“No!” Cord Dixon jerked awake. The nightmare still haunted him. Always would. His body slick with sweat, breathing short and fast, his heart hammered in his chest. He would never forget the boy’s face as long as he lived. How could he? He’d killed him.
Cord looked around getting his bearings. Yet another dingy motel room on a road to nowhere. Another piss-ant town, finding another shitty job to make enough money to move on to where? He swung his legs over the side of the bed, propped his elbows on his knees and let his head fall into his hands. He sighed, wondering where this would all lead. How long could he go on this way? Moving from town to town, living out of his truck, nowhere to call home, and no one to hold.
He glanced at the glowing red clock on the chipped nightstand, 3:05 AM. It would be yet another sleepless night. Climbing out of bed he padded to the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He glared at himself in the mirror. His reflection was no surprise. Dark circles shadowed his eyes, lines covered his face. He looked older than his thirty years, and felt it, too.
A shower would help relieve tension in his muscles. He turned the silver handle, after adjusting the temperature; he stepped in, pulled the sheer white curtain closed and stood in the streaming water, letting the spray sluice over his body. Although it felt good, nothing would ever thaw the coldness in his heart. Doing time for manslaughter had a way of making a man hard on the inside.
After his shower, he’d dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and wandered to the vending machine for a snack. The lights flickered, and hummed in the small room. The ice machine growled making another tray of cubes. He dropped a couple of quarters in the machine, hit E-3 and collected the bag of chips.
He followed the dimly lit hallway back to his room, threw his chips on the small round table. He grabbed his map out of his duffle bag, and tossed it on the table. He sat and let the rattling air conditioner blow refreshing cool air on his humid skin. Texas summers were known to be scorchers. He looked at his map, no particular direction in mind. His job as a handyman ended and it was time to move on. He ran his finger along the curvy lines of roads, landing on the small town of Redemption Texas.
“Redemption, like I’ll ever have that.” He scoffed, and pinched the bridge of his nose. So many memories he was desperate to forget plagued his mind. That face, the thud of impact, and the blood. He shook his head, trying to clear the images from his mind.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” Sitting still for any length of time left him too much time to think. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He pushed back from the wobbly table with the broken leg, crossed the room and packed his duffle bag. After checking out he hopped in his truck and headed for Redemption.
Ellie Mason woke to her clock radio. A Keith Urban song played. She turned the volume up and snapped her fingers to the beat. The rising sun let in a perfect ray of sunshine across her wood floor. She loved bright mornings like this.
She hopped up out of bed and danced across the room to her bathroom. She turned the water on, and heard a snort behind her. Smiling, she looked over her shoulder and saw her black, Mini Potbellied Pig. “Good morning, Bacon.” She scratched him behind his ear. He gave a grunt of satisfaction, and turned to lie down on the pink bathroom rug. She shook her head at him. He was more like a dog than a pig.
She slipped off her gown and stepped in the shower. “We have to go into town today, Bacon,” she said, as the water soaked her hair. Today she needed to find someone to repair her barn. Thanks to the last storm that blew through, her barn had suffered severe damage. It had to be repaired soon. She had a trailer full of horses showing up in a month. Regardless of the fact she had plenty of pasture land on her ranch, she needed to have shelter available for them, too.
After her shower, she dressed in denim shorts, a short sleeve pink top and her cowboy boots. She pulled her golden blonde hair back in a messy ponytail, and headed for her truck.
Bacon squealed with excitement as she lifted him and put him in the cab. He trotted straight over to his open window, sticking his snout out for the wind to hit him. She laughed at his enthusiasm, and climbed in herself. She’d head for Ben’s Hardware to post a help wanted ad on his bulletin board. There had to be plenty of farm hands needing the extra money.
She pulled in the parking lot filled with small and large pickup trucks. This was the place locals came to hire help. All the farm equipment came through Ben’s, as well as building materials.
Ben stood behind his counter, the kind old man with soft eyes, his bushy white beard and eyebrows his prominent features. “Morning, Ben,” Ellie said as she and Bacon entered the store.
“Good mornin’ to you, Ellie girl. What can I do for you this fine mornin’?” He came around the counter and patted Bacon’s head.
“I need my barn repaired. I have a help wanted sign I need to post on the board. Have you heard of anyone needin’ any extra work?”
“No, I haven’t. Old man Patterson is movin’ a herd of cattle and he’s got most of the extra hands over at his place but, if I hear anything I’ll send’em your way.”
The door chime sounded, and Ben excused himself to greet his customer. Ellie took a free kitten ad off the board that had been there for over a year. Those kittens probably had kittens of their own by now. She held her sign up and tacked it to the board, stood back and said, “What do you think Bacon? Think we’ll get someone to help repair the barn?” Bacon grunted, and snuggled her leg. “I hope you’re right boy,” she said, turning to leave the store slamming head on into a wall of muscle. The man grabbed her shoulders to steady her. She opened her mouth and closed it again, completely at a loss for words. Holy mother, he’s gorgeous.
Her face heated as she realized she’d been staring at him like a total moron, but his skin was a beautiful dark sun bronze and those gorgeous hazel eyes, were absolutely mesmerizing. They were a perfect mix of gold and green, like shades of autumn leaves. And hair the color of desert sand, light blonde streaks mixed with golden darker ones, just brushing his shoulders. He was such a beautiful man she couldn’t help but gawk. Who could give a crap about screws, nails and eyehooks with a man like that around? Hell, if she kept drooling over him, it would be clean up on aisle seven in no time.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said with a half smile as he scooted past her. She watched as he stood in front of the board scanning the many help wanted ads, most of which were for farmhands, not handymen. She saw his eyes land on her ad, she didn’t know if he was qualified to do the job, but she’d let him try just so she could ogle him every day.
Barn and fence repair
Ask for Ellie
He immediately pulled out his cell, and started to dial the number. She quickly backed away, before her phone gave her away. Bacon followed suit, and clung to Ellie’s leg. She’d barely made it to her truck; she couldn’t face him and talk business. He was too, gorgeous. Her phone rang. “Hello?”
“May I speak to Ellie?”
“This is Ellie.”
“My name is Cord Dixon, and I just found your help wanted ad, and wanted to know if the job is still available.”
Ellie stood next to her truck, hoping he wouldn’t come out of Ben’s and see her. “Yes, the job is still open. Do you have experience with construction?” she asked.
“Yes ma’am, I used to work for a contractor out of Houston. I did a lot of housing projects. And, I worked as a foreman for almost a year.”
“Are you available right away?” She was almost positive he’d said something but she couldn’t say what. This man had an uncanny way of flustering her just by the very sound of his voice. Could she function with him on her farm every single day, or would she be a flustered mute mess for the month it would take to repair the barn? Bacon squealed and stood up on his hind legs wanting in the truck. She brought her finger up to her lips to shush him, and he squealed again. He nuzzled her leg impatient as ever. He was ready to go. She snapped her fingers for Bacon to follow her. She desperately needed the barn repaired, and he wanted the job.
She needed to get her nerves under control and face him. She headed back into Ben’s to talk to him face to face.
“Hello? Are you there?” He asked.
It took her a moment to respond, but she managed a weak “yes.” And then he turned and saw her.