GOING HOME Part 2
Logan stared down at the folded piece of expensive stationery he'd just removed from its matching envelope. It was tempting to kick Cormac out before reading a single word of his grandmother's letter. But the other vampire would take that as a sign of weakness on Logan's part, which was the last thing he could afford to have reported back to his father and brother. It would only reinforce their already low opinion of him.
Not that he gave a damn what they thought of him. Well, not much, anyway. But they were a matched set of self-centered, egotistical jackasses. Ten years ago, they'd both been so damn sure that Logan wouldn't make good on his threat to walk away from the clan. In their narrow view of the world, there was no way a member of a high ranking vampire clan would prefer the company of ordinary humans, shifters, and the half-breed chancellors over his own people.
Too bad he didn't have a photograph of their expressions when it had finally dawned on them that Logan wasn't going to come crawling back to the fold. If he never set foot on the clan's estate again, it would be just fine with him.
"Are you going to read that sometime in the next decade?"
Cormac's dry comment startled Logan, dragging him out of the past and back into the moment at hand. Rather than snarl at his unwelcome companion, he settled for dropping the letter back down on the table. "I haven't decided yet."
"You might be willing to tell your father and brother to kiss off, but we both know you won't disrespect your grandmother. Go ahead and read it. Once I have your answer, I'll leave you to your brooding."
"I don't brood."
"Sure you do. All vampires do. It's part of our nature." Cormac gave the envelope a pointed look. "Besides, whether you read it now or later, nothing in that letter is going to change. You might as well get it over with."
Cormac helped himself to more coffee without asking, but at least he topped off Logan's, too. The man was right, though. Delaying might irritate Cormac, but he wasn't the real target for Logan's frustration. Surrendering to the inevitable, he unfolded the letter and started reading.
I know hearing from me right now is unexpected and perhaps even unwelcome under the circumstances. If it makes any difference, neither your father nor your brother know that I have written to you. They wouldn't appreciate my interference even if it might actually help them achieve their goals. As a special favor to me, Cormac has given me his word that he will deliver this note to you without their knowledge.
As you no doubt know by now, your father has requested that you return home immediately. Your brother fought long and hard to convince him not to reach out to you at all. I believe he even suggested that they simply hire some thugs to snatch you off the street and drag you back in chains.
Obviously, Rory lost that battle. At least your father was smart enough to know that treating his own son in such a manner would do nothing to improve the clan's standing in vampire society.
Over the years, I have often suggested that one or the other make the trip to talk to you in person and perhaps negotiate peace. You are family after all. I swear, I don't know where they got their stubborn shortsightedness. How can they so badly read the situation? Birth order doesn't determine superiority. I suspect on some level Rory has always been jealous of your strength and intelligence. I get that, but that doesn't excuse your father's blindness to your abilities and accomplishments.
Finally, I know coming back to this pit of vipers is the last thing you want to do. Please remember that your brother and father are not the ones who will suffer if the problem at hand doesn't get resolved. You were always closer to the other members of the clan-people like the farmers, the craftsmen, and the villagers-than your father was. Think of them when you consider your father's request that you return.
So, as you grandmother, I am asking that you come home and just hear what he has to say. After that, if you still want to walk away or if he and your brother do something that makes it impossible for you to stay, then you can return to the life you've built for yourself with my love and do so with my blessing.
Logan skimmed over the letter a second time before gently folding it up and replacing it in the envelope. Cormac didn't say a word when Logan got up and washed the few dishes in the sink or when he wiped down the counters.
Finally, Logan sat back down. "Tell me what's going on that has my father and idiot brother so desperate that they'd send for me."
The other vampire looked almost sympathetic when he shook his head. "It's not my story to tell. I'm just the messenger. I will say that I agree with their decision to reach out to you. It's the first smart thing either of them have done in ages. If we leave now, we can be back at the family estate by morning."
If anything, that assessment made things sound even worse. Even if his father and Rory both deserved whatever was going on, his grandmother was right. Too many others depended on the McCaig clan for their livelihoods. He hated being backed into a corner, but he couldn't let those people suffer if there was something he could do to help them.
"Well, should I let your father know we're on our way?"
At least that part of the situation was within Logan's control. "No, I'm not leaving today or even tomorrow. I've been away and need to get caught up on everything here first."
Cormac studied him for a few seconds before responding. "Your father won't appreciate any further delay."
Logan's answering laugh had nothing at all to do with humor. "Do you honestly think I care what he does or does not appreciate? He might have done something that has put the clan at risk, but that isn't my fault or even my problem. I have responsibilities to the people who work for me, and I won't leave them in the lurch just because Dad snaps his fingers and wants me to come running. That's not happening."
"Like I said, he won't like it."
"Either he accepts that I will come when I can or we can just pretend none of this happened. Besides, none of you are giving me any idea how long it's going to take to clean up whatever mess he or my brother has made. I need to know my people have what they need before I go anywhere."
Cormac stood up and held out his hand. "I'll tell him, Logan. I hope those people know how lucky they are to have you for a boss. See you in a few days."
Then he was gone, leaving Logan to wonder what he'd just gotten himself into.
"But, Logan, I'm not management material."
Maggy looked stunned as she tried to make sense of what he'd just told her. Maybe he could have broken the news of her promotion more gently, but it wouldn't have changed the outcome.
"If I didn't think you could handle being the assistant manager of the bar, I wouldn't have offered you the position. You've filled in enough for me over the past couple of years to get a good feel for what the job entails. You've ordered supplies, done the payroll, and even screened potential employees for me. There's not much else to the job."
He let her digest that much for several seconds before continuing. "If you don't want the job because you think you'll hate it, that's one thing. But I know for a fact that you can do the job. I talked to everyone after I got back from helping Vivian and Declan. Without exception, everyone said you kept things running smoothly while I was away. A couple said they hadn't even realized I was gone."
That had stung just a bit, but it had also reinforced his belief that he could trust Maggy to take care of the bar and his employees for him. She still didn't look quite convinced, and he didn't want to force her to make a decision before she had a chance to think things through.
"Think about it tonight. Call Vivian if you need someone to discuss it with. I know she'd love to hear from you, and she'll give you her honest opinion." He picked up the to-do list he'd written out right after Cormac left. "I'll be here at least through tomorrow or maybe the next day. As much as I don't want to leave again so soon, my family has left me no choice. Once I get back to the estate and find out what's going on, I'll have a better idea about how long I'll have to stay there. Hopefully, it won't be long."
Mentally crossing his fingers and hoping like hell that was true, he managed a smile for his favorite employee. "I know I'm dumping a lot of responsibility on you with little notice, but it's been something I've been thinking about doing for a while now. You'll do great, Maggy. Everyone likes and respects you. You have a way of with people, but you're no pushover. I hope you'll accept the promotion, but I'll understand if you don't."
She recognized a dismissal when she heard it and stood up. "I'll let you know when we meet tomorrow."
"That would be great."
When she was gone, he checked off the top item on his list. Then he leaned back in his chair and drew a deep breath. If Maggy didn't accept the job, he wasn't sure what he'd do. At least she'd already agreed to cover for him like she had while he'd taken off with Vivian and Declan. She just wasn't sure if she wanted the job long term. It was a huge relief that he didn't have to try to find someone else to fill in on such short notice.
Moving onto the next item, he called his liquor supplier and ordered enough to cover for at least four weeks. That would buy Maggy some breathing room on that front. Then he did the same with the vendor where he got the food for the limited menu the bar offered.
Tomorrow, he'd do payroll and set up the work schedule for the next month. Maggy could handle changing it around if someone needed to take a night off for some unexpected reason. Luckily, that didn't happen very often. He was lucky to have such a dependable staff and made sure they knew how much he appreciated it.
He stood up and stretched, trying to work out a few of the kinks that came from sitting at his desk too long. It felt good to be moving around. With that in mind, he ducked into the kitchen to warm up a bottle of blood and put in an order for a double cheeseburger and fries. After finishing off his drink, he headed out to take his place out front at the bar.
It was early yet, but by his count, there were at least fifteen heartbeats out there. Allowing for three of them belonging to his staff, that meant there were already twelve customers bellying up to the bar for drinks. It was his favorite time of the evening—enough customers to keep busy but not so many that he couldn't stop and chat with people.
He'd miss that.
That thought hit him hard. Where had that idea come from? Yes, he was leaving again, but that didn't mean he wouldn't be back. This is the life he'd built for himself, and he had no desire to walk away from it. The rustic town was a far cry from the wealthy society that had surrounded him growing up. While he'd had to learn how to swim in the shark infested waters that was life among the high ranking vampire clans, he'd never felt at home there. Real friends were hard to come by in such a cutthroat environment. He'd hated that he couldn't trust people who only gave lip service to being friends. Even more, he'd hated that he couldn't trust his own family to have his best interests at heart.
To his surprise, he'd found good people here in Darby. People like Maggy and Vivian had gone a long way toward teaching him what friendship was all about. He could only imagine his father's reaction if he were to learn that Logan now counted an alpha wolf as his closest friend. But the truth was that Logan knew without a doubt that if he called Declan and asked for help, the man would come running. That was more than Logan could say about his father or his brother.
The bottom line was that life within his vampire clan was a lonely way to live. He'd walked away from it once. He'd do so again, this time for good.