Authors: Jodi Redford
Copyright 2015 Jodi Redford
Edited by LR Burnia
Published by Jodi Redford
Cover by Diana Carlile
Cover Model: Scott Nova
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system-except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine, newspaper, or on the web-without permission in writing from the author.
This book is dedicated to my Cowboy Club ladies—Sable Hunter, Desiree Holt, and Randi Alexander. Not only are you three incredibly talented authors, your support and friendship is a true blessing.
And although technically not one of the ladies, special thanks goes to the awesome and ever handsome Scott Nova for working with us on this project and bringing our heroes to life on our covers.
Last but never least, to my readers—you make it possible for me to keep doing this job that I love. Thank you!
He’d been on the receiving end of some crazy shit in his life, but nothing beat this. No two ways around it.
Swiping his hand across the weeks’ worth of stubble overtaking his jaw, Dylan Walker shifted in his seat, feeling like a damn penguin in the tailored black suit his mother had forced him to pack along for the trip to Red Creek, Kansas. She’d insisted it was the respectful thing to do. Mighty ironic, considering the situation. Surely respect was the last thing on his pop’s mind when he’d been off banging four women behind his old lady’s back.
He winced as he mentally conjured a smack upside his head courtesy of his mom. She’d always been the first to defend Dusty. Just went to show how the smooth-talking sonofabitch managed to pull the wool over her eyes all these years, leading her to believe she was special. She’d clung to the fragile hope that he’d leave his wife for her if he could. No doubt those three other women had thought the same thing.
Hard to say if his ma would have an excuse armed and ready once she found out about all of this. Discovering the man who’d hung the moon and the stars in her eyes was a lowdown liar of the worst kind? Surely no amount of love made any of this forgivable.
Dusty’s attorney—Stanley Benner, Esquire—leaned over his desk and plopped a folder of papers in front of Dylan and the three other men who sat on either side of him. Momentarily lifting his attention from that ominous manila folder, Dylan covertly inspected his newly discovered siblings.
Jesus H Christ. Yes, this was definitely some messed up shit.
Benner’s gaze skipped from Dylan’s face and ping-ponged to each of his brothers. Probably the man was equally thrown by their similarities. The salt-and-pepper-haired lawyer freed the buttons on his suit coat and settled his bulky frame in his upholstered chair, pushing his wire-rimmed glasses up on his nose with a brisk shove of one chubby finger. “Incredible likeness. Your father never mentioned it.”
Yeah, well, when it came to leaving out pertinent details—such as the fact that he had four sons scattered across the country—Dusty Walker was a goddamn pro.
The man to the right of Dylan—Killian? Yep, that was it—sat forward in his chair. “Are we quadruplets? Were we separated at birth?”
The attorney shook his head again. “Absolutely not. Each of you is your mother’s biological son. You are each about a year apart in age. Mr. Walker…uh…Killian, you’re the oldest at twenty-seven.” Benner transferred his attention to Dylan. “And you’re the youngest. It must be a very strong DNA strand in your father to have produced men who look so similar.”
Dylan killed his grunt. That was the understatement of the century. Hell, they were even wearing nearly identical suits. Put ‘em up on a stage, and they had their own twisted version of the Blues Brothers.
“When I arrived at your homes last week with the sad news that your father had died, I was under strict instructions not to mention that you had brothers. It was among your father’s last wishes that you learn of your siblings’ existence by bringing you together.” The attorney picked up a sheaf of papers. “I apologize for bringing you to Kansas under these circumstances. As you already know, Dusty and his wife, Theresa, were killed in an auto accident. We were told they died instantly.” The lawyer’s expression softened on that last part, as if he hoped that provided some relief to them that their father hadn’t suffered.
Dylan was still too numb from processing everything to respond. His brothers remained equally quiet. Benner looked from one to the other. “So, if there are no more questions, I’ll begin reading the key points in the will.” He stalled a few seconds, his gaze mildly hopeful.
“Yeah, I’ve got one,” the one named Rogue spoke up. “How did he…?” He held up a hand. “Let me rephrase that. Why? Why four families in four different states?”
The lawyer stashed the papers aside and laced his fingers. “Your father wanted to have children, and he confided to me that his wife didn’t want them. This broke his heart.”
What the hell?
Could this get any more fucked up?
“So he went around looking for incubators?” Killian’s fiery demand was a mirror to Dylan’s angry thoughts.
“That’s a little disrespectful,” Benner chided.
“You’re calling me disrespectful?” Killian snorted. “I’d say your client is the one who was disrespectful.”
More and more, it was becoming clear that the word didn’t belong in any definition attached to Dusty. “She knew about all of us? His wife, I mean?” Fucked up wouldn’t begin to cover it, if that was the case.
“No, she did not.” Benner’s cheeks turned redder than a baboon’s ass. “And I was sworn to silence under attorney/client privilege. I’m assuming that your mothers made you aware of your father’s marital situation?”
His brothers’ identical poker faces made it impossible for Dylan to determine if they’d been in the dark about Theresa Walker’s existence before their father’s death. Even if they’d known, impossible to say if it’d meant a damn to them one way or another. Maybe they’d eventually hardened themselves to the fact that Dusty had a life that they weren’t a part of. God knows he’d built up a shell where his dad was concerned. It’d been the only way to get through the endless weeks in between Dusty’s monthly visits.
The pathetic part? He’d craved those times spent with his dad. More than he cared to admit to. Didn’t matter that he’d been bored to death whenever Dusty insisted on teaching him the insider track on mineral rights, he’d dutifully pretended interest. Whatever it took to keep his dad in his life.
In the beginning it’d worked out fine, despite Dylan’s nagging suspicions that everything wasn’t copasetic with his parents’ odd arrangement. By the time he was twelve he could no longer fool himself that it was perfectly normal to have a dad who only came around once a month. He’d seen through his mom’s assurances that Dusty’s work kept him constantly on the road. While it’d certainly been true up to a point, it didn’t explain why Dusty’s life outside of his monthly visits remained a mystery. Then one afternoon Dylan came home from school and overheard his mom crying in her room. In a rare moment of weakness, she’d spilled the beans about her affair with Dusty. In true Georgianna Mayhope style, she hadn’t dredged up excuses for what happened. She’d insisted that love made you do stupid things sometimes. Well fuck that shit. If it did, he was never falling in that trap.
In the years that followed, the tension grew between him and Dusty. Dylan had rebelled in every way he could, even going so far as to briefly entertain the idea of forsaking the name Walker. His mother had thrown a conniption fit, insisting that he was a Walker no matter what any might say to the contrary. To Dylan, it’d felt like a lie. A shady cover-up to hide his bastard heritage. In retaliation, he’d gone out of his way to taint his despised surname during his troubled youth and early adulthood. It was a damn miracle he didn’t end up in jail.
In the end, the one thing that’d saved him from himself was landing his dream gig as the bass guitarist for Truckstop Pickup. His band members had taken him in, becoming the family he’d desperately craved all those years. Dusty hadn’t been much thrilled with Dylan’s decision to become a musician. Fair enough. Dylan hadn’t been much thrilled to be abandoned the majority of his life. Kinda made them even.
Benner cleared his throat again, jogging Dylan from his private grumblings. “So, in the interest of time, I will read the highlights of the will. The entire document is in the folders I set in front of you.” The attorney spouted off a grocery list of assets: a mineral and water rights company that boasted assets near half a billion dollars, including a private ten-person jet, a storefront right there in Red Creek, as well as a big house on the outskirts of town.
Like the rest of his brothers, Dylan remained wrapped in his shocked silence while he took it all in. He’d always known Dusty was loaded, he just hadn’t realized to what extent.
“Of course, there are the four houses in four compass points of the US,” Benner continued. “In the north, Montana, where Killian resides. Texas, from where Rogue hails. Dylan, of course, from Nashville, and Jackson, from Oregon. These houses are currently company property, but your father notes that you four, as the new owners of D. Walker Mineral, can opt to transfer the homes into your mothers’—”
“Hang on.” Dylan stiffened. “You’re saying he left the company to us?”
“Yes, of course.” Benner looked surprised. “I didn’t read that portion of the will because I assumed…” He gusted a sigh. “The company is now legally in your names, exactly one quarter going to each.”
Dylan couldn’t contain his sarcastic whistle.
Well played, Dusty, you cagey motherfucker.
Shake up our lives
make it damn near impossible for us to walk away from this bullshit with a stiff middle finger for being such an awesome pops.
“So, if we sell our quarter?” Jackson finally spoke up, stringing the words out slowly.
“There are repercussions.” The attorney flipped pages. “Ah, here. ‘Heretofore, the parties to which—”
“In plain English, please.” Killian propped one booted foot on the opposite knee.
“Of course.” Benner discarded the papers and leaned back in his chair, his rotund belly making a cozy resting spot for his hand. “The company is essentially frozen as-is for a full year. After that time, if one of you wants to sell, the others have the option of buying you out at half-worth.”
“Half-worth?” Rogue balled his fist. Dylan had seen—and participated in—enough rowdy bar fights to be on high alert. His brother’s posture remained rigid. “Meaning they’d buy me out at a fifty-percent discount?”
“Yes, that’s correct. Your father wanted to keep the company in the family. Wanted you four boys to run it together.” Benner feigned a tepid smile. “However, you are each officially on the payroll, and your first paychecks will be cut the day you successfully complete the one…” He swallowed then cleared his throat. “Stipulation in the will.”
This should be interesting. “Stipulation?” Dylan prodded.
“To inherit, you must spend a week in Red Creek, working in your father’s office, learning more about the business, sharing with each other what you’ve learned from your father over the years. You must also reside for that week at your father’s house—your house—on Osprey Lake.”
Well wasn’t that mighty generous of Dusty. Forget the fact that Dylan never stepped one foot in his dad’s office or his house while Dusty was alive. Apparently death changed everything.
“A week?” Jackson shook his head. “What’s the timeframe here? Anytime in the next year?”
His expression still slightly fierce, Rogue opened his folder and yanked out his copy of the will. “What section is that in?”
“Second from the last page. You’ll see that there’s a 30 day time limit.” The attorney surveyed the calendar propped on his desk. “Today is August second. You’ll need to decide which week in August works for all four of you, and plan to be back here then. Or if this week works…” He shrugged, that vaguely hopeful expression once again etched in his features.
Killian tapped his fingertips on his knee. “Dad wants the four of us to live in the same house and work in the same office? For an entire week?”
“Like summer camp for the bastard sons of Dusty Walker.” Dylan mumbled a curse. Yeah, he was a bitter dick. Better than being a delusional sap who still believed his dad gave a crap about him.
Jackson rubbed the spot between his eyebrows. “What the fuck was he thinking?”
Good question. It was a complete dick move forcing four complete strangers—and face it, that’s what they were, blood related or not—to shack up and work together for a week.
Rogue continued with his mute reading.
Benner’s face turned that lovely shade of red baboon ass again. “He loved each one of you. I know that because he took great pains to create provisions to make sure you were taken care of after his death, as you were while he was alive.”
“Listen here.” Rogue’s stare drilled into the sheaf of papers he held. “It says we each have to spend a week, but it doesn’t say it has to be the
“No, it…uh…what…?” Benner frantically flipped through his paperwork.
“I say we each take a week, get this goddamn stipulation out of the way, and figure out the rest later.” Rogue’s squint cycled between Dylan, Jackson, and Killian. “Agreed?”
Dylan was pretty damn sure Rogue seldom faced opposition. Fortunately Dylan was in complete accord with his brother when it came to this. He dug his cellphone from his pocket and scanned his schedule. It was all for show. There wasn’t a damn thing on it, thanks to his recent falling out with Luke. Motherfucking prima donna singers and their egos. Yeah, he loved the man like, well, a father. But he was damn well impossible to live with at times. “I can stay this week. I got nothin’ goin’ on.” Sad but true. If he didn’t get this rift settled with Luke, Dylan might have zero gigs going on for a while.
Jackson snatched his folder. “I can do the week after.”
Killian hefted to his feet. “Sure, I’ll do the third week.”
“That leaves week four for me.” Rogue straightened and tucked the folder under his arm.
“Now wait, boys.” The springs on Benner’s seat squeaking in protest, the lawyer stood, his focus riveted to his copy of the will as Dylan and Jackson took a cue from their brothers and abandoned their chairs. Benner appeared flustered. “Your father wanted you all to be here together. At the same time. To get to know one another.”