Nobody f**ks with you in prison when you’re all tatted up.
Not a single, solitary soul.
It could have something to do with being big, too. I haven’t asked. I’ve just enjoyed it.
At home, it’s a completely different story. At home, everyone f**ks with me. I am the youngest of five, all brothers. They’re all as big as me, if not bigger, and they have even more tats than I do. You don’t get any points for being adorable. At my house, all you get points for is being a good person, contributing to the household, and supporting your family in every way possible.
It’s too bad I sucked at all the requirements. I f**ked things up royally two years ago.
I never should have done what I did. But I did it, and I did my time behind bars. I just hope that they can forgive me at home and not hold it over my head.
A hand clapped onto my shoulder jerks me from my internal dialogue. I look up and see my pro bono attorney, Mr. Caster. “Good to see you again, son,” he says as he sits down across from me. He opens a file folder in front of him.
“Why are you here?” I blurt out. I wince immediately, realizing how rude that sounded. But his brow just arches as he shakes his head. “I mean, it’s good to see you, sir.”
He chuckles. “Nice to see you, too, Pete,” he says. He takes a brochure from the folder and turns it so I can read it. “I have an opportunity for you.”
My oldest brother, Paul, says opportunities are other people’s problems. “What kind of opportunity?” I ask hesitantly. I open the brochure. There are pictures of horses and children and climbing structures and a pool with lots of splashing going on. I look up at him.
“This is a brochure for Cast-A-Way Farms,” he says.
“And?” I ask.
“The opportunity,” he says. “I talked to the judge and told him you would be good for this program.” He raises his brow again. “I hope I’m not wrong.”
I hate to sound like a numbskull, but… “Not following, Mr. Caster.”
“I need a few good young men to help out at the Cast-A-Way camp for five days this summer.” He starts to reload his folder and closes it. “I read your file. I liked what I saw. I think you have potential. And you have the skill set that I need for this particular camp.”
Skill set? All I can do is ink people. I work at my brothers’ tattoo shop when I’m not behind bars. I don’t know how to do much else. “You want me to tattoo them?”
He chuckles again. “I need your signing ability,” he admits. “We have a camp every year for special needs kids. We have a very special boy this year who has MS, so he has a tracheostomy tube. He can’t speak. He signs. His mother’s going, but she can’t be with him 24-7. So, I thought you might be able to come and help.” He shrugs. “There will also be a small group of boys there who are hearing impaired. You might work with them some, too.”
I look at Mr. Caster’s forearms and think I see a tattoo creeping out of his short-sleeved dress shirt. He follows my gaze and shrugs.
“You think you’re the only one who wears your heart on your sleeve, Mr. Reed?” he asks, but he’s smiling.
I shake my head. “Your opportunity sounds interesting,” I say. “But I’m on house arrest for a year. I can only go to work and/or approved activities.”
“I already talked to your parole officer,” he says. “He’s in favor of it.” He crosses his arms in front of him on the table and leans on his elbows. “Only if you want to, though. No one is going to force you.”
I pick up the brochure and start to read. It actually looks kind of interesting.
“You’d be doing me a big favor,” he says. “I need another man present who can be a good role model for the boys we’ll be taking from the juvenile detention facility. They’ll be there working, getting service hours. I need someone to help me with them. That’s why I need you.” He narrows his eyes. “You’re big and scary looking enough.” He grins. “And your file looks good.”
“You’ll have the youth offenders at your camp? Working with the kids?”
He shakes his head quickly. “They’ll interact some with the kids. But not much. They’ll be there more to help with the daily living tasks—feeding the horses, moving hay, stacking boxes, doing odd jobs, helping with meals…”
I’ve never been afraid of manual labor. My brothers have drilled it into me from day one that I am going to work hard at everything I do or I’ll have to answer to them. I heave a sigh. I’m slowly talking myself into this.
“There’s a perk,” he says. He grins.
“Do tell,” I say. I sit back and cross my arms in front of me.
“If your time spent at the camp goes well, I can ask for leniency with regard to your house arrest, based on merit.” He looks into my eyes. “If you earn it, that is.”
Wow. I could get leniency? “It’s for five days?” I ask.
He nods. “Monday through Friday.”
I heave a sigh. “When do we leave?”
He grins and holds out a hand for me to shake. I put my hand in his, and he grips it tightly. “We leave tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow?” I gasp. I haven’t even gone home yet. I haven’t gotten to spend any time at all with my brothers.
He nods. “At oh-dark-thirty.” He smiles again. “You still up for it?”
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