The Texas Cowboy's Triplets

By: Cathy Gillen Thacker

Kelly’s face suddenly reflected the concern he felt. Color flushed her cheeks. “Let’s forget it,” Kelly interjected quickly, looking sorry she’d ever started down this path. And while that comforted him, he was still worried that she’d been all too willing to bypass ethics. And worse, had wanted him to do so, too.

A long silence fell.

Her worry returned.

He waited until she looked at him. “As I mentioned the other day, if you are this concerned, why don’t you just talk to a social worker?”

She scoffed. “Who, if approached, would be forced to open up an official investigation?”

He edged closer, taking in the agitated gleam in her amber eyes and the stormy set of her luscious lips. “And I wouldn’t be?”

Calmly, he corrected her mistaken view of Laramie County Department of Child and Family Services. “You can trust social services here, Kelly.”

“No.” She rubbed the toe of her sneaker across the oak floor beneath them. “You can’t.” She bit her lip and glared at him mutinously. “You can’t trust them anywhere.”

Okay, so she was ticked off at him. “How do you know?” he challenged.

She released a short, bitter laugh. “Because I spent years in and out of the system.”

He paused. “You were a foster child?”

A brief, terse nod. “Off and on, my entire childhood.”

She stalked out of the kitchen. He followed, keeping a respectful distance. “What happened?”

She spun around, shoving her hands into the pockets of her knee-length shorts. “It’s a long story.”

And obviously a very painful one.

He put a consoling arm about her shoulders. When she didn’t continue, he prodded gently, “If you want me to understand where you’re coming from, never mind help you, you’re going to have to tell me a little more.”

She stepped back slightly, so they were no longer touching, and ran her hands through her hair. “My mom was a registered nurse who suffered from cyclical depression. She also developed an addiction to prescription medicines.”

Regret pinched the corners of her mouth.

Swallowing, she shook her head, recalling, “So, whenever things spiraled out of control, she would end up in the hospital, or rehab, and I would end up in the system.”

No wonder she mistrusted DCFS. “That must have been really tough on you.”

“It was.” Moisture glimmered in her eyes. “My mom always got better when she underwent treatment, but then she would have to prove that she could take care of me again. And that would take weeks and months of both of us living under the microscope.” Kelly sighed. “And then by the time I was finally allowed to be back with her, the stress of maintaining her sobriety would send her spiraling again.” Kelly compressed her lips miserably. “I’d have to hide it and pretend nothing was wrong. I knew if I didn’t I’d be taken away from her again. And it was awful.”

Dan pushed aside the need to pull her into his arms and asked gently instead, “Where is she now?”

“She died of an accidental overdose five years ago.”

This time he did reach for her. “I’m sorry, Kelly.”

Standing stiff as a board in his arms, Kelly nodded.

He let her go, stepped back. “Do any of your coworkers know this?”

“No.” She met his gaze and didn’t look away. “The only reason I’m telling you is so you’ll help me make sure that Shoshanna isn’t grappling with a similar heartache.”

He took her hand in his and turned it palm up. “You really believe something is going on with that little girl?”

Compassion lit her pretty amber eyes. “I really do, or I wouldn’t have come to you.”

“Then,” Dan decided, just as seriously, “there is only one thing we can do.”

Chapter Three

When Dan arrived at Kelly’s home Saturday morning, she’d had plenty of time to reconsider their hastily made plan.

“You’re sure this is a good idea?” she asked, stepping onto the front porch. Luckily, they had a few moments to talk since the triplets were inside, putting on their socks and shoes. A task that always, no matter how much of a hurry they were in, seemed to take at least ten minutes.

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