Kane drawled, “Ain’t this fun? Been at this point since I called you.”
Ben addressed Colt. “So is Casper staying with you or something?”
“Or something would cover it.”
He sensed Colt wanted to talk, but their cousins had pushed him in the corner and he wouldn’t be the first to back out. “Come on, Colt, give ’em more than that. Obviously they’re worried.”
“Coulda fooled me,” he muttered.
“You are such a smug asshole,” Tell hissed.
Ben glared at his cousin. “Not helping. And I wouldn’t talk to you either if you said shit like that to me, so shut it, Tell.”
No one said anything for a solid minute.
Colt dropped the defensive posture. “Fine. Casper is in alcohol treatment.”
“Are you fuckin’ serious?” Brandt said.
“He called me.” Colt rubbed the back of his neck. “Actually he called Indy because she’s one of the only family members Casper hasn’t crossed. But I ended up answering her phone and talking to him.”
“When was this?” Tell demanded.
“A couple weeks ago. He was drunk as hell. I told him no one could help him until he walked away from the booze. I didn’t figure he would. If you knew how many phone calls I’ve gotten, from folks wantin’ my help…” He sighed. “So to be honest, I didn’t put much store in it. Until he showed up at my house.”
“When?” Dalton barked.
“Five days ago.”
“Where’d you take him?”
“To get dried out.”
Tell wouldn’t let it go. “Where?”
Colt remained mute.
When it appeared all three of Casper’s sons intended to beat the answers out of Colt, Ben stepped in. “This macho bullshit posturing is pointless.” He addressed Brandt, Tell and Dalton. “Jesus, guys, stop and think. Colt can’t tell you because of AA confidentiality rules.”
“Without bein’ a dick, if Casper would’ve wanted you guys to know where he was, he would’ve told you,” Kane added.
“Wouldn’t be the first fuckin’ time Dad’s kept us in the dark,” Dalton retorted.
“You just…helped him? No questions asked?” Brandt asked Colt. “After all the bad shit he’s done to the family?”
Colt simply said, “Yes.”
“Don’t matter where he is, ’cause you can bet he won’t make it through treatment. He’ll be back home, same mean SOB as before, same drunken asshole as before,” Tell said.
Colt shoved Ben aside and pushed Tell with enough force he almost fell on his ass. “That’s how you react after your father acknowledges he has a problem? By expecting he’ll fail? Fuck you. This is why he didn’t—wouldn’t—come to his sons. It’s why he came to me, because I travel this path every fuckin’ day. I know exactly where he is, in more ways than one. It’s also why I’m goin’ in the goddammed house, getting his bible and getting the hell outta here. But you can bet your ass I won’t burden him with tales of your overwhelming concern.” Colt shouldered his way through Brandt and Dalton and stormed up the porch.
Kane followed him.
Ben really didn’t know what to say. This family shit tore him up. He and his brothers never had the volatile relationship with each other and their father that Uncle Casper had with his boys, and to some extent that Uncle Carson had with his. Because Ben hated conflict and tried to cut through it as quickly as possible, he’d gotten the reputation in the family as the peacemaker. He felt far from that today.
Colt wasn’t inside long. He bounded down the porch, holding a burgundy book.
“So who knows about Dad bein’ in rehab?” Brandt asked Colt.
“My dad, Uncle Cal and Uncle Charlie. Casper asked me to tell them.”
“But not us,” Dalton said.
“It ain’t like our dads said anything to us either,” Kane pointed out.
“And now that I think about it, you sneaky bastards have no right to get up in my face about keeping secrets,” Colt said. “Did you really think we wouldn’t find out that the three of you planned to buy Rielle’s place? Without discussing it with the rest of us?”
Brandt frowned. “What the hell are you babbling about, Colt?”
It took Colt all of four seconds to see the guilt on Tell and Dalton’s faces. “You didn’t include Brandt in on this scheme?”
“Scheme is a little harsh,” Ben said.
Colt whirled on him. “What about Quinn? Does he know?”
“There’s nothin’ to know. Just something that Tell, Dalton and I discussed.”
“Since you’ve been squawking about wanting an equal say in the operation, this is the type of thing that oughta be discussed by all of us,” Colt said.
Pissed off, Ben shot back, “Like the acquisition of the Foster place was discussed by all of us? Or how about the acquisition of the Hackerly place? Or the acquisition of the Borden place? Or how about the separate section up north that Kade ran for a year? Were we part of that discussion, or did Carson and Cal decide to do that on their own? Oh, right, they didn’t even fuckin’ ask us.” His gesture included Tell, Dalton, and Brandt. “Any of us.”
“Not the same and you know it, Ben.”
“Bullshit. Alls I know is that it’s perfectly fine for your families to add to your sections whenever the fuck you feel like it and run it as a separate operation. But when we wanna do that? It’s like we’re tryin’ to short shrift the entire ranch.” Ben forced a slow breath, trying to drop his blood pressure from the boiling point.
Kane said, “I know it probably don’t mean shit, but for the record, Ben, I agree with you. And if you can get the Wetzler place, or part of it, and be fair to Rielle, then do it. Me’n Kade won’t begrudge you.”
“Well, it’s a moot point because Rielle has already sold it,” Colt said.
“What?” Ben, Dalton and Tell said at the same time.
“When did you hear this?”
“Just this mornin’ from Cord and Colby. We heard last week from someone at the bank Rielle was behind on payments and about to be foreclosed on. So we stopped by to talk to her. Pissed her off. I’ve never seen Rielle like that. Woman had a damn shotgun pointed at us. Said she was tired of the McKay vultures pickin’ at her bones before she was even dead. So we took that to mean you all knew about her situation, and made an offer, which apparently wasn’t enough.”
“Yes it was!” Dalton protested. “We were just waitin’ for her to give us the go-ahead.”
Colt shook his head. “She said she’d hadn’t seen money, and the time was closing in on her. So she sold it to someone else.”
“Fuck.” Dalton turned his anger on Ben. “What the hell did you do? You assured us you had it handled with Rielle.”
Ben threw up his hands. “I did.”
“Did you let her know we were serious? Or did you just mention it in passing?” Tell demanded.
“I told her we’d make the payments to catch her up and then we’d discuss division of property. She said she needed time to think it over. So I gave it to her.”
Dalton stepped forward and poked Ben in the chest. “It’s been three goddamn weeks, Ben. This should’ve been wrapped up two weeks ago. What the hell have you been doin’ with your time? Goin’ to that bar in Gillette?”
He knocked Dalton’s hand away. “Back off. I didn’t have as much cash as I needed so I had to get a loan for my portion and that took time.” Jesus, he hated to admit that.
“You should’ve been able to get a signature loan. We’ve been dealin’ with Settler’s First for years.” Tell’s eyes turned accusatory. “Or are you in hock for something we don’t know about and they wouldn’t give you the money?”
His cheeks burned, not from embarrassment, but from pure anger. “I didn’t go to Settler’s First because it’s pretty fuckin’ obvious that our cousins have someone inside the bank feeding them confidential information. And you can be guaran-damn-teed if I’d waltzed in there, asking for a loan for some land that would be comin’ up for sale soon?” He jerked his thumb toward Colt. “They would’ve known about it and acted on it. So I had to go to the new bank. And like I said, that took time.”
“Which is the one fuckin’ thing we didn’t have. You should’ve come clean with us about your money issues and we would’ve given Rielle a down payment, or good faith payment, or something! Instead of givin’ her time to think us right outta that chunk of land. Jesus. I don’t fuckin’ believe this.”
“Me neither,” Tell said. “This is your fault.”
No one disputed Tell’s statement.
Colt and Kane wandered to their trucks.
“So you really ain’t gonna tell us where he is?” Brandt shouted.
Colt faced Brandt, Tell and Dalton. “Casper will contact you when he’s ready. Let him be until then.”
No one said anything until Colt’s pickup was a black speck in the plume of dust.
“As fucking awesome as this was, I’m getting the hell outta here,” Ben said.
“Maybe you oughta call Quinn on your way home and fill him in,” Brandt suggested with a snarl. “I agree with my brothers, Ben. You should’ve handled this better and now we’re all payin’ for it.”
Rage and regret formed a toxic cocktail and Ben knew if he stayed here another minute, he’d lose his mind. This wasn’t solely his fault. And fuck them all if they expected him to shoulder all the blame.
But he knew he’d never hear the end of it.
“These two are gonna tell me every fuckin’ thing they kept from me while we clean up the shit piles in Dad’s house since he ain’t here for awhile.”