To Thine Own Self (Chapter One, page 1 of 6)


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Carmen watched from the porch as Alex leaned down from his horse and opened the pasture gate. He looked so elegant in that suit, and yet he moved as if the horse were part of him. Alex was an accomplished horseman - a fact she had discovered when they visited his father's ranch in Texas. In the two years since, he seemed to be getting closer to a normal relationship with his father, so when he called to say he was staying an extra day, it was a relief. Yet something was wrong. There was nothing unusual about Alex riding Ed to unwind after a trip, but this was the first time he had done so without changing his clothes.

She sighed heavily and glanced down at Matthew. His tiny fist clutched the outer seam of her jeans. His chocolate gaze was fixed on her face, exploring every inch of it. He was so much like Alex. She lifted him into her arms and opened the door to the house. Alex would be back when he finished working out his issues.

"Mommy's little angel," she whispered to Matthew, and kissed his soft dark hair.

Inside, she sat down on the window seat with him. Immediately Natalie joined them, climbing onto her lap. Natalie pushed at Matthew, struggling to find equal place in mama's arms.

"Don't shove Matthew, honey."

Carmen shifted him to one arm and allowed Natalie to settle into her lap. All of the children missed Alex when he was gone, but it seemed that Natalie missed him the most. Maybe it was the age. Destiny was that way when she was younger. Now nothing seemed to trouble her for long. She was interested in everything and everyone. She was such a happy girl. Jonathan had a pleasant nature as well. Maybe it was because Alex was such a good influence. He was so confident and seemed to always know what he wanted. A man with a plan - that was Alex.

She picked up a book to read to them and rested her back against the wall. Matthew snuggled against her, trying to get into a position to suckle. Carmen shifted her body, foiling his attempt. Alex had warned her against nursing him too long, but it seemed right at the time.

Natalie shoved a thumb in her mouth and stared at the book. Matthew whined a little, but finally settled down, lulled by the sound of her voice as she read.

By the time Alex returned, the twins were asleep. Alex helped her put them in bed before Destiny latched on to him. When he sat down in his recliner, she brought him her favorite book. Carmen and Jonathan folded clothes while they listened to him read.

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