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“Thanks for coming by,” he said.

“Maybe you shouldn’t talk. You sound like shit, dude,” Meyers said, earning a smack to the back of his head from Tyler. “I was trying to be helpful, Sarge!”

“How ’bout you give him the card and be less helpful?” Tyler said.

Meyers handed Jeremiah the eight-by-eleven handmade card with Get Well Soon in large block letters colored in with green, black, and brown. “We all signed it. And I just wanted to tell you that all the guys are sorry we were such assholes, me especially. You’re a total badass.”

“Thanks, this is really cool.”

Tyler handed Jeremiah the envelope with the store-bought card and gift card. “And this is from the staff at Alpha Dog. We all want to thank you for what you did and hope that you recover quickly.”

Jeremiah opened the card, and when he glanced at the gift card amount, his eyes widened. “Wow, seriously, Sergeant Best?”

“Yep, we all pitched in. And I have a pretty good feeling that the dozen or more letters Judge Garrison receives today and tomorrow are going to sway his decision to overturn your conviction.”

“So, I’m not coming back to Alpha Dog?” Jeremiah said, frowning.

“Doesn’t look like it.” Tyler caught Jeremiah’s crestfallen expression. “Hey, what’s up, kid? I thought you’d be happy to be going home.”

“Not if he’s there,” Jeremiah muttered.

Tyler turned to glance at the boy’s mother over his shoulder, noting her red face and downcast eyes.

“Well, if you want to stay at the program, I guess we could just tell the judge you don’t think you’ve learned your lesson.”

“I think you should leave now,” Virginia snapped.

Meyers turned to Jeremiah’s mother, and before Tyler could stop him, the teenager said, “Your son shouldn’t be scared of his own house.”

“It’s not like that, and besides, it’s none of your business.”

“It’s exactly like that, Mom,” Jeremiah said. “You chose him over me. You do it every time, no matter how many times he hits us. You just let him stay to do it again, and it’s enough. I’d rather go into the system than go back to you.”

All the color leeched from Virginia’s face. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do. If you aren’t going to leave him, then I’d rather go from Alpha Dog to a group home. At least then I wouldn’t have to watch you take his abuse.”

“You’re just agitated and exhausted. We’ll talk about this later.” She glared pointedly at Tyler. “I want to speak to my son, alone.”

Tyler took the pen on the side table and wrote down his cell on the back of the envelope, handing it to Jeremiah. “If you need anything, you call me. No matter what time it is or what it’s about. And I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Sarge.”

Meyers glared at Virginia as they passed, and Tyler didn’t even bother to scold him. The woman deserved every bit of it; he didn’t care if she was a victim, too. The difference between her and Jeremiah was that she chose to stay, while Jeremiah had no choice.

Except maybe he could help give him one.

DANI WAS GETTING ready to go back to work that night when someone knocked, sending Bella and Shasta into a fit of excited barking. She didn’t have any plans with Tyler, and at six thirty on a Saturday, she was definitely checking the peephole this time.

On her step was an older Hispanic woman with dark hair that was threaded with silver and pulled back severely from her deeply lined face.

Angel’s mothe


Camila Ramirez looked much older than she had the last time they’d met just two years ago, but she would recognize her anywhere. Her cold, calculating eyes stared directly into the peephole, as if she could see Dani on the other side.

Dani pulled open the door enough to keep the dogs inside and tried to smile. “Mrs. Ramirez, good to see you.”