Southern Heart -Natasha Madison Page 0,1

jeans I put on today with a white shirt and short black leather jacket. City chic but also okay for the country. "What are you doing here?" Emily asks, and I just look at her.

"I’m here to babysit my two favorite people in the whole world," I tell her, looking at my brother. "Someone called and begged and pleaded."

"I did not beg or plead," Ethan says, walking to Emily and putting his arm around her shoulders.

"He said he’s naming the next baby after me." I wink at her, and they both laugh now.

"I just made her feel just a touch guilty that she hasn’t put Aubrey to bed in six months," he says, turning now and walking into the house.

"Ethan," Emily says his name. "She just got back two days ago." I knew that the minute I graduated, I would be going back home. I did my training in one of the busiest hospitals in the state. I went from the emergency room to surgery to obstetrics to see what I really wanted, and in the end, I just loved the emergency trauma. It pushed me on so many levels and I found it challenging. It also gave me a chance to work with different doctors. No matter how much I loved the hustle and bustle, I knew I wanted to come back home.

"And she is bored out of her mind." He repeats what I told him. "She said it herself."

"I did," I say. I reached out to one of the top medical centers in the area, and I start in a month. I could have started right away, but I wanted to get settled and have some extra family time, seeing my cousins and my grandmother. But I was getting antsy to get back out there. "I might call and ask if I can start before I’m scheduled."

We walk into the house, and I see toys scattered everywhere. I look around the living room, but everything is much the same. The only thing is the new family pictures that Emily keeps adding. I pick up a frame on the side table, seeing the picture of all of us at Christmas. "I see that someone really put his foot down with no more toys."

"Don’t look at me," Ethan says, walking to grab a glass. "It’s all Emily."

"I can’t even believe you just said that." She looks at him. "You, Mr. McIntyre, are fibbing." She folds her arms over her chest. "Now I’m going to take a shower and even put on jeans."

"Jeans are overrated," I say. "They also judge you. Don’t listen to them."

"You’re wearing jeans." She points at my pants.

"I was in nursing school and working at the hospital. I lived on coffee and ramen noodles. Sometimes I ate the noodles uncooked." She walks back to their bedroom as I sit on the couch next to Aubrey. She is lying down, watching some cartoon playing on the big-screen television. I kiss the top of her head, and she looks up and smiles at me.

Forty-five minutes later, Ethan is opening the car door for Emily. "There is a bottle in the fridge already," Emily says, sticking her head out of the window. "They both ate, so bath time in an hour, and then they should go right to bed."

"I know the drill," I say, standing on the porch holding Gabriel’s hand with Aubrey on my hip.

"Call if you need us," Ethan says. "And by that, I mean we will see you later."

"Wave bye," I tell the kids as they drive away from the house.

I look up at the sky now and see that the clouds are rolling in faster and faster. Gone is the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. The sky darkens with gray clouds, and I feel a couple of drops. "I smell rain," I say to Gabriel as we turn to walk back into the house before the sky opens up and the pouring rain starts. "Now, how about you show me all your favorite toys?"

"Yes," Gabriel says, jumping up and down. He pulls my hand toward his playroom in the back of the house. The floor-to-ceiling windows view the backyard and the big pool Ethan put in right next to the enormous play structure the guys spent a weekend building last year. The worn hammock remains in the yard. No matter how tattered it gets, they refuse to get rid of it.

Placing Aubrey down, I sit on the plush beige carpet in the middle of