Chapter 1

1160 Words
Chapter One Three days earlier The woman in the center of the table looked up from examining the folder in her hands. “Ty Sloane?” She had kind eyes. Not everyone did. Most didn’t. Ty exhaled, his belly not quite so tight as it was a moment before. Maybe she was on his side. He nodded once, but didn’t make a move to enter the room. “It’s okay,” she said, waving to the single chair in front of the panel. “You can come in.” He moved to the chair, quickly scanning the faces on either side of the woman. Two didn’t look so friendly. They didn’t bother to hide they thought he was a monster. Maybe he was. Some days he knew he was. He blinked away the vicious memory as he sat, hands resting on his thighs. The silence was oppressive. No sound but for the shifting of weight in a chair. Even nighttime in the cells wasn’t this heavy. The friendly one cleared her throat and flipped through the rest of the pages in his file. Ty’s chest squeezed tight, a lump pressing up into his throat. God help him, he wanted out bad. Not that he had anywhere to go, but anywhere was better than here. Even under a bridge. “You’ve been here three years?” Ty refrained from rolling his eyes. What was the purpose of the question when she had the answer right in front of her? His entire life for the last three years was in front of her. But this was how they played the game, so he nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” “And in that time I see you’ve earned an Associate’s Degree.” “Yes, ma’am.” He was proud of that. Silver linings, and all. “Warden’s report says you’ve been a model prisoner.” Ty nodded. One of the unfriendly ones narrowed his eyes. “You have a job lined up?” Fuck him. Of course he didn’t have a job lined up. Who would he call? He’d used up all his earnings paying his legal team. The only thing he knew was how to ride bulls and shovel s**t. Ty swallowed. They could deny him right now if they wanted. “Not at the moment, sir.” “But you intend to get one?” “Gotta eat, sir.” The woman on the end giggled. It was risky, talking like that. But he meant it sincerely. He cleared his throat. “I just want to start over.” God’s truth. His career was over, there was no going back. He’d be grateful for a quiet life working hard on a ranch somewhere, so long as he could breathe fresh air and never again hear the clang of metal sliding against metal. The other unfriendly, a woman, scowled. “I trust you understand this means no bars, no fights, no nothing?” Oh, he did. He knew exactly the cost of his freedom. He nodded slowly. “I’ll be keeping to myself, ma’am.” At the very worst, he could camp out on his property up in Northern Colorado. Maybe it was time to build himself a cabin like he’d always talked about. He didn’t have two pennies to squeeze together, but he could hire himself out. Maybe someday he’d have enough to run a few hundred head of cattle. It would be a far cry from the crowds of cheering fans he’d been used to before all hell broke loose, but at least he’d be able to call his life his own again. “It’s unusual for this board to grant privileges across state lines, but given your offer of employment,” the friendly lady rattled a piece of paper. “And given that you’re a first-time offender and have been a model prisoner. You are free to travel between Kansas and Colorado—” “Provided,” interrupted the man. “You notify your local parole officer when you leave one state, and you report to the office in your local jurisdiction in the other within twenty-four hours.” Ty’s brows knit together and he c****d his head. Kansas? Job offer? What in the hell?!? He coughed and cleared his throat. “I’m not sure I—” The friendly lady in the center pinned him with a stern look. “You’re free to go, Mr. Sloane. I suggest you make the most of this opportunity.” He got the subtext, even though he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. He wasn’t about to sit here and argue with the parole board. He hadn’t even been sure they’d release him, given he’d informed the counselor he had no job and no home, so to speak. And who the hell had offered him a job? The next several hours passed in a blur of cleaning out his cell, returning his laundry, undergoing final checks at the library and commissary. At four-thirty on the nose, he was ushered into a changing room where a duffel with his old clothes, his old life waited. He cringed at the spatter of blood across the left leg of his jeans. Flashes of fists and bar stools crashed through to his awareness. Even after all this time, his gut clenched like it had just happened, adrenaline hummed in his veins, making him too jumpy. Slowly, because his hands shook, he buttoned up the blue plaid shirt with fancy embroidery. He’d get rid of these as soon as possible. They weren’t him anymore. He’d keep his boots, though. Sliding his foot in was like coming home to an old friend. No matter what happened next, he could face it in his lucky boots. A final set of fingerprints, a last mugshot, and a two-hundred-pound guard with a handlebar mustache escorted him through the gates. Panic pressed against his insides. He beat it back with a sharp reminder to himself that he’d been through worse. He blinked, taking in the view of the sky without barbed wire, the mountains in the distance, the smell of dirt and diesel, and summer heat. “‘Bout damn time,” a faintly familiar voice rasped. “Been waiting two hours. At least.” Ty’s gaze slid left, toward the voice, and he shook his head, letting out a laugh that was more relief and wonder than amusement. “What in the hell are you doing here, Kincaid?” Colton Kincaid tipped his Stetson and pushed off the side of the big white truck he’d been leaning against. He crossed the distance and held out his hand for Ty’s duffel. Too surprised to object, Ty let the duffel slide through his fingers. Colt stuck out his hand and clapped his back. “A little birdie told me you might be in need of a soft landing.” Ty shook his hand like it was a lifeline, blinking hard at the moisture that filled his eyes. “I don’t know what to say.” His voice was raw, rough like sandpaper. “No need to say anything. You helped me and Cody when we were first gettin’ started. It’s our turn to help you.” Colt held up his hand. “Shut your mouth right there. Unless you’re sayin’ yes. Our father-in-law has need of a reliable foreman, and we,” Cody’s mouth crooked up, eyes glinting with too much mischief, “have a business proposition.”
Free reading for new users
Scan code to download app
  • author-avatar
  • chap_listContents
  • likeADD