Dr. Jesse Davis’s mom likes to take in “strays,” of both the animal and human variety. But when her latest rescue is the woman who broke Jesse’s heart, his quiet life is turned upside down.
Emily Decker is just trying to hold it together. To protect her three kids from further trauma. She knows Jesse is a kind and honorable man—at least he was when they were young—but after what she’s been through, how can she ever trust another man?
Age Rating: 18+ (Assault, Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault/Abuse)
Jesse lifted his deep brown eyes from his computer screen and slowly surveyed his office. The white walls were covered in framed certificates and family photos, but his favorite thing to look at was the pictures kids had colored for him in crayon.
His brothers gave him shit about framing coloring book pages—apparently it wasn’t a manly thing to spend his money on—but it was worth it. Children were honest, and he loved when they were excited to come see him.
Unlike other doctors, Jesse did the exam with the kids, making it a game. And the children loved it. He’d let them listen to their own hearts or use the reflex hammer to make him kick.
Jesse glanced over at his favorite family picture, the one where he and his four younger siblings—three brothers and a sister—smiled over the fence of his parents’ ranch.
The picture was taken last month when his brother Noah came home for a visit. Twenty-seven now, Noah had enlisted in the Marines at sixteen with their parents’ consent. They all worried about him, but it was what he wanted.
Jesse sighed. He was ready for a family of his own, but he’d been ruined for anything other than true love when he lost the only woman who’d ever stolen his heart.
He closed his eyes for a moment, promising himself that if he ever felt that way about a woman again, he’d never let her go.
Jesse leaned back in his desk chair and ran his fingers through his short black hair, then glanced at the clock on the wall. Funny how it seemed to slow near the end of the day.
As one of only two doctors in the small town where he grew up, some days were crazy. However, there were often days like today when there wasn’t enough to do to fill up the hours.
“Hey, Jess.” Jesse’s youngest brother poked his head in through the office door. “Mom’s trying to contact you. She wants us to go over after closing.”
“What for?” Jesse asked, watching as Chance fidgeted with his blue scrubs.
Twenty-two and recently graduated, Chase had started working as a nurse for Jesse and Dr. Makay a month ago, and he still looked—and clearly felt—strange in the clothes. He was used to blue jeans, T-shirts, and his black Stetson.
He was good at his job, though, and Jesse knew he’d adjust to his new uniform.
The only thing to do now was figure out how to convince people the two brothers weren’t one person switching clothes.
All the Davis boys looked alike. Twenty-five-year-old Tucker stood out the most due to his bright blue eyes, but Noah and Chance were almost identical, despite being almost six years apart.
People who’d known the brothers their whole lives could tell them apart, but the rest of the world tended to have trouble. Still, even locals often did a double take if he walked into a patient’s room shortly after Chance had left.
Chance shrugged. “Dinner.”
“Of course. Do you know what’s up?”
Their mother loved to have all her kids home for dinner almost weekly, but she rarely did this during the week. She knew they all had work.
Even Bethany, Chance’s twin, was always busy, either nannying or doing odd jobs depending on what was available.
Bethany had gone to college at the same time as Chance, but she’d come back after only two years and refused to talk about why. Everyone worried about her, but he figured she’d share when she was ready.
“Nope. She said she has something to talk to us about.”
“Great,” Jesse muttered, running his hand over his face. “What kind of stray do you think she took in now?”
Chance shrugged again, but this time, added a good-humored chuckle.
They were both well aware of their mother’s unstoppable determination to save anyone and anything who wandered into her life. She took in ducks, cats, dogs, horses—and any other animal she felt she could help.
But her generosity reached beyond just animals. She gave money, food, and whatever else to anybody who needed help. She wasn’t a push-over, though. She just got satisfaction from helping the less fortunate.
And she often called in her kids, “the troops,” to help her save the next desperate case.
“Thirty minutes till closing. Are you going to be ready to go?” Jesse asked, taking a swig of his coffee.
“Yep.” Chance eyed the cup. “You know, that’s not going to help with your sleeping problems.”
“Yeah…but it helps with my staying awake problems.”
Chance nodded, then turned to leave without another word.
His brother had a point. Jesse’s insomnia had been bad the last month, and coffee this late in the day wasn’t usually a good idea. But what Chance didn’t get was that Jesse wouldn’t sleep anyway.
At least the caffeine helped him function for now.
In one week, it would be exactly five years since the accident, and he didn’t expect to be able to sleep for at least another month. The survivor’s guilt was always bad this time of year.
He pulled out his cell phone and realized he’d two missed calls from his mother. Knowing her, she’d still want a response, so he quickly hit redial. As he listened to her phone ring, he stared down at his thin gray carpet.
“Hello? Jesse, is that you?”
His mom was young for her age and smart as could be, but Lord knew she still never remembered to check the caller ID. Jesse rolled his eyes but couldn’t help grinning.
“Yes, ma’am. Chance just told me about your calls. We’ll be heading your way in about twenty minutes.”
“Oh good. I really need all you boys here as soon as possible.”
She sounded relieved. As if any of them would tell her no.
“We’ll be there, Mom,” he assured her. “I love you.”
“Oh, I love you too, dear. And I greatly appreciate you doing this. Your father is getting too old to be climbing up and down a ladder.”
Well, that definitely piqued his interest. What on earth did his mom need that required a ladder?
“Thank you so much for letting us stay on your property, Mrs. Davis,” Emily said, nervously running her fingers through her long blonde hair. “And I’m so sorry about showing up here last minute. Devon said he called you, and you were expecting us.”
Rage rose in Emily again at the thought of her older brother, but just as the flush reached her cheeks, the feeling dissipated. She was far too tired to remain angry for long.
Mrs. Davis smiled sweetly. “Oh, pish posh. You know you’ve always been like a daughter to me. I’m always willing to help you and yours.”
Fighting back tears, Emily nodded gratefully. It had been so long since anyone had looked at her with love in their eyes, as Jesse’s mom did now, and even longer since someone had stood by her.
Especially knowing the possible consequences.