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His Son, Her Secret

By:Sarah M. Anderson

His Son, Her Secret
Sarah M. Anderson

       One

"This place is a dump," Byron Beaumont announced. His words echoed off  the stone walls, making the submerged space sound haunted.

"Don't see it as it is," his older brother Matthew said through the  speaker in Byron's phone. It was much easier for Matthew to call this  one in, rather than make the long journey to Denver from California,  where he was happily living in sin. "See it as what it will be."

Byron did another slow turn, inspecting the extent of the neglect as he  tried not to think about Matthew-or any of his older brothers-being  happily engaged or married. The Beaumonts hadn't been, until recently,  the marrying kind.

Yet it hadn't been so long ago that he'd thought he was the marrying  kind. And then it had all blown up in his face. And while he'd been  licking his wounds, his brothers-normally workaholics and playboys-had  been pairing off with women who were, by all accounts, great for them.

Once again, Byron was the one who didn't conform to Beaumont expectations.

Forcibly, he turned his attention back to the space before him. The  vaulted ceiling was arched, but the parts that weren't arched were quite  low. Cobwebs dangled from everything, including the single bare  lightbulb in the middle of the room, which cast deep shadows into the  corners. The giant pillars supporting the arches were evenly spaced,  taking up a huge amount of the floor. Inches of dust coated the low  half-moon windows at eye level. What Byron could see of the outside  looked to be weeds. And the whole space smelled of mold.

"And what will it be? Razed, I hope."

"No," Byron's oldest half brother, Chadwick Beaumont, said. The word  was crisp and authoritative, which was normal for Chadwick. However, the  part where he lifted his daughter out of his wife's arms and onto his  shoulders so she could see better was not. "This is underneath the  brewery. It was originally a warehouse but we think you can do something  better with it."

Byron snorted. Yeah, right.

Serena Beaumont, Chadwick's wife, stepped next to Byron so that Matthew  could see her on the phone. "Percheron Drafts has had a great launch,  thanks to Matthew's hard work. But we want this brewery to be more than  just a craft beer."

"We want to hit the old company where it counts," Matthew said. "A  large number of our former customers continue to be unhappy about how  the Beaumont Brewery was sold away from our family. The bigger we can  make Percheron Drafts, the better we can siphon off our old customers."

"And to do that," Serena went on in a sweet voice at direct odds with a  discussion about corporate politics, "we need to offer our customers  something they cannot get from Beaumont Brewery."

"Phillip is working with our graphic designer on incorporating his team  of Percherons into all of the Percheron Draft marketing, but we have to  be sensitive to trademark issues," Chadwick added.

"Exactly," Matthew agreed. "So our distinctive element can't be the horses, not yet."

Byron rolled his eyes. He should have brought his twin sister, Frances,  so he would have someone to back him up. He was being steamrollered  into something that seemed doomed from the start.

"You three have got to be kidding me. You want me to open a restaurant  in this dungeon?" He looked around at the dust and the mildew. "No. It's  not going to happen. This place is a dump. I can't cook in this  environment and there's no way in hell I would expect anyone to eat  here, either." He eyed the baby gurgling on Chadwick's shoulder. "In  fact, I'm not sure any of us should be breathing this air without HazMat  masks. When was the last time the doors were even opened?"

Matthew looked at Serena. "Did you show him the workroom?"

"No. I'll do that now." She walked toward a set of doors in the far  back of the room. They were heavy wooden things on rusting hinges, wide  enough a pair of Percheron horses could pull a wagon through them.

"I've got it, babe," Chadwick said as Serena struggled to get the huge latch lifted. "Here, hold Catherine," he said to Byron.

Suddenly, Byron had a baby in his arms. He almost dropped the phone as Catherine leaned back to look up at her uncle.

"Um, hey," Byron said nervously. He didn't know much of anything about  babies in general or this baby in particular. All he knew was that she  was Serena's daughter from a previous relationship and Chadwick had  formally adopted her.

Catherine's face wrinkled in doubt at this new development. Byron  didn't even know how old the little girl was. Six months? A year? He had  no idea. He couldn't be sure he was even holding her right. However, he  was becoming reasonably confident that this small human was about to  start crying. Her face screwed up and she started to turn red.                       
       
           



       

"Um, Chadwick? Serena?"

Luckily, Chadwick got the doors open with a hideous squealing noise,  which distracted the baby. Then Serena lifted Catherine out of Byron's  arms. "Thanks," she said, as if Byron had done anything other than not  drop the infant.

"You're welcome."

Matthew was laughing, Byron realized. "What?" he whispered at his brother.

"The look on your face..." Matthew appeared to be slapping his knee. "Man, have you ever even held a baby before?"

"I'm a chef-not a babysitter," Byron hissed back. "Have you ever foamed truffle oil?"

Matthew held up his hands in surrender. "I give, I give. Besides, no  one said that starting a restaurant would involve child care. You're off  the hook, baby-wise."

"Byron?" Serena said. She waved him toward the doors. "Come see this."

Unwillingly, Byron crossed the length of the dank room and walked up  the sloping ramp to the workroom. What he saw almost took his breath  away.

Instead of the dirt and decay that characterized the old warehouse, the  workroom had been upgraded at some point in the past twenty years.  Stainless-steel cabinets and countertops fit against the stone walls-but  these walls had been painted white. The overhanging industrial lighting  was harsh, but it kept the room from looking like a pit in hell. Some  cobwebs hung here and there, but the contrast between this room and the  other was stunning.

This, Byron thought, had potential.

"Now," Matthew was saying as Byron looked at the copper pipes that led  down into a sink that was almost three feet long, "as we understand it,  the last people who used this brewery to brew beer upgraded the  workroom. That's where they experimented with ingredients in small  batches."

Byron walked over to the six-burner stove. It was a professional model.  "It's better," he agreed. "But this isn't equipped for restaurant  service. I can't cook on only six burners. It's still a complete  teardown. I'd still be starting from scratch."

There was a pause, then Matthew said, "Isn't that what you want?"

"What?"

"Yes, well," Chadwick cleared his throat. "We thought that, with your being in Europe for over a year..."

"That you'd be more interested in a fresh start," Serena finished  diplomatically. "A place you could call your own. Where you call the  shots."

Byron stared at his family. "What are you talking about?" But the  question was a dodge. He knew exactly what they were thinking.

That he'd had a job working for Rory McMaken in his flagship  restaurant, Sauce, in Denver and that not only had Byron been thrown out  of the place over what everyone thought were "creative differences" but  that Byron had left the country and gone to France and then Spain  because he couldn't handle the flack McMaken had given him and the  entire Beaumont family on his show on the Foodie TV network.

Too bad they didn't know what had really happened.

Byron's contact with his family had been intentionally limited over the  past twelve months-his twin sister Frances notwithstanding. Nearly all  of the family news had filtered down through Frances. That's how Byron  had learned that Chadwick had not only gotten divorced but had then also  married his secretary and adopted her daughter. And that's how Byron  had learned Phillip was marrying his horse trainer. No doubt, Frances  was the only reason anyone knew where Byron had been.

Still, Byron was touched by his family's concern. He'd more or less  gone off the grid to protect them from the fallout of his one great  mistake-Leona Harper. Yet here they were, trying to convince him to  return to Denver by giving him the blank slate he'd been trying to find.

Chadwick started to say something but paused and looked at his wife.  Something unspoken passed between them. Just the sight of it stung Byron  like lemon juice in a paper cut.

"You wouldn't have to get independent financing," Serena told Byron.  "The up-front costs would be covered between the settlement you received  from the sale of the Beaumont Brewery and the capital that Percheron  Drafts can provide."

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