"Gah doo," Travis said, yanked his hand from his ma's and shoved his fist in his mouth.
Mr. Robinson smiled.
"That's why we're here, sweetie, kind of," she said and Joker looked down at her to see her looking up at him. "Mrs. Heely wanted to meet Travis so I took him around. We got to chatting. Then we spoke to Kam. We're having everyone over for dinner tonight. Is that okay?"
She had an ulterior motive, he knew. She'd been on about getting Mrs. Heely in the house across the street since she'd noticed it was for rent.
It was Tuesday. They hadn't even had Travis back for twenty-four hours. And now she was using Mrs. Heely asking to meet her boy as her excuse to wrangle what she wanted.
Having Mrs. Heely across the street would absolutely not suck, so he told her, "It's good with me."
"Great!" she cried, bouncing a little at his side with her excitement, something that was cute and hot. Then she pulled away. "Oh my gosh! So rude. Mr. Robinson, this is Mrs. Heely. She used to be Carson's neighbor but she's really Carson's family," she announced.
Mrs. Heely visibly swelled with pride as she offered her hand.
"Mr. Robinson was our history teacher in high school," Joker told her.
Mrs. Heely's eyes lit. "Lovely to meet you, and so nice to see a teacher taking a continuing interest in his students."
They were holding hands in greeting as Keith replied, "There's always been lots to be interested in with Carson, as is evidenced right there."
They broke off with Mrs. Heely smiling. "I wholeheartedly agree."
"Me too," Carissa mumbled under her breath.
Fuck, this crew didn't shut the fuck up about how awesome he was, he'd actually have to acknowledge it. It felt great, but it was still awkward as shit.
Like she knew what he was feeling, Carissa bulldozed right in there.
"Now, I hate to say it, but it's already late and we have to get to the grocery store." She looked to Keith. "We're suddenly feeding nine people. I need to get food in." She tipped her head to the side. "Would you like to join us?"
"Some other time, Carissa. My wife and I have plans tonight," Keith answered.
"Bummer, but I understand. Short notice. We'll set it up for another night." She turned to Mrs. Heely. "You ready to hit the store?"
"Whenever you are," Mrs. Heely answered.
She came back to Joker, lifting her hands to her son. "Come on, baby boy, Mommy and Mrs. Heely need to get to the grocery store pronto."
Travis lurched in Joker's arms, tried to find purchase on his jaw, and shouted, "Bah, moo mah!"
She shot her eyes to Joker like she did anytime Travis said "moo mah," convinced it was "mommy."
Joker didn't know if she was right. But he liked to see her face when it happened.
She tore her eyes from Joker's and put her hands to her son, who started climbing on Joker, shouting, "Bah! Dah! Kah! Duh! Buh!" then he pounded on Joker's shoulder and gave her angry baby face.
"He's good with me," he told her.
"He sure is," Mrs. Heely said, a smile in her voice.
"You don't have your truck," Carissa told him.
"Swing back around when you're done, you can take him home and I'll ride behind you," he said
"Okay, sweetheart," she murmured, leaned in and this time he turned his head so she didn't get his jaw with her kiss but his lips. "See you later," she whispered when she pulled away. She bent in to Travis, who turned his face into Joker's neck and pressed, thinking she was going to try to separate them.
She blew a raspberry on his neck and he giggled but kept shoving into Joker.
She moved away.
"So cool to see you again, Mr. Robinson," she said.
"Keith, Carissa," he invited.
"Keith," she said warmly.
They shook. Mrs. Heely said her goodbyes to Keith. Carissa came in for another lip touch for Joker and a raspberry for Travis. After that, Keith and Joker watched Carissa and Mrs. Heely walk to his woman's wreck.
With his mother walking away, Travis exposed his plan and started struggling to get down, showing that he may like Joker, but what he really wanted was to crawl all over the dirt and grime of a garage.
Joker held him steady, eyes locked on Travis's mother's sweet ass.
"How old is he?"
At this question from Keith, Joker tore his eyes from Carissa's ass and looked to the man beside him.
Something moved over Keith's face that was easy to read. Unhappiness and anger.
"Please tell me Mr. Neiland is a better father than he obviously was a husband," he requested.
Nothing got by Keith Robinson. He knew exactly how big a jackass Aaron Neiland was back in the day, which was why he was a bigger one now.
"Far's I can tell, he digs his son."
"And Carissa has you," Keith said quietly.
"And I got them both," Joker replied.
"Would you like to know one of the best feelings in the world, Carson?" Keith asked.
Joker wasn't sure he did. With all that had just gone down, anything could come of that. All that just happened but also, Joker was holding in his arms what Keith and his wife could not have.
Still, he said, "Sure."
Keith looked him deep in the eye, Joker tensed at the force of his gaze, and the man whispered, "Being right."
Joker drew in breath.
Travis shouted, "Bah goo dee fah luh dah koo!"
Keith grinned, looked to Joker's car and said, "Now, if you have time, show me everything."
Holding an annoyed Travis close, Joker did that.
* * *
Sitting at Carissa's dining room table with the dirty dishes holding the remnants of the cherry pie Mrs. Heely made in Carissa's kitchen, Joker felt something.
He looked to his right.
He was at the head of the table.
Carissa, being Carissa, had given Mrs. Heely the foot.
So she was sitting to his right.
And when he looked at her, he saw she had eyes to the couches and a look on her face he felt in his gut.
He turned his head that way and saw Linus and Kam's boys crawling all over the couch, mostly wrestling with a lot of grunting.
Candy was sitting to the side, her little dress pristine, her eyes on her brothers like she didn't know what to make of them but what she was coming up with wasn't much.