Lone Star Seduction(5)

By: Day Leclaire



Lance groaned. “Oh, for the love of—”

“Shut up, bro.” Mitch cut him off. “A dry well is a dry well. In our business, you have to know when to cut your losses. This is one of those times.”

One by one, each man followed Kevin’s example. Lance, the lone holdout, finally stepped forward and clasped Alex’s hand, as well. Considering Brody was built like a tank, he didn’t need to exert much pressure for Alex to feel the power behind his grip.

“I still don’t like you,” Lance said.

Alex inclined his head. “The feeling’s mutual.”

Lance’s mouth kicked up in one corner. “But I do respect you.”

The admission stunned Alex and it took him a second to reply. “I think we can both start from there and see where we end up.”

“Fair enough.”

“Now that we’re through with the warm and fuzzies, let’s get to work, shall we?” Darius suggested drily. He made a move toward the conference table and once everyone was seated, passed around copies of his report. “I need everyone here to understand that most of this is speculation. It’s solid speculation, but we don’t have enough to take to the cops. Yet. The one thing I can state categorically is that Alex is not responsible for the fire at Brody Oil and Gas. I have eyewitnesses and credit card receipts that place him well away from that location on the night of the blaze.”

“So, what do you have?” Lance asked.

Alex took over. “If we examine the timeline of events, what becomes clear is that there is an interesting order to these incidents. From what Mitch has been able to discover in his review of the books, money has been siphoned off to the tune of three hundred grand.”

Kevin emitted a low whistle. “How?”

“Just the way Darius thought. He’s been using a company with a name similar to Helping Hands. When an invoice comes in from the shelter, two checks are cut. One to the shelter and a second one to ‘Helping Hearts.’ Every last one of these checks was cashed at the same bank.” Alex eyed each man in turn. “And isn’t it interesting that a year ago—right before the first check went through—the president of that bank was approved as a brand-new member of the Texas Cattleman’s Club.”

“Who put his name forward?” Lance asked.

“Sebastian Huntington.”

Lance winced. “Oh, Kate’s not going to like this. She and Rebecca are closer than sisters.”

“It’s our belief,” Darius picked up the story, “that Huntington had his foreman, Cornelius Gentry, set the fires in order to pit the six of us against each other to keep us distracted long enough for him to replace the funds. Since he’s the treasurer of TCC, he could tidy everything up so that no one was the wiser.”

“If we’d remained distracted and fighting amongst ourselves,” Alex added.

“How did you connect Gentry to the fires?” Justin asked.

Alex eyed his future brother-in-law. “The same way I was let off the hook is the way Gentry was put on it. He drives a pickup similar to mine. And the idiot stopped for gas a mile away from the refinery—fifteen minutes after the place went up in flames.”

Darius shook his head in disgusted amusement. “Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, our Gentry.” He tapped one of the points in his report. “The police also found identical boot prints at both the refinery blaze, as well as Alex’s barn fire. Since they’re two sizes smaller than what Alex wears, that’s one more piece of evidence that points at someone other than Alex. If we can connect our man to those prints—and I think we can—we’ll have something we can use. Connect Gentry to the fires, put some pressure on him, and I think we’ll have Huntington.”

Lance swore. “I don’t like the man, I admit. He’s a pompous, arrogant SOB. But even so, he’s Rebecca’s father and I flat-out adore that woman.” He shot Alex a cold look. “Even if she doesn’t always show the best judgment in men.”

Alex tamped down on the fury sweeping through him. He didn’t want to think about Rebecca. Not here, in the presence of these men. He’d thought he could handle seeing Becca again, deal with emotions that shouldn’t still be edged with raw pain. But that combined with the animosity that lingered between him and the men in the room with him set his blood boiling. It wasn’t just the Brodys’ treatment of him during high school and the rivalry he and Lance had experienced on the soccer field. They’d made their disapproval keenly felt when he’d dated Rebecca in college. And when their affair had ended, they’d closed ranks and made his life a living hell.

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