Home > Fractured Sky (Tattered & Torn #5)(5)

Fractured Sky (Tattered & Torn #5)(5)
Author: Catherine Cowles



My boots echoed against the porch steps as I climbed them. Lor looked up from her rocker and inclined her head towards the railing. “Brought you a beer.”

She was the only person welcome on this porch. The only one who dared to make herself at home there. But even she, my friend of twenty years, wouldn’t venture inside without explicit invitation.

I swiped the bottle and brought the cap down on the edge of the railing with one swift move, popping it off.

Lor frowned at me, the lines of age in her tanned face deepening. “You’re messing up your perfectly good porch rail.”

I raised a brow in her direction. “Am I planning on having Architectural Digest out here sometime in the near future?”

She snorted. “They’d take one look at your terrifying scowl and run for the hills.”

I grinned at her, but it was all teeth.

Lor gave an exaggerated shiver. “How’s the chestnut settling in?”

I lowered myself into the rocker and began tipping it back and forth. Something about the motion eased me—the rhythmic feel of the blades against the planks of wood below. “It’s a good start. He’s got spirit.”

“That’ll make it interesting.”

“It means they didn’t break him.” And I respected the hell out of him for that.

Lor stared out at the small pasture that I’d let the gelding into. “Any sense of what he’ll be good for?”

“Too early to tell for sure, but I have a feeling he’ll enjoy chasing down cattle.” That was much of the process: figuring out where the horses should go next. What they’d be well-suited for, and what would make them happy. Some would be perfect trail horses. Others were meant to be loved by kids and families. Some were made for ranch work and a daily purpose. And then there were those that cracked my damn heart because they couldn’t come back completely from what they’d gone through. Those made their homes here for the rest of their days. Safe and cared for, with no one to hurt them ever again.

“Spirit usually does like a task.”

“True.” I took a pull from my beer. “I’m going out to Kenny Chambers’ place tomorrow.”

Lor’s rocking halted. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

“No harm in offering to buy a man’s horses when he’s struggling.”

“There is when he’s an abusive asshole,” she muttered. “Let me get the sheriff’s department involved. They’ll open an investigation—”

“That will take months. Those horses don’t have that kind of time.”

Somewhere along the line, people had begun to report this kind of thing to Lor, knowing she’d bring it to me. A man had stopped her in the feed store and whispered that he was concerned about Chambers’ horses. I’d done my recon, and it was bad. The man’s ranch was struggling, and he was taking his frustrations out on the animals around him.

Lor blew out a breath. “You’re gettin’ yourself caught up in things you shouldn’t. One day, it’s gonna come back to bite you.”

I made a sound that wasn’t agreement or disagreement, just an acknowledgment that I’d heard her.

Lor picked up her rocking again. “I saw the girl.”

I took another sip of my beer, not meeting Lor’s gaze. Shiloh typically had a kind of radar for when Lor was around and stayed away, but Lor had seen her more than once now, and it was making her edgy.

“I’m not sure her being here is a good idea.”

I knew that. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a horrible idea to let Shiloh Easton come and go from my property at will. But I couldn’t stop myself. Those flashes of understanding had become some of the best parts of my day.

Lor let out a sound of frustration. “You know how protective her family is of her. And given all she’s been through, I don’t blame them. But her brother’s the damn sheriff. How do you think he’ll react when he finds out she’s making little field trips over here?”

He’d lose his shit. My grip on the bottle tightened, but I forced myself to keep rocking.

Lor sighed. “I’m not saying this to be an ass. I worry about you. You might’ve been exonerated, but to lots of folks around here, you’re still an ex-con.”

And, to them, that was all I’d ever be.









I gripped my keys tighter as I walked towards the post office. The tiny teeth of the metal bit into my palm. But that kept me grounded. Kept me from hurtling back into memories as gazes caught on me and held.

No matter how much time had passed, people were still curious. I knew I didn’t help matters given how I behaved, but I needed those coping mechanisms. I pulled the brim of my hat down lower as a woman stared.

I vaguely recognized her. She’d been a few years ahead of me in school. She might’ve been someone that Hayes or Beck had dated for a hot second. But now, she was just another set of eyes.

Her gaze made my skin itch, and I fought the urge to pull my jacket tighter around me. Instead, I focused on the path ahead of me. The door to the post office opened, and Beck pulled up short. “Hey, Shy.”

I struggled to keep my expression relaxed and my breathing even. Beckett saw more than my other siblings did. Maybe it was his time serving as a doctor with Aid International. Or maybe it was because he’d fallen in love and married a woman with her own set of traumatic scars. But I had to guard myself more around him than anyone else.


“Picking up your mail?”

No, I was going to ride an elephant. Of course, I was picking up mail. Instead of saying that, I nodded. “How’s Addie?”

“She’s good. Getting tired more easily but still determined to keep working at The Gallery for now.”

“I’m sure Laiken is keeping an eye on her.”

The manager of the art space was one of Addie’s closest friends, and I knew she’d never let any harm come to her there.

“You’re right, but I still don’t like it.”

My lips twitched. “No, you’d rather wrap her in Bubble Wrap and confine her to the house until she gives birth.”

Beck chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck, the strands of blond in his brown hair catching in the afternoon light. “Is that really so bad?”

“No, it’s just not very practical.”

And while my brother’s heart was in the right place, the feeling could be suffocating. Like you couldn’t move or breathe without someone analyzing every detail.

“You’ve got a point there. Hey, why don’t you come over for dinner next week? Just the three of us.”

The metal keys dug deeper into my flesh. I wasn’t a fan of large groups, but intimate gatherings were worse. And if Beck were there, he’d be using that doctor focus to evaluate everything about me. I swallowed hard. “Sure. Just let me know when.”

“Addie or I will text you.”

I nodded. “I should go. I need to get back to the ranch.”

“Sure.” He reached out like he might pat my shoulder and then stopped himself. “Glad I ran into you.”

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