“I’m going to go and see if any of those lovely ladies over there needs a dance partner,” Cal said with a smirk, looking over at a table of six women who had been doing rounds of shots. “Come on, Harry. Let’s live a little.”
He patted his right leg. “I’m not such a great dancer. You go on.”
There it was. That silver lining he liked to find. Yes, he’d lost a leg, but on the bright side, he had the perfect excuse not to dance.
If Seraphina wanted to dance, he would try it. Especially if it was a slow song he could sway to.
“Suit yourself.” Cal strode up to the table and immediately had two dance partners.
“You can join him. I’m fine here,” Harry said to Zep.
Zep sat back. “Nah. I’m not much of a dancer. And I’m not looking for a date tonight. Though you should know I could find one if I wanted to. I guess this isn’t really my crowd. The truth is I like Guidry’s bar. Maybe I’m getting old, but fighting and waking up next to someone whose name I can’t remember has lost a lot of its appeal. But Cal is my friend and I can’t let him come out here alone.”
It was good to know someone was looking out for Cal. “How long has he been doing this?”
“Since Wes died and he realized he was trapped,” Zep replied.
“Trapped?” He had to lean in to hear Zep over the music.
“Yeah, Wes was supposed to take over the business,” Zep explained. “I know Cal has a business degree, but he never wanted to manage his dad’s company. He liked marketing. He wanted to move to New York and try his hand with one of the big corporations. He wanted to get out of that house and out from under his mother’s thumb. Wes was the one who was groomed to be the CEO one day. Cal acts like an ass some of the time, but he’s trying to hold it all together. First Wes loses his damn mind and blows up all his parents’ plans, and then he dies. Then not a year later, Cal loses his father. It’s been rough on a lot of people, but Cal hides behind beer and women.”
“It seems to me like Wes’s death was rough on everyone.” He wanted to understand what was going on. No one seemed willing to say more than Sera had been mean to Wes and Wes had run away. It didn’t make sense.
“Yeah.” Zep’s expression had lost its normal lighthearted look. “Town like this, losing a kid is hard. He wasn’t someone anonymous. He was more than a name in a paper, even to the people he wasn’t close to around here. And given that he was a Beaumont, everyone had expectations.”
Even the rich had their troubles. No amount of money guaranteed a perfect life. “That he would take over the company?”
Zep nodded. “And that he would marry young and start a family like his father had. Honestly, I thought he would marry my sister.”
“From what I’ve heard, he would have.” He’d only met Wes a couple of times, but now he remembered that even as a kid he’d talked about his best friend and that she was a girl and so very pretty. He must have been talking about Sera.
“Sera and Wes were always close, but I think she viewed him more like a puppy who imprinted on her at a young age. I was all Team Wes because my sister does not have the best taste in men. Her high school boyfriend never intended anything serious with her. He dumped her the day before he left for college. Wes always treated her right. I knew she didn’t love him, but couldn’t she have given him a chance? That was a lot of money she walked away from.” He waved it off. “I’m joking. Mostly. I doubt the Beaumonts would have allowed Wes to marry Sera even if she’d wanted him. They’ve got their ways.”
“What does that mean?”
“Everyone knows Celeste will move heaven and earth to make sure her children marry the right people, associate with the right people. I know she bought off two of the guys Angie dated before she settled down with Austin. His family owns a bunch of apartment buildings around the South. He went to a good school and got into a profession Celeste approves of. His older brother is growing their real estate empire. That’s the right people in Celeste’s eyes.”
“She’s not as bad as you make her sound,” Harry argued. “She’s been very welcoming of me. After all, I assure you I don’t own some company. I’ve basically got nothing but my truck, my tools, and my dog.”
“But you’re blood and you’re a war hero.” Zep studied him for a moment. “I saw you talking to my sister the other day and then she mentioned she saw you earlier this afternoon. Were you looking for her?”