If you're under 18, then go on and git.

I don't know why Blogger ate the drawing ST/Naomi had made for me here. Thanks, Blogger, ya bag of dicks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Painted Sky Ch. 7

Copyright 2018
Bailey Bradford

Chapter Seven
Many spiders means many months without rain.

Kane glared at the small pile of clothes on his bed. He hadn’t brought many with him, and now he wished he’d have packed more. 
Which is stupid. I’m going to hang out on a farm, not…this isn’t a date. 
No matter what Mom says. 
Irritated with himself for making more of the trip to Wyatt’s— no, to the farm— than what it was, Kane grabbed a random T-shirt and put it on. 
And winced. “Not this one.” He took the white shirt off. The color washed him out. He shouldn’t have ever bought that shirt. Not wearing it now had nothing to do with the date— the visit to the Anderson farm. Groaning, Kane covered his face with his hands. He was being more dramatic than an actor chasing an Oscar. 
“It’s a visit to a freakin’ farm!” 
“You keep telling yourself that, son,” his mother called through the door.
“Jeez.” Kane lowered his hands and glared at the door. 
“I can feel you glaring,” Ella said. “Mother’s intuition.”
Kane had to laugh at that. “Thanks, Mom. Love you.” 
“I love you too, and you know, there’s nothing wrong with making this a date. Wyatt Anderson is a nice young man, and he’s had some rough years.” 
Kane suspected that was more true than his mom knew. Regardless— “This isn’t a date.”
“Keep telling yourself that. And wear the light blue t-shirt. It sets off your complexion and your eyes, and it’s tight.”
“Mom!” Kane was not going to pick that shirt. 
“See, honey, I told you that shirt would show off your pretty eyes.” Ella beamed at him as she sat at the table, working a crossword puzzle. 
“This isn’t a date,” Kane muttered. 
“Truck keys are hanging by the door! Enjoy your not-a-date!” Ella said. 
Kane took the keys and left the house. He couldn’t help but notice that the closer he got to the farm, the faster his heart beat. 
“Okay, so I’m nervous. And excited. It’s just a case of…of being…” He had a flash of a memory, the first time he saw Wyatt Anderson in high school. He’d been tall and lanky, with a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose and across his cheeks. Kane had wanted nothing more than to get Wyatt’s attention for years, but he’d been afraid to do so. Afraid of what that might reveal about himself. 
Then one day, Wyatt had said ‘hi’ to him in the hallway, and Kane had almost tripped over his tongue trying to get out a coherent reply. They’d formed a casual friendship that Kane had thought was all Wyatt had wanted. There’d been walls up around him back then— or walls around Kane himself. It was hard to tell now what had kept them from being closer as kids, although Kane knew part of it was because of the crush he’d had on Wyatt. 
And Wyatt had only gotten better looking with age. He still had those freckles, though his skin was a shade or two darker than it used to be. Kane wondered if that was a farmer’s tan, or if Wyatt might have that same golden skin tone all over. 
“He’d have to sunbathe in the nude.” Kane’s dick started to harden. “Oh, shit, cut that out, you stupid…thing.” 
And apparently, he was reverting to ninth grade or so. “Thing? Really?”
The rest of the drive, he willed himself not to pop wood while in Wyatt’s company. His unruly prick was going to have to behave around Wyatt, and Kane would not keep wondering if he was tanned all over. 
“Stop it,” he grumbled as he made the final turn before reaching the farm. It was almost nine in the morning, and he hoped he wasn’t going to arrive at a bad time. He remembered how hard Wyatt had worked as a kid; things probably had gotten harder for him with his father’s death, unless Wyatt had hired someone to help him with the farm work.
Kane turned down the long drive and noticed how well-kept the place was. Back when he’d visited before, the fence had been in disrepair and all the buildings, including the house, had needed a good coat of paint. He liked the moss-green and off-white color scheme. It was different from the traditional red and white barns and outbuildings he was used to seeing. The house matched the rest of the buildings, and the wide porch that ran around the entire home now had chairs— rocking and otherwise— along with a porch swing on it. None of that had been there years ago. 
In short, the house looked like a dream home, where a happy family lived. 
Kane parked the truck and opened his door just in time to see a teenage girl storm out of the house. 
“You’re not my father, Wyatt, so fuck off! I’ve had it with you bossing me around!”
Er, maybe not a happy family? 
“Cheryl, wait, I just want to talk to you about missing school again!” Wyatt followed his sister but stopped when he saw Kane. 
Kane heard the roar of an engine and turned to look down the drive. A vehicle was rapidly approaching. 
Wyatt grimaced and glared in its direction. “Cheryl—”
“I’m out of here!” Cheryl ran across the yard and Kane knew very real fear in that he was afraid the car was going to hit her. 
The driver had more skill than he’d have guess. The vehicle spun sideways and the passenger side door flew open. “Get in, baby.” 
All the dust that was stirred up kept Kane from seeing the driver, but it as obviously a guy. Cheryl got in and the car spun out, sending dirt and rocks flying as it shot back down the driveway. 
“Son of a bitch!” Wyatt shouted. He took off his hat and sat down on the porch steps. “Sorry.”
Kane glanced around, not entirely sure that Wyatt was talking to him. “Uh, do you mean that for me?”
Wyatt nodded, twirling his hat one on hand as he stared down. “Yeah. You shouldn’t have had to see that…that…whatever it was.”
It seemed like ‘that’ had been Cheryl acting like a brat and leaving without any concern for her brother. Not that Kane would say as much. “So, Cheryl’s grown up.”
Wyatt dropped his hat and looked at Kane in surprise. “What do you mean?”
Kane thought it was pretty clear what he meant. Until he realized Wyatt might have thought he was somehow making a comment that conveyed interest in Cheryl. Kane winced. “I just meant she isn’t a little kid anymore. That’s all. She seemed kind of…” Do NOT say what you’re thinking! “Angry?” That was marginally better than him calling her a brat from hell. He’d bet his left lung that no matter how angry Wyatt was with his sister, he wouldn’t put up with insults to his family. 
Not that Kane could blame him, not one single bit. 
Wyatt laughed but the bitter sound was all kinds of wrong coming from him. “Yeah, you could say that. She just got herself failed out of her senior year. I didn’t even know she was home until she was on the way out. She’d told me last night Mom was taking her to school early so she could make up credit for lost days. She done broke her last straw. She won’t be allowed to graduate, and it’s her fault, or maybe it’s mine.”
He sounded so forlorn that Kane’s heart ached for him. He walked over then up the steps before sitting beside Wyatt. Wyatt’s body heat and smokey scent sent a shiver through Kane despite the heat. “It’s not yours. I mean, yeah, okay, I don’t know your family dynamics, but she’s not a little kid. She’s gotta be old enough to know there are repercussions for actions.” 
Wyatt sighed and unless Kane was mistaken, he leaned against Kane for a second, but the contact was so brief, he couldn’t be sure it really happened. 
“I know, and she’ll be eighteen soon, it’s just…” He sighed again, then shook his head. “Well, it doesn’t matter now. You didn’t come over for the Anderson family drama hour. Or minutes.”
Kane took a chance. He twisted so he was facing Wyatt, and placed one hand on Wyatt’s shoulder. 
Heat that had nothing to do with the actual temperature shot through Kane, zooming right down to his dick. 
And that traitorous thing started perking right up. 
Wyatt looked at him, and something happened between them. At least, Kyle hoped it happened between them, otherwise he was hallucinating the need he saw in Wyatt’s eyes. 
Then Wyatt blinked and Kane worried he had imagined it. 
“I’m here for whatever,” Kane blurted because all his synapsis were malfunctioning. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made what sounded like a bad come-on.
Wyatt’s lips curved in a smile that did nothing to douse Kane’s desire for him. 
“How about we start with a tour of the property? It’s not changed a whole lot since you were here last. Or we can go inside—” 
Please say we can go inside and have sex! 
“And I can show you your paintings,” Wyatt continued while Kane silently begged his prick to be-fucking-have! 
“The—” Kane’s voice squeaked and he cleared his throat. “Ah, I like the green and off-white. Sets the place apart from other farms and ranches. How about the outside tour first?”
“Sure thing. Then we can go in and have some coffee or tea, and some of the cake Mom made last night.” Wyatt didn’t stand up, though.
Kane was reluctant to move his hand, but he was verging on being a creep by leaving it on Wyatt any longer. He lowered it and if the backs of his knuckles kind of caressed Wyatt’s arm, that was entirely on accident. Sorta.
Wyatt’s cheeks turned ruddy but the smile he wore was genuine. “Come on. You can meet the new horses I got last year. Do you know anything about tractor repairs?”
Kane snorted and stood along with Wyatt, casually— he hoped— folding his hands over his semi. “Not one damn thing, but I’d love to see the horses.” 
Wyatt didn’t look down, for which Kane was thankful. 
“Outside tour it is, then. Did you bring your sketchbook?” Wyatt asked. 
“No, I really did come to visit,” Kane answered, though his fingers itched for a pencil. He wanted to sketch Wyatt and compare the changes in the man today with the boy of yesterday. 
Kane had many of those that he’d kept all these years. 
Doesn’t make me sound creepy at all. Riiiiiight. 

But he knew that he’d go home and end up with at least a dozen new sketches of Wyatt Anderson.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Painted Sky Ch. 6

Copyright 2018
Bailey Bradford

Chapter Six

Heavy winds carry warnings.

“Mom’s in,” Kane said, lowering his phone. He was still smiling, and he rubbed his thumb over the pulse-point in Wyatt’s wrist. “She said just let her know the day and time.” He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. “Why is it that our moms don’t hang out?”
Wyatt’s tongue felt thick in his mouth. He wondered if Kane was experiencing the same level of arousal that he was, and decided that he must not be doing so because he could damn well speak. 
Kane pressed his thumb against Wyatt’s pulse, then rubbed it again. “Mom volunteers at the retirement place here and at a homeless shelter in Amarillo. Guess she’s always doing something.” 
Wyatt swallowed, his throat clicking. He licked his lips and forced his brain and mouth to work together. “Yeah, well, my mom is working forty hours a week at a clinic just this side of Amarillo. She took that job after Dad passed.”  
“I imagine that keeps her busy, along with raising your sisters and brother.”
Wyatt laughed and hoped it didn’t sound as nervous to Kane as it did to him. “Er, yeah, I help Mom out as much as I can, but…” But he wasn’t their dad and he’d been told as much by each of his siblings on more than one occasion when they’d bucked against having to listen to him. Things had gotten better with the youngest two. Not so much with Cheryl. 
“You have twins in the family, if I remember right. They weren’t very old when I left town.” Kane blinked and looked down at his hand on Wyatt’s wrist, and ruddy spots appeared on his cheeks as he let go of Wyatt— slowly, his fingers trailing over Wyatt’s skin. “Sorry. Got busy talking and— it’s good to see you, man.”
Wyatt didn’t want Kane to leave yet, but he couldn’t think of any good reason to ask him to hang around. Besides, I got a crap-ton of work to get back to. 
“We should exchange numbers,” he blurted out, and he’d bet his face had the same botches on his cheeks as Kane had on his. “So I can send you the day and time for the barbecue.” 
Kane flicked some hair back away from his eyes. 
Wyatt itched to see if Kane’s hair was as soft and warm as it looked. He forced himself to stop staring and take his phone out of his pocket. 
“Yeah, we need to do that. So you can show my your paintings, or is it my paintings on your walls?” Kane snorted and shook his head. “I need to shut up.” 
Wyatt wasn’t sure what that was about. Was Kane flirting? Or just making a joke? He wished he had a clue. 
“You want to just swap them?” Kane asked, holding his phone up. 
Wyatt nodded. “That works.” He handed his phone over and took Kane’s, which looked a whole lot more complicated than Wyatt’s. “If I press something wrong on here, am I gonna detonate a nuke?”
Kane’s laughter didn’t sound all whack like Wyatt’s. In fact, it was low, rumbly, and bordering on erotic. 
Or Wyatt was just really hard-up and horny. 
Or maybe all of those things were true. 
“Nah, it’s not that fancy, though for what it cost, you’d think—” Kane’s smile vanished and he bit his bottom lip. “I don’t mean that like a brag. My agent got this thing for me after I dropped my last one in some paint.”
Wyatt got it, though, what Kane wasn’t saying. Kane could afford fancy phones that came with all the bells and whistles, and Wyatt couldn’t. His mom worked full-time because she had to, not because she wanted to. 
A great divide appeared between him and Kane, at least it did in Wyatt’s head. His smile felt brittle when he took his phone back after putting his number in Kane’s. “I better get back to the farm. Lots of work to do.” 
Kane was frowning at him. “Did I do something wrong?”
Wyatt hadn’t expected that kind of directness. People around town always talked sideways about certain things, they didn’t come at them head-on. “N-no, I’m just— there’s the farm and— I—” He found himself bursting out laughing and shaking his head. “God, I oughta get out and socialize more. I can’t even hold a decent conversation anymore.”
And he really wished he knew what that expression on Kane’s face meant. It gave Wyatt a case of hyperactive butterflies in his stomach, and his toes and fingertips tingled. 
“Well, if you don’t mind, I could…I could hang out with you some and help you work on that,” Kane murmured. “I used to like being at your place, and I remember liking your company.”
Those tingles and butterflies spread throughout his body. Wyatt even felt a little dizzy from the endorphin rush, or whatever it was making him feel borderline giddy. “That’d be cool. You’re welcome any time.” He took a step back, reluctant to leave, but knowing he had no excuse to stay, especially since he’d said he needed to get back to the farm. “Don’t even have to call or text first. Just come on over.” Then he looked at Kane’s car and frowned. “Er, you might wanna drive something else, or I can pick you up.” 
Oh Lord, I sound like a desperate fool! 
But he’d been lonely even for just friendship for a long time, and Kane was at once familiar and new to him. 
“You’d drive to town to pick me up?” Kane asked, and his lips were quirked in a way that Wyatt couldn’t interpret. 
Had that offer been too forward? Did it make him sound too eager? Or had it come across as a plea for something more? Wyatt ducked his head. “Well, sure. I wouldn’t want your car damaged, and you could always make it up to me by helping out.”
Lord, I’m a fool! I did not just tell a famous painter he could do farm work. Jesus. 
“That sounds like fun.” 
Wyatt glanced through his lashes at Kane. “Fun? Farm work? Feedin’ the animals and plowing, stuff like that sounds fun to you?”
Kane nodded, and he moved a step closer. “It sounds inspiring, even.” 
Wyatt didn’t know what was going on, but he suddenly felt like prey being stalked. He moved back again. “Inspiring. Huh. Never heard farm work called inspiring before.”
Kane didn’t come closer.
The disappointment Wyatt felt was uncalled for, as far as he could tell. “I’d better go. It was…it was good seeing you again.” 
Kane winked at him. 
Or he had something in his eye. Probably that. 
“Maybe I didn’t mean I’d be inspired by farm work.” Kane’s eye did the thing again. “See you soon.” 
“That was definitely a wink. It was a wink,” Wyatt whispered after Kane turned and walked around his car and got in it. “What— why?” He wished he’d had the nerve to ask Kane why he’d winked. He told himself not read too much into it. The Kane he used to know in high school had been kind of shy, and Wyatt had been more than a little nerdy. Now Kane was a successful artist and he probably was much more urbane than Wyatt could ever hope to be. 
Wyatt spent his days hardly talking while he was working, although he and the chickens had some one-sided chats at times. Kane had to have been used to being around smarter, wealthier people— folks that had a clue about art and probably held their fancy drinks with one pinky up in the air. Wyatt had a vague memory of his Grandma Anderson telling him that’s how classy people held their drinks. 
He wrinkled his nose and turned to his truck. It didn’t matter who Kane knew or what crowd he hung with. Kane was out of his league probably even on a friendship level. What could he possibly want from Wyatt?
Nothing. Kane might just be a genuinely nice guy. 
Well, Wyatt could only wait and see. 
On the drive back to the farm, he replayed memories of his past interactions with Kane, remembering that boyhood crush he’d had, one he hadn’t understood at first. Wyatt had thought he just wasn’t interested in any of the local girls because he’d grown up with them and knew them too well, then Kane and his mom had moved to town right before the start of freshman year. There’d been talk about the newcomers, and Wyatt had listened half-assedly. 
Then he’d seen Kane the first day of school, and the jolt of warmth that he felt when Kane smiled at him should have been his first clue that he was gay. 
But he’d caught on soon after, and even though he and Kane hadn’t talked all that much until their senior year, Wyatt had admired him from afar. 
He rubbed at his chest as he remembered his quietly turbulent high school years. Learning who he was, and who he was attracted to, hadn’t been easy for him to accept. 
Then the awful thought, the one he’d had too many times before, slithered into his head. If Dad hadn’t died, would I have ever been honest about who I am? Would I have had the nerve to tell mom? 
Wyatt turned the radio up to drown out his thoughts. He didn’t like those kinds of questions. They stirred up turmoil and regret and even nausea when they came up on him. 
He sang along with a catchy pop tune and forced away thoughts he didn’t want to deal with. When he pulled into the long drive, he tried to see the place as Kane would, if he really did come over for the barbecue or to hang out. 
Wyatt had busted his ass ever since he’d been old enough to work on the farm, but especially since his dad had passed away. If he were honest, the place looked better now than it ever had. He kept the fence and all the buildings painted, didn’t let anything fall into the slightest disrepair. It was easier to keep up with stuff if he never got behind in the first place. 
And he’d worked like mad the first year after his dad had died, needing to keep busy, to push himself to exhaustion so he could maybe sleep a few hours each night. 
Wyatt shook off those memories. He’d done good with the farm, and though money was tight, they weren’t in danger of losing their place. 
Although, if the drought didn’t break, things could get bad. 
And while he didn’t like to think about that, he’d had to, and he even had some contingency plans in place, and some other ways of keeping the farm afloat that he was already implementing. Some of those things had gotten the town gossips a’going when he’d first started them. 
Well, he supposed people needed something to do in a dying town, and gossip was one thing that would exist as long as human beings walked the earth. 
Wyatt parked his truck and shut it off. He unbuckled and got out, then adjusted his cowboy hat until it set just right on his head. 
He checked his phone and was relieved to see that there were no missed calls from the school— now that they knew the number to call— and was a disappointed that there were no texts from Kane. 
“What do you expect, dumbass? He’s got a life, and he’s not gonna— Erk!” He yelped and almost dropped the phone when it vibrated in his hand. 
And his heart just about pounded out of his chest when he saw Kane at the top of his text messages. 
Smiling like a fool, Wyatt tapped the screen. A nervous giggle escaped him and he slapped his hand over his mouth. 
But he was damn near giddy as he re-read Kane’s text. 

Can I come over tomorrow morning and spend the day there?

He didn’t ask to spend the day with Wyatt, but still. Wyatt couldn’t stop grinning as he texted back and asked if Kane needed a ride. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Feline Emergency

Started on the installment, but we've got a cat emergency; something's wrong with Amber's cat, Jasper. We think it's an upper respiratory infection. Amber's on the way to the emergency vet clinic, and I've got Elijah and Charlie, neither of whom seem interested in going to sleep. If I can, I'll write the installment after they go to sleep, but I don't know if y'all have noticed-- the installments have been long ones, usually 1.5k to over 2k, so...might be tomorrow.


Sun Shift 1 is out now at Smashwords!

Yay! I'll leave it at Smashwords for a week or so, depending on sales, then move it over to KU. Please share the link if possible, thank you so much!

Sun Shift One: No Sanctuary

One shifter, waiting for others to join him in the sanctuary he's built. One lone wolf, broken and close to death. Cali and Jacob find more than sanctuary; they find hope and the possibility of a love that can endure throughout time-- if they can survive the evil coming for them and those seeking safety with them. But there might not be any truly safe place for shifters...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Happy Humpday!

I'm working on Mr. November; tomorrow, Sun Shift will be available. The sales for Across the Tides have been dismal; I'm going to move it to Kindle Unlimited soon and see if it does better there. If sales don't pick up, I may have to start writing in my spare time and get a job outside of writing. We'll see what happens. It's hard not to just give up some days. But, enough whining on my part! Let's celebrate the week being halfway done!

How about some pics?



Photo by henri meilhac on Unsplash

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

 Photo by Ol Klein on Unsplash


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Painted Sky Ch. 5

Copyright 2018
Bailey Bradford

Chapter Five

Wyatt sighed and leaned his forehead against the rough barn wall. He tucked his cell phone in his shirt pocket and closed his eyes. Anger and fear twisted in his gut. Cheryl was going to be the death of him if she didn’t get her act together. Some part of him wondered if this was a kind of delayed reaction to their dad’s death on Cheryl’s part, or if this was normal behavior for teenage girls. It wasn’t like he had a clue. 
Telling his mom that Principal Edwards had called expressing concern over Cheryl’s failing grades and excessive absences was something Wyatt wanted to avoid. He’d deal with Cheryl himself. 
That anger sparked hotter. Their mom had been through too much already. She didn’t need to have Cheryl’s obnoxious behavior tossed her way, too. 
Opening his eyes, Wyatt raised his head and put his cowboy hat back on. He still had chores to do, but they’d have to wait. Finding Cheryl and setting her straight was going to have to take priority. 
Wyatt locked up— something his dad had never done, but times were changing even in the country— and got in his truck. It’d been his dad’s, and even though it was a decade old, it still ran well thanks to diligent maintenance. 
The drive to town did nothing to calm Wyatt’s anger. His had always had been the slow-burn kind, and he’d always kept a tight rein on it so as not to let it get out of control. Cheryl was pushing him to the point where he was afraid of how tenuous his grasp on his temper was.
If he’d been able to wait to talk to her until evening, he’d have done so. Unfortunately, if she didn’t make it to her sixth-period class today, that teacher was done with her and she’d fail. Since she needed the math class to graduate, Wyatt had no choice but to try to find her and convince her to stop acting like an irresponsible brat. 
If Dad were alive— Wyatt grunted and shoved that train off thought right off the rails. This was his problem to deal with and thinking about the past wasn’t going to help him any. 
There were so many things he was going to have to get into with Cheryl about, and Wyatt would have been able to address those issues sooner if someone hadn’t blocked the school’s phone numbers on his phone. If Principal Edwards hadn’t used his personal phone to call from, Wyatt wouldn’t have known how dire things were with Cheryl. 
Because, apparently, there had been letters sent home with Cheryl, and letters through the mail. There’d even been emails— sent to an address Wyatt had never heard of. The depths of Cheryl’s deceptions left him stunned and hurt, along with the anger and fear. 
All Wyatt wanted to do was to help Cheryl not mess up her life, but he was afraid that was impossible. Another emotion wrangled free and he winced. He and Cheryl used to be close despite their seven-year age difference. Then their dad had died, and Wyatt had taken over running the farm.
And I stopped having so much time to spend with Cheryl. 
So maybe the whole mess with her was his fault. 
That diverted a good portion of his anger onto himself. 
Wyatt drove into Belan and started looking for that car he’d seen Cheryl in last week. As he’d suspected, it— and Cheryl and her boyfriend— was parked at Sonic Drive-In. 
Wyatt pulled up to a vacant slot by the play area, then parked and got out. He trudged over to the car, his anger growing as Cheryl laughed at something her boyfriend said. Chiding himself for not being in control as he should be, Wyatt tamped down hard on that dangerous emotion but he couldn’t stop from scowling when Cheryl turned her head and saw him. 
Her laughter died away and she blanched for a second before returning his scowl. 
Her boyfriend got out of the car. “Hey—”
Wyatt pointed at him. “Back off. This is between me and Cheryl.” And everyone at Sonic Drive-In watching the dueling siblings show.
“She’s my girl, and—”
Cheryl flung open her door and stood up. “I can handle this, babe.”
Wyatt noticed the tender smile she shot her boyfriend, and how that smile turned brittle when she looked at him instead. 
“What do you want?” 
“Not to have a scene at Sonic,” Wyatt said, shooting a glance at the dozen or so people watching them from various cars and trucks. “Get in the truck and lets talk.”
“I don’t want to.” Cheryl folded her arms over her chest and the jut of her jaw promised that Wyatt was likely in a losing battle. “Leave me alone, Wyatt. I’mold enough to make my own choices.” 
Wyatt’s temper crackled. “Like lying to me and Mom?” 
Cheryl narrowed her eyes, then lowered her gaze. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 
“Yeah? Who blocked the school’s numbers on my phone?” Wyatt demanded. “They sure as shit didn’t block themselves. And who gave the school a phony email address? And hid the letters sent from—”
Cheryl flung her arms out as she glared at him. “Well I wouldn’t have to do that kind of shit if you’d just butt out! You aren’t my dad!”
“And you aren’t an adult,” Wyatt countered, keeping his voice level, his face burning from embarrassment. He wanted to get in his truck and leave, but he couldn’t do that without getting Cheryl to go back to school. 
“I will be soon,” Cheryl snapped. “It’s stupid that I have to wait until I’m eighteen to be an adult. What difference does a couple of months make?”
“A lot in the eyes of the law,” Wyatt informed her. 
Cheryl rolled her eyes. “Whatever. So I can vote then and I can’t now. Big fucking deal.”
“Cheryl—” Wyatt began, only to stop himself. Arguing wasn’t going to do either of them any good. “Look, if you don’t make it to your math class today, and if you miss anymore days, period, without a legitimate doctor’s note, you won’t be graduating with the rest of your class. There’s not a whole lot of school year left. Can you just…not…” He gestured at the car. “Do this kind of thing until you graduate? Get your diploma? That’s all I’m asking. Just, stop cutting class.” 
The other things— the lying and God knew what-all— could wait to be dealt with. When it came down to it, he wanted what was best for Cheryl, and that meant graduating. He’d give up arguing about anything else with her to get that. 
“I can take summer classes,” Cheryl said, but there was a hesitancy in her voice that belied her certainty. 
Wyatt shook his head. “Nope. You’ll fail everything and you can’t take that many classes over the summer. Edwards said he doesn’t even know if they’ll offer summer school this year. I know you want to get out and have fun. I get that.”
“Really?” Cheryl’s lips twisted in an ugly smile. “What would you know about fun anyway? You’re the good kid, can’t do anything wrong now that—”
“Cheryl,” Wyatt cut in, wondering if he could just spontaneously combust from mortification. “This isn’t the time or place. I’m not on you about any of the other stuff, okay? I’ll let it drop. I only want you to stop cutting class before you get kicked out of school or flunk out. You’re so close to being done, and I know how smart you are.” Which might have been part of the problem. Cheryl had complained about being bored in school for most of the time she’d been attending. Belan didn’t have much to offer in advanced classes for kids like her. 
Cheryl tucked a few strands of blonde hair behind her ears. “You’re saying you won’t bitch at me about anything else if I go back to school today?”
“And stop skipping out,” Wyatt clarified. “I won’t tell Mom, either.”
“Like you were gonna tell her anyway.” Cheryl turned her back to him. “I’ll think about it.” 
Wyatt bit back a growl. “You’d better think quick, before the start of sixth period.” 
Her boyfriend shot him a dirty look. 
Wyatt wondered how that punk-ass kid was able to skip classes and not be in trouble. 
Well, for all he knew, the kid was in trouble. Or he had a way around trouble. 
Wyatt watched Cheryl get in the car and proceed to ignore him. He’d been discounted and dismissed, and it was hard, but he held his head high as he turned and strode back to his truck. 
He had a bad, bad feeling that Cheryl was going to screw up her life and cause their mom heartbreak, and he didn’t know how to stop it. 
He’d just reached for his door handle when a red sports car turned into the parking lot. Wyatt’s pulse raced as he ogled the car. It was a thing of beauty, and he was certain it was the same one he’d seen last week, driving down the road past the farm. 
The dark-tinted windows were hard to see through from the side, but straight-on, not so much. His gaze met the driver’s, and Wyatt tried not to gawk. The handsome man behind the wheel was breathtakingly hot, and he was also familiar. 
Then something clicked in his brain and he lowered his hand away from the door as the car slipped into the slot beside him. His smile was reflected back at him in that tinted window, and he was surprised at how happy he looked, especially considering what had just happened with Cheryl. 
The driver’s door popped open and out stepped someone Wyatt hadn’t seen since graduation. “Kane Gonzalez, what’re you doing back in town?” And damn, but he looks better than ever.
Kane chuckled and shut his door. “Well, I came to see Mom.” 
Wyatt had heard some of the town gossip— it was impossible not to. “Yeah? She not keen on…where is it?” He scratched his chin and acted like he didn’t know. “Santa Fe?”
Kane began walking, Wyatt did the same. They met at the rear of Kan’e car. 
“She’s okay with it, but this is home,” Kane said, offering his hand to shake. 
Wyatt took it and they shook hands. Wyatt wanted to pull Kane in for a hug, but that seemed out of place. They’d been friends, but not in each other’s pockets in school, and there’d been that crush Wyatt had had on him. That now-gone crush. Anything I’m feeling now is just surprise at seeing Kane again. “Yeah, guess so. Not much has changed around here.” Wyatt nodded toward Wilder’s. “You see that closed down?”
Kane focused his pretty brown gaze on Wyatt, not in the direction of Wilder’s, and it caused a riot of warm, bubbly sensations to burble in his stomach. 
“I did. Guess the town isn’t doing so well,” Kane mused. “How’s the family and farm?”
Wyatt felt himself blush again, thinking of the exchange with Cheryl. “Family’s okay. Farm’s doing all right, too.” 
Kane pressed his lips together, thinning the plump bottom one out before he sighed. “Hey, I’m sorry about your dad. A few years late, but—”
“But you weren’t here, so no worries, man, and thanks.” What should I say? What— I don’t want to leave just yet. Wyatt was confused by the things he was feeling and he scrambled for more conversation. He wasn’t still crushing on Kane— that was ridiculous. More than likely, he was just nervous, being around someone he didn’t know anymore who was famous. “Heard you’ve made quite a name for yourself. I still have the paintings you did. Hanging up on the walls, I mean.” 
Maybe he should just shut up. 
Kane’s pleasure showed all over in a big smile and fine crinkles at the outer edges of his eyes. “You do? God, I bet they’re awful—”
“They are not. You ought to come see them for yourself if you’ve forgotten about them,” Wyatt found himself saying. “Set your memory right.” 
“Set my memory right?” Kane snickered, and leaned one hip against his car. “I might just do that.”
Wyatt’s mouth went dry. He licked his lips and almost forgot to breathe when Kane’s attention seemed to zero in on his mouth. 
“You could come for dinner,” Wyatt rasped, then cleared his throat. “Um, and Ella. You and Ella could come over for dinner. Have some Texas barbecue.” He was in danger of rambling and had to force himself to shut up.
Kane nodded. “Yeah, that’d be nice. I’d like to see those paintings.” Then he was looking at Wyatt and winking. “Is this kind of like, come see my etchings?”
Wyatt froze. Is Kane flirting with me?
Kane’s smile dimmed. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to imply—”
“No, no, don’t apologize, I was just slow to catch the joke,” Wyatt protested.
Kane shook his head. “You weren’t ever slow about anything, Wyatt Anderson. Well, maybe one thing, but—” Kane’s cell rang and he startled, then slapped a hand to his left back pocket. 
Wyatt wondered what that rounded ass cheek would feel like under his hand. 
“It’s my mom, gotta take this.” Kane held up the phone. 
Wyatt started to back away, mouthing, ‘I’ll see you later.’
But Kane caught him by one wrist and quirked an eyebrow at him. “Hang on.” 

Wyatt stopped trying to leave, and he wondered if Kane had just forgotten that he was holding onto Wyatt’s wrist while answering, then talking on the phone.