Teaser Tuesday: Sweet Montana Outlaw

Sweet Montana Book 4

He did time for killing a man he should have killed to save the woman he loved...

Brody Whitebear had the reputation as a bad boy and people won't let him forget.  His past has come back to haunt him when he returns to Sweet, Montana at the request of an old friend who wants to help give him a second chance. Some people won't let him forget or move on.

Tara Mitchell knew her brother wasn't a saint but he didn't have to die because of it. She'd tried for years to forget what she'd seen and to focus on building her little novelty shop in Sweet.  But now that Brody is back in town, the fantasy that her brother was blameless is hard to ignore. Can she forgive Brody for what he did without losing her heart and falling in love?

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“You’ve got a sick sense of humor. You know that, buddy?”

Brody Whitebear stared across the thick polished table at a local pub called Bojangles to one of the few friends he’d had for life, a friend who’d stuck with him in his darkest hour and didn’t judge. Hunter Williams.

“Have I ever lied to you?” Hunter asked, motioning to the waitress to signal they needed a refill. “No, strike that. Bad choice of words.”

Brody lifted his eyebrows. “Yeah, they are.”

The two of them were drinking coffee, not beer or whiskey like all the others in the pub.

“It’s a sure thing,” Hunter said, almost too excited about the prospect he was telling Brody about for it to be real.

“Sure things usually come with a barn full of sure trouble.” Brody looked at his old friend across the table at Bojangles Bar and Grill with a skeptical eye. “I can’t believe you’re even suggesting I step foot in Sweet.”

“Why not? Just because Tara Mitchell has a business there, doesn’t mean you can’t work as a ranch manager on one of the ranches.”

The waitress came to the table, filled their coffee cups, and then dropped a bowl of peanuts on the table. When she left, Brody said, “Somehow it doesn’t sound that simple.”

“Be positive for once in your life,” Hunter said. He’d met Hunter a long time ago when they were young teens on the rodeo circuit. He’d never been very good, but Hunter had been until an injury set him on the path that ended his rodeo days. Now he worked with horses as a farrier on most of the ranches in the area.

“See, there you go again. This isn’t about being positive. It’s the sure thing notion that gets dicey for me. Nothing is that good, and certainly not worth my running into Tara.”

“Look, I’ve known Trip a long time. I worked on the Lone Creek Ranch as a ranch hand right after I stopped rodeoing. He’s a good man. He’s given me a chance. He’ll give you one, too. He’s an old rodeo man himself, and now he raises rodeo stock.”

Brody grabbed a handful of peanuts and started to shell them. “How come you’re not working for him yourself?”

“I still do farrier work for the ranch. I’m just not a ranch hand. I’m usually out there at the ranch every week to shoe horses. He boards horses for some people, mostly the people who use Sweet as a temporary home. There’s a lot of work there.”

“There are plenty of ranch managers he could choose from. Why can’t he get enough help out there?” Brody asked, leaning back in his chair as another waitress walked by with a tray full of drinks.

What he wouldn’t give for a beer right now. The terms of Brody’s parole prevented him from drinking in public. Just being in Bojangles was questionable if not for Hunter being there to vouch for him that he’d only had coffee. Still, he’d make sure the waitress gave him a receipt before they left so he could prove all he had was coffee.

“Trip was close to Levon. He’d been with Trip for a while. He’d tried a few cowboys as replacement but he hasn’t really clicked with anyone else.”

“Did Levon take a better job?”

Hunter’s expression grew dark. He grabbed a peanut from the bowl and shelled it. “He was killed last winter.”

Brody was about to drop a few shelled peanuts into his mouth but stopped abruptly. “Killed?”

Hunter glanced up at him and then gave him an idle shrug.

Brody’s eyebrows stretched on his forehead as he stared at his friend. “You are one sick dude to bring me into this, Hunter Williams. You want to hook me up in a job where the former ranch manager was killed after I’ve done time for murder?”

He said the last part quietly despite the noise in the pub. He didn’t need to broadcast it to the world when it followed him to every new job opportunity he’d had since leaving prison.

“We both know it was an accident,” Hunter said, glancing around quickly. “I was there. And I know the truth about what went down even if the prosecutor didn’t see it that way and managed to prove otherwise.”

“Twelve jurors saw it that way too. No one wanted to believe it was an accident.”

“We don’t have to re-litigate this, do we?”

“I have no intention of doing that. But I have a feeling my being in Sweet isn’t going to go over too well. People have long memories.”

“They are forgiving people. I should know. I get a lot of work from them.”

“Not everyone.”

Hunter looked down at his hands as he twirled his coffee mug on the table in the wet spot the waitress made when she’d refilled his mug. “I get that. Tara probably won’t be happy. And she will find out. But she’s going to have to get over it one way or another because you did your time.” Hunter leaned forward. “You shouldn’t even have been in prison. But even if you did serve time, everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone. The question is what you want to do with it.”

It seemed so simple when Hunter said those words. But it was far from easy and Brody knew it.

He’d spent eighteen months in prison for manslaughter and had six months left on his parole. It had taken a long time for him to shake off the stench of prison and the stigma of his past. He was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Although he’d been sorry his actions ended up taking a life, he wasn’t sorry that it had stopped Doug Mitchell from taking his sister, Marie’s, life.

“It was a long time ago, Brody. None of us can change it. We did stupid things. And some of us paid a higher price for it. But this is a chance for a new start.”

He grabbed another handful of peanuts from the bowl and thought about Hunter’s proposition.

“I sure hope you’re right.”

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