grey file with an MI5 crest on the front. He pushed several sheets of notes about possible security weaknesses at Cardiff airport into it and brought it with him. He walked slowly to Interview Room Three. He had a lot to think about, and it wasn’t quite enough time to do that.
The boy had a can of coke in front of him, but it was unopened.
“You might as well drink that,” he said. “You could be here a long time, and the air conditioning will make you thirsty.”
He sat down and opened the file, making a pretence of reading it. The boy opened the drink and swallowed it down in one long gulp before putting the empty can back down on the table.
“I went to Torchwood,” the boy said. “They LIED to me. The tourist office on the waterfront. The woman in there said she’d never heard of them. But that’s a lie. I know there’s a secret base there, underneath the coal dock.”
Garrett made sure his face gave nothing away.
“So why did you come here?” he asked.
“Because my father’s BOYFRIEND works for MI5. I thought HE might listen to me.”
“Your father being...”
“Jack Harkness, Captain Jack Harkness, director of Torchwood Three.”
“There is nobody by that name on the Cardiff register of electors, no tax record for a Captain Jack Harkness, no national insurance number ever issued, no passport or driving licence. There is no official record of anyone by that name existing since 1941 when an American volunteer in the RAF mysteriously disappeared.”
“I know that,” the boy said. “But he IS my father. If you do a DNA test, it will prove it.”
“I doubt that,” Garrett replied. “Since you would need DNA from the non-existent Captain Harkness to compare it with.”
Robertson came into the room quietly and handed him another folder. He picked up the empty coke can from the table and left with it. Garrett opened the folder. This one wasn’t a dummy. It contained what MI5 had managed to find out about the boy. It wasn’t much. It established that he existed, at least.
“Ashley Brooke,” he said. “Born July 21st, 995 to Arwen Brooke, of 15 Belvedere Gardens, Chelsea. Nice neighbourhood. Your mother wasn’t trying to get pregnant for a bump up the council house waiting list.”
“We had money,” Ashley answered. “But money isn’t everything. When my mother died, I had nobody else. I spent the last five years in the care system, as a Human parcel, passed from foster home to foster home. Now I’m on my own. I’m sixteen, nearly seventeen. Social Services aren’t responsible for me any more. And it’s time HE recognised that I exist.”
Garrett looked at the electronic copy of Ashley’s birth certificate. It named his father as Jack Harkness, with an address in Tiger Bay, Cardiff. Tiger Bay ceased to exist when the bright new waterfront was built. It was possible that, in late 1994, when Ashley was conceived, Jack had some kind of lodgings in those terraced streets.
“It’s easy to put a name on a birth certificate,” Garrett pointed out. “It is perfectly possible that she lied.”
And it was perfectly possible that she didn’t, Garrett admitted to himself. Jack had only recently discovered fidelity since they had become an item. Before then, a dictionary entry for the word promiscuous could have read ‘see Harkness, Jack.’ It was perfectly possible that he had a dozen unacknowledged children out there.
He might have had unacknowledged children in every decade of the past century. There was no getting away from the mathematic probability that Ashley was Jack’s son.
He looked at the boy carefully. Yes, his eyes were blue – clear sapphire blue – like Jack’s. That didn’t prove very much, though.
Garrett looked at the second page in the file.
“Your mother worked for Torchwood, Cardiff from 1990-1994? She then transferred to Torchwood London where she took six months maternity leave in 1995 before returning to the job. She worked there until 2006...” He paused and looked at the boy. “Your mother was killed in the Battle of Canary Wharf?”
“I didn’t know there was some kind of name for what happened. There were the ghosts... and they turned into metal men that shot people in the street... and something happened at the place where she worked... and she didn’t come home.”
He said it dispassionately. It was five years ago, now. Perhaps the pain had lost its sharp edge. Perhaps five years in the care system was rough enough to make losing his mother the easy part of his childhood experiences.
“I’m sorry,” Garrett said.
“Why should you be sorry? Were you there? Did you do it? Did you ignore me all these years?”
“I’m sorry for what happened to your mother. I work for British Military Intelligence. I understand death from close quarters. I know what it does to people. And I’m sorry that somebody as young as you has been touched by it.”
“I don’t need your sympathy. I want to find my father... and... tell him... that he’s a bastard...”
“I don’t think that will surprise him in the least,” Garrett answered.
The door opened again. Robertson brought another page to put in the thin file MI5 now had on Ashley Brooke. Garrett read it through, keeping his expression carefully neutral.
Then he made a decision.
“Come on, Ashley,” he said.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“I’m taking you to Torchwood,” Garrett told him.
Jack wasn’t there. Garrett knew that. He had gone up to Scotland yesterday evening to have a close look at a piece of alien hardware that Torchwood Glasgow had acquired. He was due back this evening.
This was going to be one hell of a homecoming.
He parked his Jaguar in the secure garage at the back way into the Hub. He noted that there was a boy’s bicycle propped against the wall beside Alun’s Audi Quatro. Gray had come to the Hub after school since there was nobody at home, yet.
Well, that was always going to be an awkward moment, Garrett thought. He keyed in the door code known only to Torchwood staff and selected family members and pushed open the door. Ashley looked a little nervous about the half lit corridor beyond. Garrett urged him on with a kind word. They emerged into the brighter, but no less frightening Hub Central. Ashley stared around the cavernous multi-level room with its iron railings and walkways, the peculiar underground station tiling on one section, the base of the metal fountain and the pool of water that accumulated below it, the high ceiling across which Myfanwy the pterodactyl chose to fly just as the boy looked up.
“Dad!” Gray emerged from Jack’s office where he had been doing his homework and ran to hug Garrett. When he saw Ashley he drew back uncertainly.
“This is Ashley,” Garrett said to him. “I’m taking him down to the medical room. I want Martha to give him a thorough check up. But he hasn’t told me when he ate last. Could you get him some crisps and sandwiches from the kitchen and a drink of some sort?”
Gray ran to do as he asked. Garrett took Ashley down the stone steps to Martha’s lair.
“We did a DNA test at HQ based on a saliva sample,” he explained to the Torchwood medic. “But I’d like a fuller one done using a blood sample. I want scientific proof of who both his parents are.”
“I’d need DNA samples from both subjects,” Martha pointed out.
Garrett opened Ashley’s file and showed her the copy of his birth certificate.
“Blood samples from both of his assumed parents are stored here,” he said.
Martha’s eyes opened wide. She looked from Garrett to Ashley.
Martha said nothing more about it. She told Ashley to sit on a chair and prepared to take a blood sample. Gray came down with the food for him and Garrett took his stepson back upstairs. He sat with him on the sofa by the Torchwood sign and explained who he thought Ashley was. Gray needed to know. It affected him, too.
“So he’s... like... my...” He squinted as he worked it out. Ashley was four years older than him, after all. “He’s my nephew?”
“Yes,” Garrett laughed softly. “Yes, he is.”
“That’s cool. Is he going to stay with us?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Garrett admitted. “I’m not sure it’s as easy as that.”
“I’ll share my bedroom with him,” Gray told him. “I don’t mind. At least he’s a boy. It would be ok. Not like when the girls visit.”
Garrett smiled and hugged him. Gray was handling this well, so far, which was one hurdle crossed. But he really couldn’t quite see things being as smoothly domestic as that. Ashley wasn’t here for a sweet reunion. Far from it.
It was twenty minutes before Martha sent Ashley upstairs to join them. Gray invited him to sit next to him.
“You’re his kid?” Ashley asked nodding to Garrett, who stood to let them sit together. “You called him dad.”
“Garrett adopted me, sort of,” Gray explained. “Jack is my brother. And he and Garrett are...”
Ashley looked at Garrett. The penny had just dropped.
“YOU are the one my father is...”
“You lied to me. Another liar messing with my head. You’re as bad as he is.”
“I didn’t lie. I simply chose what information you ought to have about me before I was sure who you were and what your game was.”
That much was true. It deflated his argument a little.
“If it’s any consolation, current scientific thinking is that homosexuality isn’t genetic. You can’t inherit that from your parents.”
“I wasn’t...” Ashley said. “I don’t... I don’t care if he’s queer. Or if you are, either. I just want him to know who I am.”
“We’re related,” Gray said, ignoring the tension between Ashley and Garrett. “I’m your uncle. It’s cool.”
In those few words Gray summed up just how complicated the situation was. Ashley didn’t say anything, but he looked at Gray with a conflicted expression as if he was trying to make up his mind whether to push him away or embrace him. Garrett looked at them both together and knew Martha’s test results wouldn’t matter very much. They would have passed as brothers. Their eyes, the set of the jaw, their hands were alike. It was unmistakeable.
The klaxon sounded, heralding a team member entering through the round metal door from the tourist office entrance. It was Jack, pulling off his greatcoat as he strode towards Garrett, smiling warmly.
“The spy who loved me,” he said, wrapping his arm around Garrett’s shoulders and pulling him into a kiss. “It’s good to see you. I feel like I’ve been gone longer than a day.”
Then he saw Gray and Ashley. His smile turned to a puzzled frown. Garrett kept the explanation as short as possible. Jack’s expression turned to confusion.
“It’s not... it can’t be true,” he managed to say. “It can’t be.”
That was enough for Ashley. He swept past Gray, narrowly missing a collision with Martha who emerged from the medical room with the test results on a printed sheet. He gathered speed with each pace across the walkway and when he reached Jack and punched him square in the face there was a lot of momentum behind his arm as well as the pent up emotions that he unleashed.
“You bastard,” he said. “You abandoned my mother before I was born. You never once contacted her. You never tried to find out if she was ok. When she died... you could have come for me. I hoped you would. But you didn’t. You abandoned me like you abandoned her... to foster parents who just wanted the care allowance and didn’t give a shit about me... to shithole orphanages with housemasters who...”
Whatever the housemasters might have done to him went unsaid. Jack reached out and grasped him by the shoulders, forcing him to be still.
“When did his mother die?” he asked Garrett. “How?”
Garrett told him. Jack’s expression was best described as hollow.
“You’ve been in care since you were twelve? Shit. I’m sorry. I really am. I understand how that feels.”
“No, you don’t,” Ashley replied.
“Yes,” Jack told him. “Yes, yes I do. I know only too well. My parents died when I was that age. I know... I know about not being wanted... except... except by housemasters wandering about the dorm after lights out. God almighty, I know. And I’m so sorry that you went through that. Believe me... if I’d known... I wouldn’t... I would never... I would never let any child go through that if I could help it. Let alone...” He looked at Garrett, then at Martha. “Is it true? You’ve checked?”
“It’s true, Jack. His biological mother is Torchwood operative Arwen Brooke, deceased. His biological father... is you.”
“Arwen Brooke?” Jack sounded just a little too vague as he said her name. Ashley pulled away from his grasp and resisted his attempt to hold him again.
“You don’t even remember her. You had so many women, you don’t even remember the one you...”
“I DO remember her,” Jack answered. “Yes, I did sleep with her a few times. I’m sorry, I can’t tell you I was in love with her, or she with me. She was a nice woman. I enjoyed her company. I can only assume she enjoyed mine. When she transferred to the London office... it was a promotion. Torchwood One was a bigger operation, more opportunities for the ambitious. I had no reason to think... If I HAD known...”
“What? You’d have held her hand at the abortion clinic?” Ashley snapped.
“No!” Jack protested. “No. I... I don’t know what I’d have done, to tell the truth. I hope I’d have done right. But she didn’t let me. She didn’t tell me anything. Please, believe me, if I had known...”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I do,” Gwen Cooper said. She stepped towards the emotional group. Jack wondered where she had appeared from. He couldn’t remember seeing her before. But she must have heard most of the story. “Yes, Jack is a thorough bastard. We’ve all told him so a million times. But he’s not a liar. Not about things like that, anyway. I believe him. I believe he would have been there for you if he had known you even existed. And... and now that he does... give him a chance to prove it.”
Jack looked at Gwen. She was doing her best PC Cooper act with her most disarming smile. But Ashley was so wound up with all the hurt and frustration the magic surely couldn’t work this time.
He was astonished and relieved when it did.
“All right,” he said, clinging to one last shred of stubbornness. “What if I do believe you? What now?”
“What’s your favourite pizza?” Gwen asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Ashley replied.
“It has everything to do with it. You and Jack have a lot to talk about. But this isn’t the place for it. It’s Friday night, and that means pizza night. Go home, all of you. Eat pizza. Talk. Be nice to each other. And stuff Torchwood until Monday morning.”
“That sounds like a good idea to me,” Garrett decided before Jack could say anything else. “Gray, get your schoolbag from the office. Ashley, bring your things. Jack...”
Jack reacted almost the same way as the boys, obeying his instructions without question. He was tired, emotionally and physically and glad that Garrett was there to take the burden from his shoulders.
Nobody said much in the car. When they got to the apartment, Gray showed Ashley the bedroom the two of them would be sharing for the immediate future and the bathroom. Garrett ordered the pizzas and made coffee. Jack sat on the sofa and read the sparse information MI5 had come up with and the results of Martha’s tests on the boy’s blood. It all proved without a doubt that he was Ashley’s biological parent. But when he whispered the word ‘father’ to himself it jarred oddly. He had got used to a parental role in Gray’s life, although, if truth be told, Garrett did that far better than he did. But to actually have somebody call him father, dad, pop... whatever... it just didn’t feel right.
“Get used to it,” he told himself. “You’re a hundred and eighty years old. Time to settle down and take the responsibility.”
After the pizza, Garrett retreated to the desk in the corner of the living room, helping Gray with his homework. Jack sat on the sofa beside Ashley and sought a way to open what was likely to be a painful conversation.
“You... didn’t love her, did you?” The boy started it for him, with a question that cut to the chase as far as he was concerned.
“No, I didn’t,” Jack admitted. “You’re not a kid. You know the facts of life. Sometimes people have sex without being in love. As far as I remember, contraceptives would have been involved. But those things are never completely foolproof.”
“I was an accident... a mistake?”
“That doesn’t sound so good from your point of view, does it?” Jack said. “Arwen... your mom... she loved you? You had a good relationship with her?”
“She was great,” Ashley said. “She worked weird hours at Torchwood. But when she was home, we did stuff.”
“Did she tell you what we did at Torchwood?”
“Yeah, she did. Some of it, anyway. I wasn’t allowed to talk about it at school, but she would tell me stuff.”
“Did she... ever... did she tell you anything about me... about why I wasn’t there for you?”
“She told me your name, and that you were with Torchwood in Cardiff. She said you were... not the marrying kind.”
Ashley looked around at Garrett and grimaced.
“I didn’t think she meant because you preferred men.”
“It’s a bit more complicated than that,” Jack admitted. “Kind of hard to explain. But she was probably right about that. Back then, at least, I wasn’t ready to get a mortgage and do the school run. I’m not sure I like the idea of being a part time father, either, turning up on weekends and birthdays, that sort of thing. But if she’d let me do that, I think I would have liked to have played some part in your life. I’m glad you were happy with your mom. I’m sorry that she died... especially in that way. What happened at Canary Wharf hurt a lot of people. We.... Torchwood... ought to have taken more collective responsibility in the aftermath. It’s our fault you were abandoned the way you were. And for that... as one of the people who could have made more of an effort in that way... I am very sorry, Ashley.”
He nodded. The apology was accepted.
“When they told me she was dead....” he began. But the words stuck in his throat. That was still a raw wound.
“You don’t have to go there until you’re ready,” Jack told him. “But, believe me, I know how it feels. That’s why... I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you before this, Ashley. But I think we have more in common than just biology. I’d like to be your friend, even if I have no moral right to be your dad.”
Young blue eyes looked into matching blue that were far older than they ought to be. Then the boy reached out and grasped Jack’s hand. As Garrett had noted, their hands were the same. Biology did that much for them. The rest they had to find for themselves.
But the door had been opened. Slowly, Ashley began to talk much more easily about his past, about his mother, about being in care. When he was sure he could handle it, Jack gently brought him around to a darker aspect hinted at before and got him to name the orphanage and the housemaster responsible for abusing that care. Garrett left Gray to his essay and listened carefully to that, too.
“Nothing can take away that kind of hurt,” he said. “But at least we can make sure justice is done. MI5 have bigger fish to fry than child molesters. So does Torchwood. But between the two of us, we have some connections. We’ll give that bastard some payback, I can promise you that, Ashley.”
“You’re not alone, kid,” Jack promised him. “You’ve got us.”
“For how long?”
“As long as you need us.”
How long? That was a question nobody could answer. It was a question that kept Jack restless in his bed later when the two boys were asleep. Garrett gave up trying to sleep beside him and snapped the bedside light on.
“Can I really do it?” Jack asked him. “Can I really be a dad to him... a real one?”
“You don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter,” Garrett answered. “He’s here. He’s a part of your life now. I don’t think you can turn your back on him. You’re not that sort of bastard.”
“I know. But... I was actually lying here, thinking... about whether we ought to buy a bigger flat... or... a house. And then I remembered... I’m Jack Harkness... I’m... not the marrying kind. I’m not a family man. I’m not a dad.”
“Well, I am. And we’ve done fine so far with Gray. Is it such a terrible idea? You don’t have to turn into Mr Suburbia. We’ll PAY somebody to mow the lawn. Jack, even when Annie and I were married, I was away doing my duty for Queen and Country so often I missed a lot of time I should have spent with the girls. Now, I AM that part time father to them. I’m missing too much of their growing up. And as much as I love you and Gray, and I’m happy with my work, that’s my one biggest regret.”
Jack glanced at the photos on Garrett’s side of the bed. Most of them were of his daughters. One of them was from Christmas, with Gray in the picture, too. Garrett’s family.
“Ashley is sixteen,” he continued. “Through no fault of yours you’ve missed all of his growing up. He’s almost a man. But it doesn’t have to be too late. Grab what’s left of his childhood and make the most of it for both of you. Don’t worry about whether you fit some preconceived concept of what a father ought to be. Just go with it.”
“Where do I start?” he asked.
“Red Dragon Centre, tomorrow,” Garrett told him. “Gray already planned the day. It involves pizza, ten pin bowling, the cinema, another pizza. I think that’s more pizza than is good for any of us. We ought to go to a proper restaurant for one of the meals. But other than that, it’s a sound plan.”
“Gray likes him, doesn’t he? Or, at least he likes the idea of him being around. He’s me... as I used to be... back in Boeshane... a big brother closer to his age. We shared a bedroom in the habitat. There were squabbles sometimes. It bugged me that he was such a kid with his toys all over, and I wanted room for my model space ships and dreams of being a shuttle pilot. But mostly we were ok.”
“That would be why Gray was so enthusiastic to sleep on a camp bed tonight,” Garrett noted. “We SHOULD think about a bigger place, though. Sixteen and twelve is too big an age gap. Ashley needs a room of his own. He might want to bring a girl back some time. Or a boy...”
“Either way, make sure he’s got condoms in his bedside drawer. I might get used to being a dad, but a granddad... not yet, thanks.”
Garrett laughed and flipped the light back off. He reached for Jack, touching him wantingly. If he wouldn’t settle down and sleep any other way, then there was always sex.
Gray’s plan for Saturday went according to plan. A lot of emotional bonding went on in the course of a day full of junk food and family entertainment. Gray and Ashley seemed set to be firm friends. When they emerged from the cinema and headed to the restaurant Garrett had booked as an alternative to more pizza, the two boys walked together.
“He can stay, can’t he Jack?” Gray asked when they were eating. “He can share my room for as long as he wants. I don’t mind. I want him to stay. As long as people think we’re brothers. It’s kind of cool being an uncle, but I think that should be just between us.”
Jack looked at Ashley. He had put down his fork and was clearly waiting for somebody to say something about his long term future.
“It’s up to you,” Jack told him. “You’ve got a home with us for as long as you want it.”
“I’d like to stay for a while,” he answered. “But... when I’m eighteen... I’m joining the RAF. That’s my plan. I want to be a pilot.”
Jack caught his breath. That almost seemed too much.
“Can the RAF handle another Captain Harkness?” Garrett asked.
“My name isn’t Harkness,” Ashley pointed out. “It’s Brooke.”
“It can be whatever you want it to be,” Jack assured him. “As for flying... You’ll love it. I know that for sure. It really is in your blood. There’s nothing like being in the air, your hands at the controls, making a plane do what you want it to do. It’s the most alive feeling possible. It’s better than sex.”
“I wouldn’t know about either, yet,” Ashley admitted. “But I think... when I dream about it... flying I mean... not sex... I think that’s what I want. That feeling of being alive.”
“I don’t know about them, yet, either,” Gray said, not to be outdone.
“Well, that settles one thing,” Jack said. “How we’re going to spend tomorrow afternoon.”
He said no more about it, but on Sunday afternoon Jack drove everyone out to MOD St. Athan’s, the former RAF base, now a training centre for all the armed services and South Wales base for some of the special forces, including U.N.I.T.
“They’re actually letting you borrow a helicopter?” Gray queried as Garrett made sure his seatbelt was securely fastened. Jack was at the controls of the Bell Jetranger painted in British military khaki. Ashley was at his side. Garrett and Gray sat behind them.
“Prince William borrowed one to visit his girlfriend,” Jack pointed out. “Everyone strapped in tightly?”
They were. He smiled widely as he felt the twin engines respond to his hands at the controls. The helicopter rose into the air. He turned it south and accelerated. In minutes they were over the Bristol Channel. He glanced at Ashley and recognised the expression on his face. A long time ago he had looked that way the first time he left the ground in a solar shuttle.
It was more than biology, DNA, genetics. Ashley shared something of his soul. Nothing else could account for the way his face almost glowed with joy, the way he was trembling with sympathy with the helicopter engines. He was one with the machine the way Jack always felt when he was flying.
He could teach him. The idea popped into his mind and wouldn’t go away again. He could hire a dual control plane and teach him to fly. It would be the perfect way of really getting to know each other – father and son.
He had missed every other milestone in Ashley’s life. But he could be there to see him make his first solo flight.
He stopped thinking about it, because the idea was just too perfect. It was too much to hope for. Fate always had a way of screwing up anything he wanted that much.
“It’s everything I thought it would be,” Ashley said enthusiastically. “I love it.”
“Better than sex!” Jack laughed.
“I’ll let you know after I’ve tried that.”
“No rush. Plenty of time for it,” Jack told him, then reflected that he lost his virginity well and truly about Ashley’s age. Funny how he felt different about it from this viewpoint – as a father.
Funny how he thought he ought to have any say in it after being a father for less than forty-eight hours.
They had fuel for three and half hours – the freedom of the skies for a whole afternoon. Jack flew the helicopter down the Bristol Channel until it became the Irish Sea, then turned north along the coast, past Skomer and Ramsey and up around Cardigan Bay as far as Bardsey Island before he calculated that he was close to the point of no return. It was either continue on to RAF Valley on Anglesey for refuelling or turn back. Reluctantly he banked around and chose a flight path roughly south-east, back towards Cardiff.
“That was fantastic,” Ashley told him when he climbed out of the helicopter and stood, still slightly trembling, on the helipad. He touched the warm side of the machine with his eyes shining. When Jack put out his arm around his shoulders and hugged him he didn’t object.
“There will be other days,” he promised. “Plenty of them.”
“I hope so,” Ashley answered him. “Thanks.... dad.”
Jack thought his heart was going to burst with happiness. The only thing stopping it was the nagging doubt. Fate was never going to let him stay this happy for long. And he dreaded what kind of cruel twist might ruin this contentment.