Cal shook his head and a weary expression crossed his face, making him look far older than his years. “Dad was an asshole to all of us. You just didn’t see much past Wes. Dad was disappointed in me because I wasn’t smart enough to run the company, upset with Wes because he wasn’t manly enough. Upset with Angie because she wasn’t pretty enough, even though she’s beautiful and always was. There are bullies at every school, and we all dealt with them. Do you know who wasn’t a bully? Seraphina Guidry. She was kind to Wes. She liked him even though it was obvious to everyone in the world he hung around her because he was trying to wear her down.”
“She stayed close to him because she wanted his money,” she argued.
“Then why the hell would she send him away?” Cal said with a sigh. “You know this argument never made a lick of sense to me.”
“I’ve always wondered if he found out she was pregnant by another man.” She’d thought about this far too much. “By her married lover, and that was what did it. That was what made him run away.”
“We’ll never know,” Angie said. “But what I do know is if Harry is determined to date Sera, he’ll do it and he won’t back down. If you ask him to choose, you won’t like his choice.”
“Well, I would think he’d choose his aunt,” she replied. “I’m the one who took care of him.”
“You wrote a couple of checks and went to visit him,” Cal pointed out. “It’s not the same, and I assure you Seraphina won’t ask him to make a choice. If I know her at all, she’s already tried to tell Harry it won’t work and she won’t come between him and his family.”
“That’s just a manipulation.” The girl hadn’t even learned from her mistakes. Sera was playing games with her family again. “She’s trying to put herself in the better position, to make me look like the bad guy.”
“You are the bad guy.” Cal strode to the hall and picked up his umbrella. “You’re going to drive Harry away. Hell, I think one of these days you’re going to drive me away. No one is good enough for you, Momma.”
“That’s not true.”
He pointed a finger her way. “Only because my last name is Beaumont. And if you want to know why you don’t think anyone ever bullied me, it’s because I didn’t trust you or Dad enough to tell you. He would have blamed me, and you would have backed him up because you saved every bit of your influence for Wes.”
Her heart threatened to break. “Cal. Oh, Calvin, sweetie, I love you.”
“As much as you can love anyone,” he said with a bitter shake of his head. “I’m going over to Rene’s. I’ll probably get drunk off my ass and spend the night.”
The idea of him on the road scared the hell out of her. “You can’t drive. There’s a storm. Don’t you know how terrified that will make me?”
He simply shrugged. “Hey, at least I’ll know you’re actually thinking about me.”
He strode out, slamming the door behind him.
He couldn’t possibly think he wasn’t important to her. It was utterly ridiculous, and the fact that he would walk away from her . . . She preferred to focus on righteous indignation. “He’s going to get himself killed.”
Angie’s eyes rolled. “He’ll be fine. Cal always is. I think I’ll skip dinner tonight. After all, we don’t want a fat bride. That would embarrass the family name.”
It looked like all her children were ganging up on her tonight. “I didn’t say that.”
“Yes, you pretty much did,” Angie replied as she made for the stairs. “Please remember that the gazebo is important to my reception. If you’re going to dump Harry for his taste in women, try to find someone else who can do the job.”
“How can you say that? He’s family.” She had no idea how the night had gone so wrong. She’d just been worried about them. Tears threatened and she couldn’t let them fall. She had to be strong. Strength was the only thing she had left.
“Well, Mom, I’ve learned that when people disappoint me, I move on. After all, that’s what you do, and you’re going to let your hatred for a girl who only ever was a friend to your son kill your relationship with your nephew. I’m smart enough to know which side of the purse strings I need to be on. Good night.”
Celeste was left standing in her living room, the storm outside picking up again.
But it was the storm inside that truly raged.
They had been perfectly fine. Her little family had been happy, and Harry had been fitting in nicely. Then Seraphina had waltzed in and it had all gone to hell again.