Close To Home (Westen Series)(5)

By: Suzanne Ferrell



After each boy’s arm was encased in a plaster cast Harriett took them into the kitchen for cookies and milk, while Clint filled out their charts. He expected to find a litany of accidents listed in the boys’ files—a clear sign that some sort of abuse had taken place. Instead, he found only the usual sore throats and earaches that marked modern childhood, several cuts and scrapes typical of any active child, and the sledding incident the boys mentioned.

This made no sense at all. Here sat two happy, confident children, with none of the physical or emotional signs of neglect he usually saw. And yet, what kind of mother took the time to leave a consent for care with the local doctor and allowed her sons to walk over to his clinic by themselves? Why didn’t she have a babysitter to watch over the boys?

“Damn it!” He slammed his fist down on the mahogany desk that had been in his uncle’s office as long as he could remember. “They’re great kids. She’s crazy to let them fend for themselves! Anything could happen to them—like today.”

His decision made, Clint jerked off his lab coat, threw it in the corner chair, and went in search of the boys. He was going to take them home and give their mother a piece of his mind!

* * *

Harriett tried to talk him out of it, but Clint was determined to investigate the situation at the twins’ home. It had been months since he’d really enjoyed taking care of patients. Holding the body of one dying child was enough for him. He wasn’t about to let anything happen to these boys now.

So, in the end, despite his nurse’s cryptic remarks that things were not always what they seemed, he and the boys headed across the street.

“Mommy is...” Brian said as he held Clint’s hand with his good one.

“...sleeping now,” Benjamin informed him from the other side.

“Who watches you when your mother is asleep?” Clint asked as they reached the old three-story colonial directly across from his clinic.

“Mama does,” the boys answered in unison.

Did this woman truly believe raising these boys in a small town protected them—that the safety of a small community negated the need for supervision? His blood started to boil again as his temper re-ignited.

The boys led him up to the front door. He followed them inside. The condition of the front parlor stopped him in his tracks. Either someone was attempting to knock out a wall, or the boys’ mother let them entertain themselves by hurling hammers into the drywall.

He took a step into the room, but two small hands stopped him, pulling him backward.

“We’re not allowed...” Brian began.

“...in the construction rooms,” Benjamin followed.

“I’m sorry boys.” Clint stepped back. At least the woman has some sense. “Why don’t you show me where your mother is.”

“Mommy’s upstairs,” Benjamin bounced up the steps, while his brother chose to hold Clint’s hand and walk up beside him.

Despite his bravado of doing things just like his brother, Clint sensed Brian probably needed a little more reassurance. He gave the younger boy’s hand a squeeze and smiled down at him.

Brian gave him a gap-toothed grin in return. “Mama will be surprised to see our...” He held up his arm. “What’d you call this?”

“A cast.” Clint couldn’t resist another smile. “And I’ll just bet she’ll be surprised.”

“Mommy’s in here.” Benjamin stopped for a moment at the first door at the top of the stairs, then burst into the room. Brian dropped Clint’s hand and dashed in after his brother.

Laughter greeted Clint’s ears at the open doorway—rich, soft laughter, like the creamy center of a melted caramel. The kind of laughter that made you want to wrap yourself up in it and stay a while.

Clint stopped in the doorway, spellbound.

The boys sat on different sides of an antique four-poster bed, sunk knee-deep in patchwork quilts, sheets and what he would swear was an old fashioned feather-tick mattress. But it was the vision between the little boys that held Clint’s attention.

Emma Lewis had the same rich, dark, burnt-copper hair as her sons, and the burns-if-she’s-out-in-the-sun-longer-than-one-hour skin of most redheads. Beneath the wrinkled T-shirt and jeans she’d fallen asleep in, he could tell she was neither too thin nor too heavy, just the luscious type of figure Clint decided long ago he liked on women. She also possessed that wonderful laughter that had stirred more than his heart to life.

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