Hidden Secrets(5)

By: Carolyn Brown

“Hello.” She expected to hear Peg’s lame excuse on the other end.

Daniel talked fast and furious, his voice cold and full of anger. “You can’t do this. I can’t work with you. Tiffany won’t stand for us sharing the vineyard and winery. She’s young, Karen. Don’t you remember what it was like to be young and in love?”

If he’d been standing in front of her she would have choked him with her bare hands until he turned blue, but she didn’t have that choice. “Seems like I do remember something about that, but then it all went down the toilet pretty quick. Tiffany can live with it. There’s only one of me for her to be jealous about. My list is longer. Deal with it or sell me your half.”

“I hope you are miserable,” Daniel smarted off.

“Why should the future be any different?”

The phone went dead in her hands.

That settled it! She opened her closet doors, took out a suitcase, and flipped through row after row of business suits. What did a woman take to a farm in Oklahoma? Finally, she phoned her mother.

“Don’t leave without me. I’m trying to figure out what to pack,” she said.

“One or two decent outfits for church on Sunday. It’s a small rural church, so they aren’t real fussy, and they wouldn’t know Prada from Dillard’s. The rest should be casual. Jeans. Shorts. T-shirts. I’m glad you’re going with us,” Hannah said.

“Thanks,” Karen mumbled.

She tossed things haphazardly into the suitcase, filled another case with her toiletries from the bathroom, and dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and sandals. When the cab arrived she was waiting on the front porch. She wasn’t staying all summer. Two weeks, maximum. No way could she live any longer with what she’d put in one suitcase.

Sue DeHaven poured a cup of coffee and picked up the newspaper. It was the first day of summer, and she dreaded it. The second year since her husband, Jeff, had been killed in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver ran a red light. She’d rather be living with a rigid daily teaching schedule than facing three months of nothing.

The phone rang, and she reached for the cordless on the kitchen bar.

“Hello,” she said, not even looking at the Caller ID window.

Daniel started off breathless, and when he took time to catch his breath, his words were so cold they would have frozen the hinges off the gate into Hades. “You have got to talk sense to your mother, Sue. She won’t sell me her half of the vineyard and winery. I’ve offered a generous price and even given her the house. All I took out were my personal belongings. She could retire easily on what I’m willing to pay for her part of the business. After all, she is fifty-nine, and she could go see the world.”

Sue giggled. “You gave her the house. That’s a laugh, Daddy. It was her grandfather’s home, not yours. How can you give her something that’s always been hers? Maybe she doesn’t want to see the world.”

“Come on, Sue. She’s not been so easy to live with and you know it,” Daniel pleaded.

Sue ran her fingers through her light-brown hair that had been cut in one of those ragged styles that looked like she’d done it herself with pinking shears. “But she never cheated on you.”

His voice changed into his sweet-talking one. The cajoling tone he used when he wanted something, like her vow not to tell her mother about the woman.

“Have a heart. Talk to her. She doesn’t need the business and I do. She’s being unreasonable.”

“Sorry, Dad. Can’t help you. The business is all that’s kept her sane. She’s been reasonable for forty years. Kept thinking you’d straighten up your wandering ways. You’d best keep Tiffany away from her. She might change the girl’s mind about marrying you if she tells her about all your affairs.”

“You’re just like her. There’s not a bit of my blood in you. Sometimes I wonder if you are even my child,” he said viciously.

“You’re just angry because for once Mother isn’t looking the other way and you don’t get your way. Work with her or sell out to her. Tiffany can live with it. And we could always do a DNA test if you want proof about my paternity.”