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Everywhere and Every Way(2)

By:Jennifer Probst

"Don't mock me. I don't want to deal with their guilt or bullshit. I'll be fine, and we both know it."

"Dad, they have a right to know."

"They walked out on me. They have a right to know nothing." A thin  stream of drool trickled from his mouth. Cal studied the slow trek,  embarrassed his father couldn't control it. Losing bodily functions  would be worse than death for his father. He needed to come out of this  surgery in one whole piece, or he didn't know what would happen.

Ah, shit, he needed to call his brothers. His father made a mule look  yogic. They might have had a falling-out and not spoken for too long,  but they were still family. The hell with it. He'd contact them as soon  as his father went into surgery-it was the right thing to do.         



Christian half rose from the pillow. "Don't even think about going  behind my back, boy. I have ways of making your life hell beyond the  grave, and if I wake up and they're here, I'll make sure you regret it."

Again that brief flare of pain he had no right to feel. How long had he  wished his father would show him a sliver of softness? Any type of  warmer emotion? Instead, he'd traded those feelings for becoming a drill  sergeant with his boys, the total opposite of the way Mom had been. Not  that he wanted to think of her anymore. It did no good, only scraping  against raw wounds. Caleb wasn't a martyr, so he stuffed that shit back  down for another lifetime.

"Whatever, old man. Save the fight for the surgery."

They were interrupted when Dr. Wang came in with an easy smile. "Okay,  gentlemen, this is it. We gotta wheel him into surgery. Say your  good-byes."

Caleb froze and stared into his father's familiar face. Took in the  sharp, roughened features, leathery skin, bushy silver brows. Those  brown eyes still held a fierce spark of life. In that moment, Caleb  decided to take a chance. If something happened in surgery, he didn't  want to regret it for the rest of his life.

He leaned down to kiss his father on the cheek.

Christian slapped him back with a growl. "Cut it out. Grow some balls. I'll see you later."

The tiny touch of emotion flickered out and left a cold, empty vastness  inside his belly. So stupid. He felt so stupid. "Sure. Good luck, Dad."

"Don't need no damn luck. Make sure you do what I say. I don't want to see your brothers."

They were the last words Caleb heard as his father was wheeled into a surgery that took over five hours to perform.

The next morning Christian Pierce was dead.

And then the nightmare really began.

chapter one

Caleb sat in the fancy conference room of the lawyer's office. His  brothers had arrived and taken seats at the gleaming mahogany table far  away from one another, eliciting a raised brow from his father's lawyer.  Yeah, the Pierce brothers had no love lost between them. Caleb had  waited too long to make the call, and now there was another item to be  checked off the Caleb-is-a-shit-brother list. He should've gone with his  instincts and told them as soon as Christian was wheeled into surgery.  Instead, he figured he'd wait a bit, not wanting them to hurry home to  his father's nastiness. Caleb never doubted he'd make it through the  surgery. It wasn't even a worry in his mind as he sat in the waiting  room drinking bad coffee, answering texts, and watching CNN on the  television. Of course, he'd been wrong, and now he was taking the heat.  He'd ripped the choice out of Dalton's and Tristan's hands on whether  they wanted to make the trip to see Dad, and when they showed up and  looked at his body, something cold passed between them, stretching the  distance by a few miles more.

He refused to feel a pang of pain. It did no good. There was never going  to be a tearful reunion  around his father's casket anyway, and even  during the wake they'd all stood separately, greeting people with a  polite demeanor and only speaking when necessary.

Even now, Dalton's face held a permanent scowl. Didn't really go with  the whole California-surfer vibe he had going on. His hair was caught  back in a ponytail and had gone almost blond. The face that launched a  thousand ships-his many girlfriends' tagline-now looked like he'd be  happy kicking someone's ass. Probably Caleb's. He'd gotten the height in  the family, so those long limbs were crossed at the ankles under the  table like he was on lunch break at the beach rather than waiting to  hear the will. He'd changed. Still the best-looking in the bunch and  probably still a man whore, but there was a new determination his aura  reflected that was never there before. At twenty-eight years old, he was  the youngest and always seemed to be competing for his place. Of  course, it had been over five years since Caleb had seen his brothers.  After his mother's death in a horrific car accident, everything had  splintered, shoving them into confrontation, and breaking underneath the  strain. Both his brothers had walked out shortly after they lost her  and never looked back. This time, the pang came and went without even an  inward flinch. He'd gotten better under his father's tutelage to bury  all that anger and discontent. Too bad Dalton hadn't received the same  benefit.

Caleb flicked his gaze over to Tristan. The golden child. The  peacemaker. Caleb always figured Tristan would be the one to run the  family empire. Even now, his amber eyes held a steady light, and his  manicured hands were calmly clasped on the smooth surface of the  tabletop. His reddish-brown hair seemed perfectly tousled, and he wore  some type of pricey customized suit that screamed I'm important. Guess  property sales and renovating dumps was a decent living. Tristan refused  to look him directly in the eye, which told Caleb how seriously pissed  he was.         



Samuel Dyken, lawyer extraordinaire, droned on as he read from lengthy  paperwork and used legal jargon like a ninja used throwing stars.  Finally he looked up and cleared his throat. Caleb caught a strange  wariness in his gaze. A tingle began at the base of Caleb's spine,  spreading outward and warning of something bad to come. Dyken neatened  the stack of papers in front of him and took a deep breath. "Now I've  come to the new agreement your father put in his will. It affects all of  you in a rather large way."

Dalton rolled his eyes. "Whatever. I don't need anything of his anyway. I've been fine on my own."

Tristan nodded. "I think we all agree we want nothing to do with Pierce Brothers and will happily sign it all over to Caleb."

The words should've made Dyken happy, but he looked like someone had  just overturned his winning verdict. He seemed to choose his words  carefully. "Unfortunately, that won't be possible. There are new terms  to the agreement of Caleb keeping Pierce Brothers."

The tingle got worse. He shifted in his chair. "What did the son of a bitch do now?"

Dyken winced. "He changed the terms of the will one year ago. The  company originally would've been split among the three of you with an  option to buy out the others' portions. There is no longer that option."

Dalton leaned forward with an impatient breath. "What are the options?"

"The company is not allowed to be split among the three of you. In order  to inherit Pierce Brothers, all of you must run the company together as  co-owners."

Caleb heard the words, but his brain had put up a barrier. Probably to  protect him from losing his shit and going straight down to hell to kick  his father's ass. It had to be a mistake. His brothers were staring at  Dyken with comical half-opened mouths. Yeah, they'd been gone a long  time. They weren't used to their father's tricks or viper meanness, even  after death.

"What are the terms?" he asked briskly. "And how do we get out of it?"

Dyken held up his upturned palms. "The terms state all three of you must  live in the house together and run Pierce Brothers for one year. If the  company makes a profit-I have specifics on what he termed  successful-you can all decide to sell your shares and leave. If the  company is not profitable after a year, it gets dissolved without  recourse."

"Guess we're going to court," Tristan said simply. "Dad must've been out of his mind when he wrote that."

Dyken spoke up. "Christian made sure every loophole was tight and would  hold up in court. I've been over this with him countless times, and he  was sane, logical, and determined. He wants all of his sons involved in  the business or none at all. I'm sorry, gentlemen. I truly am."

Caleb stared at the shiny pen slowly rolling across the desk. Embossed  with gold, with elegant scrolls over the black, it caught the light and  gave him something to focus on while he tried to fight through the waves  of emotion tugging at the lockbox, raging to escape.

He'd had a difficult relationship with his father. There had been little  warmth in Caleb's life after he lost his mother, and even less when his  brothers split up and refused to talk to him. But there was one thing  he'd been proud of for the past five years. His role in the company.  Caleb had taken the reins and proved his worth, with every ounce of  blood and sweat, and not an ounce of tears. His father pushed, demanded,  insulted, but Caleb believed in his heart it was done to make him a  better man. There was no one else to give the reins to and teach the  business from the ground up. In a way, by staying to do his father's  bidding, he'd allowed his brothers to carve out their own paths, and he  rarely spent time on regrets. He loved building houses-creating a new  home for someone ran thick in his blood. The company was Christian's  favorite child, and everything was sacrificed for the greater good of  Pierce Brothers. He'd believed he had earned his father's respect, which  was more important than any familial love.