Brothers AU (seven)
Notes: This AU was created by Michelle Naylor and after reading Rebecca’s stories I couldn’t help but try my hand. I had to play with the ‘boys’ ages a bit in this one just to make it more believable for my own sake. I’ve also added a couple of…hitches…as a challenge to myself. I try and stick to canon as much as possible. Enjoy!
Special Thanks to: Ann, Katherine, and Antoinette for taking the time and energy to beta this story. Truly, I thank you for all your hard work!
Please send comments and suggestions to email@example.com
Lincoln Larabee had been a…hedonist, to an undeniable fault. But he was also a loving father, compassionate friend, and adoring husband. However, he had no control…or so it seemed, when it came to common sense. He’d been fortunate in life to fall in love with two women. His wife Colleen, Chris’ mother, and Clara Jackson, Nathan’s mother…the rest had been affairs that weren’t supposed to have left him with emotional ties…but they had. Orin Travis, Lincoln’s best friend, was sure that there had been more women in Link’s life, but it was seven that bore his sons. Three of those boys he never got to meet…although he did try.
The 1960’s had been a playing field for ‘extracurricular activities’ of the sexual nature, and Link had succumbed to the temptation like most boys his age. Anna Sanchez had been the beautiful older woman that many boys his age fantasized about. She knew things…and he learned from her…everything he could. Granted in 1961 the sexual revolution hadn’t started yet, but Link and Anna had taken it upon themselves to start it…or so they thought. When she left with her father and his Missionary work, she didn’t expect to be giving birth nine months later…and ten years after that, Link was surprised to discover he had a son. Now married to Colleen and with a two-year-old Chris, Anna took Josiah with her…and she kept him away from his father, for the sake of Colleen and Chris.
Chris had been a blessing for Link, and in many ways, being a father had helped him grow. He thought of Josiah often, but for the sake of his family, he never attempted to contact him…although he did send money to Anna to help her support him. At the time, he thought he’d been doing the right thing…however, after many years of learning about himself and others, he knew he’d been wrong.
After Colleen had been killed in a car accident, Link sought comfort with Rosie Wilmington. She had been different than the other women in his life. She was wild with a mind of her own. She did things her way and of her own accord. She wasn’t the raving beauty that Colleen had been…Rosie had a beauty all her own. She’d been there for Link after Colleen had died…and Link had been there for Rosie during a sad time in her own life as well. She hadn’t lived a glorious life. She worked in a saloon and lived and ‘worked’ in her apartment above the tavern. When Link had arrived in her life she’d decided that he wasn’t like her other johns…and it was Link’s child she wanted to bear.
Link never knew of Buck’s existence…not until he reentered the saloon with his fiancée, Clara Jackson, on his arm. When he saw Buck, he knew he was his son…because of his eyes. Rather than stepping back and carefully looking at his life—after all, he now had four sons and none of them shared the same mother—he continued on…as though his actions really weren’t of any consequence. He remained friends with Rosie and Clara understood their relationship. She wanted her lover to be happy and she knew he was. Link cherished Nathan and treated him as equally as Chris. Though there was a four-year difference in their ages, they were brothers and acted as such.
Clara knew when she agreed to marry Link that the relationship was going to be difficult. It wasn’t because of each other, but rather, the views so many people had about interracial marriages. Her family disapproved with strong voices…but she’d made her decision very clear. She would marry Link, and they would raise their son together.
It had been a freak shooting that had taken Clara’s life. Two days before the wedding, she went to town to meet with her friends and have a bachelorette party. The party ended with three people dead and four teenagers arrested for a drive-by. Clara had been the first victim. Link had been devastated, but he fought with all his might to keep custody of his son and raise Nathan as his own. He agreed to Clara’s and her family’s wishes, that the child keep their name…Jackson.
It was a year after Clara’s death, that Rosie was found beaten to death by one of her johns. Buck had been discovered in her bedroom closet…having witnessed it all. At four years of age, he knew more about life than most children his age, but the trauma he’d seen with his mother had scarred him deeply. Link immediately took his son home to raise and care for him. The family of four got closer than most, while at the same time brought a multitude of challenges for the single father. Link did his best by his sons…or at least he tried. He could see all of the boys’ mothers in them. Buck’s strange sense of humor and his curious nature, Nathan’s healing touch and bookworm mentality, and Chris’ strong sense of leadership and bossy personality.
The boys were creations all their own.
After Chris’ sixth birthday, Link decided to go to Las Vegas to attend a cattlemen’s convention. It was there that he met Maude Standish. After three years of being alone and raising his sons, Maude was a breath of fresh air. She was everything he’d hoped to find. They dined together, went to shows, and they stayed up late talking about anything that fit the moment. When the convention came to an end, Link asked Maude to come home with him. She refused his offer and disappeared from his life. It wasn’t until he went to check out of his motel room that he discovered three missing checks and a missing credit card. The hotel staff informed him of the steps he could take to press charges against the woman, but Link chose not to. Instead he called his bank and informed them of the problem.
Maude called Link less than a year later informing him that he had a son. Link’s first reaction had been anger, and he accused Maude of lying, using her infidelity to try and get more money out of him so he would pay her. He demanded to see the child before he paid a penny to help support him. Maude argued back, saying that the child she bore was his and it was his responsibility to help pay for his upkeep. Things were said that shouldn’t have been said and the conversation ended badly. Maude never called again, and Link never heard another word about his ‘son’. He later lived to regret his actions; never finding the courage to face his son. He believed his son was better off, but in reality, he was fearful of being rejected.
It was at this time that Link hired a private investigator to help him find Maude and her child. Cady Tanner was the most independent of all the women Link had ever met. She was small in frame, but she had more strength than a man twice her size. She was down to earth and had more common sense than most young women. She’d agreed to help Link find Maude and her son. The two worked together for three months and within that time they shared one night together. One night of mindless passion, that’s all it had been…but it had been a night that conceived another child. Vin. Cady soon left after it was decided that Maude was gone and she’d made it clear she couldn’t be found. She kept her son a secret from Link. It hadn’t been until Cady was killed in a plane crash while investigating a case that ignited a tragic chain of events. Her son, Vin, was quickly placed in the child welfare system. When Link read about her death in the local paper, he immediately inquired about Vin, only to find out that the boy had already been placed. It was a letter that had been lost in the mail—from Cady to Link—that was discovered a year later, stating Link was Vin’s father…but Link didn’t receive that letter until it was too late. Vin was gone. The regretful Larabee searched long and hard for his son, but the law prohibited any contact and denied Link’s claim that he was indeed the boy’s father.
Distraught, Link dove deeper into a self-destructive mode. Many nights he dove into the bottle after his sons had gone to bed. He tried to be a good father, but his past had caught up to him. Guilt ate at his soul everyday…and instead of seeing the three fine boys he was raising, he saw the three that he’d failed. As a result of his inability to care for his children, Link took on a housemaid. She was young, but smart. She cooked, cleaned, helped the boys with their homework, and she made sure things ran smoothly. It had been her sweet nature and giving support that had gotten her into trouble. A year after she came to live with the Larabee family, she discovered she was pregnant and as a result, she left the house for her home in Massachusetts. After her son, JD, had been born she informed Link of his newest son and asked him never to contact her about him. Because of his shameful act and over-burdened heart, he obeyed her wishes.
The words Orin had spoken cut not just Chris to the bone, but his two brothers as well. How was he supposed to handle the reality that their family was larger than anyone had suspected—all because of their father’s indiscretions. Between Buck, Nathan, and himself, they had four brothers they’d never met.
“I wanted you boys to hear this before Friday, at the reading,” Orin said, noticing the shocked faces.
“At least I know where I get it from,” Buck commented with a laugh, trying to lighten the moment. He only received a scowl from Chris.
“How’d you manage to find them…if Dad couldn’t?” Nathan asked, wanting to get to bottom of this with a level head.
“Your father asked me a year ago to help him find his sons.”
“Did he ever cheat on my mother?” Chris asked defensively. His normally dark blue eyes seemed to darken as the light accentuated his chiseled features.
“No,” Orin answered honestly.
Chris nodded in acceptance. He seemed to relax but his stance remained stiff. He ran a callused hand through his blond hair and then rubbed at his eyes in frustration.
“The reading of the will, will be Friday at 1:00…”
“What’s it goin’ to read?” Buck asked, hoping for an answer.
“I’ll let you know on Friday.” Orin slipped his glasses on and motioned for the men to leave his office. He watched them, all the while thinking of his late friend.
Chris threw his jacket at the coat hanger in his office rather than hanging it. He hadn’t said anything to his coworkers, and they knew not to approach him. Buck and Nathan had followed him in, trying in their own ways to calm their easily agitated brother. Buck slipped into a chair and looked toward Nathan. Nobody knew what to say…or do.
“Could be worse,” Buck said, leaning back in his chair. He ran his fingers through his dark brown hair and then pulled momentarily at his mustache.
“Don’t you fuckin’ start,” Chris snapped, pacing back and forth. His temper seemed to flare, one moment he was calm and collected—the next—he was volatile.
“What’s the problem?” Nathan asked…trying to be calm and understanding. Though the youngest of the three, he seemed to be the most level-headed…and at times, his size and strength became an intimidating force.
“What’s the problem?” Chris repeated, looking hard at his brother. “We have four brothers, Nathan…that we’ve never met!” He barked. “That’s the problem!”
“Be thankful it ain’t more,” Buck said with a laugh. He shook his head when Chris sent him a glare.
“That’s not what I’m getting at,” Chris admitted, placing his hands on his hips while looking out the window.
Nathan sighed and seated himself next to Buck. Chris’ suddenly calm nature had everyone thinking about his words. Life outside their world would be so much easier, or so he thought.
“How could he?” Chris asked softly, not bothering to turn and look at his brothers.
Buck sighed and ran his hand over his face, he then turned compassionate brown eyes toward his brother. “It ain’t like he set out to hurt all of us, Chris…things just got…complicated.”
“No shit!” Chris snapped suddenly. He turned toward his desk and slipped his gun belt on over lean hips and then pinned his sheriff’s badge to his shirt. “I’ve got to get down to the stock yards.”
“Chris,” Nathan spoke up, getting to his feet, “it’ll work out.”
“Get down to your clinic, Nathan…people need you.” Chris grabbed his brown sheriff’s jacket and left his office.
Nathan watched him go all the while shaking his head. “I hope he settles down before Friday.”
“He’s pissed because Dad should have told us,” Buck said, getting to his feet. “And he should have.” He headed for the door and sighed. “I’ll be out at the ranch.”
Nathan entered the clinic and nodded toward nurses and staff before heading toward his office.
“Doctor Jackson,” Nora Roberts called. “There’s a man in your office…”
“He said it was important that he spoke with you.” She handed him a file and then sped toward the front desk.
Nathan shook his head and opened his office door. “I’m Doctor Jackson,” he said, slipping off his jacket only to replace it with his white overcoat. He sat in his chair and looked at the individual seated across from him.
The gentlemen smiled and ran a hand over his face, accentuating his strong features, broad nose, and wizened brow. His hair was starting to gray, but his hazel eyes were clear and full of life. Though he wasn’t as tall as Nathan, he was just as strong. “I’m Josiah Sanchez…your brother.”
“…I met him only once…when I was ten,” Josiah continued, sitting around the table with his brothers. “I remember you, Chris.”
Chris nodded but didn’t say anything, he was angry and bitter with his father.
“What do you do?” Buck asked, taking a drink of his beer.
“I studied theology in college and then decided to major in psychology…”
“So you’re a shrink?” Buck guessed.
“Well,” Buck sighed. “Chris’s the town sheriff and Nathan’s one of the town doctors…I run the Double L ranch about ten miles from town…but we’ve all got our hands in its welfare…”
“Have you met the others?” Chris butted in.
“No,” Josiah answered honestly. “When I received the letter in regards to Father’s passing, I assumed that I was the only one left who hadn’t met the rest of you.”
“Shit,” Buck leaned back and chuckled. “Dad sure did know how to make a mess of things.”
“There’s seven of us total,” Nathan spoke up for the first time. “We’ll meet the others on Friday…if they all show up.”
“Dad kept quiet about most of them…except you and Vin,” Chris said, fingering the moisture on his glass. “He fought long and hard tryin’ to get him back but…state laws prohibited it.”
“What about the other two?” Josiah asked, noticing Buck and Nathan nod their heads in agreement with their brother’s words.
“Dad never said a word about ‘em,” Buck answered. “Can’t figure out as to why neither.”
Josiah cleared his throat and looked hard at his brothers. “Have you gone through his things?”
“No,” Chris answered sharply.
“It’s been tough…just trying to get all the legal shit together.” Buck took another long drink of his beer and wiped his upper lip and mustache dry of white foam.
“You married, Josiah?” Nathan asked, moving the conversation that would be more comfortable for everyone.
“Divorced,” the big man answered. “I have one son who lives in California with his mother. He’s finishing up his senior year in high school and then he’s planning to attend Stanford in the fall.”
“You must be proud?” Buck asked, with a smile.
“Very,” Josiah answered. “What about the rest of you?”
“Hell…too many women…too little time,” Buck replied, with a grin.
Nathan shook his head and laughed. “Chris is the only one of us who ever got married…” he paused, mentally kicking himself for bring up such a painful subject.
“I’ll see you all in the morning.” The sheriff stood up abruptly and left the saloon. He received nods from friends and fellow town folks.
“Chris’ wife and son were killed in a fire two years ago,” Buck said, watching his brother leave.
“He’s doin’ better than he has in a long time…but…”
Josiah nodded in understanding: “Death is never easy, particularly for someone so young.”
Nathan looked at his watch and sighed. “Why don’t you grab your gear…? You can stay out at the ranch with the rest of us.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Josiah said, getting to his feet. He followed his brothers out of the bar…more ready than ever to start a new life.
The room was quiet…way too quiet. Six of seven Larabee sons sat around the long table. Vin had arrived right after JD and was quickly introduced to his brothers. He sat between the youngest and the oldest…not understanding his reason for coming. Lincoln Larabee meant nothing to him…he hadn’t been anything other than a sperm donor. His mother never spoke of him, but despite that, here he was…sitting with five other men he didn’t know.
“I had hoped that all seven of Link’s sons would have arrived,” Orin said, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “I’m sure you all read the letters you received carefully before deciding to come today.” He looked hard at Josiah, Vin, and JD. “Is there any questions before I begin?”
“Why’d he wait until after he died to get in touch with us?” JD asked, with a hint of resentment in his voice.
“I honestly don’t know,” Orin answered, looking understandably at the youngest. “Your father was a good man with a lot of…complications, in his life. He came to me a year ago, in confidence, to help him find all of his sons before he died…unfortunately, the cancer eating his body didn’t see it that way.” He folded his fingers together and rested his elbows on the table. “Your mother…”
“She died a year ago,” JD snapped, “and you ain’t got a right speaking of her.”
“Listen, Kid…” Buck started.
“I ain’t a kid.”
“JD,” Buck corrected. “There ain’t a one of us here whose mother’s still livin’, so don’t take your anger out on us…or the judge.”
A soft knock at the door caused everyone to pull their attention to the judge’s assistant who quietly motioned for her boss to join her in the hall.
“I’ll be right back,” Travis said unhappily, and then he moved toward the door and exited.
Chris looked at his two youngest brothers. It was hard, realizing that he wasn’t the oldest…and that the family he knew no longer existed. He looked at Vin and realized for the first time that his father had every right in the world to try and find him like he had. Chris had been angry at the time, thinking that he was being ignored for something more important. To have harbored all of those hard feelings against his father, only to turn around and realize he’d been wrong in his anger. Chris loved his father, but he resented him as well, and coming to terms with those arrays of emotions was not only confusing, but painful as well.
“There are photographs of your mother in Dad’s old photo album at home,” Chris said, surprising everyone.
Vin looked up and met the blonde’s eyes.
“I remember she was small.”
Vin smiled: “She was…but I always remember her bein’ tall.” His blue eyes danced when he spoke of her.
Buck chuckled: “She had a wicked sense of humor too.”
“What about my mom?” JD asked, looking at the men around the table. “Do you remember her?”
“Jenna made the best homemade pizza,” Buck said, licking his lips. He watched as the kid smiled and nod his head. “She was a real nice lady.”
“She talked about you guys all the time,” JD added. “She never said we were related but she always spoke fondly of her time here.” He sighed a moment, as though he had a question he was afraid to ask.
“Out with it, Kid,” Buck said with a smile, knowing there was more JD wanted to know. “Hell, with five brothers you’d better speak up.”
“Did he force her?” JD came right out and asked. He looked in earnest toward his brothers…brothers that he hardly knew. She’d never said anything to him that would have him believe that she’d been abused, or worse, but in JD’s eyes, she’d been perfect…pure. Why else would she have had a child out of wedlock?
“No,” Chris spoke firmly. “He never would’ve done anything like that.”
JD nodded and sighed…now he could relax.
“What’s this about?” Orin asked Maggie; clearly he was upset by her actions.
“There’s a young man here to see you…” She nervously gripped the clipboard and waited for the impending question.
“What’s his name?”
“He wouldn’t tell me,” she sighed, when Orin made a motion back toward his office. “He’s been here an hour, Sir.”
Travis grabbed the doorknob and paused. He turned and looked hard at his assistant. “Take me to him,” he ordered, following her toward the waiting area.
He sat in the chair with his elbows resting on his knees while he picked impatiently at his cuticles. He didn’t know why he came. But something in the back of his mind told him he should…at least try.
There was a word with a multitude of meanings, as well as results. He should have known when he drove into town that his futile attempt to discover his mother’s shadowy past would lead him…nowhere. On some levels, he wanted to know about himself as well. It was when he smiled, that his mother said he looked like his father—all because of his dimples—and his sensitivity toward animals…something she could never break him of. Did he get that from Lincoln? Who did he look more like, his mother? His father? A person from their past: a grandfather, grandmother, uncle, or aunt? He had a right to get to know his family, but he wasn’t sure he could pay the price. And would they be willing to pay?
It was hard enough believing he hadn’t been wanted…and then this. A letter had arrived, informing him of his father’s death…the chance to get to know Lincoln Larabee was gone, along with all the knowledge he had of Ezra’s conception. More than anything he wanted to believe his birth hadn’t been a con…coercion for money. He doubted it though.
Ezra stood up, surprised that his name had been spoken after having not given it out.
“I’m Judge Travis…a friend of your father’s.” He reached out and shook the young man’s hand. Orin was slightly surprised by Standish’s appearance—an expensive blue suit, gold watch, leather shoes…not one indication that he was Lincoln’s son…other than the fact Lincoln had been named on Ezra’s birth certificate.
Ezra nodded and looked toward the door. “I think I’ve made a mistake in comin’,” he spoke softly, his Southern accent filling the air.
“Your father told me the circumstances between your mother and himself…”
“The ‘I’m not that bastard’s father’, or, ‘You’ll not con me out of my money like you did the first time’…I too, was informed about the situation regarding my ‘parents’.” Ezra sighed and looked toward the door again.
Travis nodded, remembering the conversation he’d had with Link after his and Maude’s discussion. “I was able to help your father obtain your birth records because your mother had named Link as your father…you are his son, Ezra…and he did try to find you.”
“Obviously he didn’t try hard enough,” Ezra muttered, pulling the sleeves of his suit jacket down.
“At least hear the will…your father left you and your brothers each a package that may bring you some peace.” Orin looked hard at the young man, seeing much of Link in Ezra’s actions and stubbornness.
“Listen, Judge…” Ezra started. “I’m sure that what Mistah Larabee had to say was simply to ease his own conscious…even if he is dead.” He ran his fingers through his short chestnut hair.
“Your father tried to find you…”
“I’ve always been available to find…for anyone interested in lookin’.” His voice and accent hardened.
Judge Travis nodded in understanding. He wasn’t going to argue a point he didn’t understand. “Forty-five minutes of your time…that’s all I ask…and I know you’ve been sitting out here for an hour.” He watched the young man for any signs of acceptance, but all he saw in those green eyes was apprehension, anger, and fear. Fear of what…Orin didn’t know, but he hoped to one-day find out.
Slowly, Ezra nodded in agreement and followed the older man down the corridor, hoping that he was making the right decision, but feeling as though he hadn’t.
“…Buck had a crush on your mom, JD,” Nathan added, chuckling softly.
“I did not,” the ladies man defended.
“Buck’s had a crush on anything with breasts and short skirts,” Chris commented, failing to hide his smile.
“She did have great legs,” Buck admitted, remembering back.
“That’s my mother you’re talkin’ about!” JD gasped in good humor.
Josiah laughed, seeing the banter between brothers for the first time.
Nathan laughed slightly louder than he anticipated. “There was this one time,” he started, looking from Buck to Vin.
The ladies man rolled his eyes and tried to sink down into his seat. Nathan would tell this story.
“Buck was about eight at the time, and Jenna had just got back from dancing and she was wearing this real short black dress and Buck…being more ‘mature’ than most his age, got his first erection…and not thinking that was something he wanted to share with everyone, he decided to tape it down with duct tape.”
Everyone in the room, except Nathan, leaned over and moaned, all the while trying to hide their laughter and obvious discomfort.
“Rule number one,” Buck said, sheepishly, “adolescent boys should not wear sweat pants.”
“Can we change the subject to something other than our mothers?” Vin said, not liking the images being projected in his mind.
When the office door opened, everyone looked up and watched as the judge entered with a young man on his heels. Ezra was quickly introduced to his brothers and he took the last remaining seat, thanking the Lord above that it was close to the door.
Orin cleared his throat and opened the file that he’d left on the desk, thankful that it hadn’t been opened. “This is the last Will and Testament of Lincoln Jefferson Larabee…”
The room went quiet except for Judge Travis’ monotone voice echoing throughout. Six sets of eyes were cast forward…although none of them were seeing anything except their own pasts. Chris’ eyes were on his brothers. He was trying to read them, hoping for something that could tell him who they really were. The words of the will were just…words. None of it was being understood. It seemed like another college class where the students looked as if they were listening but in reality, they were thinking about their own lives…and their next steps.
Nathan looked professional as always. His clothing was clean and pressed, his white shirt and tan slacks were simple attire, but it was obvious he’d put some time into his appearance. He sat still with his legs crossed and his hands resting idly in his lap. Handsome, yet strong, and formidable when pushed…that was Nathan. Chris smiled when he looked at Buck. There he was, the middle son…well, not anymore…now, he was the third from the oldest. His short brown hair was combed, but barely, his mustache trimmed and free of food…thank God. His attire lacked the cleanliness of Nathan’s. His blue work shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows. His jeans were worn in spots after years of bucking hay bales, and his boots needed to be shined. But that was Buck, laid back and completely content with life…despite the challenges he faced. There was something soothing about Josiah. The big man had a grace not seen by many. He wore a simple suit and tie and shined cowboy boots. His smile could settle even the most fearful of individuals and there was something about him that made Chris want to get to know him. Vin sat in his chair fingering the cuff of his jean leg. He picked off the thread that was slowly being worn down and fraying. His steel-toed packer boots were hardy, but well used. The leather was scarred in spots and the laces needed to be replaced. His tee shirt and leather jacket didn’t scream white-color employee. No, Vin worked outdoors…someplace where he could be free and let the wind blow through his long hair. His features were sharp, similar to Chris’ own, reminding those around him of the statues of Classic Greece. This kid was born and bred by the land and he wouldn’t change…not for Link…not for anyone. JD was easier to read. His youthful appearance disguised his real age of 22. The smallest of the seven, he wore jeans and a Polo tee shirt with high-top tennis shoes. His black hair was a tad too long and he needed to lay off the hair gel. He had his mother’s dark coloring and his father’s soft bone structure. For someone so young he seemed to have his head together. Ezra was more difficult to read. His fair complexion and equally soft features complicated Chris’ ability to read his brother’s emotions. His expensive blue suit, gold watch, and leather shoes told everyone he had money. However, he was a stone sitting unmoving in his chair with his eyes cast forward. He reminded Chris of a marble statue that was on the verge of falling apart if the artist didn’t stop chipping away at the rough edges.
“…One million dollars has been set aside for each of you on the one condition that you all agree to live together for one year…”
A collection of ‘what’ could be heard in unison around the room.
“Your father wants his sons to take a year of their lives to get to know each other…and after that year has subsided, you’ll each be awarded the money he’s set aside for you.” Orin looked hard at the children of his best friend. He stood up and collected a box of items for each of the seven.
“We’re not exactly children anymore, Orin,” Chris said defensively. “We all have our own lives to live.”
“You’ve been living out at the ranch with Buck and Nathan since the deaths of your family, Chris…one more year and four more brothers isn’t going to hurt any.” The judge sat the box on his desk and looked around the room.
“One million dollars is a lot of money,” JD said shyly. “I’m still tryin’ to pay off Momma’s medical bills…”
“Your mother’s medical bills will be taken care of John Dunne…your father wanted to make sure this money he’s set aside for you is done with as you want it…”
“On the condition that we reside at the ranch,” Ezra spoke up for the first time. “And if we choose not to?”
“The money will be divided amongst the brothers who choose to stay,” Orin answered honestly.
“What are the conditions surrounding our stay?” Vin asked. “I mean, I have a job I ain’t willin’ to give up.”
“Your father understood that. He isn’t asking you to give up your lives as you know them…just your location.” Orin handed each one a thick manila envelope and seated himself behind his desk. He watched as JD tore into the package and immediately started reading the contents; Nathan and Josiah did the same. Chris waited, unsure of what his father had planned for them, but he too, opened his package. Vin sighed and watched the others for a moment before opening his.
Ezra clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut. How dare Lincoln Larabee put conditions on his will? How dare he ask anything of anyone, considering what he’d done? Ezra looked at the package and stood up. “No conditions,” he said harshly. “I may be his ‘son’ but he was never a father to me…and frankly…a million dollars doesn’t come close to covering his expenses.” He tossed the package into the garbage can before hastily leaving the room. Too many bad memories filled his mind with too many lost experiences.
“He’s right you know,” JD said in defense, while looking at the others. “It doesn’t come close.” He grasped the pictures, letters, and small trinkets that had been enclosed in his package.
“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, less they be discouraged,” Josiah said, looking hard at his brothers…knowing they were all discouraged.
Chris stood up and retrieved Ezra’s package out of the garbage. “One year.” He looked at Orin and at his brothers. “It’s what Dad wanted…and, despite what he’s done…it ain’t a lot to ask.” Chris ran his fingers through his blonde hair. “We owe it to ourselves.” What was he saying…?
Buck smiled and nodded: “There’s plenty of room at the ranch for everyone. We’ll have to set up some rules when it comes to the…” he paused, unsure of how to say his next thought, “…the women situations that come up.” His cheeks stretched across his teeth like clay, becoming more animated with each passing moment.
“I’ll get you some duct tape,” Chris muttered.
Buck’s grin disappeared.
“Grab your shit and let’s get the truck ready in case we need to move anyone in,” Chris started to order. He looked toward Orin. “Where can I find Ezra?”
The motel was small and hidden between the monstrosities of malls and office buildings. It should have been torn down years ago, but the owner of the small establishment had fought for his rights as a business owner. It was a clean place with a simple décor.
“What are we waiting for?” Buck asked, looking at Chris while they sat uncomfortably in the Blazer.
Chris sighed and shook his head: he didn’t know. He slammed the truck door shut and headed to room 11. He wasn’t sure if he should be surprised that his half brother lived in a motel, or had for the past two years, in Reno…not a three-hour drive from the ranch. His father should have tried harder. Ezra was listed under his own name…the name his mother had given him.
Buck knew the pressure Chris was under, but he didn’t understand to the full extent how stressful it was for him. “If he says no…at least we gave it a shot… Dad wouldn’t be able to complain about us tryin’.”
Chris looked hard at Buck and shook his head. “He’s lived here for two years, Buck…right under our noses.”
“So let’s go talk to him,” Buck said, heading toward the door. Before he could lift his hand and knock, the door was pulled open.
“Hell,” Ezra sighed, leaving the door open as he headed for his bed where he’d been packing.
“Where’re you headed?” Buck asked, stepping into the small room. He noted the cleanliness of it…as though Ezra had only been there overnight.
“New York,” came the quick response.
Chris followed Buck into the room and sighed, watching as Standish finished packing his bag. Though the clothing he wore was expensive, he apparently didn’t own a lot. “A million dollars is a lot to throw away,” he noted, “you must have some cash floating around?”
Ezra clenched his jaw and shook his head. He didn’t have any money laying around and what he did have he worked hard for…but he’d learned long ago that everything came with a price and this kind of situation was bound to end badly…despite having a million dollar price tag attached.
“What’s in New York?” Buck asked, grabbing some music sheets off the end table. They were quickly pulled from his grasp and he shrugged in response.
Ezra tapped the sheets together, squaring the corners before sticking them inside his small satchel. “I have a job there.”
“Doing what?” Chris asked.
Ezra slipped on his jacket and then grabbed his luggage. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m a…security advisor…of sorts.”
“What does that mean?” Buck asked with a grin.
“It means, Mr. Wilmington, that what I do for a living isn’t any of your business… Now, if you’ll please excuse me.”
Chris grabbed Ezra’s arm before he could exit out the door. “Give us an hour…or at least time enough for a cup of coffee?”
“I don’t think discussing this any further is going to be beneficial for anyone, Mistah Larabee.”
“Chris can be pretty convincing when he wants to be,” Buck said, crossing his arms over his chest. “You took the effort to listen to the will…at least give your brothers a little bit of your time.”
Reluctantly, Ezra nodded. “One hour.” One million dollars was a lot to throw away, particularly when it could help buy his freedom.
It was almost comical, everyone sitting there, not knowing what to say. Buck stirred some cream into his coffee and watched as the black fluid embraced the thick cream, turning it a murky brown. He tapped his spoon on the lip of the cup and placed it on the napkin. He cleared his throat and asked, “Where’d you grow up?”
“Here and there, but mostly the South,” Ezra answered flatly.
“Your mom ever say anything about him…about Dad?” Buck decided to push the subject.
“No,” came the clipped response. That wasn’t the truth, but Ezra didn’t feel the need to elaborate.
“I’m not going to defend Dad or his excuses—whatever they were—in regards to him not looking for you,” Chris said, resting his elbows on the tabletop. “I was raised the oldest…never knew nothing different, and at times…Dad and I didn’t get along real well. He married early in life, I married later…he got close to a lot of people…I keep my distance…”
“I get the picture, Mistah—”
“Chris,” came the sharp correction. “I’m your older brother and my name’s Chris…Mr. Larabee was our father…” he sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “Dad was a good man with a fucked up life…the harder he tried, the worse it got. But you have to believe…if he knew about you—he tried his damndest to find you.”
“Obviously our perception of things is goin’ to be different.” Ezra attempted to take a drink of his coffee, but decided against it.
“I don’t know why Dad did what he did, and more than likely we’ll never know…but you can’t blame all of us for something he did… Hell, Ezra, you’re not the only one having a hard time with this whole situation…but at least we’re willing to try it.”
“Free rent, fairly good meals…I mean, Josiah’s willin’ to cook,” Buck replied with a grin. “Nobody’s going to be botherin’ you—”
“Except the lot of you,” Ezra commented.
“A million dollars is a lot of money…even for someone who’s got it.” Chris stood up and tossed his napkin on the table. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Don’t mind Chris,” Buck explained, “He’s had a hard time of it lately…and this whole fiasco was the icing on the cake.”
Ezra nodded: “Why the bribe money?” he asked softly, looking at his coffee.
So that was it, Buck thought. He leaned back in his seat, keeping one hand on his cup and the other in his lap. “This ain’t a bribe, Ezra…it’s money that Dad set aside for you.”
“No,” he disagreed. “He’s offering us money to fulfill a deed…this money doesn’t come free and clear.”
“It’s just his way of getting all of his sons together…”
“Bullshit, Buck, and you know it,” Ezra said coldly. “This has more to do with a man trying to make up for past sins. He was dyin’ and he wanted to make sure he didn’t leave behind any loose ends…this has nothin’ to do with him wantin’ his sons to become a ‘family’.”
“That’s a pretty cold picture you’ve painted for yourself,” Buck commented, watching his brother’s automatic movements.
“Are you goin’ to sit there and tell me that you and your ‘brothers’ don’t have any hard feelings about this?” Ezra asked in disbelief. “The man you knew as your fathah has four sons you didn’t know about…he—without askin’ how you felt about the situation, has in essence, given away a very large portion of the ranch you grew up on… You’re goin’ to tell me you’re not a little bit angry with that?”
“I’ll admit,” Buck started, “that I was a little scared with the possibility of losin’ the ranch…but Travis said—”
“But Travis said…has Lincoln Larabee always had someone to wipe his ass when he needed it?” Angry green eyes revealed more than just hatred and resentment…but pain as well.
“Damn it, Ezra!” Buck snapped. “You’re not the only one that’s been hurt by this.” His admission caused Chris to take a step back and watch his brothers from a distance. “Nate, Chris, and I knew about Josiah…he was this older brother that we knew we had, but didn’t have a face to put with him. Dad never said much about him, but I know they communicated through letters, phone calls, and the past couple of years through emails…but for one reason or another they never found the time to get together like they should have. And Chris, hell, Chris lost his mom when he was just a tiny shit…then I came into the picture a few years later.” He looked up and met Ezra’s eyes. “I watched my mom get beaten to death with a tire iron by some sorry fuck who ‘needed’ a freebie. Dad tried his hardest to give me and Chris a good life but it was never easy…don’t think it was. When Nate came along, things got real good for a while…but when we got older…hell,” he sighed, and finished his coffee in one gulp. Perhaps he’d said too much…perhaps he hadn’t said enough. He took a long breath and looked out the window a moment before returning his gaze to Ezra. “When Nathan was in seventh grade, the high school football coach came down to the junior high looking for some jr. varsity players…he wanted Nate because he was bigger than most kids his age and because he was black.” Buck shook his head, not quite believing what he was saying. “Coach Peterson wanted Nathan on his team because he wanted a black kid…like all black folks are supposed to be excellent athletes…”
“And he wasn’t?”
Buck smiled. Curiosity was stirring. “Hell no,” he gasped. “Nate tripped over his own feet until he was a junior in high school, but after that, man—look out. He caught a 66 yard pass at the state championships.” He kept a smile on his face but there was a hint of sadness in his eyes. “They, uh, lost that game by three points… The other team kicked a field goal 40 seconds before the end of the 4th quarter… Dad had this plaque made up with the newspaper article that was written about the game. It had a picture of Nate catching that ball.”
“He must have been proud?”
Buck’s grin increased in size. “He was,” came the soft-spoken answer. “He was a great dad…just real sad a lot of the time.” He pushed the cup towards the waitress who refilled it before moving toward her next table. “Chris and I both played baseball…had a hell of a time with it.”
“Lincoln Larabee never remarried?”
“Weren’t no need,” Buck shrugged. “I know he wanted to, but he couldn’t ever find the right woman. Ranching is a hard life…working 24-7, you’re up before the sun, always dirty… I guess nobody he met really wanted that…”
“Doesn’t sound like my mother, I assure you.”
“We were pretty young when Dad met your mom, and Chris and I don’t remember a whole lot about that time…” he grinned, “…we were probably pissin’ in Nathan’s Mountain Dew or locking him in the bathroom… damn he was easy to tease.”
Ezra grinned for the first time. Brotherhood did have its perks.
“There was this one time Nate wanted to get back at Chris for some stupid prank he pulled, so I decided to help.” Buck rubbed his nose and leaned forward. “See, Chris had this habit of sleeping with the bathroom light on—anyway, Nate and I snuck into his room and stuck his fingers in warm water—you see, Nate was big into medical journals, all that kinda shit—and he found out that sticking someone’s fingers in warm water while they slept would cause them to piss the bed…” he laughed, as though he were reliving the moment.
“What happened?” Ezra asked.
“I pissed the bed,” Chris answered flatly, scooting in beside Buck in the booth.
“What do you say?” Buck pushed, stirring some sugar into his coffee.
Ezra leaned back and ran his fingers through his chestnut hair. He didn’t know. Everything was happening so fast, he didn’t know which way to turn. When he was younger, he’d had his whole life planned out…this hadn’t been part of the plan. “I’m never up before ten, I have issues regarding personal space—”
“Personal space?” Buck asked, slightly confused.
“Stay out of his room,” Chris responded, shaking his head.
“I’m not a rancher…never have been, never had the desire to become one.” Ezra looked out the window and sighed. “The closest thing I’ve come to a cow is the Interstate Fair in Georgia—and that was fifteen years ago.”
“We’re not looking for a ranch hand, Ezra,” Chris said softly, “Just the opportunity to get to know our brothers…all of them.”
“Might I ask where the others are?”
“JD and Vin are down at one of the casinos and Nathan and Josiah are back at the ranch,” Chris answered, following his brother’s gaze. “It’s a lot to ask…I know, but most of us never had the opportunity to have brothers, and I sure as hell don’t want to lose the chance to get to know the ones I’ve got.”
“The only way I’ll agree to this is if it’s understood that my business is just that…my business.”
Chris nodded: “Okay.” There was a tentativeness in his tone that didn’t go unnoticed.
“Good,” Buck said, slapping the table with the palm of his hand.
Ezra stood up and grabbed his belongings.
“You can throw your things in the truck,” Chris said, getting to his feet.
“I’ve got my own transportation,” Ezra reassured, placing some money on the table to pay for his coffee.
Buck shrugged and followed Ezra out of the small diner.
“You really think this is going to work?” Chris asked, stepping in stride with Buck.
“It’s worth a try,” came the honest response. “Besides, we owe it to Dad.”
“Do we?” Chris challenged. “Seems to me it should be the other way around.”
JD stepped out of the casino looking as though someone had just shot his dog. He walked with Vin toward the Blazer.
“What’s the matter, Kid?” Buck asked, looking up as Ezra pulled his BMW into the next parking space, not only surprised he actually showed up, but surprised by the car. The man had money somewhere.
“I won ten bucks on a quarter machine… I got a receipt… No money coming out making that coin dropping sound… Totally bogus, man.”
Buck laughed and shoved JD’s shoulders, pushing him back.
“It sucks!” the kid griped. “Totally lose the fun in gambling.”
Ezra raised an eyebrow: “I believe we can remedy that infirmity.” He grinned, exposing his gold tooth for the first time.
“Later,” Chris said, opening his truck door. “We’ve got to get back to the ranch.”
The drive back to the ranch was held in silence as the two vehicles made their way across the Nevada lands. JD had pleaded with Ezra to let him drive back in his BMW, but to no avail. He had to settle for the passenger seat.
“You ever been on a ranch?” JD asked, looking through Ezra’s CD collection. Most of which he’d never heard of.
“No,” Ezra admitted. “I have not had the pleasure… And you?”
“Mom let me take ridin’ lessons when I was younger, but we couldn’t afford a whole lot. Mostly though, she took me down to the Wilson’s farm and let me feed the calves.”
“What did your mothah do for a livin’?” Ezra asked, following the blue and white Blazer.
“She was a room attendant at one of the hotels we used to live by. She got to clean the airline rooms, which means she got to get home earlier than most of the other girls. About six years ago, she got real sick and ended up in the hospital for a few days. The doctor said she had cancer and to prepare for the worst.” JD looked out the window and then opened one of the CDs. “She lived almost five years fighting it...but…in the end, it won out.”
“Yes,” Ezra agreed. “It has a way of doing that.”
“Do you play the guitar?” JD slipped in a disk of Rush and leaned back in his seat after noticing the guitar case resting in the back.
“Yes, among other things,” came the soft answer.
“Who taught you to play?”
Ezra’s jaw clenched but he found himself unable to lie. “My mothah…I guess you could say.”
“I bet she sang too.” The youngest smiled and nodded, as though he already knew the answer. “She have a pretty voice?”
“Beautiful,” he whispered, keeping his eyes on the road. He didn’t want to talk about this…not now.
JD nodded and uncomfortably looked around the interior of the car. He figured his brother had money, the car, watch, and expensive clothes told him so. Even Ezra’s face seemed polished…as though everything he did was preplanned. The others, even Nathan, seemed more down to earth than Ezra. JD quietly wondered why?
“Are you goin’ to stick around…at the ranch?”
Ezra had anticipated the question, but he still wasn’t sure about his answer. “Mistah Dunne…”
“JD,” the kid corrected, “my name’s JD.”
“JD,” Ezra replied uncomfortably. “I have nevah made it a habit of spendin’ too long a time in one location.”
“I ain’t never had family either, Ezra,” JD said, “except for my mom.”
The kid may have been younger than all the others, but there was a maturity about him that defied his true age. JD wasn’t asking for a commitment…just an answer…and preferably an honest one. Ezra watched the kid finger his bracelet out of the corner of his eye. He’d recognized the medic alert sign but hadn’t felt comfortable in asking about it, and JD wasn’t offering any information.
“You miss her.” It wasn’t a question but the kid took it as such.
“Yeah… You’re the only one of us who has a mother left.” JD watched the fog line on the side of the road…wishing it were daytime. “When I was seven, I got real sick and ended up in the hospital. Doctors said I had diabetes and they showed me and my mom what to do an’ shit.”
Ezra listened, understanding what the kid was saying on some level.
“Don’t tell the others…don’t want them to know just yet. They’ll make a big deal out of it.” He sighed and fingered the door handle. “People act funny when they find out you’re sick…”
The Southerner nodded in agreement. He could relate. “What about complications…?”
“Naw…I’m pretty lucky that way. But…” JD paused, feeling comfortable talking to his brother…his brother, “…when I was eighteen, me and some friends went on a drinkin’ binge after graduation…” he chuckled, not because it was funny, but because he was lucky to be alive, “…shit, I’ll never do that again.”
Ezra smiled…knowing what it was like to be young and impulsive.
“Seems like everyone’s got a pretty good job…?” JD prodded. “What do you do?”
“I’m surprised Mistah—Chris, didn’t inform you of my…occupation.”
“He may‘ave told Vin but he didn’t say nothin’ to me about it.” JD perked up, wanting more than anything to get to know Ezra.
“I work for a firm in New York that specializes in security breaks,” Ezra answered simply, yet complicated.
“Like home security systems,” JD replied, sounding as though he understood.
Ezra shook his head: “It’s slightly more complicated than that.”
“I break into banks, Mistah…JD.”
The kid’s grin increased: “Cool.”
Ezra chuckled and shook his head. He turned down the dirt road after following the Blazer. Trees lined the path and hints of a fence peaked out behind them. The ranch came into view quickly. A large barn rested to the right and the huge house rested in front. The yard was well manicured and an old carriage lay out front beside a large weeping willow tree. Roses filled what were once the usable seats. The porch light was on, giving the entrance a welcome home outlook.
Three dogs came running from the back of the house barking and carrying on, six puppies followed one. The Golden Retrievers sat wagging their tails just waiting for the acknowledgement of their existence.
Car doors were slammed shut and trunks opened as luggage was pulled from compartments. Buck reached down and grabbed a stick and threw it and two of the retrievers chased after it in excitement. The mother dog sat content to watch her puppies be cooed after.
Chris pulled a note from the front door and entered the house he’d called home for over thirty-four years. He tossed the keys to his Blazer on the table next to the entrance and waited for his four brothers to enter the home. Josiah had already gotten settled, taking the end room on the first floor. He was thankful that Chris’ mother had the insight to build such a large home. Perhaps she knew back then what was happening with her family.
The house looked like those built in the early 1800’s. Perhaps Lincoln Larabee had been a Southern gentlemen in a past life. The home held nine bedrooms, three baths, a tremendously large kitchen, a den, and a large living room that was filled with all the components of a home. A baby grand piano rested unused near the large bay window. Pictures rested on the mantel of the fireplace, everything from Nathan and his mother, to Cady Tanner grinning mischievously while holding a rifle against her small frame. There was even a picture of Maude and Lincoln together, sitting in what looked like a table in a gambling hall—it had been placed there for Ezra, nothing else. The house was spotless, and Ezra guessed that Nathan probably paid someone to come in and clean it on a regular basis.
JD bounded upstairs to claim a room while the others shook their heads and made their way around the home. Vin decided to take the last spare room on the bottom floor. He didn’t mind sharing the floor with Chris and Buck. There was a large pool table and TV available, and there was access to the laundry room. Ezra took the farthest room on the main floor. It was quiet and less accessible to his brothers. Nathan and JD had claimed the top floor. It was quieter and less active. Nathan had found the room his sanctuary while studying in school, and ever since, he hadn’t been able to stay in another room.
The sound of bacon frying in a pan filled the air along with its odor. Dishes clanged together, eggs being whisked in a bowl, and milk being poured into glasses seemed to create a scene of utter chaos in the kitchen. Bread popped up out of the toaster and was quickly grabbed by young hands.
Buck sighed, seeing his toast being buttered by Vin. “Leggo my toasto,” he said, grabbing a butter knife. He tried his best to look threatening, but he failed.
“We have got to get you out of the eighties, Buck,” JD remarked, grabbing a chair at the large breakfast table. He looked in awe at all the food: eggs, toast, bacon, juice, milk, and sliced cantaloupe.
“If you’re not careful, Josiah, you’ll be cookin’ all the meals,” Chris said, buttoning up the front of his uniform shirt. He grabbed his sheriff’s badge and slipped it on.
The eldest brother grinned and shook his head. “It is a fabulous way of brewing your inner demons.”
“Is that what we’re eating?” Chris asked with a grin.
“If you start pulling out little red pitchforks…worry,” Josiah joked. He slapped Chris on the shoulder then moved toward the table with the last plate of eggs.
Nathan chuckled when he folded his medical journal into a more readable position. He looked up from the table and smiled when he found most of his brothers sitting around him, looking like savage wolves ready to devour their meals. All of Josiah’s hard work would be gone in minutes.
“Where’s Ezra?” JD asked, spooning some eggs onto his plate.
“Still sleepin’ probably,” Vin casually replied. “Saw him out by the corral late last night.”
“Speakin’ of the devil,” Buck joked, watching as his younger brother entered the kitchen and head for the coffee pot.
Ezra curled his nose upon seeing the pan full of bacon grease. “My arteries are cloggin’ just lookin’ at…this.” He took a tentative sip from his cup and shook his head while taking a seat at the table.
“Breakfast of champions, Brother,” Josiah said, taking a couple of slices of toast.
“Has it dawned on anyone here how incredibly anomalous this is?” Ezra asked, looking at the faces of his brothers while they ate.
“What?” Buck asked, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
The Southerner cocked an eyebrow and grinned. “If it wasn’t for the fact that we’re all brothers it would be easy to see how others might misconstrue this into being something…illegal.”
Buck laughed and shook his head. “That’s why you’ve got me here…my reputation with the ladies would put all that to rest.” He laughed, “Besides, this is Nevada…there are lots of things—”
Chris threw his napkin at his brother before he could finish. “What about the rest of you… You think it’s odd?” His face took on a serious expression even as he finished his coffee.
Vin shrugged and rested back against his seat. “Ain’t nothin’ wrong with brothers trying to get to know each other.”
“For a price,” Ezra added.
“Dad was never the most conventional person in the world… Hell, look around.” Chris rested his elbows on the edge of the table. “The money’s the bonus, Ezra…not the justification. Dad worked this land with all of us in mind. He wanted to leave more for his sons than was ever left him. So we have to live under the same roof for the next twelve months…Dad did it to make sure we got to know each other… Otherwise there wouldn’t have been a point to this.”
“We’re men, Mistah Larabee…not boys.” Ezra stood up from the table with his coffee cup in hand and headed for the family room.
“That’s debatable,” Nathan said, shaking his head as Buck wiped egg slime onto his pants.
“What?” Buck asked, shrugging his shoulders.
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you about napkins?” JD asked, looking toward Buck and Vin, as they wiped their plates clean with the last of their toast.
“Anythin’ you don’t eat, goes to waste,” Vin replied, keeping a grin on his face.
“Amen, Brother,” Josiah replied, folding his napkin and laying it beside his plate.
“I’ll talk to Doctor Kress about you setting up an office for counseling,” Nathan said, getting to his feet. His crisp white shirt, blue tie, and black slacks emphasized his profession. “I don’t see a problem with it, but he might like to see some credentials.” He looked hard at Josiah before grabbing his coat.
“I’ll dig them out of my files and find you the right phone numbers for my references,” Josiah replied with a smile.
Nathan nodded and grinned: “It’ll be nice having another doctor in the family.”
“I’ll drive you to work,” Chris said, stepping up beside Nathan.
Buck cleared his throat and looked at his two younger brothers. “How about I take you out to look at the ranch…get you both goin’ on some work.” He smiled when Chris shook his head and followed Nathan out the door.
“So how many cattle do you run here?” Josiah asked, leaning back in his seat grasping his coffee mug.
“1,300 on 8000 of our acres, and then we lease BLM land as well. Unfortunately, we only get a cow pair per ten acres of land…just isn’t a lot of feed on the lands up here… It’s a hell of a lot worse down south though. We’ve got 150 horses that are bred for cuttin’ stock.” Buck rested his elbows on the table. “Chris usually dealt with the horses, but after Sara and Adam’s death, he concentrated more on his job sheriffin’. We’ve got a few hands that help out…but to be honest, the money’s not there anymore. Dad refused to use the bovine growth hormone that a lot of ranchers started usin’ a few years ago…that cut down on profits because our beef didn’t weigh or grow to the size of the others. We raise our own hay. We also raise silage that we sell to surrounding dairymen.”
“How many hands do you have?” Vin asked, looking out the window toward the barns and corals.
“Steven Rays is our herd boss. Don Kline’s our irrigation man…we usually hire seasonally for harvest. We work with the Wells family who run a small dairy down the road. Casey comes out and helps us with our young horses.”
“Sounds busy?” JD sighed, running his hands over his pant legs.
“That’s not the half of it,” Buck said, shaking his head.
Josiah stood up and started picking up the dishes, thanking the good Lord that Lincoln Larabee had the insight to purchase a dishwasher. Vin started helping, not wanting Josiah to get stuck with the cleaning on his own. Vin’s mother had taught him better.