They say a man can always come home. So after doing hard time, Sage Redding heads to his family’s northeast Texas ranch to help his ailing daddy with the cutting horses.
Adam (Win) Winchester is a county deputy and the cousin of one of the men killed in the incident that sent Sage to prison for almost a decade. While Win's uncles, Jim and Teddy, are determined to make Sage and the entire Redding family pay for their loss, Win just figures Sage has paid his dues and maybe needs a friend. Maybe he needs more than a friend. In fact, Win’s counting on it.
No one’s denying Sage is an ex-con who went to prison for manslaughter. Regardless of the love he has for his father, he’s returned knowing things will likely go badly for him. Maybe a man can always come home, but he may not be able to stay.
Sage sighed but kept it soft enough that no one could possibly hear. Momma didn’t call often—once a week—and she talked to him for exactly fifteen minutes. Hell, he wasn’t sure if the calls were habit for him or for her, but it was what it was, and it kept the costs on his pay-as-you-go phone low. If she called on a Saturday morning, when she knew he’d been working on the docks all night, it had to be important.
“Sure, Momma. What you need?”
He leaned back on his bed, looking out the little window. His eyes followed the hairline crack that climbed through the glass. Some days he thought maybe that weird, crookedy little line wanted to be a word or something. A picture. Not today. Today it was only a place for a tiny spider to climb. God, he was tired. The trucks had been filled with hundreds of small heavy boxes, and his muscles were screaming for rest. Not sleep, not yet. That wouldn’t come ’til eleven or so. It wasn’t like he came home and crashed once his feet found their way back through the mess in the streets and the little pockets of nighttime assholes on the corners, waiting for the bolder daytime assholes to spell them. This was his primetime, after all. He had a cup of coffee and a Louis L’Amour book he hadn’t read, which he’d found in a dumpster on his way to work a couple of days ago. It was all good.
“Are you listening to me, Sage Marlowe Redding?”
“What? Sorry, Momma. I must’ve dozed some. Long night. Say again?”
“I need you to come home.”
He sat up and frowned, his heart doing that sickening little hiccup and roll that meant something shitty was going down. “What happened?”
“Well, nothing that you’d think was an emergency, really. Your daddy, though, his hands…. He can’t work the horses as much.”
Sage closed his eyes. Fucking Parkinson’s. Daddy’d been fighting it for damn near eight years, but it was a losing battle. “Momma, I….”
“Son, that Teddy Dale, he’s going to take the land. You know he will. He’s waiting. I need you to cowboy up and come on. Now.”
“Teddy Dale’s the reason I ain’t come home, Momma. That man hates the sound of my name.” Not that Sage blamed the crusty old bastard. Angelo, the man’s only son and the apple of his momma’s eye, had died in Sage’s company ten years ago. Leastways that was the story and what was taken as God’s honest truth.
Ten years, ten months, fifteen days and… fourteen and a half hours ago.
“Well, we need to be able to train these horses. Your daddy has a contract. If he can fill it on time, we can pay for six months of bills. Sister’s took pregnant on me, Son. Her and that ass hat she’s married to caught like a pair of hounds.”
“I don’t even have a car, Momma, and I sure don’t have the cash to bus it right now. I get paid in two weeks.” A baby? Rosie? Christ, when had he gotten old? He looked at the calendar. “I can get on a Greyhound then, if I clear it with my parole officer.”
They had rules for men like him, and he followed them because he wasn’t going back in.
“I can wire you the money.” She sighed, lowering her voice. “It would kill your daddy to lose this place.”
“I know. I’ll come. I have to make arrangements, Momma. You know that.”
“I know that you paid your debt to society already, baby, for something that shouldn’t have all been on your shoulders.”
“I paid my stupid tax, for sure.” He smiled a little. “Let me see what my parole officer says, and I’ll call.”
“Okay. They… they’ll let you come home, right?”
“I’ll have to go in front of a judge. You know that.” It sucked, but it was what it was.
“I know, Son. Maybe you’ll get Judge Shannon. He’s not in anyone’s pocket, leastways in my memory.”
“Maybe. You’ll need to send me doctor’s information so I can start everything.”
“I can send it overnight unless you have one of those Kinko’s places. I can fax there.”
“I’ll have to call you, Momma. I don’t know. There should be a phone book down in the management office.”
“Okay. I-I’m sorry, Son.” He could hear the tears, right there in her throat. He hated for his momma to cry.
“Shit, what for? You didn’t make me a fuck-up, you didn’t make Daddy sick, and you didn’t make Rosemary decide to have children that her crazy fuck of a husband can’t feed. Seems to me like we should be apologizing to you.”
She sniffled, but the chuckle was just as strong now.
“I’ll call you with the Kinko’s number. Later. I got to work all weekend, but I’ll get in to see Jack on Monday.” If he could.
“Thanks, baby. I’m sorry. I know it’s borrowing more trouble for you, but I need your help.”
“I got your back, Momma. I won’t let you down.” The again was there, unsaid and implied.
“I love you, Son.”
“I love you, Momma. Talk to you later on.” He hung up and sat there, his head pounding, feeling swole as a rotting melon. Much as he hated California, he hated the thought of begging some Texas judge to let him come home even more.
God, what a mess.
“Damn you, Angel. You and me, we fucked everything up, and you had to up and die and get out of everything.”
Angel never answered back, which was good, since the man was dead. Would make it awkward if he hung around.
Sage chuckled, rubbed his forehead, and set his alarm. He’d get a couple of hours of sleep, then get to work.
He had a feeling he was fixin’ to have a lot to do.