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Authors: Ann Jacobs

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BOOK: LoversFeud
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“At work, Pop, just like every other day.” Karen set down her briefcase, noticing the empty bottle of Early Times on the floor next to her pop, right next to a puddle where water was leaking in off a hole in the roof.

“What you doin’ soaking wet?” His rheumy gaze settled on her shirt. “You been playin’ out in the storm?”

“No.” There was no point talking with a drunk. Karen bent to retrieve her briefcase, hoping to escape further conversation.

“You wait a minute here. I asked you a question.” Slade heaved himself out of the chair where he’d been sitting and staggered toward her before she could get away. “What were you doin’ over by the Bar C?”

“The Bar C?” Did he know, or had it just registered in his alcohol-soaked brain that she drove in from a different direction than usual?

“You know, the place those no-good Cadens have stolen from their neighbors piece by piece over the years. Don’t you play stupid with me.”

She thought fast. “I—I took that farm road because it’s raining so hard, Pop. You know that road’s kept up better than the one I usually use, even though it takes me a little out of my way.”

When Slade staggered toward the front door, mumbling about Cadens having too damn much clout to suit him, Karen let out her breath. As she watched him make his way inside and pass out in his favorite reclining rocker, she realized once again that there was absolutely no chance she could ever hope for a future with Bye.

Chapter Four

 

“What the fuck do you mean, you’re my father’s mistress?” Bye couldn’t hold back the words, but he wasn’t surprised. After all, he’d figured out a long time ago that Four wasn’t spending his time in Lubbock sniffing the stench of the feed lots. He looked from the middle-aged brunette to Jack Duval, who sat beside her, and on to his shocked sister and Four, who for once was speechless.

It seems my old man isn’t God incarnate after all.

The woman smiled, a predatory expression on her face as she turned to face Bye. “Your father and I have been lovers for over thirty-three years.”

That long? Had Four been screwing this woman regularly for all those years? Alarms went off in Bye’s head when he caught the implication.

“I see your mind working. You’re right, my son Jack is your half brother. It’s good that you two are friends.”

Friends? Bye had thought they were, but that had been before…

He turned to face his father, but when he noticed Four’s clenched fists and saw his face turning red, he recognized the man was anything but thrilled that his mistress had decided to spill her secrets hardly an hour after he’d finished burying his wife. “Is she telling the truth?”

Four let out a sigh. “Yes.”

Bye could hardly believe Jack Duval was Four’s biological son. The greasy, no-good, slithering snake had drunk with Bye. Fuck, Jack had even played at the Neon Lasso with him and Karen. More than once the bastard had offered Bye free legal advice over beer at The Corral in town. Jack, who was building himself quite a reputation in these parts by drafting wills and defending accused criminals, made Bye look like a slacker by comparison, living off his old man’s money. Bye didn’t like coming in second to anybody, and it pissed him off to realize he’d be trailing his half brother in a lot of people’s eyes.

Not that Duval looked much like Bye or Deidre. He was dark haired and brown eyed like his mother, while Bye and Deidre both had light hair and eyes. No one who didn’t know would guess they all had the same blood running through their veins, unless they looked hard for a resemblance. Then they just might recognize that Jack and Bye shared their father’s deep-set eyes and the stubborn set of his jaw.

Bye dragged his gaze away from Jack’s jaw that pretty much mirrored his own. He didn’t know what he could say in mixed company and he couldn’t just sit and stare, so he got up and paced the distance of the long, narrow garden room whose pale colors and restful tapestries usually calmed and soothed him. There was no respite here today. His mom’s memory hung heavy in the room she’d loved, driving most of the mourners away quickly after they paid their respects. Fifteen minutes ago Bye had been wondering why Jack and the woman he’d introduced earlier as his mother had stuck around after the others left.

Now he knew. And he seriously wanted to kill somebody. But whom?

His father, hypocritical son of a bitch that he was? As much as he hated Four for what he’d done, Bye could almost sympathize with the old man. He’d just been put on the proverbial hot seat in front of his children, legitimate and not. For a minute Bye focused on the blood vessel pulsating rhythmically in his father’s sun-bronzed temple, panicking at the sudden fear that a stroke might take him now. That wouldn’t do, not before some other human could exact retribution for the many misdeeds Bye figured would eventually send the old man straight to hell.

Unable to dwell on that possibility, Bye looked across the room and stared at the petite brunette who had just revealed she was his father’s longtime mistress. She’d pulled her dark hair into a tight twist that showcased the white streaks above her ears, as if she was determined to greet old age with disdain rather than fear. The woman flaunted her vibrant coloring and still hot body in a snug bright-blue dress that clung to her big boobs and rounded ass. Her mocking smile reminded Bye of the Cheshire cat in
Alice in Wonderland
.

He wanted badly to strangle Marianne Duval, but at least she’d waited to drop her bombshell until the fallout from it couldn’t hurt his mother. Maybe, for that if nothing else, he ought to let her live.

Next his gaze settled on Jack, seated beside his mother on a loveseat upholstered in pale-blue silk, across from Four. From Jack’s taciturn expression, Bye knew without anybody telling him that the bastard had known who his father was, not just for the past few minutes but longer. He’d probably known for years, maybe since before Bye was even born. To think Jack had encouraged Deidre’s flirting when he’d known his half sister was off limits made Bye see red.

If Jack couldn’t have made himself tell Deidre his mother’s dirty little secret, at least he could have told her in a way she couldn’t possibly misunderstand that he wasn’t interested. When Bye thought back over the time since Deidre had set her cap for Duval, he realized Jack had never actually taken her out on a date. He’d even called her an innocent and said she wouldn’t make it sharing his hardcore BDSM lifestyle. Still the bastard had played along when Deidre tried to hit on him, and he’d danced with her more than once down at The Corral…

“Jack, how long have you known?” The question came out sounding gravelly, as if Bye’s voice box hated as much as he did, giving his—his half brother—the benefit of doubt.

“Almost two months. Ever since my mother apparently decided it was time to let me know.” Jack’s gaze was steady, his tone quietly persuasive. He paused, then looked directly at Bye and lowered his voice. “She told me a week or so after the night we played together at the Neon Lasso.”

When Bye looked at Jack, he sensed the man was telling the truth. Though it galled him to do it, Bye accepted that at least Jack hadn’t knowingly participated in a threesome with his own blood relative. “I believe you. That doesn’t mean I like it. Or that I appreciate you not having shared your knowledge with me and Deidre right away.”

“I would have, if I’d had a clue that Mother didn’t intend it to remain a secret between her and me. Believe me, I’m no more comfortable right now than I’m sure you must be.” Jack glanced at his mother, his expression pained. Then he turned away and rubbed at his temples as if this whole scene was giving him a headache.

He’s known for a couple months. Since right after the doctors told us there was no hope, that Mom was going to die.
Bye’s mind churned. Had Four told Jack’s mother? It seemed likely that he had, probably during one of the so-called business trips he’d kept on making to Lubbock almost every week while Bye and Deidre had cared for their mom. The timing of seemingly unrelated events was rarely coincidental when it had to do with Byron Caden IV.

Jack’s head might be throbbing, but Bye was sure his hurt worse. The afternoon sun stung his eyes when its rays pierced through the sheer curtains. He wanted to be somewhere, anywhere but here. He needed to cry for his mother and pray she’d hear him from beyond that new grave in the family cemetery.

He’d walk out right now if that wouldn’t give his father more reason to think he had no balls. Anyway, Bye couldn’t sully his mother’s memory by murdering Four or his mistress, spattering crimson splotches of adulterers’ blood all over her pale-blue patterned Oriental rug.

Instead, Bye moved to the far end of the room where Deidre had retreated, sat on the arm of her chair and put his arm around her. “It’ll be okay, sis.” He knew it wouldn’t, but what the hell else was he going to say? “Come on now, don’t let the bastard know he got to you.” Deidre sniffed as she blotted her tear-stained face with a tissue. Then she lowered her head onto Bye’s knee and spoke, her voice a shaky whisper. “What if I’d slept with him? What if Daddy has more adult secrets like him that one of us may have fucked?”

Bye looked around at the others, noting the pained looks on their faces. He assumed from their father’s lack of reaction that Deidre’s conjecture hadn’t reached his ears. Since neither Jack nor his mother reacted, Bye guessed they’d also missed the slip of vulgarity that would hardly have gone unremarked upon, considering it came out of his sweet younger sister’s mouth.

“You didn’t, Funny Face,” he said, trying to get a smile by using the nickname he’d given her as a baby. “And I doubt Byron Four went around fertilizing every ripe human egg in Texas during his younger days. It seems to me he’s kept Duval’s mother stashed away ever since before either of us came on the scene. Let’s hope she’s the only one and Jack’s her only child.”

Deidre shook her head. “We can never be sure.” Hearing such despair in her voice made Bye want to cry with her, but he dared not show what Four would interpret as unacceptable male weakness. Rubbing her nape, he wished she hadn’t put her hair up or worn the tailored black suit he remembered their mom had occasionally worn at local funerals.

“Why’d you wear Mom’s suit today?” he asked, trying to divert her attention from possible unknowing incest they may have committed or might commit sometime in the future.

“I wouldn’t believe she was going to die in spite of what the doctors told us, so I refused to go out and buy something to wear to her funeral. I don’t own anything black, except a couple of cocktail dresses.” She traced a muted pinstripe up the sleeve of his gray suit jacket. “You’re lucky. Men aren’t expected to wear black, even for a parent’s funeral.”

“I’m not feeling very lucky today.” He felt her turn her head and knew she was watching Jack and his mother. “Want me to beat his ass for you?”

Deidre shook her head. “No, I just want to die.”

“And leave me all alone?”

She inclined her head toward Duval and his mother. “They’re not going to leave us alone.”

“I know that.” Before he’d known Jack was family of sorts, Bye had sort of hoped he’d marry Deidre and become part of their extended family. He’d
liked
the bastard. What a fucking joke!

Deidre poked him in the ribs. “Listen to that woman, Bye. She’s moved over by Daddy now. She thinks she’s going to move in.”

Bye stood and pulled Deidre up beside him. “That’s not about to happen. Let’s go show this woman that Cadens—even the younger generation—aren’t meant to be fucked with.” He led Deidre down the length of the room until they stood within five feet of the others, keeping his arm around his trembling sister as he tried to rein in his own anger that was threatening to take control.

His father’s attention was so focused on his mistress, he apparently didn’t hear them approach. But Bye heard the woman clearly enough.

“Now that she’s dead, you can sell my place in Lubbock and I can move here. With you,” Marianne said to Byron, sandwiching his hand between both of hers. Bye couldn’t help noticing her long, scarlet nails. They reminded him of the slashing talons on a falcon.

This is the day of my mother’s funeral, for God’s sake. What are these people doing in her living room? Why are Deidre and I listening to the old man’s whore acting as if Mae Caden never was?

What the hell was the woman thinking about? So furious he didn’t care that he was literally getting into a woman’s face, Bye stepped forward and stared down at her, not even trying to mask his fury. “Ms. Duval, this is my mother’s home. Mine and Deidre’s as well. Don’t think you can weasel your way in here just because you’ve been our father’s whore for years.”

He heard Jack’s deep intake of breath and sensed the other man had stood and was coming closer. Yeah, Bye had just insulted Jack’s mother. And he didn’t regret it. He might halfway pity Jack for the situation his mother had put all of them in, but right now he would damn reason and take any excuse to make mincemeat out of the man, mainly because he couldn’t tear in to Marianne or any woman, bitch or not. His mom had taught him better than that. “Back off, Jack,” he said through clenched teeth.

“Apologize.” Four’s growled order didn’t carry quite the weight it had with Bye for the past twenty-some-odd years. But it still had that familiar ring of authority.

Bye heeded it because it reminded him that his mom had also taught him never to insult a lady. Though he hardly considered Marianne Duval a lady, he figured she was probably a rung or two above your common garden-variety hooker. After all, his old man insisted on owning the best of everything—whores apparently included. “I apologize. My comments were out of line. But you have to know we—at least Deidre and I—don’t want you here. We’ve just lost our mother. This has come as a shock, hearing right after burying Mom that our father has apparently been keeping a mistress since before either of us was born, not to mention that a man we thought was our friend is actually our half brother.”

His fists balled so tightly his knuckles turned white, and his face set in a fierce pose Bye knew meant trouble, Four stood and motioned toward the door. “That’s enough. Marianne, you’re not moving in here, now or ever. I’ve never given you any reason to believe otherwise. I don’t appreciate you barging in on us today. You go on home to Lubbock, now, and stay there. You will hear from me soon.”

BOOK: LoversFeud
10.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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