“Blake, thanks for coming right over.” It wasn’t like I had much choice. He was the boss, and he didn’t take no for an answer.
“Yes, sir. What do you need?”
“Riley has failed out of yet another school. He couldn’t even manage to get a decent grade retaking a class in fucking summer school. He had one class and still fucked it up.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Riley was Lawson’s only child, and to call their relationship rocky would be a huge understatement. If his father wanted him to do something, Riley made sure he failed at it, whether that was conducting himself at a society party, getting good grades, or following in his father’s footsteps as a businessman.
“So am I. I told him if he wants one more cent from me, he could come back here and work the ranch, since he refuses to learn anything else.” Lawson’s housekeeper, Maryellen, kept me informed on all the family gossip, and from what she’d said, Riley was only allowed to major in business or something else his father deemed worthy like pre-law.
“I know the boy’s an idiot.”
That wasn’t what I was going to say at all, but it was better that Lawson cut me off because what I wanted to say would only piss him off. I hadn’t spent much time around Riley before Lawson shipped him off to boarding school, but even our brief acquaintance had taught me he was quick-witted and more than capable when he wanted to be. He could learn anything he chose, but if he knew it was what his father wanted, he wouldn’t do it. Having him here on the ranch would likely make that worse, not better.
“The boy needs to learn the value of hard work.”
“Yes, sir.” I couldn’t argue with that in principle—not that arguing would do me any good. Mr. Lawson wasn’t one to listen to opinions other than his own.
“Thing is,” Lawson continued. “He’s going to need someone riding his ass if he’s actually going to do any work.”
“Sir, I’m not sure—”
He went on like he hadn’t heard me. “I want you to be the one to show him what’s expected.”
I sputtered. “What?” I was the ranch foreman, not a fucking babysitter.
“He’ll never listen to me.”
That was true enough, not that I believed for a second that Lawson would be willing to put in the time needed to teach his son anything of importance.
“So I need someone else to teach him how to be the kind of man who gets things done.”
I resisted the urge to tell Lawson I knew plenty of women who could run the ranch better than he could. He hadn’t been hands-on with the operation for years. He’d gotten bored with it, not long after his acquisition, and left it mostly to me for the last ten years. That had meant a salary increase, which was the reason I’d stayed. The faster I could save up to buy my own place, the better. It also meant I didn’t have time to train some kid who didn’t want to be there.
“Sir, I understand your position, but considering all I have to do, maybe one of the—”
“No, you know what needs to be done better than anyone else, and you aren’t going to let him get away with whatever he wants. In fact, I’d say give him the worst jobs you’ve got.”
He was right that I wouldn’t let Riley—or anyone else—slack on the job, but supervising him would take way too much of my energy unless he’d changed a lot since he’d left home. Based on the fact that he was now leaving a third school, I doubted it.
“What about Vic? He’s good with—”
“No. I want you doing this.” Damn, Vic was the most patient person I knew. He would be perfect for the job.
Great. More fucking responsibility right when I’d hoped to finally have time to make some adjustments to some of our processes, including most of the record keeping. “When is he getting in?”
“Tonight sometime.” He glanced at his watch. “It’ll be a few more hours, probably. You can get him started in the morning. When should I tell him to be in the barn?”
“Six.” If the boss wanted me to work Riley like anyone else, then one of the first lessons he needed to learn was that animals don’t wait for us to lie around in bed.
Lawson scoffed. “I doubt that boy’s been up before noon in years. This will be good for him.”
It could be, but what would be better would be if his dad would stop putting the boy down and show some interest in him as a person instead of an asset like the cattle. “Is that all, sir?”
“Yes.” He waved toward the door, signaling for me to go, but before I’d turned the knob, he spoke again. “Actually, there’s one more thing.”