Chapter 16: Life Lessons

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“This isn’t fucking fair!” Derek shouted after tossing his phone into a box that was on his desk. Inside already sat his tablet and his laptop. Not to mention his Cube One and the few games that were there. Dad already removed the TV from Derek’s room.

“Language, Derek,” Dad warned. “And if it was fair, it wouldn’t be called a punishment.”

“But this is bullshit!” Derek shouted and kicked his desk.

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Chapter 15: Growing Up

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Eli wanted to cry. His baby girl was now five, and in Kindergarten, and was running around with the other Kindergarten kids in the park.

How did the time fly by so fast? Oh, right. Prison. He missed so much of Dakota’s life. He’d only been out a little over a year and a half, almost two, and she had grown so much even in that short time.

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Chapter 14: What’s Eating Derek Ryder

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Eli glanced around the basketball court where Derek said he’d be with his friends. He found the Lamb twins playing basketball, but no sign of their third musketeer.

“Hey Kody? Brandt? Have either of you two seen Derek?”

Kody pointed toward the alleyway that went to the next street over. “He said he wasn’t up to playing, Mr. Ryder, so he headed that way.”

“So, he just took off?”

Brandt shrugged. “He said he was going to take a walk. He might be at Stone Cold”

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Chapter 13: Cops and Robbers

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“Freeze!” Derek shouted, pointing his fingers in a gun-like gesture at Eli the moment he entered the apartment. “You’re under arrest.”

Eli put his hands up and smirked at his son. Ever since Halloween, Derek hasn’t stopped donning on his police costume and writing fake tickets to him and Sam; playing cops and robbers with his friends (and sometimes Eli); and even bugging his grandfather for more ride-along sessions.

Eli thought Derek was obsessed before, but now…now he knew there was a new ultimate level of obsession he and Sam never even thought possible. Was it healthy? Eli wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t about to stop Derek from enjoying his games and fun. Eli wanted Derek to play and be a kid for as long as possible.

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Chapter 12: Are We Good?

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Eli stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. He’d gone through his closet, not knowing what to wear tonight. His palms were sweaty. He could do this. He needed to do this.

Sam popped her head into the bathroom. “Eli, Dad wants to know if you can grab some extra charcoal on the way. He thought he had some, and went to fire up the grill, and found out he doesn’t have enough.”

“Tell him I will.” He turned to Sam. “Do I look okay?”

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Chapter 10: Out

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Derek watched the clock on the back door. He couldn’t stop, even after Mrs. Hatch warned him to pay attention and not at the clock.

“Mr. Ryder!”

Derek’s head spun around. Uh oh.

“Do you want lunch detention?”

Derek shook his head. “No.”

“Then I suggest you start working with Olivia and Brandt before you get detention and a call to your mother.”

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