Close To Home (Westen Series)(7)

By: Suzanne Ferrell

“I’d suggest you still make other arrangements for your sons’ care. Obviously they’re too much for your mother to handle.” With that comment he pushed past her and strode out of her room.

Emma stood stunned, her arms wrapped protectively around the boys, listening to him stomp down her stairs and out the front door. Her breath stuck somewhere between her lips and her lungs. For the first time since going through the nightmare of a paternity suit during her divorce did she fear losing her sons.

“Mommy…” Ben whined from her left side.

“’re squeezing us too tight.” Brian finished from the other side.

Their words broke the spell the doctor’s tirade had cast over her. Emma glanced into her sons’ worried faces. She hoped the apprehension stemmed from the punishment they knew awaited them and not from the angry words of the doctor. She released her grip on them, sitting down hard on the bed. “Okay, you two. What were you supposed to be doing instead of diving out of old man Thompson’s tree?”

They immediately lowered their eyes, standing before her like prisoners facing the guillotine. She didn’t buy it for a second. “Benjamin?”

Her oldest—and usually the instigator—lifted his soft puppy-brown eyes to her. “We were supposed to be watching the Mutant Turtles movie...”

“...while Mama went to pick beans.” Brian finished, his matching eyes pleading with her not to be too angry with them.

Emma closed her eyes and counted to twenty. Then she glanced at the clock. Three hours until her shift at the Café started. “We’ll discuss what your punishment is after I finish work tonight. Is that understood?”

They both nodded.

“For now, you’ll march to your rooms and take a nap.”

“Aww, mommy,” Brian whined.

“That’s not fair,” Ben complained.

Emma crossed her arms over her chest and gave them her best stern-mother expression. “Two boys who ignore the family rule about wandering off when Mama is supposed to be watching them, climb Old Man Thompson’s tree—which is defying another rule—and end up each breaking an arm and having to see the doctor should be happy I only want to put them to bed.” She had to hide a smile when they both lowered their heads in shame. It wouldn’t last long—probably only as long as their naps.

“You guys get in bed and I’ll be there in a minute.”

The boys slowly shuffled off toward their room.

Shaking her head, Emma went off to check on Mama and search for some pain medicine. Her sons might not hurt too much now, but after their nap she’d be lucky if they weren’t miserable. A little preventative medicine now, to help reduce their pain later, would be in her own best interest as well as theirs.

Once she was sure Mama was safely seated on the back screened-in porch snapping beans, it still took Emma ten minutes to get the boys completely settled. Quietly, she closed the door and leaned against it. She loved her sons with all her heart. Their natural curiosity seemed to increase daily.

With a heavy sigh, she climbed into her shower. The hot steamy water served two purposes. It pounded on her sore aching muscles, and it helped to wake her.

What to do with the boys? This summer had been the hardest by far to keep them contained. Ever since her father died last winter, the two mini-Rambos pushed the limits of her patience daily. She thanked her lucky stars she still had Mama to watch them so she could sleep in three mornings a week, but even that wasn’t working out as well as she’d planned. Today’s incident was the fourth time this month the boys or Mama had wandered off.

School didn’t start for another week and she didn’t know what she was going to do with the three of them. Between her job at the Café and moonlighting at the county hospital as a nurse’s aide, she’d run herself ragged trying to work, care for Mama and watch her sons.

She knew the boys wanted her to stay home with them, which was why they were so mischievous. But dammit, she also had to keep them all fed and clothed, and maintain a roof over their heads. Emma leaned her head against the cool tiles of the shower.

And what to do about Clint Preston?

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