Courage (Heroes of Big Sky #1) by Kristen Proby



“Auntie Tash,” Kevin says, holding out his hand covered in honey Greek yogurt. “Wash me.”

“Holy cow, how did you do that?” I hurry over with a wet washcloth and wipe down Kev’s fingers, then glance over at his twin sister, Kelsey. “That doesn’t go in your hair, sugar.”

She laughs and rubs yogurt on the side of her head. “I’m washing it.”

“Your hair?”

She nods, and I blow a lock of hair out of my face. Where is my scrunchie?

“Yeah. I’m washing it.”

I groan and check my phone for the fifteenth time this morning. Where are they? Monica, my very best friend in the world, and her husband, Rich, left the kids with me overnight so they could have a romantic evening alone. They even went to a rental house up on Whitetail Mountain. A fancy place with a pool, where they could enjoy each other and have all the sex in the world.

And I kept the twins—which I don’t mind at all. I love these two. But, man, they’re a handful. And Monica was supposed to be here two hours ago.

“Auntie Tash,” Kelsey says. “I want more oranges.”

“Okay. I can do that.” I recheck my phone before retrieving some orange slices from the cutting board in my destroyed kitchen.

We watched movies last night for our slumber party. When you’re entertaining four-year-olds, it’s important to have a wide array of snacks on hand for movie watching.

And the remnants of those snacks are still spread all over my kitchen.

As much as I love them both, I can’t wait for Monica to pick them up so I can clean this hellhole and then take a long nap.

How she does it with twins, I’ll never know.

I check my phone again, and there’s nothing.

“They were coming back this morning, right?” I double-check my calendar. Sure enough, it’s right there. Monica back. She harassed me forever the first night, checking on the kids. I finally had to tell her to stop bugging me and go attack her husband.

She called once yesterday to say hi to the twins.

And I haven’t heard from her since.

When noon rolls around, and Monica is now several hours late, I decide to call Sam, Monica’s brother.

It rings five times before he picks up.

“Yeah,” he says.

“Hey. Are you swamped?”

“Yeah, I’m getting all my stuff packed up today. Moving next week.”

“Oh, right.” Sam took a new firefighter position in Spokane. It’s only four hours away, but the thought of him not living in Cunningham Falls anymore is a punch to the gut. “So, your house sold, then?”

“Yep. I close on Monday. I’m getting everything into storage for now. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, but something’s weird. I’m watching the twins this weekend so Monica and Rich could have some alone time. They were supposed to be here to get the kids this morning, and I haven’t heard from them. She’s not answering. And, honestly, I’m getting worried.”

“Do you know where they were staying?”

“Yeah, she gave me the address just in case.”

“Text it to me. I’ll take a break here and go check on them. But if I see my sister naked because she and Rich are getting in one more round of sex, I’ll kill you dead.”

“Deal. Thanks, Sam. I’m sorry to interrupt your day.”

“I could use a break anyway. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Great. Thanks.”

He hangs up, and I turn to the kids with a forced smile.

“Where’s my mommy?” Kelsey asks. “I want to go home.”

“I know. They’ll be here shortly. They probably just lost track of time, that’s all. Why don’t I put a movie on for you guys while we wait?”

“Scooby-Doo,” Kevin says as he jumps out of his chair and runs for the living room. “Let’s watch Scooby-Doo!”

I follow the kids and get them settled with Scooby, then pace back to the kitchen. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

I have a bad feeling. My stomach roils. I feel hot.

Something is wrong.

“Please, let me be wrong.” I stare at my phone, willing it to ring. Finally, it lights up with Sam’s name.

I answer immediately. “Hey.”

“Tash.” He clears his throat, and I instinctively know that I was right.