“And that’s about it,” Hank finished.
Sam shook his head. “Are you sure about all this?”
Ivy put her hand on his arm. “We have proof, Sam.”
He nodded, staring at his hands.
Her heart went out to him, but she had questions of her own. “You had to have known about this.”
“I’ve had my suspicions for a long time, but Dad always shielded me from it.” Sam let out a hard breath. “You know he’s always pushed for me to go into law enforcement. Now I think that was probably so he’d have someone on the inside. Someone in the family, that is. He’s already got a few local cops on the payroll.”
Sam dropped his head, and the muscles in his jaw tightened. When he looked at Hank again, pain and determination shone in his eyes. “How much time am I going to have to do?”
“None. I’ve brokered a deal with the US Attorney to give you, Ivy and your mother immunity with conditions.”
Sam blinked hard. “No trial? No arrest?”
“I don’t know how to thank you. That is…way more than I expected.” Sam took a long, relieved breath. “If you need anything from me…”
“I need you to move here where your sister can keep an eye on you. And for you to make yourself a valuable part of your nephew’s life.” Hank’s gaze tapered down. “You upset that boy once and I will make you very sorry.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Sam held his hands up. “As for moving here, consider it done. There’s no life for me back home anyway.” He smiled. “I’m going to be the best uncle that kid’s ever had.”
Hank’s stern expression stayed put. “That’s going to be hard to do considering his other uncle is my brother, Titus. Speaking of, Titus is willing to give you a job at the firehouse so long as you can pass the tests and training. I’ve already run a background check on you, and unlike your sister, you don’t have an arrest record, so you qualify. You’ll have to go to the Georgia Fire Academy. It won’t be easy, but it’s a fresh start if you’re interested.”
“I am. Thank you. So much.” Sam grabbed Ivy’s hand. “You, too. I’m sorry about everything.”
“I know. I’m really happy you want to be part of Charlie’s life.” She squeezed his hand, then gave him a hard, serious look. “But I’d like for you and Hank to be friends too.”
“We can work on that.” Sadness filled Sam’s eyes again. “I owe Charlie big-time.” He sighed. “I have a lot to make up for.”
Hank nodded. “Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? We never did get to do our family run after the wedding. Full moon’s gone, but better late than never.”
Sam grinned. “That would be great. Any chance Bridget’s going to be there?”
Hank frowned. “I just thought of another condition for you living here.”
“Hank.” Ivy gave him a look. She loved the idea of Bridget and Sam. So long as Bridget could see herself with a Kincaid. Maybe she’d get Birdie working on it. There wasn’t anything that woman couldn’t accomplish.
Hank managed a slim smile. “See you for dinner.”
“See you,” Sam said. “Bye, sis.” He made his way out, leaving Ivy and Hank alone.
Hank leaned back in his chair. “That went well.”
She tipped her head. “Did you really make his immunity conditional on him moving here?”
“No. But I figured you’d like it.”
She smiled. “Very much. Thank you. I love you more than I can adequately express right now.”
He grinned. “In the words of Charlie: I know.”
Having Sam over for dinner turned into having Birdie, Bridget, Titus and his girlfriend, too. Charlie was in heaven surrounded by his new fan club. After dinner, the whole lot of them went for a run, ending up at the waterfall.
Ivy stood proudly at Hank’s side as Charlie splashed in the water. She nuzzled Hank’s neck, almost undone by the happiness filling her. One thought repeated over and over in her head. Life is good.
It sure is.
She looked at Hank. I heard your voice. In my head!
He woofed a soft bark and gave her a wolfy grin. That makes us bonded mates. There’s no getting rid of me now.
She returned his wolfy grin. Good because you’re stuck with me, too.
Charlie came up to them and shook, spraying them both with water. Hank butted his head against Charlie’s side and took off, inviting him to follow.
Charlie went after him, and the rest of the family joined the chase. By the time they reached the property line and shifted back to their human forms, they’d all worked off dinner.
Birdie patted her hair. “I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready for that peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream.”
“Me, too,” Charlie piped up. “Can I, Mom?”
“After that run? I’d say we’ve all earned it. Go with Aunt Birdie and see if she needs any help.”
He grabbed Birdie’s hand. “You need help, Aunt Birdie?”
Ivy laughed, and Hank shook his head.
“I’ll help, too.” Bridget looked at Sam. “You any good in the kitchen?”
Looking a little starry-eyed, Sam nodded. “Yeah, I can, uh, scoop the ice cream.”
“C’mon, then,” Bridget said.