Prologue

The sirens were drawing nearer. Colt's feet pounded on the wet pavement, his heart pounding in his chest as he took a sharp turn down a nearby alleyway. He now regretted ditching the car and taking off on foot.

A chain-link fence loomed ahead of him and he increased his speed, preparing to jump as high as he could and climb the rest. Suddenly, from close behind him, the rough barking of a dog rang over the wailing police sirens. Colt looked over his shoulder frantically to find a large German shepherd bearing down on him, white fangs visible in the flashing red and blue lights.

Colt put on more speed. If he could just reach the fence, the dog wouldn't be a problem. He prepared himself for the jump that would take him to freedom. Just as he collected himself to make the leap onto the fence, sharp teeth closed around soft flesh, pulling his leg out from underneath him, making him scream in pain.

The young man hit the pavement hard, and lay still, knowing that fighting the police dog would only make it attack again, more fiercely. The sharp voice of a police officer snapped a command at the dog and the pressure on Colt's calf disappeared, leaving nothing but pain behind. Cold metal clamped around his wrists and Colt was pulled roughly to his feet. Things were not turning out the way he had planned.

Judd Peterson gazed across the kitchen table at his twin sons, their identical faces identically grim.

"And there's no other options?" Joel asked quietly.

Judd shook his head. "We can't afford to hire another hand right now and we need the extra help. Plus, the government will actually be paying us to take them on. We'll be part of some sort of official program."

"I really don't like the idea," Jace grumbled, folding his arms across his chest. "I mean, convicts? On our ranch?"

"Well, it's not like they're going to be convicted murderers, Jace," his father pointed out, "They'll be minor league criminals-"

"But still criminals," Jace cut in.

"Yes."

"What about mom? And Jamie?" Joel asked. "They won't be happy if we make the decision without them."

"I've already spoken to your mother. She agrees that we need to take whatever measures necessary to save the ranch," Judd said.

"And Jamie?" Joel asked, repeating the elder twin's concerns.

Judd shifted uncomfortably. "Well… not yet."

"Dad!" Jace exclaimed, "What are you thinking? I thought we made all of our decisions as a family. This is a major decision, one that affects all of us! If Jamie isn't included in this decision…"

The three Peterson men paused for a moment, considering the possibilities. Jamie was the youngest of the Peterson clan and had more spirit than the other three boys combined. Unfortunately, that spirit was often accompanied by a stubbornness that could make the nineteen-year-old practically impossible to deal with.

"You know how Jamie can be," Judd muttered.

"Which is why I'm worried," Joel answered quietly.

"Don't worry. We will have a family meeting discussing the decision when Jamie and your mom get back from the doctor's. After the decision is made."

"I'm not looking forward to that meeting," Jace whispered.


A/N- Super short I know, but it's just a prologue. And this is kind of to test the waters. I want to see how much of a response I get for this story. Sorry it took me so long. I'm still trying to iron out the details of the plot. Hopefully things will smooth out soon.

-E. Liz