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Warrick by Dale Mayer (1)

Prologue

Warrick Canton picked up another box of toys, shook his head, looked down at Joshua and said, “This is a lot of toys for one little boy.”

Joshua danced in place. “No, it’s not.” He grabbed a small box beside Warrick. “Come on. I’ll show you my new room.”

Warrick chuckled and followed the little boy. In the ensuing weeks, with all the chaos and recovery behind them, Joshua was a whole new child. He no longer went to a private school and didn’t seem to mind. He attended the local public school and was settling in. It would take him a bit, but he was young and resilient and had a lot of good times ahead of him to wipe out the bad memories.

His father was in jail and wouldn’t be out anytime soon. The trial was scheduled but wasn’t for another year. In the meantime, Joshua hadn’t asked very much about him. Apparently he’d been awake and had seen his father try to shoot his mom. That had been too much for him.

They’d explained quietly what had happened, that his father had done something very bad and was in jail. Joshua had just nodded. Once he realized he would be staying with his mom, he was fine.

When he later heard Corey was moving into their new home with them, Joshua got really excited. And he’d seen plenty of Corey and Warrick. Even Mason had stopped by. Joshua had seemed pretty thrilled by all the men. It was a good life for a little boy. He would grow up with real men as role models—not assholes who used others for their own gain. And Joshua smiled all the time. The same off-center smile as his mother.

Warrick was happy for Corey, yet enjoyed being single right now. But it didn’t make up for the three years he had been in a relationship with Sandra, where he’d thought he had had the real thing. He should have realized their breakup was imminent, but he’d been blind, not really aware of what was going on in her world. He didn’t want to make that mistake again. But he hadn’t found anybody else who he liked half as much.

Joshua led Warrick into the bedroom where Corey had set up his captain’s bed. Corey took one look at the box in Joshua’s hand and said, “Whoa, tiger. I don’t think any more stuff will fit in here.”

But Joshua just giggled and stacked his additional box atop the others off to the side. “We’ll unpack later. I’ll show you all my stuff then.” And he raced back out again.

Corey looked up at Warrick and smiled. “Thanks for helping us today.”

“A bunch of other guys just arrived too.”

Corey nodded. “That’s great. The more hands, the more gets moved in, and the faster this will go.”

“Are you happy, dude?”

Corey looked up, his face beaming. “I’m so happy, I’m stupid with it,” he admitted. “I hadn’t really expected this.”

“Sometimes you need to let go of your expectations and see what comes your way, instead of trying to control everything in your life.”

Corey nodded. “How are you doing?”

“Outside of the concussion leaving me with an odd headache …” He grinned. “I’m fine.”

“Time for you to find another woman,” Corey said in a joking tone.

“No rush. I’m happy to watch you guys play house for a while.”

“Here, give me a hand with this, will you?” Corey asked.

The two flipped the bed onto its four legs and finished off the last of the installation. They added the mattress and the drawers. And then stepped back. “He should like that.”

Warrick slapped Corey on the shoulder. “That kid is in heaven.”

“Yeah, I’m just a little nervous.”

“Don’t be. Just be you. It’ll be great.” Warrick smiled at his friend in all sincerity. “Don’t forget his dad was an ass. It can’t be too hard to beat that.”

“Thanks,” Corey said, laughing.

The two went back downstairs. And the house was full of men moving furniture and boxes. In the center of it all was Angela, her face flushed with excitement.

She caught sight of Corey and raced toward him, flinging her arms around him. “Your friends arrived.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, hopefully so did the groceries.”

Just then Ryder stepped in and held up a box. “I brought the steaks, potatoes and salads. Devlin’s here with the grill. I think Mason is bringing a second one.”

Warrick leaned against the doorjamb and watched as the chaos around him continued. This was what Corey had always hoped for. And Warrick was so damn glad Corey would finally get his chance at a home, a family and happiness. Warrick had watched his friend go through one lighthearted romance after another, never settling down. But, man, when Corey found the right person, he’d settled in a big way.

Ryder walked over, looked at Warrick and asked, “You okay?”

Warrick nodded. “I just think all the good women in the world are taken.”

Ryder stared at him for a long moment. “I thought that way once too.”

Warrick gave him a lopsided grin. “And yet look at you now,” he teased.

Ryder nodded. “When it’s time, when it’s right, it’ll happen. Until then, just enjoy life.”

Warrick shifted from the doorjamb and thought that was a hell of a decent piece of advice. He could just enjoy life for a while. And, if he was lucky, somebody would cross his path and put a smile on his face to match the one on Corey’s. And Warrick couldn’t wait.