Hidden Secrets(3)

By: Carolyn Brown

“Just over a hundred, and it’s a farm, not a ranch. Small orchard, big garden. Little fruit stand out by the road to sell the produce,” Hannah said.

“Dear Lord!” Kim shuddered.

“God is dear, I’m sure, but even God can’t keep me from going now that I’ve set my mind to it,” Hannah said.

Her tall, elegant great-grandmother on a farm in Oklahoma was a vision Kim couldn’t even drag up from the bottom of her imagination. Hannah Brewer, the queen of the Brewer Hotel, out in the middle of a garden? Hannah had never even been to the vineyards of the winery because she might break a perfectly manicured fingernail or a West Virginia breeze might ruffle her gray hair.

Hannah went on. “My mind is made up. Has been since John called this morning and told me Norma was dead. Didn’t expect her to leave me the farm, but I’m not surprised. Anyway, I’m going and you are coming with me. Computers scare the dickens out of me, and John says everything she did was kept on one. He can’t operate the stupid thing. You are good with them, so that is your new summer job.”

“Nanna, who is John?”

“John Rayford, and he’s Norma’s neighbor on the north. Luke O’Neal is her neighbor on the south. They are both cattle ranchers and her place is a little hundred-and-twenty-acre stretch right between them. They were her friends and John called me this morning to tell me that she died about daybreak. She left him a letter telling him what to do. First thing was to tell me I inherited the farm. Next was to cremate her. The third was not to have a funeral,” Hannah said.

“And why haven’t you mentioned this woman? Does Momma or Grandmother know about her?” Kim asked.

“No, they don’t. I’ll explain it on the trip. You go on and call the rental place for a car or a van, and pack. Casual things, with maybe two outfits for church. We’ll be attending the church in Milburn where she went.”

Kim took a deep breath. “Nanna, you can’t work in a garden or gather fruit.”

“I can do anything I please, and don’t you be telling me I can’t.” Hannah waved her away as she poked in her daughter’s phone number with the other.


Karen Tarleton picked up a pen and held it over the divorce papers. She’d endured forty years of infidelity. Pretended she didn’t know about Daniel’s affairs, even when it was absolute, unadulterated gospel instead of malicious rumors. And now he had the nerve to sue her for divorce and half the assets. He wanted the winery and his twenty-five-year-old bimbo. Well, he wasn’t going to get his way this time.

The only thing that had kept her sane all these years was making wine and marketing it. Daniel was not taking her half of the winery, not even if Tiffany—what kind of name was that anyway? It sounded like a place to buy jewelry, not a name. Too danged bad if his new child bride wanted the ex-wife completely out of the picture.

She laid the pen down and paced the floor, her long sheer robe swishing when she turned at the ends of the enormous bedroom. They’d worked fine together in the grapes from day one. She hadn’t found out until after Sue was born that Daniel was an unfaithful rascal.

By then she had a daughter to raise, a name to protect. Her mother, Hannah, would have never forgiven her if she’d left Daniel. Hannah had never committed a sin in her entire life. She was the only daughter of Mary and Raymond Cosby of Morgantown, West Virginia, and society didn’t run much higher than that. When she married Jesse Brewer, her father gave them the hotel business and retired to his vineyard. Just before Grandpa Cosby died, he gave the vineyard to Karen and Daniel.

Now Daniel wanted to buy out her half. She couldn’t sign the papers. Karen wouldn’t give up what she’d worked at for her whole life. She wouldn’t disappoint her grandfather or her father, Jesse, by taking the easy way out.

Not this time.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed the lawyer’s number.

“This is Karen Tarleton. I need to speak to Dale,” she said and waited. “Good morning, Dale. I have the divorce papers right here. I won’t sell Daniel my half. I know he’s entitled to his portion and the law will uphold that. We’ve worked this winery together for forty years. He’s going to have to continue to be partners with me or sell me his half. If the new wife doesn’t want him around me, that’s her problem.”