Sometimes a different way of seeing is all that you need.
When you're told often enough you don't have the brains God gave you---you start to believe it. Tragedy strikes, and Chase Williams finds himself alone...
Andrew Golding is an ass... or so everyone believes. With his momma's wrath following him, he turns to the police as well as his ex-brother in-law, Riley, seeking refuge on the Triple H.
A murder at the ranch has everyone pulling together to find out the truth. Drew discovers there's more to Chase than meets the eye. His friend definitely has a different way of seeing the world and the people in it, which only makes Drew love him more.
Drew Golding clung to the sheets as a cold sweat sprung over his heated flesh. Cursing softly at the damp state of his bedding, he got out of bed and had a quick shower to wash away the memories of his dream. The dream had partly been what he'd already done and partly about what his parents expected him to still do. When he was finished in the bathroom, he hurriedly dressed. Today he had stuff to do and needed to get started before his parents stirred.
Being as quiet as he could, Drew made his way around the room collecting his belongings and important papers then placing them all into a couple of duffle bags. He'd gotten them in town the last time he'd been allowed off the Golden Spurâ€¦he knew things had to change and it looked like he was the guy fixing to do it. He hated going against his parents, but sometimes doing the right thing came even before family.
For the love of God, why did his momma think it was her God-given right to interfere in someone else's life? By his reckoning Riley had already paid his dues for marrying into their family. The whole wedding fiasco may have been one of the dumber things Riley had done in his life, but Drew was almost convinced Karen had talked him into it. His sister had sometimes been as stubborn as their momma.
When he'd finished gathering his possessions--well, at least the ones he wanted to take with him, the rest would have to get left behind--Drew crept down the stairs and through the house hoping like hell he didn't wake his parents. He wasn't in the mood for another rip-roaring argument with his momma. There was no way in hell he was going to be a part of what his parents had planned.
Maybe he should just ring the police and give them a heads-up on what was going to happen, or maybe he should try and get a hold of Noah and Riley themselves, but somehow he doubted they'd listen to a word he had to say.
He just knew he had to tell someone.
With his mind kind of made up with what he was fixing to do, Drew left his parent's house. It had ceased being a home many years ago when Mark had died. It was like the spark inside his parents that kept them human died right alongside his older brother. Then, after Karen had driven her fool car head-on into the tree, his parents got even worse in their attitude on what a good American should be.
He knew the sound of his truck's engine roaring to life would wake his parents, but at this stage he didn't care. When they realized what he was doing, they would disown him quicker than a poke in the eye. Drew had never realized how badly Karen had truly suffered while she lived, until her death left Drew as the sole child at the mercy of his parents' wrath. Little did Riley realize that Drew had actually done him a favor all those years ago when he'd dumped him--as per his parent's request--in the middle of nowhere.
His parents had been specific in how Riley and Kai were to be disposed ofâ€¦mind you he'd gone against his parents that night as well. He couldn't bring himself to actually kill the pair so instead he had ranted and screamed a lot of awful things at his brother-in-law in the hopes that it would send him running back to Australia and safety.
Things hadn't gone quite as planned.
Instead of leaving the country, Riley had found the love of his life in the form of Noah Johnson, both owner and manager of the Triple H ranch, located right next door to the Golden Spur. His momma had been spittin' chips and ready to tear Drew apart when she'd realized Riley was alive and still in Guadalupe County. Part of Drew was glad Riley was able to find happiness, since it sure as hell looked like he never was gonna find his own. Unlike Riley, his parents were never going to find out his sexual orientation. If it ever came to light, Riley would be forgotten as his momma tried to wipe the true blemish off of their family tree, him. The way she carried on sometimes was sickening.
Thinking back over the past, Drew honestly wished he'd gone about things differently. He knew if he had the chance he would've handled the whole Riley thing another way. Maybe instead of doing what he did, he should have told Riley the truth about what was going on. The way things turned out he'd not only lost his brother-in-law, he'd also ended up losing a guy he was starting to think of as a close friend.
Good friends were so damn hard to come by, and in a span of two months he'd lost both of his. He'd considered Chase Williams his best friend, and now even that was gone after the way Chase's family and friends had closed ranks around him after the night Drew had beaten the guy in a fit of anger. Everything had just overflowed from the massive argument he'd had earlier that afternoon with his momma. Once again she had been accusing him of being softhearted over her plans for Riley--or the evil sinner as she preferred to call him. That afternoon he'd been told to toe the line or get the hell out of their house, so toe the line he did. Something which he'd regretted every day since.
A sense of relief filled him now. His body felt light like a helium filled balloon as he drove out through the gates of the Golden Spur for probably his last time ever. After today he doubted very much that he'd ever be welcomed home.
He could live with that.
Once he was far enough away from the ranch, he pulled over and lifted his cell phone from the center console with trembling hands and punched in the number for the police. The phone was answered on the third ring by Adele Hawkins, the night dispatch officer.
"Hi, Adele, it's Drew Golding and I need you to patch me through to whoever's on duty tonight." He waited a little nervously for someone to come back on the line. He just hoped they believed what he had to tell them.
"Hey, Drew, it's Grady here. How can I help you? Nothing wrong at the Golden Spur I hope." Since the Police Chief, Mathew Ryerson, was on his first holiday in years, Grady had stepped up into the role. He was the Deputy Chief for Guadalupe County the rest of the time.
Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves, Drew began to talk, "No, everything's fine at home. There's somethin' else of importance that I need to discuss with you and I don't think you're gonna like it. This is something that may happen, and I'm prayin' Momma comes to her senses before it does, but just in case, I want it known that I have no part in this stupidity. I need you to warn Noah and Riley that my parents plan on causing some problems over at the Triple H. I'm not sure exactly what. They wouldn't tell me what was going to take place unless I swore on the family Bible that I'd help them out any way I can. I'm supposed to be thinking things through and giving them my answer over breakfast."
"What's going on, Drew?"
"I'm not certain. All I know for sure is Momma wants Riley and Kai gone. She and Daddy are tired of Riley and Noah flaunting their happiness all over the county. Momma wants them out of Lancaster for good. I'd warn them myself but I think Noah would shoot first and ask questions later if I ever stepped foot on his property."
The line went silent for a moment or two and he assumed Grady was taking in everything he'd just told him. Maybe the officer was deciding on his next course of action.
"After everything I just heard, I have to wonder--why now, Drew? I, along with most of Guadalupe County, remember how you and your family treated Riley and baby Kai after Karen's death, so the question is why would you come forward now and try to help him? Why do this knowing it could get your parents into a whole pile of trouble? You do realize when they find out it was you who told us they'll kick your ass off the Golden Spur for sure?"
A kind of manic chuckle escaped Drew as Grady confirmed what he already knew. "I don't think I'll ever be going home again. As to why I'm telling you all this and begging you to keep my kin safe--it's the right thing to do. I may have been an ass to Riley in the beginning, but believe me, what my mother wanted to happen was a hundred times worse than what I did. I can't change the past, but I can damn well try and stop what's going to happen in the future. What my parents have planned is wrong. I know it and you know it. No matter which way they spin it--it ain't ever going to be right."
"Okay now, Drew, I'm still having a hard time believing you've done a turnaround like this. Butâ€¦on the off chance that you're telling me the truth I think you should come on in so we can talk some more. I'm even going to call Noah and Riley in so you can explain it all to them. When you get here, pull on in around the back so no one can see your truck and go tattling back out to the Golden Spur."
"Thank you for listening to me, Grady. I appreciate it, and I promise I'm telling you the truth. I'll see you in a bit."
After ending the call, Drew took a few moments to regain control of the storm brewing inside of him. Even the sweet baby Jesus wasn't going to be able to protect him from his momma's wrath when all hell broke loose. His hands still shook as he restarted the engine of his truck and drove the twenty minute journey to the police station. As per instructions, he parked around the back and out of sight. The sky was just starting to lighten as he shut off the truck and stepped out of the vehicle.
Today was looking to be just perfect--not!
Instead of walking around the front of the building to the public entrance, he strode to the staff door and knocked on the wooden surface. He knew someone on the inside would be waiting to let him in. No sooner had he dropped his hand when the door opened and Grady was standing in front of him, blocking his way forward. The way he gave Drew the once over with his gaze he knew the man was trying to figure out just what Drew's game was. Grady's next words let him know his way of thinking was right.
"I still can't believe you're planning on going against your parents like this. As soon as this comes out in the open, the shit-storm which is brewing will become a tornado of epic proportions--are you prepared for that?"
Drew tried not to smile. The slightly not right sounding accent was a dead giveaway that Grady wasn't a born and bred Texan. The way he pronounced or put emphasis on certain words let everyone with ears know the man was a ring-in, a person who moved to the district from over yonder. The weird thing was in another lifetime Drew thought maybe he and Grady could have been friends. But in this one his family was standing in the way.
"I know you may not believe me, but this time Momma is wrong, and is being as stubborn as a mule about Riley and Kai. I've tried reasoning with her but all it got me was a backhand to the face for the pure pleasure of doing soâ€¦Did you call Riley and Noah?"
With a nod, Grady stepped to the side and allowed Drew in. He led him back to an office where Adele already had coffee waiting for them, with two extra cups set to the side, which he assumed were for Riley and Noah.
"Yeah, they weren't too happy I was asking them to come in at this time of the morning. They need to drop Kai off with Linda before they can come." Grady ran a hand through his short blond hair as he took his seat behind the desk.
"I'm real sorry about that, but I think they need a heads-up, and I don't think this is something that should be explained over the phone," Drew said as he took one of the available chairs in front of the desk. The call of the coffee was too strong, so he poured himself a cup. After the first sip, he sighed in contentment as the hot liquid began to warm him from the inside out.
They didn't really talk about anything as they waited, and Drew was relieved that he would only have to go through the ordeal one more time. He just wished he had more information to give them rather than the random guesses that he had. Not too much later, his thoughts were interrupted as Adele led Noah and Riley into the office.
The moment they saw Drew sitting there, they both balked. "What's he doing here?" Noah growled.
"I told you on the phone I had someone with information they needed to give to you. I didn't tell you who, and for that I'm sorry, but I didn't think you would come in if I told you it was Drew."
"You've got that right," Riley snapped as he turned to leave the room.
"Now hold up, son. Drew didn't have to come forward at all. He coulda just left things to run their course, yet instead, he decided to do the right thing. I think you'd be stupid if you didn't at least listen to what he has to say."
Noah rolled his eyes. "Grady, you ain't that much older than us to be calling Riley son."
"What, should I start calling him â€˜Boo' like you do?" Grady pointed to the vacant chairs. "Sit down, pour yourself a coffee and listen up, because if what Drew here says is right, then you need get prepared for what's fixing to head your way."
"What's going on?" Noah asked when they took a seat. Riley poured them both coffee.
Grady nodded in his direction. "Go ahead, Drew, and tell them what you told me."
"I'm not sure what they have planned, but Momma and Daddy ain't happy with the way things have gone in the last three years, since the night Riley left the Golden Spur."
"You mean since the night you dumped my ass in the pouring rain with my baby son?" Anger and pain seemed to be waging war on his brother-in-law's face. No matter what the rest of the world thought, deep inside Drew still classed Riley and Kai as kin.
Sadness flowed through Drew like a slow trickling creek. "What I did was better than what I was supposed to do--at least you're still alive."
"What do you mean?" Noah demanded.
Drew knew everyone in the room was listening and waiting for him to answer. The problem was he realized that it could land him in a heap of trouble--or worse yet--jail.
His body trembled with both guilt and shame as he spoke, "The night Momma made me take you and Kai off the Golden Spur, I wasn't supposed to leave you in the middle of nowhere--well, I was, but you weren't supposed to be breathing when I went home. She wanted you both dead, and I couldn't do it. You're my kin, so I figured if I yelled and screamed at you and said all those hateful things that you would go back to Australia, and Momma would be none the wiser."
"But he didn't die. Riley wound up on the Triple H instead," Noah stated.
Drew nodded. "So you can see where my plan failed. When Momma found out, she had Daddy whoop my ass. Hell, he even broke my arm at a later date when I refused to finish the job. Momma said with all the confusion about someone causing trouble on the Triple H, no one would connect Riley's death back to the Golden Spur."
Noah looked at him in apparent disbelief and shock. "Are we really supposed to believe this?"
Weirdly it was Riley who answered, "Yes. Remember, I lived with them for a bit. I know exactly how much hatred that woman has penned up inside of her. Her husband is very much under her thumb, as is everyone who ever steps foot on the property to work. Karen absolutely despised her, which is part of the reason we came up with the plan we did."
"If that's true, why did you beat up Chase, who would have followed you to the ends of the Earth and back?" Noah asked as he set his half empty mug on the desk.
"That's another thing I truly regret doing." The burn of tears filled Drew's eyes. "I never meant to hurt him at all. I'd just come from a huge argument with Momma, and when Chase started in on me about Riley and how wrong I was to treat him that way, our words of anger turned to fists flying. The only good thing to come out of it was one of our hands was there and reported everything back to the Golden Spur. Made living at home tolerable again. I've always wanted to tell Chase how sorry I am for hurting him the way I did. Sad thing is--he was my best friend and I lost him."
Unashamedly, he wiped at the tears falling from his eyes. "I know I don't deserve it, but could you maybe tell him that I'm sorry?"
"I don't want to get his hopes up that you could be friends again. Not with you living where you do," Noah retorted.
Drew chuckled. "Well as it so happens I don't have a home anymore, and after what I have to finish telling you I think I will be on Momma's list of people she has to deal with."
"What haven't you told us?" Noah asked.
"Momma has plans to cause all sorts of trouble for the Triple H. Now before you ask, I don't know what they are. She and Daddy refused to tell me unless I swore on the family Bible that I was willing to help and make right for the past sin of letting Riley and Kai live. I know my parents and what they're capable of. I just know it ain't going to be pretty. She wants Riley and Kai gone and she doesn't care who gets hurt in the process. As far as she's concerned they are a blemish on the Golding name."
"Un-fucking-believable." Riley exhaled slowly and Drew could tell he was scared.
"I'm sorry that I didn't find out more, but I don't want any part of you and Kai getting hurt. If I can stop that from happening then I'm going to try."
"Hell, she'll be gunning for you next, won't she?" Riley blurted out.
Hearing the words out loud made it seem so much more real. "By going against her wishes I just signed my own death warrant. She would shoot me as soon as look at me."
"What are you going to do about it, run?"
"No, I'm going to protect you and Kai as best I can. I know you may not agree with this and for that I understand. But I want to know if you'd be willing to let me stay on the Triple H until this ends or they're stopped."
"Why the hell would we let you into our home? Are you freaking nuts? Is this some kind of sick and twisted joke?" Noah and Riley yelled together.
"Because I can't protect you if I'm not there. I should have stood up for you three years ago, but instead I was so goddamn scared of my own mother I let you down. Momma's right. I need to make up for my past sins. Not the ones she thinks I've committed, but the ones against you and Chase. They're the ones I need to make right."
"What do you think, Grady?" Riley asked.
They all looked at the officer, awaiting his reply. "Honestly, it's a solid plan, not that Drew has a hope in hell of stopping Clara once she sets things in motion. Though at the moment, no one besides us four here knows what was said in this room today. We should keep it under wraps and catch Clara and Thomas in the act so to speak. What we have now is hearsayâ€¦If we go and question them at the Golden Spur they'll only alter their plans."
Grady stopped long enough to pour himself some more coffee. "I think they may've been setting Drew up to be the fall guy, while they walk away scot-free. The biggest reason I believe this is a good idea is Clara will ever expect Drew to seek refuge with Riley. Oh, I know she'll find out eventually and there will be hell to pay. I just think if folks in town see which way Drew's loyalties lie than it might throw another monkey wrench in the works so to speak."
"Do you think it will really work?" Noah asked.
"If whatever is supposed to go down comes to pass, then we want the blame falling squarely on Clara and Thomas, not on Drew. Besides, it would be good for Riley and Drew to talk about their problems. Little Kai should have the opportunity to get to know his kin--especially the sane ones," Grady answered.
Drew couldn't help but smile as Riley snorted out a huff, but the glare aimed his way wasn't nearly as filled with venom as it used to be.
"I promise to keep out of your way as much as possible and to pull my weight around the ranch. I hear you're still one guy down since Kelly Mack left."
"Fine!" Noah stated. "You can follow us home, you can stay with us for a spell, but be warned. If you try in any way to harm one hair on either Riley's or our son's head, I'll come down on you like the hand of God. I'll make your crazy, psychotic mother look like the angel of mercy."
He couldn't find the words to reply. Instead he swallowed so loudly it sounded to him like the hammer being cocked back on the revolver he knew Officer Grady carried. To finally get a hold of himself, Drew nodded in agreement.
This time around he'd rather die than hurt either Riley or Kai, and who knows, maybe it would also give him a chance to make things right between him and Chase. After they all shook hands with Grady, Drew stood up shakily before he followed Noah and Riley back out to the Triple H so the next phase of his life could begin.