Edgard withdrew and set her back on her feet. He kept his back to her as he pulled on his jeans and buttoned his shirt. “What are your plans for the rest of the night?”
“Nothin’.” She snatched her jeans but didn’t bother putting them on. “Pretend I’m not worryin’ about Trevor walkin’ away from both of us for a bigger piece of goddamn dirt. Pretend I’m not worryin’ about what my McKay relatives are dealin’ with.” Pretend you didn’t just turn me inside out.
“Maybe you oughta hit the hay early since it’s been a rough day. How’s your head?”
Chassie kissed his Adam’s apple. “You’re right, it’s sore, and I probably should lay down. But if you tell Trevor I like that you fuss at me I’ll punch you in the stomach.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Smart man. I will take your advice and change into my pajamas.”
“You don’t have to wear them on my account, darlin’.”
She swatted him on the arm. “Just for that Trevor-ism, I’ll be head to toe in granny flannel tonight.”
“Still won’t deter me.” He stole another kiss as he dodged another swat. “I’ll do the last check and be up in a bit.”
Trevor woke up cranky and lonely. No one was up in the house yet, so he headed outside to help Brent with morning chores, only to learn Brent relied entirely on the three hired men to do everything.
Problem was the hired men did everything wrong and didn’t seem to give a shit.
When Brent finally showed up around ten o’clock, Trevor didn’t hold back his anger.
“Glad you could grace me with your presence. Those hired men are worthless.”
“Least I have hired men.” Brent permitted a mean smile. “Jealous?”
“Of you still actin’ all Lord of the Manor?” Trevor spit tobacco on the ground by Brent’s polished and pristine Lucchese boots. “Hell no.”
“Right. I’m sure you don’t understand what it takes to run an operation this size.
Bein’s that your ‘ranch’”—Brent made exaggerated quotes marks in the air—“is the size of a postage stamp.”
Don’t take the bait.
“What’s your acreage?” Brent taunted. “You even have a thousand acres?”
Don’t take the bait.
“My wife has a garden that size.”
Somehow Trevor stopped himself from snapping off, “Your wife needs that much room to move her fat ass around.” Instead he started stacking feed buckets, keeping his back to his brother.
A sarcastic laugh sounded behind him. “Well, well. You’re not fightin’ back. That must mean you are embarrassed and there is truth to the rumor. How far the mighty have fallen.”
Clunk. Thud. Trevor focused on aligning the buckets biggest to smallest and not how much he wanted to pummel his brother’s face into the ground.
“Pa ain’t foolin’ anyone. He just brought you here as a threat to keep me and Tanner in line. He’ll never give you control, Trevor.”
Tell him. Rub it in his face that it wasn’t a threat but a reality. That Pa promised to put it in writing.
“You have no idea how much I’m enjoyin’ seein’ you crawlin’ back here,” Brent hissed. “Knowin’ you got nothin’. You might act like you don’t give a shit, but if that’s the case, why’d you bother to show up at all, huh?”
That observation gave Trevor pause. Why had he shown up? When he had everything he’d ever wanted waiting for him at home? How long did have to pretend to show a sense of familial duty? How long did he have to suffer for his unfortunate birthright? And why in the hell was he listening to another family member berate and belittle him? When he hated the person he became every time he was around these people?
“You’re no different than the rest of us. Stuck, a suck-up, just like us.”
“I’m nothin’ like you. Any of you.”
It clicked. Once and for all. How true that statement was. How true it’d always been.
After Trevor said it aloud, he finally believed it.
All he had to do was act on it. Not here, but at home, his real home, where he mattered. Where his heart was. Where he was the man he’d always wanted to be. Where his declaration of intent, of love, of change wouldn’t be sneered at, but embraced.
He practically burned the rubber off the soles of his boots getting to the house. He bounded up to his room to grab his duffel bag. He didn’t stop to chat with his brothers, sisters, and mother gathered in the kitchen; he headed straight for the front door.
“Trevor!” his mother shouted. “Wait. Tater wants to talk to you.”
Trevor half-turned, keeping one hand on the doorknob. “I’ll pass. You tell him that.”
“What? You can’t just leave.”
“Yeah, I can. I’m goin’ home.”
“This is your home!”
“No, it’s not.” He shut the heavy door behind him and didn’t look back, and knew he never would again.
After she and Edgard finished chores, Chassie couldn’t justify staying away from her McKay relatives. She couldn’t stand the idea of them hurting alone so she whipped up a batch of sugar cookies and left Edgard in charge.
She parked her rattletrap pickup alongside Keely’s sporty car at the McKay house and tamped down envy. Although the McKays weren’t wealthy, they exceeded their local rancher counterparts of being “land rich and cash poor”. During a drunken rant, her father had let it slip the McKays’ spread was bigger than a couple European countries. Since sections of their land sat on coal and methane gas beds, they might be as ungodly rich as royalty someday.
The McKays’ access to funds didn’t bode well for her and Trevor. They’d never scrape up the money to buy Gus’s land and another part and parcel would be added to the McKays’ vast holdings. Still, she wouldn’t allow her jealousy of their success drive another wedge between them. Dag’s funeral had ended the seven-decade-long feud involving the West and McKay families, and she intended to do her part to keep it that way.
Despite the years of infighting between her father and Carson McKay, Aunt Carolyn had always welcomed her into the McKay stronghold with open arms. Since Chassie, Keely and their cousin Ramona West were the only girls, Aunt C made doubly sure they spent time alone away from their wild boy cousins.