Calmly carefully complet.., p.1
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       Calmly, Carefully, Completely, p.1

           Tammy Falkner
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Calmly, Carefully, Completely


  For Diane, because she read 1001 different versions of this book and never once complained (where I could hear her).

  With special thanks to Kayla Gardner who let me borrow her horses and then helped me give them life.

  Copyright © 2013 by Tammy Falkner

  Calmly, Carefully, Completely

  First Edition

  Night Shift Publishing

  Cover design by Tammy Falkner

  Cover photo© Branislav Ostojic | Dreamstime.com

  ISBN-10: 0-9887429-6-9

  ISBN-13: 978-0-9887429-6-3

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Pete

  Nobody fucks 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 fucks 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 fucked 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?”

  “It can really shorten my sentence?” I ask.

  He nods. “Maybe. It’s up to the judge. And depends on how things go at camp.” He sobers and looks directly into my eyes. “Pete, I think you could help with the boys I’ve invited to the camp. With all of them. You can help with the hearing-impaired boys, the ones who can’t talk, and the ones from the youth program. I think you can do brilliant things. I believe in you, Pete, and I want to give you an opportunity to prove you’re better than this.” He makes a sweeping gesture that encompasses the room.

  Better than jail? Am I better than what I have become? I am not so sure.

  “Do we have a deal?” he asks.

  I nod and stick out my hand again for him to shake. “We have a deal.”

  “Do you need for someone to pick you up in the morning?” he asks.

  I shake my head. “I can get here.”

  “I’ll see you at six a.m.” He claps a hand on my shoulder and points toward the door. “I believe your family is waiting outside.”

  My heart trips a beat. It’s been so long. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to be with them again. To feel normal.

  I nod and bite my lower lip. But I steel my spine and walk out the door. The guards lead me by the guard station and toward the door, where they give me a bag of m
y belongings and ask me to check it. I slide my wallet into the back pocket of my jeans. I put my watch back on my wrist. I drop my piercings into my pocket. I might be able to get at least some of them back in later.

  “Ready?” Mr. Caster asks. I don’t realize he is right beside me until I look into his eyes. Very softly he says, “Stop worrying so much. They’re the same family you left two years ago.”

  They might be, but I’m the one who’s different. I nod my head, though. I can’t speak past the lump in my throat.

  I shove against the door, pressing hard on the lock bar, pushing, and then I find myself outside the walls of the prison for the first time in two years. I take a deep breath and look up at the sky. Then I see my brothers waiting at the end of the walk and the lump in my throat grows twice the size. I blink hard, trying to squeeze back the emotion.

  Paul, my oldest brother, is standing beside Matt, who has the biggest grin on his face. His hair has grown back, and it’s gotten longer than I’ve ever seen it on him. He told me in a letter that he had decided to let it grow out now that he knows what it’s like to lose it all to cancer. He’s recovering. I missed it all because I was behind bars. But that’s one of the reasons why I was there. I thought I could help him and just ended up getting myself in trouble.

  Logan is standing with his arm draped over his girlfriend Emily’s shoulder. She looks up at him like he hung the stars and the moon. He points and smiles toward me, and she looks up and yells. Then she wiggles out of Logan’s arms and runs toward me full force. She hits me hard in the chest, her arms wrapping around my neck. I lift her off the ground and spin her around as she squeezes me. She murmurs in my ear. “I’m so glad you’re coming home,” she says. “We missed you so much.”

  I look around. Someone is missing. “Where’s Sam?” I ask. Her face falls, and she looks everywhere but at me. Sam’s my twin, but he’s not here. My gut clenches. I really hoped he would be.

  “He’s stuck at school. You know how tight school schedules can be.” She won’t look me in the face, so I know she’s lying. I put my arm around her for a second and walk toward my brothers, but it’s only a few steps before Paul jerks me away from Emily and wraps me up in a big bear hug. He squeezes me so tightly that my breath jerks out of me.

  “Let me go, you big ox,” I grunt out, but when he does, he grabs my head in his hands and runs his fingers through my prison cut. My hair’s so short it’s not much more than fuzz on the top of my head.

  Logan punches me in the arm, and I turn to look at him. Logan’s deaf, and he uses sign language. But after eight years of silence, he started to talk right before I went to prison. He signs while he speaks.

  “Somebody scalp you while you were sleeping?” he asks, pointing to his hair. It’s so strange hearing words come out of Logan’s mouth. He went so long without speaking. But Emily brings out the best in him, including his voice. “It looks like you went three rounds with a weed eater. And lost.”

  Before I can answer, he’s pulling me in for a hug. Logan’s special. He’s wicked smart, and he’s ultra talented. Emily’s his and everyone knows it. They’re meant to be together forever, and no one doubted it from the first night he brought her home with her ass tossed over his shoulder and her Betty Boop panties showing.

  Logan lets me go, and I look at Matt. He looks so healthy he’s glowing. “Speaking of haircuts,” I say, pulling on a lock of his hair. “When do you think you might get one?”

  He cuffs me gently on the side of my head and pulls me into his shoulder. God, I have missed them.

  “We’re going to start calling you Goldilocks,” I warn. We’re all blond, and some of us are more blond than others.

  “Try it, asswipe,” he jokes as he punches my shoulder. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good match.”

  Emily wraps her arm around my forearm and squeezes. “I think you’re bigger than when you went in,” she says.

  “Not much else to do but work out and read.” I shrug.

  “I can still take you,” Logan says. He flexes his muscles. It’s so good to hear him speak.

  Logan was injured in a car accident right after I went to jail, and he almost died. I wanted to go to him so badly. But they wouldn’t let me out. “I heard you’re an old man with a limp now.” I duck when he tries to grab my head for a noogie, and I dance away from him.

  “Nothing about me is limp,” he says with a chuckle. “Right, Emily?” he says, grinning. She punches him in the arm. He bends at the waist and tosses her over his shoulder. She squeals and beats on his butt, but he pays her no mind. He never does when they do this. He starts toward the subway so we can go home. The rest of us follow.

  Emily gives up and dangles there over Logan’s shoulder. She’s right by my face, so I lean in and kiss her on the cheek. “You all right?” she asks quietly. It’s fucking ridiculous the way she’s just bobbing there.

  “It’s good to be going home,” I admit. “Strange, but good.”

  She wraps her hands around her mouth and whispers dramatically. “We have beer at the apartment! For your birthday!”

  I grin. I spent my twenty-first birthday behind bars. But I had a feeling they wouldn’t let it pass by without some kind of celebration. “Just beer?” I whisper back playfully.

  She winks. “There might be some other stuff, too. Like wine.”

  My brothers don’t do anything more than drink occasionally. “Is there cake?” I ask.

  She nods. “Sam made it.” Sam’s the baker in the family. It’s too bad he had to play football to earn his way into college because he’d make a damn fine baker. And he’d be happier doing it.

  “So he was home this weekend?” Hearing that he was home this weekend but he’s not there now is like a knife to my gut. It fucking hurts. I can’t say I blame him, though.

  She nods, and she does that thing she does where she doesn’t look me in the face. She’d be terrible at poker because she can’t lie worth shit.

  “How long do you think he’ll avoid me?” I ask.

  Matt looks over at me, his face searching mine, but he doesn’t answer my question either.

  Reagan

  I sit in my dad’s truck and drum my thumb on the steering wheel along with the music. I dropped Dad off an hour ago, and he sent me on an errand because he hates the idea of me sitting outside a prison by myself. I finished his errand, and now I’m waiting. He can’t fault me for that, can he?

  I freeze when I see three tatted-up men walk by where I’m parked. They’re blond and huge. But one of them is holding hands with a girl, a pretty lady with dirty-blond hair. I sit up taller and watch them. They’re friendly with one another, and you can almost see how happy they are to be together. The one holding hands with the girl slaps her on the bottom and runs from her, and she streaks off after him until she can jump on his back. She leans forward and kisses him on the cheek. He puts her down because she’s signing something to him. My heartbeat stutters. This is the family. I’m almost certain of it. They’re Peter Reed’s brothers.

  Peter Reed is someone I have wanted to meet for two and a half years. He saved me one night when I really needed saving. He found me huddled in a room in the back of a frat house after the unthinkable happened.

  I’m huddled by the wall, still shaking from what happened. He turned out the light when he left, so I sit in the dark with my teeth chattering so hard that my jaw hurts. My panties are still wrapped around my ankle, dangling there like the useless piece of cloth they are. One side is broken from where he ripped them off me, but I can’t make my arms unwrap from around myself long enough to pull them up. Or off. My skirt is hiked up around my waist. He didn’t bother to even pull it down when he was done. He just whispered in my ear about how no one would ever believe me if I told and how I better keep it to myself if I knew what was good for me.

  My phone dings beside me, its bright face a beacon in the darkness, and I look down at it. I want to pick it up. It’s probably one of my friends wo
ndering where I’ve gone off to. But I can’t unwrap my arms long enough to reach for it, either. If I unwrap, I’ll fall apart. I can’t fall apart. I just can’t.

  The door opens, and a sliver of light tumbles into the room. A young man laughs at someone as he closes the door in a girl’s face. He flips the light on and leans back against the door, cursing playfully. I crawl on my hands toward the shadow in the corner. Maybe he won’t see me. But he does. I can tell when he freezes and curses for real.

  My teeth are still chattering, and I can’t draw in a complete breath. He drops down to squat in front of me. “Hey, are you all right?” he asks. He reaches a hand toward me. An animalistic sound leaves my throat. It’s one that scares even me, and he jerks his hand back like I’m a rabid dog and he’s afraid I’ll bite. The guy who just left, he wasn’t afraid of me at all. After a few minutes of really nice kissing, I was ready to stop, but he pushed me down, tore off my panties, held me still, and raped me.

  I look into this man’s sky-blue eyes, and they’re so different from the brown ones that hurt me. I open my mouth to speak, but only a squeak comes out. My phone dings again, and I look toward it.

  “Do you want me to get it for you?” he asks softly. He reaches for it and then puts it within my reach. I take it, jerking it from his hand as I crouch further into the corner. He pulls back like I scare him. I look down at the screen.

  Rachel: Where are you, hussy? I saw you locking lips with the douchebag. Did you leave with him?

  I need to reply. But my fingers are shaking too much.

  “Do you want me to do it?” the man asks. He gently takes the phone from my grasp with a twisty tug, and I let it go. It’s of no use to me. I’m shaking too badly to use it.

  “What do you want me to say?” he asks.

  I swallow hard. I screamed when it started, before he covered my mouth with his hand, right before he banged my head on the bathroom countertop, and now my throat hurts. “Help me.” The words are a whisper, and he leans closer because he can’t hear what I’m saying.

 
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