GOING HOME Part 3
Logan would've made better time if he'd stuck to the main highway, but he'd decided it was worth the extra time it took to enjoy the scenic route to the family estate. It had been more than ten years since he'd last spent time in the clan's home territory. He missed its rolling hills and the vast cultivated fields with a bone-deep ache, not that he would ever admit that to anyone in his family. Well, he might tell his grandmother, but he suspected she already knew. At least he trusted her enough to know she would never use that knowledge against him.
But doing a bit of sightseeing wasn't the only reason that Logan was dragging his feet. He was in no hurry to see his father, and even more reluctant to encounter his brother. Rory had been five years old when Logan was born. He'd had their parents' undivided attention for those five years, his every whim and want seen to immediately. Most kids learned how to share at some point, but that was a skill that Rory had never had any interest in cultivating. What was his was his. That was fine. But he also thought what few scraps that were left over for Logan should have been his as well.
Maybe it was petty on his part, but Logan took perverse pleasure in knowing how much Rory would hate knowing their father had summoned his younger son home to help with a problem he and Rory had been unable to settle on their own. That didn't mean that he was looking forward to learning what the situation was and how they were planning on screwing him over in order to solve it.
He was less than two miles from the main entrance to the estate when it occurred to him to wonder if his access code been reactivated. One way or the other, whatever happened when he reached the gate would likely give him a better feel for what his standing in the family was at the moment. There was a distinct possibility that he'd have to wait for someone to escort him through the gate and up to the main house as if he were an unwelcome guest who presented some threat to the family. He supposed it all depended on how badly his father needed Logan's goodwill. If the situation was particularly dire, as soon as Logan keyed in his number the gate would swing open and allow him to drive right up to the front door on his own.
His father might also want to convey the message this wasn't a case of the prodigal son being welcomed back to the fold. If so, his attempt to open the gate would set off security alarms and armed guards would respond to the threat he presented.
Wow, it was great to be back home—not.
Either way, he wasn't going to cower just short of his destination. He drove straight up to the gate, lowered his window, and keyed in the number. His temper flared hot when nothing happened. He'd just put the SUV in reverse, planning to back up and charge the gate with enough speed and force to crash through to the other side when it finally started moving.
Breathing heavy, he flexed his fingers on the steering wheel to shed some tension before switching gears and driving through the gate at a sedate pace.
Once the back bumper of his SUV cleared the gate, Logan breathed a long sigh of relief. No matter how his family might look at it, letting Logan enter with his dignity intact was definitely a win as far as he was concerned.
A few seconds later, he drove around the last bend in the mile long driveway leading to the main house. As tempting as it was to drive on past to the dowager's house where his grandmother lived, there was no use in postponing the first encounter with Harold "Harry" McCaig, the head of the clan and Logan's paternal parent.
He parked the SUV and locked it, leaving his luggage in the back in case he decided that he wasn't going to hang around after all. Right now, he gave it a fifty-fifty chance that he'd be staying longer than the time it took for his brother to make his first scathing statement.
When he reached to front door, he found himself waffling. Should he stroll in like he belonged there or ring the bell as if he was expecting to be treated like an unwelcome guest rather than a member of the family? The decision was made for him when the door swung open.
Cormac grinned at him. "About time you got here. For a while there, I was thinking you might have gotten lost."
He gave Logan's empty hands a pointed look. "Either you travel really light or you haven't made up your mind if you're actually going to stay."
Logan smiled, his fangs on full display. "What can I say? I like to keep my options open."
Cormac simply shook his head and stood back out of the way to let him in. "I guess we'll find out which way the wind blows soon enough. Your father is waiting in his office."
Because he was the one most likely to be a problem. Their father could be diplomatic when the occasion called for it. That didn't mean Logan trusted him, but he was in no mood to head straight into battle with his brother after the long drive to get there.
"He's around somewhere. I can't swear to it, but I suspect Harry might have told him to make himself scarce for a while."
"We can only hope."
As they headed up the staircase to the second floor where his father's office was located, Logan stopped halfway up the steps to study his surroundings. The walls looked as if they'd been painted recently, and the carpet was a slightly darker color of caramel brown than he remembered. Otherwise, nothing much had changed in the ten years since he'd been gone. It was still a temple to the clan's status, reflecting both sophistication and money. He'd always described his family's favorite style of decorating as Early Ostentatious.
He hated it. Always had. Always would.
A house should be a home, not a museum. Kids should be able to rampage through the halls without having to worry about breaking an ugly vase that some idiot had declared was a national treasure. The place should smell of spaghetti spices or peanut butter cookies, not furniture polish. He was pretty darn sure that living too long in a place like this one would eventually suck the soul out of a person. If he'd ever had any doubts about that, he only had to look at his brother for proof.
He shook his head as he resumed trudging the rest of the way up the stairs to where Cormac stood patiently waiting. Was the other man also reluctant to confront the McCaig patriarch? It was probably more likely that he sensed that if anyone pushed Logan a little too hard he'd be back in his SUV and heading back to his log cabin never to return.
Cormac waited until Logan joined him at the top step to speak, keeping his voice low. "Are you ready for this?"
Logan huffed a small laugh. "I think you know better than that. I started counting the minutes until I could head back where I belong the second I walked out of my bar and dumped my luggage in the back of my car."
"That's what I figured. Might as well get this over with."
Cormac kept pace with Logan the short distance down the hall to the double doors that opened into his father's office, which led Logan to ask, "Did you think I've been gone so long that I've forgotten the way to where he holds court?"
For the first time, Cormac lost patience. "Look, I know this isn't easy for you. It's not easy for him either. Sniping at me won't change that. You two need to get over yourselves and just talk like the two adults you both are. Either you'll come to an agreement or you won't. That doesn't mean you can't at least be civil."
He was right. Cormac didn't deserve to bear the brunt of Logan's increasingly bad mood. "I'm sorry. I can't make any promises, but I will try."
Which was more than he suspected either his father or his brother would do. Rolling his shoulders, he tried to shake off the tension that had been his constant companion since Cormac had shown up on his doorstep. His efforts were about as successful as they had been since this whole mess had started, which was to say not at all.
When Cormac raised his hand to knock on the door, Logan grabbed his arm to stop him. "Don't. If I can't walk into my father's office without being treated like a supplicant, this whole effort is over before it started."
To his surprise, Cormac didn't argue. He simply stepped back and let Logan lead the way. "I'll be out here if either of you need anything."
"Like a referee or the medic?"
"Yeah, if it comes to that. But right now, I'm going to fetch the coffee and sandwiches I ordered for you. I thought since you've been on the road might be hungry. Do you also need blood?"
"I could use a sandwich. I fed before I left home, so no on the blood." He turned to look the other vampire in the eyes. "Thanks, Cormac."
He hoped the man understood that Logan was talking about more than him offering to fetch some refreshments. Cormac had it hard enough having to deal with the complicated politics of life inside the McCaig clan. He didn't need Logan making things worse.
Cormac nodded and patted Logan on the shoulder before walking away. As the sound of his footsteps faded in the distance, Logan took one more deep breath. It didn't help much, but he'd run out of excuses. Facing the demons of his past was long overdue. Either he'd find some way to make peace with his family or he wouldn't. At least he would have tried.
With one twist of the knob, the door silently swung open. No surprise there. Harry McCaig would never allow something so pedestrian as a squeaky hinge in his home. The carpet was thick and cushioned Logan's steps, muffling any noise his boots might have made. His father didn't immediately look up at the intrusion, but Logan knew better than to think he wasn't aware of his younger son's approach.
If he expected Logan to remain standing until given permission to sit, Harry was in for a big disappointment. He picked the chair on the right at random and made himself comfortable, crossing his right leg over his left and slouching just enough to look relaxed. He wasn't, but his father didn't need to know that.
Finally, his father closed the file folder he'd been perusing with such care and set it aside. "So you finally decided to make an appearance."
"I run a business, Harry. You know from your own experience that you can't just walk out on everything at the drop of a hat and expect for it not to have adverse effects on the bottom line. That would have been irresponsible of me. You taught me that."
His father's expression turned stone cold. "Walking away from a bar in the middle of nowhere is hardly the same as managing the finances for the entire clan."
"True, but then the bar isn't the only business I own."
The other man's eyes flared wide in surprise. "I hadn't heard that."
Logan was petty enough to enjoy shocking his father. It wasn't often that Harry walked into a negotiation session to find out he was missing key pieces of the puzzle. "But my business interests aren't what we're here to discuss. What kind of disaster has landed on your desk that you'd have to stoop to asking me to come home?"
They both knew he hadn't actually asked Logan to return. It had been more of an order or a summons, maybe even an edict. "Just so you know, I told Cormac no when he delivered your message. The only reason I'm here is that Grandma Colleen asked me to listen to what you had to say. I owe her that much."
Then he checked his watch. "I'll give you thirty minutes to explain what's up. After that, I'm going to pay her a visit."
His father clenched his teeth, clearly trying to tamp down his temper. "And once you've seen her?"
Logan stared into the eyes that were so like his own. Or they would be if there was even a few degrees of warmth reflected in their depths. "It all depends on why I'm here. If I don't like what you have to say, I'll be heading back home."
"This is your home."
"Sorry, Harry, but we both know that hasn't been true for a long time." In fact, far longer than the ten years he'd been gone.
He tapped his watch. "Time's a-ticking."
They'd reached the tipping point. His father leaned back in his chair, which looked far more comfortable than the one Logan sat in. He'd always suspected that the two guest chairs had been selected to make sure visitors never got too comfortable in Harry's presence.
"Fine, Logan. I'll keep it short. Despite your decision to run away and sulk ten years ago, you are still a member of the ruling family of the McCaig clan. As such, you have obligations that must be met."
Like hell he did. He began to voice his objection to Harry's summation of the situation, but his father steamrolled right over him. "Which is why I've arranged a suitable marriage for you. Your fiancée will be joining us for dinner tonight."
He gave Logan's jeans and boots a disapproving look. "Please wear something suitable. Since you delayed so long in coming, we had no choice but to set the date for the wedding without your input, so you'll need to get your other affairs in order."
Then Harry checked his own watch. "By my reckoning, we still have time on the clock. Do you have any questions?"