Story Excerpt
Undercover Complication

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"Open cell eighteen."

Nathan Collins stood to his feet and moved to stand against the wall. He knew the drill. He had no idea why one of the guards was coming into his cell, but he'd long ago given up being incensed over the lack of privacy granted him in prison.

There just wasn't any.

"Face the wall, Collins."

Collins turned to face the wall, making sure he kept his hands in plain sight. That was something else he'd learned. Guards tended to get jumpy around him as if they expected him to jump them at any second.

As if.

Losing his temper and jumping someone was what had sent him to hell in the first place, and River Ridge Correctional Facility was the biggest example of hell he'd ever been in, barring the time he'd spend in the Middle east during the his stint in the service.

Nothing beat that hell.

Collins stiffened when he felt a presence at his back. Thing number three he'd learned. Just not here. He never trusted having anyone at his back, but he'd learned that as a kid. His sperm donor had been a little too free and easy with his fists. Collins had known by the time he was six years old never to turn his back on the guy.

"You got anything on you, Collins," the guard called out, but he called out a little louder than Collins thought was needed.

What did he know?

"No, sir."

He almost chuckled, wondering if the guard could hear the insult in his voice. Calling him sir was Collins' secret way of telling the guy to go fuck himself. He'd done the same in the service. Very few times had he truly meant it with respect.

Hot breath blew out across the back of his neck.

"Rawley made it to Cade Creek," the guard murmured in a tone so low, Collins almost couldn't understand him. "He's safe with Yuval."

Collins jerked when he realized what he was being told. "They're okay?"

"They're good. Had a little trouble with the father of the kid Yuval killed, but he'll be joining you here in club med pretty soon."

Collins grinned. "You don't say."

Yuval Zev was a young man who never should have been sent to prison. He'd accidently killed the guy who had beaten up his father and tried to rape his mother. The justice system made a mistake when they sent Yuval here. He never belonged here and Collins had been very glad when his conviction had been overturned and he'd been sent home.

Rawley Davis had been Yuval's cellmate. He'd been in prison for murder as well, and for almost the same reason. He'd killed the guy who had tried to rape his sister. The different between Yuval and Rawley was that Yuval regretted what he'd done. Rawley did not.

Rawley had gotten an early release after Yuval hired an attorney to look into his case. He'd left a couple of months previous. Collins hadn't heard a word about either of them until now. While he was glad to know the two men were finally free and together, he didn't understand why the guard was telling him.

Norton had proven to be one of the good guys. He didn't meet out unwarranted punishments. He didn't fuck with the prisoners just because he could, and he certainly didn't partake of the cruelty the other guards seemed to thrive on.

Still, he was a guard which meant he couldn't be trusted.

"Stay clear of him, Collins," the guard warned. "He has friends in high places."

Well, fuck.

"I won't go looking for trouble." He had a little over two years left on his sentence. He just wanted to do his time and then get the hell out of there.

"Just keep your nose clean. This isn't the place to get noticed."

Again, Collins was struck by the fact that he was being warned by a guard. That didn't make any sense to him. Not in this place.

Still, it didn't pay to argue, especially since the man was right. Prison was not the place to get noticed. This prison specifically. The evil in this place went all the way to the core. The guards were just as bad, if not worse, than the convicts.

"I hear you."

Without another word, the guard turned and walked out of the cell. "Close cell eighteen."

Collins didn't turned away from the wall until he heard the cell door close and then he walked to the bars and watched as Norton stopped at the cell next to him.

"Open cell seventeen."

Norton turned and caught his eyes before stepping into the cell and disappearing from sight. Collins watched for another moment and then walked back over to stretch out on the bottom bunk. He stared at the bunk above him, his arm curled under his head.

He had been lucky so far in the fact that he'd had a cell to himself since he'd arrived at the facility. He wasn't sure if the powers that be were afraid to put someone in his cell with him or if they just hadn't done it, but he was glad he didn't have to share.

Collins laid there and pondered the things Norton had said to him until he heard the dinner buzzer go off. He climbed out of his bunk and walked to the cell bars and waited until they opened and then stepped out into line.

He was glad to hear Rawley had made it to Cade Creek and hooked up with Yuval. Despite living in hell, and suffering more than anyone should ever have to suffer, Yuval had fallen for Rawley. He hadn't been sure if Rawley had fallen for Yuval, but he couldn't stand to see the little man's heart be broken and had encouraged Rawley to go after him.

It felt good to know he'd been right.