Wyatt's Stand (Colebrook Siblings Trilogy #2) - Kaylea Cross

Chapter One

Wyatt Colebrook got out of his truck and strode for the front door of his cabin like the hounds of hell were chasing him.

Because they were.

Last night’s events, still fresh in his mind, had stirred up the ghosts he’d been battling so hard to exorcise for the past three years. He could run from them, but he couldn’t hide. Tonight, there was no escaping them.

He pushed open his front door, the familiar scents of home washing over him. This had been his sanctuary since moving in after being released from the rehabilitation facility in D.C., but even this place couldn’t ease his inner turmoil.

The one-bedroom cabin was set back from the main house on his family’s property, what was left of a huge parcel of land that had been in the family since before the Civil War. It was pretty spartan compared to the main house, but Wyatt liked it that way. No frills, no clutter, everything he needed and nothing more inside six hundred square feet.

At the sound of toenails clicking on the old plank floor he looked back as Grits trotted toward him. The brown and white two-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel had been dumped on him by a longtime friend a few weeks ago, much to Wyatt’s consternation. He was in no position to own another dog at the moment, but he hadn’t been able to say no.

Poor little guy had been rescued from a puppy mill where he’d been kept caged for most of his short life, and he’d been skittish of everything at first, especially strangers. Wyatt had spent the past three weeks doing basic training and gaining the dog’s trust, so Grits would be well-adjusted and have good manners when he went to his forever family. Something Wyatt just couldn’t provide for him.

Apparently sensing Wyatt’s mood, Grits paused a few cautious steps away, ears down, the end of his feathery-white tail swishing hesitantly. Unsure whether he was welcome to approach Wyatt or not.

Wyatt sighed and pulled off his cowboy hat, dumped it on the kitchen table. None of this was the dog’s fault. “Come on,” he said to Grits, who trotted over, head lowered in submission, rear end wiggling and those big brown eyes staring up at him worshipfully.

Wyatt knew for certain he didn’t deserve that look.

He bent to scratch the dog’s soft, floppy brown ears in reassurance anyway. Grits didn’t retreat, and Wyatt received enthusiastic kisses for his efforts. Taking on a dog was an additional burden he wasn’t sure he could handle right now.

He had no steady job, just helped his dad with the farm, took care of the horses and property, working from project to project when a build or reno opportunity came up. He hated the instability, the feeling of uselessness he’d been battling ever since being wounded. Try as he might, he simply didn’t feel like he fit into society anymore. He was too different. Too jaded.

Too…broken. Inside and out.

“You’ve gotta be starving,” he said to Grits. Given what had happened with his brother Brody last night, they hadn’t made it back in time for Grits’s breakfast and Wyatt felt bad for making him go hungry.

He poured out the measured amount of food into the dog’s dish and was straightening when shuffling footsteps came from out on the front porch. He closed his eyes and bit back a groan, suddenly bone weary.

God, he really didn’t want to have this conversation right now. His leg ached from the additional workout at his VA appointment yesterday and the stump of what had once been his right calf was sore from rubbing in the socket of his prosthesis.

As per usual, and much to his irritation, his father tramped inside without knocking, his cane thudding heavily on the floor. Though the right side of his face drooped from the stroke he’d suffered two years ago—soon after Wyatt had been discharged from the hospital after his amputation—his old man’s role as a USMC gunnery sergeant for more than two decades was still evident in his rigid posture and that laser-like stare focused on Wyatt. The one that used to send a shiver up his backbone as a kid.

“Brody called me,” his father said, his speech slurred. Sarge, his retired narcotics dog, was at his heels. Grits scampered over to greet the old basset hound, who basically ignored him.

Not surprising about Brody, and Wyatt was relieved he wouldn’t have to go over everything in detail with his old man. Seeing it firsthand had been more