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Abbey Keenan loved early summer Jam Nights. The tradition had begun shortly after The Misfit Inn opened its doors as a casual get together among area musicians. That had been before Flynn and Pru married and well before she and Kyle had straightened out their differences. Now here they were, years later. The weekly event had grown. So had their families.
Hefting the diaper bag over one shoulder, she boosted her toddler, Royce, onto one hip, while Kyle juggled his guitar case and took the hand of their eldest, Brooks, for the walk down the long drive leading up to the inn. The sun was setting and already fireflies were beginning to wink beneath the canopy of trees. Summer magic at its finest.
“You ready for tonight?” Kyle asked Brooks.
Brooks’ sweet voice was full of enthusiasm. “Yeah!” With a half-size guitar across his back, tonight was intended to be his musical debut. He and Kyle had been working on a duet of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” for weeks.
As they walked past the long line of parked vehicles, Abbey hoped her baby didn’t end up with the same kind of stage fright she had. She’d performed in public once and only once as a public claiming of her husband to be. That was enough, thanks very much. Kyle was the one who enjoyed an audience and all the acclaim. But he always, always came back to her and their boys, whether they were waiting backstage or at home.
The din of the gathered crowd greeted them before they circled the big, three-story Victorian to the backyard, where a makeshift stage had been erected and outlined in cafe lights. The scents of grilling meat permeated the air. People were everywhere, camped out in lawn chairs, taking up picnic tables, tuning instruments, or eating.
Brooks took one look at the crowd and instantly pressed against Kyle’s legs.
Abbey and Kyle exchanged a look before Kyle crouched down. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. Nobody’s gonna make you, buddy.”
Brooks turned big brown eyes—her eyes—up to her. “Mama?”
Abbey handed Royce off to his father and hunkered own herself. “It’s scary, isn’t it? Seeing all these people?”
She brushed the mop of blond hair back from his face. “Sometimes the scariest things are the most worth it. But you’re the only one who can decide that. If you decide to sing, your brother and I are gonna be right here, and Daddy’s gonna be right there beside you, singing with you. Just like he does at home.”
He glanced up at Kyle. “Promise?”
“No question. Can’t do a duet without my partner.”
“If you want to do it, you just watch me. Don’t worry about what everybody else is thinking.” It was how Abbey had gotten through that one performance. Keeping her eyes on Kyle as they sang the duet they’d written all those years ago.
Brooks screwed up his face and straightened his shoulders in determination. Then he nodded. “Okay. I’ll do it.”
“Then let’s go make sure our guitars are in tune, okay?” Kyle passed Royce back to her and held out his hand.
Brooks took it.
“Royce and I will be right over here cheering you on. Right, buddy?”
“Bubba sing!” Royce shouted. He held out his chubby fist for a bump.
With a grin so very much like Kyle’s, Brooks bumped it and made exploding noises.
The two of them strolled off toward the rest of the musicians, and Abbey went in search of a front-row seat. Her cousin, Livia, waved from the picnic table she’d commandeered with her husband, Declan, their eldest daughter, Scarlett, and their youngest, Delilah.
“Y’all eaten?” Declan asked.
“Nope. I had just enough time to wrap my last client of the day and then run home to grab everybody before coming back here.”
“I was just about to go get some supper for us. Hot dogs for the kids. Burgers for the grownups?”
“You are my favorite cousin-in-law. Thanks.”
“C’mon, Scarlett. I’m gonna need extra hands.”
As they strode off in search of food, Abbey set Royce down to play with Delilah and plopped down beside her cousin on the bench of the picnic table.
“Did I see Brooks with his guitar?” Livia asked.
“He and Kyle have a duet planned. So I guess we’ll see which one of us he takes after more.” For her son’s sake, she hoped he’d be more like Kyle in this. She didn’t want him to have to wrestle with stage fright or performance anxiety as she had.
Somebody let out a two-fingered whistle to get the crowd’s attention. There they were, her boys, right at the front of the stage, with other musicians taking their positions all around them.
Abbey scooped up Royce and set him back in her lap. “Time to watch Bubba.”
Her toddler clapped. “Bubba!”
From the stage, Brooks grinned and shot them a thumbs up.
“Good evenin’, folks. Thanks for coming out to Jam Night. For those of you who are new here, I’m Kyle, and this is my son, Brooks. We have a little duet planned for y’all to kick things off for the night.”
A smattering of applause greeted the announcement. That was her husband. Downplaying his celebrity. It was the beauty of living in their hometown that most everybody here knew and respected his talent but otherwise just treated him as a normal guy.
With a quiet voice, Kyle counted them in and the two of them began to strum the familiar opening bars to the Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson classic. Kyle took Waylon’s part, his smooth baritone carrying effortlessly over the crowd. Abbey held her breath and waited to see what Brooks would do. When his line came, he dove in with his clear, high voice—and all the commentary he’d learned from the VeggieTales version. The crowd laughed and cheered, and by the first chorus, all the remaining musicians kicked in with backup and harmonies. It was very clear well before the last notes rang out that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree. Brooks was most definitely his father’s son.
Abbey couldn’t have been prouder. She hooted and hollered and cheered the loudest when he stood up and took a bow.
He ran across the yard, straight into her arms. “Did I do okay?”
“You did absolutely perfect.” Over Brooks’ shoulder, she met Kyle’s eyes and grinned. They’d made this talented, special little boy, and nothing was better than being his parents.
* * *
Is there anything cuter than seeing your kid perform? I think not. Thanks for reading this little glimpse of Abbey and Kyle’s happily ever after! Don’t miss Wyatt and Deanna’s story in Don’t You Wanna Stay or Livia and Declan’s reunion in Just Wanted You to Know.