Home > Easy For Keeps (Boudreaux #3.5)(6)

Easy For Keeps (Boudreaux #3.5)(6)
Kristen Proby

I don’t know him at all, but it’s easy to see that he’s pissed. And for good reason. One of Ms. LaCroix’s eyes is swollen shut, three days after her ex-husband attacked her. Her jaw is bruised. Her left arm is in a cast.

What he can’t see are the bruises and broken ribs under her clothes.

“You one of those men who likes to prove a point with his fist?” she asks Adam.

“Not unless I’m throwing some idiot out of my bar, ma’am,” Adam replies with a half-smile. “But I’m perfectly fine out here on the porch.”

“It’s hot outside,” she says finally and steps back to allow us all inside. “And that baby ain’t gonna sit on the porch. Come on in. My oldest is getting the youngest ready for school. They’ll be leavin’ in a few.”

The children all come clamoring down the stairs, their footfalls loud on the hollow wooden steps, and rush in the room to kiss their mother. All three, two boys and one little girl, are clean and seem happy. Their clothes, although not expensive, are clean.

“This here’s Miss Sarah. I ain’t raisin’ ya to be rude, so you’ll say hello.”

All three turn to me. “Hello, Miss Sarah.”

“Hello,” I reply with a smile. Hailey, who’s been remarkably quiet up until now, leaves Adam’s side and walks over to the other little girl.

“I love your pretty hair things,” Hailey says, admiring the braids and barrettes in the little girl’s black hair. “I’m Hailey.”

“I’m Jasmine,” she replies.

“Like Princess Jasmine!” Hailey exclaims. “I like Belle.” And with that, the two little girls sit on the steps and begin chatting about Disney movies.

“She’s a sweet little thing,” Ms. LaCroix says. “Come on in. I suppose you want to make sure I’m taking care of my children proper like.”

“I can see that already,” I reply with a soft voice. “Your children are beautiful and well-mannered.”

“Of course they are,” she says with a sniff. “I ain’t raisin’ no trash.”

“No, ma’am,” I reply, shaking my head. “I want to make sure you’ve been back to the doctor, and that no one has been harassing you.”

“He can’t harass me,” she replies, her voice hushed so the kids can’t hear. “He’s in jail. But when he gets out, I ’xpect he’ll come back to whoop my ass some more.”

“There’s a restraining order—”

But she starts to laugh. “Do you really think that piece of paper is gonna keep him away?”

She’s right. It won’t. I sigh and shake my head. “You’re not a stupid woman. And I’m not going to stand here and lie to you. But I can help you get out of here before he gets out.”

This intrigues her. “How’s that?”

“We have programs to help you, ma’am.”

“I don’t need your damn charity.”

“This is not charity. You’ll have to work for it, but in return, you’ll have a safe place for your children.”

Just then, all of the kids rush in to kiss their mom’s cheek and wave good-bye as they set out for school and Hailey returns to my side. After they leave, Ms. LaCroix stares at the closed door they just left through. She’s a tough woman, all of thirty-five, but has seen more than anyone ever should. Finally, she looks up at me with tear-filled eyes.

“You just tell me what I hasta do. I don’t want my babies to live scared no more.”

“I don’t want any of you to be afraid anymore,” I reply and pat her shoulder softly. “Let’s get you all out of here.”

* * * *

An hour later, we’re all back in Adam’s car, headed to Hailey’s school. Adam was quiet the entire time we were at the meeting. He simply listened or whispered to Hailey about who knows what.

I can’t help but wonder why it’s been so easy to trust him this morning, other than to say that my gut says that I can, and my gut is rarely wrong. I’ve been depending on my gut most of my life, and it’s never disappointed me.

Hailey is talking to her bear about school. When Adam pulls up to the curb, I get out and help my baby girl out of the car, then kneel and hug her tight, the way I always do after I’ve been to a particularly troubling client’s home. I’m so thankful that Hailey will never have to live that way.

Ever.

“I love you, June Bug,” I say, making her giggle. I’ve called her that since she was born, playing on her middle name. “Have the best day ever.”

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