Everywhere and Every Way

By: Jennifer Probst

“Humiliating,” Tristan added. “Pathetic.”

“Loserville,” Dalton said.

“All right, I get it. I don’t know, we stayed out of each other’s way, and I never had the time to look for another place.”

“You don’t get laid much, do you, man?” Dalton asked.

Cal refused to let his face get red. Refused. “Keeps the relationship chicks away,” he retorted. “For God’s sake, it’s a mansion. You could get lost for a week without seeing someone in there.”

Tristan grinned and took a sip of his girly wine. “Sure. We understand.”

Cal gave them the middle finger.

They stared at the woods and drank in silence. The presence of his brothers was a blessing and a curse. He missed them and the relationship they used to have. Being with them now in their childhood home and knowing the distance was thick like fog made emotion claw up from his gut.

Tristan finally spoke. “We have to talk. Make our decision.” He paused. “Go over why I don’t think it will ever work.”

Cal took a deep breath. It was time to open up some raw wounds if he was going to have a shot. “Maybe it’s time to finally discuss why you really left.”

He risked a glance at Tristan. Then was sorry he did. The tiger ripped open its cage doors and let loose with a roar.

“Was I the only one in that room who remembered when I gave Dad an ultimatum and he threw me out? Was I by myself when he called me a failure?” Tristan stabbed his finger through the air. “I needed you, and you said nothing! I got tired of begging to do things differently from the sidelines of my own fucking company. And Pierce Brothers is just as much mine as it is yours, brother!”

Cal jumped up from the wicker chair and met him head-on. “I know. You think that I don’t go over that scene endlessly, wondering if I made the biggest mistake of my life? Tristan, you know how Dad was. He fought change and focused on the construction. You always saw the bigger picture—you were more a businessperson than Dad ever was. You saw property and renovation and how we could expand, but Dad would have never let you do it! Don’t you get it? I backed him up so you would get the hell out of Dodge and come into your own. Because if you stayed here, Dad would’ve eaten you up alive.”

Tristan gazed at him in shock. “You trying to tell me your cowardice was a sacrifice for me? Don’t go there, Cal. Just don’t.”

Cal winced. “I’m not trying to be a martyr; I’m trying to explain why I didn’t fight for you. Every day I watched you die a bit more, not being able to do what you wanted.”

Tristan shook his head. “It was always you. By Dad’s side, building house by house. God, I worked there just as much as you. All of us did. Through high school and summers and after college. I never felt valued. Well, I finally found my place, and I’m not about to leave it. You made your choice once. Now I’m making mine.”

Cal fisted his hands and tried not to howl with frustration. “This is Mom’s company, and you’re telling me you’ll walk away without a glance back? Don’t give me that shit. Let’s get real honest here. You always wanted this company, and this is your chance. The only rule we have is to make enough money in three hundred sixty-five days. I need you. I can’t do this alone. And I swear, if you walk away, you’ll regret it, Tristan. That’s not some threat from me. It’s just the truth, because I regret letting you walk away that day every fucking second.”

Emotion pulsed and crackled between them like a summer storm. His words seemed to hit Tristan straight between the eyes. His brother jerked back, looking at him with new eyes. Cal was done with half-truths and pride. He needed his family to pull this off, and the only way to gain back trust was to get messy.

He fucking hated it. But he’d do it.

Tristan let out a string of curses and turned away.

Dalton cleared his throat. “Well. That could’ve been on an episode of Dr. Phil. I’m surprised Dad didn’t rise from the grave in pissed-off fury for that type of sharing.”

Cal shook his head. Leave it to his youngest brother to use humor to deflect too many feelings. “What about you, Dalton? What’s your reason for leaving?”

Dalton drained his beer, rested his elbows on the arms of the rocker, and snorted. “Actually, I think I’ll stay and help you out.”

Tristan whirled around. Cal’s mouth fell open.

Dalton shrugged. “Why not? Sure, I got a great woodworking business going on in California, but been having a bit of trouble keeping good workers. They’re sloppy.”

Oh, yeah. Cal knew right then and there his brother was dead broke. He was such a perfectionist, and his jobs usually took double the time due to his high standards. Cal bet he just couldn’t take on enough clients to make a profit. But he kept his mouth shut. “Huh. Too bad.”

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