Home > Hetch (Men OF S.W.A.T #1)(10)

Hetch (Men OF S.W.A.T #1)(10)
River Savage

“No, sweetie. Nana was being silly,” I assure her before Mom puts any crazy ideas in her head. I already get it from my friends and family; I don’t want it from my sweet Arabella.

“So, what are these plans of yours that are stopping you from lunching with us?” Mom drops the morbid work statistics and moves onto trying to wear me down.

“I have an outing with one of the boys. He’s been getting into a little trouble at school, so I need some one-on-one time with him. Give him some positive reinforcement.”

Mitch is our newest resident. He’s only been in care at Boys Haven for the last six months and since he’s been here I’ve grown a little fond of him. I know it’s not smart, getting attached to the kids who come through the doors, but something about Mitch has struck a chord with me.

He first entered the system with his older brother, Dominic, at nine, when his father murdered his mom. With no other living family, there wasn’t anywhere else for them to go. The first few years they were kept together—bounced around from foster care to group homes—but soon it became apparent Dominic wasn’t interested in playing by the rules. With a bad attitude, some serious anger issues and an opposition to authority, Dominic continued to find himself getting involved with the wrong crowd. The boys’ case workers tried to keep them separated, but Dominic’s hold over Mitch is strong. Always finding a way to drag him down. It’s only since Dominic turned eighteen and left the system that we've seen Mitch slowly come into his own.

“You get too involved, Liberty. You need to be careful.” Mom’s face takes on the don’t-mess-with-me look that worked so well back when I was a teenager.

“Mom….” I think I manage the same tone I used to reply with back then—bored with my best I-know-better-than-you attitude.

“I’m serious, Bertie. I worry about you.”

“Mom, one, please, for the love of God, don’t call me that. I’m not three years old anymore. And two, I can handle myself. Besides, I think I’m getting through to this one. He’s a good kid. He just needs someone rooting for him.” I offer more than I probably should. My need to prove the good I do here outweighs my responsibility to keep my cases confidential.

“Darling, it doesn’t matter if you’re three or thirty. Hell, in another thirty years you’ll still be my Bertie.” I shouldn’t give her a hard time about the name. I know she’ll never stop calling me it. It’s been my childhood name since birth when Jett couldn’t pronounce Liberty. The real problem I have is being treated like I don’t know what I’m doing.

“Well, try to refrain from calling me it here,” I compromise. The last thing I need is someone to catch onto the hideous nickname.

“Okay, dear.” She too concedes, before standing. “We should probably get out of your hair.” I check the time, cringing when I see I was meant to meet Mitch inside five minutes ago.

“Yes, I need to head out. We'll rain check for sure.”

“Okay, I’m holding you to it. Come on, Arabella, Aunt B has to work now, time to say good-bye.” Mom stands and picks up her bag.

Arabella packs up her book before walking back over to me.

“You always have to work.” She pouts as I take her in a hug.

Jesus, she spends too much time with my mother.

“How about I take you on a picnic next weekend to the park with the big slide you like?” I ask her, already knowing the answer.

“Yes, please.” She claps her hands, clearly excited at the prospect.

“Don’t forget you have that girls’ night thingy next Saturday night,” Mom reminds me. The look on my face must convey my forgetfulness because her easy smile sets into worried lines. “You cannot cancel on Payton. She’s looking forward to a night off.” Her tone pushes me to appease her.

“Of course I won’t. I promise.”

Shit. I was looking forward to a quiet night in.

“Good, she needs this, darling, a good night out with some friends.”

“I agree.” I also think she needs to stop letting my brother use her as a booty call, but I don’t say anything on the matter. Mom probably doesn’t need to know the finer details. “Okay, you guys have a nice lunch.”

“Would be better if you were coming.” She folds me in her arms, and even though I have a few inches on her, she still embraces me the way only a mother does. Gently and fiercely. Comforting and knowingly. The kind of hug where you physically feel your worries leave your body.

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