It was a bad day and it was getting worse, Sam McCabe thought as he called all five of his sons to his study for an immediate accounting of what was just the latest event in a whole string of family catastrophes.
“Don’t look at me. I don’t know what happened.” Will shrugged his broad shoulders. “I was out running. I wasn’t even here.”
No surprise there, Sam thought wearily. At seventeen, the only thing Will cared about was getting in shape for the upcoming football season. He was never around to help out or hold down the fort.
Sam turned to sixteen-year-old Brad, who was busy combing his immaculately tended brown hair and checking out his reflection in the glass-front bookcase in Sam’s study. At Sam’s glare, Brad pocketed his comb and offered his version. “Actually, Dad, I think it was hormonal. You know, one of those ‘women things,’ that made Mrs. Grunwald pack up her bags and walk out of here on such short notice.”
“Hormonal,” Sam repeated disbelievingly. And “no notice” had been more like it. Sam had been called out of an important business meeting to be told she’d already left and wasn’t coming back—not now, not ever. When he’d tried to get an explanation from her, the irate woman had just said he needed to do something about his home situation and hung up.
Sam turned his attention to Riley, who at fourteen was definitely the most mischievous of his brood. And, unless Sam missed his guess, had probably been instrumental in pushing the retired lady-marine-turned-housekeeper to quit.
“I just don’t think she’s cut out to take care of growing boys,” Riley explained with a remarkably sober expression. “You know. Given the fact that she never had any kids herself.”
“Face it, Dad.” Sensitive as always to what was going on behind the scenes, Lewis stepped forward, suddenly looking much older than his eleven years. “We were never gonna be happy with her here, anyway. Mrs. Grunwald just wasn’t Mom.”
And no one ever would be, Sam McCabe thought solemnly. Ellie had been one of a kind. But that didn’t excuse what his boys had done here, chasing away their tenth housekeeper in six months. Not that they would ever come right out and admit that that was what they had done. No, they would continue giving excuses and shifting the blame.
Sam turned to Kevin, his youngest, and the only one of his five boys who hadn’t yet put in his two cents about the latest episode in their lives. “What do you have to say about all this?”
Kevin ducked his head. Sam wasn’t surprised his six-year-old had nothing to say about their housekeeper quitting. Kev hadn’t talked much to anyone about anything since Ellie had died. In a way, Sam could hardly blame him. Since Ellie had died, the light had gone out of all of their lives, and with it the need to even pretend their world would ever be normal again.
Sam looked up to see John and Lilah McCabe in the doorway of his study. Hi s aunt and uncle were not just a gifted nurse and doctor and founders of Laramie Community Hospital, they had been his lifelines to sanity this past year. They’d provided moral support and guidance when Ellie was ill, as well as helped during the dark days after her death.
Sam had moved back to Laramie to be closer to the, thinking more of a sense of family might help his boys adjust to the loss of their mother. And it had helped, but only to a point. The boys still didn’t want a housekeeper, and indeed seemed to be doing everything they could to chase whomever Sam hired away.
After the ninth one had walked out on them, Sam had let his sons talk him into being responsible for themselves. Only to have Kevin end up in the hospital ER with a sprained wrist, numerous abrasions and a cut that needed stitches after a still-unexplained fall off the porch roof. So Sam had hired housekeeper number ten. Unfortunately, Mrs. Grunwald’s take-charge style had not worked well on his boys. And now here Sam was again, relying on his favorite aunt and uncle to come and save the day, when what they really should be doing was savoring the first heady days of their long-awaited retirement.
Gently, Lilah interrupted. “Guys, we need to speak to your dad alone. So why don’t you all see what you can do about cleaning up the kitchen?”
Sam waited until the boys had left, then shut the door to his study before turning back to John and Lilah. “Thanks for coming over. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been here.”
Sam shook his head grimly, wondering what it would take to get a housekeeper who was reliable and responsible enough to handle all five of his boys even half as well as Ellie. “You’d think Mrs. Grunwald could have waited to quit until I got back from California.” Instead, he’d had to cut short his Silicon Valley business trip and grab the first flight back to Dallas, then drive to Laramie, where John and Lilah had been holding down the fort, awaiting his return.