Saddle Up by CJ Bishop


“The Will”

“This is insane. How could they do this to me? Why?”

Carl Foster leaned back in the leather armchair and looked at Heff Wilder as he turned away from the window. A tension other than grief stiffened his shoulders, his eyes glancing off Garland Zayne who sat across the desk from the attorney.

A vague smugness dulled the man’s otherwise lovely cerulean eyes and tainted his deep, masculine voice. “What’s the problem, Heff? Not up to the challenge?”

Releasing an uneven breath, Heff forced himself to look directly at the tall cowboy kicked back casually in the armchair. His jet-black hair and clear blue eyes contrasted with stunning effect and still managed to overwhelm Heff when he wasn’t prepared. But now wasn’t one of those times. Heff crossed his arms over his chest and drilled his brother-in-law… of sorts… with a steely glare.

“I don’t believe you,” he cut sharply, quietly. “Even now, you take cheap shots. What the hell is wrong with you?” His voice—never overly masculine—rose a notch as his barely contained tears threatened to break loose again. “We just buried the two people we loved most in this world—don’t even give a damn?”

Garland’s stare lost its smugness, as if Heff had literally slapped it away. An unnerving chill took its place, turning his clear gaze to chipped ice. “You’d best watch how you talk to me, boy,” he warned in a dangerously low tone as he rose slowly from the chair. He stood to his full six-foot-four and glared down at Heff.

“Sit down, Garland. Please,” Carl Foster urged gently from behind the large oak desk. “And Heff… please take your seat. This has been a hard day, for both of you.”

Heff stood his ground a moment before relenting and returning to his chair. Only after he was seated, did Garland sit back down. Keeping his focus on the attorney and off the man beside him, Heff asked, “Is there any way around this, Carl?”

“I’m afraid not,” Foster admitted. “It was a special clause deliberately inserted into the will by both Mandy and Frank before they died. Admittedly, I don’t understand its significance. But that’s neither here nor there, it’s in the will, and therefore stands.”

I can’t handle this, Heff thought. Not right now. Damn you, Mandy, what were you trying to prove? Rubbing his eyes with a weariness born of grief and stress, he sighed heavily. “So you’re saying… Garland and I have to occupy and run the ranch together… or it will be turned over to the state to be auctioned off?”

Foster nodded. “I’m afraid so.” He looked from one to the other. “You can take a few days to decide what you want to do—”

“What’s to decide?” Garland snapped, glancing harshly from Foster to Heff, then back to the attorney. “Frank and I busted our backs building that place up from nothing into a thriving business. And I’ll be damned if I let anyone…” His eyes cut sharply to Heff. “… anyone causes me to lose it—especially some twink kid who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground!”

Maybe I don’t, but you sure do—or have you forgotten? The thought came out of nowhere and blindsided Heff. It was better if the cowboy had forgotten. Better if they both did.

Carl Foster held up his hand when Heff opened his mouth for rebuttal. “Now look, I realize this is a touchy subject between the two of you. I understand your reasoning, Garland, but you have to look at it from Heff’s point of view, as well. His entire life is in Maryland. Is it fair to expect him to throw that all away, any more than it is to expect you to give up the ranch?”

“I don’t give a flying fuck if it’s fair,” Garland bit back and rose from his chair to lean over the desk. “I will not lose that ranch—if I have to hogtie the little fairy and lock him in the damn basement.”

Heff was not amused—by anything he said just then. Why was his life more important? Grabbing his jacket, Heff stood. “We’ll be in touch, Carl,” he said politely, casting a sharp look at the indignant cowboy towering over the desk. “After we’ve discussed this matter and come to an arrangement.”

“I think that would be best.” Foster nodded.

Jerking upright, Garland glared at them both. “There is nothing to discuss. The decision is final.” Not waiting for a response, he turned swiftly and stormed from the office, slamming the door behind him.

Heff flinched, then cast an apologetic look at the older man behind the desk. “I’m sorry. Garland can be… stubborn, to put it kindly.”

Foster nodded his understanding. “I’ve known Frank’s brother for some time now. He has his own ways about him, that’s for sure.”

Now, that was putting it kindly.

Stepping from behind his desk, Foster walked with Heff to the door. “He shouldn’t use derogatory terms, though, regardless of how upset he was.”

Heff shrugged. “It wasn’t the first time.” He sighed. “I’m sure it won’t be the last.” He smiled small. “It’s just something we have to live with.”

“It shouldn’t be.”

“I agree.”

His hand resting on the doorknob, Foster changed his tone. “I know this will be a difficult decision to make, and what you decide will be your right. But I suggest you weigh the matter carefully and thoughtfully. Try to look at the matter from both your points of view, as I advised Garland.”

“I will.”

“Good enough.” Foster opened the door. “Good luck, Heff.”

“Thanks.” Heff sighed. “Something tells me I’m going to need it.”