Kathi S. Barton Author & Elizabeth Hartman Seckman Book Signing at Empire Books & News
30 Pullman Sq, Huntington, WV 25701
Sept 10 5 pm to 7PM
Happy Reading ,
“I’ve no idea.” And he didn’t as he sat there looking at the paperwork in front of him. Logan wanted to hand it over to his brother again, but Zach had asked him to come over and look at it and he was going to do that. But as far as knowing if it was a good deal or not, he wasn’t sure what to tell his brother.
“To me the interest seems a little high. But then as Landon said, I only have this ground as my backup, and I’ve not made but two payments on it so far. And the first one was late because I forgot to take it to the bank while they were open.” Logan handed the paperwork to purchase the tractor Zach needed back to his brother as Zach continued. “It wasn’t really late, but I wanted to pay it on the day it was due, not the next day.”
“You’re going to hurt yourself overthinking this shit.” Logan got up and pulled them both a bottle of water from the fridge before being seated again. “Okay, here’s the way I see it. You only get the interest charged to you when you drag out the payments for as long as this loan is for. I’d not pay it off too soon…there is the matter of you having no credit. But after a year, I’d pay it off and move on to something bigger. You’ll more than likely need it the way things are going out there anyway.”
“The family is buying the grain I raise the first three years. I can’t sell to anyone else.” Logan said he knew that. “And Jace is paying to have a barn put in, one that will hold all that I can grow, as well as the tractor.”
“I’ve seen the plans. It’ll be large enough to hold three of these suckers.” He took a drink of his water, trying his best not to think of what was going on right under his ass with his own home; and to not be angry about it. He was angry a great deal lately, and wasn’t entirely sure why. “I’m guessing that the work on your home will be finished before Christmas, right?” Zach said that things were moving right along.
When Logan had moved into the family house, given to him by his aunt, he’d had no idea what he was getting into. The furniture was all nearly new; the carpets were worn through in some places but in otherwise usable condition. And he had a roof over his head that didn’t leak, so long as it didn’t rain for more than three or so hours.
When the furnace, nearly as old as he was, broke down, he’d called in someone to fix or replace it. What they found was that not only was the furnace not worth saving, but the house would be, even with the installment of the new furnace, worth less than it would cost him to have the furnace put in. The foundation was shot.
Logan had to find someplace to live. He’d been told that with the age of the house, the way that it was out of date, and now the foundation, he’d be better off building new rather than fixing. He knew that in order to have a safe home he was going to have to start over or find himself an apartment in town and use the land for something else. What that was, he had no idea. He’d not decided on what he wanted to do yet. Moving away—out of the ranching business, the family business, and away from them all—was sounding better and better all the time of late. Not that he didn’t love them, but he was bored out of his ever loving mind.
The man who had come out to talk to him showed him the way the foundation was slipping, and in less than five years, not only would the house fall in on the basement, but the waterlines were in bad shape, as well as all the electrical wiring. He told Logan that the wiring would probably burn it down long before the house fell, but there was little doubt that it would fall.
“How much longer are you going to be staying here? I’m to understand that you’ve been told to move out.” Logan told him he was working on it. “It’s really sad to see it go, don’t you think? There are a great many memories here. And in the yard. I don’t know that I’d be able to have it torn down either.”
“I have someone coming in next week to pack everything up. You got what you wanted out of here, right?” Zach said that he had. “Jace and Mason are coming by later to get the rest of the things they picked out. And there are the pictures that I still have to go through. I’ve taken them to a storage unit in the event something terrible happens here. I never realized how many boxes there were.”
“I don’t envy you at all.” Logan assured him it wasn’t so bad. Zach stood up and stretched, and said, “Okay, I’m going to sign the paperwork and have them deliver the tractor when it gets into town. I think they said five days from the time I get the money to them until I have it. But about the house, Logan…as I said before, you can come and stay with me should you want. That trailer that I’m staying in is pretty nice.”
“I’m all right here. But I’ll keep it in mind.”
Logan sat at the table for another hour before he got up to make himself some dinner. The rest of the family, his other brothers that were mated, had butlers, cooks, and maids. He and Zach were the only two that had to make due for themselves. Logan wasn’t sure, but he thought he might like his way better. Less people underfoot.
As he made his way to the ranch, riding old Sable, his horse, he thought of his days now. He’d been in charge of repairs, a daily thing, since before Jace had married. And since there was nothing old—not even houses, except his own, that were older than a few months old—his job consisted of taking hay out of a trailer that might be on the property and loading it in one of the many barns that held it for the cattle and horses. Or—and this one drove him nuttier than a fruitcake at Christmas—he was set to ride lines. Lines that a hundred other people working the ranch checked every day when they were out and about.
Frankly, he was thinking of taking a job in town, just to have something to occupy his mind rather than all the things he wished he could do. And just lately he’d been thinking of going into one of the barns and breaking a bunch of the new shit so he’d feel useful again. Viable, he thought. Because for all his family saying that they needed him around, Logan certainly didn’t feel it. He felt like a fifth wheel.
“Just the man that I wanted to see.” He looked at the tractor trailer in the yard that he could see was filled with bales of hay, and then back at Mercedes. “I think that can wait a minute or two, don’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He tipped his hat back, wondering what she’d need him for. As far as he knew, she had several of the hands eating right out of her hand. “I do have an appointment at noonish with one of the builders. Do you think it’ll take that long?”
“No. It’s a matter of one of my pieces of equipment. Georgie said you might be able to help with the instructions.” He said he’d give it a try. “I was hoping you’d say that. And so you know, I had no idea you could speak another language.”
“I can when pressed.” He could actually speak ten languages, not including a few that he was picking up from reading books—antique books that were older than Monroe—and he was good at math. Of any kind. She handed him a stapled together stack of papers that looked like photo copies of photo copies of a manual. “And this would go with which of your fancy new machines?”
“The portable ultrasound machine for the animals. Mostly for the horses, but I thought using it for the cows won’t be much different if need be.” He nodded and started reading the instructions while she explained. “I have read the English ones three times and I keep coming up confused. I think it was poorly translated. I’m not sure from which language, but I know it’s not well done.”
When she moved out of the room to speak to someone at the door of her offices, he picked up the oversized laptop looking thing and started comparing the steps to have it work to what he was seeing on the machine. By the time she returned, not even half an hour later, he not only had it turned on, but the display screen was now in English and not the French it had been.
“This is wonderful. Thank you so much. How did you do it?” He explained how whoever had set it up had simply pushed the wrong button. “That’s it? I’ve been playing with this thing for three days and you only had to change the language? Christ, I should have asked you sooner.”
It was more complicated than that. There was also uploading the new software that hadn’t been updated before it was sent to her, and turning on the links she would need to be able to read it in her office and out in the field. But he only shrugged when she thanked him again.
Logan made his way back to the overloaded trailer to start his day. He was pulling the first bale of hay off the trailer when Mason came to find him.
“I’d have thought you’d have more of this done by now.” Logan said nothing but felt his temper rise. “Not that it matters. But I was wondering what your plans are for this evening. I have this meeting I have to attend in town and wondered if you’d go with me.”
“Everyone else too busy?” He knew that he sounded bitter but didn’t bother taking it back. “I don’t have any plans. What sort of dress is required? I don’t own a suit that fits anymore. And my other tux is at the cleaners.”
He was snipping, and the more he said the more his voice took a nasty turn. By the time he talked about his tux and the lack of having one, he was nearly ready to leap at his brother and tear him apart. An overreaction, yes, but he just couldn’t seem to control his temper of late.
“What’s up your ass?” Logan just popped his neck but said nothing. “For the last week you’ve been biting and snipping at anyone that comes close enough to talk to you. Even Bonnie, who I might add you made cry. If you have an issue with one of us, you should tell us before you get hurt.”
“You want to try and hurt me, Mason, then bring it on. I’m about in the mood to kick your ass all over this ranch.” When Mason started to climb up on the hay with him, he looked at the doorway where someone had whistled at them. To them would have been a better description. It was more of a way to get their attention. Landon looked amused as he took his fingers out of his mouth.
“You boys got nothing better to do than beat each other to snot, then I’d like to borrow Logan for a minute or two first. I don’t have time to hear his bellyaching any more than I do yours, Mason.” Logan looked at Mason, who looked ready to commit murder. “Or I could just go on in and tell your aunt that you’re out here making a mess of things when there is work to be done. I’m thinking you boys are still afraid of her even though you’re grown men.”
“What is it you want?” Logan cleared his throat and started again when Landon only cocked a brow at him. “I’m moving hay. Again. And probably will be tomorrow too, if you want to know the truth of it. Whatever you want, you’ll have to ask the master here.”
Mason looked ready to resume the fight that Logan had offered up to him. It was on the tip of his tongue to provoke him more, but Landon laughed. Logan stretched his neck again and got down off the trailer.
“We’re not done here.” Logan just nodded. If he was honest with himself and Mason, he had no idea why but he thought he’d actually love for Mason to hit him; a lot, and hard. He walked to Landon and told him he was free to help him. Mason continued talking as he walked to the older man. “Logan, when you get back, we’re going to talk.”
Saying nothing, Logan followed Landon to his truck and got in. It was walk away or have the shit knocked out of him. Mason wasn’t a mean fighter…neither was he, but Logan wanted blood, and he didn’t care if he had to shed a bit to get it. He was angry all the time he thought, too angry.
“You wanna talk about it?” Logan told Landon that he didn’t. “Well, suit yourself, but you should know you keep it up and there is going to be some tarring and feathering going on. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself around here of late.”
“I’m bored.” Landon said he could see that. “And fighting with someone will make me less tense. I think. I’m thinking that I need to move on. The house, the land, the lack of jobs…it’s taking its toll on me. And my well-being. All I want to do is just sit at home and stay there. Not have any contact with anyone at all. And I’m sick of doing shit jobs, Landon. I haven’t done a damned thing worthwhile in a long time.”
“What if I needed you for something that hasn’t a thing to do with cows and horses? Heck fire, boy, I’m not sure that this’ll be anything that I might like, but I’m bored too.” Logan pointed out that he wasn’t fighting with his family. “No. No, I’m not. Could, I suppose, if I wanted to be in the dog house with my wife, or on the outs with my daughter and son-in-law. I’ve been getting myself in and out of trouble like you have, and I think we need a plan.”
As they turned down a driveway, Logan felt himself begin to relax. He rolled the window down, despite the cold of the air, and thought maybe he should get a new truck. Or at least something that he could drive around in style. Not that he could afford something like this vehicle, and he didn’t need anything to get around in but his steady
and sometimes slow horse. But Logan thought he might enjoy having something. When the truck stopped moving, he looked out the front glass, only just realizing that he’d closed his eyes, and looked at the house and barn.
“Is this the Martin farm?” Landon said it was and got out. Logan was almost afraid to join him. He’d heard stories about this place all his life. Most of them he knew were untrue, but to see this place now, he could almost believe them. The area surrounding the big house was unkempt and overgrown.
“You thinking about the ghosts that haunt it here? I been out here three times in the last month. I haven’t seen a single darn one of them.” Logan asked him where the Martins were. “William died about three months ago, poor old soul. He knew it was coming; had me out to talk to him a bit here and there. Then when he passed on, the kids stuffed Dolly into one of the nursing places where she is tied to a bed all day and only let out when it’s feeding time. But she’s getting out soon, I heard. Had a doctor say she was doing all right and able to get out to one of them assisted living places. I don’t imagine that sets too well with them kids of theirs. They’re a lot like my Dirk was. Everything is about them.”
Logan knew that Landon and his wife still hurt about Dirk and what he’d done to them. He also knew that Katie was getting help, too, for her depression. Logan loved these two people like no one he’d ever loved before. His own parents had been gone for so long, he’d begun to think of them as their substitutes a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Landon. I truly am. But I have to admit, I don’t remember seeing anything about the Martins’ children.” He looked at Landon when he said nothing. “We helped them out last year. He got sick and we came to help him and his men out by picking grapes. I liked Mr. and Mrs. Martin, but like I said, the children weren’t around then.”
“Yeah, I remember that. Right proud of you for doing that too. But he never did recover from what had put him down. Heard tell that when he passed on the kids were so mad at him that they only did what they had to do to get him buried. Then when the will was read, they got rid of their Mom too. I’ve been to see her a couple of times.” Logan said he thought they’d been friends of his parents. “Your parents, they did right by them. Even before you boys were coming along, they’d go over and help them out. Their own kids never did appreciate them.”
“Why are we here then?”
Landon opened the front door to the house. Logan was surprised to see that the man not only had a key, but seemed to know just where the light switches were, as well as glasses in the cabinets. But when he pulled a pitcher of tea from the fridge, Logan asked him what was going on.
“Six months or so before William passed on, he called me over here to have a little talk. And some of his wife’s pie. She couldn’t bake one to save her life, even when she poured the middle of it from a can, so I knew when I got here that I was in trouble. He was dying even then, he told me, and needed my help.” Logan nodded, sipping his drink. “Dirk was alive then. He’d been in trouble with something, like he always was, and I called William back to beg off. But he said that he wasn’t long for this world and it would do him good to see me. So I packed myself up and came over. I found that in the three or four months since I’d seen him last, William had aged a great deal.”
“His kids.” Landon nodded and got up and brought them a box of cookies. Not the kind that was homemade, but ones that had been processed so much they were only cookies because some ad guy said so. “What happened when you got here?”
“He told me that he wasn’t going to be around long, and that he needed to settle some debts up before he passed on. One of them being about his daughter, the one that he’d fathered when he was a younger man.” Logan leaned back in his chair and said nothing. “I can see where your mind is going. You’re thinking that I might should have stayed at home. And I might agree with you but for what I found out. She’s gone; this girl died before he had time to do much for her. He found out about her too late. You knew her too, Logan.”
“No, I don’t think so. I told you, I didn’t know his children.” He watched Landon pull out some pictures from a worn yellowed envelope, and almost wanted to get up and leave when he handed him one of them. Even upside down, he knew the face when he held it. “Landon, whatever you think you know, I’d just as soon you tell me. Those pictures…you know as well as I that she was not a child of Mr. Martin’s.”
“But she was. A child he fathered long ago. An affair, he told me, one that he regretted the moment he did it, but for the child he never knew. Mary Shafer, she was his little girl.” Logan took the picture and held it but didn’t look. He knew what she looked like as well as he knew his own face. “You and her, you were mates.”
“Yes. We were. She was killed by a drunk driver when she was ten. We’d been in school together, hung out when we could. I knew when I saw her what she was to me, even as young as I was. I tried to help her, protect her, but that was out of my hands.” Landon said he knew that too, William had told him. “I had no idea that William was her father. Not that it mattered to us who she was. We were just children.”
“Yes, you were. Now, Dolly, William’s wife, she knew who she was too. Even the mother. Dolly was a better woman, I think, than most would have been, and opened her doors to the child when it was apparent that her mother wasn’t giving her the things that she and William had sacrificed to get her. Clothing, a better home. All the money he sent for her each month went to habits that weren’t beneficial to her child. So when she was killed, little Mary was in his will too.” Logan got up and paced the big spacious kitchen. “Logan, William knew who—”
“No. I don’t want to hear it.” Landon said nothing. “Whatever plan the two of you hatched up, it has nothing at all to do with me. Mary died, and I knew then that things like having a mate and a home life were gone to me. I’ve moved on. I had no choice, but that didn’t stop me from grieving for her like I’d killed her myself.”
“Have you moved on, Logan? On account’a, from where I’m sitting, you’re stuck.” Logan stared at the man who had been the father figure he’d never had. His dad might have been just like Landon McBride, more than likely would have been right there with them in this room. But he’d died. “You’re carrying around some powerful hurt now. Seeing the others get their own mates, them having babies. You’re hurting, aren’t you?”
Logan thought about shutting him up; the anger surged forward like a quick moving storm over his body. When he sat down again, Logan picked up the other pictures and
thought of the little girl who had meant the world to him. He realized then that Landon was right. He was jealous of his brothers, and was letting it color his world.
“She and I were inseparable. We did everything together…skinny dipping in the pond not far from here, sneaking into the barn late at night. I’d bring her food and blankets. One summer she spent the better part of it in that big barn, eating what leftovers I could sneak out to her. I was never sure why she was there or why she wasn’t getting enough to eat wherever she was from, but we had fun. I even brought her things in the house and washed them up when no one was looking.” He knew that his aunt had guessed she was there, or that someone was, and had begun leaving things like extra chicken and bread on the counter for him to take. “Then one day, just like that, she was gone, dead because some bastard ran a stop sign and killed her at a crosswalk.”
“He left it all to you.” Logan asked him what he’d said. “The vinery, the house, barns. Even the wine making business, it’s all yours if you want it. There is more than enough money to keep it running, forever if you wish. He said that he knew of all the men he had met in his lifetime that you’d make it viable and keep it going.”
“I don’t understand.”
Landon pulled out another envelope and handed it to him. There was a copy of the will and a sealed, smaller envelope with his name on it. Landon pointed to the small colorful tabs on the side and told him to read that first. William Martin had named not just him in his will, but also his little girl, the one that had died all those years ago.
“I bequeath all my worldly goods and possessions to Logan Benson Douglas, a man of good standing and intelligence. I wish for him to run my winery, live in the house, and keep it going in the name of a child that we both loved. Mary Shafer, my daughter, would live here too but for my lack of sense.”
“What did he mean by that?” Landon said nothing and Logan was afraid that if he did answer, he wasn’t going to like it. “Landon, why did he leave it to me? You know, don’t you?”
“His little girl was killed by her mother; the drunk driver was none other than her own mother.” Landon leaned back in his seat while Logan tried to wrap that up in his mind. “You want to know more, you’re going to have to read what he wrote you. But you should know that if’n you don’t take the land and what he’s given you, the kids will get it. And as much as it grieves me to say this, they’re no better than my own son was, and this place will have condos on it by the end of next year. And you know as well as I that this is good farm land, and to have them plopping houses on it is gonna do nothing for your family’s ranches.”
“They butt up against each other.”
Landon nodded. If he said any more or showed him anything else, Logan had no idea. When he came back round, the thoughts swirling in his head, he noticed that the sliding door was open to the deck off the kitchen and he could see Landon’s booted feet. Getting up, Logan went to see Landon to let him tell him this was a joke. Not a funny one, but a joke all the same.
“You all right now?” Logan said he wasn’t sure. “Yeah, don’t blame you none there. There’s a lot to take in. If’n you’re ready for the rest of it, then I can give it to you.”
“I’m not sure yet. What do his kids think of all this? By now, I’m sure that they know.” He said that they did and were none too thrilled about things. “Are they going to give me any trouble? I mean, if I take this?”
“You already took it, son. The only thing you’ve not done is moved in. And that could be done lickety split.” Logan told him he knew nothing of grapes and wine making. “I don’t imagine that many do unless they read up on it. And there is the foreman that is taking care of things for you. Production has been going on, grapes were tended to. William has been gone for a bit, not even a year, but someone’s been here all along.”
Logan sat down on one of the deck chairs and realized that they were fairly new. Now that he thought on it, Logan realized that the kitchen seemed to be updated and clean. He wondered what he’d find should he go looking around the rest of the place. He asked Landon about it.
“He had it all taken care of. Most of the renovations, they occurred before he passed, but he wanted things to be prettied up for you. Dolly, she said to me that last time I was out there to visit her that that someone had been hired to come in and take out all the personal things and put them in storage. The house, the lands, they’re all ready for you.” Logan asked him why now. Why had he waited so long? “It was time.”