Home > Sage (Guardian Defenders #7)

Sage (Guardian Defenders #7)
Author: Kris Michaels







Sage Browning knew the winding roads of Plaquemines Parish like the back of his hand. He’d grown up there, and because he knew all the hiding places and speed traps of the local cops, he sure as hell hadn’t been speeding. Yet, the flashing blue lights in his rearview mirror and the lack of other traffic on the pothole-strewn road leading into Bienvenu told him nothing had changed. Out-of-state plates were always targeted. Easy money because no one wanted to come back to fight the tickets.

Sage signaled his intent to pull over, slowed, guided his truck to the side of the road, and pulled out his driver’s license, concealed carry permit, and Guardian shield. Even though he was on extended leave from the organization, he was still a part of it.

Sitting still, Sage watched as the sheriff unfolded from the mid-sized SUV behind him. The headlights and flashing blue lights accented the size of the man approaching his driver’s side window. Sage pushed the button sending the window down.

“What the hell took you so long to get back here, Sage?”

Sage swiveled in his seat and smiled. “Beau? Beau Th-Theriot?”

A wide, bright smile plastered across the man’s face. “Yeah, man. Get your ass out of that expensive rig and shake my hand.”

Sage opened the door and grabbed his friend’s hand before he was pulled out of the truck and into a bear hug. Beau squeezed him hard as he spoke words of comfort. “Sorry to hear about your mom. She’s a good woman.”

Sage nodded and stepped back. “Gus’s g-getting worse. She said she n-needed me.”

Beau cocked his head. “Dude, are you stuttering?”

Sage sighed and shrugged. “Injury. War.” One-word responses and vowels were better than consonants for him.

“Man, sorry to hear that. Yeah, I heard from my pop that Gus was found wandering one night. Your mom went out, sick like she is, and took him home. He won’t be happy you’re back. Not like that old bastard is happy about anything, ever. Your brothers coming to help?”

Sage shook his head. “N-no.” His half-brothers were scattered to the far corners of the earth. They offered to send Sage money for their mom’s medical expenses, and they called her religiously, but Sage told them not to come. He’d always protected his younger brothers. Seth, Kevin, and Carter all loved their momma, but coming back meant being around Gus and the rest of the people in Bienvenu. The people who looked down on the “bastard brothers,” as they were called growing up.

Sage was probably the only one of the four who wouldn’t kill Gus. Words were Gus’ weapon of choice for him. Gus had ignored and humiliated him, but he’d beaten the younger kids. Somehow Gus had it in his head that it was legal to “discipline” his kids. Sage wasn’t his. He was only two years old when the mean bastard appeared in his mom’s life. His mom and Gus had never married, and common-law marriage wasn’t recognized in the state. His mom stayed with Gus even when Sage had offered to buy her a house and take care of her. He didn’t understand it, but she wouldn’t move.

“You heading to the house now?”

Sage shook his head. “G-Going to have a d-drink first.”

Beau sighed and leaned against Sage’s truck. “Broussard and Bergeron hang out at the Bait Shop. Probably three drinks into the night by now. You shouldn’t go there.”

“I’m n-not that b-boy anymore.” Sage handed the man his Guardian shield.

Beau tilted it toward his headlights. His eyes popped open wide. “You work for Guardian now?”

“I do.” The training he’d been through in the military and then at the Rose had made him mentally and physically strong. His stuttering was not who he was. It was frustrating as fuck, but he’d promised Smoke he’d work on it with medical professionals after his momma passed on.

“That explains why you can afford this.” Beau stood away from the truck and walked around it. “An Escalade truck. Damn it, my friend, you’ve come a long way from back in the day.”

“The Chevy.” Sage laughed. Damn, that old piece of rust was held together with fishing line and a prayer.

“We got it running.” Beau laughed. They’d spent all summer of their sophomore year working on the hunk of junk. Beau’s dad had been a saint and ridiculously patient as he taught both boys how to troubleshoot mechanical issues. Sage and his brothers had spent most of their free time at the Theriot’s. Beau’s parents would feed them, not that they had much, but Mrs. T. could stretch whatever she had so they had enough. Beau’s dad had a shrimp boat, and as the boys aged, they worked on the shrimper. It was almost a right of passage.

“A sh-sheriff?” Sage asked when they stopped laughing.

Beau sighed. “Yeah. I went to LSU on that football scholarship. Blew out my knee my senior year. I was a mess. I’d be a drunk living on Canal Street if it wasn’t for Evangeline.” Beau held up his hand, showing off the glowing gold band on his ring finger.

“No.” Sage smiled at his friend. Evangeline Thibodeaux was a firecracker as a young girl and the most beautiful girl in the parish. “You?”

“Yeah, me. What? You don’t think I could land that woman?”

“Why would sh-she want you?” Sage ducked a swipe his friend sent his way.

“Shut up, man, or I’m not inviting you for Sunday dinner. You need to meet the kids, and my mom and dad would kick my backside if I didn’t bring you by.”

Sage’s mouth dropped open. “K-kids?”

“Yep. A boy and a girl. Sage and Selene.”

Sage blinked at his friend. “Wow.”

“Don’t let it go to your head.” Beau rolled his eyes and quickly tipped his head toward his radio as it squawked something unintelligible. “Listen, I got to go check in, but I’ll swing by the Bait Shop. I know those two assholes will start something.

“They can s-start it.” He’d finish it.

“I know you can handle yourself, but remember where you are, my friend. Don’t throw the first punch.”

“Never.” Sage extended his hand, clasping Beau’s.

“That means don’t kill no one either. I’d hate to arrest you on your first night home. My pappy would tan my ass.” Beau spoke with humor, but Sage knew the man would do his job, even if it meant arresting Sage. “I’ll swing by the house tomorrow before my shift.” Beau held up his free hand. “Don’t tell me not to do it. I like your momma. Gus can take a flying leap if he doesn’t like me being on his property.”

Sage nodded and got back into his truck. He glanced at the clock and smiled. He wanted a drink before he faced the mess his life had put in front of him. Not that he needed the liquid courage. He didn’t drink much at all. What he wanted was to put the town on notice. He was back, and he wasn’t the kid who had run from Bienvenu at the first opportunity.

The drive to the Bait Shop was a short one. Sage parked his truck and locked it, dropping the key fob into his jacket. As he stepped out and walked to the entrance, his black combat boots crunched through the gravel. The Bait Shop hadn’t changed, he noted once he’d gone inside. Hell, it hadn’t changed in all the time he’d lived there. The block building’s three windows were boarded up, always prepared for the hurricanes threatening the area. The inside was bare-bones basics only. A cooler, a tap with three beer kegs kept cold in a unit under the bar, and two long shelves with whiskey, vodka, and not much more. There were bagged chips and peanuts for those who wanted to pay. One television sat on the opposite wall from a dartboard. The jukebox that had been there when he grew up had been a casualty of one of the hurricanes that blew through. Sage didn’t remember which hurricane.

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