Two-time ex-con Camden Sanders has decided that Hog Mountain—an isolated community on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia—is the perfect place to continue running small scams without the threat of more prison time. But there are a few problems with this plan. One is the neighborly citizens of Hog Mountain thwarting his dirty dealings at every turn with their kindness. Another is Jackson Rhodes, a closeted Hog Mountain police officer who can see right through Cam’s good ol’ boy act and plans to catch him red-handed despite the attraction they both can feel. But the biggest problem of all is that Cam’s past is threatening to catch up with him, and it could mean trouble for more than just himself.
As he accelerated, Jackson reached over for the handset to the radio and keyed the mic. “Jennifer, this is Jackson. You there? Over.”
“Brian here. Jennifer took a break. She had to go to a conference at the school. Anything going on? Over.”
“Nah. Heading down Sullivan toward town, gonna stop over at Ruby Mae’s to make sure she’s okay. I hear tell Junior went on a bender last night. Is Jennifer’s son giving her trouble again? Over.”
“It’s a shame he’s off the wagon. Tell Ruby we can keep some kids if she needs them gone for a bit, you hear? And yes, it’s Jennifer’s son again. The school called this morning and asked her to come in. Over.”
“Will do, Brian. And I talked to Jim Barnes. He’s collecting old bicycles for the Arcadia House. I told him maybe the force could do something to help. Wanna pass the word? Over.” He wasn’t sure what to say about Jennifer’s son. The kid stayed in some kind of trouble all the time.
“Sure thing. I think we may have one that needs a new seat. I’ll put something up in the break room. Over.”
“Thanks, Brian. I’m pulling into Ruby’s driveway. Over and out.”
When Jackson stepped out of the police cruiser, a handful of half-dressed children were already running around the side of the house and heading right for him. He laughed at the dirty but happy faces on the children and knelt down in preparation of the collision sure to come.
Jackson took his time talking to each child, mussing the boys’ hair, smoothing down the girls’. Ruby had a gaggle of kids. Six crowded him for attention, and he was pretty sure she had one or two more that weren’t old enough to be running around yet. When he looked over the tallest of the kids’ head, sure enough, there was Ruby Mae on the front porch. She had a baby in her arms and a toddler hanging on to the hem of her ragged dress.
She gave a weary smile. “Howdy, Jackson.”
He nodded and rose, patting children as he waded through them to get to their momma. “Good mornin’, Ruby Mae. How’re you doin’ today?”
She gave a shrug and bounced the baby at her shoulder. “He’s sleepin’ it off. I appreciate you comin’, but it wasn’t too bad this time. Wanna glass of tea?”
“Yes, ma’am. That would be right fine. It’s the start of a hot one today.” It was hard for Jackson to treat Ruby as a contemporary, hard to believe anyone his age could have so many kids. She’d dropped out of school in the tenth grade and married Junior when she’d found herself pregnant with the first one. Jackson went on to be the star quarterback his senior year. By then, Ruby Mae had two kids and a husband who got mean when he drank too much. In the next ten years, she had given birth to six more and watched her husband go sober and fall off the wagon more times than he could even remember.
Ruby led the way into the kitchen with the entire brood following. As he sat at the old table, much too small for a family of their size, he took the opportunity to look around. The place was clean, even if everything looked as worn-out as Ruby Mae.
When one of the eldest opened the pantry, she hissed, “Galen, close that door.” But he wasn’t quick enough to keep Jackson from seeing how bare the shelves were within.
“Thank you kindly.” He smiled and took the mason jar of iced tea, then sipped it with appreciation.
“I’m out of lemon. Sorry,” Ruby said as she sat across from him.
“This is fine how it is,” Jackson assured and gazed past her to the six hungry stares watching him sip the tea.
Jason Huffman-Black could be described as the porn star alter ego of the mild-mannered editor for several LGBT publishers. By day, Jason edits and writes in a cozy chair, while Mr. Huffman-Black travels the globe on such adventurous excursions as wrestling the one-eyed spitting serpent of Tangiers, ass-spelunking into the hidden tomb of King CockTut, and most recently, sharing a prison cell in a small third-world nation with a rather sweaty fur-covered hulk of a man named Javier.
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